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.
RilkeLetter_RodinArchives_2005

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 TO PUBLISH DEBUT
BY PORTLAND WRITER MARGARET MALONE
 
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, latimes.com, 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 www.Atelier26Books.com and follow the publisher’s tweets at https://twitter.com/M_A_Cunningham

Listen to a 10-minute recording of Margaret Malone reading from the title storyon LiveWireRadio (minute 20). More about Margaret Malone at: www.margaretmalone.com
 
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.

Alors... 

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's National Short Story Month! Get Cunningham's Date of Disappearance for More Than 40% Off -- and a Bonus Book!

An offer from Atelier26 Books:

May is National Short Story Month, and Atelier26 is celebrating by offering M. Allen Cunningham's illustrated, limited-edition story collection Date of Disappearance for just $10.00 a copy through the Atelier26 Store. That's more than 40% off the cover price! (This offer lasts until May 31st.)

Date of Disappearance, which the Oregonian has called "superb, well-balanced, and deeply seductive," features ten resonant stories, each with an accompanying illustration by artist Nathan Shields. Signed and numbered by the author, and presented in a fine paperback with beautiful design features (French flaps, colored end-pages, and glossy stock for each illustration), Date of Disappearance is, we like to think, a pretty special package. Take a peek in this video:


What's more, great fans of short fiction that we are, we'd like to sweeten the deal by offering up a few of our favorite short story collections alongside Cunningham's. Thus, the first five readers to order a copy of Date of Disappearance will be invited to select a bonus book from the following excellent list. We're offering one copy of each of these -- first come first served. If you're one of the first five, you'll receive an e-mail from us shortly after you place your order.

Happy Reading, and long live the short story!



The Beauty of Ordinary Things by Harriet Scott Chessman (Atelier26 Books)
OK, not a story collection, but many have called it a novella, and goodness, we love this book!


Disorder by Dan DeWeese (Propeller Books)
A compulsively readable volume of subtle, unconventional, often curiously moving tales reminiscent of the work of Kazuo Ishiguro, W.G. Sebald, and even, sometimes, Henry James.

Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor (Sarabande Books)
Minor breaks a great many "rules" in this astonishing collection book (including instructing the reader from the outset not to think of Praying Drunk as a mere collection, and not to skip around), and instructs us all, on every page, in how to write one's heart out.
P.S. Listen to an inspiring conversation with Minor HERE.
The Afterlife by John Updike (Knopf)
Updike, OK?

Fast Lanes by Jayne Anne Phillips (Knopf)
Breathtaking, fearless, riveting -- classic Jayne Anne.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

On the Double!

And now for a brief, non-literary commentary: I really like our governor. This isn't a competition, but upon how many citizen strangers did Schwarzenegger perform successful emergency aid while in office? Like I say, not a competition, but ... take that, California!

Story courtesy of The Oregonian:

Gov. John Kitzhaber performs CPR on woman lying unconscious on Portland street

The governor was driving to dinner shortly after 5 p.m. near Southwest Main and 13th Avenue when he saw “someone along the edge of the street who seemed to be attempting to resuscitate a woman” lying on the ground, Nkenge Harmon Johnson said in an email to The Oregonian.
The governor ordered his driver to stop, Harmon Johnson said, then “jumped out of the vehicle” and ran to the woman’s aid to begin giving CPR. He directed one of his state police security guards to call paramedics, who took over from Kitzhaber when they arrived.
The incident, first reported by KGW-TV, is one of several in which Kitzhaber -- a former emergency room doctor -- has administered emergency first aid.
(more HERE)

Sunday, May 04, 2014

New M. Allen Cunningham Website!

Redesigned for the first time in seven years, the new M. Allen Cunningham site is now live at www.MAllenCunningham.com, and I happen to think it sparkles nicely. Please take a moment to explore its offerings, which include audio selections, glimpses of forthcoming novels, links to my shorter writing, and more.



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Skulls" by M. Allen Cunningham

A reading of "Skulls," which is part of something longer. Accompanying artwork by Nathan Shields.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

M. Allen Cunningham's Partisans Shortlisted

Aqueous Books announced today the shortlist for the 2014 Flann O'Brien Award for Innovative Fiction, and among the six titles is M. Allen Cunningham's Partisans.

How to describe Partisans? Maybe like so:
A lost work by the mysterious writer G.P. Leed, Partisans is a book in two alternating parts, one part being the story of a sole surviving resistance fighter (from an unspecified war in an unspecified time) as he wanders war-torn landscapes in search of a new life. The other part of Partisans derives from Leed’s own private notebooks. M. Allen Cunningham has painstakingly edited the manuscript according to Leed’s designs as indicated in papers discovered after his disappearance, and the whole work creates a unique dialectic that is hard to convey in a mere synopsis. But this miraculously surviving work is long overdue for publication. 
It's an honor to be included in the O'Brien Award shortlist.

On the basis of an excerpt from Partisans, Cunningham was recently awarded a 2014 residency at Yaddo.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9893023-2-6
Retail Price: $12.00 on sale now for $10.00
116 pages 
6"x6" trade paperback 
 
Learn more HERE

Thursday, March 20, 2014

APPEARING APRIL 2014 in trade paperback:
 Vol.2 in the Atelier26 Samizdat Series


The Flickering Page: The Reading Experience in Digital Times
Three Guided Chapters (and a Preface) by M. Allen Cunningham
with 24 illustrations by Nathan Shields

the jacket copy:

Are physical books merely old media in need of an update?

What characterizes the electronic reading experience versus the reading of print? How significant are the differences?

As our reading media change, how will our reading and writing methods change? What effects might this have on our literature and our interactions with information overall?

A provocative casebook for our digital times, The Flickering Page is designed to jumpstart in-depth dialogue about the historical, cultural, civic, and scientific implications of a mass shift in reading methods. Originating in M. Allen Cunningham's ongoing work with the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project, arrestingly illustrated by artist Nathan Shields, this small volume weaves together some of the most cogent thought of the past fifty years, urging readers to consider anew -- and pose for themselves -- the many questions about our technological revolution that remain far from settled. 

the contents:
-a preface: Five Characteristics of an "E-book World"

-chapter 1: The Technology of Individualism: How Print Helped Shape the Renaissance
          Guide: Marshall McLuhan, author of Understanding Media and The Gutenberg Galaxy

-chapter 2: Technology & Ideology: Why Our Tools Are Never Neutral
          Guide: Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly

-chapter 3: Neuroplasticity: What Do a Story from Ancient Greece and Decades of Brain Research Have in Common?
          Guides: Socrates; Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows

-appendix: some more key questions about e-books; more for reflection and discussion

ISBN: 978-0-9893023-2-6
Retail Price: $12.00 on sale now for $10.00
116 pages
6"x6" trade paperback 

IN STOCK SOON: PRE-ORDER NOW