“Most people think of themselves, in a sense, as realists,” Galchen said, “even if they have speaking dogs in the book.” Julavits reiterated the point that authors themselves often misjudge how their work will be read. “Someone once told me they were talking to Diane Williams and she was just really surprised that people didn’t think of her in the same breath as Jane Austen,” Julavits said. “I sort of loved that as a really sweet misapprehension of what you think you’re doing versus how other people perceive what you’re doing.”(3)
“If I get into any kind of space where I’m trying to extend a narrative, or kind of accrue pages, the energy goes out,” George Saunders said at his book launch last night in Brooklyn, in response to a question about whether he will write a novel. “So I think of my stories as kind of like those little toys and you wind ’em up and put it on the floor and it goes under the couch. That’s kind of like an aesthetic model. So, I think what we have to do is petition for the definition of novel to come down a little, you know: 17 pages, that’s a good number”.(1)
The more than 160 people who participated in the event read 10 minutes each over a 25-hour period. Participants ranged from the famous—actor Paul Dano kicked things off with the instantly recognizable, “Call me Ishmael”; author and This American Life contributor Sarah Vowell read at Housing Works on Saturday morning; authors Rick Moody and Jonathan Ames read at Molasses Books later the same day—to the lesser-known, including friends of the organizers, and Moby-Dick enthusiasts who had emailed or tweeted at Bullock and Bresnick, hoping to be included.(1)
“House For Sale” is the story of Franzen going back home to Missouri to take care of the house his recently deceased mother spent half of her life putting together; the house where Franzen himself was “the only person in the family who’d had a full childhood.” For House For Sale, Fish presents Franzen’s essay in the voices of five actors—Rob Campbell, Merritt Janson, Lisa Joyce, Christina Rouner, and Michael Rudko. Each is cued to read with special sets of lights that, when particular colored bulbs are illuminated, direct specific actors to read a section of the text. But, the playbill explains, the cues aren’t planned in advance; they are determined live so none of the actors know quite when they will be called on.(6)
But a working writer always has—is always living—a back-up plan. For Jami Attenberg that has meant working on an occasional basis at Brooklyn bookstore Word (though she told me that she just ends up using much of the money she makes there on books), writing articles here and there, and taking on assignments as a freelance copywriter. “[It’s] not really good for long-term planning,” she admitted, “but this is just the thing that I love to do so I’m just kind of doing it. I don’t know. I know so many people who hate what they do for a living. Like, hate hate hate hate hate it. And I don’t want to be that person. So I kind of just threw all in on it.”
Things actually move so fluidly that the reader hardly notices there isn’t a single chapter break in the novel. Homes said she simply forgot. “I was just busy writing. I didn’t think about it. And then they called me and said ‘how about some chapters?’ Chapters?” Homes said she thinks that as a writer she shouldn’t have to stop—she should be able to just keep driving. “[It] changes the shape of something because it has a discrete beginning and a discrete ending,” she said. She prefers the larger arc to many smaller ones. And the weight of her dogged researches adds another layer of urgency to the work, the details propelling the narrative and vice versa.
“Islam at our house stopped at ‘no swine,’” Rushdie said. Once out of that house, while at Cambridge as a student, he finally broke that single rule with a ham sandwich. He was nut struck down by a thunderbolt. “That was the moment,” he deadpanned, “I realized god did not exist.”(2)
As I waited around outside, two other older ladies, each with small, rectangular pieces of cardboard proclaiming that they, too, were looking for tickets, got into a bickering argument when a gentleman in an overcoat decided to give one of the women his spare ticket; the other woman exhibited the injured manner of one whose cab has been stolen. “Can you believe that?” the ticketless woman said repeatedly, to anyone who would listen, shaking her head in disgust.
Beattie, Moore, Eggers, Gaitskill, Eugenides, Lethem and others publish a master class in the short story for 'Paris Review'
“Our initial concern was maybe that the stories selected would be too well-known, and that it would be a sort of greatest-hits collection,” Stein explained. “Those fears were pretty quickly laid to rest by the range of stories that were selected.” And while some of the writers’ writers featured here are not exactly obscure—Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, Jorge Luis Borges—the density and stylistic variation of Object Lessons proves Stein’s point. S
What then ultimately brought her back to fiction, she was asked. “There are little sparks of something like actual life,” she said after a deliberative pause, “and I don’t think an essay could ever create that friction, that feeling of being alive. And when you’re a kid, that’s why you read, and some people forget that, but for me that feeling of the fake-real, the almost-real, I get pleasure from thinking I could do that.”
“Women's websites hadn't been satirized before," Grose said over the phone last week from her home in Brooklyn. "The community is vibrant and amazing and ridiculous at the same time. It's a unique and crazy existence. There’s such a stereotype that you sit in your pajamas and write about what you have for lunch, but no one captured what it's like to produce writing at such a high volume. It’s a loving satire.”
"The novel duplicates, at a supremely fascinating level, the imperfections of the human subjectivity that produces it." Díaz said. "In other words, to say that what gives a novel its force is that it feels very human, and why it feels human is because it’s imperfect, it’s contradictory, it has gaps, it has all sorts of weird shit.” Whereas “stories are demanding and infuriating because of their perfectibility.”(2)
Evison’s writing is comic and expansive, and his work has obviously been enriched by the variety of jobs he’s had in the past—though he may view this in less rosy terms. (“When you’re working at a 108 degree warehouse, sorting rotten tomatoes, it’s a welcome reminder that someday you might be able to write about this.”)
Finishing Big Machine, LaValle explained, “gave me the courage to depart from Queens, from autobiographical Queens. The first two books are very autobiographical and, strictly speaking, pretty realistic stories. But I was tired of that. I wanted to give myself the freedom, but I didn’t think I could do that right away. I had to go to Oakland and Vermont and Cedar Rapids, Iowa to give myself that.” While his latest is not an overtly realistic tale, it’s far more grounded than its predecessor—no secret organizations, no large-scale demonic infestations. But it is every bit as sinister.(1)
In the case of The Nervous System, that involves a corrupt conservative Senator, an unsolved murder hearkening back to the days of a more intact city, and a sinister group of paramilitary contractors led by a ex-cop named Nic Deluccia. Deluccia repeatedly implies a long history between himself and Decimal, and, over the course of the novel, offers an ominously plausible explanation for both Decimal’s current condition and for New York’s devastation. The married Senators at the center of the book allow Larson to riff on New York City machine politics, conservative homophobia, and the underside of populist politics—and it can’t be coincidence that one has the last name of Koch.