An insightful guide for readers, writers, and instructors from all walks of life.

CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD

RETHINKING FICTION WRITING AND WORKSHOPPING

A fresh view of teaching craft to writers of diverse backgrounds.

Korean-born novelist and essayist Salesses, who teaches Asian American literature as well as creative writing, offers a thoughtful analysis of the teaching of craft in colleges and writing programs. “Craft,” he observes, “is the history of which kind of stories have typically held power—and for whom—so it also is the history of which stories have typically been omitted.” He argues persuasively that the widespread practice of silencing the writer while workshop members critique a piece of writing normalizes White, middle-class, Western values. As an MFA student, he recalls, “I still remember being banned from speaking while mostly white writers discussed my race.” This pedagogy conveys to a writer who does not share the reader’s race, ethnicity, class, or gender that their story is not worth telling. Those who are silenced learn “that in order to speak they must speak with an acceptable voice” and that their story “must be framed so that the majority can read via their own lens.” Salesses offers a detailed overview of the main points covered in writing workshops—including tone, plot, conflict, character arc, setting, pacing, and structure—which generally use realist fiction by White male writers as models. These stories “present the world as a matter of free will. The problems are caused by the self and can be solved by the development of the self. And somehow both external and internal conflict is like this.” Salesses counters that view with an illuminating chapter on East Asian and Asian American fiction, where he points to 10 ways that Chinese fiction is different from Western tradition, and he offers an innovative syllabus and exercises. “It is effectively a kind of colonization,” he writes astutely, “to assume that we all write for the same audience or that we should do so if we want our fiction to sell.”

An insightful guide for readers, writers, and instructors from all walks of life.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948226-80-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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