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Friday Faves – Steve Almond, Book Awards, Gone with the Wind, and Shoegazers Reunite

November 21, 2014 Friday Faves, Writing No Comments

BookstoreBy Dell Smith

Happy Friday writers. Looking for something to whet your writerly appetite before heading into Thanksgiving 2014? Look no further. I can’t promise these lit links will guide you to cooking the best turkey ever or mixing a drink like a Pilgrim. But here are some recent (mostly) literary highlights from the past week, plus some general stuff that I find awesome. You’re welcome.

The National Book Award winners were just announced. Check out the winning titles along with the shortlist and longlists as well. But really, aren’t they all winners?

If you’ve read a new book in the past few months, chances are Brad Listi has interviewed the author. For his twice-weekly podcast, OtherPPL with Brad Listi, Mr. Listi interviews fiction and non-fic writers with a new book on the shelves. Recent interviews include Atticus Lish (Preparation for the Next Life–debut novel), Meghan Daum (The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion–Essays), Hannah Pittard (Reunion–novel), Elizabeth McCracken (Thunderstruck & Other Stories), and Frederick Barthelme (There Must Be Some Mistake–novel). Brad Listi also curates The Nervous Breakdown, an online culture magazine and literary community.

At last month’s Boston Book Festival I caught Steve Almond (in conversation with Henriette Lazaridis), talking about his newish book Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. Even if you don’t care about sportsball of any ilk, Almond’s personal, rational dissection of the NFL and the culture of American football as one steeped in greed and avarice, is a wonder. The dichotomy (and fascination) is that Almond is (or was) a fan of the game. For a deep dive into the book, check out Chris Barsanti’s Millions review To Hell with All that Guilty Love: On Steve Almond’s ‘Against Football’. I guess the next step after that would be to actually buy the book. … Continue Reading

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Connecting With Myself Through Writing

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By Chuck Leddy

Back in 2000, after a mental collapse that put me in a psychiatric hospital for three weeks, my life had shattered into shards. I found myself walking the streets of Boston all night and into the early morning, hearing voices in my head. After twelve hours of walking, I was pulled off a bridge by the state police. I’d later be diagnosed as bipolar with “suicidal ideation.” I’d had my first and only psychotic episode.

My three weeks in the psychiatric hospital were a blur spent walking the hallways like a zombie. With the meds, I’d gained twenty pounds and was blanched out emotionally, an empty shell. My doctor said I’d need to create an outpatient plan to have any chance of getting out, so I picked up the phone and called a community health clinic in the neighborhood where I grew up. They said I could start outpatient therapy sessions the following week. And so the psychiatric hospital let me out a few days later. I was lost.

I began therapy, and I’d just sit there on a chair in my therapist’s office until the hour was over, nodding once in a while, and then go home to listen to music and cry. My therapist happened to be the most compassionate and wisest person I’d ever met, though I didn’t recognize it then. Over the course of six years, she’d help me understand why I’d ended up in a mental hospital, why my life had suddenly collapsed around me, and helped me come to understand that I didn’t have to go back to the psychiatric ward ever again.

I spent the first six months in therapy talking about books. I was, after all, a freelance book critic who also worked in publishing. My therapist was an avid reader. But she was wise enough to see the gaping lack of trust and the overwhelming numbness. My therapist would sometimes look at me as I talked about literature, and quietly say “the only way around is through. You can’t go around.” But I couldn’t then go through what I needed to go through, so I kept trying to go around.

“Why don’t you just write about what happened?”, she asked me one day, “you don’t have to do anything with it, you needn’t show it to me or anyone else, but writing about it might help you find some meaning.”

Writing forced me to look squarely at the facts I wanted to avoid, to begin to comprehend why I hadn’t been able to keep myself together. Writing compelled me to observe myself from a certain (authorial) distance and recognize just how vulnerable I was. I didn’t want to hear it, or talk about it, but I found a way to write about it.

The writing project became a memoir of sorts, an … Continue Reading

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