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Valerie Trueblood Recommends

“I came upon Wesley Gibson’s You Are Here with delight,” Trueblood says. “It’s a hilarious, energizing misery-fest of a book, about the attempt to live and write in New York when you arrive not so young as all that and without the cushioning illusions, with good work already behind you, and have to be, every day, younger, sexier and way cooler than you feel. Gibson knows how to fake being an upbeat guy; he is a bumbling knight to his writing students (one of the jobs to which he brings his guarded-against born tenderness is teaching four adult students on Saturday in an elementary schoolroom). The jobs appear and fade, his own work goes on behind the scenes as he struggles to make a living, a potential landlord finds him “not gay enough,” the apartment he takes (or that takes him) gives him, and us, the lonesome shivers, the roommate–here the book begins to soar–the afflicted roommate coughs his way into our hearts. You Are Here, a Memoir of Arrival: it’s a sad book, full of joy, the joy of life and of sentences like this: ‘Then she gave me a smile that was as slow as six deliberate paper cuts.'”

Valerie Trueblood is a writer based in Seattle. Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, The Northwest Review, and One Story, among others. Her first book, a novel in stories, will come out this year from Little, Brown.

Readings, Interviews, TV

I feel like I’ve been on an airplane for the last couple of weeks. I went to the Chicago Humanities Festival, where I gave a reading, followed by a conversation with Gina Frangello. (Here is a recap of the event, if you’re interested.) Then I went back home for one day and had to head right back out for the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. I met with my lovely Canadian editor, gave two readings at Harbourfront Centre, and did a panel conversation with Sarah Waters and Valerie Martin for Writers & Company on CBC.

In other news, I will be on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on Monday night. (Set your DVR!) Then on Thursday, I will be giving a reading at CCNY, as part of their Chinua Achebe Legacy Series. The reading is free and open to the public. Details are below:

November 6, 2014
12:00 PM
City College of New York
Chinua Achebe Legacy Series
NAC Building, Amsterdam Room
Amsterdam Ave. at 137th Street
Harlem, New York

But one advantage of all this travel is that I’ve been able to some reading! I just finished Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, On Immunity by Eula Biss, and The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

When T.S. Eliot Rejected Animal Farm

In a story that is bound to hearten writers who deal with rejections (which is to say, pretty much all of them), news came yesterday that George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by T.S. Eliot when Eliot was editorial director at Faber and Faber.

In a letter from 1944 explaining why he would not be publishing the work, Eliot told Orwell that he was not persuaded by the “Trotskyite” politics which underpin the narrative. To publish such an anti-Russian novel would jar in the contemporary political climate, explained the poet.

“We have no conviction … that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time. It is certainly the duty of any publishing firm which pretends to other interests and motives other than mere commercial prosperity to publish books which go against the current of the moment,” wrote Eliot, before going on to say that he was not convinced that “this is the thing that needs saying at the moment.” The letter, which has been in the private collection of Eliot’s widow, Valerie, since he died, is explored in a forthcoming edition of the BBC documentary series, Arena.

I read the published excerpts from Eliot’s letter several times and I still can’t figure exactly what Eliot had against the book. Maybe I just need some coffee. Or maybe rejections are just opaque to me.


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