Sunday, November 15, 2015

Monday, November 09, 2015

Totality of Vision: John Williams' Stoner

I first learned of John Williams’ Stoner the same way most of this novel’s contemporary readers have: by noticing, in many different places, the peculiarly ardent recommendations the book inspires. I liked the cultish quality of many of these recommendations, and the recurrent phrases employed: “under-appreciated”, “well kept secret”, “neglected masterpiece,” etc. Having read Stoner’s rear cover synopsis more than once, I was finally drawn by the book’s academic milieu, thinking that Williams’ treatment might somehow inform my own approach to 1950s academia in my novel-in-progress. So I bought a copy. Still, though I kept it at hand for several months, I never managed to read past the opening 10 pages or so. In those 10 pages I could see a narrative clarity at work, but somehow I resisted it, dipping into multiple other books instead. 

What finally brought me back to Williams’ book, what finally “hooked” me and got me to commit to the full experience of Stoner, was my frustrated reading of a highly lauded contemporary novel. This other novel was a massive critical success, a prize-winner, and had come to me with the glowing praise of a reader I respect. But as I proceeded through the book’s first third, I felt myself to be constantly at arm’s length from the narrative, unable — or not inspired — to get any closer, unlikely to “sink in.” I don’t simply mean that the book’s characters, events, or voice did not absorb me. I mean that there seemed to be something in the book’s narrative execution that actively repelled me, making real immersion impossible. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The writing was respectable, intelligent, perhaps even graceful, and the narrative events were clearly heading somewhere. Still, I couldn’t help feeling the book wasn’t for me. One evening, after reading for an hour or so, I shut that book and picked up Stoner. The contrast could not have been more dramatic. Suddenly, after my months of poking noncommittally into the novel’s opening pages, Stoner was alive to me, and I was sunk. The narrative clarity I had idly admired before seemed now to be just one element of a magnificent authorial command. 

I read the book’s whole first half that day, and afterward I couldn’t stop dwelling on the contrast between the experience of reading Stoner and the experience of reading the contemporary novel. I jotted a few notes: 
Stoner: lucidity and totality of vision. Descriptive, authorial, authoritative — but always insightful rather than explanatory.” 
That seemed right, but I didn’t yet know exactly what it meant. “Explanatory” was a reference to that prize-winning contemporary novel where, in a meaningful moment, one character smiles at another. Something in the author’s treatment of this moment had rendered it, for me, not illuminating but simply too well understood. With reference to Williams’ writing, what did I mean by “totality of vision”? And how did this quality differ from, say, the clumsy handling of that smile?

Stoner is the concise life-story, birth-to-death, of William Stoner, a child born to stoical Missouri farming folk in 1891 who by seeming accident attends university and is educated out of all meaningful connection to his kin. He falls in love with learning, trains to become a professor, marries a woman beyond his social rank, suffers her manic-depression and growing animosity, has a passionate affair with an ex-student, is exposed publicly and ends the affair on the threat of losing his career, becomes increasingly alienated from his colleagues, former friends, and daughter, and later, following several dispirited years of doing paces in an academic post long since drained of passion, becomes ill and dies sometime after World War Two. Early in the book, Williams describes one of Stoner’s professors at the university as having a disdainful, contemptuous quality, “as if he perceived between his knowledge and what he could say a gulf so profound that he would make no effort to close it.” This could just as well describe Stoner for much of the book, and it’s a kind of key to Williams’ own narrative approach in the novel, from the first pages to the last. The novel’s most excruciating scenes are those in which Stoner is subjected to his mentally ill wife’s cruelty, manipulativeness, and coldness, and even here Williams’ narration never breaks tone, never detours into semi-rhetorical, analytical, or speculative perceptions. Instead, we’re held — enthrallingly — in the emotional immediacy of one profoundly knotted moment after another, well before each moment has slackened and become interpretable. In fact, these moments are never interpreted for us, even afterward. Instead we’re invited to live them alongside the characters and make of them what we will. This is what I would characterize as a totality of vision: Williams’ narrative voice never deigns to be wiser than the narrative moment itself.

I spend quite a lot of time thinking about — brooding about — how in the current publishing industry the forces of consumerism and the lingo of commodification are so often applied to the reading experience. It’s widely taken for granted that the reader, who is essentially viewed as a consumer with glasses, should become an insatiable subject, a billable creature always wanting more: the next plot development, the next page, the next installment in a series. More and more. But reading is not consumerism. And the cool mastery, lucidity, and totality of vision in John Williams’ writing reminds me that what I treasure most in my own reading is the experience of coming to the end of a sentence, of a page, of a chapter, and thinking: This is perfect just as it is. This is just enough. I wish to exist in this awhile, because clearly this accommodates that kind of pleasurable loitering. Clearly, to wish for more would spoil this.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Three More Days! Every Pledge Counts.

The Atelier26 IndieGogo fundraising initiative closes on Monday, August 31st. That's three more days to make a pledge and/or to help us spread the word to potential supporters (those other avid readers in your life).

If you've been meaning to pledge, there's never been a better time. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Your pledge is tax-deductible (and brings you beautiful books)
  • The use of all funds is overseen by our fiscal sponsor, an external nonprofit arts organization
  • Your pledge will go directly to the up-front expenses of reprinting and promotion necessitated by our new national distribution
  • Your pledge will have a direct impact on the size of the initial People Like You print-run (we want to go big!)
  • Your pledge will allow us to make the most of the opportunities before us and sustain our place in the lives of readers.
Thanks to 77 generous donors, we're at 26% of our goal and will have the privilege to send out many books, including scores of Margaret Malone's brilliant debut People Like You. We'd love to send out even more!  Click over to see the literary goodies we're offering and the deductions that come with them, and help us make the most of these final three days.

Viva Readers! Atelier26 HQ

P.S. Have you seen the advance praise for People Like You?
P.P.S Our authors are busy this Fall. Are they reading near you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Going for 40% This Week! (New Bonus Perk = $20 Bookstore Gift Card!)

In the 17 days since our Next Big Chapter campaign launch, 60 of you have pledged your support and collectively brought us to the 22% threshold! Your pledges are matched by your moral solidarity in helping us get the word out about our quixotic literary mission. Thank you for your retweets, FB shares, and other links. For all of it, we’re more grateful than we can say. 

We have just 14 days to go, and we’re driving toward the 30% mark, but with your continued help in sharing via social media and word of mouth, we believe we can get to 40% funded by this time next week.

Here’s to maintaining the terrific momentum!

We've drawn a name from the hat: Congratulations to supporter William Summers, who receives this week's bonus perk, a stylish “Read Local” mug!

Each week we’ll send out one or more BONUS PERKS. If you’ve pledged $15 or more since our campaign launch, your name remains in the hat! 

A $20 gift certificate to your local independent bookstore! (Goodness, think of the paperbacks!)
PLEDGE BY: 11:59 p.m. PST, Sunday, August 23rd

I'm just back from the Catamaran Writing Conference in Northern California, where I had the opportunity to participate in a distinguished publishing panel and to share the values and vision of Atelier26 Books. It was my first such opportunity, and I spoke from the heart, outlining my idealistic reasons for founding this tiny publishing operation, and sharing the gratifications that come of forming nurturing relationships with gifted writers. What I said, in part, was that in founding Atelier26 I was seeking to answer a number of important questions, including: 
  • How to publish mindfully
  • How to publish, as much as possible, from the writer’s perspective
  • How to publish as beautifully as possible? 
  • How to be small, and still create meaningful, significant relationships with readers? 
  • How to be reasonable and sustainable in our aims, to grow steadily, to remain relationship-oriented, and to focus on culture (rather than a “marketplace”)?
I was unabashedly earnest and enthusiastic. How could I be anything else? It feels so right to share the good news of this press and its authors. And the coming chapters are so very exciting!

Yours quixotically, in gratitude,
M. Allen Cunningham, Atelier26

Atelier26 Next Big Chapter Funding Goal:
Amount Raised as of Today:
$2,590 (or 22%!)
Remaining Amount to Raise:
Fundraising Days Remaining:

Monday, August 10, 2015

You Can Help Us Push Toward 20%!

We’re ten days into the Atelier26 Next Big Chapter Campaign and 16% along, and we think that is tremendous! With three weeks remaining, it may be a photo finish, but we’re confident we can get to our goal. As we move further into this second week of fundraising, please help us spread the word about The Atelier26 Books Next Big Chapter Campaign, via links from our Facebook page, retweets from our Twitter account, or other shares from the sidebar on this page.

Thank you to all our awesome supporters!

OUR FIRST BONUS PERK RECIPIENTS!: We’ve drawn two names from the hat, and it’s our pleasure to announce that supporter Sarah Berry receives a copy of Kyle Minor’s acclaimed short story collection Praying Drunk, and supporter Tracy Burkholder receives Forest Avenue Press’sThe Night, and the Rain, and the River!

We’ll send your bonus perks out shortly, Sarah and Tracy. Congrats!

THIS WEEK’S BONUS PERK: Each week over the course of this campaign we’ll send out one or more BONUS PERKS. As long as you’ve pledged $15 or more since our campaign launch, your name will remain in the hat! This week’s perk is…

A stylish READ LOCAL mug! (Because authors, publishers, and bookstores in one's own community are where it's at, right?)

PLEDGE BY: 11:59 p.m. PST, Sunday, August 16th

A PREVIEW OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU: This spring, Margaret Malone’s short story “The Only One” appeared in Propeller Quarterly. Read the story entire online, and whet your appetite for the book's exciting launch! 

Yours bookishly, in gratitude,
 M. Allen Cunningham, Atelier26

Atelier26 Next Big Chapter Funding Goal:
Amount Raised as of Today:
$1,945 (or 16%!)
Remaining Amount to Raise:
Fundraising Days Remaining:

Friday, August 07, 2015

Why We Publish

Take a look behind the scenes at Atelier26 Books. If you like what you see, consider pledging your support and receiving some fabulously unique literary perks!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Celebrate Short Fiction This Saturday at Another Read Through in Portland

>Saturday, May 9, 2015 / 1:30 p.m. > PORTLAND, OR   
M. Allen Cunningham reads from Date of Disappearance in a lineup of fellow short fiction writers Stevan Allred, RJ Samuel, and Evan Morgan WIlliams in celebration of National Short Story Month.

Another Read Through
3932 N Mississippi Ave
Portland, Oregon 97227

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

M. Allen Cunningham Presents Partisans at Powell's Books, April 6th

Monday April 6, 2015 / 7:30 p.m.
Powell's Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd 
Portland, OR 972014

A riveting meditation on war, art, ambition, perception, and subversion, Partisans is a lost work by the mysterious writer G.P. Leed, edited according to Leed's designs as indicated in manuscripts discovered after his disappearance. One half of Partisans concerns a war in an unspecified past, the other half centers on Leed himself as he struggles to survive in an unspecified future.


Cunningham's presentation will include audio-visual elements in addition to his reading from the book. Learn more about Partisans.

Here's an audio teaser:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Audio Excerpt: A Reading from M. Allen Cunningham's Partisans: A Lost Work by Geoffrey Peerson Leed

Will you join me at Powell's Books on Hawthorne, Monday April 6th (7:30 p.m.) to hear more? Details for this and other upcoming events HERE.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Special Pre-Order Offer Ends March 8, 2015

Only three days left to get 50% off an additional title when you pre-order Partisans!

"Always, everything we see challenges us to understand.
The extent to which we take up the challenge by our own wits and
without resorting to prior interpretations is the extent
to which we escape oppression." 
G.P. Leed
To use your 50% discount on your second Atelier26 book, enter that book's Promo Code into the box at the checkout:
  • For Elizabeth Rosner's Gravity : enter GRAVITY
  • For Harriet Scott Chessman's The Beauty of Ordinary Things : enter TBOOT
  • For M. Allen Cunningham's The Honorable Obscurity Handbook : enter HONORABLE
  • For M. Allen Cunningham's Date of Disappearance : enter DATE
  • For Cunningham's The Flickering Page : enter FLICKERING
Discount limited to one copy of a single title per customer. Offer only applies when pre-ordering Partisans.
Offer expires Sunday March 8, 2015.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


and get 50% off another Atelier26 title! (details below)

 "Always, everything we see challenges us to understand.
The extent to which we take up the challenge by our own wits and
without resorting to prior interpretations is the extent
to which we escape oppression." 
G.P. Leed
To use your 50% discount on your second Atelier26 book, enter that book's Promo Code into the box at the checkout:
  • For Elizabeth Rosner's Gravity : enter GRAVITY
  • For Harriet Scott Chessman's The Beauty of Ordinary Things : enter TBOOT
  • For M. Allen Cunningham's The Honorable Obscurity Handbook : enter HONORABLE
  • For M. Allen Cunningham's Date of Disappearance : enter DATE
  • For Cunningham's The Flickering Page : enter FLICKERING
Discount limited to one copy of a single title per customer. Offer only applies when pre-ordering Partisans.
Offer expires Sunday March 8, 2015.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pre-Order Partisans Now
Partisans is now available for pre-order from Atelier26 Books!
Copies ship in late-February / early March.
Place your order HERE

Q: What is Partisans about?
A: War, Art, Ambition, Perception, Subversion.
Q: You can't be any more specific?
A: How could I possibly be?
Q: Who was G.P. Leed?
A: A writer who worked in the Northwest Territory like me. A compatriot of anyone espoused to the humane imagination, the powers and possibilities of consciousness as opposed to mass perceptions or the dilutions and mediations of systems and 'high' technologies.
Q: Is Partisans a political book?
A: Ask the reader.
Q: Is Partisans an allegory?
A: No. Though many things are.
Q: Is it speculative fiction?
A: What other kind is there?
Q: How did you come to edit and publish G.P. Leed's lost manuscript?
A: Some questions cannot be answered.
Q: Will its publication put you in danger?
A: Probably. But that's true of every book. Art is the result of having been in danger.
Q: You're quoting someone, aren't you?
A: Yes. Of course everything is a quote in its way.
Q: Is Partisans a quote? What of?
A: Oh, Don Quixote and many other things. It's not for me to say but for the reader to perceive.
Q: Where is the Acknowledgements page?
A: Leed never included one. Why should I? Refer to answer above.
Q: Was G.P. Leed for real?
A: Was Jules Renard or Cervantes, or Janos Lavin?
Q: What are your hopes for Partisans?
A: They're no different than Leed's were, and those are plain to see on every page.
Q: Read the book, you're saying.
A: Leed himself writes, "Dare the reader to understand!"
Q: But would you really call most readers daring?
A: They'd better be.
Q: Who are the most daring among them?
A: Those who go first, naturally.

M. ALLEN CUNNINGHAM is the author of the novels The Green Age of Asher Witherow (a #1 Indie Next Pick) and Lost Son (about the life and work of Rainer Maria Rilke), the illustrated limited-edition short story collection Date of Disappearance, and two volumes of nonfiction, The Honorable Obscurity Handbook and The Flickering Page: The Reading Experience in Digital Times. He lives and works in the Northwest Territory.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New at Tin House: GHOST CODA

My essay "Ghost Coda: A Rilke Pilgrimage, or: On Being Glad No One Knows You" can now be read on the Tin House blog. 

I first started working on this piece more than seven years ago, shortly after the appearance of Lost Son, my big novel about Rilke. In that time the essay has stretched into a meditation on the nature of artistic legacy, our changing attitudes toward artists of earlier times, the question of honorable obscurity, the power of certain inspirational zones and places, and the mysterious circuitry of inspiration across the generations. (How's that for a summary one cannot tweet?)

Here's the opening:

Spring, 2005
I stand in the doorway of the Bibliothèque Nationale reading room, the soaring sanctum before me, above me the ceiling a grandeur of opaque glass wreathed with names of great cities: Alexandria, Athens, London, Babylon, Jerusalem, Byzantium, Peking. I’m here in search of Rainer Maria Rilke. Strapped for cash, unschooled, twenty-seven years old and devoid of curricula vitae save years of ardent reading, I’ve already spent an absurd, obsessive half-decade writing a novel about him. It’s grown to more than one-hundred-fifty-thousand words. I hope to complete it in Paris.

The roundness of this room suggests a vast egg enclosing the world’s knowledge. I want to swim forth through the bluish light, amid the desks and along the curving walls shelved four stories high with books, but the clerk at the entry explains that I cannot come in. I lack the proper license: the coveted carte de bibliothèque. Malte, the main character in Rilke’s single novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910), cherishes the card permitting him entrance to this room — not only for the learning the card allows him, but because the card puts an honorable seal on his otherwise dissolute life. A young scion of erstwhile aristocrats in Denmark, Malte has fled the land of his ancestry to fin de siècle Paris where he will live as a poet — or die a nobody, as his notebooks’ agitated first words suggest: “So, people do come here to live. I would have sooner thought that this is where one dies.” Malte’s health is failing him. Destitute, squalidly housed in the Latin Quarter, he fears he’s becoming indistinguishable from his neighbors: the sick, the desperate, the mad. His library card saves him, temporarily at least, from the spiritual degradation shown in those impoverished “husks of humanity” who ambulate the grim cobbled warrens around his apartment. “It is possible that one day it may occur to them to come as far as my room,” writes Malte while sitting in the hush of this salle de reference.
They certainly know where I live, and they will take care that the concierge does not stop them. But here, my dears, here I am safe from you. One must have a special card in order to get into this room. In this card I have the advantage of you … I am among these books, and then taken away from you as though I had died, and sit and read a poet.
Discontent to stand in the doorway, I decide I must get a card of my own. Fumbling through the necessary questions in my quasi French, I’m referred to one attendant after another. Finally, at the Accueil, an English-speaking clerk directs me across the library’s palatial foyer to the enclosed area marked “Orientation des Lecteurs.” Bureaucracy-phobes acquire nightmares here.

Wound up and out of sorts, I breach the shrine and install myself in a chair before a librarian’s desk, babbling. Gatekeepers make me nervous. And now I’m much too aware, in my tongue-tied foreignness, in my pullover and backpack and scuffed sneakers, that I cut the figure of a failed pretender, a would-be tourist-cum-scholar. Worse, I give the impression, despite myself, of knowing my own charade, knowing I cannot claim legitimate candidacy for the access I seek. The library wardens — officious, serious, and thoroughly French in their skeptical decorum — reduce me with every sidelong glance. They won’t grant a card to just anybody. As my stuttering interview concludes, I’m instructed to return with passport and proof official of my status as an author; e.g., a published book. I will thereafter be informed of materials in the library relevant to my research.

Rattled, I exit the marbled lobby, cross the cobbled courtyard to the ravine-like rue de Richelieu, and start back toward my cramped studio apartment on the Left Bank. As I walk I pocket my clammy hands and replay the interview. Did I call myself un écrivain or romancier? Which was more correct considering my motive? I know I said recherche — that was a kind of lie. But how can I explain that I’ve got nothing to research, at least not in the manner they mean? How explain that I simply wish to sit and work in that reading room, that the spirit of the room itself is what I’m after?

(continue reading on the Tin House site)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Exciting news from Atelier26 Books!

Here's the press release:
Atelier26 Books is proud to announce acquisition of the brilliant short story collection People Like You, the debut title by Portland writer Margaret Malone, for publication in late 2015 or early 2016. 

Margaret Malone is the recipient of fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission and
Photo: Sabina Poole
Literary Arts, two Regional Arts & Culture Council Project Grants, and residencies at The Sitka Center and Soapstone.  Her writing has appeared in The Missouri Review, Oregon Humanities Magazine, Coal City Review,  Swink, Nailed,, and elsewhere, including recently the Forest Avenue Press anthology The Night, and the Rain, and the River. A Dangerous Writers alumnus, Malone has a degree in Philosophy from Humboldt State University and has taught creative writing as a visiting artist at Pacific Northwest College of ArtShe lives with her husband filmmaker Brian Padian and two children in Portland, where she co-hosts the artist and literary gathering SHARE.

With People Like You, Malone delivers an assemblage of characters and conundrums all at once funny, unsettling, subtle, and moving. Malone’s people exist, like most of us, in the thick of everyday experience absent of epiphanies, and they are caught off-guard or cast adrift by personal impulses even while wide awake to their own imperfections. They win us over completely although we know they are bound to break our hearts with each confused and conflicted decision they make.

“I’ve long wanted Atelier26 to be the vehicle for a phenomenal debut,” says press founder and publisher M. Allen Cunningham, “and in Margaret’s work you immediately hear the brave and startling sound of a born writer. Her voice is so assured—she’s got such a razor wit—and each of these stories is so beautifully controlled and alive to its own truth, readers will hardly know what hit them.” 

For Malone’s launch, Atelier26 plans a significant promotional campaign to booksellers and extensive events. “We’re going to grow our operations considerably on behalf of People Like You,” says Cunningham. “We’re giving it everything we’ve got, and we anticipate a passionate bookseller response. You can’t read Margaret’s work and not want to enthuse over it to anyone who cares about great writing.”

More details about People Like You and its exciting release are forthcoming in the months ahead. Visit and follow the publisher’s tweets at

Listen to a 10-minute recording of Margaret Malone reading from the title storyon LiveWireRadio (minute 20). More about Margaret Malone at:
Atelier26 Books, an independent press founded in Portland, Oregon in 2011, specializes in contemporary literature in fine trade editions showcasing the highest design standards. Atelier26 books are offered for sale through the publisher’s online storefront, and through an ever-growing roster of independent booksellingpartners around the U.S. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Paths to Publishing Workshop

I'm leading a publishing workshop in NW Portland next month, as part of Word Harvest, a rich 6-workshop lineup spanning the weekend of November 22-23. Other workshops offered focus on poetic form, generating ideas, travel writing, and short story writing. More info HERE.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Download Stories and Essays by M. Allen Cunningham

I'm continually adding stories and essays to my e-book catalog on Smashwords. Each can be downloaded in multiple formats for the price of a coffee -- or less! The current offerings (with more appearing frequently) include:
P.S. Books are still better! (But, for reasons much too complicated for a single blog post,  some of these works you can't get in printed form.)

Monday, June 02, 2014

A Quick Q&A about My Third Novel (with micro-excerpts!)

Many thanks to Erin Lindsay McCabe, author of the spellbinding new novel I Shall Be Near to You, for “tagging” me with the following questions about my third novel. 

Before you read mine, take a look at McCabe’s own Q&A about her lively and heroic protagonist Rosetta Wakefield, who dons the Union blue to fight alongside her husband at Antietam and who, once she’s whispered in your readerly ear, you will not soon forget.

After my Q&A below, I will in turn tag three gifted writers — Harriet Scott Chessman, Kate Gray, and Laura Stanfill — who will answer the same seven questions on June 9th.


1. What is your character’s name? Is s/he fictional or a historic person?

The novel concerns five generations in an American family, so there are really several main characters. Then too, a few change so significantly over time that their younger and older selves could be considered separate people. But I suppose you could narrow it down to two people with whom the reader becomes most intimate: Benjamin Lorn, born in the 1860s in a tiny Iowa town and the son of an embittered, crippled Civil War veteran, and Benjamin’s daughter Avis, who we meet in World War Two era San Francisco.

Fictional or historic, you ask. Ah, well, the personalities and experiences of both Benjamin and Avis are, like most people in serious works of fiction, confabulated from a great deal of true historical and familial anecdote and wide-ranging observation. Neither wholly invented nor wholly historical, they tread the luminous, super-enriched middle ground of imagination — more real, in some ways, than real folk.    

2. What should we know about him/her?

Benjamin: He’s a latter-day Hamlet of kinds — he and much of his situation hearken back to Shakespeare’s ageless play. He becomes the unwitting keeper of dark family secrets and must choose between vengeance and forgiveness. He’s a sensitive, reticent soul who often feels helpless to control his circumstances, brooding upon “how it smarts, in one who wishes to author himself, to feel himself authored by others.” For reasons revealed through the book’s central mystery, he ends up a hard, icy old man.

Avis: She cuts silhouettes in San Francisco’s glamorous City of Paris department store (a Selfridge’s of the 1940s West). She’s alienated from her irascible father and, as it turns out, from her own teenage son (having inherited more of her father’s sternness than she’d care to admit). Her mother’s death thrusts a new intimacy upon her and old Benjamin.

3. When and where is the story set? 

Iowa in the 1870s and 80s
San Francisco in 1944
Civil War era Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas (a confederate prison camp)

Benjamin, in his Westward travels, roams Washington, Oregon, and California in the 1880s.

4. What are the characters’ personal goals? 

Benjamin: He becomes adept in telegraphy at an early age, and nurtures an increasingly mystical/delusional view of the new technology. Ultimately, “he wants to be the humming wire, outside time. To let nothing cling to him” — an impossibility, of course.

Benjamin falls in love with a girl from a neighboring town, and, when he abruptly leaves Iowa for the West, they undertake a passionate courtship by mail. Though he often believes himself unworthy, he comes to see his long travels as a form of purifying exile that may ultimately render him deserving of her love: “If I’m ever to return to you it must be as a man improved, man who’s pried the lead from his spirit and buckshot from his heart.”

Avis: More than anything, she wants her seventeen-year-old son Benny to come home. When we first meet her, Benny’s been missing for weeks, a runaway. Avis fears he’s enlisted.

5. What is the main conflict? What messes up the characters’ lives?

A few things consistently account for the conflicts that spur the characters through the plot:

1.  War (familial, national, and international)
Young men, baited by glory or righteousness, unknowingly harbored longings for their own destruction — primed for the orders of generals who sat at polished desks, tea and biscuits at hand, plotting devastation.

2.  Secrets kept, discovered, and told
Avis: We are each and every one born alone amid strangers. It begins this way, how could it not? And hasn’t she, haven’t they all — Benny, Benjamin — kind of stumbled around in each other’s lives, lost?

3.  The persistent American myth of Manifest Destiny (in its various forms)
Benjamin: To live without a history looked desirable to the lot of us. You want to shake history right off your shoulder and brook no ghost or shadow — and yet man needs community after all, and what is community but a kind of history?

4.  Time itself
Though morning brought new light, now it was just that: new. Not the same light and could never be.

6. What is this novel’s title, and can we read more about it?

The Silent Generations. See an excerpt (one of Benjamin Lorn’s letters) HERE. And view some of the pre-publication praise, as well a low-fi trailer I made for a pre-contractual galley of the book HERE.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

Started back in 2007, finished back in 2010, this unduly delayed novel will see the light of day by the end of 2015 — of that I’m now certain. It’s been too long.
Next Up in this “Blog Hop” are…

Harriet Scott Chessman. Author of the #1 IndieNext Pick Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, the Good Morning America Book Club Selection Someone Not Really Her Mother, the acclaimed Ohio Angels, and The Beauty of Ordinary Things (released last Fall by my own Atelier26 Books and praised by Ron Hansen as “soulful, tender, affecting…wonderful”), Chessman has taught literature and writing at Yale, Bread Loaf School of English, and Stanford’s Continuing Studies program. Her fiction has been translated into ten languages. See Chessman’s Q&A at RedRoom on June 9th.

Kate Gray. Author of three award-winning collections of poetry, Another Sunset We Survive, Bone Knowing, and Where She Goes, Gray’s debut novel Carry the Sky — a brilliantly poetic page-turner set in 1983 at an elite Delaware boarding school — appears from Forest Avenue Press this September. Her fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in literary magazines, and she has been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook, Norcroft, and Soapstone. She teaches creative writing at a community college in Oregon. See Gray’s Q&A at her author blog on June 9th.

Laura Stanfill. Novelist, editor, journalist, and founder of Forest Avenue Press (recipient of a 2014 Oregon Literary Fellowship), Stanfill has earned numerous awards for writing and editorial work. Forest Avenue’s first title, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life, spent four months on the Powell’s Books Small Press Bestseller List and was named the Best Book of 2012 by the Powell’s On Oregon Blog. The author of two novels, Stanfill will discuss The Serinette, her latest, a nineteenth-century epic romp set partly in France and partly in New York City. See Stanfill’s Q&A at her author blog on June 9th.