1. Every writer has changed these stories, and I have changed them, and I’m sure someone else in I don’t know how many years will change them. These stories refuse to die—they are always expanding and shrinking, they have an organic life of their own. Usually, Arab women writers look down on Shahrazad, saying “Oh, she became a prisoner of the Shah, the bloodthirsty king.” No, in my opinion, she was stronger, he became her prisoner. He needed her stories; he depended on her to humanize him. She wasn’t doing it to save her life, but to educate him. That was what she set out to do, to humanize him.

    — 

    Author Q&A: Hanan al-Shaykh’s New Shahrazad | Library Journal

    I just loved doing this Q&A, having this amazing conversation with a writer and woman I admire a lot. Hanan al-Shaykh’s new retelling of One Thousand and One Nights (with an intro by Mary Gaitskill!) comes out next month.

    (via mollitudo)

  2. Molly McArdle: There are hundreds of stories that make up One Thousand and One Nights but you were able to narrow it down to 19 in this collection. What made you choose the stories you did?
Hanan al-Shaykh: At the beginning, I felt as if there were so many jewels, that every story was a jewel. I couldn’t choose! Every time I read one story, I’d say, “That’s it! That’s it!” I’d read another and would be like, “That’s it!”…I chose stories that were dark, complex, violent, and explicit. They talk about the wiles of women and what made them crafty, their misfortune and who bestowed that misfortune on them. I understood that the behavior of these manipulative women was the second nature of the weak, [that] they were oppressed. I chose stories that go inside that oppressiveness. The theme [of the collection] is the oppressed and the oppressor.
Author Q&A: Hanan al-Shaykh’s New Shahrazad | Library Journal

    Molly McArdle: There are hundreds of stories that make up One Thousand and One Nights but you were able to narrow it down to 19 in this collection. What made you choose the stories you did?

    Hanan al-Shaykh: At the beginning, I felt as if there were so many jewels, that every story was a jewel. I couldn’t choose! Every time I read one story, I’d say, “That’s it! That’s it!” I’d read another and would be like, “That’s it!”…I chose stories that were dark, complex, violent, and explicit. They talk about the wiles of women and what made them crafty, their misfortune and who bestowed that misfortune on them. I understood that the behavior of these manipulative women was the second nature of the weak, [that] they were oppressed. I chose stories that go inside that oppressiveness. The theme [of the collection] is the oppressed and the oppressor.

    Author Q&A: Hanan al-Shaykh’s New Shahrazad | Library Journal

  3. cloudunbound:

    In our latest author interview (see also Maureen Roberts’s Q&A with Kelly Hunter), Stephanie Anderson, head of readers’ advisory at Darien Library, chatted with Jessica Hagy, who wrote and illustrated the just-released effervescent self-help manual How To Be Interesting (Workman Publishing).

    Many know Hagy for her Webby Award-winning blog, Indexed. We like her pro-librarianness, yes, we do. Dig her specially made illustration for this interview, above.

    SA: Which pieces of your advice do you think would be best for librarians? Where do we start?

    JH: Librarians (as a whole, please don’t take offense at the generalization) are curious by nature. They dig and poke and look into things—curiosity is practically a pre-req for the job. And when curiosity is really strong, it forces us to push past all sorts of things that stand between us and our desire to find out more. Librarians let their curiosity guide them, and we’d all be more interesting if we followed their examples.

    SA: I see on page 139 there’s a shout-out to librarians! Any libraries or librarians you love?

    JH: I spent a lot of time in Taylor Library (now just called the Cuyahoga Falls Ohio Public Library) in middle school. A posse of subversive librarians (revolutionary hearts under wooly cardigans) encouraged me to read books above my grade level, like all the Vonnegut ever published, tons of Updike, Cheever (and Naked Lunch!), textbooks on art history and anthropology, and amazing anthologies of short stories and essays on everything from feminism to uranium mining. I will always be grateful that they didn’t censor what I checked out, and actually encouraged me to delve even further into topics other adults would try to shield me from.

    SA: “Set your own boundaries” (226-7) is great advice that’s hard to follow. How do you do this for yourself?

    JH: When things bother us and we cope or try to accept them, they don’t stop bothering us—we just get better at ignoring the itchy, achy, awkward feeling in the back of our minds. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to meet annoying people for happy hours, or take on client work that made me feel like a shill, or sit behind a desk when I could be wandering and jotting down notes from anywhere—and merely realizing that allowed me to do the things I actually WANTED to do. Taking small steps away from tedium leads quickly to fun.

    SA: What did you do today to be interesting?

    JH: Today I am sorting through the stack of business cards I collected yesterday at a conference, and I am doing my best to be a serendipitous force for good between a lot of strangers—introducing people to each other who would otherwise never meet. Email is an spectacularly overlooked tool for making friendships and partnerships happen. I know this for a fact, because it’s how my husband introduced himself to me (before he was my husband, of course). 

  4. 
In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods feels very much like a work of literary fiction to me (though I think we all map those genres out in our own idiosyncratic and personal ways), just one that uses its tools in different ways, to different ends. Where on the literary landscape do you feel like this book comes from? Do you think very much about categorization when you write?
What I would like to think is that the story works as both a myth or a fairy tale and also [as] a sort of strange and heavily filtered realism. In other words, while the setting and the actions of the book are mythical in nature, my hope is that the emotions at the center of the book’s marriage are recognizable as belonging not just to the book’s world but to ours. For instance, it’s not only my narrator who discovers, after being married, that he hasn’t before considered how to actually be a husband, or who discovers, after having children, that he doesn’t know how to be a father.
In an interview, David Foster Wallace once said that realistic fiction’s job is the opposite of what it once was: “no longer making the strange familiar but making the familiar strange again.” That fairly accurately describes what I also see as the task of writing successful fiction: not to reflect the real world directly but to create a world inside the book, with the new world’s mysteries and wonders offering a space where we might more easily confront the world we’re from, in all the emotional, moral, and intellectual complexity it deserves.

Fiction: Q & A Matt Bell | February 2013
I really loved Matt Bell’s In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, so I reviewed it, made it one of my editor’s picks, AND I interviewed Bell himself. This is about as ringing an endorsement as I can muster, folks. Read the book!

    In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods feels very much like a work of literary fiction to me (though I think we all map those genres out in our own idiosyncratic and personal ways), just one that uses its tools in different ways, to different ends. Where on the literary landscape do you feel like this book comes from? Do you think very much about categorization when you write?

    What I would like to think is that the story works as both a myth or a fairy tale and also [as] a sort of strange and heavily filtered realism. In other words, while the setting and the actions of the book are mythical in nature, my hope is that the emotions at the center of the book’s marriage are recognizable as belonging not just to the book’s world but to ours. For instance, it’s not only my narrator who discovers, after being married, that he hasn’t before considered how to actually be a husband, or who discovers, after having children, that he doesn’t know how to be a father.

    In an interview, David Foster Wallace once said that realistic fiction’s job is the opposite of what it once was: “no longer making the strange familiar but making the familiar strange again.” That fairly accurately describes what I also see as the task of writing successful fiction: not to reflect the real world directly but to create a world inside the book, with the new world’s mysteries and wonders offering a space where we might more easily confront the world we’re from, in all the emotional, moral, and intellectual complexity it deserves.

    Fiction: Q & A Matt Bell | February 2013

    I really loved Matt Bell’s In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, so I reviewed it, made it one of my editor’s picks, AND I interviewed Bell himself. This is about as ringing an endorsement as I can muster, folks. Read the book!

  5. LJ interviews Billy Wisse, editorial producer of Jeopardy!

    Does the staff have subject specialties?

    We pride ourselves on being able to write or research any topic, though of course we have strengths and weaknesses. This particularly applies to math and science—sadly, it seems that the scientifically confident are a minority in society and on our English major–loaded staff as well. So we tend to run science clues past certain people. As a writer, though, dealing with a topic about which one is knowledgeable can be difficult. When I’m writing Shakespeare or baseball clues, I have to be careful not to go for a response that’s familiar to me but that will be too difficult for our contestants and too obscure for our audience. When I’m writing in the area of Chinese geography or computer science, however, I can assume that whatever I’ve heard of, our players and viewers are probably familiar with it, too.