Walter Kirn’s newest book, Blood Will Out: The True Story of Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, is a riveting, chilling, and sometimes funny real-life psychological thriller about Kirn’s fifteen-year friendship with a man whose life story eerily parallels Tom Ripley’s in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Kirn is a witty, sharp observer who will flay himself with the same X-Acto knife precision that he uses to flay his characters. I couldn’t stop reading Blood Will Out—it made me want to dig through my bookshelves, pluck out and reread everything Kirn has ever written.

A round-up of high quality tweets from people in the world of literature…

Megan Boyle:


Cultural links of interest from around the web:

Author (and frequent TNB contributor) Steve Almond reflects on the wane of talk therapy and the rise of the writing workshop in the New York Times.

It is at this point that I can hear the phantom convulsions of my literary comrades. “Damn it, Almond,” they’re saying. “You really are making workshops sound like therapy.” Fair enough. The official job of a workshop is to help a writer improve her prose, not her psyche. But this task almost always involves a direct engagement with her inner life, as well as a demand for greater empathy and disclosure. These goals are fundamentally therapeutic.

In Kate Zambreno’s hallucinatory and disjointed Green Girl (Emergency Press), we are lured into the world of Ruth, a young American girl lost and damaged in London. Following this ingénue into her dark musings, the echoes of voices fill the page—Ruth, HIM, her mother, the author, and the silver screen flickering in the distance. It is a hypnotic read—the duality of Ruth—her good side and her darkness, the need to behave and the need to be punished.

It’s that time of the year again. When thoughts turn to the dread VISA Card statement, office Christmas parties, and Uncle Creepy’s eggnog (what is that secret ingredient). As an antidote to these and other horrors, I’ve assembled a few of my favorite monsters. A Christmas card from where the wild things are to my fellow nervous breakdowners. Wishing you all a truly festive season.

I meet Matt at BookCourt an hour and forty-five minutes before the reading in Brooklyn. I haven’t seen him in months. Every time we reunite, I think the same thing: this room isn’t big enough to contain two people as beautiful as this. I consider loathing myself for this — it’s not a competition — but there it is all the same. In my head the words take up physical space and I visualize pushing them aside so they disappear somewhere near the ear canal.

They had made a movie about us. The movie was based on a book written by someone we knew. The book was a simple thing about four weeks in the city we grew up in and for the most part was an accurate portrayal. It was labeled fiction but only a few details had been altered and our names weren’t changed and there was nothing in it that hadn’t happened. For example, there actually had been a screening of a snuff film in that bedroom in Malibu on a January afternoon, and yes, I had walked out onto the deck overlooking the Pacific where the author tried to console me, assuring me that the screams of the children being tortured were faked, but he was smiling as he said this and I had to turn away. Other examples: my girlfriend had in fact run over a coyote in the canyons below Mulholland, and a Christmas Eve dinner at Chasen’s with my family that I had casually complained about to the author was faithfully rendered. And a twelve-year-old girl really had been gang-raped–I was in that room in West Hollywood with the writer, who in the book noted just a vague reluctance on my part and failed to accurately describe how I had actually felt that night–the desire, the shock, how afraid I was of the writer, a blond and isolated boy whom the girl I was dating had halfway fallen in love with.  But the writer would never fully return her love because he was too lost in his own passivity to make the connection she needed from him, and so she had turned to me, but by then it was too late, and because the writer resented that she had turned to me I became the handsome and dazed narrator, incapable of love or kindness. That’s how I became the damaged party boy who wandered through the wreckage, blood streaming from his nose, asking questions that never required answers. That’s how I became the boy who never understood how anything worked. That’s how I became the boy who wouldn’t save a friend. That’s how I became the boy who couldn’t love the girl.

JR: I met Riley after I inquired about his book, Our Beloved 26. He had done a reading with Patrick DeWitt, who is a friend of the blog. Riley seemed like a no bullshit guy, which was refreshing, to say the least. Once we started this series of guest posts, When We Fell In Love, I thought he would be perfect for it. -JR

RMP: I have lived my life in books, have been an avid reader since my youth, and I have been affected by so many great authors – my behavior and outlook of any given year directly corresponding to the fiction I was reading. To try and pin-point when it began would be extraneous, but there were a few authors that really shook me; that surprised me; that made me aware of what fiction is actually capable of doing.

I was a sophomore in high school when I first discovered Kurt Vonnegut. I read BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS on the advice of a librarian, and I developed an immediate crush on both the novel and the woman. I had never come across anything quite like that book, and I read it twice in a row, which is something that I never do. Everything was so small, so tight, and so deliberate, with each little section functioning as a short story… It was like going to a restaurant, and instead of being presented with a meal, my dinner was brought out from the kitchen bite by bite. I had never known that stories could be told that way. I felt, after reading it the first time, like I had just read a book where nothing happened, but I loved it. I knew there was so much going on in those pages, but when I tried to tell people about it I discovered there was nothing I could say that could make the book sound appealing. I read it again to try and figure out what I had missed, and I found that I hadn’t missed anything. It was then that I realized that it is the writing and the voice behind a novel, not the plot, that makes it work.

Bret Easton Ellis was my next big love, starting when I was nineteen. Before delving into RULES OF ATTRACTION and LESS THAN ZERO, I had never read a novel about people that the author himself did not care for. I can’t remember which of the two I read first, because it was one after the other, but I remember making it twenty or so pages in before I realized that Ellis was being funny, that the writing was full of sharp, biting jokes with these little slivers of punchlines, so I had to go back and start the novel again. I like when artists explore cruelty in their work, and selfishness, and apathy, and those things are Ellis’ bread and butter. It took me a few years before I was ready to take on AMERICAN PSYCHO, but that book really is his crowning achievement. I can usually get through a book in two or three days, but that novel took me well over three weeks. I have never had to put something down so many times, shocked and disgusted. Also, I laughed a lot, even when I didn’t want to. I will love him, and his first few books, forever and ever.

Brautigan was the big one though, who I discovered when I was twenty-two. I ended up back in my home town, watching my father’s house for the summer because there had been a few break-ins and he thought that having someone there would detour the hopefully non-violent thieves. I’m from a tiny little place in the California mountais, and there is nothing to do there but read and write and paint (and fuck and smoke meth and break into empty houses, but I’m a square), so I spent all of my time doing just that. I read thirty-seven books that summer, and a few graphic novels – and some cereal boxes and Jesus pamphlets, I’m sure, because I was hard-up for entertainment and would read anything I could get my hands on. There were three great things about that summer, which were JENNY AND THE JAWS OF LIFE by Jincy Willet,COSMOS by Witold Gombrowicz, and Richard fucking Brautigan. It started with WILLARD AND HIS BOWLING TROPHIES, and then it was THE ABORTION, and then REVENGE OF THE LAWN, all of which I have read again, which is something I so rarely do. Richard Brautigan is my favorite author, hands down. He surprises me every time I read his text – with his humor, and his sadness, and his ability to construct beautiful stories from nonsensical sentences.

But Brautigan is dead, and so is Vonnegut, and Ellis isn’t writing much these days (he’s involved in film now, I think)… Yet I still find myself in love, and falling in love, nearly every day. I fall in love with Zachary Schomburg, and Chelsea Martin, and Leonard Michaels (also dead, but only recently discovered), and Gary Lutz, and Miranda July, and so on, and so on. I don’t know when it first happened, but I am in love, and as time passes I keep finding more and more reasons to stay that way.

JR: Of the many things Riley is working on, you can read these: OUR BELOVED 26TH (Future Tense),  WHEN SHE COMES HOME (Mud Luscious Press, February 2010).

Jason Rice: It’s a rare book that makes me want to start it again as soon as I’ve turned the last page.  To say I’ve fallen madly in love with The Imperfectionists is an understatement.  Over the last few weeks this debut novel has surprised and thrilled me, never left my side, and somehow renewed my faith in the daily newspaper.  I’ve even stopped myself from reading this book so I could make it last longer.

The Imperfectionists, or the people who I assume to be imperfect, are in fact that real gems of this story. Characters like Lloyd Burko, who gets this story off the ground, and becomes a beacon for the entire cast, and someone I looked back to every few chapters.  What makes this story so engrossing is the different narrators Mr. Rachman deftly weaves together to form a larger tapestry (despite the fact that every editor and agent I’ve ever come across has told me that connected stories don’t sell).  Lloyd Burko is a down on his luck reporter living in Paris. He’s desperate for a story, and rifles through his son’s life to find one.  It’s these quiet moments of professional desperation that made me want to climb inside this book, and take up a permanent residence among these men and women.

Tom Rachman was a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press stationed in Rome.  A fantastic job  by any stretch of the imagination, and he’s worked for the wonderful International Herald Tribune. When I lived in France in 1992, I read that paper every day of the week.  It’s an absolute must read for any American living abroad.

The Imperfectionists will shock a lot of people, not American Psycho shock, but very much like the moments right after the world realized what a great book Then We Came To the End was, and to be honest, Rachman’s novel is as good as that masterpiece. There’s a moment when Abbey who has the wicked nickname, Accounts Payable, is almost convinced that the man she fired is good enough to sleep with, a moment of sorrow, and pity, hers and the readers, and then it’s gone, but you’re left wondering, and saying to yourself; “God damn this is good shit.”  These individual chapters make up the life of the newspaper, and since it’s a Dial Press book, remind me of by David Schickler.  It’s a perfect comp, but where Schickler sticks with arrested development, Rachman reaches nearly profound levels of realism through humanity. You’ll fall in love with Ruby Zaga, or the strange Winston Cheung, each person is so close that you can feel their breath on your neck.  In the end the people and the story will blow you away, it’s about a struggling International newspaper and (should be a passé thing to write about, with all this internet talk and electronic book nonsense filling up everyone’s time), it’s people; a sad dog, a rabid reader who is ten years behind on her reading of the paper, and Kathleen, oh Kathleen, she’s so good, so right on and who I think is the most serious character in the book. Shit, it’s all serious, it’s prescient, it’s talking about a medium that you and I take for granted, and I for one buried in the sand years ago as being out of touch. Rachman, in his own fluent and vivid ways shows me just how wrong I was to assume that newspapers are dead. Stop what you’re reading, call your Random House rep and get one of these ARC’s. For those of you not in the business, put it on order at your preferred online retailer.

here are three chapters in American Psycho—“Huey Lewis,” “Whitney Houston,” and “Genesis”—in which Patrick Bateman, the narrator, ruminates on three of his favorite musical acts. In the third such chapter, he writes:

I’ve been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that I really didn’t understand any of their work, though on their last album of the 1970s, the concept-laden And Then There Were Three (a reference to band member Peter Gabriel, who left the group to start a lame solo career), I did enjoy the lovely “Follow You, Follow Me.”

By this point in the book, Bateman has already mutilated a homeless saxophone player, chopped a co-worker to death with a chainsaw, and served his girlfriend a used urinal cake dipped in chocolate. But it was only upon reading the preceding paragraph that it really kicked in: “He thinks Phil Collins is better than Peter Gabriel?!?! Holy shit! That guy’s fucking nuts!”