Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Emerging Writers

By posted at 4:50 am on December 12, 2006 6

The indefatigable Dan Wickett is the hardest working man in book blogging. He is a tireless advocate for “emerging” writers, small presses, and literary journals. How he found the time to compile this post for us, I’ll never know, but I’m glad he did.

I divided my thoughts about authors that I read in 2006 into three categories. First up would be (what else from my end) Emerging Writers. Writers that fell into that category that I can’t wait to read more of would have to include:

Dag Solstad – His Shyness & Dignity is not his first novel, but it is the first available in English, and it was the best book I read all year. Graywolf Press took the chance on bringing this Norwegian’s work to those of us without the skills to read his books in their original language, and they should be thanked.

Benjamin Percy – His debut story collection, The Language of Elk, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in the middle of the year and shows readers a new vision of the current west, with most of the stories set in Oregon. Percy’s language crackles with masculinity and humor and the bizarre. Watch for him – he put a story in both BASS and Pushcart this year, has one coming in January’s Esquire and his second collection is coming from Graywolf Press in 2007.

Robert Fanning – Are you kidding me? Wickett lobbed a poet into this list? Absolutely. Fanning’s The Seed Thieves is his first full length collection of poetry, thanks to Marick Press, and it is beyond just being solid. Fanning has a fantastic way about his phrasing and observations that work both on page, and if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hear him read his work.

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Second up would be those writers who I already thought pretty highly of, that confirmed for me, once again, just how talented they were:

William Gay with his novel Twilight from MacAdam/Cage. He follows up his previous two novels and short story collection with possibly his best yet. A frighteningly gothic near fairy tale about a young brother and sister combination and their efforts to expose a rather sordid mortician.

Daniel Woodrell and Winter’s Bone, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Half of a Yellow Sun. Anybody reading this far into Max’s post has probably visited my site. Enough said as I’m pretty sure searching my blog for 2006 will show these two names and titles coming up way more than anything else.

Tom Franklin with Smonk. The fever Franklin had that induced this story to come oozing out must have been 104 plus.

Steve Yarbrough and Ron Rash with The End of California and The World Made Straight, respectively. These two gentlemen deserve accolades for not writing with any flash, or verbal pyrotechnics, but instead delivering captivating novels, time and time again by simply telling a great story, and doing so with, while excellent writing, not the need to make you notice it.

Michael Ruhlman has once again delivered a fantastic book about cooking with his The Reach of a Chef. If you have ANY interest in the art of cooking, his books are all a must. And even if you don’t, you have more than half a chance at becoming enthralled anyway.

Charles D’Ambrosio and Lee K. Abbott just may be the two best short story writers around and readers were fortunate enough to enjoy a new collection by D’Ambrosio (The Dead Fish Museum) and a Collected collection of Abbott (All Things, All at Once). There isn’t a mis-step in either, and above and beyond that, there are probably close to a dozen stories between the two works that are prize winning, year end anthology worthy.

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Lastly would be those writers that I found myself embarrassed to realize I’d never read their work prior to 2006, and in many cases had not even heard of them:

Colson Whitehead – I had the opportunity to see him read in Ann Arbor earlier in the year and bought a copy of The Intuitionist, which I promptly read and loved. His other three books are high up in my TBR pile.

Magnus Mills – I don’t know why I bought his The Restraint of Beasts – I thought I remembered his name from Jeff Bryant’s Underrated Writers Project from last year, but his name is not there. Whatever the case – I loved it and the follow up novel, All Quiet on the Orient Express as well. The rest of his novels and a short story collection reside in my TBR pile at this time.

Rupert Thomson – Thanks to Megan for nominating his latest, Divided Kingdom, as an LBC nominee. Another one who I immediately began looking for his backlog of many novels to pad my TBR pile.

Richard Powers – Oh well, at least I waited for a decent book to hop aboard – The Echo Maker – NBA winner. Thanks to Ed Champion for inviting me to the roundtable discussion of this wonderful title. There’s approximately 2100 pages of unread Powers’ novels on a shelf here now.

Peter Markus – Even more ridiculous when you find out he resides less than 30 minutes from my house. Went to see the aforementioned Robert Fanning read earlier this year and Markus read some unpublished work from what should be his fourth book of short fictions that deal with brothers, mud, fish, and the moon. He was kind enough to give me a copy of his first, Good, Brother, which was reprinted by Calimari Press earlier this year. I read it that night and had ordered both The Moon is a Lighthouse (from a store in Japan – the only one I could find online) and The Singing Fish (also published, last year, by Calimari Press). The man is a unique writer, an amazing writer, and one I highly recommend you try to find. Plenty of his work is available online.

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Thanks Dan!





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6 Responses to “A Year in Reading: Emerging Writers”

  1. Anonymous
    at 12:21 pm on December 12, 2006

    A lot of male writers….

  2. ruhlman
    at 12:45 pm on December 12, 2006

    i'm a male writer (who adores excellent female writers) and am honored to be included in Dan's list (he's been writing about my work for a while). but i was delighted, even more than seeing my work mentioned, to see that he was acknowledged for how HARD he works. he really does. he's a benevolent force out there in blogging the literary world, and i hope more and more people become aware of it.

  3. Dan Wickett
    at 1:06 pm on December 12, 2006

    Caught!!!

    I'll be honest, as a stats geek it's one of the first things I've noticed about my own lists for the year – of books I reviewed, of individual stories I discussed on my site, etc.

    I did neglect to include in the post above another female author that did not fail me with her second effort and that was Kellie Wells with her debut novel, Skin. That said, I knew coming into the year that the section of favorite authors whose books I'd be reading during 2006 was going to be slanted male – those names above are some of my absolute favorite authors and I've known since late in 2005 that they were to have books published in 2006.

    I'll be honest though, beyond specifically looking for work that was translated this year, I don't pay all that much attention to gender, or race (beyond Borders forcing me to go to a special section within their store at times) when looking for my next novel.

    However, I do know that my post for books I'm looking forward to in 2007 is a more gender balanced post, as many of my favorite female authors have titles slated for next year: Alyson Hagy, Julianna Baggott, Liesel Litzenburger, and at least one newcomer I'm looking forward to in Rosa Liksom. Plus Baggott and Litzenburger had titles come out late in 2006 that I have set aside for the near future.

    And thanks to both Max and Michael for the kind words about the fun, er, effort.

  4. Dan Wickett
    at 1:17 pm on December 12, 2006

    And the reason I hate starting lists, don't know how I forgot to mention greatly looking forward to Elizabeth Ellen's chapbook due out later this week from Future Tense Press, Before You She Was a Pitbull – she's only the most commented upon author at the EWN blog.

    Am curious about one thing though – why anonymous? Why not proudly note that over 94% (told you, stats geek) of the authors mentioned were male and an even higher percentage of titles mentioned? It was a good, and interesting, observation.

    Just curious…

  5. Max
    at 1:40 pm on December 12, 2006

    Dan, I'm guessing Anon was just a "drive by" commenter, but, if not, hopefully he/she will come back and elaborate.

    At any rate, the fun of stat-keeping aside, I think that if I were to have to constrain my reading choices to make sure that I was covering all my gender/demographic/genre bases, it would take a lot of the fun out of just picking up a book and reading it because it looks interesting or because a trusted fellow reader has recommended it.

  6. Anonymous
    at 4:25 pm on December 12, 2006

    You should check out this new author, Myron Night. He has recently published two books: Habits and Twist. You can find more info on http://www.greenlightbooks.com

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