28 August 2010

Some news: Long for This World will be featured/reviewed in the 2011 Magill’s Literary Annual, a 30 year-old publication that, in its own words, does the following:

Critically evaluates 200 major examples of serious literature, both fiction and nonfiction, published during the previous calendar year… Provides coverage for works that are likely to be of particular interest to the general reader, that reflect the publishing trends of a given year, and that will stand up to the test of time…  By filtering the thousands of books published every year down to 200 notable titles, the editors have provided the busy librarian with an excellent reader’s advisory tool and patrons with fodder for book discussion groups and a guide for choosing worthwhile reading material. The essay-reviews in the Annual provide a more academic, “authoritative” review of a work than is typically found in newspapers and other ephemeral sources.

Here is a list of authors covered in last year’s annual.  Nice company to be keeping indeed.

26 August 2010

I’ve been re-reading a number of favorite books in preparation for teaching, including Nabokov’s Speak, Memory (this particular paperback copy will always and forever remind me of N. from grad school, who generously “loaned” the book to me — You’ll enjoy this, she said, and everything N. recommended I devoured — and from whom I guess you could say I ultimately stole the book.  Although, N., if you’re reading, I’ll happily send it back to you).

Nature expects a full-grown man to accept the two black voids, fore and aft, as stolidly as he accepts the extraordinary visions in between.  Imagination, the supreme delight of the immortal and the immature, should be limited.  In order to enjoy life, we should not enjoy it too much.

I rebel against this state of affairs.  I feel the urge to take my rebellion outside and picket nature.

This from the first chapter, also know as “”The Perfect Past,” originally published in the New Yorker in 1948.

Now I’ll make a hard turn toward pop culture:  it’s official, I’m hooked on GLEE.  Possibly what I love most is the name of the show.  Glee!  Supreme delight of the immortal and the immature! UNlimited.  Completely over the top.  Rachel with that perpetually constipated look on her face, both singing and talking.  It’s all so urgent and too much.  Nabokov might be pleased (there are cute girls in short skirts and knee socks, after all).

21 August 2010

So this is what we do in the country: we go to the annual county fair.  The pigs were huge, and noisy, and crowded together in small pens.  But these two managed to find some repose.

What you realize when you’re around farmers is the very particular disposition that country people have toward animals — something between deep affection and all-business realism.  Or more like a layering of the two.  These pigs — and the baby goats and lambs and cows — were all waiting their turn to go up for auction.  At the risk of stating the obvious: for several months, these animals are something like beloved pets; now, they are all meat. We city folks, we tend not to think too much about how this happens.  These animals, by the way, were all raised via the local 4-H club, meaning they were raised by teens-in-training.

This photo was taken from the ferris wheel.  We also rode that spinny-swirly thing in the center of the photo.

Good fun, lots of greasy food.  Farewell, summer.

18 August 2010

From this week’s TIME cover story on Jonathan Franzen:

“We are so distracted by and engulfed by the technologies we’ve created, and by the constant barrage of so-called information that comes our way, that more than ever to immerse yourself in an involving book seems socially useful.  The place of stillness that you have to go to to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world.”

Compelling words that remind me somehow of Franzen’s also-compelling 1996 Harper‘s essay — the piece of writing that  first introduced me to him, pre-Corrections.  Harper’s unfortunately doesn’t allow archival access to non-subscribers (this seems ridiculous to me, a hopeless holdout), but here’s the link in case you have a subscription.

16 August 2010

Two great online literary sites — TheNervousBreakdown.com and FiveChapters.com — have recently announced that they are going into the indie publishing biz.   Each have already lined up a few forthcoming titles.  I think 1) wow, that’s exciting, and 2) what does this mean?

Looking ahead to the process of trying to publish my sophomore novel, and realizing how much the literary publishing biz has changed, even just in the last two years since Long for This World was acquired by Scribner; I have no idea what to expect.   But I’m encouraged about what’s happening in indie publishing, i.e.  a potential trend toward the proliferation of high-quality and nimble publishing outlets, as opposed to increasing conglomeration of just a few mega-publishers.  Having interacted/worked with the editors of both the aforementioned lit sites, along with a few others, I feel optimistic; a TNB or FC title will no doubt be well-regarded, not to mention well-publicized.  These guys know and love literature and are, in my estimation, forces for good.

12 August 2010

Bookdragon’s Terry Hong has featured Long for This World in her annual “New & Notable APA Roundup” for The Bloomsbury Review.  Details here at Bookdragon.  Thanks, Terry!

11 August 2010

I’m catching up — on lots of things — but specifically on all the great writing at The Millions.   Enjoyed this piece by JC Hallman about the ways in which writers repeat themselves (or not) in successive work, and the conundrum thereof.  “Do more of that,” an agent or editor might say or imply, after a literary success.   Or, “That again?” readers might complain.

There are two kinds of repetition. There is the kind we find inside our work, the themes that burble up lava-like from our subconscious again and again, and which we cannot resist and should not, I think, criticize in others. And then there is the repetition that ought to be resisted, that which gives us a program, a strategy that can be applied to any subject. This we should criticize in others. Art should never be the result of habit, it should strive eternally for the fresh and the new even when we work in forms we did not invent. Craft, we should vigilantly remind ourselves, means to make something absolutely new where before there was nothing at all.