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Last Build Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2017 18:04:57 +0000


Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s “NYC Novel”

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 19:39:57 +0000

photo: Heike Steinweg It’s funny: I wouldn’t have thought of Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Harmless Like You as a “New York novel,” exactly, even though, as she concedes in the essay below, a good part of the novel is set there, nearly half a century in the past. Part of my thinking is that it’s such a [...]

Read This: Five Came Back

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 20:33:37 +0000

(I originally wrote this review of Five Came Back when it came out in 2014, but the editor who assigned it to me didn’t know it had already been assigned to someone else. So I set it aside… But now that Netflix is about to unveil a documentary series based on the book, as well [...]

Deborah Willis: Misfits, Reapers, & Gothic

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 18:36:34 +0000

photo: Memotime Photograpy I love the weird moments in The Dark and Other Love Stories, the short story collection by Deborah Willis. The lonely guy who winds up letting the crow that flies into his apartment stay, the little boy in an Optimus Prime outfit whose father forces him to egg an empty house on Halloween, [...]

Mariana Enriquez: Robert Aickman’s Beautiful Uncertainty

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 06:58:04 +0000

photo: Nora Lezano As you read the stories in Mariana Enriquez’s Things We Lost in the Fire, you’ll start to feel an unnerving sensation at the back of your mind, sometimes poking its way to the surface. Stories like “The Dirty Kid” or “The Intoxicated Years” aren’t horror; they aren’t even particularly supernatural. But they’ll [...]

Life Stories #89: Jamie Brickhouse

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 18:30:40 +0000

I've known Jamie Brickhouse for a long time; in his former life as a book publicist, he was someone to whom I'd frequently reach out when I wanted to talk to... well, people like him in his current life as the author of Dangerous When Wet, "a memoir of booze, sex, and my mother," as the subtitle sums it up. So, among the many other things we talk about in this episode, we discuss how the publishing industry was a place where he was able to hide his alcoholism in plain sight for a long time—and, too, how knowing how hard it is to get attention for a good book didn't deter him from writing with an eye to publication. We also talk about his recent efforts converting a 271-page book into a sixty-minute solo theatrical show, as he's recently done for New York City's FRIGID Festival. So there's a lot of stories in the book that aren't in the show—and that, even in a slightly longer conversation than usual, we didn't get a chance to touch upon. You'll just have to read the book to find out about them!

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Eva Stachniak’s Fierce Power of Women

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 19:45:57 +0000

photo: Stanisław Jerzmański Eva Stachniak has written several novels, including The Winter Palace and Empress of the Night. Her latest, The Chosen Maiden, has just come out, and it vividly recreates the early life of Bronislava Nijinska, one of the great dancers of the 20th century. (You may have heard of her older brother, Vaslav Nijinsky.) [...]

Josh Barkan: The Inner Meat of the Story

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 06:51:21 +0000

photo: Adrian Mealand Josh Barkan likes to get inside his characters’ heads—deep inside. So while the stories in his second collection, Mexico, are full of action—a chef is forced to surprise a drug lord with a truly astounding entrée; a teacher watches as two students in one of his classes; the children of rival drug lords, [...]

Life Stories #88: John Kaag

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:56:30 +0000

I spoke to John Kaag about his memoir, American Philosophy, shortly after the 2016 presidential election, so although we did spend a fair amount of time talking about his personal story, and how a rare book collection tucked away in an old building in the woods of New Hampshire helped Kaag make his way back from a profound, life-questioning despair, we also discussed what American philosophy can do to give solace to those of us who were shocked by what looked (and still looks) like the triumph of wrong over right, of evil over good. Philosophy, I think, offers us a guide to how we can live our lives, how we can best respond to the world around us, by getting in touch with what others have called "the better angels of our nature." Kaag recommends essays by James and Henry David Thoreau as starting points for readers interested in what the American philosophical tradition, with its emphases on pragmatism and renewal, can tell us about how to move forward. And he hints at future writings on his part that might follow in those footsteps: "I think that there are lots of times in the history of philosophy where philosophers have had to stake a great deal on their thoughts, and I think that we might be entering one of these times," he says. "I'm in the process of writing another sort of memoir like this one, but... it will have to be in some ways politically oriented, or socially oriented, because I think it's wholly unacceptable for philosophers to ascend into the ivory tower when things are going really nasty."

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David Park’s Way of Seeing into Lives

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 07:10:05 +0000

photo: Bobbie Hanvey As I was reading the stories in David Park’s Gods and Angels, I took note of the way he’s able to dig into the emotional lives of his protagonists, whether it’s a teenage boy who’s tired of having to spend the day after Christmas with his estranged (and clinically depressed) mother, or a [...]

Robert Oldshue: Is There a Doctor in the House? (Can Somebody PLEASE Get Him Out of Here?)

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 06:25:04 +0000

photo: Robin Rodin One of the earliest stories in November Storm, Robert Oldshue’s Iowa Short Fiction Award-winning debut collection, has a character who teaches eighth greade math in my old hometown in the Boston suburbs, a few years before I would’ve been taking eighth grade math. (I’m pretty sure it’s not actually based on any [...]