Michele Filgate’s Ultimate Book Guide, on Salon, navigates 2012’s best by asking writers like Junot Diaz, Carol Anshaw, Jami Attenberg and 47 others to talk about their favorite books this year. Don’t miss this one.
In a similar vein, the edgier crew at LitReactor give their faves of the year.
And in order of increasingly delightful strangeness (or strange delightfulness?), Richard Nash’s Small Demons has a Top 25 list of books most-often viewed for the Small Demons treatment. These are big name books, so no surprises here, but what’s done with them on the site is…definitely unusual.
But the oddness isn’t over yet. SF Gate‘s Best Marijuana Nonfiction 2012. The fabulous Mark Haskell Smith makes the grade…
The very first author Other Voices Books published, Tod Goldberg, makes the LA Times‘ Desert Reading List with his luminous collection Other Resort Cities. Man, many fine things happened as a result of that book. Well done, Tod.
“The heart has no sense of humor./ It offers itself piteously like a pair of handcuffs,/ And is so clumsy that we turn away.” This line from Monica Ferrell’s provocative poem, “Anatomy,” kicks off an in-depth exchange about bodies and books that I was privileged to have with Stacy Bierlein over at VIDA’s “Her Kind.” Thanks to Rosebud Ben-Oni for making this happen.
Jeffrey Eugenides’ Advice to Young Writers is on the emotional money. Would it be more or less impressive advice if Eugendies and the Whittig Award Winners he’s addressing weren’t already dripping with success and (at least potential) financial rewards? I don’t know. Some might argue that this is all easy for a writer of Eugenides’ stature to say, and that the rest of us have to make a living. But that critique could be overlooking a lot. Eugendies taps into why it’s easier for the unknown, unsuccessful Rest Of Us to write “posthumously,” since we mainly don’t think anyone will ever read what we’re writing to begin with. I had a tiny, not-on-the-Eugenides-scale taste of this when people got mad at me following the publication of my collection, Slut Lullabies, which was mainly comprised of stories I’d written before I had any belief I’d ever get a book published. I wrote as though everyone I’d ever met was already dead, as though nothing I wrote mattered to anyone but me, but to me it was everything. I didn’t blink about doing that because nothing I’d ever written had been published in any more “public” a forum than a magazine read by a few thousand people, at most, and in those days if, say, you didn’t want your mom or your best non-writer friend to read something, you just didn’t mention the publication, because it’s not like they were going to see it on Facebook with some convenient link. Suddenly, the internet exploded, and I had a couple of books come out, and people who knew me were able to easily keep tabs on what I was doing that should piss them off. This is a terrifying thing. I don’t think I care much about “fashion,” as Eugenides calls it, but I know I care about people I know thinking I’m an asshole, or “the world” getting too close to the inside of my head. I know that before I believed “the world” had any access to or gave a flying fuck about my secrets, writing was easier. And this is exactly the kind of self-censorship (among other kinds) that Eugenides is talking about. It’s what can shut us down–how we can shut ourselves down–just as the world may finally be giving us a chance. Many of my friends who are working on memoirs are currently struggling with this issue, perhaps even more profoundly than those of us who write fiction. So I found Eugenides speech inspirational, even though it may be easy for him and other writers the New Yorker is following to tell us not to care about money. When he says that money and fame and fashion and pleasing others isn’t why we started writing to begin with–when he talks about the distilled urgency that makes our early writing, bad though it may be, explode across the page–he isn’t bullshitting. I’ve never met a writer whose work I admire who wouldn’t recognize that core truth. Holding on to what originally inspired–no, screw “inspired,” I mean haunted, stalked, obsessed–us is a fundamental challenge in growing into maturity as a writer. Not becoming a parody of either yourself or of fashion; not confusing art and commerce, and not trying to somehow tamp down your demons and dress them up prettily to win a popularity contest…that’s the task. Eugenides challenges young writers to rise to that challenge, but it’s a lesson for writers of any age.
Robin Black, on having to learn how to be a writer all over again at the onset of every new project.
Interrogating Time in On the Road: David Ulin ponders how a book about outrunning mortality becomes a film where time is forgotten.
David Abrams, author of the phenomenally acclaimed Fobbit, talks with Caroline Leavitt on Leavittville .
You have one day left to enter Dzanc Books’ fifth annual short story collection contest. What are you waiting for?
We have kind of a Christmas tradition of having our Jewish friends over to imbibe on Christmas Eve. They, in turn, showed us Bubala Please. I may be the last person in the universe to have seen this, but for the love of god if you haven’t, you need to watch it. Swallow your coffee first.
Happy 2013, people.