Karolina Ramqvist’s The White City

I heard this author read during Litquake and bought the book. Part heist novel, part a novel about becoming a mother, it blends the genres so effortlessly that, having finished the book, I’m convinced that motherhood is a kind of a heist. Translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel. A beautiful edition by the Black Cat imprint of Grove Atlantic.

The baby’s named Dream. (What a cool name!)

 She put one arm over the baby, who had gone back to nursing, and rested her head on the other, trying to unwind and sink into the sofa. She focused on her body, one part at a time; she noticed her teeth clenching and opened her mouth all the way. Opening and shutting it and working her jaw from side to side to relieve the tension.  …

Dream downed the milk, swallowing while nuzzled into her white breast. Round as the baby’s cheeks and head, round as the areola that peeked out because Dream hadn’t gotten a proper grip on her nipple again. Round and round, rounds and rounds. The milk dribbled out of the baby’s mouth and ran down her breast, leaving a sticky trail on her skin and a wet stain on her robe.

Does the body keep producing breast milk after death? If something were to happen to her, if she choked or a blood vessel burst in her brain or if someone were to break in and take her out for good, it would probably be a while before anyone would miss her. But if she had enough milk in her breasts, then Dream might have a chance of surviving until someone showed up.

She tried to concentrate on the softness.

 

Upcoming readings

I will read my story “Companionship” that won the Litquake fiction prize at a Lit Crawl event, “Writers on the Verge” will take place on October 14th, at 5 pm, at Samovar Tea Lounge on Valencia Street. Full details are here.

On Tuesday, October 10th, at 7 pm, my friend and colleague Alia Volz organizes a reading called “Straight, No Chaser: Writers at the Bar” at the iconic Vesuvio Cafe in San Francisco’s North Beach (its fame goes back to the Beat Generation). This reading features contributors to Golden State 2017: Best New Writing from California (Outpost19), an anthology where one of my stories has appeared. I will read an excerpt from my story. The special guest is Charlie Jane Anders!

Рецензия Елены Крюковой,”Главное — подлинность”

Поступила ещё одна рецензия на мою книгу Хлоп-страна. Автор Елена Крюкова:

Перед нами книга рассказов, которую можно было бы очертить одним широким штрихом, описать одной словесной формулой — если бы это было воистину возможно: улей бытия.
Рассказы эти, предельно живые, вылетают из улья, как пчелы.
И летят, куда хотят.
И собирают мед больших смыслов с цветов большой — глазом не охватить — одновременно и подвластной, и неподвластной анализу человека жизни.

Читать дальше на сайте Читальный зал.

Рецензия на “Хлоп-страну” в журнале “Знамя”

Если Бедная Девушка Беломлинской все еще живет Россией, то Травка Ольги Гренец уже давно от нее отпочковалась, и то, что происходит на родине, ее интересует все меньше и меньше. В первой части книги, где автор еще дает какую-то связь между новой и старой родиной, изредка встречаются рассказы, в которых сквозит «среднерусская тоска». Например, в рассказе «Сливки и сахар», исподволь, между строк, дана картина гремящей где-то войны, совершенно не стыкующейся с описанием мелких мещанских привычек посетителей аэропорта. Это, пожалуй, один из самых удачных рассказов Ольги, построенных на эллипсисе, на недосказанности.  …

читать целиком рецензию Ольги Аникиной. “Счастьеведение”,  журнал “Знамя” 2017, №9.

 

Mike Smith’s And There Was Evening, and There Was Morning

Last year, when I participated, in a small way, with the launch of WTAW Press, I got a chance to read the manuscripts in draft form. This month, holding the two published books in my hand was a strange experience: an excitement coupled with worry, How will they hold up? Will the binding solidify the beauty I had glimpsed in the original writing? Will it bring forward the flaws?

Mike Smith’s book, And There Was Evening, and There Was Morning is a memoir of originalterrible loss: the author’s first wife dies of cancer shortly after the birth of their second child. The book is a collection of essays, structured in such a way that in each piece, in each chapter, we return to this tragedy, over and over again. Fifteen times over we are with Mike and the kids, Virgina and Langston, losing Emily. Other sad, scary, happy, and funny things happen in the book. Mike meets his second wife, they marry and move together to a new town in a new state. His stepdaughter, coincidentally also named Emily, goes through a bout with cancer. But oh boy oh boy. Turn the page, and there’s his beloved Emily, dying again.

Difficult reading? No, not at all. It’s a love story. The book reads like a love poem, on a single gulp of breath. Mike’s tendency to introspection, his openness to Emily and her world and the desire to continue his engagement with her interests and concerns, his ability to converse with her work after her death, is so endearing that from the very first sentences I want to know Mike, I want to spend time with him, I find in myself the resources to stay with him through his grief and to go there, into the hospital room, to be with Emily, in her final months, weeks, and days, over and over again. Emily Arndt was a scholar and I find it a solace that a book that she wrote, a revised version of her dissertation, has been published and can be found out there.

I’ll quote the first sentences from Mike Smith’s memoir, to give a sense of its rhythm and what I mean about it being a love story:

My first wife Emily and I were married for ten years. We met when she walked into the small bookstore where I worked and applied for a job. The manager must have hired her that very afternoon because we shared the following Saturday evening and Sunday morning turnaround shifts. It was fitting that we grew to know one another surrounded by books.

Thank you Peg Alford Pursell and WTAW Press for publishing this. Thank you, Mike, for sharing this story. Thank you also for all of your wonderful insight into story and character and the willingness to push and push on a thread of thought.

Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Knots, Review

I recommend Gunnhild Øyehaug’s short story collection Knots, out from FSG this summer.

It felt foreordained to open this short story collection by the Norwegian writer Gunnhild Øyehaug and find IKEA on the first page, as in: “…park the car outside IKEA.” IKEA, now based in the Netherlands, originated in Sweden, but to many foreigners, it personifies Scandinavia—pleasant and unthreatening. “Blah, how boring,” was my first thought. Then, trying to stave off disappointment at being welcomed by the all-too-familiar global brand, I told myself, “Well, I guess IKEA did start somewhere nearby. Perhaps, Scandinavians have a particular attachment to clean lines.” (Nervous laughter.) I know that stereotyping is a form of blindness; in practice, my desire for novelty trips me up and leads to overly broad generalizations. Like a tourist, I had to remind myself to check my expectations at the airport.

Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Norway begins, indeed, with the comfortably familiar. . . .

Read the rest of my review on The Common.