Thursday, June 18, 2009

More editorial insight, and Joe Meno!

I go through short phases where I read experimental fiction, and truth be told, it ain't really all that experimental. But a few years ago, I picked up Joe Meno's charming book, The Boy Detective Fails (Akashic), at an indie bookstore in NYC, and loved it. I've been meaning to read more of Meno, and after today, perhaps I will.

Over at The Millions, Edan Lepucki has posted a nice long interview with Meno about his new book, The Great Perhaps (Norton), that strays into questions of publishing and writing. Meno shares many of my views, it seems, including the frustation with sameness:
There's a sameness to the book covers... there's an aesthetic sameness to the way books are being sold, the kind of books that are put out, the content. There's a sameness to the background of the writers - how many novelists graduated from Columbia... or Iowa. There's a sameness to the style, and what New York publishing deems serious. [The style] is heavily realistic. It's become increasingly in years bent more towards memoir, and almost journalistic. The era of inventive writing, writers like Vonnegut, Pynchon and Barthelme, outside of McSweeney's, is almost non-existent... If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you write a certain kind of book, a certain tone, a certain style.

I even appreciate his mention of McSweeneys, a place I both enjoy at times but also can find predictable. Like Harvard Square, it's well-meaning and politically in the right direction, but as it's gained in popularity, it's lost a bit in inventiveness. (Perhaps this will be rectified as they find new columnists.)

Meno sees good things happening though and, as the writer of the interview notes, maintains a hopeful tone. He mentions:
"There are plenty of writers who I admire who work outside of those boundaries but few of them are published by big houses, and few of them are known in America. They're certainly not being reviewed in the New York Times, and excerpts aren't being placed in the New Yorker. And I also think there's an aspect of age and generation. As new media comes into it, there's going to be shift."

This again is a reference to the great promise of the internet, to widen the net so smart folks - he names drops Richard Nash and Melville House, two SotB favorites - can find good, inventive new writers without relying on NYC lunches with a handful of agents.

I'm all for some hope in publishing. I'll add Meno to the list as one of the good ones, and try to remember to grab one of his books for my next read.

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