An interview with Daniel Evans Pritchard

What motivations shape a critic’s decisions to write about the books they defend and those they dismiss? And what are the ethical or moral dimensions of those decisions? Beyond mere conflicts of interest, what lines do they draw for themselves in their work? Are there personal forces or experiences that affect their preferences about what to read and review?

In this ongoing series of interviews with critics, one of the central questions will be, “What is a critic’s role?” It’s a broad question, open-ended, but one which can be used, if the critic chooses, to address the personal side to their lives as critics, and perhaps how they see their work affecting society and culture.

Daniel Evans Pritchard took the time recently via email to talk about some of these questions during a discussion that ranged from his reflections on the effect of focusing solely on writing by women and writers of color for a year to the possible fates of respected literary journals that refuse to address biases in the kind of writing they support.

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translation

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Three Percent announced the poetry and fiction longlists for the 2016 Best Translated Book Awards last week and while I know that two of my last four posts on this blog have been about Mercè Rodoreda, I still have to say it–hooray, Rodoreda made the longlist! It’s her novel, War, So Much War (Quanta, quanta guerra) translated by Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relaño. (My experimental review). If you haven’t already seen the full list of books, click on over to see who else made it (fiction longlist | poetry longlist) and be sure to follow the BTBA blog for guest posts by a fine array of people arguing why their favorite books should win.

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Walk the novel

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It’s been months since I posted anything but hey, I finished a draft of a new novel! At this stage it has a lot of short chapters, as you can see by this photo. It’s fun walking across the room and moving scenes around. This is the best way I know of to see the whole book, a very useful technique I shamelessly borrowed from novelist David Connerly Nahm

Oh, and last month I wrote an experimental review of Diane Williams’s new story collection, “Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine” for Minor Literature[s]

Okay, back to revising this novel. It’s going out to my first readers very soon.

And if you use any tricks or techniques like the one above when you’re revising a book, I’d love to hear about them.

Death, dreams & Dad

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Interfictions, the online journal of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, recently published its sixth issue and it includes a new piece I wrote.

It’s an experimental book review, the third one I’ve done. Part criticism, fiction, and memoir, it’s about all the things a good book shakes loose inside me, which tend to spill out in raw form and later become a short story masquerading as a book review, or vice versa.

The review focuses on Mercè Rodoreda’s new novel, War, So Much War, published in English for the first time by Open Letter Books, translated masterfully from the Catalan by Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relaño, who’ve collaborated on many books together.

Interfictions is a fantastic venue to work for. For one thing, they pay their writers. Which is nice but most of all I’m grateful I got to work with Sofia Samatar, whose editorial guidance made all the difference as this review took shape.

Thanks in advance if you get a chance to read my piece and some of the others at Interfictions–the short stories were chosen by guest editors Carmen Maria Machado and Sam J. Miller. And be sure to check out Rodoreda’s novel! It’s one of my top three books for 2015.

Reading in, reading out

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With summer behind us and “serious book” season going strong, it feels like a busy time. A couple fantastic books I read in October were VERTIGO, a story collection by Joanna Walsh, and THE WEIGHT OF THINGS, a novella by the late Austrian writer Marianne Fritz, which was translated by my friend and former Asymptote colleague Adrian Nathan West. I shouldn’t link to 27 things here, so I’ll just say there have been a lot of enjoyable reviews and author/translator interviews for both books. They were published by Dorothy Project, who releases a pair of books each fall, and it’s become a sort of a “can’t wait” moment for me each year. Their list already includes Renee Gladman, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Nell Zink, Joanna Ruocco, Barbara Comyns, and more.

In September, poet Paul Siegell invited me to read at Painted Pride Quarterly Presents: a reading series at the Black Sheep Pub in Philly. I got to read with poets Yolanda Wisher, Boston Gordon, and Hannah Litvin.

Back in August I organized and hosted a reading in Philly with five authors, including Scottish author Helen McClory, and local writers Asali Solomon, Ras Mashramani, Phillip Garcia, and poet Jasmine Combs.

Rather than drop 10,000 words here about what it means to me to have met these writers and heard from them in person at these two events, I’ll just say that nothing beats being able to shake hands with other Philly writers and hear how they survive and thrive as artists in this city. It felt like I got a chance to see again part of something vast and beautiful and made me proud to be a writer among them.

One last note, this Saturday at 1 p.m. I’ll be at the 215 Festival in Northern Liberties for a “Fake Histories” walking tour, where writers tell tall tales about real places. It’ll be a short walk but a lot of fun. So if you’re at the festival and need some fresh air and a laugh, come check it out. There are good spots nearby to grab a beer afterwards, too. It starts at 1 p.m. at Trophy Bikes (712 N. 2nd St.), will be hosted by Jaime Fountaine, and features journalist Max Marin and writer Alejandro Morales.

The landscape changed

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“I was assailed by the smell of earth, the smell of decay from the rains that had fallen on the leaves of countless autumns. The landscape changed; the gorse had been replaced by fern, and the terrain sloped. I heard the fluttering of bird wings. I sat down on a damp, moss-covered rock by a pond with rippling water. Perhaps one day–if I died near this spot where I had paused to sit–a hunter or a wanderer like myself would find, instead of a carcass of a wild animal, my own remains. With the tip of his boot he would unearth a bone, and beneath it would be an ant colony or a centipede’s nest or perhaps a worm that would coil in desperation at being discovered, at having its entire world dismantled.”

–from Mercè Rodoreda’s novel, “War, So Much War” (Open Letter Books, November 2015). Translated by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent.

This novel, in English for the first time, has become one of my favorites. And not just for 2015. I’ve written a piece about it, which will likely be published this fall. Most importantly though: Read Rodoreda! I posted about her earlier, but that’s all I can say: Read. Rodoreda.