Archive for April, 2010

Quotable: Cormac McCarthy

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Here is a passage from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian—it’s a sentence, actually, a long, wonderfully crafted sentence, whose beauty highlights the very ugliness of what is about to happen when a group of Indians catches up with a band of American scalp hunters:

A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained weddingveil and some in headgear of cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or saber done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses’ ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse’s whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.

I heard recently that a film adaptation of the novel is in the works. I’ve always thought this book was unfilmable, but perhaps Todd Field (who has directed good adaptations of In the Bedroom and Little Children) is up to the task.


After The Fest

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Thank you to all those who came to my L.A. Times Festival of Books panel this weekend. I hope you all had as much fun as I did. And thanks especially to Maret Orliss, Vanessa Curwen, and Ann Binney for organizing this huge festival–I have no idea how they do it every year! (Above is a picture of me with a few friends who were also in attendance.)


Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Next weekend, the Los Angeles Times will hold its annual Festival of Books. I’ve had the pleasure of participating a few times, and it’s always been loads of fun. This year, I’ll be moderating a panel on Sunday, with André Aciman, Assaf Gavron, and Amy Wilentz. Here are the details:

April 25, 2010
10:30 AM
Fiction: Writing the Personal, Writing the Political
André Aciman, Assaf Gavron, and Amy Wilentz, moderated by Laila Lalami
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, California

It’s a free event, but you do need tickets to get in, so please go here for details. In yet another sign of the apocalypse, I’ve joined Twitter, so you can follow me there if you’re really interested in occasional, 140-character accounts of what I’m reading, what I’m writing, where I’m going, and everything else in between.


Quotable: Percival Everett

Friday, April 16th, 2010

The passage below is from Percival Everett’s Erasure, from the scene in which Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison, a writer and professor, visits a bookstore in Washington, DC and doesn’t find his books where he expects them to be.

While Lisa wandered off to the garden book section, I stood in the middle of Border’s thinking how much I hated the chain and chains like it. I’d talked to too many owners of little, real bookstores who were being driven to the poorhouse by what they called the Wal-Mart of books. I decided to see if the store had any of my books, firm in my belief that even if they did, my opinion about them would be unchanged. I went to Literature and did not see me. I went to Contemporary Fiction and did not find me, but when I fell back a couple of steps I found a section called African American Studies and there, arranged alphabetically and neatly, read undisturbed, were four of my books including my Persians of which the only thing ostensibly African American was my jacket photograph. I became quickly irate, my pulse speeding up, my brow furrowing. Someone interested in African American Studies would have little interest in my books and would be confused by their presence in the section. Someone looking for an obscure reworking of a Greek tragedy would not consider looking in that section any more than the gardening section. The result in either case, no sale. That fucking store was taking food from my table.

Of course, it’s at this point that he comes across a poster advertising a reading by newcomer Juanita Mae Jenkins, author of We’s Lives In Da Ghetto, whose first line is My fahvre be gone since time I’s borned and it be just me an’ my momma an’ my baby brover Juneboy. There’s only one thing for poor Thelonious to do: write his own ‘ghetto novel,’ which he calls My Pafology. (He later changes the title to an expletive, and the publisher gets even more excited about potential sales.) Some time ago, I was joking with some friends online that I should try to write something like My Pafology, but for ‘my people.’ You know, cash in, while I can. After all, there are dozens of books purporting to diagnose what is wrong with Arabs and Muslims, so one more couldn’t hurt. It would be called Killer Instinct and it would give insight into how we (every single one of us) are raised to kill the infidel. But it seems that irony doesn’t really travel well online.


Novel in Progress

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

When I give readings, one of the most common questions I get asked is to describe my writing process. I always hesitate to talk about it, because it seems so idiosyncratic and hence useless to anyone else but me. For instance, I always begin my writing day by listening to Rachmaninoff. Why Rachmaninoff? I have no idea. But listening to the same piece every day helps me start my routine. And routine is paramount for me, because I can’t afford to wait for my muse to show up. She’s kind of unreliable. I’m also pretty fastidious about my note-taking, so in addition to two writing notebooks (one for fiction, one for nonfiction), I also keep a logbook to keep track of what I’m writing and what I’m reading. Right now, I’m working on my new novel, so my current draft, my research, and all my associated notes are stored together. That way, I can find what I need when I need it. It’s early in the process, so I am only on my first box for this novel and it is not even full yet. But, you know, one page at a time…


Reading at Powells

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

On Wednesday, April 7th, I will be in Portland to read from Secret Son at Powell’s Burnside. Below are the details:

7:30 PM
Reading and Signing
Powell’s Books
1005 W Burnside
Portland, Oregon
May 6, 2010


Reading at Mills College

Monday, April 5th, 2010

The event with Ngugi wa Thiong’o was wonderful—thank you to everyone who came. There should be an audio recording on the Los Angeles Public Library’s site at some point, in case you’re interested. Now I’m getting ready for a reading in Oakland, at Mills College. Below are the details:

Tuesday, April 6
5:30 PM
Reading and Discussion
Mills College
Oakland, California

This will be my only reading in the Bay area for the paperback release of Secret Son. I hope to see you there.

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