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Bookselling made a writer out of me. Before I got a job at a bookstore, I would sometimes poke around the edges of being a creative writer—I wrote little essays for zines my friends published, and I liked to come up with elaborate fake histories for bands I was associated with in college. I liked books and I liked to read. But being a bookseller moved me from a casual to a professional interest in books, so it meant I needed to read a lot more, and a lot of contemporary work. It gave me a sense of the landscape, and where I might fit into it. (And that I actually might fit into it.) It plugged me into the community of writers and readers. And it gave me access to writers who helped me evolve my writing. I learned that creative writing is a discipline that takes time and attention. (And lots of rewriting.) I learned that a voice and an idea are good things, but they aren’y necessarily stories. I spent time finding out the paths other writers took to get where they were, and got advice on how to find my own way.
We interviewed Matthew Simmons, whose collection Happy Rock is one of the year’s best.
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This sense of surreal cosmic horror is always on my mind. It’s my favorite thing to think about. I think the title is a perfect fusion of my influences and Shannon’s influences. (The Rat House was an old shack on Shannon’s family property that was a big part of her childhood and the image is highly nostalgic for her and representative of childhood and growing up.) I tend to write more fantasy fairy tale lyrics and Shannon tends to write more nostalgic/personal/family lyrics.
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"There’s something special about language that is in some way “off.” I am reminded of the Tobias Wolff story “Bullet in the Brain,” where the main character recalls, in his dying moments, a scrap of unexpectedly musical incorrect grammar: “Short’s the best position they is.” Lydia Davis writes of similar misfires, such as in her story “The Language of the Telephone Company,” the entirety of which consists: “The trouble you reported recently is now working properly.” In these moments something more seems to get said, something beyond language or narrative." (via Vol. 1 Brooklyn | Making Progress: An Interview with James Yeh)

"There’s something special about language that is in some way “off.” I am reminded of the Tobias Wolff story “Bullet in the Brain,” where the main character recalls, in his dying moments, a scrap of unexpectedly musical incorrect grammar: “Short’s the best position they is.” Lydia Davis writes of similar misfires, such as in her story “The Language of the Telephone Company,” the entirety of which consists: “The trouble you reported recently is now working properly.” In these moments something more seems to get said, something beyond language or narrative." (via Vol. 1 Brooklyn | Making Progress: An Interview with James Yeh)

My relationship to NASCAR is a mite complicated, as is any Southern expat’s, but it essentially fits the following parameters: 1) I don’t typically much care for its fans, unless they’re related to me — Mort’s an exception. 2) I was raised on a steady diet of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, but when Earnhardt died I was a long way from Calvary Baptist in Charlotte, N.C., and I was mostly amused by the news of the regional, may have even been national, TV coverage his service received (delivered via a fitful, sobbing telephone call from my redneck brother). 3) Chili goes well with it. 4) Beer too.
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marisreview:

In honor of the great Lindy Hess, Radcliffe and Columbia Publishing Course queen, den mother, friend, here are a few words I wrote about RPC and the magic of book camp.
It was the summer after college graduation, and most of my friends had already started in entry level jobs at PR firms and law offices—their shiny new careers devolving into the daily tedium of working for a living. But I had an out.
I was going to Book Camp. OK, it wasn’t a real camp, but that’s how I thought of it. I was attending the Radcliffe Publishing Course, a 6-week program where I’d get the inside scoop on the book industry, and a temporary reprieve from fetching coffee and making photocopies. Actually, it was better than camp because there was no mandatory volleyball or sing-alongs. Just a bunch of lectures by publishing industry hotshots, and a classful of fellow nerds discussing literature and swilling copious amounts of alcohol.
No, really, drinking was part of the curriculum. We had something called sherry hour, which did not involve actual sherry, because sherry is yucky and expensive. But everyday there was some sweaty cheese and a few crackers, and plenty of wine—classy wine that came out of bottles, not boxes. After a not-so-long, not-so grueling day of classes, our privileged asses got a built-in venue for boozing and schmoozing, which, after all, was the main objective of the course—to get to know the lecturers and each other, in the hopes of nabbing a coveted publishing job.
And how thrilling it was to be among like-minded book lovers—ones who appreciated my dorky sense of humor! I remember one night at a local bar, some sloppy drunk guy kissed my hand and asked my name and I replied, “I’m Lorrie. Lorrie Moore.” My new friends laughed as if I was the reincarnation of Kingsley Amis. I was finally among my people.
In advance of the program, we were all asked to prepare a list of our 10 favorite books. This was my first taste of what online dating profiles might be like, judging people solely on the basis of a list. The Ayn Rand lover? Pay him no mind—he will be a banker within two years. But seek out the lady who lists Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth McCracken and Sweet Valley High as influences. You are soulmates. Beware the boy who loves On the Road above all else. He is a charming, but he will break your heart. It all proved to be fairly accurate.
Yes, to be intellectually stimulated and socially lubricated could end up frustrating. Our class was comprised of 100 students, 12 of whom were men. Rule out the gays and the marrieds, and much like in the actual publishing world, you had a bunch of rabid ladies who were recipients of all sorts of talk and little action. I’m not counting the time when, at our end of summer party, George Plimpton himself looked straight down my dress. I’ve been sexually harassed since then, but never with such panache. Indeed, the book world would never get better than that summer of decadence. Our dreams were dashed the moment we started working (those of us who could find jobs, that is), when we realized that our lifestyles as publishing assistants would be less Fitzgerald, more Dickens. The crazy hours, the miniscule paychecks, the thankless work on ghost-written celebrity tell-alls and self-help tomes written by the craziest motherfuckers of all. The glamour was gone, but at least we were gathering great material for future memoirs of poverty and perseverance.

marisreview:

In honor of the great Lindy Hess, Radcliffe and Columbia Publishing Course queen, den mother, friend, here are a few words I wrote about RPC and the magic of book camp.

It was the summer after college graduation, and most of my friends had already started in entry level jobs at PR firms and law offices—their shiny new careers devolving into the daily tedium of working for a living. But I had an out.

I was going to Book Camp. OK, it wasn’t a real camp, but that’s how I thought of it. I was attending the Radcliffe Publishing Course, a 6-week program where I’d get the inside scoop on the book industry, and a temporary reprieve from fetching coffee and making photocopies. Actually, it was better than camp because there was no mandatory volleyball or sing-alongs. Just a bunch of lectures by publishing industry hotshots, and a classful of fellow nerds discussing literature and swilling copious amounts of alcohol.

No, really, drinking was part of the curriculum. We had something called sherry hour, which did not involve actual sherry, because sherry is yucky and expensive. But everyday there was some sweaty cheese and a few crackers, and plenty of wine—classy wine that came out of bottles, not boxes. After a not-so-long, not-so grueling day of classes, our privileged asses got a built-in venue for boozing and schmoozing, which, after all, was the main objective of the course—to get to know the lecturers and each other, in the hopes of nabbing a coveted publishing job.

And how thrilling it was to be among like-minded book lovers—ones who appreciated my dorky sense of humor! I remember one night at a local bar, some sloppy drunk guy kissed my hand and asked my name and I replied, “I’m Lorrie. Lorrie Moore.” My new friends laughed as if I was the reincarnation of Kingsley Amis. I was finally among my people.

In advance of the program, we were all asked to prepare a list of our 10 favorite books. This was my first taste of what online dating profiles might be like, judging people solely on the basis of a list. The Ayn Rand lover? Pay him no mind—he will be a banker within two years. But seek out the lady who lists Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth McCracken and Sweet Valley High as influences. You are soulmates. Beware the boy who loves On the Road above all else. He is a charming, but he will break your heart. It all proved to be fairly accurate.

Yes, to be intellectually stimulated and socially lubricated could end up frustrating. Our class was comprised of 100 students, 12 of whom were men. Rule out the gays and the marrieds, and much like in the actual publishing world, you had a bunch of rabid ladies who were recipients of all sorts of talk and little action. I’m not counting the time when, at our end of summer party, George Plimpton himself looked straight down my dress. I’ve been sexually harassed since then, but never with such panache.

Indeed, the book world would never get better than that summer of decadence. Our dreams were dashed the moment we started working (those of us who could find jobs, that is), when we realized that our lifestyles as publishing assistants would be less Fitzgerald, more Dickens. The crazy hours, the miniscule paychecks, the thankless work on ghost-written celebrity tell-alls and self-help tomes written by the craziest motherfuckers of all. The glamour was gone, but at least we were gathering great material for future memoirs of poverty and perseverance.

It’s probably impossible to explain to young people who weren’t around in the 1980s how central, crucial, and all-encompassing a role MRR played on the punk scene at that time. Without exaggerating too much, I think it would be safe to say that if your band, zine or whatever wasn’t in MRR, it almost didn’t exist. MRR was essentially the clearinghouse for punk rock from round the world, and for the most part, it did a very good job at that. It definitely played a major role in helping Lookout and Gilman attain the positions of prominence that they did.