Tag Archives: Adam Levin

Happy New Book Day!

Books March-27-2013

Today’s been a really kickass book day!

First, a surprise arrived from my good friend David S. Atkinson (who’s easily the coolest guy I know) in the form of the rare(ish) white version of Adam Levin‘s THE INSTRUCTIONS (one of my two favorite books of all time)!!

Also, my ARC of Benjamin Percy‘s RED MOON showed up, ready for a through reading, skinning, analysis, drying/tanning, mounting and, ultimately, reviewing!!

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There Be Dragons! | 03.14.12

I’ve been busy!

Although AWP ’12 is now done and over with, I have more to do than ever, which is a good thing. “It’s better to be busy than bored,” etc. etc.

Work on my novel has picked back up. I’d taken a small hiatus away from it while prepping materials for AWP and finishing a couple freelance editing gigs. The ultimate success of the latter two items was really hit or miss. It might be March, but a resolution I’m setting for myself is to be more clear with my communications with others. In trying to please everyone with too much flexibility, something invariably gets lost in translation. I wrote that down so I’d remember it.

I’ve been reading some great books lately. Two of the best have been Adam Levin’s Hot Pink (my review of Levin’s book goes live on [PANK] March 20th) and Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan. It would certainly behoove you to read these two books at your nearest convenience. Or cancel other plans to read them. You’ll thank me later.

Tumblr is fun!

If you haven’t checked out Mike Meginnis’s simulated text adventure series EXITS ARE over at Artifice Books, you should do so ASAP! And don’t forget to congratulate Mike for having a story accepted for next year’s Best American Short Stories (BASS) anthology while your at it!!

Speaking of next year’s BASS anthology, I’d also like to congratulate Roxane Gay (who I’ve — not even secretly — got a huge literary crush on) for having a story accepted as well — this is truly BIG news for the small indie presses!!

And speaking of Roxane, it’s no secret she’s really into The Hunger Games (scroll down). “Really into” is perhaps a complete understatement. Because of Roxane’s wholly infectious enthusiasm, I was this < > close to starting the postapocalyptic trilogy myself. I’d even bought all three books and everything. That’s something i do with books, by the way — if it’s a series, I’ll buy all of them at once to A) have them all because I might possibly be a hoarder-in-the-making, and because B) I like to be prepared for the off-chance a stranger approaches me on the street and gives me a drug that turn me into a super-genius (like what happened to Bradley Cooper in Limitless), in which case I could read all of them back-to-back in a sitting or two.

But something happened…

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Good Timing Is Not My Forte: A 34 Day Recap

Punctuality and good timing are not the same thing. I’m fantastic at the former. But the latter? … Not so much.

For example: This is my first actual blog post in a month–a month in which my first book was published (Shenanigans!, Grey Sparrow Press, 2012) and another edition of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference came and went in Chicago. The word from Category Thirteen? Nothing.

Radio Silence.

To call my timing “bad” is perhaps an understatement.

However, all is not lost! The book is 100% available and in-stock, and can be purchased from Amazon for $9.99 by clicking here. Initial reviews and word of mouth feedback are good, so we’ll see how that trend holds up… ( :: drums fingers nervously :: )

My AWP 2012 experience can probably best be summed up as “minimalist.” By that I mean, I spent something approximating 90% of my time laid up in my hotel room with 7th-Level-of-Hell back pain. Which, i should mention, stemmed from tripping–and subsequently rolling my ankle–over a curb while walking to my hotel, before I even ventured to pick up my customary AWP registration swag(!!). The clumsy trip/stumble/ankle-roll maneuver was enough to *tweak* my back in such a way that carrying a heavy backpack over the next couple days would exacerbate the pain to the point of incapacitation.

In other words, instead of doing fun conference-y stuff, I spent almost 24 hours just laying in my hotel bed the day before I flew back to Omaha.

The upside is that, in the small amount of time I got to spend at AWP actually conferencing, I “met” a shitload of rad people! I put ‘met’ in quotes because they were people I’d spent a great deal of time chatting with on Twitter and Facebook, but had never met in real life (a phrase quickly losing its concrete meaning).

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The sophomore slump explained, maybe

I’ve got an idea—a theory—and it pertains to both music and books. And I suppose, really, it pertains to anything creative where there are ultimately followup efforts. It might seem kind of obvious, but if so, it begs the question: why is it still unexpected?

For starters, the “sophomore slump”: why are people so surprised by this phenomenon? Books, music, movies—no media is safe from this label. It’s ostensibly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “This album/book/film is totally not as good as his/her first one.” To me, that is what should be obvious.

Writers, like all artists, [typically] spend years practicing their art before they are discovered; years working on that first big project—honing his or her style, finding his or her voice, sentence cadence, sense of humor. That first project is the author’s culmination of everything they’ve learned. If he or she gets discovered for that work, readers will automatically and inherently have a set of expectations for a followup work by that writer (or musician or film director/actor).

However, herein lies the proverbial rub:

When artists are signed to contracts, there is typically a timeline—an expectation that a sophomore followup will be produced within a year, maybe two. Even though the writer (artist) has found and honed their style, is it not ridiculous to expect a product as complete and revised and polished as the artist’s first effort? Even with a better idea of where to start and less of a need for revising (though, of course, not an absent need for), I would think—just quickly, off the top of my head—the artist would still need at least half as much time as they spent previously to create a work on par with his or her debut effort. [N.B. no actual statistical or mathematical formula or equation was used to come up with this estimate.]

But indeed, this is not the way art-as-a-profession works. Writers (and musicians, directors, et al.) have a contract and a deadline. If you are, say, Adam Levin, author of the astonishing and epic 1,030 page (debut) novel The Instructions, you would be hard pressed to recreate that success in only a year or two. Fortunately, Levin is a McSweeney’s author, so he’s probably got a more lenient timeline written into his contract. Plus both Levin and McSweeney’s are smart: his sophomore effort is Hot Pink, a collection of stories (collected over the period of time he was writing The Instructions), so the expectations will, of course, be different, and the quality will match the expectations, thus (in all likelihood) avoiding the “sophomore slump,” e.g.

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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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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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The Author (me) + Featured on TheRumpus.net (awesome) = big w00t!!

I am very excited to announce that my review of Adam Levin’s debut novel, The Instructions, is now on TheRumpus.net for their “Last Novel I Loved” feature section.  A very exciting day, indeedy!

Click here for the jump!

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List Thursday: Books I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read… yet!

Sometimes books slip through the cracks.  Whether out of laziness or academic shortcomings, we miss out on some really killer reads along the way.  Lots of times it’s simply easier to lie and say, “Oh yeah, I’ve read that, but it’s just been so long…” than admit you’ve actually never even cracked the dustjacket.  Well, here’s my list, in all it’s brutal and gaping honesty. I might need to do something to restore my street cred with all my book-nerd homeys. Word life, son.  Or something…

1) A Brave New World – Aldous Huxley: Given my love for dystopian literature and having read both G. Orwell’s 1984 and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, this seems like a no-brainer. However, I’ve somehow managed to miss out on reading this book for 29 years.

2) Catch 22 – Joseph Heller: I came to literature late. I was a journalism student in my undergrad days and my high school didn’t teach Catch.  But really, there’s no excuse.

3) American Pastoral – Philip Roth: American Pastoral is on my list because it’s considered by some to be Roth’s best, however, my real confession is that I’ve only read one book by Roth, The Human Stain.  It should be noted that Human was good enough to compel me to buy the rest of Roth’s bibliography.

4) Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Sallinger: see Catch 22

5) The Recognitions – William Gaddis: A friend of mine and I were talking about my favorite novel of all time, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and tried to come up with four predecessors that probably paved the way for Jest to be conceived. This is one of those four books we’d ultimately dub, “The Four Horsemen” of metafiction.

6) Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov: This one is simply embarrassing.  The only thing more embarrassing than having not read this is the fact that I’ve read zero Nabokov…

7) War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy: It was the size of this tome that always scared me away.  But now that I’ve read Infinite Jest, and am currently reading Adam Levin’s new 1,030 page opus The Instructions, I feel like I can probably read anything short of In Search of Lost Time.

8) The Sot-Weed Factor – John Barth: One of the “Four Horsemen[1]” of metafiction, the author of Lost in the Funhouse was truly a generational talent. In fact, the most embarrassing thing to admit here is that the fairly short Lost in the Funhouse is the only Barth I’ve finished.

9) On the Road – Jack Kerouac: Yes this is probably sacrilege.  I’m apologizing profusely here. I just never got around to it.  That’s all.  which, even a background in journalism doesn’t save me from. I’ll rectify this soon.

10)  Crime and Punishment – Fydor Dostoevsky: see War and Peace

11)  Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges: I’ve wanted to read this for a long time.  Honestly. I own it so there really is no excuse other than time; there never seems to be enough of it.

12)  Ulysses – James Joyce: The supposed difficulty always scared me away from this book in college.  However, my aptitude for reading difficult texts has increased dramatically since grad school.  I done gone and got smarter!

13)  Moby Dick – Herman Melville: Again it was the whole length thing.  As it turns out, Melville’s a pretty kickass writer!  I have Bartleby the Scrivener and Benito Cereno to thank for this realization.

14)  A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway: I’ve read a lot of Hemingway, but not this, or For Whom the Bell Tolls or A Moveable Feast. I’m working on it.

15)  Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner: Super embarrassing literary fact #?? of many: I haven’t read any of Faulkner either… Ostensibly, if I were going to get a PhD in Literature, I’d have to specialize in second half of the 20th Century Lit.  I missed a lot of stuff pre-1950 that I’m trying to catch up on.

16)  Armies of the Night – Norman Mailer: As a former journalism student, my face is red for this admission.

17)  The Divine Comedy – Dante: I was never big on the old epics written in verse even though they are some of the greatest stories of all time.  I single out Dante here, but the truth is I’m seriously lacking in Homer and Virgil too.

18)  Nostromo – Joseph Conrad: After reading Heart of Darkness, Conrad made me want to quit writing altogether.  Is this guy for real?  English wasn’t even his first language and he slays it, the guy was a genius.  Heart made me swear I’d read everything Conrad ever wrote and so far, I’ve yet to make good on that.

19)  The Three Musketeers – Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite stories of all time — not just favorite books — but stories.  Revenge just doesn’t get any sweeter and similarly to Conrad, I swore I’d read all of Dumas. I’m 0/2.

20)  Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman: Finally, I thought I should include a poet here. If there’s one area I’m severely lacking in in my biblio-arsenal, it’s poetry.  I’ve read almost nothing by Dylan Thomas or Charles Bukowski either.


[1] The two other “Horsemen” of metafiction are Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and William Gass’s The Tunnel, both of which I’m currently reading.  Really, Gass’s Omensetter’s Luck would be more appropriate as an influence to Infinite Jest (as Wallace was admittedly heavily influenced by Gass) but we disqualified it because of its shorter length.

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How big is it REALLY?? Adam Levin’s ‘The Instructions’

With the release of Adam Levin’s new tome-sized debut novel, The Instructions, I wanted to compare it visually to the relative size of other longish books. However, one thing lead to another and…

Here, I compared it to some other long[ish] books…

…to Infinite Jest solo…

…to the Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism

…to some Chicago Cutlery…

…to a sweet-ass sticker’d-up MacBook Pro…

…to a sleepy Greyhound…

…to a Playstation 3 and HD DVR cable box…

…to a fkn’ awesome Technics SL-1200 Turntable…

…to a 2008 Volvo C-30 [V.2]…

…to a burly snowblower and miscellaneous garage junk…

…and finally, to an ultra-pimptastic early 1990s GT BMX bicycle.

Needless to say, the book. is. HUGE! (and from the first ~50 pages I’ve read, it’s also fan-fucken-tastic!!)

In fact, Levin’s book is even tall enough to ride this ride:

Word.

—————

And, click here for a story that maybe could have been written by Adam Levin if Adam Levin was less talented and was 29, living in Omaha, NE and was named Joseph M. Owens.

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“The Instructions.” October 22nd. BUY this book!

New York Magazine‘s “20 Most Anticipated Books for the Fall” — pay close attention to #16, Adam Levin’s “The Instructions”; it’s going to kick exponentially large quantities of ass and not worry at all about taking names (though I could be biased do to its early comparisons to David Foster Wallace and my ineluctable Pavlovian response to the mere mention of DFW):
http://nymag.com/guides/fallpreview/2010/books/67623/#

Need more buzz?  No problem!

The Rumpus[.net]
http://therumpus.net/2010/08/forthcoming-from-the-rumpus-book-club/
http://therumpus.net/2010/08/rumpus-exclusive-new-mcsweeneys-cover-art/

[a note from] McSweeney’s (who are also publishing the book):
http://bookpeopleblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/top-5-reasons-book-wise-to-be-excited-for-fall/

Time Out Chicago:
http://chicago.timeout.com/articles/books/88476/adam-levins-debut-book-the-instructions

Alibris:
http://www.adlibris.com/se/product.aspx?isbn=1934781827

Book People:
http://www.bookpeople.com/book/9781934781821

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