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October 16, 2008

Q&A with Joe Hill

I didn't find out that Joe Hill is giving a reading at the South Portland Borders until after my review of his 20th Century Ghosts ran in the Phoenix a couple weeks ago. So I used the news as an excuse to provide you all with more coverage of this smart author. This afternoon, I did a short phone interview with Hill, who lives near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We touched on a variety of topics, including typewriters (he plans to write his next novel on one), genre fiction, comic books, and Sarah Palin (I mean, really, it's unavoidable these days). Here are some highlights.

On the connection between words and writing implements:

"The typewriter is a forward-motion machine," he says. While today's writers can use word processers to "endlessly tweak" their sentences toward "intricate beauty," the typewriter fornces you to "just plunge forward." Some people might find 1960s and '70s stories (written primarily on typewriters) "less lyrical" he admits, "but they kind of thrash along in an exciting way." That's why, when he finishes his last book (a supernatural thriller to be called Horns) for William Morrow, he plans to write his next novel on a typewriter.

On crossing over between genre and literary fiction:

"For me as a writer, I love an exciting concept. I still have something of a comic book imagination. But for whatever reason, after a couple of days I need a character, someone with secrets and regrets. If I don't have that, it doesn't matter how good the concept is, it'll end up in the trash can."

On horror fiction's role in society:

"One of the things that horror fiction's always done is provide a safe place for society to explore what they're really scared of," such as nuclear annihilation (a la Them!) or communism (a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers). 

When asked what he thinks is scary:

"I think Sarah Palin's a little scary."

Joe Hill will read at the South Portland Borders on October 28 at 7 pm.

Psst -- sneak preview -- He'll be reading a complete (and forthcoming in 2009) short story called "The Devil on the Staircase."

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by Deirdre Fulton | with no comments
October 07, 2008

Awarding an unlikely feminist character (and the author who created her)

Congratulations to Bostonian Sue Miller, this year's winner of the Kate Chopin Award, bestowed each year to an author who embraces the feminist themes of Chopin's best-known work, The Awakening.

When I wrote about Miller's 2008 novel, The Senator's Wife, in January, I spoke to her about the complicated feminism of one of the book's two main female characters, Delia. Here's an excerpt:

The women and their husbands all have their flaws. “Some people see Delia as a sap,” Miller says on the phone from the West Coast, where she is starting her book tour. It’s true that the sophisticated title character takes her philandering husband back time and again, but “I’m not sure that’s a great failure on her part,” Miller says. In fact, Delia is remarkably self-aware, and any forgiveness happens on her own — if indistinct — terms.

The St. Louis Dispatch had an interview with Miller in Sunday's paper. She'll accept the award on Thursday in St. Louis, Chopin's hometown.

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by Deirdre Fulton | with 2 comment(s)
October 06, 2008

Millhauser on short stories

Did you catch Steven Millhauser in yesterday's NYT Book Review, musing on the value and ambition of short stories? It's lovely. 

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by Deirdre Fulton | with no comments
October 02, 2008

Books in this week's Phoenix

Nina wrote this piece about Kelly Link's new book of short (YA?!) fiction, Pretty Monsters. (NMac's written about Link's stories before.)

I wrote this about Joe Hill's not-so-new book of short fiction, 20th Century Ghosts.

Both writers combine "real-life horrors...with others less real," as Nina puts it. Both are worth reading.

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by Deirdre Fulton | with no comments
On The Phoenix's books blog, we obsess over literature so that you don't have to. Reviews, readings, news, and literary gossip. Levar Burton might not have wanted you to take his word for it. But we do.
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