STORYTELLING EIDUS: It starts with two words: "the
hook." That's what every creative writing teacher, editor,
how-to book will tell you. "You have to have a hook."
It sounds like trite advice, until you come across a short-story
writer like Janice Eidus. She's a pro at snagging even
the most casual reader from the get-go. Her new collection, The
Celibacy Club, is a delight on many levels; but it all
begins with the first sentence:
"I met Elvis for the first time in the deli across the street from the elevated line on White Plains Road and Pelham Parkway in the Bronx."
"In second grade, my secret fantasy was that I would be transformed into a mermaid."
" 'He comes in. He goes out. He comes in and he goes out. That's all,' the Gypsy said."
Our all-time favorite, though, comes from the deliciously titled "Pandora's Box": "Pandora was a phone sex worker. She worked in an office in a dingy building in SoHo." From there, the story unfurls from the gritty, workaday life of an anonymous city dweller to an intense character study of horrific proportions.
Eidus has twice earned the prestigious O. Henry Prize for short fiction, as well as a Pushcart Prize, and the 19 stories reprinted in The Celibacy Club originally appeared in national publications like the Village Voice Literary Supplement, Mississippi Valley Review and Spec.
There's something ultra-contemporary about her first-person narratives and fleshed-out pop icons, including James Dean, Barbie and faux teen-idol Teddie-Boy, "the lovable but mischievous son on Four and the Folks. The cute one with the big eyes, with the depth." She's such an engaging and accessible storyteller, she imparts the idea that anyone can write stories. The trick is, you have to think of them.
Lucky for Tucson's teeming cauldron of would-be literati, Eidus will lead a weekend writing workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on February 7 and 8, at the UA Writing Works Center. The hands-on workshop promises strategies for transforming real people into convincing characters, and real events into authentic but fictionalized incidents. It's pricey at $139, but a wise investment from one of the best in the field. Call 626-4444 for registration and information.
And for the lot of you, Eidus offers a free and not-to-be-missed reading at 7 p.m. Friday, February 6, at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave. You can pick up The Celibacy Club there (paper, $9.95). She's also authored the critically acclaimed collection Vito Loves Geraldine, and two novels, Urban Bliss and Faithful Rebecca. Call 792-3715 for more information on the signing.
NO LOSS FOR WORDS: After weeks with little on the literary agenda, the Old Pueblo's making up for lost time. The UA Poetry Center continues its spring series with poet Eleanor Wilner, who visits the UA Modern Languages Building auditorium with a free reading at 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 4. Wilner (incidentally, the mom of equally remarkable UA Center for Creative Photography curator Trudy Wilner-Stack) has five books of poetry to her credit. She'll read from her most recent collection, Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems. A MacArthur Foundation and NEA Fellow, and winner of a slew of prizes including a Juniper, Pushcart, Edward Stanley Award and Warren Fine Poetry Prize, Wilner is a rare talent indeed. The center can provide ASL interpretation if requests are made in advance. Call 321-7760; or email firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
Clues Unlimited, the gumshoe fiction HQ at 123 S. Eastbourne, kicks off its second anniversary with free carrot cake and a mammoth signing of Arizona authors starting at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, January 31. Invited guests include mystery writers Richard Cosgrove, Brian Harper, Pete Hautman, C.E. "Buzz" Poverman, Betsy Thornton, Renee Horowitz, Richard Parish, James Sallis, Jonathan Lowe, Margaret Falk and W. Lane Rogers.
New Orleans author Robert Skinner joins the fray to discuss and sign Cat-Eyed Trouble at 3 p.m. Saturday; and Michael Stone discusses and signs his Token of Remorse from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, February 2. Call 326-8533 for details.
SHARP SCHWARZ: Congratulations to UA poli-sci professor John Schwarz, whose book Illusions of Opportunity (W.W. Norton, $23.95) has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. A prescriptive analysis of the widening gap between the rich and the poor in America, Schwarz's book offers an insightful and ultimately hopeful contrast between misleading governmental figures and the living reality of working families who can't make their way into America's economic mainstream.
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