It was an action packed three days. I ran into a guy I went to nursery school with (we played soccer together in our junior high days and even when to high school together). He edits this. Great seeing him. Also ran into a friend who I used to hit D.C. poetry spots with back in the day when I wrote poetry. I don't do that silly shit anymore (only keeeding), but she still does. We called ourselves the Wailing Poets Society and pretended we were on tour.
AWP was a bit of a whirlwind experience. Almost like speed dating. You bump into an author you admire and stop him or her and say, "I really like your work." And then there is an awkward pause. I can't tell you how many times that happened. But I did stop for substantive conversations with my MFA friends who I bumped into. Also met some editors who published my work. So weird to have strangers tell you what they like about your work. Most exchanges with editors are done online and it almost feels like they don't really exist.
I saw Jhumpa Lahiri speak. I'm working through Interpreter of Maladies right now. She talked about giving herself the permission to write when so many forces were advising her to choose the path of stability over the path of being an artist. The next day one of my favorites, Junot Diaz, read and he said this:
"If a human being grows up with no reflections of himself he becomes a monster. I write to leave a mirror."An amazing moment in the middle of some great commentary. This is also one of the reasons I write. More so the children's stories I'm
I left the whole experience fired up with ideas and excitement to write. I love being around writers. Nothing else like it.
So yeah, there were also some readings and panels and, one of the highlights, a massive, massive bookfair. I tried not to buy too many books, but fuck it, this is what I invest in. You only go round this bitch once. Plus, I still got the 100 Books thing going.
So, with commentary in italics and occasional links. Here is my AWP 2011 Haul:
Some of this shit was free, but please tell me if any of these books are shitty, because I spent so much money that in the next few weeks, if my baby needs diapers I will need to rip out the pages from some of these books and use them to catch his shit.
tiny I keep losing it. But the stories I've read so far are vicious. Real hard hitting. I may or may not have seen her read at AWP. She is mysterious. On the Twitter she is saying they are almost out. Apparently if you order before midnight on Sunday you get a bonus. Which pisses me off because I rushed out to get it at AWP and I ain't get no bonus. The true xTx fans pre-ordered it or got it shortly after the pre-order period. Special incentives for the slackers penalizes the rest of us. I hate when artists I love reissue their albums months later with bonus materials. How you gonna do that to me? I went out and got your album on the first day on some love shit. And you do this to me?)
Artifice issue 2 (which I think I may already have, but fuck it, I bought it for $1)
(Met the editors and they knew who I was despite having never
Limestone: An epic poem of Barbados by Anthony Kellman
In Praise of Island Women & other crimes by Brenda Flanagan(The above two will help me address my embarrassing lack of knowledge about Caribbean Literature, the region my folks come from.)
StoryQuarterly issue 44 (and a subscription)
(The woman who sold me this missed her calling as a used car saleswoman. I don't say this in a bad way. But I walked away from the table like, "Why did I just get a subscription to StoryQuarterly." These issues better be good.)
Oxford American: Best of the South 2010
In the Devil's Territory: stories by Kyle Minor(Some of the smartest writing on HTMLGIANT is done by this guy. I am proud to call him a Facebook friend I never correspond with, but plan to sometime in the non-specific future. Hey, he requested me.)
Correction of Drift: A Novel in Stories by Pamela Ryder(Went to an AWP panel on the novel-in-stories/linked story form. Really insightful. By far my favorite type of story collection. My novel follows this form, but I put my own twist on it. The idea of teaching the reader how to read your work through various hints or lists or maps or something kept coming up. It's an idea I've been thinking about for a while. Every story should teach the reader how to read it, particularly if you are dealing with an experimental form, but I never, until recently, thought of applying that to a longer work. How did they know what was on my mind.)
God Says No by James Hannaham
PANK 5(Which has not come in the mail yet, but you'll find my story "Wrestling the Dog" on page 115 and my friend Eugenia Tsutsumi on page 35. More on this issue in a coming post.)
Evansville Review: Volume XX
The Wraith by Goodloe Byron
Monstrous Blues (CD) by Goodloe Byron(I will do a full post on this guy soon. He writes books and gives them out for free. I've been seeing his books in coffee shops alongside the free publications for years. What strikes me is how well designed they are despite being free self-published works.)
Noo Journal issue 12(My friend Ryan Call co-edits this pub. He wasn't there, but the editor was and he seemed like a cool guy,)
Donald: a novel by Eric Martin and Stephen Elliot
What the World Will Look Like When all the Water Leaves us by Laura van den Berg
The Evolutionary Revolution by Lily Hoang
The Genet Translations: Poetry and Postumous Plays by Jean Genet (translated by Mark Spitzer)
Open Letters Monthly: an Anthology, 2007-2010(I must contribute to Open Letters.)
The Instructions by Adam Levin(This book is more than 1,000 pages. I will put it on my shelf next to Infinite Jest and Ulysses and they will battle it out for title of most intimidating long novel Rion has not finished. But a lot of folks will say that this book doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those two. There is this hilarious review by a novelist who wrote an 800-some page Jewish novel (The Instructions is a Jewish novel). Hopefully it will be one of the 100 (as will the other two. I'm an ambitious motherfucker) and I can tell you myself.
At the conference, I ran into my friend, poet Joe Hall (who all the poets at AWP kind of look like) and he saw me carrying a huge book that looked like the Oxford English Dictionary. I told him it was The Instructions and explained that it was about a Jewish kid who may or may not be the messiah. He said: "Sounds like that's right up your alley." It's a statement that surprised me because, yeah, I wrote a novel about guy who is writing a half-assed holybook, but I didn't realize that someone else would be able to see that connection. And I don't even think Joe has read a lot of this project, but it was cool that he seemed to get where I am coming from. Here's to you Joe.)
Blood in my Eye by George L. Jackson(At one time, I was a fanatic about the sixties. Used to think I should have been born in those days. I know these are the times I need to live in, but I still love reading "revolutionary" work from the sixties. One of my favorite rappers, The RZA said that the sixties are the moral backbone of the country and I kind of agree. This is a work I've been wanting to read for a while. I tried to buy it in 2007, the last time I was at AWP, but the guy who was selling convinced me to buy a different book. Even though the other book was $15 and I only had $10 he was adamant I needed to get the other book. "You can mail me the $5," he said. I never mailed him the $5 and never read the other book. But I saw him at this AWP. Of course he barely remembered me stiffing him and I bought Blood in my Eye.)
controversy surrounds this work. Let's see how much I will be able to get through.)
Lucinella by Lore Segal(Cause Shakespeare's Kitchen was great.)
Tales of Belkin by Alexander Pushkin(Always wanted to read some Pushkin.)
The Coxon Fund by Henry James(Always wanted to read some James.)
The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature edited by Ben Segal and Erinrose Mager(Won a shot glass at this bookfair table!)
The Good Rainbow Road(For my Son)