Hitting Shelves #11: The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

The Wallcreeper

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink comes out today!

A manic, heartfelt, intellectual novel about an American couple living in Europe, The Wallcreeper is one of the best books of the year. Tiff and Stephen cheat on each other constantly, they’re horrible to each other, and they don’t seem to believe in their own marriage. But they both love birds—like the wallcreeper that they adopt together, after they hit it with a car, which causes Tiff to miscarry.

It’s hard to think of two fictional characters who are more believably fucked up, or more exquisitely codependent, or more maddening and joyful to know.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of The Wallcreeper?

Nell Zink: I’m celebrating in a way so custom-tailored to the book, it could almost be penance: On October 1, I’ll be at the Second Adriatic Flyway Conference in Durrës, Albania, researching an article on waterbird hunting for the German magazine natur.

Nell Zink (photo by Fred Filkorn)

Nell Zink (photo by Fred Filkorn)

Waterbirds, especially, need Albania. Most of the eastern coast of the Adriatic is a wall of rock thousands of feet high. Ducks, geese, cranes, etc. coming over the Alps or across the sea from Africa are tired and want to sit down. Unlike other western Balkan nations, Albania has a coastal plain with big dune fields, marshes, and lagoons, still very pristine and natural – much nicer than elsewhere in Europe. It also has penniless environmental organizations and unsustainable hunting, the kind that will make even everyday animals go extinct, like squirrels in Israel and Palestine. Albanian hunters have plenty of money, because a duck peppered with lead is worth five euros on market day. You would have to grow up eating lead to want to buy shotgun cartridges for $1.25 when fishhooks are almost free. In hunting we constantly see the vicious circle of addiction and habituation at work!

Plucky Albanian environmental NGOs did something amazing in February: They obtained a two-year moratorium on hunting. If it were enforced, it would give many animal populations in Albania a chance to stabilize, and allow migrating birds to rest and eat before they fly onward. In reality – because the legislature also dissolved the bureaucracy that had done such a bad job enforcing the old hunting regulations – the hunting ban is a non-event, and it’s vital that it be extended for another two years at least, until new administrative structures and regulations are in place.

I don’t plan to tell anyone at the conference about The Wallcreeper. I’m relieved it doesn’t have a European publisher. I use the word “penance” because my friends keep asking stuff like whether the narrator is my “secret evil twin.”

Get The Wallcreeper here.

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Now Playing: Inherent Vice Trailer

The trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice is here. Been looking forward to this one for a long time.

Inherent Vice was “the Pynchon book I was the least interested in reading, and the one I flat out enjoyed the most.” It also strikes me as the most film-adaptable of his novels, especially at the hands of Anderson, who also did There Will Be BloodMagnoliaBoogie Nights, and one of my personal favorites, Punch Drunk Love.

You can read more about his love of Pynchon and work on Inherent Vice in a recent New York Times story.

-Michael Moats

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Amazing Book Covers at the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library’s “Big Book Sale”

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On Immunity by Eula Biss

On Immunity

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A lot of nonfiction books feel inevitable. Someone was bound to write them. If Walter Isaacson hadn’t written the definitive biography of Steve Jobs, someone else would have. But there are some nonfiction books whose very concept would be unthinkable without the peculiar interests and intelligence of their author. Books that are as strikingly unique as the person who writes them. Books like On Immunity by Eula Biss.

The unlikely premise of On Immunity is that vaccination—yes, like the shots you received when you were a kid—is the key to understanding all kinds of cultural and ethical issues, like public health, citizenship, motherhood, immigration, even the Revolutionary War and Count Dracula.

Biss starts small, with her own pregnancy, a germ of a child growing inside her. She writes powerfully about the physical trauma of childbirth and the madness of trying to protect a child from all sorts of dangers, seen and unseen.

Immediately after my son’s birth, in an otherwise complicated delivery, my uterus inverted, bursting capillaries and spilling blood… I woke up disoriented, shivering violently under a pile of heated blankets… I was too weak to move much, but when I tried I discovered that my body was lashed with tubes and wires—I had an IV in each arm, a catheter down my leg, monitors on my chest, and an oxygen mask on my face.

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Did You Hear? Special Enough

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

This past Wednesday I woke up to a dreary, rainy day, which was an incredibly welcome change from the dry, parched reality of Northern California these days. The sounds in this song were meant for lazy, rainy days. So if you’re having one today, wherever you are, enjoy! (If not, maybe this track is more up your alley.)

- Brook Reeder

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More Curious by Sean Wilsey

More Curious

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Sean Wilsey knows that “there’s no surer impediment to a good time than knowing you’ll have to write about it.” So much for the guy who’s reviewing his book.

More Curious, Wilsey’s collection of previously published essays, is enjoyable, occasionally hilarious, and always insightful. It delves into unexpected topics, turning apparent minutiae into allegorical exposés of wide-ranging attitudes and American points of view. Part of the author’s charm is his ability to research and adventure. Obstacles be damned, he tracks down the story of a short-lived marketing campaign for Red Roof Inn that utilized a low-maintenance, animated character voiced by John Goodman, remnants of which no longer exist in the cyber-sphere; he gets the authority on New York City’s rat population on the phone, only to discover his knowledge already exceeds that of the representative of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; on a tour of NASA, he hones his understanding of a piece of machinery that already handles urine, and hopefully will soon handle excrement, turning waste into water—an integral part of any attempt to visit Mars.

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Award Won


Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.14.44 AM (2)

Congratulations to Matt Tanner for winning a 50 Books / 50 Covers award from Design Observer!

Matt won for designing the cover of the newest book from Fiction Advocate, The Black Cat by J.M. Geever.

We’re not surprised, but we’re hella proud.

You can see all of the winning designs here, see Matt’s full portfolio here, and start reading The Black Cat (with its award-winning good looks!) here.

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When Google Met WikiLeaks

OR Book Going Rouge

When Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen got together with Julian Assange on June 23, 2011, Assange was staying with a WikiLeaks sponsor in rural England and had just completed his sixth month under house arrest as he fought extradition to Sweden for questioning regarding sexual assault charges. He was also dealing with the aftermath of the funding freeze on WikiLeaks, arranged by the US State Department, in retaliation for his publication of embassy cables and war-related secrets leaked to him by Chelsea Manning, including the now-infamous Collateral Murder video. Though he was the recent recipient of prestigious journalism awards, including the Martha Gellhorn prize and Australia’s premiere journalism award, the Walkley Award, the re-established sexual assault charges (Swedish authorities had dropped them and allowed him to leave the country) cut deeply into his popular appeal and began the intense counter-assault on WikiLeaks and on Assange’s character that continues to this day.

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