At AWP this past weekend more than one person came up, looked at Juan Martinez’s debut collection Best Worst American, and thought it had something to do with HMH’s Best American Short Stories which in itself was hilarious and gave me an idea for a new series of books — which we will not be publishing. AWP also turns out to be a great place to have a Juan Martinez book as he has graduated from a couple of universities and taught at a couple more. So many people came by either looking for him or the book. At least I could always help with the latter — even on Saturday when I was pretty much a zombie.
If you’re reading about this book for the first time, try this:
— so many short stories in one place I cannot list them all*
— also pointed out to me this weekend: none of these stories have been published in magazines in the sci-fi or whatevs genre
— 2 of these stories were read on NPR’s Selected Shorts
— Juan read the title story at Politics & Prose this weekend and it was hilarious
— Chicago people: don’t miss his reading on Thursday night
— Chicago people: if you do miss his reading on Thursday night, here is your second chance: Feb. 27, 6:30 p.m. Curbside Splendor Happy Hour Swill (with Kathleen Rooney)
— A. M. Dellamonica on Tor.com captures the range of the book: “out of the realm of the mildly disturbing, into something colder, more unequivocally horrifying…. stories run from the darkly absurd to finely-honed depictions of American immigrants’ experiences.”
— But what if you are just looking for, you know, weird stuff? Nisi Shawl says at the Seattle Review of Books that you will be ok: “Weirdness builds upon delectable weirdness throughout the whole book.”
* Ok, so there is a list, aka the TOC, here.
We’ve arrived in DC — where democracy is taking a beating, fingers crossed it will survive — and tomorrow the whole AWP shebang begins. Our books are still in transit due to the ice storm that hit the northeast. With luck I’ll be getting them today and by tomorrow there will be a lovely table (110-T, come on by and say hello) full of books all neatly set up and ready for dispersement into the world.
There are approximately four quadrillions readings and parties going on in the next few days. Here are a few Small Beer-related or -adjacent during the conference and then on Saturday at 6 pm we have a reading with Kelly Link & Juan Martinez at Politics and Prose.
Signing at the Small Beer Press table: 110-T (on the edge, near Tin House)
10:00am to 10:30am Juan Martinez
10:30am to 11:00am Sofia Samatar
11:00am to 11:30am Kelly Link
|Thursday, February 9, 2017|
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
Marquis Salon 7 & 8, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
R205. The Political Woman: Historical Novelists Reimagine and Reclaim Women’s Place in Politics. (Erin Lindsay McCabe, Gina Mulligan , Karen Joy Fowler, Alex Myers, Mary Volmer) While rarely central and often discounted, women have always played a role in politics. In this panel, historical novelists discuss how and why they chose to unearth and reimagine the lost and untold stories of women in politics. What are the risks and rewards of using fiction to place women at the center of political narratives? What liberties are novelists compelled, or unwilling, to take with the historical record?
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Ballroom A, Washington Convention Center, Level Three
R282. Jennifer Egan, Karen Joy Fowler, and Hannah Tinti: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. (Ron Charles, Jennifer Egan, Karen Joy Fowler, Hannah Tinti) This event will bring together three engaging contemporary female writers to read and discuss their craft. Jennifer Egan is the author of five books, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. Karen Joy Fowler is the author of nine books, including We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award. Hannah Tinti is the author of three books, including The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, which will be published in 2017.
|Saturday, February 11, 2017 View Full Schedule|
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
Liberty Salon N, O, & P, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
S181. Immigrants/Children of Immigrants: A Nontraditional Path to a Writing Career . (Ken Chen , Monica Youn, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Juan Martinez, Irina Reyn ) Not only do you not have an uncle in publishing or see people from the neighborhood get MFAs, immigrants and children of immigrants are inculcated to opt for “safe,” “secure,” often well-paying jobs; a writing career may seem like an unimaginable luxury or a fantasy. This panel of working writers looks at both psychic and structural issues that add a special challenge for writers from immigrant families.
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Marquis Salon 9 & 10, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
S271. The Short Story as Laboratory. (Lesley Nneka Arimah, Carmen Maria Machado, Kendra Fortmeyer, Sofia Samatar, Juan Martinez) What does short fiction allow? The form is beloved by science fiction writers, who use it to test out hypothetical futures; what does it offer writers who are doing other kinds of testing, related to emotional transitions, marginality, and migration? Is the short story an inherently border form? This panel considers these questions, the challenge of putting a set of experiments into a collection, and the tension between the laboratory and the completed book.
Kelly Link and Juan Martinez
Politics & Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008 Get Directions
Kelly Link will read with Juan Martinez (Best Worst American) at the most excellent Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse. This event is free to attend with no reservation required. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis. Click here for more information.
And will be unimpressed with your chaos, bombast, and moral weakness. That the Democratic Party are not impeaching this President yet is astounding. That the “Republican Party” accept their “President’s” actions: his racist Executive Orders, his racist and lying advisor and press secretary, his not recording his calls to Vladimir Putin, his insulting of allies, his emolument-clause twisting actions show that they are power hungry dogs willing to tear the country to pieces if only they can hold on to power for a moment longer.
Our town was supposed to get 51 refugees this year. There has been so much prepwork done for these 51 people — out of 60,000,000 displaced people. This anti-humanist “government” is a disgrace.
Here’s to the people who have been, are, and will continue to volunteer, march, and fight for actual freedom and the welcoming principles this country has (at least supposedly) espoused.
As well as all that: we publish extremely good books and here are a few spots in the world where they are being enjoyed:
— We published but five books last year and four of them are on the Locus Recommended Reading List. No stories from LCRW, which I’d disagree with, as would be expected of any editor. But I tend to think LCRW is one of the best zines out there and one I consistently read (for), so there’s my 2 cents.
— Over on Tor.com Juan Martinez writes about George Saunders’s CivilWarLand in Bad Decline for “The One Book That Unstuck My Writing”
“I owe so much of my writing life to George Saunders that even this introductory bit is lifted from him, I just realized, even as I started writing it. Because I was going to begin by sharing how often I fantasized about meeting writers I admired, and it’s super common, this fantasy—writers meeting their idols, and then the idol recognizes your genius and you become best buds, and the idol lifts you from whatever dire circumstances you happen to be in, and your life is perfect from then on. I totally wanted to start with that—with confessing how often I thought of meeting Saunders—before I realized why I wanted to start with that.”
— a profile of the indomitable Ursula K. Le Guin by David Larsen in New Zealand’s The Listener:
“Words Are My Matter demonstrates, among other things, the difference between a hectoring sermon and a memorable oration – notably in the text of her instantly viral 2014 speech on freedom, in which she lambasts profit-driven corporate publishing. ‘Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings.'”
Will you be in DC for the AWP grief fest? Yay, see you there. We will be selling books, tweetings and signing useless petitions at table 110-T in the bookfair. But more on that next week, if there is still an internet.
Anyway. We are throwing a reading at the amazing Politics and Prose Bookstore! Juan Martinez and Kelly Link are Juan read on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 6:00 p.m. Juan will be reading from his debut collection Best Worst American — which just received a lovely review in Booklist Online:
“In a podcast conversation about this book’s title story, Israeli writer Etgar Keret praises the suspense Martinez builds by packing scenes with high emotion while withholding information from the reader. This disorienting energy infuses many of the two-dozen short stories collected here, including “Roadblock,” which opens with a pyromaniac aunt and a series of suspicious airplane accidents. Martinez parlays this odd sense of estrangement and tension into subtle, absurd humor. In “Well Tended,” the narrator finds himself caring for a missing neighbor’s houseplants, and he winds up alone in a room with them, watering can in hand, with the ridiculous sensation of being ignored by the plants. Other stories are more bluntly funny, like “Your Significant Other’s Kitten Poster,” which deciphers the contents of innocuous wall hangings and closes with a hilariously violent encounter with a professor in a pool hall. Throughout, Martinez reimagines urban landscapes like Orlando as hellish and spectacular, “lakes afire with reflected light,” and the “aggressively ethnic streets of Culver City.” In his idiosyncratic approach to fiction, Martinez delivers truly new ways to read the world.”
Juan Martinez’s collection Best Worst American winds its way toward publication — well, it’s at the printer so fingers crossed all goes well — and for that final cover that I made with help from Ursula and designed with Kelly we have a quote from Kelly herself:
“A master of the absurd who serves up contemporary American life in rare, blistering slices.”
Juan will be reading in Chicago at Women & Children First and then with Kelly at Politics and Prose in DC during ye olde AWP Conference — and signing at our table in the bookcity — next month. See you there, if DC is still standing.
We had a placeholder cover for so long but hey, at last, before even the end of the world, here is the actual and real* cover for Juan Martinez’s debut collection Best Worst American which we’re publishing next February.
And here is a story from the book, “Hobbledehoydom,” first published on the Morning News, about Anthony Trollope and naked people.
* For a certain internet screen version of reality. How are you seeing this cover? On a computer? A phone? A wallscreen? The Times Square ad?
First trade review for Best Worst American comes form Kirkus Reviews who say: “Twenty-four semiexistential short stories that have appeared in the likes of McSweeney’s and Selected Shorts from Colombia-born writer Martinez. The author has an interesting way of injecting absurdity into everyday life and humor into the phantasmagorical in this wide-ranging, mostly engaging collection of tall tales. . . . there are also occasional moments of grace. . . . Some are just flat-out funny. . . . Martinez even makes the frightening funny. . . . promising debut collection of short stories, some unique in their execution.”
Comes out in February 2017 and will make you laugh all the way through 2018.
Every now and then we get sent short story manuscripts (wait, every week. Every day?) and sometimes they strike us (ouch) as a good fit and sometimes not. A little while ago (um, years: Juan mentioned the manuscript to us at the AWP Conference in Boston) we were lucky enough to be sent Juan Martinez’s debut collection Best Worst American for consideration: and we consider it good; nay, hilarious; dark, deep; packed to the gunnels with short short stories and some longer. How good? How many? Rebecca Makkai says:
“These 24 wide-ranging stories are the gut-punch kind: intense, innovative tales that skew your vision for the rest of the day. Martinez writes with a sharp eye and a sharp tongue, and his characters — often alone and unloved, often haunted — are worthy observers of both the horrors and wonders of this world.”
— Rebecca Makkai, Music for Wartime
“Forsaken, the Crew Awaited News from the People Below”
Read it on McSweeney’s.net and in Best Worst American coming in February.
Who? Juan Martinez.
What? Best Worst American
When? Next year. When we’re all calmer, smarter.
In the meantime, one reader says:
“I feel sure that some smart and appreciative person will praise Juan Martinez for his ‘skewed vision,’ but Martinez’s view of the world is startlingly clear. It’s just that the rest of us haven’t caught up yet. Deep and comic and deeply comic, his is a collection of wonders for any human to enjoy.”
Read one of the stories on Conjunctions: “The Coca-Cola Executive in the Zapatoca Outhouse.”
Juan (unlike us) is on Instagram:
Not worst. There are so many ways we could talk about the title of Juan Martinez’s first collection — Best Worst American — coming next February. So many ways we could contribute to the current political conversation. Is it a conversation? Is anyone listening? Or is it just shouting. Not sure.Gliding on by all that for the moment (vote, y’all), here’s one early reader’s reaction to the book:
“Juan Martinez’s Best Worst American is filled with droll, cunning, funny, and formally innovative stories that fall somewhere between stand-up comedy and literary fiction. These excellent works mark him as a writer both to read and watch.” — Tom Bissell
More on the book TK as reaction filters in. There are many, many excellent short stories in it. You can read one here, “Strangers on Vacation: Snapshots” on McSweeney’s. I think you will enjoy the book.
Also, Juan (unlike us) is on Instagram:
Besides our groovy (sorry) reading on Wed. March 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Last Bookstore [with Kelly Link (Get in Trouble), Maureen F. McHugh (After the Apocalypse), Ayize Jama-Everett (The Entropy of Bones), and Sofia Samatar (The Winged Histories)] we have a few other things we’d like to share:
First: we have a table, #1331, in the huge bookfair. Come search us out!
Second: panels and stuff!
Thursday, March 31
11:00 am to 11:30 am
Table 1331, Ayize Jama-Everett (The Entropy of Bones) signing
3:00 pm to 4:15 pm
Room 515 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
R265. Smooth Criminals: What’s at Stake When We Break the Rules? (Juan Martinez, Susan Hubbard, Robin Rozanski, Julie Iromuanya) What writing rule do you hate? Love? We all break a few: We switch POV halfway through a story, we use too many exclamation marks, we don’t write what we know, or we use the wrong form, the wrong genre. The panelists balance the costs and benefits of these misdemeanors. They explore how rules hinge on cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds. They provide rule-breaking exercises that have helped generate exciting material and talk about how rule-breaking has helped them publish and teach.
Friday, April 1
10:30 am to 11:45 am
Room 513, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
F161. Small Beer Press: 15th Anniversary Reading. (Sofia Samatar, Ayize Jama-Everett, Maureen F. McHugh, Juan Martinez) Fifteen years after Small Beer Press was founded to publish works that cross genre definitions, traditional bookstore shelving options, and academic course descriptions, four authors from different parts of the USA who now all live in California read from their books and then discuss the spaces their books were published into with Small Beer Press publisher and cofounder Gavin J. Grant.
2:00 pm to 2:30 pm
Table 1331, Sofia Samatar (The Winged Histories) signing
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Concourse Hall, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One
F271. Kelly Link, Emily St. John Mandel, and Ruth Ozeki: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. (Emily St. John Mandel, Ruth Ozeki, Kelly Link) This event brings together three brilliant contemporary female writers—Kelly Link, Emily St. John Mandel, and Ruth Ozeki—to read and discuss their craft and experiences as genre-bending authors. Kelly Link is the recipient of an NEA grant and is the author of Get in Trouble. Emily St. John Mandel is the author of Station Eleven, a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award. Ruth Ozeki is the author of A Tale for the Time Being, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Saturday, April 2
10:00am to 10:30am
Table 1331, Kelly Link (Get in Trouble) signing
11:00am to 11:30am
Table 1331, Maureen F. McHugh (After the Apocalypse)
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
AWP Bookfair Stage, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One
S171. In the Realms of the Real and the Unreal. (Katharine Beutner, Sofia Samatar, Carmen Machado, Alice Sola Kim, Kelly Link) This panel explores genres of fiction that juxtapose the real and the unreal in experimental ways: historical fiction, literary fantasy/science fiction, weird fiction, and satire. Where do we draw the line between a secondary world and a distorted reflection of our own world’s beauty, violence, and diversity? Can we discern a poetics of the unreal in contemporary fiction? How have the continual debates over generic boundaries—and/or their irrelevance—affected the ways contemporary writers work?