“. . . institutionalized bigotry can subtly convince you of its rightness. With its absurdity removed, its evil can compel . . .”“And even the adults pat her hair as if it’s the funniest thing they’d ever seen on a mammal . . . and of course available for public patting, like a goat in a zoo. . . .”“There’s a great woman on the south side who does hair . . .”“Of course homework is just a measure of the home! And so the kids of color will always fall behind . . .”“The African-American peer group is the strongest and the Asian-American is the weakest–that is, Asian-American parents have power that African-American parents do not.”
Monday, January 25, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thanks to Algonquin, I have ONE copy to share with our readers! This contest is open internationally. For one entry each:
- Comment on this post with your email address and answer this question (thanks to the book’s discussion guide!): Are some things better left repressed or should they always be brought to the surface?
- Tweet about this giveaway. (Win a copy of BETWEEN HERE AND APRIL from @fiveborobooks! http://bit.ly/54ln1P)Deadline is Friday, February 5th at 11:59PM EST. The winner will be announced the following day. Good luck!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Review copy received as part of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
I hated walking most of my life, but now I like a long walk, whether in the city where the streets are alive or in the country where the view is long & quiet. I don’t do much walking this time of year, though—too many hunters.
In American novels, characters head west deliberately in order to make something of themselves, to traverse new ground and start a new life. Farnsworth heads west almost by accident, by chance, and in a way unwillingly. Is there something about the current American sensibility that allows for this passive, unconscious malaise?
There are several literary precedents for heading west. Many of them start with hope & end in despair. As you point out, Tim’s trip west is unwilled, so I see his return—to New York, & his family—as the important movement. It inverts the paradigm, & with any luck the psychological correlatives correspond as well: he leaves for the east in despair & arrives with some measure of hope.
As for the malaise, I’m not sure it’s particular to an American sensibility, but it does seem palpable, & maybe permanent—to me at least.
Beckett appears to be a prominent influence in this work, even when it comes down to the internal dialogues that Farnsworth is having with himself. How did you find working in such avant-garde features into a novel that starts out quite traditionally, with a man dissatisfied and confused?
Where to go after Beckett? If Cervantes writes the first novel, Beckett seems to close the literary ellipse. The majority of writers play somewhere inside that vast, plump oval.
I had the good fortune of being in conversation with the novelist Karen Shepard around the time of writing The Unnamed. Karen asked if there would be any formal break in the narrative that would correspond with the main character’s break with reality. It seemed a good question to consider and informed what you describe as the book’s avant-garde features.
People have compared the narrator of Then We Came to the End as a Greek chorus, whereas The Unnamed has perhaps a much more limited scope. With such restrictions, did you find this writing process more liberating than the last? What did this book allow you to do that the last did not?
There was nothing liberating about writing The Unnamed. Its limited scope required considerable restriction: the confinement of a third-person narrative, one main character, and a firm chronology. Whereas Then We Came to the End was all play—multiple points of view, ensemble cast, ever-shifting timeline. The two are utter opposites from a technical point of view, and one was much easier to write than the other.
What’s your writing style? Are you a desk-writer or a coffee shop writer? Is your environment an integral part of the writing process?
I like to be at home, at my desk, with the computer off.
Are there any underrated novels you’ve come across that the average literary reader probably has missed?
If you haven’t read Stephen Wright, you must. M31: A Family Romance & Going Native are my favorites. He does madness marvelously, with as fine & artful a prose style as anyone going. Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square is another good one for madness.
Thanks to Miriam at Hachette for making this interview happen!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
- “The Skinnygirl Dish” Bethenny Frankel, Borders Columbus Circle, 7:00 pm
- “The Theory of Light and Matter” Andrew Porter, McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “The Last Day of My Life” Jim Moret, Borders Columbus Circle, 7:00 pm
- “Ten Walks/Two Talks” Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch, McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker” Stu Silverstein, Idlewild Books, 4:00 pm
- “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze” Maaza Mengiste, McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “The Girl Next Door” Elizabeth Noble, B&N 86th & Lex, 7:00 pm
- “Unfinished Desires” Gail Godwin, B&N 82nd & Broadway, 7:00 pm
- “Cleaving” Julie Powell, McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “No Mercy” Lori Armstrong, B&N Greenwich Village, 7:30 pm
- “Becoming Jane Eyre” Sheila Kohler, B&N Lincoln Triangle, 7:30 pm
- “Cleaving” Julie Powell, WORD Brooklyn, 7:30 pm
- “The Overnight Socialite” Bridie Clark, B&N 86th & Lex, 7:00 pm
- Mary Jo Bang and Susan Wheeler, McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “Duke, the Dog Priest” Domicio Coutinho, McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “Vampire Academy” Richelle Mead, B&N Tribeca, 7:00 pm
- “The Unnamed” Joshua Ferris, B&N 82nd & Broadway, 7:00 pm
- “The Swan Thieves” Elizabeth Kostova, B&N 86th & Lex, 7:00 pm
- “Footnotes in Gaza” Joe Sacco, McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “The Melting Season” Jami Attenberg, B&N Tribeca, 7:00 pm
- “Class with the Countess” LuAnn de Lesseps, Borders Columbus Circle, 7:00 pm
- “The Listener” Shira Nayman, Bookcourt, 7:00 pm
- “Everything Flows” Richard Howard, Idlewild Books, 7:00 pm
- “Evening’s Empire” Bill Flanagan, B&N Lincoln Triangle, 7:30 pm
- “The Ticking is the Bomb” Nick Flynn, Bookcourt, 7:00 pm
- “I am Ozzy” Ozzy Osbourne, B&N 5th Avenue, 12:30 pm
- “Small Wars” Sadie Jones, McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “I am Ozzy” Ozzy Osbourne, Borders Columbus Circle, 7:00 pm (in case you missed him last night or really want to see him again)
- “The Manual of Detection” Jedidiah Berry, WORD Brooklyn, 7:30 pm
- Daniel Menaker and Jonathan Karp (editor of Twelve), McNally Jackson, 7:00 pm
- “The Idea of Justice” Amartya Sen, St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral Youth Center (near McNally Jackson), 7:00 pm
- “Wild Child” T.C. Boyle, B&N Lincoln Triangle, 7:30 pm
- “The Melting Season” Jami Attenberg, WORD Brooklyn, 7:30 pm
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
- The BBC’s Pride & Prejudice mini-series
- Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley (to compare)
- Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway
- The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (because I remember nothing about it from senior year summer reading)
- Austenland by Shannon Hale
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (the only book I read, and it was more than enough)
- The BBC’S Pride & Prejudice
- Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightley
- Becoming Jane film
- The Jane Austen Book Club film
- Lost in Austen film/mini-series
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (last read in 1999)
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (last read in 2002)
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles (last read in 2000)
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (last read in 1998)
Monday, January 4, 2010
Barnes is quite the talented novelist – humorous and touching in each volume, absolutely stand out in his debut Metroland. In The Pedant in the Kitchen, he has collected seventeen short essays on food and cooking, describing his anal-retentive habits in the kitchen and his desire to keep by the (cook)book as he embarks on his culinary journeys. He can’t stand celebrity chefs who create tv-tie-in cookbooks; he really doesn’t like it when the recipe calls for a ‘medium onion’ – for how are you to determine what is medium? – and he truly disdains those who buy cookbooks for the pictures because, sagefully, he realises that no one is able to recreate the images, no matter how talented the cook preparing them is (so much goes into enhancing food photographs that it seriously would be impossible).
Barnes uses his masterful and trademark wit to detail his experiences and blunderings in the kitchen thanks to the help – and hurt – of Marcella Harzan, Jane Grigson and her Vegetable Book, Elizabeth David, Nigel Slater’s Real Cooking, and The River Cafe Cookbook (in all its colours). He gives advice which includes – paraphrasing – you can never have enough cookbooks, but you always should feel as if you have too many; never buy a cookbook that has a tricksy layout, pretending to give advice on how to cook a three-course meal; don’t buy the chef’s recipe book when you leave a restaurant; never replace your old cookbooks for newer editions; and again, never buy a cookbook for the pictures. There is some solid advice from someone who came into cooking rather late.
The author informs us of how, in middle-incomed England, men generally stayed out of the kitchen, that it wasn’t until Barnes was a twenty-something living on his own that he found the wonders of cooking, simply because he was forced to. He writes about former male incompetence:
[It] was clearly limited to such matutinal dabbling. This was made plain one
time when my mother was called away. My father prepared my packed lunch and, not understanding the theory of the sandwich, lovingly inserted extra items that he
knew I especially liked. A few hours later, on a Southern Region train to an
out-of-town sports field, I opened my lunch bag in front of fellow rugby
players. My sandwiches were sodden, falling to bits, and bright red from the
paternally cut beetroot; they blushed for me as I blushed for their contriver.
This then changes and Barnes starts eyeing his mother’s cookbooks, starts going to the local fishmonger, his ‘tattooed comedians’: ‘”Have you got any bluefish?” I asked. “Bluefish,” the monger repeated as if it were no more than a feed line. “We’ve got white fish, pink fish, yellow fish…” As he scanned his slab for further hues of jocularity, my heart sank.’ He’s unafraid to talk about botched dinner parties, or food gatherings with friends as he likes to think of them, because in the end cooking should be human, something that everyone should be able and technically is capable of doing. He appreciates that, and by the end of this wonderful little collection, you’ll be able to too. At the very least you’ll be able to laugh – or chortle – at these anecdotes, advice snippets, and axioms.