Geoffrey Brown

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Posts by Geoffrey Brown


Midweek Break | Randall Kenan Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio


Randall Kenan is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. The author of A Visitation of Spirits (1989), Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century (1999), and The Fire This Time (2007), and a collection of stories, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead (1992), Kenan has been nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was among the New York Times Notable Books of 1992. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the John Dos Passos Prize, and the 1997 Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available on iTunesU. To hear more, please visit the Bread Loaf website.

Charles Baxter Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio, Fiction

b695c060ada0e81deeecf110.L._V249535006_SL290_Charles Baxter is the author of, most recently, Gryphon: New and Selected Stories (Pantheon, 2011), and the forthcoming There’s Something I Want You to Do: a Decalogue, from which this audio is excerpted.

Baxter’s third novel, The Feast of Love (Pantheon, 2000), was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award and has been made into a film starring Morgan Freeman. He has also published essays on fiction collected in Burning Down the House (Graywolf Press, 2008) and The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot (Graywolf Press, 2007), and has edited several books of essays. Baxter’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic, New York Review of Books, and Harper’s, among other journals and magazines. His fiction has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories seven times, eleven times in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and translated into many languages.

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available on iTunesU. To hear more, please visit the Bread Loaf website.

Carrying the Torch | Brock Clarke

Categories: Fiction, NER Classics


Brock Clarke’s story “Carrying the Torch” appeared in NER 21.1:

450px-Gersdorff_p21vI decided last night that someday soon I am going to rip my husband’s penis off with my bare hands. I plan to do it while he’s sleeping. I will make sure that I am wearing my running shorts and sneakers, and after I have done the deed, I will jog at a good clip around my neighborhood, holding the bloody thing above my head and a little in front of me like a torch. The summer Olympics started yesterday, and I was in the crowd as Rafer Johnson ran through Atlanta with the real torch, which is how I got my idea.

“Who exactly is Rafer Johnson?” I asked my husband, Till, yesterday. Till is an executive with Microsoft’s Atlanta division, and he’s also on the Olympic organizing committee, which is how we managed to stand right up front while this large, fit black man ran down Peachtree with Nike written all over his mesh tank top and nylon jogging shorts.

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NER CLASSICS | A French Love Affair | Gwen Strauss

Categories: Fiction, NER Classics

Gwen Strauss’s essay, “A French Love Affair,” appeared in NER 21.2.

We live on a converted barge, a houseboat, on a canal,
on the eastern edge of Burgundy almost in the Jura mountains . . . 800px-Paul_Klee,_Swiss_-_Glance_of_a_Landscape_-_Google_Art_Project

We live on a converted barge, a houseboat, on a canal, on the eastern edge of Burgundy almost in the Jura mountains, next to Switzerland. Driving to the closest town in our new, very old 1952 Peugeot 203 takes about fifteen minutes. Of course, in a newer car you’d get there faster—and I wonder, would the town seem more modern? Because when I’m in our car, I notice again that our village is full of old people, that the French countryside has been abandoned by the younger generations. When I pull into the gas station, or into the market place, inevitably an old French man will come running out of the nearby café. With pastis on his breath he’ll exclaim, “C’est ma jeunesse!” Then he will moon over the dashboard. It’s the same, the very same as the one he had as a young man! There will follow some discussion, mixed with patriotic disbelief, about how I, as a youngish American woman, got possession of this car. How could that be? they ask. I want to answer: by sheer pathological stupidité. But I just smile and shrug my shoulders and sigh a lot, “C’est comme ça.”

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NER CLASSICS | Not Renata | Dwight Allen

Categories: Fiction, NER Classics

. . . he’d come into my head, unbidden, unconjured,
the way long-ago boyfriends will do . . .


Dwight Allen’s story, “Not Renata,” appeared in NER 21.2.

Now and then, he’d come into my head, unbidden, unconjured, the way long-ago boyfriends will do, if you aren’t careful. I’d be chewing on my pencil or a fingernail, say, or looking at the blue California sky while pumping gas into my car, and there he’d be, lying on a three-legged, rummage-sale couch in our graduate school apartment of twenty years before. (The fourth leg was a cookbook my mother had given me. “Hope this will inspire you,” she said.) In this picture he’s as still as a painter’s model, cigarette smoke veiling him like stage fog. I peer at him, this secretive, cowardly boy I once loved, and then the picture dissolves and I’m inhaling gasoline fumes or listening to Mrs. Ramirez or Mr. Kuhn or someone else at the senior center tell me a story. I work with the elderly. With the crabby and unpopular Mr. Kuhn, I sometimes play checkers, waiting for the moment he says “King me!” and stirs me from my daydreams. The last time my former boyfriend appeared before me, I was in the dentist’s chair.

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NER CLASSICS | Updike’s Way | William H. Pritchard

Categories: NER Classics

“Wallace took a similar line in more abusive terms, declaring that readers under age forty—particularly female ones—had no time for what he termed the G.M.N.s (Great Male Novelists) and disliked Updike in particular . . .”

William H. Pritchard’s “Updike’s Way,” appeared in NER 21.3:

356px-Study_for_the_Oath_of_the_Horatii_the_elder_HoratiusIn the fall of 1997, at the time John Updike’s novel Toward the End of Time was published, the New York Observer featured a page headlined “Twilight of the Phallocrats, “consisting of pieces by the critic Sven Birkerts and the novelist David Foster Wallace about the current state of American fiction. That state was not good insofar as it concerned what Birkerts called “our giants, our arts-bemedaled senior male novelists.” He was referring to Updike, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, and Saul Bellow, whose recent novels were “manifestly second-rate,”yet who were not “getting called onto the carpet for it.” Birkerts suggested that these eminent writers would be well advised to yield their crowns to a younger generation of “brothers,” novelists such as Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Stone, and John Edgar Wideman, who had their eyes on politics and society, the “larger world” Updike and his contemporaries, in their obsessive preoccupation with the self, were neglecting. Wallace took a similar line in more abusive terms, declaring that readers under age forty—particularly female ones—had no time for what he termed the G.M.N.s (Great Male Novelists) and disliked Updike in particular. Toward the End of Time was a prime example of what these novelists shared—”their radical self-absorption and their uncritical celebration of this self-absorption both in themselves and in their characters.” 

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NER CLASSICS | Sadness | Aliki Barnstone

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry


Aliki Barnstone’s poem, “Sadness,” appeared in NER 21.2:

Rilke says sadness is the moment the future enters us
By surprise and pushes us into the unknown
The handsome bartender says,”Your drinks are on me”
—And leans across the counter—”What’ll it be?”
Alcohol is heat in my ears as I catch my reflection
In the mirror, happy flirting without forethought.
But days later alone the question comes back:
What will it be?
                           and I remember moments with you
When time raced quickly around us like a romping young dog
And we were amused. Today time reminds me of the hound
Knowingly guarding the underworld. Sadness slips in,
Doesn’t it? even in the gentle pleasures of the body
Which pass too and remind us of loss. 

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NER Classics | The Long March of “Orientalism”

Categories: NER Classics, Nonfiction

The Long March of ‘Orientalism': Western Travelers in Modern China,”
Nicholas R. Clifford’s report from abroad, appeared in NER 22.2:

Graves, graves, graves, countless ancestral graves in countless ancestral fields! Always the presence of death! A few naked trees along the railwayembankment . . . now and then the dark crenellated walls of some ancient city . . . (Agnes Smedley, 1943) . . .442px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_Chinese_Ship_(Tosen_Zu)_with_Listing_of_the_Sea_Route_from_China_to_Japan-2

They are drawn conventionally enough, these pictures. Travelers finding in a foreign land—here, the China of fifty or sixty years ago—a waste of unchanging hopelessness: a land perceived as corrupt, superstitious, and burdened by a conservatism so rigid it might be taken for stupidity. The images themselves betray a frustration, a kind of fed-upness by the observer with the observed. In no sense are they original, for their pedigree reaches back a century and more, each succeeding generation adding its own detail and coloration to the features conjured up by Western fancies of the country.

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Mid-Week Break: Ted Conover Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio

tedconoverTed Conover, who has told stories for The Moth, brought his storytelling skills to Bread Loaf 2013, reading from his article, “The Way of All Flesh” (Harper’s, May 2013). To research “The Way of All Flesh,” Conover became a USDA meat inspector and worked at a Cargill beef slaughterhouse in Nebraska.

Conover is the author of five books of participatory nonfiction, most recently The Routes of Man, about roads, and Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, an account of ten months he spent working as a corrections officer at Sing Sing Prison. Newjack won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His other books are WhiteoutCoyotes, and Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes.

Conover contributes to the New York Times Magazine,  New Yorker, and Harper’s, and teaches at NYU’s Carter Journalism Institute and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

To listen to the entire reading, or to other readings and lectures from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, visit their iTunesU site.

New Books from NER Authors: Rachel Cantor

Categories: NER Authors' Books, NER Community

“Rife with deadpan humor and memorable characters”

Rachel Cantor’s new novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, has been published by Melville House.

A Highly Unlikely Scenario cover photoFrom the New York Times: “By layering the ridiculous inventions of her mind with the ridiculous facts of the world, Cantor creates a novel about being incredulous and certain at the same time, about listening without judgment, about acting on faith . . . A dystopian satire; a story about ­storytelling, believing and listening—A Highly Unlikely Scenario is ultimately a history of our own strange world.”

From Publisher’s Weekly: “Rife with deadpan humor and memorable characters mixed with time travel and supernatural powers, Cantor suspends disbelief and creates a loony world entirely of her own, which is terrifically funny and effortlessly enjoyable.”

Rachel Cantor’s stories have appeared in Paris ReviewKenyon ReviewFence, and other publications. Her fiction has been featured in several issues of NER (20.4, 23.3, 24.4, and 29.4).

A Highly Unlikely Scenario is available from Melville House and other independent booksellers.