Writers Dale Peck and Rick Moody have called an end to their literary feud and will throw pies at each other on Tuesday, according to the New York Observer. This is all to benefit Sangam House, a new residency program that supports writers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The benefit will take place on Tuesday, April 29th at the Montauk Club in Brooklyn. Tickets are $20/$15 in advance. Well worth the price to see these fine writers covered in custard cream! For more info, go here.
Yesterday I threw a stone in Brooklyn. Ouch, said a writer. I walked a block or two away toward the Botanical Gardens, and threw another, bigger stone. Ouch, said another writer, protecting his laptop with one hand and rubbing his bruised neck with the other. Just proves the old saying. Writers are wimps.
A recent article in The New York Observer lists the top 100 literary people/places/organizations in Brooklyn by neighborhood. They’ve even included a friendly cartoon map with icons signifying your local Brooklyn writering holes. One Story is #21, perched precariously near the Gowanus in our beloved Can Factory, in which no cans are made.
The article then creepily goes on to list authors by neighborhood. The sound you hear is the hum of several literary razor phones in Brooklyn dialing moving companies. I suggest they move to Woodside, Queens, where yesterday I threw a stone and hit an Irish pub, arguably the finest among inspirations.
Many thanks to all who came out to meet us in Louisville, KY on Monday. One Story author, and Louisville native Tania James read from her forthcoming novel, Patterns of Migration, and One Story author (and current Axton Fellow in Fiction at the U. of Louisville) Austin Bunn read from his story, The Ledge. Our hosts, Jane and Bert Emke, put together a wonderful party, where we got the chance to visit with One Story subscribers and fans. We hope to do more events like this in the future, at the home towns of different One Story writers. Stay tuned!
Tomorrow afternoon, One Story publisher Maribeth Batcha and editor Hannah Tinti will be in Louisville, Kentucky, hanging out with Louisville writers (and One Story alums) Austin Bunn and Tania James. We’ll be giving a talk at the U. of Louisville. Details are below. Stop by if you can!
Monday, April 21st @ 3:30 pm
U. of Louisville
Bingham Humanities Building, Room 300
Louisville, KY 40292
Free and open to the public. For a map of the Louisville campus, go here. Bingham is building #17.
We’re sorry for taking so long to get “Familial Kindness” in your mailboxes. The change-over from first class to bulk mail resulted in a delay in our schedule. But now it’s here, and what a story! I first read “Familial Kindness” on the subway, and I was so drawn in by the strength of the langauge and characters that I missed my stop. By the time I got out and onto the opposite platform, I knew that I’d found a One Story story. This piece starts out deceptively simple–a distant relative arrives for a wedding–but with each paragraph it strips away the layers of Alma’s life, until there are two losses revealed–Charlie’s and Alma’s, side by side. The dialogue throughout is simple, clear and honest, and yet does so much work. I’m sure a reviewer would call this story “quiet”. But there is nothing quiet about it. There are screams, underneath all the sand that has built up in Alma’s house over the years. And there is also the courage that comes with living day by day through a life that is not what you expected. I encourage you to read through Kirsten’s Q&A to learn more about the story behind this particular story. And let us know what you think!
One Story author Kelly Link has announced that Small Beer Press, which she runs with the indominable Gavin Grant, will once again be breaking new ground in the publishing world. Starting today, Small Beer will be offering free downloads of John Kessel’s latest collection, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. The Baum Plan includes Kessel’s Tiptree Award winning “Stories for Men” (gender inequality meets Fight Club…on the moon), “Pride and Prometheus,” a mash-up of Frankenstein and Jane Austen, and “Powerless,” an amazing mix of pulp fiction, paranoia, and academia.
Could this be the future of publishing? In July 2005 Small Beer Press released Kelly Link’s first collection, Stranger Things Happen, online under a Creative Commons license. It has since been downloaded more than 50,000 times.
To dowload (or buy a paper copy) of John Kessel’s collection, go here.
Sam Ruddick writes about breaking fiction’s rules in this recent Luna Park post. He highlights a story by Erika Mikkalo called “Your 2nd Husband” in the current Fence as exhibit A. The story, he says, breaks several “rules” branded into the asses of MFA students in late night work shops. For instance, she uses 2nd person throughout, switches points of view regularly (pov!), offers no real plot, and is unconcerned with the so called main character until later in the story. Sounds like heaven to me but I acknowledge the thesis statement of Sam’s post is mostly correct: bring that story to an MFA workshop, and you will probably get scribbles that say; pov–pick one! What is this story “about?” I’m confused! Why are these people so weird? And, hold me. Sam champions Fence for continuing to publish work that goes against the grain and I champion them, too.
If you are going to break one rule, Sam says, you have to break a couple. However, what is a rule to one person can be a suggestion to another. A professor told me once why he thought it can be more challenging to write experimentally than it is to write “straight.” When you veer away from rules, or dare to create a world of new ones, there is less to hold onto, and more imagination is called into play. The experimental writer has to invent everything from the characters to the milk they drink; if you create a world where no one sits down, what do chairs look like? But there are those of us who revel in this kind of play, who were born on the wrong side of the reality tracks, who would find it harder to write straight than to write experimentally. I am one of those people. While I enjoy reading a myriad of styles, I am not interested in writing a standard relationship unless someone can levitate or someone else is secretly a refrigerator. Perhaps as my mother says, I’ll grow out of it. I doubt it. Ethics question: If a sign says Do Not Walk on The Grass, but you feel there is no ethical problem with walking on the grass, do you walk? My smug answer in college: No doubt everyone else will obey the sign, so I can walk on the grass and one person’s feet won’t do much damage. Civil Disobedience is not just a river in Egypt. I wanted to learn the rules in an MFA so I could know what I was breaking, and because I respect the “learn ballet before you attempt modern” philosophy. Picasso could render realistic drawings like a pro. He just didn’t want to.
My assignment to everyone: write a story that goes against your “rules,” whatever they are. Figure out what you are avoiding and write it. If you avoid dialogue, write a page of nothing but dialogue. If you are a person who walks on the grass, who goes by his or her own hip set of rules, first: stop being so smug. Second: figure out what your rules are, and write against those; for example, write a simple story about two people who are not refrigerators falling in love. Or, try writing a love letter to someone/thing unexpected; a fruit juice you enjoy, a bus driver who doesn’t groan when you drop your token, a supermarket. Whether or not you’ve been branded by an MFA, it will be a hair let down feeling.
On April 20, Jhumpa Lahiri’s second story collection “Unaccustomed Earth” will debut at #1 on The New York Times Bestseller list. While this is good news for Lahiri fans who enjoy her richly crafted stories about Indian immigrants, normally well educated Bengalis, adjusting to life in America, it is also good news for the short story. Lahiri’s collection sits atop a field of novels on the list, muscling past serial novels by Jim Butcher and Jonathan Kellerman. Read the short write up about it here.
Friday, April 4th was a very special One Story reading because Ben Miller (author of One Story issue #7, The Man in Blue Green) gave every guest a special “Dronx Citizenship Kit.” The goodie bag contained a map of the Dronx (the sixth borough of New York that is the setting for Ben’s new book, Meanwhile in the Dronx…) as well as a book of fantastic drawings by Dale Williams, who illustrated Ben’s novel, and skeleton keys to the city. Dale also hung copies of his illustrations on the walls of the lounge at Pianos. The Dronx may have been invented by Ben Miller, but after hearing him read a few hilarious sections of the book, this “decrepit purgatorial refuge for citizens who have failed to succeed in the other five boroughs” (as Ben describes it) started to sound familiar. Maybe some of us have been living there along? You can listen to Ben’s excellent reading here.