Links: Installment Plan

In the Wall Street Journal, Lee Siegel argues that we are no longer living in an “episodic” era for fiction, stories more about events than transformations featuring Huck Finn and Augie March. We are now, somewhat unfortunately, living in the “narrative” era, where we crave closure and emotional growth in our characters. This is, of course, all 9/11’s fault. Arguments to contrary will abound, I’m sure—hasn’t popular fiction always been “narrative,” and aren’t most satirical fiction writers today (George Saunders, etc) dealing in “episodic” fiction, as comic writers always have? Somebody organize a conference!

Speaking of: The International Conference of Mark Twain Studies is going on now in Elmira, New York. According to the video, discussions of cats and studious beard grooming are on offer.

A lovely collection of Rockwell Kent‘s illustrations for Moby-Dick.

Constance Fenimore Woolson sold more books in her time than her would-be beloved, Henry James, but James got global fame and a bust in the National Portrait Gallery; Woolson gets a plaque on Mackinac Island.

The Bud Billikin parade is this weekend, which may mean nothing to anybody reading this outside of Chicago. But it’s a big deal there—a South Side to-do launched to get the kids excited to go back to school, and the brainchild of novelist Willard Motley, considered “the most prolific novelist associated with the concluding years of the Black Chicago Renaissance.”

Rick Moody listens to music while writing, but no lyrics please: “He has a fondness for ‘experimental or serious music that doesn’t have lyrics.’ For him, this includes music by La Monte Young, Morton Feldman, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Arthur Russell and Rhys Chatham.”

In addition to writing a new novel and a horror movie, Michael Cunningham is working on the screenplay to a Dusty Springfield biopic.

Larry McMurtry is pretty much done: “I’m about at the end of it. I can write certain things. I don’t think I can write fiction any more. I think I’ve used it up over 30 novels. That’s a lot of novels.”

Budd Schulberg—novelist (What Makes Sammy Run?), screenwriter (On the Waterfront), and Papa’s sparring partner—died this week at 95.

And PopMatters draws a few interesting connections between manga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Raymond Carver.

Workshop Prose

My in-flight companion during the past long weekend was a galley of a forthcoming biography of Raymond Carver. I’ll scribble more about that when the time comes, I’m sure (it’s out in November), but for now I’ll say that one of the many striking things about Carver’s life was how much traveling he did as he was launching his career—from college to college, program to program, anything that was going to allow him to stabilize his always-wrecked finances and give him a quiet space to write. The shame of his lost years is how much of his time was squandered on drinking instead of working; in Iowa City he and John Cheever timed their mornings to show up at the liquor store just as it opened in the morning.

Still, those programs were critical to him as a writer. Well before Gordon Lish allegedly “made” him, Carver worked hard under the tutelage of Grendel author John Gardner at Chico State University, where he learned the importance of revising, revising, and revising some more. Years later he’d put some of that advice into a letter to his daughter: “When something feels complex or complicated to you, write it out carefully and thoughtfully, several different times if necessary, until it flows smoothly and expresses exactly what you want it to communicate and nothing else.” Sounds like a no-brainer—you read it and wonder why we need writing classes at all, practically everything you need to know is in that one sentence. But for Carver that simple guidance was hard-earned. And of course, it’s advice that’s damn hard to execute.

Carver is of course now synonymous with “workshop prose”—once his reputation was made in the 80s, so many aspiring writers were seduced by the simplicity of his writing that they thought it was simply achieved, and they signed up with MFA programs en masse to achieve it. I suspect that much of this is covered in a recent book I haven’t read, Mark McGurl‘s The Program Era, but as a shorter defense of the workshop, I liked the comments by Telex From Cuba author Rachel Kushner. She’s teaching fiction for the first time, and talked to the National Post about it:

There’s this argument — I mean, you see it percolating up in the Amazon review comments — that, ‘Oh, this reads like workshop prose.’ But the idea of the workshop is not totally new. Flannery O’Connor took a workshop. Nabokov was Thomas Pynchon’s teacher. So at least in the United States there’s a real tradition of this. And most of what I’ve learned as a writer I learned after the workshop. But the workshop allowed me to place myself in a context of peers and try to assess with a colder eye wether or not I should keep going.

If “workshop prose” is showing up in Amazon review comments, it’s probably time to officially designate the term a tired cliche and move on.

Links: Very Strange or Very Famous

What kind of writer was Raymond Carver? As the new Library of America collection of his work shows, it’s complicated, largely for reasons having to do with Gordon Lish.

Related: “When Novelists Sober Up”

Portnoy: Gay?

Publishers don’t like to publish short story collections in general unless they are VERY high concept or by someone very strange or very famous or Indian.”

Alice Hoffman on how Fahrenheit 451 rejuvenated her.

A musical about the last days of Ernest Hemingway (“complete with a cheery song about how to load a gun”) stinks, and it’s closing early.

William Kennedy is finishing his first novel since 2002’s Roscoe; it’ll be an addition to the Albany Cycle.

Amitav Ghosh would love to hang out more with his neighbor Jhumpa Lahiri, but she tends to be busy.

An inventive approach to book shelving. But heaven knows where my Robot Chicken DVDs would fit in this scheme.

George Pelecanos‘ UK publisher sure is pushing the Wire angle hard with the cover of his new novel, The Way Home. He’s so popular in England that they let him open for the Pogues:

On that note, I’ll be taking some time off from the blog for a few days, enjoying some time off the grid, listening to music, and spending a little more time reading books than chattering about them. We’ll get this thing plugged back in around the middle of next week.

Links: Collectors

Naoko Mayuzumi, who’s generously compiled a bibliography of Haruki Murakami‘s Japanese translations of American writers, recently wrote in with news of a new translation, based on Remembering Ray: A Composite Biography of Raymond Carver. The page has been updated accordingly.

This blog isn’t available on the Kindle. The main reason I’m not signing up is that I think that free is a perfectly fine price to put on what I what I’m slinging here. But it’s not the only reason.

Telegraph classical music critic Michael White considers the recent death of composer Nicholas Maw by pulling out a 2002 feature on Maw’s opera based on William Styron‘s Sophie’s Choice, with some comments by Styron.

Jeffrey Eugenides thinks that Saul Bellow‘s Herzog is a great cure for writer’s block, but given that it’s going to be a while before he finishes a follow-up to Middlesex, it’s probably best to take his advice with a grain of salt.

Critical Distance, an new effort to create a repository of thoughful reconsiderations of recent American fiction, launched yesterday with founder Dan Green‘s essay on Russell BanksAffliction. I’ll have more to say on this project soon-ish.

The summer issue of Bookforum is available online, including an interview with Aleksandar Hemon.

If you’re looking for a group summer reading project, your ship has just come in.

Knockemstiff author Donald Ray Pollock gave thanks for the $35,000 prize he received at the PEN Literary Awards earlier this week. “It was good timing,” he said. “I’m getting ready to get out of grad school and there are no jobs right now.”

It Takes Two

Writing in the Rumpus, Adam Johnson proposes that more fiction writers start including collaboration in the their toolkit. Working together forces an individual writer to set aside his or her ego, allowing the “team” to better concentrate on the business of characterization, setting, and so forth:

I wish I would’ve been asked to collaborate on just one story for a workshop back in my MFA program. I would have hated it, of course, because it would’ve meant that I’d have to question all my instincts, that I’d have to get off the crutch of my limited skills, and that I’d have to write a true character for once, a fictitious person that wasn’t a guised version of myself. I would have had to ask, out loud, questions like: What is this story about, what is this scene trying to show, and what’s at the heart of this character? And I’d have had to listen to another writer answer. For once it would have been about writing and not “being a writer.”

And about those MFA programs: Yes, Johnson notes, they have a collaborative element to them, and yes, he supports them. That, in spite of his acknowledgment that MFA programs have a way of making for carefully machined prose. (This is a criticism I leveled at Johnson’s debut collection, Emporium, some years back, though clearly my complaint could have used some more thought and evidence. Blurbs aren’t fair game in criticism, kids.) After all, you have to learn to walk before you can run, and getting down the basics allows for more dazzling acrobatics down the line. “I believe the proliferation of MFA programs is a good thing—more hounds to the hunt,” Johnson writes. “And what’s wrong with learning the skills of writing first, so that when an important story comes along, it has a game author?”

I’d be more willing to get behind Johnson’s defense of collaboration if I could think of more evidence of them—or at least more evidence of cases where it went smoothly. I think if Raymond Carver‘s much-documented contretemps with his editor, Gordon Lish. Carver’s stories, to my mind, were improved by Lish’s heavy hand, but nobody would think of that as a healthy collaborative environment to seek out. Johnson cites an unpublished collaboration with his wife as evidence that the system can work well. Are there others that are available on the shelves?

Toward a Complete Guide to Haruki Murakami’s Translations of American Writers Into Japanese

Last May I blogged about Haruki Murakami‘s translations of major works by American authors, including The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and more. At the time I idly speculated about the depth of Murakami’s translation efforts. Today I received a little more clarity. The list below comes courtesy of Naoko Mayuzumi (aka Miss Brolly), based on the Japanese Wikipedia entry for Murakami and her own research.

I’m deeply grateful for the time she took to assemble this; it’s a fascinating list. I’m not surprised that there’s so much Raymond Carver in here, nor is it shocking to see the early-’80s Sudden Fiction collection—both contain plenty of exemplars of the minimalist style that Murakami made his own. But it’s interesting to see a little John Irving thrown in there, and a whole lot of Chris Van Allsburg and Ursula K. Le Guin. I’ve tweaked some of the formatting here, but everything else, including links, comes direct from Mayuzumi.

List of American Books and Essays Translated (from English to Japanese) by Haruki Murakami

Note: The month and year in parentheses indicates the time when the Japanese translation was published in Japan.

By author:

C. D. Bryan:

The Great Dethriffe (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in November 1987)

Truman Capote:

I Remember Grandpa (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in March 1988)

One Christmas (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in December 1989)

A Christmas Memory (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in November 1990)

Children on Their Birthdays (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in June 2002)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in February 2008)

Raymond Carver:

Where I’m Calling From (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in July 1983; includes “Why Don’t You Dance?,” “Tell the Women We’re Going,” “Cathedral,” “Sacks,” “Are You a Doctor?,” “Where I’m Calling From,” “So Much Water So Close to Home,” and “Everything Stuck to Him”)

At Night the Salmon Move (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in July 1985; includes “Feathers,” “The Pheasant,” “Vitamins,” “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” “Jerry and Molly and Sam,” “My Father’s Life,” “At Night the Salmon Move,” “For Semra, with Martial Vigor,” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is”)

A Small, Good Thing (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in April 1989; includes “They Are Not Your Husband,” “Neighbors,” “Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarettes,” “I Could See the Smallest Things,” “Popular Mechanics,” “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” “A Small, Good Thing,” “The Bridle,” “Boxes,” “Whoever Was Using This Bed,” “Menudo,” and “Elephant”)

Carver Country: The World of Raymond Carver (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in October 1994)

Carver’s Dozen (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in December 1994; collected and translated by Haruki Murakami; includes 10 stories [“Fat,” “Nobody Said Anything,” “Are You a Doctor?,” “Collectors,” “So Much Water So Close to Home,” “Why Don’t You Dance?,” “Cathedral”, “Where I’m Calling From”, “A Small, Good Thing,” and “Errand”], 1 essay [“My Father’s Life”], and 2 poems [“Lemonade” and “Late Fragment”])

The Complete Works of Raymond Carver (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc./Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc.)
* Volume 1: “Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?” (February 1991)
* Volume 2: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” (August 1990)
* Volume 3: “Cathedral” (May 1990)
* Volume 4: “Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories” (September 1992)
* Volume 5: “Where Water Comes Together With Other Water / Ultramarine” (September 1997)
* Volume 6: “Elephant / A New Path to the Waterfall” (March 1994)
* Volume 7: “No Heroics, Please” (July 2002)
* Volume 8: “Call if You Need Me” (July 2004)

Raymond Chandler:

The Long Goodbye (published by Hayakawa Publishing Corporation in March 2007)

Bill Crow:

From Birdland to Broadway (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in January 1996)

Jazz Anecdotes (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in July 2000)

Terry Farish:

The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup (published by Kodansha Ltd. in November 2005)

F. Scott Fitzgerald:

My Lost City: Personal Essays (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in May 1981)

The Scott Fitzgerald Book (published by TBS-Britannica Co., Ltd. in March 1988; a book by Haruki Murakami about Scott Fitzgerald, but it includes his translations of Fitzgerald’s two essays, “On Your Own” and “The Rich Boy”)

Babylon Revisited (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in April 1996)

The Great Gatsby (published by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. in November 2006)

Jim Fusilli:

The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (published by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd. in February 2008)

Mikal Gilmore:

Shot in the Heart (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in October 1996)

Mark Helprin:

Swan Lake (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in December 1991)

John Irving:

Setting Free the Bears (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in May 1986)

Ursula K. Le Guin:

Catwings (published by Kodansha Ltd. in March 1993)

Catwings Return (published by Kodansha Ltd. in December 1993)

Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings (published by Kodansha Ltd. in June 1997)

Jane on her Own (published by Kodansha Ltd. in September 2001)

Tim O’Brien:

The Nuclear Age (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in October 1989)

The Things They Carried (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in October 1990)

July, July (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in March 2004)

Grace Paley:

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in May 1999)

The Little Disturbances of Man (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in June 2005)

J. D. Salinger:

The Catcher in the Rye (published by Hakusuisha Publishing Co., Ltd. in April 2003)

Mark Strand:

Mr. and Mrs. Baby and Other Stories (published by Chuokoron-sha, Inc. in October 1998)

Paul Theroux:

World’s End and Other Stories (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in July 1987)

Chris Van Allsburg:

The Wreck of the Zephyr (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in October 1985)

The Polar Express (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in December 1987)

The Stranger (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in August 1989)

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in November 1990)

The Widow’s Broom (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in June 1993)

The Sweetest Fig (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in September 1994)

Ben’s Dream (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in April 1996)

The Wretched Stone (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha in November 2003)

Two Bad Ants (published by Asunaro Shobo in September 2004)

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi (published by Asunaro Shobo in September 2005)


Collections:

Watashitachi No Rinjin, Raymond Carver (Published by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. in March 2009; the title translates to “Our Neighbor, Raymond Carver.” Murakami collected these essays about Carver by nine writers/editors who personally knew him from Remembering Ray: A Composite Biography of Raymond Carver [except “Ridin’ With Ray and the Old Game” by Jon A. Jackson and “Raymond Carver” by Michiko Miyamoto] and translated them [except Miyamoto’s essay which was written in Japanese originally]):

* “Raymond Carver: A Still, Small Voice” by Jay McInerney
* “Raymond Carver Had His Cake and Ate It Too” by Tobias Wolff
* “All-American Nightmares” by Marcus Morton
* “The Days with Ray” by James D. Houston
* “Ridin’ With Ray” by Jon A. Jackson
* “What We Talk About When We Talk About Carver” by David Carpenter
* “Raymond Carver” by Michiko Miyamoto
* “Hope This Finds You Well and All” by Gary Fisketjon
* “Bulletproof” by William Kittredge

And Other Stories―Totteoki No America Shosetsu 12 Hen (published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in September 1988; the title translates to “And Other Stories―12 Treasured American Short Stories.” Five Japanese translators brought their favorite American stories and translated them for this collection.) Murakami translated the following stories:

* “The Moccasin Telegraph” by W. P. Kinsella
* “Thirty-Four Seasons of Winter” by William Kittredge
* “What’s Your Story” by Ronald Sukenick
* “Samuel” by Grace Paley
* “Living” by Grace Paley

Getsuyobi Wa Saiakuda-to Minna Wa Iu Keredo (Published by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. in May 2000; the title translates to “They Call It Stormy Monday.” American short stories and essays collected and translated by Murakami):

* “The Carver Chronicles” by D. T. Max
* “Good Raymond” by Richard Ford
* “The Vietnam In Me” by Tim O’Brien
* “Nogales” by Tim O’Brien
* “Loon Point” by Tim O’Brien
* “John Irving’s (Revised) World” by John Paul Newport
* “I Am A…Genius!” by Thom Jones
* “Secret Agent” by Denis Johnson

Birthday Stories: Selected and Introduced by Haruki Murakami (I think this American edition just contains the original stories in English. The Japanese edition of this book, published by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. in December 2002, contains translations of these American stories by Murakami.)

Murakami Haruki HybLit (published by ALC Inc. in November 2008; a bilingual book containing three stories, selected by Murakami, in English and Japanese: “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien [Japanese translation by Murakami], “A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver [Japanese translation by Murakami], and “Lederhosen” by Haruki Murakami [English translation by Alfred Birnbaum]; “HybLit” in the title is the compound of “hybrid” and “literature”)

Sudden Fiction is translated into Japanese by two translators (Haruki Murakami and Takayoshi Ogawa) and published by Bungeishunju Ltd. in January 1994. The following stories are translated by Murakami:

* “A Sudden Story” by Robert Coover
* “Mother” by Grace Paley
* “The King of Jazz” by Donald Barthelme
* “Reunion” by John Cheever
* “Twirler” by Jane Martin
* “Five Ives” by Roy Blount Jr.
* “Song on Royal Street” by Richard Blessing
* “The Merry Chase” by Gordon Lish
* “Popular Mechanics” Raymond Carver
* “Turning” by Lynda Sexson
* “Say Yes” by Tobias Wolff
* “The Hit Man” by T. Coraghessan Boyle
* “A Questionnaire for Rudolph Gordon” by Jack Matthews
* “I See You Never” by Ray Bradbury
* “The Bank Robbery” by Steven Schutzman
* “Tent Worms” by Tennessee Williams
* “Sitting” by H. E. Francis
* “Dog Life” by Mark Strand
* “The Hatchet Man in the Lighthouse” by William Peden
* “Happy” by Joyce Carol Oates
* “The Anatomy of Desire” by John L’Heureux
* “Class Notes” by Lucas Cooper
* “The Neighbor” by Russell Banks
* “Reading the Paper” by Ron Carlson
* “Speed of Light” by Pat Rushin
* “Gerald’s Song” by Philip F. O’Connor
* “Blind Girls” by Jayne Anne Philips
* “The Signing” by Stephen Dixon
* “The Quail” by Rolf Yngve
* “The Artichoke” by Marilyn Krysl

Jonathan Cape to Publish Lish-Free Carver

British publisher Jonathan Cape is going to give Tess Gallagher what she’s been wishing for—the publication of a set of stories written by her late husband, Raymond Carver, untouched by Gordon Lish‘s heavy editorial hand. The Bookseller reports:

On the release of the original edition Carver dedicated the book to fellow writer and his future wife, Tess Gallagher, and promised he would one day republish his stories at full length. Carver did not fulfil this wish in his lifetime and died, aged only 50, in 1988. Gallagher said: “The publication of Beginners will enable readers to trace Carver’s true trajectory as a writer.”

The book will be published in England in October 2009. I can’t seem to find word on an American version, though presumably one is in the offing.