Monday, July 21, 2008

I Can Read

It's been suggested that LROD is illiterate. A suggestion to fix the fact that the blog doesn't transcend anything is for me to give my list of the last 20 purchased books of contemporary litfic.   I'm not sure how this helps anything.  But of course I read books.  We all read books; we're writers.  But I'm up for anything, even if it takes us slightly off topic, so just to prove myself as a reader, here's my list.

The last 20 books I've bought and read: (1) More Than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss, (2) Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris, (3) Away by Amy Bloom, (4) After Dark by Haruki Murakami, (5) The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, (6) The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, (7) The Sea by John Banville, (8) Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud by Jonathan Safran Foer, (9) Never Let Me Go by Kzuo Ishiguro, (10) No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July, (10) The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, (11) Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen (12) Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, (13) The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, (14) A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, (15) Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, (16) Diary by Chuck Palahniuk (17) The Maytrees by Annie Dillard, (18) Cheaters and Other Stories by Dean Alborelli, (19) Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and (20) Atonement by Ian McEwan (which I did not love; my fav of his is The Cement Garden)

Actually, I wish I both read and wrote more quickly than I do.  I feel like it's hard to keep up with all the latest and greatest books out there, but I do also read a goodly amount of creative nonfiction, and, for my work, some pretty dry trade tome, but it never feels like enough.  (I have the new Junot Diaz up next.) 

For comparison sake, our fine friend "Elizabeth" gave us this as a sample:

The Archivist's Story
Then We Came to the End
The Maytrees
In the Woods
My Life in Heavy Metal
The Mystery Guest
Falling Man
Samedi the Deafness
A Spot of Bother
My Latest Grievance
The Road
People of the Book
On Chesil Beach
Varieties of Disturbance
Diary of a Bad Year
The Summer Book (new translation)
Fellow Travelers
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)

What's your list look like?

In the meantime, poor John is trying to figure things out over at his blog.  His big claim is that I don't write and really get rejected despite the fact that this blog is devoted to hundreds of my personal rejections....strange guy in an alternate reality.


Writer Reading said...

Don't know what I am trying to prove and to whom and just because I bought them doesn't mean I didn't return them or will ever read them:

Six books on writing poetry and poetry form including one by Mark Strand and the New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.

Six other collections of poems: Elizabeth Bishop, Galway Kinnell, Allen Ginsberg, Jorie Graham, Wallace Stevens, Sharon Olds.

Biography of Kafka by Frederick Karl

Snow- Pamuk
Hope Against Hope-Mandelstam
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain- Butler
The Book of Disquiet-Pessea
The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigger-Rilke
After Life-Rhian Ellis
The Lemon Table-Julian Barnes

Excellent and meaningless distraction that I couldn't resist due to your hypnotic powers. Got to get back to actually writing.

Writer Reading said...

I included poetry not just because I'm a misanthrope, but because it contributes more to my own writing of prose that reading "litfic" and categories are arbitrarily created by marketing departments of publishing companies.

Elizabeth said...

Unlike Poor John, I like W,R's list of books.

Unlike Poor John, I don't perceive a firestorm. Not even a dust-up. Just a discussion.

And unlike Poor John, I prefer not to torpedo my stories' chances of being published by self-publishing them on my blog. (Yes, I write. I write stories and poetry, and this summer I started writing a novel. I write every day. I submit numerous stories every month. I receive mostly rejections, and sometimes acceptances. I'm a "real" writer.)

The next book I'm going to buy and read is Rhian Ellis's "After Life."

Joy said...

I looked at recent books I read, as books I purchased doesn't mean much. It made me realize that I am reading a lot of books from the 1980s right now. What's up with that? Also: Tolstoy, Anne Bronte, Mark Twain, etc. And one or two contemporaries thrown in for good measure. Not to mention poetry, biographies, history, juvenile fiction. I guess I read broadly and randomly. Currently, I'm reading The Thin Line by Kathryn Davis, The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood, and a history book about World War II.

One writer I know implied that my writer credentials are questionable because, having only been in the living room of my house, he assumed that I didn't have any bookshelves. Of course, I do have three messy overflowing shelves in my office (not living room, because, as said, they are *messy*). It was the first time I had ever run into that attitude: "I'm more of a writer because I write/read more than you." It surprised me, and I read it as he had been feeling competitive with me for some time, a feeling I don't return. Aside from wanting attention, I suspect this John guy has similar emotional issues with you, W,R.

Elizabeth said...

Woops -- once again, I'm in the position of correcting my own damn comment...

Apologies to Poor John for erroneously indicating he self-publishes his fiction on his blog. He's provided links to his publications, most of which (from what I can tell) are Dartmouth reminiscences appearing in -- where else? -- the Dartmouth Review.

Still, a firestorm? Not even a kerfuffle, far as I can see.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't implied that you were illiterate. You may want to go back and re-read that post. The point was that literary novels and short story collections don't sell very well -- hence, the difficulty of getting published. The suggestion, as I understood it, was that many people who want to write don't buy many newly released books but are nonetheless befuddled as to why no publisher wants to buy theirs. This prompted the commenter to suggest a blog that asks the readers of the blog to list the last 20 new releases they've purchased. And, as the commenter stated, it may illuminate something or not. It's an experiment! And while it may not illuminate anything on this blog -- after all the people most likely to respond are the people who can list 20 purchased new releases -- it may illunimate something to the person who can't list it. You see? No need to be defensive. Now I need to look at my bookshelf and receipts!

Anonymous said...

I just put two and two together. The Rhian Ellis whose book (After Life) appears in the lists of both Writer Reading and Elizabeth is the same rmellis who posts here.
What a coincidence: an obscure novel that is available for 1 cent on Amazon is mentioned twice!
Seems to support, in a small way, the theory that this is a who-do-you-know-that-I-know world, this literary world. Cultivate contacts. Stroke one another, for some day the other person may be in a position to help you. Even Scott Snyder (author of the magnificent "13th Egg") visited Rhian's website to blow a few kisses.
As for your list, w,r -- predictable. You're checking out your contemporaries. Or assessing What's Selling in Lit Fic. It's a business, man (or woman; who the hell cares? Though I never heard a woman use the word "Dude").
And, no, w,r, you can't possibly do much besides running this blog. It's got to consume 50% of your waking hours. How and when will it pay off?

Writer, Rejected said...

50%? You are on crack. Try 1%.
Also to the anon above: Oooooooooh! Thanks for explaining everything to me. I'm so dumb. I thought it meant I was illiterate (not). I'm not defensive, just playing with you. Does no one get my humor any more? Or perhaps I have ceased being funny.

Writer, Rejected said...

P.S. As for Rhian Ellis' book. Knock off, dude. I read all my friends book, and as far as I'm concerned rmellis is a great friend to this blog, plus her blog is of great interest to writers. So, she is a friend, and we here will read and promote her book as much as we please. In fact, I think I'm going to ask her if she will be our second Book Club book. If you no like, s'okay.
I hope they will promote my book when it comes out. Is that dirty business? Or just human nature?

(p.s. Scott Snyder and Darin Strauss are new to me, so not my friends, but that doesn't mean the possibility of friendship is closed.)

Anonymous said...

Oscar Wao (Brief Wondrous Life of) is on my nightstand. I want to hear what people think of it. After I finish All's Quiet on the Western Front (new) and some Alice Mattison stories (new), I'm on to Junot Diaz (new).

I'm kind of easy when it comes to my books -- I like a lot of things, read a lot of things. Some of them I pay for at their full price, some of them I buy used, some of them I check out. I think it's worth pointing out that it's good to support writers by buying their books -- just as it's important to support journals by subscribing, and to support independent bookstores by shopping in them. And I use the library, because I LOVE the San Francisco Public Library. I feel like every time I walk in there I'm telling them that.

Oh, and I also think it's essential for writers to read.

I just don't think I want to have the question of whether and how much I do those things be a gauntlet I have to pick up. It's a long life I'm living, and plenty of my money has been spent on contemporary fiction. (And if you're curious about my last few months of reading I have a little page on my blog called "reading". I also have another one called "submitting" and another one called "writing." Gawd. I'm John's dream blogger, aren't I? My writing life is utterly transparent. Oh. I don't post my stories on my blog. No novel excerpts either. I'm with Elizabeth. I want to SELL those -- so you don't post them for free. But then maybe anonymous with the buy-your-peers button will buy those someday. Except then the other anonymouse who thinks it's toadyish behavior to buy your peers will yell at him or her for doing that. A girl (or a third gendered person) can't win.

Anyway, my 1% blogging time is up. I salute you, W, R for holding up your end of this discussion so beautifully. I want to read your books someday. So come out and let me know where I can buy them, okay?
Then I can don my toad suit and buy them for full price at my local independent bookstore before I head over to the Berkeley Bowl and buy a bunch of organic something or other.

Writer Not Reading said...

I post some of my very short fiction and poetry on my blog because I enjoy the sharing with a select few other bloggers, part of the blogging conversation. I blog because it's fun and not to make "connections" as I use an alias for my blog persona. So my "publishing" of my longer stories is done by another identity altogether, so that my blog does not promote my publications in any way, unlike bloggers who choose to use their real names so that their blogs also serve the purpose of self-promotion. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe this will change for me in the future, but for now I like the split identities, a third being my main profession. Why do writers have to fit into some arbitrary mold of time/status/publications/ to be "serious"? Some writers are happy with five excellent publications, others with 250 mediocre ones. Some excellent writers, poets especially, publish only on their blogs. That's all the community they want. Who's to say that's inferior to writers who only write to get paid or get published in unpaying literary journals? Why does anyone have to feel like they're better than someone else to have any self-esteem at all?

Anonymous said...

LROD's list of books is a good one -- not that you need me to tell you that -- but the vast majority of the books are by writers who come with massive publicity behind them (and a few, like "Cheaters" is too old to count as a new release -- it's, what, over ten years old?). The only book I don't know on the list is Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. The rest of the authors are the beneficiaries of having been pushed to the hilt by their publisher, by and large. Again, this isn't a criticism of LROD's list, just an observation that writers who don't get that massive publicity push -- either because they haven't had a bestseller (like McEwan), or won the Pulitzer (like Lahiri), or didn't win the luck of the draw (advance review copies of Ferris' book circulated for an-unheard-of year before it was published) -- tend not to get purchased by the general book-buyer, thus making it harder for publishers to justify taking risks on other new writers: a vicious circle. I agree with bloglilly that writers should support writers by buying their books, but I would also suggest that writers support writers who don't get press out the wazoo by buying their books, because, let's face it, most of us who come here would end up in the latter category, should we be lucky enough to see our books in print at all. One other note: books that get reviewed in NY Times and Washington Post and elsewhere tend to be the books getting pushed the hardest by the publicity departments, which is why when someone gets a six-figure advance their book gets reviewed everywhere, while the books that get purchased more modestly (or, god forbid, get published by a university press or small press) are lucky to get any press....and usually don't, unless the writer hires their own publicist.

Elizabeth said...

Re: Rhian Ellis -- I will buy her book NOT because it is available used for one cent (I don't buy used books except at library and garage sales, i.e. by chance) and NOT because she is a "friend" (this is cyberspace, dude; it's just the Internets), but because I find her comments here and on her blog smart, interesting, and well stated. I like what she puts forth as her taste in fiction. I like her deep thinking on craft, publishing, literature and history. I like her perspective, and I dig the way she expresses it.

It's not cronyism, it's smart consumerism (on my part). And if you insist on identifying it as cronyism, so the fuck what? That's your take. I have too little time on this earth to *avoid* reading writers I think might be interesting BECAUSE they enter my social orbit.

I mean, really. How fucking stupid would that be?

Writer, Rejected said...

I love you, Elizabeth.

Lorelei Armstrong said...

In the last month:

Sebastian Barry - The Secret Scripture
Eli Gottlieb - Now You See Him
E.L. Doctorow - City of God
Thornton Wilder - Bridge of San Luis Rey
Jack Kerouac - On the Road (Original Scroll)
Barbara Kingsolver - The Poisonwood Bible
Carson McCullers - The Member of the Wedding

Currently Reading:

Katherine Anne Porter - Ship of Fools
Robert Penn Warren - All the King's Men

Anonymous said...

OK, w,r, so your blog (thinking up ideas, writing your posts, finding the graphics, reading and writing comments) takes up 51% of your time. Why quibble over 1%?
Using rmellis' book, published 8 years ago, as your next LAOD featured novel seems like a great idea! Count me in!!
Suggestion: do her husband after her, then their writer friends. Maybe you'll be their friend someday too.
But how about renaming your blog? I don't like the sound of LAOD (and you certainly can't use the word "Rejected" anymore). How about calling it Toad Hall, from The Wind in the Willows (great book). It's kind of like Ward Six -- two words and literary.
By the way, I'm Badger.

Writer, Rejected said...

That is an AWESOME suggestion, Badger.
I think I will.
And actually, you caught me in my lie; blogging takes up 100% of my time. I never sleep or eat, just blog.
How do you know these things? You are a magical, magical badgical.

Anonymous said...

That's an awesome list of reads. Krauss = love. Leo Gurskey is one of my favorite fictional characters.

Anonymous said...

100%? Now, see, you're pulling my leg there, w,r.
Though when I consider how much searching the web you do to find the goods on those slimy lizards, and the amount of mail you must get (and promptly answer), I think the figure should be upped to 63% of your waking hours. OK? Can we settle on that reasonable number?
Badgeringly yours,

Writer, Rejected said...

Okay, Badgical: 110%. :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree - I loved the History of Love.

Also, writer, rejected, if you liked both Interpreter and Namesake, I highly recommend Lahiri's latest - UNACCUSTOMED EARTH.

Other than that I've read a string of really, really bad books which do nothing more than make me wonder why I can't seem to receive anything more than polite letters back from literary agents that are encouraging, yet rejecting, at the same time.

I also highly recommend COMFORT, by ANN HOOD. It's a non-fiction account of her daughter's death from a virulent form of strep, and how she coped afterwards. It's beautiful and raw.