Posts Tagged ‘small press’

Steve Himmer’s new novel THE BEE-LOUD GLADE is a fascinating crossroads in American Literature, merging elements of classic transcendentalism and postmodernist pastoral. The riddles of solitude and originality are at the heart of this absurdist tale of secular faith and natural apostasy.

The crucial figures of this absurdist tale are Mr. Finch, a Melvillian isolato, and his odd, deistic employer, Mr. Crane. The drama is not so much a conflict along narrative lines as it is an exploration of the space between idealism and practice, the quarrelsome details separating concept from realization.

After entering into an agreement to live as a decorative hermit at the pleasure (and whim) of the inscrutable Crane, Finch delves into truly comprehending the grace of the human experience. The many allegorical adventures on the strange billionare’s estate underscore Finch’s movement away from recognizable society and towards a factual but fulfilling relationship to his environment. The artificial is subsumed by the necessary, driving Finch towards a clearer understanding of what it means to toil in a world of others.

Himmer’s prose is direct and efficient, presenting existential vagaries in strikingly concrete terms. The reading experience is wholly rewarding and terribly exciting. The vision of this writer is important and demands admiration.

The novel is available from Atticus Books

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Robin Lippincott

Robin Lippincott is my friend. He’s also a great writer and someone who consistently writes heartbreaking prose. The intellectual ache in his stories are singular, romantic and sincere. Here he reads from my favorite of his novels, In the Meantime.

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A week ago I asked my class of junior level fiction writers, “How many of you use reviews to help you pick what to read?” A couple of hands went up. “Okay, how many of you read the reviews after you’ve read the book?” About fifteen hands that time. One of the students compared reading reviews to the discussion you have walking back to the car after a movie. With a conventional book review maybe you don’t always get to talk per se, but there is still a sense of sharing as well as confirming your own impressions. This is meaningful to me because after the next issue of Prick of the Spindle goes live I’ll have racked up a year of review writing in my capacity as one of its fiction editors. Teaching myself how to review books has been a rich exercise in narcissism, and with each book I change my mind about what the heck I’m trying to do.

So right now, how do we shop for books? I admit the only time I look at reviews for selection purposes is when I’m buying for someone else. Like at the end of the year, Scientific American does a round-up of the best titles, and I use that as my holiday gift guide. That said, if I’m looking for a book for myself, I rarely buy one that has no reviews at all. Mostly I like gothic-leaning mysteries, and while the general amazon search is okay at showing me new titles I might like, the kindle and ibook search engines really seem to suck, so much that I think their suckiness is backwashing into the amazon algorithm making it a little junkier every day. While the influx of cross genre tales sloppily signals a positive cultural shift (everyone can write the Great American Novel with Paranormal Elements and throw it into the store), that means importing the usual market categories is inadequate. I want a “minus vampire” option.

And don’t say brick and stick bookstores to me. I love them but they don’t love me; every time I cross the threshold of a bookstore my ibs acts up, which is a bit like being a kid who can’t go to Dairy Queen without cramping. But that’s not the only reason. What with the gauntlets of storefront tea-party-twilight displays in Borders and the way that indie bookstore workers are always giving me the Marlboro stink-eye, I’m done.

My friend Art Taylor is a mystery/noir specialist, both as a writer and reviewer, and I think I can say I’ve enjoyed every book he has recommended to me. If there were a subscription list for “Art Taylor’s Book of the Month,” I’d sign up. He is my Oprah, I guess.

So help a lazy gal out. Who’s your Oprah? Do people really use Goodreads? Because I have a hard time believing a lot of what i see going on there.

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A month ago I’d never heard of James Franco. Now I hear the name “James Franco” and I get a little dizzy.

James Franco reads Hart Crane and Elizabeth Bishop. He wants to film adaptations of Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy from his own scripts.

He writes poetry. He wrote a story collection. He wrote this unreadable story that appeared in Esquire.

According to the NY Times James Franco is applauded by professors at Yale for “making it to class” on a Monday. Elsewhere, the chairman of the Yale English department gushes over how James Franco doesn’t display his “Hollywood wattage” in graduate classes about Walt Whitman. Still others enthuse over how “mysterious” fellow student James Franco is.

Google “I Hate James Franco” and you mostly find articles by people who admit they wish they could be James Franco.

On Thursday I asked my students “Who is James Franco?” and they immediately listed his acting credits. I found my students could spontaneously talk at length about the career of James Franco. This means James Franco is probably the most famous living American short story writer. He easily our most famous poet of the last 40 years.

Google “James Franco Devoured by Alligators” and you will only be disappointed.

James Franco’s mother is named “Betsy Franco” and he reads Karen Russell to her.

I told my students, “James Franco is evidently a student at Yale. He managed to make it to class on Monday. Like most of you.”

James Franco is potentially a bringer of light to literature. James Franco is, probably, sincerely enthusiastic about literature and art.

I told my students, “If any of you made a million dollars a movie I’d tell you not to come to class.” I told them, “If any of you made a million dollars a movie I’d ask you for a grant so I wouldn’t have to come to class.”

I told my wife, “If I ever met James Franco I’d punch him in the face.”

I told my students, “You don’t learn how to write by flying around to a dozen different schools.” I told my students, “You don’t learn about literature by enrolling in 10 different PhD programs.”

I meant to tell my wife, “It breaks my heart to see this man in such a position of influence.”

I meant to say, “If I met James Franco I’d slip him a copy of Scorch Atlas. I’d give him With Deer. I’d give him Motorman.”

 I would hope for something to happen.

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