Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Charles Wonder Phenomenon

I saw Charles Baxter read once, in Minneapolis, I think. During the Q&A he mentioned that his early unpublished novels sucked, and when someone asked why, he said that he went about writing them in a little too Stevie Wonder a way. Then he mimed Stevie Wonder.

Closed eyes, lifted chin, lolling head. Fingers moving freely over the keyboard.

I thought that was funny.

I'm not going to say why the memory arises just now.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Wow, and Wow Part II

I don't think I'd realized until this new one how much ass Six Little Things kicks.

And Caketrain--they have 14 (!) pieces from the new one online.

My Favorite xmas Gift Ever for Now

A while ago I saw that N and L were wrapping up washable markers and such to give to each other for Christmas and I thought, All well and good. And I thought that that was what was going to be in the tape-smothered rhombus that N presented me w/ on xmas morning--one of her own toys or implements. Instead she'd made these two awesome necklaces. Don't know if you'll be able to see. The longer one has a heart at the bottom. The shorter one spells out 'DADDY.'

Friday, December 26, 2008

N Pulls Back the Wizard's Curtain

The Magic 8 Ball, which came in her stocking, was put to the test in this way:

I didn't ask it a question, she said. Then I turned it over to see what it would say. I knew if it didn't say anything it was real. I knew if it said something then it was just saying things.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Heard on Fox News

"In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of dislike and scorn."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Very Momentous Day

This bulletin board is in the room where I just gave a final. They tear all the fliers off at the end of the semester, I guess.

Maybe the thing I remember most from the documentary Crumb is RC talking about how he could never remember how transformers and power-line architectures and such looked because he never really saw them when they were in his vision. He had to get somebody else to go out and take photos for him so he'd know how they looked.

Here's one of the passages you'd have had to ID if you were in my class:

"Then they said, but isn't death, considered as a fundamental datum, the means by which the taken-for-granted mundanity of the everyday may be transcended in the direction of—

I said, yes, maybe."

B. likes to look at the IDs and see how many of them she can guess without having read the stories. This time she guessed 3 out of 10.

While my students were working I corresponded with Avery #4 issue-mate Jamie Iredell and coded for Wigleaf and evenutally added the new Lauren Becker stuff. I hadn't read her postcard carefully before today. It made me laugh.

When everyone was done I walked back across campus and saw this guy.

There were two guys there originally, standing in front of that truck. I guess they were w/ a third guy who was laying salt in a little motorized cart -- because they were looking in his direction. But they didn't look interested in the third guy, or in each other, since they weren't talking. As I got closer to them it seemed to me that they might be standing for a portrait, and I said that as I came up to them, I said, You guys look like you're standing for a portrait. Then it occured to me that I might be the photographer, so I got out my cell asked if it was okay. One of them, the one who would have been there to the right of the guy pictured, turned his back to me, chuckling, and walked off.

That made me feel like a partial asshole. A 15-20% asshole, maybe. The one who stood for the picture said, What's this for? And I said, I don't know. Maybe my blog. And he repeated that word, Blog, while thinking about how I was right then commodifying him and how he wasn't going to make a penny.

Maybe 25%.

I made that joke in a story once, the first version of a story called "Johannsen's Plant" which nobody except Steph at Avery and my grad-school friend Andrea Karafilis has ever appreciated. But they didn't read the first version. In the first version, this somewhat skeezy guy approaches a girl, who for some reason--I'm forgetting--calls him an asshole, to which he responds by giving her a stricken look and saying, Yes, I'm half asshole. My father was one. I didn't think people were still so prejudiced....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top 50 Notes

* Longshortlist: over 250 already and growing..... (has to get down to 200)

* The excellent Ravi Mangla has posted a list of his Top 5 Wigleaf stories this year (the idea being that Wigleaf stories aren't considered for the W top 50). Go check it out! Leave comments!

* Darlin' Neal has signed on to be the Selecting Editor for the W Top 50 of 2009. She's a knock-out writer, as some of you know. Her story, "Red Brick," from SmokeLong, was chosen by Chad Simpson for the first Wigleaf Top 50, last year, and she gets all sorts of love from other prize outfits (her nonfiction piece, "The House in Simi Valley," has been selected for the upcoming anthology, Online Writing: The Best of The First Ten Years). Darlin' is an assistant professor of CW in the U. of Central Florida's MFA program, and has work in or forthcoming at some fine, fine places, including The Southern Review, elimae, Puerto del Sol, Juked, and Shenandoah. Oh, and Wigleaf (I can think of a few particular readers who would argue that her February story, "Powwow," should be added to Ravi's discussion).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

From the itunes Holiday Playlist

I wish they'd play stuff like this in the shopping mall. Or maybe I don't.

"That Was the Worst Christmas Ever" [mp3] (via Asthmatic Kitty}

J.W. Wang Interview @ 'Matt Bell'

Good stuff here. Pro work on both sides.

Here's something I loved, from John's reluctant answer to Matt's question about what might make a story work for Juked. I'd never really thought of stories in this way but when I read it it made perfect sense:

"I look for stories that demonstrate sympathy from the writer—sympathy for the characters, but also sympathy for the story itself. The writer has to care about the story and take it seriously, and I know that sounds obvious, but when you look at submissions you realize most people don’t..."

Oh yeah, the link.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Teacup Manifesto on Electronic Publishing

A couple days after "Progress: A Play in _ Acts" went up on Wigleaf, its author sent along an accompanying postcard. He wrote in the email that he understood if it was too late. But as FRiGG editor Ellen Parker once told me: on the internet, it's never too late.

This was a few days ago, around the time when I was posting Stefanie Freele's story, "Because Condoms Seem So Desperate..." At first I was thinking that I would recode, so as to have Sean's postcard appear in the usual place, beneath his story. Then it would have been sort of hidden, though, four spots down in the column. Plus it would have taken work (a technical issue, to do w/ photos being on the right or left side). So I broke with format. I put the postcard beneath Stefanie's story, where readers would usually expect a postcard, if there was one, to be from her.

That's two things that would never happen in a print mag.

Another: Matt DiGangi, editor of Thieves Jargon, recently removed Blake Butler's story and bio from the archive. He was pissed at Blake, apparently because Blake hadn't granted a request to link Thieves on HTML Giant. Anyway he removed Blake's story, then said so in a comment on HTML Giant, then received a whole lot of derision. If I'm sitting on my ass in the jury box here, I'm going to end up siding w/ Blake, who should be able to link what he wants for his readers. At the same time, I'm interested in what DiGangi did, and glad that he did it, in a way--because it gave rise to some revealing discussion.

Some of the comments @ HTMLG reflected the line taken by HTMLG contributor, Justin Taylor: "When an editor of an electronic journal... threatens or actually carries out such an action," he wrote, "what they seem to reveal to me is the cravenness and intellectual bankruptcy of their own enterprise. When you do this, you deal a serious blow to your project’s institutional memory, its continuity, and its integrity."

That last part I agree w/. For practical reasons I woudn't do what DiGangi did--because for readers and writers, the mag's integrity might be damaged. I wonder about the rest of what Taylor says, though. I don't think DiGangi's move was "intellectually bankrupt," or that it's fair to say that about Thieves. I mean, from the human side, you can say what you want--it was petty, it was bold, it was rash--but in terms of e-publishing, there's easily more intellect here than in 3 out of 4 net lit ventures. Think about it this way: DiGangi didn't delete Butler--which would have been possible. To bend Jimmy Chen's term, DiGangi 'ghosted' Butler. You can still go to Thieves and click on Blake Butler, and this is what you'll find. Is that not something? Really, who's not delighted by this? I'm pretty sure Blake is.

This all gets to how you think of e-publishing. I'm not a hundred percent sure what Taylor means when he talks about net mags in terms of 'institutional memory' and 'continuity,' but when others use such terms they're often implicitly comparing the net mag to the print mag, with the sense that the net mag has something to prove. A print mag--would the argument go like this?--is solid. It forms its own memory--no matter whose hands it gets in, or who reads it--because it is an object, and we tend to preserve objects, especially when care has been taken w/ them, that's in our nature.... So even if the print mag in question dies, even if you have no contributor's copy and know of nobody who does, you're 'published' there. That's for sure. That's immutable.

You know, maybe.

Without getting in to the question of distribution, I want to say this: a net mag isn't a print mag without the paper. A net mag isn't just the 'light' of the print mag, minus the absent body. If that's how you think of them (and Issuzu clearly does), you'll always see the net mag as secondary -- the image of something else.

No, man. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Look at Juked. Look at elimae. What you see here--real liberation from the concepts (many of them deriving from economic factors) associated w/ publishing in print. John Wang and Cooper Renner--they're alive to what the net mag can be.

For Wigleaf, if I can get back to that, one thing I love is that w/ each new posting, the publication 'is' something, on the main page, that it will never be again. Yeah, Jennifer Pieroni's kick-ass new story, "Now, Right Now," will be archived eventually. But for now it and its thumbnail are at the top. That story 'articulates' w/ the title of the mag, on the left, in a way that's different from how it will three days from now, when the next story goes up. For three days you have something that you'll never have again. That's net publishing. Sometimes I think it has more in common w/ performance than w/ publishing in print. Which gets back to DiGangi. Performance. Applause.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Have a Suggestion...

...about when to read Jennifer Pieroni's "Now, Right Now."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Meme Dimanche, Ca Me Dit Quelque Chose

I got added by the first of my unpublished novels on facebook a few days ago. Notice came in an email, which asked me to confirm that I in fact knew this unpublished novel. I went to facebook and hit 'confirm.' Then I visited my novel's profile page and was sad to see that it had added no picture of itself, that it was content to go by that creepy silhouette. On the plus side, the first of my unpublished novels had friends, people I didn't know, people I'd never heard of. Apparently the first of my unpublished novels had survived abandonment. It was doing all right.

Then yesterday, on my facebook home page, I learned in a notice that the first of my unpublished novels and the second of my unpublished novels were now friends. This was a strange and bad moment for me. I wondered if the second of my unpublished novels would discover me in the pictures of my first unpublished novel's friends, and if it did, whether it would decide to connect itself to me via the friending process. I suspected that the second of my unpublished novels--which was the most unruly, and which I secretly loved best--would probably not bother to formalize ties with me, and though this hadn't yet happened for sure, I was angry in advance. I wanted to hurt the second of my unpublished novels, but I couldn't. There was nothing more I could do to affect it in any way. I guess that was the point that the second of my unpublished novels was trying to make with me, by not immediately adding me to its facebook friends. I saw that, and I began to soften again towards the second of my unpublished novels. I decided that I would be grown-up about this. I went to its public profile page and with calm and decision clicked 'Add as Friend.' I don't know if the second of my unpublished novels is going to confirm our friendship, but if it doesn't, there'll be consolation, I guess. If it doesn't, I'll be able to see it as having to face up to how mean and small it is. You probably didn't deserve to be published anyway, I'll be able to think.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pre-orderable: AVERY 4

I can't write this up any better than Adam and Steph did, so here goes: "Avery 4 will be out by the end of the year, and it promises to be our flashiest, shiniest issue yet. Avery 4 features stories by Kevin Canty, Hannah Tinti, Edan Lepucki, Rumaan Alam, Samar Fitzgerald, Sophie Rosenblum, Scott Garson, Callie Collins, James Iredell, Jessica Breheny, Sean Walsh, Anna Villegas, and Michael Bourdaghs. The stories are about the following: sex, airplanes, cacti, haircuts, bugs, revolution, siblings, fish, term papers, adoption, shoes and more!"

You'll know which of those mine is about when I tell you the title: "In Lieu of My Final Paper." I'm happy w/ this title. Does it not seem almost as good as a Matt Bell title? I'm happy w/ the story too and thrilled about it being in Avery. Here are some of the things you will read about if you read this story: salad dressings, March Madness, the first days of the Iraq War, Calvino, Swarthmore, going commando, bikini tug of war and the study of laughter.