Non-Fiction by Non-Men: Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry is the author of After the Eclipse: A Mother’s Murder, A Daughter’s Search, a memoir about her mother Crystal’s murder when Perry was twelve and the subsequent over-a-decade-long investigation. Perry holds an M.F.A. in nonfiction from Columbia University, where she served as publisher of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art and was a member of the journal’s nonfiction editorial board. She is the recipient of a Writers’ Fellowship from the Edward F. Albee Foundation and a Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, and has attended residencies at Norton Island in Maine and PLAYA in Oregon. Perry’s prose has appeared in Blood & Thunder magazine, Bluestockings Literary, and The Guardian. She lives in Brooklyn and should not be confused with the British author Sarah Perry.

EB: How did you begin writing nonfiction?

SP: I was a self-identified writer as a kid, a big nerd, and as I mention in my book, I liked to write stories. But after my mom died, it became not fun anymore—the trauma of the incident had filled up my imagination. I always wanted to get back, though. I wrote bad poetry in high school, like we all did—

EB: Yup. Continue reading

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Binging on John Updike

Stunning Sentences

Pigeon Feathers led to Problems and Other Stories, to Trust Me, In the Beauty of the Lilies, Seek My Face, and The Widows of Eastwick. I didn’t set out to make a knick in Updike’s massive oeuvre; rather, I got sucked in, his writing mesmerizing me with one explosive image after another. Ultimately I was humbled—my writing felt anemic compared to his—and inspired to work harder, see more.

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HITTING SHELVES: The Book of Formation by Ross Simonini

The Book of Formation by Ross Simonini comes out today! It’s a debut novel, told in a series of eight interviews, centering on a cult-like self-help “movement” in the 1990s and the child who becomes a guinea pig for its radical ideas. You will love this book. We asked the author how he’s celebrating.

I’ll wake up in Manhattan in a highrise. I’ll be in town to give two on-stage interviews, conduct a children’s choir singing a song I wrote about failure, and exhibit a collection of galleys of The Book of Formation, which I have destroyed, mostly by coating with various foods.

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I first met Gayle Brandeis in an online workshop taught by Lidia Yuknavitch. I had no idea who this woman was, that she’d written multiple books, but I knew her prose made me sit up straight and take note. It was only later, when I became Facebook friends with her, that I realized how accomplished she was. Brandeis has written several novels, including The Book of Dead Birds, Delta Girls, and My Life with the Lincolns; the writing guide Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write; and a book of poetry, The Selfless Bliss of the Body. Her newest book is a memoir entitled The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving my Mother’s Suicide. Brandeis is that rare writer who can write fiction, reportage, nonfiction, and poetry—and do it well—and this is apparent in her memoir.

Knowing Brandeis as a person, and having read the book and its themes of motherhood and daughterhood, I am so glad that she is kicking off this series. She found the time to do a little back-and-forth with me to discuss the memoir, as well as the confluence of writing and motherhood. Continue reading

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Dreamlives of Debris by Lance Olsen

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Dreamlives of Debris is six inches squared, each page consisting of small poems or “songs,” blocks of text buffered by white space. Within those blocks is a chorus whose singers include Daedalus, Borges, Mandelbrot (the mathematician who developed fractals), and Stuxnet (an American-Israeli cyberweapon that buried itself in the software codes of an Iranian nuclear centrifuges). Olsen is working with a theme here, repeating himself with variation in order to progress through his own maze.

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What to Read in November

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib: “In an age of confusion, fear, and loss, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s is a voice that matters. Whether he’s attending a Bruce Springsteen concert the day after visiting Michael Brown’s grave, or discussing public displays of affection at a Carly Rae Jepsen show, he writes with a poignancy and magnetism that resonates profoundly.”

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter: “As London is submerged below floodwaters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. They head north through a newly dangerous country seeking refuge from place to place. The story traces fear and wonder as the baby grows, thriving and content against all the odds. ”

We Can’t Help It If We’re From Florida, edited by Shane Hinton: “Florida is more than just fodder for hard-boiled crime novels and zany farces. This anthology of new stories and essays challenges a star-studded line up of current and former Floridians to write about the state through a literary lens, though not without the requisite weirdness.”

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