A Year in Reading: Emerging Writers

The indefatigable Dan Wickett is the hardest working man in book blogging. He is a tireless advocate for "emerging" writers, small presses, and literary journals. How he found the time to compile this post for us, I'll never know, but I'm glad he did.I divided my thoughts about authors that I read in 2006 into three categories. First up would be (what else from my end) Emerging Writers. Writers that fell into that category that I can't wait to read more of would have to include:Dag Solstad - His Shyness & Dignity is not his first novel, but it is the first available in English, and it was the best book I read all year. Graywolf Press took the chance on bringing this Norwegian's work to those of us without the skills to read his books in their original language, and they should be thanked.Benjamin Percy - His debut story collection, The Language of Elk, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in the middle of the year and shows readers a new vision of the current west, with most of the stories set in Oregon. Percy's language crackles with masculinity and humor and the bizarre. Watch for him - he put a story in both BASS and Pushcart this year, has one coming in January's Esquire and his second collection is coming from Graywolf Press in 2007.Robert Fanning - Are you kidding me? Wickett lobbed a poet into this list? Absolutely. Fanning's The Seed Thieves is his first full length collection of poetry, thanks to Marick Press, and it is beyond just being solid. Fanning has a fantastic way about his phrasing and observations that work both on page, and if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hear him read his work.Second up would be those writers who I already thought pretty highly of, that confirmed for me, once again, just how talented they were:William Gay with his novel Twilight from MacAdam/Cage. He follows up his previous two novels and short story collection with possibly his best yet. A frighteningly gothic near fairy tale about a young brother and sister combination and their efforts to expose a rather sordid mortician.Daniel Woodrell and Winter's Bone, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Half of a Yellow Sun. Anybody reading this far into Max's post has probably visited my site. Enough said as I'm pretty sure searching my blog for 2006 will show these two names and titles coming up way more than anything else.Tom Franklin with Smonk. The fever Franklin had that induced this story to come oozing out must have been 104 plus.Steve Yarbrough and Ron Rash with The End of California and The World Made Straight, respectively. These two gentlemen deserve accolades for not writing with any flash, or verbal pyrotechnics, but instead delivering captivating novels, time and time again by simply telling a great story, and doing so with, while excellent writing, not the need to make you notice it.Michael Ruhlman has once again delivered a fantastic book about cooking with his The Reach of a Chef. If you have ANY interest in the art of cooking, his books are all a must. And even if you don't, you have more than half a chance at becoming enthralled anyway.Charles D'Ambrosio and Lee K. Abbott just may be the two best short story writers around and readers were fortunate enough to enjoy a new collection by D'Ambrosio (The Dead Fish Museum) and a Collected collection of Abbott (All Things, All at Once). There isn't a mis-step in either, and above and beyond that, there are probably close to a dozen stories between the two works that are prize winning, year end anthology worthy.Lastly would be those writers that I found myself embarrassed to realize I'd never read their work prior to 2006, and in many cases had not even heard of them:Colson Whitehead - I had the opportunity to see him read in Ann Arbor earlier in the year and bought a copy of The Intuitionist, which I promptly read and loved. His other three books are high up in my TBR pile.Magnus Mills - I don't know why I bought his The Restraint of Beasts - I thought I remembered his name from Jeff Bryant's Underrated Writers Project from last year, but his name is not there. Whatever the case - I loved it and the follow up novel, All Quiet on the Orient Express as well. The rest of his novels and a short story collection reside in my TBR pile at this time.Rupert Thomson - Thanks to Megan for nominating his latest, Divided Kingdom, as an LBC nominee. Another one who I immediately began looking for his backlog of many novels to pad my TBR pile.Richard Powers - Oh well, at least I waited for a decent book to hop aboard - The Echo Maker - NBA winner. Thanks to Ed Champion for inviting me to the roundtable discussion of this wonderful title. There's approximately 2100 pages of unread Powers' novels on a shelf here now.Peter Markus - Even more ridiculous when you find out he resides less than 30 minutes from my house. Went to see the aforementioned Robert Fanning read earlier this year and Markus read some unpublished work from what should be his fourth book of short fictions that deal with brothers, mud, fish, and the moon. He was kind enough to give me a copy of his first, Good, Brother, which was reprinted by Calimari Press earlier this year. I read it that night and had ordered both The Moon is a Lighthouse (from a store in Japan - the only one I could find online) and The Singing Fish (also published, last year, by Calimari Press). The man is a unique writer, an amazing writer, and one I highly recommend you try to find. Plenty of his work is available online.Thanks Dan!

A Year in Reading: An Emerging Best of List

Last year, Dan Wickett, proprietor of the Emerging Writers Network and its accompanying blog sent me his list of best books by emerging writers. The post was a big hit, and he was kind enough to share this year's list with us. Enjoy:NovelsAmerican Purgatorio by John Haskell (interview, audio) - Haskell follows up his I Am Not Jackson Pollack with a page turner of a novel. He has adapted to the longer form with no problem at all.Please Don't Come Back From the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos (excerpt) - This is the debut effort by Dean, who has also published many excellent short stories in literary journals the past few years.Homeland by Sam Lipsyte (excerpt) - This one won't be unfamiliar to LitBlog readers. Lipsyte's paperback original has some great black humor and was well deserving of the attention it garnered.Bitter Milk by John McManus (excerpt [pdf]) - John's debut novel after two well received short story collections, and it is quite original with a narrator that may or may not exist, and if he does, it could be in various relationships to the youth he narrates about.Belly by Lisa Selin Davis (excerpt) - Another debut effort, Davis takes an interesting look at how small to mid-size American towns are changing, or Walmartizing, in the 21st Century. That she doesthis and allows her readers deep into the relationships of a specific family is pretty impressive.Garner by Kirstin Allio (excerpt) - A winner from Coffee House Press - Allio writes of a small New England town and sets her tale nearly a century in the past. Her descriptions of the landscapes and the townfolk put her readers right in their lives.Last year's list had two authors that were established, but not nearly as much as they should have been, in Steve Yarbrough and Percival Everett. This year sees a similarity with authors Lee Martin and Walter Kirn:The Bright Forever by Lee Martin (excerpt) - His second novel and sixth book (including a hard to find chapbook) overall, The Bright Forever is a stunning novel told in various points of view. A little girl disappears and Martin slowly allows his readers the full story - the anguish and honesty he is able to infuse his characters with as they spill this tale is incredible.Mission to America by Walter Kirn (excerpt) - Like Martin, not a newcomer, but a well-respected author who hasn't received the sort of attention that he has with this latest effort which only boosts Kirn's reputation as one of today's better satirists. He takes on religion, new ageism, health nuts, and many others his latest.Short Story CollectionsSightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap (excerpt) - An excellent debut collection from this author whose name is sprinkled about in the story anthologies the past two years - Best New American Writing, BASS, O'Henry, etc.God Lives in St. Petersburg by Tom Bissell (excerpt) - Bissell lets his experiences in the Peace Corps and as a journalist lead him into many excellent short stories mainly set throughout countries formerly part of the USSR. The best in this collection will rival the best you'll read this year.Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami (blog) - This collection, Lalami's first, follows four Moroccans as they try to find what they hope will be better lives if they can get into Spain. The stories are very well written and the collection is set up very interestingly with the story of the attempted trip to Spain leading off, and then individual stories about each of the four characters Lalami concentrates on - first a story of each of their lives prior to the trip, and then a story of each of their lives after it.We're in Trouble by Christopher Coake (excerpt) - Coake is a writer not afraid to tackle the longer story as this collection has a novella or two in it. He's also not afraid to tackle heartbreak and sorrow, but does so in a manner that doesn't beat his readers up. He gets right into the minds and feelings of his characters.Copy Cats by David Crouse (excerpt) - One of this year's Flannery O'Connor Short Fiction Award winners. The collection has some excellent stories, including the title story which leads it off, but the big winner is a stunning novella that leads me to hoping Crouse is working on something a bit longer like a debut novel to look forward to.Big Cats by Holiday Reinhorn (excerpt) - With her debut, Reinhorn slips into T.C. Boyle neighborhood - her opening lines completely grab the reader and let them know that the author is completely aware of her characters and their situations. The stories also tend to grab odd situations you hear of occasionally, but rarely read about, and use them to allow her characters to move their lives forward.Non-FictionOrphans by Charles D'Ambrosio - (excerpt) - This collection of essays has the bonus of being an interesting little book published by Clear Cut Press. Besides the different look, and pocket size, the book has D'Ambrosio's writing which is frequently stellar. I found myself reading about religious haunted houses and mobile home inspections without being able to set the book down - a true testament to his writing. Beyond those couple of essays, there are some really interesting efforts that were previously published in a Seattle alternative newspaper about topics I'd be more inclined to read about.House: A Memoir by Michael Ruhlman Ruhlman continues as one of the best in the non-fiction genre these days, choosing a topic and writing about it, completely covering it and allowing the reader to appreciate it in ways they may never have considered. Following past efforts that took on single sex education, cooking, and wooden boats, this time around, Ruhlman writes of a 200 year old house in Cleveland that he and his wife purchase and restore.Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Keith Gessen) (interview) - I don't think I set this 300 plus page book down once after I started reading it. Alexievich, at danger to her own self, visited the area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and interviewed anybody she could find who would talk - people who had been firefighters, or relatives of residents who evacuated, those who didn't, hunters of animals left behind, etc. It's absolutely fascinating to read what happened, how people found out, and the various reactions to the news.One Last BookThe Bear Bryant Funeral Train by Brad Vice - Unless you already have a copy, or are willing to drop nearly a thousand dollars to obtain one, you'll not get a chance to read this former Flannery O'Connor Short Fiction Award winner. The press recalled and pulped as many of the copies as they could (and it sounds like they got most of the small print run) due to what is being referred to as plagiarism in the opening story, "Tuscaloosa Knights." It's too bad something else couldn't have been figured out as Vice is one helluva writer. If you look around, you can find many of the stories that are within the pages of the few copies floating around - at least two have been in the Algonquin Best New Stories of the South series in the past few years. A recent Five Points has the story, Mule, in it. The story that caused the trouble can be seen at www.storysouth.com (look for the link there to Thicket, where the story truly is located).{Ed: Dan recently responded to further allegations of plagiarism against Brad Vice at his blog.}

An Emerging Best of List

When I posted the CS Monitor "best of" list the other day, I mentioned how it seemed that this year there weren't many young, exciting writers grabbing headlines from the established old guard. Dan Wickett, proprietor of The Emerging Writers Network left a comment recommending several young writers who deserve to be on some of these "best of" lists. He also sent me an email with even more titles. They seem like a good bunch of books to explore, so I thought I'd reprint them here:Dog on the Cross by Aaron Gwyn - excellent short story collection from Algonquin. He's currently finishing up debut novel about a tattoo removal artist.Another Perfect Catastrophe - Brad Barkley - another excellent short story collection, his second to go with two novels.The Book of Ralph (excerpt) - John McNally - a very good novel. When Mitch Albom was choosing a book for The Today Show book club, he announced this was a close second (He chose Andrew Sean Greer's novel).Under Cottonwoods (excerpt) by Stephen Grace - an excellent debut novel put out by Lyons Press.Poe & Fanny (FAQs) by John May - another Algonquin effort - May's debut about the year that Poe wrote "The Raven." Excellent.D.B. (excerpt) by Elwood Reid - his third novel, but he's still under 40 years old.Prisoners of War (excerpt) by Steve Yarbrough. An author who should be considered one of the old guard - he writes rings around most of them. His other two novels and three short story collections were excellent but this was really top notch.Plain Heathen Mischief (excerpt) by Martin Clark. This southern judge pens his second exciting literary thriller of sorts.American Desert by Percival Everett. With only his 15th novel (to go with two short story collections and the other novel he co-wrote and published this year and a children's storybook) Everett finally seems to be garnering both critical notice, and getting more than one copy of his latest book to be carried by the Detroit area Borders and Barnes and Nobles.Welcome to the Fallen Paradise by Dayne Sherman. Published towards the end of the year by MacAdam/Cage. His debut - reminiscent of the novels of Tom Franklin or William Gay.About Grace (excerpt) by Anthony Doerr. The debut novel by the author of The Shell Collector, which won about every literary award it was up for two years ago and is still spawning O'Henry Award winners.The Green Age Of Asher Witherow by M. Allen Cunningham. This 26 year old's debut began its life as the number one choice of Booksense 76. Not bad. It was deserved.Animal Crackers (excerpt) by Hannah Tinti - This short story collection by the editor of One Story won well deserved rave reviews in many, many papers. She's also sold her debut novel to be published some time in the next year or so.Non-Fiction:Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. The advance news on this was so high that they ran out of galleys. It's received nothing but rave reviews since. As well as Flynn writes poetry, this memoir might just top it.