Me, the author, autographing my story in “Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History”
Readercon is awesome. The conference for speculative literature is always worthwhile, as it offers a deep dive into issues and concerns that are at the forefront of literature.
So I got to hear luminaries like Michael Dirda and Peter Straub talk about their development as readers and writers. (Dirda doesn’t have time to reread books; Straub is rereading Iris Murdoch right now.)
I got to hear Samuel Delaney read for a work in progress that is from the point of view from a young Herman Melvill(e), and includes scenes during his life and times in Albany.
I learned a lot about the difficulties of living in space (the weakening of the body in low gravity; the politics of funding); about how authors try to strike a balance between fulfilling and subverting readers’ expectations (though one panelist argued that very little writing is truly subversive); and that some Readercon attendees bring really killer bourbon and are very generous with it, late into the night.
Most of all, though, I met some great people — writer and readers — but people who share my values for the importance of story.
The highlight, though, was the group reading of seven writers whose works are included in the much-praised anthology “Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History.”
Even better, was being asked to autograph my story. This is something that I have never done before. With the journals and anthologies in which I have been published before, I never had a chance to attend any of the events related to the release of those publications. Mostly because they were far away: in Japan or on the West Coast; or my day job and life made it too hard for me to be there. Continue reading
I’ll be one of the readers reading a story from the anthology “Long Hidden” at Readercon next week’s Friday.
What’s Readercon? It’s a literary conference that focuses on “imaginative” literature. It is like a sci-fi / fantasy conference but without the costumes, games, movies and music. It’s all about writers and writing, and readers and reading.
The Bloomsday readers at the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, NY (photo by Brendan Kenndy)
What a great night earlier this week — June 16, aka Bloomsday — and what a great group of readers, with everyone adding new depths to my enjoyment of “Ulysses” through their takes on James Joyce’s novel. I hope everyone didn’t mind my singing (at least it was brief!): Lal the ral the ra The rocky road to Dublin …
In the photo are Patricia Lynch, left, Jeanne Finlay, me, Laudelina Martinez, William Kennedy, Tina Lincer, and Marea Gordett.
I’ll be taking part in a Bloomsday reading with a great group of people. Here is who will be reading, and which part of Ulysses they’ll be reading:
o Tina Lincer, Telemachus, Episode 1
o Michael Janairo, Nestor, Ep. 2
o Marea Gordett, Calypso, Ep. 3
o Michael Halloran, The Wandering Rocks, Ep. 10
o William Kennedy, The Cyclops, Ep12
o Patricia Lynch, Nausicaa, Ep. 13
o Jeanne Finlay, Ithaca, Ep. 17
o Laudelina Martinez, Penelope, Ep. 18
The event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, June 16, at the Rensselaer County Historical Society, 57 Second St. in Troy, NY.
Read more about it here.
I’ve been asked to be one of the readers of a Bloomsday event, and I can’t wait.
I’ll be reading about six pages from the Nestor section — one of the sections from Stephen Dedalus’s point of view — of Ulysses starting at 6 pm Monday, June 16th, at the Rensselaer County Historical Society, 57 Second St. in Troy, NY.
In addition to my Irish heritage (County Cork, baby!) and having read Ulysses as an undergrad and as a graduate student, I also have a circuitous connection to the Joycean universe through the first short story I had ever gotten published, when I was in grad school.
The story, “Out of Japan,” was published in a now-defunct literary journal that was called The Abiko Quarterly. It came out of Abiko, Japan, a town in the Chiba prefecture, about an hour or so outside of Tokyo. And though the journal included new, literary fiction, it also called itself “A Publication of the James Joyce Parlor Japan,” as its main purpose was to be a scholarly journal focusing on James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.
Now that I’ll be reading at a Bloomsday event, I can’t help but think of it as me and Jimmy, together again.
UPDATE: Change of date and time (see below)
The anthology “Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History,” which includes one of my short stories (“Angela and the Scar”), has a release date: May 9, 2014.
Where can you buy the book? Check out the publisher’s page, Crossed Genres. The trade paperback edition is $19.95, and it is 363 pages. In addition to my story, it includes stories by some big-name writers such as Tananarive Due, Sofia Samatar, Ken Liu, Victor LaValle, Nnedi Okorafor, and Sabrina Vourvoulias. For a complete list of authors, check out my earlier post.
And while you’re at it, you may also want to kick in some bucks for the Crossed Genres Magazine’s current Kickstarter Campaign.
But wait, there’s more!
A book release party will be held at
9 pm Saturday, May 10, at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 236 E. 3rd St., New York, New York 4 pm Saturday, May 10, at Alice’s Arbor, 549 Classon Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. Here’s the event page on Facebook. So if you’re in NYC, please go to the event and buy a copy. (Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend, as my day job is taking me to a conference at Yale.)
EAT THE DOCUMENT author
Dana Spiotta ( A National Book Award Finalist) will be giving a reading at Amrose + Sable Gallery on Tuesday, March 13th at 7pm. Wine and Hors D’ Oeuvres will be served . The novel EAT THE DOCUMENT (now in paperback) will be for sale by The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.
Elizabeth Dubben, Director
Amrose + Sable Gallery
306 Hudson Ave
Albany, NY 12210
Here’s the NYTimes review of the book:
A Radical on the Run, Determined to Escape the Past
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
Published: February 3, 2006 The New York Times
The prospect of reinventing oneself tabula rasa has always been one of America’s foundation myths. Whether it was the earliest colonists leaving Europe to begin new lives in the New World or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby trying to inhabit his own platonic conception of himself, Americans have long embraced the possibility of remaking their lives: moving West with the frontier to start over or moving East to the big city to erase their provincial roots; shucking off familial legacies and changing their names, their looks, their histories.
In her stunning new novel, Dana Spiotta tackles this perennial theme with ingenuity, inventiveness and élan. Her heroine is a Vietnam-era radical who has gone underground after a bombing plot that’s gone awry — think of a fictional Kathy Boudin or Cathy Wilkerson. She’s someone who has quite literally tried to jettison the past and forge a new identity for herself: the former Mary Whittaker becomes Caroline Sherman, who eventually becomes Louise Barrot — an invented person with the name of a dead infant, a woman who wants to believe that her “chronically forgettable” looks and whispery demeanor will make her invisible.
After years on the lam, she tries to disappear into the anonymous tracts of suburbia, where she raises a teenage son, but finds herself overcome by a terminal sense of loneliness — a despair that comes from having lived a succession of lies, “from not being truly known by anyone.” She begins to contemplate turning herself in.
By cutting back and forth between Mary’s story and the stories of her son, Jason; her former lover and fellow fugitive, Bobby; and Bobby’s best friend, Henry, Ms. Spiotta has constructed a glittering collage of a book — a book that possesses the staccato ferocity of a Joan essay and the historical resonance and razzle-dazzle language of a Don DeLillo novel. Although some of her people’s tales are less engaging than others — Henry’s hallucinations about Agent Orange and napalm, in particular, seem forced and contrived — they come together to provide a symphonic portrait of three decades of American life, an era bookended by the radicalism of the Weather Underground and the anarchist protests of the millennium, by the leftist manifestos of the 1960’s and the 90’s willful commodification of the counterculture.
As she demonstrated in her impressive debut novel in 2001 Lightning Field, Ms. Spiotta has a keen ear and even keener eye for the absurdities and disjunctions of American life, and this novel showcases those gifts in spades. She proves as adept at channeling Jason’s slacker musings about the Beach Boys, bootleg recordings and the consolations of nostalgia as she is at depicting Bobby’s weary, faintly ironic meditations about the morality of political protest.
She captures the uneasy mixture of idealism and self-dramatization that animated the antiwar movement of the 1970’s and the myriad ways in which the politics, music, technology and language of that era informed the more cynical culture of the 90’s. She looks at how the twinned ideas of freedom and rebellion have threaded their way through recent American history, and how they have resulted in liberation, yes, but also in rootlessness and disconnection.
The two most compelling storylines in “Eat the Document” (the title comes from a documentary about Bob Dylan, chronicling his transformation from acoustic folk singer to rock ‘n’ roll musician) deal with Mary’s quest to begin a new life as Caroline a k a Louise and Jason’s quest to uncover the truth of his mother’s mysterious life.
The first is a story about burying the past: Mary moves from Oregon to upstate New York to California, making new friends and then cutting them off when they grow suspicious, fictionalizing her parents’ deaths and trying in vain to extinguish her love for Bobby.
“She was quite certain that you could change your past, change the facts, by will alone,” Ms. Spiotta writes. “Only memory makes it real. So eliminate the memory. And if it was also true that there were occasions when she couldn’t control where her mind went — a dream, a cold sweat at an unexpected moment, an odor that would suddenly betray her — time would improve it. Time lessens everything — the good things you desperately want to remember, and the awful things you need to forget.”
The second is a story about uncovering the past that begins with Jason’s wondering about his mother’s peculiar detachment, her reluctance to talk about her family and her childhood, her being “so creepily guarded and cryptic in odd, sunny ways.” Her revelation that she once met one of the Beach Boys and her appearance in an obscure underground film will spur his suspicions and will lead him closer to the secret she has kept for some 25 years.
Upon these two dovetailing storylines, Ms. Spiotta erects an elliptical narrative filled with musical leitmotifs and searing, strobe-lighted images of contemporary life — a narrative that immerses us, headfirst, in the chaos and incongruities of the American scene while goading us into a melancholy contemplation of the country’s penchant for discarding the past.