Tonight (I guess it’s last night by now), in the basement of The Elliott Bay Book Company here in Seattle, Tao Lin read a section of his new book, Tai Pei, to a crowd of about 70-80 people, most of whom were fans.
I’ve read very little of Tao Lin but being a part of the Indie Lit community I have heard his name quite a bit. And I do know that lots of people really like “Tao Lin” and Tao Lin’s writing. And lots of people really dislike “Tao Lin” and Tao Lin’s writing. And as we walked into the bookstore one of my new Seattle buddies underscored this with the phrase “very polarizing.” My friend was referring to Tao Lin’s writing but I guess he could just easily have been referring to “Tao Lin.”
Tao began by apologizing for being late (the reading had been pushed back from 7 to 8pm) and explained that he’d missed his 9:30 (a.m.) flight and then his new flight was delayed. Tao sounded a bit under the weather. A bit like he had a sore throat. But, the reading seemed to go ok.
The Q & A, though, is where things got interesting. And pretty quick. The 2nd question was about Tao’s use of Gchat and Gmail. This was, evidently, a touchy subject for Tao and from then on the Q & A, for the most part, was Tao bemoaning the negative reviews (and tweet) Tai Pei has received so far.
I say “tweet” because Tao mentioned a tweet in which he said the editor of Publishers Weekly said he was writing a “long con.”
The Q & A became, to use Tao’s own words, one long “diatribe against reviewers.”
And it was very strange and uncomfortable to watch. Strange and uncomfortable because Tao seemed so pained and awkward in answering. So pained and awkward in his speech and body language. He seemed incredibly sad. Devastated. Crushed and upset that the book wasn’t getting the chance it deserved. (note: Tao did enjoy one clever & lively moment when he said that most of the reviews seemed to have been written by Spam Bots.)
And when, a little earlier, I wrote “bemoaning” I did so because he did come across as moaning. Whining even. There was a part of me that felt sorry for Tao, that sympathized with him. (Negative reviews can be crushing. And indeed he seemed totally crushed). But there was a part of me that was thinking “really?”
And here’s the Polarity that was sharpening in me:
Tao was either being extremely sincere — Or it was a total put-on.
And without any real “Tao” experience I really couldn’t say. In my mind it was 50/50. And if tonight was anything to go by I can totally understand why people either really like or really dislike “Tao Lin.” Watching him suffer, or seem to, was like watching a coin turning, heads, tails, heads, tails.
This all being said it was a “Tao Lin” crowd and almost every one in attendance lined up after the Q & A to have “Tao Lin” sign their copy of Tai Pei—and, as I walked by, on my way out, I glanced down at the book he was signing and saw that he’d drawn a large, elaborate cat.
The Fassbinder Diaries by James Pate is now available. I had the pleasure of blurbing this (along with Johannes Göransson and Ken Baumann). The book contains many strange and beautiful pieces, including Pig Beach which you can read here. Pig Beach is one of my favorite contemporary poems In fact I like it so much I’ve mixed bits of it in to some of my readings:
The human sand pink and the pig wall burnt.
The beach light bright in the pig eye.
You can get The Fassbinder Diaries here
At City Lit in Logan Square, at 6:30pm. Curt will be reading from his new book, The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers, which just came out through Melville House.
I did my Master’s degree with Curt at Illinois State University, and he’s one of the smartest and best writers I know. (He’s one of the two profs who first got me reading Viktor Shklovsky.) In the 1980s, he and Ron Sukenick transformed Fiction Collective into FC2, and I learned about FC2 (and ISU) partly through the two “sampler collections” they put out (something I wish more presses did). Curt’s also written seven works of fiction, including The Idea of Home and Memories of My Father Watching TV, and now five works of nonfiction, including his infamous attack on Terry Gross (among other things), The Middle Mind. (He may not have made Gross cry, but he sure pissed off a lot of her fans.)
I’m only halfway through this new book (and will be writing more about it later), but so far I’d describe it as an attack on the idea, currently very en vogue, that scientific knowledge is the only or most superior form of knowledge, and thus the only means of accounting for what it means to be human. Right from the start Curt shows how much of science’s own knowledge is shoddy and unexamined. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear scientists like Stephen Hawking claim that the universe is beautiful, but how do they understand beauty? Not very well, Curt argues. Like in The Spirit of Disobedience, Curt demonstrates how other intellectual traditions—specifically Romanticism, which he traces through the Beats and punk—offer a way around and past some of the more inane debates consuming so many today, such as “science vs. religion.” Plus he’s funny, too.
If you’re in Chicago this Thursday, come by and hear Curt! Discussion will follow during which you can ask him embarrassing questions.
Back on April 1st, I reviewed three of Barry N. Malzberg’s brilliant 1970s novels: Beyond Apollo (1972), The Men Inside (1972), and Galaxies (1975). The post provoked some interesting responses that I’d like to highlight.
1. Beyond Apollo is currently being adapted into a feature-length film. Bill Pullman has been cast as the Captain, which seems to me an excellent choice. The project’s only in pre-production, though, so we may not make it to Venus. (You can read more about the project at Bloody Disgusting.)
2. Derik Badman pointed out that several Malzberg titles are coming back into print in Kindle eBook editions, including Galaxies and Herovit’s World (1973), among others.
3. Audible editions are also becoming available: Beyond Apollo, Herovit’s World, Underlay (1974), The Sodom and Gomorrah Business (1974), Guernica Night (1974), and Galaxies, among others.
4. In my review, I noted how Malzberg referenced several of his contemporaries in Galaxies—Donald Barthelme, John Cheever, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates—then wondered whether any of them had read him. Well, according to Jeffrey Canino:
Joyce Carol Oates did read Malzberg: in 1975 she reviewed his excellent SF novel Guernica Night for The New York Times. She was rather complimentary, noting that its concerns were “poetic and philosophical” while bemoaning the default categorization that SF like this suffers, regardless of merit, from general fiction-reading audiences. This review was, I believe the only major piece of critical attention Malzberg received outside of the field.
I found a copy of the review in ProQuest; it ran on 21 September, 1975 (“A Speculative Fiction”).
5. Oates’s recent anthology New Jersey Noir (2011) also contains a piece by Malzberg. I believe that volume is available only as a Kindle eBook?
6. While poking around in the Times, I came across an 8 March 1987 letter to the editor by Malzberg, regarding Harold Bloom’s critique of Thomas Wolfe:
But before we leave the word “unreadable” as the final judgment on Wolfe’s prose, it ought to be noted that buried in the many millions of words of edited or unedited garbage is a short piece (extracted for a collection) called “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn,” which, I submit, is one of the great American short stories.
7. Finally, here are two lengthy Malzberg bibliographies I’ve found. The first is at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, and the second one is from an old Geocities site. (I haven’t cross-referenced them, though—yet!)
You are invited to a press conference on May 3, 2013 at CAGE83, 83a Hester Street in NYC to announce the official launch of VanessaPlace Inc. (http://vanessaplace.biz/).
VanessaPlace is a trans-national corporation whose sole mission is to design and manufacture objects to meet the poetic needs of the human heart, face, and form. We are what we sell, we sell what we are – It’s not the point, it’s the platform. Here is a press release with more details on this project.
On the evening of May 3, CEO Vanessa Place will introduce VanessaPlace Inc. and its core management team:
- Joseph A. W. Quintela, Director of Finance (New York)
- Ana Bozicevic, Director of Marketing (New York)
- Steve Giasson, Director of Production (Montreal)
The launch will feature the exclusive debut of the first object-product of VanessaPlace Inc., a very limited edition of which will be available only at the press conference.
We are also seeking sponsors for the event – more details on that here: http://vanessaplace.biz/news/
Hope to see you there — let me know if you have any questions.
32 pages, soft cover, stapled
$5 (First Class postage paid)
It’s a chapbook. It’s one long poem. It’s freaking awesome.
It’s in a baggie because the lettering is made out of lemonade. It’s made out of lemonade because lemonade is an important element in the poem.
Listen to him read the entire thing here.
Drag City has just re-issued Harmony Korine’s long out-of-print novel A Crackup at the Race Riots, first published in 1997.
On Letterman, back in 1997, Korine described it as “The Great American Choose Your Own Adventure Novel.”
Without giving too much away, I’ll say it behaves like a bumblebee. Notes of David Markson, Joe Brainard, and Kathy Acker can be detected. Also Andy Warhol and Andy Kaufman. But these flavors are also misleading. Both Tupac and MC Hammer make appearances. Not to mention a startling revelation about Jackson Pollock’s sexual proclivities.
I’ll soon be interviewing him about it for The Paris Review Daily, so be on the look out. I plan to ask him about the relationship between the book and his avant garde tap dancing movement.
Buy it from Amazon $12.89
But it from Drag City $18.00 / or $9.99 for PDF
First new book of 2013? Yep. Jen Michalski has three books coming out this year—one each from Dzanc, Black Lawrence and Aqueous Books. The first, Could You Be With Her Now, is itself sort of like two books, because it’s made up of two novellas. They’re both comprised of short chapters. “I Can Make it to California Before it’s Time for Dinner” is a story about a mentally, uh, diminished kid who kills somebody within the first 1000 words, then goes on an adventure by getting kidnapped. It’s really great, reminds me of Joyce Carol Oates in a good way. The second novella, “May – December,” is about a young woman helping an older one do a blog. I heard her read from it on Saturday and was struck by the way she braids memories around each other. Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer. Could You Be With Her Now makes me want to yell GOAL! and celebrate the first part of Jen’s 2013 hat trick.
It is my pleasure to tell you that Requited #8 is now online. This issue features:
- Fiction by Thomas Mundt, Berit Ellingsen, and Matt Rowan;
- Poetry by Lucy Biederman, Carol Guess & Kristina Marie Darling, Gillian Cummings, Zachary Scott Hamilton, Kamden Hilliard, Kati Mertz, M. Pfaff, Amanda Silbernagel, and Michelle Sinsky;
- Performance pieces by Marisa Plumb, Dave Snyder, and Brian Torrey Scott;
- Visual art by Tyler Mallory (including the image you see above);
- Jeff Bursey’s review of Sam Savage’s Glass.
Check it out!
. . .
I am the non-fiction and reviews editor for Requited and am always eager to consider submissions. Previously I’ve published work by William Bowers, Jeremy M. Davies, Julianne Hill, Steve Katz, Mark Rappaport, Keiler Roberts, Viktor Shklovsky, and Curtis White, as well as interviews with Robert Ashley, Vanessa Place, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Curtis White, and reviews by Daniel Green and Jeff Bursey.
Also, please do check out the Requited‘s steadily swelling archives, where you’ll find poetry by Molly Gaudry and Nate Pritts, fiction by James Tadd Adcox, Jimmy Chen, Jac Jemc, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Suzanne Scanlon, and (ahem) myself, as well as many other nice fine things.
Probably I shouldn’t post this. Probably I should just keep my mouth shut.
But a few people have written and asked me to explain what happened, having heard about the fight from one source or another.
Basically, things got ugly between Blake Butler and Vanessa Place, nine days ago, down here in Florida, when the three of us convened for the first time as a group since the publication of our collaboration ONE.
By the end of the night, which began with me introducing them, and then each of them reading, and then the three of us conversing with the audience, Vanessa had vowed to never speak to Blake again.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know how it happened. (Which is partly why I haven’t written about it until now.) It just sort of happened.
One of them said something about the other one being too orderly or too chaotic or too derivative or something — at least that’s how I think it started — which I thought was a joke, but apparently it wasn’t taken as a joke.
The next thing you know they’re shouting at each other.
The audience, not knowing how to react, weren’t sure if they should laugh or be worried. I was pretty much in the same boat.
I tried to stay out of it, partly because I was confused and partly because I didn’t want them to turn on me.
Over a hundred people were in the audience that night, so there are plenty of versions of what happened. But from my perspective, to put it generously, it seemed like a moment when two different approaches to literature were coming face to face and not for the purpose of a warm embrace.
The great Spanish poet Luna Miguel has a bilingual, Spanish/English-translation book coming out from Scrambler Books, entitled Bluebird and Other Tattoos. It ships December 22nd. Here is my blurb for it:
Luna Miguel is a poet who can make me cry. Her passion for life and for poetry is uncommon. She makes language concise, supple, and exciting again. Recurring images: of birds, disease, spit, and blood, integral to a mortal, embodied poetry that reminds us ‘Death cannot be experienced neither for the living nor the dead but for the sick.’ Luna writes a poem, ‘The Beautiful World Gives Me Disgust.’ She writes, ‘I exist, therefore, / then I tremble.’ She writes of the suicidal poets, she writes of all women, she writes of the young. She writes knowing it’s a lie, she lives in the shadow of death. Luna writes of her ‘unprotected life,’ her ‘unprotected diary.’ There is no comfort in this poetry, there is hard beauty. ‘The wind was this. Being born was this. Dying without dying and without a disease was this. To tell you the truth: I am here and I need you.’ Luna.
Mira Gonzalez‘s first book, i will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together, is now available for pre-order from Sorry House, a new press founded by Spencer Madsen. It will be published in January. The trailer above is by Meggie Green and Michael Inscoe.
It’s a book of poems. I’ve read the manuscript and enjoyed it. The poems are declarative, metaphorical, full of imagination and dreams as well as physical events. They create a feeling of rudderlessness, an uncanny mixture of confusion, sadness, and detached introspection.
As an added bonus, Mira is a real fun, nice person to interact with, and her Twitter is very enjoyable and funny and zany.
Sorry House has rounded up an impressive group of blurbs from Blake Butler, Melissa Broder, Brad Listi, Tao Lin, and Victor “Kool A.D.” Vazquez.
I feel nice that Mira will have a book out in January and I’m glad Spencer is making a press according to his particular tastes and collaborating with lots of good people.
I hope Justin Sirois gets back to work soon. He’s written five installments of a really fun serial novel called So Say the Waiters. It’s as gripping as 24 or whatever your favorite TV show is these days. Each episode, which takes like an hour to read, ends with a cliffhanger.
I hope he gets back to work because I really want know what happens in episode 6.
Since the beginning of autumn, Justin has been releasing the episodes separately as eBooks for like $.99. Now he’s bundled what I guess would be the “first season” in a printed book, and he’s doing a contest to promote it. To win the contest, you have to send in a kidnapping scenario. The best idea, as judged by Michael Kimball and Ken Baumann, will have their submission written into a future section of the book. That’s neat.
It might seem weird that the contest is based on writing a kidnapping situation, but it wouldn’t if you’re familiar with So Say the Waiters. It’s all about this smartphone app/social network through which people can sign up to be kidnapped. It’s actually not that farfetched, the way Justin handles it. The characters seem like real people. They just want to escape for a while.
When I want to escape, I read a book like this one. I read it on my iPhone.
Todd Grimson is one of the great living cult novelists. I’ve known him for a few years, under strange circumstances. He wrote Brand New Cherry Flavor, which is both one of my favorite horror novels and my favorite novel about Hollywood and the film industry. He also wrote the underground vampire classic Stainless. Both were recently re-released by Schaffner Press, which is now publishing his new collection of stories, Stabs at Happiness, in pleasing hardcover.
I asked Todd some questions about Stabs at Happiness and about his strange life and career.
For a while, you assumed the name “I. Fontana” and published stories in BOMB, Juked, The Quarterly, Lamination Colony, Word Riot, PANK, the Voice Literary Supplement, Bikini Girl, Spork and many others. We corresponded for some time before I knew your real name. Why did you adopt that name?
Fontana comes from “Fontana Mix,” a composition by John Cage I heard when I was 13. READ MORE >
The other one, the one called Borges, is the one who skates at the Place de la Concorde on blocks of ice. I walk through the streets of the 8th Arrondissement, and stop for a moment, perhaps touristically now, to look at a book of old photographs; I know of Borges from the posters for sale at German websites. I like the Champs-Élysées, its cafes and guillotines and obelisks; he shares these preferences, but swishes by, vainly, a total showoff. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship, as in the Reign of Terror; I live, I escape the fate of Marie Antoinette and Danton and Robespierre, so that Borges may contrive his skating, and this skating justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid figure eights, but those maneuvers cannot save me, even if he makes the Olympic team. Perhaps his perfect 10 form belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to whomever has coached him, or posed him for what upon careful review is clearly a posed photograph. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, while he will end up for sale online, or hung up in a physics classroom in a high school in Philadelphia. Little by little, thus, by means of confusion, I am becoming him, lassoing cars, and scooting along behind them, much like in Back to the Future, a film I will never see, as I will go blind—not to mention, die roughly one year after its theatrical release, which means that one can assume I never saw it, as I had by that time moved to Switzerland to die from liver cancer, and the IMDb doesn’t record a Swiss theatrical release (though Argentina got it right after Christmas, the bastards). (I did see Citizen Kane, and King Kong, for what it’s worth, and I reviewed them.)
Gabriel Vahanian, author of the book The Death of God: The Culture of Our Post-Christian Era, died on Saturday, September 8. He was 85.
He was not an atheist. He was a theologian and critic of what he referred to as “Religiosity,” Christianity that appealed broadly to his contemporary culture, that embraced faith without doubt, that was literal in its interpretations of the Bible, that was “trivial.” Here he reveals the death of God in the names we give God: READ MORE >
Introducing Colin Winnette’s new book, Animal Collection, available from Spork Books. Look at that letterpressed hardcover, wouldja? The first sentence is “It’s in your best interests to take the beaver’s calls.” You can read an excerpt here or catch Colin on tour and buy one to his face.
Alternatively, “Who Could Win a Rabbit?“
1. Hobart 2.0, wow, with new web features, etc.
2. Diagram 12.4 is OUT!
3. Joshua Cohen:
The repetitions are, in my mind, linked to the idea that the Internet is conceptually vast, but you end up spending the bulk of your time visiting the same sites again and again (or perhaps this is just my own practice). I’m not especially interested in the variety of the Internet; rather I’m interested in the human experience of the promise of variety, a promise fulfilled only by a similarity or sameness, and the idea that the computer seems to license every option of virtuality, while our own humanity seems limited, or to self-limit, through laziness or shame, to the same thing every day.
7. Disorientation, a reading list, at The Millions:
11. My writing tip of the day: It isn’t done when you think it is done.
5. My Grading Scale for the Fall Semester, Composed Entirely of Samuel Beckett Quotes. (By Matt Bell)
Rose Metal Press makes a wonderful chapbook. Shampoo Horns, for example. It feels like hair, if the hair was made of Pop-Tarts or red sun and waterfalls of beer. It was printed on a Vandercook letterpress, with care. It smells like dandelion broth. The entire book-making process is fascinating and you can see it here:
This book has 19 short stories, linked. This would be a good book to examine while considering the nuances/decisions/contemplations of a linked collection. You could ask the author, “What kind of things did you think about when ordering the collection?” You could get Winesburg, Ohio and stack it upright on the dirty kitchen floor and then take three paces and place Shampoo Horns on the disgusting floor (pasta sauce and dream stains, etc.) and then you could fill in the space between the two with other linked books, like stack them into bones or whatnot, and you would have yourself a self-education session. (If you aren’t going to autodidact, you are doomed.)
This book contains red plastic cups, you know the cups, so simple yet they connote so much (even their name–solo). I bet you’ve held a red, plastic cup. Cradled it. Sucked from. There are also “pink flamingos with missing heads” and “stray huskies” and a “overgrown toddler without a shirt” and a “trash bag flapping” and “bologna sandwiches” and “MTV” and “wood panel walls” and a mobile home full of angels and “Texas drawl” and “shit-filled Underoos” and a dildo in a swimming pool and “RV’s” and “a busted La-Z-Boy” and a “greasy ball cap” and a “plastic vodka bottle” and a lot of other THINGS. Agglomeration. Interesting method of delivering the world from a child/boy’s POV. Most don’t do it well. But Teel does, by creating a tornado-like effect of THINGS spinning by, the narrator watching the world blur. Puzzlement and understanding are the milieu of a boy, an aging boy. Your parents are no longer some minor gods. Pain enters life (this world can hurt). And, of course, sex—this strange, persistent force—is in the air. Possibly this is a trailer park Bildungsroman.