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My Experience Writing for Muumuu House

Not Elizabeth Ellen

Wrote about Tao Lin for Hobart.

Exchanged emails with Tao about what I wrote.

Tao cut and pasted part I’d written about Zac Zellers and Marie Calloway and wrote beneath it “this seems funny to me.”

Replied with a paragraph in which I described Zac Zellers as the “Where’s Waldo” of Ann Arbor.

19 mins later got email from Tao saying “you should write something about this and send it to me.”

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Behind the Scenes / 99 Comments
January 5th, 2013 / 11:21 am

How Should A Humon Be, I Hate These Humons: The Great Autobiographical Fiction vs. Anti-Autobiographical Fiction Showdown 2k12/2k13

A thing I’ve been noticing is a formation of camps of a sort along the lines of how people feel about autobiographical fiction. Is this a thing?

I thought of this upon reading the title of a Tumblr post by my friend, James Tadd Adcox, a list of things he’s currently reading. The title: “Take this blue paint, cake it on your pale face. Make yourself something other than this world.” Something other than this world.

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Random / 6 Comments
December 13th, 2012 / 4:21 pm

What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, part 2

"Hi, How Are You?" cover art by Daniel Johnston (1983); "financially desperate tree doing a 'quadruple kickflip' off a cliff into a 5000+ foot gorge to retain its nike, fritos, and redbull sponsorships " by Tao Lin (2010)

It made me very happy to read the various responses to Part 1, posted last Monday. Today I want to continue this brief digression into asking what, if anything, the New Sincerity was, as well as what, if anything, it currently is. (Next Monday I’ll return to reading Viktor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose and applying it to contemporary writing.)

Last time I talked about 2005–8, but what was the New Sincerity before Massey/Robinson/Mister? (And does that matter?) Others have pointed out that something much like the movement can be traced back to David Foster Wallace’s 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” (here’s a PDF copy). I can recall conversations, 2000–3, with classmates at ISU (where DFW taught and a number of us worked for RCF/Dalkey) about “the death of irony” and “the death of Postmodernism” and a possible “return to sincerity.” Today, even the Wikipedia article on the NS also makes that connection:

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Craft Notes & Haut or not / 46 Comments
June 11th, 2012 / 8:01 am

I am drinking gin & wrote about 18 long titles i randomly chose using wikipedia

If the New Sincerity is anything real or coherent (and I wrote that post last Monday because I, like others, am trying to figure out whether that’s so, or will be so), then we should be able to identify the devices or moves that define it—that arguably make a piece read as being “New Sincere.” The “New” implies they produce that sincere effect right now, in the current literary landscape; whether the techniques or devices are entirely new doesn’t matter (they could be older techniques, fallen out of prominence, now returned). Similarly, it’s irrelevant whether the author using them is “really” being sincere. What matters instead is that

  1. Those devices exist;
  2. People think they “feel sincere” (as opposed to other devices, which don’t);
  3. “Being sincere” has some value at the present moment.

Why sincerity? What is its present value? My broad and still developing belief is that “sincere” writing is one means of breaking with the aesthetics of postmodernism and self-referentiality: invocation of Continental Theory, metatextuality, excessive cleverness, hyper-allusion, &c. What makes writing “sincerely” even more delicious when perceived against postmodernism 1960–2000 is that it proposes to offer precisely what pomo said didn’t matter or couldn’t exist: direct communion with another coherent, expressive self, even truth by means of language. (Don’t tell Chris Higgs!)

One of my first impressions of the NS came when I started noticing artists and authors using longer titles—in particular, long rambly ones with strong emotional resonances. My thought then and I think now was that both the length and the ramble, as well as the emotive quality, signaled non-mediation: a desire to appear uncensored, unrevised. Those titles stood out (defamiliarized the title) because they failed to comply with what a “proper,” “edited,” “thoughtful” title should be.

Is this a sensible thing to argue? Have I had too many G&Ts? Let’s pursue …

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Craft Notes / 36 Comments
June 7th, 2012 / 8:01 am

Theory of Prose & better writing (ctd): The New Sincerity, Tao Lin, & “differential perceptions”

In the first post in this series, I outlined Viktor Shklovsky’s fundamental concepts of device (priem) and defamiliarization (ostranenie) as presented in the first chapter of Theory of Prose, “Art as Device.” This time around, I’d like to look at the start of Chapter 2 and try applying it to contemporary writing (specifically to the New Sincerity). As before, I’m proposing that one can actually use the principles of Russian Formalism to become a better writer and a better critic.

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Craft Notes / 94 Comments
May 28th, 2012 / 8:01 am

Viktor Shklovsky wants to make you a better writer, part 1: device & defamiliarization

When I was finishing up my Master’s degree at ISU, I worried that I still didn’t know much about writing—like, how to actually do it. My mentor Curtis White told me, “Just read Viktor Shklovsky; it’s all in there.” So I moved to Thailand and spent the next two years poring over Theory of Prose. When I returned to the US in the summer of 2005, I sat down and started really writing.

I’ve already put up one post about what, specifically I learned from Theory of Prose, but it occurs to me now that I can be even more specific. So this will be the first in a series of posts in which I try to boil ToP down into a kind of “notes on craft,” as well as reiterate some of the more theoretical arguments that I’ve been making both here and at Big Other over the past 2+ years. Of course if this interests you, then I most fervently recommend that you actually read the Shklovsky—and not just ToP but his other critical texts as well as his fiction, which is marvelous. (Indeed, Curt has since told me that he didn’t mean for me to focus so much on ToP! But I still find it extraordinarily useful.)

Let’s talk first about where Viktor Shklovsky himself started: the concepts of device and defamiliarization.

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Craft Notes / 61 Comments
May 21st, 2012 / 8:01 am

POP: A Polemic on a Contemporary Language-Based “Objectivity”

I do not like metaphor. My personal education pertaining to literature takes a very French bent, and it is here that Robbe-Grillet himself, king of the nouveau roman one could say, has denounced metaphor, preferring, I suppose, some sort of metonymy, but–if anything–participating in the creation of a style of fiction in which the surface is more important than a subtext.

I think that this adherence to the surface, at least in terms of language, is good, positive, because it removes an additional level of signification, which brings us, as a reader, closer to the experience the language itself is hiding, carrying, revealing. Though often, in the creation of atmosphere, metaphor can be adequately used to help evoke a mood, I feel like there are often more interesting ways to do this (and I suppose that here, by “interesting,” I mean “heterogeneous, diverse, wildly more creative”).
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Word Spaces / 235 Comments
July 5th, 2011 / 11:53 am

i’m a bullhole cliche / assshit: An Interview with Victoria Trott

When I started reading online literature, sometime in mid-2008, I discovered a short list of bloggers/writers (Tao Lin, Ellen Kennedy, Zachary German) with similar attitudes and approaches to literature. Later, when Muumuu House was established, I found, among them, a new name: Victoria Trott. I read her poems, her blog, and it was all very strange, funny, and poignant. On Halloween 2009, I met her at a late night get together in (where else) Williamsburg. She seemed quiet, estranged, grinning aimlessly. By then she’d sort of disappeared from the online scene, leaving behind only a few publications (not to mention an unreleased forthcoming issue of German’s now-discontinued litmag), an altered moniker, and a lot of questions. In late 2009, she created a hilarious, ingenious Twitter account, and in summer 2010, a wonderful new blog. Finally there was some clarity, openness, continuity, but still, I was curious. Last fall, I compiled a list of questions I had for (and regarding) Victoria in a Gmail draft. Then I emailed her some of those questions, commencing a slow correspondence,  spanning three months. Here are the results:

David Fishkind: Hi Victoria, How are you?

Victoria Trott: Hey David, someone bought me breakfast today and I took half of a Ritalin, I feel pretty good. How are you?

How did you get involved with online literature? Or maybe, what is your time line of involvement?

Here’s a timeline of my involvement with online literature, which has the stuff about blog switching, I think

2007 – high school sophomore, read Hikikomori on Bear Parade. showed Tao Lin’s blog to my friend, she said “amoeba ass?” and laughed with a puzzled face.

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Author Spotlight / 48 Comments
June 30th, 2011 / 7:21 pm

A List of Things (pt. 1)

1. There is a new issue of Bookslut.  In it there is a a really great interview of Kendra Grant Malone by Noah Cicero.  Also, some stupid idiot interviewed Michael Earl Craig (again).  It’s ok though because Michael Earl Craig is good.

2. I don’t know if people know this, but the NYU creative writing program archives all of its events in podcast form.  I listen to this a lot.  I’ve listened to that Matthew Zapruder one probably 5 times.  There also is an Agriculture Reader reading from the fall of 2009 that I’ve listened to several times.

3. My friend Harriet runs this really nice (print+online) journal called “Her Royal Majesty.”  They are now accepting submissions for the next issue.

4. Mike’s (Young’s) book of short stories is now available. Short stories are usually a little bit longer than poems are.

5. I went to this Publishing Genius book tour thing two nights ago in Chicago.  It was fun as hell.  If you’re in Minneapolis you can go too.  (Hurry.)

6. There is a MuuMuu House DVD available.  It’s a DVD of a MuuMuu House reading in Ohio (and other things) — featuring Tan Lin, Susan Boyle, Michael Jordan, Marcus Cicero, and Mallory Whitten.

7. After the jump is a semi-NSFW youtube vid.  It’s more weird than anything.  If you can make it past the first 10 seconds it’s pretty rewarding.

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Roundup / 16 Comments
January 5th, 2011 / 11:17 pm

The Brandon Book Crisis: A review

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The Brandon Book Crisis (Muumuu House, 2009) by Brandon Scott Gorrell and Tao Lin

A paperback “thriller” about book design published May 25, 2009 in a limited edition of 150 numbered copies. 152 pages, 5.5″ x 7″, © Creative Commons, No Rights Reserved. Features 140+ pages of unedited Gmail chats, text messages, voicemails, and emails between Brandon Scott Gorrell, Tao Lin, and others.

The Brandon Book Crisis is, put simply, a book about the making of a book, which is not an entirely new postmodern conceit, if one thinks about the self-referential Pale Fire (Nabokov)Coming Soon! (John Barthes), or Lunar Park (Bret Easton Ellis), to name a few. ’Edited,’ or rather, compiled by Brandon Scott Gorrell and Tao Lin, it consists of gmail chats (already aestheticized by Muumuu House), emails, and the occasional frantic text concerning the printing of Brandon Scott Gorrell’s During my nervous breakdown I want to have a biographer present – specifically, its fonts, colors, and unworkable files.

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Author Spotlight / 213 Comments
May 19th, 2009 / 10:39 pm

EXCERPT: from Ellen Kennedy’s Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs (#6)

 

[NOTE: The launch party for SOMETIMES MY HEART PUSHES MY RIBS is at 7 p.m. tonight at Cafe Orwell in Brooklyn. - JT]

 

 

 

 

 

My Dog is a Little Obese 

 

put the clif bar in your pocket from a florida gas station and walk away

 put the entire box of clif bars from a duane reade in penn station in your bag and walk away  

 put two clif bars from price chopper into your pocket and walk away

 this is CVS, there are no clif bars here

 buy 4 clif bars from albertson’s and feel bad

 there is 50mg of caffeine in your clif bar

 cut the clif bar in half with scissors and eat one half and put the other half in a bowl

 hide the scissors in the closet

 there isn’t any caffeine in the lemon poppyseed clif bar

 put organic green tea extract on your tongue and put your tongue in my mouth

 there is 50mg of caffeine in my brain  

 

 

Buy Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs from Muumuu House.

Ellen Kennedy’s blog.

Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 12 Comments
April 25th, 2009 / 10:47 am

EXCERPT: from Ellen Kennedy’s Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs (#5)

 

Green Toothbrush 

 

the train leaves in 50 minutes

two people having sex to a lonely and frustrated person singing “I’ll probably never see your face again”

two people taking turns standing under the water in a shower

the hair is black and smells like lemons

two people using one green toothbrush

the train leaves in 20 minutes

one person standing, ironing a red dress

the train is leaving in 15 minutes

the slip is too long and sticking out of the red dress

the boots are loud and slow

two people on a train taking turns laying down on one  person’s lap

the hair looks more brown than red when short

yelling “soccer” in secaucus station

waiting for the new york train

the new york train arrives in 3 minutes

two people buying two large organic coffees

caffeine making four eyes bigger and two brains faster

one person feeding a lemon to one pigeon

one pigeon walking away uninterested

two people sitting on a subway train with two coffees   floating above

two people lying very close on a one-person mattress

 

 

Buy Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs from Muumuu House.

Ellen Kennedy’s blog.

Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 10 Comments
April 24th, 2009 / 8:45 am

EXCERPT: from Ellen Kennedy’s Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs (#4)

 

I Like Every Time We Have Sex 


“I want to have sex with you.” 

“Thank you. I want to have sex with you also.” 

“Really?” 

“Yes.” 

“When I say I want to have sex with you I mean really.” 

“So do I.” 

“I mean really, I don’t just say that as a feeling. Do you understand? Did you really mean that you wanted to have sex with me when we were waiting on line at the movie theater before or did you just mean that as a feeling?” 

“I don’t know. I’m sorry” 

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Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 22 Comments
April 23rd, 2009 / 8:30 am

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUDREY ALLENDALE FROM MUUMUU HOUSE

this person from muumuu house emailed me today and asked to be interviewed. her name is audrey allendale. here are the answers she gave to my questions:

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Behind the Scenes / 48 Comments
April 23rd, 2009 / 1:31 am

EXCERPT: from Ellen Kennedy’s Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs (#3)


Orange

I wish my life consisted only of
riding my bike with you
down a giant hill that never stopped
while listening to music
with no one else around
in the middle of nothing,
except a few shiny and relaxing lights above in the sky
like stars but a little brighter
and more orange

Buy Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs from Muumuu House.

Ellen Kennedy’s blog.

Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 46 Comments
April 22nd, 2009 / 12:48 pm

EXCERPT: from Ellen Kennedy’s Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs (#2)

Brighter and Clearer 

 

After I have an orgasm my body feels like a sombrero-shaped galaxy slowly expanding in the eyepiece of a 4th grader’s telescope 

After I watch a family of lions tear apart the body of a large deer on the Discovery Channel I feel a calming sense of inferiority 

After I watch a horror movie I can’t go to the bathroom without you holding my hand while I pee  

After I take my vegan dietary supplement my piss is brighter and clearer 

After I kiss your eyelids my lungs squeeze out through my ribs, then through my belly button and slowly fly to your face and push very lightly on your cheeks 

After I forget something I said I would remember my brain becomes a roll of vegetable futomaki that an obese chinchilla is trying to eat all in one bite 

After I make you cry one of my organs melts into a runny paste that trickles down the inside of my body and collects at the bottom of my feet 

After I make you feel indifferent towards me my heart turns into a small desert hamster running very quickly on an exercise wheel and then tripping and then spinning around in distress until the wheel stops and the hamster can get up and try running again, but in a more conscious and concerned way 

 

Buy Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs from Muumuu House.

Ellen Kennedy’s blog.

Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 18 Comments
April 21st, 2009 / 1:03 pm

EXCERPT: from Ellen Kennedy’s Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs (#1)

sinkflorida

Florida

i had a dream last night about your parents and you

in your house in florida

your parents were dancing in the garage

and your mom was singing

and then the radio stopped for no reason

and she screamed ‘no’

and then walked away

your dad was pissed

then you went into your room and your computer had this program that you could make animations with

and you made like 5 videos of your dad

changing from a happy dad

to a pissed dad

then i woke up

your parents were dancing so hard

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Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 67 Comments
April 20th, 2009 / 12:17 pm

Muumuu House ‘Care’ Package and a Contest

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not ryan call

I received today in the mail a ‘care’ package from Muumuu House and in that package were several books: you are a little bit happier than i am by Tao Lin and Distortions by Ann Beattie and three copies of Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs by Ellen Kennedy. Thank you, Muumuu House, for the ‘care’ package.

And last night a friend and I found a bar in Houston that has ping-pong tables, and we played ping-pong for three or four hours, and I defeated him twice. He did not defeat me. The rest of the time we just hit the ball back and forth and impressed ourselves with our amazing skills. I think I am very good at ping-pong. I think it is the one thing I’m allowed to be good at, maybe. That and washing dishes. I think there is something very satisfying about hitting a ping-pong ball just so, having it do exactly what you want it to do.

To celebrate our finding this bar with ping-pong tables, I would like to offer two copies of Sometimes My Heart Pushes Against My Ribs by Ellen Kennedy, which, sadly, has no poems/stories in it about ping-pong.

Please post your poems/stories about ping-pong in the comments section to be eligible for a copy of Sometimes My Heart Pushes Against My Ribs by Ellen Kennedy. Be sure to include a real email address in the field where it asks for an email address, so I can email you if your poem/story wins. If you are shy, you may also email a poem/story about ping-pong to htmlgiant [at] gmail [dot] com, but if I select your poem/story, then I will post it for everyone to see. This contest is open until 2:00pm CST, Saturday the 7th.

Good work, Muumuu House and Ellen Kennedy, on your first book. I enjoyed reading it.

UPDATE: Winners of the two Muumuu House books are Miles and Darby Larson. Miles and Darby please email your mailing addresses to HTMLGIANT so I can send you your prize.

Thank you to everyone who emailed and posted ping-pong stories/poems.

Contests & Presses / 147 Comments
March 6th, 2009 / 7:23 pm

The Internet: Serious Business

The image is facetious, but I think we – you and me and everyone we don’t know – are onto something. The internet’s constraints and agilities are being used in wonderful and inventive ways. I’ve noticed writers and editors either reappropriating online aesthetics or its practical functions. Here are three examples that kind of show a spirit to this point:

I. Mark Baumer’s everydayyeah will post a 365 word story this year, running one word at a time. He chose Jesse Ball, who just published The Way Through Doors. [Blake Butler’s review forthcoming in The Believer, April.] One simply could not ‘distribute’ or publish in this form without the easy accessibility of the internet, made more so with the advent of RSS feeds and Google reader. Baumer seems obsessed with finding beauty in the redundancies of every day. True, it will take a devoted fan to check in every day, but let’s compromise: how about every week? We might even learn something about Ball’s structure.

II. Jillian Clark’s brilliant poem (haiku?) untitled under her “so i go in alone” blog post, wherein the entire poem is comprised of wikipedia picture captions.

an okapi cleaning its muzzle with its tongue
an okapi at bristol zoo cleans itself
okapi at chester zoo
an okapi reaches for some leaves

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Author Spotlight & Web Hype / 19 Comments
January 3rd, 2009 / 11:42 pm

Tao Lin’s “All Purpose Promotional Video”: Reviewing the wrong one

chickensandwichTao Lin offered me $2 to review an ‘all purpose promotional’ video which would be uploaded in 1-3 days, then said ‘just kidding.’ I was moved by the initial spirit behind the request and have done so (though I am reviewing the ‘wrong’ one. I will try to review the correct one too.) Please read this before viewing the movie. It will make you more excited for the movie, I hope. [I just spent five minutes trying to embed the source-code but it didn't work, so what follows this review is a mere link.]

REVIEW: This review will not have a point, because I don’t think the ‘all purpose promotional’ video had a point, other than being an ‘all purpose promotional’ video. I will simply describe what I saw in the order of when I saw it, with light commentary. Also, I only watched the video once, taking quick notes, so I may be wrong at points. The ‘narrative’ might not make sense due to choppy avante garde editing. READ MORE >

Author News / 249 Comments
December 23rd, 2008 / 2:36 pm