Willesden Herald New Short Story Prize

The most pressing news of this month is that my short story Love & Hair has been shortlisted in the Willesden Herald award, and I’m heading to London to the award ceremony and the reading! This award will be co-presented by Katy Darby and Liars’ League, which means the readings will be performed by professional actors. This event will take place on Thursday, December 8. The details are here. Print anthology of the short-listed stories is already available on Amazon. Please buy, read, and review!

Хлоп-страна

Осенью 2016 года в издательстве «Время» вышел новый сборник рассказов Ольги Гренец Хлоп-страна. Сборник доступен в продаже в магазинах сети Лабиринт, с доставкой в США и страны Европы. grezez-cov_1st_sm

Ольга Гренец — современная американская писательница родом из Санкт-Петербурга, мастер короткой психологической прозы. Герои её рассказов, живя в России, Америке, других странах, сталкиваются с необходимостью соотнесения и совмещения разных миров, но главное для автора — показать их отношения, порой осложнённые проблемой конфликта поколений, а также проследить традиционную для современной прозы линию «поисков себя». В оригинальных сюжетах Ольга Гренец предлагает читателю увлекательный калейдоскоп эпизодов повседневной жизни людей из разных слоев общества.

Ольга Гренец — мастер рассказа, самого сложного из всех прозаических жанров, где неверное слово, неверный сюжетный поворот могут всё разрушить. Она обладает удивительным умением соединять в своих текстах американскую и русскую новеллистические традиции, две культуры, и работать в их пограничье. Её прозу отличает бережное отношение к мельчайшим деталям, а умение фиксировать повседневный мир в его многообразии сочетается с поразительным пониманием нюансов психологии современного человека.
Андрей Аствацатуров

Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life, translated by Charlotte Collins

This novel is set in a remote Austrian mountain valley. Andreas Egger, the pr9780374289867otagonist, arrives here as a boy of four. A farmer adopts him and treats him cruelly. Egger, nevertheless, builds a life, marries, goes to war, returns, watches the world change around him as he becomes a stalwart of his valley and earns his living by leading groups of tourists through the mountains. I’m reading this novel as a meditation about stewardship of the land, an exercise of imagination about how to live lightly. It takes a certain set of experiences, good and bad luck, to get there. Here’s a sign that Egger paints to advertise his business:

IF YOU LIKE THE MOUNTAINS I’M YOUR MAN.
I (with practically a lifetime’s experiences in and of Nature) offer:
Hiking with or without baggage
Excursions (half or full day)
Climbing trips
Walks in the mountains (for senior citizens, disabled people and children)
Guided tours in all seasons (weather permitting)
Guaranteed sunrise for early birds
Guaranteed sunset (in the valley only, as too dangerous on the mountain)
No danger to life and limb!
(PRICE IS NEGOTIABLE, BUT NOT EXPENSIVE)

I’m working on a full-length review of a novel by an author from Iceland, Oddný Eir, “Land of Love and Ruins,” translated by Philip Roughton, and I find in it, what I think is a similar idea, expressed in the following terms:

It’s good to replace the idea of “love of one’s native land” with “love of one’s foster land,” to clarify your relationship to the country you tied your umbilical cord to. . . . I think that care for the foster mother is inseparable from care for all its sons and daughters, whether they’re related by blood or not. . . . perhaps we can come up with a new way to connect with nature and justice. Come up with a new collective form, a new form of shared responsibility.  . . .  I’m thinking about loyalty. Isn’t loyalty to the fosterland different than loyalty to the fatherland? I’m not thinking about loyalty for loyalty’s sake, like that claimed by sweaty, self-assertive SS hot dogs. . . . Loyalty to the fosterland can’t be separated from connections to the totality of all things.

Eir develops her thoughts on this idea of fosterland at length and through very interesting history. I find it all very appealing. Unfortunately her language, rendered by Roughton, does get a little muddled. Seethaler’s words, rendered by Charlotte Collins, read like poetry. Here it is, again, that line: “I (with practically a lifetime’s experiences in and of Nature) offer: Hiking with or without baggage.”

I want to put a smiley face at the end of that sentence.

An extended excerpt from Seethaler’s novel is available on the publisher’s website.

You can buy the book here.

Opera at the Ballpark in Santa Monica Review, Fall 2016

My story Opera at the Ballpark appears in the current issue of Santa Monica Review. I wrote the first draft of this story in March 2010, after volunteering at a simulcast–an opera performance, broadcast from the live show at the San Francisco Opera to a screen at the AT&T Ballpark. Walking home after the show, I passed the opera house. The performance had long ended, and the homeless people were canvassing the house stairs.  I struggled to make sense of opera’s place in the social order of the New World. Of the hundreds of people who’d come to see the simulcast at the ballpark, many told me they’d never been to the opera house. The company was financially insolvent. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, a sense of doom was in the air. The simulcast was one idea to reach out to larger audiences and to give opera mass appeal. The opera they had chosen was traditional, and staged as though to mimic a 19th Century production. To me, this was fairly familiar territory and I was bored by it, but I was in the minority. Most of the simulcast attendees seemed to have had an amazing time.

The story came out of these disparate threads of thought.

Here’s the first paragraph I wrote in 2010,

After the soprano finishes her dying aria on the giant screen above the third base, and the audience sitting in the stalls (word choice?) and on the grass of the baseball diamond scorched their throats with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and clapped so loud as if they wished to be heard back in the opera house two and a half miles away (distance?), the screen went black and the baseball stadium emptied quickly. A warm breeze filled the air with the fragrance of the cherry trees blooming all over the city, lavish romantic music made us sentimental, its heroic overtones urged us to commit ubiquitous acts of kindness,—and conversation flowed freely. Several trains came to pick up the passengers and left overcrowded, while more people continued to shuffle onto the platform. We decided against taking the train, and slowly made our way downtown along the dark waters of the bay.

Seventeen revisions later, the first paragraph of the story published in Santa Monica Review’s Fall 2016 issue looks like this,

The final sounds of the soprano’s aria soar over the baseball diamond as Tosca collapses on stage projected onto the giant screen above second base. The audience sitting in the bleachers and on the grass explodes with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and applause almost loud enough to be heard back at the opera house two miles away. The screen goes black and everyone stands up, emptying the plastic cups of the last drops of beer and pushing cartons with the remains of cheese fries deeper under the seats. The simulcast is over. On the field, families pack up their picnic baskets and fold blankets.

Thank you, Andrew Tonkovich, for publishing this story and for helping me with the title. You can buy the issue and subscribe to the magazine on Santa Monica Review’s website here.