Rust Belt Bindery is “a book bindery that’s committed to producing and distributing new work as well as repairing and rebinding existing objects. Working collaboratively with artists and writers, Rust Belt puts out limited edition works of fiction and artist books.” I found out about Rust Belt Bindery when their literary editor, Blake Kimzey, sent me a copy of Ashley Farmer’s “Farm Town,” a beautiful chapbook of poems replete with hand-colored illustrations from Meredith Lynn. Here’s one of Farmer’s poems, “Gone to Waste”:
Adventure comic. Artist David B.’s Incidents in the Night unveils a conspiracy that involves the Napoleonic Wars, an ancient god of nothingness, and the enigmatic founder of an anthology that shares the book’s name. Our lead and narrator, meanwhile, shares his name with David B. The in-text David learns of the conspiracy as we do, and a narrative through-line like this—the pursuit of answers—is probably pretty essential to the project’s not going off the rails. David B.’s ambition seems to grow geometrically as the book advances, but Incidents is fundamentally an adventure story, and its strengths and weaknesses wrap around that structure like the snakes of the caduceus.
Bookstore elegy. It reads like one now, anyway. Incidents in the Night was first published twenty years ago in France. In the intervening years, bookstores have diminished in number, in their share of the bookselling market . . . These are things you already know. Our protagonist’s journey begins in a bookstore, and he visits other shops while collecting volumes of the Incidents anthology. Although David B. (the creator) drafted his story at a time when bookstores enjoyed relative security, he imbues these places with a sense of mystery, endless potential—a gesture that grows more poignant with time. Continue reading
Here’s the introduction I delivered before David Peak’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on April 18, 2013:
The first fiction I read from David Peak’s work was his chapbook Museum of Fucked, the curator-narrator of which has a thing for b-grade horror films, the narrator offering aching portraits of disturbed, hurting, and despairing people living in rundown Chicago neighborhoods, ne’er-do-wells, like crack addicts, homeless people, a blind man begging for change, a landlord who starves cats and dogs for pleasure, a woman with “burned out nostrils” with “rotten” teeth who claims her mother was Marilyn Monroe, and a desperate man swinging a baseball bat holding kids captive. Roaming Chicago’s “gray gentrified industrial neighborhoods,” its “people-packed, colorful shopping districts,” “hip neighborhoods filled with three-flats,” and the “dirty parts…with their broken glass and families,” these grotesques could easily be confused for the zombies of Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead (titles of two of Museum’s stories). The view of life here is encapsulated in the following lines from this brutal fiction: “God we’re all fucked, he says to someone on the other end of the line.”
I was recently asked to play a game of “Truth or Truth,” an asinine variant of an already asinine game, “Truth or Dare,” the game a transparent but ultimately futile attempt at sublimation: a redirection from the charged quality of being a stranger in a sleepy town: an escape from the anguish of having been uprooted, that uprooting being self-imposed doing nothing to assuage that feeling. After I said I was “game” (yes, I was willing to play, but I also meant less-than-half-jokingly that I was also permanently injured), I was asked: “What subjects are taboo in your writing?” Perhaps too quickly, I answered, “None.” And so the game moved on to someone else. I say, “too quickly” because after having just finished rereading (for what, the third time?) Christine Schutt’s Nightwork, preparing to teach it tomorrow, I can’t help thinking that Schutt’s writing demonstrates what I can only hope is evident in my writing, that is, a willingness to engage, to represent what is socially or culturally prohibited; to accept, that is, come to some kind of intelligent terms with the unacceptable; to sully the so-called sacred; to allow, in some way, what’s forbidden; to trespass whatever number of boundaries.
Today, October 14, 2012, marks Lance Olsen‘s 56th birthday. In celebration of him and his work, and with a nod to a quote by Roland Barthes, I’ve turned most of the sentences found in the first chapter of Olsen’s The Architectures of Possibility into questions without answers. (You’ll also find that I’ve altered quotations, found in the selfsame chapter, from Brian Evenson, Fredric Jameson, and Curtis White, as well as the abovementioned Barthes).
Issue 0 of Review, “THE CREATION MYTH OF THE DIGITAL UNIVERSE,” is here! Rejoice.
- “Vertigo and Bone Room” – Julie Doxsee
- From “Electric Light Parade” – Karen Lepri
- “The Dark Clicks On” – Michael Robbins
- Two Essays – Mary Ruefle
- “Small Fates” – Teju Cole
- “Doing Without” – Brian Evenson
- “Dialogue, Doubt, and Presence” – Elizabeth Robinson
Please join us for our next special reading and conversation with Susan Daitch, Brian Evenson, and Bradford Morrow. RSVP
Susan Daitch is the author of four works of fiction. Her short fiction has been included in The Norton Anthology of Postmodern Fiction, Tin House, Guernica, Bomb, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, The Brooklyn Rail, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Ploughshares, The Village Voice, and elsewhere. Her work has been the recipient of two Vogelstein awards. Her novel L.C. won an NEA Heritage Award and was a Lannan Foundation Selection. She teaches at Hunter College.
Paper Conspiracies, Susan’s new book from City Lights Publishers
David Cooper’s review of Paper Conspiracies at The New York Journal of Books
Tim Horvath’s review of her story “The Restorer” on Matt Bell’s homepage
Larry McCaffrey’s interview with Susan at Dalkey Archive Press
Click through to read the full (super-mega) review of 3RD BED [7, 8, 10, &11]
Click through to read the full review of 3RD BED , the thirty-first in this full-press review of Calamari books.
The Soda Series is having our 10th reading Wednesday at the Soda Bar in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn at 7pm. What makes our series unique is that it is a reading and conversation. First short readings and then a 30-40 minute conversation between the writers and the audience. This time we have Roberta Allen, Robin Grearson, John Haskell, and Kirsten Kaschock. Facebook RSVP
Also, on January 24th Bradford Morrow, Brian Evenson, and Susan Daitch will be reading. After that the series will be going to four times a year.
Here is a complete list of our past readers: Christine Schutt, Gary Lutz, John Domini, Claire Donato, Mary Caponegro, Tim Horvath, Nick Ripatrazone, Robin Beth Schaer, Brenda Shaughnessy, Anthony Tognazzini, Paula Bomer, Sasha Fletcher, Amy King, Eugene Lim, Matt Bell, John Madera, Jeff Parker, Amber Sparks, Dawn Raffel, David Peak, Ana Božičević, Edward Mullany, Janice Shapiro, Michael Leong, Mike Young, Steve Himmer, Joseph Riippi, Mairéad Byrne, Daniel Groves, Stephanie Barber, Andy Devine, Adam Robinson, Vincent Czyz, Melissa Broder, Stever Himmer, and Josef Horáček.
A very big thank you to all of these past readers and the future ones. You have made and will continue to make the Soda Series a spectacular event!
Unfinished is now available from Jaded Ibis Press. Lily Hoang–author of three novels, including the PEN award-winning Changing–invited her favorite writers to send her their scraps. She finished their unfinishables, even offering them to edit and revise what she produced. Some did, some didn’t. This collaborative enterprise is endlessly fascinating because one doesn’t know where the original author left off and where Lily took over, or if the authors edited what Lily made. The exquisite color edition contains art by Anne Austin Pearce. It’s the most unique, most colorful anthology of stories around.
Authors of unfinished writing are Kate Bernheimer, Blake Butler, Beth Couture, Debra Di Blasi, Justin Dobbs, Trevor Dodge, Zach Dodson, Brian Evenson, Scott Garson, Carol Guess, Elizabeth Hildreth, John Madera, Ryan Manning, Michael Martone, Kelcey Parker, Ted Pelton, Kathleen Rooney, Davis Schneiderman, Michael Stewart, J.A. Tyler.
Here’s a book trailer:
At AWP I spent 99% of my time at the Artistically Declined Press table at the bookfair. Two tables down from me was the Lost Horse Press table. Lost Horse is one of my favorite presses. Their books are beautiful and they have published some of my favorite people and poets. Anyway, I became friendly, as one does at the bookfair, with my neighbors, including the guy manning LHP’s table. Turns out he co-edited an anthology just released from LHP and as friendly neighbors do, I picked up a copy. To be honest I didn’t know too much about it, it looked nice and was thick (and as heavy) as a brick. Turns out, it’s one of the most intriguing anthologies I’ve picked up in some time.
It’s called Of A Monstrous Child and is an “anthology of creative writing relationships.” The idea behind it is that a mentor and a student-turned-peer are paired up. They introduce one another and a story or some poems. It’s a fresh take on the anthology, one that goes beyond the work into the making of the work through the influence, study, and companionship that runs at the depths of this trade. A few of the writers who show up here are Zachary Schomburg, Robert Wrigley, Ryan Boudinot, Rick Moody, Amy Hempel, and Brian Evenson.
To be honest, traditional anthologies start to bore me at a certain point. I’ve had some ideas for non-traditional anthologies myself, and maybe one day will be fortunate enough to see one realized. When it comes to Monstrous Child, brain-baby of Nate Liederbach (the fellow I met at AWP) and his former student, James Harris it’s too soon for me to tell exactly what the effect of the anthology’s format will be as a whole, after all, I’m only a fourth of the way into it. But I like the ambition, I like the portrait of mentor relationships, a bond dear to writers. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything about this anthology in the way of a review or a blog post. Anything. I’m sure somewhere there has been, but it seems right up the alley of so many writers I know and interact with. I hope this post will help people find the book. You can learn more about it HERE.
I got hardcopies of the new issue of Fact-Simile in the mail today and am thoroughly enjoying the innovative poetry and prose within its pages.
Check out a free pdf verion here to read new work from Michelle Disler, Cralan Kelder, Shanna Miller McNair, Andrew Wessels, Mark Cunningham, Tim Roberts, Derek Henderson, Elizabeth Robinson, Roxanne Carter, Mary Kasimor, David Brennan, Charles Freeland, Richard Schwass, Peter Grieco, John Tway Zackel, Matt Reeck, Rich Murphy, Ryan Ridge, Dan Ruhrmanty, John Kearns, Scott Bentley, Jennifer Karmin and yours truly.
The issue’s feature is particularly noteworthy: an interview with Brian Evenson along with his short story “Hurlock’s Law” (reprinted from The Lifted Brow). Yesterday, I just wrapped up a creative writing workshop that ended with a look at Evenson’s fiction, so it was great to linger a bit longer over his always striking prose. I found “Hurlock’s Law” to be an intriguing investigation into the meandering maze of referential mania, a mysterious fable — for our contemporary age of Reality TV and digital surveillance — of how meaning eludes both our psychic and technological apparatuses.
And the interview has some choice nuggets…here are some of my favorites…
BE on perception:
When I was a teenager, I thought Dennis Hopper was Dennis Hooper.
BE on literary theft:
I have no problem with stealing, but once I steal something, I want to repaint it and kind of bend it around and make it my own…I’m more interested in stealing something that I can use to help make a new machine…
And BE on mutilation:
…before I had an interest in mutilation, I had kind of an obsessive interest in axes…
Overall, a great issue from a great small press — I suggest taking a look and subscribing!
Writing the title of this post actually felt very silly; it seems such an arbitrary way of gathering a list of writers to look out for. What could be sillier than singling out writers in this way, according to their age? Surely, there are more worthy criteria. Well, there is an answer to what could be sillier than singling out over forty writers over forty to watch, namely, singling twenty writers under forty to watch, especially largely mainstream writers writing, for the most part, conventional and redundant fiction. And the New Yorker has done just that. But this isn’t surprising. Theirs is an idea once again institutionalizing, reinforcing our decayed culture’s obsession with youth, not to mention its eyes wide shut wallowing in mediocrity. So, not only have they missed, for the most part, who are the best fiction writers under forty to watch, but, with their unapologetic valorization of youth, they missed entirely. The following writers (and I include poets, essayists, and theorists among them) are writers who have consistently written great work. I anticipate great things from each of them in the years and years to come. With full awareness of how a corrective sometimes ironically and paradoxically legitimizes what it seeks to correct, here, in the order in which I thought of them, are over forty writers over forty whose work I will be busy watching.
Baby Leg, like last year’s Last Days, starts in medias res. Kraus: the protagonist, the wrong man and the man caught in the middle, is in a cabin alone. He is waiting for someone to come and kill him, though he doesn’t know who—his memory fails. Night after night, he dreams of a woman with a normal leg and a baby leg who carries around an ax. As these visions continue to accost him, the woman known as Baby Leg starts telling him to do things. Kraus becomes a man of action—a very dangerous man, though he has only one hand. Soon he wanders around the unnamed town, ends up at a deserted gas station, and has a tense conversation with the female cashier. He leaves but returns after remembering there was a flyer posted of his face. It’s now gone, but the woman had been on the phone when he came back in. Soon she is dead, though Kraus and the reader don’t exactly know how. Evenson isn’t one for shock value; he knows what is sometimes most chilling is that which is not described.
Sean Lovelace interviews Ken Sparling for Big Other
I’ve read over 120 books in 2009, and by the time the year is up I’ll have reviewed over fifty. At the risk of being redundant, I’ve put together a list of the books I thought were this year’s best. I’ve also included links to the ones I reviewed. But before that, I should mention some great books that weren’t published this year: Eugene Lim’s Fog & Car, Eugene Marten’s Waste, Mary Caponegro’s first three books, Ken Sparling’s Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia, and Michael Kimball’s The Way the Family Got Away and Dear Everybody. And then there’s Shane Jones’s The Failure Six, David Shields’s Reality Hunger, and Ander Monson’s Vanishing Point, all of which won’t be released until next year. By the way, while the so-called major presses churned out a whole lot of fluff I did enjoy John Haskell’s Out of My Skin and Anne Michaels’s The Winter Vault. Oh, and I should mention The Complete Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino which is playful and inventive in that inimitably Calvino way. Each chapter is a combination of pseudo-science (as far as I can tell) and fantasy—a weird mishmash of fable and fact. They sound like entries from an encyclopedia sometimes, albeit a whimsical one. This was the best way to close out the year. So, besides beautifully-crafted language, eddying narratives, evocative imagery, and provocative characters—whose quirks, thoughts, and comings and goings remain with me—what the books on this list have in common is that they were published by independent presses.
Here’s a quick run-through of the books that I read this year and came out this year. Pretty much the books that I gave four stars to on goodreads because my memory sucks. I would mention movies, but I don’t have a goodreads like thing for movies.
Light Boxes, by Shane Jones: Made me want to write bitter-sweet happy stuff. Have failed, except for prose poem-y things.
A Jello Horse, by Matthew Simmons: Publishing Genius put out this one along with Light Boxes. It has a similar tone. About a road trip to go to a funeral, but reading it made me feel happy to be alive. Written in second person, and it actually works.
Fugue State, by Brian Evenson: Might be my favorite collection by him. It felt more diverse than earlier ones.
Last Days, by Brian Evenson: A lot of fun. Love the lean prose. He’s always played with genre, but this feels like the first book where he’s totally embraced it.