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In Conversation

SEAN MADIGAN HOEN with Stephen O’Connor

It was clear after I had read Sean’s first workshop submission that his thoughtful humility was, to a considerable extent, the product of a long and hard-fought moral struggle. As a writer and a human being, he is immensely compassionate, very much an idealist, and yet, on the basis of his own bitter experience, all too aware of human weakness, and particularly of our capacity for self-deception.

In Conversation

The Life-Long Sentence
MARY RUEFLE with Tony Leuzzi

“I was born into a world that no longer exists,” Mary Ruefle told me as we sat down to lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant in Rochester, NY. Although referring to how entrenched electronic devices are in our daily lives, and how terribly sad it is that more and more people have never known what it feels like to be off the grid for a day, let alone a week, she appeared to be talking about more than iPads and Bluetooths.

Picking Over The Crumbs

Texas may be the southernmost point in the U.S., but it gets awfully cold. The chill pervades Larry McMurtry’s best novels, like The Last Picture Show (1966), in which the biting winds may carry away a young man’s soul. The same threat hangs over Brandon Hobson’s new slip of a novel, Deep Ellum.

Drifting Away

Al Alvarez is a poet, novelist, poker aficionado, former mountaineer, reluctant ager, and lifelong swimmer. Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal is the account of his year-round visits to the ponds of Hampstead Heath, London, as he wades into the twilight of his life.

Betting Big

In the fall of 2007 I entered Syracuse University’s M.F.A. in Poetry program, up in Syracuse, New York. My first workshop leader was Brooks Haxton. The six of us that year had been admitted into the program, ostensibly, because we showed some talent. Brooks’s role was to disabuse us all of the notion that talent is any kind of replacement for effort when wresting images into the kind of muscular language that makes poetry.

In a Waters World

Although John Waters only admits that “reality is never as exciting as fiction” toward the end of Carsick, his three-part account of his cross-country hitchhiking journey, the book’s very conceit implies and corroborates the observation. For while Waters only hitchhikes across the country once, he envisions two alternate journeys—the best that can happen, the worst that can happen—before finally chronicling the real thing.

Queerly Familiar

It’s weird how familiar the images from Anthony Friedkin’s The Gay Essay feel. Shot in Los Angeles and San Francisco from 1969 to 1973, when the photographer was just entering his twenties, they feature what you might expect as we continue to historicize that time: drag queens and hustlers, street corners and porn theatres, early pride parades and long hair.

A General Strangeness

Elizabeth Eslami’s Hibernate is a slim, yet nowise slight, volume of 11 stories about America. Perhaps “about” is not quite the right preposition: Eslami’s collection spins tales of an old, weird America of past centuries, as well as circling and entering the even stranger America of today, and of tomorrow. To say the stories are rooted in America is understatement: Wherever her Americans have come from, initially, they are all on native ground by the time she is done with them, for better or worse.

A Crisis of Faith

In the beginning is a 12-year-old boy named Josiah Laudermilk, son of Gill Laudermilk, grandson of Orren, preaching to a congregation 4,000 large in Queens, 1980, with a Star Wars action figure secreted in his pocket...

Grieving the Lost And The Found

To say that Bret Anthony Johnston understands the craft of writing is to risk understatement. The director of creative writing at Harvard University, he is the author of the short story collection Corpus Christi: Stories, named a best book of the year by The Independent and The Irish Times.

In Conversation


Josh Weil is the author of the novel The Great Glass Sea and the novella collection The New Valley (Grove Atlantic, 2009). A New York Times Editors' Choice, The New Valley won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the New Writers Award from the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and a “5 Under 35” Award from the National Book Foundation.

Looking for (Mrs) Laura (Riding) Jackson, the anti-social people’s poet, from Jamaica (Queens) to Woodruff Avenue (Brooklyn)

Andrea Rexilius’s excellent piece on Laura (Riding) Jackson, “Against the Commodity of the Poem,” published in Coldfront, makes me wonder how far or how little we have come over 40 years, in terms of the questions: what is the role of poetry and whom does it serve?


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2014

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