introducing readers to writers since 1995

March 08, 2005

Back to School Nights on the Literary Circuit

by Ron Hogan

I didn't realize when I went out to KGB Sunday night to see Curtis Sittenfeld read from Prep that she'd just published a NYT op-ed about whether they should add essays to the SAT; I could have told her she isn't "the only person ever to forget her own SAT scores." (Not only can I not remember them, I can't remember my GSATs; I must have figured that since I already got into college and graduate school, there wasn't any need to hang on to the useless data.) Instead, we ended up talking about that time she interviewed me when I worked at Amazon, and about her recent appearance here. This was all after she'd signed dozens of copies of her novel for the audience, including two guys who swore they'd brought a bagful of Prep "for their book group" but were almost certainly stocking up on signed firsts.

Sittenfeld read from a section of the novel in which the protagonist agonizes about whether her parents will embarrass her during a weekend visit. So the second reader for the evening, Francine Prose, told us it was going to be high school night, as she chose passages from her new novel, A Changed Man, dealing with a supporting character's experiences attending his Western Civ classes while stoned not once, but twice. It was compelling stuff, and the novel definitely sounds worth picking up.

Last night, I went to my first ever New York Review of Science Fiction reading to catch Gavin Grant and Kelly Link of Small Beer Press. I hadn't even realized that Gavin wrote as well as published, but his short story "Heads Down, Thumbs Up" was a remarkable, fairytale-like story about a young boy in a world where when the borders change in wartime, the cultures of the new nations sweep over everything automatically, with the people forced to play catch-up. Kelly's story, "Monster," started out as total non-fantasy, just a darkly humorous story about the psychological torment kids can go through at summer camp, and then about three-quarters of the way in, the monster shows up. It sort of reminded me of Hal Hartley's 2001 film No Such Thing, only conceived for a pre-teen audience. Look for it in a McSweeney's anthology of children's stories at some point in the near future.

If you enjoy this blog,
your PayPal donation
can contribute towards its ongoing publication.