Category Archives: work in progress

Geoff Dyer and Work in Progress 8

At a recent event for Harper’s, an interviewer asked Zadie Smith whom she counts among her favorite contemporary book reviewers. She immediately replied with one name: Geoff Dyer.

If you haven’t read Dyer, it’s likely you have a friend who is incredulous at such an omission. Dyer tends to incite fervor in readers: “You have to read this, now. Take my copy. Call in sick. Go to jury duty tomorrow.” I admit I am one such friend. And in the case of this month’s Work in Progress, I hope his essay “Reader’s Block” wins a few more converts.

The strange thing about this is that at twenty I imagined I would spend my middle age reading books that I didn’t have the patience to read when I was young. But now, at forty-one, I don’t even have the patience to read the books I read when I was twenty. At that age I plowed through everything in the Arnoldian belief that each volume somehow nudged me imperceptibly closer to the sweetness and light. I readWar and Peace, Anna Karenina, Ulysses, Moby Dick. I got through The Idiot even though I hated practically every page of it. I didn’t read The Brothers Karamazov:I’ll leave it till I’m older, I thought—and now that I am older I wish I’d read it when I was younger, when I was still capable of doing so.

–Geoff Dyer

Now go read the rest of it. Then read Out of Sheer Rage.

The other piece I’m excited about is Tristan Garcia’s interview in BOMB Magazine, which they’ve offered to post online for WIP subscribers. Garcia’s novel Hate: A Romance appeared and then quickly disappeared last fall, unfortunately. While it’s cliché to say it’s a novel unlike any I’d read before, I stand by it. Continue reading


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Work in Progress 7 Is Live

The first Work in Progress of 2011 is alive and well, with a hodgepodge o’ content. I’m most excited about the U.S. debut of a Mario Vargas Llosa essay on how he cured his fear of flying. (It’s not sleeping pills.)

There’s an extended conversation between editor Jonathan Galassi and poet Gjertrud Schnackenberg, which goes into incredible depth about the myriad sources behind her work: Buddha, Carl Sagan, and the Lutherans all play a part.

The third article started out with an appeal from a couple of our writers. Justin Spring and Wendy Moffat, both biographers of gay historical subjects, asked if we could make a video for the It Gets Better campaign. Hearing how E. M. Forster and Sam Steward, very different men, lead successful lives despite social prejudice was quite heartening. I also like Justin Spring’s comment about how much good sex is in store for homosexual teens later in life.

And finally, David Levithan asks readers to write dictionary entries. Kind of.

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Nerd Jeopardy Wrapup

A quick thanks to everyone who came out on Thursday to Nerd Jeopardy. It was a big success and we’ll definitely do it again. I’m thinking February, at a bigger venue to accommodate the crowd. (Best way to find out about the next one is to sign up at Work in Progress.)

Thanks to Team TK, The First Mrs. Rochesters, and The Merry Husbands of Windsor Terrace for competing. The Merry Husbands took first, showcasing a breadth of literary knowledge essential to winning Nerd Jeopardy (and more or less useless anywhere else). Personally, the whole night was worth it for my “MockingJay-Z” pun.

And congrats to Iris Blasi, who won the Audience Award: a Kobo ereader.

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More Nerd Jeopardy Nerdiness

Is it kind of awesome that the event is a Flavorpill Editor’s Pick? It is all kinds of awesome. On top of this, I just secured a secret prize for the audience award. Yes: an audience award.

The questions are ready, the Jeopardy! board all set to go. I did order the questions’ difficulty to handle the contestants’ alcohol handicap (sure to increase as the game progresses).

In case you want to relive the undergraduate glory days and cram last minute, here are a few tips.

  • Who is Proust? If you don’t know the answer, just yell this. You’ll be right 20% of the time.
  • Burt Reynolds accent. Works every time.
  • If you can speed-read: tackle Chekhov’s short fiction. You’ll have a leg up on everyone else.
  • The better you know the publishing industry, the better off you’ll be. A perusal of HarperCollins’ Q3 results is the bare minimum here.
  • There’s no crying in Nerd Jeopardy. Well… depends on the context. If you get a really sad text message (or, “sext,” for short), it’s acceptable to cry a little.

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Nerd Jeopardy, Dec. 2nd

Attention friends and competitive enemies: haven’t you grown frustrated with Jeopardy!, with all its questions about the Reformation? Not to mention the absence of any alcoholic beverages on set?

Fear not. I’m hosting Nerd Jeopardy night at Lolita Bar on December 2nd. Think of real Jeopardy!, but replace all the questions about European history with ones about books and publishing. Add an hour of free drinks courtesy of Verso, and a gift prize courtesy of McNally Jackson. And, to make it even better, we’ll have three teams of three competing.

You have questions?

So how do I play? Show up, grab two friends, add your name to the hat. I’ll draw three teams.

Should we wear matching Adidas tracksuits? Sure Ami, why not.

I haven’t read Joyce in years, am I fucked? Hardly. The questions will be broad enough to accommodate many reading preferences.

What if my team isn’t chosen? You can cheer on the contestants. I’ll also have a special quiz for you, with a separate audience prize.

I want my team to have a funny literary name. I’m with you there.

I like books, but I don’t like like books. Stay home, then. This event is for true believers only. Also you won’t get half the jokes.

I’m thinking about buying an ereader. Kindle or iPad? Kobo? Arrgh, shut up about this already! Not the time or the place.

Will there be surprises? Glad you asked. There will be surprises.

Is it true Alex Trebek recorded an ad for Jeopardy! while drunk? It is:

Event Details:

Nerd Jeopardy
December 2nd, 6:30 PM
Lolita Bar, 266 Broome St.
Free drinks 7-8pm
Facebook Invite

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The Best Email I’ll Ever Send

The new issue of Work in Progress went up this morning, and with it Barack Obama’s foreword to Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself. Let me put it another way: I got to send out a new piece of writing by the president of the United States to FSG’s subscribers. How can I top this email? Trip over an iPhone 5 on the sidewalk and send a cameraphone pic to my friends? (“Dudes! Check it out!”)

About the foreword. It’s very good. Aren’t you intrigued by what the first black president of the U.S. has to say about Nelson Mandela? He uses phrases like “In the most modest of ways, I was one of those people who tried to answer his call.”

What else do we have in this month’s issue?

  • Edith Grossman and Natasha Wimmer on translating Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Andy Hunter of Electric Literature talks about the literary journal in the digital age. (Or: how to be everywhere.)
  • A preview of the incredibly amazing and life-changing author event I’m planning with Michael Sandel.
  • Roland Barthes. Lots of Roland Barthes.

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Is It Propaganda If You Believe?

Issue #3 of Work in Progress is alive, well, and ambling about online. I’m especially pleased with this one, as I got to ask my friend Westin to contribute. Some know him as the drummer for The Thermals, or the creative force behind The Reformation. I know him as my old Seattle drinking buddy. We tossed a few ideas back and forth over email, and settled on pairing novels and records of unique affinity. Check ’em out, and let him know in the comments if you agree or not.

And because it’s awesome, here’s The Thermals’ new music video:

MORE: the incredibly brilliant Dan Bejar graciously answered my questions and forced interpretations of his lyrics; Rivka Galchen prods Chris Adrian for info about his next novel, coming out in 2011; Paris Review editor Lorin Stein looks back at Nobel laureate I.B. Singer on the occasion of The Magician of Lublin‘s 50th anniversary; and Lydia Davis reads new work at our most recent event at the Russian Samovar. The first story in the video is flat out funny, and will make you wish you thought of the conceit first:

Basically, all good stuff. Hope you enjoy it.

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