Archive for December 2010

Barry Hannah’s Long, Lost, Happy

It’s been a hectic late fall and early winter, so posts have been pretty light here at, as you’ve probably noticed. We’ll be back to a more normal schedule this week and then moving like clockwork in 2011.

But in spite of the busy days and all-nighters, I was so glad to spend Thanksgiving weekend with Barry Hannah’s Long, Lost, Happy: New and Collected Stories from Grove Press. Re-reading those classic Hannah stories, along with the previously uncollected pieces, was like catching up with an old friend. And best of all, the book has been getting a fair amount of attention from bloggers and critics. Here’s a rundown of just a few of the many posts about Hannah’s last book:

Bryan Charles’s take on Uncle Barry.
The Miami Herald review.
The Austin Chronicle’s review.
The review.
a book trailer on HTMLGiant.
the Observer’s take on the book.
Nathaniel Rich’s recollections for BookForum.

New Theme, Maybe, and Some Other Changes

Hi folks. As you have probably noticed, we’re experimenting with a new theme and some other goodies here at

So please pardon our dust for a few days while we shake everything out.

McCarthy Wuz Robbed!

Well, in all honesty, I guess I can’t really say that Cormac McCarthy was robbed of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Mario Vargas Llosa is a worthy winner even if I wasn’t pulling for him.

But what’s most worth discussing (possibly to the point of revealing some glaring literary inadequacy in myself) is that Cormac McCarthy’s possibility of receiving the Nobel is the only time I’ve really gotten fired up about the award, the only time I felt like cheering, somehow rooting on an author, as though I were watching a sporting event. I mean, I wanted to wear a Blood Meridian T-shirt yesterday and invite pals over for a beer to await the announcement.

Looking over the list of past Nobel winners, I certainly admire all the names there. I certainly respect them. But I can’t say that I am a huge fan of many people at all. I can’t say I felt a rooting interest in their candidacy. Which might reflect something on my reading tastes. But hopefully in the coming years, I’ll have more inclination to cheer for some of the Nobel candidates.

Countdown to Nobel

The countdown is on to tomorrow’s announcement of the Nobel Prize in Literature. I’m pulling for Cormac McCarthy so place your bets now!

Check back tomorrow for more thoughts on the Nobel announcement.

New Article in Premier Guitar

For those of you who might enjoy hard rock history and strange bits of trivia, check out my article in the new issue of Premier Guitar.

Legendary axe slinger Slash is famous for his top hats and his arsenal of Gibson Les Pauls. But on the seminal Guns ‘N Roses debut record, Appetite for Destruction, Slash actually played replica instruments. The full story may never be known, but there is an interesting culture of myth and controversy surrounding those guitars. So be sure to check out the full article if you’re into such matters.

One of my favorite things about working with the cool folks at Premier Guitar is that I can actually write a piece and use quotes from mythologist Joseph Campbell and get away with it. They definitely take a more academic and interesting approach to articles, as opposed to the rote formulas used by some of the competition.

Catching Up, or Replinishing the To Be Read List

Life feels like it is finally getting back to normal here at the libraries… After months of interviews, publicist meetings, travel obligations, and general craziness related to the release of my first book The Man Behind the Nose: Assassins, Astronauts, Cannibals, and Other Stupendous Tales, things seem to be settling down to a more manageable level.

One of the first things I do whenever I try to re-establish a normal life is fill up the queue with books to be read. And I’ve come across a few lately that seem intriguing. These aren’t necessarily brand new, but I’m looking forward to sitting down with these titles.

What are you looking forward to reading in the coming days and weeks?

–When I was in Oxford recently, my pals at Square Books turned me on to Michael Knight’s The Typist. I’ve always loved Knight’s short stories so I’m looking forward to this novel. And speaking of short stories, Alex Taylor’s The Name of the Nearest River is also tantalizing. Taylor received an MFA from Ole Miss and he’s from Kentucky originally, so that’s right up my alley.

The Elegant Variation has some very complimentary things to say about Benjamin Percy’s The Wilding. Based on those comments, I’ve definitely added this debut novel to my queue.

–And finally, Megan Buskey gives a rundown of several interesting nonfiction for the New York Times. In particular, The Body Shop by Paul Solotaroff and Broke, USA by Gary Rivlin both seem intriguing.

Rejecting Agents Are Like Department Store Shoppers

Aspiring authors often get frustrated at the lack of feedback from agents who decline to represent our books. But literary agent Rachelle Gardner makes a great analogy to explain the thought process of rejecting agents:

“”When you walk through the department store looking for clothes, do you stop at every single item of clothing and dissect why it’s not right for you? Of course not. And if you did, you’d spend an awful lot of time trying to identify exactly why it doesn’t appeal. Something about the style?…Is it just plain ugly? Or is it… (drum roll please)… just not what you’re looking for right now?”

This is a fantastic way of explaining how agents flip through their submissions. Check out more from the entire post.

[via GalleyCat]

Morrell Releases Kindle Exclusive

According to press releases bestseller David Morrell is releasing several previously unpublished books exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader.

“Publishing these 10 books in the Kindle Store is a great opportunity to explore how electronic publishing enables me to give my readers additional, unique content,” said Morrell in the press release. “Available at $9.99 or less, I hope that my fans will be able to rediscover their favorite titles, and that new readers will have the chance to enjoy my books on their Kindles.”

I was thinking about Morrell recently after catching a rerun of Sylvester Stallone’s 1982 film First Blood which is based on Morrell’s novel. I actually haven’t read the book and added it to my list to check out in the near future.

NPR Writing Contest, Judged by Michael Cunningham

I don’t enter many writing contests, although lots of people do so with surprising regularity. Some folks approach contests as a way of generating a name and building up a resume. I don’t follow that prescription, but I do like to sometimes use contests as an exercise, to try something a little different, and pursue stories I might normally ignore.

Today, NPR posted a brief mention of a writing contest where you have to write a 600 word story, using a predefined haunting first line and final line. The contest will be judged by author Michael Cunningham.

Seems a like a neat and tidy little exercise? Anyone out there going to enter?

Nathan Bransford on Weighing Contradictory Advice

Years ago, aspiring authors struggled in a sort of abyss, with no information about the publishing industry and process available. Maybe you had some colleagues who could provide a few tips. Maybe you relied on some out-dated books for strategies and techniques. But as a whole, information was pretty lacking.

Nowadays, with all the information available online, some writers get paralyzed by info-overload. And so much information is contradictory with Agent X suggesting this and Editor Y prescribing that. It can all be a bit overwhelming to aspiring authors out there.

Agent Nathan Bransford has a great post about weighing and evaluating advice from blogs. It’s well-worth checking out and might just save you some frustration and headaches.