Wire to Wire
by Scott Sparling
Tin House Books, 2011
392 pages / $15.95 Buy from Tin House Books
America is too diverse and American culture too fast evolving to produce A Great American Novel. I do believe, though, in an Essential American Shelf, as long as it needs to be to hold all the voices that speak artfully, truthfully and with compassion about their chosen hunk of psycho-social real estate. Scott Sparling’s Wire to Wire claims a place on my personal instance of that shelf, snugged up somewhere between William Kennedy and Charles Bukowski, between Theodore Dreiser and Flannery O’Connor, rubbing elbows with the best of the noir detectives and assorted snotty 1980s boy nihilists.
September 15th, 2011 / 3:07 pm
Rasskazy, an anthology of “new fiction from a new Russia” presents a reviewer with an interesting challenge: how to write about these texts as though they had something in common with each other. The book is held together by the assumption that the authors share not only a common language, but that their work is representative of “new Russia” in at least two important ways: in the authors’ political and cultural engagement and in their continuation of “the great Russian literary tradition.” In their preface to the anthology, editors Mikhail Iossel and Jeff Parker frame the texts within the politics of the Putin-era Russia that they see as “turning back the hands of Russia’s sociopolitical clock” and implicate all authors as opposition to this political process. The editors’ ideology in approaching this collection comes across in statements such as: “Russian writing has once again found itself invested with a higher purpose. The writers in today’s Russia derive their sense of relevance from having been adjudged irrelevant by the country’s rulers (i.e., nonthreatening to the latter’s political agenda).”
September 24th, 2010 / 1:37 pm
Call it What You Want: Stories by Keith Lee Morris. Tin House Books. pp. 264, $14.95 list ($10.76 at the above-linked B&N.com).
Reviewed by Jennifer Bassett.
My first “real” writing class was in high school and taught by a young man who had just graduated from an MFA program. He was excited and passionate and on the first day of class he read us Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” from Jesus’ Son. We were all riveted. First of all, the story involved drugs (!) and secondly the writing was so sharp, it practically slit our wrists. For me, personally, that moment was particularly pivotal. Jesus’ Son and Johnson’s particular brand of writing—tough, honest, gritty, male, but with an undercurrent of boyish vulnerability—came to represent a standard by which I judged everything else.
May 7th, 2010 / 10:26 am