31 October 2009

Happy Halloween, and all that.  To New Yorkers, Happy Third Game of the World Series, and Happy Day Before the Marathon.

I realize that I’m often announcing here news about me me me, read this, I wrote it, etc.  But if you haven’t yet, check out my review of Sergei Dovlatov‘s Ours: A Russian Family Album over at The Millions.  I urge you to do so as a kind of celebration with me; I find book reviews very difficult to write, and I think I finally “hit it” with this one, meaning I think I was able to convey the essence of my love for it (in less than 2,000 words).  “Essence” is a difficult thing to convey, not to mention “love.”  With books, I find it nearly impossible.

And Dovlatov’s work really is something.



28 October 2009

shorthistorywomen_sm I’ve been sitting on, and soaking in, a bit of good news.  Kate Walbert, National Book Award finalist for Our Kind, and author most recently of A Short History of Women, has written a blurb for the dust jacket of Long for This World.

The blurb has on one hand become something of a mundane thing; blurbs go around in literary circles like so many back-scratches.  But the reverence and respect I have for Ms. Walbert’s work as a novelist — smart, original, deeply imagined — and also for the seriousness and focus with which she approaches the writing life, make this bit of fairy dust that she’s generously sprinkled my way (she is a busy teacher and novelist who knows me not at all) feel real.  Like good words for the long journey.

Here’s the blurb:

“An intricately structured and powerfully resonant portrait of lives lived at the crossroads of culture, and a family torn between the old world and the new, Long for This World marks a powerful debut from a young writer of great talent and promise.”

Click here for Kate Walbert on persevering as a writer (short video).

And click here for a terrific roundtable conversation with Charlie Rose, featuring all five of the (female) NBA finalists in 2004, including Walbert.

25 October 2009

Here it is — or at least one — that interview with Bonnie Jo Campbell I was on the lookout for, where she talks about the journey from indie publisher, to major publisher, and then back to small press with her National Book Award finalist American Salvage.

25 October 2009

Belated photos from last week’s reading at KGB.  Apologies that the other readers — Sara Goudarzi and Daniel Meltzer — don’t appear in these; the photographer was a little focused on yours truly. (Apparently, I talk with my hands a lot.)

I had the chance to try out a particular 20-minute section from Long for This World as an oral/aural piece, and it seemed to work pretty well.


w/Adam Sexton


w/ my girlz (and a boyfriend)


a stranger checking out the galley for Long for This World

23 October 2009

The “Omnivore” blog at Bookforum.com is not unlike the periodic Web “roundups” of many literary blogs, except that it seems to me more truly omnivorous, even as it is also more specific, i.e. topical.  Which I love.

Here is a fascinating roundup of essays, articles, explorations, and reviews on the topic of “What Women Want.”  I started with the piece about  why men catcall — because I’ve been disturbed by and angsty about this for some time now.  But that piece is just the appetizer here.  I can’t help but wonder, how do readers keep from getting bloated after gorging on all this content?  (And I’m already three posts behind at Omnivore.  Posts on economics and foreign policy already making my mouth water.)

This wondering not at all specific to Bookforum or Omnivore, of course.  Just another “analogians anonymous” shrug-with-cross-eyes.

21 October 2009

You gotta love a Cinderella story.  Bonnie Jo Campbell‘s American Salvage is the only National Book Award finalist this year from a small press; Wayne State Press did an initial print run of 1,500.  To me, that speaks of how weird and confusing is the publishing world right now.

And Campbell’s story is much more complicated, really, than Cinderella’s.  Her first story collection, Women and Other Animals (what a title!), was published by University of Massachusetts Press, then the paperback was released by Simon & Schuster.  Her second book, the novel Q Road, was published by Scribner (an imprint of S&S), and was named a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers book.  Her editor for Q Road was Sarah McGrath, a well-known editor, now at Penguin/Riverhead, who has worked with such authors as Khaled Hosseini, Chang-rae Lee, Kate Walbert, Meg Wolitzer, and Maile Maloy.

One wonders how American Salvage landed at Wayne State Press with a 1,500 print run.  I’m sure there’s an interview out there that I haven’t yet discovered that gets into this.  It’s unclear if she has an agent.  I’m looking forward to learning more about Campbell and reading her work; check our her Web site, which definitely gives a sense of her “I Gotta Be Me” personality.

18 October 2009

An interesting, extended comments-conversation going on at The Millions around my most recent post, “The Mommy Problem” — about the tensions between art and parenthood, parents and non-parents, male approach to these questions and female approach.  If you’re a writer or an artist or a parent or a male or a female (or some combination, I assume), join on in.