Author Archives: Fiction Advocate

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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More Curious by Sean Wilsey

More Curious

FA review tag

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

the-black-cat

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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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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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Before the Crash

Bright Shards of Someplace Else

FA review tag

I mean this in the kindest and most kinetic way: the stories in Monica McFawn’s debut collection, Bright Shards of Someplace Else, remind me of that moment before a car accident. Split seconds elongate to a prolonged nowhere-time when you have a few languorous moments to notice the oddest details—why did I buy that dumb hanging air freshener, who the hell would still have a McCain/Palin bumper sticker, and by the way, what’s with gravity?—before the inevitable crunch and whimper. Not that these stories ever end in high drama. Characters spin slightly out of control, and rarely do McFawn’s stories click neatly shut; instead, we’re hanging on with them in that slow revolution before impact, often more aware than they are of what set these bodies in motion.

The “shards” in the title refer to one character’s memory of the sparks behind her closed eyelids after her stepfather struck her as a child. What she felt then was an unexpected and sudden release; the Technicolor vision behind her eyes was “evidence of another world seeping through.” To me, the “shards” refer to the well-articulated characters in this collection. They have no idea just how broken they are.

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Edition Wars

5e

5e

Dungeons & Dragons is supposed to be a fantasy game. You might descend an ancient staircase to an abandoned wizard’s chamber and ambush the slobbering goblins who lurk there. But when the game ends, the adventure stops.

Fearing that the fantasy might creep into the real world, a number of Christian groups and concerned parents have opposed D&D over the years, including my own seventh-grade teacher, Mrs. Bueckman, who forbid us from playing D&D because it would invite Satan into our lives and make us run away to the woods and hack each other’s heads off. But in the 40 years that D&D has been around, most players have kept their heads. The fears have been unfounded. What happens in the dragon’s lair stays in the dragon’s lair.

Until now.

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The Honeymoon

The Honeymoon

Harvey was reminded of miniature golf courses. The large, cartoonish figures scattered around the courtyard were separated by three or four types of shrubbery and a thin chicken-wire barrier to keep out vandals and pests. Small paths branched off in different directions leading to one plaster sculpture or another. He wondered for a moment if he should feel guilty. They were gods, after all. His mind did something like a shrug.

Pearl straightened her hair in the bathroom mirror. She carefully rearranged the pieces of metal holding it in place and thought about pistons. She didn’t know much about pistons, but she imagined infinite rows of them efficiently doing their job, whatever that is.

Between Pearl and Harvey was a sign that said “Do Not Pluck Flowers.” There were no flowers to pluck, but the couple immediately thought of chickens. They did not consult one another, but they may have felt a warm camaraderie if they had.

Over a loudspeaker someone prayed in monotone in a language they didn’t understand. They’d learned only important words, like the names of a few common menu items and a polite way to say hello, but none of these words were used in the prayer, and they were not moved by the lyrics about goodness and equality, even though those subjects were exactly the kinds of things they cared about.

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Hitting Shelves #10: Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg

Gangsterland

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg comes out today!

It’s the story of Sal Cupertine, a hit man for the Chicago Mafia who kills three FBI agents, runs away to Las Vegas, and changes his identity… to Rabbi David Cohen, the surprisingly capable leader of a Jewish community in the desert. But the FBI won’t let him go. Goldberg is a widely accomplished writer: he is the director of the MFA Program at UC Riverside, and the author of 12 books, including original novels based on the TV show Burn Notice.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Gangsterland?

Tod Goldberg: When my first book came out – this was almost fifteen years ago now – I had a book signing that very same day at the Barnes & Noble in Las Vegas, where I was living at the time. I arrived fifteen minutes early and saw people flooding into the store. Well, I thought, this is going to be awesome. It turns out that my book was coming out on the same day a little book called Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire was also being released – something no one bothered to tell me, nor something I would have thought mattered, anyway, because I was 29 and knew everything – and, well, it ended up being a fairly anti-climactic day, though we do have a nice first edition of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire.

When my second book came out a few years later, I determined it would be different. As happenstance, the book was released on my wedding anniversary, which seemed like good luck. So, what the hell, we planned an event that day. What could go wrong? That morning, I ran to answer the phone – this was in a time when a thing called “landlines” still existed and which, if not answered, would go to a thing called “the answering machine,” and that was an unreliable system, so one had to run when the phone rang – and ended up breaking three toes on my right foot. I played soccer as a kid so I was used to breaking my toes, so I just, you know, taped them up and pretended nothing was wrong and went about my day, pain shooting into my eyes every time I used my foot. Or breathed. Or someone else breathed. I mean, basically, I was in excruciating pain. And those toes still don’t work quite right. The event that night was great, what I remember of it, other than the burning white pain and how now, years later, when it rains, I walk with a slight limp. Continue reading

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