Friday, February 08, 2008

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

I tried. I failed. I suspect I'll try again some other year. Actually as much as I love his story collection Jesus' Son, I've never managed to finish a Johnson novel.

I'm having commitment issues with books lately. I started Middlemarch (restarted, really) on a recent trip to Seattle and was enjoying it, but on my trip to New York the next week I left it behind for a reread of Gilead (which I also didn't finish, but you don't really need to finish rereads, do you?). I did manage to read a young adult novel (The School Story) that I liked and plan to use in my undergrad workshop on young adult writing next year--it's a sweet story and has the added value of laying out in detail the publishing process, which I assume my students will appreciate. I also managed to read the Ron Carlson short story "Beanball" which makes up the 100th issue of One-Story magazine, which is an enterprise I'm happy to support. I mentioned in class the other night how my former teachers (i.e. Carlson) continue to teach me via their careers--and it was interesting to see a story that felt a little different from other Carlson stories (not least because a gun goes off) yet isn't alien when placed along his other work.

One of the events I went to at AWP was the One-Story reading and it led me to think this about literary magazines--a lot of magazines have come and gone during the ten or so years I've been conscious of that market, but it's the ones like One-Story (which publishes one story per issue, every three weeks) that have a unique angle that make it. Either a personality-style angle (McSweeney's, Fence, N+1), a thematic one (Image, Alimentum), or both (Zoetrope). So to all would-be lit mag starters out there--what's your angle? Me, I'd really like to see an illustrated mag. (not a mag with art, most have that, but one that illustrates its stories).

Right now, I'm reading The Graduate which is both short and funny. Odds are good I'll stay committed to the end this time.

1 comment:

angelle said...

it took me some persistence and patience to get throug ToS. But I finally did, and I think it was worth it... there were definitely parts that dragged nd it wasn't as tight as it could have been. but he's really got some gems in there. it's worth a read if you can push yourself through it.