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Underway

RABIH ALAMEDDINE

JONATHAN AMES


ROBERT M. ANDERSON


AIMEE BENDER

KEVIN BROCKMEIER

MICHAEL CHABON

MEGHAN DAUM

KEN FOSTER

PAULA FOX

LAURA FRASER

DAVID GATES

GLEN DAVID GOLD

DANIEL HANDLER
ADAM HASLETT

JOANNA HERSHON

PICO IYER

DANIEL MASON

HARRY MATHEWS

RICK MOODY

ROBERT OLMSTEAD

STEWART O'NAN

ANN PACKER

SUSAN SHREVE

ZADIE SMITH

LYNNE TILLMAN

RABIH ALAMEDDINE
I, the DivineWhat's on my desk? Clutter, more clutter, and damn clutter. I have changed desks and continents (San Francisco to Beirut), but the clutter follows me. I am working on a novel, but have been stuck for a while. I have about 100 pages. I have the story, the plot, everything but the structure, and without structure, all I have is clutter.

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
I, the Divine by Rabih Alameddine
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JONATHAN AMES
I'm working on my new novel, Wake Up, Sir! It's about two-thirds done, and is an homage — at least in my mind — to P.G. Wodehouse. An anthology I've put together of the memoirs of transsexuals, tentatively titled Sexual Metamorphosis — though The Book of Sex Changes would also be good — still needs editing work. And a collection of my essays is in the computer, dormant, with such possible working titles as: Everybody Dies in Memphis or I Love You More Than You Know. Also on my desk is Eric Bogosian's one-man play Notes From Underground, which I need to learn since I'll be performing it for the whole month of May at PS 122 in New York City, with Eric Bogosian as my director, so I had better not try to change any words.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
What's Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer by Jonathan Ames
My Less Than Secret Life by Jonathan Ames
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ROBERT MAILER ANDERSON
Aside from generally "trying to create a revolution during my lifetime," on the writing front, I just finished an article about "Guys' Night at the San Francisco Opera" for San Francisco Magazine that's a shameless promotional piece.

Mostly, I'm working on my second novel, Jackson Stone, which is about personal hypocrisy, gambling, coffee jocks, and the search for love here at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It's a blend between a Philip Roth unreliable narrator's rant (God, I wish I wrote The Human Stain) and a Charles Willeford noir. It's supposed to be fast-paced, dark, funny, taking place in the North Beach and Tenderloin neighborhoods of San Francisco.

Somehow, constructing the minor characters in this novel, I'm working through my love for Joseph Mitchell. I'm also taking notes for another novel, a sort of updated Great Gatsby, set in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I'm certain a Larry Ellison-type guy will be a major character, and somehow I'll make him sympathetic.

And I'm almost done with my first play, The Death of Teddy Ballgame, which is where I pour all my 9/11 and daily New York Times headline angst that doesn't belong in Jackson Stone. Unabashedly stealing from O'Neil, Mamet, Sartre, and Beckett, I've got a group of men gathered in a coffee shop a couple of days after the apocalypse, wondering if it's safe to drink the coffee, discussing how they intend to survive nuclear fallout, radiation, small pox, anthrax, SARS II, roaming bands of marauders, no movies or ESPN, and other horrors, and whether or not it's even worth surviving. It's a comedy.

And lastly, I'm working on a screenplay with my cousin Zack called Pig Hunt that takes place in the hills outside of a small town like Boonville. It's a creepy cross between The Blair Witch Project and Deliverance, with a little Jaws thrown in. The tag line is "Think BIG, think PIG!" You get the picture.

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Boonville by Robert Mailer Anderson



AIMEE BENDER
The Girl in the Flammable SkirtI am working on an as-of-yet untitled novel from the point of view of a teenage boy. Violence, guilt, shame, glee? Disturbed kids on the brick wall, Nevada, debate club, animals. Germany, vice principals, plastic cubes and mayors.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender
An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
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KEVIN BROCKMEIER
Right now I'm spending most of my time working on a novel called The Brief History of the Dead, but I'm also answering last-minute queries about a novel called The Truth About Celia, which is coming out this summer, and cleaning up a children's novel called Grooves; or, The True-Life Outbreak of Weirdness. And I'm reading, of course — currently On Wings of Song by Thomas M. Disch.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Things That Fall from the Sky by Kevin Brockmeier
The Truth about Celia by Kevin Brockmeier
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MICHAEL CHABON
I am working on a novel, working title Hotzeplotz. It's set in the Alaskan panhandle, in the present day, in the territory that was opened to the Jewish refugees of Europe, after Congress passed the King-Havenner Bill of 1940, for settlement during WWII. The precarious balancing act of this Yiddish-speaking nation-within-a-nation is imperiled by the discovery of a mysterious skull in a construction site, and the novel unfolds as its protagonist, a homicide detective named Meyer Landsman, investigates. "Hotzeplotz" is the name of a real town in the Ukraine or someplace but it's used in the Yiddish expression "from here to Hotzeplotz," meaning more or less the back of nowhere, Bumfuck, Iowa, the ends of the earth.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Summerland by Michael Chabon
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MEGHAN DAUM
As for what's on my desk, seeds of both a second novel and a sesame bagel I ate weeks ago, a yoga class schedule I have never consulted, discarded pages of the screenplay adaptation of my first novel, The Quality of Life Report. Note to screenwriters: when you get to page 163, move the wastebasket closer.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum
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KEN FOSTER
I've been trying to write about Costa Rica ever since I spent three months living there, two years ago. I'd mapped out a collection of stories inspired by the country, and the people I'd met there, but nobody wants a collection of stories, they want a novel. So I spent some time — too much time — trying to force a big, melodramatic arc on the thing. It didn't work, so I broke that back down into stories and found myself staring at the outline I had written in a notebook in Costa Rica. There's so much life in Costa Rica that you can't avoid death, even if you're just going for a walk to the market. The story I'm working on first will probably be the last in the book. A woman in physical pain, high on pain-killers, travels to Puerto Viejo and thinks that the wild horses are trying to guide her. I took pictures of the horses there, in the middle of the night, with a Lomo. The exposures were so long that the colors blurred into brushstrokes. That's the way this character sees them.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Dog Culture: Writers on the Character of Canines by Ken Foster
The Kind I'm Likely to Get: A Collection by Ken Foster
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PAULA FOX
Borrowed FineryI am working on stories set in eastern Europe where I spent time right after World War II, along with some older stories. I hope to put together a collection.

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Borrowed Finery: A Memoir by Paula Fox
Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
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LAURA FRASER
Right now, I have a novel percolating, which I'm not going to talk about, because it's my first novel and so I feel like I'm falling off a cliff, although I suppose I do have little bitty wings. Other than that, I'm working on a piece for Organic Style about Fair Trade coffee, for which I traveled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In Nicaragua, in particular, I was moved by what a difference it makes to pay coffee farmers (mostly ex-Sandinistas) a fair price for their coffee, although I'm not sure American consumers are going to be willing to pay a few cents more per cup to know that they're helping leftist Central American farmers. I'm also writing an essay for O the Oprah magazine about a book list I have kept since I was thirteen years old (after a summer reading contest at the library). I'm doing a "Hellraiser" column for Mother Jones, and an essay for More magazine about how women in midlife are once again vulnerable to being duped by the pseudo-science of diets, just when we should be grown up enough to accept the fact that real women have asses and thighs. I just finished a piece for Gourmet about a funky restaurant I ate at on Taha'a in Tahiti, and I'm doing research for a feature I'm writing for them about one of my favorite places in Italy.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser
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DAVID GATES
These days it's all about short stories. I'm completely in love with the form, and I hope a year from now to have a collection done. I've just yanked back a story that had been scheduled for magazine publication in June; it wasn't anywhere near ready. I might have tried to rethink and rework it on short notice — god knows how — but luckily I had a better one to substitute. I've got half a dozen more kicking around waiting to be born. Some are thirty-odd pages and still unrealized, others aren't much more than a title, a couple of lines, and a feeling. For the past few years, I've also had a hundred or so pages of fragments of a novel, but I want to have made much more progress with the stories before I begin trying to make that work — if I ever do. Right now I'm not much in love with the novel as a form. Meanwhile, I've got my regular editing and writing duties at Newsweek, I'm teaching, and I have several nonfiction projects: an introduction and notes for Donald Barthelme's 60 Stories, long overdue but almost done — an essay on cutting and splitting wood for a forthcoming anthology, an essay on Jimmy Olson comics for another forthcoming anthology, and an anthology of my own: fiction set in the workplace.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Preston Falls by David Gates
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GLEN DAVID GOLD
Carter Beats the DevilFrom left to right: stacks of 3x5 cards with cryptic comments about the next book, some of them taped to my printer and monitor ("All they can do now is amuse me with their sufferings" — Wilton Barnhardt); an empty tin of Marco Polo tea which was full before I started working on the next book; letterhead, postcards, bills, invitations, office supplies, computer equipment; an eighteen-inch-tall flamingo with feathered headdress, that's actually a pen, given to me by my friend Leila of Operation Smile, because she felt I needed something of proper dignity to sign books; Meshell Ndegeocello's Bitter and a stack of Glenn Gould CDs; some archival CD-ROM documentaries that relate obliquely to the next book; a shot glass from the Madonna Inn next to a stuffed "Death" doll from The Sandman (for ages eight and up); a peace symbol that I made when I was age eight; a 1920s 9.5 mm Pathe Baby film I won off of eBay that may or may not relate to the next book, depending on whether I can find a projector to make it work; more 3x5 cards listing all the things I haven't done (repair our car's back bumper, which I damaged when doing a three-point turn into a retaining wall, apologize to many people for many things); a framed manuscript page from Lynda Barry's Cruddy, on which she has painted a fierce-looking mysterious farm animal; a box of Altoids on which rests ashes remaining from a cone of green tea incense; a huge and unkempt file of newspaper clippings, photocopies, auction catalogues, photographs, xeroxes of posters and images, all of which relate to some extent to the next book; a 50,000 dong note sent to me by an adventure racer in Vietnam as an informal royalty for the copy of Carter Beats the Devil that she sold at a bar in (I think) Denang; a hygrometer; a thirteen-year-old, sixteen-pound tortoiseshell cat named Batgirl who sleeps in a basket under a poem my wife wrote about Batgirl's intense and very passionate cross-animate love affair with the garden hose.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
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DANIEL HANDLER
Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized AutobiographyI have a large desk. It used to be a doctor's examining table, I'm told. On it are pages from a book I'm finishing which is somewhere between a novel and a collection of short stories. The book is about love, and accordingly there are some books I'm using as research, one on magpies and three children's books about volcanoes, as well as two legal pads on which the book is being written. Also, there is a pile of notes and manuscript from the new Snicket book I'm working on, a copy of a play by Don DeLillo which I might adapt for film, pages from an index I'm rewriting (long story), a fax from someone about a new literary magazine, a small box I stole from my college library where I keep business cards, an iPod somebody gave me for Christmas, a coaster from a favorite bar (Would you believe?), a toy chimney sweep from my childhood, a bright red bowl of thumbtacks, a photograph of my wife and me, my computer, a Mexican folk-art triptych thing I use for holding paperclips, three paperweights, a metal can full of pens and pencils, four unsharpened pencils rolling around loose, a piece of paper with "Richard Thompson, mariachi band" written on it to remind me about something, a glass of water with no ice in it, a 1950s typewriting instructional tool, one more pencil which makes five unsharpened pencils rolling around loose, and the new double CD by The Clean, Anthology, which I'm really loving. Right now the song "Whatever I do is right" is playing.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket
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ADAM HASLETT
On my desk right now are mostly law school­related projects: a series of interviews about how Republicans managed to convince Congress that it should repeal the estate tax, despite the fact that it effects only two percent of the population, those being the very wealthy. Depressing reading, but an insight into how the lobbying machine works in Washington. I'm also working on an essay about the history of the legal treatment of suicide. No more cheery I'm afraid, but at least the gravity is a bit closer than taxes to questions of ultimate ignificance.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett
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JOANNA HERSHON
Outside of AugustMy desk is covered with pretty obscure and mostly falling-apart books on the Jewish population in Santa Fe at around the turn of the century, because I got it into my head — after hearing about a friend's great-great-grandfather — that I needed to write my third novel about this. My friend's great-great-grandfather came from Germany and found himself a young bride who agreed on accompanying him to America but insisted on having a grand piano, and so they traveled across the country by covered wagon with the grand piano in tow. The extravagance and ridiculousness of this endeavor appeals to me greatly — even if a mute Holly Hunter and the perennially naked Harvey Keitel do tend to spring to mind. So I'm reading these books (that basically cover the boring business endeavors of a few prominent families — no juicy bits as of yet) and I'm attempting to start the novel, which seems to want to be an absolutely modern story about a bad father and a series of screwed-up marriages. I'm hoping to sort all this out over the next couple of years.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Outside of August by Joanna Hershon
Swimming by Joanna Hershon
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PICO IYER
A few years ago, when America was basking in unprecedented prosperity, and computers were being hailed as the unacknowledged legislators of mankind, I decided I needed to visit the poorest countries in each corner of the planet, much as I had earlier visited most of the countries covered by the Department of Treasury's "Trading with the Enemy" act (assuming that they were the ones I would never hear about, or never hear truths about, at home). And so I went to Yemen, to Haiti and Bolivia, to Camdodia and Laos and Ethiopia and Tibet, and in the process went into strange and unexplored places in myself, jetlagged, 12,000 feet above the sea, light-headed and unsettled. This series of journeys into the subconscious, or at least into the areas of our lives where we lose all sense of orientation, and don't know right from left (or right from wrong) — which stops off to meditate at a Zen temple with Leonard Cohen and to talk about suffering and hope with the Dalai Lama — should be out next year.

The real project that is consuming me now, however, is writing a whole novel in the voice of a woman (and seeing the world through the eyes of someone as different from me, I suspect, as an Inuit or a Nepali). A traveler, I always think, is someone who is not so much interested in exotic destinations, as in the pull of the unknown, and the mingled fascination of the Other. So my great adventure currently is voyaging into the other gender and trying to see the world I know from the other side of the bedroom.

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Abandon by Pico Iyer
The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home by Pico Iyer
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DANIEL MASON
The Piano TunerOn my desk (actually the dining room table — I just moved), I have The African Religions of Brazil and Epitaph of a Small Winner by Machado de Assis (my next book takes place in Brazil), a Portguese-English dictionary, and a lot of opened CD cases. I should be reading more of the former, but mostly end up listening to the latter. Alas, Brazil...
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Philip Mason
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HARRY MATHEWS
I'm revising a memoir of the early seventies: how I got stuck with a CIA rep and what I eventually did about it.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays by Harry Mathews
The Human Country: New and Collected Stories by Harry Mathews
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RICK MOODY
At the moment, I'm banging the big rounded part of my forehead against a brick wall repeatedly over a new novel having something to do with television, independent film production, and dowsing. The bloodshed part is going well, if not the novel writing part.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Black Veil by Rick Moody
Demonology by Rick Moody
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ROBERT OLMSTEAD
I'm working on a relentlessly bleak and terminally sad novel set in late 19th-century northern Quebec. Some days it goes okay and some days it doesn't.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
America by Land by Robert Olmstead
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STEWART O'NAN
The Night CountryI'm about two-thirds through a first draft of a novel about a woman who's waiting for her husband to get out of prison. He's doing twenty-five-to-life for second-degree murder, and the book follows her from his arrest to the moment she feels he's really back home with her and the two of them are truly together again. So in a way it's a romance that also follows her necessary and difficult movement from innocence to experience. Unlike prison life itself, which attracts tons of media coverage, being a family member on the outside is a hidden world, and because of that, I think the book has a large non-fiction component, realistically laying out for the reader what it's like. So I'm doing a lot of research, talking with women in that situation and figuring out the arcane and frustrating ways of the New York State Courts and Department of Corrections. Another six or seven months and I hope to have a draft together. At that point I'll show the manuscript to the women I've been talking with to see if what I've written mirrors their experiences.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Night Country by Stewart O'Nan
Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan
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ANN PACKER
On my desk are bank statements, refinancing documents, birthday party invitations, a summer camp application for my son, a folder full of EOBs (Explanation of Benefits, that is) from our health insurance company, a list of phone numbers from a place where I got an amazing massage so that I can try to find the artist who painted this exquisite scene of Venice that was hanging in the bathroom, the latest schedule of classes from the place where I do yoga, some return address labels with my name that I got from the American Diabetes Association, a booklet of coupons to make monthly payments to my daughter's orthodontist, and my laptop. On my laptop, where I seek refuge from the other items on my desk, is the beginning of my new novel. It's set in the Bay Area, where I live, and as I have in the past tended to write about places where I used to live, I'm adapting to the pleasures and pressures of having the world in my mind reflect and be reflected by the world outside.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
Mendocino: And Other Stories by Ann Packer
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SUSAN SHREVE
I have a stack of books on one side of my desk for a novel I hope to finish this summer called A Student of Living Things — about a student of evolutionary biology who until this narrative begins has collected only dead things. There's Darwin and Lewis Thomas and a basic biology text which I'm not quite equal to understanding and my personal favorite, Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson, which is a funny, informative book about the outlandish sexual behavior of the animal kingdom — an indulgence since the humor in my book is dark, not raucous. On the other side of the desk is a novel called Geography of a Marriage which was due last June and I keep beside me as a reminder to be vigilant since sometime in the course of the three years it took me to write that book, I fell out of love — and like the end of most love affairs didn't realize it until too late and so withdrew the book.

And I'm doing the final edits on a children's novel out in January called Under the Watsons' Porch — a first love story.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
Blister by Susan Shreve
Trout and Me by Susan Shreve
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ZADIE SMITH
White TeechMy desk is covered with school work. I'm taking a class on Jane Austen and Henry James, and a class on literary theory. In between I'm writing a book of essays on the novel. The subtitle of the book is "Essays on Fiction and Failure"; the essays are concerned with the ethical impulse in fiction as I find it expressed in the 20th century novel. At the moment I'm working on the introduction and the first chapter. That's about E.M. Forster. Basically, the book is a very gentle exploration of a suggestion of Iris Murdoch's: That the literary impulse and the impulse towards the Good fail and succeed along similar lines. It's an old fashioned book in that way; it suggests that elements of a novel that we would describe as aesthetic failures are actually ethical failures also. Some of the other writers in the collection are Kafka, Zora Neale Hurston, Updike, Vonnegut, Salinger, Kingsley Amis, David Foster Wallace. And there's one poet in there as sort of epilogue — Philip Larkin. I made a decision to only work on the writers I love. There comes a point where it becomes exhausting to continue pretending that A Room With a View is not your favorite novel.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
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LYNNE TILLMAN
I'm working on a novel called American Skin — on sensitivity and insensitivity, Americans, history, animals, friends, enemies, food, etc. etc.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR
This Is Not It: A Collection of Stories by Lynne Tillman
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