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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Highlights from Artifice Magazine, Issue One

It’s always nice to get a beautiful art object in the mail, and so I was happy to receive Artifice Magazine, Issue One with its classy satin cover and embossed title, and, more importantly (I soon learned), its content, content that mirrors the form in which it’s contained.

Christopher Phelps’s “Word†” is a playful, reflexive piece, drawing attention to itself as an artifact, to its artifice. As such, it’s the perfect introduction to this new journal:

This footnote would like to apologize for being in the rain shadow Word saw,
looking down, relieved to be for a few apical moments,
wordless.

Susan Slaviero’s poems “Phenomena of Probability” and “Pandora’s Robot” are texts as much marked by their rugged formal textures as for their concern with ribcages and wire-riggings; and with robots. And there’s mention of mermaids in the former and “milkdrowned homunculi” in the latter. From “Phenomena of Probability”:

Theoretically, there’s a way to create a ribcage from guitar strings, to
fashion jawbones from vintage bracelets. It so happens that a female
form is best woven from titanium knitting needles, peppermint hips,
the ends of French cigarettes…

Language is made flesh here; it’s a place where a woman “is a semicolon.” And in “Pandora’s Robot,” after “the brass plate over her sternum” is opened, the robot “let[s] out language. / Let[s] out codes / like apocalypse, alchemy, calculus.”
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My Four Favorite New Books of 2009, part 5: Other New Books That I Enjoyed in 2009

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

There are still more! Alphabetically, then…

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Nick Antosca’s Best of 2009

Because my reading is so divorced from the calendar (I can’t even remember what came out this year), I’m going to just list a couple things I “discovered” this year, i.e. books or writers that I didn’t know existed before 2009 and which I now love.

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Scott Garson’s Best of 2009

1. Best stick-in-your-head line from an ’09 fiction: “The sky was a fucked puzzle,” from Blake Butler’s EVER.
2. Best coinage: To squid (v.i. or v.t). My four-year old son, the baddest four-year old son in the world, made this one up. It means: to move one’s fingers softly over another’s skin…. As in, “No squidding!”
3. Best uncelebrated ’09 fiction: Karl Taro Greenfeld’s “Thiebold,” from The New York Tyrant. Psycho-cultural politics. Who else is writing fiction like this? Fuckin stunner.
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Big Other Contributors’ News #6

Molly Gaudry and Kim Chinquee have been translated into Polish, alongside Matt Bell, Jamie Iredell, Claudia Smith, and a number of others.

A review of Molly Gaudry’s We Take Me Apart appears HERE.
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Shya Scanlon curated a Fan Fiction section for Opium 9, which includes work by Brian Evenson, Matthew Simmons, Matt Briggs, Blake Butler, Nick Bredie, Sean Carman, E. Loic Leuschner, Ben Greenman and Ryan Boudinot.

Shya’s story “Waiting,” from a semi-autobiographical novel-in-stories called Look No Further, is in Monkeybicycle 7.

He’ll be reading with Leslieann Hobayan and Douglas Treem Wednesday, Dec. 9th at  Cornelia St. Cafe, 29 Cornelia Street in New York City. Details HERE.
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Jac Jemc has five poems in the new Front Porch.  Here’s the link.
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Christopher Higgs‘s prose piece titled “Parents Being We Are Wrongly” in the inaugural issue of We Are Champion.
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Stacy Muszynski‘s review of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s National Book Award-finalist American Salvage and interview with the author at The Rumpus. Recent book reviews at The Collagist include: Josh Weil’s The New Valley, Skip Horack’s The Southern Cross. An interview with the editor of National Book Award-finalist American Salvage at American Short Fiction blog. Three-part interview with B.J. Hollars, editor of You Must Be This Tall to Ride, at American Short Fiction blog: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
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Greg Gerke is reading with Barry Graham Reading at Freebird Books on Sunday, December 6 at 7:00pm. Greg’s new story “Truth Be Told” and interview is up at Dark Sky. And Sam Pink interviews Greg at Html Giant.
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J.A. Tyler‘s Inconceivable Wilson is officially available for order now from Scrambler Books.
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John Madera‘s review of Jamie Iredell’s Prose. Poem. A Novel. is up at the Rumpus.

Big Other Contributors’ News #4

Lily Hoang is now an editor at Tarpaulin Sky.
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I WILL SMASH YOU, the documentary film by Luca Dipierro and Michael Kimball, will be screened in Baltimore on Friday, November 20. The screening is part of A Shattered Wig Night. There will be great readings by Blaster Al Ackerman and Ingrid Burrington, and loud music by Sweatpants. The place is The14 Karat Cabaret, at 218 West Saratoga St., downtown Baltimore. The time is 9pm. Little Burn Films is HERE.
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Check out John Madera‘s reviews:

Gert Jonke’s The System of Vienna: From Heaven Street to Earth Mound Square (The Millions)
Jackie Corley’s The Suburban Swindle (The Collagist)
The Delicacy and Strength of Lace: Letters Between Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright (Word Riot)

He interviewed Chelsea Martin at The Rumpus HERE:

His story, “How to Be Happy and Free” can be found in Opium Magazine: The Mania Issue. The issue features Sean Landers, Jonathan Baumbach, Dawn Raffel, Anne Ray, Aaron Garretson, Davin Malasarn, B.R. Smith, Melinda Hill, John Madera, Catherine Sharpe, Wendy Duren,  Jamie Iredell, Ryan Boudinot, Ben Greenman, B.K. Evenson, Sean Carman, Nick Bredie, Matt Briggs, E. Loic Leuschner, Blake Butler, Matthew Simmons, Lindsay Mound, Je Banach, F.J. Bergmann, Kyle Davis, Lydia Fitzpatrick, Clark Hays, Kevin Leahy, Lisa A. Levy, Aimee Mepham, Sean Murphy, Brett Rosenblatt, Dean Young, Erin Berkowitz, Kathleen Rooney, Elisa Gabbert, CM Evans, Graham Roumieu, Jessy Randall, and Ben Towle. Plus, an interview with Jonathon Keats!

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As of November 30, Kim Chinquee is the new fiction and nonfiction editor of elimae. Writers should make their submissions in those fields to Kim beginning on November 30 at kimchinquee (at) gmail (dot) com. Her first issue as editor will be published January, 2010. She’s also guest-editing a flash fiction issue of Mississippi Review.

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Greg Gerke‘s “We Will Not Be Coming to Your Pancakes” is at Everyday Genius and “Underground Bliss” is at Writers’ Bloc (Rutgers).
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J.A. Tyler is up on Apostrophe Cast (he reads from his forthcoming novella, A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed). Then read his interview with Guy Ben Brookshire HERE.
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John Dermot Woods had a comic featured at Everyday Genius. Read it HERE.
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Ryan W. Bradley has two poems “June 2006 on the Trans Alaska Pipeline” and “Marlboro” in the new issue of Poets & Artists. Check them out HERE.

Birkensnake 2

Birkensnake 2 CoverI met Joanna Ruocco at her release gathering for The Mothering Coven. After her reading, she gave me a copy of the latest issue of Birkensnake. She’s one of the editors there and she told me that she had bound the book herself. It’s a lovely object that was both blowtorch-singed, and sprayed, I think, with some kind of toxic (is there any other kind?) fixative.

Birkensnake 2 opens with Michael Stewart’s “The Children’s Factory,” a beguiling short short with no shortage of underlying menace. The factory’s machines here are “run by tiny hands. In the bowels. In the guts. In the very intestinal tract of it…” and the “Devil only knows what their great machine does—other than wheeze and breathe.” Though it easily works as a standalone piece, it also felt like it could be a fragment of a much larger narrative.

An excerpt from Danielle Dutton’s novel A World Called the Blazing World follows. It’s about Margaret Cavendish, a polymath who lived in England in the 17th century. Besides being Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne she was a prolific writer who wrote poetry, philosophy, prose romances, essays, plays, and she also wrote a proto-science fiction novel, The Blazing World. Dutton is a wonderful stylist who writes sentences to luxuriate in:

The trip to Oxford was made in the dead of night. Kisses on the lawn at St. John’s Green. A perfect summer gloom of vegetal bravado: peonies, bugloss, native beetles singing.

[…]

Then someone cleared his throat—and Margaret saw she was in an alternate universe whirring far into space: African servants, poets, dogs in silken caps, platonic ideals, sparkling conversation, aristocratic ladies “half-dressed, like angels,” and ivy-coated quadrangles with womanizing captains, dueling earls, actors.

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&Now Conference: A Conference of Innovative Writing & the Literary Arts

amplogosmall

I went to the &Now Conference held in Buffalo, New York, October 14-17, and enjoyed it on a number of levels. First of all, it was great to cross that cold digital divide and finally meet so many people that I’ve been corresponding and/or working with, and/or reading their work for a while, people like Matt Bell, Cara Benson, Blake Butler, Donald Breckinridge, Ryan Call, Mary Caponegro, Kim Chinquee, Rikki Ducornet, Tina May Hall, Lily Hoang, Joanna Howard, Matt Kirkpatrick, Josh Maday, Kendra Grant Malone, Lance Olsen, J.A. Tyler, Bill Walsh, and John Dermot Woods, as well as reconnecting with Brian Evenson and James Yeh. I also had a chance to meet Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Donald Breckenridge, Rikki Ducornet, Shelly Jackson, Steve Katz, Dave Kress, Christina Milletti, Pedro Ponce, Davis Schneiderman, and Steve Tomasula. Have I missed anyone?

And if it was only that, it would have been well worth it, but I also attended many dynamic, energetic, informed, inventive, and stimulating panels and readings. Below are some capsules of some of the events as well as recordings of some of them.

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One Hour of Television, by Kristina Born

One Hour of Television

From Shane Jones:

Me and Blake Butler are really excited about our first title, ONE HOUR OF TELEVISION by Kristina Born, being published by our new indie press experiment YEAR OF THE LIQUIDATOR. We’re so excited that we want you to get excited about it and help us get the word out. It helps that the book is fantastic. We just received this blurb from Lara Glenum yesterday:

“To read One Hour of Television is to flip channels between a 50’s science film on the joys of nuclear prowess and a heist-driven road movie set in a late-imperialist apocalypse. In Born’s hands, all social code is a recipe for deadpan horror. Strained domestic tableaus are intimately wedded to carpet bombings and crowd control, and our best chances at intimacy arrive via gruesome medical emergencies. This book is in revolt against language as an anesthesia machine. It’s in revolt against an empire in which any vote you cast necessarily ends up as a vote for genocide.”

So, keeping this somewhat informal, anyone who is interested in reviewing the book or interviewing Kristina (even something really small and laid back on your blog would be great) email me directly and we’ll hook you up with Kristina’s email and an advance PDF readers copy. And if you’re interested in interviewing me and Blake about this little project, we’d be more than happy to.

Thanks everyone for reading this and hope to hear from you soon,

Shane

Editor’s Note:

Read an excerpt HERE.