Saturday, November 07, 2009

What is Dylan Landis reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Dylan Landis, author of the novel-in-stories Normal People Don't Live Like This.

Her entry concludes:
And I'm rereading all ten Cormac McCarthy novels, pretty much in order. McCarthy is a great teacher when you read him with two eyes, left eye for pleasure and right eye on what he's doing. I'm almost through The Orchard Keeper, his first novel, pretty quiet if you compare it, say, to Child of God, in which Lester Ballard murders women so he can have sex with their decaying corpses. McCarthy's craft is gorgeous, and visible, if you're looking.

There's a scene in which young John Wesley finds a hawk with a broken wing and nurses it in a box for three days; it dies anyway. Pay attention, I thought—the second time, not the first—because this connects to an earlier scene, almost a brushstroke, in which the child John Wesley discovers a dry well with a rabbit at the bottom, and drops greens down the well every day. And then, many pages on, I found the third connected scene, like a matching bead strung farther down the string: John Wesley in town, selling the hawk's carcass for a dollar bounty. You know that dollar's precious because he folds it into a nugget, tucks it into his watch pocket, and pats it often for reassurance. Here's a boy, McCarthy's telling you, who would rather try to save and release an injured hawk than sacrifice it for a dollar.

McCarthy does not try to sew things up neatly—not, I think, until the last page of his last novel, The Road. I'm a clumsy student, but...[read on]
Normal People Don't Live Like This was published to strong praise from Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times, and More magazine and with a blurb from Pulitzer Prize-winner Elizabeth Strout. The book was a finalist for the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction.

Among the praise for the book:
"In this bracing debut, Dylan Landis guides us into the harsh, secretive world of girls, where the mysteries of power and sexuality baldly govern, and adults and teenagers occasionally intersect across the barbed wire of a mutually earned mistrust."
--Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black

"It’s a series of interlocking short stories set in New York City in the 1970s and captures the complexity and angst and longing of adolescent girlhood like no other book I can recall.... All of the secondary characters are colorful and multi-dimensional and the dialogue is spot-on throughout. Rarely do I read a book that immediately compels me to work harder to become a better writer, but this one did."
--Hope Edelman
Visit Dylan Landis's website and read the Los Angeles Times review of Normal People.

Writers Read: Dylan Landis.

--Marshal Zeringue