February 22, 2010
Get ready... it's coming! And our world is never going to be the same. We can get grumpy or we can get mad, we can feel sorry for ourselves or we can feel sorry for the world... OR... we can get excited. I am. The possibilities are thrilling! And I, for one, can't wait to see what happens next...
The future is up to us...
February 17, 2010
Top Ten Unreliable narrators, from Henry Sutton at The Guardian...
February 17, 2010
For a while I thought it would be a good idea to give up reading books for a year... what was I thinking?! Something about the deprivation and the discipline of this sounded attractive to me, and it felt like a way to open up space, both in my head and in my house. But I have since abandoned this scheme, partly because it meant packing up all my books and putting them in storage and I'm just not ready to do that yet. Maybe next year...
Meanwhile, I've been asked to help judge the 2010 Flannery O'Connor Award and in preparing for that Nancy Zafris, who is in charge of the competition (if it is a competition)sent out a few questions for the judges to respond to. I thought I might share my answers here:
NZ: We taught together in the MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles. It was there that I heard you describe yourself as a “reading whore.” Tell us what you meant by that.
STC: I should have said "slut." "Whore" isn't exactly right, because I'm not a professional, and there's no exchange of money. What I meant was, I'm a promiscuous reader. That is, I have no loyalty, really, and not much attachment, to any one sort of form or genre or style. My reading tends to be all over the place, not just in content but also in the activity itself. That is, I spend a lot of time lying around the house reading a lot of books all at the same time – I skip from one to the other and back again, and I don't feel compelled to necessarily go back when I've left one book for another, or one subject for another, or one author for another. I don't always stick it out to the end, either. I'm in it for the pure pleasure – which involves not just emotional enjoyment, but also intellectual. Plus inspiration. And… I'm a sucker for a good story, too. I'll follow a good story almost anywhere it wants to take me.
NZ: How do you read a story collection, from start to finish, or somewhat randomly?
STC: I'll start by thumbing through the whole thing, to get a sense of it as a whole, including the packaging, the arrangement, the way it's set up. Then I'll go back to the beginning and start reading, page one. If what I find there doesn't hold me, then I'll move on and sample something else, might be the next one, or maybe not. I might go back later to one that I've abandoned, if it haunts me.
NZ: What do you look for in a collection? What kind of surprises are happy surprises? What kind of surprises are unhappy ones?
STC: Progression. Some sense that the collection as a whole is going somewhere – not necessarily linearly – and the happiest of surprises is that the whole turns out to be greater than the sum of its parts. I love it when I have to read something again in order to see another level lurking, one that isn't revealed until you get to the end, and then you have to go back and look again, because the context has shifted. The unhappiest surprise to me is no surprise – it's stasis or repetition, a feeling of standing still or coming back again to a place where I've already been.
NZ: What makes you skip to the next story? What are you looking for?
STC: I look for three things (not necessarily in this order):
Sensibility: this usually shows up in the point of view and the voice of the piece. I'm looking for some sort of attitude.
Engagement: sometimes this will be emotional, sometimes intellectual, but always it has to do with story.
Generosity: does the work seem self-absorbed or is there some generosity of spirit behind it?