August 30, 2013 | by Belinda McKeon
And yet, of course, not impossible: of course, too possible, too much the reality of what we would always have to face one day, one morning waking across time zones, stumbling upon radio tributes, answering the phone to the have you heard, to the gut-punch, to the heart-bolt: he is gone.
Our laureate. As though that could ever be a word which could get at the marvel of him. There is, probably, no single word for the marvel of him. Only perhaps his name, alive today on countless lips, uttered with sadness and fondness and gratitude and disbelief; sparking and flaring across countless status updates, countless tweets, in countless slow nods and headshakes in shops and schools and kitchens and hallways and forecourts and farmyards. I know of a wedding in Wicklow today where his will be the name on the air as the guests wait for the bride to arrive; of a gathering in Rathowen this weekend where his poems will be read aloud in hushed pubs; of a music festival in Stradbally where lines studied at school twenty years ago will be traded like—well, like the kinds of things that are more usually traded at music festivals. (And he would be in the middle of them if he could, you know, marveling—for that was his register—at Björk and St. Vincent and David Byrne, with a sage word about My Bloody Valentine lyrics, with a wink and a buck-up for the young lads from the Strypes.) Read More »
August 30, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“I might enjoy being an albatross, being able to glide for days and daydream for hundreds of miles along the thermals. And then being able to hang like an affliction round some people’s necks.” —Seamus Heaney, the Art of Poetry No. 75
August 22, 2013 | by Jonathan Segura
Elmore Leonard died this week. This is terribly sad news. It’s terribly sad when the world loses someone fantastically gifted who also, through some cosmic fluke, is not a dick. Elmore Leonard was not a dick. He was nice. He wrote something like a book a year, and even the crap ones were better than most of what passes for decent fiction these days. And he was one cool motherfucker.
We hung out one afternoon in October 2010 at his house in the suburbs north of Detroit. I was interviewing him for a story just before his ninety-millionth novel, Djibouti, was about to hit. He wore this black sweater with a scraggly beard and smoked cigarette after cigarette in his office, just talking. His daughter was in the other room futzing with this chair that was in the process of getting reupholstered. Gregg Sutter, Elmore’s longtime research man, floated in and out of the room a couple times, and Elmore sat there at his desk doing his third or fourth interview of the day—late in the day now—an eighty-five-year-old guy talking about how he’s got the best job in the world and why would he ever want to stop doing that? Apparently he didn’t. Sutter said recently that Elmore was banging away at his next book up until he had a stroke a couple weeks ago.
Back then, we talked about a bunch of stuff. The usual chaff about his writing process (longhand, then typewriter), his aversion to all that social media junk, what he was writing now. (Stacked uneasily on a chair nearby was a stack of material about mountaintop removal that Gregg had dug up; it would become fodder for his last novel, Raylan.) He’d just unboxed his first cell phone. He smoked and talked dismissively about his atrial fibrillation and how “you can get a stroke easily with it” and so he took a couple pills for it every day and had bloodwork done every week or so. This was a serene, cool man much more like the smiley bemused grandpa pictured in his current official author photo. Previous versions featured a scowly guy rocking lavender-shaded sunglasses and a the-fuck-you-looking-at puss. I can’t imagine meeting that guy, after having met this guy. Read More »
August 20, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“I don’t like a lot of description. I like to judge for myself what a character looks like from the way he talks. I picked up on that immediately. I thought, That’s the way to go, just keep the characters talking and the reader will discover what they look like. When you are developing your style you avoid weaknesses. I am not good at describing things so I stay away from it. And if anyone is going to describe anything at all, it’s going to be from the point of view of the character, because then I can use his voice and his attitude will be revealed in the way he describes what he sees. I want to remain completely out of it. I don’t want the reader to be aware of me as the writer.”
—Elmore Leonard (1925–2013), from “Como Conversazione: Criminal Conversations” in our Winter 2002 issue
August 19, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“Literature is not different from life, it is part of life. And for someone like myself, The Odyssey is as much a part of nature as the Aegean. And I react to the Aegean—as distinct, say, from the Caribbean—because its history is part of its physical substance. What I know about it, and feel about it, even mistaken things, is a part of it. Certain great texts are like this. Paradise Lost is like the Himalayas. It’s there. A part of nature, not separate.” —John Hollander, The Art of Poetry No. 35
June 25, 2013 | by Sadie Stein