Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More reading than writing

It's been a week or two of not much progress on the book. I've been paying attention to other responsibilities and waiting to hear from a couple readers.

I got to the Brooklyn Book Festival last Sunday, which was a lot of fun, and came home with a pile of reading -- mostly journals but a few books from the small presses I've been interested in. I've been reading all that and a ton of other stuff lately, still stewing on the possibilities for my second novel. (Actually, on the drive home I got another intriguing idea for a book totally different from the one I've been stewing on, so that's going to be a problem.)

I've been getting out to some readings, including one last night by my friend Tim Parrish, author of Red Stick Men and of another book that so far the publishing world hasn't got hep to. (Come on publishing world. WTF?) Congrats to Alice Mattison and the other organizers of the Ordinary Evening Reading Series. It's a very cool New Haven event.

I just got word that I'll be giving a reading next month at an event organized by The New Haven Review. Watch this space for more detail.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back to graduate school

No, not really. But I have been doing some reading that reminds me of being in graduate school -- back when I spent a lot more time trying to understand what Derrida was talking about.

This is prompted by thinking a lot about possibilities for my second novel. (I have a goal of starting a new project shortly after the start of the year to coincide with another big change in my work schedule.) And that thinking has led me to revisiting some of the literary theory I used to spend so much time with. Or, more accurately, to the theory that wasn't in vogue then and got skipped over or very aggressively dismissed. Like people wouldn't talk to you in the hallway if they thought you were curious about the wrong stuff.

Or, even more accurately, not literary theory so much as literary criticism. I'm trying to lay my hands on good examples of close reading of literature. People spend so much time articulating and defending ways of reading, that it's hard to get to the reading itself, never mind wading through the specialist's vocabulary (presuming that the writer actually intends anything intelligible, which I think it's legitimate to wonder about sometimes.)

I'm interested in what I'll call, until I better educate myself and figure out who has already discussed this, a classical rhetorical reading of literature--an analysis of how a novel achieve it's effect on the reader. What are the moves that a novel makes to create its effects? Maybe I'm looking for more of the kind of insight I got reading James Wood's How Fiction Works, but different. His other books were too thematically oriented to satisfy this interest.

How all of this relates to any novel I may write, it's hard to describe. I'll let you know when I figure it out.

So, I have a pile of books from the library from a lot of old-timers. I'm digging I.A. Richards and Leslie Fiedler. I'm intrigued by the thesis that Andre Brink proposes about self-consciousness about language in the novel as a form, but I don't see it in the examples he draws out. I get that the novels he surveys have play with language as part of their plot or theme, but I don't see how the novels are themselves self-conscious. So, I'm not yet finding what I'm looking for. Maybe when I start this Wayne Booth book, The Rhetoric of Fiction.

Additional reading note: I've been up late reading Dan Chaon's You Remind Me of Me and am enjoying it a lot. It has certain superficial elements in common with my book, so I'm studying it to see he achieves his effects and what I can learn from it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two new essays out

I have two new essays out on arts/culture/literary websites:

"Decompensate your way to better fiction" on The Millions.

"Film adaptations: Short stories vs. novels" on The New Haven Review.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Revising Chapter 1

Lots of stuff happening on the "getting out there" front, but the only actual work on the novel has been to start working on Chapter 1. I met with a friend who has some contacts, and she's going to look at this chapter before referring me, so I'm trying to get that as sharp as possible. The work I did last week on the excerpt for my website helped me get keyed in on some of the sentence-level bloat that I can do better on. I continue to be amazed about how much stuff can come out after so many dozens of readings already.

In general, I'm leaning toward revising the book one more time before starting to send it out. I'll decide next week I think.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I get a shout out on The Arts Council of Greater New Haven website

In a run-down of cool New Haven writer's websites, I get a shout-out from Bennett Lovett-Graff, publisher of The New Haven Review, and contributor to The Arts Council of Greater New Haven's monthly newspaper.

“Working on a Novel” is a true author’s blog, being the online diary of the trials and tribulations of one writer engaged in the tedium and exhilaration of trying to make out of a sufficient number of words that thing we know as a “novel” — a story that will hang together over the course of several hundred pages. At this author’s site, visitors will see a record of false starts and episodes of writer’s block, as well as rushes of literary inspiration and adrenaline — all familiar to those of us who have always known how much mightier the pen is than the sword — and how much more difficult it is to wield.

Thanks Bennett. Those other websites look great, too.

FYI, if you go to the original, you'll see a note about protecting my identity. That's back when I was keeping this blog anonymously.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Draft query letter up for critique

A draft of my query letter is up for critique at The Public Query Slushpile, a kind of workshop site. Thanks to Rick for running that. Feel free to drop in and add your two cents.