Our neighbor, the beloved Gowanus canal, has been the setting for a lot of buzz lately–the Superfund campaign we blogged about earlier, the bulk of our Twitter updates, as well as the recent Brooklyn dumpster pool phenomenon. We can’t ignore the canal, since we’re right next to it, but here’s another reason it keeps us talking: Gowanus graffiti encourages passersby to read!
Sex, if you’ll forgive the pun, is a hard thing to write about. Even great authors have failed at it. How does one even begin to describe an act that’s so universal yet also so personal beyond the most basic (or base) level in a way that’s not only revealing but relevant and necessary? I’ve tried in my own writing several times and have come to the conclusion that the best way to write about sex has less to do with the act itself than what’s going on around it. But for those still inclined to try their hand, One Story author Steve Almond has a few helpful tips for you over at the Rumpus.
Interestingly, the article neglects to give us any evidence of a successful literary sex scene. There are of course the legendary heavyweights of old like D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and his gal pal Anais Nin. Almond himself is certainly good at capturing the male’s perspective on the act (see his web site for evidence of that). Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ still remains a cultural touchstone for curious young adults. And Erica Jong got a lot of mileage out of showing women could be just as sexually free as men. Then there are the writers like Nabakov and Nicholson Baker, who take our concepts of “normalized” sexual behavior and turn them against us, revealing uncomfortable psychological truths as we find ourselves identifying with their perverts and fiends. But are any of these writers and books actually sexy? I ask you, One Story readers and fans, what literary sex scenes have successfully turned you on? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to check out Steve’s book of hilarious essays (Not That You Asked), which features the article linked above.
I’ve been a fan of Joe Meno’s ever since I read his collection, Demons in the Spring, which was one of the finalists for last year’s Story Prize. I was intrigued by the design of the book, which incorporated artwork into each of the stories, but what impressed me even more was the unique style of Joe Meno’s prose. Each piece contained a flight of fancy, but was grounded in emotion and wickedly sharp dialogue. One Story issue #122, “Children are the Only Ones Who Blush”, has this in spades. When I first read this story on the subway (where I seem to do all my reading these days), I found myself smiling at Dr. Dank giving therapy to the twins in those matching dentist chairs, then laughing out loud when Jill Thirby arrived, dressed all in yellow. At the same time, underneath this humor, the story was always working on a deeper level, so that when Jack makes his false confession at the end, it reveals a greater darkness. You can find out more about how Joe wrote this story by reading his Q&A with us. And now that you’ve sampled his work, you should also check out his new novel, The Great Perhaps. The New York Times recently said, “Meno is thinking hard about why the world is the way it is and about where hope for change might reasonably lie.” For me it lies in the image of Jill Thirby, dressed like the sun, trying to float herself with a hundred balloons.
Not to steal the thunder of GalleyCat’s literary-themed pet pictures, which are a big favorite of One Story interns, but we just had to post this picture of subscriber Edan Lepucki’s dog, who is apparently a big fan of the magazine. We were alerted to this cuteness via Twitter and now we pass it on to you, blog readers.
Edan’s pup is pictured below with our issue #122 “Children are the Only Ones who Blush” by Joe Meno.
If you have any pictures of your pets enjoying One Story, please tweet us @onestorymag or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ernest Hemingway: world-class boxer, drinker, huntsman, fisherman, ambulance driver, Fitzgerald-Basher, KGB agent? According to this article in the Guardian, we can add “Agent Argo” to old Hem’s ever-growing resume. However, we may also need to add yet another asterisk. Apparently, Argo (Hemingway’s cover name) was not able to provide Soviet agents with any useful political data in the 40s, and he was never “verified in practical work.”
One Story author Lydia Peelle has just published her first collection of short stories, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, the title story of which was featured in issue #87 of the magazine. Though this is her debut, Lydia’s stories have been receiving wide acclaim for some time now, including one O. Henry Prize, two Pushcarts, and two appearances in Best New American Voices. The collection has already received great notices from Publishers Weekly and Booklist who wrote that Peelle’s “rock-solid prose, surprising connections, and resounding transformations add up to powerful and significant stories of improvised life in a consumed world.” Learn more about Lydia at her Harper Collins author page and pick up a copy of the book here! Kindle users also have the option of downloading individual stories for $1.59 each.
Lydia will be appearing with John Wray and Wells Tower in NYC’s Bryant Park on July 29th as part of their Word for Word series. And if you’re in the Brookline, MA area on August 3rd, be sure to stop in at Brookline Booksmith to see Lydia read from the book. Details for that event are here.
The address that sits on the top of our masthead may not mean too much to most of our readers. But for our small staff at One Story and the hundreds of other Brooklyn artists and small press publishers who work there, the Old American Can Factory is a beloved home, a community of like-minded people that enjoy working off the beaten path (i.e, anywhere but Manhattan). For those unfamiliar with the neighborhood, our office rests right on the scruffier edges of Park Slope, not too far from the Gowanus Canal.
The Gowanus has been in the news quite a bit recently. Those keeping up with the EPA may remember that earlier in the year, the Canal was nominated for inclusion on the Superfund list, a government program that works to insure long-term clean up on some of the worst toxic sites in the country. For those of us who have suffered schlepping through floodwaters thick with garbage and have seen New York state’s own remedial projects fail to get off the ground, designation on the Superfund list could yield great things.
This is not to suggest that inspiration can’t be found there. Local photographer Jose Gaytan was profiled on the NY Times “Lens” blog recently and the Gowanus he has captured over the years is full of a mysterious and other-worldly beauty, with some night-scapes recalling the canals of Venice. One wonders while looking through these snapshots what other majesties may be unearthed in a cleaner and safer environment.
The time for final public comment is drawing to a close. If you wish to give your support to furthering this great project (and you don’t have to be a New York resident to help), we encourage you to learn more at the Superfund Gowanus webpage and to sign the online petition. To see more of Jose’s photographs and learn about his exhibit at the Brooklyn Public library, go here
One Story author Darin Strauss (issue # 15, “Smoking Inside”) has some thoughts on why it is great to be a writer, despite these desperate times, over at the Penguin Blog.
”These are, as the whole world knows, tough days for literary fiction. And it’s never been the easiest career, even in boom times. Rejection. Financial uncertainty. Mean or dense critics. Good publishers that nevertheless have, at the end of each quarter, to answer to corporate bosses. Plus, the difficulty of composition. Blah blah blah. Everyone knows about this job, about the privations and snags of it.
But it’s wonderful, too.
…The best books do what no other art form can; that is, they make us inhabit the minds of other people. We may not like these peple sometimes, but we can’t help but gain a modicum of empathy if we see the world through the eyes of someone we don’t like. Being a reader, therefore, could just possibly make you a more sympathetic person. (I know if you subtracted, say, ten important books from my life – Anna Karenina, Lolita, American Pastoral, Herzog, others, others – I’d be lessened personally by the sacrifice.)”
To read the rest of the article, go here. And be sure to pick up Darin’s book, More Than It Hurts You, just out in paperback!