That New New In Lit: February 2015

Jacob Kaplan

I discovered Arthur Bradford‘s collection Dogwalker a few years ago, and, as a short-story writer, it’s since become one of my desk-books: a book that lives on my desk, so I can turn to it when I forget why or how to write stories. Bradford makes writing look fun. His stories are simple, almost naive accounts of very strange circumstances (the first story in Dogwalker, “Catface,” features a cat-faced man); his protagonists are charming wallflowers, taking weirdness in stride, notably unfazed by giant slugs and talking dogs. Somehow, through some ineffable story magic, I always feel a renewed optimism and wonder after I read Bradford’s stuff. The fact that he’s publishing another story collection fourteen years after the first (via FSG), and the fact that it’s called Turtleface and Beyond, are delightful weirdnesses tantamount to those that occur in his fiction.

Turtle face and beyond by Arthur bradford

Bradford was recently on The Leonard Lopate Show; Lopate spoke to him about writing, and about his new book. “I often write my first drafts on a manual typewriter,” said Bradford, “and I try to write the beginning, middle, and end before I get back up.” Bradford read an excerpt from the title story, “Turtleface.” Also, here’s Bradford’s funny, rambling, but ultimately cogent answer to the question “What, Exactly, Have You Been Doing for the Past 14 Years?

Check out Arthur Bradford’s story “The Box” over at Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading.

As long as you’re visiting Recommended Reading, click on Matt Sumell’s recent contribution, “Punching Jackie“. Matt Sumell’s sentences kick you in the shins. He writes about dull, inevitable struggles—money and death—but he writes about them in ways that are instantly relatable, funny, and heartrending. His narrators curse and spit and suffer through menial wage-labor, like the guy who works at a gas station for boats in Sumell’s One-Story contribution, “All Lateral“. “Consider the look on Whatsherface’s face when I bought her a well drink and told her I lived on a sailboat,” begins “All Lateral”; I’m hooked.

One-Story always interviews their authors, and features the interviews in an online segment, and Hannah Tinti’s Q & A with Matt Sumell does not disappoint. We get a great feeling for Matt’s character, his humble workhorse attitude toward writing, his honesty and humanity. The best idea, though, comes from writer Mark Richard, who once gave Sumell some writing advice: “It’s easy, Matt: just make ‘em laugh and break their fuckin’ hearts. Accomplish those two things and you’re doing pretty good.”

MakingNice_HiRes

Matt Sumell is coming to New York in support of his forthcoming collection, Making Nice, out February 17. See him and editor Sarah Bowlin talk at McNally Jackson on March 5 at 7 p.m., or catch him at the Franklin Park Reading Series on March 9 at 8 p.m.

Last month I told you to read the very new lit weekly Okey-Panky, and if you did, you probably read Chris Offutt’s short story, “Bisbee“. It’s about an exhausted, disenchanted waitress, and the sentences sparkle: “During the mid-morning lull before lunch, their side-work included marrying half-empty ketchup bottles, refilling salt and pepper shakers, topping off the sugar containers.”

Web journal Everyday Genius, which published a lot of cool poetry and comics and fiction over the years, ended. But Adam Robinson is picking up where he left off with Real Pants, also a web thing, but with more going for it.

What’s the story with Harper Lee’s fifty-years-after-the-fact sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, titled Go Set a Watchman? Mallory Ortberg asks some good, uncomfortable questions over at The Toast.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Short fiction master Kelly Link has a new collection out this month called Get in Trouble. I mentioned Link last month; read “I Can See Right Through You“. Link gave an incisive, charming interview at The Millions.

Do you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry? Literistic will provide you, monthly, via email, with a list of “literary publications, contests, and fellowships.” Also, enter their lit mag giveaway contest!

Looks like I’m pretty late to Jill Schepmann‘s “This Week in Short Fiction” party (the first post happened all the way back in May). Schepmann writes exhaustive weekly posts about current short story happenings; her latest touches on Kelly Link, Charles Baxter, and Neil Gaiman.

Speaking of short fiction (I’m only ever speaking of short fiction), go see heroes of the form Lorrie Moore and Richard Ford read at the 92nd Street Y on Thursday, February 12 at 8 p.m.; you can buy tickets here.

If you’d rather go to a free thing, go see Marie-Helene Bertino and Jeffrey Renard Allen read at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, also on Thursday, February 12 at 9 p.m.

So many worthwhile things happen at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House; take a look. Charles Baxter talks to Darin Strauss on February 26 at 7 p.m., and—this one’s the coolest, although also the furthest off—Rae Armantrout and Lydia Davis are going to do a “fiction meets poetry” kind of reading on March 26, at 7 p.m.!

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