Kate Braverman: Writing as a Criminal Act

by Rebekah Hall

We only just caught wind of this. Lucky for you, too, because it’s not too late; this is the greatest writer’s retreat you probably don’t know about: Kate Braverman is currently accepting applicants for a rare writer’s workshop—Writing as a Criminal Act—at her estate in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The darkly lyrical Braverman has the enchanting ability to slip her entire fist into the very center of human life and drag from it all that is deep and shallow. She captures the simultaneous emptiness and fullness of existence in a language that is at once raw and poetic, accessible and immersive, a perfect synthesis of rhetoric and image. She’s a longtime favorite of the Flatmancrooked crew, and I’m super excited to head out to Santa Fe with Kate and smear coyote blood all over my manuscript while howling at the stars and full moon with twelve other writer-criminals.  Come lie and steal with me!

From Kate’s website:

Writing as a Criminal Act

Santa Fe Workshop, September 25, 2010 Kate Braverman will teach a rare total immersion one-week writing workshop. Participants will stay at her retreat, write, howl with the coyotes, write, watch the sunset like a massacre across their faces, write, eat, write, witness the promiscuous moon leave her greasy streaks across the innocent sky, write, have nightmares and write.

Ms. Braverman is interested in the concept of Writing as a Criminal Act. As writers, we employ the methods of professional criminals. We break and enter, we rob, we assume aliases and false identities, engage in fraud, lie, omit, impersonate, autopsy the living, exhume the dead for interrogation and deny everything. Recognizing the full extent of one’s writing tools should be liberating. We will use them with the ruthless conviction of people willing to be incarcerated for their acts.

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Duet for Two Pens — Review of ‘Why Translation Matters,’ by Edith Grossman

Richard Howard  | The New York Times

Does translation matter? Edith Grossman’s new book argues that it does, right in the title, and she ought to know. “Why Translation Matters” (an extended essay, really) is one of the first texts in Yale’s energetic new series, Why X Matters, each volume of which is to present a “concise argument for the continuing relevance of an important person or idea.” Certainly when X equals translation, I can imagine no defender more qualified — or, as it turns out, more querulous — than Grossman, whose version of “Don Quixote” a few years back caused a sensation in the shadowy realm of newly translated classics, and whose ulterior dealings with Hispanic splendors, ancient and modern, have stirred even so mild-mannered an assessor of cultural accomplishments as Harold Bloom to proclaim her, ominously enough, the Glenn Gould of translators. (Read More)

As a Friend, by Forrest Gander

A D Jameson  |  Review of Contemporary Fiction

As a Friend is the short first novel by poet, translator, and essayist Forrest Gander; its four sections, intriguingly, read like chapters from four different books. The first section describes the central character Les’s birth in the hyperbolic style of a Southern gothic, while the third (and most sweetly powerful) records his girlfriend Sarah’s fragmented reflections on their relationship. The second and longest section sketches out the novel’s simple story, being a sequence of prose anecdotes narrated by Clay, a young man whose unrequited love for Les sets in motion the book’s culminating but oblique tragedy. Clay, true to his name, tells us that he’s imitating Les, remolding himself into the obscure object of his desire, though his mimicry exceeds his grasp: whereas Les slips easily through a lyrically romantic world of insects, birds, and flowers, Clay, sweating heavily, remains swarmed by gnats and ticks. (Read More)

Papeles inesperados — Julio Cortázar

Jay Miskowiec  Rain Taxi

Published twenty-five years after Julio Cortázar’s death, Papeles inesperados (Unexpected Writings) brings together a vast range of little-known texts by the Argentine author. Though not all technically “unpublished” works, many previously having appeared in newspapers or magazines, this trove varying in style and genre offers Cortázar fans and scholars a fresh look at his work. Co-edited by Carles Álvarez Garriga and Cortázar’s literary executor and former wife, Aurora Bernárdez, Papeles inesperados is among the most important books published in Spanish in 2009.

Jorge Luis Borges said that while Mexicans descended from the Aztecs, and Peruvians from the Incas, the Argentines descended from boats. That connection, closer to the old world than the new, has often set Argentines apart culturally from other Latin Americans. Even to call Cortázar an Argentine is incomplete. Born in Brussels in 1914, he grew up in Argentina but moved to Paris in 1951, where he wrote most of his notable work and where he died. While writers like Miguel Ángel Asturias and Gabriel García Márquez were forging a style that would become known as magical realism—based upon the very history of the Americas, where one need not look beyond the reality of this world to find the magical, the astonishing, the marvelous—Cortázar would be influenced by surrealism and the novelists of the nouvel roman like Alain Robbe-Grillet and Philippe Sollers, where punctuation and syntax were as important as words in conveying character and setting. (Read More)

Gods Are in Their Heaven, but All’s Not Right With World — Review of John Banville’s ‘The Infinities,’ ‘Elegy for April’

Janet Maslin  |  The New York Times

What does a writer do when he has already won the Man Booker Prize and can make copacetic use of words like preterite, spalpeen, goitrous and phthistic? In the case of John Banville, whose accolades also include the Guinness Peat Aviation award, the answer has been to take a pseudonymous flight of escapism into genre fiction.

So this Janus-faced author has two current novels: “The Infinities,” a convoluted marvel about Greek deities wreaking havoc in the household of a dying theoretical mathematician, and “Elegy for April,” the third installment in a crime series credited to Benjamin Black. As this very busy author told an interviewer, Banville writes meticulously; Black just writes fast. It’s a toss-up as to which of them has more fun.

“The Infinities,” a much merrier novel than its premise might suggest, is the exponentially more elaborate effort. It is derived from Heinrich von Kleist’s 1807 play “Amphitryon,” about the Theban general of the title. (Synergy alert: Mr. Banville has adapted Kleist plays for the stage, including this one.) And a character in “The Infinities,” an actress, is named Helen. In addition to the other classical allusions she provides, Helen has been cast in “Amphitryon” as Alcmene, a woman seduced by mythology’s best-known stealth lady killer, Zeus. (Read More)

The Extended Words: An Imaginary Dictionary, by Sid Gershgoren

Jenny Dunning  |  Rain Taxi

FLUG /fləg´/ n. 1. A substance reputed to wash haze from some, but not all, early mornings. 2. By extension, any act or word or image which clears ambiguous action and verbiage from any given group of co-terminous situations selected by chance or, barring chance, by outright chicanery.

You won’t find flug in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, or even in the OED. It’s a word from Sid Gershgoren’s “imaginary dictionary,” The Extended Words. Yet, like so many of Gershgoren’s inventions, once you’ve encountered it, it seems like a word English should have.

The author of four books of poetry, Gershgoren has compiled a list of plausible-sounding words, defined them, and provided invented quotations that demonstrate their use. The words range from pure whimsy—such as galisse, a shoe that knows where its wearer wants to go and how to get there—to barbed rants aimed at intellectuals and mass culture alike, as in synecdofuge, “a device used to expel verbal, long-range, parasitic reductionisms.” Some are onomatopoetic—pecta pecta, an often fatal stuttering disorder—while others, like ikristics (frozen particles of air indistinguishable from snowflakes) wear their etymology on their sleeves. (Read More)

DIRTY SECRET: 4 “Genre” Novels Worth Your Time

I’m not entirely sure why I was asked to write this or to generate this list.  I haven’t read a lot of what is considered “genre” fiction although I’m gaining greater breadth in this area these days.  It’s probably because I’m less snooty about books than is the venerable editor.  There’s also the possibility that I simply know more about various types of writing than he does – but that’s a question for another time.  In no particular order, and having made a vow not to type the name of a famous character whose initials are “H.P.,” I give you my four favorite “genre” works.  One of the best things about these books is that half of them have at least one sequel; there’s nothing like seeing a character get juicier the longer you know her!
1. Outlander (and its sequels) by Diana Gabaldon.  First of all, Gabaldon’s protagonist, a young British woman fresh out of nursing on the battlefields of World War II, is one of the most complex heroines I’ve ever met.  She’s bold and brave, smart and sassy, but not to the point of being a caricature, which is rare.  Gabaldon writes solid fiction that moves at a perfect pace most of the time and she has fewer annoying writers’ foibles than most.  The historical part of the storyline tends to drag a bit around the fourth and fifth works in the series (particularly The Fiery Cross, which I didn’t finish) but the pace picks up again in the sixth novel.  I like these books so much that I’m actually re-reading the first one right now even though it’s been only six or seven months since I read it the first time!
2. White As Snow by Tanith Lee.  Fans of fantasy and sci-fi have altars built to Tanith Lee and I can see why after reading this book!  Her storytelling is vivid yet surreal and the darkness of the tale just gets deeper and deeper until you begin to wonder how much darker it can get.  The happily-ever-after isn’t a given in this story – not just because the original Snow White story didn’t have a happy ending but also because the characters are far too interesting – lurid, even – to allow something so trite.
3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.  Somehow I imagine that Jane Austen would appreciate this story were she living today.  I have tried to read Jane Austen and the only one of her novels I’ve been able to slog my way through was Mansfield Park.  I’ve watched the BBC movie version of Pride and Prejudice, though, and Grahame-Smith has hit on every key point with such exactitude that I kept laughing out loud while I was reading.  The illustrations enhance the experience.  It’s fantastic to see Miss Elizabeth Bennett kicking a little ass.
4. The Golden Compass (first in a trilogy – published in the UK as Northern Lights) by Phillip Pullman.  Preadolescent Lyra Belacqua, our recalcitrant heroine, is one of the greatest characters in all of fiction.  She makes mousy Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time appear spineless.  Pullman has garnered acclaim for this trilogy because the writing is vibrant, the theme compelling – and he has been the target of religious groups who dislike his portrayal of religion. I find his secular message to be a beautiful paean to humanism.
Genre gets a lot of heat, which is peculiar considering such literary travesties as The Confederacy of Dunces not only being published but winning prizes. Seriously? As the great Chabon might say, “Don’t genre hate, congratulate.” I mean, reading Beckett is well and good, but it just isn’t any fun.
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Let the press begin!

Here is some of the press so far. Thank you to all the media outlets and journalists who’ve been kind enough to do everything from blurb to write reviews and article about this project and this book.

Is this the apocalypse? Maybe. It could just be a personal problem.

James Kaelan’s We’re Getting On was the last book to remind me why I love books so much. A collection of 2 long and 2 short interconnected stories, this text challenges the very notion of progress by evaluating the roles of technology and imagination in a modern, ecologically unsustainable society. The vision is undaunted and as clear as skies must have been before the industrial age.

The first story, “A Deliberate Life,” provides a vivid snapshot of the kind of hipster life where “you’re only allowed to worry about things that don’t matter, like bands and trials and fashion,” where, due to a lack of funds … well. I’ll let the no-nonsense protagonist Josh tell you about it:

“I should explain that in Midtown, because none of us can afford the cover charge at The Park (though none of us could go there if we could), we have to settle for the second string girls who’re willing to put up with fruit flies in their vermouth. (read more)

One of the things I’ve always wanted to try with Monkeybicycle is to manufacture its print issues on recycled paper, using soy-based inks. Environmentalism is something that I’m very heavily involved in, and I want to do my part. Publishing books isn’t exactly the best way to do that, so I did a bit of research on how to lower Monkeybicycle’s impact on the earth and it definitely seems feasible to lower it. I’ve wanted to do this from issue one, but have never had the money–it’s slightly more expensive to use environmentally friendly materials–but I think costs are coming down a bit as more people look into these possibilities, so I’m giving it some hard thought for future issues. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to make the books completely carbon-free because of shipping, so maybe I’ll find a way to plant some trees to make up for that. (read more).


You receive . . .

  • We’re Getting On (Novella) 1st Ed

_____________by James Kaelan

This first edition of We’re Getting On is made of 100% post-consumer paper, is biodegradable, and the cover contains birch seeds that, we’re this book to be planted, would grow into trees.


You receive . . .

  • We’re Getting On (Novella) 1st Ed

_____________by James Kaelan

  • We’re Getting On (Novel) 2nd Ed

_____________by James Kaelan

  • Your Name (or a name of your choosing) printed in the 2nd Ed. of We’re Getting On under the section “This book was made possible by-”
  • Postcard: James will send you a handwritten postcard from the 1900 mile book tour, by bike.
  • Limited Ed. Zero Emission Book Project Tour Poster
  • Instant download of ‘The Murderous Cowboys’ live album, written about in We’re Getting On, 2nd Ed.

You choose your price, starting at $60.00




Press Inquries and Interview Requests can be directed to Goldest Egg c/o Jessi Hector
jessi [ at ] goldestegg [ dot ] com

The Lazarus Project, by Aleksandar Hemon

Michael Pinker  |  Review of Contemporary Fiction

Vladimir Brik intends to write a novel about the senseless murder of Ukrainian Jewish immigrant Lazarus Averbuch by Chicago’s chief of police in 1908, the event’s historical backdrop calling attention to a widespread xenophobia riveting the national consciousness, stirred by the news media to fever pitch. A Bosnian immigrant like his creator, married to an Irish-American surgeon, Brik feels guilty at his lack of publication and dependence on his wife. A chance encounter leads him to win a grant to support research on the unfortunate Lazarus, who survived a pogrom to seek the American dream, only to be gunned down in his new home shortly afterward. Hemon’s double narrative begins with Lazarus’s murder, then alternates between events surrounding its aftermath and the peregrinations of Brik and his slick sidekick, Rora Halilbašić, photographer and raconteur, whose winning savoir faire spices the pair’s efforts to comb Lazarus’s past in the old country. (Read More)

April 16, 2010 | Posted in: book reviews | Comments Closed

The Ambivalence Artist — Review of Coetzee’s ‘Diary of a Bad Year’

David Marcus  Dissent Magazine

J.M. Coetzee made an early career out of ambivalence. Restrained and impersonal, he mined the caverns of despair from the safe distance of allegory and literary appropriation. Life and Times of Michael K, his 1983 Booker Prize winner, tracked the itinerant life of a slow-witted gardener in the sparse prose of Kafka. Foe, a work of revisionist and feminist genius, challenged the rugged masculinity of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe by inhabiting the voice of an imagined female companion. Master of Petersburg occupied not only the melancholic timbre of a Dostoevsky novel—it was, after all, about the great master—but also the stilted Victorian English of a Constance Garnett translation.

Over the past decade, however, Coetzee has adopted an increasingly direct and confessional style. Once dedicated to ectomorphic reticence, he has now allowed himself the fattier tissues of biography. Beginning with his second Booker Prize winner, the 1997 Disgrace, he has spoken through a series of half-selves. Reclusive and dissatisfied, the protagonists of Disgrace, Elizabeth Costello, and Slow Man laid bare the moral and psychological crises of a midlife colonial: shame and guilt foremost, but also the persistent anxieties of physical and sexual decline.

At first glance, Diary of a Bad Year, Coetzee’s most recent entry, seems to follow this “late” tendency toward novelized autobiography. A book of journal entries, it maps the tortuous cartography of Coetzeean doubt through a near biographical stand-in: the eponymous John C, author of Waiting for the Barbarians and recent émigré from South Africa to Australia (a migration Coetzee himself made in 2002).  (Read More)

April 14, 2010 | Posted in: book reviews | Comments Closed