Posts Tagged Cormac McCarthy
Fantagraphics Books has surprised me on many levels this past year (all good levels, of course). So when I heard it was publishing Monte Schulz‘s prose novel, This Side of Jordan, I contacted the author (with some help from friend of the blog/Fantagraphics’ Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds) to discuss the book through an email interview.
As detailed by the publisher: “This Side Of Jordan is a story of another America, eighty years distant yet familiar, too, a vibrant and scandalous tapestry of eccentric characters from a nation embroiled in criminal liquor traffic, thrilled by Jazz Age fads and frolic, drunk amid the glittering showgrounds of a booming circus whose flag-topped tents are about to come down. Through mayhem and merriment, past the violence and hypocrisy of Prohibition, along miles of dirt roads and busy Main Streets, we see in this wonderfully evocative narrative a simple yearning for love and hope. This Side Of Jordan is about the distance we travel in America to find our rightful place. …
He spent ten years writing Crossing Eden, from which This Side of Jordan is drawn as the first of three interconnected novels; the second and third, Fields of Eden and The Big Town, will be published in 2010 and 2011.
Monte Schulz received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He lives in Northern California. He is the eldest son of Charles M. Schulz (PEANUTS).”
My thanks to Schulz for an interview in which the quality of his answers greatly exceed that of my questions. Once you’ve read the interview, please be sure to visit the Fantagraphics website for a 23-page PDF excerpt from the book.
Tim O’Shea: Your first novel, Down by the River, was published in 1991. How has your writing voice matured in the past 19 years?
Monte Schulz: My basic style of writing hasn’t changed in thirty years. The issue was always doing what I was best capable of. “Down By The River” was the pinnacle of what I could achieve in a novel back then, but after it was finished, I discovered I was capable of so much more. Stylistically, however, I’ve always favored and embraced a lyrical prose, and these ‘20s novels have just given me more room and opportunity to express it. Also, I’ve read much more than I had back then, so my work since that first novel has been informed by writers I knew nothing of at that time – Bellow, Marquand, Cozzens, Kantor, etc. Then, too, I think I’ve refined what I like best about artistic writing, while improving my sense of character and story, and better differentiating voices in dialogue, something that is very much on display now in “This Side Of Jordan.”
I love books and I greatly admire people that write effectively about one’s love of good books. The Second Pass (“an exclusively online publication devoted to reviews, essays, and blog posts about books new and old“) is the kind of concept I wish I had developed and that is overflowing with people that write effectively about books. After visiting the publication for awhile, I contacted the site’s founder and editor, John Williams, to garner a better understanding of what he’s trying to achieve. The site just celebrated its sixth month of existence and Williams entertained a series of questions from me. Williams’ career path to The Second Pass includes the following details: “From 2001-2007, he worked in the editorial department at HarperCollins. Before that, he spent time as a journalist in Texas and an editorial intern at Harper’s Magazine. His work as a freelance writer has appeared in Slate, McSweeney’s, Stop Smiling, the Austin American-Statesman, the Dallas Morning News, the New York Sun, and other publications.” My thanks to Williams for his time and for shepherding a site worthy of my jealousy.
Tim O’Shea: With six months of the site under your belt, what do you consider to be some of the successes and missteps of the site to date?
John Williams: I feel like the site overall has been a success. I’m proudest of the way people have responded to it, both general readers and people in the publishing business. The vast majority of the feedback I’ve received has been positive. I guess the most specific success was the “Fired from the Canon” feature, which hit a nerve with people and spread far and wide.
The missteps have been mercifully small (in terms of how public they are). For instance, I started the site with confidence that I could get material rolling in as I went, and that was a mistake. I should have had more “inventory” at the start. I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up in order to keep the site refreshed on a regular basis, though that’s finally starting to change. I guess another misstep would be my desire to have a “Letters” page, as a way of nodding to the tradition of letters to the editor. That’s been a bust, and I put a comments function up on the blog instead. I’m still trying to figure out what to replace “Letters” with, so the heading remains up on the nav bar for now — useless, like an appendix.