As always in our weekly Lit News, we round up the essential discussions in literature and publishing and also reveal all the Lookout and Ecotone author scoop!
Beginning with a little book cover candy: how lovely is this jacket for Poems of the American South, edited by David Biespiel and published by Everyman’s Library? (Psst: Catch up on all of our favorite book jackets, posters, and type design on our Pinterest account.)
Winners of this year’s Lambda Literary Awards, celebrating excellence in LGBT literature, have been announced, and we’re excited to see so many small and university press books in the mix!
The Hachette / Amazon dispute roils on, and we’ve collected the three essential links you need to understand the nuances:
- Writer Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times clearly breaks down the conflict in thirteen easy steps.
- The New York Times profiles Michael Pietsch—the first chief executive of a major publishing house to negotiate new terms with Amazon since the Justice Department sued five publishers in 2012 for conspiring to raise e-book prices. The piece underscores his view that books deserve to be treated differently from “hard drives, diapers, and the countless other products that Amazon sells.”
- And, finally, the Amazon boycott got a helping hand this week from Stephen Colbert, a Hachette author, when he unveiled his “I didn’t buy it on Amazon" sticker and brought on guest Sherman Alexie, who in turn plugged California by Edan Lepucki. After Mr. Colbert urged people to buy it at Powell’s, California immediately became the store’s No. 1 best-seller.
We missed BEA last week, but had we been there, we would have stalked longtime Ecotone contributors Bill Roorbach (The Remedy for Love) and Brock Clarke (The Happiest People in the World) at the Algonquin Books table. Click through to find out what brought them to write their upcoming novels.
New York-area poetry lovers will don their walking shoes next week to march en masse from City Hall across the Brooklyn Bridge as part of The Poetry Walk. It’s a tradition wherein they recite work from renowned poets including Mark Doty, Thomas Lux, and Vijay Seshadri. All proceeds benefit Poets House.
Finally, Lookout author Steve Almond's favorite summer reads have great plots and great writing. Check out his list, which includes Elizabeth Gilbert, Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, David Foster Wallace, Cheryl Strayed, and Lorrie Moore, among others.
Happy summer reading, y’all!
As always in our weekly Lit News, we round up the headlines and vital discussions in literature and publishing arts, and also announce Lookout and Ecotone author kudos.
Emma Straub suggested “Ten Books To Read If You’re Not Traveling This Summer" for Publishers Weekly and included at #3 Arcadia by Lauren Groff, who has a story in Astoria to Zion.
More than dudes in tights or self-indulgent autobiography: at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Anne Elizabeth Moore considers journalistic nonfiction comics from California, Iceland, and Japan.
Ben Miller, author of last year’s debut memoir in essays, River Bend Chronicle, has been selected as one of Radcliffe’s 2014–15 fellows and will have a year at Harvard’s institute for advanced study to shape a manuscript extending his investigation of the urban Midwest. Congratulations, Ben!
Last night at One Story's annual Literary Debutante Ball in Brooklyn, two Ecotone contributors made their book debuts. Congrats to Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans, and Ben Stroud, author of Byzantium. We hope you both did it up last night!
Finally, in case you missed this week’s posts, you’ll want to revisit Brad Watson's charming answers to our Seven Questions. Read on to find out the fictional dog he’d adopt, the classic literary bed scene he’d heat up, and the circumstances under which he’s willing to forgo an afternoon bourbon.
And yesterday, Astoria to Zion contributor
Psst, did you know that we collect our favorite book jackets, posters, and examples of type design on our Pinterest account? Take a gander, and if you like what you see, follow us there.
This week longtime Ecotone contributor Brad Watson answers our Seven Questions and charms us with his distinctive humor and insight. His story “Alamo Plaza," about a family’s vacation in Gulfport, Mississippi, is one of our favorites to appear in the magazine. It won a PEN/O. Henry and now has a permanent home in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone's First Decade.
What books are open on your desk right now?
Geoff Schmidt’s story collection, Out of Time (my students are reading it); a biography of William James (suggested by your own David Gessner); my wife Nell Hanley’s cento manuscript; Meg Pokrass’s new flash collection, Bird Envy; Jamie Kornegay’s forthcoming novel, Soil; Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. And some others a bit further off to the side. A couple of student theses.
If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?
I’d have Huck give Tom what-for when he pulls those shenanigans at the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, instead of all that roundabout way of torturing Jim to achieve a phony redemption for Tom. A waste of time, and frustrating. Twain was self-publishing then, right? Well, he should have hired and trusted a good editor. Also, maybe a little more hoozah in that bed scene between Ishmael and Queequeg, don’t you think? It’s damn good as it is, but a devil in me wishes he’d pushed it a little further. Maybe just with dialog of some sort.
If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?
In the American desert. Not too far from a very small town with one good bar and one good diner.
Name a book you bought for its cover.
I don’t think I bought it for its cover, but I would buy Duras’s The Lover for its cover, if I didn’t already own and know the book. That cover, contrasted with the opening section about a man coming up to her and saying, “Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravished.”
If you could adopt any fictional dog, which one would you choose and why?
Maybe Eggers’s dog in “After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned,” although I think that our dog Hank (we didn’t know it was a cliché Western dog name when we named him, greenhorns) is already that dog.
How well do you have to know a place, if at all, to recreate it in writing?
It takes me a little (or a lot) longer than some writers I know. After nine years, I’ve written only a little bit about the West. I like to feel as if I’ve absorbed things in some way beyond my realization of it. I don’t want to find out I’ve been projecting without knowing. To the degree we can ever do that.
Typing or longhand? Both. Often, scenes in longhand typed later on. Occasionally an entire chapter or story longhand, typed later. I would like to do this all the time but too often start dashing it out on the screen before I even think about what/how I’m doing it.
Silence or music? Usually silence, although when I was drafting a novel (shelved for now) two years ago, I listened to one song by Dylan over and over, one by I think Schubert, one by Mozart. The Dylan song was “Things Have Changed.” I can’t recall the Schubert opus or the Mozart although both were piano concertos.
Morning or night? Morning, usually, until I’m deeply enough into something that I want to work on it all the time and badly enough to forgo the afternoon bourbon on the rocks. Then, morning and again in the evening.
E-reader or print? Print, although I will sometimes get an e-reader book to check it out, especially if I’m so curious I want to see it right away. But if I like it, I will then order the print volume.
Vowel or consonant? I love them both, and together. We are a threesome.
Train or plane? Train. I love traveling in the sleeper cars and being paired with strangers in the dining car. Too bad the food’s no good anymore.
Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark when I’m reading for pleasure; dog-ear when I’m teaching or reading to learn from someone whose work is astonishing me.
Cake or pie? Don’t eat much of either. Used to. My mom made the best pound cakes. And my Aunt Blanche made the best pecan pie. They’re both gone now.
Mountains or sea? It used to be the sea, overwhelmingly. I lived there a while. Winters in a deserted small beach town were exhilarating. Now I live in the mountains, and it’s the mountains. I still love the sea, but now the mountains are the staple, the sea is the reprieve, respite, relief.
Dog or cat? Dog. Have two. Cats are amusing, though. And useful, if you own a barn. A neighbor got ten for his, though, and the coyotes got ten. Since one of our dogs is a good mouser, no need for a cat, no need to sacrifice a good cat to the coyotes.
Brad Watson is the author of Last Days of the Dog-Men, The Heaven of Mercury, and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives, in which “Alamo Plaza” appeared. The collection was awarded the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award and short-listed for the PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction. Recently Watson received the Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Laramie, Wyoming, and teaches in the University of Wyoming MFA program in creative writing.