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In Conversation

JOAN SILBER with Gabriel Brownstein

The day I met Joan Silber she was getting ready to fly off to places she had never been before: Prague, Budapest, and Istanbul. We met in Roots & Vines, where you can buy Vietnamese coffee and Stella Artois, bagels and bánh mì, down in the Lower East Side, the intersection of Chinatown and Hispanic Delancey Street, near the vestiges of the old Jewish immigrant neighborhood.

In Conversation

MEGAN ABBOTT with Cullen Gallagher

Well-versed in the heritage of all things hardboiled and noir, Megan Abbott repositions the archetypical gender roles in a decidedly postmodern way.

NONFICTION: Americaner and Americaner

Don’t believe that William T. Vollmann’s latest work, Imperial, is merely a “California” book because it explores the Imperial Valley, an amorphous rural and agricultural region southeast of L.A. Imperial is more a tale of the West, and thus is really the tail end of the dogged America that old bitch Manifest Destiny once birthed.

FICTION: Screamworthy

A swimming sea of sputum, sex, sordid, and silly, Derek McCormack’s novella from Akashic reinvents a classic: freak show. Meet the cast of Tod Browning’s lost screenplay. Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, and two of fashions’ arch-nemeses: Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.


The author of twelve previous collections of poetry (not including her collaborations with artists such as Joe Brainard and Ellen Phelan) and recipient of the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York State Foundation for the Arts, Ingram Merrill Foundation, and MacArthur fellowships, Ann Lauterbach’s work has been widely recognized and lauded.

NONFICTION: The Slimy Bottom

In July 1997, I discovered a human skull in front of the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. From a distance and in the haziness of an exceptionally humid night, the luminescent orb looked like some awkward artificial lighting fixture. It looked intentionally placed there.


From Dubai to Japan to Boston to Brooklyn to Romani Gypsy grandparents, the stories in Anatolia and Other Stories (Black Lawrence) are varied and, conceptually, architected on an intriguing premise. The first story, “Dubai,” reads like a Malamud folklore legend/Flannery O’Connor hybrid.


If Basho were around today he might write something like this—shavings of life curling from his pen onto the page. Beginning with nature, adding love and a dose of “thin Midwest darkness,” Wayne Miller records the echoes of snow falling on frost.

FICTION: It's a Miraquirk

Christine Lehner’s third novel, Absent a Miracle, is witty, warm, and funny. It successfully blends several different kinds of fiction, echoing (without aping) Anne Tyler’s beautifully observed tales of domestic life, Junot Diaz’s creative use of Latin American history and myth, and Jane Smiley’s avid depictions of sex and the human body.

NONFICTION: Super Mindfulness Man

First, you have to get over the title. Colin Beavan’s project should have been called Minimal Impact Man or No Net Impact Man. Next, you have to get over the subtitle. Beavan, a self-identified megalomaniac, styles himself as a rickshaw-riding, Zen philosophy-spouting, cabbage stew-cooking comic book family man hero—out to save the world!

NONFICTION: Where are the Wild Things?

Are there postmodern animals? Devin Johnston’s Creaturely suggests there are. He implicitly makes this claim in a collection of carefully honed essays that reflect on the fauna and (in one case) flora he encounters walking the streets and parks of St. Louis.

NONFICTION: Prison Cages, Death Rows

Both law enforcement officials and readers the world over have a fetish for incarceration. There are now roughly 2.3 million people behind bars in this country, five times more than in 1978. With so many imprisoned individuals there is sure to be a proliferation of prison memoirs and a readership hungry to live vicariously in the confines and conditions of an existence they may know cinematically, but generally not by experience.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2009

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