Tag Archives: jack christian

NOTES FROM A REAL GOOD TIME

crabcakers

From 6/7-6/17, Jack Christian and I read in Brooklyn, Boston, Northampton, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Richmond, and D.C.

In the Brooklyn apartment of my friend Lily, we had the most incredible breakfast: jamberry eggcakes. It’s eggs, bacon, hot sauce, and strawberry preserves, served atop a pancake. Savory, spicy, salty, sweet–all the pleasure buttons at once.

Another incredible breakfast was in Richard’s home in Richmond, VA: fresh biscuits with sausage gravy. It was just the best.

At Flying Object, my friends Christy, Anne, Kristen, Brian, and Anu helped me read from my book. Each took a particular character or thread. It was a great chance to perform pieces of the book I usually don’t read from, like all the little comment cards (Christy) and the Tad Parables (Anu). Brian killed as Billy.

Before that, Mike Young played 3 songs, the newest of which he called me up to sing with him, assured I’d kinda pick it up as it went along. I kinda did!

The next night in Baltimore, Tim Paggi stepped it up and corralled a few of his fellow actors and they turned my book into a full-on performance, including a three-person rendition of “Every Man’s Battle,” a primer on goof-dancing. It’s so exciting to see people reinterpret my writing and make it their own.

A suspenseful thing was whether copies of my book would arrive in time for the tour, and they did. Just one day before I absolutely needed them.

The app part of Square Card Reader is better than the cheap plastic attachment. By the end, I forewent the attachment and just entered credit card numbers into my phone by hand, the way Grandpappy taught me.

A good thing is to get more brazen about telling people exactly how/where they could buy your book, and for how much. A tip I heard that proved true: Get someone to accept money on your behalf. It’s somehow more comfortable for everybody to have an intermediary.

Adam Robinson’s now boyish in a clean-shaven short-haired mode. His and Joe’s apartment is decorated with the original collage from Chris Toll’s book and art from Easter Rabbit, and at Stephanie’s I spotted the collage that Fun Camp’s woods photo comes from.

When Adam gave me 20 more books to sell, I (because I was in Baltimore) kept referring to it in my head as “a re-up.”

On a dewey field we got in nine holes of disc and then went out for crab cakes and fries. We passed a woman, standing, hunched-over in unpained repose, leaning down and twisting into herself, an accidental yogi.

I got to hear a bunch of great writers read: Jonathan Callahan, Chris Cheney, Biana Stone, Ben Pease, Greg Gerke, Brian Foley, Matthew Salesses, Jess Lacher, Megan Kaminski, Allison Titus, Tony Mancus, Wei Tchou, and best of all: Jack Christian x8.

The walls of Mellow Pages Library are like a 3D screengrab of a cool kid’s “to read” queue, indie lit’s minimalist homepage.

I woke one morning to Jack’s dog Patty excitedly greeting me. She threw up on the comforter, then happily returned to try to lick my face while continuing to cough as if about to throw up some more. From Patty’s perspective, the best thing would have been to throw up on my face so she could greet me while clearing out her system. I didn’t agree.

Whenever I could, I’d steal away to tend to the ongoing Kickstarter for my new press, Boss Fight Books. In the car I did a podcast. On a train I answered some questions. Hoping This is Good Enough and Pressing Send is the soul of wit.

In Boston I met up with Super Mario Bros. 2 author Jon Irwin, who turned out to be the great guy I’d suspected he was. The encounter filled me with self-congratulations for knowing how to pick ’em.

In a Baltimore kitchen after our reading, Jack misstepped, grabbed a sink to steady himself, found that the sink was not stable, and tumbled down, cracking open a spot above his eye on an open cellar door. There’s a version of the story where Jack continues falling, down into the cellar, and his life ends there. Instead: He butterfly-bandaged the wound and bounced back like a champ.

For the front half of the tour, Jack and I challenged ourselves to read all-different stuff each night. By the end, we’d both dropped it and just read what we wanted.

Music! Guy Petit played camp tunes on the P.A. at Flying Object. The night before that, Jack and I gushed over and sang along to the entirety of August and Everything After. Brian Foley, if he had any sense, recorded this occasion in his brain and made fun of us to mutual friends as soon as he was out of the car.

I slept mostly on air mattresses, and slept hard every night. At Jack’s friend Phil’s I wore an eye mask to keep out the morning sun, challenging the close-held notion that I’m not an eye mask man.

On the streets of Manhattan, I had the most insanely easy meet-up with my old friend Andrew and new friend Maxwell within an hour of one another. In both instances, I’d assumed we’d meet up later in Brooklyn and instead we were within the same block of each other in Manhattan.

Before that, I met the most famous cat in Manhattan, Jimmy Jazz. “Do you think fame has changed him?” I asked his owner Julie. “Well he knows how good-looking he is,” she said. “He’s dumb but good-looking.” His coloration was especially impressive: the black on his hind legs formed a boot cut and the black on his front legs stopped at the mitten zone.

I’m really starting to come around on French press coffee.

What do you write when you sign a book? Traditionally, something pithier than what I wrote in friends’ books, which was usually about how I was glad to see them and how I hoped not much time would pass before they’d come see me in Los Angeles.

Our chillest reading was in the new Philly home of Zach Savich and Hilary Plum. I read a little something with Jack and our new LA friend Jess, and then we feasted. It was good to see Z&H happy and alive in a real city.

At the beginning of my last reading in D.C., I tried to raise host Mark Cugini’s mic stand to a height that was 6’4″-appropriate and ripped the top of the mic stand right off its base. Holding the stand like that, I felt like an 80’s comedian and proceeded to make an obsolete joke about airline food.

I succumbed to McDonalds and paid in pain. I succumbed to Arby’s and got out pretty clean. A place that sucks is Bukowski’s in Boston. The photo of a sign I saw in Dunkin Donuts got mad likes on Facebook.

I had one mojito, one glass of wine, one Fun Camp (invented in my honor by Z&H: proseco, vodka, and a bit of blue Kool-Aid burst), but mostly drank beer. Writers, so.

A couple months ago I took an improv class for eight weeks. I told friends I felt like the class’s secret lesson was “How to Be Fun at a Party Without Drinking Too Much,” and indeed my nerves never pushed me over the line. I also felt like improv had made me weirdly fearless about doing readings. I’ve always liked reading my stuff, but now I was excited for the unplanned elements, and sensitized to the secret truth that at a reading, people want to see you get up and talk to them as much as they want you to read from your book.

“Dag, yo,” Jack would say. And during the readings, he’d speak of “old friends and new friends” and mean it. And all his new shit went over great. And whenever his wife called, Jack would go, “It’s Liane!,” happy to hear from his buddy.

Over drinks in Richmond, I played “Ask the Expert” with Dave and Jenna where your friends ask you questions about the world and you’ve got to act like you know everything. We also played “Which friend’s inner thigh is depicted in this photo?” and “Split the drunken noodles.”

And before we split ways, Dave read me a story my friends from college had cowritten about a saucy young writer, Dabe Gurham, whose hotel blows up while he’s on book tour. The story’s really lusty and profane. The first paragraph went like this:

It was a pretty ordinary day at the beginning, what with the hotel alarm and the shower and shaving and complimentary continental breakfast and all.  Yessir, nothing about the Styrofoam coffee or rubber bagel alluded to the total clusterfuck of a day that was about to descend upon successful musician-novelist-blogger-PublisherOfBooksAboutVideoGames and gigolo-about-town Dabe Gurham. He had arrived into the godforsaken tobacco ghost-town of Richmond, VA the night before, in preparation for a reading of his newly published and critically acclaimed first novel, a book of such verve that it left audiences weeping for joy and for their wasted lives lived pursuing things that would never contain one-millionth the genius found on just one page of Gurham’s bold prose.  “It feels good to change lives”, thought Gurham as he ate his third bagel.

A few times at readings I felt the throb-throb of appreciation for those who’d helped make my book happen, and of affection for friends (and sibling) I hadn’t seen in awhile. There’s something cool about getting to perform for people you love, where suddenly the quality of your writing seems beside the point and the main thing is the “all of us here together” feeling.

If the worst part of readings is the incantation of lit mag names, the best part is a momentary fusion of the private and the public, the leaning in close for a secret.

And the secret to a book tour in general? Think of it as a fun road trip to visit friends, culturally sanctioned and partially subsidized.

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Deleted Scene from a Forthcoming Interview with Jack Christian

Gabe Durham: We’ve spoken before about the mystery of all that gets written in the overwhelmed rhythm of a full schedule, and I don’t think that “If you want something done, ask a busy person” entirely explains it. What is it about teaching that seems to wind you up to produce?

Jack Christian: I am quite busy. Between teaching and paper-grading and various side-projects and visits to the gym so as to avoid new experiences in obesity, I often find myself in the situation of needing and wanting to catch my breath.

To focus on the positive: Within this situation I frequently encounter and re-encounter the joy in writing, in squirreling away a minute or an hour, of spending a Saturday completely ensconced and obsessed. For a long time now, I’ve never sat down to write when I didn’t want to write. So, writing occupies this cherished space, and is positioned often as a break.

What I’m writing now is more humorous, more out-in-the-world, more overtly aware of the need to be entertaining. I have a different set of inputs from when I was in school, so there is this great compelling impetus to try to figure out how to adjust my writing to that. I guess I’ve been increasingly attracted to the idea of the attempt to tackle the most mundane, most subtle little aspects of life — to take the boring, wrestle-around with its boring-ness, and write something exciting and vibrant. For instance, what is there interesting to say about my daily drive to work? Or, what’s the zen of paper-grading?

Here’s a quick example from Nicholson Baker’s A Box of Matches that I read just last night: In a small climax halfway through the fourth or fifth chapter, the character scrounges in the dark for his glasses on his nightstand. He finds them, picks them up, careful not to smudge the lenses. After he gets them arranged on his face, he has this great line about his glasses adjusting everything he can’t see in the dark. Then, he just sits on his bed a moment, still in the dark, during which time he says to himself: “oh yeah, baby.”

Gabe Durham: Yeah, Scrounging in the Dark would be the more descriptive name for that book. I sometimes fantasize about having a career like Baker’s, where readers come to expect not a singular authorial voice but a multitude of modes: the book-length literary obsession essay, the erotic playground book, the novel-in-observations. Like: If you nail it in varied enough ways, you get this wonderfully elastic reader who will just follow you anywhere. Does that interest you too? How animated are you by the allowances and constraints of a particular writing project?

Jack Christian: That interests me hugely. I feel myself in the middle of a pivot toward what you describe in terms of being animated by the constraints of a particular project. I see some danger in becoming too wrapped up in projects, of the attempt to be too chameleon, but I don’t think this applies to Baker. He works in all these modes while also always defining his particular aesthetic.

The poems of Family System were written under the idea of no constraint, at least in their first drafts. The constraint was simply the mandate to try to write a good poem. Making it a book required more constraints to come into play (such as cutting the more whimsical, more talky stuff), especially in terms of the attempt to have the poems arranged in some sort of bouquet.

Now I find myself wanting to move into some different territory of voice and perspective. As I do, I bump against the possibility of a project becoming somehow soulless, or too conceptual, too much of a thought-challenge, but I find this is in tension with the need to make a good, book-size container.

So, while I’d like to know more at the level of concept, the way Baker seems to, if I knew too much I wouldn’t be able to write it. What I was aiming to say though, is, as much as I’m loving Nicholson Baker right now, I’d still always add a good dose of Moby Dick. This is attributable to my taste in music, to the low-fi and Grunge acts that got me through high school and college. Musicians like Daniel Johnston, Dinosaur Jr., Guided by Voices, Pavement, Modest Mouse, Nirvana, the Pixies, and Pearl Jam. These were primary influences in aesthetic messiness, which is a thing I don’t think I can shake. I’m starting to see a joy in having things very controlled and organized, but I’ll always have a first joy in letting things be messy.

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50k

NOÖ Journal’s Issue Nine is out. It’s got new poems by Jack, Jono, and Chris, a story by Rachel, and a chapbook review by me.

Notnosrums’ Issue Two is out as well. It’s got new poems by Jeannie, Lily, Zach, a different Chris, Francesca, Rachel again, and James Tate.

This site is 50,000 children strong. Good job y’alls.

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The Gather Round Children Variety Post

It’s a hard time for everybody: Can we agree, then, to just give links this year?

Jack Christian started a blog, Precious Document. He’s just giving away poems that appeared in sweet print journals like Black Warrior Review. His questionable business moves are America’s gain.

You can watch the first episode of Flight of the Conchords, Season 2, at Funny or Die. It’s good.

Also funny: New Stella Short

If you can get your hands on McSweeney’s #29 (the new one), read the first story, “It’s Nice When Someone is Excited to Hear From You,” by Brian Baise. It’s fantastic. A detestable narrator whose detestability  isn’t immediately identifiable and never redeems himself exactly, but complicates himself enough not to be hatable. Voicy without tricks.

My mom and Ed got me a 2-year subscription to Quick Fiction, and I’m halfway through the new one. Lots of gems in this gorgeous little book. So far, my favorite is “The Torturer…” by Michael Thurston. There’s also a nice one by Anthony Varallo, who had a very funny story in the issue of Fugue I read a couple of weeks ago. So he’s on my radar now.

Michael Ocean shreds on his custom telecaster: Paranoid Android

Michael Young shreds on his custom keyboard.

Deb Olin Unferth did a Daytrotter reading. Her voice is different, higher, than I’d imagined. I like it.

Damien Jurado also did a Daytrotter session, including a nice morose rendition of “Ohio.”

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