Roundup: Strange Cargo

Edward P. Jones still isn’t working on another novel. After a reading at Boston University last month (video here, which also features Catherine Tudish and Ha Jin), he told the audience, “even if I were, it’s hard to talk about that kind of thing. It’s like you’re pregnant, and somebody talks about the future of your child, at 5, at 10, at 15, but all you’re hoping for is happiness and health. You can’t think much beyond that.”

I hadn’t heard about the Kinky Friedman precedent until I read an interview with Jonathan Miles in USA Today. Miles talks about his new novel, Dear American Airlines, which didn’t get much static from the carrier thanks to Friedman’s Elvis, Jesus, and Coca-Cola. Not that he wasn’t concerned: “American seems euphonious and iconic,” he says. “‘Dear JetBlue’ doesn’t work as well.”

Blogging from the Hay Festival, John Freeman notes that Lorrie Moore was asked by an audience member whether the United States is more receptive to short-story writers. Jhumpa Lahiri comes in handy in answering that question these days:

America has annual anthologies, such as the Best American Short Stories, which regularly sell over 100,000 copies a year, as well as prizes for stories and workshops galore. Occasionally a collection strikes a cord and people buy it. Ethan Canin’s The Emperor of Air was a bestseller, as was Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America, while Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest collection, “Unaccustomed Earth,” which is tremendous, debuted on the “New York Times” list at number one (you can read an extract here).

Lahiri’s phenomenal success in the form is still, of course, an aberration. In response to the publisher’s question from the audience, Moore ultimately argued that Lahiri’s book of stories was such a phenomenal success because the publisher believed in it (and because it’s also a very good book).