On Poets & Writers’ “Six New Novelists” Article

Self has been meaning to post about this article (in the July/August 2009 issue) in Poets & Writers for quite some time. And the time has finally arrived, for self is just back from filling her trunk with plants from the annual fall sale at Wegman’s Nursery, and she’s just trundled all the 1-gallon specimens to different parts of her yard (This year, self decided to get only plants that were native to Australia: self theorizing that, since the plants are used to drought conditions, they therefore will not require much watering??? Check back this time next year, dear blog reader, to see if self’s li’l experiment bears fruit!), and inspiration seems rather in short supply, after all that work!

And then self got home, very hot (for her car air-conditioner gave out a week or so ago), and after tuning in to adored Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” (Does anyone else find this guy hot? OMG, he is sooo) self settled back on the couch and whipped out the Poets & Writers article.

There were many many things that interested self about this article. For one thing, the lead novelist, one Nicola Keegan, is 44 years old (so, not a spring chicken, there is still hope perhaps for us aging members of the population) and lives in Paris, and her publisher printed 100,000 copies of her book.

So then self flips the page to the next writer, and it’s a 28-year-old man. Next!

Now to novelist # 3. This one has no age listed. Hmmm… Looking at her picture, self figures her to be in her late 20s. Then what cause would there be for her to keep her age hidden? Like novelist # 1, her publisher, too, has printed 100,000 copies of her book. The book is set in Sri Lanka. The title, self thinks, is kind of great: A Disobedient Girl.

The fourth writer is Joshua Mohr, age 32, and he is a native of San Francisco. The publisher’s print run was 3,500, but he has great blurb-ers: Donald Ray Pollock, and Melanie Rae Thon. Because Mohr is from San Francisco, self will here quote the “Premise” of the novel: “Diagnosed as a teenager with depersonalization, a thirty-year-old man named Rhonda is forced to confront his bizarre and traumatic past when he encounters the personification of his inner child.” Wow! This sounds great! Congratulations, Joshua!

The fifth novelist is (gulp) 24. Next!

Finally, we have Joanna Smith Rakoff, who is 37 but could easily pass for 27. Her print run is 25,000. She is a New York City resident, with a new baby. She, too, has great blurb-ers: Gary Shteyngart, and Thisbe Nissen. (In fact, as both those writers are kinda hip, self thinks it was genius move of Rakoff’s publisher to get blurbs from them). Here’s Ms. Rakoff’s advice to would-be novelists: “You must make the book the absolute center of your life. Doesn’t matter if you have kids, aging parents, a demanding job. The novel has to take precedence.” Which, after self reads that, has the effect of making self feel very veeeery depressed. Because she herself is always so laden with distractions: hubby, son, Dearest Mum, dogs, garden, blog, you name it. In fact, anything constitutes a distraction, for self: even Anthony Bourdain, even movies (Did anyone catch “300” last night on TNT? OMG, self was in absolute heaven. Astinos, played by an Englishman with the beautiful name of Tom Wisdom, was so nice to watch. That is, until his untimely demise. Why oh why did he have to be the one decapitated? Grrrr!!! Why couldn’t it have been that old man played by Armand Assante? Then, the network played it back to back, three more times. Naturally, self did not get to bed until 3:30 a.m.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

2 Comments

  1. Ru Freeman said,

    September 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Someone sent this to me and I was intrigued by your focus on a writer’s age. Do you really feel that it matters? I, personally, am a fan of very old people; I find them interesting, their life-stories – no matter how ordinary – fascinating, and themselves usually very good story-tellers. I do find myself wondering about a writer’s age, but it is usually after I’ve read their book. The decision to leave the age-question blank was conscious on my part; a desire to let a work stand as much “alone” as it possibly can, unclouded by references to nationality, race, ethnicity, hue, gender, and, yes, age. I’d love to know what you think of the book.

  2. September 16, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Dear Ru,

    First of all, I’m honored that you stopped by and thought to comment. I try and find humorous angles for most of the things I post on my blog, just to “shake things up” a little, and I do focus on such things as appearance, age, etc. I know it’s silly.

    But, I have noticed that age is a factor also with writers — not as much as it is, say, with Hollywood actors and actresses — but I know it’s there. It kinda surprised me, the first time I encountered it (a couple of years ago, someone introduced me as being from “another generation” — ha ha ha! Believe me, I wasn’t even close to being a grandma. Not even now! It kinda shocked me. It still does, as a matter of fact)

    When Eudora Welty came to speak at my alma mater, Stanford, she was 80-plus, and beautiful.

    Your book is one I am definitely looking forward to reading, because of the social issues you explore.


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