One Story author Jason Grunebaum’s translation of The Girl with the Golden Parasol by Uday Prakash has just been realeased by Penguin India. Jason is the senior lecturer in Hindi at the Univeristy of Chicago, and Prakash’s novel won the PEN translation award in 2005. You can order a copy here, or find out more about Uday Prakash and The Girl with the Golden Parasol here.
The latest edition of the O. Henry Prize Stories is in stores now. Among the winners is the wondrous Alice Munro for a story from The American Scholar called “What Do You Want to Know For?”, William Gass for a story called “A Little History of Modern Music” from Conjunctions, and Alexi Zentner for “Touch” from Tin House (three delicious stories that I devoured yesterday in Prospect Park.) There are also stories by other great writers such as Yiyun Li, William Trevor, Mary Gaitskill, Edward P. Jones and Steven Millhauser. Among the seven recommended stories that weren’t chosen for the collection is One Story issue #89, Irina Reyn’s “The Wolf Story.” These recommended stories are excerpted on the O. Henry Prize Stories website. Congratulations, Irina!
Last summer our staff was having an all day “read-a-thon” to catch up on our backlog of submissions, when someone came across “Muscle Memory”. It was passed around and we all agreed–this was something extraordinary. It was the first time I had read a story about Katrina that struck all the right chords, and since then I’ve come to realize that this is the best way to write about a tragedy that is so emblazoned on the collective memory–to, in a way, not write about it. To keep the reader’s focus somewhere else and let the event be an undercurrent, running below the surface. This is what Katherine Karlin does so well in “Muscle Memory.” I was completely fascinated by the world of welding. The details are incredibly exact, and if you read Katherine’s Q&A with us, you won’t be surprised that they come from personal experience. I also found my emotions really drawn to Destiny, as a powerful young woman entering a traditionally male occupation. Her father’s death is barely mentioned, and then, at just the right moment, as she tries on his welding hood–whammo. The scene packs an enormous punch. Then there is Augustine Beaudry, a wonderful character, who brings so much to the table–his bravado, his skill at welding, and also a connection to the history and music of New Orleans. In “Muscle Memory,” Katherine Karlin has opened a new and heart-felt world, telling how ordinary people are moving on and trying to recover from the devastation of Katrina. I hope that everyone reads this story.
One Story author Nam Le’s first collection of stories, The Boat, has just been released. It’s receiving great notice in the New York Times, with this interview with Nam appearing in today’s paper, and yesterday’s wonderful review from Michiko Kakutani. Visit Nam’s Website, see him read, or buy his book today!
Publisher’s Weekly just announced that AAP (Association of American Publishers), Borders and Latina Organization Las Comadres are starting a National Latino Bookclub, helmed by Esmeralda Santiago (When I Was Puerto Rican). Each month, a different book by a Latina or Latino author will be chosen and then discussed at Borders Bookstores across the country. Considering Las Comadres is 10,000 people strong, this will be a big boost for the writers involved. Unfortunately none of their picks for 2008 are short story collections, but hopefully in 2009 they will give one a try…
There are a two short story collections on the National Book Critics Circle’s “Good Reads” fiction list for Spring/Summer: Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Cost, a novel by One Story author Roxana Robinson, also made the list. To read the whole list, visit the NBCC blog, critical mass.
Interviewer to Charles Baxter: What is the status of the short story?
Baxter: Beats me.
In The Missouri Review’s Spring 2008 issue, Marsha McSpadden and Trevor Gore interview Charles Baxter, author of four short story collections, three poetry collections, two essay collections and five novels, including Saul and Patsy, The Feast of Love and, most recently, The Soul Thief. Baxter has a rep for being an inspired teacher and a writer who is cooooool with an inordinate amount of o’s. Here is a particularly intriguing part of the interview in which he talks about the current state of the short story, common mistakes young writers make, how he hates and loves Raymond Carver, and makes a debatably sexist statement about Lorrie Moore.
Interviewer: What’s the status of the short story?
Baxter: Beats me. There usually has to be some writer in the culture who’s writing stories that get people so excited they want to write them, too. For me, it was Raymond Carver, and to an extent Grace Paley. Then it was Lorrie Moore. A lot of women want to write stories like that. I don’t know whether some of you feel that way about George Saunders–quite a few people have gone nuts over those stories. There are great young short story writers like Aimee Bender, Eric Puchner, George Saunders and Edward P. Jones. Poe would say the most powerful literary work would be poems or short stories because you can take them in during one sitting and they’ll have a cumulative effect. I wrote The Soul Thief so that you could read it in one afternoon and evening. Ideally, that’s how short stories work. When a short story really works, it changes your life, and it has that same effect because it hasn’t taken you a month and a half to read. I would think, in a culture in which we’re distracted all the time, people would want to go back to stories. I love that form. You can learn more about writing from short stories than you can by writing novels. If you make a mistake in a novel, you can go on to write another seven hundred pages before you’ve realized what your mistake was. The novel is a very forgiving form. I spent years of my life writing bad novels that were never published because I didn’t realize the mistakes I was making. I only really figured out how to do it by writing stories.
Interviewer: What were the mistakes?
Baxter: I thought it was enough to write great sentences and that I didn’t have to know how people actually behaved. I had those implausible characters. It was a kind of hallucinatory, bogus world. I was trying to impress people. I was thinking too much about the audience. I was gripped by a form of literary bad faith. You need to practice humility; I hadn’t achieved that. These novels were directed, absolutely, by these themes I wanted to prove about people. All the characters looked like puppets. It’s common among young writers to want to impress their readers. It’s a result of watching too much TV and too many movies where the filmmakers assume that you have a short attention span, so they keep setting Chevrolets on fire. That’s rhetoric. That’s not art.
Interviewer: You mentioned Carver. I’d like to know what your thoughts are on Tess Gallagher bringing out the original Carver stories instead of the stories edited by Gordon Lish.
Baxter: In many cases, the edited stories are half as long as Carver intended them to be. I kept What We Talk About When We Talk About Love on my desk and I would consult it often because it was an example of what I did not want to do. I did not want to write that kind of book. I loved the book. But I hated it too. You can learn the most from the books you don’t like. And that book was a very powerful example of the kind of writing I didn’t want to do. That was Lish. Not Carver.