Tag Archives: Catapult

‘Pain and Loneliness in Equal Measure’: Q&A with Peter Orner

Peter Orner’s Am I Alone Here? Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live (316 pages, Catapult)—which concerns Orner’s favorite stories, the lives of their authors as well as Orner’s own—has a modest subtitle. It suggests the essays in the collection, which was recently named a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, are rough, unfinished. (One of the essays in the collection, “Since the Beginning of Time,” appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 107.) Because Orner maintains this Midwestern-like self-deprecating tone throughout the book, his intellectual rigor might catch you off guard. He takes stories—telling them, reading them—very seriously. …Continue reading

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Outside and Inside the Revolution All at Once: ‘Mrs. Engels’ by Gavin McCrea

In his first novel, Gavin McCrea accesses the intricacies of Marx and Engel’s Communist revolution through the ordinary magic of fiction. Mrs. Engels (Catapult; 368 pages) explores the subtleties of a historic movement through the vantage of Lizzie Burns, Frederick Engels’ longtime companion and eventual wife. Lizzie, an illiterate Irish woman, is both an outsider and part of Frederick’s inner circle in London—at once the closest to the proletariat and the furthest from Marx and Engels’ ideals. Her position allows the story’s perspective to refreshingly shift from observing Engels and Marx’s work life and ideals to registering the domestic decorum …Continue reading

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In the Face of Absurdity, Macro & Micro: ‘Cries for Help, Various’ by Padgett Powell

Of the various genres travestied by the entertainment industry, perhaps comedy has become the most befouled. With a few notable exceptions, inane millennial hi-jinx, “awkward” situations and encounters, and mundanely quirky characters flit across American television and computer screens with an unsurprising steadiness. In the face of this, a writer like Padgett Powell is of the greatest importance, as reminder of what comedy, specifically literary comedy, can be. Wry, strange, and with a sense of tragedy only partially concealed by the stories’ peculiar and surrealistic narratives, Cries for Help, Various (200 pages; Catapult) exhibit’s a comedy which is still in …Continue reading

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