Ken Baumann

Ken Baumann is.

The NYRB is having their winter sale. 50% off. Just bought 8 more fucking books.

The Milan Review of the Universe

The Milan Review’s second issue is out, and of course it is gorgeous. And if you’re in New York, there’s a party for/with it (featuring Seth Fried, Robert Lopez, Lynne Tillman, Tim Small).

The issue features writing from Iphgenia Baal, Amie Barrodale, Chiara Barzini, Blake Butler, Matthias “Wolfboy” Connor, Seth Fried, Amelia Gray, Shane Jones, Robert Lopez, Clancy Martin, Francesco Pacifico, and Lynne Tillman & art from Massimiliano Bomba, Carola Bonfili, Milano Chow, TJ Cowgill, Joe DeNardo, Francesco de Figueiredo, Roope Eronen, Frédéric Fleury, Christy Karacas, Taylor McKimens, Brenna Murphy, and Toony Navok.

I Like __ A Lot / 6 Comments
February 9th, 2012 / 9:47 pm

The Title

In so much art, I can smell the author’s desire for me to be more interested in how they and/or their characters interpret and inhabit boredom than actually doing something. Simple action. Anybody involved doing anything. I’m thinking here of The Stranger, The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño, The Immoralist. The strung along. The boredom of relative luxury. How this seems to at least temporarily obliterate any internal gyre of philosophy or gut thought that would lead to decisions being made and bodies being moved, followed then by trailing thought, fallen out words. Is there a novel out there concerned mostly with people moving and acting with little thought, but in which plot in its traditional patterns of building (attention, suspense, terror) does not build its usual cores but delves or unearths something deeper in its time: meaninglessness? Beckett, I guess, right? Of Molloy. And not yet just a list of actions but a trail of subsumed desire, of wiped want, or cleaned out intuition. Belief born without a tail. Who’s out there? And how are they speaking? And in that smell, be it a pleasant suprasense or the shit of deadening culture, you can either yes to it or no and walk away, close the book. Off the screen. Say hi to a realm of light and seeming chaos that somehow provides you wind.

But meaninglessness is tricky. Just as the word impossible is framed by a language that both codes it and decodes it simultaneously (it’s a combustive word; no wonder artists take it as such an engine), meaninglessness doesn’t truly touch through the black skein of a void, the void, void. We know it just gestures. (from Mark Leidner: poetry like the Midas of meaning; everything you reach for is dissolved in the spectacle of the gesture) So we’re left with a hologram of a projection of deeper sense or finality: we’re left just out of reach of the point of cataclysm, or at least where the earth can break through enough to swallow its container. It’s not geometrical at all, nor is it a sphere without a skin: in a way, culture in its progression, bacterial (maybe moreso than a viral way), keeps as its form the method by which we can get as close to a system of thought’s event horizon. A hollow zone where the force holding you in place is milliseconds away from its pull toward another place: lesser star, complete off.

I dreamed earlier today about writing I am paralyzed. In the near immediate wake of death. And how, seeming to me then in the open dream, that must necessarily precede a statement of numerical precision: how many times the page itself I had typed or tapped onto white had been deleted. And reformed, necessarily. All I’m thinking about now is how the Dionysian and the Apollonian were easy outs. It seems to me both of those frames of vision have a third hand somewhere: just out of frame, the marble grates against its mate. Touch.

Random / 8 Comments
February 2nd, 2012 / 2:51 am

Stuff I Loved in 2011

That’s the feeling I look for, right? In whatever I’m eating, be it real food, or entertainment, art, people. The major event. A safe, manageable portion of the inner land or map blown away, torn out and away, dissolved or smoked. I only know a couple people who really seek that, or when they say they want that destruction it’s a good lie, and maybe they’ve said it enough so it’s shared and indistinguishable from truth. Regardless, it’s a common myth, a familiar dragon to chase, that of the Art That Changes For Good. I rarely recognize the mountain exploding in realtime, while reading something or watching a movie, it’s felt live that way maybe four times in my adultish life. Mostly it’s just feeling the echo of the boom a time later. Still, standing mountains aren’t terrible, and are often really nice. But sometimes you get lucky (pictured, pictured). Here’s what my year looked like:


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December 18th, 2011 / 10:55 pm

I almost got to publish TREASURE ISLAND!!! by Sara Levine, but Europa Editions/Tonga Books sent their acceptance letter A DAY AFTER I sent mine. Alice Sebold selected it personally. Sara’s great, though, and her book is fucking hilarious. A Confederacy of Dunces hilarious & beyond. Go get it.

ToBS R1: no-taste design aesthetic online magazine vs. facebook updates of what you ate / listened to

[Matchup #13 in Tournament of Bookshit]

In the Really Fucking Ugly corner, weighing in at less than a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a pound, is the entire coded structure of Happy Dog Mom Lit Journal is a newcomer on the scene, but has recently secured training with the Google AdSense and AdWords programs, showing off a stiff upper right corner text ad box that flits out ads for Moleskine journals and Tin House magazine subscriptions. Its ability to fly almost completely under the radar––to not have a single pair of eyes look at it, at all, for years, save the eyes of its own mother and master and pen-name bedecked story feeder, among the occasional algorithmic complimentary link bait––is truly amazing. It’s a stunning example of incompetence, laziness, a journey retarded before it’s even begun, and a complete lack of aesthetic sense beyond the named, repuked text-based emotional “landscapes” that can cohere, almost accidentally, under forty thousand clicks or more, here called curation. READ MORE >

Contests / 39 Comments
December 5th, 2011 / 11:43 am

if there’s anything you need to know about “contemporary indie lit” it’s that all you need to do to get a book published is write one  - Impossible Mike

What authors or books do you love that most people hate or have never heard of?

Let’s give away NOTHING, by Blake Butler. Three copies, courtesy of me/Sator Press. Comment with your email address to enter. Winners picked soonish. If you want: talk nightmares.

The rad novel Fires, by Nick Antosca, has just been rereleased by Civil Coping Mechanisms. It’s also packed with a few short stories, including a short story that is actually uncomfortably sexy: The Girlfriend Game.


Secrecy, speed, affect: The Marbled Swarm

The Marbled Swarm

The Marbled Swarm

by Dennis Cooper

Harper Perennial, November 1st, 2011

$10.19 / Buy from Amazon







1. A precursor: the often repeated and often obvious dictum from authors: if one could summarize the idea or express the idea elsewhere, it would not be a book.

2. Another precursor: I have to use numbers for this review. The accumulative force in The Marbled Swarm has made me nervous to write about it. These numbers should help. Related: numbers are very rarely used in the book; we are maybe twice given them as markers, as soft attempts at erasure, but more so as another meter to remember. I understand the absence of counting in the book.

3. Formal book reviews mostly feel homogenous to me; some young limping component of an old structure; sutured to print? The format seems off, or rather: very rarely off. I’m pretty often baffled, too, by the claim that some argument must be lodged and pushed through to agree a reader; maybe I discredit the militaristic form of rhetoric, or of establishing a reading. To me, the reviews, the books too, that are interesting and alive feeling do not seem camped or aimed, yet open and transfixed.

4. I read The Marbled Swarm for the first time on a plane. Enclosed by a tube, moving very fast through different pressured air, hoping for a smooth passage. Fantasizing about puncture. READ MORE >

September 30th, 2011 / 8:00 am

Anybody who’s remotely interested in the art of/work of writing should pick up the current issue of The Paris Review and flip to Dennis Cooper’s interview. It is pure inspiration.

Favorite Passages from Deleuze & Guattari’s What Is Philosophy? (In Chronological Order)

To criticize is only to establish that a concept vanishes when it is thrust into a new milieu, losing some of its components, or acquiring others that transform it. But those who criticize without creating, those who are content to defend the vanished concept without being able to give it the forces it needs to return to life, are the plague of philosophy.

There is such force in those unhinged works of Hölderlin, Kleist, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Kafka, Michaux, Pessoa, Artaud, and many English and American novelists, from Melville to Lawrence or Miller, in which the reader discovers admiringly that they have written the novel of Spinozism. To be sure, they do not produce a syntheses of art and philosophy. They branch out and do not stop branching out. They are hybrid geniuses who neither erase nor cover over differences in kind, but, on the contrary, use all the resources of their “athleticism” to install themselves within this very difference, like acrobats torn apart in a perpetual show of strength.

If philosophy is paradoxical by nature, this is not because it sides with the least plausible opinion or because it maintains contradictory opinions but rather because it uses sentences of a standard language to express something that does not belong to the order of opinion or even of the proposition.

Philosophy thus lives in a permanent crisis. The plane takes effect through shocks, concepts proceed in bursts, and personae by spasms.

We do not lack communcation. On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present. READ MORE >

Excerpts / 6 Comments
September 16th, 2011 / 3:23 pm