New photos, Rachel Cusk, and Brian Hall

Dear friends—

Thank you to everyone who attended one of the online events publicizing my new books. They were great fun, and it was a pleasure seeing some familiar names in the participants’ list. I am especially grateful to Charlie, Gina, Dorthe, Elisa, Dana, and Sharma for joining me, and reading my work so well.

I’ve got a review out this week in the London Review of Books. It’s about Rachel Cusk’s new one, Second Place, which I found to be a compelling and sometimes confounding swerve away from her recent trilogy of autobiographical novels:

Cusk’s characters are often displaced, alone with the wrong people, blind to (or excessively wedded to) customs and conventions, and lacking in self-knowledge. Second Place seems to me Cusk’s most sophisticated and mature distillation of these elements; it’s not a comedy, but it employs many small mordantly comic effects that function like a jeweller’s steel blade, cleaving faceted gems out of rough stone.

Another writer I love, my friend Brian Hall, has a new novel out as well, called The Stone Loves the World. The marketing copy sums it up this way: “A warm, inventive, and multilayered novel about two families—one made up largely of scientists, and the other of artists and mystics—whose worlds collide in pursuit of a lost daughter.” It’s really impossible to summarize Brian’s work, which lives in the details; I’ve read this new one and find it beautiful and brilliant. (You’ll also notice a few characters in it from his second novel, The Saskiad.) Buy it here, or wait until Thursday, June 10, when you can attend a virtual event with Brian and the novelist Lauren Wilkinson, hosted by Buffalo Street Books here in ithaca. You can buy the book from them, too. Please attend, I’ll be there!

Last time I sent out a newsletter, I mentioned a new LP of ambient/downtempo/EDM music by me and my friend James Spitznagel of The Bemus Point. It’s now available in Ithaca at Angry Mom Records, and in Rochester at the Bop Shop. Stop in, give it a listen, and please buy a copy from them! Angry Mom, by the way, is waiving its commission from local musicians until we’re all out gigging again. Thank them for this generosity by picking up some other records while you’re there.

These new photos are from a walk around Syracuse the other day. They’re taken with the Olympus Pen-F, still my favorite digital camera after six years, and the Panasonic/Leica 25mm lens. I gave them my usual treatment for digital street shots, a modified emulation of Fuji’s discontinued Pro800Z color film. These make Syracuse look abandoned, but all my photographs make places look abandoned. (Don’t ask me to shoot your wedding; you will look divorced.) Prove to yourself that Syracuse is alive by buying some pastries at Nino’s on Lodi Street.

I’m a sucker, by the way, for a photo taken out a car window. I don’t give myself permission to do it very often—it feels extremely lazy—but in this case I was at a stop light, I’d already missed the turn to get a more composed shot, and I suppose I could argue that this is actually the most appropriate framing for the subject matter. Anyway, Eggleston is always poking his camera in and out of car windows; what could be more American?

Thanks for reading—
John.