Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Surprise in Gray

O, Gentle Reader, hello. I'm feeling a smidge vulnerable right now. There's a stomach bug in my house and I'm helpless against it; when I lose sleep I turn into a slow, uncertain version of myself; I have multiple drafts of blog posts that I can't decide the time is right to write, and the clogginess of them makes me anxious; the remote control in my bedroom has been cosmetically damaged with wintergreen essential oil, which I don't even know what to do about; the pile of books I have to read in January is not getting any smaller, but it's because editors are saying yes to my pitches, so I can't complain.

I cried this week. (I cry about once a year.) I'm having a medical procedure I don't want next week, with anesthesia, and I'm dreading the helpless feeling I'll have afterward. On Tuesday I was able to run longer than ten minutes without wheezing and giving up. I wrote a version of an article I've worked an inordinate number of hours on since early December, and per my editor I have to rewrite it, and although I think he's right, I'm balking, despite the ticking clock, because of despair at having to redo. I am strongly motivated by not having to redo things. Part of why I don't play video games.

SIX things I wrote were published this week. As I said elsewhere, I'm grateful for the riches, but risking overexposure is a problem I never thought I'd have and don't know what to do with.

Also, I feel overwhelmed at the spring books I have yet to place. Lots of cool titles in March and April that I have pitched, had no response, and haven't managed to pitch again. I'll probably end up scrambling to place them less than a month out, which I hate, but that pile of books I have to finish in the next fourteen days...! Pitching takes a short time but lots of energy; reading takes lots of time but little energy (and is much nicer). I'm overly insistent on landing this one book in this one specific place, and it's stupid of me because I could just write it up for a different place and be done, but the editor asked for phone calls, and I've left him two voice mails and he hasn't called me back, and why would you do contact that way? Unless you want freelancers to be mad at you?

At the end of March I go to AWP and then immediately to Iceland, which is very exciting but it keeps getting closer and I have no coherent plan and haven't lost any weight or gotten my chipped tooth fixed, and last AWP it was fine because I had no one to impress and mostly loved ones to meet, but this time the stakes are much higher based on the "let's meet up!" emails and messages I've been exchanging for the past six months, and I don't know what to do, and I dreamed about Iceland last night, and it was scary and clean and efficient and everyone was bundled in attractive cold-weather gear and speaking in lovely textured consonants and I felt very American.

The bugged of stomach is tossing a bit in bed and I should really go ask if he needs anything. The pile of books isn't shortening and I should really go read. January is running out and I should really arrange an interview and rewrite that article and write another review.

DESPITE ALL THIS, I feel happy. It's been raining for four days here, which sounds awful, but it's actually lovely, like a surprise in gray. When you have months on end of stalwart sunshine, not a cloud in sight from one season to another, rain can be a delight. And I'm hugely blessed by all the publication, and a particular pitch-yes I received this week, which hasn't really sunk in yet because it's so meaningful. Can't wait to tell you about it.

Out in the world:

List A: Stuff I'm particularly happy with/proud of.

Review #2 for the Times Literary Supplement, of Virtuoso, by Yelena Moskovich (behind a paywall). I stand by what I said in the review, that this is a better novel than The Natashas, but the truth is I liked Natashas better. It was odder and more flexible. This one is more approachable. By the way, the TLS is a jam to work for. I hope to do it a bunch more. The problem is that I tend to review indie books, which are awkward to review for a non-US publication for boring reasons.

I reviewed a book of unusual hybrid poetry, G, by Emmalea Russo, for Anomaly. Emmalea and I read together at the Poetic Research Bureau in the fall, and I took home her last paper galley. I'm glad I was able to review this; it's always a toss-up whether I can actually review poetry or just babble incoherently.

I did a dual review of two memoirs from Portland small presses for sinkhole. I hoped to compare them more usefully than this, but the article explains why that didn't work out. I'm happy I figured out a way to compare them at all, though.

For Rock & Roll Globe, I reviewed World Domination, a history of Sub Pop Records, which you may or may not know is the greatest record label of all time. The book is good, but it's a spurrer of conversation rather than a book full of answers.

The awesome site Jane to Georgette, which is for people who love both Austen and Austen Lite writer Georgette Heyer, published my review of Unmarriagable, a book that reimagines Pride and Prejudice in contemporary Pakistan. The author and I have exchanged some friendly messages and are Facebook friends, so I felt bad pointing out negative qualities to the book, but I wouldn't have been telling the truth if I gave it a wholly positive review. I have some tentative, but very exciting news about this review, which will have to wait until next week until I'm sure of it.

Book & Film Globe has its hooks in me, and I published two pieces with them in the recent past: a dual review of two books involving performance, and a cynical, negative review of this month's most anticipated short story collection: You Know You Want This, by Kristen "Cat Person" Roupenian. The dual review involves books I liked a lot more, but snark is more fun to write.

List B: Stuff I am, of course, happy about, but about which I have less investment.

For Cleaver, I wrote a third review of an Icelandic book (and a fourth is coming soon): a short, quirky book, Narrator. It's a walking narrative, which I usually kind of hate, but this one was fun.

I reviewed the badass revenge thriller Last Woman Standing for BUST. I could probably have written more about this one, but my preference would really be to have a book club about it. Such an interesting book underneath its genre stuff. Also, I got to use the word "crackerjack" as an adjective, which I do from time to time in real life but not until now in a review.

Back in December, my review of Adam Nemett's debut novel, We Can Save Us All, went up on Barrelhouse. More proof, in case you needed it, that Unnamed is doing the most daring and interesting non-experimental publishing in the indie world right now.

I was SUPER excited about Last Night in Nuuk, the first contemporary novel I'm aware of to make it into English from Greenland, but alas, it's a dud. I said as much for LARB.

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