WHAT IS A/S READING? – NO. 4

Oh man. It’s like we can’t stop reading. We’re so all about it.

Poetry Editor Evan Simko-Bednarski is reading The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake.

Breece D’J Pancake (real name) was a troubled lower-middle-class West Virginian writer in the only-recently-de-blue-bloodified world of 1970’s University of Virginia. When not hunting, getting in fights, or hiking the Blue Ridge, he wrote stories that create a West Virginia so real you’re wiping the mud off your boots between page-turns. I’m on my second read-through, and it’s better than the first time around. This is story-craft at its best. Unpretentious, hard-hitting stories that don’t resort to easy resolution, and all in a tangible twang that lets you know that these characters are real people with real problems and real things to do. That they’ll still live on those pages even once you put the book down. This is one of those books that stays next to my typewriter as a reminder of how to practice the art. Required reading for any fan of the Armchair/Shotgun ethos.

Fiction Editor John Cusick is reading Moonraker by Ian Flemming.

The James Bond books are so wonderfully awful. This one includes the seminal tied-to-a-chair-while-villain-monologues scene. Though, to my taste, there’s not enough moonraking.

Congenial Bon Vivant and Managing Editor Adam Read-Brown is reading the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

It’s a special issue titled “The World Ahead”, with such fun topics as “American Power and Profligancy” and “The Future of American Power” and “Pivotal Powers”. All sorts of power being thrown around. Inside is just pictures from all four terminator movies.

Managing Editor Laura McMillan is reading My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer.

“New fairy tales” is an oxymoron–fairy tales trade in archetypes,
mixing and matching the familiar with the strange. Featuring writers like Michael Cunningham and Neil Gaiman, these are inventive, haunting, lovely, funny, creepy retellings of stories originally told by the Brothers Grimm, Italo Calvino, and your grandmother. Some feel unfinished, as though they were thought experiments on the part of the writers, albeit fascinating ones: James Audubon visits Baba Yaga. Hansel has allied himself with the witch. Half of Rumplestiltskin earns his pay as a clothing mannequin while receiving MadLibs letters from his other Half.

Since beginning the book, I see fairytale characters everywhere: a princess coming to my door on Halloween and handing me a puzzle piece; a hunched old man playing piano in the subway, flanked by dancing dolls. Exactly what I wanted as the joys of fall start to get greyer and darker.

Non-Fiction Editor Kevin Dugan says:

I haven’t read much this week besides technical reports and the Wall Street Journal because I’m finally catching up on watching The Wire and The Sopranos. They’re both fabulous.

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Comments
2 Responses to “WHAT IS A/S READING? – NO. 4”
  1. Holly Wood says:

    Oh, thanks, Evan! I’m buying Pancake for my boyfriend as a surprise. We were just having a conversation about how contemporary literature is all about navel-gazing. He’s a fiction writer and we’re trying to read the market of journals together and can’t get over the striking anti-masculinity bias. Have you read Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America? (http://amzn.to/bmnLWF) It’s his favorite book.

  2. ESB says:

    I haven’t read Brautigan, Holly, but thanks for the recommendation! Yeah, fiction’s definitely in a weird spot right now… Personally I feel that weird-spot-ness has a tendency to attend anything that receives a privileged place in the Academy these days… i.e. there’s a bit of blandness that enters into any art-form whose predominant arena for conversation is the Masters program. That’s part of why I love Pancake… he has a foot in that world and still writes like I imagine he talked. Enjoy the collection, and I’ll find myself Trout Fishing.

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