Category Archives: Audrey Niffenegger

Links: Mall Rats

Allen Drury‘s Advise and Consent, the quintessential big book about Washington power players, turns 50.

Lorrie Moore: “I don’t feel I’m a natural writer. I feel every paragraph I write stinks. But I’m a pretty good editor. I’m not that fluid in getting the sentences out right the first time. There are times when you lose confidence. There are scenes that are hard to write. So I make changes. I am still making changes.”

Audrey Niffenegger recalls her early days in Chicago’s art scene.

Henry Louis Gates recently handed out the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, which are given to best books about race in the past year. Among the winners is Louise Erdrich, for The Plague of Doves.

New York magazine talks with Jonathan Ames. “Bored to Death,” the lead story in his new collection, The Double Life Is Twice as Good, is a genius riff on noir themes matched with Ames’ traditional acts of self-flagellation.

Serpent’s Tail Press (which has published some of my favorite David Goodis noirs) is launching a classics series. It’s an interesting take on classics: Among the first batch of reprints are Lionel Shriver‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin and George PelecanosShoedog.

An excerpt from Raymond Carver‘s “Beginners,” included in Library of America’s new Carver collection.

Carver’s widow, Tess Gallagher, has a new story collection, The Man From Kinvara.

A chat with the head of the Kurt Vonnegut Society in San Francisco.

Tortilla Flat is a good name for a John Steinbeck novel, but a bad name for a Southern California sports bar.

And a Thomas Pynchon scholar picks precisely the wrong guy with whom to cop attitude about television.

Slow Going

The Chicago Reader catches up with Audrey Niffenegger, who’ll be getting plenty of attention in the coming months—the film version of her debut novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife, comes out August 14, and her follow-up, Her Fearful Symmetry arrives in September. Niffenegger is a Famous Author now, but the article concentrates on her lovely, less blockbuster work as a visual artist. (If you’re in Chicago at the moment, you can see some of the pages of her illustrated story “The Night Bookmobile” at Printworks Gallery.)

It’s been six years between novels for Niffenegger, and she tells the Reader that her bestseller status had a role in that:

“When I was writing my first novel I was alone with it,” she says. “For my second novel I had the benefit of other people’s expertise”—an agent and editors—”but it can make the work go slower because I . . . question myself more as I go along. I know I will be hearing from readers if I get it wrong.”

How much has it slowed her down? She says that she’s currently 20 pages into her next novel, The Chinchilla Girl in Exile—a work that she’s been writing since at least 2006. She told Writer Unboxed back then, “It’s about a nine-year-old girl who has hypertrichosis, which is a hereditary disorder in which hair grows all over one’s body and face; my character, Lizzie, looks like a junior werewolf. I’m very fond of her, she’s plucky.”

Links: Clock’s Ticking

Edgar Allan Poe turns 200. Take the quiz, or buy the stamp.

Moby-Dick‘s influence on artist Frank Stella.

Gerald Early discusses his job as editor of the brand-new “Best African American Essays” and “Best African American Fiction” series. E. Lynn Harris guest-edited the first edition of the latter series; Nikki Giovanni is handling next year’s.

Richard Ford bids the Bush administration farewell in the Guardian.

And speaking of the Guardian: If you wanted to read Audrey Niffenegger‘s online graphic novel The Night Bookmobile but had a hard time navigating its clunky interface, John Dunlevy has assembled a helpful table of contents.

Thanks to Very Short List for pointing to Daily Routines, which gathers up anecdotes on the work lives of famous people. The section for writers, as you might imagine, draws heavily on Paris Review interviews—among those included are Toni Morrison, John Updike, and Ernest Hemingway. But let’s take a look at Pauline Kael, who offers a useful reminder of the first principles of good writing:

[S]taring at the piece in horror and exclaiming at her own ineptitude, she would immediately begin tearing it apart, scissoring and recombining the paragraphs, writing in new observations and jokes in the margins or above the lines, at which point the piece would be typed again. The process continued without interruption at the office where, like Proust after an injection of caffeine, she would assault the galleys, rearranging and rewriting, adding and subtracting still more jokes–on and on, until the pages were reluctantly yielded to the press.

——-

The D.C.-Area Readings page has been updated. Among the notable events coming up in a very notable week in Washington: Alice Walker Monday at Busboys & Poets 14th & V; Iraqi-born artist and writer Wafaa Bilal Thursday at Busboys & Poets 14th & V; and Jayne Anne Phillips, discussing her brilliant new novel, Lark & Termite, Friday at Politics & Prose. As always, your tips and recommendations for the readings page are welcome.

The Secret History

Gawker’s science-fiction blog, io9, has a chart-based study of sci-fi trends in mainstream literary novels. Charlie Jane Anders proposes three types of novels—”alternate history,” “time warp,” and “post-apocalyptic”—which means The Road, The Time-Traveler’s Wife, The Plot Against America, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and more are all fair game for discussion. I don’t think that the resulting chart really argues for a one-to-one relationship between current events and related fiction, but it’s an interesting idea to put out there. It’s certainly true that we got a lot of novels about broken-down Latin American countries in 2007 (Lost City Radio, A Far Country, and The Ministry of Special Cases, to name three), and those books certainly felt like responses to the United States’ political predicaments; add a category for “dystopia” and you may have something here. Anyway, Anders writes:

And then was a boom in post-apocalyptic fiction in more recent years, with three huge classics of the genre hitting in 2006. In particular, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has become the poster-child for the literary-authors-going-speculative trend. These books coincided with the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and a worsening Iraq conflict. But there’s been a lull in the post-apocalyptic genre since then as well.

The Southern Thing

The Mobile Press-Register has a profile of publisher MacAdam/Cage, which has used the financial boost it received from Audrey Niffenegger‘s The Time-Traveler’s Wife a few years back to launch a cottage industry supporting Gulf Coast writers. The breadth of the Southern fixation is news to me, though I liked Jack Pendarvis‘ 2007 story collection, Your Body Is Changing, which MacAdam/Cage published. (Before that, I just thought of it as the house that published Stephen Elliott.) From the piece:

“There’s a complete disconnect between literature and corporate culture,” says [publisher David] Poindexter. “Corporations need a short-term payoff. They have to make shareholders happy by increasing profits every quarter. So corporate publishers need books that will make money this quarter.” These books are rarely great works of literature. “Literature takes a long time to develop,” explains Poindexter. “It’s like growing trees instead of corn.” In every way, he has positioned his own company so he can grow those trees. “After all,” he observes, “what props up the New York houses are their backlists of great titles from the past, which were generated by the business model they’ve now discarded.” Poindexter is attempting to put that model back into play.

(Via)

New in 2008: Love

Maybe it’s just that we’re sick of all the war stories we didn’t bother seeing in theaters anyway, and tired of paging through stacks of Iraq/al Qaeda/failures-of-the-Bush-administration tomes that have arrived in the past year. I know I’ll need one more example here to argue for a trend, but I have two books in hand collecting top-shelf literary writers on the topic of love. Last week I received a copy of Four Letter Word: Invented Correspondence From the Edge of Modern Romance, in which writers reimagine the love letter. Among the participants: David Bezmozgis, Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Lethem, Sam Lipsyte, Audrey Niffenegger.

And today, Very Short List (a daily e-mail I’ve found very addictive, spot-on as it often is in its recommendations) is pushing My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro, a collection of love stories edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. Sez VSL:

This handsome new anthology contains 26 exhilarating and heartache-producing love stories written by familiar masters (Chekhov, Faulkner, Joyce, Nabokov) as well as some new ones (Denis Johnson, Miranda July, Lorrie Moore, Eileen Chang). From the early-adolescent longing in Stuart Dybek’s “We Didn’t” to the crushing choices made in Alice Munro‘s “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” (the basis for last year’s film Away From Her), each tale chips away at the mysteries of the human heart.

That’s some purple prose there. But the book is for a good cause: Proceeds benefit literacy nonprofit 826 Chicago.