For Flavorwire: Capsule Reviews, Enhanced Books

At Flavorwire, I have a piece up on what my editor there has dubbed “Performance-enhanced books.” In practical terms, that involves capsule reviews of five titles:

And here’s a bit of it:

In recent years, the pros and cons of print and digital editions of books have sparked more than a few debates, with each side boasting its own set of passionate advocates and agitated detractors. What follows will not address that argument. (At least, not directly.) Instead, we’re taking a look at books that are, in some way, enhanced – editions packaged with a complementary object that supplements the words printed between the covers, enhances the author’s themes, or provides a valuable point of reference for the work.

The whole piece can be read here.

Slush, etc.

Via their Twitter feed, Fictionaut recently linked this Jim Hanas post arguing against the slush pile.

I’m not sure that I agree with it.  I think Hanas is a little too optimistic about editors seeking out and finding good work, if good work can theoretically be found anywhere. Though given that Fictionaut provides exactly the sort of system that Hanas is talking about (and has been embraced by the editors of some journals and small presses), it’s understandable that they’re enthusiastic about this argument.

Admittedly, I do in fact have a Fictionaut page. I’ve been seeking homes for two stories for a while now, and have been pondering shrugging my shoulders, posting them on said Fictionaut page, and moving on.  I can understand Hanas’s argument; I’m less sure that I agree with it as an overarching philosophy.

Thoughts on “Hey Princess”

Just finished reading Mats Jonsson’s Hey Princess (preview here). It’s an autobiographical take on coming of age in late-90s Sweden, often brutally honest, and all the funnier for it. Jonsson’s art is fairly straightforward (I’d say comparisons to Jeffrey Brown would not be out of line), but that seems appropriate for the self-deprecating tone that he strikes throughout. Throw in abundant references to Pulp and Bob Hund, and I was hooked. (It’d make for an interesting double bill with Phonogram, I’d say.) As an added bonus, there’s also an eerily resonant suggestion late in the book that a certain cult television show is responsible for the romantic ideal for indie-dudes of a certain age. It made me laugh out loud, then shudder a bit from recognition.

Brief Thoughts on “Winter’s Bone”

Since I rambled a bit about Centurion in this space, I thought it might be apt to talk a bit about a film I liked significantly more. In this case, it’s Winter’s Bone, which I saw at BAM a few weeks ago. It’s impressive: the acting is uniformly top-notch, from familiar faces (a couple of Deadwood alums pop up)  to actors I’ve never seen before, and the plot shifts its stakes neatly over the course of the film. The way in which it handles the story’s violence — mostly via implication — never softens its brutality. And it makes an emaciated John Hawkes — who’s fantastic in it — into a physically intimidating presence, which is no mean feat.


Fun fact: I haven’t read the Daniel Woodrell novel on which the film is based (yet), but I did read his Tomato Red about a decade ago. I have now spent approximately an hour so far trying to locate it

S Is For Seattle

I reviewed S’s Sadstyle for Tiny Mix Tapes.

This album is indeed a four-track project from the 90s, but it’s also a reminder of exactly why the home-recordings aesthetic works. These songs can feel messy at times, but that mirrors the messiness of the lives documented in them, something Ghetto’s lyrics and (especially) her vocal delivery makes clear.

I’ll be revisiting Sadstyle fairly soon, as I’ll be talking about the upcoming Carissa’s Wierd compilation for TMT before long. Until then, here’s one song from it:

Carissa’s Wierd – The Color That Your Eyes Changed With the Color of Your Hair by hardlyartrecords

Brief Thoughts on “Centurion”

Saw the Neil Marshall-directed Centurion at IndieScreen via a Film Comment-curated part of the Northside Festival. (I may have exhausted my quota of descriptive modifiers for the night right there.) The very short version: it’s a good action film. The slightly longer version: It’s a good action film with an unfortunate tendency to throw in some relatively stock action-movie dialogue. (One character gets a variation of the “only two weeks ’til retirement” speech, which is unfortunate.) Michael Fassbender is just about able to sell any line he’s given, which is a fine thing. Marshall is more comfortable with one-on-one combat than with the film’s larger battle scenes, but that ends up making the film’s last quarter memorably visceral. And I really can’t argue with a film in which the last act is also the strongest.

Interviewing Ben Greenman

Chatted with Ben Greenman right about here. His new collection What He’s Poised To Do is quite good, and served as the starting point for much of the discussion. Also covered: revisions, editions, and “Street Fighting Man.” Here’s one section:

Everything should be subverted if possible. That’s how you know you have an idea, and also how you pay your respects to form. I don’t think you honor structure by simply acknowledging it – you make it visible and make it strong it by challenging it.

In a similar vein, I reviewed Mr. Greenman’s Please Step Back for Word Riot last year.

Art + Artifacts

Two links; both dealing with artistic legacies and work coming from New York City.

1. Whitney Pastorek announces the shutdown of Pindeldyboz, with some nicely bleak humor thrown in.

And then hopefully, someday, I’ll stop paying the web hosting fees, and the site will be gone. In my dreams I see it hosting an exciting array of porn and/or travel deals.

2. John Freeman Gill discusses the fate of century-old stonework, for The Atlantic.

Griffins and sea monsters, gods and kings, most of the inmates of this forlorn encampment spend their days and nights with their weathered faces turned to the heavens. When it rains, water pools in the vulnerable sandstone eye sockets of some and nourishes the green biological growth that clings to others. In winter, water freezes in the bowl-like terra-cotta medallions, imprisoning in yokes of ice the heads of women and animals that protrude from them.


Doug Mosurock’s review of Tre Orsi’s new album? Quite good, incorporating thoughts on a whole long-dormant subgenre and a fine analysis of the record in question.

With crisp, balanced production by Bedhead’s Bubba Kadane, and the sort of Sonic Youth/Unwound-informed octave dynamics, surges in volume and measured aggression, and literate, even masculine lyrical reads, this could have easily surfaced in 1995 and no one would have been shocked. There was a day when bands like Silkworm, Paul Newman, June of 44, Hurl, Dis- and Bedhead would have released a variant on this record, to the stifled joy of bespectacled guys with short hair, bespectacled girls who wrote zines, and the plaintive, well-considered mixtapes both genders would make for each other.

Along similar lines, it’s worth directing your attention to a blog run by the members of Bells, a relatively new band out of Brooklyn whose lineup includes folks from Jawbox and Oxford Collapse.

Short Novel. (Current)

Longtime readers of this blog — or, hell, of my Twitter presence — may also note that I’ve been talking about a novella or short novel in progress. (Which is as good a time as any to volley out a link to the Emerging Writers Network’s Novella Month.) Later than expected last night, I finished work on a first draft. I have a working title with which I’m reasonably happy — Reel, which is a tip of the hat to the song embedded below — and had the experience of trying out some some structural and procedural changes of pace.

I have no idea whether any of it will ever end up fit for public consumption. It’s a love letter of sorts to a city I’ve never lived in, a weird punk rock anti-romance, and — even this early in the process — I’m enjoying what I’ve done so far.

Novel. (Past)

So: longtime readers of this space might remember some mentions of a novel-in-progress. (Titled, for what it’s worth, The Freestanding.) I finished work on it a while ago; had a go at finding a home for it, and was unsuccessful at that. Eventually, I ended up shifting my interest elsewhere — I’m still proud of the work I did, but there are other longer-form projects at which I wanted to try my hand, as well as some concerns that were fresher in my head.

That said, I’m planning to include the novel in Word Riot’s Published For a Day project next week. It’s good company to be in (Jackie Corley, Shya Scanlon, and others), and — who knows — maybe someone who checks it out will like what they read.

Two on Books

One: Via Richard Nash, the launch of Pre/Post Books, which looks to be taking an intelligent approach to both the print and digital editions of their catalog:

…we hope our deep respect for the printed book as a storytelling canvas is reflected in the finished product.Simultaneously this project embraces digital. The online editions of this book (currently in production) are concerned not only with craftsmanship but also the advantages that networked connectivity, portability and increasingly high-resolution screens bring to the experience of reading…

Two: At the Huffington Post, Cal Morgan of Harper Perennial is interviewed, with some smart things to say about (among other things) paperback originals:

A lot of writers come to us today because they see that publishing in trade paperback can be an actual virtue, not just a stepping stone to getting published in hardcover. If you ask a lot of younger readers what format they choose to buy their books in, it’s trade paperback. A lot of readers don’t particularly want to buy a $25 hardcover; they wait for the twelve- or fourteen-dollar paperback. Most of the small presses and the independent presses publish in trade paperback.