by Ken Baumann, Foreword by Marcus Lindblom
Boss Fight Books, 2014
191 pages / $14.95 Buy from Boss Fight Books
1. This past December found me at several Christmas parties and office get-togethers (mostly with my wife’s coworkers and friends). Because I’m kind of self-absorbed and, even if I wasn’t, I’ve been spending the past five months with my newborn son, I don’t have much to contribute by way of conversation, so I turned to talking about Earthbound.
2. My parents never bought me a Super Nintendo or any of the other 90’s child indulgences (although I was a member of the Burger King Kid’s Club and was allowed to watch hour upon hour of Nickelodeon), so I had no point of reference for the cult-hit video game.
3. I had trouble finding anyone who knew what I was talking about. They had never heard of the game, and cared even less about Ken Baumann’s book.
4. The few times that I actually found someone who played Earthbound our conversations were hauntingly simple.
5. Me: Have you ever played Earthbound?
Partygoer: You need to go home tonight and play it right now. [End of conversation.]
6. I never got around to it. Blah-blah work. Blah-blah new parent. Blah-blah smartphone.
7. But the real reason why I didn’t play it was because of how purely pleasurable Baumann’s book is.
8. Ken Baumann’s Earthbound is a charming intermingling of videogame history, walkthrough, memoir, and philosophy. He serves as Virgil to the reader’s Dante as he guides us through the “total inverse of Dante’s Hell” that is Twoson, Threed, Summers, and the other locales of the game while drawing on everything from Straw Dogs and Jung to Gak’s role in 90’s gross-out culture and House.
9. Baumann depicts the “irretrievable beauty in video games…” as a Romantic would depict vernal wood. As sacred: “Ephemeral glitches that point to the sublime. Randomized variables that are made more poetic in their expression by their adjacency to the rote and the banal.”
10. The strongest of Baumann’s threads are the biographical ones. Earthbound [the book] is a study of how Earthbound [the game] impacts lives, especially the lives of little Kenny in Texas, his estranged brother Scott, and the support of Ms. Baumann, and the loving Aviva. READ MORE >
January 23rd, 2014 / 4:43 pm
Between July 9th and August 5th , Alec Niedenthal and I had a long & blabby conversation that began when Alec enthusiastically responded to me saying “I’m almost completely gagged now by fucks like Deleuze.” Knowing Alec mostly as a fellow young philosophy & theory head, I asked after his newfound disillusionment with the stuff.
That conversation posted here—mostly unedited—in hopes you find it useful or rousing.
Ken: What literature strikes you as bullshit now?
Alec: Your question is great, but I’m not sure that I’m equipped to answer it. I’ll explain why. First, I’m not sure how possible it is today to talk about what sort of art is valueless, ie bullshit, when the role of art is so unclear and, less evidently but no less significantly, when we as avant-garde writers are unsure whether there should be an institution called “Art” any longer. That’s to say, it’s hard to even talk about what literature should be doing when the “should”-level claim about literature in general—basically, what it ought to depict and how to depict it—is supposed to be. READ MORE >
I know there was a Tao Lin post x hours ago, but I don’t care. I have books to give away. Want to win free books? Want to grumble? Comment on this post to get one of these:
FIRST PRIZE goes to the commenter with the best* comment
SECOND PRIZE goes to the commenter with the worst* comment
THIRD PRIZE goes to the commenter who makes the MOST* comments (bonus for over 100)
each prize will be selected randomly from the (pictured) prize pool of:
*as calculated by me
(for the curious, the reason I have these books is that I pre-ordered two out of the three, then received ARCs. i bought two copies of Ken’s because I knew it would be badass)
I’m still bogged down with school (almost done) but I thought I’d throw a little something up, pun intended. Two months ago I wrote an analysis of Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation” where I argued that, rather than being opposed to all interpretation, as some believe, Sontag was instead opposed to “metaphorical interpretation”—to critics who interpret artworks metaphorically or allegorically. (“When the artist did X, she really meant Y.”) I thought I’d document a few recent examples of this—not to pick on any particular critics, mind you, but rather to foster some discussion of what this criticism looks like and why critics do it (because critics seem to love doing it).
The first example comes from Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, in particular the exhibit “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949–1962” (which is up until 2 June). One of the works on display is Gérard Deschamps’s Tôle irisée de réacteur d’avion (pictured above, image taken from here—I didn’t just stretch out a swath of tinfoil on my apartment floor). The placard next to it reads as follows:
1. Solip isn’t a novel.
2. If you’re looking for plot, look elsewhere.
3. This might be the single most difficult book to write jacket copy for.
4. This isn’t experimental literature for the sake of experimenting.
5. The book is physically tiny and the front cover is minimalist.
6. There is nothing on the back cover. A wall of black staring at you. No pull quotes or blurbs, and by the second page you realize why: because the book speaks for itself.
7. I read this tiny book in one sitting in a coffee shop amazed by its power and had to go indoors to drown out the outside world to reread it and devour it properly.
8. Baumann’s writing demands your attention. It’s as if he’s bottled up the intensity present in much of online fiction and spread it out over a longer narrative, not losing a beat in the process.
9. The sentences are divine. The language will cast shadows. They will hum to you. Listen closely.
10. The book has a pulse to it, a pulse that beats louder and more pervasively as the text unfolds. READ MORE >
May 7th, 2013 / 3:01 pm
So Ken Baumann (author of the forthcoming Solip from Tyrant Books in 2012; congrats Ken!) accidentally bought two copies of Jason Bredle’s heart-sifting and twisting Smiles of the Unstoppable. When I offered to refund the extra money, he generously suggested I give the extra copy away on HTMLGIANT, which brings us to the pumpkin below this paragraph. See, I wanted to do a caption contest where I posted a picture of Ken smiling, but for some reason I found this picture of a pumpkin, which was actually even better than a picture of Ken getting Lasik surgery.
Here’s the contest: Post a caption to this pumpkin smile picture in the comments. Best 2 captions win copies of Smiles of the Unstoppable. Deadline: next Friday, March 25th. Very easy. Bonus points if Ken/Jason are somehow involved in an adventure with the pumpkin. See the picture, amplify your best/Jimmy Cheniest wit, and win some terrific poetry. Also you can go see Jason Bredle read at the Tucson Lit Press Fest on the 26th of March. So my best suggestion is to win this book, read some poems from it to your rich lover, and have your rich lover swoon so hard they buy you a ticket to Tucson. Duh. Very easy. Ready set go. If you need further convincing, read Jason’s poem “Moby Dick” below the jump, originally published at Ken’s No Posit. READ MORE >
Becoming is weird. I have theories: how I got here, what lead me, what pushed me out of one interest and into the next. I don’t get too high on rethinking and visiting my quick past, which, if I had to guess, is a big reason why I’m happy most of the time. I’m not that interested in my past, not as reportage, not as history. But consider this an essay in its primordial meaning: an attempt at a history. That black space with the electricity below it right above, that’s it.
When I was little I frequently made stuff. Stories, goofs. I was really into drawing, and applied to one of those mail-order Drawing Schools (to prove my might I had to draw a weird turtle boy’s face and include some mom money). My mom and dad, ever the best ever, obliged and encouraged me. Always. Throughout this entire post, remember that thread of encouragement. I’ve never lacked it from those close to me. If I’m not lucky I’m not anything else. Art class in school fed me, kept me wanting. I remember getting into a shoving match in second grade — was the kid’s name Kurt? — over who had drawn the better Star Wars TIE fighter. I fake hyperventilated when the teacher came to break it up, feigning something bodily urgent, and was made to stand against a wall and breathe slow. Kurt got punished, maybe spanked. I don’t know. It was Texas.
14. From Paper Cuts.
Audience Q: How do you know when you’re getting better?
Lorrie Moore: Maybe you don’t.
Audience Q: How do you know when you’ve found the right ending?
One of the Brooklyn guys named Jonathan: Maybe you don’t.
5. internet stunts versus blurbs: is there a difference? (Or how do I get Tao Lin’s name into this post?)
77. My computer crashed two days ago. Do you back up your writing? How and how many times? Any horror stories like when Hadley lost all of Hem’s stories on the train, etc?