Tuesday, March 01, 2011

What is Benjamin Hale reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Benjamin Hale, author of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore.

His entry begins:
I just finished reading the collection of Saul Bellow’s letters that came out recently. I am a Bellow completist. Bellow is one of the few writers whose process and personal life I’m curious enough about to actually go out and read his letters. As far as getting into the nuts and bolts of writing fiction, they’re not as insightful as say, Flaubert’s famously are, but the characteristically cantankerous swagger and energy of his prose that’s in his letters as much as it’s in his fiction makes up for it. Typical to a collection of a writer’s letters, there’s plenty of bitching about money and woe-is-me-ing over catastrophic marriages, but there’s also a great deal of truly touching emotion—it’s particularly sad to watch Bellow’s sense of sympathy and uneasy foreboding grow over the course of his friendship with John Berryman.

There are only a few other writers whose work I’ve spent more time trying to reverse-engineer, to open up the hood and see what’s inside, try to figure out how it works. When I first seriously got into Bellow, I noticed there was...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore:
"We've finally got a book to screech and howl about. Benjamin Hale's audacious first novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," is a tragicomedy that makes you want to jump up on the furniture and beat your chest ... "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" is a brilliant, unruly brute of a book - the kind of thing Richard Powers might write while pumped up on laughing gas ... When the novel's antics aren't making you giggle, its pathos is making you cry, and its existential predicament is always making you think. No trip to the zoo, western Africa or even the mirror will ever be the same ... funny, sad and shocking ... extraordinary intellectual range... But just when you want to stuff this chimp back in his cage, he comes up with some unforgettable new adventure, like his off-off-Broadway production of "The Tempest" that's absolutely transporting. So let Bruno run free. He's got a lot to tell us, and we've got a lot to learn."
--Ron Charles, Washington Post

"…an absolute pleasure. Much of its pleasure comes from the book's voice…Every first-person narrator creates himself out of words, but this process is particularly acute in Bruno's case, since possession of language is the only thing that qualifies him for human consideration, especially after acts of violence for which he would otherwise be put down. Like Scheherazade, he tells his story in order to stay his execution. There's also great pleasure in the audacity of the story itself. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore announces that Benjamin Hale is himself fully evolved as a writer, taking on big themes, intent on fitting the world into his work."
--Christopher R. Beha, New York Times
Learn more about The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore and its author at Benjamin Hale's website and blog.

Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he received a Provost's Fellowship to write The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, which went on to win a Michener-Copernicus Award.

The Page 69 Test: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore.

Writers Read: Benjamin Hale.

--Marshal Zeringue