The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin - "Ursula Kroeber was born in Berkeley, in 1929, into a family busy with the reading, recording, telling, and inventing of stories. She grew up listening to her aunt Betsy’s memories of a pioneer childhood and to California Indian legends retold by her father. One legend of the Yurok people says that, far out in the Pacific Ocean but not farther than a canoe can paddle, the rim of the sky makes waves by beating on the surface of the water. On every twelfth upswing, the sky moves a little more slowly, so that a skilled navigator has enough time to slip beneath its rim, reach the outer ocean, and dance all night on the shore of another world."
This Week In Fiction: Discovering An Unpublished Story by Langston Hughes [The New Yorker] “Seven People Dancing” is a story by Langston Hughes that was written, most likely, in the early sixties, but was never published. [more inside]
Debate erupts as Hanya Yanagihara's editor takes on critic over bad review of A Little Life. [The Guardian] The editor of Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling novel A Little Life has taken to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend his author from a review that claimed the novel “duped” its readers “into confusing anguish and ecstasy, pleasure and pain”. [more inside]
Traces of Mavis. David MacFarlane writes about the life and work of Mavis Gallant for Canadian magazine The Walrus.
...an aspiring novelist once pressed Gallant for advice, which she stubbornly refused to give. She could have said something—anything, almost—to satisfy the would-be writer. But she wasn’t the kind of person who did that. ... How to write? This was not, as far as Gallant was concerned, an uncomplicated question. It was also a question that, were it to be answered meaningfully, would require more soul-searching, more thought, more self-analysis than she would want to undertake in front of a stranger. It’s easy to imagine how the question could come across as rude or impossible to answer—or both. Besides, she firmly believed that writing could not be taught. But the young author persisted. “All right,” Gallant finally said. “Here’s some advice: never drink cheap wine.”
Tom Hanks, somewhat of an authority on going to the moon, wrote about it in The New Yorker. (You, too, can write like Tom Hanks!)
"Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you've been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It's hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that's one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life's mystery…" Virginia Woolf's Idea of Privacy
The Teen Whisperer by Margaret Talbot [New Yorker] How the author [John Green] of “The Fault in Our Stars” built an ardent army of fans.
We were in the stage where we couldn’t make serious eye contact for fear of implying we were too invested. We used euphemisms like “I miss you” and “I like you” and smiled every time our noses got too close.[more inside]
"If Shirley Jackson’s intent was to symbolize into complete mystification, and at the same time be gratuitously disagreeable, she certainly succeeded" - The New Yorker takes a look at the over 300 letters in reaction to The Lottery
“What I’m about to show you,” he says, “you can’t tell a soul about it. If you did, it would be major trouble. Trouble with a capital ‘T.’ ” He sips his drink and tugs the quilt away.Shirley Temple Three by Thomas Pierce
Mawmaw takes a step back. She’s looking at some kind of elephant. With hair.
“Don’t worry. She’s not dangerous,” Tommy says. “Bread Island Dwarf Mammoth. The last wild one lived about ten thousand years ago. They’re the smallest mammoths that ever existed. Cute, isn’t she?”
The mammoth is waist high, with a pelt of dirty-blond fur that hangs in tangled draggles to the dirt. Its tusks, white and pristine, curve out and up. The forehead is high and knobby and covered in a darker fur. The trunk probes the ground for God-knows-what and then curls back into itself like a jelly roll.
“What’s a goshdern Bread Island Dwarf Whatever doing in my yard?” Mawmaw asks.
Last week, the New Yorker published a (previously rejected) F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, "Thank You for the Light", written in 1936. The magazine has also made available "A Short Autobiography," in which Fitzgerald gave a chronology of his life in terms of alcoholic beverages imbibed. [more inside]
Jennifer Egan's short story Safari can be read at NewYorker.com (~6600 words), or can be read to you in a wonderful performance by Hope Davis (59:00). Jennifer Egan previously.
Hand On The Shoulder, a short story by Ian McEwan. My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with "plume"), and forty years ago, in my final year at Cambridge, I was recruited by the British security service.
All That: "new" fiction from David Foster Wallace.
The Invasion From Outer Space: Steven Millhauser gives The New Yorker a short, unsettling sci-fi story.
New Yorker fiction 2008. Annotated list of short fiction from the past year. "As perhaps the most high-profile venue for short fiction in the world, taking stock of the New Yorker's year in fiction is a worthwhile exercise for writers and readers alike."
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is (a) Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, (b) facing a five-count indictment from the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, (c) the author of The Apprentice, a book that is, in the words of The New Yorker's Lauren Collins, "Libby's 1996 entry in the long and distinguished annals of the right-wing dirty novel," or (d) all of the above. Via Making Light.
Where I'm Likely To Find It is a new short story by Japanese author Haruki Murakami (previously discussed here and here). The story is similar in feel to his latest novel, Kafka on the Shore which was released in English this year.
The Brief History of the Dead (printable) imagines the afterlife as a thriving city, where the poor choices of the living affect everyone, including the dead. A New Yorker short story by Kevin Brockmeier.
Back in the time of which I am speaking, due to our Coordinators had mandated us, we had all seen that educational video of "It's Yours to Do With What You Like!" in which teens like ourselfs speak on the healthy benefits of getting off by oneself and doing what one feels like in terms of self-touching, which what we learned from that video was, there is nothing wrong with self-touching, because love is a mystery but the mechanics of love need not be, so go off alone, see what is up, with you and your relation to your own gonads, and the main thing is, just have fun, feeling no shame!"
A good New Yorker piece on George Pelecanos, who is my favorite crime author not just for his skills, but because he sets his novels in D.C.
Finally! The New Yorker publishes a short story that's actually worth reading. Tim O'Brien riffs on weight loss and a certain reclusive genius--highly entertaining stuff just right for a sluggish Saturday afternoon. For extra credit: why is so much literary fiction so mind-numbingly dull these days?