“This is transformative prose at its best. . . . If you want an actual contemporary wordsmith who does not just tinker but thrives in the micro-worlds of Calvino and Borges, Walser and Perec, read Understories.”
I’m not sure whether to call this a review or a grand tour; either way, it’s surely one of the most astoundingly in-depth explorations of UNDERSTORIES to date. And it’s also one of those reviews from which I really learned stuff–from the fact that Gauguin painted winter scenes (like the above) to less tangible things about my own stories. Thanks to Karen Carlson for taking it apart and putting it back together so elegantly and eloquently at her blog, A Just Recompense.
In one of those moments in which one is fully willing to question whether one’s faculties are deceiving one in some callous, sadistic way, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite writers and–why stop there–personal heroes, Norman Rush. I’ve learned so much from his work that I couldn’t possibly break it down, though I will say that if I believe literature should aim far, wide, and thick, should seek to tackle the whole planet, human and non-, sun and earth, the borders carved by water and those made and unmade by mind, desire, money, etcetera, it’s largely due to him. And I do believe it. And I got to talk with him. And it was published at the Tin House blog. https://www.tinhouse.com/blog/30521/subtle-bodies-an-interview-with-norman-rush.html
I just learned that my story “The Conversations,” published originally in The Collagist, was selected as a Special Mention in the 2014 Pushcart Prize Anthology. It’s a crazy humbling place to be and from it I am shouting thanks to Matt Bell for publishing it and nominating it and imbuing it with whatever globules of sanguinity and mojo-magic it took to land it there.
Along with fifteen other debuts, UNDERSTORIES competed on Thursday, September 19th in Late Night Library’s Second Annual Battle of the Books, hosted by Adam Wilson. The writer Rebecca Schiff read for me, and the dynamic duo of Schiff/Understories made it to the FINAL FOUR! Fellow Bellevue Literary Press book GHOST MOTH, by Michèle Forbes, was also in the FF, and eventually Hannah Gamble’s YOUR INVITATION TO A MODEST BREAKFAST was the Last Book Standing. Can’t thank Rebecca enough for donning the literary gloves and going for the glory.
I’m thrilled to have an excerpt from my ongoing work-in-progress, The Desert of Maine, in the latest issue of Western Humanities Review, which is themed “Historiography,” alongside work by Robert Coover, Shelley Jackson, Michael Martone, Danielle Dutton, and many others. Read the brilliant editor’s note here, and if you want a sneak peek of the opening of the story being read live in the “desert,” that would be here.
In a busy summer, one of the highlights for me was a visit to the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, my second, this time for their summer program. During a workshop session, we played around with style and listened to what felt like a slew of versions of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” including a dub-step one that, to my surprise, brought on faces I’d only seen in “Calvin and Hobbes” when Calvin learns that he can make his face permanently really grotesque if he holds an expression long enough. In the evening I read from the thing I don’t know what to call (short story which is now in the land of Novella, which a friend and I like to pronounce as if it is a magical, sun-gilded Italian village perched on the Mediterranean in which people speak only in animated bursts of 10,000-30,000 words. Eventually, it’s looking as though Novella will turn into Novel). While at Walnut Hill, I got to sit down with alumna Evangaline Delgado, and she threw some great questions at me about Understories and the writing life. http://walnuthillarts.org/alumniblog/unearthing-hidden-stories/
This past week, I had the pleasure of reading at the Vica Miller Literary Salon, hosted by none other than Vica herself, who posed insightful, provocative questions throughout the evening. I shared the bill with Royal Young, who can be seen holding Fame Shark, his account of coming of age on the Lower East Side and his vexed, dogged relationship with the concept and pursuit of celebrity. Also on the bill were Lisa Dierbeck, who read from a hilarious work-in-progress about how suddenly coming into money can have unforeseen consequences–an ancient, even folkloric trope transposed seamlessly into contemporary Brooklyn, and Avital Chizhik, whose “Galatea, Galatea” was a metafictional work that called Cortázar to mind. I read from a work-in-progress myself, a story about two dueling composers whose opening I’d read at the Franklin Park Reading Series. The stance above is my “Q&A” pose.