Saturday, May 29, 2010

Genuine Question: about novels

I know the obvious answer must be that I'm reading the wrong stuff, but why are novels so repetitive? It seems to me that a significant chunk of the long form is given over to stating and restating conditions and rationalizations that have already been decently established. The repetitive habit almost seems like etiquette, not immediately meaningful.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This week's to-do list, plus a time-waster

First week of vacay is over, and now begins week two, in which I have to Get Shit Done. Here are a bunch of to-do items beginning with "-ing" words:

--hoping to craft my review of Jacob Paul's novel, Sarah/Sara, for possible inclusion in the next issue of Prick of the Spindle. It's a fascinating book that builds its themes carefully and finishes with a genuinely nerve-wracking final act. My main anxiety approaching the book is my ignorance of Jewish orthodoxy, but I feel confident I have something to say about how this book deals with youth and tragedy. (the narrator is journaling as she kayaks the Alaskan coast solo after her parents are killed in a cafe bombing in Israel)

--trying to put together an interview/profile thingie to showcase Danny Collier's An Abbreviated Family Dictionary. (Danny will be playing the part of himself in this production)

--finishing up reading fiction submissions for PotS. Only just realized there are leftover subs from the last issue adrift in the transition among processes and editorial staff.

--trimming down the manuscript of my creepy vsf collection Curio, for possible submission to the Black Lawrence chapbook contest.

--buying new Keen sandals. (my feet hurt)

--straightening up spare room--Molly might be camping out with us in early June, and Mom is definitely coming late June. Nephew Jake a possible for mid-summer.

Time waster: put these in order--

buffet pizza
mountain pizza
beach pizza
grocery "deli" pizza

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Listed! (long short this time)

One of the best things about the Wigleaf Top 50 is that it comes at a time of year when I'm usually on vacation, so I never expect it. I'm so thrilled to have made this year's Long Shortlist with "The Temple Dog," a story that Adam Robinson took for Everyday Genius. BTW, 5 of the top 50 came from EG. Thanks Scott, Ravi, and Adam. No one works harder for the art.

This year's Top 50 is stellar, take your breath way stuff.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Valerie Sherwood, Author

So I did some slight research on the author of Rich, Radiant Love, featured in the post previous. Valerie Sherwood, born Jeanne Hines of WV, wrote 4 novels in the series:
1. Bold Breathless Love, August 1981
2. Rash Reckless love, June 1982
3. Wild Willful Love, October 1982
4. Rich Radiant Love, June 1983

And this comes from a romance writer profile page (I think for a book of photos):

"I write in great creative bursts-not every day," trills Sherwood, author of five chunky bestselling historicals, including Bold Breathless Love, Her Shining Splendor and This Loving Torment (six weeks on the New York Times paperback best-seller list). Inspiration strikes "in short bursts of ten or twenty pages or through the night till the dawn comes up"-with such formidable force that she is forever wearing through her typewriter keys. Furthermore, says Sherwood, she doesn't believe writers who boast in public that they toil daily in disciplined routines: "I think it has something to do with their taxes." Sherwood (a.k.a. Jeanne Hines) and her husband bounce among their five East Coast homes but spend most of their time in a fusty Charlotte. N.C., ranch-style house, surrounded by 11,000 research volumes (among them a sizable collection on witchcraft), "oodles" of never-worn dress-up clothes and six cats, who have a suite all to themselves ("To Fuzzy," reads one book dedication to a passed-away pet, "who smiled at adversity"). Born to West Virginia "landed gentry," Sherwood worked as a reporter and fashion magazine illustrator as well as a writer of gothics before turning to the more lucrative romance business five years ago. "My family thought I'd be just like everybody else, get married and stop," says she. "I'm a real character. I'm not really like anybody I know."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

trying to make the sun shine

I'm getting ready to go to the outer banks next week in hopes of getting in some kayaking and sleep, but I'm a little on edge, waiting for news about two book projects. I am happy to report that I finally started on something new--well, to be honest, it's another cabin thriller, so not new at all, except that I'm trying to write it as a novella. So far it's coming out in 1 page segments with few transitions, and any exposition is deliberately brusque and graceless. Some of the newer pieces in my ghosty-vsf collection are like that as well, with my story in the next Smokelong Quarterly being a good example.

The novella is about middle aged siblings taking post-rehab refuge in their family bay house near Port Aransas, Texas. I've been there only once many years ago, but it was an unforgettable trip, full of drama, beer, and apocalyptic jellyfish.
---
Lotta interesting stuff out there to read this week, but I keep going back to this interview by Art Taylor where he's talking to Alex Heard about his book The Eyes of Willie McGee. Also, you should check out 'Other' soon. They can't keep this up forever.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Michelle Reale's Natural Habitat, a review

Natural Habitat
By Michelle Reale
Burning River, 2010


Friday nights we all went out to dinner as a family. The Pike Family Restaurant had “homestyle” cooking, dull wood paneling and accepted cash only. . . The five of us squeezed into a booth and held the large sticky menus in front of us like we were reading for pleasure.

--From “Bonding”

As very short fiction moved from its boutique, periphery status towards the center of literary action, did anyone anticipate the rescue and recovery of the domestic story? Probably not, otherwise we wouldn’t be struggling against labels like flash or sudden that promise breathless tricks and mind bending facility, but do nothing to prepare us for the soulful narratives of family, class, and place that come to us from writers like Michelle Reale. The twelve brief stories in Reale’s new collection called Natural Habitat, from Burning River Press, have all been published previously. You might have come across two or three, recognized their intersections and thought, Oh, Michelle is worrying a theme. Deliberately, each of these stories is like a house in a dream-faded neighborhood where only children and dogs are happy, and even then just briefly.

As an object, Natural Habitat is irresistible. The cover of the 5x5 inch paperback features a tinted image of a wretched building, providing the first glimpse into the fictive neighborhood that Reale builds for us, story by story. The community is inspired by her childhood memories as she explains in the introduction: “That house, that neighborhood and the blocks surrounding it which included most of my relatives, the few friends I had, our parish and our school, were my entire life.” And so we might brace for nostalgia, but instead we get something gothic, the darkness of the lost and losing:

The older son swats at the bat with the broom, but the bat flies with ease, high and then low. Jesus hangs on his cross and watches. One by one the children leave the room. Dinner will be set for them somewhere.

--From “And She Flew”

Reale gives us emotional images, free of pretense and excuse. Her children are worried children. Her adults have moved past worry into a world with only one mystery left. Food binds and divides. Cigarettes are desperate flags. Sexuality and cancer are equal specters, hovering over every conversation. From the claustrophobia of the first story to the uncertain release of the final, moments accumulate across these very short narratives to create the feel of a novelistic world while shaking off the mannered dreams of conventional forms.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

home schooling

Trying to teach myself how to write reviews, but I've run into a few complications. Turns out I'm full of shit. Plus once I take a really close look at a book, I either like it too much or hate it like poison. That's not rational.