Monthly Archives: January 2010

Watch List

For one magic week, Jason Behrends at Orange Alert handed me the reins to his excellent feature, The Watch List, where I reported on the arts I’ve been consuming.

We also used the occasion to give away a few “Complete Genealogy” chapbooks. Congrats to quick draws Mel Bosworth, Ben Segal, and Pete Anderson!

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New Story: This Doomed Gift Before You

My story, This Doomed Gift Before You, came out in this month’s issue of The Collagist. The story features the same two guys from another story I wrote called The Cracks and Strains, published by Word Riot about a year and half ago.

Big thank you to Matt Bell for selecting it, editing it, and engaging in a spirited email back and forth regarding the story’s title. (Other titles considered included “Ducking the Limebulb,” “Burn After Admiring,” as well as a number of others.) I’ve been paying attention to Matt and enjoying his writing for some time now, so I’ve been especially excited to catch his attention, first in Mid-American Review and now in the Collagist.

From the release note:

In this first issue of 2010, we’ve got new fiction by Tina May Hall, Alan Michael Parker, Gabe Durham, and Gabriel Blackwell, as well as a novel excerpt from Louis Paul Boon’s My Little War, which is out this month from Dalkey Archive Press, an essay from Jennifer S. Cheng, and poetry by Mary Jo Firth Gillett, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Emily Kendal Frey, and Doug Ramspeck.

In this month’s book review section, we’ve got coverage of My Bird by Fariba Vafi, The Complete Collection of people, places, & things by John Dermot Woods, Normal People Don’t Live Like This by Dylan Landis, and Ever by Blake Butler.

Finally, we’ve also got the third occurrence of our Classic Reprint series in Padgett Powell’s story “Scarliotti and the Sinkhole,” introduced by Dzanc author Jeff Parker, one of his former students.

The new EP is mostly pre-Silver Wrens tracks, OK, but what are you going to do, not buy it?

Dixon, McCloud, Robison, Me Me Me, Bachelder

There’s a great new Stephen Dixon story up at matchbook.

Been reading Scott McCloud‘s Understanding Comics–so smart and fun. (Thanks Other Words committee for the tip.) I’m sure the book is outdated in a number of ways I’m too ignorant of the comics/graphic novels universe to understand, but many of these concepts are timeless and applicable to all the arts.

For instance, there’s a whole section on the concept of closure, “observing the parts but perceiving the whole.” Example: When we see a partially obscured Pepsi bottle, our brain fills in the rest from experience. In comics, it relates to the way our brains fill in/animate the space between comic panels.

This concept is absolutely applicable to the novel I’m reading, Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever, which is told quick panel-like snippets, leaving just enough for the reader to fill in her own picture of what’s going on in between. (Kind of like My Loose Thread.)  In comics, we’ve trained ourselves to do this in childhood. We learn to “read” comic strips before we learn to read. In Robison’s book, I spent the first 30 pages or so pretty resistant to the idea. I wondered, “Is this form worth the work?” But once the book trained me to read it, I’ve been addicted to the rhythm, and the effort is no longer conscious.

I’m delighted to say, 2010 is shaping up to be my biggest year for stories yet. Lots to look forward to:

I’ve got stuff coming out in the next Collagist, Keyhole 9 (which I got a sneak peak of and can tell you is a solid issue, including a moving story by Nick Kocz) two different issues of Mid-American Review, The Normal School (my first time having a story available in a Barnes and Noble, I think, and I admit this excites me), The Lifted Brow’s next beast of an issue (maybe the contributor copy I’m most eager to receive/read/listen to), Bust Down the Doors and Eat All the Chickens’ upcoming online issue, and a contribution to a forthcoming Magic Helicopter chapbook.

Meanwhile, Fun Camp is on the march! In the next indeterminate number of months, 18 more shorts with appear in notnostrums (4 of them), A cappella Zoo (1), Nano Fiction (3), Saltgrass (2), and FriGG (8!).

Since the sidebar is getting a little unruly, I’m keeping it all straight on the Publications page.

Chris Bachelder did a reading this summer in which he read three pieces–two short stories and one short essay–all relating to The Great Gatsby. The essay just went up at the Believer (fortunately one of the full-text freebies) and my favorite of the two stories has been up at Subtropics awhile now (same deal, full-text freebie + bonus interview). Lately, though, I think his main thing is publishing excerpts of his next novel, like this one in storySouth. It’s gonna be good.

Young, Mullany, Dalton, Antrim, Ourednik

Home again, cold again.

Mike Young’s first collection of stories, Look! Look! Feathers, is coming out from Word Riot Press in the Fall of 2010. I’ve read at least 3 of the stories that’ll be in there and many older ones, and they’re all great. This is going to be one to own.

Edward Mullany has a new blog, notes about permanent things, where he writes about the arts. He’s also blogging and tweeting for matchbook and generally taking over the internet.

I won a contest over at Big Other. Contestants were invited to write fake bios of the writers of the books they were giving away. My entry was as follows:

Trinie Dalton never had a chance, her poor heart weak-walled from birth. She wrote long books in bed on her desktop computer, keyboard in lap, staring straight out the window. Every half hour, Tina glanced at the monitor to her right to make sure it was still on. It usually was. The author of This Squirrel is Really Up to Something, Dolly Tinti slept and slept. The maid snuck Dilly’s hard drives to New York City and the rest, as they say, is as follows: Born in 1984, I wasted how many years praying to Trinity Dalton not knowing her claim to answer prayers was just the title of her 12th book. Who could fault Tiny Delton, though, with her itty deltoids that she swore would swell up like avocados after track practice but only she could tell? I’m asking–who? Her heaviest book, Call Me Guacamole Maybe, swept the Nobels. She got season passes to Dulles International and whenever she flew, strong chipper men whisked Duly Tutu past security, laughing nervously at the very idea of a frisk. Put me down, Dolly cried, loud enough to charm us all, too softly to hear.

Mine may or may not have been the only entry in my category, but it won, won, won. Her book, Sweet Tomb, is gorgeous. You can order it and others from Madras Press. I think all the money goes to a charity of the writer’s choice.

I felt sorry for Donald Antrim and all the fans Jack and I were going to pull away from his February 18 UMass reading and got our Green Street reading changed to Wednesday, February 17. You’re welcome, Don.

Uproarious hilarity aside, I would have been pretty disappointed to have missed Antrim’s reading. I just read The Hundred Brothers last week and it was amazing. Solid throughout, but those last 50 pages are killer. It’s the most organically climactic book I’ve read in awhile. The book also takes place in one scene, which makes it the third consecutive one-scene novel I’ve read (first Matchpoint, then Vox). It’s a natural form with a lot of potential. Also seems really hard to pull off. Makes me want to try to write one. Of the three, I think Brothers is the best, but I liked them all.

I also just finished Patrik Ourednik’s Europeana under the heavy recommendation of a number of people, and they’re all right. I don’t know when I last smiled so many times while reading a book. Probably not since Infinite Jest last summer. The story of our last century told in a headrush of convoluted,  self-contradictory, self-consciously naive yet all-knowing sentences. It’s political as hell but hard to pin down, avoiding all the pitfalls. It’s billed as fiction, but it’s closer to nonfiction than most nonfiction out there. Here’s hoping Gerald Turner translates something else of his and Dalkey Archive (or someone) has the good sense to print it.