“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares
“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant
“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus
“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction
“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper
Songs About Dead Actors
I've been reading the short stories of Alan Sillitoe (who died this year), and I wonder how it is that I've come to him so late, particularly when I discovered a lot of writers and movies in my teens as a result of the liberal name-dropping many of my favorite British musicians did in their lyrics (Oscar Wilde, Oliver Twist, Herman Melville, and James Dean for the Smiths; Norman Mailer and Eva Marie Saint for Lloyd Cole and the Commotions; Tennessee Williams in some of the Creatures' work; the indirect reference to Sillitoe later in Belle & Sebastian's "The Loneliness of a Middle-Distance Runner." On the American side, Harvey Danger's "Carlotta Valdez," about the the Hitchcock movie "Vertigo," and Yo La Tengo and the song "Tom Courtenay," about the movie Billy Liar in which Tom Courtenay starred with Julie Christie.)
Which brings us roundabout back to Sillitoe, since Courtenay also stared in the movie adaptation of "The Loneliness of a Long-Distance Runner," probably Sillitoe's most famous short story. Sillitoe reminds me thematically a little bit of Richard Yates, perhaps because Yates wrote a few stories about London set during the war, and of course Cheever, although Sillitoe is definitely more working class (and, later, Communist). And there are similarities in the prose as well, although I'm not very good with the comparative lit end of things. Suffice to say that his prose is clean and masculine and yet tender in many ways.
I think at heart I'll always be this type of writer, more interested in character and storytelling foremost, although I've attempted some more experimental work in the last few years. I think the writers like Sillitoe and Yates will always be a comfort food to me, along with Oates and Munro, just as I will always have a love for eighties British bands and their songs about dead actors/writers.