Monday, August 31, 2009

Hey gang. I wrote a review of Laird Hunt's new novel, Ray of the Star. It's up now at Identity Theory.

The review starts like this:

Consider the f-bomb: you can trace the trajectory of the story’s heart by the elegant deployment of that dexterous cuss word across the pages of Ray of the Star, Laird Hunt’s latest (arguably best, unarguably most emotionally engaging) novel. What initially reads with an unsettling, weighty effervescence—comparisons to the massive quantities of sparkling water the characters drink as if it is about to be taxed out of their brackets are certainly appropriate—accumulates context through circumstance so that it grows steadily more sinister with each passing page. By the end, it is razor-sharp, and fast. It cuts.

...and I'm not really sure how the rest goes since it feels like I wrote it in the middle of a blackout fugue-state (this being my first actual published review, for those of you keeping score at home) but from what I gather I rather liked the novel and, if asked for my professional opinion (which, ha ha, I was?) I would (and, ha ha, did?) recommend it to others.

(You can also head over to The Collagist to read an excerpt of Star.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Genre writers know their audience, and it’s a large one: John Grisham sold 60,742,288 books during the 1990s. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, and I won’t do that here. But that audience, for reasons that sometimes seem obvious and sometimes are madly mysterious, is almost universally not interested in the same things we are.

We’re interested in good stories.

Hey, wasn't there a genre flick a while back about some kid who saw self-involved snobs who were the death of all things holy and good about literature only they didn't know they were the death of all things holy and good about literature? It was probably too busy making a lot of money and supporting families to bother having any emotional impact on anybody who saw it though.

Seriously: wha? The mind boggles and the goggles they do nothing. LOLz via.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Speaking of Stephen King, I really could not say it better myself, so, quote: "First of all, our inner 14-year-old is like unto bursting..."
I am a huge Kazuo Ishiguro fan. By the time I die I will have read all of his books at least multiple times; I'm currently two-sevenths there. (Which sounds so much less morbid when it's not put into fractions like that.) As a fan, I've set myself certain stringent restraints as to how I approach Nocturnes, his first short story collection. I will not read all of the stories at once (at least the first time through). Check. This is because he does not publish books often and if one of them is going to be a short story collection--the sort of thing that is built to be savored far more than any novel--then I will take advantage of that to the best of my ability. (I at one point considered reading only one story a year until his next book comes out. I did not consider that for long. Savor, yes. Torture, no.) I will also only read a story if I can sit down, read the story, and then stand up in a single swoop in a single afternoon. Check, so far, at least. I want to have the experience of reading something uninterrupted, of taking in a piece of literature the way I take in a film at the theater: whole, and without interruption. This latter restriction helps reinforce the former in that it's the rare afternoon (it has to be afternoon, as well, because the coffee has kicked in, but the evening is still distant, no threat to the present) these days when there's literally nothing to do but read as if life depended on it. Life always depends on it, but let us not go there.

This past weekend I had one of those afternoons and I read the third story from the collection, "Malvern Hills," and I enjoyed it, in and of itself. It is difficult to speak about the ways it may or may not relate to the other stories in the novel--said reading will have to happen when I do read the whole book all together over the span of a week--beyond the fact that there is music and that there are people and that there is the decided presence of Ishiguroian language made oddly more intriguing (rather than less intriguing as one might fear) by the decided absence of that thing he does--that thing he does in The Remains of the Day and the novels that preceded it, that thing that he does in The Unconsoled and When We Were Orphans, that thing he does in Never Let Me Go--as if he set out with the specific intent of writing wonderfully without making any "that thing" of it or critical to it. Though who knows, the second read-through may reveal the unrecognizable skin that holds the bones of the stories to each other; failing to notice this now makes me no less of a fan, and all the more someone who will, or at least fully well expects to, be continuously rewarded by the works of a writer for years to come. Which said, the next story in the book is the title story, and it is the longest story in the book, and perfect afternoons sometimes have to be made, not awaited.
What's great about Generosity by Richard Powers (which comes out in about a month) isn't that it takes a one-note subject of debate like genetic research ("Genetic research will destroy our humanity!" "Genetic research will unlock our humanity!" "Fuck off!" "You too!") and succeeds in making it seem kind of nuanced and interesting; I'd call that merely (if highly) commendable. What's great about it is pretty much everything else that happens in its just-under 300 pages. The fact that it crams a love story and a classroom satire and all the punchy, dramatic, smart language you can handle and a sly look at human literary cliches and a metafictional gambit that succeeds in revealing the ultimate heart of the story while still actually managing to be clever-as-all-get-out (but in a wowee-uneasy-feeling Stephen King Dark Tower series metafictional sort of way) into one book is terrific. Also terrific is the fact that the book manages to talk about today--like, blogs, today, like, NaNoWriMo as a fact of some people's lives, today, like, Google yourself, today, like, the banking industry is imploding, today; today, today--in a way that feels so fresh and current and sharp and like it was written by someone who actually gets all the stupid shit we pass off as modern-day culture and writes about it in a way that shows he gets it without making it clear that he's telling us, hey, guys, I get it; it all just becomes setting, the setting, the only one that for 300 pages matters, the one that makes you look around and think, the hell of it is he's right. For that the book may (will?) age quickly, is at this moment becoming a historical document (and it hasn't even been released yet), and for that I really have to suggest that you should really look into reading it sooner rather than later, because it's a book that's got me all jazzed up and I think you just might a chance at enjoying it a little, yourself, too. By which I mean I am recommending this book. By which I mean: there were chills. Are.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oh, and I'm halfway through the new Richard Powers book, Generosity: An Enhancement, and I'm pretty sure it rules. Like, get fired from your job because you didn't go in so you could keep reading it, that kind of rules. I scored a free advance copy via Twitter. I hate my life.
"To Twitter. Or not to Twitter. That is the question the publishing world is asking these days."

Which is a shame, seeing as it is a perfectly stupid question. Yeah, that's right: bold statement. I mean, I do wonder if I am the only person on the planet sometimes who thinks this way (I can't be, right?), but I mean, isn't Twitter just one more thing? You know? That people can choose to use (public transportation, the self check-out aisle at the grocery store, condoms) or not use? Is it really still such a big deal? Really? That people are using the Internet for the intended purpose of the Internet, i.e., communicating with other people via asynchronous protocols? Who remains surprised by this? Who is left who can not say that, if the publishing industry is publishing great books and then spreading the word about them, they can then really claim to give two flying fucks whether they do it by Twitter, whistlestop tours, or smoke signals? This guy. Me, I'm going to need freakout control over here. Internet. Whatever. Seriously.

(Original link via oh you know what it's via.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

So here's one for you: Thomas Pynchon's new novel Inherent Vice came out today. Because, yeah, this is something that has happened. I'm waiting for my copy to come in the mail, bundled with the new Vollmann joint. I'm thinking the mailman is going to kick my shins. Because he won't be able to punch me. Because his arms will be sore. Needless to say I won't have the heart to tell him I'm not planning on reading either book any time soon (meaning: not within the next month or maybe two) (fuuuuck) but that I still needed to have both books so I could at least look at them now and then. I don't think that would be a nice thing to say.

Because this is 2009 (a fact I literally had to confirm with my girlfriend earlier this evening when examining the expiration date on a bottle of Advil) nothing is fine enough in itself, least of all a book. So now there are things called "book trailers," which, also, are things that happen. Penguin has released one for Inherent Vice. You can see it here. I suppose it is possible this is something that, independent of all other forms of book-related communication, could cause you to want to purchase and read the book. I suppose that is possible. I suppose it also still possible you might have friends who sometimes recommend books. Cough. Either way, I think my blog needs a trailer. A blog trailer. To motivate people to read my blog. With robots. Robots and coffee tables. And a Japanese game show. And guns that shoot cats. (Snipe!) Who wants to help? By which I mean, make this happen for me without requiring me to put any effort into it?

Oh yeah and there's a chance that the narrator is Pynchon himself. Which means...he's maybe not a physical mute, these days?

Monday, August 03, 2009


A sentence I once heard attributed to a CEO -- “Anything that can be done can be done in two weeks.” Whereas Samuel R. Delany, in About Writing, mentions what a short time a decade is, from the point of view of a mature writer mindful of posterity...


Sunday, August 02, 2009

And in conclusion, if you are reading The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov, then you are a liar, because, liar, you have not, in fact, read all of the stuff he wrote that he actually did want you to read.
So: I am basically all over the place right now. I'm working on a couple projects I'm not going to talk about right now in case I totally blow them and have to delicately choose to neglect to mention they ever (or never) happened; I have been trying to actually use some of this paint I've bought in the last year in a "What can I conceive, execute, and finish in, at most, two nights, though preferably one, because will I really know what I was thinking the first night when the second rolls around?" approach (some evidence of which endeavors exists here and here); and, in the last week, as part of an effort to not totally lose what tiny bit of ground I've developed in gaining semi-not-horrible drawing skills these last two months, I've done this (from which came this) and this (from which came this and this) and this (from which came this).

For fun, I've started reading, courtesy of the folks at Knopf, Glen David Gold's Sunnyside, which I like, now. I'll admit: it took a couple pick-ups over the course of a couple weeks before I kept it in my hands long enough to realize I might actually like it; the first couple go-rounds with the opening pages generated a certain quantity of "Oh, I see, but maybe not that much, and maybe not right now" in me, but now I'm into it a bit, enough to get the rhythm of it, and I like it, and I can see myself thinking I should blow all this other nonsense off for a while, and just kind of do this, here, now, for longer stretches of time than I have so far, this last week. And not just because of the whole new Thomas Pynchon on Tuesday thing, oh no, not just because of that. Which new Pynchon I probably won't read right away anyways. Because. I mean. This fall, you know, you guys? Nevermind that I've still got three stories from Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes to do, because I keep forgetting to make the perfect (perfect) reading times happen, see, so. So.