Bloomers At Large / Features

Bloomers At Large: Finding Their Way

by Vicraj Gill

Bloomers At Large is a monthly roundup of links that we think might be of interest to Bloom readers. 

At The Stranger, Jonathan Evison attempts to answer the question of how much novelists make and reminds us that it takes a long time to be able to make some part of your living as a writer. “Maintain low financial expectations,” he says, and find “a publisher that will really champion you and help you build an audience.” Novelist Ben Fountain gives a hearty recommendation of Evison’s latest, the road novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, in his “Year of Reading” at The Millions.  Fountain published his first book, the Pen/Hemingway Award-winning story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, when he was 48 years old—18 years after he quit his career as a lawyer to write fiction full-time.

Spencer Reece has been quite a presence around Bloom this past month—with an essay that chronicles his journey through poetry and the priesthood to a position at the Honduran orphanage Our Little Roses, and a Fulbright fellowship; as well as a two part video interview with Dar Williams, composer for the documentary film that will follow Reece as he works with the girls at the orphanage on their own poetry. Now, the film crew has started a blog that provides detailed updates on the documentary’s progress and ways for readers to get involved. The folks at Publisher’s Weekly offer an excerpt of Bram Stoker’s “When the Sky Rains Gold,” a “lost romance story” to be featured in the collection The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker, containing works by and about Stoker in his prolific post-40 period. PW also gives us “10 Books for Twentysomethings,” a list of selections meant to help “Millenials” through crises of self and faith. In other words, your twenties are “a period of uncertainty and shifting enthusiasms,” so maybe it’s okay if you haven’t made the NY Times bestseller list by the time you’re 30 (or 40); if you’re reading great books, you’re in good shape!

At The Telegraph, a gallery of authors over 80 refusing retirement, including Toni Morrison and Tom Wolfe, and Bloomers like novelist and memoirist Diana Athill, and newcomer Jamil Ahmad. Athill was active in publishing for over 50 years before retiring in 1993, following a long and colorful career consorting with the likes of V.S. Naipaul, Norman Mailer, Simone de Beauvoir, and Philip Roth. She herself began publishing in her forties; her latest book, Letters to a Friend, serves as both a record of 30 years’ correspondence with the poet Edward Field and as a chronicle of her own development as an editor and writer. Ahmad’s award-winning short story collection The Wandering Falcon was completed in 1974, while Ahmad was a civil servant posted near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan; he then set the manuscript aside for 35 years, only to revisit, revise, and eventually publish it in 2011.


Diana Athill, Ayana Mathis, Ben Fountain

Another collection of short stories, this time from Seamus ScanlonAs Close As You’ll Ever Be—is spotlighted in an interview with the author at Bookslut. The New York Times profiles Ayana Mathis, age 39, whose debut novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie—published earlier this year—was announced as an Oprah’s Book Club selection last month.  You can also read the NY Times’s review of Twelve Tribes here; or, if you’re in and around the Brooklyn area on Monday, January 7, hear Mathis read from the book herself over at Greenlight Bookstore.

Fiction writers aren’t the only ones who can take their time to bloom—Howard Goldblatt describes the unconventional path he took to become “the foremost Chinese-English translator in the world,” a career that continues with last month’s release of the English edition of Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan’s Pow!.

Speaking of unconventional paths and realms outside of fiction-writing, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include this piece from Ron Rosenbaum over at Slate—“Should You Go to Graduate School?”—which has been making the rounds in the literary world and provoking much discussion. Rosenbaum describes making a break from the graduate-study establishment, swapping graduate school at Yale for a career as a counter-culture reporter at the Village Voice and a writer for such publications as Esquire and Harper’s. He also discusses the product of this atypical journey—an intriguing blend of journalism and literary criticism called The Shakespeare Wars. “I don’t suggest anyone take the path I did,” he writes, “I don’t want to ruin any lives—but maybe it will help some see if it’s the road for them.”

Finally, Roxane Gay responds to a Flavorwire feature celebrating New York’s most important living writers with a celebration of her own, in the form of “A Literary Flyover”: a “great sprawl” of writers from various regions forging unseen creative paths outside of Brooklyn, NY. Among Gay’s many excellent selections is Shannon Cain, who sat down with us last month for a memorable interview.

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