In case the praise from Francisco Goldman on the front cover isn’t enough (“Yuri Herrera is Mexico’s greatest novelist.”) this book has what is possibly the best blurb of all time, and it comes from the brilliant Valeria Luiselli:
“Yuri Herrera must be a thousand years old. He must have travelled to hell, and heaven, and back again. He must have once been a girl, an animal, a rock, a boy, and a woman. Nothing else explains the vastness of his understanding.” — Valeria Luiselli, author of Faces in the Crowd
Who cares what the book is about? We have to read it now.
- Brian Hurley
The University of Michigan is launching a new book series called 21st Century Prose.
It’s legit — authors in the series have also contributed to Pank, Tin House, McSweeney’s, Guernica, and The Believer.
And you can read every book in the series online for free.
American Homes by Ryan Ridge
A Heart Bleeding Hard by Lauren Foss Goodman
Settlers of Unassigned Lands by Charles McLeod
Full Metal Jhacket by Matthew Derby
Or, you know, you could also pay for them. Your choice!
- Brian Hurley
[Alby, an emotionally confused and often violent young man, explains to his father why he is attempting to nurse a baby bird back to health. -Ed.]
“Listen,” I said, “he’s helpless and he needs me and I got a thing in my heart for helpless things that need me, OK? So I’m gonna be here for him until he dies or grows into a god-damned falcon that flies around the neighborhood all day eating raccoons and dogs and little toddlers before he flies back to my forearm and takes shits. I already ordered the glove, dude–online–’cause Gary here is gonna terrorize all of Suffolk County, hunting mammals and butt-fucking seagulls.”
“Why you gotta talk like that?” he said. “You sound stupid.”
“Yeah,” I said, “people keep telling me that, but people also keep being pieces a shit that are wrong. So let me tell you something else that’ll sound stupid: right now, Gary’s stem cells are generating rods and cones for better night vision that he’ll use to bite people’s dicks off in the dark. Dudes’ dicks are in danger, Dad. And if you don’t think so, you can get right the fuck out of my bedroom!”
– Making Nice by Matt Sumell goes on sale today
- Michelle Lipinski
Authors of genre fiction like George R. R. Martin have a lot to teach me and other aspiring writers, regardless of what genre(s) we find ourselves belonging to.
Here are three brilliant lessons I learned from A Song of Ice and Fire.
1. Keep it simple. Then build.
Martin has a big task with the opening of this series. He must introduce a huge cast of characters while giving readers enough tension to keep them moving forward. The first events in A Game of Thrones accomplish this in a very straightforward manner. We open with a scene that sets up a familiar fantasy world: a spoiled noble doesn’t listen to the experienced veteran. The party meets their untimely end, but the author breaks away from this glimpse of the Others and uses the reader’s wave of interest to introduce the Stark family and Daenerys. We get sketches of the main characters, then some obvious foreshadowing with a direwolf who’s been killed by a stag. Martin builds on our familiarity with the Starks and uses it to give context to the next big event: a visit from the entire royal entourage. Martin has introduced a source of tension (Others) and 20 or so main characters within the first five chapters. Soon after he gives us the next sources of tension (Bran’s fall, Khal Drogo) which carry us through more world-building and character development.
Compare this with a more traditionally literary work, like Nabokov’s Pnin. While Nabokov’s cast is significantly smaller, he uses a similar technique of providing multiple small sources of tension to introduce us to the world and the character. Professor Timofey Pnin deals with a number of problems in the opening pages. He’s on the wrong train, he’s missing an important paper, he misses a bus, he’s lost his bag. Each problem is solved and then the next is introduced, one right after another. These problems propel the reader forward, but they also allow Nabokov to provide significant background information. The important paper is Pnin’s notes for the lecture he’s on the way to. His luggage contains his belongings, a description of which gives us insight into his character and where he’s come from. Pnin’s difficulties navigating the transit system set up his overall difficulties in America as a Russian refugee.
We really want you to read the novel-in-translation that we’re publishing by Russian author Vladimir Kozlov, called USSR: Diary of a Perestroika Kid.
So if you’re the first person to buy USSR using this special link (for $18 plus shipping) we’ll throw in Outline by Rachel Cusk as a free gift.
Yep, that’s a free hardcover edition of Outline by Rachel Cusk, which normally costs $26.00. Outline was named one of the best books of 2014 by The New Yorker, The Guardian, and The Independent; it’s been praised by such luminaries as Rebecca Mead, Geoff Dyer, Hilary Mantel, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Leslie Jamison; and it was recently selected for The Rumpus Book Club.
Plus, you know, you’ll finally have your copy of USSR: Diary of a Perestroika Kid, which we know you’re going to love.
Here’s the special link.
Only the first person will get the gift.
Update: Sold! Thanks for playing, everybody. We’ll have another special offer soon.
Let’s be honest. None of us has read all 16 books that are competing in this year’s epic Tournament of Books at The Morning News. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pick our favorites, make snap judgments, and moan about the eventual winners and losers.
Here is everything you need to know to fake your way through the tournament. From reviews to YouTube clips, from blog posts to formal interviews, we have compiled the best summaries of each competitor so you can get all huffy about your hasty opinions.
And just to make things extra contentious, I will list the books in numerical order, according to which ones I want to win.
- Brian Hurley
1. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Review at The New York Review of Books
Hitting Shelves at Fiction Advocate
2. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Review at Fiction Advocate
Hitting Shelves at Fiction Advocate
3. A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor
Review at Flavorwire
Excerpt at Fiction Advocate Continue reading
Ottessa Moshfegh begins her new novella, “I wake up,” and spends the next 118 pages exploring what awake means. It’s McGlue who wakes drunk, head split open, and he’s spitting teeth that “scatter across the deck like dice.” He’s bleeding and looking for a place to puke when he hears other men on the ship say that he killed Johnson, who was his friend, his close friend, and had saved McGlue’s life more than once. When they first met, Johnson had scooped McGlue out of the snow where he would have happily died drinking. This is the Johnson who funded McGlue’s booze habit and led them around the world, who woke McGlue in the middle of the night to share his “life words.” But now Johnson is dead and McGlue is stuffed in the hold of the ship where he tries to remember what happened. But memory, as Moshfegh writes it, is a lot like rolling the dice. On one toss you win and on the next there’s nothing—you get something somehow less than zero. So you keep rolling and rolling until it’s the rolling rather than the results that mean anything.
The story takes place in the 1850s. Moshfegh creates a world of ships and ports, drinking and fighting that is vivid and steady. But it’s McGlue’s voice, in first person, that makes the story compelling and holds my interest. He is brutal and tender. He can talk about anything and I listen, even when I know he’s lying. Moshfegh, who has previously written and published short stories and was awarded the Plimpton Prize for her work in The Paris Review, brings a trusty ear for words to this slightly longer form. Her language moves. On page after page are turns of phrase like, “He hands me the pen and points. I make a puddle of my name,” which are unique, even pretty, but aren’t just for show. They speak to McGlue’s consciousness. He is making a puddle of himself with booze, or by smashing his head and drinking his own blood when there’s no rum around.