So I read in Montclair last night, as part of the Halfway There Reading Series. It was the first time I’d read fiction in the state where I grew up–I’ve done a few author Q & As at WORD Jersey City, but that’s been it. I opted to read “Last Screening of A Hoax Cantata,” as (a) it’s arguably set in New Jersey; and (b) I knew that it was a good length for reading in the timeslot given. Seems to have gone over really well, which made for a good night.
The reading as a whole was a good night: the four of us who were reading were coming from different stylistic places, and the audience had good questions to ask at the end of the night. And a good chunk of my family stopped in from various parts of the state, which was also great to see.
After everything wrapped up, I wandered over to the train station, and ended up getting a pint at the adjoining bar. All told, it was a good way to spend an evening, and an indication of good things happening in the Garden State.
Joyland has a write-up of contributors who have books due out in 2016, and my collection Transitory is among the books mentioned. I am referred to as “Brooklyn’s literary chameleon,” which I am totally putting on my business cards.
So! One quick bits of news: the LitReactor course I’m teaching begins this Thursday.
Looking back a week or two, I read with Helen McClory and Susan Rukeyser earlier this month at WORD. I’ve published a story of Helen’s at Vol.1 Brooklyn, and she and I will both have books out on Civil Coping Mechanisms next year. Both she and Susan are terrific readers, and it was a pleasure to read alongside them. English Kills Review has a few photos up from the event.
Last week, I read as part of a Kanye West-centric night held by the LIT Reading Series. There, I read something new that also riffed on, well, a visual motif that came up in a couple of West’s works a few years ago. Audio of the entire event can be heard here, and my story begins at around the 1:35 mark.
Over the weekend, I moderated a panel featuring Elissa Schappell, Ben Greenman, Darin Strauss, and Adam Wilson at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference. The topic was work routines and productivity; in the case of both of the readings mentioned above, having the events looming in the background definitely helped me to make some headway on a pair of long-in-the-works ideas. When I was young, I remember going into my mother’s office and seeing a sign on the wall saying, “The only inspiration is the deadline.” I’m not entirely sure I agree with that sentiment, but it definitely helps.
Over on the Vol.1 side of things, we had a zine come out this week, which should be the first of many. It’s got terrific essays in it from Mairead Case and Rahawa Haile and Jen Vafidis and an intro from Jason Diamond and art from Matt Lubchansky.
I ended up handling the bulk of the layout for it, on the grounds that my time using PageMaker to lay out Eventide 15+ years ago was probably the most applicable to wrangling InDesign. This turned out to be pretty accurate–thankfully, the “Place” feature has changed very little in the last decade and change, although I did have one hilarious misadventure that could result in a black-and-white edition of the cover showing up at some point. (Because there are a lot of them in my apartment right now.)
There was a point late on Monday night when I was standing in a Kinko’s on Houston Street–technically a “FedEx Office,” but fuck it, zines were being made, so it’s a Kinko’s–and thinking about how full-circle this all felt. I’m not going to lie: it was a really good feeling. Alternately: it felt like coming back to something I’d been missing for a while.
Tomorrow, I have the good fortune to be reading as part of the Words and Guitars Reading Series at HiFi. I’ll be reading as part of the following lineup:
Lex Good Carpenter
It’s likely that I’ll be reading two short pieces, one fiction and one nonfiction. Things kick off at 9.
I have a new short story up at Revolution John, titled “When We Came to City of the Stars.” It was, like “The Wenceslas Men” before it, written for a Halloween-themed reading; like that story, it get a bit weird. (And right about here, I should give credit where credit is due, and thank Eric Boyd for publishing it and Alex Houstoun for asking me to be a part of the reading to begin with.)
[UPDATE: due to a number of reasons, this story is now located at Medium.]
This story is, in its own way, a kind of extension of something I’d tried out in “Some Things I Botched,” which was written at roughly the same time. In there, I’d used the first person plural a few times, and figured I’d see how far I could take it. Also rattling around in my head: people relocating out of New York to smaller spaces nearby; suburbia gone weird; and a couple of odd images that have been lurking in my head for years now.
We had tired of city life, and we’d heard good things from friends who had stayed at a bed and breakfast there in the days before it shuttered. We were told that there were great views, that the river nearby was clear, that it never got too humid–something about a valley or a mountain, some quality of the landscape. We heard that artists lived there: painters and writers and filmmakers. At least,one or two lived there. Or one or two had bought property there, but hadn’t actually moved there all the way, not yet. Stories were told about an art-house theater and decent galleries. The rumor mill seemed promising.
Anyway: you can read the whole thing here.
Until I checked Instagram this morning, I hadn’t realized that Eagle Provisions in Park Slope was shutting down. I got the news via a photo posted by Rosie Schaap, and it affected me more than the all-too-familiar “this beloved business is calling it a day” narrative generally does. I spent a whole lot of time there for a few years running: a friend of mine once lived around the corner from it, and he and I did a podcast called Radio Free Brooklyn (long since defunct, with the archives similarly gone). It involved the two of us talking music of all kinds, from odd experimental pieces to grindcore to blues records to hip-hop. It’s the reason that I can now cite Impaled Northern Moonforest in conversations, for one thing.
It also proved essential to my education in the ways of craft beer. Long story short: we’d generally split a six-pack purchased from Eagle; we tried very hard to never pick the same beer twice, and at our peak, we were recording a show every week. That was a lot of beer, but it was also a lot of good beer, which made a huge difference. I haven’t been inside Eagle in a long time: most of the folks I knew who lived nearby have since moved elsewhere. And I realize that the lament of someone over something having vanished feels potentially hypocritical when they (i.e. me) haven’t patronized said establishment in a long time. Still, though: this is less about the loss of the place than the bittersweet feelings associated with a very particular time gone by, and all that emerged from it.
The beer was pretty amazing, too.
In news I’m very excited to be announcing: I’ll be reading as part of the Franklin Park Reading Series next month, along with Colson Whitehead, Amelia Gray, Wendy C. Ortiz, and Natalie Eilbert. This is a tremendous honor, and I’m very excited about sharing a stage with a quartet of writers whose work has impressed me so much over the years.
This will take place on Monday, April 13th, beginning at 8 p.m.
That thing where you realize that a paragraph in the story you’re editing is amusing, but doesn’t…quite…work for the story as a whole. Still: figured it was amusing enough to merit posting here.
Years earlier, he had spoken with friends during a time of disquiet in an old job. A friend, thankfully one who’d gotten married years before and saved Yannick the trouble, had asked him his plan for getting out. Yannick had said that it was simple: find someone with an enviable job whom he vaguely resembled; go out on a boat together; have a boating accident; and return to shore with a new identity. Yannick’s friend said that he’d stolen that from Patricia Highsmith, and also, that fingerprints might be a giveaway. That was how Yannick’s brief time as a sociopath came to an end.
Tonight, I’ll be reading at HiFi as part of The Disagreement’s second anniversary shindig. I’m incredibly happy to be doing so; as I rambled about on social media a couple of days ago, it’s basically the circa-2015 literary equivalent of when my friends’ bands would play Brownies in the late 90s.
Also reading will be Miles Klee, Mary Krienke, Brittany Goss, and Lizzie Harris. Things will get started at 8; more details can be found here.
Last week, Civil Coping Mechanisms announced the latest iteration of the Mainline contest/call for submissions. The esteemed Sean H. Doyle–whose own book on CCM, This Must Be the Place, is one of the works I’m most excited about this year–suggested that I send in something. And so I did: a collection entitled Transitory.
Yesterday, I ventured across the borough to read some fiction as part of The Catapult. The episode is up now, and features nonfiction from Madeline Felix, as well as me reading my story “Some Things I Botched” and part of a work in progress, “Yannick’s Swiss Army.”
When I finished with the recording and ventured back out on my way, I checked my phone, and learned that Transitory had been named one of three winners of Mainline, along with books by Helen McClory and Alexandra Naughton. When I got this news a day ago, I was, pretty much, freaking out. I’m still freaking out. Transitory will be out in 2016. I am floored and incredibly grateful.
Last year, I taught a course at Lit Reactor about submitting fiction to literary journals. It went very well, I thought, and I’ve been asked back to teach it again later this year. It will begin on March 10th, and runs for two weeks. And I’m really looking forward to heading back into the world of teaching–I feel like the experience has made me a more careful reader and writer.
I’ll be reading at the next edition of the Difficult to Name Reading Series, which I’m very excited about. Even more, I’m excited about the lineup:
Things go down on Saturday, January 31st, beginning at 6 p.m. I’ll be reading something short; possibly two short things. We shall see.
Late last year, I was asked to read at a holiday-themed edition of The Difficult to Name Reading Series. And so I did, and wrote a story around a strange image that had been living in my brain for a while. “Why I Was Not in New Jersey For Christmas in 1997” is the result. It’s a kind of conjoining of two different experiences, one half-dreamt, and one drawn more or less from life. The original draft went a lot more into the latter, but it seemed out of balance, making the transition into the surreal a little more abrupt. So:
I got to my friend’s apartment, handed off the book, got some more stares, and found my way to the subway. Hello, Broadway-Nassau. Hello, stairways up and down and unclear signage. I spent ten minutes on one platform before I realized it was the wrong one; I found my way down some more stairs, and stepped on board that train when it came. In the initial announcement, it sounded like the conductor was saying it was the E.
You can read the whole thing here. Thanks to Ryan Sartor for the invitation.
So: it’s January. The weather outside, as I type this, is relatively crappy; I am making do with a series of recent album purchases (James Xerxes Fussell, Amen Dunes, Nathan Bowles, Sleater-Kinney, Attendant, Sick Feeling) and copious amounts of coffee. I have a working oven again; and baked goods will likely be the result. (I’m also weighing the merits of seeing what happens with cookie dough that’s been frozen over a year, but that’s a ramble for another day.)
I started doing some writing about music for BOMB: here are interviews with Peter Jefferies and Weyes Blood, both of which I’m really happy with.
At Vol.1 Brooklyn, I talked with Mike Pace about his new album Best Boy, talked with Andy Choi about the debut from St. Lenox, and posted the transcript of my conversation with Luke B. Goebel from our conversation last fall at Greenlight Bookstore.
I got interview Farel Dalrymple, whose work I’ve admired since Pop Gun War, for Electric Literature.
At Biographile: a look at Nikola Tesla in fiction, the latest from Wes Moore, and the continuing appeal of Patricia Highsmith.
At Men’s Journal, I chatted with James Patterson.
…and then I realized that, in the midst of being fairly productive, I’d neglected to make with the posts on here. Which I’d like to try to ameliorate now. And so: here’s a very quick “late 2014 best-ofs” roundup. Which is probably irrelevant at this point, as we are bounding into the bright and shining future of 2015, but hey, why not?
I had some thoughts on the year in essays for Hazlitt.
I wrote about Viv Albertine’s excellent memoir for Rolling Stone‘s look at the year’s best music books.
I wrote about some albums I liked for Dusted.
I wrote about some books I liked for Vol.1 Brooklyn.
I contributed to Electric Literature’s best novels of the year feature, as well as to their round-up of collections.
I wrote a few blurbs for Paste‘s look at the year in comics and webcomics.