Tobias Carroll writes fiction and nonfiction. He's the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn, and his work has recently appeared in Tin House, The Collapsar, The Collagist, Joyland, Necessary Fiction, and Underwater New York. He recently completed a short novel, and is at work on another.
As of now, the column runs every other Thursday — though there are also certain features that this led me to that I’m not sure I’d have done otherwise. (My chat with one of the founders of the APRIL Festival, for instance.) Right now, it has me reading a lot more unexpected works; I’m curious to see where it’ll go from here.
Under the Volcano was the first in what was was intended to be a trilogy. Lowry’s Over the Pond followed, with Just About Level With the Butte completing the trilogy, killing off two of the three students and elevating the third into a kind of superhuman being. The two books that follow — Inside the Wind and On a Diagonal From the Northeast Corridor — take as their main characters Dolores, the younger sister of the demigod Harrison; Robert, killed off in Just About Level With the Butte but resurrected with a robotic body; and the man-book hybrid Alfonso, an immortal being cursed with a condition that resembles, but is not actually, aphasia.
(It was a whole lot of fun.) Also, I might as well post this song, which is almost related, in that it mentions volcanoes.
The first time I encountered a mention of Laird Hunt’s fiction was in The Believer — Rick Moody had written a glowing essay about his work, and (given my fondness for Moody’s writing) I was hooked. Not long after that, I read Hunt’s novel The Exquisite, which is both head-twistingly plotted and one of the best evocations of early-21st-century New York City I’ve read. (Much like Moody’s “The Albertine Notes” and Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City, Hunt’s use of surrealism to evoke that period of time seems like a wise choice.)
Finding a label for Hunt’s six books isn’t easy; he juxtaposes pulp traditions, ambiguous narratives, and a fondness for referentiality in them, but never at the expense of being readable. His latest novel, Kind One, seems to be his most traditional — it’s set in a specific and distinct historical moment and features a linear narrative. But even here, Hunt’s eccentricities manifest themselves, leaving Kind One as an expansion of what his fiction is capable of achieving.
Went out to Seattle and Portland. Saw good friends, bought some books & some records, and rediscovered the pleasures of wandering through a city at night, half-buzzed on too much coffee. I hope to be back out in that part of the world before long.
Gabrielle Bell’s The Voyeurs is a terrific bit of memoir; that it comes with an introduction by Aaron Cometbus makes abundant sense, as both authors share an ability to capture everyday life and zero in on the particular concerns, foibles, and frustrations of artists. I recently had the privilege of chatting with Bell; you can now read the result on The Paris Review.
For the first time in a while, I’m a part of a podcast. Vol.1 recently launched Audio Indexing, and I can be heard talking old hardcore records and showing evidence that I’ve completely and utterly internalized Dan Harmon’s riff on Go On.
I recently read Paul Elie’s Reinventing Bach for a profile on Elie; it was there that I learned quite a lot about the life of the cellist Pablo Casals…
…who was in turn referenced in one of the stories in the Paris Review anthology Object Lessons, which I was also reading for an assignment. It was also in that anthology that I first encountered the fiction of Jane Bowles…
…who shows up repeatedly as a point of reference in Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick, which I’m presently reading. Strange how these things line up…
Potentially of note: the fundraising/pre-ordering campaign for Hair Lit now has a new bonus offered. For $20, one can get (along with your copy of the anthology) a consultation with one of several contributors to the anthology. Susannah Felts, BJ Hollars, Nick Ostdick, Ben Tanzer and I are all participating in this, so if you’ve ever wanted to talk short fiction with me over Skype, now’s the time…
I’m happy to announce that I have fiction in the second edition of Joyland Retro. Specifically, the story “An Old Songwriter’s Trick,” which appeared on Joyland a few months ago. If the first edition is any indication, this will be a handsomely-designed print edition; if you’d like to order it at a discount, you can do so here, with the code 9HK4J57J.
Not long ago, I read John Brandon’s novel A Million Heavens and later wrote a short review of it. Brandon’s novel is a sprawling, complex work; there’s less of an overarching plot than a series of intertwined subplots that eventually reach a satisfying point of convergence. Writing said short review wasn’t easy: this is not a book that lends itself well to neat summaries. I could probably have written two thousand words on it without losing stride; it’s a book that occasionally recalls some of Robert Altman’s more sprawling efforts, and its conclusion serves as a neat payoff for its numerous winding threads.
And yet, reading it, I did find myself with a couple of questions that I didn’t have space to bring up in the review. Ergo…
A now-dissolved cult band figures heavily into the structure of the book; one former member of the band spends the novel in the afterlife, while his former bandmates feud over their musical legacy. At times, they seem to tap into a sort of contemporary suburban angst; at others, they seem so strange and iconic that easy descriptions don’t seem to fit. Arcade Fire meets Sun City Girls, maybe?
There are references to home cassette recordings made in the novel, though the book’s setting is contemporary. I don’t know many home recordings these days that aren’t done on computers — is this meant to be a sign of one character’s economic straits? Is it a mark of stylization?
There’s a reference to “Nevers” in the book — is Brandon making a reference to the film Hiroshima Mon Amour, where a Nevers reference is prominent?
Last week, I read at Manhattan Inn with Karolina Waclawiak and James Yeh. The event was the first installment of Hearken, a new series started by John McElwee. It was a pleasure taking part in this event alongside Karolina and James, as both are remarkably nice folks whose work I also enjoy reading. And delivering one’s work in the round made for an interesting and unique experience.
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.