July/August 2004

Each summer we feature five writers who are publishing their debut novels or short story collections. This year we have the pleasure of introducing our readers to Keith Dixon, Seth Kantner, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Hannah Tinti, and a woman whose life story rivals anything she could fabricate, the apparently indomitable Samina Ali.

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The Plain Truth: A Profile of Kent Haruf

by Michael McGregor
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Kent Haruf, the author of Plainsong, writes about people of Colorado's High Plains, a landscape so still and empty that every tree or movement draws notice. And he does it so well that the advent of his newest novel, Eventide, has the...

The Abundant Realm: A Profile of A.S. Byatt

by Erica Rex
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A.S. Byatt likes to tell a good story, several of them, actually, and often all at once. The Booker Prize–winning author of Possession returns to the subject of storytelling (and so much more) in her newest collection titled, appropriately...

The Many Lives of Michael Ryan: A Profile

by Joanna Smith Rakoff
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Michael Ryan is a distinguished poet, the author of an explosive memoir, a devoted husband and father…and a writer who, although he seemed to disappear for a while, is now back—and with two new books.  

First Fiction: Five Fiction Writers Debut With Notable Books

by Carolyn T. Hughes
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Interviews with Keith Dixon, Seth Kantner, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Hannah Tinti, and Samina Ali.  

News and Trends

Helping Soldiers to Write the War

by Andrew Feld

In April the National Endowment for the Arts launched Operation Homecoming, a program of creative writing workshops for soldiers returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The Contester: The Failure of Zoo's Fiction Contests

by Thomas Hopkins

In this inaugural installment of our new column, The Contester, devoted to the news and trends of literary contests, we look at Neil Azevedo's Zoo Press, a press that despite being well known for its poetry books and prizes (the Kenyon Review Prize and the Paris Review Prize), hasn't had much luck in the fiction arena.


John Barr: Invested in Poetic Currency

by Kevin Larimer

When John Barr was named president of the Poetry Foundation six months ago, most poets in the country were asking themselves, “John who?” Although Barr has published six books of poetry and served on the board of directors of Yaddo as well as that of the Poetry Society of America, many poets had never heard of him. His long career as an investment banker on Wall Street hadn’t raised his literary profile either. The worlds of high finance and poetry are totally unrelated. Not anymore. In 2002, Ruth Lilly’s unprecedented financial gift—$100 million over the next 30 years—to the Poetry Foundation, formerly the Modern Poetry Association, changed all that. Suddenly poets are paying attention to what an investment banker has to say.

Literary MagNet

by Kevin Larimer

Literary MagNet chronicles the start-ups and closures, successes and failures, anniversaries and accolades, changes of editorship and special issues—in short, the news and trends—of literary magazines in America. This issue's MagNet features Midnight Mind Magazine, Small Spiral Notebook, Swink, Mot Juste, the Canary, Blackbird, Ducky, Parakeet, and Rhino.


Memoir: Whose Life Is It Anyway?

by Arlene Modica Matthews

Appearing in someone else’s memoir is like appearing in someone else’s dream. Your role is scripted according to the vagaries of the author’s memory and subjected to the Rorschach test of the heart. This utter lack of editorial control is the second thought I have on learning, in the pages of the New York Times Book Review, that the son of my late ex-husband has published a memoir of his father, the poet William Matthews.

Small Press Points

by Kevin Larimer

Small Press Points highlights the happenings of the small press players. This issue features Green Integer, Coffee House Press, Verse Press, Fiction Collective Two, and Kelsey St. Press.

Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin

by Staff

Page One features a sample of titles we think you'll want to explore. With this installment, we offer excerpts from Invisible Bride by Tony Tost and Coin of the Realm by Carl Phillips.

The Practical Writer

Independent Publicists: How to Find, Hire, and Work With One

by Corene Lemaitre
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A writer's guide to working with a publicist unaffiliated with a publisher.

The Literary Life

Writing in July: Reflections on a Green Dream

by Rick Bass
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Author Rick Bass reflects on his writing life in summer.

Poets on Place: Donald Revell in Las Vegas, Nevada

by W.T. Pfefferle
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The poet Donald Revell discusses the influence of place on his work.

Notes of a Native Son: Chronicle of a Collaboration

by Sol Stein

Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin’s best-known book, was published in 1955 by Beacon Press. Baldwin’s editor then was Sol Stein, whom he’d known since high school. This essay is an excerpt from Stein’s Introduction to Native Sons by Baldwin and Stein, which will be published by One World, an imprint of Random House, next month. The book includes correspondence between Stein and Baldwin that produced Notes of a Native Son.