What makes for a fun summer afternoon in the Catskills? Developing tintypes out of the back of photographer Josh Wool’s car. I am honored to have sat for him as part of his Artist Initiative Project for VSCO about writers, artists and creatives types living in the Hudson Valley. Together, we talked about the influence of the south in his work, the purity of the flawed, and what it takes to make an artistic community: http://logger.believermag.com/…/11…/the-purity-of-the-flawed
Spring unearthed a new critter in my mailbox yesterday. At least this one wasn’t trying to break into the compost! Excited to have a second novel excerpt in the new NOON annual. Alongside so many people I love and whose work I hold dear. I just had the chance to sit down and start reading the new issue last night. It features exceptional work by Augusta Gross, Deb Olin Unferth, Robert Tindall, Brandon Hobson, Susan Laier, Clancy Martin, Kayla Batchley, Mary South, Greg Mulcahy, R.O. Kwon, Kevin Thomas, Kim Chinquee, James Yeh, Ashton Politanoff, Kristof Kintera, Lincoln Michel, Kathryn Scanlan, Darrell Kinsey, Erin Osborne, and Christine Schutt.
In the rush of the pre-holiday hubbub, I somehow missed that my story, “Birdie,” originally published by Granta’s New Writing, as part of their American Wild Issue was recommended by Longform. Thanks to whomever read this & made it happen! If it’s nearly as cold where you are as where I am right now, maybe you need some more winter reading? http://longform.org/posts/birdie-by
“A Bright Hand in Darkness”, 2014 by Eliza Swann. HD Video Still, 6:16, The Blizzard
Touched and honored to have a new story up in the latest issue of Apogee. Check out this visually enticing new interactive issue. Sex, tricycles, young love and the performance of grief. Here’s the full text of my story. Or, Check out this video recording of my reading of “Old Maid” from the Catskills.
Here’s a sample:
We were just two small twigs then, riding a red tricycle, getting high on pizza in the back of a pickup, jet-setting in Ohio, bass fishing with his father.
“Just look,” he said from where we stood on the pier. “And let me push you.”
Overjoyed to have had the chance to sit down with the indelibly luminous soul that is Darcey Steinke on the occasion of celebrating her new book, Sister Golden Hair, just out from Tin House this month. Sister Golden Hair engages with Darcey’s traditional themes of religiosity, loss, sexuality, violence and the body but also with something larger – the time period of the 1970’s in which the book is set and its corresponding social / popular culture. In the interview we examine what it is to have written novels set during a specific time period, feminism and the crisis of self-fulfillment, the “throbbing amazingness of a round full female body,” “Devolution:” Grandness, An Unconstant God, And Inventing Faith, and the architecture of physical place. With thanks to editor Lincoln Michel at Electric Literature for publishing our words. Below is an excerpt. For the full interview, please read here:
DeWitt: I was looking back on that famous Didion essay “The Morning After the Sixties” from The White Album and there was a line in there that reminded me of your novel where she said, “We were all very personal then. Sometimes relentlessly so. And at one point we either act or do not act. Most of us are still. I supposed I’m talking about just that. The ambiguity of belonging to a generation distrustful of political highs. The historical irrelevancy of growing up convinced that the heart of darkness lay not in some era of social organization but in a man’s own blood.” That made me think a lot about your novel, this description of it on the back says, “It’s all about awaiting new sexual mores, and muddled social customs and confused spirituality.” But more than that it specifically reminded of the father character in your novel and how he becomes a cipher for this change that’s somehow happened between the 60s and the 70’s. And I didn’t know if you could talk about what that “morning after the 60’s” was for you and what made you write about this time period?
Steinke: I’ve always wanted to write about the 70’s because—I mean there’s some good stuff about the 70’s. The Ice Storm would be a great example of a book that’s similar to my feeling of the 70’s. There are also a lot of things culturally about the 70’s that are ridiculed. It’s all about That Seventies Show and smiley faces and tube tops. And I always feel like when you get that, it’s usually because there’s been a lot of pain.
Very honored to have new fiction up today at Granta in celebration of their American Wild issue. Vandalism! Warhol Whoopie Pies! And a new currency system of “Opportunity Tickets!” Thank you to the ever-brilliant Yuka Igarashi for publishing my story, “Birdie,” in which I imagine an alternative response to Detroit’s urban decay.
“The city had earmarked them as tear-downs during the first stage of a larger urban planning initiative – a large ‘D’ for Demolition had been written in white chalk on the front doors of the dilapidated multi-family structures, veterans of a time when Detroit was still a factory town, a place where the music of Motown fumed larger than the gusts of exhaust unleashed from the chains of cars which tumbled off the assembly lines at the auto factories and straight onto those glistening American freeways.“
For the full story, please read here.
“Writing is a lonely sport.” I tell my students this at the start of every semester. For all those days of solitary trying in what is this often lonely and troublesome sport of writing, there comes that one crystal clear fall morning where a publication long in the pipeline emerges and you can finally set a Linda Ronstadt album spinning on the record player and dance with your cats in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and a good pair of wool socks. This fall gifted me with one of those exceptional days and I am so grateful.
I am beyond honored and excited to have new fiction in the latest issue of The American Reader along with Rebecca Schiff and the inimitable Luke B. Goebel. With great thanks to Ben Marcus for publishing my story “The Big Bleed.” I’ve long admired Ben’s fiction ever since my days as a bookseller in Cambridge before graduate school when Thalia Field, a great poet and teacher and mentor of mine, first recommended his “The Age of Wire And String.” Now all these years later it somehow feels like the wheel has, for a moment, come full circle, which makes it worth all those lonely days of “sport.”
Copies of the issue are available in bookstores or online here.
Very honored to have a “Lost And Found” piece in Tin House’s new fall “Tribes” issue in which I pay tribute to Frank Stanford, his raucous and heart-felt young life & the epic poem, “The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You,” which resulted from his boyhood in the American South. With great heart and speed to Bob Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Club, legend and preserver of languages, for lending me his annotated copy of the text, a bible of the soul truly. And many thanks to the wonderful editor, Emma Komlos- Hrobsky, for championing such incredible literature and soliciting this piece.
The editors describe the “Tribes” issue so evocatively:
“Globalism’s ascendance was supposed to send tribalism the way of the dodo. Yet from Waziristan to Williamsburg, tribal affiliations still dictate social order. There may now be more societal fluidity, but finding one’s tribe within nomadic urban cultures has never felt more urgent. And the tales told within ancient or temporary tribes shape and define these societal organizations. In this issue we turn to our favorite storytellers and poets, hoping to arrest time long enough for them to show us what life is like in our contemporary tribes. There are Julia Elliott’s cavemen and cavewomen wannabes in her story “Caveman Diet” and Alice Sola Kim’s teenage Korean American adoptees trying to find their place in the suburban jungles of “Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying.” Roxane Gay looks at the complicated way her Haitian American family handles the consumption of food from both countries. We asked five very different writers—Stacey D’Erasmo, Tayari Jones, David Shields, Zak Smith, and Molly Ringwald—to give us short takes on moments of belonging (or not). The poets, including Tony Hoagland, Cate Marvin, and Eavan Boland, naturally cut to the emotional core of what it means to claim or to be claimed by a tightly bound group.Whatever your other tribes, because you have read these words, we now consider you part of the Tin House tribe. No initiation rituals or signifying tattoos necessary, just please enjoy the issue.”
For more info on this incredible issue and to order a copy, please click here.
I’ve always had a literary crush on Susan Sontag. For her intelligence, her insistence that photography was a “program of populist transcendence,” her self-admitted fascination with beauty (as though to be gorgeous were a talent!), and her belief that life was built on the ad hoc. Honored to have the next extended essay from the “Various Paradigms” series up today on The Believer Logger looking back at Annie Leibovitz’s photographs of Sontag after her death.
Discussed: memento mori, Whitman, Kodak, Hal Foster, Richard Halliburton’s “Complete Book of Marvels,” illness as metaphor, the non-nuclear family, death & the surreal, and “immoderate appetite.” With great thanks to my fantastic editor, Hayden Bennett, for posting! For the full text read here.
It’s always amazing to receive mail here in the Catskills. Today’s news from the world included a contributor copy of La Granada with works in translation by Lincoln Michel, James Yeh, Maya Samat, Diane Williams, Lydia Davis, Christine Schutt, Paul Auster, Ben Lerner, myself and many others. Warmest thank yous to editor Ingrid Hafredal for her care in translating my story, “Those People In The Garden,” into Norwegian and to Diane Williams for publishing the original story in English!