Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: When good things happen to good writers

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

When good things happen to good writers

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I have just returned from a lovely party celebrating my friend Edith Pearlman and her new book, “Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories.” It is Edith’s fourth book and begins with an enthusiastic intro by Ann Patchett, herself a wonderful writer. You may have read the glowing front page review in the New York Times with your morning coffee. Or the similar one in the Los Angeles Times. I can’t wait to read the book and you’ll want to read it, too.

Edith has published hundreds of works of fiction and nonfiction in literary journals, national magazines, and online publications. Her short stories have been anthologized (“Best American Short Stories”) and have won O. Henry, Pushcart, and other prestigious prizes. So why has the tone of the praise been along the lines of “why haven’t I heard of Edith Pearlman before?” More importantly, why are people hearing about her now?

Edith herself credits a few people--her agent, Jill Kneerim; Patchett, who has admired her work for years; and Benjamin George, the editor of Lookout Books, the brand new literary imprint beginning its life with “Binocular Vision.” What happened was that George, who had published Edith’s stories in the magazine he edits, “Ecotone,” simply liked her work enough to want to help it find a larger audience. Maybe “simply” isn’t quite the operative word here, with all the complications of publishing and promoting a book, getting it into the hands of reviewers, and then the hands of readers. But the short version of what happened is this: Someone. Paid. Attention. Someone noticed that these stories were, indeed, very fine, worthy of much praise and wide readership.

I am extraordinarily happy for Edith (to whom I am eternally indebted for introducing me to Dr. D!). And her experience, I think, has something to teach us all. For writers the message is to stay true to what you do. For readers--and that includes the writers--honor the work that has been offered to you. Read it with open hearts and let it touch you: pay attention.

Edith will be reading from “Binocular Vision” this Tuesday at 7 at Brookline Booksmith. See you there.

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Blogger Mim said...

Good news! I suspect that when Edith sat down to write she was not thinking of a larger audience but rather a few who would understand her work and pay attention. I'm glad her work is getting more notice, which can help, especially when a writer feels defeated. She persisted!

January 16, 2011 at 4:51 PM  

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