Saturday, September 18, 2010

Willy Vlautin

Tonight we welcome back Willy Vlautin reading from his new book, Lean on Pete. Vlautin is also the author of two previous novels, The Motel Life and Northline.

Lean on Pete is the story of Charley Thompson, a teenage boy who might be an orphan (he’s not sure). But for most of the book he is parentless. For most of the book, he’s without a companion as well, except for Lean on Pete, a racehorse doomed by a congenital bone problem.
When Charley’s father dies and Charley discovers that Pete is to be sent to a Mexican slaughterhouse, the action gets serious. Charley, not yet old enough to drive legally, steals a truck and trailer and kidnaps Pete. He heads out across the desert of central Oregon to find a place where both of them can be safe. Telling you more than that would be spoiling the story.
Written in Vlautin’s lovely, sparse style, Lean on Pete has a wonderful narrative arc. The leanness of the writing serves to enhance the story. Not for this writer a cataract of adjectives and adverbs. Vlautin is rather a fine storyteller in the traditions of Raymond Carver and John Steinbeck.
Lean on Pete is a story of desperation, a story of desperate measures taken, of hope that refuses to die no matter how dire the circumstance. Vlautin quietly draws the reader in to share Charley’s and Pete’s experiences. And when redemption comes (as it generally does in Vlautin’s works), it comes so suddenly and so quietly that the reader is left with a sense of awe, of having just witnessed a small, simple miracle.

This is a terrific book. Please welcome Willy Vlautin.

Willy Vlautin's official website:

Photos of Willy Vlautin provided by Cindy Hanson; photo copyright Cindy Hanson
Introduction written by Marianne Klekacz

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Leslie What

In the collection Crazy Love, a tale called “Storytime” begins:
This story begins with a beautiful and happy woman whose husband is madly in love with her. The husband is a professional of some type, a doctor or scientist, or perhaps something to do with business. The woman is a stay-at-home mom, fulfilled and devoted to her family. There are two intelligent, well-behaved children: a teenage boy and his younger sister, each with twenty-twenty vision. The children’s orthodontist has stated that no correction is necessary.
A bucolic beginning to a story about a perfectly happy family, right? Well, no matter how the story begins, you can bet it doesn’t end that way. This is, after all, the work of tonight’s featured author, Leslie What, also occasionally known as “the queen of gonzo.”

I’m not totally sure about the etymology of the word “gonzo.” I first heard it in the Sixties in connection with the work of the journalist Hunter S. Thompson. But it has entered into English dictionaries meaning “weird, crazy, bizarre, characterized by a distinctly individual style.” It can be safely said that these are definitely characteristics of Leslie’s writing. She has earned her title.

I first met Leslie some years ago when we matriculated together into a graduate writing program at Pacific University. She seemed to me a very nice woman with a friendly smile. Then I discovered Leslie’s work. When we met, I was something of a newbie. Leslie was already an award-winning author with dozens of published stories and the novel Olympic Games to her credit. I laughed as she rewrote Greek mythology and read on, awed, as her imagination took me to places I would never have thought to go in stories that are alternately very funny or staggeringly sad.

I don’t know what she will read us tonight, but you can be sure it will take you somewhere you never anticipated. Please welcome Leslie What.

Introduction written by Marianne Klekacz

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jon Raymond

"Tonight’s featured author is Jon Raymond. Jon is the author of a novel, The Half Life, and a short story collection, Livability.

”Words and Things,” one of the stories collected in Livability, is an examination of a budding romance between Jen, a sculptor, and David, a writer. Here is what Jen has to say about the difference between “words” and “things”:

“Writing, Jen thought, seemed like a very sad pursuit. Like painting, but worse. At least paintings had color. Writing, though, was just black marks on paper, standing in for people and objects and events that could never be seen or felt. It seemed pathetic in a way. Nouns were the saddest words of all, trying so hard to summon real objects to life.” (p. 141)

I was struck by that passage because it seems to me that this is exactly what a writer does. He uses the tools of his craft, those black marks on paper, to attempt to zoom in on people and objects and events so that we feel we experience them firsthand. Jon Raymond does this well.

I’m not a giant fan of Wilbur Smith, who wrote a number of historical novels set in Egypt. But one of his books in particular, The Sunbird, has remained in my brain for several decades. The book is really two separate narratives, the first about an archeological dig, and the second, set centuries earlier, the real-time story of the residents who had lived their lives on what is now the dig. Smith uses the two stories to pose these questions: Can the land retain memory, specifically emotional memory, of what has gone before? Can the land’s memory of times long past influence current events?

I wasn’t too far into my reading of The Half Life when it seemed to me that Raymond was suggesting something of the same sort. Rather than telling the two stories separately, as Smith did, he entwines the narratives of two pairs of unlikely friends taking place more than a century and a half apart. As the stories of Henry and Cookie and Tina and Trixie unfold, the reader journeys into unfamiliar territory. But it is the same territory in each narrative. As the modern story reaches resolution, it’s almost impossible not to ask: Would this tale have had the same ending in a different location? It’s a fun question to think about, and the book is a terrific read.

So without further ado, please welcome Jon Raymond." (Intro by Marianne Klekacz)

Video Copyright Carla Perry

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Marc Acito

"Tonight's featured author is Marc Acito.

Marc Acito is a very funny guy. He's also a heckuva storyteller.

When I sat down with his first novel, "How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater," I wasn't sure what to expect. The Oregon Book Award sticker on the cover was promising, but I don't always agree with OBA selections. The subtitle, however, made it seem as if there was something here for everyone, so I dived in.

For some time I just romped through the novel, admiring the zany characters and strong writing, and I wondered about the plot and subplot threads spinning every which way. But somewhere shortly after page 200, the action took a sudden (and surprising) turn that wrapped all the threads together. And I started to laugh. Out loud. I laughed so hard that my husband called from the next room, "What the heck are you reading?"

"A book you'll probably like," I answered (we knew the same weird set of people in our salad days). And as soon as I discovered that the book had a real ending with a real resolution, I knew my retort was true. He's reading the book as I'm writing this, and I'm waiting for the laughing to start.

Acito's second novel, "Attack of the Theater People," continues the story of Edward Zanni and his misfit collection of friends, a little older now and trying to confront the world of adults. Acito throws in a little timely plot thread about corporate espionage.

But you can figure all of those things out for yourself. So without further ado, please welcome Marc Acito." (Intro Written by Marianne Klekacz)

Video Copyright Carla Perry

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 FisherPoets on the Edge

2010 FisherPoets on the Edge
January 16th thru 19th, 2010!

Featuring: Jon Broderick, Jay Speakman, Moe Bowstern, Dave Densmore, Geno Leech, Clem Starck & Gene "Red Hawk" Davenport and with James and Julz Kasner performing in the Aquarium lobby to kick off Saturday night's Main Event.

FisherPoets on the Edge invites all who enjoy fishing and the bounty of the sea.

Three days of FisherPoetry, Storytelling and Songwriting

EVENT 1: FILMS at the Newport Library

EVENT 2: MAIN FisherPoets EVENT at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

EVENT 3: OPEN MIC and HEARTY BRUNCH BUFFET at the Yaquina Bay Yacht Club

EVENT 4: POETRY WRITING WORKSHOP at the Yaquina Bay Yacht Club