Ryan Call

Daniel Bailey on ‘The New Sincerity/Alt-Lit’

For those interested (and for those who haven’t already read it), Daniel Bailey has written a tiny bit of a response to the recent discussion of The New Sincerity/Alt-Lit at his Tumblr thingy. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you’d like.

Excerpt below from Part 2:

I think Alt Lit is mostly posturing. It’s attaching one’s self to something larger and riding along. Alt Lit is a great white shark and the myriad Alt Lit writers are remoras along for the ride. The only thing is that Alt Lit is not yet a large great white shark. It’s still small. Aside from Tao Lin, who predates Alt Lit and, imho is not Alt Lit because he has his own vision, and Steve Roggenbuck, no Alt Lit writer has created anything that will last beyond Alt Lit’s moment. The shark is not big enough to carry the weight of so many remoras. Steve Roggenbuck, at this point, IS Alt Lit. All others are simply followers. Steve Roggenbuck is to Alt Lit as Nirvana was to grunge.


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June 29th, 2012 / 5:07 pm

ToBS3: Working at Best Buy vs. Calling yourself the editor-in-chief of an online journal

[matchup #50 in Tournament of Bookshit]

I don’t have specific thoughts regarding either of these things. I imagine that working at Best Buy is similar to many retail jobs? You deal with a lot of odd customers, coworkers, and supervisors? Maybe that is an unfair assumption. See, the only retail job I worked was at a used book store in Virginia when I was in graduate school. I stocked the shelves and I also purchased inventory according to a massive buying manual that the owners had seemingly haphazardly created full of random rules regarding what sorts of books we should take in and what we should not. We bought a lot of mass market paper backs and children’s books. My following these rules at the buying table often meant that I turned down a lot of great books, fascinating and interesting books, that the owners had deemed a waste of shelving space. Probably, from a business standpoint, they were right: they knew their customers, and theirs were customers who were not interested in Fowles’ The Maggot, nor were their customers interested in Barnes’ Nightwood. Both of these books intrigued me when I held them in my hands at the buying table, and even as I turned them down, I wanted to know what was between their covers (I later read Nightwood in a class; still haven’t read The Maggot). Another terribly weird part of this job is that we threw out a lot of books. Like, shitloads of books. And the owners required us to rip the covers off these books because a few years before I worked there, a customer had pulled books out of the dumpster that they had trashed and resold those books to the store several times. So there I was, tearing covers off books like O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, simply because these books had ‘been on the shelf too long.’ After that, I began to take the discards and put them nicely in a box and hide the box in the store until my assigned closing night, and then I would take the box to my car. At one point I had five boxes of books in my car, books the owners had deemed a ‘waste of shelf space,’ and these I distributed to my friends in order to make room to save more books. Eventually, the store closed because the owners couldn’t pay the rent, and I spent my final weekend at that job boxing up books to save from the dumpster in between breaking down shelves and stacking the book carts in a moving van.

- Ryan Call


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May 18th, 2012 / 1:56 pm

Tao Lin’s Buffer

Over at The Asian American Literary Review Vaman Tyrone X has written an essay about/review of Tao Lin’s recent books: Bed, Shoplifting from American Apparel, and Richard Yates. I enjoyed reading this essay partially because of this point below concerning Lin’s online activity and his writing, which I hadn’t really thought about before in this way. I think, before, I’d always read other critics conflate the two rather than separate them? Anyhow, see what you think.

He wrote an entire (and earnest) essay about Yates’ oeuvre four years before RY was published.[10]  Is it really okay to begrudge Lin the right to name his novel after an under-appreciated literary figure that clearly has meant something to him?  Or maybe it’s just a more admirable enterprise to protect a now-canonical realist author from Lin’s digital-fame grubbing?  The subtext to every sub-positive response to Lin’s work and accompanying personal brand seems to be twofold: (1) “I could write that.  I know how to not pile on subordinate clauses too” and (2) “I could become as famous as him if strangers bought shares in my future novels, enabling me to sit, consume kale, and coin acronyms on Twitter.”[11]  Fortunately, Lin’s fiction can exist apart from such criticisms because the Lin-ean frame—the megabytes of service he has performed deconstructing ‘Tao Lin,’[12] his style, and his infamy-inducing act[13]—acts as a helpful buffer, [emphasis mine -RC] letting Haley and Dakota wander safely in a traditional realist space without a self-consciously perspiratory narrator forcing them to confront the faults of their maker.

Have a read if you’re so inclined, and I hope all of you are having a lovely day. Take a break from the computer if you can and go for a walk sometime? It’s 60 degrees or so and sunny in Houston and I’m going to take my last class outside, I think.

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April 23rd, 2012 / 1:36 pm

ToBS R2: emailing drafts of your writing to people you dont know vs. hating on jonathan safran foer

[matchup #40 in Tournament of Bookshit]

- Ryan Call

- – - READ MORE >

Contests / 22 Comments
December 15th, 2011 / 2:25 pm

<3 u garciabro!!!1!!!!11!

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November 11th, 2011 / 4:05 pm

Hacked by Tiger-M@te

Regular readers of literary magazines (read: hopeful authors) were surprised this weekend to find their favorite literary magazines nearly completely destroyed by a vindictive and highly talented hacker operating on the other side of the globe. Most notably, Third Coast, Monkeybicycle, and La Petitie Zine were hacked this weekend, suffering from the attentions of infamous Bangladeshi hacker Tiger-M@te, who is responsible for many high-profile world wide web hacks. Earlier this year, he brought down Google’s Bangladeshi site, and now he is in the process of defacing popular, highly regarded websites like and


Technology / 7 Comments
September 25th, 2011 / 10:38 pm

Hi. Does anyone want to play Black Ops with me on PS3 in the future? Email me. I speak in an obnoxious southern accent when I play.

Leonard Stern 1922-2011

I’m sad to hear that Leonard Stern, co-creator of Mad Libs, has died (via Flavorwire).

Author News / 4 Comments
June 9th, 2011 / 3:28 pm

“Cape” by Kim Chinquee

Last night, I dreamed that I was in a clearing in a forest, and my wife was below me, yelling that I should fly higher to avoid danger. It was nighttime, there were some stars. I felt scared as I rose, but then I felt very happy, because my wife joined me over the forest, and we escaped along the mountain ridges.

It is a dream I have not had in so long. It is the kind of dream that I’ve missed having, one that I had so many times before when I was a young boy. Most of you have probably had this dream as well: the flying dream. Yes, when I was little, I often dreamed that I could fly. In my dream, I floated out of my room, down the stairs to the landing at the front door of our house, and outside.


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May 11th, 2011 / 10:02 pm

“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” Jorge Luis Borges

In my last post, I casually mentioned that when I first read The Age of Wire and String, I wasn’t very familiar with the precursors that had ‘made it possible’ as a book. Of course, I’m not sure exactly what earlier books helped Marcus write it, nor do I really know what it means to really ‘make a book possible.’ Instead, I think I meant that I hadn’t yet read writing that gave me a way of better appreciating The Age of Wire and String. My first reading of that book was really exciting, but difficult; I felt lost quite a lot through that book the first time. I felt that the book was isolated–and isolated me–when I first read it, but now that I’ve read some other stories and books, I think I feel comfortable putting it in a group of others that I feel do similar things to me as I read.

“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is one of those stories that, for me, connects to The Age of Wire and String in a meaningful way. As I’ve mentioned before in some of these other posts, I had previously thought of stories as ABC tales of one character or another’s plights, such as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “To Build a Fire,” “The Most Dangerous Game,” etc., this next stage in my reading began to tune me into how words might be used for other purposes: world-building, for example.

Two years before I had discovered, in a volume of a certain pirated encyclopedia, a superficial description of a nonexistent country; now chance afforded me something more precious and arduous. Now I held in my hands a vast methodical fragment of an unknown planet’s entire history, with its architecture and its playing cards, with the dread of its mythologies and the murmur of its languages, with its emperors and its seas, with its minerals and its birds and its fish, with its algebra and its fire, with its theological and metaphysical controversy. And all of it articulated, coherent, with no visible doctrinal intent or tone of parody.


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May 10th, 2011 / 8:15 pm

“Intercourse with Resuscitated Wife” by Ben Marcus

I read Notable American Women before I read The Age of Wire and String, so despite my being somewhat familiar with Marcus and his interviews and his writing, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the kind of ‘language monsters’ he had packed into those 140 pages when I opened the book for the first time in the summer of 2006.

And although the book begins with a sort of prologue, or ‘argument,’ which describes the book as a ‘life project’ meant to catalogue the age of wire and string, I will always think of the opening sentence of “Intercourse with Resuscitated Wife” as the warning shot, a language bunch that reoriented my understanding of how a parcel of words might be arranged in unusual ways.

The dropped articles, the potential comma splice, the archaic tone, the oddity described by the text, all of these I might have seen before, but never in such a sustained and tightly controlled way as this, and not in a contemporary landscape. And furthermore, I hadn’t yet become aware of many of the precursors who made such a collection possible. So to read this first sentence was a bit shocking for me, but in a good way, and helped me take greater care in my reading and writing from then on.

Intercourse with resuscitated wife for particular number of days, superstitious act designed to insure a safe operation of household machinery.

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May 9th, 2011 / 10:48 pm

“Cold France” by Wythe Marschall

In 2003, McSweeney’s published issue 12, which consisted of 12 unpublished writers and some other stuff. A friend of mine made me buy this issue, and I remember talking with him about one story in particular. It’s the only story I remember from the issue: “Cold France” by Wythe Marschall. I read it on the floor of my bedroom at my parent’s house while home from college during some break or another. Since then, I have occasionally thought of “Cold France” and idly wondered whatever happened to Wythe Marschall. His bio in the contributors’ notes section said that he was nineteen at the time, and so he forever remains nineteen in my head, despite what Google just told me.

“Cold France” consists of seventeen short sections, each of which describes a different “permutation” of France. There is “Dog France,” “Whale France,” “Tent France,” “Sponge France,” and “Fat France.” I read that in “Merry France” one Frenchman “simply said ‘fox’ until all of Limoges had died from heart seizures” from laughing so hard. In “Dark France” a man questions his existence: “What is the meaning of darkness? thinks Jean. He wants to move to another country, but he cannot see what ticket to buy at the station. A badger walks into him in the woods when he is on vacation.” In “Slow France” I read “Because each follicle has so long to think over each new molecule of French hair, each French strand is shinier, stronger, and more fit to entertain at parties than other, foreign hairs. So when you get it in the mail, please remember: Whatever you do, don’t cut your French hair.”


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May 6th, 2011 / 10:53 pm

“The Balloon” by Donald Barthelme

In college I went through a stage of searching for and printing off as many David Foster Wallace interviews as I could find. I remember printing of the interview he gave to Larry McCaffery and reading it and stumbling into the passage wherein he speaks of ‘the click.’

At some point in my reading and writing that fall I discovered the click in literature, too. It was real lucky that just when I stopped being able to get the click from math logic I started to be able to get it from fiction. The first fictional clicks I encountered were in Donald Barthelme’s “The Balloon” and in parts of the first story I ever wrote, which has been in my trunk since I finished it. I don’t know whether I have that much natural talent going for me fiction wise, but I know I can hear the click, when there is a click.

Of course, I had to go find a copy of “The Balloon.” I had never read and Barthelme, had only vaguely heard of him and for some reason thought he was an author writing in the 1800s.


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May 5th, 2011 / 10:04 pm

“Dance in America” by Lorrie Moore

One of the first times I heard Kenny Loggins, I was probably pretty young. Top Gun came out in 1986, so I was probably six years old or so when I first heard “Highway to the Danger Zone.” My father stood in front of the television when they showed Goose dead in Maverick’s arms.

My mother had a cassette tape of Celebrate Me Home and a cassette tape of Loggins and Messina, both of which we all listened to in the car on the way to school.

Many people don’t know this about me, but when I was in 5th grade, I actually saw Loggins in concert. My family was visiting Chattanooga to look for houses, as we planned to move there within the next year, and we visited during the summer when the city has a festival called Riverbend. Loggins performed. I don’t remember much of it, sadly.


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    May 4th, 2011 / 3:14 pm

    “The Mnemogogues” by Primo Levi

    The opening story in Levi’s The Sixth Day and Other Tales, “The Mnemogogues,” was my introduction to Levi. In it, Dr. Morandi, a young physician, arrives at his outpost in a small town in order to take the place of the aging Dr. Montesanto, who speaks to Morandi “about the defnitive prevalence of the past over the present, and the final shipwreck of every passion, except for his faith in the dignity of thought and the supremacy of the things of the spirit.”


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    May 3rd, 2011 / 1:02 pm

    “Disagreement” by Lydia Davis

    Three months ago I sent in the final version of my manuscript to Amanda and Joseph at Caketrain. To celebrate this accomplishment I bought a PS3 and a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops, which I played for nearly every day until about a week ago when hackers completely shut down the Playstation Network, suddenly dumping me back into reality.

    In the resultant silence, I returned to books, reading in two days the entertaining Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat, which I recommend. I read In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan during two consecutive lunch breaks at work. And then I reread a favorite, Stories in the Worst Way by Gary Lutz, to finally recharge myself.


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    May 2nd, 2011 / 11:51 am

    How Like Foreign Objects by Alexis Orgera

    Congratulations to HTMLGIANT contributor Alexis Orgera, whose How Like Foreign Objects was just released by H_NGM_N BKS:

    Dean Young had this to say about Orgera’s poems:

    Alexis Orgera’s poems perpetually, vitally involve the reconceiving and reenacting of the means of intimacy even as they say again and again, I can no longer be myself.  These are love poems between strangers who may for a moment celebrate and endure recognition; their voice is arch, angelic and at odds with itself, mercurial in its metaphoric riches, captivating in improvisational zeal, beautiful, and impossible not to love.

    If you’d like to purchase the book, you can do so from H_NGM_N for $14.95. Click on the donate/PayPal button once you get to the HLFO page.

    Web Hype / 5 Comments
    March 29th, 2011 / 11:23 am

    Lydia Millet Interview at Willow Springs

    Sam Ligon interviewed Lydia Millet in Willow Springs. You can read the full interview here (pdf).

    Millet: I was asked recently whether I considered my taste to be minimalist in prose, and I never thought of myself that way, but I do like a lot of space on the page. That is to say, not actual physical white space, but I like there to be space, as with, say, some Nabokov, where there’s a lot of metaphysical space that’s somehow created by the language. I don’t like to be overwhelmed with words. I don’t want someone to try to do some “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” with their verbiage. I want there to be room for the silence of the mind in the reading.

    Author News / 4 Comments
    March 5th, 2011 / 3:26 pm

    The Pale King Changes

    Today at Conversational Reading, Scott Esposito linked to a Google document that showed differences between the recent David Foster Wallace excerpt in The New Yorker titled “Backbone” and a transcription of Wallace reading the same piece in 2000, what Wallace then called ‘a fragment of a longer thing.’

    Esposito writes:

    It’s common knowledge now that Wallace did not get close to finishing The Pale King, and that the book that will be published on April 15 represents a heavily edited and stitched together version of what Wallace left behind. Clearly, this book has been made to serve the many readers out there who would like to see a completed, standardized version of The Pale King.

    For more, go to the full post.

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    March 4th, 2011 / 7:02 pm

    Look! Freaks and Feathers on the West Coast

    Mike Young and Jamie Iredell are flying out to the west coast today (on an airplane, I think). They want to read to people on the west coast. They are nice people. They are calling their reading tour “Freaks and Feathers.” If you’re on the west coast and interested, check out their reading schedule.

    Pilot Books, Seattle WA (TODAY 7pm)
    Ampersand, Portland OR (3/5/11 7:30pm)
    Ashland Public Library, Ashland OR (3/6/11 7pm)
    Rancho Parnassus, San Francisco CA (3/7/11 7pm)
    John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis CA (3/8/11 8pm)
    KKUP 91.5 FM, Cupertino (3/9/11 8pm)
    Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo CA (3/10/11 tba)
    Skylight Books, Los Angeles CA (3/12/11 5pm)

    If you can, say hi! They’d like to see you too.

    Events / 5 Comments
    March 4th, 2011 / 5:42 pm