Happy Birthday, Big Other!

With sites (especially blogs, I’d imagine) coming and going, resembling fairweathered friends with their weighty promises and concomitant lack of follow-through, and with evanescence and disposability, perhaps, being two of the internet’s primary characteristics, an internet year must be to an in-real-life year as what a dog year is to a human year. But it’s not for these reasons I’m happy to say that Big Other is celebrating its first year today.

A year ago, thinking about how frustrating it was to find a place that invited dialogue (and by “dialogue” I mean the concept formalized best, for me, by Paulo Friere, that is, a nexus that allows, encourages, fosters communication characterized by respect and equality, where diversity of thought is encouraged, where understanding and learning are privileged over mere judgment, although conclusions and sound and informed discernment, that is, sound judgment, and maybe even wisdom, may, in fact, result); thinking about how many blogs encourage stereotypes, discord, stupidity, inanity, macho posturing, and self-reflexiveness, blogs that are havens of groupthink, blogs that are really just another kind of mirror, mirror, on the wall, blogs that are really just digitized lint in an electronic navel; thinking about how I wanted something different from all that noise, I launched Big Other with the idea of it being what I, in some kind act of faith, called “an online forum of iconoclasts and upstarts focusing its lens on books, music, comics, film, video and animation, paintings, sculpture, performance art, and miscellaneous nodes and sonic booms,” a place to “explore how we are made and unmade by images, language, and sound; examine computer-mediated worlds; and dance along with various tumults, genre- and other border-crossings, trespassings, transgressions, and whatever, nevermind.” And I have to say that I haven’t been disappointed. Big Other has become all those things for me, and so much more, and by “so much more,” I mean, it has truly become a conduit for meeting many incredible people in person, and so, I really can’t wait to see what comes next for us.

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Buffalo ArtVoice Flash Fiction Archive

There’s been some new pieces lately so I wanted to refresh this.

Mark Doten    “The Spider and Salt Hearts: A Fragment”

Sean Lovelace  “My Identity was Stolen”

Amber Sparks  “May We Shed These Human Bodies”

Rusty Barnes    “Something Like Love”

Thomas Cooper  “The Primary Reason”

In order of appearance:

Ravi Mangla  “Souvenirs”

JA Tyler “Inconceivable Wilson”

John Madera “Was What it Was”

Scott Garson “Buffalo Gymnopédie”

Nicolle Elizabeth “Bean Counting” and “I Do All My Own Stunts”

Peter Zinn “You’ve Got to Feel Bad for Hardware Stores”

Neely Terrell “E”

Ken Sparling “The Worst Day of My Life”

Kim Chinquee “Soldier”

Matt Bell “Hali, Halle, Hamako”

Eric Beeny “Laundry Day”

Lydia Copeland  “She Turns Out the Lights”

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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Anatomy of a Flash: Kim Chinquee

Kim Chinquee’s new stunning collection Pretty is now out from White Pine Press.

Here we present “Boom Box,” an uncollected story from NOON, followed by a short interview. Thanks to Diane Williams for letting it be republished.

Boom Box

Last night I had a dream about a boom box. It played a salsa tune made into something hip-hop. It was loud and hurt my ears and then I awoke from the dream.

I was lying next to Daniel. His house was always cold, but his comforter was warm. I lay there for a while, thinking of the boom box, its beat still ringing in my ears. In reality, it was a song that Daniel had written for his nephew’s seventh birthday, making it with everything he had, it as if it were the only birthday. Yesterday, after he was finished, I listened to the song on Daniel’s headphones. I listened to his favorites, songs that he had written. He hoped to be a professional musician. Now, after thirteen years of relying on the prospects of his music, he had a day job working with computers. I knew about regret. I sensed his disappointment.

Yesterday, he told me he wasn’t giving up his fantasy of finding the right woman. He told me that he loved me. He also told me that I was not that woman.

After I awoke, I looked at the empty beer bottle sitting on the corner of the nightstand, next to my ticking golden watch, which my ex-husband bought for me the day after we were married. Yesterday, after Daniel mentioned soul mates, I told him that some time ago, after my husband left me, I stopped believing in that kind of thing. I was skeptical of anything dreamy and romantic.

I turned over in the bed. When we slept, our bodies shaped together into one. He opened his eyes and readjusted. His skin was soft and warm and I felt him up against me. I didn’t want to leave him. I thought about the dream, about the boom box. I wasn’t the right woman. I wondered about the reality of soul mates. I pulled his arms around me. He put his hand up to my face and then he touched me. He told me that he loved me. He had such tidy fingers. He touched me in places that I do not name.

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“Run, run, run, run. You better run all day. And run all night.”: On Kim Chinquee’s Oh Baby.

There’s a lot of running in Oh Baby, Kim Chinquee’s debut collection of flash fictions and prose poems. The opening story, “Batter,” is an evocative cluster of images and moments, suggesting a pivotal time in the character’s childhood, where, in the midst of domestic ruptures, she imagines herself at bat: “The coach said I was bunting. I knew how. I was fast.” And in “Look What Sue Can Do,” a woman’s ex-husband is described as “the man she ran from.” In “Grace,” the narrator is tricked into climbing into a pen where she “saw a bull come charging, pumping his legs.” And then she “ran and jumped the fence.” “Shoe,” a poignant story of a woman ping-ponging between boyfriends, is filled with references to running. Not to mention “Olives and Fruits,” “Log,” “Purple,” and “Bunny,” all of which feature running. The titular story shows off some hallmarks of Chinquee’s style, namely, precise imagery, digressions, and close narration:

I took a jog, pushing on the stroller. My baby screamed, so I hushed him with a bottle. It was up and down, around, and fields were gold. Old buildings of stone reminded me of movies. Sheep baahed and I baahed back, pushing on the jogger. I was new to divorce. I could run far. I’d gone miles, finding Bourton-on-the-Water. I saw paved sidewalks, pubs. My baby woke, throwing out his bottle. Something banged. Things fell from the sky and he laughed.

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Anatomy of a Flash: Scott Garson

Scott Garson writes fiction, he created Wigleaf and just last week Willows Wept Press announced his book, American Gymnopedies – a flash tour of cities in thirty states of union. His work is sterling, inventive, provocative. Consider this flash fiction. It was first published in Giancarlo Ditrapano’s great New York Tyrant. Special thanks for allowing the reprint. After the piece, I asked Scott some questions.

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