9780374182212The cover of Jonathan Franzen’s strange, wonderful, and occasionally frustrating latest work, The Kraus Project, is immediately striking. Its peach smoke and antiquated type make for a different and mysterious feel. The typical Franzen cover is big, abrasive, traditionally American and in some cases, tactile or reflective. Into the world came The Kraus Project and it was greeted with a small well-mannered hooray and scarcely a glimmer of anticipation, like someone whom nobody was excited to see arriving late to a dinner party. The usual Franzenian hallmarks were strangely absent—there was no cannonade of tweets, motions for canonization or general controversy.

NYWe pile into grungy lofts along lower Broadway, far off on Avenue B, over by the West Side Highway, where our calloused feet turn black from the dust and grime caked on the wooden floors, where we steam up the tall windows with the ecstatic force of our efforts.
We are all bargaining for space in these crowded dance classes—an opening in which to toss out a leg, an arm, always negotiating for that extra yard of floor. There is never enough of it, all of us hungry for more emptiness, more attention, more air in which to stretch out our limbs and spines and hearts, to rip through space.

Domenica_Ruta_ 32

The Library of Congress breaks down your book into these categories: Children of drug addicts—Massachusetts—biography—drug addicts. What genre would you put your book into?

I really dislike reducing any work of art to a DSM-IV listing. My mother was more than her addictions and mental illness. And I am more than her daughter.

Kim ChurchHas anyone told you that you misspelled the title of your novel?

My family, when we were together over Christmas. I reminded them it’s only my first book; what did they expect?

 

If you could read your book to anyone in the world, who would it be?

My grandmother, if she were still living. We would sit at her kitchen table and I’d read to her, short bits, just as she used to dictate to me. For years, I was her scrivener. One afternoon every week, I wrote letters for her. She had terrible arthritis and it pained her to write.

RUTA_WithWithoutYou_trP R O L O G U E

Glass

My mother grabbed the iron poker from the fireplace and said, “Get in the car.”

I pulled on my sneakers and followed her outside. She had that look on her face, distracted and mean, as though she’d just been dragged out of a deep sleep full of dreams. She was mad, I could tell right away, but not at me, not this time.

Her car was a lime-green hatchback with blotches and stripes of putty smeared over the dents. The Shitbox, she called it. We called it, actually. My mother hated the thing so much she didn’t mind if I swore at it. “What a piece of shit,” I’d grumble whenever it stalled on us, which we could gamble on happening at least once a day, more if it was snowing. Far and away the most unreliable car we ever had in our life together, it was a machine that ran on prayer.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 7.37.09 PM

She is engrossed in some sort of looming or woodworking that requires her to wear a bib.

He, in overalls with only one strap fastened, is hammering out a poem. Stuck, he can’t find something pleasing that rhymes with “endeavor.”

She suggests “forever.”

He whispers something under his breath, then raises it an octave and yelps.

51601E+JvsL._SY344_Available from Graywolf Press

“This beautiful memoir is beyond cool. A voyage both erudite and affecting.” —Junot Díaz, author of This is How You Lose Her

Surfing in Far Rockaway, romantic obsession, and Moby-Dick converge in this winning and refreshing memoir

Justin Hocking lands in New York hopeful but adrift—he’s jobless, unexpectedly overwhelmed and disoriented by the city, struggling with anxiety and obsession, and attempting to maintain a faltering long-distance relationship. As a man whose brand of therapy has always been motion, whether in a skate park or on a snowdrift, Hocking needs an outlet for his restlessness. Then he spies his first New York surfer hauling a board to the subway, and its not long before he’s a member of the vibrant and passionate surfing community at Far Rockaway. But in the wake of a traumatic robbery incident, the dark undercurrents of his ocean-obsession pull him further and further out on his own night sea journey.

With Moby-Dick as a touchstone, and interspersed with interludes on everything from the history of surfing to Scientology’s naval ties to the environmental impact of the Iraq War, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld is a multifaceted and enduring modern odyssey from a memorable and whip-smart new literary voice.

Sign up now to receive your copy! (Sign-up deadline for this title: March 14, 2014.)

Subscription Options

ByrdUp on the Roof

Roland is making a picnic. He has never made a picnic for anyone. It’s not even a word he uses: picnic.

On his counter, blueberry smoothies and crinkle-cut fries from his favorite stand on the beach, plus everything from his kitchen: a can of peaches, half a bottle of white Zinfandel, and two hard-boiled eggs, which he peels and mashes into a bowl with salt and pepper. Then there’s the barbecue Addie brought with her from North Carolina: hickory-smoked shoulder meat sliced thin, packed on dry ice in her little travel cooler. Slaw, too, and sauce, the thin red tomatoey kind they grew up on. You can’t get sauce like this in California.

In the eyes of the corpses
bitten by crows.
In the smiles of generals
sending flowers
sending flowers….
on the butcher’s apron,
where the blood makes patterns
like beautiful constellations.

&c.

By Thea Goodrich

Poem

is what I would ink on my wrist
if I had the nerve for etching
(or more precisely, permanently,
no nerves in me at all).

my left wrist, probably, and askew,
the notch between bowl and stem
of and per se and as the arrowhead
at the delta of a ghost-blue thread.

MannequinGirl_2-021-198x300In July she becomes an anomaly, a glitch in a plan, a malfunction in an otherwise perfect mechanism. There is no pain, no warning signs, and no heredity issues, contrary to what the doctors imply. Her mother says Kat’s diagnosis is a slap in the face and a curse and the blackest day of their lives. “You should’ve seen us,” she says. “We were black when we came from the doctors.” Her mother’s face is white, her hair short and dark. She resembles the champion figure skater Irina Rodnina, and everyone knows she is prone to verbal extravagance.

EricMay

Tell us something about Bedrock Faith.

The story is about a guy named Stew Pot Reeves who gets out of prison after 14 years and moves back home with his widowed mom. She lives in Parkland, a middle-class African-American neighborhood on Chicago’s far South Side. Stew Pot’s staid neighbors are worried about his being back since he was quite the terror before being sent away. Neighbors soon find out that Stew Pot has had a religious conversion while in prison. With his newfound religious fervor, he appoints himself the moral judge of Parkland. He gets into it with one neighbor after another, each encounter escalating in intensity and violence, leaving many community residents irrevocably changed.

BedrockFaithSo what do you plan to do with yourself, now that you’re home?” said Mrs. Motley. She was sitting at the kitchen table opposite Stew Pot who had draped his peacoat over the back of his chair. Along with a silver tea kettle, the china cups, saucers, and sugar bowl were arranged on the table between them. His apology, which he had just finished, had been long and rambling, and they had now moved to discussing his life situation.

“I’m going to get a job,” he replied. “And I mean honest work. Mom says there’s a Help Wanted sign at the car wash over on the drag. Probably just part-time, but it could be a start. No more crime for me. This change is for real.”

beatlesarehere

1

“The Beatles liberated young people from Victor Borge, Robert Goulet, Steve and Eydie, and the demented sing-along-with-the-bouncing-dots schlock immortalized by Mitch Miller. The Beatles liberated young people from bland show tunes, ethnic hooey like ‘Volare’ and ‘Danke Schoen,’ and stultifying novelty tunes like ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh’ and ‘Mr. Custer.’

The Beatles held out hope that life might actually be worth living, that popular culture need not be gray, predictable, sappy, lethal. To this day, what I feel toward the Beatles is not so much affection or reverence. It is gratitude.”

Joe Queenan, humor writer

IMG_6143

I don’t know how to do a self-interview so instead I asked my girlfriend, the poet Jeannette Gomes to interview me as a stand-in for myself.

JEANNETTE: Hi Russ, could you describe for me how your book came about and the emotional landscape it encompasses in your heart?

RUSS: Sure. So this book started from a little tour chapbook I was making for a weeklong tour I was going to do in 2012. I made a PDF version and posted the cover art on Facebook and got a message from James Tadd Adcox, who was at the time editor of Artifice Magazine, and a friend of mine. He asked if he could see the PDF version of the chap, and I said “sure” and sent it over, not thinking much about it. He emailed me later and told me he really loved it, and that Artifice was starting a book arm of their operation and he said, if I was interested, that he wanted to publish the chapbook along with some of my other poems as a book. The cover the book has now is actually the same cover I made for the original chap. Anyway, the book went through many, many edits and many rewrites since then. I think only a handful of the original poems are still in there, actually.