Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Contributor News

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell (vol. 1, no. 2) is out now. Check out reviews of the book at PANK, NPR, and Entertainment Weekly.

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

The Biblioracle

Ever finish a book and have no idea what to read next? Well, John Warner (vol. 6, no. 2) is here to help. All you have to do is head on over to The Morning News and leave a comment on The Biblioracle page listing the last five books you read and you'll recieve a recommendation on what to read next. The Biblioracle is open for business today from 12pm to 2pm (eastern time).

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Weird Room II/The Circus in Winter - The Musical

Before we get to the second excerpt from my interview with Cathy Day, I wanted to pass along some information about the musical adaptation of Cathy's book, The Circus in Winter, that has been put together by students at Ball State University. The students will be giving two concerts of music from the show on Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18 as a part of Circus Week in Peru, Indiana (Cathy's hometown)! Both shows are fundraisers with the show on the 17th benefiting Ole Olsen Memorial Theater and the show on the 18th benefiting the International Circus Hall of Fame. Check it out, as it will be a fun time and help raise money for wonderful causes.

In The Circus in Winter, Peru, Indiana becomes Lima, Indiana allowing Cathy to use some of Peru's history while also leaving her room to invent. In this excerpt from "The Weird Room: An Interview with Cathy Day" (vol. 7, no. 1), I ask Cathy about fictionalizing histories.

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.

Be sure to check out the rest of "The Weird Room: An Interview with Cathy Day" in the current issue of Ninth Letter (vol. 7, no.1).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Weird Room I

Recently, I interviewed Cathy Day via email about fictionalized Midwest histories and the intersection of fiction and nonfiction for the Where We're At section of Ninth Letter (spring/summer 10). Cathy is the author of Comeback Season and The Circus in Winter . Her short story, “YOUR BOOK: A Novel in Stories,” appeared in Ninth Letter (vol. 6, no. 2, fall/winter 2009-10).

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

Lisbon Dispatch

World Cup fever is spreading and Leite's Culinaria has reprinted Philip Graham's "I Don't Know Why I Love Lisbon," which discusses many great things including, a World Cup match between Portugal and The Netherlands. The essay is excerpted from Philip's The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Reading

First, congratulations are in order for 9L contributors Stephan Clark, Sarah Einstein, and Margot Livesey! Stephan Clark and Sarah Einstein will be listed in the "notable essays" section of the upcoming Best American Essays for essays featured in Ninth Letter. Stephan Clark's "My Year of European Underwear" and Sarah Einstein's "Mot" both appeared in vol. 6, no. 2. Margot Livesey's "Mr. Clark's Daughter" from vol. 6, no. 1 is a notable short story in the upcoming Best American Short Stories.

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.

Benjamin Percy (vol. 6, no. 2) discusses his affinity for Stephen King's The Gunslinger with Carolyn Kellogg over at Jacket Copy.

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

Published for a Day

Word Riot is publishing novels and story collections from past contributors in PDF form for one day only. The books will be available until 11:59pm tonight. You can download and read as many as you want between now and then. Be sure to check out I/O, a lyric essay memoir novel type thing, from 9L contributor Brian Oliu (vol. 6, no. 1).

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Philip Graham's 9L Fiction Roundup

9L fiction editor, Philip Graham, blogs about the fiction in the new spring/summer 2010 issue and why he thinks it is our best issue ever!