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Archive for THE LETTERS OF MARK BEYER :: reading & writing & book culture

Six Days until “Max, the blind guy” goes on sale…

“Max, the blind guy” is my third novel. It lives in the present and 40 years of a marriage between Maximilian Ruth and his betrayed wife, Greta. There’s sex in this book. There is love in this book. There is also a healthy amount of travel and infidelity and betrayal.

Click on the book cover to read an excerpt you can’t find at online bookshops:

MaxCOVER

June 5, 2015 is the on-sale date for this new book in a print edition. June 12th is the date on which “Max, the blind guy” begins its ebook sales as a serialized novel, with installments available monthly for 12 months. I’ve done this for readers who are otherwise busy and want just enough “tale” for a week or two.

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What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015 from Siren & Muse Publishing.

What has happened to Literary Friend-Enemy-Acquaintanceship?

Book culture has not given us much of a “present tense” lately. At least, I can’t recall a recent (w/i the last 5 years?) full-scale mention of either contemporary literary friendships, enemies, or even acquaintanceship. Five years is a long time in any history wherein events happen, people become famous or drop away, or people die.

It’s been more than 15 years since Paul Theroux’s In Sir Vidia’s Shadow gave us the story of his and V.S. Naipaul’s falling out. Decades ago Saul Bellow befriended a precocious Martin Amis, and, through letters, we can now enjoy that story. Meanwhile, from about 2000-2015, we have heard about (from news, articles, YouTube) “meetings” between Franzen & Eugenides at some-such-festival; Houellebecq has lots to say about … anything … but little about his peers; J. Safron Foer hardly has anything interesting to say since he’s come out against meat; whenever Gary Shteyngart opens his mouth (or a book), he sounds like a stand-up comic; and then Eugenides (again) has video conversations with Karl Ove Knausgaard, both of whom have erudition behind their eyes.

Yet there is no story behind any of these writers when it comes to literary friendships. I think it’s all because of work, and family, and the fact that, what New York and London used to be, concerning the publishing world (and anything else but cash-on-the-barrel, these days), there is a loss of that intrinsic world. Perhaps people simply want to know the world through social media, and movies, and books … but not book authors, beyond what they say at the latest festival or book show. I find this a tad boring.

In the now distant past, authors used to get together (or be brought together) at events which could showcase their differences of mind, as well as similarities of literary talent. Think of Gertrude Stein’s Paris salon in the 1920s, or New York City in the late 1940s and throughout the ’50s (and even the 60s). Talents large and small came through these cities (Ezra Pound, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway; Faulkner, Vidal, and Capote; Wolfe, Sontag, Roth, and Bellow), where they wrote articles and books, dined at the tables of scions of arts and culture, and even partied till they dropped dead.

In a memoir piece in The New Yorker this month, Thomas Mallon recalls — from 40 years ago — his short time living in a rented room under John Kenneth Galbraith’s roof. And Mallon’s memory extends to many famous names of the time, including William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Mailer. There’s was a friendship, one of mutual respect. Yes, 40 years ago. Such memoir brings to mind the Vidal-Buckley feud, and the Mailer-Vidal feud (Mailer punched Vidal at a social gathering, and, while on the ground, Vidal famously quipped, “I see words have failed you once again, Norman!”).

Friendships and rivalries and feuds have come and gone, not only (nor as epic) in Arts & Letters. But I haven’t enjoyed any outside the strained sound-recording of Vimeo or YouTube for quite awhile; everybody with a name (and without, just off the frame) makes the rounds to Wye, Frankfurt, even Mumbai. They don’t do anything but talk! What’s more, everyone is terribly congenial … yes-yes, as conversation should be, naturally. Nevertheless, something in these conversations is lacking. I can’t put my finger on it. There is little to lend an ear to, either. Maybe I’m over-burdened by the static of frequency.

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What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015 from Siren & Muse Publishing.

 

Top 100 Books … is this possible?

While web surfing literary blog sites, I came across Larry McCaffery’s “response” to the Modern Library’s Top 100 English Language Novels (of the 20th century, released in 1998). I have to say, while any list is idiosyncratic (despite the data net-cast), I do like Mr McCaffery’s 100 for (a) it’s inclusion of “why?” for each entry, and (2) for his ability to look at every decade of the 20th Century and find a strong story.

To list a few of McCaffery’s faves: #1 Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov; #4 The Public Burning by Robert Coover; #10 Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce (“The greatest unreadable novel ever written.”); #25 60 Stories by Donald Barthelme; #40 Crash by J.G. Ballard; #65 The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton; #76 American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis; #100 Hogg by Samuel R. Delany.

I compared the two lists — McCaffery’s and Modern Library — and found I’d read 35 and 55 of the listed novels, respectively. Not bad, for as a combination they summed to nearly 80. What I have developed is a further reading list for the next two or three years.

My own Top 100 may be blogged (or asked about) some day, but that day has not come; I am grateful for this because, it would be a difficult task, and the time I’d need to make such a list would take away at least one book’s worth of reading. Nevertheless, here’s a TOP 5 from the last few years:

 

1. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

2. Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth

3. The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul

4. Mating by Norman Rush

5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (pure genius)

 

These 5 are not in a true order, but they are the books whose stories have stayed with me over the years. Next year, or in 5 years hence, the list will likely change (to be added upon, also).

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What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015 from Siren & Muse Publishing.

 

A Novel in Serialization: MAX, THE BLIND GUY available in monthly installments beginning June 12th

The digital-formatted novel-serialization of MAX, THE BLIND GUY becomes available June 12, 2015. Some of its installment chapter titles include:

1. Straddlelog

2. In Prague

3. The River Lethe … The Valley of Death

4. Castle & River

5. Lunch aboard the “Franz Schubert”

 

A portion from page “The Valley of Death” …

When the sex-laced breakfast lay congealed on our plates, yellow and white, brown crusts of bread to throw to the birds on the fire escape landing, I beat it out of there. Down on the street, I looked back over my shoulder, up at her window. She appeared behind the glass, waving at me. I waved and walked on. After ten steps I looked again. She had remained in the window. We reached our hands up at the same time to wave a second time. She opened the window and leaned out. We didn’t say anything—we could only have yelled, but we didn’t. She had that girlish twinkle in her eye I could recognize by now from any distance, the pudge of youth yet on her cheeks, the big hair and turn-style headmoves her set sometimes liked to use with men. Which belied, otherwise, her
flair for the confident gesture, the wise-crack, and her vamp’s glare. Behind all of these lurked this young woman in the window frame, come forward from behind the glass; a vulnerable woman with emotions that burned from beneath white ash, red mouth and morning-blue eyes, and every salty pore. She wrapped her arms around herself and snuggled. I tipped my head and half saluted, like a navvy off to work. We did this all again, the turn the laugh the wave. Way-way down the block, where I found my car, I looked once more. She had disappeared from the window. Okay, I thought, down to business.

The print edition of MAX, THE BLIND GUY (in full) publishes on June 5th. Please return for more updates.

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What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015 from Siren & Muse Publishing.

Max, the blind guy … #coverreveal

Max, the blind guy comes out June 5th in a 564-page, 6×9 edition, for those who want a book-in-the-hands.

MaxCOVER

 

Here’s a sneak look at page 69:

“Look!” Max meant to follow my finger, but he looked at my bare arm first, holding its shaking tautness in focus. I could see him forming a smile, and he pressed it down and followed along my arm, up to the wrist, and past the arrow-sharp fingertip. All so casually, even a touch of arrogance. I thought to put a scare into him that would make him turn white if he had any brains. “If
Mrs Much comes up here, you can say ‘bye-bye’ to hanging your paintings in Camps House. She’s strict.”
“Oh, that I’ve seen,” he agreed, still with a casualness I didn’t like. He pinched the ash end of the cigarette, slowly crushing the ember until it was cold to his touch. He showed it to me. Very cool, he was, for someone about to be thrown out on his ass.
“Don’t be an idiot,” I said. “Rules are rules.”
“I didn’t know the rules. Tell me the rules.” He gave me a pleading look. All I could do was fume at him. He tried again. “Please?”
“I just caught two kids necking upstairs, which is bad enough,” I explained. “If Mrs Much were to catch me up here with you–”
“But we aren’t necking,” he replied in a fast, city-boy way. Then he shot me a wink. “Or have I missed something? I must have inhaled too heavily and I have memory loss.” A fake frown pulled at his eyebrows. “Where did this happen, if I may ask, just in case Mrs Much interro–”
“Will you shut up!” I breathed at him like an angry bull, then walked to the door to peek into the hallway.

The story of Max and Greta Ruth is an American story, set in foreign lands: Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Venice. Desire never ends, but for whom the desire is aimed makes all the difference. This story grew from a recognition on a Prague street-corner.

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What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015 from Siren & Muse Publishing.

Serialized Novel: MAX, THE BLIND GUY

News … MAX, THE BLIND GUY will be released in digital format as a serialized novel, beginning one week after the launch of the in-full print edition (June 5, 2015).

I made this decision a few weeks ago, after reading Hillary Kelly’s opinion essay in the Washington Post’s April 24th issue. I had toyed with this idea years ago (the year 2007 seeps into my mind), and went so far as to contact several magazines with the idea; I received just two responses (Harper’s and The Atlantic) who disagreed with my assessment, and prediction.

However, I agree with Ms Kelly: reading must become more accessible to readers, who, often enough, find themselves too busy to sit down with a long book (i.e., THE NOVEL). What’s more, there is a certain intimidation, these days, that novels put upon readers whose time is otherwise separated between family, friends, work, travel, and entertainment itself.

Bearing this in mind, I believe today’s readers and the market have opened a ripe opportunity to bring back story serialization. Dickens proved its viability from the 1840s, and thereafter Thackery, Wilkie Collins, even Conan Doyle, serialized their works, which we still read today. Magazines thrived with serialization; people had the chance to read extended stories (with many characters) in short installments. They came to anticipate the next “chapter.” The business & pleasure of offering stories to the wider public enjoyed a wonderful relationship!

Does this sound familiar? Of course! On television today, we watch “the long form” with such delight as is found in “House of Cards” and “Better Call Saul” and “Bates Motel” to name a few. And this is where novel serialization can step in, for the readers and the TV viewers. The printed word is yet strong, and short(er) chapters that pull you in and keep you “tuned” to the story is all that we ask for in our entertainment.

On June 12, 2015, the first installment of “Max, the blind guy” is going to be available for the Kindle, Kobe, and other formats. Twelve monthly installments, at a cost not to exceed the price of the full print edition (on sale June 5th).

“Stay tuned” for more news. Oh, for that original WashPost OpEd, read it here.

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My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015 from Siren & Muse Publishing.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

The first “blurb” is in for … Max, the blind guy

Here’s the first blurb for my newest novel, Max, the blind guy, by Patricia Ann McNair, author, THE TEMPLE OF AIR …

Precocious. Provocative. Poignant. Mark Beyer’s massive novel “Max, the blind guy” is built like an intricate mansion of dozens of opulently adorned rooms and secret passageways and windows and doors that open up to the bright and vibrant world beyond. Told through multiple points of view, the story explores the delights, disappointments, disturbances, and distractions of love, lust, and the desire to get to the next place. Language play, humor, despair, and the engagement of a complicated community of characters, Mark Beyer’s “Max, the blind guy” brings to mind the work of his literary predecessors such as Nabokov, Marquez, Dickens, and Dostoevsky. Good company. Good reading.

Thank you, Patty. I’ll use this sparingly, but to great advantage. Good luck with your new novel. And, readers, check out McNair’s The Temple of Air.

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My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015 from Siren & Muse Publishing.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Books Read Lately: Trevor, Robinson, O’Neill

Four books this time, each a unique world of subtle human emotions, intrigue of character, and story that matches this modern world:

Two Lives (“Reading Turgenev” and “My House in Umbria”) by William Trevor

Umbria: Simply amazing. A mystery, put inside a pastoral, wrapped in human illusion. A must read for those who like well-drawn characters but are thoroughly opposed to explosions and anything with fangs.

Turgenev: A fabulous story by a writer whose nuanced prose takes you along like on a cloud (sometimes, then, a thundercloud).

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I read about author Marilynne Robinson in the LRB, and was intrigued. This short novel of hers is deftly told, strangely compelling, and, ultimately, satisfying to an imaginative minded reader. Two girls are left to the care of their grandmother, who dies shortly; Ruthie and Lucille are then looked after by their aunt, a wanderer, who comes into the teens’ lives with strange habits that make their lives turn over.

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Highly unusual tale of “the immigrant life in America” between Brits & Dutch & West Indians. Murder, mystery, life-stories, business-in-America, marriage & all that … this books has everything. And it’s well told.

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My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Books Read Lately: Gaddis, Eugenides, Fowles

The Recognitions by William Gaddis

Gaddis wrote the story of identity (theft), forgery, and the high price(s) we pay for fame AND obscurity, in 1955. I think, if he were alive today, he’d say things have only gotten worse. The beauty of this novel (all 490,000 words) is how Gaddis has not given anything away; he hardly lets the reader know what’s “going on” in the plot. Yet there are intricately described places, and people; there’s are dozens of pages of non-stop dialogue. This is a fun book that takes the reader into a world of danger, beauty, loveless-love, depression, and unfailing hope.

The Marriage Plot by Jefferey Eugenides

I was disappointed by the start of this book … too cute, and the whiff of commercial story-telling. And then Eugenides’s wit and erudition came out from the curtain wings and played the part I recognized from his previous books. Anyway … the love between college students is a nice flashback; the intellectualizing of affection, of lust, of “the possible.” The interwoven stories of Madeliene and her male suitors is often funny, and terribly real.

The Ebony Tower by John Fowles

This collection of five novellas has art as its link; the way, the why, the how-to, the what-for, and even the why-not? Underlying each is human frailty: in love, work, mind, and body. These are very well written stories, which take you to places, and into the minds of people, whom you have not had the pleasure of meeting before. At least, I wish I had had that pleasure.

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My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

WayBack Machine: reading list from 2014

Under the category “Better Late than Never”, my list of books read for 2014 appears below. The selection is not so random as it may seem (however one goes about selecting a book  or “the next book”). Between finishing one book and beginning the next, I think about differences in tone, characters, theme, setting, mood, and of the course writers. What fascinates me are the possibilities, and the anticipation of beginning a new book:

On Muted Strings by Knut Hamson

Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov

The Names by Don DeLillo

Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayan

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Ratner’s Star by Don DeLillo

The Bachelor of Arts by R.K. Narayan

Rights of Passage by William Golding

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

The English Teacher by R.K. Narayan

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Pure by Andrew Miller

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

The Gift by Vladimir Nabakov

The Punisher’s Brain by Morris Hoffman

The Book and the Brotherhood by Iris Murdoch

Stoner by John Williams

Canada by Richard Ford

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Gripless by Sophie Hannah

King Jesus by Robert Graves

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Everyman by Philip Roth

Indignation by Philip Roth

The Humbling by Philip Roth

Nemesis by Philip Roth

The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellbecq

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

The Faithful Executioner by Joel Harrington

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

The Moon and Sixpense by William Somerset Maugham

Tale of the tape: 31 books … 9,794 pages … 4,407,300 words …

Top 3 books: A Death in the Family; The Map and the Territory; Ada, or Ardor

Do you all have lists? Give me some ideas for 2015, please.

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My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

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