Saturday, June 20, 2009

What is Josh Weil reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Josh Weil, author of The New Valley, three linked novellas.

According to Maureen Howard, in The New Valley Weil's "rendering of place is strong as Flannery O'Connor's; his engagement with the moral landscape of a sorry corner of the country is sure as Cormac McCarthy's. In their contemplation of the past, Weil's characters--earthy, scrappy, often comic--seek restoration, figuratively and literally. These three fine novellas remind us with wit and energy, that we are all in for repair."

Weil's entry begins:
I've noticed this can happen with short story collections, even the best ones: you pick it up, read a few stories, love them, and then something else gets in a way and you never finish the collection. Unless it's really, really good -- and then you pick it back up, maybe a year later, and dive back into it and think: how did I ever set this down? That's where I'm at right now with Don Waters' collection, Desert Gothic. It's set in America's dry, hot, sun-backed places: mostly around Reno, Nevada. And it pulls off darkness and light, heat and chill, as naturally and as cleanly and as inseparably as the desert landscape does. These are stories about grief and loss and the places in us that are hollowed out by both, but Waters manages to dig around those places with a gentleness that makes me want to exist there a little longer with each story, even if it's difficult, even if it's sad. He has lots of talents, but the main three that are striking me as I dive back into this are these: 1. He sees details most of us would miss, and when he points them out they're the kind of thing that feel so vital we'd have missed the whole point without them. 2. In much the same way, the rhythm of his language feels both fresh and natural to the stories. 3. Finally, and most importantly, he hits on that surprising yet absolutely right feeling near the end of each story: he finds ways to bring the stories together with events that are utterly pleasing. What I mean by that is that they are the perfect events to end the story without ever feeling like the easy way out. It's good stuff.

In the year between reading the beginning of Desert Gothic and going back to it, I read three books that blew me away:...[read on]
Josh Weil received his MFA as a Jersey Fellow at Columbia University. His fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including Granta, Story Quarterly, and New England Review. The New Valley is his first book.

Visit Josh Weil's website.

Writers Read: Josh Weil.

--Marshal Zeringue