Review of Rabih Alameddine’s “An Unnecessary Woman”

Rabih Alameddine photoFollowing on the success of his prior works Koolaids, I, the DivineThe Hakawati, and The Perv, author Rabih Alameddine’s most recent novel, An Unnecessary Woman has been met with acclaim and praise from readers and critics alike.

The novel begins with 72-year-old Aaliya Saleh looking into her obscured reflection, warning the reader: “I begin this tale with a badly lit reflection.” While cooped up in the security of her Beirut apartment, the aged narrator, a widowed recluse with slightly misanthropic tendencies, surrounds herself with stacks of books and memories of decades past, and makes it a point to avoid her aged reflection in mirrors. Continue reading

Review of Dinaw Mengestu’s “All Our Names”

“There was so much emptiness in life that had to be filled, and I was just seeing it.”

All our namesDinaw Mengestu’s latest novel, All Our Names, calls into question ideas of freedom, identity, and the meaning of home. It is both political and deeply personal. Permeated by the conflicting terrors of violence and love, the story builds with quiet power, alternating between the intimate narrations of two characters: Isaac, a would-be writer and revolutionary, and Helen, a small-town social worker. Isaac’s tale progresses forward and we follow his struggles first-hand, while Helen’s tale works backwards as she seeks to uncover the mystery behind her newest client. Continue reading

Interview with literary agent Elise Capron

Elise Capron PhotoElise Capron is a literary agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. In this Q&A session, Capron sheds light on working in the publishing industry, and she gives us tips and advice for new authors.

Q: Can you give me a brief summary of your career, and explain how you first started working in the industry?

A: I had a keen interest in books (as a reader and writer) and publishing for many years growing up, though I didn’t necessarily think I would get into agenting. Like most young people, I knew little about agents and was mostly focused on becoming an acquisitions editor (where I would, of course, publish the next Great American Novel!). During college (I went to Emerson College in Boston, where I earned a BFA in Writing, Literature and Publishing—they are one of the few schools offering publishing as part of their undergrad program) I interned at Harcourt and at the Dijkstra Agency during my summers, which were both truly wonderful experiences.

Continue reading

Review of Rivka Galchen’s “American Innovations”

American Daydreams

“I would advise you to seriously consider avoiding it–Life, I mean–altogether.”

rivka galchen american innovationsSafe advice, perhaps, from one of Rivka Galchen’s more eccentric characters in her new collection, American Innovations. And from the mouth of Jacob, the esteemed philosopher and self-proclaimed genius, nonetheless. However, safety through avoidance does not necessarily make for a fulfilling life, nor for a functioning nation.

Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances, has published a collection of ten short stories that deal with issues that perplex the country today–the privilege of excessive individual autonomy and the failure to commit to anything constructive.The title toys ironically with old ideals of American exceptionalism. While Galchen refrains from any overt political commentary, she succeeds in challenging America as a source of fresh, innovative ideas by depicting characters embroiled in their own mundane personal turmoil.

Continue reading

Israeli Poetry that Transcends Borders

“Literature in a Time of Conflict: Evening of Israeli Poetry”

As students, faculty and visitors filed into Scripps Cottage at San Diego State University the night of February 25, 2015 for the reading (Literature in a Time of Conflict: Evening of Israeli Poetry), I found myself grateful to have had the pleasure of meeting the four immensely talented Israeli poets two days prior to their reading that night. In their earlier visit, the poets did a combination of a reading, discussing their work and poetics, as well as a Q&A session in Ilya Kaminsky’s Master’s of Fine Arts poetry workshop. Their discussion was filled with great insight on poetics, inspiration/influence, and translation. They discussed the conflict between Israelis and Arabs and the tensions that exist in Israel, and how that deeply affects their writing . In addition to how themes of violence and chaos affects their work, they also each discussed the significance of their relationship with Hebrew language and the need to “be in Israel, surrounded by Hebrew, to constantly hear the music of it to feed their writing.” For some of them, this was the first time reading their poetry in English.

Continue reading

Review of Mary Helen Specht’s “Migratory Animals”

What is it that binds us to one another as sentient beings?  Is it love, the need for acceptance and belonging, our shared suffering, or a combination of all of these? Mary Helen Specht’s debut novel, Migratory Animals, published January 20, 2015, invites us to dive into these questions head first as she paints the portrait of eight close college friends whose lives have changed immensely since their college years at a “nerd school” in Texas, which the characters liken to the Harvard of the South. Helen Specht invites us into the minds of scientists, architects, engineers and artists. We experience the stories of sisters Flannery and Molly; their best friends, lovers and old flames are figuratively and literally woven together in this novel. The novel is structured by narrations of five different main characters’ perspectives, which provides the reader with slices of each individual’s inner world, and reveals how each character relates to the others.

“Some type of pain ran like a thread between all of them.”

Continue reading

Interview with literary agent Annie Bomke

Annie Bomke PhotoAnnie Bomke is a San Diego-based literary agent who has helped a number of authors take their ideas from inception to completion. From query letters to the importance of social media, Bomke gave us the scoop about the world of publishing in our recent Q&A session.

Q: Can you give me a brief summary of your career, and explain how you first started working in the industry?

A: I was in high school and college, I wanted to be a writer, but I knew I needed a day job.  My last year in college I got an internship at the literary magazine Zoetrope: All-Story.  Even though 99% of my job was data entry and I didn’t get to read submissions very often, there was just something incredibly exciting about the idea that we were bringing people’s stories to the world.  That was when I decided that I wanted to work in publishing.  I moved back home to San Diego after college, because I had no money, and the only publishing jobs in San Diego were at literary agencies.  So I applied to a whole bunch of them, and got an internship at Margret McBride Agency.  I interned there for two years.  Then I was their Royalties and Foreign Rights Agent for about five-and-a-half years, before I opened my own agency.

Continue reading

“Bread and Butter!” – SDSU’s take on a Classic Adventure

The Don Powell Theatre has been the place for many adaptations to classic stories, and “ALICE: Curiouser and Curiouser!” is another great addition to the list of successes for San Diego State University’s school of theatre, television, and film. The story of Alice will always be considered a childhood favorite. Kids will continue to dress up in Alice’s classic tea-party dress for Halloween, the White Rabbit will forever symbolize an anxiety for tardiness, and the Queen of Hearts will always be one of the most iconically ruthless villains. Continue reading

Review of Margaret Atwood’s “Stone Mattress”

The Inner Darkness in Everyone

22642472Margaret Atwood is known for her extensive list of literary works, including poems, small publication pieces, and classic novels. Her tales, as she likes to call them, focus on relatable feelings that may not be presented in the most realistic situations, but still cause her readers to stir with emotion. I remember reading The Handmaid’s Tale in high school and even then, I was struck by the way Atwood told the story of woman’s struggle with a lack of freedom. Oryx and Crake is also known to be a great dystopian novel that disturbed readers emotionally, but also piqued interests that are usually kept a secret. So, it was safe to say that I expected a strong, emotional resonance with Stone Mattress: Nine Tales. Continue reading