The Wednesday Web Browser

  • Author and teacher Kyle Minor shares the very extensive suggested reading list for his spring 2011 fiction workshop.
  • From another author and teacher: Danielle Evans spotlights some of this year’s notable “outsider fiction.”
  • The Urban Muse (Susan Johnston) offers “6 Ways to Reconnect with Your Freelance Network.”
  • Susan Bernofsky has launched a new blog, Translationista, providing “dispatches from the world of literary translation.”
  • The Jewish Book Carnival takes place on the 15th of every month (this month, that’s today). And this month, my other blog, which focuses on Jewish literary and cultural matters, is the Carnival’s host. Step right up and see what we’ve got for you from the world of Jewish books.
  • The Wednesday Web Browser

  • All of us who participate on the Poets & Writers Speakeasy discussion boards are immensely proud of Rebecca Makkai (aka “kismacko”), a three-time Best American Short Stories (BASS) author whose first novel is forthcoming in June. This weekend, we had the pleasure of hearing Rebecca read from her story on NPR, in a feature in which Richard Russo, who edited this year’s BASS volume, talks about some of his choices.
  • Also on the subject of the Russo-edited BASS volume–but far less celebratory–is Roxane Gay’s HTMLGIANT post, “A Profound Sense of Absence.”
  • The Writer brings you writing-book recommendations from several of the magazine’s book reviewers (including yours truly).
  • I’ve just begun reading Ellen Meeropol’s debut novel, House Arrest, which will be out on February 1 (look for an interview in the March Practicing Writer). I am especially taken with the author’s recent blog post on the subject of what the book’s early readers have taught her about her own work.
  • Finally, Bill Roorbach’s blog post on “reference season” is something every student, teacher, and potential student/potential teacher should read. Especially students and teachers of creative writing.
  • The Wednesday Web Browser

  • My tbr list grows longer with the addition of Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies.
  • I met writer Nancy Williams about a dozen years ago when we were classmates in an historical novel workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. I’m happy to introduce Nancy’s new website, which focuses on her “grand passion”: piano. I am particularly taken with an interview that Nancy conducted with Jennifer Rosner, author of the memoir, If a Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard.
  • Linda Formichelli shares the top five query mistakes that freelance writers make.
  • See how you feel about this article on a writer’s experience writing student papers for pay. And if you’re really interested (and free at noon today), you can join a live discussion with the author.
  • I may have mentioned that I’ve grown a wee bit weary of all the opinion pieces on creative writing/MFA programs. This article is something an exception (the comments from George Saunders are especially good and smart).
  • Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: Kristallnacht in Poetry & Prose

    If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen my comment earlier this week about the anniversary of Kristallnacht, and my link to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website article that explains:

    Kristallnacht — literally, “Night of Crystal,” is often referred to as the “Night of Broken Glass.” The name refers to the wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms which took place on November 9 and 10, 1938 throughout Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia recently occupied by German troops. Instigated primarily by Nazi Party officials and members of the SA (Sturmabteilungen: literally Assault Detachments, but commonly known as Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth, Kristallnacht owes its name to the shards of shattered glass that lined German streets in the wake of the pogrom-broken glass from the windows of synagogues, homes, and Jewish-owned businesses plundered and destroyed during the violence.

    Each of my father’s parents had left Germany by November 1938, but they’d each left alone (they met and married here in New York). When I think of the Kristallnacht, I don’t think first of the encyclopedia definitions. I think instead of my grandmother’s stories, which she likely heard in full only after the war—a realization that somehow came to me only after my grandmother had passed away and I couldn’t ask her anything else. These were stories about her parents, who remained back in Germany in their apartment that night, and about her favorite uncle, Michael, who was taken to Dachau during Kristallnacht. He died there.

    When I look at my writing, it’s a bit surprising even to me how many times Kristallnacht appears. For starters, it’s mentioned in at least two of my published poems to date: “Pünktlichkeit” and “Mannheim.”

    In my forthcoming story collection, Quiet Americans, Kristallnacht also appears more than once, starting with its presence in the first story, “For Services Rendered,” where it is referenced but not specifically named: “But after November 9th—after nine of Berlin’s twelve synagogues were torched and children from the Jewish orphanages made homeless and more than one thousand Jewish men sent away from the city—well, so much had changed.” (It’s also alluded to in a remembered conversation between two of the main characters, but for those of you who haven’t yet read the story, I won’t reprint the passage here.)

    Such references stem from what others have recorded, from researching/rechecking historical facts. But in another of the book’s stories—”Homecomings”—the depiction of Kristallnacht emerges from the more personal knowledge of what happened to my great-grandparents and their brother-in-law.

    And for that, you’ll have to wait. Just a little longer.

    Thursday’s Pre-Publication Post: “The fictional parts of the book are true; if they didn’t happen to us, they happened to someone else.”

    Last week, I spent my Tuesday lunch hour at my office desk, immersed in the latest Twitter Book Club session administered by the Jewish Book Council. The novel under discussion was The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer, one of my favorite recent reads. There are many reasons why I became interested in Orringer’s novel even before I read it; one of them is the fact that the novel emerged in part from Orringer’s family history. That is to say, from grandparent history.

    When I discover that a particular work of fiction is rooted at least in part in the Nazi era-influenced experiences of an author’s grandparents, I can’t help but be interested. I’ve long been familiar with creative work by the children of Holocaust survivors and refugees from the Reich. The grandchildren are another story. With a 1969 birthdate, I am among the elders of this cohort. For the most part, the grandchildren’s work is just beginning to reach readers. (This is a point that I expect to discuss during a panel on 21st-century Jewish-American fiction at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in February.)

    As usually happens with the JBC chats, the author participated and answered reader questions last week. (You can read the full transcript here.) And in one of Orringer’s statements, I found an excellent insight that will help me respond to questions, when they come, about my own forthcoming collection, Quiet Americans:

    “My grandmother says, ‘The fictional parts of the book are true; if they didn’t happen to us, they happened to someone else.'”

    How do I know this will help me? Well, a few days after the chat, a friend read my collection’s opening story online, then asked me via e-mail whether any of it was drawn from my own family’s experience. I pointed my friend to a brief essay I’ve written explaining the story’s background.

    Mentally, I also heard the words of Julie Orringer’s grandmother, echoing.