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.

Issue Six of Sediments Literary Arts Journal.

Issue Six of Sediments Literary Arts Journal, containing my story “The Flower Car,” is now available online. I’m very happy with how this issue turned out—great looking magazine and a great home for my story.

“The Flower Car” will be featured on the Sediments home page later this month. I’ll try to update this post when that goes live.

Meanwhile, two other stories have recently been accepted for publication, which is very exciting. Look for “Sunsets in Sunny Gardens” in I-70 Review come later this year, while the other story is (by request of the editors) still a secret…

Of the books I read that were published in 2015, these are my favorites.

This has become a yearly tradition—joining the chorus of book lists to toss in my thoughts on the great books published this past year that I was able to read this past year. In 2014 I enjoyed Amy Bloom’s Lucky Us, among others, and the year before it was The Infatuations by Javier Marías that topped my list. For more explanation about the long title, see this post.

This year, I reviewed ten books, including two really great ones (1 and 3), which are highlighted below.

  1. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff. Most of my thoughts about this great marriage novel of our time I put into my review. In short: sentence-by-sentence it was the best new fiction of 2015 I read. It’s not perfect, but I didn’t read anything better in 2015.
  2. God Help the Child, Toni Morrison. I swallowed Morrison’s latest in two sittings, maybe. Examining the way children can be abused, this book broadens a bit of the thematic scope after A Mercy and Home, and instead takes place in the present day. Although it hasn’t seemed to generate the same attention her last two books did, reading it made me fall in love with T-Mo all over again.
  3. Missoula, Jon Krakauer. Easily the best new nonfiction book I read in 2015, although The English and Their History and Sapiens, which are both currently on my nightstand, have been compelling so far. Krakauer wrote an advocacy book here, and even if you don’t agree completely with his perspective or his portrayals, it is difficult to argue with his facts and the call to take campus rape—and rape prosecution in general—much more seriously.

Books that weren’t published in 2015, but which I loved: How to Be Both, Ali Smith; Being Mortal, Atul Gawande; Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel; My Struggle, Vol. 2: A Man in Love, Karl Ove Knausgaard. (These four would probably be tied for my overall 2015 favorites.)

Pulp Literature: Issue 9 Out Now.

Issue 9 of Pulp Literature, featuring a story by yours truly, is currently available for download and purchase. I’m elated to have the story see the light of day in such an excellent publication—and Cover-9-smallwith such great illustrations, to boot! I’m also excited to read several of the other stories, as well.

Here’s just  small bit from the beginning of the story, if you are interested:

Ruth is floating. Through the observational porthole of the Inter- national Orbiting Space Station, she watches the Shackleton — a ship almost as big as the station itself — draw silently closer. On the window a thin caul of condensation has developed. She wipes it away to get a better look. Docking is a sort of breathless process, fraught with the potential for a myriad things to go wrong. In this case it is all the more difficult as ships like the Shackleton are, technically, never supposed to dock at the IOSS. Ruth’s pulse quickens.

You can buy it here.