Friday, October 31, 2008

Amelia Gray @ Wigleaf

And if you want more when you're done w/ that, head over to Shelf Life, where's she's got another new one that's really really good.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sentences with 'Boy,' 'Girl,' and 'School'; or: My Kid's First Story

Can you see the boy?

Can you see the girl?

The school is on fire.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Four New Short Sets @ FRiGG

The Fall FRiGGis for sure the issue of the year if you're into shorts. There's a set by Beth Thomas, and three other sets by some great new talents: Ethan Bernard, Ryan Dilbert, and Fortunato Salazar. A whole lot of good stuff here, a mon avis....

Am I really the kind of person to end sentences w/ cute ironic bits of French?

p.s. I remember hearing Ellen Parker saying--I think over @ Kelly Spitzer's page--that she wasn't sure she was going to keep running shorts in this way, in sets--that she wasn't sure if it made sense. What I'd say: it makes sense, yes. I wish more places would do them this way.

Monday, October 27, 2008

2 1/2 Questions for Elaine Chiew...

...whose real-fine story "Chinese Equivalent" is just up @ Wigleaf.


SG: A lot of writers come to the short-short story by accident. How is it that you come to it? That's a brief question, but go ahead and be expansive if you like.


SG: I could be totally wrong about this—and feel free to shoot me down if I am—but I have the idea that you're one of those writers who, as a reader, engages happily in the study of fiction. If that's right, who have you been reading lately? And what are you finding?

EC: Good questions, Scott. I've reduced the answer to your 2 1/2 questions to 1 1/2. After the initial flurry of online Zoetrope/Gotham classes, I was hungry for instruction, but was in no position to get an MFA (I was busy making a family across the pond). But I started to read short stories analytically—first with the Best American Short Stories series, then basically any short story anthology compilation, moving onto individual short story writer collections. The most recent I've read is by Tobias Wolff, and he's amazing. I highly recommend Our Story Begins for Tobias' sharp economical prose and incisive moral quandaries. It didn't start out this way. but I don't read fiction to find perfect moral beings. I read them for the flawed ones, and you don't need a psychologist to explain why. They are far more interesting.

In the beginning, reading each short story was painstaking. It would take me ages to finish just one book! But all that work was worth it. It internalizes the form and the craft elements. The longer I read, the shorter my fiction got. From the usual 8000 whopper to somewhere about 2000 friable words. Reading short fiction is critical to developing your ruthless internal editor. I was happier slashing and burning my own prose when I was performing major reconstructive surgery in my head on the likes of Julie Orringer and Miranda
July. :-)

The move towards short-short fiction was therefore organic. Some stories were just that short and needed that starburst exhalation of breath to tell it. And the cloud they release was powerful. I think there are writers so natural at this form that I'm positively green with envy. But I began to read online fiction, and my respect and admiration for flash fiction grew. For me, it took experimentation with flash to get me down to the beauty of an individual sentence. Sometimes, that's all I want with my morning coffee.


SG: What are planning to do with…?

EC: What am I planning to do with this empty coke bottle I'm holding as I write a response for your blog? Finish the last drop. Recycle it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obscure Anniversaries: "Rock 'n Roll Animal"

Thirty-five years ago, Lou Reed revisited some Velvets stuff in an NYC concert that would be released the following year as a live solo record, Rock 'n Roll Animal. The safest thing to say about this recording is maybe that it's classic. Classic rock-y?Classicallly painful? Classically over the top? All of that, for me. But I can't hate it because I heard the remake first and listened to it for a good while before encountering the original. If you know the original but haven't heard this, you're in for some fun. It's 1973, right? Reed is probably doing a lot of blow and has gone glamvestite, and he's got a big fancy stadium band behind him, one that will remind you of the Allman brothers for its merging lead-guitar duets, Yes for its diddly rock symphony stuff, and the Dead for its sugary jamband underpinnings. Aquarium Drunkard posted an mp3 of the show starter, "Intro/Sweet Jane," not long ago. It's still there if for some reason you want it. Here's the Songza link:

Intro/Sweet Jane

Is that not something?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Saw that Myfanwy Collins put a real-time, to-the-second counter to election day up on her blog. I might as well do the same thing because in free time--i.e. time when I might write something here--I have trouble thinking about anything else. B and I invested in a hot tub this summer thinking we'd try to be less stressed during the school yr, and we thought to set up a rule: no talking about politics in the hot tub.... Yeah right.

I'm writing a story right now that begins w/ a line about people talking politics in a hot tub. It's a good story so far. I'll probably fuck it up....

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Tai Dong Huai's "Natalie" is up @ Wigleaf now.

The story is from a collection she's working on, I Come from Where I've Never Been. Other stuff from the project has appeared recently in some nice web venues, including jmww, 971 Menu, Hobart, elimae, Word Riot and Thieves Jargon. It's all good. Like, really good. After you read "Natalie," check out the Thieves Jargon story, "Ankles." Try forgetting that one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Out and In

Some decent webzines have died this year. There's Unpleasant Event Schedule, whose name should definitely be recycled by someone (they never did publish the Karyna McGlynn work they were promising). There's 3711 Atlantic, which ran some good stuff last year, and Steel City Review, which probably would have had one story in Wigleaf's next Long Shortlist if it hadn't folded (Dawn Corrigan's).

But if some web journals are biting it, a much higher number of them are just starting out. Roland Goity's LIT N IMAGE is a nice-looking new one, with work in its autumn issue by Barry Graham. The two BG pieces, incidentally, are both part of his new chapbook from Achilles--NOT A SPECK OF LIGHT IS SHOWING. The evidence points to this chapbook being damn good....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2 1/2 Questions for Shane Jones...

...whose gem of a short, "Attics," is just up @ Wigleaf.


SG: The other day on your blog you, uh--expressed impatience with the idea of plot and character development. You wondered whether a novel could read "like a Rene Magritte painting looks and feels." I was interested in that for a few reasons. One reason is that you're pretty good at working character tensions, as the stellar title story of your Greying Ghost chapbook makes clear. Is there a question here? If there is, is it one that's answerable?

SJ: I'm usually just rambling on my blog, which is pretty much what I was doing when I made the Rene Magritte comment. I think the answer is yes and no. When I look at a painting by Magritte I feel the following things: confusion, delight, surprise, and excitement. That overall feeling is what I like in literature. I think a novel could feel like a string of Rene Magritte paintings, maybe. I'd like to read a novel that had that blurb on the back: "Feels like walking through a gallery of Magritte paintings." It makes me excited. As far as plot and character, I just don't care much about it, or at least I pretend not to. People get wrapped up in plot and character and talking about "narrative arcs" and it's just kind of stupid. When I'm writing I don't think about character development or how my plot is developing. Does anyone? I'm just trying to keep the energy in the language going. I'm stringing together sentences that surprise me and make me happy, for as long as I can.


SG: I'm probably too fond of drawing parallels between indie rock and indie lit, but here goes: in the recording industry, though major lables have tended to be middle-of-the-road, they've always kept an eye on the indepedents, which is to say that there's a kind of relationship. The majors often grab for the innovations that the independents have fostered. Geffen signs Nirvana--to use a skinny-white-guy example--and everybody makes money: Geffen, Nirvana, and Sub Pop too. Do you see anything of this sort on the horizon for independent lit?

SJ: Well, I think it can happen and it has happened. I really hope I'm not wrong with this, but I believe Zoe Trope's book Don't Kill The Freshman was originally published by Future Tense and because it became so popular, and the amount of "buzz," Harper picked it up and gave Zoe a six-figure deal (I think Zoe agreed to expand the book). That couldn't be more indie rock-star making it big. That's the equivalent of some indie band playing two shows and getting a huge record deal because 10,000 kids showed up. The problem is I'm not sure the audiences are the same. People who think they are reading indie-lit go to a local bookstore and pick up Don Dellilo or Jonathan Safran Foer and they think they are indie because of it. Also, the actual act of reading has become indie, and the bookstores are feeding them mainstream writers hyped as indie and cool and hip and. I wish it wasn't like that. It would be funny if Haper and Penguin and Random House started giving out six-figures deals to people like Blake Butler, Peter Markus, Chelsey Minnis, and about a dozen other I'd like to list. I think they all deserve it.


SG: Do you ever look in the mirror and think…?

SJ: I just looked in the mirror and thought "Wow, that's a lot of face." When I shave my face looks really wide. I kind of look like a turtle.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

About Lou

Maybe somebody like Dave Clapper or Chad Simpson will come over here and tell me I'm over-simplifying, but I'm laying all the blame for the Cubs being out of it on Lou Pinella. He seems to me one of those defensive types who refuses to acknowledge what he doesn't like. Like W, come to think of it. This is a very good way of making yourself stupid.

I'm referring in particular to Game One of the divisional series against the Dodgers. The Cubbies had been swept the year before--last year--and Pinella should have seen, but refused to acknowledge, how crucial a good showing in Game One was, especially given the expectations this year, with the Cubs having home field throughout the playoffs. So: fifth inning. The Cubs have a two-zip lead, and Pinella's starter, Ryan Dempster, gives up two shaky walks to load the bases. What's Pinella thinking? That there are two outs? That there's no reason to panic because he has the stronger team? Come on. Dempster's flailing. Anyone can see that. And this is the playoffs. And your players need this game.

I'm telling you, it's on Pinella. If he gets Dempster out of there, Loney--who's not Manny Ramirez after all--doesn't hit the grand slam, and the 'oh no' feeling doesn't work its way into the Cubs hitters....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Lamination Colony

The graffiti is just something to look at. No official relation to LC. But it seems right maybe in its big splashy somethingness....

Well, I'm excited. The last LC was all sorts of fun, and this one's bigger.

I've got a story in there, "I Talk with the Mermaid." Here's the rest of the line-up: Amanda Billings, Joshua Ware, Phil Estes, Matt Kirkpatrick, Stacy Kidd, Jamie Iredell, Ian Davisson & Ryan Downey, Krammer Abrahams, Shane Jones, Angela Genusa, Daniel Bailey, Brandon Barrett, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Gene Morgan, Conn Thomas O'Brien, Thomas Cook, Molly Gaudry, and Matt Bell.

Skip Sands' Family Tree

I'm rereading M. Herr's Dispatches for a class I'm doing. Everybody stole from Herr, so DJ shouldn't be faulted, but man did I do a double take when I got to the part of 'Breathing In' relating to "spooks"--Western intelligence types in Vietnam.

"By 1967 all you saw was the impaired spook reflex, prim adventurers living too long on the bloodless fringes of the action, heartbroken and memory-ruptured, working alone together toward a classified universe. They seemed like the saddest casualties of the Sixties, all the promise of good service on the New Frontier gone or surviving like the vaguest salvages of a dream...."

Stylewise, DJ is of course a lot closer to Herr than to, say, Tim O'Brien. But that passage! Is that not Skip Sands?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rogue Post-Mainstream media

During Thursday night's VP debate, Sarah Palin used the phrase "mainstream media." To paraphrase, she said something like, "I'm not going to allow my comment/words/etc. to pass through the filters of the mainstream media, I will speak directly to the American people."

I happen to have recently had the displeasure of reading some posts and comments on several far right websites, and so the phrase set off an alarm in my head. On these far right websites, they use the acronym MSM, demonstrating their belief that the ordinary media outlets in our nation have been hijacked by some nefarious forces. Since we are talking about the right, after all, it's safe to say that they are not articulating a marxian critique of the corporate-owned media.

During the last eight years, certain phrases have become code understood mostly by Bush's right-wing evangelical base; phrases like "no more legislating from the bench" and the like signal a certain position on abortion and similar "values" issues. But what Sarah Palin did on Thursday was to use a code word that signaled to a particular, mostly underground, group of white Christian nationalists that she speaks their language. That's darn scary. You betcha.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Gentleman from Indiana

This is the 1899 first novel from Indiana native Booth Tarkington, and also the title of my new story over at Titular in the novels section. That dark spooky guy in the background there -- he's not in mine. The guy and the girl? Maybe.

Tarkington is probably best known for The Magnificent Ambersons, which won a Pulitzer and which I think Orson Welles made into a film. But Gentleman was made into a film too, and also a stage play. The gentleman from Indiana did pretty well with the Gentleman from Indiana. I hope to also. I expect a Pushcart, at the very least.