Category Archives: Book Suggestions

Sunday Flash. Night by Brett Lott

I wrote a Sunday flash for Green Mountains Review.

It begins:

But I did saw it, and that’s me. I’m seeing all kinds of things these days. You know, The Muffin Man, for example. Saw The Muffin Man yesterday, at the car wash.

*

NIGHT

He woke up. He thought he could hear their child’s breathing in the next room, the near-silent, smooth sound of air in and out.

He touched his wife. The room was too dark to let him see her, but he felt her movement, the shift of blanket and sheet.

“Listen,” he whispered.

“Yesterday,” she mumbled. “Why not yesterday,” and she moved back into sleep.

He listened harder, though he could hear his wife’s breath, thick and heavy next to him, there was beneath this the thin frost of his child’s breathing.

The hardwood floor was cold beneath his feet. He held out a hand in front of him, and when he touched the doorjamb, he paused, listened again, heard the life of his child.

His fingertips led him along the hall and to the next room. Then he was in the doorway of a room as dark, as hollow as his own. He cut on the light.

The room, of course, was empty. They had left the bed just as their child had made it, the spread merely thrown over bunched and wrinkled sheets, the pillow crooked at the head. The small blue desk was littered with colored pencils and scraps of construction paper, a bottle of white glue.

He turned off the light and listened. He heard nothing, then back out of the room and moved down the hall, back to his room, his hands at his sides, his fingertips helpless.

This happened each night, like a dream, but not.

beiber nachos

(“Night” can be located with 71 excellent flash fictions in this anthology.)

Why is Ricos nacho cheese inside lava lamps? Why do horror film take place in thunder and lightning? Why do couples trade lipstick in the rain? A catch in your voice. A coyote on a highway. A conveyor. The ocean invoked in a carpet of sardines. Sunlight on corn. A hand grenade nestled into a snow bank. Fog machines. A tumbleweed the size of your college debt. Whistling birds, that one bird they put into every movie. Foam. The smell of crushed jasmine and gasoline. The time you rode the subway and a woman handed you a squirrel. Disco balls. The smell of your eyes that day.  Black and white photos of abandoned laboratories. The sound of Mexico. An entire wall of your apartment covered in the Nixon and Elvis photo. A shoebox of weed. The moon.

What is of I speak?

MOOD.

The excellent thing about flash fiction is the sheer variety of technique. Some write very narrative flash, some go with lyrical–all of this is naturally on a spectrum. Here, we have “the unopened envelope” as plot. What’s behind the door? Mystery. But that’s the only narrative interest in advancing. The flash is more than happy to NOT advance. To ponder, freeze, flail.

TO TREAD, in darkness.

Z Nachos

Some flash writers see ambiance as the central medium, the tone and mood as the essence of the thing. Emotion transferred through craft. Flash always borrows from the poet. The poet has known brevity for eons. And setting. The flash writer always borrows from the poet. The poet knows sound. The flash writer always borrows from the poet. The poet knows objects. The poet knows. Word choice.

Gary Snyder goes:

The shack and a few trees

float in the blowing fog

I pull out your blouse,

warm my cold hands

on your breasts.

you laugh and shudder

peeling garlic by the

hot iron stove.

bring in the axe, the rake,

the wood

we’ll lean on the wall

against each other

stew simmering on the fire

as it grows dark

drinking wine.

right

Indeed. Here we have intimacy, though we don’t need the word, do we? But I digress…Let me clarify:

The flash writer waits in Nashville and the poet is an International air route.

The flash writer is an Iowa based firm (such as Maytag). The poet is broomcorn.

The flash writer is all, “legal name change.” The poet is a public, wooded park.

So the flash writer needs the poet.

Let’s talk craft. Or HOW DOES BRETT LOTT DO IT?

Good question.

“Night” says shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

“Night” says wobbly, disoriented, waking from a troubled sleep.

“Night” says “Is this my life?”

nacho bar mm

EUPHONY is a funny word. It sounds like a musical instrument or a Willy Wonka character or a waterway crowded with wandering water balloons, etc. Actually, it’s the glow of sound, providing a pleasing effect to the ear, the synapse, the tingle of the armpits. It is achieved not only by the selection of individual word-sounds, but also by their relationship in the repetition, proximity, and flow of sound patterns.

They are melodious. Or, if placed exactly, they move us, maybe to tremble.

See “Night.”

Read it aloud. Like poetry. Make your individual letters, the actual words, assist in your larger function. Make the dancer the dance.

ALLITERATION you know all about. …near-silent, smooth sound…

Read it aloud.

CONSONANCE

A combination of sounds; sounds in agreement with tone.

Read it aloud.

ONOMATOPOEIA

eva nachos

Whisper….

On and on. A flash is elegant, is contained, is maybe an egg, a jeweled thing…with a life beating inside. “Night” is so quiet, yet there dwells its power: the sliding of a snake across a hardwood floor, the gentle whir of a falling thing, breathing, the dark.

Other methods?

Cold, frost, night…

Other methods.

Objects. Always objects…that bottle of glue. Waiting.

Other methods.

Sparse dialogue. A few words. But saying a lot.

Doesn’t it all join–the hallway, the torqued sheets, the child’s desk–to let you read right off the page? Let you consider all the glorious (and terrifying) white space?

Emptiness.

Fullness.

Terror.

Well, now you have a formula for flash. What we must admire here is Brett Lott’s economy and control. The text folds into itself. It then folds out, to resonate, like grief.

woody

Less Than Zer000000000000000000000000

For Father’s Day I received a hammock. Here it is, down by the creek, a most glow location for a hammock, the water gurgling by as I sway, the leaves rustling, the calling of various birds, some animal thumping or digging or rolling about a bit in the weeds nearby (should I be worried?), the dappling–yes, dear poets, dappling–rays of light and shade and all those wonderful in-betweens shards/slivers/tongue/sizes and shapes of. I have a little green table for my beer and other necessities (a bowl of nachos, for example). I believe my hammock will act as elevator of the soul and a dragonfly of the mind. Also as a type of wine made of cotton. The key belief is there.

(Ancient Mayans invented the hammock, using fibrous bark from the Hamack tree.)

[[Actual Reader Comment: I was willing to overlook the dullness and amateurishness. But it just got duller and duller and duller.]]

Installing the hammock took a great while. I dug two unnecessary holes and one necessary hole. I had to purchase concrete twice. Using two different hammers, I hammered two giant nails into the tree, both unnecessary. At one point I was digging with a post-hole digger and my back suddenly went POW!! as if I was shot in the spine! Later, a candelabra of pain. Then a simmering lump of coal. That hurt for four days. I bought bolts, chain, chain attachments, some form of curly screw, 4 “S” hooks, most of this unnecessary. For a while I thought the hammock hung too low. This nibbled at my mind. At night, over dinner, during my daily aerobic training, my thoughts were, “Is my hammock hanging too low?” I adjusted the hammock and felt it was then too high. Is it too high? I’d stand and stare at the hammock for a long while. This cycle went on for many days, too low, too high, too low…just right? I hope now it’s just right. (Is that even possible?)

[Aside: I bet there are several hammock camps/cabals: those that like a big saggy C type of hang to their hammock and those who like a taut, thrumming more ___ type of hang. I bet some aficionados like their hammock to embrace their bodies in a giant ball, like a cocoon. Some like the buttocks to touch the earth while in hammock, while others like to swing free (like a memory) many feet above the soil. Cloth or synthetic? Spreader, Mayan, Jungle, Military, or Travel? I bet we got some hammock purists out there, some people with some really strong opinions. Some hammock freaks. Like uptight about hammocks, which is sort of against the very nature of the hammock.]

[[Actual Reader Comment: The text drifts much more than I recalled, and is deliciously paranoid. But there’s a pining at its core, an almost sentimentality that jumped out at me.]]

A hammock like this one is meant for reading or napping. As a rule, I do not nap, so let’s discuss reading. What was the first book I read in my new Reading Hammock? Well, purposefully, I’ve been reading a series of literature I call Books-U-Should-Have-Read-Already-Most-Likely-While-in-Your Twenties. For example, I just finished The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test. Why am I doing this? Because I’m curious. Because I think it’s my professional responsibility. I’m a fiction professor. I’m a writer of fiction. I should know these books. If you say Chekhov to me, I should be able to say, “Read him.” If you say Flannery O’Connor, “I should be able to say, “Read her.” Hell, same with Sinclair or Franzen or Moore (Lorrie) or Wright or Murakami (yes, even him) or Chopin or Carol Oates. Or even Vonnegut or Kerouac or Pirsig (Robert M.) or other Books-U-Should-Have-Read-Already-Most-Likely-While-in-Your Twenties authors. I tell my students all of the time, “Look, if you’re serious about writing fiction, you have to know these people. Not like them or dislike them or mimic them or distance yourself from them or respect them or disrespect them or any of that bullshit…but you MUST KNOW THEM!!”

Know

Them

It’s your responsibility, people. To at least know.

[Aside: While in the hammock I flipped the “off” button on a device labelled OFF, the mosquito repellant. It’s like this weird clip-on fan that repels ( I guess?) mosquitoes. I got this sweet glow from turning off, OFF. OK, I’m a word dork.]

So. Here’s what I know–or think I know–about today’s Books-U-Should-Have-Read-Already-Most-Likely-While-in-Your Twenties: Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis.

[[Actual Reader Comment: There is some talent in places, but I cannot believe the blurbs on the back cover of the edition I read. If these reviewers really meant those words, I think they were as coked up as the characters this book.]]

[Factoid: Less than Zero was sold in 1985 to Simon & Schuster for five thousand dollars.]

[Factoid: Less than Zero named after this song:

]

[Factoid: Apparently, via Paris Review, one not so enthusiastic editor said, “If there’s an audience for a novel about coke-snorting, cock-socking zombies, then by all means let’s publish the damn thing.”]

(Crazy thing is he meant zombie as figurative. These days, an actual zombie novel would sell like a taco with a shell made of fucking Doritos.)

STRUCTURE?

this is a drone in a state office in hawaii.

This book is one of those “nothing happens” books, you’ll hear some say. This is usually noted as a criticism. An eye-roll, especially if the book was written while the author was young (Ellis published Less than Zero at age 20). I would disagree. Plot does exist here. There are two types of plots, right? (Wrong!) Man leaves town, man enter towns. This is man enters town, Clay, back from the east and now to the west, Los Angeles. The structure is his arrival, the repetitive events of his life with LA friends (drugs, MTV watching, sex, put on repeat), a slight rising action as the events get nastier (though I’m sure these events appeared more extreme in 1985), and we end with his departure (a rejection of sorts by Clay to the LA life?), back east, back to school. Cyclical, you could say. Or framed. I mean you know he’s going back home as soon as the book begins with his arrival. (One move [of several: Clay refuses to use extremely hard drugs, Clay doesn’t join in on a rape {he doesn’t do anything to stop or report the rape, BTW}, etc.] that attempts to make him sympathetic as narrator. I stress attempts.)

People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city. Blair picks me up from LAX and mutters this under her breath as she drives up the onramp. She says, “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.” Though that sentence shouldn’t bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter. Not the fact that I’m eighteen and it’s December and the ride on the plane had been rough and the couple from Santa Barbara, who were sitting across from me in first class, had gotten pretty drunk. Not the mud that had splattered on the legs of my jeans, which felt kind of cold and loose, earlier that day at an airport in New Hampshire. Not the stain on the arm of the wrinkled, damp shirt I wear, a shirt which looked fresh and clean this morning. Not the tear on the neck of my gray argyle vest, which seems vaguely more eastern than before, especially next to Blair’s clean tight jeans and her pale-blue shirt. All of this seems irrelevant next to that one sentence. It seems easier to hear that people are afraid to merge than “I’m pretty sure Muriel is anorexic” or the singer on the radio crying out about magnetic waves. Nothing else seems to matter to me but those ten words. Not the warm winds, which seem to propel the car down the empty asphalt freeway, or the faded smell of marijuana which still faintly permeates Blaire’s car. All it comes down to is the fact that I’m a boy coming home for a month and meeting someone whom I haven’t seen for four months and people are afraid to merge.”

(I suppose you notice this opening reads very Catcher in the Rye, and that’s fair. I’m sure you’ll detect Great Gatsby here and on and on. Ellis studied literature and writing. It’s a first novel by a young writer. Nothing in this book is really original, or even that unexpected [especially not in 2012, where most of this material can be found daily on CNN], but that’s no reason to dismiss the entire text. First novels are a genre to themselves, and it’s interesting to see how each writer recognizes [and bends] the expectations.)

[[Actual Reader Comment: The novel is harder and less hopeful than the flawed film. It’s a stunning read.]]

What else drives the text, plot-wise? Finding Julian. We need to find Julian, a strung out addict and friend-of-Clay’s who owes him a lot of money. Where is Julian? What’s he up to? How bad has he fallen? Etc.

here’s an image from a paris hilton video (which one?). in a few moments paris and her pals will be snorting the cocaine off his chest.

But let’s put these structural interests aside, and address this idea, the concept of “nothing happens.” You hear this about a lot of books, Tao Lin, for a very contemporary small press example, or certain French writers (Jean-Philippe Toussaint or Muriel Barbery or Raymond Queneau [I hope you’ve read the excellent Exercises in Style] come to mind among others), etc. But then you have to question what keeps you “hooked” into a book–is that plot? Or can all of the innumerable other things a book can do snatch you into turning its pages? Could you be hooked purely by aesthetics? Characters, tensions, objects, social situations, lyricism, satirical comment, on and on–what if these keep you reading? Is that plot? Visual artists realize narrative in a painting/sculpture/diorama/film/whatever-the-fuck can move a viewer (reader), but so can a lot of other, more abstract, more exciting (my 2.4 cents)  things…and then all these other things spring from that epiphany (see contemporary art).  PLOT! PLOT? That which drives you forward? I think so.

[[Actual Reader Comment: I think that this book has influenced a lot of contemporary fiction. I can see its fingerprints.]]

What does the author have to say about the structure of Less Than Zero?

And to the extent that there’s a plot, that’s my least favorite part of the book. In the first draft, which was much longer, the plot was less relevant. But in the course of being condensed, the plot took on more significance than I realized at the time. I look back at that book and think of the plot as having imposed itself on the material.

This interests me, in that Ellis seems to have had his “plot” emerge in revision. I think this happens a lot in writing, and it one of those magical–and weird–things about creating art. Sometimes threads just emerge during the creative act, especially in the revision of. These are pleasant surprises and make the act of writing somewhat mystical. A structure appears as if conjured. As if always there, but out of sight. (This might be one definition of spirituality, BTW) This is one reason writing a heavily pre-plotted piece of text much really be a sodden experience. To have the plot emerge as you work is fascinating. To see what will happen.

LANGUAGE:

There’s a lot of it that I wish was slightly more elegantly written.

Ellis

Some have attacked the prose of this book.They say Ellis ripped off some of Joan Didion’s L.A. writings, or they say the deadpan nature of the prose is too Raymond Chandler, etc.

[[Actual Reader Comment: This giant city is terribly claustrophobic and I hate Bret Easton Ellis for capturing it so perfectly.]]

[Aside: For a really great book on LA, why not try this one from Bukowski’s muse, Fante.]

these are bath salts. you use them for bathing. recent bathers have burned their child’s hands for stealing their bible, have killed their neighbor’s pygmy goat and then joined it in the bedroom while dressed in bra and panties, have run from electricity, have knifed their house down since the walls were filled with 90 people, something.

I don’t get these attacks on the prose. Of course the prose resembles others. Ellis was 20! Also, The Didion thing is bullshit. Didion could write circles around the prose in Less That Zero. It’s not even close. And Chandler works figurative language in a very focused way, a different eye and rhythm (and certainly emphasis on simile) than Ellis ever attempts. Again, I think these observations are because Ellis was young and people get the idea he dashed this thing off. Wrong. The book was actually written and revised for years (Ellis says five). It was shaped with creative writing instructors and editors. And I think the language is attempting several things. Let me briefly discuss two different ways: tone and in brand naming.

The tone is one of white noise and repetition. Form=function. The sentences, mostly unremarkable as far as lyric nature, pile up and pile up, like day after day after day. In Clay’s world, one day is the next day: cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, nightclub, restaurant, hangover, empty conversation, empty sex–repeat. Over and over, Clay has no idea how long he’s been in LA. Over and over, these characters lose track of week, day, location. (Everyone gets lost while driving, but it doesn’t really matter. One place is good as another.)

‘Rip does three more lines. Rip throws his head back and shakes it and sniffs loudly. He then looks at me and wants to know what I was doing at the Cafe Casino in Westwood when he clearly remembers telling me to meet him at the Cafe Casino in Beverly Hills. I tell him that I’m pretty sure he said to meet at the Cafe Casino in Westwood. Rip says, ‘No, not quite,’ and then, ‘Anyway it doesn’t matter.’

You have to admire how Ellis knows his sentences must do the heavy lifting. A lot of and work. And. And And. And we did this and this happened and I said ______ and some girl said _____ and I smoked another cigarette. And, and, and–one thing leads to another, all connected by and, all in the same sentence, of the same worth (less than zero, basically) and then you wake up and do it all over again. And again.

[[Actual Reader Comment: The book was a quick read and I could barely put it down except at certain points where I had to clear my head and thank God for the normalcy that is my life and the life of my kids.]]

(BTW, there are odd, scattered moments where Ellis shifts into a more intensely poetic prose, usually when discussing the wildlife of LA, coyotes and lizards, or when writing about the sun and the torrential rain. [This is where he leans most Didion.] Things not human, basically, things outside the encircled, narcissistic concerns of these characters. It’s a juxtaposition of language that shows some control by the author and adds an extra charge to the text.)

this is clint eastwood’s daughter. she’s eating, burning, chainsawing a hundred thousand dollar alligator skin purse.

The brand identity thing is overdone. WE GET IT, already. Lives soaked in brand, lives immersed in commercialized identity, to the point where no one even sees it, recognizes it anymore. It just is.  The shoes and cars and clothing and sunglasses and music/music/music are these character’s sun and rain and plants and scenery…This is their world. But Ellis doesn’t stop. And again, in form=function, we, as readers, get suffocated by brands. There are points in the book you just want to stop reading, to like come up for air, to see something in your brain besides Mercedes, The Go-Gos, GQ magazine.

(Aside: And this is pre-Internet!! Jesus, look at us now. The Internet is the biggest fucking brand machine in the megaverse.)

THEME:

[[Actual Reader Comment: Not a long story but one that is chilling and demands that you read it consecutively because of the eerie rhythm of language it possesses.]]

[Aside: I drank a lot of Sprite Zero while reading Less Than Zero and this might have heightened all effects.]

I think this a great example of a “mirror” book. Or maybe a mural. Look, here’s a subculture in 1980s America. The book reminds me of television, a device that is filler between commercials. And what do we see? Here, here’s what you want and therefore are. I read almost everything as metaphorical. Drugs are all of the things we do–repeatedly–to move the heart and eye from one place to another place. What is a reality show? What is celebrity? What is a car, a billboard, a desert, a highway, boredom?

I come to a red light, tempted to go through it, then stop once I see a billboard sign that I don’t remember seeing and I look up at it. All it says is ‘Disappear Here’ and even though it’s probably an ad for some resort, it still freaks me out a little and I step on the gas really hard and the car screeches as I leave the light.

u recognize this, don’t you? It’s the kim kardashian sex tape. this image is right before the sex but right after the long while in the bathroom applying makeup.

Some “theme” moments are forced, primarily near the end, where things get too quickly compressed and the pace of the book fails. We quickly move from activities that only harm one person, the user–example drugs–into more ominous terrain. A graphic murder-porno film. A dead man’s body in an alley that these characters see as almost a prop, as something to view and laugh about. And then a gang rape scene (of a 12 year old) that reads as forced (as in too overt) and hastily presented.

(Not to be redundant, but in 2012 these scenes appear almost everyday. Porn? Insensitivity to human dignity? Must be a Tuesday.)

But these forced scenes are the exceptions. Many “theme” scenes I feel are nuanced and carefully written, with an exact eye and a precise sense of tone. One scene in particular, when Clay joins Julian and an out-of-town businessman [He’s actually from Muncie, Indiana, I shit you not!] in a hotel room, is written with incredible craft and control.

In another scene, Clay goes home with a young woman he’s met in a nightclub. They have “sex,” but it’s an odd and alienated dance. They might as well be in 2 different rooms. It’s clinical, sad sex, and another example of skill by the author.

[[Actual Reader Comment: After reading this book, I felt hollowed-out and dead inside.]]

Mostly the book just asks you to view. Look here. Do you see any of yourself here? Do you see your world anywhere? I discuss this idea a lot to students (often writing students are a bit theme-eager): just show the thing. Get the narrator out of the way. Ellis has a 1st person narrator but oddly very little internal monologue. Mostly it’s just show. Here, see this. See this. See this. And this approach, to me, is why people like and greatly dislike the book. One popular approach–valid or possibly not–to this technique is to say I see nothing of myself. I couldn’t even finish the thing, etc. How could I? The people here are too disgusting. I don’t recognize them at all.

Well…OK.

kardashian opossum strung and handy nachos, oh my

I recently ran a long race on my fucked up heel. I won the race. Leave me alone.

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The Broken Plate really needs you to submit!! Go now. You have until Oct 31.

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Juked! Another incredible Arlene Ang poem.

[she is my sister, as you know]

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Blink, shuffle, touch a mark on your left temple, go Teutonic, and pay attention to Rose Metal Press, flashers!

Our Fifth Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest submission period begins October 15 and ends December 1, 2010. Our 2010 judge will be Kim Chinquee. The winner will have his/her chapbook published in summer 2011, with an introduction by the contest judge. During the submission period, please email your 25–40 page double-spaced manuscript of short short stories under 1000 words to us here with a $10 reading fee via Paypal or check.

I can personally say (hint, hint–see that little EGGS book to the right side banner?) that Rose Metal will make you a booky-wooky that will glow like cotton undershirts of  Sunday butter on a chainsaw.

You can’t slay a dragon if you don’t shod-on your purple boots. String that bow! Don’t go falling slant in the town lights of Forgetville, USA. Huh? It means ENTER!

[i saw a hawk harass an owl yesterday. that’s rude. blur-jays and brows harass owls, i can see that, but a hawk? i though they were sort of bros…]

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(photo from a major green light nacho blog)

We shall be cheering for the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Why? NACHOS.

No kidding, people actually went to Texas Rangers games to eat nachos. When nachos and a beverage or two were consumed, they usually left the game because what was on the field wasn’t usually worth watching by then.

Often, the lines to the concession stands to get the nachos were long.

“Doesn’t matter,” one friend, living in the Dallas area at the time, once told me during a night at Turnpike Stadium. “Thinking about those nachos is better than thinking about the game.”

Why are they so surprised people would go to a ballgame only for the nachos? I’d kiss little rainworm stones for hours just for one nacho chip, cheese, a sketchy jalapeno…

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It is Mean Week over at HTML GIANT. People are wriitng obituaries.

1. Dead: Publishing Genius and Anderbo.

2. Deceased: Elimae, WWATD, online lit mags in general.

3. Deader than disco: AWP.

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Who doesn’t love Charlie Sheen? You go, man. Jesus H. The candle has been burnt but he made a new candle out of dirty bras, beer bottle foil, and the time-release coatings he just split from his Oxycontin…my Lordie.

“It’s been a very eventful trip,” his ex-wife says. And me, I love understatement, yet another lost and human form of humor.

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I write a story about John McEnroe eating some cat-head biscuits and throwing Moon Pies over at BLIP. What is BLIP? Well, it used to be RICK MAGAZINE. Then it used to be the Mississippi Review or something.  I can’t follow all the barbed wire, hinder axletrees, or should I say threads….

[get them damned goats off the lawn!!]

What do I know?

Here is some about the controversy (?). This is summer 2010 link, so basically the Epipaleolithic period in blog world speak. You probably know all this already. So why don’t I shut the fuck up?

[snap that racket’s neck, johnny-mac!!]

I read all the BLIP stories for this week. I was coffeed up and all sort of blur skin glow, all wavy rain synapse, all fifteen dollar refrigerators of glow (shard of me already planning lunch nachos), and I thought, I’ll read all the BLIP stories before I go run (hobble, fucking heel) and go to work and read some fiction drafts.

21% of the BLIP stories were blar rawlooking uniforms.

21% were OK feet (mine included)

42% were glow, at least ribbon in hair, at least rope-veined claw, maybe pink ribbon in blond hair glow.

16% were damn fine glow.

The best was “And One Blue Pussy” by Jennifer Pashley. Here is an excerpt:

He has a pony­tail that hangs halfway down his back. Blond and mostly straight. I don’t notice it until he walks away – because of the cap, because of his face. Like a mannequin’s face, carved out of wood or plas­ter, seam­less and smooth and all the same color, even the lips. Like you could pose his stiff arms in a polo, that his fin­gers would hold the shape of dainty point­ing, you could hang your keys on them, place them at his waist, or his col­lar, fanned out like the fin­gers on the baby Jesus in an old paint­ing. He walks away and I see the pony­tail, longer than mine, and way longer than Wendy’s. She cut her hair in her first trimester and now couldn’t make a pony­tail if she wanted to.

Not many of us go out. The bars in the hos­pi­tal neigh­bor­hood are col­lege bars, and it’s June. The one guy who goes with us won’t fully sit on the seat, and his wife texts him through his entire beer. He never puts the phone down and it keeps ping­ing, he keeps look­ing, he fum­bles through short mes­sages with his fat thumbs. Right after, he says he has to go. It leaves us in an empty place on a Mon­day night, with some piped in Grate­ful Dead, a lone bar­tender with a mess of dreads, a big belly and a salmon pink t-shirt.

I wait for him to make his own expla­na­tion. He says, Who wouldn’t want to date a red­head named Bridget?

I’ve dated a red­head named Brid­get, I say.

He says his friends set them up, and only told him that she was unpre­dictable, that he would love her, but that she would sur­prise him.

I also dated a red­head named Sam, I say.

Sam, he repeats, fishing.

Samuel, I say.

You’ve had boyfriends, he says, not a question.

Sure. I’ve had boyfriends. I’ve had twenty-five boyfriends, all named Sam, I say. Smirk. He orders another round.

What’s that from? he asks, like it’s a line from a movie. Behind him, the bar­tender wipes in a circle.

Andy Warhol, I say.

Andy Warhol had twenty-five boyfriends named Sam? he says.

They were cats, I say. Sugar Mag­no­lia comes on. It’s a book: Twenty-five cats named Sam. I cross my legs then under the table, and fin­ish the title for him, clos­ing my eyes when I say it. And one blue pussy.

He appears to work some­thing out of the side of his cheek with his tongue, which is pierced through with a round steel ball that clicks against his teeth. It goes pretty quick from there, talk­ing and not talk­ing, my foot on his foot under the table. His arm against mine above the table. Drink­ing, pay­ing, walk­ing to the car, the quick nego­ti­a­tion of who will drive and where, and when I ask him later, how many girl­friends he’s had, to at least try and even up the score of ques­tion ask­ing, he only says not enough.

Jesus, Sean, that excerpt was too long. This is a blog not a lit mag, Freak-O. OK, sorry. I got carried away. I like stories of random sex and Andy Warhol and tattered conversations, OK. And bars. And also there are nurses (remember, I am an RN) and what type of title is AND ONE BLUE PUSSY?

A glow title my friends.

*

I’m not the only one who uses celebrities in their fiction. Just finished Celebrity Chekhov by Ben Greenman. Author takes Chekhov stories and brings them up to date, replacing the characters with celebrities: David Letterman, Paris Hilton, Michael Douglas, oh my.

[this opossum walked below me. it snuffled the air. it itched the air. i pulled out my iphone and took a photo and then i wrote a little flash fiction about a opossum, or notes of, so i guess the iphone has some practical use for writers…]

Some of the C Chekhov stories are trivial. Some are perfect mimics. Some are actually odd and fresh, the concept working, the pre-formed (in our minds) persona working in this new place. An example would be “The Darling,” starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and Keith Urban. Also effective were “A Trilogy” (The Jon Lovitz section is a comedic masterpiece) and “Terror.” The latter is about Michael Douglas, and possibly his current illness gives this story even more pathos, but I would point out and compliment a method Greenman ripped from Chekhov (obviously on purpose–the book is homage) and uses to startling effect: the juxtaposition of the natural world with our human concerns…

Douglas (who has quit acting to run coffee shops) gnashes and gnaws existential on life:

And do you understand life? Tell me: do you understand life better than the world beyond the grave?

I recognize that education and the conditions of life have imprisoned me in a narrow circle of falsity, that my whole life is nothing else than a daily effort to deceive myself and other people, and to avoid noticing it; and I am frightened at the thought that to the day of death I shall not escape from this falsity.

True dat, but then we get all of this delivered on a park bench, and this scene:

On the river, and here and there on the meadows, a mist was rising. High narrow coils of mist, thick and white as milk, were trailing over the river, hiding the reflection of the stars. Every minute they changed their form, and it seemed as some were embracing, others were bowing, others lifting their heads as though they were praying.

* Here is a long interview with Ben Greenman.

* Review of book here.

*

Here is a photo of a deer walking past my deer stand a few days ago. I took its photo not its deer-burger.

*

Here is a story about Kim Kardashian. Who the fuck is Kim Kardashian?

[EXCUSE ME–her sister eats nachos! Her sister eats nachos!!

]

“Joy”

It was twelve o’clock at night.

Kim Kardashian, with excited face and ruffled hair, flew into her family’s house and hurriedly ran through all the rooms. Her parents had already gone to bed. Her sisters were awake, trying on lingerie. Her stepbrother was looking at himself in the mirror.

“Where have you come from?” her sister Khloe cried in amazement. “What is the matter with you?”

“Oh, don’t ask! I never expected it; no, I never expected it! It’s positively incredible!”

Kim laughed and sank into an armchair, so overcome by happiness that she could not stand on her legs.

“It’s incredible! You can’t imagine! Look!”

Her other sister, Kourtney, threw a quilt round her and went in to fetch their stepbrother Brody. He came into the room, holding a hand mirror. Within a moment Kim’s parents were in the room as well.

“What’s the matter?” her mother said. “You don’t look like yourself!”

“It’s because I am so happy. The whole world knows me! The whole world! Until now only you knew that there was a girl called Kim Kardashian, and now the whole world knows it! Mama! Thank heavens!”

Kim jumped up, ran up and down all the rooms, and then sat down again.

“What has happened? Tell us sensibly!”

“You live like wild beasts, you don’t watch very much television and take no notice of what’s online, and there’s so much that is interesting there. If anything happens it’s all known at once, nothing is hidden! How happy I am! Oh, Lord! You know it’s only celebrated people whose names are published online, and now they have gone and published mine!”

“What do you mean? Where?”

Kim’s stepfather, Bruce Jenner, turned pale. Her mother crossed herself. Brody looked at her and then looked back into the hand mirror.

“Yes! My name has been published! Now all the world knows of me! Bookmark that page and print it out in memory! We will read it sometimes! Look!”

Kim went to the computer, tapped a series of keys, and then pointed to a paragraph on the screen.

“Read it!” she said to Bruce Jenner.

He put on his glasses.

“Read it!”

Kim’s mother crossed herself again. Bruce Jenner cleared his throat and began to read: “ ‘We will all be hearing more of Kim Kardashian soon . . .’ ”

“You see, you see! Go on!”

“ ‘. . . since an intimate video starring Kardashian and her ex-boyfriend has been confirmed . . .’ ”

“That’s me and Ray J . . . it’s all described exactly! Go on! Listen!”

“ ‘. . . and will be released later this month. The tape, which Vivid reportedly acquired for one million dollars, includes more than thirty minutes of explicit sexual activity . . .’ ”

“Go on! Read the rest!”

“ ‘It was filmed a few years ago, when Kardashian and her boyfriend, an R&B singer named Ray J . . .’ ”

“I told you. Ray J! But keep reading. There’s more about me.”

“ ‘Initially, Kardashian tried to block the release of the tape, but at length came to an agreement with the distribution company.’ ”

“That’s right. I’m being distributed. You have read it now? Good! So you see. It’s all over the Internet, which means it’s all over the world! Give it here!”

Kim closed the window and turned away from the computer.

“I have to go around the neighborhood and show this to a bunch of other people . . . the Gastineaus . . .the Hiltons . . . .Must run! Good-bye!”

Kim put on her hat and, joyful and triumphant, ran into the street.

*

Smokelong Q is named Smokelong because you can read a flash fiction in the amount of time it would take to smoke a cigarette. Now you know something. Want to know something else?

They have a 30 word flash contest in November. Sweet.

Gum those words, folks. Chew and spit.

*

I vouch for VOUCHED.

*

I am grading/eating nachos/drinking a beer/watching football. We call this a Sunday.

*

Damn, M Sarki over at elimae. Pretty dern glow, sir. You made me wash out my slackwater for a moment there. I just about J-boned my flatness. I thought there was no way M Sarki would be publishing online.

I was wrong.

In my nude art work the model is most definitely my collaborator and there must be space and tolerance for absolute failure.

Amen, dude!

Oh I just used The Google and here he is at failbetter.

*

Gritty Tony O’Neill interview at 3 am.

Watching people shoot up, smoke crack, all of that stuff – I find it hypnotic.

*

This blog has too many long excerpts today. Well, arrest me! Seriously arrest me–I’m lonely. My days are a wrecked car hidden behind a cabin made of cheese.

[climb the steps! push open the door!]

*

…and we are always doing depressing things together. Drinking champagne or going to visit the polar bears. Things not to do, but to have done.

Why yes, Liana Imam has one golden dust flash over at decomP. Thanks for the words, Liana.

*

We actually didn’t arrest Susan Tepper. Susan Tepper was doing some Pop-Tart flattening stuff. They just had Susan Tepper leave the grocery store. Susan Tepper was throwing her body down on the produce. Susan Tepper was basically bruising all the produce and so that’s why they asked her, you know, to quit throwing herself around or leave the store. People don’t want produce all touched by somebody’s body.


I don’t know.

** blog update to Susan Tepper photo (please note scissors used in cutting pizza):


the paris review interviews god and mud rock lobster nachos!

check out Lady Gaga eating nachos!

*

I blow shit up at Huffington Post.

*

Whoa. Slap me an orange bear-like sandwich and call me Sally. Mud Luscious has a wicked 2011 sale. You pay $35 and get like four, five books, nine or more chapbooks, an anthology, a test tube of sweat, a company of mutes, a sack of yogurt, and an impressive and enormous spinal cord of chicken wire and flashing lights.

[Subway should make a sandwich of deep-fried coffee and sell it for $2.95 in the mornings. I guess you’d have to freeze the coffee, batter it, then fry. I mean it could happen.]

I did it. I spent $35 on books. You should, too. Now.

[Look over there! A fucking bowl of slaw!]

*

I find it amazing all the Paris Review interviews are online. I mean, honestly, you’d sort of be a pickle-flipper not to read them all.

*

Willow Springs is one of my favorite lit mags. Their fiction contest is open. $2000 prize. Hello. You could buy some beer and some baloney with that kind of cabbage.

“You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take,” my pal THE GREAT ONE told me one day over nachos on the Roof of Cincinnati (a now closed brothel).

*

Oh I’m up in a tree. Sound of leaves making out. Dirt contemplating dirt. Reading this book where the author takes Chekhov’s stories and replaces all the characters with present-day celebrities. So far I’ve read about David Letterman and Steve Martin, maybe Oprah. From one review:

The best stories take time to unfold: “Terror,” in which Michael Douglas confides to a nameless narrator his fear of death and unrequited love for his wife, while a dissipated Gary Busey keeps interrupting to wheedle a job out of them; or “The Darling,” in which Nicole Kidman is the quiet frontier widow of obsessed theater impresario Tom Cruise, then lumberman Keith Urban, and is barely sustained by the platonic friendship of Brad Pitt, whose son she agrees to care for.

Looking forward to those, as I sway, sway above the earth reading and looking–there goes a mink, a opossum, two raccoons, a cat, three squirrels (2 fox, one gray), a hawk, a small 4 point buck–and thinking about the one warm beer in my camouflage backpack and the trees is rocking/waving me and the wind all humming and the earth smells like earth which it always takes me a awhile to realize, the soil/air/green smells all about me…I wonder if I could eat an entire tree?

[Most any large forest will delay depression.]

[…ice cream rebellion!!]

*

Flash at deComp:

Here’s some more advice: Stop listening to Nick Drake.

*

Lobster nacho recipe.

I’d probably go Rhode Island for the actual lobster.It is tough to get a beer at a bar in Rhode Island. Everyone is really loud. They scream, “Ay, bartinn-da, gimme a fucking be-er!!”

And I’m sort of standing there surrounded by these huge men (most are bald headed with really sunburnt domes!) and waving my little $20 in the air like a sprig of parsley–wee, wee, excuse me, might a get a little bottle of beer over here, uh, please?? I dance a little jig.

RAAAAAOARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!

says the bartender.

[Rhode Island folks call a water fountain a bubbler. They love America. They like boats. They like quail dipped in milk and giant-ass clams. They will gnaw, but not bite.]

Go to the ocean. It’s everywhere! Just turn and walk, there it is–the ocean. Like just wade out there, into the bay, yes, into the bay, your feet all knobby and sliding on the shells, glass, batteries, oil filters, bones, clams, starfish coating the ocean floor. Stop! About shoulder level. Make out with your friend. Now swim to the nearest lobster pot (you see that orange float? It leads down to a lobster pot)! Dive! Steal a lobster. Go ahead, reach in there. Leave something behind, maybe a Frisbee or a glass snowman. That will blow some minds. Now swim back to shore. Can your feet touch? Make out again. Take the lobster home. Now make lobster nachos.

*

A story has Prospero. A story has Caliban. All of this from The Tempest.

I think I heard this idea from Bruce Smith, but I was taking his poetry class. I remember he would stamp our poems with Victorian stamps, lithographs of devils and angels and gargoyles. Then he would hand the poems back to us, but I am getting off track.

[One time he said, “I like the can of beer in your poem.”]

Ariel is flight, imagination, language. Ariel is a writer invested in the sentence, the word, the love/pop/verve/flow of words making out in the dishwasher in the cave on the purple moon.

Example: Within Blake Butler Bath or Mud or Reclamation or Way In/Way Out, an electronic book you can find for free right here. Ariel, the workings of language:

Other shit began to happen. Behind the sky, I saw _____. The clips of drips of dropping muddle, scratching the face of everything in long bolts as flat as the back of my hand. And zapped in groggy columns things were melting out of nowhere, big rungs of hung gob spurting from sections overhead. And the skewed lobs of architecture and landscape bowled in rhythms clogged with problems, no repetition. I could hardly stick a foot straight; I was, like, wobbly hobbling through the dead grass. There was everywhere to walk now. Everywhere and none at all. I could feel my fiber peeling—my blood spread thin—my pupils slurred.

The word play, the internal rhymes, the syntax, the consonance, assonance, attention to sounds, the poetic qualities, Ariel, and what I want to see from a writer–a devotion to the word.

But what about Prospero? The what, who, where, the ground, the parameters, the wheels of the narrative drive, the chassis, at least a hint into out direction?

Same book, Blake begins with:

When the final crudded current first burst somewhere off the new coast of Oklahoma, I was seventeen and cross-eyed. The storm spread in a curtain. It came and cracked the crust that’d formed over the fields, the junk that’d moored up in our harbors. It washed away most everything not tied down and most everything that was. All those reams of ugly water. All that riddled from the sky. My family huddled hidden under one another in the house our Dad had built alone. The house where we’d spent these years together. The old roof groaned under the pouring. The leaking basement filled with goo.

LOST: my gun collection.

LOST: every board game you can think of.

LOST: mother’s bowling trophies (30+).

LOST: our hope for some new day.

The author still wrangles words, but not solely–here his intent is to inform:

Who: 17 year old me.

Where: Oklahoma

What: The storm.

Naming, listing, grounding. This is Prospero.

I like fiction with both. I want to be moved by words and I want to be moved, along, page to page.

*

Lots of people are into God. So here. I wrote about God at NANO fiction.

*

I will give that Facebook movie a 7.0034. That is a high rating. But:

The casting was blar. Timberlake cannot play some sleazy guy with any real verisimilitude, any sewer-gusto. He looked like the same Timberlake on the TV commercials, the same half-dancing while dangling from strings. Not a menace. More a punk.

Then they cast some some woman from Disney or some kid’s show world to play a psychotic, possessive girlfriend. She did not come across as crazy. She did not come across as dangerous. She came across as absolutely limp. She’s over her skis in this film. She sets a garbage can on fire with all the passion of a wet newspaper. Where are the spinning the eyes, the circus behind those eyes? Have you ever actually seen a crazy girlfriend, lady? They don’t daintily ask about text messages and set little garbage cans on fire. No, they break your arm and put dog shit in your pillow case and slash your tires, open the hood, rip everything possible out from under the hood, toss your cell phone into the toilet, and shatter every mirror in your house. Then they mail porno to your boss. Then they put your hot tub on Ebay. Then they set the garbage on fire, all the garbage, and also every shirt you own. On the way out, they let your dog run free.

Film? The pacing, the direction, the cinematography, the internal workings of Ivy League socializing–all of this I truly enjoyed. It’s not a bad film. It just missed its chance to be a great film, mostly due to casting.

*

Here is my foot, in a sock. The sock is inside-out. I am going to wear it to work that way, because why does it really matter? Inside the sock is my left foot. It blars. The Achilles continues to blar. I run twice a week and have not yet seen a doctor. Depressing. Yesterday, I went:

3 min 6:00 pace     3 min 6:00 pace     5:52 mile

3 min 5:49 pace     3 min 5:49 pace     3 min 5:39 pace

3 min 5:39 pace     3 min 5:18 pace

Once the heel was warmed I flowed fine. But now it is stiff like a boulder, only a boulder so shaped by the river to be long and narrow and screaming from the time some kid hit it in the head with a Teflon bat of lava. My heel is the next generation of weapons. We will fight terrorism by chipping off bits of my left heel and carpet-bombing whomever we need to carpet bomb next. Wasn’t it Jimmy Buffet who said we should carpet-bomb our enemies in lingerie? Not the worst idea…

So. Is this any way to live a running life? Probably not. I need to see a sawbones. Soon. I’m so hesitant, but why? You can’t train through an Achilles, I don’t think.

*

This flash by Joe Kapitan is rather glow.

When the sun was above the treeline, and the hunter returned to the cabin, they were ready for him.

Good work with opening line, tension, and this surprising and apt turn from realism to something more, something opening. Lovely, really, in the way the internal organs of a fish are lovely–glossy, visceral, true.

Good work, sir! I thank you for the read.

braying glass banana machine curves of deliverance glow

Deliverance, the book, is 40 years old. That’s older than Jesus C, in theory. Glow changing water to wine. Glow not-owning-a-damn-thing. [OK, sandals] Glow whitewater and the sound of a boat being sucked away/throat-down like meat from a bone. [Yes, I did almost drown canoeing, but I did return]. Glow spray. Glow eddies. Glow the human-face shape of a rock formed after years of river over its nose.

Glow Deliverance/James Dickey article here.

What do I think?

1. Glow movie. Best movie Burt Reynolds ever made. He could have been a contender, but he fucked it all up. He could have been an actor.

(And don’t give me some Longest Yard bullshit)

2. The James Dickey cameo is OK, but no backwoods sheriff would have that mouthful of crystal white choppers.

[Now they pay the writers to go away. Far away.]

3. The infamous “scene” should be infamous. It is the linchpin to the plot. It is integral and essential. Do you want to look away? Fine, but you must take the next step: why do you want to look away? It is the flame to the fuse to the whole damn explosion.

I actually knew a prof who would not show the rape scene to his class. Why show the damn film? He would pause the film, skip the scene, and then show the film. I did not respect this decision. I found it ludicrous, misguided, wrong. I found it the very thing a teacher should be against.

Yes, the scene is visceral. So what?

The blank face, the cut, the still, the silence, the “let’s skip this.” These are valid responses to life?

4. In the book and movie, the bow hunting deer scene is a contrast/setup later for the bow hunting human scene. It is a marker for change, protagonist change, and a smart structural device.

5. The book is a testament to why EVERY fiction writer needs to write/read poetry before ever starting on prose. The word, the line, the sentence is what writing is all about. Poets know. Fiction writers should. Plot/suspense and beautiful prose are not mutually exclusive.

The Sheep Child disturbing, as in amazing.

People, honest, smart people, keep talking about Deliverance and then saying, as an add-on: “Dickey was also a poet.”

Shows you something. But I digress. I was talking about words.

[To all those who have not read The Sentence is a Lonely Place.

Linking this makes me feel like a prof teaching “The Things They Carried”

Let it go.

But still Lutz...]

6. Deliverance, the movie, kick-started the canoeing boom in this country.

Huh?

That’s:  Jaws making you want to go for a swim. Or

Hey, I just saw The Ring, call me.

*

Robb Todd at PANK.

Seductive. Building to crescendo. Step by step, drink by drink. And next thing you know we are dreaming of Gordon Lish…

Glow.

I think the person-visiting-foreign-country is one of the most cliche lit mag stories in the whole damn galactic volcano world. So I respect this. Todd pulled it off. So dank beers to you, sir.

Here is an interview of Robb Todd.

*

The Boy in a philosophical moment. Moments later he would rod/reel in a clam the size of a thimble. He would say, “I didn’t get skunked, did I?”This clam was the size of a sigh.

[later some dude brought us a pizza we did not order. it was chicken. i would never eat a chicken–that’s cruel. these are life-moments i enjoy.]

The waters were angry that day, my friend. The waters were profoundly urban. Chalky. Plucked on strings of gray and hot lunches of dry erase marker soup. I want to say bar-of-soap sky but I think I ripped that from Annie Dillard. I know DFW would call this sky the color of a faded cotton shirt. Half a million writers would say pearl, but we all would suck.

We mostly all suck.

*

The new semester has started. I am teaching fiction and fiction and graduate fiction. This is a glow life. The students are glow, honestly.

I’ll tell you what: students get quicker, smarter, better. Every year. Any teacher in the world knows quicker/smarter/better is what you want in a class.

And…

We have a new coffee machine at BSU and that makes me believe I am in the future. Feels like Sleeper but less satire, less dangerous. You can’t take the machine that seriously. Although it is taller than Us and impressive enough to see/feel that it could beat your ass in chess. Machine is tall and sturdy and earth-colored and feels like a robot, yes, but a kind, serious robot about to set you up with some quality Joe. So wary. I am wary. It claims to grind/brew the coffee a few seconds after you put in your 50 cents (regular) or 75 cents (premium). And it often does.

Good thing for Us, it often does not. I get what I “order”/punch in  about 17 percent of the time.

The coffee is oily coffee and makes me shiver some. It isn’t dregs, just keen, like turpentine or when you leap out a moving truck. I drink it and my mind is a hamster that has escaped and made its bed in the crinkly green grass of an Easter basket. You reach down and it bites you.

Blood.

If your coffee doesn’t have a narrative inside it’s core/bean, a story wanting to hatch with every sip, why in the hell are you drinking it? Coffee should make you shudder, should kill you as it glows–like any drug.

*

I made an evening of drinking mojitos and googling photos of the world’s tallest man and thought surely this giant will die soon, and he did the following morning.

This is from Steve Stringer’s excellent elimae.

The opening. Sets us up with realism and turns to magical, twists us up, quick. There’s a Murakami story where the man wakes and makes toast and he’s about to head to work and then the author writes something like, “He was on his way to the elephant factory.”

The man worked in the “trunk” division, but I think was later transferred to Ears. Later comes a dancing dwarf.

Stringer catches something here, the fumes/fuel mix of alcohol, and this “giant,” most likely a wound of some sort, most likely one of those ghosts that haunt every hotel and give them layers of glow.

Thank you, Steve.

Hotels can be horny. Or sometimes sad. It’s hard to get my head around hotels. People come and go. For some reason I feel hotels are like graveyards, but that makes little sense. Hotels have lots of clunks and down-the-hall sounds. You can lie in bed and listen all night. Sometimes a headlight will paint the walls. The bed always makes me pause. What a history! If you look behind the headboard, on the floor, you will usually find straw wrappers, bottle caps, child toys, other things…You can open a bottle of beer on the jamb of a hotel door. Any hotel door. There’s a tip for you. Do you tip the sad people who clean the rooms? They talk loudly so you know they are sad. Nothing is more sad than being loud. Sometimes I sit in a hotel and feel like a boulder, but a hollow boulder and that’s called a geode, I think.

May all our giants return, I say.

*

The Third Annual Donald Barthelme Prize for Short Prose ends very soon. So if this is what you do, do it now.

Prize is $1000. Or eighty-three (83) Zombie Undead Jesus Necklaces.

*

A fucking galactic supervolcano erupted a few days ago. This explains a lot of things. Like war, people who don’t tip bartenders, Nicholas Sparks, people who don’t let you play through in disc golf, some lady named Mrs. Rose who opened a CHRISTIAN THRIFT STORE near my house.

What in the hell is a Christian thrift store?

Do I need to worship a Christian god to get in the door? Does an alarm sound? Do I take an oath? Are you going to card me?

What do they sell? Like only Christian things? Like Mary on a piece of burnt toast or old pamphlets or ceramic apples or golf clubs or high heel shoes or tree limbs or dusty church pews?

1. Jesus key chain that makes people think you drive a Lexus (?), $1.95.

2. Jesus air freshener, $1.50.

3. Grow your own Jesus, $2.50.

Maybe they sell peacocks and Flannery O’Connor books. Here is the story where the devil is a hero for being honest and shooting a grandmother, Mrs. Rose.

[Yesterday I found a shotgun shell in a graveyard. Who shoots off a shotgun in a graveyard?]

grenadine?

*

I am in a book with Michael Martone, Jim Daniels, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Daniel Orozco, Kennebrew Surant, Rick Attig, Lolita Hernandez, Michael Martone, Matthew Salesses, Matt Bell, M. Kaat Toy, Billie Louise Jones, Lita Kurth, Anne Shewring, Dustin Hoffman, Tania Hershman, Nick Kocz, Michael Zadoorian, Steve Himmer, Pete Anderson, Pete Fromm.

This book.

I tell my students repeatedly one of the best subjects in the world is work, work, work, so I glow to be in this anthology. To walk the walk. Etc.

BTW, the anthology includes Matt Bell’s infamous Fried Chicken story.

You haven’t read it? Are you an icking fidiot? Here, dumbass.

Lord

Luase

Lollygag, you fucker.

fuck

*

*

I just had a great run. Almost spiritual. And I don’t say that lightly. Runner’s High is a bit of a pop term, and not so accurate, usually. But I did feel high today, floaty, yes, spiritual. So.

So I have no interest in the organized  religions of man. I believe in the religion of Motion. Of river. Of arrow/disc in flight. Of apple tumbling from tree. Of fish. Of the body, running.

Today was some weird flow. Runners know it. Tough to capture. Tough to figure. You feel like the runner and the run. Form=Function. Like you were born running. It doesn’t happen that often. You have to be thankful. You have to hope it happens again…

It felt like this:

corn, corn, golden kernels of hot sauce–my lunch

and

oh my, a mix pack. they do mix packs now, i drank the 6 quickly and my knees soared around the hotel room i was blue but sort of a deep-end blue with a tiny dime shimmering on the bottom

And

J is my mother

And…

possibly i need a haircut a need i possibly

And

dinner on Lake Michigan

And the run went exactly like this:

6:00 mile pace  X 800      6:00 mile pace X 800      5:56 mile (full mile)

5:52 mile (full mile)      5:49 mile pace X 800      5:49 mile pace X 800

5:24 mile pace X 800

Whew. But I felt like I could have just kept on running into South America, or maybe to that former planet, Pluto, poor thing, or maybe right into the heart of all of this confusion we call Our Life.

*

Pay attention to Caren Beilin.

I said pay attention.

I used to make out with the household iron.

I said!

I’d like to trample you in an old fashioned manner. A writer comes along, a writer comes along. You know, sometimes you read something exponential bad-ass:

At the zoo you can buy animal balloons, dead birds on strings given shots of helium into the rectum and they jounce overhead attached by the string for an hour.

Here it is. Go fucking read.

Oh my

S

Quick Fiction 17 Review [sparklehorsemotherfuck!!!]

The cover is a tightrope walker by Laura Niemi Young. The man appears to be holding an open bottle of wine. The clouds are indicative of a breezy day. The man is focused, but a tad bit worried. As far as metaphors for flash fiction, I will give this a Splinter Trumpet and  a Hell Yes! Also an Eat Broken Necklace Award. It is possible the man is about to fall. Or is he wanting his audience to believe so? Maybe he wants the audience to feel something they will never see–like all his internal bruising along the toes. His wife back home and their silent dinners. The sound of a life falling onto the roof. Possibly he owns a stupid, stupid dog. I will let you extend out the remainder of the metaphor on your own.

1. There are four types of stories. Man leaves town. Man comes to town. Man freaks out, steals beer, deploys emergency chute, and leaps out of an airplane. (I vote this one of the most badass job rages ever–I simply love this flight attendant.) Or, in the words of Susan Denning, Man maybe comes to town, forgets own quintessence, lies down in a river. This flash reminds me of when I think it’s Tuesday but it’s really Australia, circa 1999, and I sit up in bed and dress for my job as a spoon salesman and The Smiths on the radio and all my regret not making out more in graduate school and learning to SCUBA around whale sharks. Denning is a runner, and understands that movement is within/without us all, so we love her.

Slept by the river and the rocks sang hopeful

2. Anthony Luebbert writes about Bobby Kennedy. Do I glow persona fiction? You know I do. This reminded me a bit of the classic Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning. Both are smart, spot-on, a bit of Golden Head Cage. And Luebbert can drop a wonderful, flowing sentence:

Robert Kennedy returned from work, entered the front door of his large white house, Hickory Hill, kicked off his shoes, removed his suit coat, loosened his tie, walked over the black and white tiles of the hallway floor, past the enormous black Newfoundland named Brumus, five children, the governess, a nurse, three maids, past the open doors leading to the rooms all painted in bright reds and greens, unbuttoned his shirt, tousled his hair, walked out the back door past the iguana and the sea turtle, removed his shirt, his belt, his pants, headed toward the swimming pool where a young sea lion sat poolside, and he (in just shorts and socks) and the sea lion dove into the cool water.

Amen. All you kinds might want to learn from Luebbert: the sentence is a wonderful tool. This one escalators us as it informs, as it characterizes, as in engages in serious play. Complete text here.

3. Alexandra Salerno with an “Autobiography.” This felt like a Cheever flash, the hidden worlds, the whispers in the hedges, the hollow cigarettes–all of it drenched in alcohol. It captured the beetles beneath the lawn. Bruise behind the too-red lipstick. Ants in the kitchen of your brain. The swirl/gray pearl of adulthood.

4. Round Midnight is right here. Read it. The language just drifts you away, smoky, hot, beautiful. I liked every single word but sepia. Sepia sounds like someone is writing a goddamn poem.

[A bird has built a house in the bottom of a potted flower I have outside. To save the flower, I have to uproot the bird. To let the bird and its family live, I need to let the flower die. Advice?]

5.

“It’s the end of the world,” my father proclaimed at the breakfast table, rising in his bear-checked pajamas. “Not again,” my mother replied, emptying the scraps on the plates into the garbage and putting the dishes into the dishwasher.

I wish I had written that opening. I did not. Jeff Friedman did. There is a domestic paranoia he catches in his words immediately, a tight, sweating fist. I feel the linoleum sagging into a giant black hole.

6. Nicola Dixon knows that every object has an echo, a connotation. Cool name too, BTW. Glass menagerie, indeed, only this time it is soap. Seahorse soap. Cow soap. Soap cleans you but what cleans the soap? Etc. Quirky material, quirky language, undercurrent of anger, or frustration, the type that wonders why can’t humans ever tolerate one another, I mean for very long?

[Every rectangle I have been trapped in, I had the butter knife right there in my hand]

7. Amy Holwerda snags the clarity an illness will force upon us. Everything is brighter now. More violent in its immediacy:

juicy meat from the bones…

Indeed.

8. I get a Peter Markus feel from “Clean Dead Leaves,” the form/function, the layering of words/leaves, the need to clean and the moment you are not cleaning–more dead leaves arrive!! Also, uh, we are walking dead leaves. As you know. Munch. Mulch. Bye.

9. Flash fiction is a biology to capture the blur. Kirsten Rue cocoons illness. Illness is lonely and fantastic and real and odd and very similar to becoming air. Language is amazing in certain hands. Rue bends the words to form caterpillars. See the poison?

Her arm hurt and she could see why: a ribbon of pale green tubing connected to a bottle, dripping jewel by jewel.

10. Anna Anderson has a lyrical name. I just said her name aloud into my orange walls and up sprang an image of hot cocoa. Now sure why. Also lyrical are her sentences.

…tiptoed to the bathroom like a husband

…the bed I lowered to be closer to the ground

This work is tight, it shards off each sentence, each paragraph. It catches the oddness of things. Of objects. I think maybe every image has a bulb inside that glows and whenever we see or think of the object–violin, coat, mail, shoe–the bulb glows brighter.

11. Gary Young is not the founder of Young Living Essential Oils. He did found a press. I’d rather found a press than oils. I suppose you have to press something to get the oils, no? But it isn’t pages. If you drank the oil from pressed pages? I don’t know.

[A lot of weight loss herbal stuff is just straight-up speed]

This flash does what flash is allowed to do–poetry. It is an argument for art. It is an image, a narrative imagining, and I will say no more. I think spoilers are for milk left in cribs overnight.

12. Go ahead, read The Middle Distance.

13. Flare starts like this. It is an atmospheric piece of writing. I find it wonderful when writers can clutch how you feel when staring into flames and then unfold that idea into walls and bicycles. I suppose I mean to say this flash fiction is something that turns night into day into night into that moment before we fall into sleep and we thank your daily genius, Kathryn Scanlan.

[I have actually seen adult men bring acoustic guitars to bonfires. Even the sea groaned that day]

14. Thisbe Nissen uses the sentence, the connectors, the starts and halts of words and punctuation, to form a stuttering, shall we say muttering–death, death, death–sales pitch. Plots for Sale.

Ash.

Ash settled on leaves. Do crematoriums have chimneys?

[There is no fucking way anyone of putting me in a box, period. FUCK BOXES.]

15. Andrew Michael Roberts was or is a Juniper Fellow? What does that mean? I don’t know, but it makes me think he knows Robin Hood and can cast spells by mixing bark, newt tears, chewing gum, and the tail feathers of a dead crow.

sparklehorsemotherfuck is the best word I have read in two weeks of intense reading. It is the best word in Quick Fiction 17, so far. I would like to name my car, my kid, my house, my life, sparklehorsemotherfuck.

16. J.A. Tyler has this head and out this head flows words, daily. It’s like a Pumpkin Walk or a geyser. There must be a lot of pressure inside him, words and sentences and wondrous ideas screaming at his ears, eyes, mouth, ass, penis, fingertips–trying to explode!!

[I have yet to see my use of exclamation marks as anything but shabby]

Dude can write, I’m saying.

“The Mountain Lion” is a metaphor here, and this work gets me thinking: Why does every community claim to have spotted a mountain lion? Even the local liquor store, right up the road from my house, the guy will pull out this crumpled, folded photo of a blurry thing in a vast field of soybeans– “See, a mountain lion!”

[Same guy once said to me, “You look like one of Obama’s boys.” What does that mean?]

Tyler knows we have this deep need to believe in all that might be–like the mythology of family.

17. Anthony Varallo riffs on the word, collect. This is the type of thing you think you could do, and you could, but it’s tough to do well.

Done very well here, and I now have a new assignment for this semester. Give each student one word and let them write a flash riff on that one word. Show them Varallo’s work as an example. Thank you, Anthony. I think I met you once at a museum, but maybe I was drunk and am wrong.

[Sometimes I go to museums expecting to see a Warhol and they won’t have the Warhol and I’ll think Where is the Warhol and then think, Why do you need to see something so ordinary as a Warhol, what is wrong with the gold coins and the bird and the painting with the bathtub and the toaster and the one where they guy painted his wife to look like a wall?]

18.Thomas Cooper shows us that flash is organic. The entire world is a flash.

Interview answer:

I was drawn to flash fiction, honestly, out of frustration and impatience. At the time, most of my longer stories had turned out crappy, and just about everyone rejected the few I considered decent. They wrote notes like, “Why is this so long? What’s your problem?” So I figured I’d spend more time concentrating on smaller things, if only to reign in some of my prolix tendencies.

What in the fuck is a “prolix tendency”? That sounds so badass. I mean that’s damn near close to sparklehorsemotherfuck.

19.

How often do you get to eat a heart?

Add a knife.

I think you want to read the flash by now. So go buy the fucking magazine.

20. Who is Gabe Durham?

I guess a violently erotic reaction would be my top choice.

Gabe Durham, I owe you a beer. I consider “Intake Until You” one of the most glow flashes in this issue. Tight, tight. A camera flash caught in the chest of a live sparrow, I feel.

21. What in the hell is “Landwehrkanal”?

It is important to not Google just because you feel like Googling. It’s like cooking by open flame or opiates or holding a Sartre play in stereo. You should do it occasionally.

22.

A fly and I got on an elevator

This is the type of opening sentence that will lead to hair-snakes or roulette tables or at least a woman leaping from a gondola while aflame. Another lesson for my students? You could begin a universe with that prompt. A fly and I got on an elevator.

23. “The Feather” is one of those flashes that use an object as its core. And Loory does a sweet job with the tone, how a single feather can be meaningless, or the center of the world.

I got a real Danill Kharms from this piece. And that is glow.

24. We end with the essence of flash fiction? What is it?

It was the way the sun hit the stones sprawled across your lawn.

Is that enough for you? It isn’t?

Then you, sir or madam, are a “new Star Trek poster” or “a stray hair on the passenger seat.”

I mean lost.



sparklehorsemotherfuck!

sparklehorsemotherfuck!

Love,

S

Museum of Vandals by Amish Trivedi

The walls are steel. Cold I mean. I went out to my mailbox at dawn, when the light is blue and the air cracks in your teeth and everything makes you think of bones, or bones failing, or the inevitability of bones failing. Dog turds in the snow and a tree branch on my roof like a severed arm. There was a chapbook in my mailbox. WTF? WTF makes a curly-Q, a question mark of exhalation in the air, if you were wondering. Every word in the world condensates in its own fashion, that’s just physics. Some asshole was cranking on a snow-blower at six in the morning. My head felt like a box of stuck-together photographs because I drank beer while watching the Superbowl. I went 42 inch 1080 HD last week, but that’s a different post. So. When did I order this chapbook? Sometimes I order books late at night when all the walls are bleeding and lonely and orange and this is what happens.

It was Museum of Vandals by Amish Trivedi. A thing folded in a thing, and this green paper clip. It was a spring-fastened binder clip, not the usual steel loop. Green is my favorite color.

I read the chapbook two times.

Kinetic pop slither pop movement. Somebody chooses the right word. Joins another right word. It’s like pretending to sleep, or getting ready to kick some ass. I mean crouched. Say, tar, snakes, noisemakers. For example.

I have

an imagination

of tar: something is alive

under here. Snakes are


jumping through screams

and the trees. We saw

cranes of noisemakers

and long division streets. Teal

is a legitimate surface, an

operation by which


to read. This is a design of comprehensive

time–a vigil of something traumatic.

Poetry to capture all that is falling away. Role of. Poetry to freeze-frame the jagged thinking. A mind as stained as a skillet. Gleaming with word-grease. What do I think? Show you:

So much soy lining. A parrot screams, laughing

at the


gas masks or wolves. I


laughed (just a

little).

I read. A pain rolled from my head to my spinal cavity to the backs of my knees. I think poetry cuts to the stumble. I think poetry walks the strut. I think this poetry of Amish Trivedi is like a moon framed tightly in the window. The window has a crack through the moon. You are seeing a rupture here (touch it) and on the moon, There. It is very tight and strange and makes your hollow chest feel hollow. How so?

Something is ordinary and very wrong. Something is religious and obscene. Image as a type of gun. You fire the thing. We are all celebrities now. And sad and fucked up, like celebrities. Even a feather can kill someone, easy. Silence will not save you. Fingers, fingers, fingers–what to do with them now?

About

the rain? I was the


one that buried

it in a wall.

Wow. Word. And I mean word. Rain in the wall.

That is all you need to know.