My first non-fiction essay was just published in the August issue of Word Riot. The title is Literary Today through the Lens of Freeman’s Arrival. For those of you who don’t know, John Freeman, former editor of Granta, prolific writer and editor and still with Literary Hub started putting out his own collection of authors. I survey the literary world by looking at his first collection.
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Here is a short excerpt:
And so, to Arrival. I let some time go by between reading the anthology and writing this review in order to gain perspective. I considered what Freeman must have had to go through: brazenly combining format; the need to gain an audience; placing well known writers alongside unknowns; the need to publish the best. I consider that including On Learning Norwegian by Lydia Davis was a jump through the literary world of form.
Then I think of Lidia Yukanavitch, admittedly one of my favorite writers, and how her earlier works lacked, to me, that fire I look for to make them memorable, while a simple more recent article of hers in a Literary Magazine (Guernica) made me sit up and not want to sleep for days. Lydia Davis takes me to Clarice Lispector whose form is still not accepted in America but who was a wunderkind, just like Freeman, bringing to us something alien and artful, books I had to read; there was simply no choice.
And then I tried to remember what I read in Freeman’s Arrival. For example, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders is not a book that I will forget. Neither is Freeman’s Arrival, as a whole. I can’t say the same for all the works within. There is a sense of “oh, yeah,” going back to it. Now I remember. Now the feelings while reading Garments by Tahmima Anam and Black and Blue by Garnette Cadogan are exhumed even as I jump in my mind to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and anything by Lidia Yukanavitch and wonder if all good literary work must now balance on the head of the pin of injustice. The beauty of Honor Moore in The Mogal Gardens Near Mah resonates as one of the few pieces of poetry in the collection.
But then I want to think of the poet Frank Stanford and The Singing Knives and three bullets to the heart and I realize this is why I am adamant that all writing should make us feel or think, whether subtle and sonorous or fiery, to take us to depths or heights that we must reach.