A Sequence on Sequence, Part 4: Nathan Huffstutter

[A guest post from Nathan Huffstutter. Nathan Huffstutter’s work can be found at The Nervous Breakdown, The Collagist, and Emprise Review.]

Most of what I know I picked up on my feet. Restaurant work: dish pits and service patterns and then back behind the bar, where pretty much everything goes.

“You need to put something of yourself in the post,” Gabriel tells me. “I’m not interested in abstract thoughts or balloons of hot air floating above the surface.”

Though I’m somewhere in every word I don’t typically like talking about myself – unless I’m talking about myself, in which case I love talking about myself. But I had no intention of talking about myself here, here I wanted a subject with a little more get-up-and-go, here I wanted to cut loose and wax on about the magical waggle connecting the inner-ear to the central-nervous to the bass-end of the alimentary. Here, I wanted to talk about rhythm. Continue reading

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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.

Style as Imitation

Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

1.

My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.

He was very clear about certain instructions:

  • always use Granny Smith apples;
  • always use ice-cold water;
  • touch the dough as little as possible.

Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).

When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.

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Amy Hempel’s ‘Offertory’

I’ve read about half of Hempel’s collected stories but none seem so seminal as this one. It’s one of her longer stories, 34 pages, and it hums along quite confidently after this wonderfully evocative and lyrical opening paragraph:

We did it twelve times–made love, all of us, to one another twelve times, the two of them doing everything two people could do to me twelve times. I was going to say only twelve times, but it wasn’t “only,” was it? It was wonderful.

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Over Forty Writers Over Forty to Watch

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.

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On Amy Hempel’s “Greed”

I sat in the library today writing and reading. A rank odor would intermittently hit me, and I didn’t know the source until I had observed a man raise and lower one and the other and then both of his armpits. This was certainly not conducive to uninterrupted work. In spite of this, I did have a chance to read a new story by Amy Hempel, in Ploughshares (Spring, 2010), of all places (give me swords instead of Ploughshares, I’m inclined to say)—goes to show you that you still can’t write off the less adventurous journals out there, well, at least not completely.

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