Review of “Bad Faith” by Theodore Wheeler.

badfaithMy review of Bad Faith by Ted Wheeler has gone live over at Necessary Fiction. A bit:

Most of the characters in Bad Faith aren’t nice, and Wheeler plumbs that not-niceness throughout. The Pythagoreans talked of good as definite and finite, and evil and indefinite and infinite. Niceness may make for a slogan, and a friendly face to provide directions, but it is often just a veneer.

Having followed Ted’s writing career from a distance for a while (as a fellow Nebraskan), it was fun to finally read some of his stories. It’s a great collection, and I’d heartily recommend it. Go buy it here.

Review of “Seeing Red” by Lina Meruane.

1bk_seeingred_49757628-190x300My review of the essential Seeing Red by Lina Meruane has been published over at the Colorado Review. An excerpt:

One evening in New York, Lina Meruane’s body “seize[s] up” and leaves her “paralyzed, [her] sweaty hands clutching at the air.” Just as she reaches to her purse to pick up an insulin shot, a “firecracker” goes off in her head: “That was the last thing I would see, that night, through the eye: a deep, black blood.” The stroke leaves her vision damaged, and the rest of Seeing Red, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, concerns how Lina, a writer and doctoral student, copes with losing and trying to reclaim her sight. Every day threads of blood continue to cloud her vision. “Being like this, in a fog,” she says, “is like being asleep and awake at the same time.” In the aftermath, Lina is unable to put pen to paper.

I particularly liked that the CR stuck the review in both their fiction and nonfiction sections. Clever—and the exact right move for this book, which straddles the two categories.

On WatchOS 3.

Ars Technica discusses its impressions of WatchOS 3, and how it may finally make the Apple Watch live up to its promise:

WatchOS 3 has the benefit of a year or so of actual user data behind it, and it shows. Apple had ideas about how people might or should use the watch, and now it’s tweaking those ideas based on things that people are actually doing.

I like, but have been underwhelmed by, my watch. I’m hopeful this can fix a large portion of the issues. Remapping the side button is a big improvement; it’s basically worthless right now. It’s also frustrating that there are not more complications, and that complications that should be useful—like MLB AtBat—rarely work or update quickly enough.

“All About Books.”

aabpodcasttThis Thursday, June 2, I’ll be on NET Radio’s All About Books talking about what makes One Book One Lincoln selection Being Mortal by Atul Gawande so great. Such as bits like this bit, talking about the author’s father:

One of his proudest days was July 4, 1976, the country’s bicentennial, when he was made an American citizen in front of hundreds of cheering people in the grandstand at the Athens County Fair between the hog auction and the demolition derby. But one thing he could never get used to was how we treat our old and frail—leaving them to a life alone or isolating them in a series of anonymous facilities, their last conscious moments spent with nurses and doctors who barely knew their names.

I was on the One Book One Lincoln selection committee this year, and am proud to say the committee made a great pick. Like last year, I’m also happy to report that the committee brought a diverse selection of authors to its top three picks.

When the time comes, you can listen here; or if you miss it (if, like me, you have to work during the day) you can download the podcast here.

Recent Reading.

As I’ve been mostly working on fiction lately, I’ve not been as active in my book reviewing. But I’ve still been reading—of course—so I thought I might make it a regular part of this blog to round-up some of the better books I’ve come across.

The bulk of my reading lately has been as a committee member of One Book One Lincoln, the great reading program from the Lincoln City Libraries. Bound by secrecy (!), I can’t reveal the committee’s selections—other than to say we’ve picked three great books, at least one of which I’m sure you probably haven’t read.

luciaberlinThe best of the fiction that I’ve read lately is Lucia Berlin’s A Manual For Cleaning Women, a rich collection of brutal stories, marked by the isolation and estrangement of their narrators, often shades of Berlin herself. Highlights include “Mourning,” “Todo Luna, Todo Año” and the title story; and “Emergency Room Notebook,” a melange of macabre hospital tales, which also serves as a sort of companion piece to the title story. I’ve heard Berlin described by that distinct moniker “writer’s writer,” and perhaps it fits in the same way it does for James Salter—Berlin’s stories aren’t often conventional, and can shatter you with the beauty of their sentences. (The quality of being a “writer’s writer” seems to be the keen ability to make writers jealous.)

Despite loving the Berlin stories, I generally prefer novels. The recent novels I’ve read, coincidentally, have all been by younger authors: The Turner House (Angela Flournoy), The Story of My Teeth (Valeria Luiselli), The Unknowns (Gabriel Roth) and Delicious Foods (James Hannaham) have found their way to my nightstand. The similarities end there, though—all are strikingly different books. Luiselli’s is the most experimental and probably my favorite of the bunch, but I’m a sucker for Latin American novels. All are recommended.

Confections, Cosmetics and Entertainments: On John Warner’s “A Tough Day for the Army.”

toughdayThat master of the short story, Anton Chekhov, once noted that a writer was not “a confectioner, a cosmetic dealer, or an entertainer,” but rather, Chekhov said, the writer was somebody who had “a contract with his conscience and his sense of duty.” One wonders perhaps what Chekhov would have made of a writer who at once wanted to sell you cosmetics, but also undermined the idea of wearing make-up at all. Although John Warner’s short story collection, A Tough Day for the Army, is brimming with metaphorical confections and cosmetics and entertainments, never, either, is he without a strong obligation to write his conscience.

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“The Thing Speaks For Itself” in Anomaly Lit.

anomalylit2The new issue of Anomaly Lit, featuring my story “The Thing Speaks For Itself,” just came out, and it looks fantastic. “Thing Speaks” is an older story that I reworked a bit before submitting to Anomaly, reworking some sections that had previously never quite felt right. It’s a bleak little piece, but from the tenor of the other pieces in this edition of Anomaly it seems to fit right in.

The editors at Anomaly also asked me to participate in a podcast and talk a bit about the story and my style. I hadn’t done anything like that before, so it was the source of much hand wringing, but I was eventually able to answer a couple questions in (I hope) a coherent fashion.

Thanks for the editors (Lorcán, Roseanna, Oliver and Joseph) for accepting the piece and allowing it to be in such a great journal. (The photography really is fantastic.)

You can read the story online here.