Some days I’m baffled by what this business is all about. Other days it’s hard to contain my excitement. Several days a week it’s a heavy blend of both. Over the next several months, Outpost19 welcomes more innovative work by some hard-working writers, which I always happy to crow about.
A Moody Fellow Finds Love And Then Dies, Douglas Watson’s first novel, was recently excerpted at Tin House and earned early praise from Lev Grossman: “a wise, funny and strangely sad fable of love, art and life.” And right here at 3G1B, Benjamin Rybeck called it “the funniest books I’ve read in a long time.” More reviews are in the pipeline, and through April and beyond, you can catch Doug at readings all over New York as well as on the west coast, with stops at Powell’s, Elliott Bay, San Francisco’s Book Passage and a few points in between. Moody Fellow follows on the heels of Doug’s collection The Era of Not Quite, published by BOA Editions last fall.
The Wes Letters is an epistolary novel written by three friends to Wes Anderson. Forged in the tradition of Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick, Maggie Nelson says it’s “destined to find its place among other recent classics of the epistolary novel narrated by smart, anxious, and questioning narrators… but its triangular structure is all its own…” The Wes Letters ranges from extremely funny and to exquisitely revelatory, and in my mind, Feliz Lucia Molina, Ben Segal and Brett Zehner quickly become a lot more interesting than the near-mythic pop figure standing in the background. Watch for reviews and interviews in April, May and beyond.
Ravi Mangla’s Understudies came out recently to a string of great reviews. Courtney Maum called it a cross between A.M. Holmes and Miranda July, and here at 3G1B, Jason Rice wrote that it “felt like eavesdropping on a conversation in the powder room of your local whorehouse.” MelBosworth, Brad Listi and Edward J. Rathke have done some great interviews with Ravi, too. It’s a short novel that’s meticulously crafted, built on short chapters, and also happens to be enormously fun to read. What Ravi has written is much, much harder than it looks. He writes with scalpel precision, and Understudies is one of those books that writers can marvel at and still pass to non-writer friends because it’s just so darn good.
Dave Housley’s Commercial Fiction is a collection of short work, originally published in Hobart, focused on the lives featured in TV ads. Read together, it’s like a pop quiz on corporate branding mixed with a master class on the contemporary short story. Matt Bell calls Dave “the poet laureate of pop culture.” Amber Sparks calls Dave one of a handful who of writers who do “pop culture critique in fiction really well.” (I love that phrase.) At Heavy Feather, Nicholas Grider calls it “a tremendous book that deftly weds psychological complexity behind a TV spot to the artificially sweet narrative of commercial fiction,” and then he goes on to unpack the cultural weight of all that… Watch for Dave’s next book, If I Knew The Way, I Would Take You Home, coming soon from Dzanc.
This fall, Alison Wellford’s Indolence joins our list. The novel takes Lolita as its inspiration, but the tone is all Alison’s. An American girl in France explores death and sex and art and France, making some dark choices within a dream-like, sometimes breathless narrative. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment and hard to put down.
Also this fall, the second annual California Prose Directory is due out. The anthology is the brainchild of Charles McLeod, who edited last year’s edition. This year, J. Ryan Stradal is bringing together a really interesting mix of writing about life in the Golden State. It’s not an easy task. It’s an awful big state. But it’s a project worth watching, with work from both new and established folks.
Outpost19 is still just getting started. (Say hello at facebook.com/Outpost19 andtwitter.com/outpost19.) Missteps and errors are frequent enough, but now and again, an edit sheds some light, production goes smoothly, and readers respond with exclamation points. Regardless the process, at the end of the day, there’s always the satisfaction of remarkably ordered words on a page.
That’s a glorious thing. Writers who take the craft seriously put enormous intelligence on the page, as well as heart and soul, and I revel in the opportunity to help them do that. As an editor and writer, I’ve filled a lot of shoes, but it’s a stand-out thing, totally unique, helping writers make their work the best it can be on terms that are exceptionally their own.
This work can also be downright titillating. It’s thrilling to see what’s new, what’s coming, what people are thinking, what stories and ideas are worth time and effort, what others have passed over and what’s awesomely different. All of that also adds up to tough choices and a slow review process I’m not especially proud of.
Fortunately, there’s lots of wisdom and resources out there. But what no one explains is how to rightly storm the field or even how to play a solid match without Murdoch or Bertelsman for a last name. Like anything you’re passionate about, you always crave more ways to do it. On this pitch, though, giants abound. Crafty giants with major-league brains. It helps if you enjoy running between enormous feet.