Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Belated but Necessary Witness to Devastation: Joe Sacco’s “The Great War”

In a 1917 appraisal of Siegfried Sassoon’s first collection of war poems, The Huntsman, Virginia Woolf lauded the poet for revealing all those things about the present war that are “sordid and horrible.” To Woolf, Sassoon’s poetry surpassed mere reportage to offer civic value by underlining the tacit complicity of a silent British home front. Sassoon is able to produce in his poems, Woolf writes, “an uneasy desire to leave our place in the audience.” Pity, it would seem, is what Woolf admires in Sassoon’s war realism; pity is the impetus of this “uneasy desire” to leave the audience. Wilfred …Continue reading

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Rough, Comic Ode to a Damaged Young Man: Scott McClanahan’s ‘Hill William’

Scott McClanahan’s new novel, Hill William (Tyrant Books, 162 pages), is a slim, dark but funny coming-of-age story set in West Virginia. The narrator and protagonist, Scott, is an ill-adapted adult trying to keep a lid on his issues for the sake of a pretty girlfriend. When things between them get rough, he can’t help cursing, rendered inarticulate, bashing in his own face in an attempt to relieve inner turmoil. When his girlfriend asks him to mow the lawn, he refuses. When she threatens to do it herself, he goes out to throw the lawnmower over a hill, but when …Continue reading

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Finding the Answer, in Nature or Elsewhere, Isn’t Easy: Farnoosh Fathi’s ‘Great Guns’

Great Guns (Canarium Books, 73 pages), the first poetry collection from California native Farnoosh Fathi, is a bold example of the sonic power of verse, and its simultaneous capacity for creating images with philosophical questions at their core. Nature is the basis for many of the poems in Fathi’s collection. She amplifies the natural world, populating her poems with snails, butterflies, and birds, animals so small that they have different color registries, different views of the world. By changing the perspective with which the world is viewed, she’s instructing the reader to examine how large and beautiful the world is, …Continue reading

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The Fire of Work, and the Concerns of Literature: Q&A with John Freeman

I’ve known author and former Granta editor John Freeman since (and I’m guessing here) 1998. At the time I was the deputy book editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and Freeman was one of many freelance critics working for the paper’s Sunday Book Review section (which, thankfully, and perhaps miraculously, continues). Freeman is probably the most prolific freelancer with whom I’ve ever worked. (The book critic Martin Rubin would be a close second.) Month after month, it seemed as if his reviews and author interviews appeared in just about every periodical in the country that did any sort of book …Continue reading

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The Question of What It Takes to Tell the Truth on the Page: Q&A with Dani Shapiro

I first had the pleasure of meeting Dani Shapiro in 2007 at Le Sirenuse on Italy’s Amalfi Coast at the initial Sirenland Writers Conference. Shapiro (who is the bestselling author of the memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History) established Sirenland in Positano, Italy, with Hannah Tinti “to provide an antidote to competitive, hierarchical writing conferences” that she “can’t imagine would be good for anyone’s creative process.” Her latest and well-received book is an extension of that intention. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life (Grove Press; 256 pages), …Continue reading

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In the Winter Issue

In our newest issue, time and worlds bend: In Juan Pablo Villalobos’s “Photisms”: A little boy tells his distracted psychiatrist that he sees mysterious green lights and hears a voice telling him, “See you in the non-world.” In Lisa Teasley’s “Full Circle”: The bonds between a couple stretch across eras and genders, forged by incredible loss, rancor, and love. In Monique Wentzel’s “Modern Speedwash”: A struggling woman finds a portal to a universe she’s made different choices and has a comfortable life to show for it. But can she so easily give up the life she knew before? And in …Continue reading

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Breaking Conventions to Reshape the American Palate: Q&A with Dana Goodyear

If you’re finding yourself bored with the same old menu choices, which always hover near the top of the food chain, but you can’t imagine consuming large sarcophagid maggots, scorpion, spleen, lungs, lips, or even a bite of an endangered species for dinner, let Dana Goodyear navigate for you the outer limits of this emerging American food scene. In her new culinary narrative, Anything that Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture (272 pages; Riverhead Books), New Yorker contributor Goodyear explores the outer shoals of foodie culture with narrative skill and aplomb. More …Continue reading

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