Around the World in 35 Days, Part 1

Yosano Akiko

The subject of my next novel, another historical project about an epic journey, is the Japanese poet and feminist Yosano Akiko (1878-1942).

In 1912, at the age of 33, Akiko left her home in Tokyo and traveled by herself to Paris. This alone was unusual enough. Ever since the 1880s, a stream of Japanese artists and intellectuals had been making their way to the West, some to Europe, some to the U.S., but very few of those travelers were women. And fewer yet traveled alone.  Continue reading

Our Year in Reading 2016

Rabih Alameddine, Christian Kracht, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
Books we both read and loved

This was the year my husband read more—a lot more—than I did.

There were two simple reasons for this: He read more, and I read less.

He joined two book clubs in 2016, which explains, at least in part, his impressive list. He read so many books this year that he spent over an hour typing up and annotating his list. Then, after handing me the notebook where we record our completed books, he suddenly cried out, “Wait! I need that back. I skipped a whole page.”

Show-off. Continue reading

And the Nobel goes to…

Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2016
Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2016

When the Swedish Academy announced this morning that Bob Dylan was their choice for this year’s Literature Prize, people went crazy in exactly the ways you’d expect: his die-hard fans were jubilant; many writers and literature-lovers expressed open dismay; and others jumped into the fray to defend the award and call out the naysayers for snobbery and narrow-mindedness.

I think one can be nonplussed or even disappointed by this decision and remain innocent of elitism or parochialism or of suggesting Dylan is anything less than awesome. Sure, song lyrics are poetry, which makes it literature. Still, I don’t think the expectation that the award go to people who’ve spent their lives making, you know, books, as their principal occupation, is necessarily misplaced or snobby. Continue reading

On Writering

Writering it up, One Story Debutante Ball, May 2016 (Photo Dan Fuchs)
Writering it up, One Story Debutante Ball, May 2016 (Photo Dan Fuchs)

See the end of this post for details about the Landfalls audiobook giveaway. It ends July 14, 2016.
[This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Sandra G. of Woodland, CA, for winning an audiobook!]

Before my book came out, I was a writer who spent a lot of time writing. Now I’m a published author, and I spend a lot of time doing things connected to writing or to my life as a writer but that don’t involve actual writing. If I wanted to, I could easily spend all of my time doing writerly stuff instead of writing. I call it “writering.” Continue reading

On Sleepiness and Writing

Naomi falling asleep over keyboardAm I the only writer out there who regularly falls asleep over her keyboard? Please tell me I’m not.

It goes like this: I’ve carved out a precious hour or two to write, but as soon as I hit a point where I need to stop and think for a moment, which is often very early on because I’m an incredibly painstaking writer and slow thinker, I start nodding off. I may stave off the drowsiness for a while, but eventually I flop face-down on my bed or couch and conk out. Continue reading

Our Year in Reading 2015

2015 booksIn under the wire, my annual round-up of the books my husband and I read over the year.

My book-loving guy and I read two books in common this year: Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, which we both loved (a rare event for us), and Alice McDermott’s Someone, which I loved and warned him he wouldn’t. I was right, alas.

The other thing I’ll say about Dan’s list is that he’s shown his usual penchant, both for reading work in translation and for finding an author he loves and reading a lot of their work. Continue reading

Tall Ship Bounty

IMG_2159It’s October 29, 2015, the third anniversary of the sinking of the Tall Ship Bounty.

Bounty, built in 1960 as a replica of the famous HMS Bounty, sank off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy. A daring and dangerous US Coast Guard rescue operation saved 14 people from the ship. But two were lost, the ship’s beloved long-time captain, Robin Walbridge, and crew member Claudene Christian.

I’m obviously drawn to this story because it concerns shipwreck — an altogether human and heartbreaking story of adventure, hard work, camaraderie, survival, and loss. Continue reading