Monday, August 29, 2005

Rick Moody, Ben Yagoda

From Rick Moody's essay at NPR:

"I believe in the absolute and unlimited liberty of reading. I believe in wandering through the stacks and picking out the first thing that strikes me. I believe in choosing books based on the dust jacket. I believe in reading books because others dislike them or find them dangerous. I believe in choosing the hardest book imaginable. I believe in reading up on what others have to say about this difficult book, and then making up my own mind."


"I believe there is not now and never will be an authority who can tell me how to interpret, how to read, how to find the pearl of literary meaning in all cases."

Listen to or read the full essay here. Anyone can submit an essay for consideration.

Ben Yagoda, author of the excellent writer's resource The Voice on the Page writes in Slate about My Life as a Hack and why he's getting out of the non-fiction freelance biz:

"New York magazine paid $1 a word in 1996 and pays the same rate in 2005. Catholic Digest's fees were $200 to $400 in 1989 and are the same today. The Village Voice was in the news this month for planning to slash its already low fees: Short pieces that used to go for $130 will now fetch $75. There are a few glossy exceptions, but stagnant rates are the rule. That's even worse than it seems. Magazines commonly pay by the word and have been assigning ever shorter articles—which means that writers are virtually certain to get less for a typical piece."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Fireworks and cover art

Hunter S. Thompson's remains blast off in the company of fireworks.

Recommended blogging: Best-selling author Tess Gerritson on the importance of cover art in selling books.

In The Atlantic summer fiction issue, author Curtis Sittenfeld writes about watching her first novel become a bestseller. She angsts over an early review, but "Eventually that review forced me to realize that I had to be the one who decided whether or not my novel was a success or a failure; if I believed that only a publication or another person could legitimize my work in a way that felt permanent and satisfying, I'd be waiting a long, long time."

She also relates the humbling experience of having her taxes done at H&R Block:
    "What's (your book) called?" the guy asked.

    "Prep," I said.


    We were sitting in a long room of desks and computers, surrounded by other people working on taxes. More loudly I said, "Prep."

    More loudly he said, "Crap?"

    "Prep, as in prep school!" I finally exploded.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Buried by books/Gardens in bloom

From the L.A. Times, an article on when you're buried with books.

The garden which Edith Wharton gazed at while writing The House of Mirth has once again bloomed. "The mistress had a corner bedroom so she could look down on her flower garden while writing longhand in bed. This she did each day from about 6 a.m. to noon, often with a dog propped under one arm as she dropped each completed page on the floor to be collected by her maid and typed by her secretary."

First Pages
From Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi:

Every night she would fall asleep with the prayer that, while she slept, her body would stretch itself, grow to the size of that of other girls her age in Burgdorf--not even the taller ones like Eva Rosen, who would become her best friend in school for a brief time--but into a body with normal-length arms and legs and with a small, well-shaped head. To help God along, Trudi would hang from door frames from her fingers until they were numb, convinced she could feel her bones lengthening; many nights she'd tied her mother's silk scarves around her head--one encircling her forehead, the other knotted beneath her chin--to keep her head from expanding.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Reading Rec: Tin House, Summer Issue

The summer reading issue of Tin House magazine (available in Barnes & Noble and others) has a number of lovely stories in it, including the creepy, electrifying "Bouncing," by Robert Travesio. An excerpt:
    In the beginning it wasn't a big deal because he was just ten and only weirdos and freaks and really advanced kids killed their mothers at ten.
Also in this issue, an excerpt from Rick Moody's (Garden State and more) new novel The Diviners:
    Melody Howell Forvath...has paid her dues with novels of international intrigue. She's published twenty-seven, the first twelve she wrote herself, up until Double Dutch (1973), the one about the twin spies operating as prostitutes in an Amsterdam hotel. They broke open a heroin case, etc. Then, begining with Envoy of Desire (1975), she hired a string of well-educated and presentable graduates of Smith and Wellesley to write the books according to her instructions. Here's how it she works. Melody goes to the magazine store and plucks from a well-thumbed Travel and Leisure a few promising locales. Then she sits down with whomever is the ghostwriter, and they hash out a thrilling story that has in it adultery, champagne, a hail of bullets, and a sexually independent woman. That's her stipulation, that the novels have sexually independent women in them. She's certainly not writing these books for men who only care about how big the warheads are.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Free fiction

Over at, many fine classics by authors such as Dickens, Woolf, Fitzgerald and more, including the lovely story collection Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, first published in 1919. I picked up a copy of it for a dollar in a used bookstore last month, and have been enjoying it thoroughly.

If modern fantasists are more your cup of tea, the first chapter of Neal Gaiman's new book Anansi Boys is available here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reading recs

My story "Bluebeard by the Sea," which appeared in Talebones last year, got an honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Eighteenth Annual Collection. I'm delighted.

Recommended blogging: Joe Konrath on book tour hell. I've toured his web site before and found great stuff there re agents and persisting in the face of writing adversity. His mystery hardcover Whiskey Sour has sold about 15,000 copies.

Recommended reading: A Wedding Toast by Katie Holmes's Former Best Friend by Jay Dyckman at McSweeney's (funny and biting) and Neils Bohr and the Sleeping Dane by Jonathan Sullivan at Strange Horizons. History and mysticism and interpersonal conflict, all good stuff.