Category Archives: Lists

2012’s Most Anticipated Books: The Big Presses | 01.03.12

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus: No venom seems more befitting an author than words, words, words. In Ben Marcus’s Flame Alphabet, language is the poison that youth inflict on adult ears. Utterances ushered from children’s mouths have toxic effects on adults, while the underage remain immune to the assault. The effects are so harmful that The Flame Alphabet’s narrator, Sam, and his wife must separate themselves from their daughter to preserve their health. Sam sets off to the lab to examine language and its properties in an attempt to discover an antidote and reunite his family. Marcus’s uncharacteristically conventional narrative makes way for him to explore the uncanny eccentricities of language and life.

The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq: Michel Houellebecq, the dyspeptic bad boy of French letters, has been accused of every imaginable sin against political correctness. His new novel, The Map and the Territory, is a send-up of the art world that tones down the sex and booze and violence but compensates by introducing a “sickly old tortoise” named Michel Houellebecq who gets gruesomely murdered. The book has drawn charges of plagiarism because passages were lifted virtually verbatim from Wikipedia. “If people really think that (is plagiarism),” Houellebecq sniffed, “then they haven’t the first notion what literature is.” Apparently, he does. The Map and the Territory was awarded the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize.

Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room by Geoff Dyer: Geoff Dyer shows no signs of slowing down after seeing two stunning books of essays published in the U.S. in 2011, Otherwise Known As the Human Condition and The Missing of the Somme. This English writer, blessed with limitless range and a ravishing ability to bend and blend genres, is coming out with a peculiar little book about a 30-year obsession. It’s a close analysis of the Russian director Andre Tarkovsky’s 1979 movie Stalker, and Dyer calls it “an account of watchings, rememberings, misrememberings and forgettings; it is not the record of a dissection.” Even so, Dyer brings some sharp instruments to the job, and the result is an entertaining and enlightening joy.

When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson: The exalted author of Gilead and Home claims that the hardest work of her life has been convincing New Englanders that growing up in Idaho was not “intellectually crippling.” There, during her childhood, she read about Cromwell, Constantinople, and Carthage, and her new collection of essays celebrates the enduring value of reading, as well as the role of faith in modern life, the problem with pragmatism, and her confident, now familiar, view of human nature.

Suddenly, A Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret: Etgar Keret’s choice of position while writing–facing a bathroom, his back to a window–reveals much about his fiction. He stories are absurd, funny, and unearth the unexpected in seemingly everyday situations. Many stories from his forthcoming collection are set on planes, “a reality show that nobody bothers to shoot,” and deal in wishes and desires. In “Guava,” a plane crashes, a passenger is granted a last wish and is then reincarnated as a guava. Another story involves a wish-granting goldfish, an aspiring documentary filmmaker, and a Russian expatriate who seeks to avoid having strangers knock on his door. Keret’s stories are brief inundations of imagination, an experience that holds true for Keret as much as it does for his reader. Keret says he becomes so immersed while writing that he’s unaware of his surroundings, regardless of his view.

The New Republic by Lionel Shriver: After a run of bestsellers, including the Columbine-inspired We Need to Talk About Kevin, which was recently made into a movie with Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, Shriver is digging into her bottom drawer to publish an old novel rejected by publishers when she wrote it in 1998. The New Republic, written when Shriver still lived in strife-torn Northern Ireland, is set on a non-existent peninsula of Portugal and focuses on terrorism and cults of personality.

Hot Pink by Adam Levin: Adam Levin works on his short game with this follow-up to his 1,030-page debut novel The Instructions. Hot Pink is a collection of short stories, many of which have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly and Tin House. From his own descriptions of the stories, Levin seems to be mining the same non-realist seam he excavated with his debut. There are stories about legless lesbians in love, puking dolls, violent mime artists, and comedians suffering from dementia. Fans of The Instructions’ wilder flights of invention (and devotees of the legless lesbian romance genre) will find much to anticipate here.

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New Year’s Eve Suitcase Porn | 12.31.11

A) North Face Vault

B) MacBook Air with Banksy vinyl sticker

C) Nintendo DS

D) Pill cutter

E) Business cards

F) iPhone 4S

G) Chevelle’s Hats Off to the Bull CD (remember those?)

H) Books: Meat is All, How the Days of Love & Diphtheria, Normally Special, So You Know It’s Me

I) Pilot G-2 pens, 0.38 thickness

J) 4gb USB PenDrive

K) Hi-Liter, Sharpie

L) Volvo key

M) Aviators

N) Custom Moleskine notebook

O) iPad 2 inside Moleskine case (with extra Moleskine tablet)

P) Westone earbuds

Q) Swiss Army Knife (always be prepared)

R) Ben Marcus’s The Age of Wire and String

S) The Paris Review #199

T) Concord Saratoga watch

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My 2011 Year in Review | 12.29.11

Excerpted from InDigest Magazine:

…There are so many books I loved this year, this list could end up becoming a novella in length! I mean, I read and loved David Foster Wallace’s “unfinished novel” The Pale King, devoured Sarah McKinstry-Brown’s truly fantastic book of poetry, Cradling Monsoons; I finished Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (finally!), expanded my taste for the experimental with Darby Larson’s The Iguana Complex and Johannes Göransson’s Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate, and sung the praises of both Adam Novy’s The Avian Gospels and Christian TeBordo’s The Awful Possibilities.

 And how could I forget the best memoir of 2011, Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water, Roxane Gay’s truly wonderful Ayiti and Ethel Rohan’s Hard to Say? (It’s simple: I couldn’t!) I sincerely loved so many books I read this year—large and small, dense and opaque, traditional and experimental, major presses and indie presses—so much diversity! Indeed, this list would feel incomplete without Brian Oliu’s So You Know It’s Me and xTx’s Normally Special, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention how much I really liked Jeffrey Eugenides’s latest novel, The Marriage Plot, and Roberto Bolaño’s found manuscript, The Third Reich

Read more here.

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Women Writers Who Are Better Than V.S. Naipaul (A Facebook Thread)

Last Friday on Facebook, I began a thread to deconstruct V. S. Naipaul’s claim that no woman writer was/is equal to him. It turns out it didn’t take much effort to compile a fantastic list of women writers who are not only equal to Naipaul in any measurable capacity but superior and, more importantly, infinitely more readable. Here is the thread in its entirety:

Female Authors [off the top of my head] who I like better than V.S. Naipaul: Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, Flannery O’Connor, Ann Beattie, Patricia Lear, Catherine Texier, Amy Hassinger, Karen Russell, Toni Morrison, Yiyun Li, Tea Obreht, Amy Hempel, Marilynne Robinson, Jane Smiley, Mary Robison, Katherine Dunn, Aimee Bender, Joan Didion, JANE AUSTEN, ZZ Packer…

Friday at 7:40pm · Privacy: · Like ·

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Truly fantastic titles for books and stories

…in my personal opinion, of course.

Titling your work can be really difficult, but from the various approaches the following authors took, it can also be (seemingly, anyway) kind of fun. Here are a few I personally like… a lot!

1) A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace

2) “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby,” Donald Barthelme

3) Inconceivable Wilson, J. A. Tyler

4) They Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards, Robert Boswell

5) The Book of Ten Nights and a Night: Eleven Stories, John Barth

6) The Best American Nonrequired Reading series

7) Songs of the Doomed, Hunter S. Thompson

8 ) The Raw Shark Texts, Steven Hall

9) The Quantity Theory of Insanity, Will Self

10) Civilwarland in Bad Decline, George Saunders

11) Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

12) Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, Justin Taylor

13) The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami

14) Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs

15) Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, David Lipsky

–Note: these were all just off the top of my head. Please feel free to submit titles you particularly like for their irreverence or whatever tickles your own personal fancy!

List Thursdays: Top 15 Authors of Influence

I’m cheating a little this week in the essence of being tardy and wanting to keep up [?] with my website. So this week, I stole a small activity from Facebook and reposted it here. However, it is fun to do at home. If you haven’t done it yet, post them here in the comments section!

The Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note.)

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1. David Foster Wallace

2. Hunter S. Thompson

3. Chuck Palahniuk

4. Haruki Murakami

5. Amy Hempel

6. Raymond Carver

7. Bret Easton Ellis

8. Thomas Pynchon

9. John Barth

10. Adam Levin

11. Cormac McCarthy

12. Don Delillo

13. Zadie Smith

14. Philip Roth

15. Rick Moody

 

List Thursdays: Top 10 Most Anticipated Books for 2011

Descriptions pilfered from TheMillions.com article of 76 books, I pared it down.

10 – While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut: described by Delacorte Press as “a present left behind by a departed loved one.” Not to mention that simply, it’s Kurt Vonnegut.

9 – Swamplandia! by Karen RussellSwamplandia! builds out of a short story from her 2006 collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and tells the tale of the Bigtree family, operators of an alligator wrestling tourist attraction deep in the Everglades. The family business is imperiled when the star ‘gator grappler dies, setting off a chain of catastrophes that lead 12-year-old Ava Bigtree to set off through the swamp in search of her lost sister Osceola.

8 – When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle: In his thirteenth novel, T.C. Boyle turns his attention to the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara and the practice of killing non-native fauna in an effort to protect the original ecosystem. A starred review in Booklist says, “Incisive and caustically witty, Boyle is fluent in evolutionary biology and island biogeography, cognizant of the shared emotions of all sentient beings, in awe over nature’s crushing power, and, by turns, bemused and appalled by human perversity.”

7 – The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht: Of all The New Yorker’s choices for the “20 Under 40″ list, none was more surprising than Obreht, the youngest on the list and the only author chosen who had not yet published a book. That changes in March with the publication of her debut novel The Tiger’s Wife. The novel follows a young doctor, Natalia, as she travels to a war-torn Balkan country to work at an orphanage. But Natalia is also in search of answers – specifically, what happened to her grandfather, who has died recently.

6 – Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews by Geoff Dyer: Dyer has a gained a reputation as one of our most inventive essayists (not to mention novelists). Dyer delights in bending genres and subverting expectations, and covering a 25-year span, this collection will likely showcase Dyer’s impressive range. The book, published by indie Graywolf, appears to have at least some overlap with a British collection that came out last year under the title Working the Room. The Guardian called Dyer “the most productive of slackers” and described the British collection as seeming to be “constructed as a vague quest. You move through the unusually lit rooms of the author’s fascinations.”

5 – All the Time in the World: New and Selected Stories by E.L. Doctorow: When a new story collection arrives from an elder master, one is eager to know the balance of “new” versus “selected,” who has done the selecting, and by what criteria. But Random House has revealed little as of yet.   We do know that six of the stories have never before appeared in book form; the title story appeared in the winter ’09 issue of the Kenyon Review.

4 – The Free World: A Novel by David Bezmozgis: Bezmogis’ The Free World tells the story of three generations of the Krasnansky family as they try to escape Communist Russia for the United States. They are waylaid in Rome where the characters pursue different paths through the underbelly of their adopted city, ultimately bringing them into tension with each other as they grapple with a merciless immigration system and try to decide the family’s fate.

3 – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: Murakami’s three volume stemwinder came out in Japan in 2009 and sold out its first printing in a day. The first two volumes will appear in the US this fall and fervor among English-speaking Murakamians is already building. The alpha-numeric title is a play onOrwell’s 1984 – in Japanese the letter Q is a homophonic with the number 9 – and the book’s plot (which was a tightly guarded secret prior to its Japanese release) concerns two characters, a PE teacher and a writer, who become involved in a religious cult through which they create “a mysterious past, different than the one we know.”

2 – Hot Pink by Adam Levin: Viewed from afar, Levin’s first novel, The Instructions, looked, for good and ill – mostly for good – like a kind of apotheosis of the McSweeney’s house style: playful, inventive, funny-melancholic, youth-focused. However, it also possessed a couple of attributes that set it apart from other titles on the McSweeney’s list. One was its dialectical genius; another was the ferocity of its anger at the way the world is (which elsewhere in McSweeneydom often gets sublimated into melancholy). Though Levin wears his influences on his sleeve, his sensibility is utterly distinctive, and almost fully formed. Look for the stories in the follow-up, Hot Pink, to be formally audacious, occasionally adolescent, but always bracing in their passion.

1 – The Pale King by David Foster Wallace: No shock here. When David Foster Wallace died in 2008, he left behind a huge, fragmentary manuscript set in and around a Midwestern IRS office and featuring a character named David Wallace. The manuscript, quixotically, takes monotony as its master-trope, much as Infinite Jest used “entertainment.” Since then, Michael Pietsch, Wallace’s real-life editor, has been working to arrange the fragments in book form. Published excerpts of varying degrees of sublimity – reportedly including two stories from Oblivion – offer glimpses of a Jest-like complex of supporting characters. But these beleaguered office workers have more in common with the denizens of the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House (redundancy sic) than with the Enfield Tennis Academy’s student-athletes. A note, quoted in D.T. Max’s New Yorker piece, hints at the gift Wallace wanted to give his characters: “Bliss – a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious – lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom.” For readers still mourning the books he didn’t get to write, may it be so.

Honorable mentions:
House of Holes: A Book of Raunch by Nicholson Baker
The Great Night by Chris Adrian
The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq
Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches 1998-2003 by Roberto Bolaño
Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work edited by Richard Ford
Bullfighting by Roddy Doyle

List Thursdays: My Top 10 Literary Websites

1 ) The Rumpus – I  might have a slight bias here but the quality of literary (and all other) content here is top notch, truly. Not to mention the fact that The Rumpus has one of the best Book Clubs around, a fantastic advice column and the reader-written Last Book I Loved series.

2 ) The MillionsIf The Rumpus is (hypothetically speaking), let’s say, Tin House, then The Millions is definitely n+1.  The essays and reviews found on The Millions are top notch and guest contributions from established writers definitely lends the site its due where credibility is concerned. The Millions is legit.

3 ) HTMLGIANTSticking with the literary journal comparisons, HTMLGIANT is the literary website equivalent to McSweeney’s, if for nothing else than its edge and personality. The editors and contributing writers are smart, probably too smart, but always provide thought provoking insight in their essays. It’s worth checking out to acquaint yourself with Jimmy Chen, Blake Butler, Roxane Gay (also of [PANK] renown) and Kyle Minor alone.

4 ) MontevidayoIf there’s one site (luckily there’s more than one) that gives HTMLGIANT a run for smart content, it’s Montevidayo. The biggest difference is that the crew at Montevidayo are interested in a sort of community conversation. Multiple authors chime in on a few topics which really gives the reader a feel for what’s being discussed.

5 ) Bookslut Want reviews? Book Slut’s got ’em! (Michael Schaub, specifically.) As well as tons of features, a fantastic blog section and truly great interviews. Read Bookslut.

6 ) Maud NewtonI have to thank Isaac from The Rumpus for reminding me how much I love this site. I feel as though I’ve been neglectful and that’s a hurtful thing to be. I’m sorry Maud, I’ll be a better man, I promise! Maud Newton is the blog Category Thirteen strives to be!

7 ) Galley CatAll the happenings, comings and goings of the Publishing World (the empire that it is deserves CAPS.) A subsection of the truly excellent Media Bistro, Galley Cat is— as its title suggests– the first word on the book publishing industry.

8 ) Book ForumCome for the Daily Review and Omnivore, stay for the Paper Trail and Outposts.  Book Forum has a print copy you can pick up in stores too should your little Luddite heart so desire [I kid! (about the Luddite thing, I mean; Book Forum really does have a print mag.)]

9 ) Action, YesBrought to you by the editors of Montevidayo, Johannes Göransson, Joyelle McSweeney and John Dermot Woods, Action Yes is actually a quarterly I love but forgot to mention in last week’s list. Action Yes is also online only so it seems that it might be more appropriately recognized this week anyway.

10 ) Big Other I dig Big Other for a lot of reasons, but none perhaps more than their interviews and their Experimental Threads.  Check out their recent interview with HUSH author, Dave Kress and their article, “A New Technology for the Culture Industry” about Fignment.com, good stuff!

Honorable Mention —The Regulars: Salon.com/books, Huffington Post Books, Daily Book Beast, as well as The Nervous Breakdown, Sensitive Skin, ARTFACCIATK ReviewsLarge Hearted Boy, the full Media Bistro site and Agent Query.


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List Thursday: My Top 10 Literary Journals/ Magazines

1)     Tin House – I do my lists in reverse order. If there was only one journal I’d follow, it be Tin House. Its mix of eclectic writing and contemporary writers pushes it ahead of a competitive field.

2)     McSweeney’s – I’m counting both the online and quarterly, both sides of which have, surprisingly, a different feel to them. Online features short, conceptual pop-culture-oriented humor pieces where the more serious, yet eclectic stories are published in good old fashioned black and white on paper.

3)     Glimmer Train – The best writing contests, hands down, call Glimmer Train home. Alternating between topical and general short stories, there is almost always a place to submit your story for the chance to win some money, regardless of subject matter.

4)     n+1 – Fantastic essays are the reason I pick up n+1. Just recently, they featured an article concerning the future of writing in the context of “MFA vs. NYC,” which made the cost of a subscription worth it on its own.

5)     The Lifted Brow – The most stylistically original journal I’ve seen, published out of Australia. TLB was the first to have a previously unpublished piece from David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King which was later picked up by Harper’s.

6)     Alaska Quarterly Review – Guest editors like Amy Hempel and award winning storyists such as Lily Tuck and Patricia Lear make AQR a must read.

7)     PANK – It’s edgy, it’s hip and it’s one of the (e-)journals your future agent is reading right now. Shouldn’t you be too?

8)    Zoetrope: All Story – This one, like number 9, is pretty self-explanatory. Fantastic stories and nothing else. Gotta love me some Zoetrope.

9)     Granta – I was this close to not including GRANTA for the same reasons I did not include The Paris Review and The New Yorker. But because it’s published across the pond, it often gets overlooked. Some people I’ve talked to have actually (gasp!) never even heard of Granta. It’d behoove greatly you to check them out if this is you.

10)   Electric Literature – Who says you need a print copy to be stellar? Much like PANK, this is a publication your future agent and editor are reading. Plus Rick Moody and Aimee Bender appear in the same issue (No.3).

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List Thursday returns this week, December 2nd!

List Thursday returns this week with my picks for Top 10 Best Literary Journals with a twist: it doesn’t feature The New Yorker or The Paris Review, despite their obvious merit.  OK, actually it’s because I wanted to select 10 literary rags that weren’t The New Yorker or The Paris Review because, at least in my opinion, both of those magazines are very good, despite the negative juju tossed at them from the ever-infernal hype machine.

Anywhoozle, the list is coming and there are some familiar faces and perhaps some unexpected ones, hopefully some unexpected ones. Stay tuned!

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