Saturday, August 9, 2008

Danit Brown

Danit Brown holds an MFA in fiction from Indiana University. Her stories have appeared in many literary journals, including Story, Glimmer Train, StoryQuarterly, and One Story.

Her new book is Ask for a Convertible, a collection of connected stories. It is a selection in the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers series for Fall 2008.

Late last month I asked Brown what she was reading. Her reply:
This summer I am very pregnant and living in an apartment with inadequate and very noisy air conditioning, which means that my powers of concentration are nearly nonexistent, as are my ankles. In terms of reading, all I want are light-hearted books with happy endings. At the same time, I’m trying to read with an eye for structure in preparation for writing a novel of my own.

Joshua Henkin’s Matrimony is another interesting book in terms of structure: it’s comprised of a series of episodes from Mia and Julian’s relationship with friends, with each other, and with their families. Part of the pleasure of reading this novel is seeing Henkin slide all the pieces into place so that when we leave Mia and Julian, we know they’re going to be just fine on their own.

Christie Hodgen’s Hello, I Must Be Going has lots of funny, insightful moments, but at its core is so heartbreakingly sad—among other things, it’s about a girl recovering from her father’s suicide—that if the writing weren’t so strong and Frankie, the narrator, weren’t so engaging, I probably would have put it down. What really intrigues me here is the way Hodgen moves back and forth in time, so that the book ends not with Frankie’s safe arrival at adulthood, as you might expect, but with a series of memories about Frankie’s father that leads to a new understanding of their relationship.

Right now I’m reading Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters’ Club. Initially, I picked this up after a friend told me that she has a tremendous writer crush on Coe. What impresses me so far—I’m only a few chapters in—is the novel’s sweeping point of view. Coe moves effortlessly between characters, rendering them and the world they inhabit tenderly, with lots of humor. I’ll admit that I already suspect that the ending will be bittersweet rather than happy, but here’s hoping!

Update: I picked up the book again after writing the previous paragraph, and in the very next chapter something tragic happens to a couple of the characters. Consider yourself warned.
Read selections from Ask for a Convertible, and learn more about the author and her work at Danit Brown's website.

--Marshal Zeringue