June 2014 issue of The Brooklyn Rail is on stands and online now

Let the summer literary celebrations begin! TheJune-Rail-cover June issue of The Brooklyn Rail is on stands and online now. Again, I have to express my pride in our “In Conversation” series. Whether you’re writer, reader, or both, you’ll love this growing series. This month we feature interviews with poet Tony Leuzzi with David Groff; Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro with Rob Williams; as well as another installment of the NYPL Young Lion Matt Bell‘s monthly interview series. This month, Matt offers up an amazing interview with debut novelist D Foy. Books under review this month include Courtney Maum‘s poignant and playful debut I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU, reviewed by Elizabeth Eslami; there’s John Domini‘s smart collection of critcism THE SEA-GOD’S HERB, reviewed by J.C. Hallman; and there’s Tony Leuzzi‘s gorgeous new volume of poetry THE BURNING DOOR, reviewed by Steve Fellner; also there’s Spuyten Duyvil’s incredible new anthology of contemporary experimental women writers WRECKAGE OF REASON II: BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD, edited by Nava Renek & Natalie Nuzzo, reviewed by Joyelle McSweeney.

Upcoming issues will feature Bret Anthony Johnston, Karen Russell, Lee KleinCatherine LaceyNicolle ElizabethDarcey SteinkeKathleen Rooney, Patricia Patty Park, and many more. Stay tuned!

Huge thanks to the remarkable Sara Roffino and Books editor Katie Rolnickand Andrea Scrima for the tip-off.






Zadie Smith at The New School, NYC, June 4, 2014


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All this week at The New School, I’ve been attending a seminar on Zadie Smith’s novel NW. Last night Smith herself attended. She read generously and entertainingly from the novel and then spent the rest of the evening discussing the process of writing it. She discussed the craft of fiction (esp. dialogue, setting, and character); the current literary landscape; representing identities not the writer’s own; being a parent and a writer; writing to one’s strengths; the genius of Roald Dahl; the talent of Judy Blume and Stephen King; and the name on everyone’s lips: Karl Ove KnausgaardNW, whom she’s interviewing tonight at McNally Jackson in NYC. It was a great evening, and I’m so grateful to my kind and brilliant colleague Andrew Zornoza who led the class marvelously, and to Laura Cronk and Lori Lynn Turner, who organized the entire Summer Writers Colony, offered every summer by The New School’s School of Writing.

Although the event was a private class, I’m posting this wonderful video of Smith giving the commencement address last week at The New School’s graduation ceremony. Enjoy.

May 2014 issue of The Brooklyn Rail is on the stands


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After much work, I’m pleased to announce that the May issue of The Brooklyn Rail is on the stands. I have to express my pride in the Rail’s In Conversation series. If you’re a writer or a fan of books, you’ll love this growing series. This month we feature interviews with Pamela Erens andElizabeth TrundleLance Olsen and John DominiDavid Burr Gerrard and Scott Cheshire; as well as Matt Bell‘s regular monthly interview series, in which, this month, Matt talks about all those raw imperfect impulses with poet Bianca Stone. Books under review this month include Roxane Gay‘s AN UNTAMED STATE; Jesmyn Ward’s MEN WE REAPED; Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro‘s THE BOSNIA LIST; Brian Gresko on Lynne Tillman‘s WHAT WOULD LYNNE TILLMAN DO?; Jason Porter‘s WHY ARE YOU SO SAD?; as well as Jen Percy‘s DEMON CAMP and W.G. Sebald’s A PLACE IN THE COUNTRY (both fabulously edited by Books editor Katie Rolnick)

Upcoming issues will feature Karen Russell, D FoyLee KleinShane JonesCourtney MaumElizabeth EslamiCatherine LaceyNicolle ElizabethDarcey SteinkeJ.C. HallmanKathleen Rooney, and Joyelle McSweeney. Stay tuned!

A huge thanks, as always, to the remarkable Sara Roffinocover-page-31

Rosie Perez in The Brooklyn Rail & New York Times Sunday Book Review, Sunday, May 18, 2014


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This weekend’s NY Times Sunday Book Review covers the debut by Brooklyn’s favorite daughter Rosie Perez, HANDBOOK FOR AN UNPREDICTABLE LIFE, calling it “a careering ride, crowded with family struggles and reconciliation and therapy-inflected observations…an uplifting and enjoyable debut.” The Brooklyn Rail‘s Books section was delighted to speak to Ms. PerezRosiePerezBook, in February, on the occasion of her book’s release:

H.I.P. Lit Reading Series: The End of the World Edition, Friday, May 16th, 2014


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As NYC-area reading events go, this is one of my favorites. The H.I.P. Reading Series is one of the slyest, wittiest, campiest, and most talented reading events I’ve ever experienced. And “experienced” rather than merely “attended” is the distinction to be made here: The three women who conceive and curate each themed reading event are equal parts Peggy Guggenheim, Bill Graham, and P.T. Barnum; and each event is a singular happening never to be experienced again. And what’s more: They showcase some of the best writers around. I’ll be in attendance this Friday, May 16th, for their End of The World edition, which Erin HarrisBrittney Canty, and Kim Perel promise will be “a strange paradise,” complete with a brooding volcano and lingering fog and a food truck–La Troca del Sabor. There’s even going to be a for-real L.A. rock band playing that night, Among Savages. Be there and be able to say you were.Image

Review of Jaime Clarke & Charles Bock in conversation at The Center for Fiction, Weds, 4/30


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Great time last night at the Center for Fiction. Thanks to Jaime Clarke and Charles Bock, who made a bunch of rain-soaked New Yorkers glad they had braved the elements. The two writers discussed Clarke’s new novel VERNON DOWNS, which I thought was such an important new work of fiction that I assigned it to my fiction students for their final craft analysis, and assigned it, as well, for review at The Brooklyn Rail. Bock asked Clarke exactly the kinds of questions my students have been asking in class, and he did so with humor, generosity, and grace. Clarke discussed not only the novel, but also his time in college and grad school, his memories of being a young writer in NYC during the 90s, his recollections of the writer Bret Ellis, the growing importance of Ellis’s AMERICAN PSYCHO and LESS THAN ZERO, and all the work that went into writing the new book. Afterward, Jaime Clarke generously chatted alone with my class, answering their questions and responding to comments. They loved him. And I also got to meet a hero of mine, Charles Bock, whose novel BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN has been a favorite of mine since it came out. A really special night. Thanks to Jaime and Charles, and to The Center for Fiction for their warm welcome.

Class Trip to The Center for Fiction: Jaime Clarke in conversation with Charles Bock, Weds., 4/30


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This semester, my Fiction: Craft and Theory class has been studying all the elements of the genre, each week applying one of those discreet elements to individual short stories: point of view; characterization; time and pacing; mood and setting; narrative style, etc. And then at the end of each semester, we apply all of those elements to a recent novel. This year, I assigned a novel that blew me away when I read it in galleys: VERNON DOWNS, by Jaime Clarke, just out from Roundabout Press. Tomorrow night (Weds, 4/30), my class will take a field trip to the national treasure that is The Center for Fiction, located in midtown Manhattan, where, at 7 PM, Jaime Clarke will be in conversation with Charles BockClarke-cover. Please join me. There’s a great Irish bar across the street, to which, after the event, attendees might repair. 

April 2014 issue of The Brooklyn Rail is here!


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The April issue of The Brooklyn Rail is here. More pieces will be coming along soon; and over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting highlights. I’m so proud of the Rail’s In Conversation series. And so excited to announce that Matt Bell will be our regular monthly Books contributor to this long-standing interview series. As those who know him will attest, Matt is a tireless supporter of the literary community and a friend to all writers. We couldn’t prouder to have him on board. In addition to Matt’s feature, this month’s In Conversation series has some wonderful contributors:Benjamin Percy talks with Daniel Levine about Dan’s debut HYDE. And Ben Pfeiffer chats with Adam Wilson about Adam’s new story collection WHAT’S IMPORTANT IS FEELING. Upcoming contributors will feature John DominiLance OlsenScott CheshireDavid Burr Gerrard, Elzabeth Trundle, and Pamela Erens. Stay tuned.

Special thanks to the indomitable Sara Roffino, Books editor-extrodinaire Katie Rolnick, and the brilliant and generous Erin Harris.

Check out the new Books section here.


Sentences in the News! For writers, readers, teachers, and curious students all over this daily planet.

Often, once the semester gets along, my students start asking me questions about grammar and style, not for their grades, but for their own writing. A big one is, “Can you have a single sentence stand alone as a single paragraph?” When I am able, and when classroom technology permits, I’ll pull up on a projected screen a sentence from some article I read that day that might serve as an example. I had mentioned this classroom practice to a group of incredibly inspiring writing teachers at the NCTE/CCCC conference last week, and I got some validating responses. Here’s an example: In today’s NY Times, I saw a sentence in an article about new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements. The first three sentences of the piece are stand-alone grafs. I particularly like the second one, about which there is so much to say. We could discuss the sneaky way the writers packs the sentence’s complete subject to get in as much info as possible before the verb; we could discuss the choice to omit the serial comma — does it add or detract from clarity?; we could discuss the choice to use the right-branching parallel compound structure that concludes the graf. Sometimes, when I’m really on my game, I can bring the entire lesson plan into such impromptu discussions. Lucky to have such curious students. Here’s the news-making sentence:

“The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.”

Find the article here.


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