Caitlin Horrocks’s This is Not Your City

Congratulations are in order for Caitlin Horrocks, (issue #144, “Life Among the Terranauts”) whose impressive debut collection, This is Not Your City, was recently brought into this world, to stellar reviews.

The collection contains eleven stories that have been described as darkly comic, unflinching, and emotionally mesmerizing. In other words, everything you already know about what Horrocks is capable of if you’ve read “Terranauts.” The book is teeming with similarly brave, unique choices: everything from a Russian mail-order bride in Finland to a cruise ship held hostage by pirates to a woman confronting reincarnations from her 127 lives.

Once I’d read a few of Caitlin’s stories I was hooked. She is not only smart and funny but also wise in a way that’s rare among young writers. To read her is to learn about storytelling and its elasticity. Go here for more information or to buy the book.

Issue #144: Life Among the Terranauts

The current issue was edited by our managing editor, Tanya Rey, so I’ll leave her to do the proper introductions. Hope everyone enjoys this marvelously inventive world of the Terranauts. -HT

I knew from the minute I read “Life Among the Terranauts” that I wanted to work on it. Not only was the writing exceptional and the voice delightful, but how often do you read a moving story about people trapped in a simulated earth? With the added suspense of potential cannibalism? Not often, I’d venture to say.

From the beginning Caitlin Horrocks deftly draws us into NovaTerra, an isolated man-made ecosystem where six people have signed on to live for two full years without any contact with the outside world. We meet the group on day 543, after most of the enthusiasm, crops, and animals have died and they are eagerly counting down until they can get out and return to “Old Earth.” What follows is the unraveling of organization and faith, as told from the point of view of a narrator whose own experience with religious zealotry attracts her to Igor, NovaTerra’s only steadfast believer. The narrator is faced with the task of fighting her past in order to ensure the survival of the group.

This is a magical story whose magic lies, above all else, in the way it melts into the grainy existence of our own struggles with faith and religion. Caitlin possesses the coveted writerly ability to make readers think deeply when all they thought they were getting was a funny tale about a botched bio-dome project. (No easy feat, as Jason Bloom can probably tell you.)

Visit the Q&A section to read more about “Life Among the Terranauts” and how it was made. To read more of Caitlin’s work–which I highly recommend–visit her website at www.caitlinhorrocks.com.

Megan Mayhew Bergman reading at KGB Monday, 12/13

If you’re in town this Monday night, please go check out the very talented Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of “Housewifely Arts,” issue #142, as she reads at KGB as part of the “Raconteur Presents Bennington in Manhattan” reading. Other writers reading include fellow colleagues from Bennington College’s MFA Writing Seminar: Willa Carroll, Liz Arnold, Jeremy Oldfield, Robert Hansmann, Lisa Alexander, Hannah Tennant-Moore, Jennifer Acker, Alex Dawson, and the acclaimed poet/Bennington professor Timothy Liu.

The Raconteur is a bookstore in central New Jersey known for its eclectic in-store programming and literary road shows. It has been called a literary center of gravity by The New York Times, a literary landmark by Time Out New York, and a literary sanctuary by the London Guardian.

Fiction vs. Memoir: Myla Goldberg & Darin Strauss, Sunday, 12/12

On Sunday, December 12th, Darin Strauss and Myla Goldberg will be reading from their new books at Union Hall in Brooklyn, where you can drink drinks and eat food, play bocce, and be a part of a literary conversation all at once.

Darin (issue #15 “Smoking Inside”), who’s normally a novelist, has written a memoir, Half a Life, which has some interesting things in common with Myla’s new novel, The False Friend.  So, on December 12th, it’ll be Fiction vs. Memoir, with both writers talking about the different ways the forms allow a writer to get (or fail to get) at the truth.  Plus, the event is a benefit for the Brooklyn New School, also known as P.S. 146, which like all public schools has been hit hard by the city’s budget cuts.  You should come!  Here’s the info all pretty-like:

FICTION VS. MEMOIR: MYLA GOLDBERG AND DARIN STRAUSS IN CONVERSATION IN A BENEFIT FOR THE BROOKLYN NEW SCHOOL
Sunday, December 12
6pm
Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Brooklyn
$12-$25 Donation at the Door

DARIN STRAUSS

In Darin’s new memoir, Half a Life, he writes of his experience of being behind the wheel when a high school classmate swerved in front of his car and died.

MYLA GOLDBERG

In Myla’s new novel, The False Friend, a woman confronts the memory of having contributed to the death of a child when she was a girl.
This is event is sponsored by One Story.

Two new Craftwork Lectures at The Center for Fiction this week

Join us this week as we host two talks at The Center for Fiction, as part of our Craftwork series.

On Tuesday evening, S.J. Rozan (author of On The Line) will help you plot your mystery or suspense novel. Then Wednesday evening, Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad) will give a lecture on character.

General admission to the talks are $8, but it’s FREE for OS subscribers. Or, you can also donate a book for The Center’s NYC Schools Program for your admission. How cool is that?

Hope to see you there!

Ben Greenman on Kim Kardashian, Tiger Woods, and Chekhov

OS author Ben Greenman’s (issue #113, “The Tremulant”) latest book, Celebrity Chekhov, just out from Harper Perennial, takes classic Chekhov stories and reworks them to include a range of celebrities clouding our everyday American existence–from Oprah to Tiger to Brittney Spears. Here, OS intern Conor Mesinger asks Mr. Greenman a few questions about the project.
CM: What inspired you to augment Chekhov with current celebrities? Why
Chekhov in particular?

BG: What inspired me, initially, was the spirit of Why Not. Do you know
that spirit? It’s a benign spirit. Chekhov in particular because
there’s a kind of anonymity in his fiction. I am sure that Russian
literature scholars will appear immediately brandishing their weapons
(pens? samovars for scalding?) and say that I am an idiot for
believing this, but I have read Chekhov’s stories a number of times,
and what sticks with me are the situations, the moments where
character is revealed, and not necessarily the characters themselves.
Take a story like “The Beggar,” which I love and have always loved.
The main character is a lawyer named Skvortsov. I never remember that.
It’s partly a language barrier, and partly because Skvortsov could be
any officious man who believes he’s helping an unfortunate. So I
started thinking about his stories, and how they seem to me more
satirical than self-important, and that suggested to me that they
could survive an update, particularly one involving celebrities, which
would contort them in all kinds of strange ways. But I hoped, and
hope, that the contortion is a form of exercise rather than a form of
torture.

CM: What was your process for writing the stories? How did you choose your
characters?

BG: I read them a number of times in the original — well, the original
translation — before I wrote. Sometimes a celebrity sprang to mind
immediately. Sometimes the matches were more difficult. And sometimes
I zigged after zagging: in other words, I followed a story with an
obvious match (I gave one about a wayward husband to Tiger Woods) with
a more surreal or strange pairing (I put Jack Nicholson and Adam
Sandler at the heart of Chekhov’s Little Trilogy: “The Man in a Case,”
“Gooseberries,” “About Love”).

CM: How did it feel to reinvent these stories using modern characters with
so much baggage?

BG: Liberating and terrifying and comical and grave. And I know for a fact
that how it feels for me is not how it will feel for some readers. The
characters, the celebrities, have baggage, but they’re also oddly
empty. Or rather, they have baggage only because we put it there,
because we as a society spend so much time and energy worrying about
why Kim Kardashian is doing so many nude magazine covers (I’m guessing
it’s because she needs attention and has a great body, probably in
that order) or whether Oprah’s straight or why Alec Baldwin yelled at
his daughter in a private phone call.

CM: In your short story “The Tremulant,” you seem to investigate the role
of the speaker through the use of letters as narrative. In your new
book, how does the switch to celebrities complicate Chekhov’s own
speakers?

BG: Well, it complicates them in a related sense: “The Tremulant,” and the
whole book in which it eventually appeared (What He’s Poised to Do)
looked at letters and letter-writing as very vexed forms of personal
advertisement/articulation. How do you speak to people you care about?
Do you tell them the truth? Do you work around it? Do you disclose the
things that are truly in your heart, or is that too much exposure? Can
you bear the risk of ridicule? Those kinds of questions. In “The
Tremulant,” one of the narrator’s strategies is to write not to his
lover, but to her letters. There’s an intertextuality that creates
texture and acts as a form of armor. Celebrities, by their very
nature, operate this way as well. When you see the name “Lindsay
Lohan,” how much are you thinking of the human versus the incidents
and apparatus surrounding her? And when you hear her speak in my
stories, how do you get around to the idea that it is actually her (or
at least a version of her) speaking? There are stories like “A Lady’s
Story,” which is told in the first person by Britney Spears, that wind
the ball of yarn even tighter. What does it mean to be in her head?

CM: You’ve written both novels and story collections, one of which was entirely comprised of stories about letters. How do you decide what
material is better for each format?

BG: Generally I like playing with a series of shorter narratives that
(hopefully) add up to something huge and strange. The most traditional
novel I wrote, Please Step Back, was a struggle, in some ways, but
it was carried along by the plot, which was essentially the life story
of a legendary (fictional) funk-rock musician. There were quick
reversals and chicanes and everything else, but the plot in general
was carried forward by time — by time in the story, I mean. In this
case, with Chekhov’s stories and the celebritized versions, stories
were the only way to go, because each short work has to live within
the force field both of its plot and also of its central character.

CM: What are you working on now?

BG: There are a number of books that I’ve either started or sketched or am
dreaming about: a novel about a politician, a novel about a safety
inspector, a novel about a detective, a novel about a plagiarist, a
novel about a con man, and a novel about a conned woman. So basically
a novel. But there are always stories, too. For example, there’s a
strange one, strange in the sense that it’s kind of normal, coming out
soon in the next edition of Electric Literature. And lots of little
humor and conceptual pieces along the way.

One Story baby

Thanks to One Story reader Bleidy Ilnitsky of Pembroke Pines, Florida, for sending in this adorable pic of her OS-loving baby, Juliana.

Juliana’s favorite authors are AM Homes, Flannery O’Connor, and James Joyce. She loved Infinite Jest but describes Freedom as just “Meh.”

Share your best OS photos and we’ll post them, too!

OS Author Jim Hanas to talk about The Future of the Book

Jim Hanas, (issue #8, “The Cryerer”) will be speaking in Brooklyn next Tuesday, on The Future of the Book. This talk is part of Adult Education, “a Brooklyn-based monthly lecture series devoted to making useless knowledge somewhat less useless.” A whole panel of presenters (names below) will be speaking on the topic, and here’s a bonus: the talk will double as a release party for Hanas’s e-book story collection, “Why They Cried”, forthcoming from ECW Press.

A release party? For an ebook? About crying and the future of the book? Now that’s probably something you don’t want to miss.

ADULT EDUCATION PRESENTS:
“The Future of the Book”
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 – 8 pm (doors at 7:30)
Union Hall in Park Slope
702 Union St. @ 5th Ave
$5 cover
http://adult-ed.net

The line-up will include:

STEPHANIE ANDERSON, “Moby-Dunk”
Anderson explains — using examples from a basketball league populated
solely with people who knew the answer to “Who wrote ‘Great
Expectations’?” — the ways in which books and bookstores can continue
to be important in whatever future we imagine for the written word.

ANNA JANE GROSSMAN, “Lessons From the Retirement Home”
Grossman looks at what book lovers can learn from other now obsolete
communication technologies.

RACHAEL MORRISON, “Smelling Books”
Morrison presents a multi-sensory lecture on books, libraries, smell,
and nostalgia.

JIM HANAS, “The Future of My Book”
Hanas intends to to fulfull his end of the book publicity contract by
providing the audience with gossip about himself, gossip about others,
and gossip about zombies.

If you read a good story, do NOT keep it to yourself.

Hey, hey, BK-Manhattan commuters! Doesn’t the morning ride to work suck? Aren’t you tired, grumbly, hungover (L liners, I’m grumbling at you), dreading your Wall Street boss, or the stock market, or whatever it is you 9-5 commuters dread? Don’t you wish you had some reading material to keep you from staring wide-eyed at that stinky half-naked man with the shopping cart, or focusing too much on your need for oxygen? Well we’ve got the answer: FREE stories!

From 7:30-9 am on Wednesday, September 8th, volunteers will be handing out free copies of One Story at subway stations throughout Brooklyn, as part of the “One Story, One Borough” campaign, in our ongoing effort to save the short story. Each issue will include an invite to a One Story reading by Brooklyn OS authors James Hannaham, Reif Larsen and Caedra Scott-Flaherty at noon at The Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 12th. The campaign is being hosted by One Story and The Brooklyn Book Festival, and is sponsored by the JP Morgan Chase Regrant Program, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council.

Here are the subway stations where you’ll find us:

Atlantic Ave.-Pacific St. (M, N, Q, R, B, D, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Court St.-Borough Hall (M, R, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Jay St.-Borough Hall (A, C, F)

Clinton-Washington Aves. (A, C)

Grand Army Plaza (2, 3)

Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum (2, 3)

Carroll St. (F, G)

7th Ave. (F, G)

York St. (F)

Morgan Ave. (L)*

Bedford Ave. (L)

So please, keep an eye out for us, and take a story–we won’t even make you let go of your coffee or take off your uber-huge headphones to do it.

*Did you know that this was found to be the “most romantic NYC subway station,” according to a Craigslist Missed Connections study?

OS Authors Shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award!

The shortlist for the 2010 Cork City – Frank O’Connor Short Story Award is out, and 2 of our beloved authors are on it! Both Robin Black (issue #104, “Harriet Elliot”) and Laura van den Berg (issue #102, “What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us”) are now in the running for the  €35,000 prize, the world’s richest award for the form. It’s given to what is judged to be the best original collection of stories published in English in the 12 months preceding its award in September. Unlike past years’ shortlists, which consisted of more authors from the UK and Ireland, five of the six places on this year’s short list have been taken by American authors. Another unusual feature is that as many as three of the books have been published by small presses. (Go Dzanc! Go Graywolf!) All of the shortlistees have agreed to go to Cork next September to attend the awards ceremony and to read from their books at the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival.

Let’s give it up for Robin and Laura, and cross our fingers for them. We wish you the best, ladies!