Monday, November 12, 2012

Talking to Novelist Lynne Tillman: "I Have Less Integrity Than My Writing"

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 at 9:50 AM

Lynne Tillman is the author of five novels, including, most recently, American Genius, A Comedy. Her fourth short story collection, Someday This Will Be Funny, was released in 2011. She is also a widely published cultural critic and will be appearing at The Franklin Park Reading Series tonight, an event cohosted by Electric Literature.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
People have said that it’s uncompromising and honest. Or, they say the author doesn’t compromise and has integrity. I’d say I have less integrity than my writing.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hey, Geeks, Superman Is a Blogger Now

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Big news from the future: In tomorrow's issue of Superman, Clark Kent quits his reporting job at The Daily Planet. He's been working there since the 1940s, so the poor guy is due for a change, but according to spoilers, his impulse to walk out stems from his dissatisfaction with Daily Planet's parent company, multimedia conglomerate Galaxy Broadcasting, and consistent pressure from his editor-in-chief to cover non-news events. Like this. This blog post is the perfect example of a non-news event that Clark would be forced to write and has enough of. He is nothing without journalistic integrity, and also super strength, speed and the inexplicable ability to fly.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Talking to Novelist Nathan Englander About Being "Isaac Bashevis Singer on Crack"

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Long Island native Nathan Englander, the author most recently of the short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, lives part time in Brooklyn now. In anticipation of his new play The Twenty-Seventh Man, which, adapted from one of his stories, opens at the Public Theater next month, he will sit down with director Barry Edelstein and Village Voice drama critic Alexis Soloski at the main branch of the New York Public Library tomorrow evening. More info, including how to reserve free tickets, here.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Trying to judge the most accurate comment about my work would make me dizzy. But I can think of a really early comment that still pops up in articles a dozen years later, and it was someone comparing my style to “Isaac Bashevis Singer on crack.”

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Amazing Night of Literary All-Stars at Franklin Park

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Franklin Park Reading Series curator Penina Roth
  • Franklin Park Reading Series curator Penina Roth
On October 10, 2011, at Blake Butler's book launch party at Franklin Park, a West Virginia writer named Scott McClanahan stepped up to the microphone and wowed the audience, blending short fiction with music, poetry and preaching. "It was," I wrote at the time, "rousing, unifying, and unforgettable, less like a short-story reading than a sermon—less written in advance than passed down on the spot from some Holy Spirit of literature." As he walked around the room, he asked us with earnest urgency to join him again a year to the day, alive and not dead, alive and not dead...

Last night, a few days past the exact anniversary, McClanahan returned to the Franklin Park Reading Series. I brought friends this time. I had told one all about his past performance, talking it up so much I worried I had maybe oversold it. And then last night....

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Johnny Depp: Indie Lit Impresario?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Johnny Depp — smoker of rollies, Tim Burton contract player, star of literary abomination The Rum Diaries — is joining the cross-promotional ranks of Chelsea Handler and Rachel Ray with the launch of his very own publishing imprint. Already in the pipeline? Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie books.

And so it was foretold.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Short Story Writer Scott McClanahan: "People Who Buy 'Respectable' Books Are Fools!"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 9:00 AM

When the West Virginia writer Scott McClanahan shows up somewhere to read his stories, he doesn't just sell a couple of books—he wins acolytes. The inimitable reader and short-storysmith has been steadily building a loyal cult following on his way to literary stardom. In the meantime, you can catch him on Monday at the Franklin Park Reading Series. His latest book is Stories V!.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
That I’m a son of a bitch. At least that’s what my wife says. Hopefully our children think otherwise. There’s nothing different between work and life.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Interview: Inside Chris Ware's Building Stories

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 12:03 PM

photo by Julian Andrews
  • photo by Julian Andrews

Chris Ware was already thought of as comics' most meticulously detailed and formally inventive artist. His ability to arrange text and images on a page goes so far beyond your standard news rack comic book, that readers are often left wondering if he's even working in the same medium. But his latest graphic novel, Building Stories, barely resembles anything we've seen from comics before. Partially inspired by Marcel DuChamp's Museum in a Box, it's a dizzying assortment of 14 separate booklets differing in size and format. The segments range from small, handheld vertical strips, to oversized table-top newspaper pages; from faux LIttle Golden Books digests, to gatefold board game cardboard. The story, which has previously run in snippets as New York Times strips, New Yorker cover fold-outs, and McSweeney's Quarterly features, took a decade to complete. Its story follows the life of one unnamed woman in glimpses of her melancholy youth and later married life. Some of its separate volumes detour to focus on the people living around her in the old apartment building of her single life (including the thoughts and feelings of the apartment building itself), and the petty agonies of a nebbish bee who gets briefly stuck inside her window.

Like all of Ware's work, it walks a thin line between laugh-out loud-but pitch-black humor and gut-punching existential dread. But unlike his previous books, which zoomed backwards and forwards through the mundane lives of their protagonists in an author-guided tour, Building Stories can be assembled and read in any number of ways. Its title doubles as a gentle pun on how the reader takes responsibility for consuming it. In both an intellectual and a physical way, it's interactive to a degree that makes clicking links on a tablet seem small and crummy.

At 7 PM this evening, Ware joins Charles Burns (author of the modern classic forest mutant/teen-sex parable comic Black Hole) at The Strand book store in Manhattan, to talk about their new work, and the current state of the graphic novel. Ahead of time, we sent him a few questions about his magic box.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tao Lin Is Selling His Stuff, Penguin Is Suing Its Authors, All Writers Are So, So Broke

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Today is not a great day for those of us still hoping that someway, somehow, it is possible to make a comfortable, even lucrative living as a writer.

No, not a great day at all.

First, the Observer brought us news of a strapped-for-cash Tao Lin selling off personal belongings (including a $99 juicer) to drum up extra funds, a tactic he's actually resorted to in the past.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Novelist Ned Vizzini On Addiction, Bashing Pinatas, and Robert Downey Jr.'s Nose

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 11:50 AM

The author as a young(er) man
  • The author as a young(er) man
Park Slope native Ned Vizzini is the author of four books including It's Kind of a Funny Story, which was made into a movie starring Zach Galafianakis two years ago by the directors of Half Nelson. His latest novel, The Other Normals, about a role playing game made real (sort of), was released today by Balzer + Bray. He's also a writer for ABC's Last Resort and MTV's Teen Wolf. (He is also sometimes a contributor to this magazine.) We spoke to him on Gchat—just like the kids do these days!—about what percentage of his books are real and who writes the best hate mail.

lmag: Though you live on the West Coast, Brooklyn and New York City are still your settings of choice. How does your hometown inspire your writing process?

nedvizzini: I think you have to live in a city for more than two and a half years to set a story there. I also haven’t experienced growing up in Los Angeles—a particular experience that involves car accidents.
One thing that I loved about growing up in Brooklyn was that once I could ride the subway, it was a world of strange possibilities. I could see people vomiting or making out at any time. That atmosphere of being amid the unexpected is good for a book.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Literature Unbound: Liberating Hemingway and Fitzgerald From the Brooklyn Library

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Theater troupe Elevator Repair Service has become known for its epic, text-respectful adaptations of American modernist classics: The Sound and the Fury, The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby. This weekend, the company took those three books and read them aloud as they scattered out through shelves of fiction at Brooklyn's Central Library. Well, sort of. They read excerpts from all three at once, out of order. The actors each carried one of the books; its insides had been hollowed out to make room for a smart phone, on which scrawled clauses, lines of dialogue and full-sentence narrations culled from the three books. An actor might discuss his younger and more vulnerable years before another would mention Robert Cohn's boxing career at Princeton. "If you're tight, then go to bed," one might say. "Dilsey said," another might add.

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Novelist Kathleen Alcott Wishes Deborah Harry Would Write Haikus About Sex

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 9:10 AM

Other Press will publish 23-year-old, Brooklyn-based novelist Kathleen Alcott's debut, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets on Tuesday, the day after she reads at the Franklin Park Reading Series with Brian Evenson, Joshua Henkin, and others. The book launch will be on September 12 at Greenlight, where she'll appear in conversation with Lowboy author John Wray.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
A friend of mine said that it felt like a string of bells ringing separately till they were all sounding off together, something like that, and that pleased me deeply.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Emily Dickinson's a Pisser: Talking to Poet-Translator Paul Legault

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Paul Legault is the co-founder of the translation press Telephone Books and the author of three books of poetry: The Madeleine Poems (Omnidawn, 2010), The Other Poems (Fence, 2011), and The Emily Dickinson Reader, an "English-to-English translation" of her poems that McSweeney's released last month—and which all summer has been passed around our office by giggling editors, like how teenagers used to share pornography. (Full disclosure: Legault dates a member of our staff.) The book launch is tomorrow evening at powerHouse.

You live in Brooklyn, right?
I live in Crown Heights, moved to Brooklyn three years ago after grad school, started working at the Academy of American Poets when I got here, launched a small Brooklyn press focused on radical translation called Telephone Books. And I like it here.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

A Fleet Foxes-Affiliated Literary Journal to Launch in September

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 1:43 PM

Hey, this is really cool: "We over here at Unified Field Collective, who oversee Fleet Foxes operations, are so pleased to announce the inaugural issue of our arts and lit journal, The Unified Field," so goes a post on After further investigation, it seems that this Unified Field group acts as the band's managers (there also seems to be a familial relation to Robin Pecknold), which isn't so much the point, as that there's a new literary journal on the scene that comes bundled with sweet, sweet music.

In the case of the inaugural issue, we can expect a 10'' transparent vinyl pressing of rare tracks from the aforementioned Pecknold, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Amen Dunes, Grizzly Bear spin-off Department of Eagles and more, while its 60 pages will work off the theme of "transition" (each issue will carry a theme, natch). Round one features a journal entry penned by recently freed West Memphis 3 member Damien Echols on adjusting to life after 18 years on death row, an excerpt from Gloria Steinem's forthcoming book, a photo essay on adolescence by noted rock photographer Autumn de Wilde, a contribution from SPIN's Charles Aaron, and another from Animal Collective sister/visual collaborator Abby Portner, among 30-plus other pieces. Also worth mentioning: Both Beach House and Sub Pop are listed among the collective's roster. Perhaps a hint of what future issues will hold?

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Talking to Novelist Andrew Cotto About His Brooklyn Gentrification Noir

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Andrew Cotto is the author of the fast-paced noir novel Outerborough Blues. In it, he tells the story of the drifter Caesar Stiles, who makes his way through the seedier side of Brooklyn in the 90s, searching for a beautiful stranger’s brother while getting himself mixed up with dangerous players with high stakes in the rapidly changing borough. He sat down with us to talk about the book and about Brooklyn.

You’ve been living in Brooklyn for a while now: about 15 years, right?
Yeah, I moved here in 1997.

How does Brooklyn inspire or affect your writing?
I think any city is inspirational because I’ll be immersed every day in different neighborhoods and different people just by being out and being active. But Brooklyn in particular is inspiring because it just has so much going on. From various perspectives of race and class on human levels, but also in architecture and different topographies—from the lushness of the park to the grit at the boat yard, there’s just so much going on here that, as a writer, inspires me in finding subjects and ideas. I’m a huge believer that a writer should incorporate enough sensory images to coax the reader into the feel of the story. And Brooklyn provides a plethora of that.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Talking with Novelist Victor LaValle: "My Mom Thinks My Books are Weird!"

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Queens native Victor LaValle’s new novel, The Devil in Silver, will be released in August by Spiegel & Grau. A novella, Lucretia and the Kroons, was released in July as an e-book only. He will appear at the Franklin Park Reading Series tonight, along with Tayari Jones and others.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Paul Constant, who is the books editor for Seattle’s great independent newspaper, The Stranger, once wrote this about me: “…there hasn't been a writer so adept at describing a haunting of a human being in such a Gothic style since Shirley Jackson died.” My mother, who is my mother, has repeatedly (even just this past weekend) said: “You should choose different titles for your books. These titles are weird.” Both make fine points.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Rebecca Stead on Liar & Spy: "It Felt like a Brooklyn Story"

Posted By on Mon, Aug 6, 2012 at 9:00 AM

  • Joanne Dugan
Rebecca Stead's Liar & Spy, her follow-up to 2009's Newbery-winning When You Reach Me, is about two boys who live in the same apartment building and become friends, spending their time spying on a mysterious upstairs neighbor. It's the Manhattanite's first book set in Brooklyn; Wendy Lamb Books will release it tomorrow. We talked to Stead about DiFara's, Ditmas Park vs. Park Slope, and writing after the Newbery.

Your previous books have been set in Manhattan. Why did you decide to move the setting to Brooklyn for this book?
My first book, First Light, is mostly set in Greenland, actually—and what a relief it was to shift to something more familiar! When You Reach Me takes place in the time and place of my own childhood: the Upper West Side of the 1970s. I picked Brooklyn for Liar & Spy because it felt like a Brooklyn story—I wanted New York, I wanted mixed housing, I wanted middle class, I wanted a place mostly untouched by great wealth.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Go Occupy Wall Street, Not Our House on 2nd Place": Kurt Andersen at BookCourt

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Kurt Andersen's new novel, True Believers, is set across the past and present, but "it's all about the 60s," he said yesterday at a reading at BookCourt. Set in 2014, it's written as though a 63-year-old woman's memoirs, as she looks back on (and tries to piece together) her youthful anti-war activism and a mysterious incident at its center. He described her as "like Hillary Clinton, if she hadn't married Bill Clinton." But why is a guy named Kurt writing a book from the point-of-view of a person named Karen? Well, he thought a female character would be more interesting. "Women's lives have changed more dramatically in the last 45 years than men's have," he said. Also, she couldn't be drafted, which gave her a unique motivation to do whatever it is she does, and he thought it'd be more interesting to hear about the book's love triangle from her perspective. Also, he just likes writing female characters.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So You Wanna Be a Writer? It's Easy, Just Move to New York City, Says List

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Last week, music-and-lit blog Largehearted Boy pointed us to this, a list of the 10 best cities for aspiring writers. Criterion for the rankings were fairly loose, left up to the general amount of "professional positions" available in respective cities, as well as the amount of readings, workshops, festivals and other bookish events within one's reach, to determine how much a locale caters towards the poor, sad hearts of writers.

The top slots have been distributed pretty much as expected, meaning dear New York is in at number one—we have lots of agents swarming about, a strong presence of publishing houses, the Pulitzer Prize, yada yada—with London closing in at a seemingly close second. The remaining ranks are a little bit more surprising, however: Reykjavik, Iceland and Norwich, England are in the mix, as is a place in Wales that I never heard of before, but, upon Googling, learn that it's often referred to as "the town of books." Now I feel dumb.

As they say, if it worked for Carrie Bradshaw, it can work for you! And this concludes today's segment of "Inspiring New York Tales."

Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The L Mag Questionnaire for Writer Types: Don Lee

Posted By on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM

Don Lee is the author of a collection of short stories and three novels, the most recent of which is The Collective. He's in town to read at the Asian American Writers' Workshop this Thursday evening.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Tim Rutten, a reporter from The Los Angeles Times, when he was interviewing me about my collection Yellow, said he was interested in my stories because the characters resembled Asian Americans he actually knew—everyday people—an approach he rarely saw represented in contemporary fiction at the time. This isn’t to say my characters are normal (whatever that means). Characters need flaws to fuel drama, after all. But they’re far from stereotypical.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

The L Mag Questionnaire for Writer Types: Polly Duff Bresnick

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2012 at 10:44 AM

Polly Duff Bresnick, who lives in Bed Stuy, has written for The Brooklyn Rail, elimae, LIT, The Six Sentence Review, and other places. She is working on a visual mistranslation of The Odyssey, a section of which has been published as a chapbook by Publishing Genius. She will be appearing at the Franklin Park Reading Series tonight, Monday June 9, along with Mark Leyner and others.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
A dear friend and fellow experimental translator used the word "radical" to describe my writing.

An infamously cranky and brilliant editor once said my writing was dancing around a fascination with "stickiness."

A tall and talented writer said my writing was "languagey" after hearing me read once.

It's hard to know which is most accurate, these are my favorite things people have said about my writing. Probably the sticky thing would win if I really thought about it.

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