@

DSC07794So your couplet of novellas from Dzanc Books, Could You Be With Her Now, is about (1) the first-person point-of-view of a developmentally disabled boy who mistakenly kills a neighborhood girl on whom he has crush; and (2) a May-December romance between two women. Not gunning for The Notebook crowd with these, huh?

I’m just hoping my mother reads the back cover before she buys copies for her friends as Christmas presents. I feel like we’ve gone through this awkwardness before with my writing.

 

Seriously, why?

Why do I write? Why do I write commercially unsuccessful fiction? I don’t think you choose what you get to write. For better or for worse, it chooses you.

Not long ago, I stood in the office of Records Management in the Indianapolis City-County Building and watched as a man with crooked glasses punched my name into his computer. It was spring. A bright blue sky, sunlight danced between the glass and steel of the taller buildings. I was there in the sub-basement to search for criminal records—my criminal records.

Outside it was sixty-five degrees. The landscape was turning green, flowers were blooming—everything was being renewed, coming back to life, starting over.

For the launch of my third novel, I thought it would be fun to have the story editor, Patrick J. LoBrutto, ask some questions. He’s not only conversant with the novel; he made it better.

Pat, who worked in-house at Bantam and at half a dozen other major imprints, has edited more books than most people read in a lifetime. Over a career spanning three decades, he’s worked with Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Eric Van Lustbader, Walter Tevis, the Louis L’Amour Estate, Don Coldsmith, Jack Dann, F. Paul Wilson, Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Herbert, and hundreds of others.

Obviously, if any of my answers come across as incoherent, it’s all Pat’s fault.

13592237***

Alice would come shortly. Sandra waited in the breakfast room, wiping her fingerprints off the laptop, her crumbs off the table. She had chosen slacks because it was not quite warm yet and her legs were pale, freckled with brown.

The blog was Andrea’s idea. A blog for Beatrice and Elvin to read about their grandmother before she grew cotton for brains and peed her pants. No, she did not have Alzheimer’s, she would assure Alice. But she was at the age where anything could happen. Jack was not at that age and it had already happened, and it had happened to many of her acquaintances already. One must be prepared.

The memoir pleased her. She had always written, she would tell Alice, here and there when Andrea was born and Jack was still alive.

The blog did not. An idea from a magazine, surely¾her daughter’s entire life was molded by Women’s Day and Better Homes and Gardens. How to baste a turkey. How to have better sex. How to not feel guilty about being a failure.

Orange, Michelle (c) Trevor Ross(1)Hi Michelle, what’s new? Do you hate that question?

Hate is a strong word, why are we talking about hate right off the bat?

 

Why indeed. So, how are you, what do you know for sure?

That’s my dad’s opener. What if we just did an entire interview of false starts? Where you open with something innocuous and then one or both of us becomes too self-conscious about it to continue?

 

JP newMathematician, co-founder of OULIPO, author of the lyrics of “Si tu t’imagines” (a lovely song made famous back in the day by Juliet Greco: voilà:), formerly associated with André Breton and the Surrealists, reader, general secretary and eventual director of l’Encyclopédie de la Pléiade at the prestigious house of Gallimard, and all-around genius Raymond Queneau, published the first ninety-nine Exercices de Style in 1947, later augmented by twenty-five further exercises by Queneau himself. For this edition, les exercices have been expanded yet again with additions by Jesse Ball, Blake Butler, Amelia Gray, Shane Jones, Jonathan Lethem, Ben Marcus, Harry Mathews, Lynne Tillman, Frederic Tuten, and Enrique Vila-Matas.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.

What falls away is always. And is near.

 

At a resort spa in the mountains of southern Utah once, a woman I’d never met before named Betina told me I was tired of fighting.

She lay me down on a bed of furs and wrapped a blanket around me. She held crystals over my body and struck them. The sound was meant to be a healing vibration.

I don’t really buy into this stuff.

But earlier, when we sat facing each other, she told me to close my eyes and think of the person who held all my questions. She pulled a small stone buffalo from her basket of animal talisman and said, “Is this him?”

And it was.

Before Cars on BainbridgeWe all know Dave Grohl’s story. Drummed for Nirvana. Played on Nevermind. After Kurt Cobain died, he switched to guitar and started Foo Fighters, then proceeded to win Grammys and sell millions of records.

But what of Nirvana’s previous percussionist, Chad Channing? The one who left the band before it became huge, the one who toiled in obscure clubs; who cut a swath through Europe; who helped bring Seattle music to the world; who played on Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach. What of him?

[Above photo: Before Cars, 2013. From left: Chad Channing, Andy Miller, Paul Burback, Justine Jeanotte.]

In a small town it’s normal for everyone to get in your business—for the community to know about the women that run around, the men that abuse, the spoiled kids with their sense of entitlement, and the loners who belong to nobody. Set in Roma, Kentucky, The Next Time You See Me (Touchstone Books) by Holly Godard Jones is a literary thriller that links a variety of perspectives into a complicated web of deceit and lies that replace hope and peace with bittersweet longings for what might have been. But buried in there is a lesson about perseverance, a glimmer of optimism, and the eternal complications that are the duality of man. This is the mirror that Holly Goddard Jones holds up, as we bear witness to these defining moments of destruction, as well as revelation.

Rather than just provide an excerpt of my newly released novel, I thought it would be fun to share some of my intentions by annotating the excerpt. You can read the opening words of the novel in the form of this brief prologue. Below that, the prologue is reproduced with some notations.

Prologue

imagesIn the town of Greenwich, Connecticut, office buildings rarely betray the power of the players inside. Consistent with that principle, a man who privately called himself The Mean had chosen to occupy the second floor of a modest four-story brick building within easy walking distance of both Putnam and Greenwich Avenues. The former was a major thoroughfare, two lanes in either direction. The latter, which locals simply called The Avenue, was a one-way street on a steep hill between Putnam and the railroad tracks. Lined with tony shops and expensive restaurants, it furnished a promenade for people who drove Maybachs and Ferraris, Bentleys and Land Rovers. At two key intersections, traffic cops policed both moving cars and pedestrians, who often received tickets for jaywalking.

This list was originally going to include the biggest snubs of the past 10 years, but that proved too daunting a task. Then I cut the list down to include only the past five years, but it still felt endless. The thing is, the Academy overlooks more greatness than it rewards every single year. Blame it on politics, Oscar-baiting or there just not being enough room, but deserving films and performances fall by the wayside all the time.  And this year is no exception.

So, without further ado, here are 15 notable works (give or take) that I think deserved recognition from the Academy this year…

denis-lavant-holy-motors

thisisrunningyourlifeThe Uses of Nostalgia and Some Thoughts on Ethan Hawke’s Face

Let’s call it the theory of receptivity. It’s the idea, often cited by young people in their case against the relevance of even marginally older people, that one’s taste—in music or film, literature or fine cuisine—petrifies during life’s peak of happiness or nadir of misery. Or maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe a subtler spike on the charts—upward, downward, anomalous points in between—might qualify, so long as it’s formative. Let’s say that receptivity, anyway, can be tied to the moments when, for whatever reason, a person opens herself to the things we can all agree make life worth living in a new and definitive way, whether curiosity has her chasing down the world’s pleasures, or the world has torn a strip from her, exposing raw surface area to the winds.

Carl-Grimes-in-action-The-Walking-Dead
 

Being a parent is hard. We all know that. Sleepless nights, hours spent elbow-deep in vomit, pressure to do the right thing by your kids every waking hour of the day. You love them unconditionally, but you’re never off the clock. Most days you’re lucky if you find a minute to sit down and breathe.

But if you think you’ve got it hard, spare a thought for the characters in AMC’s hit TV show The Walking Dead. Scheduling nap times can be a bitch, but it’s a virtual impossibility when you’re dragging your kids through a violent post-apocalyptic hell, populated by looters, homegrown gun-toting militia, and flesh-eating corpses. You may fret over how much TV your kid should watch, but trust me – you’ve never encountered a true parenting dilemma until your son has helped deliver his baby sister in a prison block, then shot and killed his mother to keep her from turning into a slavering people-eater. Suddenly an extra hour of Sesame Street doesn’t seem so terrible.

lena-dunham-girls-TVAttention people in your twenties: I strongly urge you to elect Lena Dunham as the voice of your generation. She knows what she’s talking about. Trust me. Get out your journals and start taking notes. Let go of everything your mothers and your grandmothers taught you about physical beauty. Silence the self-critical voice that you so carefully nurtured, the one that still dominates the conversation late at night when you’re trying to fall asleep. Reject all that brainwashing media nonsense you were bombarded with during your formative years. Stop those stupid diets. Do not buy a juicer. Gluten is not your enemy; it’s time to wise up.  Just hit the reset button, ladies and gentlemen, sit back and watch the TV show Girls. Lena Dunham is talking to you. She doesn’t have all the answers but I think she does have the solution to one of your biggest problems if you will just listen to her.

536228_434204109980436_1023582688_n (1)So yesterday you went to St. Marks Bookshop in the East Village (of New York City) and signed a bunch of copies of your new memoir Poseur. How did that feel? You write very affectionately about discovering St. Marks Place and that very book store as a teen in the late 80s and feeling like you had something of your own in the City.   Something independent of your father’s City. And of feeling like Madonna in and her friends in Desperately Seeking Susan.

It’s true. I was telling this to another journalist last week actually.  That is probably the most important New York movie since Midnight Cowboy and Mean Streets and nobody really gives it credit they way they do say Stranger Than Paradise.  Which is also very important.  But Desperately Seeking Susan totally captures the attitude and style that made me want to move to the City and be one of those people too – before there was even a word for them.  I guess hipster was a word but you know what I mean.  Before I even knew what the word for them was.  Most people see it as “the one good Madonna movie,” but I know I’m not alone in thinking it’s got a lot more going on.  It was a freaking magnet.  So yes, it was cool to have a book of mine for sale in a store on St. Marks. Just off St. Marks if you want to get technical.