The Listeners by Leni Zumas

The Listeners, Leni Zumas’s new novel, has just been published by Tin House Books. The book is available at a discount through Powell’s. An interview with Leni is at Powell’s website. Publisher’s Weekly review. A review of the book is at Full Stop.

Her reading tour:

May 16 – Powell’s Books, Portland, OR
May 21 – Annie Bloom’s, Portland, OR
May 24 – Book Soup, Los Angeles, CA
June 4 – Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
June 19 – Word Books, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY
June 23 – Politics & Prose, Washington, DC
June 24 – Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Amherst, MA

Continue reading

Advertisements

Mortality and Flatulence: a Conversation with Luca Dipierro

I first saw Luca Dipierro’s work in an animation he’d made for a book of short stories by Dawn Raffel.  It was a stop motion video based on a story in which a young woman and her father try to find their car in a parking lot one night in winter.  The wind off the lake is sharp; it burns their ears.  The parking lot is almost empty.  Suddenly the father says, “Now I remember.  We’re not here.”

There is a weirdness in Dipierro’s work that is also in that line of dialogue.  To say, “We’re not here,” is something that can only be true if it means something else.  Because of course they are there.  We can only be where we are.  What the father really means, in that instance, is: “Our car’s not here.”  But if he’d been allowed to say it like that – so matter-of-factly – something incongruous would have been missing.

Luca Dipierro in front of "Foreverland", a storefront he painted in North Carolina

The words were Raffel’s, and they stayed with me, but so did the animation, which was simple and precise, yet full of a strange and frightening wonder.  The characters had heads that looked too real, or not real enough.  An ordinary object, like a woman’s handbag, seemed capable of more than it ought to be capable of.  After I saw that animation, I looked for other work by Dipierro.  I saw that he was working on an art zine called Das Ding, which is German for ‘The Thing’.  So far there have been three issues. Each issue, wrapped in a cellophane envelope, is a beautiful paper object with words and drawings.  They remind me of little dreams; they are always about something, but it is difficult to describe what.  Their characters and creatures often find themselves in trouble, and either they get out of that trouble or they do not.  Or maybe what you think is trouble, for them, turns out to be something else.

You can find Das Ding here.  Below is a conversation I had with Dipierro. Continue reading

Big Other’s Birthday Tribute to William Gass, 2011

I would imagine that a certain amount of anxiety accompanies any attempt to write about William Gass and his work, a lifework where every sentence has been carefully tooled, poetically, no, lovingly rendered; where a distinct refusal to settle for a messy glibness, to trot around ideas like some propped up and thoroughly beaten and long dead horse, tinctures everything he thinks on the page; where critical acumen and lyricism are not mutually exclusive entities; where words are arranged architectonically to form houses, homes full of rooms of one’s own; the very attempt to comment on this lifework waylaid by the lacustrine sentences under scrutiny—yes, Gass’s sentences are lakes and therefore mirrors—those sentences also saying, as Apollo’s archaic torso said, that you must change your life; the scrutinizer, now somehow transformed into a jeweler, relieved because he or she has been freed from merely determining authenticity and can now disappear within a collection of multifaceted gems. But to say that anxiety “accompanies” this attempt to write about William Gass and his work is to mislead, or, rather, misrepresent, because, for one, it suggests that this psycho-physiological state can be personified and somehow invited along like some holy ghost hovering over the hitherandthithering waters of my mind, this idea of a supposed instantiation of a word inviting all kinds of thoughts, thoughts about metaphor, and various cocktails of same, which Gass has certainly explored throughout his critical and creative work, those two c-words never mutually exclusive in Gass’s oeuvre since his essays and his fictions toy with whatever expected conventions, blur those often arbitrary and perhaps even ultimately imaginary genre borders. Yes, writing about Gass is anxiety-producing—you feel a certain, shall we say, anxiety of influence, especially when you realize that he’s often been wherever you are long before you have and has, to interpolate our beloved Stevens, seen the there that’s there, the everything that is not there and the everything that is, and while there has seen with a clarity you would just be lucky to recognize you don’t have, that recognition perhaps finally allowing you to finally begin to see, see in the way that Rilke’s Malte struggles to see, that is, to finally see the forest and the trees and the green grass growing all around and around, the green grass growing all around.

Continue reading

Luca Dipierro’s Das Ding

The first issue of Luca Dipierro’s art zine, DAS DING, is out. YOU KNOW WHAT I CAME FOR is available now on his website, and soon in a few bookstores around the country.

According to Dipierro:

It’s a 28-page, black-and-white, old-school-looking beauty, and wants to be seen by your eyes.

DAS DING is a container for my picture stories, which are cut-out drawings plus words. It’s only 8 dollars, shipping included, if you live in the USA (12 if you live elsewhere). You can look at a few pages (and support me by purchasing it) here:

 



A Sentence About a Sentence I Love: An Anthology, of Sorts

A few months ago, in April, to be exact, I started a series of posts entitled “A Sentence About a Sentence I Love” with a sentence about one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s magnificent sentences. This concentration, or, rather, this obsession with the sentence may have come from my, at the time, recent readings of William Gass’s essays wherein he concentrates much of his attention on the sentence as a primary building block in poetry and prose. Essays by Gass like “The Soul Inside the Sentence,” “The Sentence Seeks Its Form,” “The Architecture of the Sentence,” take as their focus the centrality of the sentence toward the construction of thought, and particularly of thoughts within the parameters of fiction. In “Philosophy and the Form of Fiction,” Gass claims that sentences are “the most elementary instances of what the author has constructed….a moving unity of fact and feeling.” Moreover, sentences

must be sounded, too; it has a rhythm, speed, a tone, a flow, a pattern, shape, length, pitch, conceptual direction. The sentence confers reality upon certain relations, but it also controls our estimation, apprehension, and response to them. Every sentence, in short, takes metaphysical dictation, and it is the sum of these dictations, involving the whole range of the work in which the sentences appear, which accounts for its philosophical quality, and the form of life in the thing that has been made (Fiction and the Figures of Life, 14).

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.