Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Books in 2009

I am not good at writing about fiction. I generally use the word "awesome" over and over again. But I did read some awesome books this year and thought I'd mention some of them that I especially loved.

It was a good year for short story collections. I loved Cliff Garstang's In An Uncharted Country, Paul Yoon's Once the Shore, Lydia Peelle's Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, Holly Goddard Jones's Girl Trouble, Skip Horack's The Southern Cross, and Laura van den Berg's What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us.

Two of my favorite books of the year were written by Blake Butler and Shane Jones. Scorch Atlas was mesmerizing, thrilling, and scary as hell. Light Boxes felt like a perfect fairy tale that twisted and expanded into something even more amazing. These are two books that would not leave my brain.

Josh Weil's The New Valley, a collection of three novellas, was such a wonderful, tightly-written book, one of the few books that I managed to read more than once.

Jedidiah Berry and Paul Tremblay wrote two amazing novels (The Manual of Detection and The Little Sleep) that happened to have private detectives as the main character. I can't recommend these two books enough.

My three favorite books that I read this year were, in order of my liking them:

3. Padgett Powell's The Interrogative Mood: I read this in manuscript form a while back and sometimes a student would come to my office to talk about Padgett's story from the Ben Marcus anthology and I would bring up the word document for this book and read paragraphs from it to them. It never failed to blow people away, even if they couldn't figure out what the hell it was all about. I could read pieces of this book everyday for the rest of my life and be happy. I wish someone would give Colonel Powell a television show called The Interrogative Mood and simply let him read questions for thirty minutes. Or, even better, give him one of the Late Night slots and let him interview celebrities in the same manner as the questions in this book.

2. Nami Mun's Miles From Nowhere: This is such an awesome book. There are elements of Jesus' Son in it, but it's more than that. She writes with such precision about incredibly grim events and then, as if by magic, turns it all into something you don't ever want to forget.

1. Chris Adrian's A Better Angel: I love Chris Adrian's work. Gob's Grief is one of my favorite books of all time and this collection highlights why I think he is such an amazing writer. The stories are heartbreaking, bizarre, and yet the way that Adrian handles these characters, in the midst of such pain, is so beautiful and affirming to me. If there was one book this year that rearranged the precise machinery inside of me, it was this one.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Roaring 20's

I just finished up my Beginning Fiction Workshop and had the chance to read some great, strange stories from the students. There was animal sacrifice, a son watching his dad put baby powder on his thighs in order to slip into a pair of tight leather pants, a girl trying to trick her sister into eating deer feces, and organ harvesting.
For the second half of the semester, I always use the Ben Marcus anthology, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, which I think is fantastic. It has stuff from George Saunders, Aimee Bender, Christine Schutt, Padgett Powell, and Jhumpa Lahiri. It's weird and funny and the students generally struggle with it at first but ultimately come around on the anthology. But I've been thinking about adding some other stories to the class, ones that deal with people their age, dealing with the ramifications of impending adulthood. So I was hoping to appeal to the two or three people who read this blog and see if you had any recommendations for great short stories that involve people in college. I've tried to think of some and haven't had much luck. I can find all kinds of amazing stories about teenagers dealing with the horrors of high school, but not much about college. Any help would be appreciated.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

American Vampire

I promised myself that I wouldn't write another post about comic books after I made a pathetic request for a comic-book-pal and netted not a single response. My wife said that it was brutal to read the post and she felt very bad for me.
However, I wanted to mention that an amazing fiction writer, Scott Snyder, has landed a ongoing series with Vertigo called American Vampire. Snyder wrote the really, really awesome story collection Voodoo Heart and when I started my subscription to One Story back in 2002, the first story I got was Snyder's story "Happy Fish, Plus Coin" which is still one of my favorite stories from that journal.
Snyder wrote a Human Torch one-shot for Marvel, and is doing some work on an X-Men series, but this American Vampire series is going to be a huge deal. Stephen King is co-writing the first five issues. So, yes, this is going to be big.

Monday, October 19, 2009


The National Book Award Finalists were announced last week and when I met with my students on Thursday, I read them the first paragraphs of each book and had them vote on their favorite. We're going to see if, based on just the first few sentences, we can predict the winner.

The winner was Marcel Theroux's Far North. The first few lines for that book are:

Every day I buckle on my guns and go out to patrol this dingy city.
I've been doing it so long that I'm shaped to it, like a hand that's been carrying buckets in the cold.
The winters are the worst, struggling up out of a haunted sleep, fumbling for my boots in the dark. Summer is better. The place feels almost drunk on the endless light and time skids by for a week or two. We don't get much spring or fall to speak of. Up here, for ten months a year, the weather has teeth in it.

Two books tied for second with my students, American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Louisiana Book Festival

If you live in Louisiana, near Baton Rouge, or if you were thinking of heading that way this weekend, I'm going to be at the Louisiana Book Festival. On Saturday morning, I'm on a panel with Juyanne James and Geoff Wyss about New Stories From the South 2009 and then I'm giving a reading at 1:00 pm by myself. And I have a real concern that I will be reading by myself, that not a single person will be there. And then I'd have to walk to the signing pavilion and sit there for thirty minutes. While I am there, I plan to eat many, many roast beef and gravy po' boys. And there's a place near my hotel that has boudin pizza. Oh, yes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I've been happy to see some more of my stories appear in the last month in some great journals. A year and a half ago, some friends and I started a monthly writing contest where we each wrote a 1,000-word story based on a prompt. Because I've been focusing on the novel, this has turned out to be a great way for me to feel somewhat productive. Even if I didn't get anything else written, I had a 1,000-word story at the end of the month. Here are the prompts that led to the stories that got published.

Morass: "A Pile of Shirts, Ripped from the Body" in Clapboard House
Rickshaw: "Blue-Suited Henchman, Kicked Into Shark Tank" in SmokeLong Quarterly

You can read another story from our group (The tar prompt that made me write the story in Juked) here at Pindeldyboz from P. Terrence McGovern.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


For anyone that might be interested, I'm going to be in New York tomorrow for this:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hard Case

I really love old crime novels. I've read them since I was a kid, and the only real problem was finding copies of stuff that was long out of print. I have Strange Pursuit, by N. R. De Mexico, which is one of only three entries by Suspense Novel, falling apart. And I've found old books from publishers like Phantom, Popular Library, Gold Medal, and Red Seal.

Earlier this year, I found a publisher that I can't believe I hadn't seen before, Hard Case Crime. Oh, god, is it good. They publish novels that have been out of print for more than 50 years by authors like Cornell Woolrich and Lawrence Block and David Goodis, kings of pulp. And they have new books by authors that I've loved like Max Allan Collins. I've read 24 of the books so far and I've loved every one of them. They are so much damn fun to read.

As I've been reading them, I've tried to remember to write down lines that I really liked, so here are some of them:

...I heard him say he wanted to see the senior partner. He said it with the air of a man who always demands the best, and then settles for what he can get.
Top of the Heap by Erle Stanley Gardner

People generally take their time putting two and two together, and even so they generally come up with five.
Grifter's Game by Lawrence Block

That old boy has teeth you simply would not credit.
Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips

She was a big, soft-looking girl with energetic brown eyes, and she still trusted everybody she met and believed every story she heard. I was always glad to see Joanie, because it meant nobody had killed her yet.
Fade to Blond by Max Phillips

The figure she cut had nothing to do with speech.
Shooting Star by Robert Bloch

That was his privilege, his prerogative, as the man of the house, to answer the phone if it rang when he happened to be there; rather than hers. It was a mechanical instrument, it was an electrical thing, it was a thing of wires, it still fell more within the masculine domain than the feminine.
Fright by Cornell Woolrich

She looked hot enough to catch fire, but too lazy to do anything but just lie there and smoke.
The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer

And there are pages and pages of these great lines in every one of these books. And the books themselves are beautiful, with the mass-market style format with salacious art by guys like Robert McGinnis, who is one of the most legendary cover painters.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Apostrophe Cast

If you want to hear the sound of my voice, you can hear me reading my story from the new issue of The Collagist thanks to the awesome site, Apostrophe Cast. I'm proud to be reading alongside Charles Jensen and Kim Chinquee, who have outstanding work in the issue.

I recorded the audio for this thing on my computer while I was in a hotel room in Walterboro, SC. It took me a long time to get it right. One time, someone from housekeeping tried to get into my room, even though I had the Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob, and I felt very awkward to be reading about how sinkholes are "the most vaginal of god's natural occurrences."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Excerpt from the Big Book of Forgotten Lunatics, Volume 1

I'm happy to report that I have a story in the first issue of The Collagist, an online journal created by Dzanc Books. Matt Bell, the editor, did an incredible job of putting together this issue. There's fiction by Chris Bachelder, Kim Chinquee, Gordon Lish, Matthew Salesses, and a novel excerpt from the new book by Laird Hunt.

I met Laird Hunt back in 2004 when I was at the MacDowell Colony. It was through this residency that I came into possession of one of my most prized pieces of author memorabilia, a box of snack crackers that Laird had partially eaten (the crackers, not the box). I wrote a letter to Laird after he'd left in order to get verification of his having eaten some of the crackers, a letter of authenticity if you will, and he responding by sending the most incredible, hand-written essay/story, which filled up an entire notebook. It was amazing. If you want to read something awesome, check out his novel The Impossibly, which is about "an anonymous secret operative embroiled in the dark underworld of transnational organized crime." It is so damn bizarre and very hilarious.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mobile Nazario Scenario

My friend, Amanda Nazario, is doing something really cool, but she needs money to do it. In addition to being a really great writer (evidence is here, here, and here), Amanda is also a DJ on Washington Heights Free Radio and has impeccable taste in music. Now she wants to take the show on the road, traveling all over New York (and hopefully the rest of the country), broadcasting the show. To do this, she needs some stuff. She needs a car. She needs a "reliable mobile wifi system". She needs a "basic DJ setup". To facilitate the acquisition of these things, she has set up a Kickstarter page to accept donations for this very rad idea. She needs $10,000. She's got $1,245 so far. There are 64 days left to donate, so I hope you might consider giving something.

So Dark in the Wolf's Maw

I have a story coming up in the MLP chapbook series, which I'm really excited about. Last month, the series featured stories by Molly Gaudry, Elizabeth Ellen, and Ryan Call. Each one of these stories was amazing and totally different. It's a really cool press and so I hope you might consider getting a subscription, which is pretty darn cheap. For 36 bucks, you get a six-month subscription (three chapbooks per month). If that wasn't enough, you also get a copy of Molly Gaudry's novella, We Take Me Apart. How can you go wrong?
You can also buy my individual story (please buy my story) here. It's only three dollars. The story has a wolf and seahorses and x-rays and a winged heart and barium shakes and surgical instruments. Trust me, you'll like it.

Friday, July 17, 2009


My full-time job is serving as the secretary for the Sewanee Writers' Conference, an annual literary conference that brings together a lot of really incredible writers in fiction, poetry, and playwriting. This is the ninth year I've worked for the conference and it's fun though it's also a nightmare to plan. But I've met some really nice people because of Sewanee. I met my wife here when we were on staff together. And a lot of my best friends are on the summer staff, so it's always nice to see them. But sometimes I get yelled at by a conferee because there is no soap in their room and I feel like I want to punch my hand through a window.

If you're in the area, the readings are open to the public and there are some really great authors here. Josh Weil is reading tomorrow. So are Erica Dawson, Carrie Jerrell, and Juliana Gray, three amazing poets. And then Richard Bausch reads tomorrow night. Tony Earley and Randall Kenan, two of my favorite writers, read next week.

And if you ever come to a writers' conference, don't ask the staff to bring you a diet coke to your room every morning. We will mess you up in secret ways.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I was really happy to learn that Lucia Silver, the book buyer for Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, California, said some really nice things about Tunneling to the Center of the Earth on NPR's Morning Edition today.  You can listen to the show and read about it here.  She called the stories "Like the pen-and-ink love children of Aimee Bender and Lorrie Moore, or George Saunders and Amy Hempel."  So, Ms. Silva, you move to the top of the "Who-Gets-One-of-Kevin's-Kidneys" list.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Avatar Review and ML Press

I've got a story in Avatar Review, which I'm really happy about.  There's also a story by Charles Lennox, which allows me to segue into another topic regarding J.A. Tyler's very fantastic ml press.

For the month of June, J.A. is offering a free copy of "A Field of Colors" by Charles Lennox if you will email your mailing address to him.  Go here for the full details.  MLP does great work and I always look forward to getting the three chapbooks in the mail each week.  I find the ratio is that I love two of them and I have no idea what the hell is going on the third one, but I enjoy trying to figure it out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Leigh Anne Couch at 21c

My wife, Leigh Anne Couch, will be reading on Monday in Louisville as part of the 21c Monthly Poetry Series with Sarabande Books.  She's going to be reading with Young Smith at the 21c Musuem at 7:30 pm.

Here is one of Leigh Anne's poems, "I am not a man; I am dynamite" which was included in the 2008 Best of the Web anthology.  She is the author of Houses Fly Away, which was the co-winner of the Zone 3 Press First Book Award, and a chapbook, Green and Helpless, from Finishing Line Press.  She is awesome.


I've got a story in the new issue of Dislocate.  It's about a man who finds himself slowly being rendered a non-entity by his wife.  He has a strange job.  The end is kind of sad but kind of hopeful.  This is, I think, something I like to do.

I came to find and admire this journal because their third issue had a cover that was done by Carson Ellis and I bought it for that reason alone.  Carson Ellis is the wife of Colin Meloy, the lead singer of The Decemberists.  She is an amazing artist.  One of my best friends got me a print for my birthday of the picture here, "Faster, Maria!"  Oh, I love that picture.  My friend, who knows Carson, also gave me a birth announcement for Carson and Colin's child that Carson had made, a beautiful drawing, and I framed it.  Is that creepy?  Yes, Kevin, a little.  We took it down when we had Griff because we didn't want him to think that the Meloy-Ellis baby was more important than him.  He's kind of weird about that stuff.

This issue of Dislocate also has a story by Adam Peterson, a writer that I have recently discovered and come to like very, very much.  His story in this issue is so damn good.  It made me want to cry and then, by the end, had done something kind of magical and made me so happy that I wanted to hug everyone I know.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Recommended Reading

Ravi Mangla, a writer who publishes a ton and, even more jealousy-inducing, makes every story really awesome, has started a new blog called Recommended Reading, which will build up a database of recommended reading lists.  It's a great idea and a lot of fun.  
I have the first entry, a list of incredible stories that feature historical figures.  I cheated a little on one of the stories because the Harlan Ellison story only has Christopher Columbus in a small portion of the story but it's so bizarre and wonderful that I had to include it.  Plus, his name is in the title so I figured it was okay.  There's also an interview with questions about stories and books that I like.
Thanks, Ravi, for including me in this project.

The Moon's Face, Darkened

I have a new story up at BULL: Men's Fiction.  It also has work by J.A. Tyler, Jimmy Chen, and Ben Nardolilli.  If you are a fan of J.A. Tyler, and I am, then you will discover a lot of really awesome journals that you didn't know about by following his work.  That's how I found BULL.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I have a new story, "Skin" up at Joyland, a hub for short fiction.  They also have work by Amanda Stern and Joe Meno and Lydia Millet.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Maud Newton

Maud Newton, an awesome writer and famous book blogger, has just put up an essay I wrote about David Bowman, a novelist that I like and wish more people liked (or at least knew about).  Thanks, Maud, for letting me be on your site.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A couple things

A story from Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, "The Museum of Whatnot," is now up at Fifty-Two Stories.  Thanks to Cal Morgan for putting it online.  There are some really wonderful stories at the site, which seeks to publish a new story each week for 2009, including work by Blake Butler, Mary Gaitskill, and Casey Kait.

Also, though I forgot to mention this a couple weeks ago, John Madera put up an amazing list of noteworthy novellas at his blog.  He asked me for my top ten, which can be found here.  Looking at the other lists, I found some novellas that I would have included had I remembered them, but, actually, I don't know what I'd take out from my list, so it worked out best this way.  

Publishers Weekly picked Tunneling to the Center of the Earth as one of fifteen "Favorite Reads of the Summer" which was very nice of them. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Atlanta, GA & Chattanooga, TN

I am in Sewanee, TN.  Two days ago, I was in Atlanta, GA, and just a few hours ago, I was in Chattanooga, TN.  I'll start with Atlanta.

My dad drove me again.  He listened to an audiobook on his headphones and I played Yahtzee.  I was reading for the Georgia Center for the Book at the Dekalb County Public Library.  There was a nice crowd that included my friend Chelsea Rathburn, author of the poetry collection The Shifting Line.  Chelsea was one of the first friends I made at the Sewanee Writers' Conference and now she's winning NEA grants and getting great teaching gigs and publishing in big places, and I am surprisingly not as jealous as I thought I would be.  That's the mark of a true friendship.  The reading went well and I sold some books and I had a real thrill when one of the people who came to the reading ended up being Thomas Mullen, who gave me a copy of his first novel The Last Town on Earth, which was a very kind thing to do.  I read the first thirty pages on the way home and was hooked.  It's about a town (in 1918) in Washington state that quarantines itself to prevent infection from a deadly epidemic.  Did I just say deadly epidemic?  I did.  How can you resist?  So I had a good time and saw some nice people and sold a few books.  Not a bad night.

It was made even better by the fact that my dad and I went to The Varsity.  It's the largest drive-in fast food restaurant in the world.  Nipsey Russell used to work there as a car hop.  I have a tendency to avoid the popular places because I think that they coast on their reputation, but, goddamn, The Varsity is awesome.  I got two chili dogs and a Varsity orange drink.  My dad got a slaw dog and a chili dog and we split an order of onion rings.  It was, as always, very very good.  I cannot remember the last time I went to Atlanta and did not eat at The Varsity.  We bought eight peach pies to take home with us and hand out to our friends and family and remind them that we are wonderful people.

Tonight I read at Rock Point Books in Chattanooga, TN.  My wife read here when her book of poems came out and it's a great store with a really nice staff and so I'd been looking forward to this reading.  I had some good friends show up, which made me happy.  Jason Griffey, the father of Griff's favorite friend, Eliza, came to the reading.  Jason is one of the few people I know who will talk to me about zombies and comic books and professional wrestling with as much enthusiasm as I have for these subjects.  My friend, Buzz Sienknecht, who has come to the Sewanee Writers' Conference every year that I've been on staff, also came to the reading and he brought four other people with him, which was very nice and made me feel lucky that I know him.  And my friends Jacob (who works with my wife and who humors me when I ask him to come into my office and look at my Batman statues) and Jessica (who I have taught in three separate creative writing classes and who writes wilder stuff each time) from Sewanee also made the trip.  And my mom and dad were there.  What I'm trying to say is that there were some people in the audience who already liked me, so I thought it might go well.  And it did.  It was a fun reading and I answered a few questions and signed books and had a great time.  Thanks to the staff at Rock Point for having me.

After the reading I bought a hardcover collection of Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid.  If you don't like comic books but wish you did, you should read anything by Paul Pope.  I've got the actual issues of this comic series but I like it so much that I spent 35 bucks to have it in a hardcover collection.  This is not smart.  Oh well.

My mom drove me to Chattanooga for a radio interview at UTC before the reading.  She dropped me off and I waited and read the Chris Adrian story in the New Yorker.  I love Chris Adrian's work so much, and this story was amazing.  Good lord it's so beautiful and so sad.  If you haven't read it, you should read it.  I ended up talking about it a lot during the radio interview.  I think I might have said, "I wish I was Chris Adrian" at one point.  I once again mentioned how lonely I had been in my twenties but the interviewer asked me about my wife and child in a follow-up question and got me to clarify that I'm not so desperately lonely now.  Thanks, Monessa, for saving me on that one.

After the radio interview, I met my mom at Cheeburger, Cheeburger, a burger place in Chattanooga.  I've never been and it's a chain, but I really wanted to try it.  I am so happy that I did because it was a life-changing event.  I had heard about a certain burger there that I was jazzed about and so I ordered "Our Famous Pounder".  You might think that this is a one pound burger.  It is not; it is 20 ounces.  It is 1 1/4 pounds.  If you can finish it, you get your picture taken and placed on the "Wall of Fame".  Oh, god, I wanted to be on that "Wall of Fame" so bad.  I also got a chocolate shake and onion rings.  Was this a mistake?  Probably.  The burger came and there was so much meat and cheese that the bun could not contain it.  I was giddy.  Fifteen minutes later, the burger had disappeared.  I even ate the green olive that garnished the burger (and I hate, hate, hate olives) because I didn't want to get disqualified.  My mom called the waiter over to our table and he verified that I had finished the burger and then he went to get the camera.  He came back with a camera and a gigantic hat in the shape of a hamburger.  I was to wear this hamburger hat in the picture.  "Oh, no thank you," I said.  It's the rule.  "Okay," I said.  He took my picture.  Then he asked what my name was and where I was from.  I told him.  He then shouted very loudly, "Ladies and Gentlemen, my friend Kevin from Sewanee, Tennessee, just finished a 20 ounce hamburger.  Please give him a round of applause."  People clapped but the look on their face was a strange smile that barely masked their disgust.  My mom thought this whole event was the greatest thing of all time.  I think she was more proud of me for eating the burger than my publishing the book of stories.  During my reading, she sat in the back row and sent a picture of me with the burger hat to all of her friends on her cell phone.  After the reading, my mom took my dad back to the restaurant to show him my picture on the wall.  I have great parents.

I've got a break before I head east for a few more readings so I'm going to take it easy.  Thanks to everyone who has bought the book or come to the reading or mentioned the book.  I appreciate it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blytheville, AR

I'm in Blytheville, AR.  I went to That Bookstore in Blytheville, run by Mary Gay Shipley, and it's a really wonderful place.  That's been one of the best things about this tour, getting to visit all these really cool indie bookstores.  Not having easy access to one, you forget just how awesome a bookstore can be and how it can cater to the town while also promoting any book that gets them excited.  
The reading...did not really happen.  I showed up fifteen minutes early and I waited for someone to show up.  It did not seem like it was going to happen.  I was totally okay with the fact that no one was going to show up.  It was a Friday night and I am an unknown writer with a book of short stories.  I felt bad because Mary Gay had made a LOT of chicken salad sandwiches for the potluck.  I was going to have to eat a LOT of chicken salad sandwiches to make it up to her.  Five minutes past when the reading was supposed to start, a guy walked in.  I was in the back of the store, staring at the chicken salad, but I could hear Mary Gay ask him if he was here for the reading.  He said he was.  She asked him how he'd heard about it and he said he'd seen it in the newspaper.  And, he said, he'd read the tour diary on this blog.  Well, Steven, thanks a whole bunch for letting me retain a very small fragment of my dignity.  It was the first reading he had ever attended.  But I did not read, because that just seemed like a bad idea.  Instead, he and I talked about Stephen King and our writing regimens and I gave him a copy of the book.  I ate sandwiches with Mary Gay and the staff and my dad and then I signed one of the wooden folding chairs in the store, which is an author tradition there.
Thanks also to my friend Justin Quarry, who sent me a bottle of wine and had reserved two copies of my book for me to sign, which made me really happy.  He's on a writing residency in Utah, which sucks because I wanted to see him, and two people at the reading is more than one person at the reading.
My father and I ate breakfast this morning in Oxford, MS.  We ate at Big Bad Breakfast and I had the breakfast sandwich called "With Signs Following."   It had sausage and cheese and egg and tabasco mayo on white toast.  It negated the need for lunch.  Though we had planned on eating at Dixie Pig in Blytheville, my dad and I decided to eat at the Grecian Steakhouse (right next to the Olympia Steakhouse), because it was next to the hotel.  All the waitresses seemed to be twelve years old.  Our waitress was left-handed.  My dad is left-handed.  He tipped her double.  It is a source of shame for him that I am not left-handed.  
So that's it.  I go back home tomorrow.  I get to see Leigh Anne and Griff, though perhaps they will not remember me.  Or perhaps they have learned how to live without me and my presence will cause unhappiness.  I'll pick up the tour diary next week, when I read in Atlanta and Chattanooga.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oxford, MS

I'm in Oxford, MS.  Before that, I spent the morning in Jackson, MS.  I filmed a roundtable discussion for the show Writers on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.  I got to sit at a table with Richard Bausch and Elizabeth Spencer, which felt like a dream.  These are two writers that I love very, very much.  It was a heck of a lot of fun and I felt like I didn't embarrass myself.  In fact, I said some pretty powerful stuff about the art of writing fiction.  Well done, Kevin Wilson.  Tell us again how writing a story is like building a boat that you will sail to epiphany island.  Before the taping, they took a picture of us and, at the end of the taping, they already had the photo in commemorative frames for us.  Hot damn.

Then we ended up in Oxford, where I read for Thacker Mountain Radio.  It was awesome.  There were a ton of people.  I got to read with Alan Huffman, who wrote Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History.  If that description doesn't make you want to read the book, I don't want to know you.  Pat Thomas (the son of James "Son" Thomas) and The Mayhem String Band both performed and were amazing.  It was great to see SWC-alum John Oliver Hodges and UF-alum Elizabeth Kaiser.  I also got to hang out with Michael Bible and David Swider, who run the literary magazine Kitty Snacks.  They gave me a copy of the first issue, which is incredible.  It has Jack Pendarvis and Sam Pink and an interview with Geologist of Animal Collective.  Good lord, the whole event was just wonderful.  From here on out, I need to remember to read only with another, more talented, writer and two musical groups.

My dad and I ate at Whataburger for lunch.  We are not doing great on our lunch choices.  For dinner, after the reading, we went to Ajax, which everyone in Oxford suggested as a good place to eat.  They were right.  I had a dressed roast beef and gravy Po-boy.  Man, it was good.  Really, really good.  I would like to go back for lunch and eat it again.

Tomorrow we head over to Blytheville, Arkansas, for a reading at That Bookstore in Blytheville.  The description of the event on the website says, "Have potluck with the author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth."  That sounds awesome.  I'm looking forward to this reading, the last of this section of the tour.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Memphis, TN

I'm in Memphis, TN.  I had a radio/tv interview with Book Talk, a program on 89.3 WYPL.  The key point is that it was a radio/tv interview.  I thought it was a radio interview.  I wore a western shirt and busted up sneakers and I did not shave.  As I mentioned in a previous entry about my Greensboro visit, I do not like being underdressed.  The host, Stephen Usery, told me it was no big deal and then promptly went and put on a sports coat for the interview.  I went over to the studio and Stephen came in a few minutes later and said that my father, who was waiting in the reception area, had told him how much he appreciated Stephen interviewing me.  This made me feel like I was a kid in the Make-A-Wish Foundation and my father had facilitated the acceptance, publication, and subsequent promotion of this book without my knowledge.  The interview went well, though I once again talked about how lonely I had been in my youth.  I need to stop doing this.  Stephen had great, specific questions about the stories and it was a lot of fun.
We then went to Davis-Kidd for my reading.  There was a small group that included SWC-alum and all-around great writer/nice person, Nat Akin.  I read, which went well aside from the tiny child who screamed so loudly, for such a long time, that my left eardrum ruptured.  Her father proceeded to put her in some kind of sleeper hold and she passed out, which made my second story more fun to read.  After the reading, the staff asked if I wanted them to ship the banner they had made for the reading, which seemed to be fifteen feet tall.  I said yes, please, yes.  Where will I store this?  No idea.  Thanks to all the staff at Davis-Kidd for having me and Peggy Burch, who came to the reading and wrote a nice article for the Commercial Appeal.
I also bought The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris.  I've been meaning to buy this since I heard him read from the novel at AWP, one of the most best readings I've ever heard.  Keith's book of stories, The Best Seats in the House, is also really fantastic.
Before all the book business, we went to the Rendezvous in Memphis.  It's probably the most well-known barbecue place in Memphis but I've never been a fan of their ribs.  Their lamb riblets, though, are incredible, one of the best things I've ever eaten.  So we showed up at 12:30 and realized, goddamn, they aren't officially open until 4:30pm.  They are serving ribs and ribs only, so we went ahead and ate.  It was underwhelming.  I felt like killing somebody.  We were going to try more barbecue after the reading, but we decided not to risk it.
Tomorrow I'm getting up at 5:00 am to drive back to Jackson for a television taping for the Mississippi Public Broadcasting show Writers.  I'll be taking part in a roundtable discussion with Richard Bausch and Elizabeth Spencer.  Then I drive down to Oxford for Thacker Mountain Radio.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Greenwood, MS

I'm in Greenwood, MS.  I had a reading at TurnRow Book Co.  It's a cool, two-level bookstore in a great space.  There was a nice little crowd and I read and talked and sold some books, which was a good feeling.  Thanks to Jamie, Ben, Becky, and Tad, who were gracious hosts.  Jamie and I talked about Charles Portis and why Masters of Atlantis might be the best of his books, which made me like Jamie a lot.  I also bought The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry, which several people have told me to read.  I read a few pages in the store and, man, it looks good, a surreal, weird detective story.

I learned something about book tours, which is that there are times when you are not at the bookstore and you are not yet in your hotel room and you are not driving.  This is not time that I like.  We were out of our hotel in Jackson at 10 am and then realized that it was only an hour and a half to Greenwood and what the hell were we going to do until we could get into our hotel room?  We went to a TJ Maxx and we almost bought a 24 board game that came with a paper cutout of Jack Bauer.  We looked for movies but there was nothing playing at the times we had open.  My dad and I had run out of things to talk about fifteen minutes into the drive the day before.  We slept in the car for a little while and then drove to Greenwood.

I brought along a trade paperback of Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle.  If you want to see someone punching the shit out of a bunch of bad guys, Jack Kirby is the man to draw it.  Scott Free, who is the second Mister Miracle, was raised by Granny Goodness in one of her Terror Orphanages.  If someone wants to write a story about terror orphanages, they need to get cracking because I'm already on it.

We ate at Spooney's.  It is the size of a closet.  And I have eaten at hamburger and barbecue places that are the size of closets but usually they don't offer seating.  Spooney's has two tables and only three chairs.  When we walked inside, a man informed us that Spooney was at the store and would be back in a little while.  So we waited for ten minutes and Spooney showed up and seemed surprised as hell to see us.  We ordered rib tips and a rack of ribs and this is where things got a little weird.  We saw him remove some ribs from the fridge, then we heard him cutting the meat, and then we saw him put the ribs in the microwave.  This was weird.  He asked what we wanted to drink and then, immediately, opened the fridge to reveal that there were only two drinks available: a can of tea and a bottle of orange-flavored water.  We took them.  The ribs were pretty good but the sauce was incredible.  I wanted to eat a sandwich made of bread and this barbecue sauce.

I'm off to Memphis tomorrow.  I do a radio interview and then read at Davis-Kidd.  If you live in Memphis, please come.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jackson, MS

I'm in Jackson, MS.  I had a reading at Lemuria Books.  Earlier in the day, I did an interview for Don't Lecture Me, which is a "web series featuring fascinating interviews with persons of note."  I talked to Karen Hearn, who was very nice and had good questions, though I, for some reason, felt the need to spend way too much time talking about how desperately lonely I was for a good portion of my life.  Still, it was fun and I'm interested to see how they edit it to make it look like I wasn't, every fifteen seconds, shocked by the fact that the camera was focused on me and then very quickly staring at some distant point in space.

The reading was a little weird.  No one came.  Actually, my friend Mary Elizabeth, who is awesome, and her husband, Patrick, and their nine-month-old son, Jack, came.  And my dad was there.  No one else came.  One of the employees asked if I still wanted to read.  I said, "I guess not."  Mary Elizabeth said that I should read.  The other employees said that I should read.  Jack seemed like he wouldn't have minded if I had opted not to read so that he could go home.  So I sat about two feet away from everyone and read two very short pieces.  It wasn't too bad.  Thanks to Mary Elizabeth for coming and to the Lemuria booksellers, Emily and Kelly and Lisa and Joe, for being so nice to me.  

My dad and I had planned to stop in Tuscaloosa on the way to Jackson so we could eat at Archibald's Barbecue.  We had talked about it for almost two straight hours.  Then we got there and found out they were closed on Mondays.  My dad made me stand in front of Archibald's while he took a photo.  A group of construction workers across the street stopped working to watch this happen.

Tomorrow I'm off to Greenwood, MS, to read at TurnRow Book Company.  I'm hoping I can eat some rib tips at Spooney's Bar-Be-Que and pie at the Crystal Grill.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Some Catching Up to Do

I'm leaving tomorrow for the main section of the book tour.  Five cities, five bookstores, five days.  Jackson, Greenwood, Memphis, Oxford, Blytheville.  My dad is coming with me.  He is a super dad.  We have agreed that if no one comes to my reading, I will not give a reading to just him, sitting in the front row, resisting the urge to buy multiple copies of the book just to make me feel better.  

I got some nice reviews from some really good places.  You can read them here, here, herehere, here and here.  

Interviews were conducted here and here.

The book was selected as an Indie Next pick for the month of April.  Christopher Chadwick of ASUN Bookstore in Reno, Nevada, said some incredibly nice things about the book.  Christopher shot to the top of my "people to whom I will donate a kidney" list.

Andrew Scott selected it as one of three books, along with Paul Yoon's Once the Shore and Tracy Winn's Mrs. Somebody, for Andrew's Book Club.

I read on Thursday in Nashville.  My extended family made up a large percentage of the audience.  It was a lot of fun.  The staff seemed wired from the Miley Cyrus signing earlier in the day.  Behind me, while I read, were two copies of Miley's book.  My mom and dad stole every single poster in the store that mentioned my reading.

I read on April 1st in New York for the Happy Ending Reading and Music Series.  It was a ridiculously fun event.  Colson Whitehead was awesome.  Amy Cohen was very, very funny.  But it was Sam Amidon who really made me happy.  If there was a person who didn't want to sleep with Sam Amidon after that event, then that person was a robot.  He sang "Relief" by R. Kelly and did not snicker while he did this or try to be funny about the choice.  He sang it like it was the most beautiful song in the world, which it might be, and he got the entire audience to sing along.

The next day, we flew to Greensboro, but our flight was delayed four times and I just barely made it to the class I was supposed to sit in on.  I did not have time to change into a coat and tie.  I was wearing a flowery western shirt.  This made me very uncomfortable.  The undergraduates in the workshop did not seem to mind.  Or at least they said they did not mind when I mentioned that I felt uncomfortable three different times.  They were very nice.  Then I read a story that night and that went well.

In New York, I ate at Paul's.  It was really good.  I got a 1/2 lb. burger that was just a burger on a bun with a side of mayo.  It was amazing.  It was like the burger had been changed at the molecular level from a solid to a liquid.  And then the liquid was turned into a not-quite-solid burger.

In North Carolina, because we got in so late, we didn't get to go to Lexington Barbecue #1, which is the best barbecue I have ever eaten in the entire country.  I wanted, for a half hour after I realized we couldn't go, to kill myself.  

If you live in the cities for my reading tour, please come to the readings or tell your friends to come to the readings.  Here's the tour.  I'll write in when I can, I hope daily, to tell everyone what I ate and how I reacted to the fact that no one came to the readings.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Ravi Mangla

"The monkey with cymbals sends shivers down our television screen.  We wear pillows like earmuffs."
-from "Monkey" by Ravi Mangla

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Giveaways

If you're on Facebook, my publisher, Ecco, is giving away 20 copies of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth.  All you have to do is 1) Become a fan of Ecco Books & 2) Send an email to ecco[at] by 4/7 and they will draw 20 names.

I've also got a copy on my person and so for the first person that posts a comment on this entry, I'll send you a signed copy of the book.  

Also, if anyone reads and enjoys the book, feel free to go to Amazon and tell people you like it so that we can combat the inevitable 1 and 2 star reviews from all the people with whom I have gotten into horrible fist fights and are out to ruin me because I knocked them out and now it's on youtube for everyone to see.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Miley and Me

So, my cousin, Quinn, just wrote me to let me know that I'll be reading on the same day as a celebrity when I'm at the Davis-Kidd in Nashville on April 9th.  Miley Cyrus is signing copies of her new book at 3:15 PM and then I read at 7:00 PM, if there hasn't been some kind of horrible stampede accident that closes down the store.  I'm really, really wishing that we could have done an event together.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

High School

I did not spend a lot of time in high school reading what people would call serious literature.  Instead, I read comic books and books about the Alamo.  I was thinking about the few times in high school, when I'd drive two hours to Nashville to wander around the books in Media-Play, that I got something good for reasons that were totally random and weird.  

Russell Banks's The Rule of the Bone: I got this book because Details, which I read a lot in order to figure out how to cut my hair, said it was a good book.  So I bought it.  And it was awesome.  The main character's name was Chappie.  Then he was called Bone.  I wanted, for a while afterwards, to change my name to Bone Chappie Wilson.

Kevin Canty's A Stranger in This World: I got this book because the author's name was Kevin.  That is the sole reason.  There is a story called "Pretty Judy" that kind of ruined me for a few months, it was so good.  I have since learned that buying a book just because the author's name is Kevin is not always a great idea, but I still fall for it sometimes.

Dennis Cooper's Try: I think I bought this book because I'd heard of Dennis Cooper from Spin Magazine where they talked about Artspace Books and a collaboration he'd done with some artist.  I couldn't find that book at Media-Play, so I got Try.  I remember reading it before class started one morning and a girl beside me asked what the book was about.  The book is about a teenager, Ziggy, who is sexually abused by his two dads and then he falls in love with his best friend, who is a heroin addict, and he hangs out with his uncle, who sells pornography on the black market.  I said something similar to what I just wrote and I remember thinking, as I told her about that book, that this was not going to endear me to her.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Samuel Lee

"I use commas like ninja stars."
from "I Use Commas like Ninja Stars" by Samuel Lee

Catching Up

I have a book coming out on April 1st.  So if I were a smart salesman, I'd be posting every day to try and create interest in the book.  But I am lazy and overwhelmed with work.  But that stops now.

I received copies of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth last week and I'm very, very excited to finally hold the book in my hands.  It's been great working with Ecco/Harper Perennial and they have made me feel very good about myself.

I'm going to be reading in New York on April 1st, the only time I'll be out of the South for my reading tour.  I'll be part of the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series with writers Colson Whitehead and Amy Cohen and musician Sam Amidon.  Here are more dates for my reading tour.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Claire Hero

"And then we are in a green room, the stag and I, his brown eye turns like a globe, leaves fall around us."
from "Stag" by Claire Hero

Friday, February 20, 2009


My essay "Winter in Tennessee" will appear in the "Lives" section of this Sunday's New York Times Magazine.  It's a little piece about a dead deer and a body of water and home ownership.  My wife is in there too.  And a pair of boots.  Basically, it's got everything you'd want in a compelling narrative.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Cortege & Age Hung Us Out to Dry

While in Chicago, I read two incredible short stories.  First, I read B.R. Smith's "The Cortege" in Mississippi Review and it was breathtakingly good.  A brother and sister search for their missing father and find him, with sad results.  Then, not an hour later, I read Ryan Call's "Age Hung Us Out to Dry" in Hobart and it was amazingly good.  A brother and sister search for their missing father and find him, with sad results.
And yet, the stories are vastly different, each writer doing complicated and wonderful things with this initial premise.  I admire both of these writers a lot, seek out their work when it is published, and I think these are my favorite stories I've read by them.  B.R. and Ryan, you should read each other's story.  You would like each other, I think.  If you become fast friends and start going to see baseball games together, try to remember to invite me every once in a while so I don't feel left out.

Back Home

I am back from AWP.  I enjoyed meeting some nice people.  I met Matt Bell and we talked for about a minute and a half.  I could tell in that ninety seconds that he was a nice person.  I met Aaron Burch and he was also very nice and I don't think it was because I was writing him a check for a Hobart subscription.  I shook Cliff Garstang's hand at the bookfair as he passed by me and then never saw him again.  I checked several times at the No Colony table for Blake Butler but never found him.  I stopped walking by because I didn't want to seem like a stalker.  I saw Molly Gaudry talking on her cell phone in the hotel but didn't want to interrupt, thinking I'd see her some other time.  Never saw her again.  Didn't see Amanda Nazario at all.  I did see Ryan and Christy Call and they could power the entire earth with their niceness.
Here is what I ate in Chicago: Half of a pepperoni and mushroom deep dish pizza at Gino's East; a wet Italian beef sandwich with hot peppers at Al's Beef; pad thai at My Thai; elk ragout poured over cheese fries at The Gage;  head cheese, pork belly, dozens of pickled items, duck & foie gras terrine, pork pie, and morteau sausage at The Publican.  This is everything that I ate.
When we got home from Chicago, after picking up Griff at my parents' house, we arrived at our cabin to discover that we had lost our housekey.  It was cold.  Griff was crying.  The doors and windows were all locked.  I had to act fast.  I kicked the door open.  One kick.  Like I was in a goddamned action movie.  The doorframe exploded into little splinters and we walked inside.  My wife was both scared and aroused by this act.  We found the housekey not five minutes later.  I am trying to teach myself how to reframe a doorway.  It's harder than it looks.
If I didn't see you at AWP, I am wishing that I saw you at AWP.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Matthew Derby

"In Make Dead mode, the frequency is so low that you can no longer hear the Gun as it fires--only the sound the enemy soldiers make as they sail through the air, limbs flapping like dense cloth."
from "The Sound Gun" by Matthew Derby

Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm heading to Chicago on Wednesday to attend the AWP conference.  This is the fourth time I've been to the AWP conference.  I am both excited and terrified.  I'll be spending most of my time at the bookfair, sitting behind the table for the Sewanee Writers' Conference, occasionally running around to all the other tables, buying lots of books and magazines.  I hope I'll see you there.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Jenny Hanning

"And I was skinny, but there were other girls/Who wore their bones like corsets..."
-from "Known" by Jenny Hanning

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In an Uncharted Country

I'm happy to hear the great news that Cliff Garstang's collection of short stories, In an Uncharted Country, will be released this fall by Press 53.  Cliff is an amazingly versatile writer, able to move between flash fiction and longer works, writing equally evocative stories set in rural Virginia or China (all over the world, really).  And he's an incredibly nice person.  Congratulations, Cliff, and I look forward to reading the collection.

Corduroy Mtn.

I received my copy of Corduroy Mtn. a few weeks ago and I finally had the chance to read the entire issue and it's pretty amazing.  The care that went into the making of this journal makes me feel very lucky to be included.  The covers are each uniquely hand stamped.  There's a broadsheet of an Eric Amling poem that I've read several times and find something quotable each time.  There's work by heavyweights like Shane Jones, Blake Butler, Jac Jemc (between her piece in this issue and her ML Press story, I'm going to be looking out for her name in every journal I come across), and James Iredell.  Carl Annarummo also runs The Greying Ghost Press and the online version of Corduroy Mtn. that I've also enjoyed.  There are only 55 copies, so grab one while you have a chance.  

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Tai Dong Huai

"Mice are invading my apartment...I've been ignorant to the signs, but when I clean off the shelf, there they are: a gnawed-open cylinder of oatmeal, chew marks on a Bermuda onion, black droppings scattered like rice at some Goth wedding."
-from "Mice" by Tai Dong Huai

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I just saw that John Updike passed away.  He is one of my favorite writers and a big influence on my own work.  The Rabbit novels are four of my favorite books of all time, an incredible achievement that, written over the course of thirty years, fully reveals a single life lived both remarkably and unremarkably.  The Centaur and the Bech series of books are also particularly wonderful.  I understand the negative critiques of his writing and I can see why people don't like his work, but I felt like, for a writer as prolific as he was, he still had a Hall-of-Fame-worthy batting average.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

This Epic Doesn't Need Any Hard Sell

I try not to write about anything other than literary-related things on this blog, but I wanted to mention something in hopes of possibly finding someone who might be in a similar situation.  When I read a really great novel or collection of stories or poems, I have lots of people I can call or email to talk about it.  Just a few days ago, I called a friend to read them the first paragraph of April Wilder's new story in Zoetrope.  
But last week, I used a hundred bucks I got for x-mas and purchased Daredevil #7 and Fantastic Four #46 on Ebay (The Daredevil issue is the first time he ever wore his red costume, with art by one of my favorite artists, Wally Wood, and features an underwater battle with the Sub-Mariner; the Fantastic Four issue is the first appearance of Black Bolt, with art by Jack Kirby).  And I am going crazy over finally possessing these issues.  And I have nobody to talk to who cares in the least little bit.  I showed my wife the cover of the Fantastic Four issue and she wondered why The Invisible Woman looked like a transvestite.
I love comic books and have since I was a kid.  I spend around 80-100 bucks a month on buying new comic books, money that I should not be spending.  And I don't know anyone else who reads comic books.  People like comic book movies.  They like the comic books they read as kids and haven't read since.  They like Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns and Sandman and all the comics that Time magazine tells you to read.  But they don't read monthly super hero comics.  Nobody I know is reading Guardians of the Galaxy and talking about why, in a comic book that features "the most dangerous woman in the universe", a guy who shoots an "element gun", a woman who is mourning the loss of her giant dragon girlfriend and possesses the Quantum Bands, and Groot, basically a giant tree, the coolest character in the book is a smack-talking raccoon who is a crack shot with his laser pistols.  Talk about this stuff, and people get really embarrassed.
So, I am wondering if there is anybody out there who reads Marvel comics (The only DC comics I read are Batman and House of Mystery) and wants to talk about it over email every once in a while.  Like when Secret Invasion ended and sucked almost as much as Civil War.  Or why Amazing Spider-Man, using a rotating group of writers and artists so that it can come out three times a month, is as good as its been in years.  Or why Jack Kirby draws all women so that they look like really run-down transvestites and why, despite this, he is still the greatest comic book artist of all time.  If you are coming to AWP in a few weeks, come by the Sewanee Writers' Conference/Sewanee Review booth at the bookfair and we'll talk.


Okay, last weekend my son had a 100+ temperature and infections in both ears, which made for an unpleasant couple of days.  He was kind of zombied out on antibiotics and would only sleep if one of us was holding him.  So we spent hours just sitting in a chair with him resting on our chests.  I used this time to read Blake Butler's chapbook, Ever, and I have to say that if there ever was a book created to be read while holding a feverish baby against your chest, this is the book.

The language is incredible, as you would expect from Blake's work.  I was interested, after reading and enjoying so much of his shorter fiction, to see what he would do in a longer work, and it's amazing how he is able to preserve the energy and bending and ticking that I've come to love in his fiction and maintain it over a longer span.  It's crazy and original and the best kind of difficult.  It's available from Calamari Press.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Griff

Today is my son Griff's birthday.  He is one year old.  

Robert E. Howard was also born on Jan. 22nd.  
So was Daniel Johnston.  
So was Jim Jarmusch.  

If Jarmusch directed a movie version of "Pigeons from Hell" and Daniel Johnston provided the soundtrack, I would take Griff to see that.

Hills Like White Elephants: Brian Azzarello

"What swelled out at the end of his shirtsleeves looked more like cow udders than hands and fingers."
-from Batman #622 by Brian Azzarello

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I've got a story up at tulip about riding bikes and doing bad things.  I wrote this thing because I couldn't stop listening to Be Your Own Pet's "Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle" which is one of the best songs of all time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Mary Miller

"She was watching him; they all watch him.  The pills he takes makes this pleasant, this observation, like he's a scuba diver and they're a school of fish."
-from "Go Fish" by Mary Miller

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bob, or Man on Boat

I know I am very, very late to the party, but over the holidays I read Bob, or Man on Boat by Peter Markus.  It is an incredible achievement, such a unique and memorable book.  I showed my wife the first page of the novel, which begins, "In a boat, on a river, lived a man.  Bob.  Bob fished.  It's what Bob did.  All of the time.  Fish.  And fish," and she said, "How's this book going to treat you?"  I wasn't sure how it was going to treat me, but I was interested to find out.

The rhythm of the book is hypnotic and I don't mean that in some silly, overused manner.  I mean that this book genuinely made me feel like I was falling under some kind of mind-altering spell.  It was such a bizarre and not unwelcome feeling to read a book and feel so strangely moved by it.  The book is made up almost entirely of words with one or two syllables and so when I'd come across a word like "fisherpeople," it was briefly disorienting in a way that made me think about language so much more than I do with other books.  And, there is a genuine narrative (not that it's necessary) that was emotionally resonant to a degree that far outstrips the less-than-150 pages of the book.

Bob, or Man on Boat was published by Dzanc Books, which consistently puts out amazing work.  I am very much on the lookout for two of their offerings, Elephants in Our Bedroom by Michael Czyzniejewski and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg, in 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Nuala Ní Chonchúir

"...I take my razor-blade and carve a slitch off my ear...Then I wrap the ear-slice in newspaper, like a rasher of bacon, and take it to Rachel the street-walker.  She is not pleased."
from "Vincent in the Yellow House" by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I just saw that the new issue of Saltgrass is now available.  I loved the previous issue, which featured work from Matthew Rohrer, Brandon Shimoda, and, best of all, a novel excerpt by Ben Fountain.  Edited by Julia Cohen and Abigail Holstein, it's definitely a journal worth your time.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Sara Levine

"Outside the theatre a woman fell and turned her ankle.  Her ankle turned like a key."
from "The Fainting Couch: Three Stories" by Sara Levine