January yawned and stretched interminably, no?
I’m working on the latest story, should have a first “artist’s” draft done this week, I expect. Then probably several months of revision. But I have high hopes for this one.
Meantime, my writing coach Bruce is going to reconnoiter my last two or three stories and together we’ll determine which one to begin prepping for publication. I’m guessing City of Destiny, Featuring Eric Lipschitz. I have no idea which literary journals or magazines he’s going to recommend, other than Glimmer Train. How do I know he’s going to recommend Glimmer Train? The box of back issues he sent me in December to read through might have tipped me off. (Hear that, Linda and Susan? I’m a-comin’ gunning…). I do enjoy me some Tin House, too, though I’m not sure City of Destiny is the best fit…that may be my own modesty speaking though. We shall see.
Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff – Yes, it’s a light, sweet and airy book to a degree, but it’s very enjoyable and I’m taking my time with it. Mostly because I’m focusing on reading short stories for the time being. More substance and depth than a beach read, but goes down easy like the best commercial fiction. No wonder Stephen King touted it. Definitely got me interested in reading her other stuff and following Lauren’s career.
Where I’m Calling From, Raymond Carver – I have an old. well-worn Vintage Contemporaries edition of Carver’s short stories, published in 1989, a year after his death I believe. I felt it was my duty as a writer and MFA aspirant to pull it down off the shelf and take another look. I haven’t read these stories since I was an undergrad English major at Berkeley. I started at the beginning, and will likely put it down and pick it up again for ages. The first story, “They Didn’t Say Anything,” was perfect. And yes: classic Carver. Taut sentences, lots of simple “said” tags, very little extraneous exposition and few adjectives. The title is the young narrator’s presumed reaction after being ignored by his fighting parents, when he tries to show them a huge (half of a) fish he caught.
“The Valetudinarian,” Joshua Ferris – I vaguely remembered grazing on this story when it came out in the New Yorker a year ago. But here it was, collected smack dab in the middle of my new copy of Best American Short Stories 2010 (guest ed. Richard Russo). I laughed out loud. It was a terrific story, and exemplary of what I’ve been going through in my own writing lately—not in terms of the subject, action, or characters, but in the way it’s written—it perfectly demonstrates how a “triggering” idea can morph into something else, and then again, all in the same story, without feeling too shaggy dog-like or meandering. Highly recommended.