It’s not every day that I get to read with a writer who is frequently compared to William Gaddis and Thomas Pynchon. I did have that opportunity last night, though, when I read with the fiction writer Joseph McElroy and poets Sandra Liu, Marina Weiss, and Ben Purkert. This event was organized by Patrick Gallagher as part of his Animal Farm Reading Series, and it took place in the back room at Over the Eight in Williamsburg. All of the work astounded me, but I was especially grateful to hear Joseph read from his new novel, Cannonball. Thanks to my fellow readers, and to Patrick for organizing such a great event.
My review of Sheila Heti’s new novel, How Should a Person Be?, appears in today’s Boston Globe – please click here to read it.
Before leaving Syracuse on Thursday I had lunch with my old friend, and former teacher, Michael Burkard. Michael is on the poetry faculty of the M.F.A. Program at Syracuse, and he had a profound impact on me when I studied with him. He seemed to think about writing differently than any other writer I’d met; as I think his work reveals, his process is informed by intuition, experimentation and inquiry. He has a wonderful ear, too, which inspired me to pay more attention to musical ideas in my own work. The first stories I wrote for my novel, in fact, were written for his Prose Poetry class. Michael was kind enough to bring me a copy of his new book, lucky coat anywhere, which was published last year by Nightboat Books.
I left Syracuse on Thursday afternoon and drove on to Buffalo and Talking Leaves Books. I’d heard great things about Talking Leaves – from Michael, among others – and the store lived up to the hype. Owner Jonathon Welch has acquired a great collection of books published by independent presses, and I was also impressed by the store’s selection of literary journals. I was glad to have the opportunity to read from my work and meet some other local writers.
During my third year in Syracuse University’s M.F.A. Program, I taught a class for undergraduates called “Living Writers.” The course is quite unique, in that it’s designed entirely around Syracuse’s esteemed Raymond Carver Reading Series; students in the course read work by each visiting author, participate in a Q & A with that writer, and then attend their reading. It’s a popular course at S.U., with several sections offered every semester.
When my novel was published last summer, I was fortunate to receive an invitation to read in the Raymond Carver Reading Series; I returned to campus yesterday to speak to students in the afternoon and then read from my work. This was a very special event for me – having seen some of my favorite writers read in the Gifford Auditorium in Huntington Beard Crouse Hall, I was honored to stand at the podium and talk about my work.
The event also gave me the chance to convey my gratitude to the faculty of the M.F.A. Program. My three years in Syracuse were some of the best of my life – I studied with some amazing writers and made some great friends. It was here, too, that I began writing my novel, an early version of which I submitted as my thesis. I’m indebted to the faculty at Syracuse for all of their support – both while I was a student, and in the years since.
Friday night’s reading in Waltham afforded me the opportunity to meet, and read with, one of the most popular and bestselling authors in Ukrainian history. Andrey Kurkov is the author of eighteen novels, three of which – Death and the Penguin, Penguin Lost and The Case of the General’s Thumb – have recently been published as part of Melville House’s International Crime Series. Andrey and I met at Back Pages Books in Waltham in order to read from, and talk about, our work.
I especially enjoyed our conversation after the readings, during which we discussed our decisions to write about Volkswagens and penguins (versus other cars/animals), surrealism, and issues of craft. At one point I read Andrey my favorite excerpt from Death and the Penguin, for example, and he drew connections between the sentiment of that excerpt and the politics and culture of Russia and the Ukraine.
I was thankful to have a chance to chat with him – and thankful, too, to all of those who attended despite the inclement weather!
“I am not going to pretend that I understood all of the words in this book,” writes Umapagan Ampikaipakan in Malaysia’s New Straits Times. “Yes, they are of the English language. Yes, I use many of the very same words in everyday conversation. And yet, the way Boucher strings them together, with all the flair of a mad surrealist, left me lost and delirious and looking for melting clocks and wet cats flying through the air. The way Boucher mixes metaphors, the way he layers non sequitur over non sequitur, his casual relationship with denotation and definition, with structure and style, displays a mastery of the English language that is incomparable.” Please click here to read the full review.
Lisa and I have just returned from Chester, Vermont, where I was fortunate enough to take part in the New Voices 2012 literary festival this past weekend. Organized by Misty Valley Books‘ co-owners Lynne and Bill Reed, the festival invites five writers at the start of their writing careers to Chester for a series of events.
The fun began on Friday night with dinner at Lynne and Bill’s apartment (located above the bookstore) with members of the community and the other four New Voices: Betty Shotton (Liftoff Leadership), Katharine Britton (Her Sister’s Shadow), Naomi Benaron (Running The Rift) and Paul Grossman (The Sleepwalkers). Then we all adjourned to our rooms at the Fullerton Inn, located right next door.
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the Inn and caravanned to the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center for a few hours of cross-country skiing. After lunch by the fire in the lodge, we drove back to Chester and made our way to the Vermont Institute of Contemporary Arts for a book reading and signing. VTICA is a stunning space, with canvases on every wall and natural light pouring in through skylights, and the Center was filled to capacity for the event. Each writer was introduced by a member of the community, and the five readings were followed by a group Q & A.
Before leaving Chester yesterday morning, I stopped by Misty Valley Books to thank Lynne and Bill for orchestrating such a delightful weekend, and for offering so much support to newly-published writers.
In the mid-2000s, when I lived up the street from Porter Square Books, I’d visit the store at least once a week. I’d spend the bulk of my time at the display shelf in the fiction section, where I discovered a lot of great books I wouldn’t know about otherwise.
It was great, therefore, to return to the store for my reading last night and see my book displayed prominently on that very shelf. I was delighted with the turnout for the event, and happy to meet some of the up-and-coming writers in attendance after the Q & A. Thanks so much to Nathan Hasson and everyone at Porter Square Books for hosting this event.