Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 6—Yukio Mishima

by Sean Gill

“I wrote ‘Patriotism’ from the point of view of the young officer who could not help choosing suicide because he could not take part in the Ni Ni Roku Incident. This is neither a comedy nor a tragedy but simply a story of happiness…To choose the place where one dies is also the greatest joy in life.” —Yukio Mishima, in a 1966 postscript to his short story, “Patriotism”  Army Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama sits on a Noh stage with his wife, Reiko (Yoshiko Tsuruoka). The only real ornamentation in the spare white room is an enormous kakemono banner, bearing the Chinese […]

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 5—Jacqueline Susann

by Sean Gill

Q: “Which is the product, you or the book?” JS: “Way back… the author, the successful author, sold himself, only we didn’t have the media. If you recall, Ernest Hemingway… there was always great publicity, how he was a great white hunter, how he went to the bullring… and so you sort of almost mixed the man with his character, they said, ‘That’s really Hemingway.’ F. Scott Fitzgerald, he and his wife, Zelda, lived the same kind of flamboyant life in the south of France as the kind of Americans they wrote about. And then along came television, and the […]

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Everyone Has a Dead Father

by Matthew Zapruder

The road from Chicago to Iowa City is straight, about three and a half hours due west. In 2004, I was on my way from a reading at a bookstore in Chicago to one in Iowa City, the famed Prairie Lights. About halfway there, I pulled into a rest stop and saw I had missed

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 4—Mickey Spillane

by Sean Gill

1963 Mickey Spillane is “Mike Hammer”             “When you sit at home comfortably folded up in a chair beside a fire, have you ever thought about what goes on outside there? Probably not. You pick up a book, reading about things and stuff, getting a vicarious kick from people and events that never happened. You’re doing it now, getting ready to fill in a normal life with the details of someone else’s experiences… But remember this: there are things happening out there. They go on every day and night making Roman holidays look like school picnics… All you have to […]

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 3—Irvine Welsh

by Sean Gill

1996 Irvine Welsh is “Mikey Forrester” “I’m playing this drug dealer who’s probably one of the most unsympathetic characters in the book, cause, probably kinda manipulative and nasty and sort of horrible guy so, a lot of people will be saying sort of type-casting again, you know?” —Irvine Welsh, in a video interview from the set of Trainspotting in June 1995 To the strains of Bizet’s Carmen, Renton (Ewan McGregor), a young Edinburger junkie, makes fastidious personal preparations for kicking heroin, the final step of which is obtaining one last hit from his dealer, Mikey Forrester. Mikey appears, smirking like […]

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 2—Richard Wright

by Sean Gill

1951 Richard Wright is “Bigger Thomas” “I became convinced that if I did not write of Bigger as I saw and felt him, if I did not try to make him a living personality and at the same time a symbol of all the larger things I felt and saw in him, I’d be reacting as Bigger himself reacted: that is, I’d be acting out of fear if I let what I thought whites would say constrict and paralyze me…The writing of it turned into a way of living for me…I kept out of the story as much as possible, […]

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 1—Stephen King

by Sean Gill

Why? Simple self-promotion? For fun? Sheer ego? “Because no one else can?”         To wrest back the measure of control which a solitary typist enjoys? Is it fear of living merely a life of the mind? The need to act out a fantasy? Or is it a public therapy, an exorcism of demons? Typically an author’s on-screen role in an adaptation is that of a background artist: blink and you’ll miss Kurt Vonnegut (a pedestrian in Mother Night), Amy Tan (a house partier in The Joy Luck Club), Chuck Palahniuk (an airline passenger in Choke), or John le Carré (a […]

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The Almeda Fire: Rogue Valley, Oregon

by Octavio Solis

Driving down Pioneer Road to Colver Road in Phoenix, Oregon (12/18/20). Credit: Otavio Solis As the weather report had promised, the morning was clear and blustery, the aspens outside clicking their leaves like maracas. I slurped the dregs of milk from my bowl of cereal, stepped outside to head to my studio, winked into the

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On the Art of Jonathon Keats

by Alla Efimova

Is Jonathon Keats an artist? I have never doubted this over my nearly twenty years of working with him on various projects, even while Keats himself has often resisted and resists such a definition, preferring the title of an experimental philosopher. Keats is represented by an art gallery (Modernism, Inc.) in San Francisco and has had exhibitions and installations in many art museums and galleries internationally. And yet, while his projects are widely covered in the press—both specialized and general-interest—art publications shy away from giving him coverage. Keats purposefully operates on the margins of the art world, seeing it as […]

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Pen Pals of the Pandemic, Unite!

by May-lee Chai

My father at nearly 90 years of age can no longer safely live on his own so he has moved in with me, into my apartment in San Francisco. We’ve sold his home, auctioned off the lifetime accumulation of his possessions, boxed his books, stacked the remnants in storage. Then the pandemic hits and we can’t go to movies or museums or anything to break the tedium of being confined together in my small, studio apartment. Sartre thought he was being clever but not literal when he wrote No Exit, putting three narcissists in Hell made up of a single […]

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Locking Down with the Family You’ve Just Eviscerated in a Novel

by Julian Tepper

On March 13, 2020, I was in Los Angeles, having flown there from New York for the launch of my latest novel. The event would take place at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard, and we—my father, four brothers and stepmother, all locals, as well as my mother and son, who had come out west for

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Folk Tales: Lucie Elven on the inspiration behind ‘The Weak Spot’

by Lucie Elven

Photo Credit: Sophie Davidson

It’s a cliché that bi-nationals never feel they really truly belong anywhere, that they always have another, unlived life ticking away in reserve in the back of their minds—mine’s in an emptying village in the most rural region of France. The Auvergne is a poor part of the country, wilder than the image of France abroad. As a child it seemed to me a place heavy with tradition and significance, the kinds you couldn’t determine for yourself but were imposed by others. Many generations of my family are buried in the graveyard up the road, and many neighbours are cousins. […]

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