mark doten

Scramble Up The Steep Side of a Cliff with Mark Doten’s Mountain Goats Day @ Dennis Cooper’s The Weaklings

Greetings from Hong Kong! It is early in the morning here and a five-year-old is trying to get me to help her watch some kind of Barbie-as-the-little-mermaid DVD, but instead I am doing this. Mark Doten, good friend of HTMLGiant’s (and of mine), has put together a Day dedicated to The Mountain Goats for The Weaklings. It is filled with riches, not the least of which is a new interview with John Darnielle. Here’s a choice gleaning:

MD: People often speak of certain common technical mistakes in the work of young fiction writers — POV that doesn’t gel, overuse of adverbs in dialog tags, that sort of thing. Are there specific technical problems you see repeatedly in the work of beginning songwriters?

JD: Yeah there’s one, a pet one, which I’ll get to shortly, but the main thing is less technical than – well, for lack of a better term, “moral.” Not moral problems in the sense so much of “what you are doing is morally indefensible,” but more of a “the terms of the moral universe in which you are setting your song are lame, and since you’re the one setting those terms, this is a problem you should fix.” What the hell am I even talking about — this: young men (this problem really doesn’t seem to exist for young women who write songs) often like to present a narrator whose self-destructive “urges” (they usually aren’t real “urges” so much as cosmetic choices about how to present himself) are clearly placing him on a collision course with doom. The narrator of these songs often seems to hope that the important people in his life will be both very impressed by the special nature of his pain, and that some people who have spurned him will be so horrified by the things his pain has made him do that they will either a) give him what he wants from them or b) speak with awe about him.

Really can’t stand that kinda stuff. There is one thing special about your pain: it’s yours. That ought to be enough, in my opinion; you can describe it from there, and take control of it, detail it lovingly, etc. But when a narrator seems to think that he is somehow beatified by his own particular collection of neuroses, well, this bugs me. I was as guilty of this early on as anybody, and one of my most popular songs is pretty much One Of These Types, and it’s not that all songs like this are bad. In fact many of them are quite good. But it’s a tendency that should be outgrown quickly. Often there are two main characters in a song like this, and almost always, the song would be a much better one of the two weren’t acting like a child.


You should definitely go over there and check out Mark’s Goats Day. Also, you might want to refresh yourself on this Goats essay by Alec Niedenthal, published here last November.

Author Spotlight & Music / 16 Comments
July 18th, 2010 / 7:53 pm

Let’s talk about me for a minute: Poetry + Robert Mondavi Edition

I wonder if people noticed that one of the three categories in which this post is classified is a brand-new one. That would be the “Craven self-promotion” tag–something we’ve probably needed here for a long time, and which I hope all the contributors will feel inclined to make use of, as needed. That said, wanting to direct your attention to this first thing isn’t actually all that craven. I’ve written an essay for the Poetry Foundation, “A Dog Days Reading List: five books of poetry as hot as the sun.” Titles discussed are: The Wonderfull Yeare (a shepherd’s calendar) by Nate Pritts, Fort Red Border by Kiki Petrosino, Sum of Every Lost Ship by Allison Titus, The Drunk Sonnets by Daniel Bailey, and Mean Free Path by Ben Lerner. Eight poems from four of the five books are posted with the essay (dunno what happened with Titus, but you can read some of her work here) for your sampling pleasure.

Okay, second thing. Have you seen the July issue of Bookslut? Among its many treasures, there’s a great review of Ben Mirov’s Ghost Machine, an interview with Rae Armantrout, and–here it comes–a long interview with me, by Mark Doten. It’s a little hard to articulate just how excited I am about this, and why, but I’ll give it a shot. In the version of my own biography that I tell to myself, the start of my career as a “real” writer is marked by the first piece I wrote for Bookslut, an interview with Dennis Cooper published in February 2005. Dennis and I would wind up becoming frequent co-conspirators, and friends, and lately press-mates, but at the time he was just this guy whose books I was in love with, who had actually agreed to talk to me. Looking over the “Articles by Justin Taylor” on Bookslut, it occurs to me that (1) I haven’t written anything for them in over two years, which is inexcusable, and (2) that pretty much all the people I spoke to on their behalf–and several of those I reviewed–wound up becoming friends and/or colleagues in some capacity. Even five years ago Bookslut had a long rich history–without its trailblazing and its model, a site like GIANT would almost certainly not exist–and they should be commended for their ongoing commitment and apparently perpetual vitality. So that’s why it’s a special moment for me to find myself on the other side of the interview on their website, and why I hope you will go read it. Also, if I do say so myself, the piece is awesome. Mark Doten is a good friend, an incredible writer, a wise reader, and a savvy interviewer–what I mean by this last remark is that he was smart enough to get me drunk, and decent enough to get at least as drunk as I got.

Author News / 22 Comments
July 7th, 2010 / 1:29 pm

Must-See TV

Here’s Bill Donohue facing off with Sinead O’Connor and some less interesting people on Larry King Live. BD, if you don’t know, is the rabid bull terrier of the Catholic League, a far-far right outfit whose exact relationship to Catholicism-proper I don’t know much about. In this priceless clip, he literally makes the “if there’s grass on the field, play ball” argument re child-molester priests. The best part is when Sinead asks him to please explain to her what exactly he means by “post-pubescent.”And hey, since we’re up on Sinead today, here’s her recent op-ed in The Washington Post, the scariest part of which is when she mentions that her famous pope-tearing-SNL-episode was eighteen years ago. Wow.

at The Rumpus, Drew Johnson has got a big fat interview with Brad Watson, author of Aliens in the Prime of their Lives, and the man about whom Barry Hannah said “Only the Irish geniuses wrote like this.” Speaking of which, don’t forget about the Rumpus’s 4/6 NYC Reading and their Read With Sam Lipsyte Contest.

Defaced, the tumblr blog we’ve all been waiting for. I can’t wait to start contributing to it seven times a day (see above artwork). via Rachel Fershleiser’s facebook. Also on facebook, Elliott David reviews the new Lost: “Totally pointless jerk off waste of time Lost episode. I was really rooting for Keamy to kill them both. The fucking Kwons are lame.” I don’t know what any of that means, and kind of hope I never find out. Hey, and how awesome is this? “Carly Fiorina: Breadless holiday of Passover is a time to ‘break bread.” (via Mark Doten’s.)

And oh boy! Sex stuff! via A&L Daily

Decades before Kinsey, Stanford professor Clelia Mosher polled Victorian-era women on their bedroom behavior—then kept the startling results under wraps.

via same, At the American Scholar, Brian Boyd wonders about all the unpublished Nabokov that’s out there.

Roundup / 6 Comments
March 31st, 2010 / 11:23 am

Ben Marcus has updated his personal website with new content, with excerpts of some recent work (specifically, a section of “The Moors” from the latest Tin House, and a piece on Thomas Bernhard from Harper’s in 2006). Hopefully this is a precursor to his hopefully soon forthcoming next novel, The Flame Alphabet.

He’s also put up some pieces by other authors, including a ridiculously sublimed piece, “The Copper Beeches” by the excellent Mark Doten. Check this man out:

Mother, father, me, here in the mansion, she and her father over the garage, the Mechanic’s House, we called it, her father a mechanic, then a suicide, still after his death we called it the Mechanic’s House, not the Suicide’s House. Spied through bedroom window, tits in profile, bigger by the year, opera glasses, the two of us children, just think, two children, running among the sycamores, then our crawl space where the Second Nocturne hissed. Our hand-crank record player, she wouldn’t have abandoned all that. And the stench in the foyer, lounge and conservatory, rotting meat. Perhaps a human stench, a human rot

I want Doten’s book Green Zone Kidz now.

Author Spotlight / 80 Comments
February 2nd, 2010 / 4:00 pm