I’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.