the contextual life

thoughts without borders

On the Shelf: MFA programs, events on iTunes, and oh, the horror!

with 4 comments

If you’re on Twitter and follow literary publications, writers, or bloggers, you’ve probably seen the hashtag #longreads. You may also be familiar with the Twitter handle @longreads, the founder of the hashtag and the account that seeks out long-form writing in order to disseminate it to their followers. My general definition of a long read is anything that flows onto a third page (think New York Times pages online). Typically, it’s anything that takes some effort to finish in this age of internet distraction. For me, 3 pages of online reading is much harder to sit still for than 3 pages of reading in the park. My long read pick of the week is a fairly lengthy article that ran in the Christian Science Monitor about writing workshops, specifically the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

As alumni gathered in Iowa this year for the creative writing program’s 75th anniversary, a once-student of the program, Robert A. Lehrman, wanted to know more about the state of serious writing “in an age of Twitter and Mortal Kombat”. He wondered about the serious novelist’s and poet’s ability to create imaginative work and asked if workshops, in general, have helped. The piece turns out to be more of an inside look at a prestigious group of fiction writers and poets than it succeeds in answering Lehrman’s questions but if you’re a fan of the literary life, it will feel just as informative.

For those of you who don’t live in the 7 or so cities that often host author readings, there are a few bookstores who record their events and later post online—these are also more often than not uploaded to iTunes. Skylight Books in Los Angeles gets some great authors and they are among the savvy who record. You can find their archive here and subscribe via iTunes so you never miss another reading.

And now for books of the week. I recently raided the science fiction, fantasy section of my local bookstore so pardon the genre-heavy list this week:

You Must Go and Win by Alina Simone
I recently saw Aline Simone read at WORD bookstore in Brooklyn. She was part of music and book blogger Largehearted Boy’s monthly reading series, Largehearted Lit. As a musician and writer, Alina was a natural fit for this curation. Largehearted Boy pairs up two authors and a musician for an amazingly fun night of reading and playing. Alina’s book, her first, is a collection of essays about travel, music, and family. You can listen to her event at the Los Angeles Public Library for their ALOUD series. Then go to her website.

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions by Neil Gaiman
I saw Neil Gaiman last week interviewed by fantasy writer Lev Grossman (The Magicians, The Magician King). This was for the 10th anniversary of Neil’s American Gods, which I’ve reviewed here. Basically, all of Neil’s books are on my list but I’m looking forward to this one in particular, mainly because short stories are great for subway and before-bed reading.

The End of the Line edited by Jonathan Oliver
At Neil’s talk, one of the questions prompted a short discussion about horror writing. He said two interesting things: one, that he uses horror in his writing as a condiment—meaning that he sprinkles it on rather than creates a full meal out of it—the other thing he said was that horror writers are usually very pleasant people while romance writers are usually bitter. Not to get him into trouble, but I thought that was pretty funny. It also made me realize that I never read horror and that I should throw one or two titles into the mix. While growing up, my mom read a lot of Stephen King. I remember trying to read Cujo once but never got into it, which was probably a good thing since I was easily scared and hated the feeling of it. In high school—or maybe college—I read all of Poppy Z. Brite’s books but never went any further. When I was scouring the horror section at the bookstore, which was disproportionately represented by King, Ann Rice, and Clive Barker, I found The End of the Line, a collection of horror stories that take place on the Underground, the Metro, and the subway. As a New Yorker with a monthly unlimited metrocard, this seemed like the perfect place to pick it back up. I didn’t recognize any of the writers, which isn’t surprising. I’m looking forward to going into this blind.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (book one of the Discworld series)
Terry Pratchett is a humorous fantasy author well-known and loved within the genre. Discworld is his 38-book series that began in 1983. Although Terry’s site mentions that you don’t need to start from the beginning and that many of the novels can stand alone, I prefer to start with book number one, The Color of Magic. Apparently there are lots of strange creatures, wizards, and digs at typical fantasy themes in the series. Should be fun.

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Written by Gabrielle

June 30, 2011 at 8:31 am

4 Responses

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  1. Alina Simone was in Brooklyn? How did I miss that?? You have to link to the book trailer. It’s so smart. Exactly what a book trailer should be. http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/category/book-trailer

    Casey Black

    June 30, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    • i hadn’t seen that! ha. she has a good group of friends, which helps. and yea, she was there for Largehearted Boy’s monthly reading series at WORD, which is always beyond awesome. Alina went to school with Amanda Palmer and they’ve stayed close friends. She was in town and was the surprise guest. not to rub it in but it was pretty incredible.

      Gabrielle

      June 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm

  2. When you read The Colour of Magic, remember that this is the only book that has a second part,
    The Light Fantastic, to continue the adventure.

    =Tamar

    July 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    • ooo. good to know! thanks. looks like a fun series.

      Gabrielle

      July 3, 2011 at 8:47 am


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