Housing Works


…but then got ran over by a bus and died. No im totally kidding! but you really did get the flu and couldn’t join me.

The talk was at Housing Works, and it included two other speakers: David Gordon and Michael Kunichika.Your expectations were unclear: talk about Russian writers who, though they left us long ago, remain potent presences for readers and writers today. From Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to Vasily Grossman and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, we’ll learn about obsession, madness, realism, fables, and more, in an event with all the drama and pathos (well, at least some of the drama and pathos) of the great Russian novels themselves.


Here are all the texts I would have sent you, in chronological order and without clarifying who said what, because color-coordinating via SMS goes a step too far:

truth-seeking urgency intrinsic in russian lit

antithesis to beckett & writers who focused extensively on beauty of language

falling in love w/ english language, less plot driven urgency

dostoevsky similar to conrad in terms of truth-seeking urgency

multivocality of dostoevsky

there is no right, just different truths

dostoevsky threw the best literary parties (metaphorically speaking, as a creator)

proust s parties were too long, and maybe the guests were wearing better clothes

abstract psychological curiosity in motives, including abnormalities–>russian approach

going in depth for big questions, characters not being introverted

serialization of lengthy works, such as ‘war & peace,’ adds towards creating a broader debate. they become part of the broader debates occurring during their time

some compare the creation of microcosms of russian lit to ‘the wire’

comparing to british office, where they look at the camera at moments of despair but the viewer cannot do anything to help // to embarrasing dostoevsky characters

nabokov disliked dostoevsky for his “bad writing”

dostoevsky had a v diff approach to writing from nabokov: almost got executed literally, then was told he had another five years

that is also why dostoevsky did not pursue inanimate writing, unlike tolstoy (?)

nabokov didn t like music!

neither did dostoevsky !! (probably diff reasons)

saul bellow s ‘dean of december’–>similar urgency in truth-seeking (someone from the audience)

can reading a book be so vivid it appears like a different life?

if yes, it depends on willingness of writers to go to great lengths in creating characters who go too far, embarrass themselves/ are visceral

perhaps a key element that helps bring about the urgent truth-seeking: religion s role for the writers

religion, like their fiction, was trying to explain what goes on beyond the physical

nabokov s direct ancestor was dostoevsky s jailor. weird how he was not willing to cut him any slack, considering

dostoevsky was crowd-pleasing oriented bc he lived off writing




Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes & Events & Haut or not & Random / 2 Comments
February 11th, 2014 / 5:20 pm

NYC Area Alert: The launch party for LIT #17  (the journal of the New School graduate writing program) is tonight at Housing Works bookstore & cafe. Sasha Fletcher, Phillip Gardner, Anne Ray, and the inimitable Jennifer L. Knox will be rendering their readerly services. The facebook page claims that space is limited and so you need to RSVP if you’re going, but my bet is that if you show up, they’ll figure out a way to get you in. I am very excited about this and planning to attend, so think about your desire to hear these readers, weigh it against your desire to potentially interact with me, and plan your evening accordingly.

NYC Area Alert: What’s better than AIDS? Fun Literary Events!


The venerable and perpetually awesome Housing Works Bookstore–a nonprofit that helps homeless people with AIDS in NYC–is throwing two events in the near future that you should know about. The first one is Thursday (as in The Day After Tomorrow) and it is a Literature Quiz Show, emceed by father-daughter team Kenneth and Jenny Davis, authors of Don’t Know Much About Literature: What You Need to Know but Never Learned About Great Books and Authors. All comers are welcome to get in on the action, and you’ll be playing against literary notables such as Garth Risk Hallberg, Jason Boog, Ed Champion, and HTMLGiant’s own Catherine Lacey. I wish wish wish I could be there quizzing it out with ya’ll, but I’ll be stuck doing the next best thing–hanging out in New Jersey generating fodder for more Creative Writing 101 posts. Full event details here.

And hey, now that you know how to get to Housing Works, why don’t you come back the next night (Friday) for something called the “Read-N-Rock-N-Roll YA Variety Show” which will feature Frank Portman, the author of King Dork (and, apparently, the dude from Mr. T Experience–who knew?) reading “and singing” from his new novel Andromeda Klein. There’s a lot more going on at this, but if I let this post get any longer Father Blake is going to slap me with a “read more after the jump,” so just click here if you want to learn more about the special guests at the Portman thing.

Uncategorized / 10 Comments
September 16th, 2009 / 11:59 am