Locus Amoenus by Victoria N. Alexander centers upon the bucolic county seat of Amenia in upstate New York where Gertrude and her son Hamlet make their home after the horror of 9/11 deprived them of husband and father respectively. Seeking a new start in the rural quiet, Gertrude purchases a sheep farm where they intend to live a sustainable lifestyle butchering their own livestock, growing vegetables, and eschewing the material trappings and celebrity-devotion of the modern world. The Webutuck school district, where Hamlet attends classes, greet Gertrude’s healthy food campaign with suspicion and distrust; populated by overweight teachers overseeing equally rotund students, they are all fed on processed, Continue reading
The Permanent Press, which will be publishing my novel Locus Amœnus, announced its 2015 titles today. I am pleased to find myself among some very talented writers. I am also happy to discover that several of the sixteen novels on the list have anti-war themes; one takes on drone warfare, another economic disparity; a couple of them are pretty quirky; one even invokes Hamlet, as mine does.
I like the company.
From the catalogue:
LOCUS AMŒNUS by Victoria N. Alexander Continue reading
Because we were unable to give awards in 2011 and 2012, due to lack of qualifying entries, we decided to give two awards in 2013. The first award goes to The Double Life of Alfred Buberby David Schmahmann, which was reviewed by top DR reviewer Charles Holdefer. The second award goes to Cocoa Almond Darling by Jeffra Hays, which was reviewed by Peter Bollington, also a top DR reviewer, and VN Alexander, DR editor. Both authors receive a $1000 prize. Congratulations to David and Jeffra for their fine work.
Unaware, perhaps, that they no are no longer reaping rewards for their creator, used hard copies of my novels find their ways into online used bookstores and resell and resell. I am all for recycling, in theory, but not in this particular. Neither publisher nor author gets a cut of used book sales. What an author can do is buy up all the used copies, which are sometimes priced as low as a penny, and resell them at a higher price. I have tried my hand at this, but I make a lousy bookseller. I refuse to bubblewrap, doublebox or otherwise over-package books the way Amazon does (they seem to think books are potentially able to explode if jostled in the post), and I don’t get orders in the mail very quickly. Although it might be of some benefit, I’m not too keen on spending a lot of energy learning how to be a bookseller as well as a writer. Gone are the days when some publishing-house intern with nothing better to do took care of things for the pampered writer. These days most authors, be they with small or large publishers, have to do a lot of their own PR, dealing personally with book stores and reading groups. I don’t want the added responsibility of resale management. Continue reading
The greatest fault of literary awards is that they, like the review industry, are largely directed at new writing. There is no reason why the “best” books should be “new” books. Whereas commercial fiction is topical, trendy, and has a very short shelf life, literary fiction is not. If an industry supporting quality writing is to succeed in this changing publishing world, it must distinguish itself from the fashion industry where being “the latest” is every thing. A new philosophy for literary fiction publishing must focus on the maturing title as well as the new one. Continue reading
Literary fiction is often linguistically difficult, or unusual, in the way that poetry is. It often contains unfamiliar words or supports political, ideological, religious positions that are not widely accepted. It subverts sentimentality. It makes people think.
Non-fans of literary fiction tend to complain that it sends them to the dictionary (or tries to). They claim literary fiction is guilty of affectation, a term which seems to have changed its meaning of late:
Main Entry: af·fec·ta·tion
1 :displaying extensive knowledge acquired chiefly from books : demonstrating profound, recondite, or bookish learning
2 :speech or behavior relating to, or characteristic of poets or poetry Continue reading
I’m the editor at an online literary fiction review called Dactyl Review. We receive a lot of emails asking for some general pointers for writing reviews. Most requests have come from conscientious readers who want to post their first review on Amazon.com, GoodReads or LibraryThing. As a supporter of literature, I liked to help the reviewing world do a good job, on Dactyl Review and elsewhere. So here’s some guidance that (I hope) will help you write the kind of review that will be useful to readers and writers alike, no matter what you think of the book. Continue reading
Marty Shepard, blogging for The Permanent Press, reports that the NY Times has officially admitted to what we have long suspected. The Book Review is primarily interested in non-fiction. It exists for the purposes of information dissemination, not the promotion of literature. “The most compelling ideas tend to be in the non-fiction world,” says Managing Editor, Bill Keller. “Because we are a newspaper, we should be more skewed toward non-fiction.” Hence if the Times is to review a book it is more of a commitment to giving out product information that helps the consumer decide “what to buy at the airport.” And, Keller adds, as if he hadn’t said enough already, “Of course, some fiction needs to be done. We’ll do the new Updike, the new Roth. But there are not a lot of them, it seems to me.”
Was anyone wondering how Philip Roth was able to publish his latest appallingly bad novel, The Humbling? Well now you know. See my review in the New York Journal of Books.