Roxane Gay (via @saralippmann)
Excited to be chosen for the Jewish Book Council's book club this week!
"In her debut novel, What to Do About the Solomons, Bethany Ball leaves no stone unturned as she gradually divulges the inner psyches, darkest secrets, and most problematic idiosyncrasies of her kibbutznik characters. Lust, drugs, money, and other excesses are no strangers to the Solomon family. Lovers of classic Jewish literature and gossip rags unite: this one’s got something for everyone."
As a lover of both celebrity gossip websites AND Anna Karenina, I fully love the line about gossip rags and I admit that is exactly what I was going for.
There is a kind of voice in fiction and non fiction that I call gossipy but i'm sure there's a better more literary term for it. When I think of that voice I think of some of my favorite writers like Mary Gaitskill (to me, no less than a queen), Bret Easton Ellis, Jay McInernay, the diaries of Anais Nin, Tama Janowitz. They provided details on characters that were often shocking, illuminating, funny, and human. A lot of Eighties writers and a lot of them published by Vintage Contemporaries which back then had the coolest book designs. I had a wise friend in college who would tell me the most salacious stories. They were wonderful. They might have been embellished, which made them even better. In the Solomons book the aside about someone having sex with their veterinarian on the examining table came from an anecdote they once told me. Reading those writers that I loved was like sitting next to that wise often hilarious and self deprecating friend giving dispatches from the world.
Read the rest of the Jewish Book Council review here.
I started watching the show Younger after I found out my friend Miriam Shor was on it. Miriam and I went to high school together but I didn't really meet her until some years after we graduated. We were both in New York City and she'd just starred in the show Hedwig and the Angry Inch and a few other things. She is dead cool and completely down to earth. We run into each other often in the same downtown coffee shop.
On the show, she plays the marketing manager for a publishing house. When my book came out, she took it with her on set and voila! SOLOMONS became a TV star!
So excited to be on the Center for Fiction Short List! What a thrill and an honor. I'd just taken my seat on an airplane at LAX when my wonderful editor at Grove, Katie Raissian, called to give me the news. Everything in publishing is done, as you can imagine, over email so when your editor calls you it's either really terrible news, or fantastic news. So happy it was the latter!
I'm also exited to announce I've been invited to attend the Miami Book November 12th through the 19th. Miami holds a very special place in my heart. My son was born there on Miami Beach (with a midwife who is in the Guiness Book of World Records for the most live births outside of a hospital!) and for a while we lived in Coral Gables just a block away from Books and Books. I didn't realize at the time what an institution Books and Books is, or Mitchell Kaplan, but that place was my home away from home. Many afternoons, I walked down to the cafe to peruse books and magazines and work on my own book. Mitchell and his wife were generous and warm and were totally nonplussed while my son tore away at the free newspapers and periodicals kept at the bottom of the news stands.
I also met what would become my son's god mother, Dafne in Miami. She was born in Cuba and came over to the United States when she was fourteen. Of all the people who say, "You need to write my story," Daf is the only person who I will one day take her up on it. She is in every way an extraordinary person. Can't wait to get back to Books and Books and have some Cuban chicken soup, which is what I lived off of for the majority of my pregnancy.
A couple weeks I did an interview with my old friend Jackie Cangro. We worked together a million years ago at Simon and Schuster Children's. She was very kind and patient with me and by far the best part of that job were the wonderful people I met there.
You can find the interview (and lots of other great writerly content!) here.
I've been studying this book for a while. I read it years ago but didn't really understand why I was so intrigued. It's the familiar story and the movie is just as fantastic as the book. What I love about it is we are never privy to Benjamin's thoughts. Ever. We follow him closely. We see what he sees and hear what he hears. I love it because we lie to ourselves all the time. The stream of consciousness is often mindless, unhelpful chatter full of disinformation. We are often mechanical in our thoughts and even in our action. Charles Webb and by extension Benjamin seem also to distrust thought, distrust motivation and so it's cut out. I love it. It's brilliant. The ways we are isolated not just from other people but from ourselves. Socrates said know yourself because we almost never do.
Truly it has been a bit of a whirlwind for me. Publishing a book is a lovely grind and in some ways I've loved, and hated, every minute of it. Slowly, I'm turning my attention back to my second book and a completely different cast of characters. My so-called Detroit book is calling me, and I'm more than happy to sink back into it.
Last week I found out The Solomons has been long listed for the Center of Fiction first novel prize. It's an honor and a thrill! There are several books on that list that I have in my house and are next on my list. Notably, fellow Michigander Julie Buntin's book and Matthew Klam. I'll get to that George Saunders one of these days too. I've taken several classes at The Center of Fiction. One with my good friend Daniel Long, another with Gordon Lish, and a third with Myla Goldberg. I love the space and the vibe, especially the elevator!
I think this might be the greatest compliment I've ever received on my book. A week ago, Judy Blume sent me a private message through Twitter telling me she liked my book. I was so shocked I shouted out loud. My fourteen year old, who read all the Fudge books, was even impressed (very hard to impress a 14 year old). And because it was a private message, I eventually filed it away.
Today, my friend (and label mate) Olivia Clare posted an article from the New York Times. Judy Blume recommending my book (along with Sarah Gerard and Jami Attenberg--amazing company!). You can read it here.
Judy Blume is a seminal writer for me. Absolutely no one meant more to me as a lonely only child. She was realer than real. She was a friend.
This might have been my favorite reading so far. I read with Honor Moore, Mensah Demary, and Cortney Lamar Charleston and it was at the Nuyorican! A place I used to go when I was in my twenties and listen to Poetry slams. You can see the issue and read my story in The Common here. They have a brand new website, so check it out.
My friend Job Christenson came and I was delighted as always to see him. He was a college roommate in Ann Arbor in a big Victorian house. Living in the house there was me, a guy who became my boyfriend for a while, three lesbians and two gay guys. Job was a musical theater major and he was the biggest talent University of Michigan had. He left school a semester early after he got into Cats on Broadway and moved to NYC. My boyfriend and I had moved to Santa Fe, and broken up. Job called me from Times Square and told me I had to get to NYC asap, that he had a two bedroom, and he'd rent one of them to me. I got a job at Henry Holt (where I was a TERRIBLE editorial assistant. If you are an unhappy and/or terrible editorial assistant somewhere out there--life gets better, I promise!) and the rest is memories and history. Some of which I'll be visiting in my second book, which takes place partly in NYC in the year 1999....
Thanks so much, Job, and to Kate Schmier, Sandra Hong, Jonathan Segol and my amazing agent, Duvall, for coming out. Thank you Jennifer Acker for being such a bright literary light, accepting my story, asking me to read and creating such a lovely community. I always have a good time at Common events.
And, reading gets easier each time I do it. This time I didn't even have to sip my tiny flask of whiskey.
(And I bought this great tote!)