we-monsters(250x400)I WILL BECOME A DOMINATRIX

How do you cook dinner when everything seems to be devoid of sense?  How—and why—do you set the table when you know that you are going to die? [1]

“How?” I asked my cat.

She watched a pot of borscht bubbling in the sunlight-drenched kitchen and didn’t move.

A six-year-old next door was torturing the piano—as always.  Day after day after day, the kids were off to school, my husband was off to work, and I folded clean underwear, paid water bills, and rearranged the flowers—lilies or irises.  The sun touched my face and played in the sparkly curtains’ folds; a fly zoomed by the open window, lulling me toward sleep.  Everything went exactly the same as yesterday, and the day before, except for the moment when I sat down at my laptop and Googled “sex work.”

Travis-Kurowski-author-photoSo literary magazines, eh? What gives?

Well I’ve been reading literary magazines since college at Southern Oregon, where I used to troll the library between classes. My creative writing teacher, Vincent Craig Wright, had mentioned the names of a few lit mags in class one day—Ploughshares, Missouri Review, Mid-American Review—so I was curious to see what these things were. And I liked what I found. (Work from Jim Shepard and Yiyun Li memorably drew me in, as did the famous Paris Review interviews. Nowhere else in Oregon had I been given direct access to maps of the imagination.) Soon I began reading some of them kind of regularly. The Paris Review. Story Quarterly. New York Quarterly.

after Jeanann Verlee

It’s been a year since we dated and she still loves me
and she trusts my smile and I just woke up from a long
nap and my sweatpants are a storefront window and my
erection is pressing its face against the glass and “come
over to watch a movie” means “come over to have sex”
(everybody knows this) and the shades are closed and
the theater is a twin sized dorm room bed and the laptop

dachau-ex-maintenance-buildings

If you don’t know where you are, it’s almost a pretty place.

On my first visit there, I was on a whirlwind bus tour. My itinerary long since misplaced, our bus wended its way past fields punctuated by hay bales and scattered copses of oak and poplar. It was open country, and the scenery didn’t look all that different from what I might have seen back home in the Midwest.

 Dawidoff__NicholasExplain the term “Collision Low Crosser.”

Football has its own language. This defensive term describes players, usually linebackers, making legal contact with potential pass receivers crossing the field within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Beyond five yards, collisioning someone is a penalty. Since football is a game of precise timing and geometry, the point is to disrupt the pass route by diverting the receiver. The real inspiration of the phrase is how instantly it evokes the most basic elements of the game—speed, aggression, the interplay between space and time, plans that likely won’t come to fruition, how there’s always someone out there waiting to ruin your life. I like terms that imply a fresh, strange world existing within a world that seemed previously understood. Full Metal Jacket; Zero Dark Thirty; Collision Low Crossers.

JD Salinger Portrait Session

In “Just Before the War with the Eskimos,” a story in J. D. Salinger’s second book, Nine Stories (1953)—his first was his novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951)—all four characters, two girls in their teens and two men in their early twenties, are so vividly drawn and speak in such perfectly rendered idiomatic American English that the reader might be watching them in a movie.  These days the story also has the quality of a faultless antique: a Manhattan taxi fare, for example, comes to 65 cents.

29book"COLLISION LOW CROSSERS" by Nicholas DawidoffThe year really began in the last days of February, at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The Scouting Combine is an annual invitation-only event at which more than three hundred of the country’s most promising draft-eligible college football players gather to audition for NFL teams by running, jumping, lifting weights, taking intelligence tests, and sitting down for private interviews, where each one might be asked about almost anything, including his injured shoulder, his bar brawl, his decision to save himself for marriage, and, as had happened the year before with the receiver Dez Bryant, whether his mother was a prostitute. When Eric Mangini led the Jets, he sometimes began a Combine interview by requiring the ten or so people in the room to introduce themselves to the player, after which the coach turned to the player and asked him to repeat all the names he’d just heard. This did not always go over well. LSU’s Dwayne Bowe, now a Chiefs receiver, believed Mangini was trying to humiliate him, and he shut down, producing a lengthy awkward moment that Jets officials still can’t recall without shuddering.

Janice LeeJanice Lee is one of the more interesting writers I know. Period. And here is our conversation on her new book Damnation (Penny Ante Editions)contemporary literature, and the expectations of “identity” from the readers, editors, and publishers.

KaraMargot Cominsky stood around the corner from the funeral parlor. She’d tried standing right outside the door, hoping for a breath of air that didn’t reek of carnations, but she was immediately taken for the welcoming committee, and strangers kept hugging her and cheek-kissing her and grabbing her hand. “We’re so sorry.” “So young.” “Too soon.” What was she supposed to do, thank them for their profound and original words? We’re all fucking sad, people. Look at where we are.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 3.42.02 PM

First mammogram.  The machine’s clear plates squeeze in on my right breast.  A sticker clings just above the nipple.  Extreme’s “More Than Words” plays in the radiologist’s office.  I laugh when I should be holding my breath.  We have to start over.  One, two, three, now don’t breathe, the technician says.  She’s not laughing, anyway.  And she didn’t laugh when I told her that the sticker she applied, at a glance, looked like a sound-effects splat in a comic book – kapow!  The sticker marks the place where my doctor, one week prior, found something under her rolling fingertips.

Right there?

Right there.

        1.

You will meet people,
keep it simple,
make eye contact,
touch their hand and push your hair back.
Listen.
They will have questions.
You can tell a person by their questions.

9781451661989_p0_v4_s260x420Available from Scribner

Demon Camp is the amazing story of one man’s journey to war and back. It’s a tale so extraordinary that at times it seems conjured from a dream; as it unfolds it’s not just Caleb Daniels that comes into focus, but America, too. Jennifer Percy has orchestrated a great narrative about redemption, loss and hope. —Dexter Filkins, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Forever War and Thank You For Your Service

In 2005 a Chinook helicopter carrying sixteen Special Ops soldiers crashed during a rescue mission in a remote part of Afghanistan, killing everyone on board.

In that instant, machine gunner Caleb Daniels lost his best friend, Kip Jacoby, and seven members of his unit. Back in the US, Caleb begins to see them everywhere—dead Kip, with his Alice in Wonderland tattoos, and the rest of them, their burned bodies watching him. But there is something else haunting Caleb, too—a presence he calls the Black Thing, or the Destroyer, a paralyzing horror that Caleb comes to believe is a demon.

Alone with these apparitions, Caleb considers killing himself. There is an epidemic of suicide among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, men and women with post-traumatic stress disorder who cannot cope with ordinary life in the aftermath of explosions and carnage. Jennifer Percy finds herself drawn to their stories, wanting to comprehend their experiences and pain.

Her subject, Caleb, has been bringing damaged veterans to a Christian exorcism camp in Georgia that promises them deliverance from the war. As Percy spends time with these soldiers and exorcists and their followers—finding their beliefs both repel­lant and magnetic—she enters a world of fanaticism that is alternately terrifying and welcoming.

With a jagged lyricism reminiscent of Michael Herr and Denis Johnson, Demon Camp is the riveting true story of a veteran with PTSD and an explora­tion of the battles soldiers face after the war is over. Percy’s riveting account forces us to gaze upon the true human consequences of the War on Terror.

Please note that this title has already shipped and is no longer available.

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IMG_2428Why would you write a novel that consists entirely of other writers’ sentences? Why not write your own?

I’m an adopter, not a breeder.  I think I have a moral obligation to care for what already exists and not spread my seed far and wide further populating and confusing an already overpopulated, excessively chaotic universe.  Why add more sentences to the mix when you can recycle perfectly good ones that are readily available and often sadly neglected? It’s a way of putting one’s library to use. I’ve been collecting books for more than half my life, and they were crying out to me.