Thursday, April 28, 2005

Books & books to come

Just finished Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. As usual, I seem to be the lone dissenter. This is why I don't read many novels: I can't be happy with great writing as proclaimed by the pundits. I found all the interior monologues of the characters in this book to sound exactly alike. Seems to me a cardinal sin for a novelist to slur characters together. I read novels primarily to read characters. Didn't make it for me. I went back to the Anns and Annies: Patchett, Tyler, Packard, Proulx, Lamott. (So is it an Ann thing? You can't be a really great novelist if your name is, say, Rachel?)

And waiting for my book, Femme au chapeau, to appear. Why won't my publisher give me a pub date? And why did the Matisse Estate take so very long to approve our cover design? All my best laid plans for press releases, etc., have to be redone. I had a release for the locals for National Poetry Month. Tore that one up today, April 28. I'm afraid I'll suddenly get a box of books on my doorstep, and feel like an involuntary adoptive mother ...

Reading Ann Packard's The Dive From Clausen's Pier, which reads like memoir. Waiting to hear from my agent about current responses to Rocket Lessons. And thinking about the value of memoir in a society which prizes American Idol above all other tv programs (or so it seems). My tv producer friends writing a parody of reality shows as we speak ...

It seems to be a day for three-dot journalism ...



  1. 'Tis in the dots we live, yes?

    I recently read a memoir by one of my classmates in poetry at Cal. Katy Lederer's Poker Face chronicles her brush with the family business -- professional gambling. The writing is perfectly fine. But when I got to the end of the book I thought, "Weren't you young yet to write a memoir, Katy?"

    I guess contemporary literary fiction doesn't make it into my reading pile very often. I have several recent noted books hovering near the reading pile. But the last fiction I read was Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, an SF novel about colonizing that planet. The prose doesn't fake toward poetry, but Robinson knows how to integrate research into the story rather than coughing it out in undigested lumps. And the characters are fairly differentiable.

    The last excellent fiction I read was Epitaph of a Small Winner (also known as The Posthumous Memoirs of Braz Cubas) by the 19th C. Brazilian novelist Machado de Massis. Wry, poetic, really smart.


  2. My only conclusion is that publishers love to hold onto power. Letting you know any more in advance would subtly shift that power from them to you - and in the rarified world in which they live, I figure that is just not acceptable to them.

    Still, it's an amazing achievement. Please let us know when it's out. Make sure they send some to Canada, too.

  3. That is so strange, Rachel, esp. since marketing is intergral to that press. How frusrating!

  4. er, frusTrating. ;-)

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