Choire Sicha’s first book is out. I haven’t read it yet, but it is called Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City. The book party was at the East Village gay bar “The Cock,” and I have to say I have never seen it as packed as last night, at least as a pedestrian who quickly walked past it from the outside. There will be a lot of talk about the book, because almost everyone who reads (a lot?) online knows of Sicha. The book follows a group of gay men and chronicles their lives, but for some reason I trust it to not be regressive, even before I read it. I choose to believe Salon, that it will be “among a next wave of books about gay folks as full American citizens that doesn’t bother walking them through schematic journeys meant to stand in for the American Gay Experience.”
The active endeavor to ensure the meaningful participation of diverse individuals in media is integral. It helps reach a realistic and more informed view on the specifics of a broader range of identities. However, the constant overanalyzing of public figures’ gender, race and ethnicity identification choices may end up harming the very purpose they were intended to serve: letting individuals receive merit-based recognition for their objectively high-quality work.
A recent example of excessive analyzing of such nature is that of Hillary Clinton setting up a twitter account. Since the first moment she signed up for the social media website many jokes–some witty, others offensive–have been recurring. An approach that stuck out to me as particularly idiotic was the interpretation of how she chose to order the numerous qualities that define her in her two-line bio. To assert that Hillary Clinton is “anti-feminist” because she starts her twitter bio with “wife” and “mom” before addressing her professional accomplishments, is not only naive and judgmental, it is also self-righteous and flat-out manipulative. Policing the way people choose to present themselves, and telling them they are not to be taken seriously as feminists because they prioritize differently then the average feminist is expected to (?) is childish.
Additionally, who does not know that she also has served as Secretary of State? Pure common sense makes the dialogue surrounding the topic redundant. I think this line of thinking contradicts the true sense of feminism, as in such a system of order the women are provided the agency to identify how to present themselves. What about the people who use humor in their bios? Is that unethical? Are we taking things–such as a public figure’s social media presence–that seriously, and if we are, whose fault is it?
MANIPULATIVE NATURE OF THE DISCOURSE
A piece in The Millions presented a family saga focusing on the case-hardened nature of the way identity is performed by the writer and her grandmother, who seem to fall into the trap of being defined by the social expectations their social identities in how they attain and use power.
“As mixed-race girls, we learned to take what we could from where we could to make a whole. That’s a vulnerable position to be in, susceptible to second-guessing and collapse, but it’s also a crash course in manipulation. Hence the posturing of invulnerability. The multitude of ways that my grandmother and I announced a lack of need, and presented ourselves as in solid control. We don’t need you, we projected, and therefore we may have to ignore what you need as we go about proving that to ourselves once and again. One of the only things I know how to say in Chinese is: Wo zi ze lai. I can help myself.”
After its initial appearance, the ideology of representation has slowly lost a large chunk of its significance. There are times that I feel like I am not supposed to not like non-white writing, even if some of it has to be mundane, dull and entitled. The worst is when the writing is also patronizing and borders delusional. In some ways, if the argument is reduced to powerlessness as its selling point, it cannot easily be powerful when the powerlessness is not real.
I am not Miley Cyrus’ biggest fan, but an open letter addressed to her on The Huffington Post offended me. The writer aggressively requests Miley Curys ought to stop disrespecting “what feels black.” What he means of course, is that she should stop trying to emulate the rap element that currently dominates pop culture: she is white, thus cannot and must not do these things associated with what the author considers parts of the black identity, such as twerking. To claim these as an exclusive element of black culture is silly, and certainly flawed at its core: it leads to a new separation and division among people of different races. It seems like the writer might not be comfortable with a broadly inclusive culture that is not segmented the way he views it, or at least that is what the tone of his letter indicates.
His main issue and the central issue with her is her requesting producers that she was trying to go for a vibe that “feels black.” Her creative endeavor to do that cannot be offensive. It can be successful or not. While it is difficult to decide which is the case, at the end of the video for “We Can’t Stop” she smiles wearing a grill. It is not a mocking grin, rather a smile of awareness. She knows what she is doing, and she is doing it with a sense of humor.
STARK WEEK EPISODE #11: “No myth is written all at once” — Jared White on THE LAST FOUR BOOKS OF SAMPSON STARKWEATHER
For our final textual episode of Stark Week, Jared White takes us a billion years into the future, where creaky American poetballer Sampsonian Starkweathershire has released his final four books, capping over a career of the highest highs and the lowest lows and the crunchiest chicken tenders. Later today we’ll be posting TWO CONTESTS where you’ll have a chance to win your own copy of The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather. HTMLGIANT fav Unnameable Books in NYC reports that people have been stealing The First Four Books, which you shouldn’t do, but is also kind of cool, right? DON’T STEAL; WIN CONTESTS. STAY TUNED! For now, we turn to Mr. White and the year 2066—or was it 2666?
Sampson Starkweather died for the fifth time in the year 2066— or was it 2666? Either way he had already nicknamed the year to a more personable, abbreviated 2-6-6, like police scanner code: 2-6-6, year of the singularity. But was it death? Or like words, would Sampson Starkweather live on as the ghost in the machine?
Famously, Starkweather’s poetry was entirely written in a blaze during a six-year period before he reached the age of 21, at which point he abandoned writing entirely. Instead he devoted himself to long travels in the southern hemisphere as an incognito adventurer, knight errant, part-time athlete, wrestler, and stone quarry foreman. Whether he died of bodily injuries or illness or returned from his self-imposed exile a much-changed man, he was never seen from again, except in photographs and emails, traveling through the ether more slowly than the news of his death.
Then, during the war, three soldiers are said to have come to the house where Sampson Starkweather was living in the woods alone. Either because of his political beliefs or perhaps in spite of them, he was arrested without charges and executed in a field in front of the Great Fountain on the road between Viznar and Alfacar. But in outer space there are no fountains and no fields; instead there are small space-crafts and plenty of space-junk that must be steered around and so there are also frequent accidents like the one that took place in the tunnel where spaceman Sampson Starkweather was struck in the middle of the night. (What is night in between stars? In outer space is there star weather?).
His injuries at first appeared minor but in the wake of the incident his drinking became more acute. Shortly after his fortieth birthday he was found in a stupor in the stairwell of his apartment and brought to the hospital. Here, Starkweather drifted in and out of consciousness before expiring. His last words were, “My first four books did this to me.” And by some great coincidence, just down the hall on the same floor, a forty-six year old Sampson Starkweather was admitted almost simultaneously. His chief complaint was hiccups, but it was clear that what ailed him was serious and his condition worsened over the days that followed.
“Malaria?” one intrepid doctor offered, though there was no consensus. Within days, Starkweather was dead and his publishers began the long work of preparing the unfinished text of his First Four Books to be published posthumously.
Overhead, Sampson Starkweather read these books on the screen of his transom-window, writing in steam with his fingers on the glass with its fogged vantage of Mars. No myth is written all at once. And then, of course, the singularity, much delayed, in that year of sixes, when the upload was complete and the mind inside the machine became indistinguishable from the image of the body outside. (The heart in the machine is green too.)
Sampson Starkweather may still be in there, if there can be called an inside, now that time has stopped and the same year continues day after day, a permanent Tron grid of ‘80s video games stretching out into infinity: “Forget futurism… I want to talk to you without skin.”
Sampson Starkweather is Sampson Starkweather’s ghost, dying. But when a ghost dies, what happens then? When a ghost dies does it come back to life?
Jared White’s most recent chapbook, THIS IS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE LOVED BY ME, was published by Bloof Books this spring and is now available as an ebook here, here, or here. Another chap, MY FORMER POLITICS, is forthcoming from H-NGM-N. In addition to writing, he is co-owner of Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, a small press bookstore, and father of Roman Field White, a seven-month-old baby. READ MORE >
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. READ MORE >
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?“