"…watching A Hard Day’s Night…anyone with eyes and ears should be able to grasp that what we’re seeing is anything but hysteria. The blur of screaming fans at the beginning of the movie, chasing the Beatles as they attempt to board a train in Liverpool to take them south to London, and the screaming fans we come face-to-face with in the concert sequence that ends the film, are the movie’s visible, beating heart — the literal manifestation of the awe and adoration that Richard Lester and his cinematographer Gilbert Taylor lavish on the Beatles."

—Charles Taylor, “Eight Arms to Hold You,” in The Los Angeles Review of Books.

"Essays that reveal their true nature as they progress have to strike a balance between misdirection and staying the course. The art lies in the writer’s ability to establish the reader’s trust as she feels her way towards the heart of her story. She must find a balance between anticipation and suspense, between questions and answers."

   —Geeta Kothari, at The Kenyon Review’s “Why We Chose It.”

"A good outside reader is someone who holds you to a higher standard, someone who wants more from you than you might really be capable of, who sees the book on your terms, but raises the bar for you by showing you what might be possible in your revisions."

   —Ben Marcus, from “Dear Writer,” at The Story Prize Blog

"The point is that literature is conditional, that there is always another way a narrative can go. It is the writer’s job, then, to make choices — or better yet, to ask questions, questions that don’t (that cannot) resolve in the same way twice."

   —David Ulin reviewing Stuart Dybek’s two new story collections, “Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories” and “Paper Lantern: Love Stories,” in the LA Times.

"I worry about repetition quite a bit. In fact, repetition is the thing that kills any of the stories I’ve started and not finished: I bore myself because I feel like I’ve already written what I’m trying to write. So I start again. Some of my process is what I would call torqueing: taking the familiar stuff and turning it around until it doesn’t seem like something I’ve already explored and figured out. Changing a gender, changing a location, changing a relationship. Those things result in the unexpected discoveries, and that can rescue me from being bored with myself."

—Antonya Nelson, from “Until it Isn’t,” interview in American Short Fiction.

GT: My major hang-up regarding therapy is the fear that I won’t be able to confront the answers it yields. And while writing fiction forces me to at least stare down some of my BS, it’s comforting, for lack of a better word, to know my responsibilities as a writer fall short of providing answers. That said, obsessive fascinations, by their very nature, don’t exactly go away. One of the things that strikes me about your oeuvre is the deftness with which you keep coming back to some of your obsessive fascinations—family, marriage, mortality—while managing to keep the material vibrant and mysterious. I’m thinking, for example, of Andrea in “Happy Hour,” and Cara in “Winter in Yalta” (from the current issue of ASF), and even Birdie in Nobody’s Girl. Each of these women surveys their personal landscape and makes the very conscious decision to escape, to place their needs and desires above everything and everyone else in their lives—expectations, responsibilities, spouses, children. They escape in varying manners, but each of them relies on an uncanny inner fortitude, I think, regardless of whether they’ve mistakenly identified their needs and desires or not. Similarly, it takes a lot of fortitude and confidence to keep coming at material from different angles. Are you ever fearful of a misstep? Of conflating the sources of the mystery, as it were? Or do you believe that all material has the potential to be a bottomless well?

Rumpus: Did you ever feel uncomfortable writing someone else’s story?

Crouch: Wow. That question kept me up at night. What will the families think? Do I have a right to write a novel based on a real person’s experience?

In the end, I had to shut off my brain and find my writer balls. As Roxana Robinson so eloquently wrote in the New York Times last Sunday about her novel, Sparta, based on soldiers in Iraq: “We’re doing what fiction writers have always done: trying to investigate the world, explore human experience, render precisely what it means to be alive. We’re trying to give voice to everyone on the planet.”  I loved that essay. The book felt dangerous to write, and I knew that was where I needed to be. Fiction is about learning things we can’t learn through everyday life. If it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, what’s the point?

—from an interview over at The Rumpus

"If any of us were as well taken care of as the sentences of Henry James, we’d never long for another, never wander away: where else would we receive such constant attention, our thoughts anticipated, our feelings understood?" —-William H. Gass, Via @AlisonPowell

Notes from a Publisher at the Close of a Contest

furunati:

image

photo credit | Lindsey Turner, Flickr Creative Commons | Note: not actual submissions to contest. Or actual editor.

  1. 378. That’s how many book-length manuscripts were in the submission box at the deadline for the second annual Pressgang Prize.
  2. I’ve been dipping into the box since the…

"A friend of mine once dreamed a car crash that left all the broken pieces of her Pontiac coated in bright orange pollen. ‘My analyst pushed and pushed for me to make sense of the image,’ she wrote to me, ‘and finally, I blurted: "My wounds are fertile!"’ And that has become one of the touchstones and rallying cries of my life.”

—Leslie Jamison, A Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain, in VQR Online

Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain

"…every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again."

—Adam Gopnik: Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right about Guns : The New Yorker

"…every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again."

—Adam Gopnik: Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right about Guns : The New Yorker