Live in Chicago? The multi-city, roving reading series, Nervous Breakdown Literary Experience, is back, hosted by Sunday Salon Chicago, tonight. Black Rock Pub, 3614 N. Damen, 8pm. Performers include Megan Stielstra, Jac Jemc, Eugene Cross and Lauryn Allison. I’m emceeing and playing slightly dirty party games. Black Rock is one of the cutest bars you’ve never been to. You should check it out.
Lidia Yuknavitch hit some collective, archetypal nerves with deep resonance in her “Explicit Violence” on The Rumpus last week. If you missed this piece, don’t. I read this in tandem with the ARCs of Kate Zambreno’s forthcoming book, Heroines, and taken together, if there’s any kind of writing-in-the-sky in these two pieces, it’s to stop fooling ourselves that violence against (including educated, middle-class) women is somehow exceptional. That to ask women to “tone it down” in our writing is not dissimilar from asking women to erase ourselves. These correlations are still going on, long past the madwomen/hysterics of Modernism. This doesn’t make every woman writing about gender oppression somehow a literary genius, obviously. That’s not the issue. But if male readers (and some female readers too) want the “sob stories” to stop, that’s an issue of changing how we live, not censoring how we write. As long as violence is a fiber weaving together the female experience, it will be a part of the way women need to write our lives.
Kasey Carpenter named the new Managing Editor of Chiasmus Media. Excited to see what’ll be afoot there.
It’s been over a week since this review of Alix Ohlin’s work appeared in the NYTimes. What followed has been fascinating and depressing. The reviewer, William Giraldi, author of Busy Monsters, has essentially been stoned in the town square, even though he’s also a guy who’s done good things for literature and writers, for many years at AGNI and in other reviews. Here he is, being interviewed on The Rumpus by his longtime friend and mentor, Steve Almond: a man also no stranger to controversy. My hope was that Ohlin, whose work seems widely respected by many not-Giraldi people, many of whom are damn smart and are also critics, would at least benefit from the controversy boosting her book sales; I figured maybe she could laugh all the way to the shoe department at Barney’s, or, you know, that if she cried her way there, she’d at least get new shoes. But my friends have indicated to me that these days, being trashed in the Times no longer assures one of a sales spike, even if Facebook and Twitter are on fire with other people’s outrage about the writer’s public chastisement. In other words, people like to be pissed off. They like a villian and someone to defend. They like a public fight, and taking sides. What they seem to like less is buying books. Which I guess we all kind of knew was the problem to begin with. But really, if you care about this issue, or pretended to care about it on social media, why not buy Ohlin’s novel? While you’re at it, buy Giraldi’s too. They have both had a rough week. And they have given us all kinds of shit to talk about.
Another writer recently (but in a review containing freakish errors) given no love by the Times, Patrick Somerville, launches a cool companion trailer for his book, This Bright River. This Bright River is a beautiful, psychologically rich and boldly ambitious novel. It’s a better than Pat’s first novel, The Cradle, which was a good book and was lauded by the Times and won some awards and sold well. But what I mean is: this all figures. I mean…Christ, it all figures. This Bright River took more risks. Probably it’s amazing a trade publisher took it at all, and they may not have if not for The Cradle‘s popularity. That’s this biz.
Meanwhile, sometimes we sedentary lit types get frisky. More controversy, reported on by Jami Attenberg, in “About Last Night.” About a fight! A real fight–not one that takes place online.
Other times, we don’t war with each other at all. Sometimes, we understand the incomprehensible, and hear the things said in the silence. Sometimes we can actually hold each other through the worst of what life can dish out. Sarah Sentilles hits a high water mark on Emily Rapp’s Little Seal blog, with “Precarious Life.” A must-read. BTW, Emily’s memoir drops in March. It is terrifyingly brilliant.
Cris Mazza’s “House,” on where we live, with all the nuances implicit therein, at The Nervous Breakdown.
And sometimes, folks, it’s just nice to read a rave. Here’s Nathan Huffstutter, raving about the work of Victor LaValle, at Paste.