I was asked to pass this along, so, here it is! Good luck.
Call For Submissions
The upcoming Third Man Books anthology to be titled Poetry Sucks! An Anthology of Poetry, Music, and All Sorts of Bad Language is accepting submissions.
Third Man Records co-founders Jack White and Ben Swank originally conceived the record label to house, produce, and distribute Jack’s music projects. However, they have always intended to broaden the endeavor’s scope. TMR now features many music artists other than Jack and has taken on new projects such as distributing the legendary Sun and Paramount record labels. Film is another avenue TMR has begun to explore. And not surprising to many, Jack and Ben happen to be language lovers.
You don’t have to write. You don’t need it like the air. You do have a choice. You could stop at any time. In all likelihood, no one would be sorry if you did. It would be fine. It might even make you happier. And isn’t that all for the best? Wouldn’t you rather choose how to spend your only life than have it chosen for you?
The one semester I was lucky enough to teach creative writing, the last project I gave my students was to make the most beautiful thing they could imagine. Practically no one wrote a story or a poem. Someone is giving you the same assignment.
This will come around to David Gilmour if you give it a minute, I promise.
When Paula Deen was revealed as a terrible racist it was sort of funny at first. This rich older lady with her crazy over-styled silver hair and her pancake makeup and her cartoonish fantasy life wherein the height of class and luxury was paying black men to dress like dolls and dance for her gathered friends and family. She was such a perfect grotesque. But then the story wouldn’t die, and on the one hand I don’t like to judge anyone for a prurient interest in anything, but on the other hand I got pretty sick of seeing her face. And more to the point, I got sick of how much other people seemed to enjoy seeing her face. They loved to look at her and hate her.
I’m not saying she didn’t make it easy. She did.
But I think the root of the pleasure we took in Paula Deen’s fall was the pleasure of feeling superior to her. And I will grant you this: the odds are decent that you are not as bad a racist as she is. Probably your racism, like mine, is pervasive and ugly and embarrassing, but probably it is not garish. You have a little class about it. (So do I.) When you have a racist thought, you don’t immediately recognize it as such, but when you do recognize it, you have the good sense to feel really bad. (Me too.) So maybe, in this sense, you and I are better than Paula Deen — perhaps narrowly better, perhaps a lot. It’s hard to say. But what we probably aren’t is uncommonly good people.
I guess the thing is this: why was it so much fun to find out that this particular human being was a bit of a scumbag? Did you have a lot riding on Paula Deen before you found out she was a racist? I am willing to bet you did not. She only became valuable to you, if you are one of the majority who took such pleasure in her collapse, as I will freely admit I initially did, when she became a resource — when she became a fuel. We burned her and felt better for the smell her burning made.
But it’s not as if you didn’t know there were cartoonish, tacky racists out there, right? Please tell me that you knew. If Paula Deen was cause for joy, then you will have cause for joy until the day you are dead: there will be people like her so long as there are people like you and me.
The larger problem, though, is really you and me. Because we keep it quiet. Because no one has caught us yet. Because we’ll get away with it for the rest of our lives.
I have been working up to a question. The question is this: why is my Twitter feed, and why is the Internet in general, so excited to discover they are better people than David Gilmour? Furthermore, by what definition can they reasonably argue this is true? READ MORE >
This post is rather thin on evidence to claim it’s killing anything, but — while I am mostly agnostic on Amazon’s effects — it is undeniable that Amazon has made reading a much easier habit for many people, and I suspect this leads to more reading in general, not only more reading through Amazon.
Roy Kesey, whose most recent book is the collection of short stories Any Deadly Thing, recently spent some time talking with me about his writing. Kesey is also the author of Pacazo, one of my favorite novels of 2011, All Over, another collection, and Nothing in the World, a beautiful novella.
I suggest listening to/watching this thing up to the 40:30 point, at which point I would rather you closed the tab and forgot all about it. Our connection died at this point, but what it looked like from my perspective was Roy staring at me in utter bewilderment for several minutes straight, which was kind of awkward. I would edit it out and put a proper ending on it if i could! But I can’t.
Regardless, Roy says some very smart, useful stuff, and I had a great time talking to him. You should buy all his books.
Yesterday, after my lunch but before theirs, I interviewed Droqen (i.e., Alexander Martin) and Ryan Roth, the developer and sound designer of Starseed Pilgrim, a beautiful, mysterious game about “tending a symphonic garden, exploring space, and embracing fate.” It’s six dollars and I am extremely confident your computer can run it. I was kind of awkward and shy, predictably, but the two of them did great. We did it as a video because that was expedient, but if I were you I would treat it like a podcast — listen to the audio; don’t feel like you’ve got to watch. We talked mostly about video games – Starseed Pilgrim, Droqen’s other games, stuff we had all played and enjoyed, and things we didn’t like so much. But I don’t think you have to like video games very much to find a lot of what they said interesting. I made some annotations (indexed by time code) to provide context and further information for the things we discussed; click past the fold to see them. READ MORE >
This is a post about Seth Oelbaum, and I wish that it wasn’t.
I got my copy of the keys to this blog while I was unemployed. I had just quit a job not because I hated it, and not because I didn’t like the people there, but because I wasn’t very good at it. This was hard for me because I am the sort of person who needs to believe he is the best at basically everything. I am a teacher’s pet, a perfectionist, a people-pleaser, a needy pile of nerves, sometimes. The way I started writing here is this: I had written at the blog for my magazine for a while, and some people here had liked some of the posts. Roxane Gay was one of those people. She told me she had suggested to Blake Butler that I be invited to post here. Blake seemed receptive, but nothing happened, and meanwhile I was looking for work but not finding any and I spent most of the day sitting on my couch reading job listings and feeling my heart hurt. I needed to feel like I was succeeding in something. I thought that one way I could feel like I was succeeding would be to write for this blog, which had been a comfort to me in grad school, where two different instructors made me openly cry by telling me that I was no good at fiction. I liked to tell myself that the sort of people who read this blog would like what I was writing, and in fact had liked it in the past, as evidenced by certain posts and discussions, and that there were a lot of people who read this blog, and so I couldn’t be all bad. Now, unemployed, heart aching, I thought that writing things here might help me feel better again, and that it might advance my writing career in some way, which is important to me, because of said personality defects. So I sent Blake a gchat and asked him if I could please start writing here. I think I e-mailed him about it too. He said yes. And so I did.
So for a while I posted a lot, and I watched my posts closely to see how they did in terms of traffic and comments, especially as compared to other posts by other, more popular writers, to the extent that the WordPress back end would let me discern that. It made me feel productive. My heart hurt a little less.
My posting slowed to a trickle when I found new (and very stressful) work. I also had a super-long novel to finish, and a story in Best American Short Stories, which made me feel that I needed to do other things (like finish said super-long novel) in order to capitalize on this success, for the sake of the aforementioned writing career. For a while, I didn’t read this blog, except very occasionally when I saw that A D Jameson had written something especially geeky, which is basically my jam. When I started reading again, I saw that Seth Oelbaum was posting with some regularity. And that made me want to never write here again. It made me want to stay away. READ MORE >
Dear Narrative Magazine,
Recently, I began to receive e-mails promoting your publication, in spite of the fact that I have never in any way expressed interest in you or what you do. I have never submitted to your magazine (because you are clearly a scam operation) and I have never given you any reason to believe I might do so in the future. I have never read anything in your pages, because I detest you. There is simply no ethical means by which you could have obtained my e-mail.
When you began sending me spam, I attempted to unsubscribe from your mailing list. I spoke to other writers who hold you in similar disregard, and they said that they had been trying to unsubscribe from your mailing list for months, and that it was impossible. You wouldn’t leave them alone. I sent you several hateful tweets (because I hate you). I unsubscribed again just to make sure. Maybe I unsubscribed a third time? I don’t remember.
Today I received another spam e-mail from you. I do not admire your tenacity. You are pond scum. I can ignore this fact when you aren’t spamming me but I can’t when you are. My e-mail address is mike(d0t)meginnis(at)gmail(dot)com. Take it off your mailing list immediately. (I mean it. This is not optional. You are going to do this now.)
I invite anyone else who would like Narrative Magazine to stop e-mailing them to post about it in the comments. (Dear Narrative: These other e-mails won’t be optional either.)
With All My Contempt,
When people use social media to promote their books, that is their way of saying that they can’t be bothered to figure out how to actually promote their books. When people tell you to use Facebook to promote your book, what they are doing is giving you a way to keep very busy while no one at all reads you.
It seems perhaps in poor taste to post today with all of Sandy’s madness, but the way people talk about genre fiction and literary fiction has long been a sore subject for me. In graduate school (though not in my undergraduate program, where the faculty were both more open-minded and more emotionally mature), I struggled with instructors and students for reasons relating to this limp distinction. As a writer trying to make a career for himself, I struggled for a long time to find venues that would not reject my blended approach out of hand, and sometimes I still do.
Don’t cry for me, Argentina: I’m doing just fine, and in the long term I expect to do better. But it never feels good to see the things you love to make, and the things you often love to read, dismissed out of hand. Arthur Krystal thinks he’s being a brave truth-teller when he takes to The New Yorker to restate his opposition to including genre fiction in the category of literature, but he’s not being brave. Instead, he comes off as weirdly incapable of reflection. There have been a thousand articles like Krystal’s, and they always make the same very basic mistake: their conclusion (genre fiction’s inferiority to literary fiction) is also their premise. That is to say, they are begging the question. Click below the fold to see what I mean! READ MORE >
Why don’t all our turn signals blink at the same rate?
That moment when I am waiting to turn left at the intersection and so are two cars in front of mine and three cars behind and all our signals are flaring and dying. I have terrible astigmatism, which smears the light across my vision. This effect is exaggerated by my dirty windshield. My light blinks and your light blinks and this light blinks and my light blinks and this light blinks and your light blinks. 1, 2, 3, 1, 3, 2, 3, 1, 2. What I mean to say is that the order changes. The relationship shifts. Some lights are faster than others. Say yours is faster than mine. So there is a time where we blink in alternating shifts. And then there is a time where we are blinking together. And then we slowly shift apart again, back to the time where we are blinking separately. This makes me feel a little ill.
It’s bad enough they blink at different times. They should at least keep the same rhythm. If we knew, at the intersection, that mine would go and then yours would go and then hers would go and then his and then we would do it all again then I could prepare myself for the sensation. What I can’t live with is what we have now, where everyone is blinking to a similar but very slightly different rhythm, so I never know what’s coming next, or where, only that it’s coming.
But it would be best if all our signals could signal at once. “Left,” they would say. “Left, left, left.” And then these others, at the same time, on the same beats, would say “Right, right, right, right.” The ideal tempo is something for the Congress to determine. What we can do is we can build a little device into every car that receives a signal from say a network of radio antennae. Or possibly this could be piggybacked through cellular towers, GPS satellite signals, or etc. What the signal will say is, “Now, now, now, now,” forever. What the device in our cars will do is it will tell our signals when to flare. “Now, now, now, now,” they will say. When you flick the switch that activates your car’s turn signal there will be a very slight delay as said car, listening to said transmission, waits for the next beat. “…now, now, now, now.” And so the chaos at the intersection will end, and I won’t feel so much like throwing up when I drive. And consider, as an additional benefit, how beautiful this will look from the sky: the USA, as seen from above, will be bright, and then a little brighter, as collectively we signal. Left, right, now, left, right, now, now, now. Bright, and then a little brighter.
HTMLGiant’s Superhero week has, like a day-glo-green mutagenic ooze, spilled over into an additional week, and may continue for all of the weeks to come, forever. In this post, I construct some (let’s call it) free-verse poetry from more Superhero Wikipedia pages, this time focusing on some of the Hulk characters. My feeling isn’t that the language of these things is beautiful, though it is sometimes what I would call incredible. What I find continually hypnotic is their dedication to story above all. CLICK BEYOND THE FOLD TO LEARN THEIR EPIC STORIES!
When presented with bad design, I often become irrationally, almost violently angry. The first time I was exposed to the class registration system at NMSU, I was seated at a university computer, in a public place, with my wife. None of these things stopped me from thumping the desk with my fist after twenty minutes of trying and failing to make the goddamn thing do what I wanted. I have said that bad design actually makes me more angry than the Holocaust; this is true. Obviously the Holocaust was worse than bad design, but I have no direct experience of its horrors. Bad design is with us every day, corroding us inside and out. It feels more immediate, to me. It feels oppressive.
Bad design makes me so angry because it is a message from the world, a whisper. It says: “No one cares about you. No one knows that you exist. No one knows what you are like. No one has taken the time to imagine you. No one wants to think about what you need or want. You are profoundly unimportant.”