Greenlight Bookstore

Jonathan Corcoran’s “The Rope Swing”

This week, I was treated to a wonderful reading by the charming and talented up-and-coming writer, Jonathan Corcoran, whose gripping story collection, The Rope Swing, came out this Spring via Vandalia Press, an imprint of West Virginia University. Corcoran was interviewed at Greenlight Bookstore (@Greenlightbkln) in Brooklyn by another highly-praised Southern writer of note, the effervescent Tayari Jones, author of the lauded novel, Silver Sparrow.

The Rope Swing is a burnished collection of interlinked tales about the experience of growing up as a gayIMG_2269 man in the Southern Appalachias, a particular experience in a “particular time and place,” as Corcoran put it. He went on: “Imagine a time when there was no internet. How do you learn about being gay without the internet? Gay people don’t often have gay parents, so… The world is changing.” The author’s portrayal of this oft-ignored side of West Virginia is complex and full of pathos. I’ve rarely read such a three-dimensional exploration of time, place, and identity.

I must say, dear readers, this could be my favorite new book of modern times. Nay, not-so-modern times! And I’ve been around for a while, if you consider 694 years a long time. A gaggle of notable writers seem to agree with me, including Mlle. Jones and Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Black Tickets and a veritable leviathan of Southern literary capital herself.

It was a true pleasure to hear a conversation between such gifted and intelligent literary figures, a few of the most important of the day. On the topic of LGBTQ discrimination and the fact that society is finally bending towards greater empathy and understanding, Corcoran looked back at the process of writing and of his humble origins: “I came out all right. I came out okay. There’s just as much joy as there is sadness [in this book] .”

Jonathan Corcoran will be reading from his collection tonight, at the Astoria Bookshop in New York City for the Boundless Tales series. Go ahead and purchase it – now! – online from WVU Press. His book tour continues, so peruse the schedule now and see this fantastic writer yourself.

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Conjunctions at Greenlight Books

Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn this week saw a mind-bending reading by a triumvirate of contributors to Conjunctions‘ Spring issue, a “collection of radical reinventions of the genre of nature writing” titled Natural Causes.  Lucy Ives,Michael Ives, and Wil Weitzel bowed and wowed the crowd with their unorthodox approaches to LITERATURE (I’ve decided to capitalize this precious word from henceforward to convey my sense of awe and respect for it, and so that those readers over 352 years old, such as myself, might benefit from the larger type (Jorge Luis Borges went blind before he was 50, don’t you know?)). And I would be remiss to neglect a mention of free wine. Yes, though no whining was heard… Aha! Ha!IMG_1531

Triple Canopy editor Lucy Ives’ reading utterly conquered the point of view of a cat observing its human. This piece, I must admit, flustered me. I could not decide whom I empathized with more – the feline or the homo sapien. Now I know how swans felt when they watched Natalie Portman’s Black Swan.

Will Weitzel read a tense essay about he and his wife’s trip to Ethiopia to witness the feeding of a pack of coyotes by the local tribesmen at dawn. I felt the suspense, dear reader, let me tell you. Of course, one of my oldest friends is a coyote, but I concede that the fellow has no table manners whatsoever. Look for Weitzel’s writing in Kenyon Review, New Orleans Review, Prairie Schooner, and Southwest Review.

Michael Ives’ strikingly original poem inspired by the biblical tale of Noah had my IMG_1523yellow-spotted tongue trembling with questions, but suffice to say, this author is one to watch. Egads, what a statement. Syntax, rhyme, the line, and other respected literary conventions were bent, broken, and thrown in the dust. A brave poem, to be sure.

Kudos to Bradford Morrow and the editors at Conjunctions for continuing to put out innovative writing. Though humbling, the reading also reminded me of how great I am, as most of my experiences do. Follow the journal on Twitter (@_Conjunctions) for updates about readings and issue releases.