Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Waiting for Books By...

So, yeah, I should have published my second book like five years ago. I try to make myself feel better by thinking about other, much much better writers who are also mysteriously silent. Hey, I'm sure all of these people will come out with something awesome very soon, and maybe I will, too. Right?

Lorrie Moore hasn't published a book since the incredible Birds of America, in 1998. I wouldn't want to have to follow that book up. In fact, if I were Lorrie Moore, I might just quit altogether. I'm pretty sure I've seen a few stories of hers since then, but maybe not enough for a collection. Perhaps she's working on a novel. A big long one?

And how about Bruce Duffy? His The World As I Found It, as I think I mentioned here, is possibly my favorite novel ever. It came out in 1987. He published a coming of age novel maybe ten years later, and now: silence. I'd kill to read another book like TWAIFI -- well, not a person, but I'd kill something.

Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint came out in 2004, not long ago at all, but he used to publish quite regularly in Harpers and other mags and I don't think I've heard a peep from him in a very long time. Last I heard he'd moved to a small town in New England and established a newspaper repository to preserve hard copies of newspapers that libraries are copying digitally and pulping -- an admirable endeavor that JRL and I heartily support. I wonder if his silence has anything to do with the state of the union. Checkpoint is a Bush-era Vox, a kind of cri de coeur that revealed genuine anguish. I loved his long, obsessive essays, and I do miss watching his mind work.

Jo Ann Beard is a wonderful writer and terrific person. I met her once, on my own front porch, where she brought an elaborate dessert in a box, but then she moved out of town before I ever got to know her. Her work is the same way -- a real delight that I want more of. I can't imagine it's easy to follow up a memoir, especially one like Boys of My Youth, but it would be a shame if we never got to hear from her again.


Trevor said...

Last time I saw Lorrie Moore (Chicago AWP '03? '04?), she said that she was working on a novel.

I had Beard's book on my TBR pile for so long the person who loaned it to me moved away and I had to give it back. So, in a sense (no sense, actually), I know just how you feel.

As for pressure to publish, the world will read other things while they wait. I think they'd rather have it right, than right now. If forced to choose.

Paul said...

Is it futile even to mention here the shy, retiring bard of Cornish, New Hampshire, who has not published a word since Seymour Glass's letter from camp ("Hapworth 16, 1924") ran in the New Yorker in 1965?

Every now and then, there appear tantalizing accounts that Salinger has never stopped writing, that he finishes whole books and then locks them away in a safe.

In 2000, a small press was going to reprint Hapworth but Salinger changed his mind and the book was withdrawn.

jrlennon said...

Have you read "Hapworth"? Ol' Jerry was moving in a rather ingrown direction.

Boy oh boy am I curious though...one of the first things I did when we moved to Ithaca was to go to the library and painstakingly collect and photocopy every single uncollected Salinger story ever published. Some of them are not at all bad.

rmellis said...

Yeah, JDS -- him too! John went to the library a couple years ago and found all the back issues of the NYer and made copies of Hapworth, and everything else, too.

I do wonder about him. Does he fear that his new work won't measure up? Does he genuinely fear the clamor if he does publish? What, as they say, is up?

Glad to hear Moore is working on a novel. I really like "Anagrams," as bizarre as it is.

jrlennon said...

OMG Rhian, cross posting from across the house!

That's enough, though. Wonder Spouse Powers...deactivate.

5 Red Pandas said...

Heh, coincidence. My narrator looks up an obscure Salinger story called, Wake Me When It Thunders, at the library. I've never actually read the story, but I always liked the idea of looking it up.

I keep forgetting that I received the complete New Yorker as a gift, and that has all the Salinger New Yorker stories, including Hapworth.

At least when you wait around for an author to publish you don't get teased as much by guest appearances as you do when you wait for a musician. It's not like people do guest spots in books. I'm thinking of Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. People have been waiting for him to get his act together for years, and he shows up here and there as a producer, but has of yet not released an album of his own in years. I'm not one of those waiting with bated breath, but you read about it in music mags like someone's spotted the Yeti.

jrlennon said...

Yes, there is no way anyone will be satisfied when Kevin Shields finally records an album. Kevin Shields least of all.

I am still trying to discover the literary equivalent of filling a tent with amplifiers and then micing the tent, as he famously did for "Loveless."