Author Archives: Fiction Advocate

I Am a Natural Wonder

Old Golds

I grew a mustache way too early and happily combed its delicate length every morning before school. The other children looked on in admiration, their lunch trays heavy with stiff Salisbury steaks and the bloated deliciousness of Hostess cherry fruit pies.

Samantha never seemed to notice. It was Samantha I wished to impress.

I once cricked my neck admiring her. Well worth it, well worth it! Had to stay home for a day. My nose bled as usual so I fed it to the cat, which lapped the blood up greedily from my lips. In the shower I cried, but from elation you understand! For breakfast I microwaved a croissant and jacked it open with a finger until the hole was big enough to wiggle my tongue into.

My mother spent the afternoon guzzling pork-slap and slathering mayo on warm white bread. My father drove through town looking desperately for lumber. I sat swaddled in a blue sheet watching The Price is Right, twisting the corners of my mustache, and thinking of Samantha.

After a while the crick wore off and I walked to the Piggly Wiggly to troll the aisles for a snack.

Outside, a black-fisted giant poked a long finger into the open mouth of a gumball machine. Something was lodged in the way. His daughter straddled a stationary galloping horse with fire painted in its eyes.

Inside I bought a jar of pearl onions from a cashier who stared directly down into the trellis of my mustache.

At home my big brother smoked Old Golds wearing his thick-skinned deer gloves. He was always reading some book called Desert Tooth. His mustache was twice as long as mine, but he was twice as old. He had a date with a Chinese girl. I asked him again what he was reading and he reached deep into his mouth with his fingers and threw gum at me.

The phone rang out and I stumbled into the kitchen. It was Samantha. Could I go swimming in Old Blue with balloons in our underwear to keep us afloat?

Certainly, I said.

The Observable Characteristics of Organisms

- Ryan MacDonald is a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he received an MFA in English and an MFA in studio art. His solo and collaborative work has been exhibited or performed at Foundain Studios, New York Live Arts, The Continental Review, Flying Object, and St. Mark’s Church, and elsewhere.

Copyright © 2014 by Ryan MacDonald from The Observable Characteristics of Organisms. Reprinted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.

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Feeling Tentatively Optimistic

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Good news, feminists! Not all hope is lost! Pick up a copy of this slim book and carry it with you to be reminded that yes, really, yes, things might get better one day!

Just look! A book by a woman whose cover shows nothing but a bold white typeface on a blue background – no soft-focus photograph of laundry on a clothesline in a field of wildflowers, no black high heels, no pink font, no cursive, none of that shit. Not even a picture of Solnit with her long, lovely hair and some sexy, smoldering look in her eye. We’ve come so far!

At least, that is the impression I got after finishing Men Explain Things to Me.

But, wait, don’t get me wrong. Solnit’s essays are depressing as hell.

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The Interior Circuit by Francisco Goldman

The Interior Circuit

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HITTING SHELVES #12: Man V. Nature by Diane Cook

Man v. Nature

Man V. Nature by Diane Cook comes out today!

It’s one of the most anticipated books of the season: a debut collection of impossible, all-too-believable stories about baby snatchers, a forest of lost boys, and a flood at the end of the world. In “The Mast Year,” a woman experiences the same kind of boom harvest that certain trees do, when they grow fat with more fruit and nuts than usual–but in her case, it takes the form of a promotion, great sex, and hordes of people camped out on her front lawn like woodland creatures, desperate to gorge on her incredible luck. You can read “Marrying Up” for free at Guernica, and “Girl on Girl” here at Granta. Either one will make Diane Cook one of your new favorite writers.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Man V. Nature?

Diane Cook: I think I’ll go for a hike in the morning because I like doing that. My husband and I just moved to the Bay Area. We had lived in Brooklyn for ten years. I always wanted to live in a place where I could get outside whenever I wanted, walk in the woods. Brooklyn was not that place. Here, I have wonderful parks and hiking 15 minutes away and I don’t even have to get on a highway. But I think I’ll go the extra distance to somewhere really special. Somewhere just far enough away that it feels like a special occasion. Probably Point Reyes. I’ll do my usual hikey things–look at stuff, get short of breath, think about things. Then, back at home, if I’ve got my head on straight I’ll try to write this essay I said I’d write. If I don’t, I’ll walk a circuit between my kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, pick up something with the idea that I’m cleaning, then put it back down, accomplishing nothing. Then I’ll head to The Booksmith in San Francisco for my reading and book party. I’ll be nervous because I’ve never been the reason for an event before and I’ll worry that no one will come. But people will be there and it’ll be fun. Then, hopefully, old friends and new friends will have a drink with me. Then my husband and I will take an Uber or cab back because BART will have stopped running, and we’ll sleep. Continue reading

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The Mayor of MacDougal Street by Dave Van Ronk

Mayor-of-MacDougal-Street-A-Memoir

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Dave Van Ronk did not mean to write an autobiography. According to Elijah Wald—writer of the book’s epilogue, friend of the author, and guitar student during the slow denouement of Van Ronk’s musical career—Van Ronk’s book was supposed to chronicle the folk music boom in Greenwich Village in the 1950s and 1960s. The Mayor of MacDougal Street was meant as a history lesson for those interested in music, or New York City, or both. Van Ronk thought he could describe the scene’s political turmoil, auditory deconstruction, and social revolution without paying too much attention to his own influence. But his story was the one that needed to be told; his story encapsulates the time when the Village bred musicians and folk music defined a generation.

Van Ronk begins the story of the “Great Folk Scare”—a term coined by his friend Utah Phillips—with his own story of how he first discovered music. He recalls growing up in Queens in the 1950s and his deep appreciation for jazz. He distills his childhood into a string of “swells” and “trading licks” that make “boring… perfectly miserable” Queens tolerable, if not quite picturesque. He remembers taking guitar lessons from “Old Man” Jack, a local jazz aficionado, well known in the music community, who taught Van Ronk techniques he would adopt as his own. Jack also instilled in Van Ronk the ever-more-important lesson of listening.

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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. Continue reading

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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

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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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