Monday, March 30, 2015

Counternarratives Reviews & PW Interview Posted

In a little over a month from now, my next book, Counternarratives, will be appear (the new cover is at right, featuring original arork by the vernacular artist Ike Morgan), and so far the early reviews have been strong. Two weeks ago Kirkus, which is known for fairly stringent reviews, gave the collection a strong review, and this past weekend Publishers Weekly gave the book an even better review, covering quite a lot of ground concisely and cogently.

Although I told New Directions after the PW review that I won't look at any more reviews (it's best to stop while you're ahead, no?), I do look forward to longer readings (that others can read and recount to me) that will explore the complex explorations of nationality, sexuality and religion that run throughout the text. I also hope someone will talk about the variations in style and voice, and the ways in which form and content are in conversation with each other.

I was happy that in this review that reviewer mentioned one of the stories that nearly didn't make it into the book, "Persons and Places," which I initially wrote as a piece of microfiction, and which is as much about form as content, in that in a very brief space it puts two of the important figures of the turn-of-century intellectual world, one now well canonized (W. E. B. Du Bois) and the other mostly forgotten (George Santayana) in brief but charged proximity. At first I thought it might be too brief to include (especially alongside several novellas), but I think it works on its own terms and as part of the larger whole.

I was very pleased too that PW's Yulia Greyman posed a few questions for me to answer; they're now live on the site under the title "Literary Mixtapes: PW Talks with John Keene" (March 27, 2015). Here's a glimpse of the opening page (many thanks to Gabe Habash at PW and to my college dean, Professor Jan Ellen Lewis, who forwarded links and .pdfs!). It was also delightful that she mentioned the "philosophical concerns" the book raises. Alongside all the action, mystery, and so on, there's a good deal of thinking going on!

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