The day I bought Raw, I also wrote my own fiction, got my eyebrows waxed, started a contemporary literary novel by a writer who lives in Brooklyn, read a few book blogs, purchased a cappuccino made by a man in polka dotted Oxford shirt, posted a photo of my son to Tumblr, read some Dr. Seuss to that same son, and watched an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker (which, by the way, has totally gone downhill since assistants Destin and Rachel left the show). Such a rich cornucopia of experience, if I do say so myself! If your days even remotely resemble my own (and if you’re reading this, well, I bet they do), then you will find great pleasure in Mark Haskell Smith’s depiction of our contemporary diversions and obsessions, both the high and the low.
Because I read slowly, I also remember odd little details that provide a strong visual image, and so as I read along, if my visual image is jarred by a description, I’ll backtrack to figure out if there’s some inconsistency. I remember more details about characters in novels I’ve copyedited than I remember from my own life.
Edan Lepucki, “Style Sheet: A Conversation with My Copyeditor”
Specktor’s gorgeous book, about the flawed, chauvinist, talented film agent Beau Rosenwald, as tender as he is damaged, made me feel like my native city had been properly seen. It made me feel like a piece of fiction had finally and properly seen me. And if you’ve never even been to Los Angeles? No matter. Specktor’s prose alone is enough to lure you in: it’s sharply observed and nimble, like a more mischievous cousin of John Cheever, and his characters are wonderfully and deeply complicated, wounded and secretive.
It’s helpful to remember that the devoted people who read for and edit literary magazines are often overworked and underpaid — if paid at all — and that we should not blame them for using form rejections, nor for taking a long time to consider our work. That said, I believe that anything encouraging in a rejection should be taken seriously, form letter or not. Tenacity is the key to being published.
Our own Edan Lepucki interviewed National Book Award finalists George Saunders and Rachel Kushner for the National Book Foundation. Saunders discussed money issues in his writing. “Now I feel like paucity vs. grace is one of the great American issues—we all live with it every day.” Kushner explained her writing process. “The sentences are beads on a string; I see each one as essential.”
As all three books in Atwood’s trilogy attest, an apocalypse won’t destroy romantic attraction, longing, or jealousy, nor will it dismantle gender roles — if anything, these are magnified. Atwood’s characters have bodies, and she doesn’t let us forget that fact. (At the end of the world, people will still look at your ass, which is both a problem and a comfort. )
Interpersonal communication can be as trying as putting together Ikea furniture.