Archive for March, 2005

Reminder

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

I’m away this week to work on my novel. The entries this week were pre-posted (as are the ones you’ll see next week.) But rejoice! The one and only Randa Jarrar takes over tomorrow and every Friday, and I’m sure she’ll have lots of good stuff for you. Be well.

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Jessica Treat Recommends

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

deadbirds.jpg“I would like to recommend Landscapes of a Distant Mother by Said, who, for security reasons, publishes only under his first name,” Treat says. “Landscapes of a Distant Mother is a memoir about exile and loss. A slight 112 pages, the book is spare but also wrenching. It centers on the reunion Said has with his mother whom he has only seen once since birth (he is 43). Exiled from his native Iran for political reasons, living in Germany, Said writes of the terrible anticipation of meeting his mother, the meeting itself, and its aftermath. Beautifully written, honest and at times, painful, Landscapes is written like a letter, addressed to his mother, “Alone with a note in my pocket, on which there is written the name of a stranger who is to lead me to you–to a mother I have never known.” It can be read as a love letter, a love that is full of misgivings.”

Jessica Treat is the author of two books of stories: A Robber in the House and Not a Chance.

If you’d like to recommend an underappreciated book for this series, please send mail to llalami at yahoo dot com.

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Thanks

Monday, March 28th, 2005

Big thanks to Randa Jarrar for taking over the site on Friday. I’m away this week to work on my novel, so any entries you’ll see pop up for the next few days were all pre-posted for your enjoyment. Be back soon.

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Reminder

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

I’m away this week to work on my novel. The entries this week were pre-posted (as are the ones you’ll see next week.) But rejoice! The one and only Randa Jarrar takes over tomorrow and every Friday, and I’m sure she’ll have lots of good stuff for you. Be well.

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Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s Sighsteeing

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

sightseeing.jpgIf you read the literary news even casually, you’ve no doubt heard the oft-repeated details surrounding the publication of Sightseeing, Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s debut collection: Thai-American writer, 25 years old, six-figure book deal. Unfailingly repeated in every review, they tend to work as signifiers in themselves, overshadowing what matters most: the work.

The stories in Sightseeing, all told in first-person, all set in Thailand, are narrated (mostly) by young men who journey from innocence to realization in convincingly subtle ways. “At the Cafe Lovely” tells the tale of a young boy whose older brother, Anek, takes him to see a prostitute at the tender age of 11. The boy’s admiration, his desire to emulate, lead him to follow in Anek’s footsteps, even when they lead to the abandonment of their mother. In the very touching “Draft Day,” a young man and his best friend, each from disparate social classes, spend the day together, waiting to hear the results of a rigged lottery that will decide whether they are to serve in the army or can go free. The narrator’s guilt over the bribe his parents paid to get him off, and his shame at knowing that his best friend won’t get lucky is nearly palpable.

I found it refreshing that Lapcharoensap navigates what might seem to others as exotic, but doesn’t give in to the titillating detail; his work is vivid without being gratuitously colorful. At times, though, his stylistic choices seem completely odd. The dialogue between characters is rife with American slang, even if one allows for the fact that the text is a rendering in English. And his efforts at observing foreigners (“farangs”) are too one-note, too superficial to have the effect that they were probably intended to have. But when Lapcharoensap allows himself to take the time to invest in his characters, the efforts can result in stunningly beautiful work, like the novella “Cockfighter,” in which a young girl watches as her father, a once proud fighter with the best roosters in town, starts to lose everything to his gambling habit.

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Sefi Atta Recommends

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

deadbirds.jpg“I recommend Gayle Brandeis’s The Book of Dead Birds. The novel won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize, an award in support of a literature of social responsibility, and earned praises from Toni Morrison who was one of the judges. This is an evocative and moving story narrated by Ava Sing Lo, the daughter of a Korean mother and African-American serviceman. Ava accidentally kills her mother’s pet birds before she begins to try and save endangered birds along the shores of the Salton Sea. Her story crosses cultures and merges generations. The author’s prose is pristine and I particularly appreciate the way in which she handles every character with dignity. The Book of Dead Birds is such a graceful story, as unusual as its characters.”

sefi.jpgSefi Atta was born in Nigeria, has lived in England and is now based in the United States. She is the author of the novel Everything Good Will Come and has completed her second novel Swallow.

If you’d like to recommend an underappreciated book for this series, please send mail to llalami at yahoo dot com.

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Thanks

Sunday, March 20th, 2005

Big thanks are due to Randa Jarrar for taking over the site on Friday. I’m away this week to work on my novel, so the entries you’ll see pop up for the next few days were all pre-posted for your enjoyment. Be back soon.

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Reminder

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

I’m away this week to work on my novel. The entries this week were pre-posted (as are the ones you’ll see next week.) But rejoice! The one and only Randa Jarrar takes over tomorrow and every Friday, and I’m sure she’ll have lots of good stuff for you. Be well.

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Giveaway: For Bread Alone

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

choukri.jpg Here’s a special treat for you while I’m away. I have an extra copy of one of my favorite books: Mohammed Choukri’s Le Pain Nu. This is a classic of Moroccan literature with a lot of history–the banning, the translation by Paul Bowles, the alleged fight between the author and the translator over the copyright, etc. But really it comes down to an amazingly honest story, one that will grab you and not let go. This is a French translation, so you’ll actually need to speak Moliere’s language to get it. I’ll give it to the first person who emails me with his/her address.

Update: The winner is Natasha T. Congrats!

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Guest Review: Puerta Del Sol

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

Reviewed by Daniel A. Olivas

Francisco Aragon’s verse has graced the pages of several chapbooks and innumerable literary journals not to mention anthologies published by W.W. Norton, Heyday Books and Soft Skull Press. Aragon is also the founding editor and publisher of Momotombo Press which promotes emerging Latino writers and is housed at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame where Aragon is a Visiting Fellow. His talents at translation have been utilized for a half dozen books including those by the great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Aragon’s honors include an Academy of American Poets Prize and an AWP Intro Journals Project Award. With Puerta del Sol, Aragon offers us his first full-length book of poetry. And it is about time.

Each poem in this collection appears in English on the left page with its Spanish translation on the right. Aragon, who rendered the Spanish translations, offers what can only be called an apologia at the beginning of the book. As a Latino of Nicaraguan descent, he thanks his late mother for teaching him Spanish yet “as someone born and educated in the United States, English inevitably became my principal language. I spoke Spanish but was illiterate-I couldn’t read or write it-until I graduated from college.” He honed much of his Spanish while living, traveling and working in Spain for ten years. Thus, Aragon asserts that his Spanish is “hybrid, in both accent and vocabulary.” He also notes that in rendering his own words into Spanish, he felt free to make “linguistic choices” that veered from strict translation, based on “the pleasure of sound,” which “may have involved rewriting, reordering, or re-creating specific lines.”

As a native of San Francisco and long-time resident of Spain, many of Aragon’s poems derive from “place” and all that this concept brings: weather, language, history, friendships, loves, and family. In “Alaska,” the poem begins with the narrator lamenting a former lover’s painful absence and puzzling silence:

I never heard from you again.
Was it something I said, the paunch (though
a friend from Bilbao that spring didn’t
mind it at all)? . . .

Nunca supe mas de ti.
Acaso fue algo que dije, mi barriga (aunque
a un amigo de Bilbao esa primavera no
le importaba nada)? . . .

In his notes to some of the poems, Aragon tells us that Bilbao is a city in the Basque County in the north of Spain. But then the narrator brings us to Alaska where his former lover appears in a dream shoveling snow, “clearing a drive to back out a truck,” which triggers an early morning memory of “the heft of you, recalling how the rich / timbre of your voice was a well / I drank from that summer afternoon / at Kearny and California in the shade / of the bank, how we strolled down Sutter / into the Arcade.” And then back to the dream: “…you’re shifting / gears, the tires gripping, and Alaskan days / stretch getting longer, lengthening to the point / that when our limbs and lids / grow heavy with sleep, we bring / on the dark by pulling / it down- / those black / window shades; / wrapped in your arms.”

Thus, memory and place glide back and forth, from Spain to San Francisco and even to a dream-version of Alaska, offering shading and alternative feeling to the same subject. Aragon uses this place-shifting as a recurring motif. For example, in “Bridge Over Strawberry Creek,” the narrator is on the UC Berkeley campus “when I chose my place that morning / at the open window-redwoods / framed against June’s day blue….” Yet, even in choosing something as tangible as a place to sit, the narrator knows that if he closes his eyes, he would be transported to “a balcony / in Sitges those summer nights / listening to the Mediterranean breathe. . . .”

Bilingualism also becomes “place”-or rather, two places. Aragon’s deceptively simple “Mi Corazon is a Bilingual Mirror” explains:

So right for me to draw it
like this, in these times:
It gathers lint in your pocket
For him, these rhymes.

Un acierto para mi dibujarlo
asa, en este clima:
Recoge pelusa en tu bolsillo
Para el, esta rima.

Remarkably, this bilingual “mirror” rhymes in both languages. Yet the sounds are startlingly different, each version offering the ear singular experiences.

In “All Saints’ Day,” we begin in Southern California as “Laguna Beach smolders” and the “Santa Ana winds / head north now / for Malibu….” But “on the other / side of the globe” Federico Fellini’s soon-to-be-widow, Giulietta Masina, “feels a warmth / on her cheek: her husband’s gaze / awakened from sleep / speechless, saying / with his eyes, This / is all there is….” Fellini’s deathbed seeps into the image of another husband who is kidnapped but released, “his limbs and organs / intact, free / after a hundred / and seventeen days / his captors paid….” And then another shift to a husband not so lucky, a victim of a terrorist assassination in Madrid. Three husbands-one dying, one saved, one murdered-woven into a seamless fabric of fate at the hands of nature, avarice and political fanaticism.

Whether confronting terrorism on Spanish soil, memories of his late mother, or lamenting love lost, Aragon allows his images to travel from one continent to another, between English and Spanish, from hard, present tense reality to amorphous, malleable memory. Aragon’s poems are stunning little mirrors that reveal the shimmering complexity of our lives and dreams. This is an eloquent collection that deserves attention.

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Tommy Hays Recommends

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

billyrayfarm.jpg“Four years ago I reviewed Larry Brown’s book of essays Billy Ray’s Farm for the Atlanta Constitution,” Hays says. “The essays were about how Brown spent his time when he wasn’t writing, which was keeping up the family farm. Brown was a hand-hewn writer who wrote five novels and a nearly a hundred stories before he ever published a single story. By the time the essays came out in 2001, he had published seven books. In Billy Ray’s Farm, one saw that his life was a balancing act between writing and delivering calves or chasing down coyotes or corralling stranded catfish.
The essays were muscular, full of life, an active portrait of a writer in progress. The last essay in the book is about a cabin he had been working on for some time, whenever he could steal a moment from the farm.
When Brown died recently, the first thing I thought was, Now he won’t get to finish that cabin. I thought how his death cast the whole book in a starker, historical light. Instead of being there with him in those essays, I felt as if I was watching him through a darkening window. It made me wonder if a writer’s death can not only change how we read his work but can it perhaps transform the writing itself? ”

tommyhays.jpgTommy Hays‘s most recent novel is The Pleasure Was Mine, published by St. Martin’s Press. He reviews books for the Atlanta Constitution and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

If you’d like to recommend an underappreciated book for this series, please send mail to llalami at yahoo dot com.

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Another Orientalist Report

Monday, March 14th, 2005

Tom Reiss’ The Orientalist is reviewed in The Nation, but unlike the raves that have appeared in other major outlets, Daniel Lazare’s critical analysis takes into account both Reiss’s book and the book that started it all–Kurban Said’s Ali and Nino.

Nussimbaum is interesting as a case study, but is he really worth an entire book? Ultimately, the answer depends on our assessment of his literary worth. Reiss, who has clearly put an enormous amount of labor into this volume, writes that Nussimbaum’s dozen-plus works of nonfiction are still “readable” after all these years, while Ali and Nino remains “his one enduring masterpiece.” In an afterword to a recent edition by Anchor Books, Paul Theroux goes even further, comparing Ali and Nino to Madame Bovary, Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, Don Quixote and Ulysses–“novels so full of information that they seem to define a people.”

This makes Nussimbaum seem very important indeed. But is such lofty praise warranted? Not by a long shot. Overwrought and melodramatic, Ali and Nino is a minor bit of exotica that in ordinary times would be no more than a curiosity but, after September 11, is deeply repellent. Imagine a young Osama bin Laden crossed with Rudolph Valentino, and you’ll get an idea of the kind of hero–and values–the novel celebrates. Nussimbaum presents Ali, an Azeri khan, or chieftain, as a noble son of the desert: brutal, passionate and imbued with an Al Qaeda-like contempt for Western ways. Thus a chemistry textbook, in his view, is “foolish stuff, invented by barbarians, to create the impression that they are civilized.” Women have “no more sense than an egg has hairs,” while European law is contemptible because it does not accord with the Koran.

Related posts:
The Orientalist: Excerpt, Reviews, Questions, Interview
The Orientalist Report
The Orientalist Review

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Keret Flip-Out

Monday, March 14th, 2005

The BBC has a profile of Israeli writer Etgar Keret, whose collection The Nimrod Flip-Out comes out in Britain in March (it’ll be re-issued here in the States by FSG.)

The stories are subtly subversive, hinting at the pressure-cooker situation in which Israelis live without ever descending into overt politics. Keret says that is intentional.

“I don’t want to represent the political reality, I want to show people who live in it,” he says.

“It’s like when you use a mobile phone, it affects the TV – it makes a noise. I want to talk about this noise, not the phone call.”

Keret tells the BBC journalist an anecdote I’d heard him say before, and which I find hilarious:

And he recently appeared at a reading in France with Arab writer Sayed Kashua – where he discovered they had similar worries about the event.

“I’m always afraid of events in France. There’s always some pointy-chinned woman who stands up at the end and says: ‘You’re a baby killer, your hands are covered with blood.’

“And Sayed said: ‘I always get some guy saying: ‘You’re all suicide bombers, you have blood on your hands.’

“So I saw this woman in the crowd, she was nervous the whole time, and I was thinking to myself, that she was the one.

“And as soon as we were finished speaking she stood up and said: ‘This whole time I have been confused. Which one of you is the Israeli writer and which is the Palestinian?'”

Cracks me up every time.

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DFW in the Atlantic

Monday, March 14th, 2005

The April issue of The Atlantic has a cover story by David Foster Wallace, about political talk radio. You can get a small glimpse of it here, but you’ll have to buy the issue to really get an idea of the thing. (Color-coded notes and asides, anyone?)

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Appendage Monologues

Monday, March 14th, 2005

My favorite blog at the moment is the hilarious The Amazing Angry Talking Penis. Check it out, why don’t you.

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It’s A Wrap

Thursday, March 10th, 2005

That’s it for me this week. I will be taking a break from blogging for the next 3 weeks while I try to complete a draft of my novel in a very quiet place with no internet access. I’ve pre-posted a whole bunch of reviews, recommendations, giveaways, and guest columns, though, and Alex will step in from time to time with news items. The one and only Randa Jarrar will mind the blog on Fridays, as usual, so you will be in good hands, my friends. See you soon.

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Giveaway: The Baltimore Review

Thursday, March 10th, 2005

br2005.jpgThis week, I’m giving away the latest issue of The Baltimore Review, where my story “Better Luck Tomorrow” appears. If you’re curious about my forthcoming collection, this story is a good place to start. The magazine features the work of Dave Schuman, Terri Scullen, Anh Chi Pham, Nathan Leslie, Toby Tucker Hecht, and many others. I’ll send a copy to the first reader who writes in with his/her mailing address.

Update: The winner is R.G. from Lincoln, Nebraska. Congrats!

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2004 PEN/Faulkner Finalists

Thursday, March 10th, 2005

The finalists for the 2004 PEN/Faulkner Award have been announced. They are:

Thanks to the indefatigable Dan Wickett for the link.

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Estrin Blogs

Thursday, March 10th, 2005

Marc Estrin, whose first novel was cited by critic Ron Charles as an underappreciated book a few weeks ago, has started a blog hosted at his publisher’s website. I imagine he’ll be talking about his new book, The Education of Arnold Hitler, about a young man who has the misfortune of sharing a name with a genocidal maniac.

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Novel Ideas

Thursday, March 10th, 2005

A police chief in Mexico has found a novel way to improve his officers’ manners and make them “better people.”

Starting this month, [Luis Sanchez] the mayor of [Nezahualcoyotl] is requiring all 1,100 members of his police force to read at least one book a month, or forfeit career advancement. The cops will get reading lessons if they need them and can select the literature from a list of recommended books at a new library, ranging from “Don Quixote” to the latest crime novels by Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

Why the emphasis on literature for police officers, 70% of whom have no more than eighth-grade educations? Sanchez believes that too many cops are rude to citizens and that by reading, they will become better mannered, more communicative and thus more welcome in the neighborhoods they patrol.

“Reading makes us better people, more sensitive, more able to express ourselves,” said Sanchez, a bibliophile with the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. “Better persons give better service.”

Frankly, so many methods have been used to try and improve police work in Mexico that I think trying literary education can only help (though I disagree with the compulsory aspect.) You can read the rest of the article, and some statistics on whether the program is working, here. If you hit a subscription wall, just go to bugmenot.com and get a login and password from there. (Thanks to Dan Olivas for the link.)

A propos of compulsory education, the only example that comes to my mind at the moment is how Saddam Hussein received an award from UNESCO in 1982 for dramatically improving literacy rates in Iraq. Of course, the punishment for not attending literacy classes was three years’ imprisonment, so I can see how that was a huge incentive.

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Million Writers Award Finalists Talk About Their Work

Thursday, March 10th, 2005

StorySouth’s Million Writers Award was launched by the magazine’s editor, Jason Sanford, in an effort to promote the best of fiction published online. Last year, I asked all ten finalists to talk about their stories, and I’m doing it again this year. So here are the short-listed writers, on their work.

Terry Bisson: “Super 8,” published in Scifiction.com
I’m a science fiction writer, and rarely deal with my own history. Super 8 came to me when I saw a video that an old friend had patched together from “home-movies” of our dome-building commune days. I imagined the film itself as a character, and took it from there. I happen to be a Southern writer myself, and even thought of calling the story Rank Strangers.

Jai Clare: “Bone on Bone,” published in AGNI.
“Bone on Bone” was inspired while I was at a gig of a wonderful British contemporary jazz band. It was dark and the music was sexy and the pianist was marvelous and smiled broadly. Suddenly the words I fell in love with a pianist came to mind, though of course on this occasion it wasn’t autobiographical! And the next day I created this groupie vampiric type character who is in love with a man’s talent rather than the man himself. Some people have commented on the freeform shape of the story as if I was mimicking the music itself. If so that was totally unconscious. I just wanted to get as close to the feeling of listening to live music as I was capable of. And somehow show how obsession and love can develop.
It was a great honour to be published by Agni. They didn’t even change my English spellings! Many thanks to them and to Jason Sanford

Xujun Eberlein: “Second Encounter,” published in the Paumanok Review.
I once heard a story from an old man. In 1949, during the regime changeover in China, he was a political instructor for a Communist militia, and was acting under orders to suppress local bandits. One day they executed several arrested bandits, but at one point the execution of a man failed as one of the guns misfired. When the shooter, who had checked and adjusted his gun, asked whether he should shoot a second time, for some reason the instructor hesitated and did not say yes. A decade later, the instructor, who had become a high-level government cadre, returned to the same town on business. He ran into a happy farmer carrying rice on a mountain path who called on him, “Instructor Jin, do you remember me?” Jin didn’t, not until the farmer thanked him profusely for not taking his life.
Now, from the comfort of my American home, whenever I hear news about a teenage suicide bomber, my heart aches not only for the people hurt, but also for the teen bomber. There exist two irreconcilable worlds in our time, one views a suicide bomber as a hero and another views him as a terrorist. But to the family, he is most likely nothing more than a son, or a brother. He reminds me, painfully, of the Chinese teenagers I knew in my childhood. While my elder sister gave up her life at 16 during the Cultural Revolution for her reverence of Mao, her peers, those known as Red Guards, fiercely killed each other. They killed, not because they were ruffians, but because of their perceived differences in ideology, however small the differences really were. It seems only time can teach the lesson and wake us up from a nightmare of heroism. I can’t help but wonder, if the teenage suicide bomber had survived and lived for another 10, 20 or 30 years, what would he think and say about his action.
These two seemingly unrelated threads formed “Second Encounter.” I am indebted to Paumanok Review for publishing this story and to In Posse Review for publishing online my first story in English.

Alicia Gifford: “Toggling the Switch,” published in Narrative Magazine.
“Toggling the Switch” is the result of a moral dilemma I liked to pose to friends: What if you hit someone in your car, and killed them? Say, you’d been drinking. Maybe you’d smoked some pot, too. Say, no one saw it. Say, the accident was unavoidable. Say the victim was dead dead dead and nothing you could do would change that. Say, you had everything to lose. Would you turn yourself in? If you could get away with it? Would you be tempted?
All my friends unequivocally said yes, they’d turn themselves in. But I wasn’t so sure. The drive for self-preservation is a strong one, and it’s hard to say what anyone would do once confronted with the circumstances. And so I wrote this to explore it some, to pose the question.
Was Toni wrong to do what she did? Are there absolutes?
What would you do?

Richard Grayson: “Branch Libraries of Southeastern Brooklyn,” published in Fiction Warehouse.
Like many of the stories I’ve written over the past 30 years, this one is autobiographical. Although sometimes it seems as if half the writers in the country now live in Brooklyn, the part of the borough where I grew up was in some ways closer to Manhattan, Kansas, than the Manhattan across the East River. It’s a frankly nostalgic story in which I’m attempting to describe how libraries have influenced the narrator as a writer and a would-be adult. I used the different branch libraries as a framing device because I have a hard time writing linear fiction.

Trebor HealeyThe Mercy Seat,” published in Blithe House Quarterly.
Things had been going badly wrong, and out of the frustration, anger and despair, I sat down to rant on paper, and it grew into something else-a door opened to all the chaos, the crap, the hideous mess of life. I started out in a fury but ended up with a broken heart. Along the way, I ranted and raved, thought twice, admitted it hurts, felt the hopelessness, remembered love is the answer. Tragic. Comic. Then I laughed until I cried, organized my thoughts, and wrote the damn pain into a love story.

Dave Housley: “Ryan Seacrest Is Famous,” published in Barrelhouse.
This story surprised me a little bit. I had this idea about a guy who is being driven crazy by the fact that Ryan Seacrest is famous and he isn’t. This may have something to do with my deep-rooted feeling that I should have been a Beastie Boy, despite the fact that I can’t rap and have no musical talent and grew up listening to hair metal in central Pennsylvania. I think men in their thirties, or at least a lot of the ones I know, have a tough time coming to grips with the fact that their lives are more or less settled, and they generally have NOT become rock stars or power forwards or famous gonzo authors. There’s an aha moment that really kind of sucks and you either get past that, as most do, or it drives you crazy, which is what’s happening to this guy. I hope the story gets at that a little bit, but does it in a funny, offbeat kind of way. After all, it’s really not that bad to not be Ryan Seacrest.

Joan Shaddox Isom: “Remade Tobacco,” published in Eclectica Magazine.
I live in NE Oklahoma, the end of the infamous “Trail of Tears,” (referring to the historical Cherokee removal from the southeastern part of the country.) While working as a writer-in-residence in Oklahoma schools, some Native American students often talked to me about conflicts, both cultural and religious/spiritual. I began thinking about how some of these young people were caught within two or more forces: one, their elders; two, their parents, often practical people just trying to make a living, and three, school and peer groups. Throw in a father emotionally damaged from a war, and you have a complicated household through which my protagonist must navigate. The reader may decide whether she is coping, or whether she has fallen into the dysfunctional climate around her.

Corey Mesler: “Madam Sabat’s Grave”, published in Pindeldyboz.
“Madam Sabat’s Grave” is a piece from my forthcoming, crazy-quilt novel, We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon. As such, its genesis is tied deeply to the 2-year genesis of the whole. The novel-and the story-stem from my belief that the 1960s entered my bloodstream like sickle cell anemia, setting up its gypsy camp, leaving me a hippie for life. That, coupled with my cockeyed, anti-research method of employing history, fashioned the mad impulses behind these tales.

Chika Unigwe: “Dreams,” published in Eclectica Magazine.
Ms. Unigwe is currently on travel and was not able to contribute.

Please take the time to read these fine stories, and then vote for your favorite here.

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On Expats and Writing

Wednesday, March 9th, 2005

By Kirsten Menger-Anderson

I’ve been a fan of the expat writer since my sophomore year of high school, when I read Nancy Milford’s Zelda and fell in love with the Fitzgeralds. Gertrude Stein’s salon intrigued me, as did the friendship Fitzgerald and Hemingway formed while abroad-two such talented writers in the same place and time (though it was during that time that Fitzgerald informed his editor, Maxwell Perkins, about a relatively unknown young writer he’d befriended, a fact that may have played a role in Hemingway’s future success). For many years, when confronted with the question “If you could go back in time…” I simply answered, “1920s, Paris.”

Around the time I graduated from college, rumor held that Prague was the “Paris” of a thriving literary scene. I considered moving there in search of the place I’d idealized for so long. Instead I moved to New York City and scraped by on a retail salary while I pursued a career in film and television.

Ten years of video and, later, internet-related jobs passed before I began to question the value of the long work hours and seriously considered moving abroad again. Another three years slipped by before I finished my Masters’ in English and creative writing at San Francisco State, and the plans my husband and I discussed at last unfolded. Finding a literary scene played no part in the decision to move to Barcelona-a city we’d fallen in love with on an earlier visit-though I had, at last, identified myself as a writer.

(more…)

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IMPAC Shortlist Announced

Wednesday, March 9th, 2005

The shortlist for the 2005 IMPAC Dublin Awards has been announced. The finalists are:

There are so many literary prizes around it’s hard to get excited about any of them, but what I like about the IMPAC is that the nominations are made by librarians from around the world and that the lists tend to be very eclectic. Last year’s winner was the Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun, for This Blinding Absence of Light (not that you could tell by reading the Times or anything.)

Related post: Mabrouk, Tahar.

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Event: Opium Turns Four

Wednesday, March 9th, 2005

Those of you in New York might like to check out Opium Magazine‘s fourth anniversary gala, featuring:

Pia Ehrhardt
Sue Henderson
Angela Himsel
Heather Kelley
Christopher Hickman
Pasha Malla
Todd Zuniga
and Mike Sacks

The reading will take place at the 92nd Street Y’s Steinhardt Building tonight at 7:30 pm. ($12 advance, $15 at the door.) Go and tell us how it went!

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Indian Book Lists

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

Nilanjana S. Roy examines the merits of book lists.

This used to be disorienting, as though half the history of reading encoded in my memory before (and after) Rushdie had been deleted from the official record. Then last week, literary journalist and author Jerry Pinto gave a talk in Bombay on his personal selection of the 25 best books written in English.

It takes in about a century of Indian writing, it’s nicely contentious and very individual, it can be used as it stands as a rough guide for the neophyte, and it serves as the foundation for a great party game.

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MOTEV Returns

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

MOTEV (mother of TEV, for those of you not keeping up) gives her opinion about a handful of recent reads–Enduring Love, Amsterdam, Atonement, Transit of Venus, and “that Dog at Midnight book”.

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New Nye Book

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

Poet and fiction writer Naomi Shihab Nye has a new book coming out, a young adult novel called Going, Going and the Ann Arbor News has a brief profile.

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A Glimpse Into My Anarchist Nature

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

Roy Kesey’s short story “Asuncion,” which appears in McSweeney’s No. 15, had inspired Sean Carman to write a manifesto. Will you join the revolution?

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Dan Olivas Recommends

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

crossingvines.jpg“For anyone who is unfamiliar with Rigoberto Gonzalez, it wouldn’t take many pages of reading Crossing Vines, his first novel, to suspect that his prior book was one of poetry, not prose,” Olivas says. “Every paragraph, each sentence possesses the clarity and music of poetry even in recounting the often harsh and always difficult lives of a crew of grape pickers. In a series of vignettes focusing on different characters, Gonzalez allows us into the lives and painful pasts of these workers, all the while steering clear of the melodramatic and cliche when it would be easy to fall into such traps. This is a beautifully rendered, powerful first novel.”

olivas Daniel A. Olivas is the author of several books including most recently Devil Talk: Stories. His stories, essays and poems have appeared in many publications including the Los Angeles Times, The MacGuffin, Exquisite Corpse, THEMA, The Pacific Review, Red River Review and Web del Sol. His first children’s book, Benjamin and the Word, will be published this spring by the University of Houston’s Arte Publico Press.

If you’d like to recommend an underappreciated book for this series, please send mail to llalami at yahoo dot com.

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Imagine What It Will Do To Tarantino’s Oeuvre

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

Wired Magazine reports that legislation that would allow viewers to automatically skip over what is considered “objectionable content” in DVDs passed through the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property and looks to be “on the fast track”

The legislation would essentially affirm the legality of software such as ClearPlay, which automatically edits supposedly objectionable scenes out of popular movie titles. Several DVD players now come ClearPlay-enabled and work with more than 1,000 movie titles.

Some Hollywood directors and studios have complained that such filtering violates their copyright by altering their works without permission. S167/HR357, however, would sanction the practice.

And if it can soon be done with movies, how long before it happens with books?

Thanks to David for the link.

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