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Posts Tagged ‘Charles McGrath’

BEA Writing Advice from Richard Russo and John Irving

irvingrusso.JPGA massive crowd gathered around a BEA stage this morning for a headline event that featured novelists John Irving and Richard Russo in conversation with journalist Charles McGrath. GalleyCat covered the panel, following a reader request.

The two novelists focused primarily on writing craft, explaining how they conceived their books. Irving said his upcoming novel “Last Night in Twisted River” was inspired by Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue,” and explained his method: “I always begin with last sentence and work myself backwards to what the first sentence should be.” Russo said he chooses characters carefully: “I don’t want to spend four or five years in the company of bores. I surround myself with characters I care about.”

Both writers explored early influences. Irving explained: “As a young writer in his 20s, I felt like a dinosaur. It was Dickens, Hardy, and Melville that made me want to be a writer. You can’t worry about being on the right or wrong side of taste. Russo concurred: “In grad school, everybody was reading the meta-fiction writers…but it wasn’t what I wanted to be good at…It was hard to find my voice. I latched on to Richard Yates like a lifeline.”

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Publishers Celebrate NaPoMo

npm-2005-black.jpgAs National Poetry Month enters its third week, publisher websites have held steady with the poetic content. Knopf-Doubleday’s revamped site has New York Times writer-at-large Charles McGrath reading a John Updike’s poem, “Half Moon, Small Cloud.”

The FSG poetry blog interviewed Don Selby, co-founder of Poetry Daily. The editor recalled an “unexpected onslaught of angry notes when we features Ron Padgett‘s ‘Nothing in That Drawer‘ (from his book with Godine, New & Selected Poems)—-a sonnet that repeats the title for 14 lines; offensively, it seems, to a great many devotee’s of the form.”

Finally, Norton interviewed their executive editor and poet, Jill Bialosky. Bialosky discussed her day job and her poetry-writing: “I found comfort in a few models–T. S. Eliot for one, who as you know was a publisher, and also Wallace Stevens, who worked in the insurance business and managed to write some of the most exquisite and internal poems in the language.”

The Commercialization of Flowers

The New York Times’ Charles McGrath meets Amy Stewart, the author of the just-released FLOWER CONFIDENTIAL, which she describes as part confession, in which she owns up to her “generalized, smutty sort of lust for flowers,” and part expose, in which she describes how the business has become so industrialized that a flower’s greatest asset these days is not its beauty or its fragrance but its durability as freight. She took McGrath to the flower district, now essentially confined to the two blocks on West 28th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, where stores take deliveries and then sell their wares — some only to those in the trade, others to anyone who walks in.

But the days of real and artificial flowers may be numbered, at least in New York, as real estate prices climb and property becomes ever attractive. Three-quarters of all the flowers sold in the United States are now imported, Stewart said, mostly from South America, and flowers are now available not just from florists but over the Internet and in delis and supermarkets, which puts increasing financial pressure on the wholesaler. But what she’d really love is not to have to work on the early-morning schedule that florists must operate by. “That’s the one thing I don’t like about the flower business,” Stewart said. “Everyone gets up so damn early. It’s even worse in Amsterdam. I think maybe my next book should be about bartenders.”

Drinking and Cooking with Jim Harrison

The New York Times’ Charles McGrath chats with Jim Harrison, author of “rugged, outdoorsy books” like TRUE NORTH, LEGENDS OF THE FALL and THE SUMMER HE DIDN’T DIE. And for many years as a part-time screenwriter, Harrison’s life reflected this rugged, wild ethos as he would pal around with Orson Welles, John Huston (both of whom used to stick each other with meal bills, going so far as to fake simultaneous heart attacks) and Jack Nicholson. “Writers go out to Hollywood for the same reason stockbrokers go into business, and that’s greed,” he said, adding “even when they’re cheating you, they’re cheating you at a level that’s unheard of in academe, say. But I finally quit because I didn’t want to die in that suckhole.”

And so, more novels, and a more moderate life thanks to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. But Harrison, now making the interview rounds for his new book RETURNING TO EARTH, still enjoys the pleasures of eating – including one meal that featured mesquite doves and Egg & Gruyere Polenta. “Food is a great literary theme. Food in eternity, food and sex, food and lust. Food is a part of the whole of life. Food is not separate.”