“I’m ’bout to go in, like, two seconds.”
“I don’t really use metaphors or punchlines, ’cause I don’t have to. I’d rather just say what’s going on right now. Real talk.”
“Please don’t write no fuck-shit.”
“It’s like candy, eating candy, a lot of candy. Or something.”
“Haters is fans. Like Louie said, ‘Let’em talk: it’s advertising.’”
“Keep working. I worked for a long time. Instead of saying I want to grow up to be a police officer, I want to grow up to be a firefighter, I want to grow up to be a doctor, a lawyer—I made this a goal.”
“I don’t know who to listen to.” READ MORE >
|Project Name:||Hipsters of Brooklyn (NY)|
|Project Type:||Reality TV|
|Requesting Submissions From:||New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico|
Role Type: Principal
Gender: Male or Female / 19 to 32 / All Ethnicities
For HIPSTERS ONLY (a Hipster is not “Hip Hop”): They typically live in Williamsburg and are overeducated, snobbish, androgynous, intellectual, liberal, artsy, trust fund kids and dress funky…or at least fit this prototype! We are looking for great CHARACTERS…Hipsters that have HUGE personalities: If you are an obnoxious jerk and curse often please show this. If you are snobbish and mean please show this.
“I think my sense of style is evolving.”
“I don’t really have goals as far as, I want to be on a cover or something like that.”
“I play into the perception of me, but it’s not really me.”
“I am hands-on in any project that I am associated with. I just don’t want to put my face or name and lend it to a product that I’m not behind a hundred percent.”
“I always say you shouldn’t weigh yourself. I don’t even have a set of scales in my house.”
“I am fascinated by crime scene investigating. I swear, I wish I was a crime scene investigator sometimes!”
“Botox to me is not surgery.”
“I am really cautious about what I say and do.”
“I want to be a vampire. I kind of want to be evil.” READ MORE >
I am interested in life only in its absurd manifestation. I find abhorrent heroics, pathos, moralizing, all that is hygienic and tasteful … both as words and as feelings.
3. Mountain climber/author tells Random House to stick it over royalties for ebooks.
Suddenly it was as if I’d been getting my ass kicked in an alley somewhere and realized I’d had one arm behind my back. All of my natural abilities, I saw, had been placed, by me, behind a sort of scrim. Among these were: humor, speed, the scatological, irreverence, compression, naughtiness. All I had to do was tear down the scrim and allow those abilities to come to the table.
5. Interview with founders of Recommended Reading, and you should probably go byno-border (with your gaze) recommended readings anyway I mean if you’re not at this time already.
6. This is pretty great about Daniil Kharms. It’s not brand new but I don’t really care if it follows all the rules of blogs (?) and it seems to me you can post what you want and how or whatever when discussing Mr. Kharms. I think he writes like whales (killer) sneeze.
6. Here’s a really bad poem.
There is a moment at the very end of this Vice documentary called True Norwegian Black Metal where the subject of the film, Gaahl of Gorgoroth, says ominously, “I don’t think that you ask me the right questions. I don’t think you’re focusing on what’s being told.”
The interviewer responds, “Guide me.”
Gaahl then proceeds to zone out for three long minutes. His eyes remain open, but his expression becomes blank as a corpse. The filmmaker wisely resists cutting the camera or prompting Gaahl to speak. Instead, we are forced to watch him. At the end of his silent stare his eyes widen dramatically. Without speaking, he shifts his stare to the interviewer and raises his wine glass to his lips.
We await a response. Nothing happens. We await an explanation, a moment of clarity, resolution, some type of understanding. None is revealed.
“Don’t ask what it means or what it refers to,” the artist Eva Hesse famously told viewers, “Don’t ask what the work is. Rather, see what the work does.”
The image of Gaahl’s face as he sits motionless. What does it do?
SOME TIME AGO I had a breakthrough: I discovered I could hate my food. I was at a bar and ordered a burger I knew was a good one. I’d ordered it before and had every reason to look forward to it. I was in a shitty mood tho, so when it arrived, I made it the object of my disdain and aggression. I h(ated) the fucker GONE, right out of existence.
You always hear people say things like, “I demolished that pizza,” or, “I murdered that salmon mousse,” but how often does the appropriate emotion coincide with the act of eating?
Boldly I say, Fuck Sustenance.
Nutritional, cultural, social, or otherwise.
I began to think about and experiment with Gratitude. Much of the past fews years of my life have been spent in pursuit of a pious, modest asceticism and a general thankfulness toward what little I’m ever blessed with. I’ve got some roots in Christian Mysticism, and I value the perspective of wretchedness before the awesomeness of Divinity, the worm-like tininess we occupy even as we are loved and ultimately embraced in undifferentiated Bliss.
But what about getting things done?
Being God is the only thing worth doing.
“She comes to a rest in shadow. Above her is an overhang of chickenwire and tins. She freezes. Above her is a terrible shape, a jagged many-limbed thing, a tree tangled from the composites of aerials and tv innards, plastic extrusions like growths in its multipart trunk, thorns of glass and shattered plates. Its branches splay – finger after finger of tubing, and intricate wicked ribbing. Dangling from them like dirty dank foliage, like the skins of victims, are dish clothes, and umbrellas’ countless ripped canopies. Nylon in dinged colours.”
“I used to compare everything in poems to metallic sheets of mica, the transparent fragments that flake off so easily. I never say I’m a poet; I just say “writer” and no one ever asks “a writer of what?” Once a man told me he was in the business of prosthetic limbs and I was speechless.”
— Stephanie Balzer, The Destroyer Vol 1.2
“We had a president living here once,
After he was president.
A famous animator lived here too.
We’d see him feeding the ducks.
This used to be a big duck town.
Ducks had a real voice.
Then one night they left for New Haven.”
— from “A Little Background” by James Haug, Connotation Press
The moon is bright in this part of Massachusetts.
There is pie downstairs but nobody is eating it.
I was very drunk at one point. Now I don’t know.
People kept talking about money.
I can’t tell how much conversation about things I incited or what I might have said.
People kept talking about politics.
Everything seems fat and watery. I was in my dad’s shed in the backyard.
The Lions really fucked up, but it will have an asterisk if you think about it.
There’s always more to drink in the garage.
I walked to the high school and kicked four field goals. Some coaches came out of the locker room and looked at me. I looked at them and missed badly.
In the bed in my childhood room this morning I read the “Nausicaa” chapter.
I can’t tell if anyone fell asleep or got sick.
I downloaded five CDs of guitar music.
This isn’t what I planned to do while I was sitting on the toilet a few minutes ago.
Some people were walking around the track then drove home.
The pavement looks white from over here.
I remember I thought this morning I smelled.
MAGICK IS SUCH my jam it’s the best. To intervene, to sculpt the forces in motion that lie ever behind all phenomena – I really don’t know how to work any other way. Even tho I suck at math, I’m pretty boss at jimmying an algorithm, noticing how the hidden variables shift and float. Numbers are less important than access to archetypes, gods as guides dropping this or that for us to notice, signposts and gestures, fleeting affinities that when frozen stand as nexus-objects multi-dimensional we can intuit beyond boundary. With the Will, that’s us – burning variable altering environment by manipulating the living furniture in the hidden room behind.
The letter word the sign is never not a sigil. Given, there are greater and lesser degrees of involvement. Sometimes the immobility of the intent is monolithic and plinth-like, entirely discernible, or else it’s more about the splitting/rejoining of a designated grammar, terms or characters as place-holders for the energies contained therein, their recombinant effect resulting in whatever transcendent endgame is necessary to render organs null and of a single glowing body.
Expression bunches and twists the only fabric, tears through veils, the silence, so that we might recalibrate, effect a given change, order what we know as Chaos and the rest of it.
One thing I’ve noticed is that literary writing by self-identifying occultists is often quite bad, even as (or because) it demonstrates its principles. On the other hand, literary writers who’re interested in the dynamics of occult philosophy and practice have generally produced exciting work.
The best example, my go-to guy, is Henri Michaux. More adept at watching his own imagination than any other artist I can think of, he explored inner worlds, wrote exorcisms, and all the time revealed his process. The most memorable piece in this vein is a malediction called “I AM ROWING”: READ MORE >
Last August I attended a live reenactment of Total Recall (the classic 1990 version, natch, not the remake). It was a deliberately shambolic affair, a loosely-focused variety show run by Everything Is Terrible and Odds N’ Ends, involving puppets, videos, intentionally bad acting, and dancing. It was, I suppose, what some would call “hip” or “ironic.”
At one point we watched a reedited version of one Total Recall‘s many chase scenes—the infamous escalator shootout where Arnold uses a bystander as a shield—now set to Drowning Pool’s “Bodies.” (You can watch the video here.) Which is about as cliched as it gets, but it totally works as comedy.
Part of what makes the video funny is that the Everything Is Terrible folks have upped the intensity of the Drowning Pool song: “Let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor … Oh, wait, they’re totally stepping on that dead guy’s squishy body—ick.” Here we must pause responsibly to acknowledge that Drowning Pool frontman David Williams has always stated that the song is not actually about “the violence thing,” but rather the “respect and code” of the mosh pit, or some such other bullshit. That hasn’t stopped Hollywood folk from using the song in numerous action movie trailers. Nor has it deterred legions of Drowning Pool fans from making their own YouTube versions.
In other words, the Everything Is Terrible video’s ironic effect depends on the pairing being a cliché. Like a lot of satirical and ironic art, it proceeds by imitating an otherwise naïve or sincere effect, then subverting it. (This is why “irony vs. sincerity” is often an unhelpful binary when thinking about phenomena like hipster irony or the New Sincerity; those scenes or movements aren’t strict artistic opposites, since they necessarily share a lot of their aesthetic maneuvers. Where they differ usually lies more in their degree of self-effacement, and in their authorial intention.)
Hipster irony is commonly perceived purely as dismissal: “You’re just making fun of Drowning Pool.” And there’s certainly truth in that—fuck Drowning Pool! But is that all there is? Because the EIT video, I think, and the entire Totally Recalled show, could be perceived as something more. Those behind the show, and those in attendance, I’d argue, were actually trying to appreciate “Bodies”—but in the only way they now can. Irony, in other words, allows hipster audiences to make use of material that would otherwise be off-limits to them.
It won’t surprise you that I want to turn here to Viktor Shklovsky, because he identified a concept that I think might help us. It is his concept of deterioration:
Let’s start with a simple one: Write the strangest, grammatically correct 25-word-long sentence that you can.
If you want an additional challenge or jumping-off point, you can specify that one or more words must be included.
Using this random word generator, I came up with the word “abbeys.” So let’s try writing a few strange 25-word-long sentences with that word:
I’M IN THIS screen. So who cares that’s easy. The average American spends more than half their waking hours looking at one of these. That’s the word, anyways. And so you figure our neurological roads lean hard toward our being mostly screen. Dude McLuhan said something about how the advent of television, in contrast to the film projector, threw light upon rather than in front of us and made us screens that way as well. Something about how this left a gap in which the act of viewing became participatory, created an organic circuit.
So I’m in this screen and I AM this screen. I’m also positioned in front of or outside the screen. That’s already a trianglejob, without even considering the other very hard.
Every mage of the ages melted down and flattened all their shewing stones and crystal balls to make the LCD we’re gazing hard and scrying in. Whether the display is a window, a mirror, or a screen proper, or if the difference between those is even worth speculating on, it doesn’t change our being here, suspended outside time and space in a locus we’ve taken mostly for granted. What a bunch of witchy fucking cyborgs we’ve become. I’m either psyched on or repulsed by that depending on the mood.
What the shit is nature..? If we’ve developed these powers of sight and being as we have because they were inevitable then there’s no hard line. READ MORE >
<:-O___>:-0___\:-/_____ “Can anything be poetic? Well maybe the same way nearly anything can be spray-painted.”
Piggybacking on Mike’s earlier post, I have long found it curious that the romance novel is the one genre no one wants to defend. (See, for instance, this comment.) But time was, romance was the genre.
It seems to me that the contemporary romance novel—of the paperback bodice ripper variety (see right)—arrived on our shores of our literary imagination in no small part due to writers like D. H. Lawrence. And what could be more literary than Lawrence? I myself can conceive of no formal reason why a romance novel can’t be art. Indeed, I suspect that someone out there is already writing great ones. (Hell, isn’t Lolita a romance novel?)
Part of what I love about this Chicago Reader review of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is its understanding of how Stephanie Meyers’s books and the resulting films—regardless of their quality (I haven’t read or seen them yet, though I intend to)—do partake of a larger literary tradition:
A Summary of Our Academic Conference, The Unstable and [de] Mutable Boundaries Between Meteorological Atrocities and Human Political Economies with Bodies-as-Subjects Coming Into Being As They Are
The approach of Hurricane Sandy has already altered the entire course of me and my friend’s lives. On Sunday, I was supposed to shop for vintage sweaters and attend a poetry brothel. These would’ve probably been some wonderful moments. But Hurricane Sandy put a stop to all my hypothetically marvelous adventures.
Instead my friends and I were bunkered in our apartment in Alphabet City.
What were we to do?
If we were VIDA, then we could count the number of times a masculine pronoun appeared in this week’s NYT Book Review and then compare it to the number of times that a feminine pronoun appeared in this week’s NYT Book Review and then get really angry about it and channel all of our anger into a neat and tidy chart.
If we were overly anxious New York Jews then we could close down the subway system at 7 PM, hold press conferences using folksy idioms like “up and about,” and dress like men who spend a great deal of time in well-off subdivisions of Connecticut.
Also, if we were male homosexuals, we could have sex nonstop sans condoms.
But my friends and I aren’t any of those things. So, in lieu of that, we chose to hold an academic conference that had an awful lot of relevance to our current predicament. Our conference, which was held last night (28 Oct. 2012), was called The Unstable and [de] Mutable Boundaries Between Meteorological Atrocities and Human Political Economies with Bodies-as-Subjects Coming Into Being As They Are. This conference has already been compared to some of the most vivid and vivacious academic conferences ever held.
Here’s a summary:
The sun on her carpet was swirling up into a fire of magnesium blues and sulfurous browns, a mushroom cloud of flame and smoke, with little Ignatz and his metal necktie rising serenely on top. Top o’ the World, Ma! Once more she was watching a fire storm that she had somehow caused, and it was shaking her apart! She felt like she had a snake coiling inside her, yet the snake was her, and she was inside it. The snake was made of blackness and stars. And every star in the snake was another smaller snake that was made of blackness and stars, and those stars were snakes made of blackness and stars. The snake was the beginning and end of things: death biting the tail of love, every yes that became no that became love become hate become yes again. The snake would kill her but it would give birth to her, too, over and over, if only she could keep the snake together. And the only way to do that was to get the tail of it into her own mouth, to bite the beginning and end of things and be the circle.
from Krazy Kat: a novel in five panels, 1988, by Jay Cantor
I have this short story collection called May We Shed These Human Bodies that just came out from Curbside Splendor, and I think probably the thing people ask most often about it is “how do you put together a short story collection?” And honestly, I have no fucking clue. But I can tell you that this version of the collection, the version that Curbside Splendor picked up, is probably the tenth version of this collection. It has had other names, other stories, other orders and versions, has been longer or shorter, and at one point in its long history of rejection sat in my laptop’s trash for four months. It has been rejected or ignored by nine publishers in its various forms. So what I can tell you, judging by my own experience only, is how NOT to put together a short story collection – at least, if you want it to be published.
DO NOT say to yourself, Well, I’ve got a lot of stories now, so I guess it’s time to shove them all into a manuscript and send it around. This is not a good reason to compile a short story collection. Are your stories good? Do they complement each other in some way? Do they reflect the very best of your writing? Then by all means, go to it. But be aware: selling a short story collection is very difficult. Editors like novels. Some presses only publish novels. This doesn’t meant that you won’t be able to sell your collection but do not think that this will be an easy task. As a short story writer, you already have an uphill battle to fight. If you’re working on a novel, or have a fantastic idea for a novel, it might be better to just do that instead. If, like me, you are deep-in-your-soul a short story writer, then I am sorry for you and glad for you. Just be prepared for a long slog.
DO NOT treat your story collection like a mix tape. Please dear god no stop do not do this. I followed this advice, or tried to follow it, because I heard it over and over again. I think writers repeat it because they want their book to be as cool as an album. Look. Stories are not songs. Trying to figure out how to make your book like a mix tape will drive you crazy (long short long? Two depressing stories and an upbeat one?) and will be, in the end, completely useless to you. If you really, really like the idea of a mix tape, go and make one for your friend or lover or sibling and get it off your chest. Then go back to compiling your book.
DO NOT include every single piece of shit you’ve ever written in your collection. If your story collection is too short without it, then guess what? You don’t have enough material for a collection yet. No filler. Be selective. I even had to cut some of my favorite stories out of my book because they just didn’t fit anywhere, so they eventually had to come out. I’m sure my stubbornness about that cost me a few publishers at least.
DO NOT send a book full of only short shorts to a publisher. Unless that is all you write, of course, and then I cannot help you. I’ve written a lot more flash fiction than I have longer stories, but have you noticed? People who aren’t writers hate flash. Which is most of the people who you want to buy your book. So if you want to fill your collection up with a lot of flash fiction (and mine has a lot) you have to a) balance that shit out with some longer pieces and b) be prepared for readers to ignore all your flash and only love your longer pieces. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Don’t believe me? Talk to your non-writer friends and family and ask them what they think of page-long, two-page-long stories. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
DO NOT misspell the first word of your first sentence of your first story in your collection, and force the poor publisher rejecting you to inform you of this problem. Did this happen to me? Yes, yes it did. And by “happen to me,” I mean, “I was a fucking dumbass who thought I could catch all my own mistakes while writing.” Don’t let this be you. Use Spellcheck for the love of all things holy and good.
DO NOT save the best for last. Save the best for first. Put every single “best” story in the beginning. Frontload that motherfucker and then frontload it some more. Great story, great story, great story, great story – keep them hooked and don’t let them read anything less than your best until at least halfway through. In fact, let all of the stories be your best. Keep pushing the reader in, not letting up, and end on a high note, too. This is another good reason to include only the best stories in your collection. People are distracted and fidgety. Haven’t you heard? We are all A.D.D. now. We are all caught up in the speed of the tubes. Don’t give people a reason to stop reading. Don’t sell that collection until everything in it is the best goddamn thing you’ve even written. And even then, cut the weakest best. Cut more. Write better. Cut more. Write best. Then send it out. Then cross your fingers and toes. Then hope for the best and prepare for the long, slow wreck of the worst.
What about you guys? What have you all learned not to do when compiling a collection of short fiction? How about the poets out there? Non-fiction writers? What rules of the road do you guys try to follow?
The 2012 Realist Sex Novel Kerfuffle (a response to Blake and Stephen, involving also cowboys, Atlas Shrugged, and the Franzen/Marcus debate)
Blake has stated, over at Vice, that he doesn’t want to read any more books about straight white people having sex. Stephen has stated, right here, that he is prepared to read many more novels about people fucking. There are substantial differences in these claims that we could pause to examine (“don’t want to read” vs. “am prepared to read”; “straight white people” vs. “people”; “sex” vs. “fucking”), but forgive me if I let those subtleties drop. Because I would rather observe that, if this is the scope of the debate, then it’s akin to one person saying, “I am tired of books about dogs, and no longer want to read more novels about them,” to which someone else replies, “I’m still willing to read some canine fiction.”
Recast in that light, it’s easy to see that neither person is right or wrong. How could they be? It is simply a matter of taste. One man has gotten tired of all those dog books. The other man is not yet so tired. The literary market, no doubt, will cater to them both. And perhaps, over time, demand for dog-free writing will grow, and drown out the pro-dog side, and the market will shift and, for some time, it will be hard to come by a copy of Marley and Me. (Here it might be helpful to replace “dogs” with some other thing, like vampires, or zombies, or alt-lit.) But through it all, one’s preference is perfectly free to steadfastly remain one’s preference. What’s not at stake, in other words, is the right to like whatever you like. The books you read say something about the person you are, and you should be proud of whoever you are! Display your chosen book(s) on the train to signal your affiliation with one of this nation’s many vibrant subcultures. Who knows? Another member of that subculture may spot you, in which case you can exchange nods, smiles, kisses! What’s more, today, thanks to the Internet, you can even make a list of the books that you like, then talk with fellow fans! (There are even web-sites devoted to this!)
Let’s try thinking instead about this argument in terms of genre. A new cowboy movie has comes out, and you and all of your friends go see it. Afterward, you’re wondering whether it’s any good or not …
I haven’t read Sheila Heti or Ben Lerner’s recent novels, the impetuses for Blake Butler’s recent, anti-realism-themed Vice article, but I’d like to respond to Blake’s finely-written itemized essay, because I, personally, continue to desire novels written by humans, which relate, slipperily or not, to human reality–subjective, strange and ephemeral as it is–novels which deal with such humdrums as sex, boredom, relationships, Gchat, longing, and, beneath all, death. I want a morbid realism.
I agree with Blake that a reality show like The Hills and social media such as Facebook create stories by virtue of humans doing simply anything. The documenting, sharing, and promoting of mundane everyday human life is more prevalent and relentless than ever before. In this environment, literature (and movies) about humans (most controversially, about privileged, white, hetero humans) that presents everyday drank-beers-at-my-friend’s-apartment life, wallows in self-pitying romantic angst, and doggy paddles po-faced through mighty rivers of deeply profound ennui can potentially seem annoying, or boring, or shittastical.
They shot her screen test in Paris, where I’ve never been, in the private room of the café Tout Va Bien, in the Latin Quarter, newly paved in tar, and still lewd that winter with debris from the blockades of stacked cobblestones—centuries old, pried right off the streets—and the stink of some secret catastrophe.
A disclaimer: Jeremy’s a dear friend and former roommate of mine—but c’mon! That opening line is obviously great. & the whole book is simply fabulous. I was motivated to post this because I just recommended, for the dozenth time, no joke, that a fellow writing classmate read the book …
So what’s going on in this opening line?