Claire Rudy Foster

Claire Rudy Foster’s short story collection, I’ve Never Done This Before, was published to warm acclaim in 2016. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Vestal Review, and other journals. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing. She’s a Sterling Room Writer, and teaches writing workshops to people in recovery in Portland, Oregon.


THE SURFER by Claire Rudy Foster

THE SURFER by Claire Rudy Foster
THE SURFER by Claire Rudy Foster The last time I saw my ex-wife, we were sitting next to each other on a faded picnic blanket in a field of daisies and late-spring grass so bright that I could feel my corneas crisping. She looked great, as always. She was wearing a pair of black cutoff shorts that she'd made herself, cuffed high enough to show the mermaid tattoo looping down onto her upper thigh. She was hot, the hot mom. A hot mess. Attraction isn't a tragedy; she wasn't a tragic figure to me, at that moment. Her shirt showed ...
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STOP BREATHING AND JUST WRITE: National Novel Writing Month, a craft essay by Claire Rudy Foster

stop-breathing-and-just-write
STOP BREATHING AND JUST WRITE National Novel Writing Month by Claire Rudy Foster 50,000 words in November. That's 1,667 words a day. Typing at a good clip, that's 21 minutes of work for me. But is National Novel Writing Month really about writing? For me, it’s about climbing a mountain.  It has less to do with writing than with the sense of accomplishment that goads me as a writer. And I’m not alone: last year, 431,626 writers worldwide cranked out a couple of billion words. Of Jack Kerouac’s breathless style, Truman Capote famously snarked, “That’s not writing, it’s typing.” Well, ...
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GOLDEN DELICIOUS, a novel by Christopher Boucher, reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

GOLDEN DELICIOUS by Christopher Boucher Melville House Publishing, 323 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster The best experimental fiction challenges the reader to think and feel in new kinds of ways but also invites her along for the journey. Christopher Boucher’s second novel, Golden Delicious, delivers partially on this promise. However, it reads like a literary experiment, more mathematical than artistic. Is it enjoyable? I can’t tell. Am I supposed to like it? I flipped the pages, thinking of David Foster Wallace’s essay “E Unibus Pluram.” Persistent irony is tiresome, he says. “Sitting through a 300-page novel full of nothing ...
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Come As You Are, a novel by Christine Weiser, reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

COME AS YOU ARE by Christine Weiser PS Books, 290 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster Is there anything more disappointing than waking up in your mid-30s and wondering what the hell happened? Suddenly, you have a family, children, a mortgage, and a job that, despite your best efforts, is starting to define you. Your sensible car is in perfect order. You have a retirement account. Where’s the punk you used to be? What happened to all those bad decisions you made in your 20s? This is the crux of the conflict in Come As You Are, a new novel ...
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BEST READER, WORST ENEMY, a Craft Essay by Claire Rudy Foster

BEST READER, WORST ENEMY by Claire Rudy Foster There are two kinds of important reader: the one who hates you, and the one who understands you. When I write, I come to the page knowing that someone will probably hate what I produce. In fact, I count on this. As I work, I read each sentence as though I am my own worst enemy. Zadie Smith says to “try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.” That means that every adorable turn of phrase—everything that I thought was so ...
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A CONVERSATION WITH CLAIRE RUDY FOSTER author of I’ve Never Done This Before

A CONVERSATION WITH CLAIRE RUDY FOSTER  author of I’ve Never Done This Before The KLEN+SOBR Interventions, 78 pages interviewed by KC Mead-Brewer Claire Rudy Foster's short story collection I'VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE made its official debut just this week from KLĒN+SŌBR Interventions. It's a tight collection with six stories' worth of addiction, struggle, pain, and grit. Foster's critically acclaimed short fiction has been nominated for an AWP award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Best of the Web award. Foster will be giving her first public reading from the collection at The Alano Club of Portland this upcoming October 22nd. —KC ...
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EMOTION IS NOT PLOT: Using Detachment to Create Powerful Fiction, a craft essay by Claire Rudy Foster

EMOTION IS NOT PLOT: Using Detachment to Create Powerful Fiction by Claire Rudy Foster In her recent essay on fiction and failure in Electric Lit, Ramona Aubusel asserts that “part of what makes a good writer is the ability to be porous, to feel all the intricate and complicated notes, the particular music of each moment.” To be present in your skin, then, instead of feeling something in your bones. Here’s my greatest fear: that I will never be able to name the essential emotions I perceive in myself and others. Our shifting tide and all its smells and sweat and ...
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LOST WORDS, a novel by Nicola Gardini, reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

LOST WORDS by Nicola Gardini translated by Michael F. Moore New Directions, 232 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster I was going through some boxes this afternoon and found a photograph of myself, age seven, grinning and standing on the balcony of a hotel in Maui. My hair, like the grass skirt I'm wearing, is straw colored and stiff, sticking out from my head. My nose is too big for my face and my smile is oversized too, like a little clown's. Behind me, a splash of blue indicates a swimming pool. There are palm trees. My shell necklace was scratchy, ...
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THE TRANSMIGRATION OF BODIES, a novel by Yuri Herrera, reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

THE TRANSMIGRATION OF BODIES by Yuri Herrera translated by Lisa Dillman And Other Stories Publishing, 101 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster There’s something about summer heat that pounds the world into a flat, dusty slab. Your mouth dries out, and your brain loses its moisture and turns to lizardy thoughts instead. Compassion? It’s in short supply. “For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring,” Shakespeare said. Yuri Herrera’s short novel The Transmigration of Bodies is all blood and madness, a noir fantasy set against a hard-baked Mexican landscape. Even the air, in Herrera’s world, has been smothered, ...
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BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, a novel by Elliott Chaze, reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL by Elliott Chaze introduction by Barry Gifford New York Review Books Classics, 209 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster Some people believe that for each person there is only one soulmate. One chance. One perfect fit. The soulmate completes us and knits up our ragged edges. We heal into a wholeness that is sacred. It's fate, people say. It's the way of the world. Broken marriage? He wasn't your soulmate. Still lonely? Haven't yet met your soulmate. When the soulmate appears, it's like the universe holds a mirror up to us. Our love shows us ...
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FORTUNE’S FATE, a very long novel by Miriam Graham, reviewed with great forbearance by Flair Coody Roster

FORTUNE'S FATE by Miriam Graham Unreal Imprints, 1075  pages reviewed by Flair Coody Roster Although I have never personally met Miriam Graham, I learned everything about her that I could possibly wish in what is her debut (and hopefully only) novel, Fortune’s Fate, forthcoming this August from Unreal Imprints. As a veteran reviewer, I no longer assess a book by its contents. (All of the best authors are dead, except for TuPac.) Instead, I take a long, hard look at the author's bio. The bio is the hardest thing to write—harder than a 100,000 word novel—and reveals more than most ...
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HERE COME THE DOGS, a novel by Omar Musa, reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

HERE COME THE DOGS by Omar Musa The New Press, 330 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster You had to be there. Right? That's how these things work—the magic of moments strung together, a shared lexicon, the bond of shared origins. Omar Musa's brilliant first novel Here Come The Dogs unpicks the rough, multifaceted hip-hop culture of small-town Australia. Immediate and compelling, this one deserves a place on the shelf next to Trainspotting or The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Both a snapshot of a specific time and place, and an examination of the broadness of humanity, Here Come The Dogs ...
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FAT CITY by Leonard Gardner reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

Fat City
FAT CITY by Leonard Gardner introduction by Denis Johnson New York Review Books, 191 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster We steal. Writers do. A good writer is a magpie, searching other people's sentences for something that glimmers. A good writer reads with a jeweler's loupe. Close reading, and the willingness to borrow shamelessly from other people's works, is what differentiates the casual writer from the serious writer. Very serious writers find other writers' reading lists, and read them. And then those writers' lists, their influences. And so on back. Read up the chain. Understanding what a ...
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WAVELAND: One Woman’s Story of Freedom Summer by Simone Zelitch reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

WAVELAND: One Woman's Story of Freedom Summer by Simone Zelitch The Head & The Hand Press 221 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster Any discussion of race is going to include a good story. Identity is organic; it's not semiotic, raised like softened noodles from a theoretical alphabet soup. Race is about how we relate to ourselves, to others, and how our stories mix together. Is it an educated, white woman's privilege to say that? Maybe. I can't see outside of myself, though I can admit my limitations. I wouldn't presume to take on another person's story, as that dishonors ...
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HEDERA HELIX by Claire Rudy Foster

HEDERA HELIX by Claire Rudy Foster That morning there was an email from Paul. Gemma clicked on it without thinking. Her coffee mug steamed at her elbow, too hot to drink. She forced her eyes to focus on the tiny electronic letters. Legal issues, he wrote. Looks like it's back to jail, do not pass go. I'll try to be out by summer break so we can meet again in the usual place. She had to read it twice, slowly. Then she slammed the laptop shut, as though extinguishing a flame. Pouring her coffee into the travel thermos, she took ...
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THE WAKE by Paul Kingsnorth reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

THE WAKE by Paul Kingsnorth Graywolf Press, 365 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster As I write this, the white half of the world is up in arms about a lion, killed on the other side of the globe. Black protestors in Ferguson stand in lines, chanting the names of the dead. Videos are released of police officers assaulting, maiming, and shooting unarmed black citizens. The temperature soars to 165 degrees in Iran. This summer has been too hot, a climate sweating for change. It is the oldest story: the new idea comes, and grinds the good old world into ...
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I REFUSE by Per Petterson reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

I REFUSE by Per Petterson translated by Don Bartlett Graywolf Press, 282 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster The fact is that part of you is always fifteen, and will always be that silly, stunted age, when you had all the answers and your heart was folded as neatly as a napkin. The age when you sampled cigarettes and realized how easy it would be to run away from home, for good. The age when the drink or the drug worked, for the first time, altering the way you saw yourself and the rest of the messy, stimulating ...
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LEAVETAKING by Peter Weiss reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

LEAVETAKING by Peter Weiss translated by Christopher Levenson with an introduction by Sven Birkerts Melville House Publishing, 125 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster The late years of adolescence are the torch on the sugar of the artist's will to create. Forgive the metaphor; I won't extend it. But as I was reading Peter Weiss' novella-slash-memoir Leavetaking, I couldn't help but think of my father, cracking into a crème brûlée with the backside of a spoon. I do not recall the restaurant, the rest of the meal, or the occasion, but I can remember clearly the strong, decided crack of the ...
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THE DOOR by Magda Szabó reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

THE DOOR by Magda Szabó translated by Len Rix introduction by Ali Smith New York Review Books, 262 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster Popular aphorism: the Eskimo people have more than 50 words for snow. They have, embedded in their language, almost a hundred distinctive terms for each type of snow, every kind of snow that can possibly exist or has ever existed. Every delineation within the semantic category “snow” is honored by its specific traits and virtues. The types cannot coexist, though they may drift into one another. Another popular aphorism: love is patient, love is kind. Love ...
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EVERLASTING LANE by Andrew Lovett reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

EVERLASTING LANE by Andrew Lovett Melville House, 353 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster Why do we think that childhood is a golden, untouchable idyll? Childhood is horrible; even the happy, non-traumatic ones, stuffed with loving family, good food, summer vacations, and abundant laughter, weigh on us. As we pass through the gates of maturity, moving towards our adult selves, we forget the burden of being a child. Proust, with his Sisyphean sentences, knew. Roddy Doyle knew it, wrote it into his perfect novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. And Andrew Lovett knows it. His first novel, Everlasting Lane, captures the ...
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BLOWIN’ IT by Wintfred Huskey reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

BLOWIN’ IT by Wintfred Huskey The Head & The Hand Press, 355 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster Although the motif of the try-hard hipster wore thin over a decade ago, it’s still being trotted out in popular films, cartoons, articles, and so forth. The accusation of hipster-ness, which is distinct from being “hip,” at least where I live, is a serious one. Hipsters are characterized by a blissful ignorance that borders on denial. (Peter Pan was probably the original hipster.) A hipster appropriates the costumes of other characters and blends them, creating a deliberate pastiche of playful yet ironic ...
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ANOTHER MAN’S CITY by Choe In-Ho reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

ANOTHER MAN'S CITY by Choe In-Ho Translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton Dalkey Archive (Library of Korean Literature), 190 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster As I'm writing this, the rain is beginning. The spattering sounds of drops hitting the fat, broad maple leaves on the tree outside my window catch my ear like static. The rain turns on the rich, dirt smell of the ground and dampens the sound of passing traffic. My neighbor, who plays the piano for the Portland Opera, is practicing some Brahms and singing out the notes as he plays them. This is ...
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DUPLEX by Kathryn Davis reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster

DUPLEX by Kathryn Davis Graywolf Press, 195 pages reviewed by Claire Rudy Foster “It is not wise to break the rules until you know how to observe them,” said T.S. Eliot. Author Kathryn Davis has taken the aphorism to heart.In her latest novel, Duplex, a series of simple stories fit neatly into one another: she’s following the rules. Boy meets girl, boy sells his soul for fame. A woman takes a lover. A woman goes on a journey. And then she breaks them: using a pared-down voice and a lush palette of nightmarish images, she leads the reader through a ...
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