That New New In Lit: Nov/Dec

Jacob Kaplan

hill william

1. HTML Giant editor, VICE writer, and gourmand Blake Butler wrote a piece called “How is literary success defined” for Atlanta's Creative Loafing. It's an important question, especially these days, when more than ever free content and unpaid writers are the norm. But Butler's talking about artistic integrity, maintaining childlike ambition and wonder in adulthood, and defining one's own rubric for merit. “If you go on valuing recognition and praise of others, you're asking to be ruined,” he writes. “The only value in expression is its inherent value.” Butler's next novel is 300,000,000, which will be published by Harper Perennial in 2014.

2. In the vein of powerful, unsmiling essays by sometimes-experimental writers, here's a piece Shane Jones wrote for The Rumpus. Jones, the author of four novels (three published, one forthcoming), talks about his experiences as a father, the tragedy that befell Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's son, and denial in the faces of terror and death.

3. On a happier note, Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction magician Steven Millhauser wrote an elated one-sentence (lots of commas!) story for the unflagging Recommended Reading series, an offshoot of Electric Literature. A celebration of that timeless American glory—the out-of-the-park home run—Millhasuer's story marries the fantastical and the real seamlessly.

4. Last month, we mentioned a study conducted by Science magazine, which showed that people who had recently read literary fiction were better at matching emotions to corresponding facial expressions. The conclusion, largely, was that reading fiction makes one more empathetic, but Mark O'Connell over at Slate argues that it's not so simple; fiction isn't necessarily valuable beyond itself, nor should it be: “[The study] implies a fairly narrow and reductive legitimation of reading,” he writes. “There’s a risk of thinking about literature in a sort of morally instrumentalist way, whereby its value can be measured in terms of its capacity to improve us.”

5. Total showman Scott McClanahan's new novel, Hill William, came out on November 5th; his publisher, Tyrant Books, claims it is “like tuning into a blues station at 4:00 a.m. while driving down the highway”; for those of you who read McClanahan's stellar Crapalachia, it's a believable claim. Read an excerpt from Hill William at online mag Guernica.

6. Another important novel published recently is Half The Kingdom by Lore Segal. Segal, who is originally Austrian, left the country as a child on a Kindertransport mission after Hitler's annexation. She came to America in 1951 and wrote her first novel in 1964. Half The Kingdom is her fifth, and it's an episodic work about rampant mind-loss in a Manhattan hospital. Here's a deservedly positive review in The Millions.

7. In support of her novel, Segal recently read in the Lower East Side at KGB Bar, a cozy, candlelit venue that hosts literary events with commendable frequency. Author Matthew Sharpe read, too; mentioned in last month's post, Sharpe writes short-short fiction (one story a week!) at Very short stories r us. He's still at it, and they're still great.

8. Thursday, November 14th is a big day for good, free readings in New York. West Coast-based lit mag Black Clock (published by the California Institute of the Arts' MFA program, and edited by Steve Erickson) is putting out issue number seventeen, and there's a launch at Bookcourt. Black Clock does short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, some of it erotic!

9. Tao Lin, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, and Darin Strauss are also reading on the 14th, as part of the NYU Reading series. See it happen at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, 7pm. And, as if you didn't already have too many options for Thursday evening, Mellow Pages is hosting an exciting lineup.

10. Internet enigma Beach Sloth will be reading (!) on December 3rd at Mellow Pages, along with a few other poets. You should go!

11. Check out the Renegade Reading Series. It happens the second Wednesday of every month at LaunchPad, 8pm to 10pm; the next one takes place on Wednesday, December 11th. Writer and editor Erika Anderson co-hosts it; Lumina interviewed her.

12. Think writing doesn't pay? Think again (sort of)! A new online magazine called Scratch “publishes smart, useful stories about the intersection of writing and money.” Check out this Free Preview Issue, plus their compendium of publications that will actually pay you for the written word!

13. The lit mag Ploughshares hosts a great blog; recently, Tasha Golden posted an interview with writer and MFA Director Stephanie Vanderslice on it. They talk about MFA programs, and, importantly, “literary citizenship”: “It's about completely saturating yourself in the literary culture,” says Vanderslice.

14. Mellow Pages Library remains an important literary institution, and it's high time you visit. Here's an interview with the founders, Matt Nelson and Jacob Perkins, at The Believer. Keep it up, guys!

15. Beautifully curated online mag The Short Form did an interview with author Lindsay Hunter; Hunter's collection Don't Kiss Me is was published by FSG in July.

16. Michael Kimball wrote about softball for Necessary Fiction!

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