In this lively conversation, Travis Holland and author Richard Ford discuss the genesis of Ford’s most famous fictional character, Frank Bascombe, the importance of always remembering the reader, greeting cards, what could well be one of the greatest short stories of the 20th century, and why place in fiction means nothing.
In Icelandic author Bragi Ólafsson’s The Pets, the narrator spends the novel hiding under his bed as his “friends,” who assume he isn’t home, gather in his apartment. Aaron Cance reviews this voyeuristic tale, its quirky narrative, and its debt to Moby Dick.
In this review of Antonya Nelson’s fourth novel, Bound, Jackie Retizes examines the role of serial killers as literary signifiers, how Nelson navigates multiple points of view, and why the author succeeds (when many less expert writers don’t) in favoring ambiguity over conclusions, “offering delicate moments of attachment in a book that is less about permanence than it is about restoration.”
Philipp Meyer sets his debut novel, American Rust, within a landscape of retired warehouses, rattling railways, prisons and Wal-Mart. The crumbling underpinnings of American industry provide the backdrop for human catastrophe. Meyer made The New Yorker‘s “20 Under 40” list on the strength of a book in which Hanna Pylväinen finds echoes of Mark Twain, Frank O’Hara and Cormac McCarthy.
Debut novelist Urban Waite enjoys a character-driven thriller, which is exactly what he delivers with The Terror of Living. In conversation with Cam Terwilliger, Waite reveals how the selfish characters of Graham Greene shaped his idea of the perfect book, how an editor who understands the writer’s vision can only help a book, and how flexibility can be the novelist’s best friend.
When The Unthinkable happens, how does a person – let alone a writer – deal with it? Billy Lombardo answers that sticky question with How to Hold a Woman, a novel-in-stories about a family dealing with the loss of their eldest child, Isabel. In this review, Alison Espach explores how “the stories become not solely about the pain the family experiences, but more about when and how they feel happiness in light of the tragedy.”
J.T. Bushnell considers how Lori Ostlund’s debut story collection, The Bigness of the World, filled as it is with “godless homosexuals scattered across the globe” would have likely pleased Flannery O’Connor, whose own work is “unapologetically regional and almost dogmatically Catholic.” Ostlund, who won the Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction last year, writes of the mystery beneath our outer trappings, an underlying truth that binds the two writers in common cause.
“We create things that we hope will, someday, become objects of value. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, many writers–Foer, DeLillo, and Roth, to name just a few–all came out with 9/11 novels. I was initially bothered by this. I wanted to say, ‘Fuck you; I was there.’ This passed for a couple reasons. First was the realization that we’re all survivors of one type or another. Second, these texts can never really become authoritative positions on the experiences of a group of people, no matter how well written they are or how well credentialed their creators might be. There’s no uniform experience of being a 9/11 survivor, no uniform experience of being a woman. These are things that can’t be owned by anyone.”
Erzsebet Bathory gained immortal fame as one of the first female serial killers; known as the “Bloody Countess,” she was accused of brutally torturing and murdering over six-hundred young women. But was she really an unrepentant, psychopathic murderer—or simply a political obstacle to the king? Was she really bathing in the blood of her victims, or was she herself the victim of a witch hunt? Such questions haunt the pages of The Countess (Crown, 2010), Rebecca Johns’s lively historical novel, which reconstructs the complexity of this 17th century scandal and brings alive the woman behind the myth.
Michael Shilling’s interview with Percival’s Planet author Michael Byers delves into the fascinating characters – both historical and imagined – that populate Byers’ novel, which deals with the 1930s discovery of Pluto. Shilling says, “Reminiscent of such lightweights as James and Welty, Byers’ work shines with studied and infuried illuminations of the imperfect spirit; he can map out this process of inner grappling with a lovely, intense, and disciplined artistry.”