“I mostly write about places that I’ve spent some significant amount of time. I like to know where I’m writing about. Sometimes I attribute it to when I was in college and trying to figure out how to write realist fiction, which did not come naturally to me. I was always getting hung up on how to move the people through the room or how to get them across the town. Where are the traffic lights? How far are these houses from each other? And so I started writing about the town I grew up in, mostly because I just didn’t have to think about where any of those things were and I could accurately draw the map in my head, which made it easier to move away from the off-the-wall shit I was doing and focus on real people—real pretend people, of course, but you know what I mean.”
—Justin Taylor (askforgiveness), who will be here on Tuesday discussing place with Jess Row, in “Real Pretend People”: An Interview with Justin Taylor | The American Reader
"I don’t want to always write stories about the same kind of disaffected, angsty youngish dude. Everyone assumes he’s a proxy for the author, which is frustrating because he usually isn’t. But it can also be frustrating because sometimes he is, and there are better places to hide than in your own skin. Anyway, I realized that just because a story has someone demographically like me in it, that character shouldn’t automatically get protagonist status. There are, of course, still angsty youngish dudes in this book, but they had to earn their place at the table in a way they didn’t before."
—Justin Taylor via Justin Taylor interview: ‘I don’t always want to write about the same disaffected, angsty dude’
Justin is here with Jess Row NEXT week, for Where Are Jess Row and Justin Taylor? on August 26; don’t miss it or his new book, Flings, out today.
HWBC Weekly Roundup:
- Literature is coming to a Chipotle near you (combining both of my favorite things)
Justin Taylor, one of my I-will-read-anything-you-write-and-as-soon-as-it’s-available writers has a new collection out this summer. I’m excited! So are you!
In honor of when Rachel ran this Tumblr and it was a Justin Taylor fest, FYI. (Your current Tumblr-er is also a fan of Mr. Taylor’s.)
Edit: so is Colin the Intern.
onemanbandstand said: Last year, you recommended I buy Claire Vaye Watkins' BATTLEBORN and it was great!!! Where do I go to get more stuff like that????
OMG I know Battleborn is so fucking good! I’ve got a lot for this one, get ready…
If you want to stick with short stories, some dark but funny books you could try: Blueprints for Building Better Girls, Elissa Schappell’s collection of linked stories. I think Karen Russell’s newest, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, is her best yet. I would also recommend Aryn Kyle’s Boys and Girls Like You and Me. Of course, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Mary Gaitskill, start with Bad Behavior.
And for novels, I think the Watkins fan would like Karolina Waclawiak’s How to Get Into the Twin Palms, from the great indie press Two Dollar Radio, about Russians and fires in L.A. — I loved it. New in 2013 and much acclaimed for good reason, Rachel Kushner’s novel of the 1970s art scene in NYC, motorcycles, and the Italian Red Brigades, The Flamethrowers, is so amazing sentence-by-sentence and an amazingly compelling story. You don’t even have to be interested by any of those three things (I wasn’t, really) and you will enjoy the shit out of it, I promise. I also loved Claire Messud’s new one, The Woman Upstairs.
I didn’t set out for them to be, but these are all by women! You go, kick-ass ladies writing dark, funny stories.
"I was thinking about this really kind of beautiful and naive faith people have that death is going to give them some kind of final answer, you know. Either there’s going to be, you know, whatever the answer is. Like: That’s it. The end. Or that there will be kind of a final reckoning. And I was just thinking about these poor guys who — it’s even more mystifying than their lives on this planet. And just the kind of arithmetic we’re doing all the time where we try to explain our present circumstances based on our past actions."
I loved Russell’s new collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove. The story here is about presidents reincarnated as horses in some kind of purgatory and is amazing as only Karen Russell can be. More of my thoughts at Everyday eBook and JennIRL gives it all the love at Tor.
Colbert: Why do you write short stories? America likes big. Go big or go home. We like big, huge, huge, huge novels.
Saunders: I’ll tell you why. If you imagine this, let’s say you were madly in love with somebody and your mission was to tell the person that you love them. So here’s two scenarios: one is you can take a weeklong train trip with the person, take your time, you’ll be in boring situations, beautiful scenery, everything. That’s a novel.
Colbert: Sounds good, sounds really good.
Saunders: The second scenario is she’s stepping on the train and you’ve got three minutes. So you have to make all that declaration in three minutes. That would be a short story.
Colbert: Can I get on the train with her?
Saunders: No, you’ve just got to shout it as she goes.
Colbert: Why can’t I get on the train?
Saunders: Because it’s a short story. You’re not allowed. You have to end it in eight pages and get out.
Colbert: But this is the short story I want to read — where is she going? Why can’t I go with her? We’re on to something here. Does she love me back? I’ve got to know!
Saunders: I don’t know yet! Sometimes a short story will just end with that question — does she love me back? So it’s a very special kind of beauty.
Saunders will be at the library with another legendary talk show host, Dick Cavett, next Tuesday, Feb. 26 to talk about his much-lauded latest story collection, “Tenth of December.”
LONG LIVE THE SHORT STORY.
"This is not exactly the fantastic made realistic or the realistic fantastic. It’s a story sure of itself in the frolic of its strangeness. Fiction is by definition unreal, and Russell takes this coldly awesome truth and enjoys fully the rebel freedom it confers. […] But Russell is no coy or mannered mistress of the freaky. Much of the pleasure in reading her comes from the wily freshness of her language and the breezy nastiness of her observations.” (via Joy Williams, ‘Vampires in the Lemon Grove,’ by Karen Russell - NYTimes.com)
I nabbed an ARC of this at the bookstore; I loved it. It has a surprising thread of horror (as in the genre) throughout, and seems more mature then her previous work. I think my favorite story in it is “Reeling for the Empire,” which provides the inspiration for the gorgeous illustration with this review.
"The great short stories – by Gogol, Chekov, Munro, Wolff, et al – seem to affirm that human experience is at least somewhat shared – that what matters to you probably matters to me too. That’s a pretty optimistic stance, even if a given story is, on the surface, “dark.”"
New issue of Storychord, who you might remember from such events as Around the Campfire and their Birthday Party here, guest curated by Michael Barron, featuring Kelsey Ford, Jocelyn Spaar, and Single Ben.
Check it out, I love this project. Every two weeks an issue features a short story, paired up with an image (photograph, painting, etc.) and a song. Discover the next big thing. (via Storychord.com: ISSUE #60: Kelsey Ford, Jocelyn Spaar, Single Ben)