General blog posts

Outrunning Illusion: A Q&A with Ruth Galm

There is something about the desert that has fascinated writers and philosophers for decades. The desert is a symbol that reveals the emptiness of all others. In its monotonous nothingness, its endless expanse, stripped of all the structures and definitions of humanity, the distracting baubles and vertiginous novelty of modern society, all that remains must be the truth. It must be the Real.

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Into the Valley Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616955090
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Press - August 4th, 2015

No Single Mold: An Interview with Abayomi Animashaun

My experience as an Asian woman in America is being asked all the time, “Where are you from?” The most tiring it has ever been was during my high school career in the Midwest, where white people (always white people) would ask and then refuse my answer. I would say the name of my hometown (also in the Midwest) and be dismissed. They would say, “No, where are you from?” or, “Okay, so, where are your parents from?” Not that asking about my parents helped. They are also from Wisconsin, because they are white and I am adopted.

Pearls Before Swine, Chapter 2: Swine Harder

The elevator doors opened, and Mark and Keaton recoiled at what stood before them, instantly assuming their most intimidating kung-fu poses. Ignoring their shock, the trenchcoat- and fedora-wearing pig shuffled into the elevator, its hind quarters resounding in the silence.

“It’s not over,” the pig said in a voice unnervingly reminiscent of James Franco.

“I knew it!” Mark lowered his guard and motioned for the pig to continue.

The Red Notebook (New Directions Pearls) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780811220972
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - July 16th, 2013

Mark: So, you’d never read Auster before. What was your impression? Did you enjoy it?

Keaton: I very much enjoyed it. I came away with the feeling that I would like him as a person. He seems very cool.

Mark: Doesn’t he? Cool, smart, cordial. I mean, the stories in this book are very conversational. And I feel like the theme running throughout them is chance, or coincidence.

Keaton: Coincidence for sure. But also memory and relationships—friendly and romantic. Those three things seem to factor into every piece in the book.

Mark: I’m glad you mentioned memory because one part I remember—it was striking—is when he tells the story about being a little boy and saving a girl’s life by pulling her away from a car. Auster thinks this might have been his finest hour, you know? And he sees her twenty years later and brings it up—but she has no memory of it.

Keaton: It’s a very good representation of how two different people experience the same event differently. And the story that’s just heartbreaking to me is when Auster meets Willie Mays but doesn’t have a pencil, so he can’t get an autograph. But I love that he ties this back to his origins as a writer, because he carries a pencil with him everywhere after that.

Mark: Yes, he writes, “If nothing else, the years have taught me this: if there’s a pencil in your pocket, there’s a good chance that one day you’ll feel tempted to start using it.”

Keaton: But I mean, yeah, he’s a totally likable writer. This book is just a delightful collection of quirky, oddball, slice-of-life fiction—profound in many ways, yet subtle. It’s very conversational, very matter-of-fact. No frills.

Mark: It makes you feel like the world is actually kind of a magical place, you know?

Keaton: So much so that I caught myself going back to whether the stories were true or not. The coincidences that it brings up—some of them, whether it’s a friend all of a sudden finding his estranged father right before his death and starting a relationship, or the spooky coincidence of the letter that somebody else with Auster’s name wrote and everything— I find myself wondering how much of that is actually true, because there are such amazing coincidences.

Mark: Yeah, like could that much happen to one person?

Keaton: I also found myself being kinda jealous of Auster. [Laughs] He has such an interesting life.

Mark: Yeah. [Laughs]

Keaton: Sometimes the coincidences aren’t necessarily real; they maybe happen in his head. Like with the dime story, when his ex-wife [Lydia Davis] throws him a dime for some reason, and he drops it and loses it. And then later, at Shea Stadium—all the way across the city—he sees another dime on the sidewalk, and he’s convinced it’s the same dime.

Mark: So in a way, it’s almost like he’s projecting something meaningful onto nothing.

Keaton: Yeah, so I guess—I don’t know, it’s more subjective.

Mark: That’s a good point.

Keaton: Well, we gotta give a shout out to where we are: Demeris, a local barbeque institution here in Houston.

Mark: I have a pulled pork sandwich...

Keaton: ...and my two meats, ribs and ham, are delicious.

Mark: Excellent.

Keaton: What are we gonna read next time?

Mark: I say Javier Marías’ BAD NATURE, OR WITH ELVIS IN MEXICO. It’s fun, it’s weird. You know, Mexico, Elvis, 1970s.

Keaton: And you’re going to Mexico City, so it’ll be a nice way to get you pumped for your trip.

Mark: Exactly! Okay. See you next time!

Writers of the World: On Sergio Pitol and the Art of Translation

Most of us take translation for granted. When we’re assigned CRIME AND PUNISHMENT or THE METAMORPHOSIS or LES MISÉRABLES in high school, we aren’t thinking about the act of translation. It’s written in English, and that’s good enough. And the teacher isn’t thinking about translation either. Teaching Dostoyevsky is hard enough; to try and discuss the importance of translation—never mind the minutiae—is another course (or career) entirely.

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The Art of Flight Cover Image
By Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translator), Enrique Vila-Matas (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781941920060
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - March 17th, 2015

The Journey Cover Image
By Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translator), Alvaro Enrigue (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781941920183
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - August 18th, 2015

Breaking In a Horse: An Interview with Benjamin Johncock

Any time I pick up a book about NASA, I flip through, trying to find the name of the place where I live: Clear Lake. See, NASA has never much interested me, but Clear Lake—the master-planned community southeast of Houston that houses the space program (and, less importantly, me)—does. I want to learn about the place, and learn other people’s impressions of it. Sure enough, flipping through THE LAST PILOT before I have read a word of it, I find, deep in the novel, what I’m looking for: “Clear Lake was not a lake. Or clear.

The Last Pilot Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250066640
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Picador USA - July 7th, 2015

All Possible Subsets: An Interview with Jesse Ball

by Lawrence Lenhart

A CURE FOR SUICIDE is primarily a work of speculative fiction: the Claimant has his memory erased, moves into a clinical village, and is reeducated by a watchful woman, the Examiner. Despite its Shyamalanian conceit, though, Jesse Ball’s novel proceeds in a way that comes to resemble a mystery, a philosophical treatise, and a romance all at once.

A Cure for Suicide Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101870129
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Pantheon Books - July 21st, 2015

Staff Chat: Literature’s Dirty Word

In the July episode of The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast, Yiyun Li discusses Patricia Highsmith (author of THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, among many other books). Of the great thriller writer, Li says—in more or less good humor—“Sometimes I read her as a guilty pleasure, but really not feeling so much guilt. In a way, you read her as a crime writer, but you can also read her as a literary writer, and that excuses me.”

Duplicate Keys Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400076024
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor Books - November 9th, 2004

Focusing on a murder that takes place in a shared band practice space. There are a lot of different keys to this room, and the investigation centers around trying to figure out which musician committed the murder. A straightforward mystery book with a rock and roll twist…not what a lot of people expect from Jane Smiley!

French Concession: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062313454
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Harper - July 7th, 2015

Set during the French occupation of Shanghai, a tumultuous period in politics and culture. In the midst of this political chaos, an ambassador is murdered. This starts a complicated spy/detective story, as a low-level bureaucrat tries to find out what happened.

Hold the Dark Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631490422
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - August 10th, 2015

A completely unique take on the crime and action genres. Giraldi sets his novel far north of Alaska, and in the atmosphere that he evokes, he resembles Cormac McCarthy. Dark and reminiscent of Greek tragedy, this is a future cult classic.

The Joy of Killing Cover Image
ISBN: 9781619025363
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Counterpoint LLC - July 14th, 2015

A psychological look at a murderer’s train of thought. It has been done before, but this one is very tense, somber, subtle. The creepiness of the work almost feels more violent than the actual physical brutality.

Unbecoming Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525427506
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Viking - January 22nd, 2015

An author to watch! This debut novel has a bit of everything in it: skeletons of the closet, an exotic Parisian setting, hidden identities—all that good stuff.

Dickensian Austin: The Strangeness of Edward Carey

by Benjamin Rybeck

The best stories for children and young adults are scary as hell—and why not? Being young is frightening; you have no autonomy, and the world is made of blurry shapes that you bump into from time to time, not knowing what will hurt you and what won’t. Think of the terror of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, the twisted world of Roald Dahl, or even the great early books in the Goosebumps series. Adults may understand that fictional worlds are ultimately safe, but if a book doesn’t give a child a damn good sense of dread, where’s the fun?

Foulsham (Iremonger Trilogy #2) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781468309546
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Overlook Press - July 23rd, 2015

Heap House (Iremonger Trilogy #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781468309539
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Overlook Press - October 15th, 2014

“I Can Only Hope to Harrow the Reader”: An Interview with Kent Wascom

Secessia Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780802123619
Availability: Out of Print - Not Available for Order
Published: Grove Press - July 7th, 2015

SECESSIA  is a #BrazosBest pick for July!

Meet Kent Wascom at his book signing for SECESSIA on Thursday, July 16 at 7PM

The Blood of Heaven Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802121196
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - June 10th, 2014