Mike Roberts is the author of Cannibals in Love, a novel published by FSG Originals in September. Mike spoke with Will Chancellor, the author of A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, at BookCourt in Brooklyn about the sense of paranoia and youth that drives the post-9/11 novel. Conversation then ranged from the import of physical movement in fiction to the underappreciated pitfalls of allegorical novels about cattle.
As the movie adaptation of Spare Parts opens across the country (here’s the Washington Post review of “the feel-good story…that’s also pretty darn thrilling”), Joshua Davis has published a bracing and important op-ed in The New York Times about the fundamental difference between the Hollywood version—even when it’s fairly faithful to events—and the real-life version of the story, and what that means for the people involved and, really, America itself. The piece begins:
WHEN audiences watch the movie “Spare Parts” in theaters this month, they will see the kind of Hollywood ending that has eluded the immigration debate in Congress.
The film is based on my reporting about four young immigrants who built an underwater robot. In the movie, which closely reflects the true story, the students enter the nation’s pre-eminent robotics competition, an event sponsored by NASA and the Navy. They win widespread recognition for their accomplishments and, when the movie ends in 2004, their future is bright.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the story really ends.
We won’t ruin the suspense that Josh has worked so hard to build. But the gist is that you need to know the full story, so we encourage you in the strongest possible terms to keep reading here.
‘Tis the season for best of the year lists. We’re pretty pleased to be on more than a few. Below, a roundup of FSG Originals (as well as honorary FSG Originals and alums) that hit some of the year-end best-of lists.
Critics went ape over Catherine Lacey’s “frequently brilliant”* debut novel, Nobody Is Ever Missing this year. It was #1 on Time Out New York’s list of the 10 best books of 2014. #11 of BuzzFeed’s 24 best fiction books of 2014 AND one of 32 of the most beautiful book covers of 2014. Electric Literature named it one of 2014’s best novels AND best debut of 2014. Also in Electric Literature, fellow Originals author Jeff VanderMeer named Nobody Is Ever Missing among his favorite fiction reads of 2014. It was one of The Huffington Post’s best books of 2014, one of Bustle’s best books of 2014, and in the Barnes & Noble Review, Jami Attenberg named it one of the best books she read in 2014 (along with Ugly Girls!) Not too shabby for a debut novel!
Check out the rest of the best!
In Spare Parts (soon to be a major motion picture!), Joshua Davis tells the story of an unlikely high school robotics team from Phoenix, Arizona: Four Mexican-American boys, undocumented and without a lot of obvious promise in the field of underwater robot building. We’ll try to not to ruin the climax here, but when Davis returned to Carl Hayden High School to check in on the team a decade after he had originally covered them, he found one more development: Girls!
This week, FSG Originals is proud to release its very first hardcover publication. Area X is a beefy (“I don’t think the brilliance of the Corral cover is as clear until you hold the hardcover in your hands,” Jeff says), three-in-one volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s beloved Southern Reach trilogy: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. It’s also an appropriate capstone to the adrenaline-fueled, “rapid fire” publication of the series: twelve months, three—well, four—books, and one very intrepid author.
Doomsday approacheth! Or, rather, has been on the horizon since 1993, when Lighthouse Digest Magazine created the Doomsday List of Endangered Lighthouses. These structures, once essential navigational aids—not to mention cultural landmarks, symbolic touchstones—are in danger of disappearing from coastlines around the world. In his wonderfully Sebaldian Op-Ed for the New York Times, Jeff VanderMeer writes about the mysterious and endangered “attracters of ghost stories, smugglers’ tales and shipwrecks,” and makes a somewhat qualified argument for their preservation and restoration, particularly as it applies to his own local lighthouse (doesn’t everyone have one?), The St. Marks Lighthouse in northern Florida.
There is also a selfish part of me, the part that likes to be off the edge of the map, that feels the damaged lighthouse is somehow more authentic than the one that will be created through restoration. This is a place that has survived hurricanes, Confederate bombings, the constant threat of erosion. It has always been on the edge of being snuffed out. That is its natural state—and the entropy against which each lighthouse keeper fought, night after night, before there were no more lighthouse keepers.
Catherine Lacey sticks it to the reporters and reviewers who assume “novelists are just a blink and a name away from their narrators.” It’s a nice (not to mention important and articulate and kind of sassy) reminder of the project of fiction, and why we all continue to love it so much. Read the whole piece, “A Need to Disappear,” here, at BuzzFeed.
Etgar Keret, who lives in Tel Aviv with his family, admits that when he started writing this piece—originally published in Israel, now in the LA Times—he “found it hard to write an article on peace without feeling like an idiot, or at the very least, like someone completely cut off from reality.”
And that was before the current situation in Gaza erupted. The urgency and the predictability of the latest conflagration caused him to reconsider the very basis of how he had come to think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
If peace is so hopelessly unachievable, maybe it’s time to give up on “peace.” Time to find a more honest way to frame things. It’s a simple, reasonable, maybe even hopeful proposal for a situation that rarely inspires such adjectives. Give it a read.
Today BuzzFeed Books published Matthew Derby’s incredibly moving piece about his sister, Margaret, who was born without the ability to speak, and how writing The Silent History helped him understand her—and his own relationship to language—decades after her death. Reader, we’re covered in shivers over here.
Matthew will be in Brooklyn tonight, along with fellow Silent History author Eli Horowitz, for a Q+A and readings from the book by Alex Wagner, Eszter Balint, and Sloane Crosley. The event’s at powerHouse at 7pm; we’ll be serving wine. RSVP!
“No one will pay you to write your first book,” Catherine Lacey’s professor told her in grad school; you have to find a way to pay yourself.
One way to do that, as Catherine writes in an article for the New York Times, is to form a worker co-op like 3B, the bed & breakfast she helped start in 2010. Together, she and six housemates purged rooms full of garbage, “uncovered dubious plumbing maneuvers and ludicrous electrical work,” and repainted walls from a “color I can describe only as ‘scab.’” It sounds pretty fun, to be honest.
Now, the “nascent fiction-thing [she] wasn’t yet calling a novel” when she started 3B is an honest-to-goodness book called Nobody Is Ever Missing, which we’re very proud to be publishing in July.