Category Archives: John Irving

Links: Kitchen Duty

Saul Bellow: “We all carry the same load of unwashed plates from life’s banquet.” His widow, Janis Bellow: “It wasn’t just the 80-year-old elder statesman who gave ‘em what for, but also the young man who didn’t hesitate to tell a publisher, “If that’s all you got from reading The Adventures of Augie March I don’t want you even looking at my next book and I’ll go elsewhere.”

Lorin Stein recently spoke about literature at Yale, inspiring bright young minds: “I want to be a writer and my first reaction was, ‘Wow, I need to pick up a book that’s not a textbook from Yale,'” reported one attendee.

I wished that Edwidge Danticat‘s new book of essays, Create Dangerously, felt less like a grab bag, but Scott McLemee finds a connecting thread: “Some of the pieces are personal essays; others are critical reflections on the work of Haitian writers and artists who worked as emigrants. The difference in focus does not involve a difference in tone, however. In either genre, Danticat registers an acute awareness that dislocation or relocation are, after all, common experiences.”

Toni Morrison receives the French Legion of Honor award.

Essays From the Nick of Time, a collection of nonfiction pieces by Mark Slouka, is one of my favorite books of 2010. Though his interview with the Rumpus is mostly focused on politics, he does discuss wearing two hats as an essayist and a fiction writer: “I can’t tell you anything about myself—why I got married, what I had for breakfast this morning—that isn’t a story. So, aside from certain conventions of voice, a certain stance toward ‘fact,’ I’m not sure the line exists. One side bleeds into the other all the time.” (I’ve read none of Slouka’s fiction; recommendations welcome.)

Dennis Lehane in the Wall Street Journal: “If I have to be labelled, I want to say my books are about the ethos of a city. I’m not a mystery novelist, I’m definitely not a literary novelist. I think I’m kind of an urban novelist.” (Buried in the story is the news that he’s writing an HBO movie with fellow Wire writer George Pelecanos.)

John Irving on critics: “Many practicing critics don’t write novels; I’ve written 12. What can someone who hasn’t written one novel—or has possibly written a couple of mediocre novels—teach me about my writing? Nothing. I will keep saying this till the day I die: when you’ve written a number of novels, the process of being reviewed is often an exercise in being condescended to by your inferiors.” If only the point of book reviewing were to teach John Irving something about writing…

Big, in England

Clearly the Brits are still enchanted by big-name American literary authors—no fewer than three sizable pieces on them populate their Sunday papers. The Times has features on John Irving and Philip Roth, with the Irving piece serving as both a good backgrounder on his career and a fun read as well (he describes his dog’s near-miss with his catheter after he had surgery for prostate cancer). Like the other pieces, it’s marked by its length–few, if any, American newspapers dedicate so much real estate to writers, even known quantities like Irving. And like the others, it also seems framed around the idea that the main job of the American novelist is to sum up America, much in the same way Americans want foreign-born authors to be spokespersons for their native countries. Irving is afforded space to expound on his frustrations with his homeland:

“I am not at all at peace, or even comfortable, living in the United States,” he writes. “Both as an artist and as a liberal, I would not choose to live in the United States, but I am from here, and I have ties here. Yet I would say that the absence of any reconciliation between myself and my own country indicates a much deeper rift than any that exists between my mother and me; this lack of reconciliation, my sense of being deeply alienated from my own country, is one I find very difficult to live with. I am often embarrassed by, sickened by, my own country; I detest bully patriotism; yet I am an American, and I’m not going anywhere.”

While Roth is queried about his opinions on the new president:

“You know, if McCain were President, there would be no health bill to debate; there would be no policy in Afghanistan to reconsider; no economic stimulus package; there would be a deep Depression. So whatever happens is the best that can happen, given the circumstances, you know. So I am still rather high on [Obama]. He’s done remarkably, really. He’s fighting an entrenched army of ignoramuses. He’s not a magician.”

(Me, I’d be curious if he feels validated in his assertion that “if anybody can lose 50 states for the Democrats, I think [Hillary Clinton] can.”)

Roth’s American-ness is the larger theme of the feature—it dwells surprisingly little on Roth’s new novel, The Humbling, ostensibly the reason he consented to an interview in the first place. Indeed, the piece spends more time on the binge of classic American authors Roth went on shortly after returning to the United States from England in 1989, and how it fed into the creative resurgence that started with Sabbath’s Theater:

“When I got back here I had a great rush of enthusiasm, and a great sense that I was at home. I tell you, I was driving over to New Jersey to see my father, about a week after I got back. I must have been daydreaming in the car, and I cut somebody off. And the guy rolled down his window, and said, ‘You f***in’ asshole, you f***in’ son of a bitch!’ — and I said, pour it on! I can’t get enough. I was back in the American stuff. I got re-interested in this place. And then quite consciously I read about 20 American novels, books I’d read in the past. I reread Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hemingway, lesser-known writers, too, just to get my American juices flowing again. Then I began writing Sabbath’s Theater. And though it doesn’t seem perhaps like an American book, it is. Very much so.”

Julian Barnesappreciation of John Updike‘s Rabbit novels in the Guardian reveals more about how those expectations of American authors are conceived outside the U.S. Barnes writes of first plowing through the books while touring the country in 1991, and rereading them now in advance of his next U.S. book tour—as if they were Fodor’s guides, just with more sex scenes and Toyota dealerships. A little condescendingly, he writes that conking out in front of the hotel television on that first tour, he felt just like know-nothing Rabbit Angstrom; when I watch the football game this afternoon, I suppose I’ll congratulate myself for feeling a little like Julian Barnes.

Still, Barnes’ heart is in the right place, and his essay reveals some of the pleasures that come out of rereading a writer you thought you already knew well:

Whereas in my first reading I was overwhelmed by Updike’s joy of description, his passionate attentiveness to such things as “the clunky suck of the refrigerator door opening and shutting” – by what he called, in the preface to his The Early Stories, “giving the mundane its beautiful due” – in my second I was increasingly aware of this underlying sense of things being already over, of the tug of dying and death. Thus the whole trajectory of Janice’s life is an attempt to expiate the sin of having accidentally, drunkenly, drowned her baby. And while Harry imagines himself a genial and harmless life-enhancer, others see him quite differently. “Boy, you really have the touch of death, don’t you?” his sort-of-whore girlfriend Ruth says at the end of Rabbit, Run. “Hold still. Just sit there. I see you very clear all of a sudden. You’re Mr Death himself.”

Barnes also writes admiringly of the big questions that the Rabbit novels ask: “What is American power if it can be defeated by the Vietcong; what is American inventiveness if it can be out-invented by the Japanese; what is American wealth when national debt piles up?” Barnes is careful to stress that he doesn’t admire the Rabbit novels solely for their sociological value. But they’re fresh meat for anybody looking for a great summing-up of the country, and that’s a big reason why he picked them up in the first place.

—–

Dept. of Self-Promotion: I wonder what the Brits would make of Pete Dexter, who isn’t a major author of Roth or Updike’s rank, but who’s important all the same. My review of his new novel, Spooner, is in the Chicago Sun-Times. It starts out like this:

About midway through Pete Dexter’s sprawling, funny, deeply frustrating novel, Spooner (Grand Central, $26.99), things take an awful turn for the book’s hero. Warren Spooner, a Philadelphia newspaper columnist, visits a bar to meet a man who feels Spooner mischaracterized his dead brother in print. Up to this point the novel has been largely a comedy of errors, and the bum column is just one more. But the fun stops quick: “[T]en minutes later, he came out of the place with most of his upper teeth sheared off at the gum.”

That teeth-bashing has its basis in fact: Dexter suffered a similar beating in 1981, while working as a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Scared off of newspapering, Spooner retreats to an island in Puget Sound to become a writer — much as Dexter has. But brutal truth is no guarantee of coherent fiction. Spooner never sorts out whether it’s a comedy about the writing life, a tender story about the relationship between a man and his stepfather, or a farce about newspapers. It’s equal parts John Irving, Flannery O’Connor, David Goodis and John Kennedy Toole, but little of the Dexter who wrote trim, tough-minded novels like Paris Trout and Brotherly Love.

Links: Archive Search

Virginia Quarterly Review looks back on its early history with Wallace Stegner, including some manuscript scans.

Speaking of: Stegner’s daughter-in-law, novelist Lynn Stegner, is working on an anthology about what it means to grow up in the West with another writer, Russell Rowland. You say you haven’t read anything by Rowland? Don’t be so sure.

Peter Osnos visits a Beijing bookstore and looks approvingly on the many Western books available to him. “The neuralgic issue of censorship is confined to a substantial but specific range of books both in Chinese and from abroad,” Osnos writes. He and Ha Jin need to have a chat.

Mark Twain‘s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri, has announced that 2010 will be the “Year of Twain,” marking the centennial of his death and 175th birthday. A dedicated Web site will cover all the exciting events happening next year; for now, you’ll have to settle for the Oak Ridge Boys, who hit town August 22.

Litchfield, New Hampshire, is still squabbling over how to put what stories on its reading lists after parents pitched a fit over the likes of David Sedaris and Laura Lippman appearing in the curriculum. “The stories are not appropriate ‘for developing minds that are very impressionable,'” a parent tells the Nashua Telegraph. One can only imagine the impression that high-school students get from watching their parents wring their hands in public.

Elsewhere in New Hampshire, parents are concerned about John Irving‘s A Prayer for Owen Meany. So, maybe just be careful about bringing books into New Hampshire for a while.

“I see from this paper’s letters section that various well-meaning but clueless liberals are upset by my recent assertion that Ernest Hemingway was on the wrong side in the Spanish Civil War.”

Somebody posing as Jay Murray Siskind, a professor in Don DeLillo‘s White Noise, wrote an essay about David Foster Wallace for the journal Modernism/Modernity. The joke was so funny that pretty much nobody got it for five years.

Wired‘s interactive map to Thomas Pynchon‘s Los Angeles has gone global.

And Andrew Sean Greer figures you can stop asking him about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button any time now.

“How many times’d you end up sucking on the rug?”

I don’t have the inclination or the wherewithal to collect first editions, and there’s something about the antiquarian trade that strikes me as unseemly and beside the point, but goodness the catalog [PDF] for the Bruce Kahn Collection is gobstoppingly beautiful. Kahn, a Michigan-based mergers and acquisitions lawyer, has acquired a collection of first editions of 20th century (mostly) American fiction that’s in impeccable shape, from John O’Hara to Philip Roth to Toni Morrison to Cormac McCarthy and on and on. None of it’s cheap: Plenty of the items run into five figures, with a copy of Appointment in Samarra running to $30,000. (If money’s tight, you can drop $2,500 for a signed proof of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping.)

Perhaps more interesting than the books themselves are the various scribblings included. The copy of John Irving‘s The World According to Garp (apparently sold) is inscribed with a note about the author’s take on the book’s ending: “The meaning of life? ‘We are all terminal cases’, but I find that no surprise and no cause for cynicism or depression. It’s all the more reason to live purposefully and well.” The highlight of the collection on that front, though, is a 1974 handwritten letter from Thomas Pynchon to his friends David Shetzline and his wife, Mary Beal. Writing on graph paper (Pynchon apparently has a thing for graph paper), he recalls his disinterest in attending an impeachment rally in Greenwich Village. From the catalog:

“Maybe I am wrong not to show up, after all think of all that great neurotic pussy that always shows up at things like ‑‑ oh, aww, gee Mary, I’m sorry! I meant ‘vagina,’ of course! ‑‑ like that, and all the biggies who’ll be there…” He goes on to describe that he is having “what the CIA calls a ‘mid‑life crisis,’ looking for another hustle, cannot dig to live a ‘literary’ life no more…” A “lump of hash I lost somewhere in Humboldt County 3 years ago” figures into what becomes an increasingly textured, complicated narrative, the way his fiction does, at the same time that it represents his side of an obviously ongoing dialogue, and elicits further contact from the recipients: in referring to stories of bad LSD circulating, he asks “You might as well tell me. How many times’d you end up sucking on the rug?”

The letter is yours for $25,000.

John Irving’s Bad Habits

I’ve had little interest in reading John Irving‘s recent books, and part of the reason for that is encapsulated in an ingenious chart on Wikipedia displaying recurring themes in his fiction—by the time of A Prayer for Owen Meany, I figured I’d gotten his moves down, and though deeply admired The World According to Garp as a teen, I never liked Dickens enough in the first place to keep up with an author who’s just “Dickensian.” Still, the Q&A with Irving in the Denver Post—tied to a stage production of Owen Meany—is interesting reading, partly because Irving cops to a few of his thematic tics. A reader notes that a number of violent deaths in the book have a sports element to them, to which Irving replies:

This is a novel about the damage Americans do to themselves; sports are a part of that damage. If world news were covered as extensively, and in such detail, as the ceaseless March Madness over college basketball, wouldn’t Americans be better informed about the world, and our place in it, than we are? Your observation is a good one. It’s not literally, of course, that sports are killing us; but what we pay intense attention to it, and what we ignore is surely doing us some harm.

And he suggests one more column for that Wikipedia page:

Virgins (in my novels) apparently interest me. Jenny Fields (Garp’s mother) is a virgin, except for once. Also (“except for once”) Dr. Larch in “The Cider House Rules.” But Jenny’s reasons are feminist, and Larch’s are eccentrically a part of his overreaction to everything. Johnny Wheelwright is in love with Owen; his heart is broken.

Toward a Complete Guide to Haruki Murakami’s Translations of American Writers Into Japanese

Last May I blogged about Haruki Murakami‘s translations of major works by American authors, including The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and more. At the time I idly speculated about the depth of Murakami’s translation efforts. Today I received a little more clarity. The list below comes courtesy of Naoko Mayuzumi (aka Miss Brolly), based on the Japanese Wikipedia entry for Murakami and her own research.

I’m deeply grateful for the time she took to assemble this; it’s a fascinating list. I’m not surprised that there’s so much Raymond Carver in here, nor is it shocking to see the early-’80s Sudden Fiction collection—both contain plenty of exemplars of the minimalist style that Murakami made his own. But it’s interesting to see a little John Irving thrown in there, and a whole lot of Chris Van Allsburg and Ursula K. Le Guin. I’ve tweaked some of the formatting here, but everything else, including links, comes direct from Mayuzumi.

List of American Books and Essays Translated (from English to Japanese) by Haruki Murakami

Note: The month and year in parentheses indicates the time when the Japanese translation was published in Japan.

By author:

C. D. Bryan:

The Great Dethriffe (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in November 1987)

Truman Capote:

I Remember Grandpa (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in March 1988)

One Christmas (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in December 1989)

A Christmas Memory (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in November 1990)

Children on Their Birthdays (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in June 2002)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in February 2008)

Raymond Carver:

Where I’m Calling From (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in July 1983; includes “Why Don’t You Dance?,” “Tell the Women We’re Going,” “Cathedral,” “Sacks,” “Are You a Doctor?,” “Where I’m Calling From,” “So Much Water So Close to Home,” and “Everything Stuck to Him”)

At Night the Salmon Move (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in July 1985; includes “Feathers,” “The Pheasant,” “Vitamins,” “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” “Jerry and Molly and Sam,” “My Father’s Life,” “At Night the Salmon Move,” “For Semra, with Martial Vigor,” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is”)

A Small, Good Thing (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in April 1989; includes “They Are Not Your Husband,” “Neighbors,” “Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarettes,” “I Could See the Smallest Things,” “Popular Mechanics,” “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” “A Small, Good Thing,” “The Bridle,” “Boxes,” “Whoever Was Using This Bed,” “Menudo,” and “Elephant”)

Carver Country: The World of Raymond Carver (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in October 1994)

Carver’s Dozen (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in December 1994; collected and translated by Haruki Murakami; includes 10 stories ["Fat," "Nobody Said Anything," "Are You a Doctor?," "Collectors," "So Much Water So Close to Home," "Why Don't You Dance?," "Cathedral", "Where I'm Calling From", "A Small, Good Thing," and "Errand"], 1 essay ["My Father's Life"], and 2 poems ["Lemonade" and "Late Fragment"])

The Complete Works of Raymond Carver (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc./Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc.)
* Volume 1: “Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?” (February 1991)
* Volume 2: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” (August 1990)
* Volume 3: “Cathedral” (May 1990)
* Volume 4: “Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories” (September 1992)
* Volume 5: “Where Water Comes Together With Other Water / Ultramarine” (September 1997)
* Volume 6: “Elephant / A New Path to the Waterfall” (March 1994)
* Volume 7: “No Heroics, Please” (July 2002)
* Volume 8: “Call if You Need Me” (July 2004)

Raymond Chandler:

The Long Goodbye (published by Hayakawa Publishing Corporation in March 2007)

Bill Crow:

From Birdland to Broadway (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in January 1996)

Jazz Anecdotes (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in July 2000)

Terry Farish:

The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup (published by Kodansha Ltd. in November 2005)

F. Scott Fitzgerald:

My Lost City: Personal Essays (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in May 1981)

The Scott Fitzgerald Book (published by TBS-Britannica Co., Ltd. in March 1988; a book by Haruki Murakami about Scott Fitzgerald, but it includes his translations of Fitzgerald’s two essays, “On Your Own” and “The Rich Boy”)

Babylon Revisited (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in April 1996)

The Great Gatsby (published by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. in November 2006)

Jim Fusilli:

The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in February 2008)

Mikal Gilmore:

Shot in the Heart (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in October 1996)

Mark Helprin:

Swan Lake (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in December 1991)

John Irving:

Setting Free the Bears (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in May 1986)

Ursula K. Le Guin:

Catwings (published by Kodansha Ltd. in March 1993)

Catwings Return (published by Kodansha Ltd. in December 1993)

Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings (published by Kodansha Ltd. in June 1997)

Jane on her Own (published by Kodansha Ltd. in September 2001)

Tim O’Brien:

The Nuclear Age (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in October 1989)

The Things They Carried (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in October 1990)

July, July (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in March 2004)

Grace Paley:

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in May 1999)

The Little Disturbances of Man (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in June 2005)

J. D. Salinger:

The Catcher in the Rye (published by Hakusuisha Publishing Co., Ltd. in April 2003)

Mark Strand:

Mr. and Mrs. Baby and Other Stories (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in October 1998)

Paul Theroux:

World’s End and Other Stories (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in July 1987)

Chris Van Allsburg:

The Wreck of the Zephyr (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in October 1985)

The Polar Express (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in December 1987)

The Stranger (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in August 1989)

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in November 1990)

The Widow’s Broom (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in June 1993)

The Sweetest Fig (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in September 1994)

Ben’s Dream (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in April 1996)

The Wretched Stone (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in November 2003)

Two Bad Ants (published by Asunaro Shobo in September 2004)

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi (published by Asunaro Shobo in September 2005)


Collections:

Watashitachi No Rinjin, Raymond Carver (Published by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. in March 2009; the title translates to “Our Neighbor, Raymond Carver.” Murakami collected these essays about Carver by nine writers/editors who personally knew him from Remembering Ray: A Composite Biography of Raymond Carver [except “Ridin' With Ray and the Old Game” by Jon A. Jackson and “Raymond Carver” by Michiko Miyamoto] and translated them [except Miyamoto's essay which was written in Japanese originally]):

* “Raymond Carver: A Still, Small Voice” by Jay McInerney
* “Raymond Carver Had His Cake and Ate It Too” by Tobias Wolff
* “All-American Nightmares” by Marcus Morton
* “The Days with Ray” by James D. Houston
* “Ridin’ With Ray” by Jon A. Jackson
* “What We Talk About When We Talk About Carver” by David Carpenter
* “Raymond Carver” by Michiko Miyamoto
* “Hope This Finds You Well and All” by Gary Fisketjon
* “Bulletproof” by William Kittredge

And Other Stories―Totteoki No America Shosetsu 12 Hen (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in September 1988; the title translates to “And Other Stories―12 Treasured American Short Stories.” Five Japanese translators brought their favorite American stories and translated them for this collection.) Murakami translated the following stories:

* “The Moccasin Telegraph” by W. P. Kinsella
* “Thirty-Four Seasons of Winter” by William Kittredge
* “What’s Your Story” by Ronald Sukenick
* “Samuel” by Grace Paley
* “Living” by Grace Paley

Getsuyobi Wa Saiakuda-to Minna Wa Iu Keredo (Published by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. in May 2000; the title translates to “They Call It Stormy Monday.” American short stories and essays collected and translated by Murakami):

* “The Carver Chronicles” by D. T. Max
* “Good Raymond” by Richard Ford
* “The Vietnam In Me” by Tim O’Brien
* “Nogales” by Tim O’Brien
* “Loon Point” by Tim O’Brien
* “John Irving’s (Revised) World” by John Paul Newport
* “I Am A…Genius!” by Thom Jones
* “Secret Agent” by Denis Johnson

Birthday Stories: Selected and Introduced by Haruki Murakami (I think this American edition just contains the original stories in English. The Japanese edition of this book, published by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. in December 2002, contains translations of these American stories by Murakami.)

Murakami Haruki HybLit (published by ALC Inc. in November 2008; a bilingual book containing three stories, selected by Murakami, in English and Japanese: “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien [Japanese translation by Murakami], “A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver [Japanese translation by Murakami], and “Lederhosen” by Haruki Murakami [English translation by Alfred Birnbaum]; “HybLit” in the title is the compound of “hybrid” and “literature”)

Sudden Fiction is translated into Japanese by two translators (Haruki Murakami and Takayoshi Ogawa) and published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in January 1994. The following stories are translated by Murakami:

* “A Sudden Story” by Robert Coover
* “Mother” by Grace Paley
* “The King of Jazz” by Donald Barthelme
* “Reunion” by John Cheever
* “Twirler” by Jane Martin
* “Five Ives” by Roy Blount Jr.
* “Song on Royal Street” by Richard Blessing
* “The Merry Chase” by Gordon Lish
* “Popular Mechanics” Raymond Carver
* “Turning” by Lynda Sexson
* “Say Yes” by Tobias Wolff
* “The Hit Man” by T. Coraghessan Boyle
* “A Questionnaire for Rudolph Gordon” by Jack Matthews
* “I See You Never” by Ray Bradbury
* “The Bank Robbery” by Steven Schutzman
* “Tent Worms” by Tennessee Williams
* “Sitting” by H. E. Francis
* “Dog Life” by Mark Strand
* “The Hatchet Man in the Lighthouse” by William Peden
* “Happy” by Joyce Carol Oates
* “The Anatomy of Desire” by John L’Heureux
* “Class Notes” by Lucas Cooper
* “The Neighbor” by Russell Banks
* “Reading the Paper” by Ron Carlson
* “Speed of Light” by Pat Rushin
* “Gerald’s Song” by Philip F. O’Connor
* “Blind Girls” by Jayne Anne Philips
* “The Signing” by Stephen Dixon
* “The Quail” by Rolf Yngve
* “The Artichoke” by Marilyn Krysl

Roundup: Fighting Words

Among the many fine pieces in the new Bookforum—and as Wyatt Mason reminds us, there’s still plenty of serious literary criticism being done—is an interview with Ron Hansen, who talks about (among other things) what drew him to writing about the West: “Part of it was that I thought the western seemed loaded with potential to tell us who we are now but had fallen on hard times with its melodrama and clichés of character and plot. I hoped to take the typical outlaw narratives as seriously as Shakespeare took Holinshed’s Chronicles and to find in the West of the nineteenth century some genetic markers for our present condition.”

If you’re studying alcoholism in American literature, you have plenty to work with: The Amherst Bulletin reports on an upcoming UMass continuing-ed course featuring Robert Louis Stevenson, Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Yates, and more. (via)

Oddest goodie-bag gift ever: To thank John Irving for showing up, the Guardian Hay festival is bringing in a Greco-Roman wrestling champ, so the novelist-wrestler could get in a workout.

The Independent sits down with Gore Vidal, still snippy about his reputation:

“Mailer once said that ‘Vidal lacks the wound.’ What do you think he was referring to: the fact that your grandfather was a senator? Your privileged upbringing?”

“Privileged? You mean more privileged than a fat boy from South Africa,” Vidal snaps [Mailer's father was born in Cape Town] “with a doting mother?”