Possibly of note: Hair Lit, the anthology of hair-metal-inspired fiction in which I have a story, now has cover artwork. And there’s a lot of neon there.
The list of writers is pretty fantastic, and it’s an honor to be a part of it. More details to come on when it’ll be out in the world and available to be ordered; hopefully, there will be a New York City release party, and I’ll have details on that as they emerge as well.
I’ve just started Calvin Tomkins’s Lives of the Artists, which opens with a profile of Damieb Hirst. Reading it, I was amused to find that I had apparently attended Hirst’s first solo show in New York. (I realized the artist was Hirst a few years later; I hadn’t realized the significance, though.) This wasn’t, mind you, because I knew anything about art. No; this was because a friend was working next door to the gallery at the time (1996, to be exact), and told me, “You have to check this out! There’s a cow chopped in half–it’s fucked up.” Out of such things is an appreciation of contemporary art born, apparently.
So: to be filed under “long-in-the-works projects,” Daphne Carr and I are starting an independent press. The first title will be the next installment of the Best Music Writing series.
There’s presently a fundraising campaign afoot. You will, I’m sure, be hearing more about the press in question in the weeks and months to come.
I’m re-reading Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City for one of the book groups I’m in, and I figured it might make sense to delve into Kevin Avery’s biography of Paul Nelson, Everything Is An Afterthought. (Robert Christgau points out in his review of Avery’s book that Nelson was the inspiration for Chronic City‘s Perkus Tooth.) So far, I’m through the first part of Nelson’s book — the biography takes up about 180 pages, and is followed by a collection of Nelson’s criticism. Highly recommended so far, though also heartbreaking, frustrating, sometimes triumphant, sometimes maddening.
Two more 2011 lists for your consideration, both at Vol.1: my favorite 2011 books read in 2011, and my favorite non-2011 books read in 2011. In-depth thoughts on both are at the links, but here are the lists:
Dana Spiotta, Stone Arabia (Scribner)
David Foster Wallace, The Pale King (Little, Brown and Company)
Vanessa Veselka, Zazen (Red Lemonade)
Justin Taylor, The Gospel of Anarchy (Harper Perennial)
Colson Whitehead, Zone One (Doubleday)
Nathan Larson, The Dewey Decimal System (Akashic)
Ellen Willis: Out of the Vinyl Deeps (University of Minnesota Press)
Geoff Dyer, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (Greywolf)
John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead (Farrar Strauss & Giroux)
Jeff Sharlet, Sweet Heaven When I Die (W.W. Norton)
Lisa Wells, Yeah. No. Totally. (Perfect Day Publishing)
John Williams, Stoner (NYRB Classics)
Alexander Chee, Edinburgh (Picador)
Barbara Comyns, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (The Dorothy Project)
Bruce Chatwin, On the Black Hill (Penguin)
Dennis Cooper, The Sluts (Da Capo)
Karl Marlantes, Matterhorn (Grove Press)
Michael Kimball, Us (Tyrant Books)
Michael Kimball, Dear Everybody (Alma Books)
Rick Moody, The Four Fingers of Death (Back Bay Books)
Paul Harding, Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press)
Anne Carson, Nox (New Directions)
So hey, the year 2011 is nearing its end, which tends to mean that it’s time to muse on the year’s artistic offerings in concise form. In other words: there will be year-end lists. And so: here are a few of mine, with more to come. (I’ll have a couple of pieces up at Vol.1 in the next week, along with some thoughts on noteworthy live music at Big Other. Links will be posted as the pieces appear.) For now, here are two:
My ten favorite albums, along with some thoughts on the year in music, are now listed at Dusted.
And I contributed to a list of literary gift ideas at The Contextual Life, along with a number of notably NY-area lit folks.
Titus Andronicus | FOR NO ONE from FOR NO ONE on Vimeo.
Ah, late November. Soon I’ll be off to pay a visit to the county from which I came. Last year, I did some exploration and revisiting of old haunts. This year, I’m less sure of what to expect — maybe another trip to the River Road Bookstore; maybe some trips on Jersey roads to the west. Nothing is set as of yet…
Thinking out loud a bit here. A couple of weeks ago, a story of mine called “The Clutch” turned up on Vol.1. It’s a weird story, and the story of how it came to exist is (possibly) relevant: I wrote it for a reading that was part of a genre-themed series. My night’s theme was horror, and thus a horror story is what came up.
Except…it’s not really a proper horror story. It nurtures a particular image and setting that, by story’s end, eventually become horrific, but — this is more in the realm of things that unsettle me than things that will necessarily terrify audiences worldwide. It’s an image that I’ve had in my head for years now: seven or eight years ago, there was a particularly hot summer, and I’d walk to the subway after long nights at work and pass these clumps of trash bags that were just left there to fester, and I’d wonder; I’d start to see things emerging from them, and then I’d creep myself out and get onto the subway and try really hard to avoid thinking of the things now lurking around my subconscious.
(There’s an old story of mine somewhere with a similar payoff; a sinister buildup to an impossible image. Maybe I’ll post it somewhere; might make for interesting reading…)
I have a weird relationship with realism. A lot of the fiction I’ve done lately has been pretty straightforward. And yet: a lot of the writing that I first did when I was ushering myself into the process of writing fiction was much more surreal. Weird fiction or “slipstream” or something similar. Some of that’s just due to my reading habits: my bookshelves have a fair amount of realist fiction on them, but there’s a fair share of science fiction and horror and magic realism in there as well. But I also find it interesting that, after detouring around the weird for a while, I seem to find myself drawn back to it — the last story I finished opens in a fairly realistic vein and then takes a detour into the…if not the impossible, at least the unlikely.
Or maybe it’s just that I’m reminded that one can tweak things like realism on the page; that a story that opens in one mode doesn’t necessarily have to stay in that same mode for the duration. (Dennis Cooper’s The Marbled Swarm, which I just finished, is something of a master class in this — just when you think you know where it’s going, the narrator pulls things to a stop and resets the terms under which you hear his story.)
If nothing else, that renewed attraction to all things weird might help explain where parts of my head were when I wrote some of the dialogue in this story….
A few months ago, I wrote a short horror story for a night of genre-inspired works at Blue Angel Wines in Williamsburg. That story, “The Clutch,” has wound up on Vol.1, as it seemed strange not to have a story that wasn’t somewhat creepy up around Halloween.
By the third morning, the air’s density had grown: sweat sprouted from Dalton’s chest and shoulders as soon as he rose to street level and began his westward walk. Ten steps down the block, he saw the bags again, grey plastic taut in places, slack and crumpled in others. Their shapes, he saw, had come to rest on one another; had come to compress and support themselves.
You can read the whole thing here. I’ll be back later in the week with some thoughts on this story and something else that’s in the works, and What It All Means. (Or something.)
I arrived home to find this in my mailbox. (More specifically: it was on the floor below it. My mailbox is fairly small.) The book in question is All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, and it’s a collection of work from the long-running Chicago-and-Nashville-based literary broadsheet (and website).
I’ve had some stories appear in both their print and online spaces, and they also appear here; there’s also work from smart folks like Joe Meno, Patrick Somerville, Al Burian, Anne Elizabeth Moore, Jonathan Messinger, Susannah Felts, Jamie Iredell, Kate Duva, and more.
(As always, giant thanks are due to editors Todd Dills and C.T. Ballentine, who are fine people to boot.)
If you’re so inclined, you can purchase the book here.
Last week, I contributed an essay to the excellent “Write Place, Write Time” series of, well, short essays about where writers do their thing.
I’m going to need to sketch out a shared history for the three primary main characters — including former bandmates, families, classmates — as well as a small town near the Pennsylvania border in northwestern New Jersey. I keep a Moleskin notebook around, but more recently I picked up a half-dozen Field Notes notebooks so that I could keep things project-specific.
You can read the whole thing right here. The whole site is well worth your time as well…
The fine people at Storychord have published my short story “Winter Montage, Hoboken Station.” You can read it here.
Here’s a short excerpt:
Transit always reminds me of transit. The light rail that runs along the Hudson calls back every trip I’ve ever taken to the Twin Cities — if the cars used on each line aren’t the same make, they have to be siblings or kissing cousins or flat-out doppelgängers. Minneapolis makes me think of winter, makes me think of long walks through the same snowbanks that petrify my clients out here. I spent four years there, punctuated by repetition: every six to eight weeks, I would take the light rail from riverside neighborhoods to the airport, would step out into the airport’s cavernous station, and would take flight. I almost always returned at night, and sitting at that station, half a dozen standing in random concentrations along the platform, might as well have been heraldry for that time in my life.
More on how this story came to be will appear in this space before long.
Word has come that Tim Kinsella — of many fine bands, including Joan of Arc, Owls, Cap’n Jazz, and Make Believe (pictured below) — has a novel forthcoming on the fine indie press featherproof.
I ended up writing a short blurb about this for Vol.1. What I wasn’t able to work in there was a link to this short story of mine that appeared on THE2NDHAND a couple of years ago. Called “Party Able Model,” it was written for a night of stories inspired by songs that was held in Chicago a few years ago. Given that Kinsella’s music has inspired fiction, it seems only fitting that he himself should also be working in that realm.
A number of very smart, very astute people have written elegant pieces as of late on why you should pick up Out of the Vinyl Deeps, an anthology of Ellen Willis’s rock criticism.
There isn’t much I can add to this. I will say, though, that I spent the last few days reading the anthology, and this excerpt from a piece on the Velvet Underground won’t stop rattling around my head:
For the Velvets the roots of sin are in this ingrained resistance to facing our deepest, most painful, and most sacred emotions; the essence of grace is the comprehension that our sophistication is a sham, that our deepest, most painful, most sacred desire is to rediscover a childlike innocence that we have never, in our heart of hearts, really lost.