Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Soup and Salad: Literature vs. Publishing, One Story's Debutante Ball, Virginia Hamilton Adair, John Irving, Summer of Proust, E-Books + Independent Bookstores = YES!, DIY Book Tours, Kyril Bonfiglioli's Penguins, Montana & NYC Must-Attends

On today's menu:

1. "Literature is not the same thing as publishing.  Publishing is ever-nostalgic for a mythic golden age, one that existed before the so-called death of print, the Amazon factor, the rise of self-publishing, and the supposed decline of reading.  Literature, as it is read and written, is indifferent.  At least that’s the way we look at it at Coffee House Press, and it’s how some others are thinking and acting, too—making literature public, to publish, in new ways, circumventing the negativity that so often clouds the moods of those of us who have chosen this profession."  Coffee House Press publisher Chris Fischbach has a thought-provoking essay in Virginia Quarterly Review on how small presses like CHP, Tin House, Two Dollar Radio and Melville House are making a difference--in ways that don't always whisper, "$$$."

2.  The Story Prize blog attends the One Story Debutante Ball and files this report: "This is how a proper Literary Debutante Ball warms up: Live band on stage.  Tables of appetizers.  Two open bars.  A bartender dancing to swells of music.  Garden lights strung overhead, along with strands of cut-out letters spelling the first line of each debutante’s recently published book.  Clusters of elegantly dressed writers, editors, and lovers of literature.  Burlesque-costumed women weaving through the crowd hawking framed commas, semicolons, and exclamation marks at $10 a pop."

3.  I credit Virginia Hamilton Adair with sparking my interest in contemporary poetry sometime in the late 1990s.  I can't remember the precise moment, but I'm guessing it must have been when I came across one of her poems in The New Yorker and promptly scurried off to my local bookstore (which at that time was Gulliver's in Fairbanks, Alaska) in search of her collection Ants on the Melon.  Adair's first book was published when she was 83 and already blind from glaucoma.  Her backstory is as compelling as her stanzas.  Bloom has a terrific examination of her life and her poetry: "One advantage to waiting until she was in her 80s to compile and publish the poems is that Adair was able to be very selective about which poems went in each collection, and also where to place the poems.  Each collection is perfectly pitched, the voice shifting from sadness to exuberance, the subjects following one another as beautifully as a symphony."

4.  Sometimes working at a publishing house can have its perks, as Pronoy Sarkar tells Off the Shelf: "John Irving showed up in slightly oversized slacks and a tan jacket, his white hair sleeked back, his complexion slightly olive as if he had just come from a long day’s work in the sun.  He was calm and jovial, exceptionally polite, but his eyes were dark and brooding.  He spoke about the current book he was working on and the lengths to which he had gone to remain authentic to his plot and characters.  Garp, he told us, was a word he saw spray-painted on a Parisian subway car."

5.  I'll mail a signed copy of Fobbit to anyone who sends me a photo of themselves reclining on this white couch while eating madeleines and sipping lime blossom tea during Brazos Bookstore's Summer of Proust.  Bonus points if you're caught reading Swann's Way at the same time.

6.  Love to e-read but want to support your local independent bookstore at the same time?  Lydia Netzer (author of the new e-novella Everybody's Baby) shows you how:  "You may have heard the theory, currently being batted about on the internet, that buying books from Amazon will give you fleas, cause your hair to become dull and listless, send nuclear warships to Narnia, and cause the ghost of Charles Dickens to moan and twist on a spit of hot iron.  Or perhaps you just want to support your local indie bookstore because you like living in a town with lively, colorful storefronts and bustling foot traffic.  Maybe you are trying to avoid trudging down silent dusty streets past yawning empty windows as a dry cash register receipt rolls tumbleweed-style past your feet.  Sure you can buy books in paper from bookstores, but maybe you really just want to read on an e-reader, because gadgets are cool, and because you're going to Fiji and you need Thomas Hardy's entire oeuvre (obviously), and luggage is expensive and heavy.  And because some books are only available on e-readers!  You can't even get them in print if you beg....Here's the word if you haven't heard: YOU CAN BUY E-BOOKS FROM INDIE BOOKSTORES.  You really can.  All those sanctimonious asshats in your life who have told you, 'You can't have your cake and eat it too,' are going to have to put their arched eyebrows on that iron spit with the ghost of Charles Dickens, because you can.  You can read e-books every day, and twice on Sunday, and still support your favorite indie store."

7.  Katey Schultz (author of Flashes of War) funded her own book tour at a total cost of $12,000.  Was it worth it?  No (empty bookstores during readings, missing a best friend's wedding, and feeling drained of energy at the end of the day)...but also Yes.  Some of the benefits included: "Meeting people who actually care about the stuff that I made up; conversations after the readings (even when it was just one reader, it always amazed me how the connection could lead to another–sometimes a book club invite, other times just a darn good laugh); feeling like people largely 'understood' the intent of Flashes of War; feeling respected; being accepted by veterans; learning how to answer questions impressively well; articulating my creative process so many times that I clarified insights for myself; meeting adoring booksellers who really got behind the work and created a buzz; crashing with family and friends en route; working on the novel while flying; trying new bourbons in strange cities; reading with other authors and learning from them and feeling grateful for their wisdom and unsolicited help; signing books; and watching people’s faces as they drew closer to the human side of war."

8.  "Like the result of an unholy collaboration between P. G. Wodehouse and Ian Fleming." (New Yorker)  "Splendidly enjoyable.  The jokes are excellent, but the most horrible things keep happening." (Sunday Telegraph)  I doubt I'm the last person on the planet who's never heard of Kyril Bonfiglioli (1928-1985), but he's on my radar now thanks to these terrific new covers for his Charlie Mortdecai series from Penguin.  Illustrator Luke Pearson makes me want to gobble down all the nasty deliciousness in one sitting.

9.  A couple of things to put on your calendar:
      If you're in the Treasure State, plan on attending Montana Quarterly's How It Happens festival in Livingston, featuring readings by Tom McGuane, Tim Cahill and David Quammen; a screening of James Welch's Winter in the Blood; and music by Yahoo! yodeler Wylie and the Wild West (June 20 and 21).
      If you're in New York City, Words After War is hosting Danger Close: America After 9/11, a conversation between writers Masha Hamilton, Phil Klay, Max Neely-Cohen and Brandon Willitts on how 9/11 and the years that followed have shaped their lives and writing (June 29).

1 comment:

  1. I've read the Bonfiglioli books. The first one (DON'T POINT THAT THING AT ME) is by far the best. The second one is kind of a rehash of the first one, but it has its charms. The third one is really awful, and centers around a series of violent rapes.