Too Much of Nothing

A truly accomplished and absorbing debut.

Stewart O’Nan

Too Much of Nothing is a ghost story told from the droll point of view of Eric Sperling, a teenager who competes with his friend Tom for a girl and finds himself, to his utter surprise, killed in a fit of rage.

Eric survives as a Jewish ghost, a nefesh, in the beach town where he grew up and tells about the last months of his life in 1984. He gives an account of his time as a gawky high-school shlemiel trying to surf, appreciate the Dead Kennedys, and grasp the vagaries of American counterculture. The book is set in a fictional town called Calaveras Beach.

Here’s a fictional map:

...with apologies to the California AAA

The title comes from an old Dylan song:

Everybody’s doin’ somethin’
I heard it in a dream
But when there’s too much of nothing
It just makes a fella mean


Too Much of Nothing is a clever and merciless look back at teenaged friendship, and at two boys’ jaded coming of age in mid-’80s L.A. Michael Scott Moore’s dead hero recalls all of the romantic terrors and joys of high school with a wry, cold eye.

Stewart O’Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying and The Night Country

A beautiful novel that manages to be scary, funny, and absolutely compelling. Moore’s talent for transporting the reader into the very heart of his fictional California surf town is astonishing. I love this book.

Joy Nicholson, author of The Tribes of Palos Verdes

Moore’s fierce wit and vivid narrative deliver a heady cocktail of friendship, youth, and betrayal worthy of the Korova Milkbar.

Black Book Magazine

A cool-handed debut. The style is simple, the language everyday — but the details and dialogue cut glass-sharp and often bone-deep.

The Boston Herald

A first novel that deserved hardcovers … A prosperous beginning for San Francisco-based reporter and stage critic Moore.

Kirkus Reviews

A satisfying bildungsroman, combining a wry but heartfelt take on teen passions with a serious ethical concern for the fine line between freedom and nihilism.

Publishers Weekly

Beautifully imagined … A unique and heartrending view into a west-coast beach town teeming with punks, surfers, drug dealers, and a lone nefesh. Michael Scott Moore has, as they say, announced his presence with authority.

Lee Durkee, author of Rides of the Midway

A taut, gripping tale of murder animated by rabbi-wisdom and Reagan-era pop culture, Too Much of Nothing is a smart, vibrant, and utterly original novel … Moore tenderly excavates the heart of an adolescent haunted by angst and longing.

Rebecca Donner, author of Sunset Terrace

Moore has written a novel close to Gimpel the Fool meets The Falcon and the Snowman — a sometimes funny story about a sensitive ghost who while alive and sixteen in the ’80s tried, but failed, to enjoy the Dead Kennedys, and got a nosebleed after snorting too much good blow … There is an ailing and strange loneliness in the prose most powerfully felt by those who have survived grief, who have some distance from the tedious obsessions of youth.

Joe Loya, author of The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell

Moore knows the cruelties meted out by children to other children, the bizarreness of first sexual encounters, the offhanded betrayal of friends.

Ethan Watters, author of Urban Tribes and Crazy Like Us

A talented stylist. He renders the local landscape with a poet’s eye … [and] captures the milieu of high school well, too, its crystal-clear delineations of class and coolness.

San Francisco Chronicle

A hell of a ghost story.

Joe Weisberg, author of 10th Grade (a novel) and The Americans (a TV series)

Michael Scott Moore is a journalist and a novelist, author of a comic novel about L.A., Too Much of Nothing, as well as a travel book about surfing, Sweetness and Blood, which was named a best book of 2010 by The Economist. He’s won Fulbright, Logan, and Pulitzer Center grants for his nonfiction; Yaddo and MacDowell fellowships for his fiction.

He worked for several years as an editor and writer at Spiegel Online in Berlin. He was kidnapped in early 2012 on a reporting trip to Somalia and held hostage by pirates for 32 months. The Desert and the Sea, a memoir about that ordeal, is out now from HarperCollins.

full bio

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Speaking Events


Lucinda Blumenfeld

Lucinda Literary Speakers Bureau

October 12, 2019

San Francisco Center for the Book
Part of LitQuake 2019
In conversation with Katherine Ellison and Frances Dinkelspiel
375 Rhode Island Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

October 22, 2019

The Last Bookstore
In conversation with Peter Theroux
453 S. Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

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My review of Ingrid Betancourt's first novel, The Blue Line, is up at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

While I was in Somalia a man called Geoff Carter wrote about a picture of Indian men surfing on stand-up boards around 1800 off Chennai, which altered the known history of surfing a bit, even though the picture was hiding in plain sight at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The men from the Naham 3 are all friends of mine — a crew of 26 sailors from southeast Asia who worked on a tuna long-liner flagged in Oman but owned by a company in Taiwan, which abandoned them after Somali pirates hijacked the ship in 2012.

A version of what happened in Somalia is available as a Long Read at The Guardian, and, in somewhat shorter form, for German readers, in Der Spiegel. It’s not even near complete. Enormous parts of the story have been left untold.



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