My 2011 blogging resolution had been one post per month but life intervened and not in ways that are particularly interesting to share here. I’m happy to report that I’ve just sent off first pass galleys of my story collection, Ladies and Gentlemen, which Knopf will publish June 28. The cover by Peter Mendelsund (who also designed Mr. Peanut’s Lite Brite skull) is fabulous and Jason Rice, of Three Guys One Book, did a nifty write-up on the book’s first story, with more, he promises, to come. It’s also already popped up on Goodreads. I’ve even got preliminary tour dates and will be making a west coast swing in July, which is thrilling.
Meanwhile, I’m brushing up on my Scuba skills and reading Robert Hughes’s The Fatal Shore in preparation for my trip to Perth, Australia for the Perth Writers Festival—four flights and a mere 35 hours of plane travel, but who’s counting? A close friend, Dolores Karl, read Bleak House cover to cover during her flight to Oz. I’m going to bring Mann’s The Magic Mountain and can say with certainty that I won’t get to the end by the time I finally land.
Reading-wise, I’ve been on a bit of a bildungsroman kick, so I highly recommend the last two novels I’ve read, David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green and Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March. I’m new to Mitchell and the former is entirely charming and hilarious. I’d read nearly everything by Bellow except Augie and it’s an uneven book like Everest is uneven in places—a towering, gigantic, mind-blowing work, so hopeful and life-affirming at its core. Read it now, if you haven’t. In between, I’ve been dipping into Bellow’s Letters, edited by my former professor and truly remarkable teacher, Benjamin Taylor, and John Cheever’s Collected Stories (I’d read his journals in December, also must-reading).
In Mr. Peanut news, I’ve received Dutch and German copies of the novel though the Romanian edition has yet to show up on my doorstep. Critical reception in the Netherlands has been terrific—here’s the most recent review for any Dutch readers—and all three European covers are cool in their own way. Piper’s German edition publishes at the end of the month. Vintage will publish the American paperback April 19. Finally, if you’re in Hoover, Alabama (a stone’s throw from Birmingham), next weekend, I’ll be appearing at the Southern Voices conference February 18, along with other great writers like Helen Simonson, Elizabeth Strout, and Roseanne Cash.