Best Music of 2012

I don’t Big Other much anymore, because I’m a slacker. Though I do have some new interviews in the works. But I enjoy doing a year end list for music, so here it is: the best music of 2012:


40. Saratoga by The Soft Pack
39. St. Louis Elegy by Mark Lanegan
38. The Rifle’s Spiral by The Shins
37. Go Ahead by Gap Dream
36. ……PT 2 by Art Fad
35. Garza Girls by Audacity
34. Cleopatra by Lace Curtains
33. Flaggin A Ride by Divine Fits
32. Never Go Solo by Islands
31. Hypertension by Useless Eaters
30. Part One/It’s Not An Omen by Steamboat
29. Malfunction by Useless Eaters
28. Can’t Feel My Face by Islands
27. Hypnotic Nights by JEFF The Brotherhood
26. Boys And Girls by Magic Jake & The Power Crystals
25. Nightlife by Mrs. Magician
24. For The Love Of Ivy by Japandroids
23. Generator by Gap Dream
22. Hallways by Islands
21. Forgetful Assistance by The Elwins
20. Easier Said Than Done by Steamboat
19. New News by Ranch Ghost
18. Everyone’s A Bitch by Jaill
17. Yet Again by Grizzly Bear
16. That’s How I Got To Memphis by Natural Child
15. Addicted To The Blade by Useless Eaters
14. No Waves by FIDLAR
13. Sixteen Saltines by Jack White
12. Paper In Your Pocket by The Elwins
11. Duequesne Whistle by Bob Dylan
10. Gray Goes Black by Mark Lanegan
9. Octopus by Bloc Party
8. My Love Is Real by Divine Fits
7. Nobody To Love by Joshua Homme & David Sardy
6. Hypnotic Winter by JEFF The Brotherhood
5. Trash Tongue Talker by Jack White
4. Right Back In Your Heart by Steamboat
3. Sleeping Ute by Grizzly Bear
2. Speak In Rounds by Grizzly Bear
1. Love Interruption by Jack White


10. For the Love of the Game by Natural Child
9. Strange Heaven by Mrs. Magician
8. Tempest by Bob Dylan
7. Blues Funeral by Mark Lanegan
6. A Thing Called Divine Fits by Divine Fits
5. And I Thank You by The Elwins
4. Hypnotic Nights by JEFF The Brotherhood
3. Rules by Steamboat
2. Blunderbuss by Jack White
1. Shields by Grizzly Bear



Jack White (Machine Gun Silhouette)



Grizzly Bear


Jack White (I’m Shakin’ and Love Is Blindness)



Burger Records

Visigoth Winners

For those who didn’t catch the winners of Gary Amdahl’s Visigoth in the comments of last week’s interview here they are:

Nathan W.
Bryan Basamanowicz

Please email me at artisticallydeclined[at] with your addresses and your copies of Visigoth will be in the mail!

Down with Amdahl

ImageOne of my favorite story collections of the last decade, maybe ever, is Gary Amdahl’s Visigoth, which was published five years ago by Milkweed Editions. Since the time I read the book I have had the good fortune to build a friendship with Amdahl and even have him blurb my new novel. But doing this interview has been one of the most rewarding events of my writing life. His unflinching honesty and approach to writing gives me solace, while also managing to frighten me about this path we’ve chosen. As it should be, I believe.

In honor of Visigoth’s fifth anniversary I’ll be giving away four copies of the book (they are used copies but in good shape). It’s a book I believe everyone should read. So, leave a comment on why you would like a copy and I’ll pick four people a week from today.

Now, for the goods:

RWB: It’s been five years since VISIGOTH was published, but when I read the stories the book feels timeless. And I know the stories are older than five years. When you look back on the stories in the collection what do you remember most about them? Do you remember the impetus for any of them? Are there any stories you look back on from that era that didn’t make the book that you still think about now? If I didn’t know the publication date I would have guessed mid-90’s, simply for the state of story publishing at the time, but in either decade it still would have held up as one of the best modern story collections, in my opinion. What has time done for you in relation to VISIGOTH?

GA: All stories are products of the time and place into which they are born–for good reasons, bad reasons, indifferent but inescapable reasons.  They are also, more importantly in my view, the products of something like 100,000 years (probably twice that, but we have no evidence) of human consciousness.  The mind that created “Visigoth” is absolutely the same “kind” of mind that painted an aurochs and the almost photographically realistic horses on the wall at Chauvet 40,000 years ago, or mined and prepared red ochre with a mortar and pestle in a cave in south Africa 100,000 years ago.

There is only one story.  The usual dictum goes, “There are two kinds of stories,” or “There are seven basic types of story,” and so on, depending on the level of thought and the point of view and the purposes of the person expounding the dicta.  I say there is only one.  But because we are slightly different from each other, because we ourselves are constantly changing, and because the world is constantly changing, the story comes out differently each time it is born.

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2011, the Best of

I’m keeping it simple this year. Especially on the music front. I kept delaying this post, because it would literally take me hours to craft a full list of all the music I loved. Instead I am going simple. Top threes (or fours in one case). Enjoy.



Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

Curse the Names by Robert Arellano

You Can Make Him Like You by Ben Tanzer (yes, I published it, but still, it’s one of my favorite books of all time).


Story Collections:

Volt by Alan Heathcock

Normally Special by xTx

Ayiti by Roxane Gay (seriously, same deal as YCMHLY)


Poetry Collections:

The Book of Men by Dorianne Laux

Things I Say to Pirates on Nights When I Miss You by Keely Hyslop

Birding (chapbook) by Kat Dixon



The Black Keys: El Camino

Wilco: The Whole Love

The Decemberists: The King Is Dead



“I Might” by Wilco

“Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys

“Holding On To Black Metal” by My Morning Jacket

Spitballing on MY FATHER’S HOUSE by Ben Tanzer

I’m beginning to think Ben Tanzer is writing a fictional biography of himself through his novels. If you read them chronologically: Lucky Man, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I Go Mine, You Can Make Him Like You (which I had the good fortune to publish), and most recently the novella, My Father’s House, you will find a loose timeline of one man’s life (ignoring, of course, that along the way the characters names change, and some of the dates don’t arrive chronologically). And this isn’t necessarily important in reading Tanzer’s work, it’s just one of the many things that came to mind while reading My Father’s House, and realizing that more than just about any other writer I’ve ever read that Tanzer has a way of being so intimate with his fiction that you feel like you know the people, that you are talking with them face to face, that their pain is your pain.

I consider myself lucky to have had a small role in the glorious publication history Tanzer continues to compile. More than that I consider myself lucky to be able to call him a friend. To say that My Father’s House effected me emotionally would be an injustice. My Father’s House wounded me as if I were the main character who is losing his father. It spoke to me as if it were my own inner dialogue of dealing with my issues regarding my inherent, perhaps bred, need to be tough. Not for other people but for myself. That to let down those guards I have built up could create a spiraling to an unquantifiable extent.

And sure, there are differences from Tanzer’s other work. My Father’s House is even more personal, more intimate. Tanzer uses more dialogue to express the inner monologues of his protagonist, and while there were moments where the unforgiving editor in me thought the dialogue might be too much monologuing in the moment for a character I was never unaffected by what the character was saying. Which maybe makes me more compartmentalizing than Tanzer’s anti-hero. And how do I feel about that?

The bottom line is this: Tanzer is going somewhere with his novels. And I don’t mean that in a “gee, that kid is really going somewhere” way, though that is likely very true as well. But Tanzer is taking a journey in his novels. Whether consciously or not. With My Father’s House he has reached the point in this fictional biography where he decides that he must follow his ache to be a writer. Four novels in, one can only wonder what kind of masterpiece that means Tanzer has waiting in the wings of his pen.



Down With Lavinia Ludlow

Lavinia Ludlow is the author of alt.punk, her debut novel/sensation from Casperian Books. And she was a trooper in this interview process, sticking with me through what turned out to be a long and often absentee process on my part.

RWB: You are  a musician, and alt.punk is obviously rooted in music. What artists or albums did you find yourself listening to while writing and/or editing the book?

LL: Aimee Mann had a lot to do with how I shaped the protagonist, Hazel. The track titles in Mann’s album Bachelor No. 2 say a lot: “How Am I Different?” “Nothing is Good Enough” “The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist” and lyrics from other songs such as Deathly “Now that I’ve met you/would you object to/never seeing each other again/’cause I can’t afford to/climb aboard you/no one has that much ego to spare.”
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On the Occasion of My Son’s 3rd Birthday

Joseph Millar is one of my favorite poets, and a faculty member in the MFA program I attended. Today my son, Lincoln turns three and it reminded me of hearing Millar read his poem, “American Wedding” during one of our MFA residencies. It’s a poem about his daughter’s wedding. My son wasn’t born yet at this point, it was January and he was due in June. I’d only recently started to come to grips with the idea of parenthood, I was slowly emerging from the fear of it all. I listened to Millar read this poem and a few minutes later I was taking a piss and it hit me that one day I would be watching my little boy get married, have kids, and a million things between his birth and adulthood and beyond.  Today, as I’m watching my son transform from infant to toddler, from diaper-wearing to fully potty-trained, and a million other minor milestones only parents keep track of, I once again found myself thinking of Millar, and “American Wedding” and wanting to share. So, watch this video of Millar reading this fantastic poem:



If you are at all involved in the online lit community you have most likely heard (or read, as it might be) the name Frank Hinton. Hinton is the mastermind behind Metazen, but she is also one of the community’s most vibrant voices. Now, with her first chapbook, I Don’t Respect Female Expression Hinton is poised to take an even larger share of the community into the folds of her words, her vision.

Coming from Safety Third Enterprises, the folks behind the wildly successful He Is Talking to the Fat Lady by xTx, Hinton’s chapbook feels like a natural follow-up direction to xTx’s collection. What the two share as writers is stark honesty, the inability to pussyfoot around, and a fearlessness when it comes to the words they choose to put to paper. For instance in “Father/Daughter” Hinton writes from the perspective of a girl who is remembering seeing her father’s penis.

Hinton writes with a poet’s sensibility. Her stories are fragments of realism wrapped in dream sequences. “I want to create a machine with our tongues revolving around one another,” she writes in “Something Pure and Good.” And you will find yourself nodding, hoping along with Hinton’s narrator that such a thing could be possible.

Like any good chapbook, I Don’t Respect Female Expression will make you ache for more of Hinton’s work. It will make you feel Hinton’s loneliness, uncertainty, and yes, bravery. It will tell you of the promise in Hinton’s words, and it will make you believe that she will continue to deliver.

I Don’t Respect Female Expression is available now from Safety Third Enterprises. The physical chapbook, if xTx’s is any indication, will sell out very quickly, so I suggest getting in on it. Now.


On the 15th Day of April

It’s National Poetry Month. As a result I have put together a small reading list of poetry collections you may have missed  that you should read. Or maybe you’ve read some, in which case you should read the rest.

More Facts About the Moon by Dorianne Laux

If there is Something To Desire by Vera Pavlova

To The River by Rose Hunter

Fortune by Joseph Millar

Green Diver by Peter Sears

Jelly Roll by Kevin Young

The Human Line by Ellen Bass

Mars Being Red by Marvin Bell

Lost Horse Press New Poets Series Vol. 4

Second-Hand Coat by Ruth Stone

The Vigil by CK Williams

Prairie Style by CS Giscombe

Selected Poems by James Wright

A few places that are having sales of some kind on poetry books this month:

Wave Books

Powell’s (a good place to get many of the above titles)

Artistically Declined Press

If you know of any other places having sales or discounts for National Poetry Month please tell us in the comments!

Of A Monstrous Anthology

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.


You probably know Metazen, the sexy online lit. journal. Well, now Metazen has a sister. Equally as sexy, equally as awesome. It’s called Housefire, and is a pet project of Riley Michael Parker. Housefire will feature writings by solicited writers, as well as interviews and book reviews. And the 250 Project, a limited edition chapbook featuring 25 writers, each presenting stories of exactly 250 words.
I strongly suggest checking out the awesome.

Looking Back, Part 4: Books

Best Novel:

Honorable Mentions:

Best Story Collection (Tie):

Best Nonfiction:

Best Poetry Collection (Tie):

Racing Hummingbirds by Jeanann Verlee

If There Is Something To Desire by Vera Pavlova

Best Chapbook:

Don't Go Fish by Kat Dixon


And that, folks, is my look back at 2010. I’m planning some fun stuff for 2011 and am looking forward to getting back into the swing of Big Other-ing.

Looking Back, Part 3: Music Miscellany

So much happens in music every year, it can’t all be filtered down to best albums and songs. Here are some other music favorites of mine from the year.

Best EP’s from 2010:

Garbage Night by Bad Tits

Black Skin, No Value by Cody ChesnuTT

Best Surprise from 2010:

Conan O’Brien: Live at Third Man

Best Album Art of 2010:

Best Vinyl Packaging of 2010:

(this is the closest I could find to showing the die-cut nature of the gatefold)
Best Show I Saw in 2010:

I only saw a few shows in 2010, but seeing the Flaming Lips again was definitely a highlight. As well as seeing The Black Keys for the first time. Here’s a cell phone pic from the Flaming Lips show:

Next up, my best of books in 2010. Stay Tuned.

Looking Back, Part 2: Songs

15. “Futile Devices” – Sufjan Stevens

14. “Bury Parts 1 & 3” – The Fall

13. “We Used To Wait” – Arcade Fire

12. “Anyone’s Ghost” – The National

11. “Love and War” – Neil Young

10. “Losin’ It More” – This Is Me Smiling

9. “Answer To Yourself” – The Soft Pack

8. “Bottled In Cork” – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

7. “This Orient” – Foals

6. “To Binge” – Gorillaz

5. “Kitchenette” – Grinderman

4. “Forced to Love” – Broken Social Scene

3. “I Can Change” – LCD Soundsystem

2. “Everlasting Light” – The Black Keys

1. “Mongrel Heart”/”The Mall & Misery” – Broken Bells (these two songs could individually top this list, but they belong together)


Next Up: Music Miscellany