I have to make an apology of sorts for touting my own work on the blog so much lately. It was not at all planned, and this will be the last such post for a good while, but July has been a wild month!
On the 15th I had two flash fiction pieces published, “Half of Love” in Minor Literature[s], and “Currawong” in Berfrois. With “The Open Air” in Numero Cinq, that makes three stories published in July. Add to that the flash piece I published last month in The Bohemyth and that’s four stories in two months’ time. Four is typically my output for a year or 18 months, so it’s really caught me off my guard, in a wonderful way naturally. And being pressed for time otherwise with work and parenting I haven’t been able to post anything else worthwhile in between — though I do have more interviews with book critics in the works.
My new short story, “The Open Air,” appears in the July issue of Numéro Cinq. About the strange world of office work, it incorporates thoughts and things I’ve experienced over the past couple decades working in offices and corporate highrise towers in different cities across America. Office environments are some of the oddest places I’ve ever been in. How these so-called corporate cultures develop and how people survive in them is fascinating, something I’m sure I’ll end up writing more about later on.
My 200-word piece, “Kingdom of Reversal,” appears in the current issue of The Bohemyth.
It’s about the last deer my father shot before he died in 2012 after many years with cancer. It’s also a small attempt to hint at an enormity of things. What a family goes through during a loved one’s treatment, the motions of anger and solace that form grief. I took the picture of him, above, a few years before the last deer, on a cold morning in Michigan.
The June 2015 issue of The Bohemyth brings together texts and visual art by artists from around the world. And the journal’s archives showcase a fantastic mix of traditional and experimental work. I’m grateful to the editors for including my piece, especially to Michael Naghten Shanks.
What motivations shape a critic’s decisions to write about the books they defend and those they dismiss? And what are the ethical or moral dimensions of those decisions? Beyond mere conflicts of interest, what lines do they draw for themselves in their work? Are there personal forces or experiences that affect their preferences about what to read and review?
In this ongoing series of interviews with critics, one of the central questions will be, “What is a critic’s role?” It’s a broad question, open-ended, but one which can be used, if the critic chooses, to address the personal side to their lives as critics, and perhaps how they see their work affecting society and culture.
For the third post in this series, I’m very pleased to present an interview with Miriam Markowitz. Our conversation took place over email in recent months.
Miriam Markowitz is the deputy literary editor of The Nation and a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. She was previously an editor of Harper’s Magazine and Viet Nam News in Hanoi. Her essay “Here Comes Everybody” examines some of the root causes of gender imbalance in magazine and book publishing. You can read more of her writing here and follow her @mirimarkow.
Of note: Markowitz will appear May 27 at the Center for Fiction on a panel, sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle, set to discuss “Race, Gender, and Book Reviews,” moderated by Walton Muyumba.
Photo by Sean Hemmerle
Before we discuss your work at Harper’s and The Nation, I’d like to ask about the early years of your career. Were there specific experiences that drew you toward a life in letters, as they say? What convinced you that this was the kind of work you wanted to pursue when you were first starting out?
Last week I finished reading Mercè Rodoreda’s novel La plaça del diamant and I’m pretty much over the moon about it. She’s quickly jumped up to my list of all-time favorite writers, up there with the likes of Tove Jansson. I may end up writing at length about Rodoreda later this year but that’s an iffy proposition, for various reasons, when I really enjoy an author’s work. For now I’m just in all kinds of crazy love with her work and letting it sink into what I’ve read, appreciating what she represents artistically and historically.
The novel was translated by David H. Rosenthal in 1981 and published by Graywolf under the title, “The Time of the Doves.” A new translation by Peter Bush called “In Diamond Square” was published in 2013 in the UK from Virago. I highly recommend Rodoreda’s selected stories, published by Open Letter in 2011, in superb translation by Martha Tennent. The stories got me hooked on Rodoreda. I held off reading the novel for weeks after I finished the stories. I was afraid the novel wouldn’t be as good. It was. I’m going to start it again this week.
Here’s a quote I liked from near the end of the novel, about the subject of time.
And I got a strong feeling of the passage of time. Not the time of clouds and sun and rain and the moving stars that adorn the night, not spring when its time comes or fall, not the time that makes leaves bud on branches and then tears them off or folds and unfolds and colors the flowers, but the time inside me, the time you can’t see but it molds us. The time that rolls on and on in people’s hearts and makes them roll along with it and gradually changes us inside and out and makes us what we’ll be on our dying day.
Image 3 of 3 from “corner of the world”
The experimental work I posted about not too long ago not only has a name now, “corner of the world,” it was published (!) by 3:AM Magazine this week. (Many thanks to 3:AM poetry editor Steven J. Fowler.)
It’s three photos, of page fragments. Some photos are photos of a torn photo, repeated a couple times. The page fragments were torn from an uncorrected advance proof of a novel, which I reviewed (favorably, I should add). So no “art,” author’s reputation, or publisher’s investment was done any malice to create this. Continue reading
I’ve been having fun working on something new, a series of these things that started out as erasures.