Laird Hunt

Another arrow into February’s skull. New Hobart is out. All good, and this Laird Hunt interview (part two) amazing.

Brief q+a with Laird Hunt (updated with comments re: Ulysses thread)

lairdhuntI’ve read some good books put out by good presses this year (Graywolf, Dalkey and the NYRB come to mind, but I’m not discounting Eugene Lim and Ellipsis’s [Ellipses?] forthcoming books from that list. Can’t wait to check those out). But I don’t think anyone has hit it out of the park yet in 2009 like Coffee House. Evenson’s book completely eviscerated me and others just like me and probably others not at all like me (it has that kind of broad appeal). It’s easily the best story collection I’ve read in quite awhile. The other beauty, though, is Ray of the Star by Laird Hunt. The story of a guy named Harry, shattered by an accident that took the lives of his family, as he attempts to reconnect to life, love and sanity kicks serious ass. Remarkably, Hunt just keeps getting better, and it excites me to think that we haven’t even seen his best yet. I emailed with the author a little bit, and he fielded my asinine questions, which I just sent to him en masse, with wit and aplomb.

I was reading your playlist suggestions on the Times website, and I was pretty blown away to read that you wrote Ray of the Star in six weeks. Do you normally write that fast? You strike me as more of a deliberate writer, agonizing over word placement and rhythm and other aesthetic concerns. Six weeks!?

I’ve never written anything that fast, although years ago I wrote the first draft of my first book, The Paris Stories, with considerable speed (and a lot of cigarettes).  Of course there was a good deal of reworking, after I had done the first draft of Ray, but it was nothing like my experience with the first three novels, each of which unfurled themselves slowly over a period of years.  Both Indiana, Indiana and The Exquisite lived happy plot-free existences for at least 2 or 3 years before I saw the stories in them and could start to think of ways to shape those stories into something interesting.  Ray’s story and the plot built in and around it were there from the beginning.  As were those bloody sentences.


Author Spotlight / 9 Comments
September 8th, 2009 / 1:30 pm

Other cities

autobot_cityIf Blake likes a book, you can be relatively sure that it will be decent or, at the very least, cause some sweet internal hemorrhaging. Awhile ago I read with interest something that he posted about this Dalkey book just recently translated into English, The Other City, by Michal Ajvaz. Being a masochist, I eventually picked it up and, with its weird transdimensional runes and strange otherworldly trolleys, hasn’t disappointed. The Prague Ajvaz describes isn’t one you’d recognize from a Fodor’s travel guide, but is definitely truer for all that, I think. I say this having never been to Prague, but it just feels right. Laird Hunt (whose new book Ray of the Star is coming out in September some time), touches on this idea in his last novel, The Exquisite. He writes:

There are two New Yorks. One of them is the one you go out into every day and every day it smacks you in the face and maybe you laugh a little and the people walk down the street and trucks blow their horns and you are happy or you are not, but your heart is beating. Your heart is beating as you walk, say, through a steady drizzle, your beat-up umbrella bumping other beat-up umbrellas, muttering excuse me, skirting small, dirty puddles and drifts of dark sediment, stepping out of the way of the young woman or young man on a cell phone who didn’t see you coming, didn’t notice you had stepped out of the way, didn’t give a shit, didn’t hear you say, because of this, fuck you, saying fuck you with your heart beating faster, feeling pretty good about saying fuck you, suddenly maybe feeling good about the drizzle, about the brilliant beads of water on the cabs going too fast down Prince, on the delicate ends of the oak branches as you cross Elizabeth, on the chain-link mesh as you move across the street…Down dark, windswept hallways, across empty public spaces, past vanished water-tasting stations and stopped-up springs, along oily waterways littered with rusting barges and sleeping gulls, down abandoned subway tunnels and the sparking guts of disused power stations: into the second New York. The one in which a heartbeat is at best a temporary anomaly, a troubling aftershock, an instance of unanswerable deja vu. Which is much bigger than the first, and is for the most part, in your current condition, inaccessible to you, you think, although sometimes, like sitting in the bar drifting, or lying on your bed surrounded by lights and strangers, you can catch a glimpse.

I’ve always love that idea of the city as this living, heavily breathing entity, existing totally independently of its human parasites. And, being substantially more familiar with New York than Prague, I can say that Hunt is dead on with his description of the city’s schizophrenia. Or secret identity. Whatever. Which leads me to believe that Ajvaz is too, and makes me want to take advantage of affordable plane tickets to Europe to check out this eerie city of his.

Behind the Scenes / 12 Comments
June 15th, 2009 / 10:42 pm

Laird Hunt’s influences


Laird Hunt, author of the incredible Indiana, Indiana, has been posting short synopses of the five books that influenced his upcoming novel Ray of the Star.

Book three has me curious about both Hunt’s book and this influence.

Ann Quin’s 1964 debut novel Berg famously begins with the following, set apart on its own page: “A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father….” The backbone of Berg‘s plot duly summarized, Quin goes on to give us a novel about how lives get lived in the odd torquing of language, or perhaps how odd lives get lived in the torquing of language.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Some of the book is available here.

Anyone read this? Recommendations?

Author Spotlight / 9 Comments
May 29th, 2009 / 3:12 pm