Monthly Archives: September 2009

Level 8 Nachos. JMWW. Roxane Gay.

I had nachos about 9:29 this morning, so I guess that was breakfast. I don’t eat breakfast. I suppose it’s good to change things up, to avoid functional fixedness. They were Level 8 nachos, with October salsa. They made my head feel like an American Renegade. I went corn with a side of corn chips. The onions curled pleasantly. Kidney beans are the king of beans, Madonna once told me.

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Lately I try to get on HTML Giant and the server is down or something. That has happened seven times lately. If anyone reads this from HTML Giant could you please fix your server and don’t say it’s on my end because my computer is perfect. It has THINKVANTAGE and McPrint and OILY SHIFT keys. It smells like Socrates.

HTML always has interesting things to read. When I am eating nachos I either read HTML Giant or surf the Best of Youtube videos. Most of the youtube videos are really awful. Most depressing are the comedians and the people getting hurt videos. The comedians are never funny, so that makes me feel lonely. I think it is fundamentally wrong to enjoy watching people getting hurt. So I guess I’m saying just read HTML GIANT while you eat nachos.

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There is a new JMWW. I think JMWW is trying to rise up in the world.

Matt Bell writes about how kick ass Everyday Genius has been. He even mentions my bore butter flash.

The best fiction piece is by Roxane Gay. I keep thinking Barthelme with a bit of street scene Perec with a hint of hyper-observant Lorrie Moore. I also just like stories about gambling and sex and humming teeth. Humming teeth. That’s why you should read Roxane Gay. Have you ever read the Chekhov story about the prostitute and the dentist? That story will devastate your heart. (Written about here) Well, this Roxane Gay story is like that, cyclical misery and fun.

The best poem is by Amy MacLennan. It reminds me of Gary Snyder. The sensual nature of food.

I wrote a new fiction piece yesterday about photographing myself. I think I will send it to JMWW.

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In Tennessee I saw a sign that said WE DO NOT RENT PIGS. I would have taken a photo but I’m not going to stop the car and turn around and take a photo for this miserable blog. In Tennessee Little Man caught a catfish. In Tennessee I saw five turkeys and drank Fat Tire. That’s all about Tennessee.

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Flash contest! THEY GIVE YOU BEER!!!!

Fourth Annual Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction Contest
Submit your best micro-fiction and compete to win a $1,500 First Prize plus one case of micro-brewed Schlafly Beer!

Rules:
500 words maximum per story, up to three stories per entry.
$20 entry fee also buys one year subscription to River Styx.
Include name and address on cover letter only.
Entrants notified by S.A.S.E.
Winners published in our April issue.
River Styx editors will select winners.
All stories considered for publication.
Send stories and S.A.S.E. by December 31st to:

River Styx’s Schlafly Beer Micro-fiction Contest
3547 Olive Street, Suite 107
St. Louis, MO  63103

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Blake Butler Sells Out!

I kid, I kid…I just posted that title to enrage you readers.

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Actually, I know Blake (slightly–a few beers in Chicago bars, a smattering of emails, mutual worship of the Tabata Protocol, etc.) and, more importantly, know his writing well (I’ve read maybe 90% of all he’s published, working on the other 10%), and am happy as could be for the man, and his words. His signing with Harper Perennial reminds of me of a few years ago, when I was first getting into Blake’s work and blog. I got this email from someone (I won’t say who here) and they wrote, “Sean, do you know about this Blake Butler guy? He keeps publishing all over and it seems like a lot of the places are his friends and then Blake publishes them and what do you think about this whole process…”

I don’t know if this emailer was a writer/blogger stalker type individual or what, but the email implied the fucking sky was falling with everyone publishing each other. (Blake, ever aware and self deprecatory, even had a funny “circle jerk” post about this tendency among writer/bloggers).

You know what I answered to the email? It was pretty simple. I wrote back and said, “Dear________, do you READ Blake Butler? He’s a damn good writer, so who gives a fuck where he is publishing?”

So that’s how I feel about Blake’s news (and Shane Jones earlier): good words are now going to be cast even further into the world. But I do think this news and the process are worth discussing. A few points from me:

1.) Can we now officially quit asking the “Would Ulysses get published today” question?

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This question implies that mainstream houses are all owned by profit-mongering conglomerates. Therefore, any difficult, thoughtful, complex work can never get distribution because publishing is too obsessed with $$$, with cookbooks  and self-help and vampire love stories and other vacuous, stupid shit. I find this idea to be often true, but also often false.

[Oddly, as far as timing, Harvey Pekar was speaking about this very issue last night, here at BSU (where I teach). Years ago, Pekar is an underground artists facing a mainstream comic book world. Who would publish his adult comic work? Uh, nobody, right? Wrong. Now he is mainstream. He did much of what I am about to say about Joyce’s novel, though Pekar also self-published.]

Listen: Ulysses would be published, eventually by a conventional house. How?

First thing would be a repeat of history. Just like in 1918, excerpts of Joyce’s work would appear in literary magazines (though most likely online today, where serious weirdness blooms). Where do you think T.S. Eliot first published? In a literary magazine! (Maybe this is why you should submit to The Broken Plate and tell all your friends, too). Ask Blake if he would publish an excerpt of Ulysses in Lamination Colony. Do you read Lamination Colony? Blake would publish the damn excerpt, gladly (he published this, yo). So would Diagram. So would others.

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Then what would happen?

Young Mr. Joyce would meet someone from Calamari Press (or fill in the others) at a hipster bar and would talk all PBR and then send an IM/TEXT/iPhone book submit app/whatever twatter thing, the fuck and send them the manuscript. Sure, it would be rejected 189 times then kick around for a dusty while, but there are still Sylvia Beaches in the world, and the book would GET PUBLISHED by a small press. The print run would be about 114 copies. The cover would hurt your retinas.

[BTW, Calamari, your web page is getting seriously messy]

Then what?

Joyce would do a reading in Nebraska and pass out on some woman’s couch and it just happens an agent (though maybe not as colorful as Blake’s new agent!) is passed out right there on the floor by the couch and a bunch of networking stuff maybe drugs and an older author would take Joyce under her wings for a little while because, you know, the writing is actually really fucking good (though weird), and phone calls/emails and next thing you know Ulysses is optioned by Miramax and when the agent knows that he can spin off the book rights, the momentum is working, things popping, clicking, and there you go Ulysses is published by Random House, etc.

So, yes, Ulysses would be published, folks. That question is deader than line dancing. Let’s proceed.

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2.) Will these writer/bloggers continue to give us behind-the-scene insight now that they have gone mainstream?

It’s an interesting question, and one way that the Indie sensibility can provide a significant purpose. When the stakes were lower (and the print runs), we always got the process of this Indy lit world. The writing and little bundles of hope and submissions and rejections and cranes of lifting pens and copy editing and beer spills and every object/every colour and gray winter chairs, more chairs, and vertical lines and nostalgia cries and type style and day crossing into days and True Type Please and running far and running head and permission and intermission and intern armies of the night and liftout and dropout and attribution and black jackets and swaying trains and format and CRT and Sam Pinks and semicolons and the big-ass sky and inflected form of readingness and wheels all falling off and wheels and deals and little big people alongside the highway shoulders, etc.

This type of thing is helpful to readers and writers, and is a type of art form in itself, a merge of scholarship/craft/everyday as wonderful. This type of thing is necessary, in the artistic sense. Will these insights continue? We don’t know.

With Shane, most likely not. Though earlier in his career (and blog) he wrote about his artistic (and practical writer) process more clearly, the LB phenomenon has been pretty close-to-the chest. His blog appears reticent to explore the issue of the whirlwind around Light Boxes. That’s fine, and some of this is Shane’s blog personality, and I would expect the same in the future. I don’t see a lot coming, as far as this new mainstream world, the nitty-gritty of How-This-is-Done/Doing. I could be wrong, I often am.

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However, information gets out there other ways. Here is an excellent example, via an interview with Shane’s original small press publisher: Here.

With Blake, it’s another thing entirely. His blog is more expansive, loose, sometimes drunkenly so. And Blake will blog about the thrill of holding a book with your name on the spine, about years of writing and reading before even publishing one story, about the tireless minutia/elbow grease/luck of getting one book (never mind many!) out into the world. We’ll have to see how he handles this next step, but I think with both Blake and Shane (and the future others), it is important to record, to discover, to share; in a word, to continue the BLOG of the experience. It affects others writers. It matters.

3.)Will Tao Lin be next?

It won’t be for lack of effort.

4.) Will the BIG PRESS do for these writers what the small presses did?

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The boulder, the car, the photographer, or the boy? Which is the mainstream press? Discuss.

To put it simply, will these big houses be best for these writers, and their sensibilities we admire? Will these houses remain focused on the literary? Will their marketing be innovative and authentic? Will these books get lost in the massive lists of these houses? Will these artists be nurtured, for the long term? Will the books be beautiful artifacts? Will they be placed in innovative locations? Will these conglomerates be OK if there is no quick return on investment? Will the editor be there, again for the long run? What will be the shelf life? Will the book be kept in print? In the end, will they care? We want them to care.

I don’t know the answers, but I’d like to. I’ll be watching (and reading! reading!), so I hope these writer/bloggers continue to share (back to discussion point # 2 above).

In the end, hooray! Good people publishing good books. This is what we want, folks. Oh, and one more thing. The next time I meet Shane Jones or Blake Butler (or anyone else Indy who now goes mainstream), they better know who is buying the beer. After the first one, it ain’t me.

S

Harvey Pekar VIPS on Very Short Fiction, all Dat.

Laura Ellen Scott asked me if I would write something about flash fiction for her VIPS on Very Short Fiction blog. I really dig this site, and the authors she has throwing down about my favorite genre. Flash is coming up now, rising up now, a big-ass CEO of women in bikinis. Etc. Don’t miss this genre. Don’t miss it. Flash fiction is like oxygen bars–people thought it was flaky, but look now!

I said yes to Laura; I said I would write a brief essay. Then I ate dinner with Harvey Pekar. Then I blended the experience into a fiction/nonfiction thing about flash fiction. That’s how I work lately. Take fragments like a FOUND artist and cobble them, hang something all oyster, create anew.

Here is how it begins:

Last night I ate dinner with Harvey Pekar, the famous curmudgeon, underground comic author, the movie star.

I was a little nervous. I don’t know celebrities. My stomach did the runover snake, the chips of flint sparking or maybe Pringles (the crumblets). On the way over I drove my Subaru and drank a tall, cold can of Budweiser. It was about an hour after sundown. The moon was a Canadian quarter. I thought, “This Budweiser will make me talk OK with Harvey Pekar.”

You can read all of the thingy here.

Here is the actual note Harvey wrote for me.

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I’ll tell you one thing, this guy is smart and great to talk with. Obviously, he is also kind. He didn’t have to write me a note and come find me and deliver it to my office. Cool guy. I don’t even know that much about his comics (the movie kicked ass), but I’m going to pick up a few and give it a try. Great dude in my book.

S


Air Force Marathon Pain Like Surveillance and Large Wheels.

Friday I got up and made myself a pancake in the shape of a deer (an obese doe, specifically). I then drove to Dayton, OH. Dayton looked like an overpass. I went to the expo to pick up my race package. You can NOT pick up your race package the day of the race NO EXCEPTIONS, “Due to Security Considerations.” Welcome to the Air Force Marathon.

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I went to the hotel. I am reading MOTEL, by Stephanie Freele (Bannock Street Books), and I can say my place was a hotel, not a motel.

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I rested in the hotel. I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. You had to arrive very early for the 7:30 start, “due to security considerations,” meaning the entire marathon would be run on an air force base and you need to go through the entrance gates, etc. Before sleeping, I ate my pre-race meal, a mixture of liquids and gels and potato chips and solvents and Near Beer and oil additives. My body felt like a Global Hawk. My stomach did the cloud-cover, the sandstorm. I then descended into the arms of Morpheus.

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Toss, turn, dreams about asphalt. I woke, dressed, didn’t have any coffee, so took a caffeine pill. I then tied my microchip onto my shoe. The air force gave us a special microchip we could keep after the race (usually you turn them in). I felt eerie wearing a government microchip. I felt like Tom Cruise for a moment.

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I am now a government number: Humanoid Model # YSB6H6 2421. That’s frightening, folks.

Drove to base, went through security, boarded a bus that crossed massive runways (scary stuff here, in the dark, on a military base, feel like Tom Cruise again, or maybe an alien–where is this bus going? I kept thinking, Concerta Wire.)

I don’t have any photos of the actual race (besides # 5 below) because I wanted to run a decent time, sans camera. You will have to use your imagination and my words. What did I see?

1.) The START and FINISH was a long chute wedged between a row of Vietnam era jets and airplanes. These jets and airplanes had names like FLYING BOXCAR and SPECTER GUNSHIP and they stank of death and rattles and proud people and rattle and maybe one had a nose like a giant bowling pin where they kept all the radar.

2.) Two people parachuted down, spiraling, spiraling, trailing these massive flags through the air, an American flag and a POW flag. Impressive. The flags had weight-balls on the bottom to keep them off the actual parachuters. Both landed exactly on the target, feet in front of the START line.

3.) Two F-16s predictably did a fly-over. They were lung-shaking loud. A man yelled out, “That’s the sound of freedom!” They shot over low then straight up over the runners, and when I looked up I saw their afterburners, two glowing hot orange eyes.

4.) I note several runners WEARING THE RACE SHIRT while running the race! Are you fucking crazy? This is a MAJOR runner’s taboo. NEVER wear the race shirt before you finish the race, period. Bad, bad karma. Oh man…

5.) Cannon blast! We start. Just like Boston earlier this year, a runner bit it immediately, tumbled down, and grabbed his right knee. He yelled out, “URGHHHH.” I thought, “This guy trains his ass off for a marathon and it’s over in one minute.” Yep, he’s wearing the race shirt.

6.) The course? Some greenery, some ball fields. Lots of runways and industrial buildings and odd gray machines. Sort of Road Warrior meets Technical College. I don’t know what to say about running 26.2 miles through a place like this:

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Lots of parked fighter jets. My uncle once told me that if you approached a parked fighter jet on a runway, you would be immediately shot down by a guard. So, you know, I didn’t do that. I ran on by.

Let me tell you something about this race–and it had nothing to do with the surroundings, but more to do with a questionable trail race I ran a few weeks ago and possibly my shoes had too much mileage on them and I should have bought new ones for the race or possibly X number of factors, you just don’t know, you never know–but I BONKED pretty hard.

Bonked: To “bonk” is to completely run out of energy mid-run. This generally happens somewhere between 17 miles and 20 miles into a run. At this point your glycogen stores are depleted and your legs feel like lead weights. This is also known as “hitting the wall.”

Felt like this:

CAR CRASH

About mile 10 it started. My L heel burning (I broke this heel 9 years ago so it routinely gives me problems), my R hammy tightening a bit. My cardio was fine but the legs a bit leaded. I figure no big deal, I’ve caught my 2nd wind many times before. Not this time. It is a slog, but I keep pace. Note these splits.

1:28:37 at the half marathon. Right on schedule to run UNDER three hours.

Same with mile 20, right on pace, folks. Then the BONK.

PAIN, PAIN, PAIN. Here is my mind: Forget any time. Forget the finish, how far away. Focus on this: GET TO THE NEXT MILE MARKER. When I was at 21, I focused only on 22. Once at 22, only on 23. I was in a blurry tunnel, deep inside my brain and soul, trudging, everything in my world focused on the few feet in front of me–one step, next step, next step. I’m not going to lie: It was hellish.

(I would like to note I’ve only had one other marathon in my life like this. Most are rather wonderful.)

I thought the worst thought ever: DNF. But hell no. Hell no! I shuffled home. And I did not walk, I ran (not to be elitist, go ahead and walk if you want, I just don’t [so far!]).

The finish. Whew. I was so 100% HAPPY to be done with this race. I mean seriously.

Official time: 3:07:11 (43rd overall)

An air force captain placed a giant medal over my head, I shook his hand, I said thank you, I went to a tent and folded up like origami. Here is the medal and shirt (a tech shirt–thank you marathons for giving tech shirts runners can actually train in!)

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Both the shirt and medal are covered in the RQ-4 Global Hawk. This unmanned aerial vehicle boasts long-range surveillance capabilities and extremely precise targeting of weapons. Meaning it can see you from very far and then blow your ass away. So my medal and shirt are basically advertisements for Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense mega-company. So there you go.

I re-boarded the buses.

I limped to the hotel, to take a hot shower, some ibuprofen, a beer. This was in my bathroom, wedged alongside the tiny shampoos.

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What the hell?! (And what’s with the quotes around flash?)

Who are these people?

With a sigh, I crumpled up the note, tossed it, flushed, took one final step, and collapsed into the bathtub.

S

Broken Plate Collagist Juked Run 2 Far Now.

The Broken Plate class I am teaching is working hard, and the submissions are rolling in. That’s how we like it. Check our new ad at HTML Giant. The ad looks like this:

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Please do submit!

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The new Collagist is out. I think i was born for this magazine because I keep writing collage pieces. I juxtapose like a goat wearing a fucking tire.

I have a short piece about nursing in an ER. As some may know, I am a registered nurse, with expired licenses in Arizona, Tennessee, Alabama, Colorado. They are expired because I am not actively working as a nurse right now. If I paid X number of dollars I would be an active registered nurse again, but I have another job as a professor of English now, so I don’t think I will pay X number of dollars. Life’s weird that way.

In this issue I most enjoyed the Adderall Diaries excerpt by Stephen Elliot. I’m going to dig his book, I can tell. This particular piece has a collage reference within the actual piece in The Collagist, so kinda clever that way.

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I have a new piece in Juked. I love Juked and enjoy nothing more than drinking a few ales and surfing Juked for hours, just taking in all the sweet vibes. So many exciting artists. Also I finally get to use the tree. I have this tree in my backyard that sheds about 1,000 pounds of apples each spring and I am happy I could work that tree into my fiction. I am sick of that damn tree. I have to pick up the apples and hit them with my kid’s plastic baseball bat and launch the apples over my creek and into the forest. Admittedly, that’s sort of fun, but gets old. Then I run over the apples with my lawnmower and they all turn to fermented mush and this mush smells sickly sweet and attracts yellow jackets, bees, and brown snakes. Not sure why the snakes like the mush, but they do. I eat the apples, too, but they are usually bitter and hard. Life’s weird that way.

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Speaking oh HTML Giant, they had this up today. This is a little ridiculous–as in so damn good.

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I am tapering now for the marathon. Tapering is key to any race, but I don’t like it much. You can’t really exercise, so feel bloated and always gain a few pounds (since you aren’t burning the usual calories). Well, only two days away, so. I think it will be interesting to run a marathon on a military base, so feel excited and anxious (anyway, my usual state before a long race).

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S

Barrelhouse. Elvis. Tree.

I go Barrelhousing.

It involves Elvis and cocaine so what do you want, people?

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I did a 5:12 pace Tabata Protocol today. Felt good. My last even decent workout before the Air Force Marathon on Saturday. Time to shut it down now. Feel OK. Hope marathon goes swell. Who knows? Every marathon is a different country, a visit to a strange place, new locale. This is one enticement of the mystical distance, I suppose. Could go well, could go badly, but will be interesting, no doubt.

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I played some wicked disc golf in Cincinnati this weekend. How did it go?

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That is me, in a tree.

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Will blog more later about some great authors I’ve been reading. Just got some sweet chapbooks too. Now I need to sleep like a machinery.

S

Flashcism, Flashcist Folks, Flashcial Ideology, etc. Breakfast Nachos.

I had nachos for breakfast, level 9. I haven’t eaten breakfast in years, but had this craving. So, 9:30 in the morning I made nachos. They tasted like a woman with a bucket full of roofing nails on a roof, nailing. Really good.

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cereal a.m.

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A friend of mine was discussing the recurring incidents of Flashcism in the literary world, so I have decided to add a new feature to my blog. THE FLASHCIST OF THE DAY!

Flashcism: A radical and authoritarian stance suggesting all members of each individual genre possess characteristics or abilities specific to that genre, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another genre or genre groups. Or, said in layman’s terms, dissing flash fiction. Treating it like a strangeness of earth, a lonely red-headed Pepsi, a periscope stopped-up with crusty syrup. Etc. You know the type, a Flashcist. Well, the best disinfectant is bleach, rotgut vodka, or extreme heat (autoclave), but if you don’t have any of these go with sunshine.

THE FLASHCIST OF THE DAY!

Anthony Neil Smith, editor, writer who says, “I hate ‘flash fiction’. Ugh. I’d rather have 2000 words that ‘feels’ like 1000.”

Well said, my man. Well said. In a word, flashcist.

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I am an everyday genius! Since I am not very smart, this feels goodly.

Peter Markus creates good words.

This is good by Giancarlo DiTrapano. I also appreciated the bio: “Giancarlo DiTrapano lives in New York City.”

If you read enough lit mags, you will know why this is a great bio. I thank you, Giancarlo.

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Damn, check out this la fovea project!

My nerve ending is here…

Pretty damn cool, no? I invited KGM aboard, so look for her work soon.

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(Rob Hornstra took the photo, folks)

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Tonight’s Bet

Take Ga Tech. 8 units.

Lay off Titans because I love Titans. Never bet your heart.

S