The Understanding Campaign

Justin Sirois has started a new initiative called The Understanding Campaign, an organization that “wants everyone in the world to read just one word of Arabic. Through true understanding we can break down stereotypes and taboos – our mission is to begin with a single word. By joining the campaign you are saying you support empathy and understanding over conflict.”

And here is some whimsical genius about the initiative from Luca DiPierro:

Stay tuned for more from Justin Sirois here at Big Other.

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5 Books Published in 2009 that Wrecked My Brain a Little

Easter Rabbit, Joseph Young. This is an IMPORTANT book. Some reviewer predicted early in Richard Brautigan’s career that he was creating a new genre, that one day we’d read novels, poems, short stories, and “brautigans.” He was right, even if common parlance has yet to catch up. Enter the new mode of writing: ‘joe-youngs.’ These are not flash fictions. They use very few words and often have a narrative suggestion, but they are are not tightly wrought nuggets. These joe-youngs exist beyond the reader’s, and I suspect the writer’s, control. The words prod and explore the essence of a moment. Barthelme could suggest a world with a few words. Instead, Joseph Young explores a pinpoint in a page. (I keep this on my desk when I write; I’d suggest you do the same.)

Light Boxes, Shane Jones. This is a beautiful and fun and melancholy and classic ‘brautigan.’ Continue reading

My Favorite Books from 2009 (in alphabetical order):

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.
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Justin Sirois’s Best of 2009

Justin Sirois is founder and codirector of Narrow House, an experimental writing publishing collective. He received Maryland State Art Council grants for poetry in 2003 and 2007. His books include Secondary Sound (BlazeVOX Books) and MLKNG SCKLS (Publishing Genius). Currently, Justin is trying to find a publisher for his first novel written in collaboration with Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy about displaced Iraqis living in Fallujah in April of ’04. He also is a designer for Edge Books. Continue reading

Big Other Contributors’ News #7

J.A. Tyler‘s book THE ZOO, A GOING has officially been contracted for publication with Dzanc Books, 2013.
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Molly Gaudry has received four Pushcart Prize nominations this year! For “Beneath mosquito netting I imagine,” from PANK #3; “Parts,” from Whiskey Island Magazine; “Potpourri,” from Emprise Review; and “Excerpts from We Take Me Apart,” from Mud Luscious Press.
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John Dermot Woods‘s story called “Waterslide” is in the new issue of Anemone Sidecar (#5). Big Other contributors Greg Gerke, Ryan W. Bradley, and J.A. Tyler have stories in there too.
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Shya Scanlon will be reading with Leslieann Hobayan and Douglas Treem  on Wednesday, Dec. 9th at  Cornelia St. Cafe, 29 Cornelia Street in New York City. Details HERE.

Also, Shya’s Forecast 42 Project came to a close on Monday at Monkeybicycle.  He’s going to be guest posting about it on Monkeybicycles’s blog on Wednesday, Dec. 9th, too.
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Stacy Muszynski is conducting a series of interviews with writers, asking their thoughts on online publishing. Rick Moody, Matt Stewart, Matt Bell, Dagoberto Gilb, and others join the discussion. It’s all happening at American Short Fiction’s blog.

Stacy’s interview with Laura van den Berg, of What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, will be at ASF blog next week, followed by three days of her guest blogging. Her review of Michael Zadoorian’s The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit will appear in the next issue of The Collagist.
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Sean Lovelace has a new flash in Hayden’s Ferry Review. He has another flash in PANK.
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John Madera‘s review of Justin Sirois’s MLKNG SCKLS appears in New Pages’ December issue.

Justin Sirois answers all the questions

Guest post by GINNY PARKER WOODS:

I read Justin Sirois’s book MLKNG  SCKLS (Publishing Genius) last week on the subway, and it’s amazing. The short book tells the story of an Iraqi guy named Salim and his traveling partner, Khalil, fleeing Fallujah, and it’s comprised of “deleted scenes” from Justin’s other, yet unpublished book, Falcons on the Floor. The books were written in collaboration with an Iraqi woman named Haneen Alshujairy. I was very curious about how this process took place so I sent Justin some questions which he very kindly answered.

A few thoughts on MLKNG SCKLS: I’d say this book is probably the best thing I’ve read about Iraq – which isn’t to suggest that I’ve read all that much about Iraq, I’m sorry to say. Sadly, I’ve become sort of dull and deaf to the whole of what’s going on there, and this book coaxed me out of that numbness. There’s so little in news stories of the war in Iraq that makes me feel anything. This book made me feel sympathy for the main character, Salim, mainly due to all that was familiar and at the same time strange about him, the way his experience is at once unfathomable and very mundane. During his exodus, Salim is deeply attached – as I am – to a personal computer, and the book is structured as a series of documents  Salim has written on his laptop. Salim dreams of posting his homemade films on the Internet. And he’s angry at the man-eating birds circling the sky and annoyed at his traveling partner – like it’s traffic or some other quotidian annoyance we’re talking about here. Justin does a great job of capturing what it’s like to be a refugee in the modern age or rather what it’s like simply to be living in the modern age.

Throughout the book there’s the sense that Salim is being watched or potentially being watched, whether by some sort of ominous army in the dark with lasers or light beams or or by a Western housewife nursing her child and watching Salim’s Internet video. And yet, while he seems to be constantly on the verge of being spotted, you wonder if anyone can actually see him. Salim and Khalil seem desperately alone in the land through which they are traveling, the last living humans in a world that doesn’t care about them, ignores them, wants to devour them – I’m not sure which. Technology presses down, heavily. It’s a connector and a compressor but also a separator – offering the illusion of connection where it doesn’t really exist, ultimately leaving Salim isolated. What exactly are Salim and Khalil running from? It’s left unclear. This is not about politics or battles or states or boundaries or anything so clearly defined but about people moving through the world, looking, longing for something, wanting to be seen, wanting to be unique. The writing is spare, beautiful and descriptive. Vultures are hungry “turkeys” with ruffled rear-ends, suggesting the US or perhaps some other parasitic, opportunistic presence. A woman’s hair “glistens like frozen Coke.” Scary and lovely.

And the questions…sirois-cover

When did you start writing the book?

I started writing MLKNG SCKLS right after finishing the second edits on Falcons on the Floor. That was February ’09. I’d built up all this momentum and was in love with the characters and I just needed to keep going. After combing through the notes and sketches I took/made, routing through all these photos I’d collected online in preparation for the novel, I found ideas and scenes that didn’t make the final cut. These shorts stories in SCKLS came out of that wanting to expand the narrative.

Publishing the “deleted scenes” before the feature is a little backwards, but it’s been helpful in getting the word out about the larger project. Publishing Genius of Baltimore did a perfect job producing and promoting the book.

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