Big Other Reaches One Million Page Views!

One Million Dots (detail) / Robert Barry. 1968

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So Many Small Plants in the Sun: A Review of Tim Horvath’s UNDERSTORIES

I read a lot of books. Some – mostImage – I read for pleasure, and some for reviewing. Often the books I’m supposed to be reviewing will cross over into that pleasure category, but it’s not often that a book I’m reading for pleasure gets me so excited about literature and writing and the writer who made it that I’m motivated to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and tell the world what’s so wonderful about it.

Tim Horvath’s first short story collection, Understories, is a that kind of wonderful. It is a cat’s cradle of people and places and a mad scientist’s bubbling test tubes and levers, woven together and delivered by a writer possessed of an intense intellectual curiosity and playfulness. Here we have stories that perform not only as virtuoso pieces of writing, but as mirrors held up to humanity, filigreed with warmth and compassion for the poor souls mired in the chaos of this modern world. Here we have stories of Gauguin in the land of the the midnight sun, of Heidegger roaming the Black Forest, of single dads and burned-out mothers, broken-hearted projectionists and misunderstood umbrologists–all built within in a framework almost like an updated, tongue-in-cheek Invisible Cities. Continue reading

Tim Horvath’s “Literary Pillars”

The Top Five:

As widely as my tastes ebb and flow, these five remain, stalwarts, five friends I want with me on my desert island with little to unite them except each’s brash individuality.

1. Mating by Norman Rush. My Everest, slopes of anthropology, ethics, politics, psychology slowly traversed by the path of character

2. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. All the more significant since I was abysmal at chemistry.

3. Cosmicomics/TZero by Italo Calvino. The oyster of the universe.

4. Visible Worlds by Marilyn Bowering. A book I’ve had to read several times, since the plot is so intricate, but whose language glimmers like an ice field.

5. The Atlas by William T. Vollmann. A stunning array of styles and places for inveterate and would-be wanderers—travels in the possibilities of narrative.

These next couple were highly significant when I was a teenager and remain so:

6. Saints and Strangers by Angela Carter. Just quoted “The Fall River Ax Murders,” last week.

7. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Every Saturday for a year or so I had detention for an accumulation of small offenses, and I’d slip off to Bombay for the duration.

I Inherit a Box:

A guy who shared an apartment with my dad, Mark Johnson, a great writer and reader, left behind a box with a bunch of amazing things—a timely package.

8. Island People by Coleman Dowell. In simple garb, boundless refractions of reality.

9. RE/Search #11: Pranks Introduced me to the notion that a prank can be a work of art.

10. The Houses of Children by Coleman Dowell. Each story redefining what the genre could do for me. I still don’t understand what Dowell is up to.

11. Ah Pook Is Here by William Burroughs. Not the most well known, but what was in the box was in the box.

12. Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautremont.

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Some Thoughts About Tim Horvath’s Understories

ImageA couple of weeks ago, Susannah Elisabeth Pabot asked me to introduce Tim Horvath before he read at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on March 21, 2012. Here, with some modifications, is what I’d said about Tim and his work:

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Soda Series 11 – January 24th – Susan Daitch, Brian Evenson, and Bradford Morrow

Please join us for our next special reading and conversation with Susan Daitch, Brian Evenson, and Bradford Morrow. RSVP

Susan Daitch is the author of four works of fiction. Her short fiction has been included in The Norton Anthology of Postmodern Fiction, Tin House, Guernica, Bomb, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, The Brooklyn Rail, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Ploughshares, The Village Voice, and elsewhere. Her work has been the recipient of two Vogelstein awards. Her novel L.C. won an NEA Heritage Award and was a Lannan Foundation Selection. She teaches at Hunter College.

Paper Conspiracies, Susan’s new book from City Lights Publishers

David Cooper’s review of Paper Conspiracies at The New York Journal of Books

Tim Horvath’s review of her story “The Restorer” on Matt Bell’s homepage

Larry McCaffrey’s interview with Susan at Dalkey Archive Press

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Best of 2011, Part 2

Lots of great things happened in 2011 for Gary Amdahl, Donald Breckenridge, Tobias Carroll, Aaron Gilbreath, Johannes Göransson, Dylan Hicks, Christopher Higgs, Tim Horvath, Jamie Iredell, and David Peak.

Find Part One, here.

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Soda Series #10 this Wednesday at 7pm in Brooklyn

The Soda Series is having our 10th reading Wednesday at the Soda Bar in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn at 7pm. What makes our series unique is that it is a reading and conversation. First short readings and then a 30-40 minute conversation between the writers and the audience. This time we have Roberta Allen, Robin Grearson, John Haskell, and Kirsten Kaschock.  Facebook RSVP

Also, on January 24th  Bradford Morrow, Brian Evenson, and Susan Daitch will be reading. After that the series will be going to four times a year.

Here is a complete list of our past readers: Christine Schutt, Gary Lutz, John Domini, Claire Donato, Mary Caponegro, Tim Horvath, Nick Ripatrazone, Robin Beth Schaer, Brenda Shaughnessy, Anthony Tognazzini, Paula Bomer, Sasha Fletcher, Amy King, Eugene Lim, Matt Bell, John Madera, Jeff Parker, Amber Sparks, Dawn Raffel, David Peak, Ana Božičević, Edward Mullany, Janice Shapiro, Michael Leong, Mike Young, Steve Himmer, Joseph Riippi, Mairéad Byrne, Daniel Groves, Stephanie Barber, Andy Devine, Adam Robinson, Vincent Czyz, Melissa Broder, Stever Himmer, and Josef Horáček.

A very big thank you to all of these past readers and the future ones. You have made and will continue to make the Soda Series a spectacular event!

Kirsten Kaschock makes poems, novels, dances, sometimes people. Her novel Sleight has just been released by Coffee House Press. Her second book of poetry, A Beautiful Name for a Girl, is available from Ahsahta Press. She lives in Philly with three proto-men and their father.
John Haskell is the author of American Purgatorio, I Am Not Jackson Pollock, and Out of My Skin. A contributor to the radio program The Next Big Thing, he lives in Brooklyn.
Robin Grearson is a nonfiction writer who relocated to Brooklyn from Los Angeles last year. When she arrived in New York, she sought to collaborate with visual artists in an effort to expand her writing practice. This interest in art and artists has led to her curating art shows and teaching; she leads a writing workshop for artists at 3rd Ward. Her writing has appeared in print in The New York Times and The Brooklyn Rail, and online in various publications. She is currently working on a memoir.
Roberta Allen is the author of eight books, including Certain People, short shorts, published by Coffee House Press. Her two collections were both praised by The New York Times Book Review. She has been a Tennessee Williams Fellow In Fiction. Her popular writing guide in the 1990s, FAST FICTION, was the first to teach flash fiction. A visual/conceptual artist as well, she has exhibited worldwide and has work in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She taught at The New School for eighteen years and has taught in the writing program at Columbia University. She continues to teach private workshops. Recently, she completed a new story collection called The Princess Of Herself. Her 2000 novel, The Dreaming Girl, has just been republished by Ellipsis Press.