Celebrity Chekhov—My newest book is a collection of short stories about people trapped between public and private life, wrestling with friendships and business commitments, uncertain whether to reveal themselves fully or try to luff their way through life. But there’s a twist: the people are not ordinary characters, but rather contemporary American celebrities. And there’s a second twist: they stories are not really original works, but rather updates of the stories of the Russian master Anton Chekhov. I have removed Chekhov’s characters and repopulated the stories with celebrities like Britney Spears, Alec Baldwin, Lindsay Lohan, Artie Lange, Kim Kardashian, and Oprah WInfrey.
The book also has an accompanying blog, Celebrities With Character, where people are invited to write letters to celebrities.
What He’s Poised To Do—In the summer of 2010, Harper Perennial published this book, a collection of short stories about men and women and love and letter-writing. The collection had its origins in Correspondences (see below), a limited-edition art book of six short stories published by Hotel St. George Press in 2008, but this expended collection has seventeen or eighteen stories (I promise I will know the exact number by the time it appears in stores). The cover is a great painting by Alyssa Monks. Watch this space for updates, or visit Harper Perennial’s website.
The book also has an accompanying blog, Letters With Character, where people are invited to write letters to fictional characters.
On the Shelf:
This novel, about a soul/funk star of the sixties and seventies, will be published by Melville House in May 2009. It focuses on the life and times of Robert Franklin, also known as the Rock Foxx, who came out of Boston’s R&B scene in the late 1950s, moved to the San Francisco of the late 1960s, and was catapulted to fame and fortune before washing out against a backdrop of drugs, personal crises, and creative isolation. The Rock Foxx is fictional, but also factual, based on such stars as Sly Stone, Bobby Womack, and Curtis Mayfield. The novel—which offers a sweeping look at American culture in the sixties and seventies—will also come with a special bonus song with lyrics written by Mr. Greenman and music written by the funk legend Swamp Dogg, who also performs the track.
“Fresh and explosive…Greenman takes readers behind the rhythm and into the soul of a musician and the culture that made and destroyed him. It’s a haunting vision of a man, the music and a culture, driven by the author’s undeniable passion for his subject.” —Publishers Weekly
“Please Step Back sings of the back-street, back-stage hyper-kinetic moment when music, stardom, and cultural sea changes pushed America irrevocably forward. Light-stepping and hard-hitting, Greenman gets it right from the power of the beat to the devastation when the silence takes over.” —Walter Mosley
“Please Step Back is a literary funk-rock novel with weight and power. Greenman nails the outsized characters who, in the midst of a cultural revolution, birthed the most thrilling movement in American popular music.” —George Pelecanos
“Anyone who has ever fallen in love with popular music knows the story of Rock Foxx and The Foxes: boy meets gift, boy meets girl, boy meets success, boy forgets to choose sides, demons take boy. Please Step Back doesn’t decode or interpret Foxx’s story—it does something better; this book sounds like a song, working with the rhythm of words that are like speech but never just talking. Greenman’s dialogue is as terse, piercing and easeful as Sly Stone’s lyrics.” —Sasha Frere-Jones
—Correspondences: This limited-edition, handcrafted, letterpress book was published by Hotel St. George in November 2008. It consists of six stories about letters and correspondence, along with a seventh published on the housing of the book. Correspondences also serves as the launching pad for the Postcard Project, a worldwide interactive fiction environment. You can hear one of the stories, “Helpmate,” on the KQED Writer’s Block program.
“Correspondences by Ben Greenman is a beautiful, letterpressed, book-like object containing seven short stories that literally unfold before you . . . Greenman’s writing is wonderfully intimidating, bountiful yet compressed . . . a gorgeous collection of short stories, integrated in its content and construction.” —Los Angeles Times
“Delighting in brain twisters and historical arcana, [Greenman] could be described as the love child of Paul Auster and John Hodgman.” —Time Out New York
“Everything ties together organically, rather than reading as a gimmick. As an object, Correspondences is a genius invention. But as a book, it works just as well.” —Time Out New York
—A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both: Stories About Human Love (Macadam/Cage, 2007). This collection of stories about the misshapen and misunderstood human heart mixes serious short fiction and experimental brilliance. Stories are organized in pairs: the first story in the collection harmonizes with the last story, the second with the next-to-last, and so on. At least one of the stories takes place on the moon, and at least one contains a number of pop songs.
“Ben Greenman, an editor at the New Yorker, is a writer who is seriously weird. He is also seriously funny. Yet the best of the stories in this collection are more than funny.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Greenman’s voice is totally his own, though you’ll hear echoes of past waggish masters in it. These ingenious stories of love are deadpan yet demented, straightforward yet poetic, joyous and sad and always big-hearted. Like Bruno Schulz, George Saunders, Donald Barthleme and no one else I can think of, Greenman has the power to be whimsical without resorting to whimsy. Read this book.” —Darin Strauss
—Superworse (Soft Skull, 2004). This novel-within-stories-within-a-novel reprises portions of Greenman’s 2001 debut Superbad while adding substantial amounts of new content and creating an entirely new context. The book is edited, with a Foreword, Midword, and Afterword, by Laurence Onge. Includes “Getting Nearer to Nearism” and the love story “Sometree/Anytree.”
“Just when you think Greenman has thoroughly excavated all available humor, he surprises with a snipe from an unforeseen direction.” —Time Out New York
“Greenman is not afraid to attach authentic sentiment and poke around at the poignant. It works, and it works quite well. He constantly walks a narrative tightrope.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“I don’t know what goes on in Ben Greenman’s mind, but inside it there seems to be a Russian short story writer, a slap-stick gag writer, an art critic, a literary critic, a cultural commentator, a cowboy, a satirist, a scientist, a postmodernist, an anti-postmodernist, a surrealist, a nut, a genius, a stand-up comedian, a child prodigy, a dreamer, and a poet. Needless to say, all these characters make for compelling, mysterious reading. I was spellbound.”—Susan Minot
“It wouldn’t do not to mention the genius ‘Blurbs,’ which constructs an entire story out of made-up book-critic blurbs, including even one from this publication. Something extraordinary.”—Kirkus (STARRED review)
Anthologies in which Mr. Greenman’s work has appeared:
—Cassettes From My Ex (forthcoming Fall 2009)
—Sex, Drugs, and Gefite Fish (forthcoming Fall 2009)
—Rock and Roll Cage Match (2008)
—The McSweeneys Joke Book of Book Jokes (2008)
—Stumbling and Raging: More Politically Inspired (2006)
—Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans (2005)
—The Encyclopedia of Exes: 26 Stories by Men of Love Gone Wrong (2005)
—May Contain Nuts (2005)
—Politically Inspired (2005)
—101 Damnations (2002)
—More Mirth of a Nation (2002)
—Mirth of a Nation (2000)