Thursday, July 7, 2011

Soup and Salad: Debut DeLillo, Hemingway's Suicidal Paranoia, Flannery Speaks!, Tom Perrotta shares his love of O'Connor, Of Tweets and Men, "Camping Stories From Baltimore," John Updike's last books, Bret Easton Ellis on American Psycho

On today's menu:

1.  This just in from the Tie-Me-to-a-Chair-Because-I-Can't-Wait Dept.:  Scribner will publish Don DeLillo's debut collection of short stories, The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories, in November.  It's been a long time since the words "DeLillo" and "debut" were used in the same sentence, but it's true: this is the National Book Award winner's first collection in his long career.  The stories were published between 1979 and 2011.

2.  Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway's suicide (not a red-letter day for those of us who still mourn his decision to take himself out of the world).  And what's a milestone without someone coming up with a new revelation, right?  Writing in the New York Times, biographer and Papa pal A. E. Hotchner claims the FBI might have driven Hemingway to pull the trigger.  Hotchner said the writer feared J. Edgar Hoover's agency was keeping tabs on him because of his ties to Cuba and this may have pushed him over the brink.   The biographer recounts one particular incident, which is so very sad in retrospect:
      In November I went out West for our annual pheasant shoot....When Ernest and our friend Duke MacMullen met my train at Shoshone, Idaho, for the drive to Ketchum, we did not stop at the bar opposite the station as we usually did because Ernest was anxious to get on the road. I asked why the hurry.
      “The feds.”
      “They tailed us all the way. Ask Duke.”
      “Well ... there was a car back of us out of Hailey.”
      “Why are F.B.I. agents pursuing you?” I asked.
      “It’s the worst hell. The goddamnedest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted.”
      We rode for miles in silence. As we turned into Ketchum, Ernest said quietly: “Duke, pull over. Cut your lights.” He peered across the street at a bank. Two men were working inside. “What is it?” I asked.
      “Auditors. The F.B.I.’s got them going over my account.”
      “But how do you know?”
      “Why would two auditors be working in the middle of the night? Of course it’s my account.”
      All his friends were worried: he had changed; he was depressed; he wouldn’t hunt; he looked bad.
      Ernest, Mary and I went to dinner the night before I left. Halfway through the meal Ernest said we had to leave immediately. Mary asked what was wrong.
      “Those two F.B.I. agents at the bar, that’s what’s wrong.”

3.  Speaking of revelations and classic American authors, I just discovered this 1959 recording of Flannery O'Connor reading "A Good Man is Hard to Find."  It's the first time I've ever heard her voice.  Though I shouldn't have been surprised, I found it to be very....Southern.

4.  Tom Perrotta (Little Children and the forthcoming The Leftovers) talks to Thoughtcast about O'Connor and her classic story "Good Country People."  A few choice snippets:
There's a kind of dry understatement that she uses at moments when things get especially dark and grotesque.  It's sort of a sly, comic thing that she does....One of the things I love about O'Connor--even though she's a writer who troubles me and who I have long-term intellectual arguments with--she's got this voice, this sort of tart, dry, comic voice, a little bit superior.  She's a misanthrope....And one of the things that fascinates me about O'Connor is that she realized it.....Nobody writes like O'Connor about the insufferable banality of small talk.
Listen to the 30-minute interview with Perrotta here.

5.  Tweeting from a La-Z-Boy, an Unfinished Book Hits No. 1:  With just a title and a plot summary, young-adult author John Green's next book climbs the charts thanks to the power of social media.  "What it tells me is that I'm a lucky guy," says Mr. Green, a graduate of Kenyon College. "But it also says that if you are authentic with your readers, they will trust you when you come out with a new story."

6.  Laura Maylene Walter has a stressful dream about the title of her debut collection of short stories--but, frankly, I like the title "Camping Stories From Baltimore" better than "Living Arrangements."  Then again, I liked Tolstoy's original title for War and Peace: "All's Well That Ends Well."

7.  What was John Updike reading at the time of his death?  Andromeda Romano-Lax gives a report at the 49 Writers blog.

8.  I'm not necessarily a Bret Easton Ellis fan, but I was fascinated by this interview with the author at Three Guys One Book on the 20th anniversary of American Psycho.  It's as entertaining to watch the mechanics of an interview as it is to read of Ellis' complicated feelings about his controversial novel.
There is a lot of irony around the 20th anniversary, and I don’t want to talk about it, but I think you are going to be the last person I talk to about this book. I did the PW thing and it turned out so boring, there was this girl who didn’t have a clue what to talk about, so I was thinking about it, and I’m watching the Republican debates, and I knew you were going to call, and I was just thinking, this is going to be the last one. I don’t know what else I can say about the book. It’s so weird, from 1991, to now, and I’ve said many, many different things about it. My feelings about it have changed, and what I was afraid to admit about it, in the early 90’s, during the controversy, changed, when I had the confidence to admit, during my last book tour for Imperial Bedrooms, that American Psycho was very autobiographical. It was much more about pain and alienation than it was about my re-imagining what it was like to be a psychopath, work on Wall Street, or yuppie culture.
Part 1 of the Interview
Part 2 of the Interview


  1. Lisa,
    Yes, I have seen her cartoons and they remind me of the early cartoons of John Updike.
    In both cases, the authors were much better at short fiction than they were cartoons.
    Flannery's cartoons, by the way, will be published by Fantagraphics Books later this year.