Artifice Magazine

Dressing Up Seth Oelbaum


[I was going to post something else entirely today—something light and fun—but I ran into some technical issues, and in any case this past weekend’s comments and page views indicate y’all would rather talk about Seth Oelbaum. So let’s talk more about Seth Oelbaum! As well as talking about Seth Oelbaum.]

Mike Meginnis’s recent post, and his follow-up comments below, clearly express his desire to pronounce some final word on “the Seth Oelbaum question” (as Reynard Seifert so cleverly phrased it), and put it all behind us. I have the highest respect for Mike as a writer and as a friend, and I understand his frustration, but I don’t think critique works that way, or should ever work that way. The price of being able to criticize is constant reappraisal, and not being able to declare conversations over.

In my comments on Seth’s last post (here, here, & here), I stated my concern that I’d said all I had to say about his writing here, was starting to repeat myself. But Mike’s post and the ensuing conversation caused me to return to certain aspects of it, and think up some new thoughts. (Surprising, I know, that I would find I had more to say.) So this is my attempt to lay out my thinking as clearly as I can. I hope you’ll add your own thoughts in the comments section below, if so inclined.

First, let’s agree that Seth’s writing is (perhaps deliberately?) somewhat inscrutable. Seth’s penchant for opacity hasn’t made it easy for people to figure out what he’s up to, even as near everyone agrees that the writing is offensive. Seth has also demonstrated little willingness to engage directly and openly with his growing ranks of critics, preferring instead to double down on his shtick.

I’ve read everything Seth has posted here (multiple times), and many of his posts at Bambi Muse, and a fair amount of his poetry. (Peter Jurmu just gave me a copy of Artifice #5, which contains some sonnets by Seth.) And while I certainly may be wrong in my interpretation, I think I understand part of what Seth is up to. (I’ve said some of this already, but please bear with me.) Forced to summarize, I’d say that Seth is appalled by how the suffering of certain people is privileged over the suffering of others. Thus he was enraged when the US media devoted extensive coverage to the Boston bombings, while it has remained relatively silent regarding the ongoing bomb-heavy conflict in Syria. He’s also enraged when Hollywood regards the Holocaust as an atrocity the Nazis did exclusively to the Jews, ignoring the simultaneous slaughter of the disabled, homosexuals, the Roma, among many others.

If this is indeed Seth’s point, then I don’t find it controversial; nor, I imagine, would you (at least in general—let’s acknowledge that Seth is not one for finer details). If one opposes massacres, then one should oppose all massacres. As such, the US media deserves criticism for privileging certain ones over others. Similarly, we ourselves are at fault when we disregard the suffering of others. We would do well to wonder how and why the world got to be like this, and what we can do to change it.

Meanwhile, we might also say: “Seth Oelbaum, you’re barking up the wrong blog! We’ve already read Karl Marx and Hannah Arendt and Noam Chomsky, and we know what you’re trying to say and already agree with you (even if we find repulsive your way of putting it)! Go post at Little Green Footballs or some other conservative blog, or at least change your shtick to acknowledge that we’re not the audience you’ve mistakenly judged us to be!”

The problem, however, is that this is not the entirety of Seth’s message. The fact that Seth keeps posting here—doubling down—indicates that Seth does not believe that we are “the wrong audience.” Furthermore, from what I’ve heard (and this is hearsay, but I’m inclined for now to believe it), “Seth is always like this”—anywhere he goes, anytime of the day, he’s always “on.” Seth has responded to total war with total abhorrence to war. And while that might not make him the most charming dinner companion (or party guest, as Mike put it), it does suggest a bit more about his motivations. Because I think Seth’s primary goal is to make other people suffer.


Massive People / 44 Comments
May 20th, 2013 / 12:04 pm

Lynch LSD Walks Sprawl Tour

Our #3 face is sexy, we are almost 3. That's close to 7.

1. @ Montevidayo, Johannes Göransson posted an excellent consideration of Nathan Lee’s consideration of a few books on David Lynch’s work.

2. @ DC’s, Dennis Cooper posted an excellent roundup of fun and interesting oddity, including re: Drawing on LSD, Kathy Acker’s last work, an Urs Alleman interview, and lots of else.

3. @ Thought Catalog, Franklin Bruno wrote up a thoughtful consideration on Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch’s fantastic Ten Walks/Two Talks.

4. Next Friday, September 24, if you are in Chicago there is a launch party for Danielle Dutton’s brilliant new novel Sprawl, 7:30 PM at the Women and Children First Bookstore, also featuring Kate Zambreno.

5. In celebration of their about to be released second issue, Artifice Magazine is going on tour! A magazine on tour seems amazing.

Roundup / 4 Comments
September 17th, 2010 / 12:16 pm

Don’t Do It for the Lagniappe

Artifice Magazine is just too good to give things away. Like, okay if you’re mediocre it’s not a bad idea to offer an incentive. But when you’re Artifice, one of the best on the block, people come knocking on your door with wads of cash and apologetic looks. You beat them off with a stick, or deign to serve them.

Not blowing smoke. This is a great magazine design-wise and editorially — the first issue has an embossed matte cover, black on black. The writing — by people like Butler, Rooney, Schneiderman, Walsh, Yelvington — is as writing in journals ought to be: on the forefront, compelling, and with a range of mystery. And wait. WAIT. It’s cheap! Already it’s cheap: only $7.

Get out of town with your seven dollar embossed covers and Jessica Bozek poems.

So, but, cool, y’know. Good for Artifice. What else is going on here at this stupid htmlgiant website, any good fights? WAIT! Before you scroll down to Lovelace’s erupting hangnail or weigh in on Lily’s consideration of wtf is next with paper, just wait a sec. Let me catch my breath.

Because what the editors there, Adcox and Silverman, are proposing to do in July is sign up 50 new subscribers. I’m all like, only 50?!

No sweat. HTMLGIANT gets like 90,000 unique hits every second, so this post ought to bring them to their goal by 2:15est. And if it isn’t my appreciative bombast that sells you — yes, you, reader — on the subscription, let it be this: READ MORE >

Uncategorized / 37 Comments
July 1st, 2010 / 2:13 pm

Listening In

iphone Denver by poet Rick Bursky

-There’s a piece called “How to Unfeel the Dead” by Lance Olsen in Artifice that knocked my socks off.

-A review of Edith Grossman’s Why Translation Matters, something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Richard Howard summarizes Grossman’s thesis:

In the end, Grossman warmly (after all) and gratefully rehearses the twofold answer to the question of her title: translation matters because it is an expression and an extension of our humanity, the secret metaphor of all literary communication; and because the creation of any literary translation is (or at least must be) an original writing, not a pathetic shadow or tracing of the inaccessible “original” but the creation, indeed, of a second — and as we have seen, a third and a ninth — but always a new work, in another language.

-I was tired this year at the AWP  Conference. I couldn’t sleep past 5am, and my head swam in treacherous waters all day. New CollAge magazine had a table—we sold about 2.5 copies—at which I sat for 15-20 minute intervals before getting the jitters and flying the coop. Lots of wandering around the Denver Convention Center, admiring the big blue looming bear, sneaking peaks at the car show, listening in:


I can’t just get drunk and flirt with all the students—

Jesus wouldn’t come down and have sex with me like that.

I feel like my arms look like big white baby harp seals.

I’m glad nobody got raped.

I got my MFA in deleting words. I don’t know anything

about throwing babies.


Random / 28 Comments
April 12th, 2010 / 10:54 am

1. Another excellent interview by Kimball at the Faster Times with Christopher Higgs.
2. Artifice Magazine is selling a special edition of their first issue, as well as beautiful screenprint illustrations of the works inside it.
3. The most majestic Matt Jasper’s Moth Moon is now live on sale, some of which you may have seen, or should now, in his chapbook from Publishing Genius.

Artifice Magazine #1

New magazine Artifice, out of Chicago, has just published their first issue, with new work by many radicals, including myself and our own Roxane Gay:

Carol Berg – Jessica Bozek – Blake Butler – Neil de la Flor – Andrew Farkas – Ori Fienberg – Elisa Gabbert – Kelly Haramis – Roxane Gay – Kyle Hemmings – Tim Jones-Yelvington – Gregory Lawless – Jefferson Navicky – Lance Olsen – Joel Patton – Christopher Phelps – Derek Philips – Cynthia Reeser – Kathleen Rooney – Davis Schneiderman – Maureen Seaton – David Silverstein – Susan Slaverio – Kristine Snodgrass – William Walsh


Koalas, terror, that one time you watched your father boil lobsters, infidelity, faithful robots, faithless robot dogs, compromising situations, and at least one missing body.

In the spirit, they have offered to give away three free issues to HTMLGiant readers.

All you have to do is looking at their submission wishlist, which lists the kind of stuff they are looking to publish, and make a suggestion of something to add to that list. Examples are: # 1 piece you’d tell a child not to put in their mouth, # 3 halves of a story, # 1 game code that unlocks a secret level. Comment with your suggestion and 3 winners will be picked tomorrow afternoon.

In the meantime, consider picking up an issue, and/or sending your work!

[P.S. This is the 3000th post at HTMLGiant. Weird.]

Contests / 133 Comments
February 4th, 2010 / 3:03 pm

I like Artifice Magazine’s submission wishlist.