June 14, 2011
The NewYorker Summer Fiction Issue has arrived but so far I’ve only read the non-fiction parts of it. There are new fictions from George Saunders and Jeffrey Eugenides (two of my absolute faves) and Lauren Groff (I still need to read her book, The Monsters of Templeton). Again, I love these writers, but I thought the Summer Fiction Issue was meant to introduce new and upcoming fiction writers, no?
In any case, I did read the 5 Nonfiction pieces by: Jennifer Egan, Junot Diaz, Tea Obreht, Edward P. Jones, and Salvatore Scibona. They were all good, but my favorites were Scibona’s Where I Learned to Read, Jones’ Shacks, and Diaz’ The Money (and also Jones, but I’ll save that for another blog post).
As a side note, I’m currently reading Tea Obreht’s novel, The Tiger’s Wife, which is getting phenomenal reviews, she’s being called a new wonderkind, and Colum McCann says, “Téa Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years.” I’m only about 100 pages in though I’m enjoying it–especially the magical stories the narrator’s grandfather tells her (hence the title), that are woven throughout the book, which is essentially a mystery (the narrator is trying to discover why her grandfather left home to die without telling anyone).
Anyway, back to the 5 Nonfiction pieces. I love it when NYer does these 1 page shorts, because they’re so easy to use/teach in a writing class. I’m definitely going to be using these in my Fall Creative Nonfiction Workshop at the college.
Scibona’s particularly appealed to me because it’s basically a love letter to reading– though told through a twisty series of events in his young school life. But it reminded me of my own growing up, sneaking away at recess and lunch to the library in grade school to read those short bios of famous people– called the Childhood of Famous Americans Series: Lincoln, Dolly Madison, Jim Thorpe, Betsy Ross, Jane Addams. Remember those bios? They were meant for grade school, probably only about 50 pages (if that) and had the most basic information about the peoples’ lives– though all told very melodramatically (lots of exclamation points!). These were some of my best friends from 2nd to 6th grade.(I SO remember reading this one– Narcissa Whitman, Pioneer Girl).
In talking about finding his way to reading Scibona writes:
By senior year at St. John’s, we were reading Einstein in math, Darwin in lab, Baudelaire in French tutorial, Hegel in seminar. Seminar met twice a week for four years: eight o’clock to ten at night or later, all students addressed by surname. On weekends, I hung out with my friends. The surprise, the wild luck: I had friends. One sat in my room with a beer and “The Phenomenology of Spirit,” reading out a sentence at a time and stopping to ask, “All right, what did that mean?” The gravity of the whole thing would have been laughable if it hadn’t been so much fun, and if it hadn’t been such a gift to find my tribe.
You can also find out what these writers are reading this summer.