Last night I attended the excellent Franklin Park Reading Series and said excuse me to over a hundred people; I stepped back and made way for bar staff and bar-goers a hundred and fifty-eight times; I failed to say hello to the very person I had really wanted to say hello to; I drank broken glass (long story: I actually took the piece out of my mouth from my tongue to show the bartender, who was super sweet about it all); I got rained on and waited forever for the subway and then tried to read a book on the train while the person sitting next to me ate the entire meal she had bought before boarding that train, taking time to dip each french fry into one of the many, many small plastic ramekins that contained a green gelatinous stuff that she said was avacado-mayo, which, she told me, she loved. She had been starving since this morning, she said. She used wobbly black plastic cutlery to cut into a medium-rare burger and dense onions and tomatoes, but only half the bun. Yet, earlier that night, I had heard some of the very best writing read aloud that I’d heard in a while, read by some of the most engaging and talented people I had heard read in a while, and so tonight I am going to do it all over again. Because that’s my choice — and it feels good, that choice. Tonight I will be attending the LIC Reading Series, to see Megan Abbott and Mark Doten and Lisa Marie Basile, and to be charmed by the grand host Catherine LaSota. I will bring an umbrella and I will arrive early and I will look at the rim of my stout’s pint glass before I lower my mouth to sip. https://www.facebook.com/events/1569081553365526/
Great thanks to Catherine LaSota!
— in Queens, New York.
I have a few more days left to make a late-summer post before autumn moves in and settles its cool, colorful arms arounds us for a while. What a summer it was for me—both personally and professionally (details to follow). Professionally, my editorial work at The Brooklyn Rail continues to give so much satisfaction. The late-summer/early fall issues are out. Our In Conversation series continues with Matt Bell‘s monthly interview spot. This month Matt talks with fiction writer Josh Weil about his new novel THE GREAT GLASS SEA. Tony Leuzzi talks with poet Mary Rueffle about her newest volume TRANCES OF THE PAST. Stephen O’Connor talks with nonfiction writer Sean Madigan Hoen about his new memoir SONGS ONLY YOU KNOW. And our reviews are the finest in the borough! John Dominicovers Luke B. Goebel‘s FOURTEEN STORIES AND NONE OF THEM YOURS: A NOVEL. Ashley P. Taylor covers Roxane Gay‘s BAD FEMINIST. Jeffrey Zuckerman covers two Brazillian novelists: Paulo Scott’s NOWHERE PEOPLE and Michel Laub’s DIARY OF THE FALL. Geoffrey Young covers Kevin Birmingham’s THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK: THE BATTLE FOR JAMES JOYCE’S ULYSSES. Anne Margaret Daniel onElizabeth Eslami‘s excellent collection HIBERNATE. Patty Park covers Bret Anthony Johnston‘s REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS. Katharina Smundak looks at the one and only John Water’s newest CARSICK. Geoffrey Young reviews Al Alvarez’s PONDLIFE: A SWIMMER’S JOURNAL. John Domini reviews Brandon Hobson‘s DEEP ELLUM. Brian Gresko reviews Scott Cheshire‘s debut HIGH AS THE HORSES’ BRIDLES.
Upcoming issues will feature Darcey Steinke, Marie-Helene Bertino, Andre Dubus III, Elizabeth Trundle, Peter Markus, Wendy C. Ortiz, Laura Jean Moore, Laura Auricchio, Daniel Levine, Jeff VanderMeer, Christopher X. Shade, Kathleen Rooney, Rob Williams, Catherine Lacey, Jim Tolan,Alexandra Chasin, J. T. Price, Joanna Clapps-Herman, Heiko Julien, Kseniya Melnik, Christine Wertheim, Stanley Crawford, and many more.
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 Knausgaard, 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.
Catherine Lacey, Courtney Maum, D Foy, Darcey Steinke, Elizabeth Eslami, J.C. Hallman, Joyelle McSweeney, Karen Russell, Kathleen Rooney, Lee Klein, Lynne Tillman, Matt Bell, Nicolle Elizabeth, Pamela Erens, Roxane Gay, Shane Jones
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 Trundle, Lance Olsen and John Domini; David 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 Foy, Lee Klein, Shane Jones, Courtney Maum, Elizabeth Eslami, Catherine Lacey, Nicolle Elizabeth, Darcey Steinke, J.C. Hallman, Kathleen Rooney, and Joyelle McSweeney. Stay tuned!
A huge thanks, as always, to the remarkable Sara Roffino.
and Still Came Out Smiling (With Great Hair) Random House by Rosie Perez, audiobooks, Do The Right Thing, HANDBOOK FOR AN UNPREDICTABLE LIFE: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, Rosie Perez, Spike Lee, The New York Times Sunday Book Review
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. Perez, in February, on the occasion of her book’s release:
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 Harris, Brittney 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.
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.
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 Bock. Please join me. There’s a great Irish bar across the street, to which, after the event, attendees might repair.