Have Words–Will Write 'Em

On Books, Writers, Most Things Written, Including My Light Verse.

Archive for August, 2010

The Best American Short Stories 2010

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Every year it seems fewer and fewer newspapers review Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Short Stories. That’s a shame.

This year, I’ll be reviewing The Best American Short Stories 2010 for The Boston Globe. I reviewed the 2008 anthology, edited by Salman Rushdie, for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  I reviewed Alice Sebold’s inferior 2009 edition for The News & Observer (of Raleigh North Carolina.) This time the series editor is Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo.

I hope this collection is better than last year’s.

Here’s what’s coming in BASS 2010:

STEVE ALMOND: “Donkey Greedy, Donkey Get Punched,” Tin House

MARLIN BARTON: “Into Silence,” Sewanee Review BASS 2010

CHARLES BAXTER: “The Cousins,” Tin House

JENNIFER EGAN: “Safari,” The New Yorker

DANIELLE EVANS: “Someone Ought to Tell Her There’s Nowhere to Go,” A Public Space

JOSHUA FERRIS: “The Valetudinarian,” The New Yorker

LAUREN GROFF: “Delicate Edible Birds,” Glimmer Train

WAYNE HARRISON: “Least Resistance,” The Atlantic Monthly

JAMES LASDUN: The Hollow,” The Paris Review

REBECCA MAKKAI: “Painted Ocean, Painted Ship,” Ploughshares

BRENDAN MATTHEWS: “My Last Attempt to Explain What Happened to the Lion Tamer,”  Cincinnati Review

JILL MCCORKLE: “PS,” The Atlantic Monthly

KEVIN MOFFETT: “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events,” McSweeney’s

TÉA OBREHT: “The Laugh,” The Atlantic Monthly

LORI OSTLUND: “All Boy,” The New England Review

RON RASH: “The Ascent” Tin House

KAREN RUSSELL: “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach” Tin House

JIM SHEPARD: “The Netherlands Lives With Water,” McSweeney’s

MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD: “Cowboy Tango,” The Virginia Quarterly Review

WELLS TOWER: “Raw Water,” McSweeney’s

Written by Joe Peschel

August 27th, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Gone BASS Fishing

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A few days ago, I asked a publicist about having a galley of “BASS 2010” sent to me, so that I could review it for The Boston Globe. It seems I should have written “BASS 2010” out: Best American Short Stories 2010.

BASS 2010

Today, I just received from the publisher a new novel, Nashville Chrome, by Rick Bass instead of Best American Short Stories 2010.


I like Rick Bass’s stuff, but I haven’t snared an assignment to review his novel.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 26th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Posted in News

How Do You Decide What to Read Next?

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A while ago, Jane Ciabattari, President of the National Book Critics Circle, asked NBCC members to submit pieces on “How Do You Decide What to Read Next?” I wrote this piece a while ago; it was published on the NBCC site on August 20, 2010.

If you’re a reviewer, you probably choose what you read next about the same way I do. If you don’t review books, but want to, here’s what you’re in for. 🙂

What I’m going to read next depends on which books I’d like to review. For me, those books will usually be literary fiction (although, currently, I’ve been assigned a memoir to review.) So, that means scanning Publisher’s Weekly, the Library Journal, and publisher’s catalogues, looking for interesting novels or short story collections that I’d like to share, and it means taking notes. Every now and then, a writer on Facebook will suggest books that I should review, too.

Click the NBCC logo to read the piece. Elda and I had fun commenting on the article.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 25th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Posted in News

My Review of Emmanuel Carrère’s Memoir, “My Life As A Russian Novel.”

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You would think that a story that takes place in France and Russia, one that includes love affairs, betrayals, dream sequences, Russian secret police, a mysterious disappearance, and an erotic short story would be a fictional potboiler.

Read my review in The Boston Globe

I think I’m the only reviewer writing in US newspapers to cover Carrère’s new book.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 25th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Oddest Messages From Editors

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“I hope you’re OK with your breakdown. This poem takes me back to mine.” He accepted the poem. I wasn’t having a breakdown.
–from Ira Lightman

“It would be an abrogation of my editing duties to agree to accept work casually over email — anyone could be using your name and a keyboard from, oh, say a prison cell.”
–from Elda Stone

“I also require a phone conversation to get a sense of the places from which you view the world, and to make sure you aren’t typing from some minimum security facility and using poor Joe Peschel’s name.”
–from Poor Joe Peschel

Written by Joe Peschel

August 4th, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Other Stuff


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Joseph Peschel © August, 2010

Fooling around again on Facebook
Trying to get someone to friend us
This guy he wrote back
Said, “You some kinda wack?”
You’d think we were some sort of fungus.

They say, “Joe, take it easy,”
I say, “Hey, don’t ignore me!”
The way things are going
They’re gonna Twitterize me

Finally updated my website,
Thinking about adding a blog
My editor wrote to say,
“You should tweet more, OK?”
I said, “I feel like some sort of birddog.”

They say, “Joe, take it easy,”
I say, “Hey, don’t ignore me!”
The way things are going
They’re gonna Twitterize me.

Went from my website to Twitter
Trimming my tweets for a post
The warning message said:
“Minus 6 characters in red”
I said, “We’re only trying to boast.”

They say, “Joe, take it easy,”
I say, “Hey, don’t ignore me!”
The way things are going
They’re gonna Twitterize me

Saving all your money to renew your domain,
Spamming out your site to everyone;
Last night, Elda said,
“Hey, Joe, when you’re dead,
Don’t take nothing with you but your URL.”

Made a quick trip to MySpace,
Decided there was nothing to see
And everyone claims,
“MySpace is so lame.”
I think it just needs some vitamin E.

They say, “Joe, take it easy,”
I say, “Hey, don’t ignore me!”
The way things are going
They’re gonna Twitterize me

Clicked a link back to my web page
It’s JosephPeschel.com
I know, I know…
’Tis shameless self-promo
But it beats watching a sit-com.

They say, “Joe, take it easy,”
I say, “Hey, don’t ignore me!”
The way things are going
They’re gonna Twitterize me
The way things are going
They’re gonna Twitterize me

Written by Joe Peschel

August 3rd, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Light Verse

Review of “My Life As A Russian Novel” Coming Soon in The Globe

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My review of Emmanuel Carrère’s memoir, My Life As A Russian Novel, will be published in The Boston Globe in the next few weeks. It’ll be the first time I’ve reviewed a memoir, and it’s a damn good book.

I’ve done a couple of other reviews for The Globe. My first one was on Martha McPhee’s novel Dear Money. The National Book Critics Circle called that piece an exemplary review and re-posted it on the Powell’s Books website.

My second review was on Justin Kramon’s novel, Finny.

My next piece for The Globe will be a review of Benjamin Percy’s first novel, The Wilding.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 2nd, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Posted in News

BLURBS (upon reading Nicole Krauss’s blurb on “David Grossman’s novel “To the End of the Land.”)

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Joseph Peschel © August, 2010

I hope that I shall never write
A blurb as fluffy and as trite.

A blurb whose hungry mouth expressed
A songfest that oughtta be suppressed

A blurb that praises Grossman all day,
About “walls pulled down” just to say:

“The most gifted writer I’ve ever read.”
And other stuff that fills me with dread:

Upon whose essence she’s been touched;
She intimately goes on too much.

Reviews are made by fools superb,
But only Krauss can gush a blurb.

Here is a link to the Krauss Blurb

and here is the text, should the link go astray:

Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before. To the End of the Land is a book of this magnitude. David Grossman may be the most gifted writer I’ve ever read; gifted not just because of his imagination, his energy, his originality, but because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity. For twenty-six years he has been writing novels about what it means to defend this essence, this unique light, against a world designed to extinguish it. To the End of the Land is his most powerful, shattering, and unflinching story of this defense. To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.

—Nicole Krauss

Written by Joe Peschel

August 2nd, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Light Verse


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Joseph Peschel and Elda Stone © August 18, 2007

Shall I compare thee to a barbecued rib?
Thou art more lovely and saucy:
Hot juices do cake the edges of the bib,
And the waiter’s manner is all too bossy:

Sometime too hot the eye of the grill shines,
And often is one’s finger burned;
And every barbecuer sometime dines
At restaurants where the tip is left unearned.

But thy eternal flavor shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that spice thou ownest
Nor shall the trash can claim the love we’ve made
When our stomachs are full until they groanest.

So long as men love beef, or barbecue,
So long lives this, and this gives life to you.

Written by Joe Peschel

August 1st, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Light Verse

A Few Words On My Blog & Me

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I’m Joe Peschel, a freelance writer, critic, and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. I’ve written for The Boston Globe, The Barnes & Noble Review, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N. C.), The Charlotte Observer, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Have Words—Will Write ’Em is my first shot at a blog. It’s not my first website, though. I have a literary website on the very site, josephpeschel.com, where you’re reading this blog. Maybe you’ve come here from there. If you have, don’t click the above link. In a previous incarnation, I was a computer journalist, geek, and hacker. I ran a website called D.O.E. SysWorks. As a computer journalist, I wrote for InfoWorld and PC World, a couple of the biggest computer magazines in the country. I’ve written for some of the smallest ones, too, names you’ve probably never heard of like PC Upgrade, Computer Buyer’s Guide and Handbook, Maximize, and the Microcomputer Journal.

But back to Have Words—Will Write ’Em. The title, as you probably know, comes from an old TV western about a soldier of fortune named Paladin, a freelance gunfighter, who was fond of quoting Shakespeare, John Donne, and Dryden, and musing about philosophy. The title seems to me an apt one for the blog of a freelancer; my weapon isn’t a .45 firing bullets, but a keyboard firing words. I promise to shoot no one__at least not literally.

I plan to post my thoughts on and news about books, writing, and the writing life; maybe I’ll write a few blog-only book reviews and post some of my poems, too, actually light verse.

I review serious fiction, for the most part—novels and short story collections. I’ve written about books by Charles Baxter, Andre Dubus III, Joyce Carol Oates, Patrick Somerville, J. M. Coetzee, Paul Theroux, Allison Amend, Richard Bausch, T. C. Boyle, Robert Stone, Paul Auster, E. L. Doctorow, Jayne Anne Phillips, Philip Roth, and others. I’ve reviewed one non-fiction book but that was James Wood’s How Fiction Works, and I have a review of a memoir in the works.

If you’re a publicist and would like to send me a book to review, you should write to:

joe at josephpeschel dot com


joe_peschel at iw dot .net

Written by Joe Peschel

August 1st, 2010 at 12:02 am

Posted in About