October 2009

Ambidextrous Authors and Non-Ambidextrous Authors




Dorothy Parker, Toni Morrison, and Raymond Carver belong to a group of ambidextrous authors who have the facility to place both hands at the sides of their respective cheeks simultaneously. During photo shoots, they are keen on demonstrating this ability. Their adroit use of two hands at the keyboard have led to prolific and sprawling careers. Their contracts stipulate that they are “paid by the palm,” which means more gin n’ tonic for all (some pills too). Some have suggested that they misinterpret the phrase “turn the other cheek,” and are struggling to turn both at once. Jesus has nothing to do with this business; Zion is crowded as it is. The ambidextrous are witty, black, and depressed — but never at the same time.


Mean / 19 Comments
October 30th, 2009 / 2:54 pm

2009/10/29 at 12:28pm   i feel offended by this, this seems wrong and counter-productive
2009/10/29 at 12:38pm   man this post is so dumb, i am so done with this site
2009/10/29 at 12:41pm   i hate all of you i am never coming back here again
2009/10/29 at 12:43pm   what does this mean? you are such a douchebag i can’t even believe it
2009/10/29 at 12:55pm   i saw her read one time, it was OK, i was kind of bored, i like her book it’s OK
2009/10/30 at 2:38pm     lol
2009/10/30 at 2:38pm     this is stupid, boring
2009/10/31 at 8:38am     i am never coming back here again
2009/10/31 at 9:38am     this is dumb, why are all of you so dumb

Varieties of Contempt (a guest response from Christian Lorentzen to JC)

Christian Lorentzen sends word post-occasion of Jimmy’s hipster post; via “Varieties of Contempt”:

Would I accept several thousand dollars in exchange for shooting
myself in the kneecap? Yes, and when the bald man asks for my head on
a stake, hand it to him. He didn’t earn his vulgarity, so we had to
mark him a B+. You can blame the 70s, but it was really the 60s. Much
besides your life depends on exhibiting your best behavior in that
brothel. I myself prefer polite mediocrity to rude talent, but there
are plenty of nice restaurants in this city. He’s not a great chef,
he’s a good chef who shined a great chef’s shoes for years. What’s
funny is when they release those studies that show they are reading
less. Wasn’t the first thing we learned in school the fact that
they’re mostly a silly bunch of guys? He must be stopped before I get
slapped with a health-code violation. Mother, may I have a second can
of soda today? No, it will rot your syntax. I feel lonely when I look
in the mirror but not as lonely as I feel when you are here, so just
stretch your toes into the sea. If it demonstrates form, some people
will take an axe to it. Style is the ultimate weapon, and if you can
combine it with authenticity, you’ve got a great scam going. Welcome
to my femininity, and let me tell you about the dental plan. Two
Californians walk into a bar, and a Mississippian tells them their
problem is that they didn’t first love apple pie. I construct
narrative arks, that’s what I do. The crucial hour begins at three in
the morning. He failed to turn his neck as they were coming out of the
shade, so now they’re stuck with each other. I’m sorry about your
baby. The scandal will be good for your health. Look forward to a
cleansing effect. I feel unable to connect with it, so let’s just play
it up really big and make it sell. Hold the center or it will hold
you. Summer’s surprise was a feeling of generalized hatred, like a man
standing over you and threatening your life, or someone who thanks you
for your attention and cites it as a valuable service to the
community. I called it nihilism, and he called it several forms of
negation. You like to say it’s complicated, but actually it’s simple
to the point of crudity. It’s all right, but I wish it was as big as
my ego, which will now take off his shirt. That winter, the worst ever,
all the snowflakes were identical. I gave myself to you but never got
a receipt. Now for the worst moment of your career. Go away, go away.

Random / 124 Comments
October 30th, 2009 / 1:02 pm

Who Is Justin Taylor?

facebook blankI’m not about to tell you, except for this: Justin Taylor is very dear to me, and I to him. He even dedicated his–wait for it–chapbook to me. No joke. Some days, we are engaged to be married. We’ll have an early-morning wedding, family only, with a luncheon of cold meats and fowls following. But you don’t know me too well, either, so none of that info should really affect what I’m soliciting from you.

Knowing Justin heaps better than any one of you, I always love to read all the inaccurate insults hurled at him by HTMLGiant peeps. But there haven’t been nearly enough this Mean Week, for my liking. I would like to provide one place, right here, to collect all the wild misconceptions, ad-hominem attacks, and elaborate speculations. I’m especially interested in the latter. It seems that people here have especially detailed mental images of who this man is. Please share, right here, at the end of Mean Week. Don’t hold back. It’ll be more fun than hating on Tao Lin (are they really roommates!?!?!), I promise, because Mr. Taylor is more truly our own.

Author Spotlight & Mean / 113 Comments
October 30th, 2009 / 12:41 pm

so Roithamer.

I’d Probably Get More Replies if This Was About College Rankings

collegeThis may be  weak for mean week, but of late, after catching up with an old friend, I’ve been thinking about college majors and their relationship to what we write. Most people I meet now assume I was an English major, but I was history. Here’s the mildly mean part–I sometimes feel slightly, unjustifiably superior to writers who were English majors–it’s as if I mastered (or, I guess, bachelored) a whole nuther thing first, and they didn’t.

I know that college majors rarely relate directly to future career choice. But four years is a long time to think about something in a serious way. My history coursework was far more rigorous than my MFA work, and my history thesis was much more grueling as well. Somehow, knowing a lot about torture during the Algerian War must inform my writing. All of it does even more for my reading, probably. Context!

So, what did y’all major in? What relationship do you think it has to your writing, if any? If you were in English major, do you think that helps or hurts you, or neither?

Behind the Scenes & Mean / 91 Comments
October 30th, 2009 / 10:57 am

Breaking the Cycle of Consent: e-chapbooks

There is no such thing as an e-chapbook. And honestly, why would you want there to be? The very term shrieks “diminished expectations” and “compromised dignity.” This is no referendum on the quality of your poetry, which I do not doubt is lovely, smart, and in the words of Daphne Dunham writing about Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, “brain candy of the best sort.”

Nonetheless, “e-chapbook” is a non-form that somebody made up, presumably as a joke, but which, like everything else in the poetry world, seems doomed to invert the classic Marxist formula–ahem, flarf–by appearing first as farce, and then as tragedy, which is the late-stage of e-chapbookism in which we now find ourselves copiously sighing. Can you think of anything more ludicrous than the idea that the publication of a pdf file to a blogger page is somehow cause for a new entry on one’s bibliography? I can, but all the examples are about other things, like healthcare.

In poetry world, this seems about as absurd as it gets, and the logical extension of the poetry “pub-credit arms race” which, unsurprisingly, tends to do double duty as an all-purpose “race to the bottom.” The only thing that I wonder is whether the impetus is the result of cynicism, laziness, or a sheer lack of imagination on the part of so-called “innovative” publishers. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, I suppose there’s really no reason why I shouldn’t be generous in my thinking and assume it’s all three at once. It’s the same lamentable urge that causes poets to casually mis-identify “chapbooks” as “books,” as in, “I had five books last year, and three more are coming out in the next six months.”

Listen, I’m sure your poems are great and I’m really glad you have eight friends with access to a copy machine and/or letter press. Seriously. That’s awesome. (I have one friend who has these things–and I love him.) And I’ve no doubt–none whatsoever–that the work is deserving of–or perhaps better than–Allen Ginsberg’s description of Naked Lunch as “the endless [poetry chapbook] which will drive everybody mad.” Still, it must be said that you have not in fact published “a book” of any kind–not even of the chapbook kind, since the one thing one of the many and best things the chapbook has going for it is its built-in value as a limited-edition, a status necessarily contingent on the physicality of the thing itself. And if you’re wondering why “must it” be said– the reason is very simple: because you are standing there trying to convince me that you have. If you weren’t trying to lie to me, I wouldn’t be forced to tell you the truth about yourself. But by all means, do go ahead and fwd me that pdf file. I’m genuinely excited to see it.

Mean / 134 Comments
October 30th, 2009 / 10:28 am

Diameter of a Circle Jerk

Clio-CircleJerk-751056.jpgThe recent “Bubble Boy” hoax may be read as an example of how people are, or wish to be, famous for being famous. Think of “New York” (person) from Flavor of Love who got her own show for being an awesome ho, or  Octomom, or those bitches from The Hills or The Kardashians. People work on being famous instead of just working. These examples are “lowbrow,” but we are not exempt.

I have a hard time commenting on someone’s blog, or even this website, telling so and so I really liked their post or their story or whatever. If my feelings are very strong, I email them. If I can’t find their email, I say to myself: “This person will do fine in life without getting an email from me,” or “it should not matter to this person if I like their story — they should be writing on behalf of the story, not its reception.” And it all fits perfect in my head: 1) writers write, 2) readers read, and 3) everybody lives a nice modest life, 4) in relative obscurity, and 5) maybe one day, if applicable, a writer may be recognized, however mildly, for their contribution to literature.


Mean / 102 Comments
October 29th, 2009 / 8:17 pm

Seen this Movie Before: All Publicists Go to Heaven….Don’t They?

And it isn’t even MEAN WEEK at the Rumpus! Click through anywhere to read the whole sick amazing thing.

The Rumpus received a press release for a new book today, along with a kind personal note. Unfortunately, we can’t cover every book that gets released. But since a lot of people who read this site have blogs of their own we thought we would share this press release with you. Feel free to contact the publicist directly.


Hi Stephen,

I came across your website and have a story idea that is appropriate for your readers. We have several options of how we can provide content for your site, too (see below).

TOPIC: Pets bring us joy and companionship. However, as with all living things, there comes a time when we have to say goodbye to our furry friends. Have you ever wondered where your pet goes after it passes from this place? Animal lover and rescuer Susi Pittman, who is often referred to as “Susi of Assisi,” explores this question in her new book, Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!

Mean & Web Hype / 6 Comments
October 29th, 2009 / 6:50 pm

Elitism: An Encomium

creamIf you are the among the best at something, who can blame you for wanting to associate with other people who are among the best at things, too? Like, if you’ve got the best tits, why shouldn’t you want to date whoever has the best hoodies, or become best friends with whoever’s got the best pepperoni? Why, at HTMLGiant, is elitism such a dirty word–and not the good kind that gets you cred in the comments section?

“Elite” means the choice part. The cream. The fruit. It seems as if among certain cohorts of writers and thinking people, this one included, some kind of stigma is attached to being, doing, or having the best, even if that superiority is hard-won and merit-based. And it’s even worse to demonstrate an affinity for others who you deem to be the best. Editors are called elitist if they publish the same writers over and over again or send form rejections. But an editor by definition must be selective, and choosy. Maybe we would choose differently than they would, but that’s why we all must figure out which publications we trust.

When someone cries elitist, to me it just sounds like envy at not feeling like a part of the elite. The envy is understandable! It’s nice here in the creamy, fruity elite. Wish I could extend an invitation.

Mean / 123 Comments
October 29th, 2009 / 4:26 pm