Did Some Readings; Teaching a Class

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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.

New Fiction: “When We Came to City of the Stars” at Revolution John

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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.

A Deleted Scene

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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.

And: scene.

 

A Contest, A Podcast, A Collection

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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.

The First Reading of 2015

harmonicaI’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:

Akilah Hughes
Saeed Jones
Maris Kreizman
Brandon Lewis
Michelle Markowitz
Hoff Matthews
Justin Taylor
Alex Watt
(and me.)

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.

 

New Fiction, With Bonus Transit Surrealism

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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.

In January

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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.

Like George or Pete (By Which I Mean: Bests)

jersey_twilight…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.

An Indoor Week

IMG_20141211_112713It’s been a quiet past couple of days around these parts. Been busy with assignments, the Lit Reactor course I’ve been teaching, and preparation for the reading I’m doing over the weekend. Quiet is okay with me right now, I’d say.

***

At Hazlitt, I interviewed Sarah Thornton about her new book 33 Artists in 3 Acts.

At Paste, I interviewed Kelly Sue DeConnick about Bitch Planet and wrote about the first issue of Cullen Bunn and Jeremy Haun’s Wolf Moon.

I wrote an essay about Songs:Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain at Vol.1 Brooklyn.

At the Star Tribune, I wrote about John Safran’s God’ll Cut You Down.

At Dusted, I wrote a review of Kevin Morby’s album Still Life.

And at Biographile, I wrote about a pair of soccer-related autobiographies.

December, Theatergoing, Roads Up North

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Mid-November found me watching larger-scale music than what I usually venture to see: Nils Frahm, being charming and playing mesmerizing music in a church on the Upper West Side; a host of composers, including Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and Tim Hecker, channeling the aesthetic of Black Mountain College into a program at BAM’s Harvey Theater. By the weekend, I ended up venturing out to the Brooklyn Night Bazaar for a show headlined by Obits, who sounded particularly sharp in a two-drummer configuration. Also on the bill were Survival Knife, who I described to one friend as “the circa-1983, signed to SST version of Unwound.” (Admittedly, they feature two former members of Unwound, so–that’s not a terribly surprising comparison.)

Now it’s December. Sometimes you lose track of time. Sometimes you’re just busy.

***

Ryan Sartor asked me a couple of questions in advance of the reading I’ll be doing next weekend. I answered them.

***

At Dusted, I wrote about Grouper’s new album Ruins. And I helped assemble this list of recent musical favorites from A Winged Victory for the Sullen.

At Biographile, I wrote about new/newly revised biographies of Lou Reed and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and interviewed Forrest Gander about his novel The Trace.

At the StarTribune, I reviewed J. Robert Lennon’s collection See You in Paradise.

And at Paste, I reviewed the first issue of Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C.

Welcome, Central November

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Went to Death by Audio on Monday night. I arrived late, just before the place sold out, to catch a fantastic, inspiring set by Priests and a decidedly catchy one from Future Punx. I didn’t get there in time to see Downtown Boys, and given that a number of friends with great taste in music have raved about them, I wish my timing had worked out a little better. (Apparently I also missed this.) Monday was the kind of day when I was working for about twelve straight hours; by the time I left my apartment, I felt the strange sensation that comes from not having interacted with anyone face-to-face for much of the day. The outside world seemed surreal, unmade.

***

At Vol.1 Brooklyn, I talked with Kathy Page about her fine collection Paradise & Elsewhere.

At Biographile, I wrote about “Literchoor Is My Beat,” the new biography of James Laughlin, who founded New Directions.

Reading the Classics (Out Loud, In Public)

reading_moby-dickIt’s been a relatively quiet week, I’d say. Some preparations; lots of hunkering down and reading nonfiction for a host of freelance assignments. Ordered some coffee from Chicago’s Metropolis Coffee, because it is delicious. Increased my total of bags of books to take to Housing Works to something close to ten.

I’ll be reading at this weekend’s Moby-Dick Marathon, which was a fantastic experience in 2012, and should be equally excellent (if not better) this time out. Things kick off tonight; I’ll be reading between 6 and 7 tomorrow, at the South Street Seaport Museum.

And, if you go to the Marathon’s website, I can be seen in a group shot of many NYC-based writers studiously consulting our copies of Melville’s book. (Taken, like the one above, by Joshua Simpson.)

***

In news of things I’ve written: I talked with The Wilds author Julia Elliott for Vol.1 Brooklyn, and profiled Clemens J. Setz, author of the newly-translated novel Indigo, for OZY.

Early November It Is

No Other at Johnny Brenda's

Best laid plans, etc etc. In the end, I didn’t make it out of the city on the 31st, but I did venture down to Philadelphia a couple of days later to see my friend Maria’s band No Other play at Johnny Brenda’s with Ex Hex and Speedy Ortiz. And it was a fine show: basically, smart music, lots of guitars, lots of distortion, lots of taking things in unexpected ways.

Weyes Blood at St. Vitus

A day later, I went to St. Vitus for a release party for the fourth issue of The Pitchfork Review. There, I heard good readings from Zachary Lipez and Amanda Petrusich and Jayson Greene, watched Brooks Headley give an absurdist cooking demonstration, and saw a fine set from Weyes Blood, a band whose new album The Innocents has been dominating my turntable for much of the past week and change. (That and Moonface’s City Wrecker EP–and I’d argue that the two have a similar sensibility, so that’s probably no coincidence.)

***

At Biographile, I talked with Gary Krist about his history of early-20th-century New Orleans, Empire of Sin.

At Electric Literature, I wrote about fiction where reality itself is rewritten.

At the Barnes & Noble Review, I reviewed Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel’s novel By Night the Mountain Burns.