At the Rumpus, Xuan Juliana Wang discusses the art of the short story in a round table that includes Kimberly King Parsons, Dantiel W. Moniz, Mary South, and Ashley Wurzbacher. The panel shares their thoughts on crafting a collection, along with what draws them to short stories in the first place. “Story collections, to me, are like a coat full of pockets,” Wang says, “and I’m just rooting around looking for some trinket or tasty snack I can eat. I’ve always found my way to story collections in this way: I read a story I like in a journal or anthology and immediately hunt for the writer’s collection. Then, I read stories in order of the titles I like most. There’s no better way to discover the scope of a writer’s ambitions and obsessions than to read their collection.”
With the frenzied holiday season underway, there aren’t many new releases to look at this week, but there are some newly reissued classics hitting shelves. NYRB Classics has put out Alien Hearts by Guy de Maupassant and Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman. Vintage, meanwhile, has smart looking new editions of a pair of Somerset Maugham books: The Narrow Corner and A Writer’s Notebook.
Francis Spufford’s fictionalized book Red Plenty looks to the 1950s-1960s “cybernetics” initiative to answer one of the main questions about the USSR: “Could the Soviet project to build communism have succeeded, or was it doomed to failure from the start?” In his review for The Hoover Institution, Marshall Poe contends the latter.
In an illuminating interview for Slate, James Wood revises his opinion on David Foster Wallace and discusses how aging can change critics. As he puts it, “At exactly the moment that I wanted really to write, and started writing poems and then trying to write bad fiction, I was reading with a view to learning stuff. I was reading poetry. How did Auden do his stanza forms? And I was trying to copy those. What’s a successful poem, what’s an unsuccessful poem? […] What’s a good sentence? I don’t think I’ve changed. I am as sincerely interested in novels that fail as I am in novels that succeed. I just want to work them out. It’s a pleasure for me actually.” Top it off with Jonathan Russell Clark’s essay on Wood’s The Nearest Thing to Life.
In his new book, Pill City, journalist Kevin Deutsch set out to tell the real story of how, following the 2015 Baltimore riots, Charm City’s streets became flush with heroin and pills. But now local writers are raising serious questions about the veracity of Deutsch’s account. Among others, The Wire creator David Simon has called the book “a wholesale fabrication.” Last week, Newsday announced they were “reviewing Deutsch’s work over the four years he worked here,” and the New York Times, where Deutsch has contributed, followed suit.