Links: Sad State of Affairs

Happy Friday! Here’s a guide to depressing novels.

Jonathan Lethem recalls his longtime relationship with the works of Philip K. Dick (via i09).

NYRB Classics editor Edwin Frank talks with Washington City Paper about its reissue of Don Carpenter‘s excellent debut novel, Hard Rain Falling.

The Road director John Hillcoat is looking to film The Wettest County in the World, Matt Bondurant‘s bracing 2008 novel about Virginia bootleggers.

Newark, New Jersey, makes its pitch to be a “major cultural capital” by landing a major poetry conference. Jayne Anne Phillips approves.

Meanwhile in Newark, Amiri Baraka turns 75.

Flavorwire has a Q&A with Joyce Carol Oates, who reveals that she’s working on a memoir titled The Seige: A Widow’s First Six Months.

Liked the book? Buy the handbag.

Elmore Leonard will receive PEN USA’s lifetime achievement award.

Why Vladimir Nabokov‘s unfinished novel The Original of Laura won’t be available as an e-book.

The case for Alice McDermott as an important Catholic novelist.

James Ellroy: “I distrust people who do not err on the side of action. And there’s a distinction between being conflicted and being ambivalent. Ambivalence connotes wishy-washiness, being conflicted connotes a clash of dramatic choices. And so I despise the idea of shades of grey or ambiguity standing as ultimate moral value or literary value.

Still Life With Matt Bondurant

Something will have gone seriously wrong if the second half of Matt Bondurant‘s second novel, The Wettest County in the World, turns out to be a flop—I’m halfway through it, and it’s making a serious argument for being one of my favorite novels of the year. The story focuses on a generation of moonshiners in southern Virginia, with some perspective offered by Sherwood Anderson, who in 1934 visited the region to work on a story about the trade. A brief passage captures the the emotional detail of Bondurant’s writing, and how he anthropomorphizes the homebrew whiskey’s spectral power:

Hell, Anderson thought, that seems to be an appropriate thing to drink to, and he raised the glass to his lips and downed the last sip. When he closed his eyes for a moment he saw a great shape in a dark field, above him in the indeterminate emptiness. Its force and mass were terrifying, its slow, descending sway. By the time he got his shoes off and lay back down the whiskey crept up his brain stem and took him, dead asleep before he laid his head down.

No recent interviews with Bondurant are making the rounds that I’ve noticed, but his recent appearance on Apostrophe Cast’s reading series is worth checking out—the author reads four poems, three of which are about Peanuts characters.