I Shot the Moon, Calamari Press, 41 / 41, SLEEPINGFISH 8

Click through to read the full review of SLEEPINGFISH, the forty-first (and final installment) in this full-press review of Calamari Press, and one in which I excerpt some tremendous work, praise Calamari Press one last time, give away copies of SLEEPINGFISH 8, and publicly offer a book contract to M. T. Fallon.

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While the World Was Sleeping: A Review of Blake Butler’s There Is No Year and Nothing

I started reading Blake Butler’s first foray into non-fiction, Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia, when I couldn’t fall asleep one night. This is unsurprising. I have my own troubled history with sleep, and so I’d been keeping the book on my nightstand, waiting until one of the nights that I lay there and lay there and lay there, head buzzing and heavy on the pillow.

First impressions? This is a smart, painful, insightful book about insomnia, but also about the body, the family, technology, anxiety, art, and the clutter of the modern world. It’s a mirror into the deeply troubled mind of anyone who’s ever been abandoned by sleep. As anyone who suffers from insomnia knows, the brain does a dance that cycles through anxiousness, depression, guilt, and despair–and a black, cold sort of emptiness at the end of it all. Butler does an admirable job of describing this, in a way that makes an old problem nightmarish and newly familiar. Moreover, I was surprised, as i read, that more reviewers haven’t commented on how obviously this book informs and explains so much of Butler’s novel, There is No Year. But more on that later.

We spend the majority of Nothing in Butler’s head–a swamp of information, much of it useful, much of it the mire of modern technology, the “busy brain” that we suffer from in the noise and clutter of hive life today. The internet always at our fingertips and our information jets never turned off. Butler’s frequent cry throughout the book: How can you relax?, is not just a question for himself, but for every human who finds themselves in this carnival of the mind, filled with spinning, blinking lights and sounds that could be laughter or screams.

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Exits Are: An Interview with Mike Meginnis

“A conversation is a journey, and what gives it value is fear.” So says Anne Carson.

Exits Are is a series of text adventures conducted by Mike Meginnis published on Mondays and Wednesdays by Artifice Books and Uncanny Valley. So far, adventures from Blake Butler, Tim Dicks, and Matt Bell have gone up, and the list of forthcoming adventures keeps growing (but, at this point, includes Aubrey Hirsch, Nicolle Elizabeth, AD Jameson, Brian Oliu, Elisa Gabbert, and Robert Kloss). The site’s PLAY page has one of the better descriptions of the project I’ve come across: “Note that the games are designed to be occasionally very uncomfortable for both participants. If you’re not up for that, we probably shouldn’t play.”

I was intrigued by the form and the process, and asked Mike a few questions back in January (thus my boring talk of Zelda). He was kind enough to respond. Continue reading

Marie Calloway, My Lover (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Just Love Tao Lin)

I recently wrote an article about failure. The text received moderate attention. I was glad about that. I like attention.

I also like pornography. I watch porn almost every night. I’m not joking. When I am involved with someone sexually, I watch porn less.

I have certain fetishes. For one, I love acne. When I see a woman with acne on her face, I pursue her. When I am involved with a woman who has acne, I like to pop the pimples with my teeth and suck. I like to tongue the scars left behind by severe acne. I like to whip acne-covered tits to watch the zits bleed. I cannot justify my lust for acne. I will not defend it. My lust for acne—a personal one—and my representation of it here—a public one—operate within two different domains of logic, perhaps. More on that later maybe.

About a month ago I received a facebook message from Marie Calloway. I am no independent literary superstar. If Jimmy Chen developed a graph of an online literary universe I would be somewhere furthest from the binary-star solar system that is governed by Blake Butler and Tao Lin.

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Pop-up Books: An Homage

Last week, as I was picking up some films from the library of my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, I stumbled onto their small but feisty exhibition on pop-up books (running through Dec. 15th, should you find yourself there). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t the first thing that greeted me, a pop-up book featuring, of all things, the works of M.C. Escher.

Where do you think you're going?

If that wasn’t enough to draw me in, did I mention that the other book at the entrance was pop-up Elvis? Continue reading

Announcing a New Big Other Series: “A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies”

Jeremy M. Davies, flexing en route to the cineplex

In two days, I’ll be posting the first installment of a new ongoing series at Big Other: conversations I’ve had with my good friend Jeremy M. Davies about movies, new and old, both popular and obscure. It will be called “A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies” (unless we can think of a better title).

This Monday, and on the following two Mondays (the posts will be in clusters of three), we’ll discuss Source Code, Thor, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and many other films (including Sucker Punch, The Man from London, Tron, Tron Legacy, Willow, and Zardoz). In the weeks after that we plan to talk about Captain America, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, as well as movies by lesser-known directors like Jacques Rivette, Eugène Green, Agnès Varda, and Jean-Marie Straub and Danièlle Huillet (Jeremy really likes foreign films). And the new Woody Allen film. We’ll also probably talk endlessly about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, because we both love it just so much. And throughout we’ll discuss the current state of the film industry. And comic books, which are synonymous with cinema these days.

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Sentences and Fragments: Sentences I Like

“Dining Room” from Selah Saterstrom’s The Pink Institution (Coffee House, 2004):

“Willie called his daughters into the dining room. He picked up a dining room table chair and threw it into a closed window. The window shattered. He said, ‘That’s a lesson about virginity. Do you understand?’ to which they replied, ‘Yes sir.'”

Okay, wow, I’ve probably quoted this passage here on Big Other like six or seven times. What I love here is the economy of language. Yes, this is a poem, but it’s also a full story. We learn so much about Willie, about his daughters, about their psychologies. And I love the deadpan delivery, the sonic pleasures (called, daughters, dining, picked, dining, closed, window, window, shattered, said, do, understand, etc.).

from Lydia Millet’s My Happy Life (Soft Skull, 2007):

“Then he sprayed a can into the bag and tied it around his neck over his head. Flopping, he danced. With his face pinkly invisible. We could see his mouth stretched like an O between the letters of the pink writing on the bag, A&P. When he fell down and we were all of us crying, I, being the oldest, called Children’s Protective Services and said, ‘Mr Rubens put a bag on his head.'”

When I first read this book, and when I came to this passage, I think I had one of those formative moments. I liked reading again. I mean, I like to read, but I don’t always love what I read. I think so many students are forced to read books they don’t like, and then they’re taught “how” to read those books (probably as if there is a right or wrong way), and then they grow up hating reading. I was lucky. I had a few great English teachers, and I grew up reading, enjoying reading, long before that. But then there are those moments in my adult reading life where I feel like I’ve discovered something new about reading. That’s what this book did for me. And it has to do with the phrasings. What does it mean, out of context, that “Mr Rubens put a bag on his head”? Maybe it’s funny. Certainly “Flopping, he danced” is kind of funny. But not in this context. I love the simplicity of language, the precision of clarity, and yet the multi-layered reading experiences one can have.

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