“Manual of Detection” reading in Portsmouth.

Via FoC Michele at Reading is Breathing comes this welcome news:

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 – 7:00pm

RiverRun Bookstore and The Red Door present Jedediah Berry reading from The Manual of Detection

Join RiverRun at The Red Door (107 State Street in Portsmouth) for our new literary series featuring some of today’s best contemporary writers. Enjoy a drink at the martini bar while listening to an imaginative novelist read from his debut novel.

“Berry’s ambitious debut reverberates with echoes of Kafka and Paul Auster….This cerebral novel, with its sly winks at traditional whodunits and inspired portrait of the bureaucratic and paranoid Agency, will appeal to mystery readers and non-genre fans alike.”

─ Publishers Weekly

“In his first novel, Berry has created a wonderful and fantastic world, a vintage mystery seen through a hall of fun-house mirrors….”

─Kirkus Reviews

A night out, with other grown-ups, a frosty beverage and a reading: now that’s a wonderful and fantastic Kafkaesque idea.

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How to know when they’re talking about YOU.

Lauren has something for YOU:

Basically, his [Jonathan Baumbach’s] latest novel, and in his (and others’) opinion, his best, came out last January and got one review before the fledgling indie publisher went under. Was there anything that could be done? I started to write my usual reply: no. I mean, anyone knows you have ten days after the publication date to get at least some initial traction, and you need to get at least a three month lead on planning for that. And then I thought, when did I get so boring? And so I wrote instead: “I will be frank, of course: getting publicity for a book past its publication date is a little like surviving a terminal illness… everyone cheers if you pull through, but the prognosis is justifiably grim at the onset. That being said, I’m aware of your work and have long thought that you should have a higher profile. Perhaps we could meet for coffee some afternoon next week and talk further?”

And we met and hit it off instantly, and I read the book, and started, quite uncharacteristically, marking it up and bending down corners and reading passages to friends over the phone and so I said that if he was willing to take a risk, well then, so was I. Hence, “The New You Project.” The afore-mentioned review ran in The Los Angeles Times last January and YOU or The Invention of Memory promptly slid off the map. Or did it? Here’s how it works: email me (correspondence at laurencerand dot com) between now and February 14 to request a free copy of the book (limited to the first 365 requests) and I will send it to you in the mail. Free. You can read it. You can give it away. You can sell it to the Strand or Powell’s, depending on your coast. Whatever. The point is, this is a book that I believe in. I believe it belongs in the world. I believe it belongs with you.

Review: “Death with Interruptions”.

My review of Death with Interruptions appears in today’s PopMatters. Excerpt:

…Saramago skewers the flailing reactions of each of these institutions mercilessly and slyly, as an underground “maphia” emerges to see to the transport of the elderly and infirm across the border, at which point they promptly expire, and before long the maphia and government find themselves working together.  The church veers back and forth between explanations for the lack of death.  The philosophers spin their wheels in the mud.  When Saramago has this country’s citizens wondering how, at a time with death has completely ceased, “what the hell is going on with the government, who have so far given not the slightest sign of life”—it seems like an instantly universal truism about government’s common problems, regardless of the problem at hand…

Page 30 of 893.

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This picture was taken – as more and more of them will be – by my five year old daughter, as we grocery shopped.  She’s pretty sly with the candid shots.  I can tell you exactly what I was thinking when she took this one:  what were we thinking coming to the grocery store at this time of day we’re never getting out of here; and 2666? 2666. 2666 2666 2666 (or something to that effect, with the accompanying outreaching thoughts about the writing, the story, etc.)

Not a lot of particularly insightful thoughts to share thus far; reading along, enjoying it, and suddenly realized I was in the middle of the 5-page sentence written about (and shared) elsewhere.  I found myself compelled to read it nonstop, like I was competing against Bolaño, or maybe against the world and my own attention span, to read it straight through.  I was successful, but probably only because my kids weren’t around and we weren’t at the overcrowded grocery store.  Do you get those people who push their cart out into the middle of the aisle, blocking it entirely, and then stare vacantly off into space, as though hypnotized or completely confused?  Probably not, because they’re all at my grocery store, every time we go there. Gridlock.

On a related note, The New Yorker‘s got a Bolaño short story as of today.

New DFW fiction?

Hard to tell if this is on the up-and-up, or if it’s an attention-getting scam, but a forthcoming student lit-journal claims to be holding new David Foster Wallace fiction:

We here at The Chaffey Review literary magazine would first like to extend yet another expression of sympathy towards the entire David Foster Wallace fan community concerning his tragic passing. We do, however, have interesting and potentially exciting news concerning a
previously unpublished Wallace piece. Before his death, Wallace agreed to donate a portion of a larger work (“An Untitled Chunk”) along with first publishing rights, to the students of Chaffey College, allowing us to print it in the first edition of our literary magazine. The magazine is being published this January and is the only available printing of this piece. Our contract with
Wallace’s family and agent dictates that we cannot publish any portion of the piece online, nor in any other publication, so this is truly a unique opportunity.

You can find more information about The Chaffey Review at

http://www.chaffeyreview.org/.
We request that you pass on this information about Wallace’s piece to the rest of the Davis Foster Wallace fan community in order to promote this final piece of his work.
Thank you very much,
The Chaffey Review Literary Magazine

Ordering information is here, if you’re interesting in rolling the dice and maybe getting one of the copies, assuming the print run is small.

If it’s true, I’m glad.  If it’s a hoax, I’m tracking you little crackers down and knocking your heads together.  (via)

The economist weighs in on death.

Although, as he himself acknowledged, actuarial calculus was not his specialty, he considered himself sufficiently knowledgeable about the subject to go public and to ask just how, in about twenty years’ time, give or take a year, the country thought it would be able to pay the millions of people who would find themselves on permanent disability pensions and would continue like that for all eternity and would, implacably, be joined by further millions now regardless of whether you used an arithmetic or geometric progression, disaster was assured, it would mean chaos, disorder, state bankruptcy, a case of sauve qui peut, except that no one would be saved.  Confronted by this terrifying vision, the metaphysicians had no option but to button their lip, the church had no option but to return to their weary telling of beads and to waiting for the end of time, which, according to their eschatological visions, would resolve everything once and for all.  In fact, going back to the economist’s worrying arguments, the calculations were very easy to make, if a certain proportion of the active population are paying their national insurance, and a certain proportion of the inactive population are retired, either for reasons of old age or disability, and therefore drawing on the active population for their pensions, and the active population is constantly on the decrease with respect to the inactive population, and the inactive population is constantly on the increase, it’s hard to understand why no one saw at once that the disappearance of death, apparently the peak, the pinnacle, the supreme happiness, was not, after all, a good thing.

José Saramago, from “Death with Interruptions” which, need I even say it, is a most thoroughly kickass book.

Wake up with Tobias Wolff.

Goodbye, Monday blues; Hello, new Tobias Wolff fiction.   Excerpt:

“Odysseus turned his back on the harbour and followed a rough track leading through the woods and up to the hills toward the place where Athene had told him . . .”

Richard read on for a time. He was restless but tried to take an interest in Odysseus’ journey to the home of his loyal “swineherd”—what a word, what a way to make a living!—who of course doesn’t recognize him, nobody ever recognized anybody in these old books, but offers Odysseus a meal anyway and bangs his ear off with complaints. Now and then Richard glanced over at Ana, asleep beside him. He kept willing her to wake, to turn and open her arms to him—no such luck. Gloomy, impatient, he went back to the Odyssey. Ana had left it on the bedside table, open to this chapter, which Richard found boring and implausible. He leafed ahead to the part where Odysseus strings his bow and slaughters all the suitors, but there was a lot more fancy description and speechifying than he remembered from the version he’d read as a kid. He was supposed to have read it again, a couple years ago, as part of his freshman core at Columbia, but he’d come down with the flu that week.

Walter Kirn on James Wood’s “How Fiction Works.”

Kirn is unbound and throwing rocks, many of which connect.  From the NYT:

Having been lashed by twice as many citations as even a formalist-cum-­structuralist should require, and having been incrementally diminished by Wood’s tone of genteel condescension (he flashes the Burberry lining of his jacket whenever he rises from his armchair to fetch another Harvard Classic), the common reader is likely to concede virtually anything the master wishes — except, perhaps, his precious time. For someone who professes to understand the fine machinations of characterization, Wood seems oblivious to the eminently resistible prose style of his donnish, finicky persona. “How Fiction Works” is a definitive title, promising much and presuming even more: that anyone, in the age of made-up memoirs and so-called novels whose protagonists share their authors’ biographies and names, still knows what fiction is; that those who do know agree that it resembles a machine or a device, not a mess, a mystery or a miracle; and that once we know how fiction works, we’ll still care about it as an art form rather than merely admire it as an exercise. But there is one question this volume answers conclusively: Why Readers Nap.