In his essay “The Perfect Gerbil,” George Saunders writes that “the hardest thing in storytelling” is “getting one’s action to rise.” In other words, it’s difficult to write a story where things keep getting worse, or more frenzied, or more aflame—whatever the case may be—in such a way that’s both cogent and a little unpredictable. In other, other words, it’s difficult to write a story. But some magical times a writer makes it look easy and fun, like she’s discovering the story right there with you (Saunders talks about this phenomenon in the Gerbil essay), and the result is a very singular story-delight.
This past month I discovered Diane Cook and had many moments of story-delight, really just too many to count, because Diane Cook is that good. She’s had three stories published recently: one in One Story, one in Tin House, and one at Electric Literature, which you can read right now. Should you read it, you’ll probably read it hungrily, as I did, because the action rises like a ping pong ball from the bottom of a lake. I thought of a lake because it’s about three guys trapped on a boat, in a lake. Cook’s writing is lively and frank, and her first collection, Man V. Nature, was just published by Harper Collins. Way to go, Diane Cook!
Electric Literature also recently published an excerpt from Ottessa Moshfegh’s novella McGlue, winner of the 2014 Fence Modern Prize in Prose. McGlue is about a brash yet eloquent drunkard (that’s McGlue), and it’s set in the 19th century, and has a definite olden-times, sea-faring vibe. This is strange because the rest of Mosfegh’s stuff is pretty modern, but she dives into the voice of McGlue with such commitment and verve that I stopped worrying and learned to love it.
Back to, briefly, George Saunders: hear him read a Barry Hannah story and a Grace Paley story (!!!!) on The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast. Genius collides!
In a Times piece titled “Is This a Golden Age for Women Essayists?”, authors Cheryl Strayed and Benjamin Moser answer the titular question. Strayed writes, “Online, any number of women essayists have found, if not fame, at least a fervent following of the sort that would be hard to imagine happening elsewhere.”
Torontonian Sophia Katz wrote a sharp, angering piece about being sexually assaulted. She calls her assailant “Stan,” a pseudonym; he was identified as Stephen Tully Dierks, the editor of very-alt-lit mag Pop Serial. Allie Jones wrote about it for Gawker, Elizabeth Ellen wrote the divisive “An Open Letter to the Internet”, and Mallory Ortberg wrote a very smart response to Ellen’s letter.
Tao Lin was also recently accused of “statutory rape and abuse”; in general, the alt-lit community has received a lot of (probably deserved) flak for being sexist and a boy’s club.
Here’s Matt Bell‘s take on breaking creative writing workshop commandments, especially “Your characters shouldn’t smile.” Bell talks about smiling in Cormac McCarthy’s novel Outer Dark: “In 242 pages, McCarthy uses the word ‘smile’ thirty-three times, more than once every ten pages.” If rules are made to be broken, fiction writing rules are especially so. Kurt Vonnegut said, of his own widely anthologized writing rules (there are eight), “[Flannery O’Connor] broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.”
Amtrak recently picked twenty-four writers for its residency program, including Saul Williams and Darin Strauss. The writers will “will work on writing projects of their choice in the unique workspace of a long-distance train.”
Nicholson Baker, author of Vox (a novel-long phone sex conversation), The Mezzanine (a novel-long escalator ride), and many other books, will read from his novel The Anthologist (published in 2009, the first in a series about a dude named Paul Chowder) at Book Court on Tuesday, October 14th at 7pm.
Author Blake Butler, the guy behind HTMLGiant, has a new book coming out on October 14th from HarperCollins called Three Hundred Million, which promises to be dark and bloody. The Franklin Park Reading Series is hosting the book’s launch on Monday, October 13th at 8pm; also reading will be authors Catherine Lacey, Jac Jemc, and Dylan Landis.
The coolest little-but-ever-growing lit mag is called Gigantic, and they will have a launch party for their latest issue, 6, on Saturday, October 18th at 8pm at Be Electric Studios in Brooklyn. Says the website, “Admission is $10, which includes a copy of the issue.” Contributors Amelia Gray, James Hannaham (check out this excellent piece of experimental fiction), and Erin Somers.
The Difficult to Name Reading Series is a new reading series and they have free beer! Their next installment, on October 25th at Brit Pack, will feature writers Joshua Isard and Eleanor Kagan about, among others.
Shelly Oria is an exciting writer (read “My Wife, In Converse”), and her first collection, New York 1, Tel Aviv 0, will enjoy a launch at powerHouse Arena on October 30th at 7pm. She will be joined by Ben Greenman.
Who the fuck is Patrick Modiano?