Monday, May 11, 2015

Counternarratives News & Readings

With the new book,
at New Directions'
offices (selfie)
With the publication date just one week away, positive advance notice for Counternarratives thankfully continues to roll in. Last week, Vanity Fair (!) chose the collection for its "Springs Reads for Parks and Picnics" list. It is in excellent company, with new books by my former Northwestern colleague Aleksandar Hemon; the late authors of the novel that became Andrei Tarkovsky's film Stalker, Boris and Arkady Strugatsky; the highly regard fiction writer Jim Shepard; and Nell Zink, whose debut novel The Wallcreeper, from small indie publisher Dorothy Project, has been a sensation; and the extraordinary Anne Carson, whose Antigonick, a retelling of the Sophokles' Antigone, is being reissued in paperback with new illustrations.

Like the most recent review in Harper's, this brief one was laudatory, saying that
the latest work by John Keene, the award-winning novelist, poet, translator, and professor, has been accruing buzz for months. A book of “stories and novellas” that spans from the 17th century to present day, Keene’s ambitious, confident storytelling is matched by his complex, evocative, and compelling voice: in one story, Jim, a free man, and Huckleberry Finn re-unite; in 1920s New York, Langston Hughes and Xavier Villaurrutia, the Mexican poet, have an intriguing meeting; a slave escapes his captors during the American revolution. Keene finds inspiration in newspaper clippings, memoirs, and history, and anchors them in the eternal, universal, and mystical. 
To that I say: Thank you, Vanity Fair!

Also, at Library Journal Barbara Hoffert chose Counternarratives for its Spring/Summer list of "12 New Collections from Writers to Watch." Thanks, Library Journal!

Recent Readings

Photo by Jeff Beck
On March 24, at the invitation of poet, critic and Dean Dr. Jeffrey Beck, I read at Kean University, in Union, just down the road from Rutgers-Newark. I'd never been to Kean before, so I appreciated the opportunity to share my work there.  The reading brought out a good crowd, and afterwards Jeff led a Q&A that focused on many aspects not only of the story I read, "Cold," from Counternarratives, but on the collection and my prior published work.

His questions were thoughtful and provocative, as were those of the audience members, and made me think about elements of the stories and my work in general I had not extensively considered. The event was taped, so I hope the transcript will be publicly available. Many thanks to Jeff and to Kean University and the program's sponsors!

Photo by IRADAC
Last month, on April 29, I was invited to delivered the annual Audre Lorde/Essex Hemphill Memorial Lecture at the City University of New York Graduate Center, under the auspices of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC).

Previous Lorde/Hemphill Memorial Lectures include Hortense Spillers, Cheryl Clarke, and Thomas Glave. After some introductory remarks (and a little competition from a raucous Rent Stabilization meeting in the auditorium next door), I read the story "Blues," in Counternarratives, which felt especially appropriate for the event.

Reading under the auspices of Audre Lorde and Essex Hemphill, two of my heroes--and I noted in my remarks that I had the incredible fortune to meet and interview Essex at the Dark Room House a few years before he passed away--was an honor I will always cherish. Many thanks to all who came out, thanks for the great post-reading questions and commentary, and deep thanks especially to Robert F. Reid-Pharr, director of IRADAC, for the invitation and his hosting, and to Zee Dempster, for ensuring that everything ran smoothly and her patience and kindness.

Upcoming Readings

On June 2, I'll be reading and in conversation with Jeffrey Renard Allen, at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, at 7 pm, and on July 1, I'll be reading and in conversation with Christine Smallwood, New Books Editor at Harpers, at McNally Jackson Bookstore in SoHo.

On May 21, I'll be reading poetry with some of my favorite writers, Erica Doyle, Christopher Stackhouse, and Harmony Holiday, along with the 10-piece band King Holiday, as part of the Brooklyn Museum's "Art off the Wall: 'Decoding Basquiat'" event. This reading and musical performance accompany the Brooklyn Museum's Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks exhibition, which runs until August 23, 2015. The events begin at 6:30 pm and run for three hours.

1 comment:

  1. ¡Felicidades!

    I'm sooooo happy and proud of you. It couldn't happen to a nicer human being. All the best!!!