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Brooklyn Book Festival 2017

22 Sep
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From a mural in Coney Island

Last week I went home for the Brooklyn Book Festival and it was so lovely! Tuesday night, my parents took Michael and me to Malachy McCourt’s event at Greenwood Cemetery for his new humorous book Death Need Not Be Fatal. I love that the cemetery is also a literary venue with a club called the Death Café; the coordinator promises “the history of cremation has a few laughs.” Perhaps my favorite (non-funny) thing McCourt said is this, regarding his atheism:  the conception of hell is “ecclesiastical terror. I don’t want to hang out with the people who invented that.”

We also went to the Whitney Museum to see Alexander Calder‘s refurbished, motor-driven mobiles and “An Incomplete History of Protest,” an inspiring exhibit tackling art as protest from the 1940s to the present. The views from the Whitney are fantastic. It’s hard not to fall in love with New York over and over again.

On Friday, I took Amanda Thomas of Lanternfish Press on an instagram tour of Coney Island, one of the settings of Daughters of the Air (my first novel, formerly known on this blog as Dirty and releasing December 5!). Sunday was the big day for the book festival, and I was so happy to meet readers excited about weird fiction! Then that afternoon I took LFP’s publicist Feliza Casano on an instagram tour of Gowanus, another major setting of Daughters of the Air. Check out LFP’s blog post on the book festival here. I’ve included a few highlights highlights from Coney Island, Gowanus, and the festival right here:

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Stay tuned for more book news next week! And if you’d like to get that news right in your in-box, I’ve got a short and sweet monthly newsletter you can sign up for here.

“The Ball” by Irène Némirovsky

10 Aug

Golder

I read Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française in French to prepare for my language exam at UW. Among the three works I inched through, it was the only one I managed to finish that summer. (The others were Swann’s Way, which I hope to tackle again one day, though it will probably have to be in English with some kind of Proust support group, and a vintage collection of short stories in a volume designed for college students, which was kind of stodgy.)  What I remember best from Suite Française, other than the scenes of Parisians evacuating before the German Occupation, is Némirovsky’s use of light. A woman hiding in a house shrouded in trees seems trapped in something aquatic. It was then that I learned and cherished the word glaucous.

Other than the fact that the French were fleeing the Nazis, there was no whiff of anti-Semitism in that book that I, with my limited language skills, could detect. So I was surprised, when reading Claire Messud’s introduction to the collection David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair that Némirovsky was virulently anti-Semitic, a token Jew at a right-wing newspaper, and a convert to Catholicism. Not that any of this saved her in the end. (For an in-depth discussion of Némirovsky see Susan Rubin Suleiman’s The Némirovsky Question.)

Michael read “David Golder,” the novel that made Némirovsky famous at 26. Though the story is well-written, the stereotypical depictions of Jewish businessmen did not sit well with him. (It should be pointed out, if you don’t know, that the stereotype of the banker Jew is a result of centuries of discrimination, as Jews were not allowed to practice most other professions or own land.) I wondered whether the popularity of “David Golder” had any connection to pandering to stereotypes. I decided to save my time and skip to “The Ball.”

Here, the Kampfs are a nouveau-riche couple who want to throw their first big party. M. Kampf “made a killing” in the Stock Market and in just four years they moved from a modest apartment to one that could accommodate (if a bit uncomfortably) 200 guests. The story was published in 1929 and you can feel the imminent doom.

M. Kampf is Jewish (alas, the Jewish stockbroker) and his wife is Catholic. They’re raising their fourteen-year-old daughter Antoinette to be Catholic. Mme. Kampf, whose past is questioned and who married M. Kampf for money, is desperate to host a glamorous party that will establish her reputation with the aristocracy. She hires a band to play the blues and the Charleston, and orders a bevy of roses, buckets of champagne, aspic, oysters, foie gras, caviar sandwiches, game, fish, petit fours, and, a modern luxury to be delivered fresh at 11 pm: ice cream.

Poor Antoinette keeps getting in the way of party planning. It is her violent emotions that attract me most to this story. Her thoughts feel the most real, compared to the somewhat flat, Mme. Bovary-esque aspirations of Mme. Kampf. Indignant, in bed, Antoinette thinks:

To them a fourteen-year-old was just a kid–to be pushed around like a dog…I want to die! God, please make me die…Dear God, sweet Holy Virgin, why did you make me their child? Punish them, I’m begging you. Punish them just once, and after that, I’ll gladly die.

Antoinette’s desire for vengeance suggests something darker here than your run-of-the-mill teen anger, but it also pushes this story deliciously to its conclusion. The characters probably aren’t any more likable than in “David Golder,” not that that is a requirement for my reading pleasure. But Antoinette’s course of action moves the story toward a complex, yet surprisingly tender, picture of mother-daughter conflicts.  If you like the glamor of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age Stories, or coming-of-age stories in general, you’ll want to check this one out.

“Translation is not kale” in The Seattle Review of Books

10 Aug

WITMonth2017-2August is Women in Translation Month. This is the fourth year of the campaign, which was founded by literary blogger and biophysicist Meytal Radzinksi. I’m a big fan of this effort to raise awareness about women writers in translation and read more of them. And, I’m super excited to have my piece “Translation is not kale” in The Seattle Review of Books today, which discusses WITMonth in a wider context and revels in some of my favorite-favorite books. You can read “Translation is not kale” here. I’ve also got three reviews scheduled right here on my blog, starting today and continuing the next two Thursdays. More soon!

 

Can a story ever be “done”?

22 May

 

Over on The Woodsy, I chatted about inspiration, long-term motivation, and whether one ever feels “done” when writing a novel. I was joined by Bonnie Rochman, author of The Gene Machine, and Candace Dempsey, author of Murder in Italy. Thanks for the fun opportunity, Dena Ogden!

“What Keeps You Up At Night?” in PageBoy IX

28 Apr
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The natural history of beetles Edinburgh :Henry G. Bohn, 1852. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/16056978

My poem-collage-essay-thing (I guess the kids these days call it a hybrid piece), “What Keeps You Up At Night?” is in the current issue of PageBoy Magazine. Issue IX’s theme is “writers on writers” and my piece touches on Kafka, Ricardo Piglia, anxiety, and memory. You can pick up an issue online, at the launch party at Vermillion on May 5th from 7-9 pm, or in Portland on May 27 from 6-7 pm at Another Read Through Books.

After the May 5 launch, you can pick Pageboy up at many fine bookstores. (I’ve starred stores that also carry the new issue of Moss. Maximum efficiency! Yay.)

In Seattle:

Elliot Bay*, University Bookstore*, Third Place Books*, Bulldog News, Open Books, Left Bank Books*, First and Pike News. (Moss is also available at Phinney Books.)

In Portland: Powell’s*, Another Read Through.
In Olympia: Orca Books, Last Word Books, The Evergreen State College Library.
In San Francisco: Dog Eared Books, City Lights, Green Apple Books.
In Berkeley: Pegasus Books (Shattuck).

 

Apropos of Moss, you can also find it:

In LA: Skylight Books.

In NYC: McNally Jackson.

Lanternfish Press To Publish My Debut Novel

6 Mar

I am beyond thrilled to announce that Lanternfish Press is publishing my debut novel, Dirty, in late 2017 or early 2018. Dirty is a magical realist work about a teenage runaway whose father is disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War.

The seedlings of this book emerged long, long ago, in 2001. And I worked on the first draft in fits and starts for years until I decided an MFA at the University of Washington would help me get it done. Then, mid-way through the program in 2010, Michael and I managed to travel to Argentina. (There was a pitfall to super cheap plane tickets; I wrote about it for Airplane Reading.) At graduation, my thesis advisor David Bosworth compared the process of finishing a novel to the gestation of a whale. Fast forward to 2017. Not sure which beasts gestate for 15 years. But this labor of love will see the light of day!

Lanternfish is based in Philadelphia and makes gorgeous, genre-blurring books like Vikram Paralkar’s The Afflictions and Christopher Smith’s Salamanders of The Silk Road. The moment I read Lanternfish’s cred0, I knew it would be a good fit:

READ. READ VORACIOUSLY. READ WRITERS WHO DON’T LOOK LIKE YOU. READ FOREIGN WRITERS. READ DEAD WRITERS!

Writing is a conversation. It can offer people who lead wildly different lives a window on each other’s worlds. It can bridge gaps between cultures and gulfs in time, overcoming unbearable solitudes. We tend to click with writers who’ve grappled with many stories and whose work is informed by that broader perspective.

I am so delighted they agreed.




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Bright Spots of 2016

21 Dec
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From Della tramutatione metallica sogni tre by Gio. Battista Nazari, 1571

Dang it. Despite world affairs being horrendous, I’m going to relish some good things that happened in 2016. First, I achieved my goal of obtaining 100 rejections (106!). If you’re not getting rejecting 90% of the time, you’re not aiming high enough–so goes the wisdom from Creative Capital. The fruits of this labor paid off with eight publications. Here they are, plus other goodness. (Find the zoetrope!)

 

My plans for the holidays including gorging myself on kreplach, cholent, pizza, and rainbow cookies and devouring Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters. Happy winter solstice!

December Events

27 Nov
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Olympic Sculpture Park; photo by George Szilagyi

As the year winds down into its darkest days, I hope you’ll join me for one of these events. If you come to two, I will give you a lollipop.

  • Friday, December 2, at 8 pmThe Furnace Says Goodnight at Hollow Earth Radio. Thirteen Furnace writers contributed pieces that Corinne and I have woven into a single story. The pieces are at turns raw, luminous, defiant, and hopeful. I’m super excited to see the collaboration come alive on stage.  And there will be klezmer music! Please come help us celebrate our last performance. If you’re not in town, you can tune in online at hollowearthradio.org.
  • Wednesday, December 7, at 7 pm: Superfriends: Moss + Pacifica at Open Books. Two literary magazines near and dear to me are having launch parties for their latest issues. I’m in Moss #6! Pacifica published my first poem back in March.
  • Tuesday, December 13, at 7 pm: Seattle Fiction Federation at Richard Hugo House.  A fiction-full night! I’m reading alongside Steve Sibra, Lucy Hitz, and Donna Miscolta, whose story collection Hola and Goodbye just came out from Carolina Wren Press. There’s also an open mic, so come with up to 5 minutes of fiction to share.

“Don’t Worry” in Moss

17 Nov
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Don’t worry about these clowns…Ugo Ronidinone’s “Vocabulary of Solitude” at Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans van Beunigen.

 

My story “Don’t Worry” is out in Moss, Issue 6.  Here’s how it begins:

Johnny’s teaching math in the fall and we’re on our honeymoon. Venice, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam. A whole month. Sexy sexy cities for sexy sexy times. I planned most of it. He got Amsterdam.

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I wrote the story on the way home from my trip to the Netherlands this May, after overhearing a tourist at Anne Frank House say of the diary, “it’s just paper.” It’s (unfortunately) been feeling pretty timely this past week. The trip was made possible by the Artist Trust / Gar LaSalle Storyteller Award, which brought me there to research my third novel. I’m forever grateful for that opportunity.

The story will be available in print later this year in Volume 2. If you’d like to hold the story in your hands and support a great journal, you can subscribe here!

Women in Translation Month

26 Jul

Women in Translation Month is around the corner! Last year, I compiled a list of translated books by women that I enjoyed and created a Women in Translation Bingo game. I also wrote about novellas by Marguerite Duras and Eileen Chang and poetry collections from Rocío Cerón and Angélica Freitas.

This summer has been a bit more hectic as I’ve been teaching more, taking my second novel through an eighth draft, and researching my third novel. However! I’m excited for Women In Translation Month and wanted to share with you four books on my to-read pile.

What have you been reading? WITMonth2016

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