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This has been a tumultuous year for us all, and Melissa’s Yancy’s own life has seen its share of momentous changes. Her debut story collection, Dog Years, won the University of Pittsburgh Press’s Drue Heinz Literature Prize, she received a coveted NEA fellowship, and also gave birth to her first child. In the midst of […]
Laurie Sheck and Thalia Field are writers who train in the fire. For decades, their work has broadened our sense of what a text might do and be by mining the fissures between genres, reanimating voices from history and science, and setting match to existing forms for the sake of inventing them again. In their […]
The hours and years I spent on this book, imagining the characters and scenes, were hours and years spent remembering and reliving experiences I had in Japan, and people I met there. All the feelings and memories came back, for better or worse. I could never set a story in a place where I haven’t spent significant time. I need to be imprinted by a place before I can conjure it in my imagination.
In September, my nine-year old daughter and I went to the Standing Rock Reservation, where we joined the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a 1200-mile pipeline set to carry fracked oil under the Missouri River and through the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. For the last few years, I […]
I try to write my essays like poetry, listening to the sound, trying to include telling images. There are no rules or general description for these details. They hit me when, in my research, I discover them and, as a writer, I hope they’ll hit someone else.
I first encountered Nicholas Mainieri’s fiction in those great baseball issues that Hobart used to put out every spring. His first published story “The Tools of Ignorance,” which appeared in the spring of 2008 and was titled after an old nickname for a catcher’s gear, carried itself with such authority and deep-in-the-grain understanding of our […]
Natalie Bakopoulos and Alexander Maksik met at a book festival in 2013, after Bakopoulos reviewed Maksik’s second novel, A Marker to Measure Drift, for the San Francisco Chronicle. Since then, they have continued a conversation about books and writing. This interview took place over email in September 2016, regarding the publication of Maksik’s third novel, Shelter in Place. […]
Elissa Altman can write you an appetizing culinary scene, but she’d really rather not. While it’s true she wrote about the glories of home cooking in her James Beard Award-winning blog and first book, Poor Man’s Feast, her new memoir finds her more interested in the sensation of wrongness: the clothes that aren’t you, the […]
I wanted to present the war as I saw it, which was as a private driving a humvee in Baghdad. And the war I saw was a complete shitshow.
I am sappy when it comes to love. I’m one of the first in line for a romantic comedy, even the ones that are simply a distraction from the heat, rain, or mosquitos. John Reed’s wonderful new book Free Boat: Collected Lies and Love Poems gives me that same type of humor, love and quirkiness that […]
I was interested in examining both sides of the American Dream—those striving to achieve it and those who’d already achieved it and were equally striving to hold unto it. These pursuits take a toll on both families in the novel, as it does on countless families in America, regardless of which side of the Dream they’re on. In addition to their struggles, the Edwardses and the Jongas are also interdependent on each other and this gives the characters powers over one another, powers which they wield differently to keep their dreams alive.
It’s a bad habit of mine, passing quick judgment on strangers and friends—readerly and writerly friends—who haven’t read someone whose work was been so essential for me. I can know that we all have our blind spots, that it’s not as if books expire, and so on, while simultaneously finding myself deeply frustrated, because how […]
The way, Dave said, to produce the correct sound, is to always think above the note. To land on it. And then open your throat and raise your soft palette to create as much space as you can at the roof of your mouth. I think of crafting sentences in much the same way. It is these slight sonic and spatial adjustments which allow a note to go flat or sharp, to sound nasal or clear.
That’s something I did learn while writing this book—often juxtaposition can do the work of intricate plotting, and can be more useful than trying to account for every cause-and-effect or trying to babysit the reading experience. The reader is intelligent, and if I place two narrative threads side by side, I can trust that their brain will understand it was on purpose, and that there are connections to be drawn.
It is Impossible For a Parisian to Resist the Desire to Flick Through the Old Volumes Laid Out by a Bookseller
Recently, over espressos at the Shakespeare and Company Café, I caught up with Adam Biles, who has been the Events and Communications Manager at Shakespeare and Company Bookshop since November 2015. Adam, whose debut novel Feeding Time will be out this August in the UK, spoke about everything from rare books to interesting literary marriages […]
Jim Ruland talks to Pamela Erens about her new novel, Eleven Hours
My experience first reading Dana Spiotta was similar to my experience first reading many of the writers I now think of as my heroes—I read one novel, and then I immediately purchased everything the writer had written and consumed the books rapaciously. In the case of Dana Spiotta, that first novel was Eat the Document, […]
The idea for this novel began, as many of my works begin, as a dream: a friend and I take heroin, shoplift in a mall, and are chased by store security.
Sometimes I’d cry when I read and sometimes I’d feel nothing at all, just numbness. But there was always this strange mix of caring, compassion, helplessness, and rage— the four things mixed in different proportions. I found that I wanted to write something about that feeling, that combination of empathy and impotence.
We as a culture have perhaps never before talked more about the body. Yet this conversation spins again and again through the same rhetorical loops: the body-positive marketing couched as affirmation, the girl power slideshows, the call for all women to feel beautiful that points back to the failure of all women to be treated […]
This unlikely conversation took place in Santiago del Cuba. We (Andrew and Clancy) were on vacation with our families in Havana when we were invited by two tarot card readers, bluff cigar-smoking local women who spoke French, to meet a “very old crazy Frenchman who tells prophesies,” and who, according to them, scavenged fish and octopi […]
I didn’t plot my first novel at all and felt that was a mistake. This time, before setting down the first sentence, I mapped out in some detail the stories, plots and character trajectories. Inevitably, things changed during the actual writing – a character whose survival seemed impossible is still breathing at the end; a plot line that you thought the novel couldn’t do without is the first thing to go.
“The idea is to use your secret idiosyncratic strength, just exploit the hell out of it, make of it a life, a synthetic reality. But initially, I did not have the confidence in myself to do that. Once you do do that, there is really no risk, I don’t think, of being overly affected by influence, because anything you read goes into the brew, the brew of one. A solipsism that takes in the world, but remains itself.” – Rachel Kushner
The first thing you should know is that I had the privilege of witnessing nearly every poem in Amanda Nadelberg’s remarkable new book, Songs from a Mountain, move through multiple draft stages and sometimes into radically different forms. Amanda and I have been friends for a long time. Since her Minneapolis days, when she lived […]
I was in high school in England when, in 1984, the IRA bombed Brighton’s Grand Hotel where Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party were meeting for their annual conference. I remember watching the BBC news with my dad. I was probably too young to recognize the audacity of the attack and, as the IRA was rarely out […]