Month: December 2013

Special Thanks to Our First 10 Kickstarter Donors!

Our Kickstarter Campaign is heating up. With 10 days left to go, we currently have 10 donors and 20% of the funds raised. Here is the Honor Roll of early donors, in order:

Donor #1: L Michael Hager
Donor #2: Jamieson Spencer
Donor #3: Pankaj Tandon
Donor #4: TheNumberSix
Donor #5: Mary Brady
Donor #6: Katie Hua
Donor #7: Alex Del Giudice
Donor #8: James Burgess
Donor #9: Damon Vecci
Donor #10: Carrie Golden

Thank you to those who have donated! Our magazine could not happen without your support. If you have yet to check out the project, please do so! Meanwhile, here at Two Cities Review, we are still reading submission and sending out responses. If you have not submitted yet, we are going to be closing submissions for our first issue within the next month, so get them in while there is still time!

Countdown: My Third Favorite Read This Year Is…

We’re counting down the days left until we run out of time for our Kickstarter project, and we desperately need your support to launch. I’m also counting down my ten favorite reads this year. My third favorite read is the only short story collection on my life. Read on to find out that my third favorite read this year was…

Dear Life, Alice Munro

What a triumph that Alice Munro should win the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. The timing couldn’t have been better, considering she published what might be her very best story collection yet a year ago. After a few decades and a few dozen books, Alice Munro’s mastery of the short story is unmatched; her writing has a clear, fluid beauty to it, as though you were holding water in your hands. The stories in Dear Life have that crystalline quality, as well as her usual warm understanding of humanity, but they are also among her most tightly plotted stories, with startling twists and taut suspense at every turn.

In this collection, Munro is making some of the more bold choices of her storywriting career, pushing characters to the brink. I somehow found these stories to hold more deadly emotional violence, more devastating choices, than ever before. Her writing is stunning on every page, her cold weary understanding of the choices we make to grow up, the quiet sacrifices we make, at its very height. There’s warmth here, too — a calm glowing portrayal of the inner life all people have.

We’re almost at my favorite read this year! Stay tuned, and Donate to our Kickstarter project today!

Countdown: My 4th Favorite Read This Year Is…

We’re counting down the days left until we run out of time for our Kickstarter project, and we desperately need your support to launch. My 4th favorite read was a Byzantine war story — guessed it?

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra

Much has been said about the stunning novel debut of Anthony Marra, his A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Not enough has been written about the fifty-year night of war, dislocation, flight, and torture of Chechnya. The region suddenly flashed onto Americans’ radars this year due to the identities of the marathon bombers, but long before that terrible event happened, dark stories were unfolding in Chechnya unread. Here at last is a fictional story that brings to light this region. But more than that, this novel captures the complex way people and their choices become interconnected, and the astonishing generosity human beings are capable of even in the cruelest of times and situations.

Even amid unending war, some characters in this dark and epic novel are determined to save each other. The plot is Byzantine in its intricacy; with the skill of an older writer, Marra releases information a bit at a time so that the true complexity of the characters’ interdependence only gradually becomes clear. You’ll be glad you learned about a largely forgotten corner of the world and its suffering — but you’ll also be glad to discover a new writer who is sure to be a major force in coming years.

Stay tuned to find out my favorite read this year, and Donate to our Kickstarter project today!

Countdown: My 5th Favorite Read This Year Is…

We’re counting down the days left until we run out of time for our Kickstarter project, and we desperately need your support to launch. I’m also counting down my ten favorite reads this year. My 5th favorite read has hookups, breakups, and relationship mixups. Read on to find out that my 5th favorite read this year was…

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

Waldman’s debut novel has gotten a lot of buzz this year, and for good reason. The author has taken on the challenge of capturing modern hipster Brooklyn life, but specifically from the perspective of a hipster Brooklyn man. In her deeply sensitive, intensely psychological portrait, she captures a great deal of the hypocrisy and under-the-rug sexism that still goes rumbling along through relationships today.

Main character Nathaniel imagines himself to be the modern, enlightened man — supportive feminist, sensitive boyfriend, friend to women. As a writer he preens and sees himself as the classic sensitive artist, able to see the shortcomings of others with a particularly sharp lens. He’s more or less completely unaware of the ways he still belittles, judges, and patronizes the women in his life, even the women he thinks he loves. The fundamental misunderstanding that still goes on between the sexes is the subject of this book, and I found Waldman’s portrayal to be clear-eyed, realistic, and cutting. It’s up to you to decide whether this is a send-up of contemporary Brooklyn life — or whether it’s a realistic portrayal.

Want more? Stay tuned for my favorite read of 2013, and Donate to our Kickstarter project today!

Countdown: My 6th Favorite Read Is…

We’re counting down the days left until we run out of time for our Kickstarter project, and we desperately need your support to launch. I’m also counting down my ten favorite reads this year. My 6th favorite read has people who come through television screens and men without faces. Read on to find out that my 6th favorite read this year was…

After Dark, Haruki Murakami

I’m a die-hard fan of Haruki Murakami’s work. The first time I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in college, I knew I had never quite experienced a story or a writer like this before. Murakami plays with the fantastic, but it’s his own particular brand of magic; it’s weird, sensual, and often unexplainable, but always affecting. The strange setups he creates end up feeling like a powerful metaphor for life, but they don’t fit easily (or boringly) into a tidy allegorical interpretation.

Since that book I’ve enjoyed many others of Murakami’s, but his new book After Dark is a particular favorite. Unlike his massive opus 1Q84 from a few years back, After Dark is a tidy, slim little novel all contained in one night in the dark bar and club district of Tokyo. We follow a small cast of lonely late-night characters as they move through the city after hours, occasionally bumping up against each other. As with other Murakami books, there’s something strange and very unsettling going on here, and there’s also a very simple human drama underneath that. That mix of the sweet and the strange is what I love about this author’s weird and wonderful books.

Want more? Stay tuned to find out my favorite read this year, and Donate to our Kickstarter project today!

Countdown: My 7th Favorite Read this Year Is…

We’re counting down the days left until we run out of time for our Kickstarter project, and we desperately need your support to launch. I’m also counting down my ten favorite reads this year. My 7th favorite read has odd doodles and killer geese. Read on to find out that my 7th favorite read this year was…

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

If you’re a reader of the laugh-out-loud hilarious blog Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, then you’ve probably already grabbed up this book. Brosh’s fans are devoted, and for good reason; there’s just something hilariously apt about her crude drawings matched with her sophisticated sense of humor. Her observations about life, from procrastination to wild goose attacks to depression, are spot on. Doubtless you’ll find yourself identifying with something she writes about here; and you’ll find the drawings to create a killer sense of pacing. Hyperbole is not quite a novel, and not quite a comic book, but its delightful pairing of deadpan humor, bald honesty, and yes, very funny little drawings, is truly unique. You’ll want to pick this one up for yourself or for someone else in your life.

Stay tuned for the rest of the list, and Donate to our Kickstarter project today!

Countdown: My 8th Favorite Read this Year Is…

We’re counting down the days left until we run out of time for our Kickstarter project, and we desperately need your support to launch. I’m also counting down my ten favorite reads this year. My 8th favorite read has telepathy, vintage sexism, and strange mindmelds. Read on to find out that my 8th favorite read this year was…

More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon

We’re traveling back in time today to an oldie but a goodie; I read classic science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human this year, and I’m still thinking about it. This series of odd vignettes that draw together to a startling and philosophical union is always strange, often chilling, and often downright disturbing. But it also has its redemptive side.

More than Human sets a high bar for entry. It begins following the perspective of someone who seems less than human — an individual barely able to comprehend its own existence or the existence of others. Yet in spite of this character’s obvious deficiencies, he seems to possess something special, something the human race has never seen before. As the story moves from character to character, we meet a host of misfit people who possess strange abilities. By putting them all together, they might add up to something that is altogether extraordinary. Sturgeon was interested in the process of human evolution, and what form its next revolutionary leap might take. His hypothesis strains believability, yet raises still-lasting questions about what makes us human, and what could make us become larger than ourselves.

Stay tuned for number 7 on the list, and Donate to our Kickstarter project today!

Top 5 Last Minute Gifts for Writers

It’s that time of year when many of us are frantically looking for the perfect gift for our friends and loved ones. Sometimes writers can be a difficult group to shop for, so hopefully this list will help you out.

#5. Notebooks and nice pens are always thoughtful gifts for writers who like to “get out in the field” so to speak. Those of us who enjoy people-watching in the park and subway note-taking are always happy with a fresh Moleskine or a spiral-bound journal decorated with a personal place or artist. While it doesn’t always seem like the most creative gift, a writer will add the creativity to the blank pages!

#4. Although notebooks are still useful, most of us writers spend at least some time typing and composing on a computer. This list from Daily Writing Tips suggests both free and subscription software to help writers compose, design and edit their work. They also suggest programs for minimizing distractions, a key in today’s super-connected world.

#3. Every writer I know is also an avid reader. Whether he/she is a poet, a novelist or a reporter, the savvy writer knows how to enjoy a good book and discern a not-so-good one. Check out the New York Times list of and pick one (or two or three) you think they will enjoy. You can also take a look at our ongoing posts on favorite reads from 2013.

#2. The latest edition of Writer’s Market is always a welcome gift for writers who are serious about getting their work out. While last year’s edition is probably still valid for the most part, having the latest edition saves all the footwork of checking to be sure the newer magazines are still afloat this year. Plus the new edition will include new literary magazines that have cropped up in the last year or two! While Two Cities Review hasn’t made it in yet, we hope to be there soon.

#1. Of course, for both the writers of this site and the writers who will benefit from the success of Two Cities Review, the number one gift you can get for your favorite writer this year is a donation to the Two Cities Review kickstarter campaign! Give the world the gift of a new literary magazine and yourself the satisfaction of knowing we couldn’t have done it without you! You can pledge here: http://kck.st/1fcvKZH. We thank you in advance for your support!

Countdown: My 9th Favorite Read This Year Is…

We’re counting down the days left until we run out of time for our Kickstarter project, and we desperately need your support to launch. I’m also counting down my ten favorite reads this year. My 9th favorite book has alligators, swamps, and ghosts. Read on to find out that my 9th favorite read this year was…

Swamplandia!, Karen Russell

Like many readers, I was first seduced by Karen Russell’s delightful imagination with her short stories. A few of the stories from Saint Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, including the titular story, won me over immediately with their fresh funny voice, their lovely human vision, and their stunning prose. Swamplandia, Russell’s novel debut, takes the best of her wonderful short stories and throws it into a wild Floridian brew of haunted swamps, alligator wrestlers, dodgy amusement parks, faked Native American heritage, and tender family drama.

The plot is both complex and simple; a family-run alligator ranch is threatened by bankruptcy by a slick amusement park chain that moves into town, but larger than that, the family threatens to fall apart after losing its center, the mother. Narrated by the youngest daughter, Swamplandia is often hilarious, always fresh, and also unexpectedly dark. I didn’t even think the violence that emerges was fully necessary, but nevertheless, the haunted feeling of Russell’s vividly rendered Florida swamp makes this book feel magical.

Keep reading to find out my 8th favorite book this year, and Donate to our Kickstarter project today!

Countdown: My 10th Favorite Read This Year Is…

We’re counting down the days left until we run out of time for our Kickstarter project, and we desperately need your support to launch. In the meantime, I’ll be counting down my ten favorite reads this year, whether the books were published in 2013 or not. Many of the books were from this year; it truly was a great year for exciting, vital, heart-rending reading. So let’s begin with the book in the number ten spot…

Snow Hunters, Paul Yoon

Snow Hunters is the novel debut of acclaimed short story writer Paul Yoon. His spare, haunting portraits of Korea around the time of World War II and the Korean war are often haunting, and there is a kind of soundless brilliance in Snow Hunters. Like other short stories of his, the novel has a feeling of trauma quietly haunting every interaction; our narrator, a withdrawn man who has finally left a POW camp in the Korean war to work as a tailor’s assistant in South America, is unable or unwilling to connect with people around him. He prefers the safety and reliability of objects and the work he does. When moments of kindness do come, they’re small and restrained, but end up feeling startling in this very gray world.

Yoon seems like a writer after Hemingway’s heart, someone who captures horror through minimalism and suggestion, and who uses restraint and silence. At time the book seemed a little too restrained, implying depth that wasn’t always there. But ultimately, the book did find its own measure of depth, and ended up being quite moving.

Want to see the rest? Keep checking back at Two Cities, and Donate to our Kickstarter project today!