Thursday, August 14, 2014

In News from Heaven, Jennifer Haigh—bestselling author ofFaithandThe Condition—returns to the territory of her acclaimed novelBaker Towers with a collection of short stories set in and around the fictionalized coal-mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania.
Exploring themes of restlessness, regret, redemption and acceptance, Jennifer Haigh depicts men and women of different generations shaped by dreams and haunted by disappointments. 
Janet Maslin of theNew York Timeshas called Haigh’s Bakerton stories “utterly, entrancingly alive on the page,” comparable to Richard Russo’sEmpire Falls.

Today’s Amazon Kindle Daily Deal has NEWS FROM HEAVEN by Jennifer Haigh, only $1.99 in ebook! Check it out here.

In News from Heaven, Jennifer Haigh—bestselling author ofFaithandThe Condition—returns to the territory of her acclaimed novelBaker Towers with a collection of short stories set in and around the fictionalized coal-mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania.

Exploring themes of restlessness, regret, redemption and acceptance, Jennifer Haigh depicts men and women of different generations shaped by dreams and haunted by disappointments. 

Janet Maslin of theNew York Timeshas called Haigh’s Bakerton stories “utterly, entrancingly alive on the page,” comparable to Richard Russo’sEmpire Falls.

Today’s Amazon Kindle Daily Deal has NEWS FROM HEAVEN by Jennifer Haigh, only $1.99 in ebook! Check it out here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"The Long In-Between" by Adam Wilson, Recommended by Heidi Julavits

recommendedreading:

Issue No. 90

EDITOR’S NOTE


Last fall someone sent me a link to a New York Times Opinionator blog post called “When Clothes No Longer Make the Man,” the opening paragraph of which ends with this alarming assertion: “the writing of fiction where the device of disclosing the nature of character through clothes seems to all but be destroyed.”

Destroyed! I imagined fictional industries disappearing—ateliers shuttering, textile factories closing down, whole closets of fictional clothing sold on ebay at disrespectfully low prices. The writer, Lee Siegel, goes on to claim that today’s fiction writers no longer use clothing to provide character clues because appearances are increasingly rigged, and thus implicitly meaningless. “Clothes,” he writes, “have become more like costumes, intended more to hide than reveal who we are, or what we would like to be.”

So much is wrongheaded about this argument—not least of which is Siegel’s failure to understand that clothing is and always has been a costume, i.e. that clothing has never communicated a crystalline message but rather a highly complex visual code that, depending on a character’s (or a person’s) place in history (and actual place—are they on the beach? In the boardroom?), requires different keys to crack—but I’m embarrassed to say that, in the midst of my deep irritation, I blamed this wrongheadedness on Siegel’s certain variety of straight maleness. Only a certain variety of straight man, I peevishly thought, would fail to see how even the examples he cites to support his thesis—Zadie Smith describes a character wearing flip-flops and cargo shorts—actually undermine it. Flip-flops are not Birkenstocks. They are not Tevas. They are not Jesus thongs or cork wedges or Dr. Scholl’s or even, in the plainest possible iteration of this category of footwear, “sandals.” This character is probably (I’m guessing—Siegel refuses to give the context—is she at her father’s third wedding? Her first day on the job as a commercial air pilot?) low-key and I-don’t-give-a-fuck or is trying to appear low-key and like she doesn’t give a fuck. The difference between what a character wants us to believe about her (via her clothing), and what we know, from other cues, to be true, well, within that gap is where we’ll find a naked, telling human.

At any rate. I wanted to write a retort, but who has the time? Instead I huffed and stewed. And then I read Adam Wilson’s short story, “The Long In-Between.” This story—written by a straight man!— is the most perfect rebuttle to Siegel’s thesis that now I can now stop worrying about the fate of fictional clothing ateliers; more importantly, I can stop worrying that all those straight men out there are failing to even notice (never mind break) my daily code. Adam’s story is about surfaces and facades, and his characters are quite aware of how they succeed and fail to communicate their intended (or not) identities through the artistic medium of hair, clothing, the “occasionally affected Pan-European patois,” the name-checking of Edward Said and Judith Butler. This is a short story that reads like a psychological and sociological study of contemporary plumage strategies. It is also incredibly funny, and it involves Israel, lesbians, incest, and academics. Mel Gibson makes an appearance. It features Sam Lipsyte-quality sentence art. It features the flaneur-istic architecture of a Deborah Eisenberg story. It is smartly dense while also reading breezily. It is an impressive pleasure—and to this person, currently wearing a highly encoded and incredibly misleading outfit—a great relief to read.


Heidi Julavits
Author of The Vanishers



image


Support Recommended Reading

image


Collect Them All

image


The Long In-Between

by Adam Wilson

Recommended by Heidi Julavits

Get Kindle Get ePub


In August of 2006, during Israel’s relentless bombing of Lebanon, and days after Mel Gibson said his piece about the Jews, I came to New York City to live with a woman who had once been my college professor. Her name was Elizabeth, and she was staying, for the summer, in a SoHo loft previously occupied by an internationally famous daytime talk-show host. The Host had since moved one flight up to the building’s penthouse, where he threw lavish parties, audible through the floorboards, a weekly reminder of New York’s immutable social infrastructure. No matter how high you climbed, there would always be someone above you.

I knew none of this when I arrived on the Fung Wah bus from Boston. It was a hot day, and humid. The sky was purple-gray, clouds swollen with coming rain. My hair was a mess. My bra clasp dug into my spine.

I dragged my suitcase from the subway, eyeing the women on lunch break whom I’d come here to become: interns in bubble skirts tapping furiously at cell phones, their legs moving in long, deliberate strides. They appeared to be members of a similar but distinctly different species. A taller species.

The elevator opened directly into the apartment. It was an oblong, open space decorated in a series of large abstract paintings accented in gold leaf, and ugly. The furniture looked imported from a Palm Beach condo: white shag area rug with matching throw pillows on white leather love seats and recliners. The walls were cream colored, or crème colored, according to Elizabeth, who occasionally affected a Pan-European patois. The other walls were windows. From certain angles you could see across Greene Street into the Apple Store. A kitchen emerged at the end of the room, complete with two industrial sinks whose gleaming hoses wrapped themselves like long bracelets around the spouts.

I was not particularly impressed. I’d grown up middle class in an upper-class suburb of Boston and had spent countless hours in friends’ McMansions just as tastelessly gaudy as this Prince Street apartment. The décor signified a brand of generic wealth that I had come to find provincial.

Elizabeth appeared from behind the fridge.

“Darling, you’re here,” she said. “Welcome. Isn’t this place hideous?”

Elizabeth walked on tiptoe; she still fancied herself a dancer, though she’d quit ballet in college. She wore a terry-cloth robe that showed off striated thighs and taut, toned calves. She was three inches taller, but otherwise we looked almost the same: flat chests, no hips, prominent cheekbones, “penetrative” brown eyes, Ashkenazi noses, and pale skin caked with foundation. It was a look that had failed me through high school and most of college, but I had high hopes for my new life among the sun-fearing fashionistas. Androgyny was back after an overdue hiatus.

Elizabeth, almost twenty years my senior, was the product of previous boom times for heroin chic. She’d spent the better part of the nineties complementing the look with an actual needle stuck in her arm. After rehab, she’d managed to buckle down and finish her thesis, a sunless tract on AIDS and the American death drive. The published version had earned her a small following in certain academic circles. Now she carried herself with a jaded self-confidence that attracted men and women alike—but mostly men, and mostly gay—and that I did my best to emulate.

During my four years of college I had developed what is sometimes called a girl-crush—though the term sounds too cutesy for what I felt—on Elizabeth. I’d taken her class on late capitalism (the syllabus was divided between Edward Said and Judith Butler) in the second semester of my freshman year. By semester’s end I had already copied her hairstyle (straightened black bangs), clothing style (gothic airline stewardess), and eating style (S.S.S.—soup, salad, sashimi), and was finding excuses to stop by her office on an almost daily basis.

Elizabeth was new to Boston—she’d done her graduate work at Columbia—and seemed appreciative of both the company and worship. I saw her as the epitome of urbanity, and the embodiment of an academic idyll that otherwise existed only in past tense novels by nostalgic baby boomers. Elizabeth and I played out this campus fantasy, smoking imported Gauloises on the library steps and discussing all relevant isms. But mostly we talked about the men in our lives, whom we referred to as our dudefriends.

“Dudefriend thinks it’s his life’s work to sperm up my eggs,” said Elizabeth, once. “If only we were lesbians.”

“If only,” I said, unsure what she meant. Was the implication that we would be a lesbian couple, or just a couple of lesbians?

“I mean, I’m not one of those overpopulation people, or worse, the oh-so-magnanimous doomers who don’t want to subject a future generation to blah blah blah. But what happens when my son is molested by his math teacher?”

“Isn’t that a cross-that-bridge-when-you-get-there sort of thing?”

“Oh, he’ll definitely get molested,” said Elizabeth. “The question is whether to uphold the traditions of our rape-shaming society by telling him his body has been traumatized, or refrain from comment and hope he remembers it fondly, some kind of passionate hug session from the man who taught him Boolean algebra.”

“What kind of school are you imagining this is?”

“School of hard knocks,” said Elizabeth.

Read More

Compliments of Electric Literature, you can read one of Adam Wilson’s short stories from his upcoming collection, What’s Important Is Feeling. Thanks, Heidi.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Want to see how Simon Van Booy transforms a hotel room into a romantic and atmospheric short story? He teamed up with Waldorf Astoria and Olga Kurylenko to create The Escape Artist, a chance meeting between Alexandra (a designer) and Michael (a screenwriter) and what develops in the sweeps and swirls of their creativity.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Have you seen Adore yet? It’s based on Doris Lessing’s novella, which we’ve made available as its own book (previously published in The Grandmothers) with some nice tie-in cover art. For those purists that like to read the book before seeing the movie, this’ll be a quick yet absorbing read.

Have you seen Adore yet? It’s based on Doris Lessing’s novella, which we’ve made available as its own book (previously published in The Grandmothers) with some nice tie-in cover art. For those purists that like to read the book before seeing the movie, this’ll be a quick yet absorbing read.

Friday, August 16, 2013
mttbll:

“At night, when he is sure his father is sleeping, he sticks the phonograph needle in a rubber eraser and holds the eraser in his front teeth. Carefully, with his nose inches from the record, he sets the needle down. With a hiss and crackle, the music reverberates through the hollows of his mouth and throat without making a sound in the room. Ignoring the cramp in his neck, this is how he listens to his favorite records night after night. Wild with thoughts of Eula with her hair like oil. Her snake-charming eyes. Her long, fine hands. How she teases him. He dreams he finds pieces of his heart in the boot scraper at her door.”
—Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peele

Love this collection.

mttbll:

At night, when he is sure his father is sleeping, he sticks the phonograph needle in a rubber eraser and holds the eraser in his front teeth. Carefully, with his nose inches from the record, he sets the needle down. With a hiss and crackle, the music reverberates through the hollows of his mouth and throat without making a sound in the room. Ignoring the cramp in his neck, this is how he listens to his favorite records night after night. Wild with thoughts of Eula with her hair like oil. Her snake-charming eyes. Her long, fine hands. How she teases him. He dreams he finds pieces of his heart in the boot scraper at her door.”

Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peele

Love this collection.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

But if you really want my side of the story, here it is: Who isn’t crazy sometimes? Who hasn’t driven around a block hoping a certain person will come out; who hasn’t haunted a certain coffee shop, or stared obsessively at an old picture; who hasn’t toiled over every word in a letter, taken four hours to write a two-sentence e-mail, watched the phone praying that it will ring; who doesn’t lay awake at night sick with the image of her sleeping with someone else?
I mean, Christ, seriously, what love isn’t crazy?

Jess Walter, We Live in Water

But if you really want my side of the story, here it is: Who isn’t crazy sometimes? Who hasn’t driven around a block hoping a certain person will come out; who hasn’t haunted a certain coffee shop, or stared obsessively at an old picture; who hasn’t toiled over every word in a letter, taken four hours to write a two-sentence e-mail, watched the phone praying that it will ring; who doesn’t lay awake at night sick with the image of her sleeping with someone else?

I mean, Christ, seriously, what love isn’t crazy?

Jess Walter, We Live in Water

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

short story ebook sale: Quarantine by Rahul Mehta

As you may recall from one of the many posts about it, we’re having an ebook sale with our friends at One Story, with some of our favorite short story collections on sale for the entire month of July for just $1.99. Today we’re highlighting Quarantine by Rahul Mehta.

 

In one sentence fragment, what is this book about?

An exploration of the lives of Indian-American gay men and their families.

 

Have I heard of this author before?

Rahul teaches at Alfred University. Portions of Quarantine have appeared in New Stories from the South, The Kenyon Review, The Sun, Epoch, Noon, and Fourteen Hills.

 

You get paid to say this book is good. Who else liked it?

“Because Rahul Mehta’s characters are so richly and deeply rendered, because action and situation are so closely observed, these stories transcend all the categories that they are also determined to cut across. Quarantine is the best first collection I have read in over twenty years.” Madison Smartt Bell


I am well aware of Rahul Mehta’s awesomeness and have already read this book. What’s his next project?

Rahul has a novel coming sometime in winter 2014.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

short story ebook sale: Vanishing by Deborah Willis

As you may recall from one of the many posts about it, we’re having an ebook sale with our friends at One Story, with some of our favorite short story collections on sale for the entire month of July for just $1.99. Today we’re highlighting Vanishing by Deborah Willis.

In one sentence fragment, what is this book about?

Emotional and physical absences, the ways in which people leave and are left, and whether it’s ever possible to move on.

Have I heard of this author before?

The book was named one of the best of 2009 by the TorontoGlobe and Mailand won some awards. Deborah is a bookseller at Munro’s, a store in British Columbia.

You get paid to say this book is good. Who else liked it?

““Spare, haunting and insightful, these stories are wonderfully wrought snap shots about human frailty and loss that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.”    —Calgary Herald


I am well aware of Deborah Wilis’s awesomeness and have already read this book. What’s her next project?

Nothing in the pipeline from us yet, but you can keep up with her on her website, where you can all see the equally great Hebrew cover for the book.

Monday, July 9, 2012

short story ebook sale: What He’s Poised to Do by Ben Greenman

Did you know that we’re having an ebook sale with our friends at One Story? We’ve got many short story collections on sale for the entire month of July for just $1.99. Here on our tumblr we’re going to highlight each collection individually, starting with Ben Greenman’s What He’s Poised to Do.

In one sentence, what is this book about?

Love, infidelity, and the vanishing art of letter writing.

Have I heard of this author before?

Ben is an editor at the New Yorker. His other books include Superbad and Celebrity Chekhov. He loves charts.

You get paid to say this book is good. Who else liked it?

“Ben Greenman’s What He’s Poised to Do is a terrific collection—a set of elegant, inventive dispatches that knock around space and time, and the wrenching gaps between people, to chart a world of previously unnamed moments and emotions.” —Jess Walter, author ofBeautiful Ruins

I am well aware of Ben Greenman’s awesomeness and have already read this book. What’s his next project?

Ben has a novel coming some time in summer 2013.

Friday, July 6, 2012

short stories on sale!

We’ve partnered with One Story on a short story collection sale for the month of July. Ebooks of some of our favorites—including Justin Taylor’s Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, pictured at right—are only $1.99 for the whole month. We’ll highlight each book here over the next 30 days, but for now, check out the whole list here!