Snowy owl

On Saturday afternoon, we drove with some birding friends out to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn in pursuit of the snowy owl, whose invasion of the continental United States had hit the front page of the New York Times that morning (a more ornithological report is here). Thanks to our highly developed tracking skills, we were able to hone in quickly on . . . a small cluster of parked cars, beside which were arrayed tripod-mounted cameras with lenses so large they were painted in camouflage. It was cool to see the snowy owl, which was sitting imperturbably in a field, the object of all lenses. Our friends set up a telescope, and it was also cool to discover that if you hold an Iphone up to the eyepiece of a telescope and jiggle it just right, you can take a photograph through the two devices. It looks at first as if all the phone will capture is glowing concentric blurs orbited by strange glints, but if you tilt the phone until one of the stray glints falls into the center, the glint blows up and then resolves into a perfectly focused image.


A launch party for Cliff Chase’s “Tooth Fairy”

Cliff Chase’s new memoir Tooth Fairy: Parents, Lovers, and Other Wayward Deities goes on sale next week, and Lisa Cohen (author of All We Know), Mark Krotov (an editor at Overlook Press), and I will be helping him read from it at Book Court, 163 Court Street, Brooklyn on Friday, February 7, at 7pm. Please join us!

A review on the Lambda Literary website, and a few other notices

On the Lambda Literary website, there’s a very generous review by James McDonald of my novel Necessary Errors. Much appreciated!

There were also some nice notices of the book recently by Jim Santel (“an unhurried, meditative story”), by Cassie Marketos (“enthusiastic, relatable, and [ahem] relevant naiveté”), by Monika Woods (“captures something special, something essential and good about life and youth and experience”), and on the blog Half Step, Whole Step (“a mood characterized by a simultaneous waiver of rules and a basic imminence”). The book appeared on best-of-2013 lists at Salon, where it was cited by Mark Athitakis, Eric Banks, and Kathryn Schulz; on the podcast Chimera Obscura, where it was cited by Willard Spiegelman; on the blog Wormbook; and on the website The Nerdist.

The butler and the whistleblower

Over at The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, I’ve posted an essay about what happens to a personality that outlives the socioeconomic order that formed it.

“One of the best American novels of the last decade”

Geoff Mak has written a very generous and thoughtful review of Necessary Errors for the Los Angeles Review of Books, comparing the novel to Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers and trying to place it in recent literary history and make sense of its reception. Also, he exposes a literary forgery of mine.

Buzzfeed & FSG

With an apt quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald (“I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again”), Buzzfeed has put Necessary Errors on its list of “17 Books We Loved in 2013.” Meanwhile, and rather sportingly given that it’s published by a rival, the editors at Farrar Straus Giroux have listed the novel as one of the best books of the year.

UPDATE, Dec. 20: Edward Nawotka of Publishing Perspectives has listed the book as a “sleeper favorite.”

Enlisted and delisted

Necessary Errors is one of ten books on the Wall Street Journal‘s “Best Fiction of 2013″ list. At the blog I’ve Been Reading Lately, Levi Stahl puts it among his favorite fiction of the year. Literary agent William Callahan has also cited it, writing that he “was most moved by the depiction of what dating was like when people relied on landlines. Eek!”

A rather more qualified appreciation of the novel came from The Affenlights and Their Boyfriends, a Chad Harbach fanblog, whose author wrote that “I enjoyed it a lot, right up till the point I wanted to punch the protagonist in the face.”

UPDATE, Dec. 17: Necessary Errors is also on the personal best-of-2013 list of Anthony Domestico, books columnist for the magazine Commonweal, who calls it “the most intelligent and lyrical novel of the year.” My thanks to all!


The Millions asked me to give some highlights from my “Year in Reading.”

And in other news, I am on the long list of contestants being considered by the Morning News for a literary cage-fighting battle royale.

Adrian de Vries’s “The Wrestlers”

Adrian de Vries's 'Wrestlers,' photo credit Caleb Crain

A photograph from 1990 or 1991 of Adrian de Vries’s sculpture Zápasníci (“The Wrestlers”), in the Wallenstein Gardens, Prague.

If this image were included in an extra-illustrated binding of the novel Necessary Errors, it might follow page 395. (For an explanation of extra-illustration, click here.)

PS: This is the last of the extra illustrations!


Happy to report that Necessary Errors has shown up on a few year-end round-ups. At Flavorwire, Jason Diamond has named it one of the ten best debut novels of the year. David Haglund at Slate has picked it as his favorite book of 2013. The Kansas City Star included it in a list of the top 100 books of the year. At the blog Band of Thebes, Michael Alenyikov and Stephen McCauley both cited it as one of the best LGBT books they read this year. Maris Kreizman of Slaughterhouse 90210 called it the “MOST IMMERSIVE” of her favorites. And at Policy Mic, Gracie Jin has listed it among the twenty best books for various kinds of twenty-something-year-olds. My thanks to all of these people!