Two that might have slid under your radar

Steve Hayward’s first novel, “The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke,” is a masterpiece of fiction you may not recognize because it was never released in the United States. This is a small story contrasted against the grand setting of depression-era Toronto. It is funny and accessible and historical. It is simply dazzling–so much so that it won the prestigious international Grinzane Cavour Prize in 2006. When Hayward returned from the prize ceremony in Italy, he sent me photos of the event, including one of himself and Salmon Rushdie. Then he told stories about hanging out with Richard Ford and Derek Walcott.

As usual, I swore at him (“Goddamnit, Hayward!”), but in truth I was proud of him. He’d earned this. Hayward is maddening and brilliant–a writer’s writer to the core. I thought accolades of this caliber would surely mean a big U.S. launch. So far it hasn’t happened.

When you’re done with his novel, read his first short story collection, “Buddha Stevens and Other Stories”–provided you can find it. Why? Because the first installment in that anthology “August 14, 1921,” was simultaneously accepted by The Iowa Review and Crazyhorse and the Greensboro Review.

No shit.

That alone gives you an idea of what sort of writer Steve Hayward is. If we’re lucky, perhaps he will grace the comment section and tell the Erin O’Brien Lucio Burke Erection story.

Next up is Maureen McHugh’s first anthology, “Mother’s and Other Monsters.” Published by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant over at Small Beer Press. The collection was a finalist for the 2005 Story Prize, which carried a $20,000 award. Patrick O’Keeffe beat out McHugh and Jim Harrison with “The Hill Road”. But the two runners-up still received a $5,000 award for the title of finalist. Not bad.

Whenever I’m running a workshop I reference this book. McHugh has a way of juxtaposing impossible topics such as Alzheimer’s disease next to that which is so common, it’s almost invisible, a bowl of macaroni and cheese for instance. Sounds strange, yes, but she does it with the same skill Tim O’Brien uses to scale the horror of the Viet Nam war by setting it next to a packet of KoolAid and a comic book. Call it perfect application of detail. McHugh’s got it in nines.

McHugh and I have been reading and critiquing each other’s work for years, but when I sat down and read this published anthology, her singular talent shone like a beacon.

Here’s a few pertinent links–by no means complete–but you people are smart. You know how to use Google.

Steve Hayward’s (ahem) Wiki page (sorry, but it’s the best I can do).

The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke on Amazon Canada

McHugh’s website.

“Oversight” a short story from “Mothers and Other Monsters”

The preceding program was brought to you by Smart Erin.

The Long Colloquy

We’ve ribbed James Howard Kunstler before for his extraordinary cynicism. Nevertheless, having read The Long Emergency and remaining quite concerned about the issues expressed therein, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point you over to Birnbaum’s latest interview with Mr. Kunstler himself. Rather interestingly, The Long Emergency did not receive a single review in any major newspaper. Bobby B made efforts to contact several book review editors and none chose to respond.

It’s the Statement, Stupid

This morning’s New York Times features some disingenuous reporting about the oil crisis from Peter Maass:

One of the industry’s most prominent consultants, Daniel Yergin, author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about petroleum, dismisses the doomsday visions. ”This is not the first time that the world has ‘run out of oil,”’ he wrote in a recent Washington Post opinion essay. ”It’s more like the fifth. Cycles of shortage and surplus characterize the entire history of the oil industry.” Yergin says that a number of oil projects that are under construction will increase the supply by 20 percent in five years and that technological advances will increase the amount of oil that can be recovered from existing reservoirs. (Typically, with today’s technology, only about 40 percent of a reservoir’s oil can be pumped to the surface.)

As Paul Roberts argued in The End of Oil and James Howard Kunstler railed against with jaded fury in The Long Emergency, what technological advances? Where will these come from? What are they? Do we pull these out of the hat and get a crummy raffle prize?

I particularly like the way that Maass not only allows Yergin to get away with this criminally general statement (thus underplaying the oil crisis), but prefaces the statement with “one of the industry’s most prominent consultants” and “author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book,” failing to point out that Yergin never singled out any tech specifics in his article.

So what was the point of this ridiculousness? To provide “fair and balanced” journalism? To throw in a credentialed naysayer without actually calling up Yergin and ask him to elaborate on his views? That’s lazy journalism — the kind of misleading context that I expect from some priapic warblogger.