National Book Critics Circle Awards Ceremony and After Party, Tonight!

One-third of the finalists for the awards are small press books. Bravo, N.B.C.C.!

While  I’d love to see Paul Beatty’s The Sellout win the fiction award, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me the criticism, tonight, I’m rooting for the small presses: the following books in their respective categories:
Continue reading

Advertisements

Big Other’s Birthday Tribute to William H. Gass, 2012

https://bigotherbigother.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/tunneling-gass-dipiazz1.jpg?w=300

Photo by Frank Di Piazza

It’s probably too easy a move to begin my very brief remarks about Gass’s use of architecture as a metaphor by trotting out the old horse of a quote about language being the house of Being, before flogging it to death once and for all; but it seems appropriate, nevertheless, to do so, especially when I think about Gass’s positing that the sentence is a container of consciousness. Actually, the quote from Heidegger is useful only when held in contrast with Gass’s ideas about language. Whereas Heidegger placed speech, that is, the continuum of speech, which includes talking, listening, and silence, at the center of his theory of language, Gass does not see writing as a mere supplement to speech. The continuum of writing includes four modes: persuasive, expository, expressive, and literary; and two hybrid modes: argumentative (a fusion of persuasive and expository) and critical (a fusion of expository and expressive) modes. Of these modes, it is the literary that receives the primary focus in Gass’s critical writing. And so, one might perhaps properly say that, for Gass, writing, or, rather, the sentence is the house of becoming. And what is it exactly that becomes in a sentence? For Gass, the sentence is a container of consciousness, a “verbal consciousness, of course, one built of symbols, not sensations; yet one of perceptions all the same: perceptions followed by thoughts like tracking hounds, and infused throughout by the energies of memory and desire, the moods emotions foster, and the reach, through imagery and other juxtapositions, of imagination…” (“The Aesthetic Structure of the Sentence”). Like any house, this container can take any number of forms:

[S]entences must be understood to contain all sorts of unused syntactical space; places that could be filled with more words, but, in any specific instance, aren’t…Sentences are like latticework, like fences, to be left open or prudently closed, their boards wide or narrow, pointy or level, the spaces between them, ditto….A sentence can sometimes give its reader such a strong sense of its overall character that it provokes a flight of fancy, a metaphorical description: it’s like a journey of discovery; it’s like a coil of rope, a triumphal column; it’s like a hallway or a chapel; it’s like a spiral stair. To me, for instance, Sir Thomas Browne’s triplet—“Grave stones tell truth scarce forty years. Generations pass while some trees stand, and old families last not three oak.”—with its relentlessly stressed syllables (seven strong to one weak in the first row, seven to two in the second course, and six to one in the last) resembles a wall. I can even locate spots (the weak stresses) where its stones have crumbled. Families come to pieces the way the word does.

Yes, architecture is a theme running throughout William Gass’s oeuvre, not only in his critical work but in his fictions as well, particularly in The Tunnel, where tunnel-as-metaphor is used as the very structure from which the novel is built.

Continue reading

Jane Ciabattari’s “Literary Pillars”

The books I treasure explore the nature of time and “reality,” integrate non-domestic external realities with the personal realm, startle readers with original language, innovate within the short story or novel form, or open doors to new ways of perceiving what fiction is. Telling truth through fiction has been a longtime goal of mine as a fiction writer, and I honor those who have met that challenge, including these 50 (including one poet):

My 50, in alphabetical order:

Chimamanda Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
Renata Adler, Speedboat
Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina
Margaret Atwood, Surfacing
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions
William Burroughs, Naked Lunch
Anton Chekhov, Short Stories
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Continue reading

Big Other Contributors’ News #5

Lily Hoang will be reading in New York City on Dec. 2 with Uwem Akpan & Juan Felipe Herrera for the PEN celebration, titled “Crossing Over.” The reading will be followed by a panel discussion with Norton editor Brendan Curry & NBCC President Jane Ciabattari. This is happening at Housing Works Bookstore & Cafe, 126 Crosby St., at 7pm.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Luca Dipierro has a story in the new New York Tyrant. It’s called “How I Left Myself Out of the Grave.”

On Tuesday, December 1, the Cinecity Film Festival in Brighton, England, will screen a short from I WILL SMASH YOU, the film by Luca Dipierro & Michael Kimball, along with shorts by Stewart Copeland, Nash Edgerton and others. It’s the segment with Publishing Genius Press’ Adam Robinson. It Will Be Monumental. More info on the festival’s website.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Kim Chinquee has a story, “Soldier,” is up at ArtVoice. Check it out HERE.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Leni Zumas will teach a fiction workshop called “Story Lab” in Asheville, NC, starting in mid-February. Emphasis on experiments, invention, risk-taking. Writers of all stripes, camps, schools, and persuasions welcome. Details at the Great Smokies Writing Program website.