Interview

A couple weeks I did an interview with my old friend Jackie Cangro. We worked together a million years ago at Simon and Schuster Children's. She was very kind and patient with me and by far the best part of that job were the wonderful people I met there. 

You can find the interview (and lots of other great writerly content!) here

The Grauduate

I've been studying this book for a while. I read it years ago but didn't really understand why I was so intrigued. It's the familiar story and the movie is just as fantastic as the book. What I love about it is we are never privy to Benjamin's thoughts. Ever. We follow him closely. We see what he sees and hear what he hears. I love it because we lie to ourselves all the time. The stream of consciousness is often mindless, unhelpful chatter full of disinformation. We are often mechanical in our thoughts and even in our action. Charles Webb and by extension Benjamin seem also to distrust thought, distrust motivation and so it's cut out. I love it. It's brilliant. The ways we are isolated not just from other people but from ourselves. Socrates said know yourself because we almost never do.

IMG_1816.JPG

Center for Fiction

Truly it has been a bit of a whirlwind for me. Publishing a book is a lovely grind and in some ways I've loved, and hated, every minute of it. Slowly, I'm turning my attention back to my second book and a completely different cast of characters. My so-called Detroit book is calling me, and I'm more than happy to sink back into it.

Last week I found out The Solomons has been long listed for the Center of Fiction first novel prize. It's an honor and a thrill! There are several books on that list that I have in my house and are next on my list. Notably, fellow Michigander Julie Buntin's book and Matthew Klam. I'll get to that George Saunders one of these days too.  I've taken several classes at The Center of Fiction. One with my good friend Daniel Long, another with Gordon Lish, and a third with Myla Goldberg. I love the space and the vibe, especially the elevator!

 

Judy Blume likes the Solomons!

I think this might be the greatest compliment I've ever received on my book. A week ago, Judy Blume sent me a private message through Twitter telling me she liked my book. I was so shocked I shouted out loud. My fourteen year old, who read all the Fudge books, was even impressed (very hard to impress a 14 year old). And because it was a private message, I eventually filed it away.

Today, my friend (and label mate) Olivia Clare posted an article from the New York Times. Judy Blume recommending my book (along with Sarah Gerard and Jami Attenberg--amazing company!). You can read it here

Judy Blume is a seminal writer for me. Absolutely no one meant more to me as a lonely only child.  She was realer than real. She was a friend. 

 

IMG_0932.PNG

The Common at Nuyorican

This might have been my favorite reading so far. I read with Honor Moore, Mensah Demary, and Cortney Lamar Charleston and it was at the Nuyorican! A place I used to go when I was in my twenties and listen to Poetry slams. You can see the issue and read my story in The Common here. They have a brand new website, so check it out.

My friend Job Christenson came and I was delighted as always to see him. He was a college roommate in Ann Arbor in a big Victorian house. Living in the house there was me, a guy who became my boyfriend for a while, three lesbians and two gay guys. Job was a musical theater major and he was the biggest talent University of Michigan had. He left school a semester early after he got into Cats on Broadway and moved to NYC. My boyfriend and I had moved to Santa Fe, and broken up. Job called me from Times Square and told me I had to get to NYC asap, that he had a two bedroom, and he'd rent one of them to me. I got a job at Henry Holt (where I was a TERRIBLE editorial assistant. If you are an unhappy and/or terrible editorial assistant somewhere out there--life gets better, I promise!) and the rest is memories and history. Some of which I'll be visiting in my second book, which takes place partly in NYC in the year 1999....

Thanks so much, Job, and to Kate Schmier, Sandra Hong, Jonathan Segol and my amazing agent, Duvall, for coming out. Thank you Jennifer Acker for being such a bright literary light, accepting my story, asking me to read and creating such a lovely community. I always have a good time at Common events.

And, reading gets easier each time I do it. This time I didn't even have to sip my tiny flask of whiskey.

(And I bought this great tote!)

Review from Jewish Book Council

Just found this very kind review from the Jewish Book Council. I love the photo that accompanies the review! One arm points towards parking and the other to the "kolbo!" The "everything here" store.

 

About a week ago I received a friend request from an academic in Kentucky with an Israeli sounding name. I checked his bio and he had lived on a kibbutz and worked as a bovine inseminator. I was having dinner with friends and I could feel my heartbeat quicken. I know that I might not have got everything right in this book, but I tried hard and I had numerous people read it, vet the Hebrew and the particulars. Still, I was nervous about publishing this book.

I know a lot of smart people, good readers who are either Israeli, or half Israeli, or have spent enough time in Israel to speak Hebrew (and Arabic) and while I thought the book would appeal even to Americans who'd never been there, and had no connection to Judaism OR Israel, it was those fluent in Israel that I worried most about. 

A few moments later a message popped up: 

"Your novel is stunning and both a close friend and I who are former kibbutzniks are impressed by how well you portray that and all the other immersive settings in your story. I wish you great success with it!"

He went on to write: "The "dugri" nature of your writing, the acerbic candor and unsparing portrayal of a deeply scarred national psyche--and the resultant chaos it produces in individuals. The sharp contrast between two different societies--and the disparate ways that people thrive or fail to thrive in each. You accomplish that so sharply and meaningfully! And again, the language itself delivers real verisimilitude. I have read many, many books written about Israel over the decades and been turned off because it is so easy to get things wrong--I had precisely the opposite reaction with yours. And in terms of tone you sometimes reminded me of Orly Castel-Bloom, another writer I admire, but mostly it's impressive how much of a singular voice you really achieve in that work."

His comments meant so much to me. Thank you, Ranen Omer-Sherman! Hope you get to NYC and we can have coffee and talk kibbutz life!

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz is an amazing poet. I had the amazing honor of reading with her in Cold Spring last year. Read My Brother My Wound here. The quote below is from an interview she did in Creative Independent. Read it here.

Camping and hiking

 

When I was a kid, we used to travel from Detroit, up through Canada and back down into New England nearly every summer. We camped in small leaky backpacking tents and drove either a Chevette, a Dodge Omni, or later a minivan. We'd spend nearly a week hiking the Appalachian trail, specifically the Presidential Range and it was grueling. We hiked 4-8 miles a day. Sometimes it rained, or hailed. The wind was fierce. I absolutely loathed it, until we'd reach the hut where we would stay the night. The huts were pure magic. This is me somewhere along the journey. Circa 1982 or so.

Themes

I don't think I could ever consciously write a book with a theme in mind, but it occurred to me after I'd finished the SOLOMONS book that the theme had been given to me long before I'd started writing it. It was a conversation with my thesis advisor and mentor David Hollander, and he said this: Desire always exceeds the object, quoting Lacan. 

I saw him a few months ago and I had him write it down.