I went to Chicago to launch this fucking book, to read at the Beauty Bar, a bar that offers manicures and pastel walls and martinis but i had vodka and Oberon and then later Oberon and a quaff of Guinness so to speak, a dark, swirly, cloudy quaff so to speak, i cut my right index finger (and there blossomed blood) while opening a Fat Tire in my hotel room, as i ate a light dinner of Pepperjack cheese, French bread, an orange, and a tall, brown bottle of Fat Tire in my hotel room so to speak, this modern curves and colors hotel room in the winding spires and steel monoliths of downtown Chicago, the hacking and the coughing and the scissor-running streets, and my hunger forced me into the scissor-running streets where i was intimidated by the choices and the bustle and the sheer majesty/monstrosity of the place, and so i found a quaint local market and I handed my 8 dollars to a beautiful young lady (most of the young ladies of Chicago are stunningly beautiful) and she said, “Wrong side” like I suppose I handed the 8 dollars to the left of the cashier machine and so then I corrected and handed the 8 dollars to the right of the machine and the beautiful young lady gave me change and so I bought bread, cheese, an orange, a tall, hefty Fat Tire and went back to my room like some animal, like some scratching, burrowing animal so to speak, and i lay out my parcels, my freshly baked bread, my tightly sealed block of Pepperjack cheese, my wonderfully pebbly and fragrant orange, and this sweating bottle of Fat Tire and i had no opener or spoon or fork so ate with my bare hands, tearing ragged chunks of bread, ripping off crumbly crags of cheese, and opened the beer with the edge of a car key (i often carry car keys) and the key blade slipped and cut open my right index finger, as i have said. And so i bled.
The overall wonder of this plump little gem is that there is no jockeying for space, no jostling of elbows, no stepping on toes. Yes, five authors have colored these pages with volumes of desire, longing, humor, loneliness, heartache, wit and desperation; and yes, the stories are often larger than the page, larger than the space allotted in our chests to breathe them in, but. Each individual voice is heard. Each story is a concrete, complete thing that connects with the others in the most honest and organic way. There is no point where the smoke of one story shapes itself lazily into the haze of another. These five voices are distinct, definitive, and each story smarts with such pin-prick execution you’ll be surprised not to find blood on the page.
Tim Jones-Yelvington in the house! I have always wanted to meet, read with Tim Jones Yelvington because I enjoy his work (here, here, here) and I have seen his musings and revolution and advocacy and words on The Google but to have a meeting or reading or word association on The Google is naturally not the same as seeing someone in person, not the same at all no matter how much of this world is becoming an attempt to convince us all otherwise, this calculated devouring world, the devouring bit-by-bit of my mind, of my sense of self, on The Google, also anyway as I was saying Tim Jones-Yelvington is the type of person to talk with you while wearing a doll attached to his forehead and I need more people like this is my life, my daily meaningless life so to speak, to read with and to talk with while they wear dolls affixed to their heads and also naturally to write with as we launch this fucking book, this book, talked about, people do talk about this book, for example, Outside Writers Collective and Press:
This collection of five flash chapbooks from five different authors (the four finalists from the fourth short short chapbook contest and the winner from the third) is as inspiring as it is moving, sad, funny, challenging. It’s basically everything you’d ever want from the written word, and it comes in such a damn tight package that, well, it’s wonderful.
Time-Out Chicago does it all:
So let it be said that the authors here know what they’re doing. Jodzio’s book, Do Not Touch Me Now Not Ever, leads off the collection with an infectious sense of humor, featured in stories like “Octane,” in which a woman thinks a warlock has cast a spell on her because a pony-tailed man smiles at her. Miller—whose Big World is a personal favorite—delivers Paper and Tassels, another clinic on how to pack character work, pathos and even plot into 250 words. And Lovelace’s How Some People Like Their Eggs, originally published on its own, gets a worthy reprint here. Colen is the most restrained writer included here, and Jones-Yelvington provides a slightly punch-drunk counterpoint.
Word. And then I got to meet John Jodzio at the reading, John Jodzio who I did not know, had not seen, had slightly read (here, here, here), and so I was wondering, Who is this John Jodzio? and then he gets up there, on that stage at the Beauty Bar, and he’s reading, reading rather well, and then he starts gearing up and killing it, killing because he’s very funny, very, very, funny, and I now have a new favorite funniest-writer-that-I-actually-know (the prior one was Peter Davis, a very funny man)
POEM ADDRESSING MY PAST, CURRENT AND FUTURE STUDENTS WHO ARE SUFFICIENTLY INTERESTED IN OUR CLASS ENOUGH TO CHECK OUT MY WORK
I hope you learn something from this poem and the powerful, mystical way it concludes!
and what a surprise, a surprising way to live life, where you show up in Chicago and all the taxis honking and scurrying about and the Beauty Bar vodka rolling through your veins and to read with fellow flash writers and stumble right into a new funniest-writer-that-I-actually-know, John Jodzio, a man whose words fill the room and ceiling like glittering mechanical horseflies, giant, cartwheeling, glowing, blinking horseflies that sting and buzz and sting again, who will read about hookers and chili and fog machines, all of this while gradually unclothed, with various “messages” written across his chest (he later said this was a pain in the ass to remove)
and this possibly brings me to a point of this post, a comment on what I consider the “best” type of reading, and an example was seen and heard and felt here during this launch of They Could No Longer Contain Themselves (most would or should go TCNLCT by now, just for the sake of brevity), the very thing I have argued with about with writer and internet and occasional “real-time” or “actually having a beer” friend Blake Butler, the idea of readings working best with HUMOR or SEX or something titillating along those lines and here we had myself reading with humor and sex and Tim Jones-Yelvington reading with humor and sex and John Jodzio one of the funniest reading of words men on this planet, I mean that I have heard read so to speak, I mean a true humor, not a cleverness or simple guffaw, but a human laughter of light and pain and mechanical horseflies, etc., and so all three of us (and also Davis Schneiderman–a dynamo of a man I am happy to have met; and Kathleen Rooney, a glow-force reading the other TCNLCT flash authors not in attendance) screaming out humor and sex, a sort of laboratory exercise in my theory, though with an understanding and respect by me of Blake’s point, Blake saying, I think, don’t write down to an audience so to speak, or read down, don’t go for laughs or sex when you could bring the audience higher, up to words and themes and areas of language much more involved and layered and so on, and I get that, I get that, but I also attend many, many readings and laughter releases endorphins as does various ideas of sex, and these things are not mutually exclusive, and truly funny is actually very hard and takes someone higher, as true humor has subtext, as true humor is really a recognition of our absurd existence, namely that we were born on this planet to die, and anyway I mean to say the audience was howling and the vodka was howling away, and then a hip hop artist showed up later and he really didn’t have much flow, not a great deal of flow, so we moved to another bar and someone sang musicals very loud and very well, and I took a taxi to the hotel eventually though I don’t remember the ride back, the swirling black ride back, a swirling black tornado that emitted from my eyes and head, a tornado with shimmering silver dots within, and possibly edges of purple, as is my way.
Audience enjoying humor. (James Tadd Adcox was there–good to see you again! Good to quaff many beers!)
Before leaving Chicago, I walked down to the majestic/monstrous lobby of my hotel and found an empty table and chair. On the table, I placed a review copy of my new book, Fog Gorgeous Stag. Inside I wrote:
TO SIR OR MADAM
IF YOU HATE THIS BOOK, I AM SORRY. I SUPPOSE.
I then signed the book, walked away, and drove home.