Non-Fiction by Non-Men: Dodai Stewart

Dodai Stewart is a writer, editor, and self-described pop culture junkie. Stewart is the Editor In Chief of Fusion.net, and the former Deputy Editor of Jezebel.com. Her writing has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, Glamour, and the New York Times, amongst others. You can find a sample of her writing here, and you can follow her on Twitter @dodaistewart. Stewart lives in Manhattan with her misanthropic Chihuahua.

E.B. Bartels: How did you begin writing in general and nonfiction specifically? Continue reading

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HITTING SHELVES #42: Exes by Max Winter

Exes by Max Winter comes out today! It’s a heartbreaking, hilarious novel-in-fragments, in which Clay Blackall compiles the stories of longtime residents of Providence, Rhode Island, in an attempt to understand his brother Eli’s death and the city that has defined and ruined them both.

Fiction Advocate: Max! How are you celebrating the publication of Exes?

Max Winter: I guess I already did? Because even though Exes’ official release date is April 11, Amazon shipped their copies two weeks early, which completely caught me off guard. (But I worked media retail in the pre-Internet Age, when these dates were inviolate. Except for the new Sinatra box when Liv Tyler or Richard Hell were asking.) It felt thrilling, of course—knowing the book was finally in readers’ hands—but because my author’s copies hadn’t even arrived yet, it also felt an awful lot like having blacked out at a wedding. “Ohmygod, you don’t remember? You were so funny and/or mean!”

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The Pixelated Novel in Bifurcation Nation

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George Saunders’ first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, reads like confetti, like fireworks, like a snowstorm. This novel, like an image made of pixels, is a collage of intricate individual parts that, taken together, create the dazzling swirl and pulse of tenuous coherence.

Allow me to literalize: it is a story told in snatches by dozens of different narrators, most of whom are dead and dwelling in the “bardo” (a Buddhist term for the transitional state between life and death) of a crypt in Georgetown. As in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the novel’s clearest intertext, souls are punished according to their sins—one sexually frustrated man sports a massively engorged member because he was never able to consummate his marriage. Death, heaven, and intermediate states have long been a fascination for Saunders, explored in stories like “Escape From Spiderhead,” “Sea Oak,” and “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.” In Lincoln in the Bardo, Saunders looses his ghosts on the graveyard to shuffle through their danse macabre. Continue reading

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The Usefulness of Pain: An Interview with Melissa Febos

I first read Melissa Febos while in my MFA program. Her memoir Whip Smart was next to the register of my local indie bookstore, and I picked it up while the cashier was helping the person in front of me. This was years ago, but I remember it well, because her memoir of her work as a professional dominatrix was unlike anything I’d ever read before. Her new book, Abandon Me, is a collection of luminescent autobiographical essays—stories about bonds that break, fierce love, and what makes a family, all shot through with art and passion. It defies easy description or categorization, and begs to be reread, to be unpeeled, layer after layer.

Jaime Rochelle Herndon: Abandon Me feels more “bare bones,” somehow, than Whip Smart. More raw or vulnerable. On page 196, you say, about Whip Smart: “By building a story, I could find a beginning, middle, and end.” Does this also apply to Abandon Me? Continue reading

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A First-Generation Kid: Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose

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Virginia Woolf took her greatest risks as an artist in 1930. Fresh off the success of Orlando and To The Lighthouse, she embarked on The Waves, a more experimental, more fluid novel than her previous works. (She describes it in her diary triumphantly as “my first book in my own style.”) If The Waves marked an invigorating period of self-expression for Woolf, the process of writing it—and editing it—was nonetheless taxing. (“Never,” she laments, “have I screwed my brain so tight over a book.”) In an entry dated April 11th, 1931, Woolf, who was balancing a few writing projects at the time, complains about revision: “I am so tired of correcting my own writing… And the cramming in and the cutting out… But I have no pen—well, it will just make a mark. And not much to say, or rather too much and not the mood.”

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What to Read in April

Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard: “Sarah Gerard follows her breakout novel, Binary Star, with the dynamic essay collection Sunshine State, which explores Florida as a microcosm of the most pressing economic and environmental perils haunting our society.”

Void Star by Zachary Mason: “Not far in the future the seas have risen and the central latitudes are emptying, but it’s still a good time to be rich in San Francisco, where weapons drones patrol the skies to keep out the multitudinous poor.”

Devil on the Cross by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: “An impassioned cry for a Kenya free of dictatorship and for African writers to work in their own local dialects, Devil on the Cross has had a profound influence on Africa and on post-colonial African literature.”

Also this month: We’ll interview Melissa Febos and Dodai Stewart, and review new books by George Saunders and Durga Chew-Bose.

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