Thursday, July 02, 2015

Book Launch III @ McNally Jackson + Flavorwire/WSJ/Time Out Reviews & Picks

Last night marked the last and final leg of my launch of Counternarratives. At McNally Jackson Bookstore in Manhattan, I read and participated in a conversation with the super-smart writer and Harper's New Books columnist Christine Smallwood. The room was packed, so many friends, colleagues and former students were there, and the dialogue with Christine, whom I'd never met before but am glad to have had the opportunity to chat with, was lively, in no small part because of Christine's excellent questions, and, I hope for those present, entertaining and informative. We also sold a great number of books!

Many, many thanks to Alice Whitwham and Valerie Slaughter at McNally Jackson and to the store; to Christine Smallwood again for her extraordinary review of Counternarratives and for participating last night; to New Directions for making the book and this event possible; and to everyone who has supported me in any and every way along the way, including by attending these three readings. I hope to see friends and readers who could not attend at events down the road, and I'll post future reading dates as those firm up (there are several under plan for this fall)! Again, thanks so much!

Some photos (all by C):

A sliver of the audience
Christine Smallwood and I in conversation

Signing books 
Signing (never loses its thrill)

From the delightful artist Kate Gavino's Tumblr site, Last Night's Reading:

Check out her Tumblr blog for many more readings and writers!


More good news on the reviews and book selection front. First, on Flavorwire Jonathan Sturgeon selected Counternarratives as one of its "15 Best Works of Fiction of 2015 So Far"! I will simply quote the entire blurb, which is about as good as these mini-reviews get.

Richly conceived and brilliantly executed, the most original set of fictions to be released so far this year, John Keene’s Counternarratives does for American literature what Alexander Kluge’s fiction has done for German literature — it reopens its future by laying bare its ideological roots. The long narrative “An Outtake From the Ideological Origins of the American Revolution,” which documents the lost story of a runaway slave — as if this story were cut from Bernard Bailyn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history — is a masterpiece of short fiction.
I particularly love the mention of Kluge, who is one of my favorite writers, and whose work I've written about many times and even translated on this blog.

Second, critic Sam Sacks delivered a strong affirmation in his June 26, 2015 Wall Street Journal review of Counternarratives. Pairing his discussion of the story collection with Iranian writer Bahiyyah Nakhjavani's novel The Woman Who Read Too Much (Redwood, 2015), which he praises highly, Sacks says of Counternarratives
He exerts superb control over his stories, costuming them in the style of Jorge Luis Borges as dispassionate archival documents—found diaries, newspaper clippings, obscure scholarly texts; Carmel’s story is literally structured as a footnote to a reference work on early American Catholicism. Yet Mr. Keene preserves the undercurrent of excitement and pathos that accompanies his characters’ persecution and their gropings toward freedom. The book’s post-colonial angle may not be wholly new, but storytelling prowess is something that never grows old.

First Kluge, now Borges. That's empyrean company!

Last, the exemplary folks at Park Slope Community Bookstore, which hosted my first launch reading, selected Counternarratives for Time Out New York's list of "15 books you should read this summer." Again, fantastic company, with wordsmiths of the highest caliber, including Naomi Jackson (whose debut book The Star Side of Bird Hill just appeared from Penguin), Celeste Ng, Siri Hustvedt, Kamel Daoud, Neil Gaiman, and Ian McEwan.

Thanks a gazillion to these reviewers and listmakers! I'll keep knocking on wood, and I ask that you keep reading and telling people about Counternarratives.

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