Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Joe Meno (vol. 3, no. 2) contributed a story to Significant Objects. The object: a miniature pitcher.
Keith Montesano (vol. 4, no. 2) will read from his new book of poetry, Ghost Lights, as part of the Dream Horse Press First Book Tour, which starts on July 14. More information about the tour, including, dates, locations, and other guest readers can be found at Keith's blog.
Les Figues Press is curating series of text projects called NOT CONTENT at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions). Work from Douglas Kearney (vol. 4, no. 2) will be featured in the exhibit until July 12.
And finally, congratulations to Seth Fried (vol. 3, no 2 & vol. 6, no. 1) for the news that Soft Skull Press will publish his debut short story collection.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
9L: The Midwest is central to The Circus in Winter and the book features a combination of real and fictional places, were there any challenges in representing the Midwest in both a historic and a fictional way?
CATHY DAY: Do writers from New York or Los Angeles or Boston create fictional cities to disguise their hometown? I can’t think of any examples. I think writers from small Midwestern towns are more likely to create fictional places, fictional families, fictional histories because we need to psychologically. Re-naming provides anonymity. It allows us to say what we need to say without worrying so much about what our grandma or the mayor or our high school guidance counselor will say about it—although that worry never goes away completely, not for me anyway. When I celebrate Indiana, and there’s much to celebrate, I write nonfiction. When I’m criticizing Indiana, and there’s much to criticize, I write fiction. If it weren’t for good, old fashioned Midwestern modesty, we probably wouldn’t have Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Sinclair Lewis’ Gopher Prairie, Charles Baxter’s Five Oaks, William Gass’ B--, Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon.
We’d still have Michael Martone’s Fort Wayne, however, because Martone is that rare breed of Midwesterner who doesn’t care what people think. He sort of amazes me, actually.
9L: Does the Midwest lend itself to fictionalized histories more so than other regions of the country?
CD: The Midwest is very much like the South in that we are very good at lying to ourselves about the past and who we think we are. We have our own mythology, a story we tell ourselves that’s part Hoosiers/Field of Dreams/Rudy/Breaking Away, part Grapes of Wrath, part Prairie Home Companion. I am probably guilty of buying into that myth more than a thinking person should. I go through periods where I completely over-romanticize the Midwest, and then I go through periods where I think it’s all bunk. I’m like Quentin Compson at the end of Absalom! Absalom! "I don't hate Indiana. I don't! I don't hate it!” Where I’m from, people bowdlerize stories. They tell them as flat as the land, leveling off the peaks and filling in the valleys, nothing too dark, too depressing, too taboo, because "there's some things, Cathy, that you just don't talk about." Of course, that’s exactly what we should be writing and talking about. We should create fictional histories to counter the sanctioned histories, which are in many ways just as fictional.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Here is an excerpt from The Weird Room: An Interview with Cathy Day.
9L: Both The Circus in Winter and “YOUR BOOK: A novel in stories” mix fiction and nonfiction to varying degrees. What is your attraction to blurring the line between these two genres?
CATHY DAY: As a young writer, I was taught to write stories that were aesthetically “real,” to create what John Gardner called the vivid and continuous fictional dream. This method alone, I was taught, constituted story making. Then I read The Things They Carried. I felt profoundly astonished, similar to the shock I felt at sixteen, sitting in a darkened theater when Ferris Bueller broke the fourth wall and spoke directly into the camera, or the first time I saw Rene Magritte’s meticulously real painting of an apple that stated, “This is not an apple.” These meta-gestures give the impression that readers are glimpsing behind the curtain, that they’re seeing something more true than the “made up” art before them—perhaps that they are seeing the characters or artists themselves. What keeps many readers turning pages is this question: I wonder if this really happened. Instead of resenting the question, I use it purposefully.
For me, fiction and nonfiction aren’t categories. They’re two poles on the spectrum called narrative, and somewhere in the middle of that spectrum is this weird room where fiction and nonfiction hang out and talk to each other. I like that room.
I read somewhere that Stuart Dybek doesn’t worry about whether he’s writing poetry or fiction when he begins. He just writes and eventually he figures out what the piece wants or needs to be. I work in a similar way, I think, not worrying at first if something is fiction or nonfiction. Actually, both YOUR BOOK and The Circus in Winter began as nonfiction. YOUR BOOK started as a letter, or rather a Facebook message. One day, a young writer with a book coming out asked everyone in his hive, “What kind of cover attracts a potential book buyer’s attention?” Whoa Nelly, did I have things to say about that topic. I started telling him my Theory of Five Pops (also known as branding), using fictional scenarios to illustrate this idea, and very soon, I realized that I wasn’t writing a letter anymore, or even an essay called “Book Marketing in the 21st century,” but a fictional story.
The Circus in Winter also began as an essay. The base time plot chronicled my journey back to Peru, Indiana to do research. These “Cathy Investigates” scenes alternated with “Circus History” passages. Almost immediately, I ended up in that weird room where research and imagination combine. I lost interest in the outer frame and started making up stories, creating an interior life and back story for people in those photographs and newspaper clippings.
See, the Weird Room has two doors marked nonfiction and fiction. You might enter through one door, but you don’t necessarily have to leave by it. To write The Circus in Winter, I needed to leave via the fiction door, but I wanted to acknowledge the project’s nonfictionality, so I incorporated “fake” documents and archival photographs in order to bring the reader into the weird room, too. But here’s the irony. Twelve years after I discarded that outer frame, the true story of me going back to my hometown, my editor said, “What this book needs is a last story about your stand-in character Jenny Perdido going back to her hometown.” She was right, and I wrote that journey back into the book in the last story, “Circus People.”
Stay tuned for another excerpt from the interview next week!
Monday, June 14, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Summer is a great time for picking up some new books. Here are a couple nominees for your reading list:
The Best of the Web 2010 from Dzanc books features a number of 9L contributors, including Mary Biddinger (vol. 5, no. 1), Robert Olen Butler (vol. 1, no. 1 & vol. 2, no. 1), Dan Chaon (vol. 4, no. 2), Brian Evenson (vol. 2, no. 2), Christine Hartzler (vol. 4, no. 2), Ander Monson (vol. 1, no. 2 & vol.6, no. 2), F. Daniel Rzicznek (vol. 6, no. 1), and Angela Woodward (vol. 7, no. 1). This is just a small sample of the plethora of awesome writers featured in the collection.
Walks with Men, the new book from Ann Beattie (vol. 1, no. 2) is out now. There is an excerpt available here.
And don't forget, the summer/spring 10 (vol. 7, no. 1) issue of Ninth Letter is available in our webstore.
Monday, June 07, 2010
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