Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Edie Meidav talks about grief, empathy, love, blindness in human relations, an alphabet to answer questions, and her new novel, ANOTHER LOVE DISCOURSE


I’m thrilled to host Edie Meidav .com on the blog today for her astonishing new book ANOTHER LOVE DISCOURSE. I’m thrilled to host Edie Meidav on the blog today for her astonishing new work, ANOTHER LOVE DISCOURSE, about love, pandemic and hope. Edie is also the remarkable author of the novels Kingdom of the Young, Lola, California, Crawl Space, The Far Field, and strange attractions. Instead of the usual Q and A, we have something different! Edie has provided “an alphabet of answers to imaginable questions,” and it is so great I am setting it down here! Thank you, Edie

One Shard 

An alphabet of answers to imaginable questions:

A: Toronto.

B. New York, Cuba, France, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka.

C. A former director of the MFA program at New College on Valencia Street in San Francisco, writer-in-residence at Bard College, and now at the UMass Amherst MFA program. 

D. Sea monkeys.

E. Language indeed a virus.

F. Ms., The Village Voice, Guernica, Artweek, The International Literary Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, Terra Nova, The American Voice, New Letters, Conjunctions and elsewhere. 

G. A Lannan Fellowship, a Howard Fellowship, a Bard Fiction Prize for Writers Under 40, Whiting research award, a Kafka Award for Best Novel by an American Woman, a Fulbright in Sri Lanka, Fulbright in Cyprus, Northern California Book Award shortlist, and other citations.

H. Books called editorial picks by the New York Times, the L.A. Times, the Electric Review, the Litblog Coop and elsewhere.

I. Overeducated women with a past; autodidact boys, occasionally scarred, often grown into men. 

J. Ocean.

K. Children.

L. Unterzakhn; The Map and the Territory; looking for Tanizaki.

M. Shange, Angelou, Woolf, Hardy, Faulkner, Morrison, Kundera, Paley, Baldwin, Flaubert, Rushdie, Cavafy, Lorca, Cortazar, Transtromer, Vallejo, Stendhal, Ishiguro, Coetzee, Jackson.

N. Poetry.

O. Generosity.

P. Spanish and French, German and Sinhala, Hebrew, some Catalan, Greek, Portuguese, Italian.

Q. One obsessive score for each book.

R. The stress of routine.

S. Loss of the perceiving mind.

And I want to let the high praise speak of Edie’s novel!

In Edie Meidav’s mesmerizing new novel, A Lover’s Discourse, we are in a Roland Barthian world, a rich explosive text about a divorce and failed love, the longing for a fully mothered childhood, and the ways that working hard often succumbs one to a hellish isolation and distance from life, the over-riding question being: can we ever be “happy” in such an existential tumble? We are engaged in these abstract questions simply because Edie Meidav is such a gifted writer. Meidav is one of our truest writers, and I feel only deep and profound admiration for the uneasy ways she has chosen to tell a story of the heartbreak of being a mother of three children, left by her husband.

 —Leora Skolkin-Smith, author of The Fragile Mistress and Stealing Faith

Edie Meidav’s Another Love Discourse shatters boundaries and expectations: her narrative voice—urgent, lyrical, raw—compels the reader into uncommon and intense intimacy. This powerful book will stay with you.

 —Claire Messud, author of A Dream Life

Edie Meidav is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and this is her best book, in a success of very strong books. It's open, wounded, true. 

--Rick Moody

Edie Meidav's Another Love Discourse is an uncategorizable triumph, and a gesture of radical intimacy with the reader, one of which Barthes would be proud.

—Jonathan Lethem, author of The Arrest 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Poets & Writers contributing editor Michael Bourne talks about his debut BLITHEDALE CANYON, writing fiction vs. being a journalist, California as a character, and so much more


All writers adore Poets & Writers and The Millions, which means they also love Michael Bourne, a contributing editor at Poets & Writers and a staff writer for the online literary site The Millions. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Potomac Review, The Orange Coast Review, River City, Oakland Review, and online at Tin House's Flash Fridays. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. His debut, Blithedale Canyon, set in sun-soaked California is about a guy fresh out of rehab trying to put together the jagged pieces of his life in hopes of reclaiming his self-worth and the woman he loves. 

Says Edan Lepucki, "A story of love, redemption and hope. I couldn't put it down."

Teddy Wayne calls it "an ode to the pleasures and pains of the return to the familiar, to the gravitational pulls of addiction, friends and Springsteen on a car stereo, but mostly of home. A tenderly nostalgic and page-turning portrait of a man who cannot control his impulses, written by an author in full command."

Thank you for being here, Michael!

I always want to know what is haunting or obsessing an author into writing a book. What was it for you?

You could say that Blithedale Canyon is the story of the life I could have lived and didn’t. Like my narrator Trent, I’m an addict, and like Trent, I spent much of my twenties floundering and lost. But unlike him, I got clean fairly early and sidestepped the consequences so many addicts face – jail, institutions, lost jobs, wrecked relationships, and on and on. From the start, my sense of Trent was that he’s a good guy who does bad things. I did that for a while, then stopped. So while Blithedale Canyon isn’t autobiography and Trent is very different from me, I’ve always been haunted by that counterlife, the life I was lucky enough not to have lived. 

So you are so entrenched in the world of books from writing about them, reviewing, interviewing, the works. What was it like to be writing your debut novel? What surprised you about it? And did you love it more than writing stories? And if so why? (I've always heard that writing short stories is a passionate affair and writing a novel is a great marriage.)

One of the nice things about being a journalist is that if you want to know about something you can call up an expert and write a story about it. So when I wanted to learn what author newsletters were all about, I called a bunch of authors who were writing them. When I wanted to learn about contract publicists, I interviewed a bunch of publicists and writers who had worked with them. That’s all great, and I’ve learned a ton about the business of publishing from my work as a reporter, but all that helped me not one bit with the actual writing part. You can take classes and interview your favorite writers, but none of that changes the fact that writing a book is hard.

I guess that would be the thing that surprised me most about writing a debut novel, how hard it is to write a good one. I had two write two bad ones before I wrote a good one – and even then it took years of trial and error to get it right. The upside is that when you spend years of your life thinking you’ll never be able to pull something off, when you do pull it off, the sense of satisfaction is that much sweeter. The pre-pub buzz for Blithedale Canyon has so far been very positive, but at some very basic level I don’t care what the reviews say. I wrote something I’m proud of and that makes me happier than any outside kudos ever could.

As for short stories, I’m glad to put them behind me. I’ve published a bunch of them, but I don’t think it’s my natural form. I’m interested in long, complex story arcs, which stories can’t accommodate well. Writers like Alice Munro and Annie Proulx can write what feels like a whole novel in 25 pages. I’ll never know how they do it. Good story writers are like literary jewelers – they create beauty in the most compact of spaces. I love a great short story, but I’ve read enough of them to know I probably never write one.

Northern California is very much a character in your book. How did the meaning of that state change for you as you wrote about gentrification and love and trying to make ends meet?

I’m glad to hear you say that. I wanted readers to come away from Blithedale Canyon feeling like they know the town of Mill Valley, where the book is set, like a fully rounded character. In the novel, which is set in 2001, the town is undergoing a deep generational change. Trent’s family owned a local shoe store where his granddad worked out of the back repairing shoes. That business got destroyed by nearby malls, and now, as Trent says at one point, “All the old stores are gone. There’s nothing left in town but chain stores and art galleries.”

I very much wanted the town to have a story arc like the other characters in the book, so that at the same time Trent is trying to kick drugs and alcohol, the town is struggling to retain its small-town character where local people own most of the important businesses and people know each other. I think that’s a story that needs to be told. We get so caught up in all the shiny new toys of technological progress and we forget what our smartphones and mega-malls have replaced – towns that operated on a human scale. 

The Mill Valley of the novel is a fiction – the basic history and geography is factual, but the people and businesses are invented. But so far as I can tell, in the real Mill Valley, the battle to maintain the small-town character is over. The place remains gobsmackingly beautiful and if you’re in the market for some aromatherapy or a designer coffee, Mill Valley has you covered, but the town feels to me like a theme-park version of its former self, everything shiny and glossy and a little less practically useful than it once was. 

What's obsessing you now and why?

For a new book I’m writing, I’ve been researching ecoterrorists, and I’ve become mildly obsessed with understanding the logic of ecological terrorism. Unlike political terrorists, environmental activists rarely target people, opting instead to burn down buildings and disable machinery. Even so, people do get hurt. Their goals are often laudable – they’re literally trying to save the planet – but their methods are extreme and often extremely dangerous. I find the whole thing fascinating.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Maybe: “Dude, why? Why did you stick with writing fiction through decades of failure when there are so many other, easier ways to make a life?” This is a question I suspect pretty much everyone in my life has wanted to ask, and a few have flat-out asked it. My answer is always, “Beats me.” I’ve had success as a journalist and as a teacher and part of me wishes I could be satisfied with that, because I do derive a lot of satisfaction from those jobs. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve felt that I was put on this planet to tell stories. It’s not a logical thing. I’m glad I’ve published stories and now a book and I hope to publish more, but I’d keep doing this if I never published a word. I’m a writer, so I write. It’s really as simple as that.