A totally delightful Q&A with author Ron Carlson on The Hotel Eden: “I did what a writer does: kept typing”

@PhatypusComics asked: How do you personally know when you’re done revising a page/story?

My stories have all (100 percent of them) surprised me, so the endings have been surprises too, and somewhat mystifying. When I wrote the last line of “Zanduce” it felt like I’d stuck the landing in a gymnastics meet.

Other times, you circle the mystery without answering it, move the needle above 89 to 90—or so you think—and call it done. It goes in a drawer until all of the affection subsides and you can design an ending. No story comes in at 99 or 100. We’re not going to live and die by a single story, but by the call of the next one. 

Something like that.

@ink_teef asked: How do you partition parts 1,2 and 3? When you compare The Hotel Eden, a story that’s almost ghostly with a fantastic and suddenly dangerous character like Porter, with something as skewed and satirical as What We Wanted To Do, it’s hard to find a thread that puts them in the same collection. Can you elaborate on that?

A writer gets to be a lot of people, sort of has to be. You write stories over a few years and they’re unified by what? I’m not sure.

I’ve been so lucky to have been met by readers tolerant of the different worlds/modes of my prose. A notion like “A Note on the Type” appears and I treat it with everything I’ve got. I don’t look at it and say, that doesn’t fit the them; that doesn’t seem like a Ron Carlson story. (It sort of is the quintessential RC story). I like to say I’m a regional writer but I haven’t really settled on my own region.

@s0delightful asked: What seed do your stories start with? A feeling, a character, a scene, a turn of phrase?

All. I love to start with an image, or an event; I write from what I know toward what I don’t. Porter in the title story was based on one of my dearest friend, when he turned in the story and it opened to show him darker than anyone I’d ever written I was shocked, but I did what a writer does: kept typing. 

@smwat asked: What is the process of tying these stories together? 

Grouped them in this book (as in the previous two collections) with the whimsey (not the right word) in the middle.

@tommygents asked: Who in God’s name are your influences?

A great question, but hard to answer. I’m high school class of ’65, so luckily a lot of that music, then Cheever, then my dear teacher David Kranes, then the thousand stories I’ve read, and of course old movies, all the universal monster movies. 

“Keith” was written after a Wilber Daniel Steele story, an ancient story titled “How Beautiful with Shoes” and I carried the collected Emily Dickinson around in a thrift store sport coat for the great year I was twenty. Richard Brautigan with “Trout Fishing” and now Annie Proulx and the early Anne Beattie, and Mr. C. McCarthy, and Fitzgerald—my first novel is “Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald”—and Hemingway. 

And probably the Rand McNally Atlas from where I take names as well as the Yellow Pages and the Joy of Cooking. 

Hemingway remains a giant.

@ink_teef asked: Most of your stories in this collection deliver the turn, the jolt or the realization via some romantic connection. Do you feel that drive for human connection is a theme you try to work a story around, or is it just a natural take for you as an author ie. does it result from a world view you hold based in human connection?

You’re onto something with this and I’m not sure of the answer, but I think the longing for connection is shot through the work. I have never worked for theme or toward it, but from event and I write as closely as I can trying to get lost in the inventory and survive the draft. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a yearning in me for connection, for memory, for the other side of the echo. Is that even phrase? 

@dianakimball asked: I’m interested in your perspective on “kill your darlings” as applied to prose writing?

I hear that phrase and I’m not sure at all that I’ve applied it. I’m an includer and I can see looking back at the stories that I have spilled left and right at points, but I work to make the story function first. In my first novel, you can see the writer saying “Look Ma! I’m writing!” 

I’m not interested in that now at all. A story needs to be dense and have the proper number of threads per inch, but I’ll forgo a witty note if it is a sideshow. I’m a good editor and not precious about my work.

Thanks to all who read and boozed and tweeted today. We had a wonderful time.

Oh, and from Ron: “I so appreciate taking part of your day for this book.” We did, too, Ron.

A few reflections

“Why don’t you just drop him and fall into this baker’s bed, where you’ll be coated in frosting and treated like a goddess. I’ll put you on a cake; I’ll strew your path with powdered sugar and tender feathers of my piecrusts, for which I am known throughout the Intermountain West.”

-

"Dr. Slime", The Hotel Eden by Ron Carlson,

Q&A with author Ron Carlson: GO!

We out here, we out here

This is the time of year that makes me want to sink my teeth into juicy things; plums and peaches; a crush’s lips; a really, really, very good book with prose as simultaneously poetic and simplistic as those thick emotions we can’t fully express, but that masterful fiction can, somehow.
On Saturday, June 7th, 24-Hour Bookclub and I will both take a very deep, satisfying bite into an excellent collection of short fiction: Ron Carlson’s The Hotel Eden. 
It’s worth explaining how we came to June’s The Hotel Eden. 
In college I was fortunate enough to be handed a copy of The Signal, a novel by Carlson that starts out heady with the vague misfortune of a down-on-his-luck, soon-to-be-divorced Wyoming rancher named Mack. As I travelled into his past—deeds Mack himself couldn’t seem to face through his own flashbacks—I became intertwined with a complex character; his morals and his failures and how one seemed to feed the other in an unfair, all-to-common way. 
Then, about three-quarters of the way through, the novel jumped up. The plot and narrative jolted, bolting into a new state like a kid caught sleeping in class. It became a thriller, a chase, and if Mack could just make it out alive then his purpose, his sense of self and morality and what-is-fucking-right would, for once, win. Boy, this book did a number on me. 
I expect the same satisfaction from Carlson’s 1998 collection of 12 critically acclaimed short stories. Because Carlson can deliver the reward of sensations that only comes from expertly crafted, complex, downright-joyous-to-read fiction. I cannot express how excited I am to take that first, big, sloppy and juicy bite. 
Max, Diana and I will be there. Won’t you join us? 
We’ll wake up first thing in the morning, crack open our copies of The Hotel Eden, and start tweeting up a storm using our usual #24hourbookclub hashtag. We’ll be looking out for your tweets, too, and reading them between chapters. 
You can pick up a copy of The Hotel Eden
On Amazon or at your local book store if you’re into paper,
Or through Kindle if you’re into Kindle.
I can’t wait.
-Elaine

This is the time of year that makes me want to sink my teeth into juicy things; plums and peaches; a crush’s lips; a really, really, very good book with prose as simultaneously poetic and simplistic as those thick emotions we can’t fully express, but that masterful fiction can, somehow.

On Saturday, June 7th, 24-Hour Bookclub and I will both take a very deep, satisfying bite into an excellent collection of short fiction: Ron Carlson’s The Hotel Eden

It’s worth explaining how we came to June’s The Hotel Eden

In college I was fortunate enough to be handed a copy of The Signal, a novel by Carlson that starts out heady with the vague misfortune of a down-on-his-luck, soon-to-be-divorced Wyoming rancher named Mack. As I travelled into his past—deeds Mack himself couldn’t seem to face through his own flashbacks—I became intertwined with a complex character; his morals and his failures and how one seemed to feed the other in an unfair, all-to-common way. 

Then, about three-quarters of the way through, the novel jumped up. The plot and narrative jolted, bolting into a new state like a kid caught sleeping in class. It became a thriller, a chase, and if Mack could just make it out alive then his purpose, his sense of self and morality and what-is-fucking-right would, for once, win. Boy, this book did a number on me. 

I expect the same satisfaction from Carlson’s 1998 collection of 12 critically acclaimed short stories. Because Carlson can deliver the reward of sensations that only comes from expertly crafted, complex, downright-joyous-to-read fiction. I cannot express how excited I am to take that first, big, sloppy and juicy bite. 

MaxDiana and I will be there. Won’t you join us

We’ll wake up first thing in the morning, crack open our copies of The Hotel Eden, and start tweeting up a storm using our usual #24hourbookclub hashtag. We’ll be looking out for your tweets, too, and reading them between chapters. 

You can pick up a copy of The Hotel Eden

  • On Amazon or at your local book store if you’re into paper,
  • Or through Kindle if you’re into Kindle.

I can’t wait.

-Elaine

Artifacts that tie us together

smwat:

I have really enjoyed reading and contributing to Uncommon this year, so I was honored when Brian asked me to write one of the year-end essays for the dispatch. Each one looked at listening, watching, and reading in turn. Here’s what I shared on reading:

[…]

Books are the things we reference to start a conversation. They are shorthand for complex ideas, characters, images, contexts. They are the nodes that connect us. They offer common ground.

I realized how important a sense of place in reading was to me when I joined a “flashmob” of internet friends reading books together with 24-Hour Bookclub (spearheaded by Diana, who incidentally also introduced me to the Uncommon community). Sharing glimpses of our reading environment felt like we were all reading together, no matter where we were geographically distributed. And in our tech book club gatherings here in Boston, I’m always fascinated to see the variety of artifacts placed on the table when we come together to talk about our reading experience. The words we read are the same, but our contexts are different.

The books we love are artifacts that tie us together. They are units of culture and of commonality. We just have to look up from our paperbacks and our iPads every once in a while to catch who else is reading along with us.

Subscribe to Uncommon and essays like this one will float into your inbox every Tuesday, like sundial clockwork. Seeing 24-Hour Bookclub show up in the latest, by Sara, made us smile so hard.

G+ Hangout with Kate Losse

maxistentialist:

We’re chatting with Kate Losse, author of The Boy Kings, our pick for today’s 24-Hour Book Club. Come join us right now.

Join us this Sunday for 24-Hour Bookclub

readmill:

I first discovered Readmill in January as I was searching for a way to take part in 24-Hour Bookclub. As far as I could tell, Readmill was the most beautiful, quiet way to read while also sharing highlights and participating in the discussion. Soon enough, I was reading everything I possibly could with Readmill on my phone.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I moved from Atlanta to Berlin to join the Readmill team as Community Manager. And, as it turns out, I’ve arrived just in time for the one-year anniversary of 24-Hour Bookclub.

image

This Sunday, October 20, I’ll be reading along with 24-Hour Bookclub from the Readmill headquarters in Berlin. We’ll be reading The Boy Kings by Katherine Losse, and anyone can join.

I’d love to read together from 4 to 7pm, if you’re here in Berlin, and throughout the day with Readmill from anywhere. Just send me a note at lisa@readmill.com if you plan to stop by.

Happy reading!

Lisa

P.S. Please be in touch about all things reading and Readmill too. I love notes (especially when they contain book recommendations), and I can’t wait to hear from you.

If you happen to live in Berlin, swing by Readmill HQ tomorrow to read with me and Lisa!

maxistentialist:

(On October 20th, 24-Hour Bookclub is going to read Katherine Losse’s 2012 memoir The Boy Kings, about her time at Facebook. Here’s a post I wrote about leaving Facebook three years ago).
Today I joined a growing number of dissatisfied former Facebook users by deleting my account. For me, the last straw was when Facebook removed the “interests” section from my profile because I wasn’t willing to link those interests to advertisements for things I was interested in.
Facebook made this creepy decision because it doesn’t want the same things that I do. Facebook wants to get paid, and since you and I can’t pay for Facebook, we’re not Facebook’s customers. We’re the products being sold.
Here’s what you can look forward to in Facebook’s coming years:
At their f8 developer’s conference in April, Facebook gave location-aware ID badges with RFID chips in them to attendees, which reported their whereabouts to their Facebook profiles. This feature is called “Facebook Presence,” and will likely be a standard social feature baked into upcoming cell phones.
Facebook has previously mentioned interest in creating their own currency - Facebook credits - which would let you buy things on Facebook and connect your profile to your transactions.
Facebook has an enormous amount of data on you. Not only the things you feed it, but the things you do while logged in are recorded. Facebook not only knows who your friends are, it knows whose profiles you spend the most time looking at. This data, which Facebook calls your “Social Graph,” is valuable. It is sold to the highest bidder.
Facebook’s future is as an advertising platform. You will buy things, and your friends’ news feeds will read, “Your friend John just had lunch at Chipotle." Marketers know that personal endorsements are the most powerful form of persuasion.
All of this data, including your private conversations and messages, has been and will continue to be hacked.
Perhaps it’s worth explaining why privacy matters to me in the first place. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong or illegal on Facebook. I have nothing to hide. Why should I care? Bruce Schneier:

Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest - or just blackmail - with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies - whoever they happen to be at the time.
Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.
We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.

When asked why Facebook doesn’t simply make sharing data “opt-in” instead of “opt-out,” Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy at Facebook told the New York Times, “Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice.” Great, but what about those of us who signed up years ago with different expectations of privacy? Facebook has changed their policies in deliberately confusing ways and neglected to mention it, which is especially upsetting because it means that Facebook wants for itself what it will not give to us.
Facebook always sounds like a cartoon villain when the talk about privacy, because it brings out their worst tendencies (i.e. when you die, Facebook won’t allow your family to delete your account, they will “memorialize” it so that the data is always online). But of course this is no surprise, doing cartoon villain things to capture your data is how Facebook stays alive; that’s why you see news stories about how they involuntarily route your email through their own proprietary system.
Facebook profits when its users become willing participants in the instrumentalization of their own friendships and interests and turn their lives and relationships into data points that can be bought and sold. There’s no room for privacy in that equation.
Not only does that make Facebook act weird, but it makes us act weird too. When we agree to broadcast all of our relationships publicly, they become something that we perform for the world, all couched in irony and cynical detachment. There’s some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who’s come to love his cage.
I’ll end this with the forward to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death:


We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

maxistentialist:

(On October 20th, 24-Hour Bookclub is going to read Katherine Losse’s 2012 memoir The Boy Kings, about her time at Facebook. Here’s a post I wrote about leaving Facebook three years ago).

Today I joined a growing number of dissatisfied former Facebook users by deleting my account. For me, the last straw was when Facebook removed the “interests” section from my profile because I wasn’t willing to link those interests to advertisements for things I was interested in.

Facebook made this creepy decision because it doesn’t want the same things that I do. Facebook wants to get paid, and since you and I can’t pay for Facebook, we’re not Facebook’s customers. We’re the products being sold.

Here’s what you can look forward to in Facebook’s coming years:

  • At their f8 developer’s conference in April, Facebook gave location-aware ID badges with RFID chips in them to attendees, which reported their whereabouts to their Facebook profiles. This feature is called “Facebook Presence,” and will likely be a standard social feature baked into upcoming cell phones.
  • Facebook has previously mentioned interest in creating their own currency - Facebook credits - which would let you buy things on Facebook and connect your profile to your transactions.
  • Facebook has an enormous amount of data on you. Not only the things you feed it, but the things you do while logged in are recorded. Facebook not only knows who your friends are, it knows whose profiles you spend the most time looking at. This data, which Facebook calls your “Social Graph,” is valuable. It is sold to the highest bidder.
  • Facebook’s future is as an advertising platform. You will buy things, and your friends’ news feeds will read, “Your friend John just had lunch at Chipotle." Marketers know that personal endorsements are the most powerful form of persuasion.
  • All of this data, including your private conversations and messages, has been and will continue to be hacked.

Perhaps it’s worth explaining why privacy matters to me in the first place. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong or illegal on Facebook. I have nothing to hide. Why should I care? Bruce Schneier:

Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest - or just blackmail - with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies - whoever they happen to be at the time.

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.

When asked why Facebook doesn’t simply make sharing data “opt-in” instead of “opt-out,” Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy at Facebook told the New York Times, “Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice.” Great, but what about those of us who signed up years ago with different expectations of privacy? Facebook has changed their policies in deliberately confusing ways and neglected to mention it, which is especially upsetting because it means that Facebook wants for itself what it will not give to us.

Facebook always sounds like a cartoon villain when the talk about privacy, because it brings out their worst tendencies (i.e. when you die, Facebook won’t allow your family to delete your account, they will “memorialize” it so that the data is always online). But of course this is no surprise, doing cartoon villain things to capture your data is how Facebook stays alive; that’s why you see news stories about how they involuntarily route your email through their own proprietary system.

Facebook profits when its users become willing participants in the instrumentalization of their own friendships and interests and turn their lives and relationships into data points that can be bought and sold. There’s no room for privacy in that equation.

Not only does that make Facebook act weird, but it makes us act weird too. When we agree to broadcast all of our relationships publicly, they become something that we perform for the world, all couched in irony and cynical detachment. There’s some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who’s come to love his cage.

I’ll end this with the forward to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death:

We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.