I like to hear about people’s reading habits—not just what they’re reading, but how. In the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, on the train, on the toilet, three books at a time, strictly poetry, in a deep musician biography phase—whatever. I like to hear when people are struggling to read—maybe because they can’t find the time or can’t find a book that holds them, maybe because they’re in the throes of grief or just having too good a time. It occurs to me every once in a while that some people just don’t care about books the way I just don’t care about, say, golf. Part of my job, if I’m being completely honest, is to make books look good, and make the reading life look good. I need people to buy in to the idea that owning stacks of books is important, that books are worth spending money on, especially since it’s entirely possible to own zero books and read as many as you want for free. I love this challenge. I hate capitalism but I love selling books, talking about books, and trying to learn as much as I can about why and how people read.
The place, generally speaking, where I feel most “free” to read, is in bed, before sleeping, after I’ve written in my five-year journal. I started my Tamara Shopsin journal three years ago and I cannot sleep until I’ve written something down—it’s a mental logging off for me, downloading my day somewhere safe and physical, which frees me to read without Bowsers from the day sneak-attacking my brain, enticing me to regret what I said to so-and-so or how I handled xyz parenting situation. Not now, Bowser! I’m reading. I also work hard to clear swaths of daytime hours on the weekend at least a couple of times a month, actually schedule this as I would a doctor’s appointment. Otherwise it won’t happen. The rest of my reading happens catch-as-catch can, while I’m waiting for other things, when I have a surprise thirty minutes, etc.
I read a lot because that’s my job, and it’s my job, in many ways, because I read a lot. The reading a lot part came first, and led me down a very winding path to where I am now. Here’s what I’ve been reading:READ MORE >
I read Scarecrone by Melissa Broder in the bath. Originally, I bought every copy of Scarecrone from Adam Robinson but then I sold them all back to him for the same price, except one, which I kept. That is the copy of Scarecrone I read in the bath.
I had a notebook and pen by the bath because I knew it would be an experience that I would want to express something about, even though I’m uneasy with experiences and expression.
Earlier, I’d read an interview of Melissa Broder by Shane Jones in The Believer about food and food rituals. The interview answers are very honest and detailed. I became upset as I read it because it put me in touch with a kind of radical normalcy in my thoughts and behaviors around food and my body. I began to wonder, as I’ve wondered before, if that normalcy has to do with how many hours & hours I spent in the bathtub as a child and teen, around my own naked body but not confronted with it. As a child and teen, in the bathtub, I usually either read, in which case I saw my headless naked body in the lower periphery, or I did things to make my body feel or do things, in which case I guess I closed my eyes or saw my body through unusual filters.
(I don’t know how to describe any of this in non-dualist ways, especially from the bath point of view since–unlike in the mirror where you see everything or mostly your face– in the bath you see your body but not your head where your brain is, so that the body really seems like something apart.)
I thought about how I have no discipline about food–no habits–but I do have a modicum of self-control. A lot of the interview was about bingeing, which I’ve never done, and which must require even more discipline than purging or limiting food. Bingeing must require a kind of vision, or drive, that will only work via an extreme amount of discipline that I’ll never have.
I thought about how uninterested in purity I am, especially when it comes to food and the body, which is part of what upset me about the interview. I have been slow to read Scarecrone in part because it seems pure and honest, and I am uncomfortable with purity and not very honest. Part of that dishonesty has probably led me throughout my life to deny the existence of any bad feelings about my body. Shame itself is so pure, or at least it’s predicated on the desire for purity. I am not honest about shame I might feel, or ways that I might wish I were pure or that something in the world were pure.
Still, I wanted to read Scarecrone in the bath. I thought something would happen to me if I did because I read reviews that said it is a book of spells, and I am most vulnerable to spells in the bath. I ran the water and realized it was much too hot. For the spell to work, I thought, maybe it would be better to sit naked on the cold toilet seat beside the bath but not get in, and read Scarecrone like that. Or maybe for it to work I should light candles and put them around the bath.
Literature Party in Seattle tonight should be fun. If you’re at AWP, please come!
It’s a benefit party to support APRIL Festival, which is a big organization for making books awesome in Washington state. It’s at FRED Wildlife Refuge and doors open at 9. It’s not too far from the convention center. Tickets are $10 at the door.
It’s sponsored by FSG Originals and Submittable and yours truly, HTMLGiant. Vouched is putting in a pop up bookshop, and if you buy a book there, FSG Originals will give you a free one of their books.
Capacity at the venue is 450 souls, but I think you’ll be able to get in. However, I have overheard many people at the bookfair talking about how this is the one event they’re sure they’re going to.
Melissa Broder is reading. And Sommer Browning. And Amelia Gray. Those three people are three of my favorite, favorite people at AWP, a big thing filled with favorite people. Those three people are amazing performers of important writing.
Writing is a way to express ideas, and Melissa, Sommer and Amelia have the best ideas. Hearing them read inspires me, every time.
And after they read, there will be a big dance party featuring local Seattle DJs.
I’m in a big house where many of us HTMLGiant writers are staying. I think there are 12 of us staying here. John Dermot Woods just got out of the shower. He doesn’t write for HTMLGiant actually, neither does Spencer Madsen or Mira Gonzalez. Last night Mike Young came home from his reading and fell over a chair. There’s a hot tub at this house and I think there were 8 or so people in it last night at the same time. Downstairs Amy McDaniel is preparing a brunch for 50 people. I can hear Tim Sanders making Gene Morgan laugh loudly.
Come to Literature Party tonight?
STARK WEEK EPISODE #5: “the world can’t / hold / what is / the world / built for / exactly” — Melissa Broder on Starkweather’s LA LA LA
For Episode Five of STARK ATTACK A WEEK OF STARK ATTACKS, we move onto the second book of T4B with the firm and jubilant columns and poemreview joy of our own Melissa Broder talking about Sam’s LA LA LA. As an added bonus, we also get the last LA LA LA itself to accompany Melissa’s text!
Joyce Carol Oates
in the review
I wanted to
WHICH I DO
there is no
only the white goddess
and the poet
and a pair of eyes
trying to jump
‘if you love me
unlock your phone
see those two lights
on the sea
you just know
will be ok
his desire map
out of room
mine is more
an ash mouth
the world can’t
‘the more animal
the less pain…
stagger to the edge
of the woods
suck the poison out’
I have had
from the earth
from the ways
what they want
‘blood on the keyboard
spiritual pop ups
I want to
I want to stay
‘past black fields
that feel more
than memory can…
this life is super
when you get
to the sky
there’s a sky
let me float
that I know
Melissa Broder is the author of two collections of poems, most recently MEAT HEART (Publishing Genius, 2012). Poems appear or are forthcoming in The Iowa Review, FENCE, Guernica, The Missouri Review, et al.
LA LA LA EXCERPT BELOW THE JUMP!
July 17th, 2013 / 3:02 pm
WEEKS: A lot can kill you in a week. Even more can eat you at your weakness. A whole week of hair growth depends on, uh, genetics? Weeks contain a finite series of burritos and an infinite burrito of choices. Hoopla, regrets, collapses, dancing so hard you have to pour a cup of ice water on your dome, other times that feeling like you have to drag yourself so hard by your own collar your shirt might tear. Huge trucks at night carrying turned-off, unblinking versions of those normally blinking signs that say CONSTRUCTION AHEAD or SLOW LANE ENDS, except the signs are big so the trucks themselves say OVERSIZED LOAD and are blinking, themselves, even though their cargo’s dark. What I would like to do is nominate Sampson Starkweather to rewrite the entirety of America’s highway marginalia, to be the official roadside spokespoet for all of America’s restless feelings. I don’t have shit to do with those decisions, so what is happening instead is that this week will be Sampson Starkweather week here at HTMLGIANT, aka STARK WEEK.
THE BOOK: Sampson’s debut book of poems, The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather, is out now from Birds LLC. It’s really big. Like almost 400 pages. Who does that? It’s what it says it is. 4 books. All the feelings enacted in the opening paragraph happen inside of its four books, which are categorized as “poetry/life.” Sure, yes, yeah.
WHAT’S IN IT: It’s a book I’d give to someone just coming to poetry and to someone who feels totally burnt out on poetry. Those are kind of the same readers, I think. That’s why the whole week. Starkweather’s poetry is the existence of a nonexistent photograph of Andre the Giant jumping off the top rope. In his introduction, Jared White mentions “bass-voiced sexy soul-singer slow jams” and “punch-drunk Harlequin-robocop masculinity.” The poems have angry leaked dreams and love before roads and a pistol-whipped desire and the world’s saddest TV and offensive hurricane names and corpses wrapped in huge tropical leaves on islands named after them and that’s just in the poems you can read on the excerpt page.
WTF IS GOING ON: Over the course of this week, we’re going to feature a series of guests talking about Sam’s work in each of the books within T4B—1) King of the Forest, 2) La La La, 3) The Waters, 4) Self Help Poems—and also we’re going to hear from the awesome artists who made the covers for each of these four books. There will be criticism, talk of process, grand sweeping theories, tiny insightful scalpels. You’ll get to read some of Sam’s poetry. There will be some talk of what goes into, in 2013, putting out a 400 page book of your poems that is actually 4 books. Maybe there will be some interaction, multimedia, surprise. Buy a copy of the book if you want to follow along closely. I promise it won’t feel like being stuck on a brokedown bus at a rest stop in Connecticut. There are poems that feel like that, but not in this book. Here’s a list of who’s coming at you: Matt Bollinger, Ed Park, Bianca Stone, John Cotter, Melissa Broder, Eric Amling, Elisa Gabbert, Jonathan Marshall, Amy Lawless, Sommer Browning, and Jared White.
WHO IS SAMPSON STARKWEATHER ANYWAY, IS HE THAT GUY WHO DID THAT THING GUYS DO: The reason a lot of people want to share and talk about Sam’s huge ass tree-killer is because he and his work (which are impossible to unspoon from each other, which is how it should be) is like getting the best high five of your life from Teen Wolf. He is loved and easy to love and easy to mistake in rural supermarkets for Javier Bardem. He’s a longhaired poet surfer with a heart of messy pizza and manic kindness. Thank the exhausted fucking stars he is with us and with poetry. Enjoy STARK WEEK.
HOW DOES STARK WEEK BEGIN: To begin STARK WEEK, I talked to Starkweather:
1) Hi Sam. Welcome to Stark Week. This is how it starts, with an interview of you. Our interview starts with the “who is Sampson Starkweather and what’s going on, what is this stuff all over my arms, is this sap” portion of the interview. So let’s start at the start. Four books? Why? Why buck the prevailing model of slim little precious supermodel books? More importantly, why buck it in this beautifully thunking doorstop fashion?
Sorry about the sap “this forest / is unusually horny.”
In the end it came down to precisely the opposite of your question: “Why not?” Why not 4 books in 1? Why not a 328 page monster poetry collection that sounds like a seminal lifetime work by some famous, award-winning, about-to-die poet who now tends a garden, published by some big-ass conglomerate press like Penguin, but is actually by some dude with a ridiculous name that no one has heard of (and sounds like a character from Game of Thrones) and has yet to publish a full-length book, on a small indie poetry press that, oh yeah, he just happens to be a publisher/founding-editor of? It seemed ridiculous, audacious, absurd, unheard of, taboo, laughable—in other words, perfect.
July 15th, 2013 / 1:28 pm
Everyboy comes to me at a church potluck
perfumed with frankincense and lasagna.
He believes I am a gentle bird girl
in my tulip sweater and raincoat.
I am not so gentle, but I act as if
and what I act as if I might become.
He says: Let’s be still and know refreshments.
Tater tot casserole is wholesome fare.
Let’s get soft, let’s get really, really soft.
I do not say: I am frightened of growing plump;
something about the eye of a needle
and sidling right up close to godliness.
Instead I dig in,
stuff myself on homemade rolls,
tamale pie and creamed chipped beef with noodles.
I eat until my bird bones evanesce.
I eat until I bust from my garments.
I become the burping circus lady
with meaty ham hocks and a sow’s neck.
Everyboy says: Let’s get soft, even softer.
We vibrate at the frequency of angel cake.
Our throats fill with ice cream glossolalia.
The eye of the needle grows wider.
There is room at the organ bench.
Melissa Broder is the author of the poetry collection WHEN YOU SAY ONE THING BUT MEAN YOUR MOTHER (Ampersand Books).