5/9/2011 – Link Roundup

The Nervous Breakdown as an excerpt of Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow.

My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother. In 1968, she was working at the gift-wrap counter in Davison’s downtown when my father asked her to wrap the carving knife he had bought his wife for their wedding anniversary. Mother said she knew that something wasn’t right between a man and a woman when the gift was a blade. I said that maybe it means there was a kind of trust between them. I love my mother, but we tend to see things a little bit differently. The point is that James’s marriage was never hidden from us. James is what I call him. His other daughter, Chaurisse, the one who grew up in the house with him, she calls him Daddy, even now.

You can also check out Tayari’s self-interview and if you’re looking for something even better, check out Roxane Gay’s interview of Tayari Jones in Bookslut.

Barbara Galletly profiles some of the best bookstores in Los Angeles and the best bookstores in New York.

Will Ferrell stars in the upcoming Everything Must Go which is based on Raymond Carver’s short story “Why Don’t You Dance?”

Dear Sugar kills it with another column from The Rumpus.

There’s a line by the Italian writer Carlo Levi that I think is apt here: “The future has an ancient heart.” I love it because it expresses with such grace and economy what is certainly true—that who we become is born of who we most primitively are; that we both know and cannot possibly know what it is we’ve yet to make manifest in our lives. I think it’s a useful sentiment for you to reflect upon now, sweet peas, at this moment when the future likely feels the opposite of ancient, when instead it feels like a Lamborghini that’s pulled up to the curb while every voice around demands you get in and drive.

Friend of HAM, Ray Shea, has an awesome short over at decomP. You should check it out.

Thomas Powers write about Mark Twain at The London Review of Books.

This was Twain before he lost the ability to look away. Down the Mississippi lay the heart of American darkness. When Jim was seized by the Phelps family, who scratched out a living in ‘one of these little one-horse cotton plantations’ along the river, Twain gave up the struggle. He switched books. The last third of Huckleberry Finn is stage-managed for laughs by Tom Sawyer, dropped into the story by authorial fiat. Tom masterminds Jim’s escape from the Phelps plantation according to all the ‘best authorities’ of boys’ literature. Any evening after dark Jim might have walked out of the cabin where he was being held prisoner, but no, Tom insists they must dig him out, and secret letters must be written, and Jim the lonely prisoner must be friends with spiders and snakes, and a whole lot of other nonsensical stuff which we may as well concede is funny in its way and funny to a point. But it is no longer Huckleberry Finn; it is no longer an unflinching tale of the cruelty and wrong of human bondage. ‘In the whole reach of English literature,’ Bernard DeVoto wrote in 1932, ‘there is no more abrupt or more chilling descent.’ He meant from a brave book to a silly book, which DeVoto considered a shocking failure of literary courage on Twain’s part.

If you’re looking for something to read, check out Wigleaf’s shortlist of short stories.

Flywheel Magazine released its first issue.

“Miniature Golf” by S.H. Hall, the newest from fwriction : review

Have you checked out Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure?

It’s National Short Story month. Matt Bell is doing an awesome job of profiling some great short stories over at his blog.

4/27/2011 – Link Roundup

Roxane Gay has been killing it lately. She has a short story over at Night Train right now. Go and read “The Shape of My Mouth” as soon as possible.

Michael Chabon recalls The Phantom Tollbooth for the 50th anniversary edition that is forthcoming from Knopf.

When I was a boy I read, in a biography of Daniel Boone, or of Daniel Beard, that young Dan (whichever of the two it may have been—or maybe it was young George Washington) had so loved some book, had felt his heart and mind inscribed so deeply in its every line, that he had pricked his fingertip with a knife and, using a pen nib and his blood for ink, penned his name on the flyleaf. At once, reading that, I knew two things: 1) I must at once undertake the same procedure and 2) only one, among all the books I adored and treasured, was worthy of such tribute: The Phantom Tollbooth. At that point I had read it at least five or six times.

Growing up, The Phantom Tollbooth was a personal favorite.

Nathan Heller talks about why David Foster Wallace inspires and why he has devoted fans over at Slate.

The answer has less to with the part of Wallace that is best-known—the cerebral trappings and stylistic high jinks—than with a feature of his work that is more subtly distinctive. Increasingly over the course of his career, Wallace chased a humane sensibility on the page, a project that had less to do with arcane intellectual stylings than with his effort to break past them, to write about a social logic that didn’t depend on form or training. Reading the mature DFW means witnessing formal thought being juggled, shattered, and finally reconnected to basic ideas about how to live. In this, he channeled a peculiar hunger in his generation. His ascent coincided with a burst in higher education, leading more young adults than ever to enter the world rehearsed in systematic thought but unsure how to live humanely in a secular and pluralistic age. Wallace, in the books he published and the work he left behind, helped bridge that gap.

Steve Almond writes about the Three Cups of Tea fiasco over at The Rumpus.

My definition of creative non-fiction is simple. It is a radically subjective account of events that objectively took place.

Garth Risk Hallberg talks about the novel over at The Millions.

It was late October, 2008, and Robert Silvers had earned a victory lap. The New York Review of Books, which he’d co-founded with the late Barbara Epstein during the New York printers’ strike of 1963, was about to observe its 45th anniversary. And equally improbably, after the tumultuous reign of Bush fils, the country seemed poised to elect a president aligned with the social-democratic politics for which the New York Review had provided life support. Interviewed by a reporter at a San Francisco restaurant, though, Silvers, 78, sounded less like an eminence grise dining out on past accomplishments than a hungry young editor on the make…or maybe the cat who ate the canary. The end of the conversation found him talking up “‘an ambitious essay’” slated to appear in the Review’s anniversary edition, “‘a daring and original piece by a brilliant mind’”—a “dismantl[ing]” (in the reporter’s paraphrase) of the literary “status quo.” “‘Some people will be slightly shaken,’ Silvers said with delight,” before “grabbing a handful of smoked almonds and making a dash for the door.

Edan Lepucki talks about what it’s like to write in Los Angeles.

I’ve been feeling isolated lately.  In the mornings (if I’m being good), I work on my new book, and, once I’ve been sufficiently humbled by the limits of my own skill and talent, I take my dog for a walk.   On these jaunts, I wave hello to the neighbors and the gardeners, the local barbers and the auto mechanics.  Maybe I’ll stop by the nearby coffee shop, and get something to go.  On every walk, I’m likely to see a raised sprinkler–that little metal head–protruding from the edge of a lawn.  When I see one of these heads, I do like I’ve always done: I tap it down with my foot and I make a wish.

Here is an excerpt from “Love Sentence” by Lynne Tillman:

It was spring, and in the spring a young man’s, a young woman’s, heart turned heedlessly, helplessly, heartlessly, to love. Were those hearts skipping beats? Were eager suitors walking along broad avenues hoping beyond hope that at the next turn the love they had waited for all their lives would notice them and halt midstep or midsentence, dumbstruck, love struck? Were women and men, women and women, men and men, late at night, sitting in dark bars, surrounded by smoky glass mirrors, pledging their minds and bodies?

Do you judge people by the books they read?

That woman reading Suze Orman just got a letter from the IRS, that man reading The Notebook lost a bet with his girlfriend, and that other man reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is confusing strategic thinking with being an a**hole. In all of these instances, I sniffed like the pretentious bastard I am. These readers probably didn’t notice me roll my eyes and return to my dreary Haruki Murakami novel about lonely men being lonely, because that’s what lonely men read when they think the reason they’re so lonely is because they’re so-o-o smart.

3/22/2011 – Link Roundup

Michael Bourne discusses the 40th anniversary of the ride Hunter S. Thompson took with Oscar Zeta Acosta that inspired Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas over at The Millions:

Forty years ago today, on March 21, 1971, Hunter S. Thompson and a Chicano activist attorney named Oscar Zeta Acosta drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to talk over an article Thompson was writing about the barrios of East L.A. When the account of their journey appeared in Rolling Stone in November of that year, Thompson and Acosta had morphed into Raoul Duke and his 300-pound Samoan attorney and the trunk of their car, the Great Red Shark, had become a rolling drug dispensary.

Both Steve Earle and John Darnielle have written or are working on novels. What musicians have written novels that you’re a fan of? Answer in the comments!

AP Stylebook changes e-mail to email. I’m not a fan of how it looks, but I don’t use AP style any longer so I suppose it doesn’t matter.

Need some DFW to keep you occupied while you wait for The Pale King? Revisit Order and Flux in Northampton by David Foster Wallace.

Everyone is up in arms (in a good way) about Dwight Garner’s review of Geoff Dryer’s collection of stories Otherwise Known as the Human Condition. You can read “Sleeping Under Four Stars,” an essay on sex and hotels, over at Nerve.

Mr. Dyer’s new book, “Otherwise Known as the Human Condition,” is a collection of his occasional prose — reviews and essays culled from places like The Guardian, Esquire, The American Scholar and Granta. They’re “bits and bobs,” he writes, but he takes them more seriously than that, and so should anyone who cares about joyous, wriggling sentences composed in the English language. This is a book that, imperfect though it is, some of us have waited a long time for.

You should really check out Roxane Gay’s short story “Girls With Eating Disorders” over at fwriction : review.

Bracha Goykadosh reviews Other People We Married, a short story collection by Emma Straub, at The Rumpus.

3/16/2011 – Link Roundup

You Think That’s Bad by Jim Shepard is reviewed over at Full Stop. I had the pleasure of reading it early thanks to The Rumpus Book Club and it probably made it onto my top ten list for short story collections.

His shorts are appealingly outlandish. They are epic. Shepard takes from history and history in the making, and the protagonists are beneficiaries of truth stranger than fiction. Culling from events including record-breaking mountaineers on a winter ascent and the ingenious special effects of Godzilla, the reader gets to lay modest claim to the awe-inspiring byway of our collective hero worship, myth-making, and shared tragedies.

The Last Photon by Brian Biswas over at Cafe Irreal, a story about gods and stars.

A roundup of The Pale King over at The Rumpus.

Granta has a poem by Hiromi Ito as part of its focus on Japanese writers.

The second review of The Pale King was posted at Esquire.

The last work of fiction by the greatest American writer of my generation is an incomplete and weirdly fractured pseudo memoir about the United States tax code and several employees of the Internal Revenue Service. The work is frustratingly difficult in places. It’s potholed throughout by narrative false starts and dead ends. Characters appear without introduction and disappear without cause. I often found myself putting the novel down, and I didn’t always want to pick it up again. Then I did. Because The Pale King, an unfinished manuscript that will be published this month by Little, Brown, is one of the saddest and most lovely books I’ve ever read.

Who doesn’t want a six pack holder for their bike?

Issue 20 of The Collagist is pretty awesome.

Our friends at Sea Giraffe Mag are accepting submissions for the Martius Contest.

The longlist for the Orange Prize was announced. Books longlisted include Room by Emma Donoghue, A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Great House by Nicole Krauss, and The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht.