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Today’s Recommended Fiction

Keith Gessen, novelist and editor of Brooklyn journal n+1, published a fascinating essay called “Money” in Chad Harbach’s outstanding anthology MFA Vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction. Gessen tells the story of the time he taught a creative writing class while simultaneously going through the final editing process on a feature article destined for a magazine. Juggling teaching responsibilities with the demands of the publishing industry took a toll on him.

I sympathize with Mssr. Gessen. Or rather, I sympathize with my sympathy for him. If Yale would only return my emails, I would have a tenured position on the English faculty and, therefore, I would also have something cutting to say about the burden of grading papers and creating lesson plans on top of the vocation of writing. Ah well, good things come to those who… forget it, I’ll get to the point.

I shall now note, for your benefit, my erudite reader, a few works of fiction that Gessen included in the syllabus for his workshop, works that should cause the dedicated writers among us to perk up their ears. Those stories include:

  • George Saunders’ “Sea Oak”
  • Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be?
  • Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
  • Curtis White’s “Combat”
  • Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections
  • Chris Kraus’s “Trick”
  • Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus

A promising reading list, to be sure. Have at it! And let me know which is your favorite at @City_Sasquatch.

 

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A Slice of Slice Magazine

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“I write with an eye toward traveling, a sort of moral adventure, if you will.” – Colum McCann

It is named after a portion, only a constitutive part, but the thought-provoking arts journal Slice is a very important component of the literary landscape in Brooklyn. I consider it in the same breath as other laudable Gotham-based publications, such as Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Brooklyn Rail, and N+1. Issue 14 of Slice, released this summer, delivers a mouth-watering array of artistic expression ranging from poetry to fiction to nonfiction. Interviews abound with authors Owen King and Matthew Spektor, National Book Foundation favorite Fiona Maazel, Alissa Nutting and National Book Award-winner Colum McCann.

Writing this polished does feel morally uplifting, I must say. I particularly enjoyed Peter Kispert‘s “Aim For The Heart,” a story of a chronic lier confronting his past, and the wonderfully lyrical poem, “Footage of the Last American Cowboy,” by Melissa Barrett. A doff of the cap to Slice editors Elizabeth Blachman, Tom Haushalter, Ian Ruder, et al. Without your efforts, our arts world would not be so vibrant.

In your honor, I will eat a slice of bark pie this very evening.

Lit Mag Festival at Housing Works

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe – 126 Crosby St, New York, NY

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IMG_0366For moi, the CLMP’s 15th Annual Literary Magazine Festival was a whirligig of amusements, a fountain of delights, a veritable beetle colony exposed to the sunlight. Sigh. What a beautiful arrangement of literary eye candy. The heart could not ask for more.

On one side, Confrontation and Bodega, on the other, Tin House and A Public Space, on yet another  n+1, Armchair/Shotgun and The Newer York. Not to mention such luminaries as The Georgia Review, Slice, and the New England Review, among others. Such a plethora 0f distractions for an overwhelmed biped such as myself.

I spoke briefly to a very nice human representing Diverse Voices Quarterly. Without pause I attempted to barter for a publication credit with a slab of raw london broil I had smuggled onto the premises. Ah, but she was too smart for me. Touche, mademoiselle. Until we meet again.IMG_0373

Accosted the lovely editors of Bodega magazine at a table from which, they grudgingly admitted, they were barred from escaping. When they were not looking I tried to enter the address of this blog into their open laptop, but to no avail. Blast these freakish digits! If only they were not stubby, each of them, as a prime cut of Polish kielbasa sausage. I was discovered before I could bring my little plan to culmination. They are sharp as bamboo switches, these literary folk.

On the streets of SoHo outside Housing Works bookstore, found myself surrounded on all sides by sunhat-wearing hordes, mocassined masses, and boat shoe-loving bourgeousie. Is this what so many of my human friends mean when they refer contemptuously to a “mall?” From what I have gathered, this “mall” of which they speak, a phenomenon of the middle-to-late 20th century, is characterized by bemused crowds of culturally-sensitive, upwardly-mobile wanderers, widely known by their fondness for carrying large shopping bags full of bespoke goods. SoHo seems to fit this description to a T. But why turn a large swath of downtown Manhattan into a so-called “mall?” Wasn’t it a perfectly good residential neighborhood at one time? Perhaps this is another example of my woeful cultural insensitivity. I digress.

Concluded my literary iliad of the weekend at Berle’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, where I was welcomed, somewhat hesitantly, by a gaggle of pale fellows and ladies sporting ironic haircuts. There, a thoroughly provocative reading closed out the Popsickle 5 festival. Ah, how I love the summer.

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