A Glorious Sunday

Not only did Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik win the middleweight championship in seven rounds tonight, giving it up to Youngstown in the interview afterward, the town that sent him off with a pep rally which people talked about on TV as if it were not as sophisticated as it should be, you know, pep rallies and all, but after the fight I came home to find this review in the San Francisco Chronicle of One for Sorrow:

Christopher Barzak finds a new slant on the “I-see-dead-people” formula in his off-beat coming-of-age tale, One for Sorrow (Bantam; 310 pages; $12; trade paperback). Already reeling from a recent family tragedy, 15-year-old Adam McCormick feels a special kinship with Jamie Marks, a classmate whose body is found buried in the woods. Neglected by his parents and peers, Adam begins to interact with Jamie’s all-too-visible ghost, comforting the dead boy even as his memories begin to burn away. Their bond, however, proves dangerously seductive, and Adam eventually begins to lose his own moorings in the physical world.

Barzak does a beautiful job of capturing the anxieties of adolescence and the righteous rage many teens feel at life’s inherent unfairness. He wisely discards the amateur detective cliches that coagulate around this kind of fantasy and concentrates on Adam’s brave, interior struggle to find the value in his family, his first girlfriend, his hometown and himself. Smart and affecting, “One for Sorrow” is a first novel likely to haunt those who fall under its spell.

Two ghost stories. One that I was cheering for from the oldest pub in Youngstown, where the floor felt like it was going to collapse when Kelly knocked out Taylor, like knocking out everyone who thought us a lost, nowhere place in the world, someone told me as we all cheered, and one from San Francisco, where the ghosts I’ve written about have been welcomed. It’s a good night.

Good night.

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Citizens and Consumers

Today a friend of mine said, “I can’t believe how politically disengaged young people are today.”

I said, “That’s because we’re consumers instead of citizens.”

I don’t know where that came from, it just flew out of my mouth as soon as I opened it. I don’t know if it’s right, but it certainly felt right when I said it.

Also, I don’t think it’s necessarily just young people. But anyway. I’m sure there’s a way to be both consumer and citizen, but it seems the traits of capitalism define us more these days than the traits of democracy. I’m not sure why, but whenever I hear reporters talk about “us” as consumers instead of as, well, people, I just get really unnerved for a couple of moments, and then try to carry on.

Another Youngstown Ghost

There’s a boxer here in Youngstown who is taking on Jermain Taylor for the Middleweight Championship on HBO.  Kelly Pavlik has been working hard for what he wants.  I’m not a fan of boxing, but I’m a fan of people who chase their dreams.  He’s the talk of the town right now, and with good reason.  There’s been so much disenchantment with being able to achieve the “American Dream” in this community for lots of good reason that anytime anyone from here is able to make something happen, everyone gets behind them.  I felt that kind of support recently when my first novel came out.  There are things that you don’t get in a poverty-stricken community, but one thing you get that isn’t the same everywhere is a community spirit that feels a little bit like the sort associated with family.

Here is a three part pre-fight documentary about Pavlik and Taylor.  The parts that document Youngstown and how growing up in an area like this shapes a person are really good.  I thought the footage of the streets and description of the neighborhoods was done well too.  There’s a shot of Kelly running down South Avenue, a few blocks from where I live, past Angelo’s pizza.  I’m goofy hometown proud, even if I’m not a boxing fan, and anyone with a nickname like “Ghost” that comes from Youngstown has got my support.  So Good luck on Saturday, Ghost.

Documentary

Part One

Part Two

Part Three 

Blood Engines

Because I have not visited my own bookstore yet today, I do not have my own picture to post of T.A. Pratt’s new novel, Blood Engines, which released today, and so I have stolen Greg Van Eekhout’s instead.  Apologies, Greg.  You can steal a photo of mine in the future, ok?  I had the chance to read this novel in its first draft and offer Tim lame suggestions for revision (lame because it was already pretty finished, if you ask me).  It’s the birth of a new star.  All you Anita Blake fans, make way for Marla Mason.

Computer Advice?

I’m considering buying a new laptop. Right now I work on a Windows system, but I’m willing to try a Mac. But I’m not sure, really, what is a good, trustworthy laptop maker these days. I don’t really need it for anything other than writing and internet connection, but no matter what I want a laptop with a low rate of failure. Can anyone sell me on what I should be looking at, the benefits and negatives of various types? Oh, and if you read my journal through a blog aggregator, please click over to the journal itself to leave the comment. Thanks in advance all you techies!

Living in the Stacks

I went to the university library here in Youngstown yesterday, to do some research and find a few books I already own that are still sitting in boxes at my parents’ house until I decide to either get more bookshelves or find/buy a house (maybe some day!). I’ve always loved the university library, those floors and floors of books, microfilm, databases and special collections, the way the rows seem to go on forever, the way it’s so big you feel like maybe you could find some place where no one will ever look and you could perhaps make that hidden, quiet corner your home, and come and go from there from now on. I spent a lot of time as an undergrad and graduate student in that library. Research, for me, was exciting, no matter what the topic. When I read A.S. Byatt’s Possession, about graduate students of literature who are described in the book almost in a way that is reminiscent of detective fiction language, I totally understood where she was coming from with them. I’ve felt something similar to that detective-ness for the past fourteen years whenever I’ve entered library stacks, especially those looming, maze-like stacks of a university library. When I visited Kent State’s library years ago, which is even bigger, it felt like I was driving up on some immense, tower of learning in a high fantasy novel. All that access to knowledge and other people’s voices.

Anyway, as usual, I couldn’t just go find the books I meant to get. I got lost in the stacks, my attention snagged every five feet by some other book that caught my attention somehow. I never quite know how this works, but I think it always must have something to do with whatever my unconscious is working on for whatever book I’m writing at that moment. I register titles as I peruse the shelves, and my unconscious gets the info and then sends a message back–hey, pick that up and check it out. And often what I find are books I would never have thought to look at, or have never even heard of, that somehow do have something relevant to what I’m thinking about to tell me.

Yesterday’s find was two novels by one Rachel Field, about whom I know very little, but these quotes floored me while I read the opening pages to her novel And Now Tomorrow :

“There is a fascination in places that hold our past in safe keeping. We are drawn to them, often against our will. For the past is a shadow grown greater than its substance, and shadows have power to mock and betray us to the end of our days.”

And:

“I don’t pretend to know what I believe beyond this–that nothing which lives and breathes and has its appointed course under the sun can be altogether insignificant. Some trace remains of what we have been, of what we tried to be, even as the star-shaped petals of the apple blossom lie hidden at its core; even as the seed a bird scatters in flight may grow into the tree which shall later shelter other birds.”

I hope the book as a whole holds up the way these sentences do. But even if it doesn’t, these sentences are gems enough.

Vindicator Review

A very nice review of One for Sorrow in one of the local papers:

Chris Barzak’s first novel, “One for Sorrow,” is like a window into the metaphysical world.

Told through the voice of a troubled but honest teen, it’s depiction of what it’s like to be unhappily dead is so believable, it’s like a primer on the subject.

On its most basic level, “One for Sorrow” is a ghost story, and it can bring a chill to your spine. But not because it’s scary. Because it is so profound and moving.

Read the rest of it by clicking here.

Walking the Plank: Zen Edition

Jeff Vandermeer does interviews with authors who have books that have recently come out. He calls his interview series Walking the Plank, and asks the writer questions in an interrogative form similar to that of being stuck out on a plank with many pirates pointing their sharp swords into your chest or back, depending on the pirates. I am totally the wrong person to place on a plank though; if pirates set me out on one, I would probably just jump into the ocean of my own free will because that’s how I roll. Or I would attempt to evade their interrogation by answering with zen-like koans, in an attempt to confuse them. And so, since there is no ocean to jump into online, my plank interview on Jeff’s blog is decidedly evasive and zen-like. You can read it by clicking here.

Yatterings Interview

An interview I recently did with Iain over at Yatterings has been posted today. He asked some really cool questions about the novel, process, interstitiality, influences, and short stories. Hope it’s interesting if you pop over there and read.

Hope you have a good Sunday. I’m all about taking it easy today and pretending like Monday is not going to come.