The March/April Poets & Writers has a couple of great pieces on some New Yorkers to make note of.
An article on writer Sam Lipsyte, whose third novel, The Ask, is being published this month by FSG; and a conversation between novelists Porochista Khakpour and Danzy Senna on first novels, race, and the East-Coast West-Coast rap. Also in its pages is a fascinating interview with Michael Powell of–one of our favorite bookstores–Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon by Jeremiah Chamberlin as part of Chamberlin’s “Inside Indie Bookstores” series, the full article of which is available online.
The article by Frank Bures on Sam Lipsyte is suitably funny at times, as is its subject, and gives a brief overview of Lipsyte’s career as a writer, with some backstory on his days as a front-man for noise-rock band Dungbeetle. Details like, for example, that Lipsyte’s first novel, The Subject Steve, was published on 9/11. Given that everyone was talking death of irony, there wasn’t much room says Bures for a “funny novel about a mercenary turned New Age guru trying to heal a man who was dying of, quite possibly, death.” Bures also covers Lipsyte’s experience with master of compression Gordon Lish at the “legendary writing seminar at Columbia,” the circuitous route to success of Homeland, Lipsyte’s second novel, and the email by Ben Marcus that led to a teaching position at Columbia, despite Homeland’s “terrible karma.” Some favorite parts were the various ruminations on irony in literature and art.
Another great find in this month’s P&W is an intimate dialogue between New Yorker Porochista Khakpour, an Iranian American novelist, and author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects, and her close friend and former professor Danzy Senna, a novelist whose memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Personal History (FSG, 2009) will be published in paperback in April by Picador. Danzy is the daughter of Fanny Howe, experimental poet of Boston Brahmin heritage and Carl Senna, an African American writer raised in the South by a single mother. Khakpour and Senna discuss being “hot minorities” at the moments the publication of their respective novels. “Mulattos are hot again!” said Senna. But what’s interesting is the discussion of how their backgrounds led to very different experiences with alienation and “otherness.” Also intriguing was the exploration of the distinction between Senna’s story and the potential trespass she was forced to confront with respect to the stories of the people implicated by hers. Interesting quote: “For me being mixed race and being the peacekeeper is something I’ve had to overcome in order to become a person who’s comfortable making other people uncomfortable.”
Porochista Khakpour will be on hand at the home of Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold Lehman to tell your literary fortune at Canteen Magazine’s Second Annual Benefit Gala next week.