Lincoln in the Bardo and the impossible audiobook

audiobook_ilOn paper, it sounds like something magnificent: master short-story writer George Saunders’s very first novel! An examination of a moment in the life of America’s greatest president!

As Penguin Random House says:

George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

And then there’s the audiobook: 166 characters! 166 voices!

“The first truly blockbuster audiobook? …  it’s going to be incredible”

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I just pre-ordered Chuck Kinder’s Silver Ghost

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Outlaw. Writer. Professor.

Chuck Kinder was my professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s MFA program. Like many of his students, I benefited greatly from his imaginative approach to writing, the often imaginative worlds opened up by his constant question: “What if?”

In an exciting turn of events, his 1978 novel “The Silver Ghost” is coming back into print through the work of Braddock Avenue Books where one of the publishers just so happens to be another one of Chuck Kinder’s former students, Jeffrey Condon.

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Book review: “Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale” by Chuck Kinder

book-7121This review first appeared in the Albany Times Union (August 11, 2001)

Hilarious, loving characters in ‘Honeymooners’

Chuck Kinder’s first novel since “The Silver Ghost,” in 1978, “Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale” ($24; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 358 pages), is a hilarious, yet unflinching, eyes-against-the-windshield journey through years of booze, drugs, sex, friendships, lies and betrayals in the lives of a pair of promising young writers.

The freewheeling 1970s that Kinder recreates, mostly in the San Francisco Bay area, belong within the literary tradition of the moveable feast Hemingway created out of Paris in the ’20s. Kinder’s writers, Ralph Crawford and Jim Stark, live “like bold outlaw authors on the lam from that gloomy tedium called ordinary life.” Kinder both celebrates and sends up their bravura and recklessness.

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A new story published by We Love Books & Company

Thanks to Ray Ortali for publishing my latest short story, Auntie Lovely Says Goodbye, in his eMagazine, We Love Books & Company, which you can download here.

Book review: After Birth by Elisa Albert

I love this book. Get it. Read it. Now.

“After Birth” by Elisa Albert tells the story of three months in one woman’s life around a year after giving birth who befriends a former “almost” rock star/poet who is about to give birth. The narrator says of the poet: “I’m a little obsessed with her, by which I mean a lot, which I guess is what obsessed means.”

In that sentence, Albert achieves the creation of a distinctive character in her narrator: a sharp sense of humor, somewhat confessional, somewhat striving for clarity, while also somewhat muddled. Ari, the narrator, may not always be a sympathetic character (one of the first things she does is call the upstate city she lives – a fictional town called Utrecht, but an easily readable blend of Albany, Troy, Schenectady — a “shitbox”), but her language is so seductive that it can charm the reader, even in her most negative moments.

After all, Ari seems to be suffering from a kind of post-partum depression, a severe disorientation in which she feels betrayed by a world that didn’t prepare her for life after having a child, she’s lost interest in completing her doctorate in women’s studies, she feels isolated in the aforementioned “shitbox” town, and all of it has been exacerbated by having undergone a c-section operation.

If that weren’t enough, there is also that special kind of existential dread a parent faces by bringing a new life into the world: “I’m not going to pretend my kid is special, like other kids who starve and freeze and get raped and beaten and have to work in factories and get cancer from the fumes, too bad, so sad, but my kid is going to be warm and organic and toxin-free and safe and have everything he wants when he wants it and go to a good college and all is right with the world! Fuck that myopic bullshit. He’s going to suffer. He’s going to get mauled by some force I can’t pretend I can predict. We all live in the same fucked-up world.”
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