Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Soup and Salad: Bronson Pinchot reads Karl Marlantes, Matt Bell on connecting readers with books, Under the influence of Robert Olen Butler, Terese Svoboda follows Willa Cather, Dickensmania, Top 10 Books Lost to Time, Arthur Conan Doyle's first novel, Orphaned novels, Vote for Me

On today's menu:

1.  Bronson Pinchot on narrating the audiobook versions of Karl Marlantes' Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War:
I asked him what voice he wanted me to read it in, what he wanted me to say with it. And he was very, very forthcoming—and then I realized as soon as I started doing it that there was only one way to do it, which was to do it as if I’m him, and he’s me, and it’s all written in the first person, and to say this is my experience. And I read it as if I was being interviewed on 60 Minutes, and it was my story. So my hope for it is that people grab the package and say, “Is this Marlantes reading it himself, or what’s going on here? Because it’s just written that way. There was only one way to do it. It’s very personal.
Pinchot hates it when folks keep dredging up his Balki past when reviewing his audiobook work, so I promised myself I wouldn't mention Perfect Strangers.

2.  Matt Bell talks to Laura van den Berg at Ploughshares about the rise and impact of small presses like Dzanc Books, the challenges and joys of editing literary journals, and the importance of social networking in an author's career.  It's a smart conversation.  I especially like what Bell had to say about connecting readers with books:
First and foremost, I think we need to write and then publish books that matter. That doesn’t mean the writing has to be about some huge social issue, but I think that if a person feels deeply and meaningfully connected to a book, it’s usually because the book has made them think or feel something new, has somehow made them a different person than they were before they read it, even if it’s only in a small way. There are books that woke me up out of my life, and those books are the ones I’ll never forget, far more than ones that were only technically brilliant or wonderfully entertaining, without going deeper. So that’s the first part of the answer, and in some ways the hardest. But of course, that’s not enough. I’m sure we could list hundreds of gorgeous books that “matter” that struggled to find their audience. And it’s probably even harder today, with more competition for our attention and our energy. And if I can expand the conversation from one book or books in general to a writer’s body of work, I think that what’s really important in some ways is for a writer to have a champion, someone who supports and advocates their work over a length of time. There are writers I am constantly talking about, pushing on other people, reminding people to read, and I know that my personal connection to what the book was on the page has helped push it a little further out into the world. And I’m just one person with a limited amount of reach. But some of us have been given or will be given bigger and bigger platforms from which to talk about our work, and it’s absolutely crucial that we also take those opportunities to champion the work of others, to show our own readers and fellow writers and friends these books that have not just made us the writers and readers we are, but also the people they know and like. What both of these ideas have in common, as would anything else I have to say about this: it’s not a logical connection we’re trying to make. It’s not technical proficiency or a critical argument about a book’s merits that will get it into a reader’s hands, and then into their heart. What writers and publishers and booksellers need to create is an emotional connection between the work and the reader, and it’s that connection that is hardest to make.

3.  One of the lit-blogs Bell mentions in his interview is Fiction Writers ReviewHere's an interesting story by Forrest Anderson about the time he was under the influence of Robert Olen Butler:
He’d never had an assistant so at first he wasn’t sure what to do with me. I offered that I was good at yard work. He thought about that but decided manual labor violated the university’s terms of an assistantship. So, he put me to work preparing his income tax return. I fretted over that for a good month—doing things I was mathematically unqualified for like calculating the exchange rate for travel receipts to places like Vietnam, Singapore, and China—and I was terrified he’d end up arrested for tax fraud. After that, I spent the next few months running errands to free his days for writing.

4.  At the Writers Houses blog, Terese Svoboda follows in Willa Cather's footsteps on a walking tour of New York City.

5.  In the coming year, there will be a metric ton of articles and appreciations of Charles Dickens as we celebrate the bicentennial of his birth.  There will, no doubt, be half a metric ton of words splashed across the screen here at The Quivering Pen.  Few writers have had a bigger impact on my writing career as the Inimitable Boz (if you look at the list of tags on the right-hand side of your screen, you'll see that Dickens is the most-tagged author here at the blog).  To kick off the Dickensmania, here's a pretty terrific article from The Telegraph on how we've dissected the man over the years:
From the spelling mistake on his birth certificate, to the neatly folded notes he left for his children if they used bad language, every document has been filleted for facts, every stray anecdote transformed into a revealing flash of personality. As with Shakespeare, his only serious rival for the title of the nation’s favourite author, the books, articles and blogs about him have multiplied to the extent that nobody can possibly read them all. Attempting then to write about him is like trying to cut up a blue whale with a penknife. That doesn’t stop us trying.

6.  The Smithsonian laments the Top 10 Books Lost to Time.  There are the usual suspects (Shakespeare, the Bible, Homer, Hemingway's suitcase), but some of the lost works might surprise you.  Robert Louis Stevenson's wife slammed the first draft of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as being "a quire full of utter nonsense."  So, rumor has it, RLS tossed the pages into the fireplace and started all over again.

7.  For better or worse, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first novel was not lost to the ravages of time.  The BBC reports The Narrative of John Smith will soon be published for the first time.  The novel, written between 1883 and 1884, is about a man confined to his room by gout.  I guess a joke about the "game is afoot" would be inappropriate here.

8.  Speaking of first novels: At the 49 Writers blog, Andromeda Romano-Lax talks about authors' orphaned first works:
What ends up on the page is usually more than--and also much less than--we had originally imagined it would be. My favorite writers know this about their own work. They are not being self-deprecating. They are being demanding, realistic, and honest. (Every writer should aim so high and be so self-critical; one reason I'm skeptical about self-publishing is that it deludes some writers into believing that writing and publishing are easy, that anything typed deserves to be bound and sold, with or without editing or gatekeeping of any kind.) But what of the writer who is so unhappy with an early work that he or she pretends it wasn't published in the first place?
That's why we don't talk about The Last of Anne, the novel I wrote in the mid-1980s.  There's a ream of rubber-banded papers in a Tupperware container somewhere here in my basement.  It's hermetically-sealed to protect the rest of society from the train-wreck manuscript which tells the story of a woman abducted on her honeymoon.  Most of the scenes involve the distraught groom staring at the four walls of his hotel room, wondering where on earth she could be.  It's ghastly and will never be unsealed from its tomb.

9.  Fair warning: You have now reached the self-aggrandizing section of today's blog post.  Remember when I told you about my home renovation project this past summer ("There's a Bobcat in My Backyard")?  Well, the time has come for you to cast your vote in that One Project Closer contest.  Please, please, PLEASE visit this page and vote for me (I'm the #9 choice: the "backyard oasis").  As of this writing, I'm 437 votes away from the leader in the competition.  With your help, I can reach the mountaintop.

9a.  Here's a pair of interviews I did this past week: one for M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls and Hype website and one at Craig Lancaster's blog.

9b.  My son, the artist, has started his own blog.  He's pretty damn good (no paternal bias showing through here, nosiree!).  Give him some love.

No comments:

Post a Comment