Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Year, New 30 Day Book Challenge, Day 13

Day 13: Your Favorite Writer


My favorite writer is Flannery O’Connor, but I’ve written about her too many times on this blog. In fact, her estate in Milledgeville has asked me to stop. [I'm keeping all of our cease and desist letters in a large file.]

Miranda July
Instead, I thought this was a great excuse to write about my favorite writer this very minute, Miranda July.  She’s a genius, a creative monster, and a tour de force. She’s filmmaker, a writer, and an artist. It’s actually pretty sickening. What I love about her, well one of the many things I love about her, is that she takes art very seriously, even when she’s being absurd. She’s someone you can’t imagine ever not being creative. She’s inspiring. 

From July's Website 
Geez, now after all that I hope you’ll give her a chance. She’s written and directed two films, Me and You and Everyone We Know (starring John Hawks, yea, I love him too) and The Future. I highly recommend both films.
It Chooses You

Now, since this is a book blog, let's get to her books. She published a fantastic collection of short stories called, No One Belongs Here More Than You. It’s just breathtaking, and is in my top 50 books of all time. No Liz, we shouldn’t do a month long blog listing our favorite books in order. No. [Too late. I'll remind you repeatedly that it's your idea, too.]  

She wants to be my friend
Last year she published a book, and this is going to sound weird, but it's related to her film The Future, but she called up people who were advertising items for sale in the local The PennySaver newspaper, and asked if she could interview them. I know, it sounds trite, but these interviews, these stories are, sure, at times funny, but mostly just really moving. Anyway, it’s called It Chooses You.

One last thing about Miranda: please check out her website. It's really fantastic and she has lots of cool things including video of some of the folks she met while writing It Chooses You, and she answers readers' mail. [Really? Will she answer my questions? Like, why doesn't Gianna appreciate my singing?]

If  you like Karen Russell, George Saunders, Jennifer Egan, Chris Adrian, Sheila Heti, or Aimee Bender, Miranda July is for you. 
Rabih Alameddine


Virginia Woolf, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Jennifer Egan, David Mitchell.  None of these people are surprises really. We do seem to write about this topic quite a bit. That's fine. One should never shy from praising wonderful books. Still, for the sake of variety, I am going to pick the guy I most wish would complete a new book.

Rabih Alameddine wrote a book that held me in awe when I read it--The Hakawati. I couldn't shut up about it. It's been five years and I am still obsessed.  I love books that weave together layers of stories, and The Hakawati (which is Arabic for storyteller) manages to blend more threads together than any other novel I've read.  It's the story of a man returning to Lebanon to be with his dying father and his family.  It's the story of a land told through myth and history and culture, told through the hakawatis who entertain listeners everyday in the tea houses of Beirut.  It's Arabian Nights, and jinns, and princes, and Scheherazade. It's an adventure story, a drama centered around the aerial battles of the Beirut pigeon teams, a war story in a land of religious turmoil, a romance, a comedy, a tragedy.  But like my favorite books, The Hakawati isn't just a feat of literary magic.  It has a soul, and Alameddine treats history, country, and characters with compassion.
I, the Divine is divine.

But let's go back. Before I read The Hakawati, and before I was a Random House rep charged with selling it, I was a bookseller and stumbled upon a book called I, the Divine.  I'd never heard of the author, but the premise sounded interesting and I gave it a shot. The main character here is Sarah. This is a novel, the story of Sarah's life, as told through her attempts to write her memoir. The problem, though, is that Sarah never manages to get through the first chapter of her book, so through her false starts we slowly discover her whole life. It's innovative and moving.  (The title is a reference to the "divine" Sarah Bernhardt, what Sarah the protagonist's grandfather used to call her.) After I'd read and fallen for The Hakawati, it dawned on me that the author's name was familiar, and I realized that Rabih Alameddine had also written I, the Divine.

Alameddine has written other books too--Koolaids, his first novel, and a collection of short stories called The Perv. But four titles isn't enough for my obsession. My question is, Rabih Alameddine, what are you writing for me now? I'm not known for my patience.  I can be whiny.

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