Saturday, February 25, 2017

Daniel Lowe

Daniel Lowe teaches writing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and received his MFA in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh. His fiction and poetry have appeared in West Branch, The Nebraska Review, The Montana Review, The Wisconsin Review, The Writing Room, The Bridge, The Paterson Literary Review, Ellipsis, Blue Stem, Midway Journal, and The Madison Review.

All That’s Left to Tell is his debut novel.

Recently I asked Lowe about what he was reading. His reply:
Last night (I suppose Ironically), I finished reading Stewart O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster. It unfurls like a bolt of cloth—there are few, if any, seams in the novel, and it takes place in a single snowy afternoon and evening at a Red Lobster restaurant in New England. The characters are familiar not because they’re necessarily like people we meet, but because O’Nan infuses them with such credibility that you never question their actions or reactions in the novel. What he does, I think, is incredibly difficult—write a novel about a closing restaurant and mostly working class characters that includes no great crisis or event. And yet, by the final scenes, the subtle gestures of Manny and Jackie as they say goodbye are quietly moving, and the magnitude of Manny's many losses is lit unexpectedly.

Prior to that, I read Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, a novel as far removed stylistically from O’Nan’s as you can find on the literary landscape. The complexity and richness of Groff’s language along with its narrative introspection as it moves in varied distances from its primary characters, Lotto and Mathilde, is stunning in its agility. The characters are, at times, difficult to like, and Mathilde especially recognizes that she is difficult to love. Groff comes close to the edge of pretension in the plotting of their lives, and as I read, I found myself occasionally resisting some of the provocative turns Lotto’s and Mathilde’s lives take, but the novel ends brilliantly, and I found it immensely satisfying.

Before Groff, I read my first Haruki Murakami novel, Kafka on the Shore. I’m a sucker for novels that are founded in the recognizable world that are occasionally underpinned by elements of magical realism, and Murakami achieves this beautifully in this book. I like the languidness and sensuality of Kafka as he meets an Oedipal destiny that is less disturbing than it is moving, and Murakami shows admirable restraint with the character of the guileless Nakata, whose destiny and power is shaped by an unresolved mystery rooted in World War II. That he is ultimately paired with the truck driver Hoshino in a kind of buddy road trip that leads to Hoshino encountering the real Colonel Sanders--. Well, any novel where cats can speak without fraying the fabric of verisimilitude has my deep admiration.

I’m looking forward to reading the second installment of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, which I purchased from Alphabet City Bookstore here in Pittsburgh. (And yes, you have to be impressed with any writer who has the courage to work that title.) The book is difficult to describe, and it’s a disservice to call it a blend of autobiography and fiction. It unfolds fairly plotlessly, though its events worked their way into my subconscious. I don’t know that I’ve read a writer who writes so fully and honestly in sometimes mundane detail, and yet whose sentences accumulate and rest with greater weight and depth with each passing page. By the end of Book One, I was asking, “How in the world did you achieve that,” and I love any book where I find myself asking that question.
Learn more about All That’s Left to Tell.

--Marshal Zeringue