Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Having read The English Patient, Divisadero, and In The Skin of a Lion, I am struck by what seems to be such a simple, yet uniquely original conceit for a novel: the process of something being built as the arc of the story. Whether what is being built is a relationship, a tunnel, or the past, the story is concerned with the process more than anything else. Along with the process comes the stories and back-stories of the people involved and the history of place. In the final scene, whatever has been built is then utilized, whether it is torn down, imploded, or burned. But it seems as though because we have followed the process so carefully, because the language and characters have engaged us in place and story, we know what will happen here, that they will collide with the finished product, and all of what has been built will, and should, come undone.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
My story, "The Bullet That Killed Chen's Father" is out in the first issue of Camera Obscura, a journal of literature and photography. The journal includes stories by Nani Power, Kane X. Faucher, René Georg Vasicek, along with photography by Tom Chambers. This is a beautiful piece of work that deserves our support. Thank you for reading.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The short story. Not sure where it is or where it's going. I read them, take from them what I can, and if they're good, if every word is as it should be, and there is no denying a world as the one read, then I am left in awe, turning backwards toward the beginning to see how I was taken and ultimately stranded. Few authors have not only the ability, but the heart, to focus their talents on the detail and structure a short story demands, and who's to blame them? Hundreds of unread literary magazines are put to good use in starting a fire during these cold months. A fair number of my own stories are among the ashes. The move to online-only literary magazines is clearly coming, and I actually tend to read individual short stories online more so than I do in print, mainly for their instant availability. On the other hand, I have a deep appreciation for a collection as a whole. They are still being published in fine hardcover and paperback editions, and some great authors are lending themselves generously to the form.
I think of the collection as I do an album, knowing that Open Secrets by Alice Munro is not the same without the story "Vandals", nor is Neil Young's After the Goldrush the same album without "I Believe in You" or his cover of "Oh, Lonesome Me". There's a rhythym, from beginning to end, in a collection of short stories.
However, it is rare that a collection will stay with me, become part of me, in a way, long after I've read them. A few that have include: Jesus' Son, Rock Springs, The Burning Plain, Blow-Up and Other Stories, Cathedral. I may remember a story or two from the recently published collection The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards by Robert Boswell, but, as a whole, I could not say the collection was well connected and the stories flowed from one to another with any real meaning or purpose.
The same can be said for Lydia Peelle's Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, which contains two awesomely rendered pieces, "Kidding Season" and "Shadow on a Weary Land", but I don't get the sense that these two stories, the last in the collection, are connected to the rest of the book, as they are without question the most imaginative and original of the group.
Strangely enough, though, there is a collection I read recently by Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian, Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather, that, even though distilled from seventeen stories down to six for the English language version (by Gao himself), work to represent the chaos of thought and memory and its influence on how the past is remembered and the present experienced. Gao is a masterful writer, often playing with tense shifts and narrative in a way that I have never seen before. I sometimes believe he is speaking to his own spirit. The title story, and, yes, I agree, a terrible title, is one of the best I've read in years, and the collection is pieced together in the same way that we live, remembering varied fragments of time from the recent past to childhood, even playing with our projections of the future. It was a joy to read, and, along with Soul Mountain, shows why Gao was such a worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize.