First things first: I went to Indonesia in 2018! I read from Tales of Falling and Flying at the Jakarta Post 2018 Writers Series, taught a class the next day at the Jakarta Post Writing Center, and then spent the rest of the time eating, wandering around the biggest mall I’d ever seen, and marveling in horror at the traffic. Then I came home and read The Year of Living Dangerously and reconceptualized everything I’d seen.
After that, I was Guest Fiction Writer at the Antioch University MFA Residency, and gave guest lectures and readings at UCR Palm Desert and the Lighthouse Writers LitFest in Denver. I had two stories from Tales of Falling and Flying performed at Selected Shorts— the first, “The Man, the Restaurant, and the Eiffel Tower,” was read by Stana Katic at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the second, “The Cape,” was read by Tony Yazbeck at Symphony Space in New York, and then performed as dance by Forrest Hersey and Patrick O’Brien of Pigeonwing Dance, as choreographed by Gabrielle Lamb. You can see a recording of the entire dance here.
I was on a panel called “Fiction: Strange and Beautiful” at the LA Times Festival of Books, along with Victor LaValle, Carmen Maria Machado, and Amy Wallen (I mostly talked about my ambivalent addiction to horror movies, I think). I said something on Twitter about how much I love the movie Sneakers, and then within minutes was asked to host a screening of the movie for Popcorn and Politics and talk about how much I loved it with Roxane Gay (who also loves it, because smart people love Sneakers). I got to host three wonderful writers—Damien Ober, Mark Leidner, and Micah Perks—when they came through LA on their book tours. I went to the ICFA conference in Orlando, Florida, where I did a reading with Paul Tremblay and Anna Kashina, and the Readercon conference in Massachusetts, where I did a reading with my friend Maria Dahvana Headley and was on an In Memoriam panel about my friend Kit Reed, who died last year after writing about 7,000 books and making me laugh 100,000 times. (You should buy her collection The Story Until Now, because it’s great and will get you hooked.)
I published four new stories in 2018: “The Vatican” at Electric Literature, “The Friend with the Knife in His Back” at the Kenyon Review, “Mystery (The Third Man)” at Wigleaf, and “Just a Thought About the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile” in the Coachella Review. I’m proud of them all, but I have to say, “Mystery (The Third Man)” is my favorite story I’ve written in years. I wish they could all be like that one.
I also had four stories (“The Dodo,” “The Writer,” “The Ambulance Driver,” and “The Squid Who Fell in Love with the Sun“) reprinted in The Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s English language newspaper (they publish short stories in the newspaper over there (what a marvelous place!)). My story “Power Lines,” which appeared in Hobart last year, was translated into Italian by Sara Reggiani and published at Edizioni Black Coffee.
Speaking of translation, my collection Tales of Falling and Flying was translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee and published in Iran this year by Ofoq Publications, the same people who previously published Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day over there. The cover (which features the bat-like creatures from “The Astronaut”) was built, lit, photographed, and digitally manipulated by Majid Kashani, and I love it desperately. You can watch a great time-lapse video of the making of it here.
Other good news: my story “The Rock Eater” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) was included in Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5— which will sadly be the final volume in the series. Many thanks to editors Robert Shearman and Michael Kelly for that honor. Meanwhile, the 2017 Tachyon anthology The New Voices of Fantasy, which includes my story “The Duck” (from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) won a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology! Thereby making me about 1/20th of a World Fantasy Award-winning author. (Don’t tell me it doesn’t really work that way, I don’t want to know.)
Otherwise, what happened? I was interviewed here, here, here, here, here, and here. I taught a lot of classes. I watched a billion movies on FilmStruck (including 19 by William Wellman alone (Midnight Mary being the best of them, you should watch Midnight Mary)) until it suddenly and tragically shut down. I drove a bunch of kids down from the top of a burning mountain, finally got to see Gillian Welch play live in concert, and learned how to play all of Kill ’em All on guitar (and then promptly forgot). I saw Hereditary in the theater twice, Roma twice, Mandy and Mother! both on the same day, and rediscovered The Melvins for the forty-seventh glorious time. Also, my parents had a 50th Wedding Anniversary! So I went to that and took a picture of a cake.
Reading-wise, I read 140 books. The best of them was The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, which nearly gave me a nervous breakdown (the highest compliment I can give). I also loved Brian Evenson’s book about Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which is confusingly titled Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (those people over at Ig Publishing’s Bookmarked division are doing great things but the titles are a little unwieldy).
The best story collection I read this year was When We Were Someone Else by Rachel Groves. It won the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction and was published by BkMk press, but I’ve never heard or seen a single person talk about it, which is odd, as it was kind of breathtakingly good.
Other books I really loved this year: the mind-bendingly fantastic Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling (recommended to me by the great Jeffrey Ford), The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls, Kudos by Rachel Cusk (a great end to a great trilogy), In the Distance by Hernan Diaz, The Garbage Times/White Ibis by Sam Pink (why is Sam Pink not famous the world over?), Barbie Chang by Victoria Chang (which also has an amazing cover), and The Possessed by Elif Batuman.
Other favorites: Old Open by Alex Higley, Untouchable by Scott O’Connor, Ill Will by Dan Chaon, Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell, Minions of the Moon by Richard Bowes, Idiophone by Amy Fusselman, Brown Dog by Jim Harrison, Comemadre by Roque Larroquy, Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (though it was depressing as hell), At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard (also depressing as hell), Oranges by John McPhee (not depressing at all!), The Library Book by Susan Orlean, The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson, IQ by Joe Ide, The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse, Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash, Mystery by Peter Straub, The Shark-Infested Custard by Charles Willeford, Viator by Lucius Shepard, Freedom from the Known by Krishnamurti, and An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans.
I read two books by Simenon, two by Stephen Millhauser, and two by Daniel Woodrell; three by Megan Abbott (Queenpin was the best), Alejandro Jodorowsky (loved The Finger and the Moon), and Ronald Malfi (Floating Staircase was really haunting); four by Philip Roth (then he died and there was a run on his books at the library); and eleven by Richard Stark (culminating in the one-two punch of Slayground and Butcher’s Moon, which was (and should have remained) a hell of an end to the Parker series).
And… that’s about it! Anyone who’s interested can follow my reading over on Goodreads, though I don’t talk as much as I used to on there. I’m kinda tired of the internet.
My reading resolution for 2019: write more, read less.
Did I mention that I’m really proud of this story?