Mistakes, Multiple Selves, & More

Carriage Return, 9/13/2016

Amy Bennett, And Then (from Diptych IV), 2014/2015. More here.

Carriage Return is The Ribbon’s (more or less) weekly round-up of useful links from around the literary web. A reset for your week, tabs to open, and perhaps some context for your next book browsing visit, wherever you are.


This edition of Carriage Return is coming to you on a Tuesday. Normally, The Ribbon runs this feature on Sundays. We didn’t run a Carriage Return this Sunday. We would be inclined to call this a mistake. But what is a mistake? Over at Signal V. Noise, another wonderful Medium publication, Jason Fried finds a potential answer at the home gallery of Navajo Rug enthusiast Jamie Ross. In lieu of quoting, we recommend enjoying the whole two minute read:


In an extrapolation of the mindfulness lessons above, retired World Cup champion and Olympian Abby Wambach’s memoir Forward hits our shelves today.

“Wait,” you may puzzle, “this is one of the most accomplished athletes in our country, not a human being like you and I who makes mistakes!” This is understandable.

Abby spoke with the Associated Press about a moment in her time:

“That night getting arrested was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Because if I don’t get so publicly shamed and publicly humiliated, I don’t think I wake up,” she said as she prepared for a book tour. “I think I was asleep for a lot of years. Asleep to the pleas from my family and friends, and even myself, to get help. So that night I was humiliated enough to wake up.”

In an additional post on her Facebook, Abby shared more (stunning, lovely, candid) insights on the eve of her book’s publication, including this: “At a young age, I learned you own labels by defying them, and defy them by owning them.”

So, we’re merely suggesting you add “fantastic writer” to Abby’s ever-lengthening list of accomplishments.

She’ll be speaking in Ann Arbor with Michigan Radio’s Doug Tribou on Saturday, and signing books. Tickets are still available here.


While we are on the topic of labels and the self’s multiplicity, Literati Bookseller Lillian Li interviews Peter Ho Davies about his new novel, The Fortunes, itself comprised of four linked novellas. In a review for NPR, Michael Schaub lauds Davies, who “writes with a rare emotional resonance and a deft sense of structure; it’s hard not to be in awe of the way he’s composed this complex, beautiful novel.” Lillian poses a question regarding that complexity:

I saw hybridity as a concept all throughout the novel, and I found it really fascinating because in looking at hybridity what felt universal was the idea that hybridity is unnatural, that it goes against nature. There’s Ah Ling, who is seen as half-ghost, due to his white father, and John, who believes his white wife’s miscarriages were due to “an excess of Chineseness” (211). To take it further, there are instances of hybridity that go outside race. The Irish in “Gold” refer to the Chinese as a mix of both male and female: “How is it natural that they can do both a man’s and a woman’s work? What species of creature are they to upend the order of things?” (56). I wonder if you can speak a little more about the concept of a natural hybridity.
We as a society definitely seem interested in polarity. Male or female. Gay or straight. But that rigidity can close off a lot of our understanding of ourselves, and often it’s that middle ground where we might all be more comfortable. Most human. But, although I wasn’t entirely conscious of this when I was writing it, the interest in hybridity versus duality in the book extends further. I’m writing about real historical figures, but I’m also fictionalizing them, and so is it fact or fiction? I believe it’s both, in the same way the characters aren’t Chinese or American but both. Even looking at the structure of this book: is it a novel or is it a collection of novellas? It’s both; it’s a formal hybrid.
You’ve been very polite so far in not mentioning this, but my editor brought up the fact that since my final character John is a writer, is half-Asian, people are going to assume he’s me and how comfortable am I with that? But one of the readerly pleasures, especially reading auto-fiction, the kind that Ben Lerner is writing, the kind that Jenny Offill is writing, is that part of our engagement as readers is thinking, Hmm, I wonder how true that is, how made up that is. But as readers we’re used to occupying the space between. We like that space, where there’s a little bit of both, a kind of provocative uncertainty. We just need to extrapolate the way we encounter autobiographical characters on the page and their “both-ness” to the way we think of people in real life and their both-ness, because they — all of us — are also made up of multiple selves.

A lot of us have multiple vocational selves — for instance many booksellers are also writers (some, lapsed writers). Literati is no stranger to this phenomenon. In fact we’ve shared on this very space the thoughts of Lillian Li on the matter. Over at LitHub, Kea Wilson of the phenomenal Left Bank Books shares her thoughts:

Books ask something simple and immense and very rare of us: that we willingly giving another person hours and hours of their active silence. What they give back — an individualized experience of another human brain — is not replicable by any other technology.

We encourage you to click through to the entire, immensely great piece.