It’s weird in there.
It’s weird in there.
A few pieces online this week:
1. A short essay at The New Republic on Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire–a chilling memoir about a mysterious illness that made her temporarily insane and took away her memory. I think about how people try to reclaim memories they can’t summon; and also how memory is always fallible in ways that can be uncomfortable to confess.
2. An essay on the LA Gang Tours published at the Los Angeles Review of Books, in which I consider this surreal and somewhat troubling and yet (I found) still valuable phenomenon. Reprinted at Salon with a title I wouldn’t have chosen. Showed up in The Independent, too.
Totally delighted to make it onto Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish (a couple different times), a place I love visiting as a reader. Recently, it’s directed me to articles like Julia Phillips’ piece on a Russian dog sled race and taught me peanut butter had its roots in sanitariums.
3. Another essay up at Los Angeles Review of Books from the wonderful Kyle McCarthy, a killer-smart piece about David Foster Wallace and math, and narrative, and how we want math to explain narrative, and what the value of these explanations might ultimately be.
Upcoming in early 2013: A short piece in Tin House about Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend, a longer piece in Oxford American about Charlie Engle and his incarceration, and an essay in Harper’s about Morgellons Disease.
DT Max’s new biography of David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story, is out. It’s good. It’s fascinating. David Foster Wallace was fascinating. I won’t say more because I say a lot in a review that’s up at VICE magazine.
But I will say this: You should also read Craig Fehrman’s (slightly more critical) take on the biography–and particularly its treatment of Wallace’s relationship to the Midwest. It’s up at the Chicago Reader.
And–read this, seriously!–Lee Konstantinou has a brilliant piece at the LA Review of Books on the question of form–how would Wallace have wanted his biography written? Should we care? Read it here.
You are probably looking for places to store that cash.
Here are two worthwhile and exciting and still-getting-their-sea-legs projects that I’m personally and professionally and spiritually invested in.
1. An anthology called American Writers on Class, featuring people like Matthea Harvey, Dorianne Laux, and myself. You should buy it because it’s a great book, about something important, and also you’d be supporting a wonderful new Brooklyn Indie Press (Big Wonderful Press) and its fantastic and committed editor Shelly Reed.
2. A Documentary being made on the Barkley Marathons!
See the trailer at Kickstarter, where you can donate to the project.
They feature my brother’s legs all torn up with saw briars, and even mention me in their “Inspiration” section.
This is essentially a blog post about an essay about how I feel about blog-posts. Blogging about writing about blogging. It feels gratuitous, and also absolutely, utterly right. I’ve got a piece up at Rain Taxi about self-promoting, and how it feels, and what it means, and how I feel about what it means, and also about thinking about ex-boyfriends going to my website and judging my author photo, and also about a real estate agent in Hawaii.
If you’re interested, also check out Lily Brown’s excellent musings on being a writer and the internet and how the two might intersect. Her posts are up at the Michigan Quarterly.
So I recently had a crisis of purpose about blogging. To be honest, more like the sudden crystallization of an ongoing but repressed crisis of purpose about blogging. I became a writer partially because I hate being observed—can even start crying, if it happens for too long—and yet I currently spend money I don’t have to upkeep a site devoted to cultivating observation. My worst nightmare is asking somebody out for coffee or ice cream and they say, no. A website is like that, only with the whole world, and anyone, anywhere, can say, no. By never coming to my website, which some small part of me will take personally even if I never even know about it. All of this to say: a crisis of purpose.
So then I had this idea to make a blog-roll. I’ve always noticed these. You kind of declare your posse. I thought, even if my own website wasn’t that great, I could turn it into one of those shitty little towns that’s secretly a killer transportation hub. You don’t want to spend the night, but you can take a bus somewhere snazzy.
Like you can go to Tunes for Bears, my brother Julian’s blog about ultrarunning and development economics. Or my friend Colleen Kinder’s global headquarters—full of travel writing that busts the seams of ordinary travel writing, and such beautiful photos you will stay for a long time. Or Fashion for Writers, where my friend Jenny looks and writes hot,; or Large-Hearted Boy, that puts up soundtracks for works of fiction; or the Page 69 Test that is not what you think, and analyzes the 69th page of books you’ve never heard of…Or the Claudius App, a new poetry journal, which—what to say about the Claudius App? It has a mysterious gray bar.
So go to. Get on the bus. Follow Rabbit Holes. Enjoy.
So I’ve started writing small essays. Like, chronically and relentlessly writing small essays. I don’t know why, exactly, or when or how it started–only that something about this form, its crystalline particulars and fluid boundaries, the lowered weight and heightened freedom of starting out and not needing to end up anywhere in particular, is very exciting to me. Also, to be honest, there’s probably the desire for instant love and affirmation that posting online always chases–and sometimes, in brief glimpses, actually provides. In any case, all this confessional as prelude to the inevitable sampler platter:
Exhibit A: In which I discuss Frida Kahlo’s corsets, generative pain, and highly personal color wheels at The Paris Review Daily.
Exhibit B: In which I discuss green Jell-O shots and and the living mythology of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at A Public Space.*
Exhibit C: In which I discuss my new neighborhood. Featuring squirrels, meat, and the catcalls of strangers. At The Nervous Breakdown.
Exhibit D: In which I discuss weddings and how it feels to attend them. This will most likely be the first in a thousand-part series. Also at The Nervous Breakdown.
*This post is part of a larger project celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop that can be found here, with awesome essays by Anthony Marra, Maggie Shipstead, Joyelle McSweeney (I loved this one a lot) and others.
Erin Hoover and Paul Martone at Late Night Library sat down and had a long thoughtful conversation about my book. It still amazes me that this might happen, smart people sitting down and talking about something I wrote; I feel grateful for their thoughts and thrilled to share their program with the world.
Go to www.latenightlibrary.org to download a free copy of the podcast.
Like angels, they’ve appointed themselves curators of debut writers. They’ve got podcasts on Traci Brimhall’s Rookery, Kara Candito’s Taste of Cherry, Deanna Fei’s Thread of Sky, and more…
I was thrilled when Erin Hoover and Paul Martone at Late Night Library got in touch with me a few weeks ago about doing a podcast on The Gin Closet. They’ve got a really neat concept: each month they record an in-depth transcontinental conversation about a debut book.
People love them, like Chang-rae Lee, who says: “Our culture desperately needs ventures like Late Night Library, which introduces new and emerging literary talents with substance and passion. Bravo!”
Erin and Paul are both bright and passionate readers; the podcast airs on Friday (the 30th). You can get it from their website: www.latenightlibrary.org.
Here are a few teasers: “I really perceive this book, to use the Greek term, as a series of dyads…There are all of these pairings in which two people have a relationship and there’s this attempt at intimacy, but then it’s never really quite achieved…Tilly’s relationship with alcohol, Tilly’s relationship with suicide, that desire to not be seen—all of these issues are filtered through the reality of what the character wants, what the character needs, and also what the character is afraid of…”
I’m grateful to Erin and Paul for getting in touch. Their project is awesome and I’m honored to be part of it.
Interviews aren’t always pleasurable; this one was. I think it’s largely because this “interview” was really just a conversation with a new friend–during the early courtship stage, when conversation is a series of new vistas–and we happened to have a tape recorder (I guess, Iphone) running between us. In any case, Michelle is a great asker-of-questions and has a generally lucid and surprising and delightful mind. We went to Fuel, a favorite coffee shop just north of Iowa City, in a little town amidst cornfields, and chatted for a few hours.
It’s up at The Millions here.
Plus, a new review is out in the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s of The Lake, by Banana Yoshimoto, a book I was fascinated by but a little ambivalent about. Highlights: monkeys, murals, dark pasts, Japanese oddity and America’s relationship to Japanese oddity, etc.