Newfound Footage from Stephen Elliott’s Shining Postscript and the Politics of Reading “Adrien Brody”

“It never ceases to startle me that a brilliant thinker can be such a bad writer. It challenges some of my preconceptions about language and thought.”—Rob Horning, “Exhaustion of generic raw material”

Frank Hinton would be the first to tell you that I adore Steve Roggenbuck. Not only did his star rise as fast as Tao Lin’s—he emerged on the online alt-lit scene like an explosion—and his universe is still expanding. The only two writers of whom I can think that have matched his output are Roxane Gay and Blake Butler, (I see xTx everywhere, too). Not that it’s a race or anything, or that we should feel the compunction of competition. We’re in this together more than we know—hence the hostilities whenever someone emerges and receives a little bit of exposure. Still, to think that Roggenbuck has done it—and continues to do it—without recourse or dependency on any of the online lit scene’s publishing machinations is astounding. While poetry editor last fall at Eleven Eleven: A Journal of Literature & Art (edited by Hugh Behm-Steinberg, whose poem in decomP you should read here), I solicited Roggenbuck. He was positively thrilled, expressed how he always wanted to be in the journal, but quickly became, almost innocently, concerned about which poems he should send me.

It never happened, of course. I was exhausted writing a novella, finishing graduate school, and trying to start a career—as a teacher no less. And I let things slip. Neither of us got back to each other and by the time the term was over, I could care less. But this is the other thing I like about Steve Roggenbuck: his politics. To be honest, I don’t know what Roggenbuck means when he calls himself post-corporate, but I like it. He seems to live up to it, too—all his work is free and available on his website, and a few other places—and that’s not because it’s not wanted. It’s because Roggenbuck has decided it’s better that way, that there is value in refusing the online alt-lit’s universal twitch toward corporatization. Besides, I like Steve Roggenbuck because watching him at the Alt-Lit Gossip Awards was better than watching cable. Satanic cats, fuck yeah. At a time when certain writers still hold fast to the misunderstood Warholian I-want-to-be-a-corporation mentality, Roggenbuck represents the resistance. You should read his poetry.

Stephen Elliott‘s fiction has not always been, for me, the brightest sun in the galaxy. Although there are moments when it does shine—I almost always seem to know what’s going to happen next. And that’s okay. Predictability provides a certain kind of comfort. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t want to bask in the glow of Elliott’s inconsistent wattage or lurk around in his writing’s shadows—which, I wish there were more of.

I do.

Stephen Elliott’s writing—for better and worse—has informed my writing. I mean, Stephen Elliott has basically made a career out of writing about sex, drugs, murder—in broad daylight. He’s like the straight guy’s Dennis Cooper. Which is one of the reasons I read him, even though I’m gay. In fact, I have read almost everything he’s ever written. But let me be clear: writing sex, drugs, and murder, journalistically—the way Stephen Elliott writes it—straight-forward, tight, masculine, slightly twisted, bright (like Stephen Elliott, himself) is a major, minor accomplishment. And that’s okay. For the relatively heterosexual people living in the Bay Area thirsting for relatively straight literary porn (and for submissive men specifically), he’s pretty much all we got (and let me be clear: I’m not submissive, but there are moments when it’s nice to dream). Besides, his male characters give a whole new meaning to the term submission policy. (I promise at least one porn link every essay.)

On top of that, I look forward to watching Cherry, the film he will be directing.

Like I said before, it is nice to receive attention. Even when that attention is tacit. Even when it’s negative. Even when that attention is brought to my attention by somebody I wish I knew better. As you may know, my name is not big-time. I have not generated a sex scandal or written about all the girls I’ve sodomized (coming soon) or how I never—and I mean never—use condoms. Or that I may be the only person on the planet who can claim to have had sex with Kathy Acker and Peter Sotos—not at the same time, unfortunately. (That’s right, I’m name-dropping.) But, when I do decide to write about it, I will expect Farrar, Straus & Giroux to come knocking at my door with a book deal. The formula is simple: describe act objectively, respond to act honestly, generate scandal, repeat. If I learned anything from the most current streak of literary minimalists, it is that.

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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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#AuthorFail 11: Roxane Gay

Welcome, fellow duds, also-rans, has-beens, and cast-offs.

I had followed Roxane Gay’s intriguing online posts over the recent years, and somehow stumbled upon the fact that she teaches at Eastern Illinois University. Delighted by this relative proximity to my Chicago-area enclave of Lake Forest College, I invited her to join a panel on publishing (given her work with PANK) and to give a reading will fellow Illinois writer William Gillespie (Spineless Books).

Their performances in early 2011 were anything but failures–both inspiring and strange and suggestive and absurd.  Anyone who has encountered Roxane, I imagine, has had a similar experience.

And so, it seemed appropriate to ask her, here, in the most unsuccessful corner of the internet, to discourse on the failure, the complete failure, that stands in such stark contrast to the Roxane I have seen mesmerize an audience the way a flickering candle might entrance a small child.

I have always liked the idea of thematic collections. For my MA thesis, my original idea was to create a collection of stories about motion titled (E)Motion. I was young and felt terribly clever. All the stories would be about people living on the road or dealing with unstable situations, always moving toward things or away from things. I planned to write about Mormon missionaries, truck drivers, flight attendants, traveling strippers, and migrant workers, which I hoped would give way to some kind of eloquent statement about displacement, movement and emotion. Alas, that didn’t work out so well. I spent more time thinking about the thematic approach than the stories themselves so I ended up doing something quite different–though I did end up writing a couple of road stories. At the time, I was so proud of my (E)Motion title, but I am pretty mortified by it now.

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Joseph Riippi’s THE ORANGE SUITCASE

Amber Sparks already wrote a fantastic and comprehensive review of Joseph Riippi’s The Orange Suitcase for Big Other, which you can read here, but I want to dedicate a post to “Something About Maxine,” which is a short chapter in three tiny parts, and “Something About the Rest,” another short chapter in three parts. I read The Orange Suitcase last night, but when I woke I realized that these two chapters were still with me, and I wanted to write a post to attempt to answer why.

 

1.

“Something About Maxine”

Here’s the opening:

They didn’t look like baby rabbits. More like pink balls of unbaked dough with caper eyes. [. . . ] My grandfather gathered up the five or six of them. Max, their shaky mother, wrinkled her nose again and again and again and again in the corner of the cage. There’ll be rabbits everywhere, he grumbled.

I didn’t notice the “again and again and again and again” when I first read this; I must have skimmed right over all four “agains,” but when I typed it here I realized how many there are. I think this is important. As I typed, I wondered, “Why so many agains?” And as I type this now, I think, “Well, sure, they help to show the narrator’s focus, show how long the narrator stares at Max.”

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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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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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