Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New at Tin House: GHOST CODA

My essay "Ghost Coda: A Rilke Pilgrimage, or: On Being Glad No One Knows You" can now be read on the Tin House blog. 

I first started working on this piece more than seven years ago, shortly after the appearance of Lost Son, my big novel about Rilke. In that time the essay has stretched into a meditation on the nature of artistic legacy, our changing attitudes toward artists of earlier times, the question of honorable obscurity, the power of certain inspirational zones and places, and the mysterious circuitry of inspiration across the generations. (How's that for a summary one cannot tweet?)

Here's the opening:

Spring, 2005
I stand in the doorway of the Bibliothèque Nationale reading room, the soaring sanctum before me, above me the ceiling a grandeur of opaque glass wreathed with names of great cities: Alexandria, Athens, London, Babylon, Jerusalem, Byzantium, Peking. I’m here in search of Rainer Maria Rilke. Strapped for cash, unschooled, twenty-seven years old and devoid of curricula vitae save years of ardent reading, I’ve already spent an absurd, obsessive half-decade writing a novel about him. It’s grown to more than one-hundred-fifty-thousand words. I hope to complete it in Paris.

The roundness of this room suggests a vast egg enclosing the world’s knowledge. I want to swim forth through the bluish light, amid the desks and along the curving walls shelved four stories high with books, but the clerk at the entry explains that I cannot come in. I lack the proper license: the coveted carte de bibliothèque. Malte, the main character in Rilke’s single novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910), cherishes the card permitting him entrance to this room — not only for the learning the card allows him, but because the card puts an honorable seal on his otherwise dissolute life. A young scion of erstwhile aristocrats in Denmark, Malte has fled the land of his ancestry to fin de siècle Paris where he will live as a poet — or die a nobody, as his notebooks’ agitated first words suggest: “So, people do come here to live. I would have sooner thought that this is where one dies.” Malte’s health is failing him. Destitute, squalidly housed in the Latin Quarter, he fears he’s becoming indistinguishable from his neighbors: the sick, the desperate, the mad. His library card saves him, temporarily at least, from the spiritual degradation shown in those impoverished “husks of humanity” who ambulate the grim cobbled warrens around his apartment. “It is possible that one day it may occur to them to come as far as my room,” writes Malte while sitting in the hush of this salle de reference.
They certainly know where I live, and they will take care that the concierge does not stop them. But here, my dears, here I am safe from you. One must have a special card in order to get into this room. In this card I have the advantage of you … I am among these books, and then taken away from you as though I had died, and sit and read a poet.
Discontent to stand in the doorway, I decide I must get a card of my own. Fumbling through the necessary questions in my quasi French, I’m referred to one attendant after another. Finally, at the Accueil, an English-speaking clerk directs me across the library’s palatial foyer to the enclosed area marked “Orientation des Lecteurs.” Bureaucracy-phobes acquire nightmares here.

Wound up and out of sorts, I breach the shrine and install myself in a chair before a librarian’s desk, babbling. Gatekeepers make me nervous. And now I’m much too aware, in my tongue-tied foreignness, in my pullover and backpack and scuffed sneakers, that I cut the figure of a failed pretender, a would-be tourist-cum-scholar. Worse, I give the impression, despite myself, of knowing my own charade, knowing I cannot claim legitimate candidacy for the access I seek. The library wardens — officious, serious, and thoroughly French in their skeptical decorum — reduce me with every sidelong glance. They won’t grant a card to just anybody. As my stuttering interview concludes, I’m instructed to return with passport and proof official of my status as an author; e.g., a published book. I will thereafter be informed of materials in the library relevant to my research.

Rattled, I exit the marbled lobby, cross the cobbled courtyard to the ravine-like rue de Richelieu, and start back toward my cramped studio apartment on the Left Bank. As I walk I pocket my clammy hands and replay the interview. Did I call myself un écrivain or romancier? Which was more correct considering my motive? I know I said recherche — that was a kind of lie. But how can I explain that I’ve got nothing to research, at least not in the manner they mean? How explain that I simply wish to sit and work in that reading room, that the spirit of the room itself is what I’m after?

(continue reading on the Tin House site)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Exciting news from Atelier26 Books!

Here's the press release:
Atelier26 Books is proud to announce acquisition of the brilliant short story collection People Like You, the debut title by Portland writer Margaret Malone, for publication in late 2015 or early 2016. 

Margaret Malone is the recipient of fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission and
Photo: Sabina Poole
Literary Arts, two Regional Arts & Culture Council Project Grants, and residencies at The Sitka Center and Soapstone.  Her writing has appeared in The Missouri Review, Oregon Humanities Magazine, Coal City Review,  Swink, Nailed,, and elsewhere, including recently the Forest Avenue Press anthology The Night, and the Rain, and the River. A Dangerous Writers alumnus, Malone has a degree in Philosophy from Humboldt State University and has taught creative writing as a visiting artist at Pacific Northwest College of ArtShe lives with her husband filmmaker Brian Padian and two children in Portland, where she co-hosts the artist and literary gathering SHARE.

With People Like You, Malone delivers an assemblage of characters and conundrums all at once funny, unsettling, subtle, and moving. Malone’s people exist, like most of us, in the thick of everyday experience absent of epiphanies, and they are caught off-guard or cast adrift by personal impulses even while wide awake to their own imperfections. They win us over completely although we know they are bound to break our hearts with each confused and conflicted decision they make.

“I’ve long wanted Atelier26 to be the vehicle for a phenomenal debut,” says press founder and publisher M. Allen Cunningham, “and in Margaret’s work you immediately hear the brave and startling sound of a born writer. Her voice is so assured—she’s got such a razor wit—and each of these stories is so beautifully controlled and alive to its own truth, readers will hardly know what hit them.” 

For Malone’s launch, Atelier26 plans a significant promotional campaign to booksellers and extensive events. “We’re going to grow our operations considerably on behalf of People Like You,” says Cunningham. “We’re giving it everything we’ve got, and we anticipate a passionate bookseller response. You can’t read Margaret’s work and not want to enthuse over it to anyone who cares about great writing.”

More details about People Like You and its exciting release are forthcoming in the months ahead. Visit and follow the publisher’s tweets at

Listen to a 10-minute recording of Margaret Malone reading from the title storyon LiveWireRadio (minute 20). More about Margaret Malone at:
Atelier26 Books, an independent press founded in Portland, Oregon in 2011, specializes in contemporary literature in fine trade editions showcasing the highest design standards. Atelier26 books are offered for sale through the publisher’s online storefront, and through an ever-growing roster of independent booksellingpartners around the U.S.