Tag Archives: Blake Butler

The pity of it is we are free

Account of working in the Breadloaf Writing Retreat kitchen.

It kills me that people still ban Vonnegut, but Vonnegut is striking back!

I of course remember the first time I met Vonnegut, off near that GM plant in Fort Wayne, on that state land, well we were deer hunting,  a reduction hunt, shotgun only, and Vonnegut and I both clueless, hadn’t scouted besides a quick glimpse at a topo map and asking some lady Vonnegut knew at the plant, her name was Sheila and she had these very largy yet remarkably firm breasts and she just said, “I seen a big ol’ deer out there, size of a sandwich” and anyway Vonnegut goes and shoots a button buck, you know them teenager bucks, little buttons on top, dumb as boiled gravel, and Vonnegut just sort of gut-shoots it and it humps all up and then jumps over the fence, off into that GM land, clearly off-limits, and Vonnegut just unsnaps a little folding knife, maybe a Gerber or whatnot, off his belt and scurries up the fence and leaps off and onto that button buck and they’re all rolling and thrashing about and leaves flying and finally Vonnegut rares up and slits that deer’s throat! Damn, man. And then he just, I guess adrenaline and all, just heaves that deer right over the fence and climbs back up and over and Vonnegut all heavy heaving red-faced, all blood on his hands and arms and specks on his mustache whatnot and sort of panting and laughing and I go, “Damn, man, that was something” and he starts maybe laughing I don’t know and sticks his knife in the ground, wipes it clean on his pants leg, snaps it right back onto his belt, grabs the hind legs of the little button buck and says, “Yeh, it was something. How about giving me a hand here?”

And so we drug that deer out is what I remember and ate some of it over fire that night with cold cans of beer and a touch of hot sauce.

*

He enters a clearing with a small blue tent and a poodle tied to a picnic table.

*

Kraft sells off Velveeta, the sons-a-bitches. You dare doubt Velveeta!! I would like to introduce you, Kraft, to your brethren and their wise words. Your brothers are:

Variety Magazine, 1955. Here is their opinion on rock-n-roll:

It will be gone by June.

I also introduce you to another one of your mealy, doughy, half-baked brothers, Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943:

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.

And so on…Oh, you will rue this day, Kraft. I will write documents so analytical, so bereft of emotion (seemingly), so rhetorically sound as to raise the hair on the backs of the necks of statues of grandmothers. I will raise an army against you…etc, etc. Hold up, my dog just ran out the door. And guess what? My dog does not react to verbal commands. Ha, ha! What a dog! What a jolly animal. Running among the jolly streets, the jolly screeching of tires, random curses, potential lawsuits, oh ha, ha, ha, living the dream of Man’s Best Friend…Listen: Velveeta is formless. Tabula rasa. A friend with cheese is a friend indeed. Something.

*

Yes, this book stumbles through itself, in search of itself, learning to bend and snap, discovering the depths and directions of its voice and at the end pops out this layered clump, like a rubberband ball with a pulse, that bounces around us and stretches thoughtshapes in and out and back again and we get all smiley, not really knowing what to say or think.

*

Hey, all you communist bastards, you fish-forgetters, you fruit fly fuckers who bang on Flash Fiction, check out these snow globes by Walter Martin and Palamo Munoz.

What’s my point? My point is take note. Click the link. The snow globes ARE flash fiction. Megadecahedron on your ass. Hey you: Stop eating pretentious lunches, like olives and shit, you flash haters, you Neanderthals of the long leg Daddy variety, you flashcists. Punks.

Oh, I bet you suck olives.

I bet you eat multiple varieties of olives.

Pretentious ass! (Lover of silver SUV with Jesus fish; long walks on the cooling bodies of superstars died early; wearer of black ski masks with mouths outlined in yellow; etc.)

*

I don’t know Casey Hannan’s work, but I am going to get to know it. This flash (over at wigleaf is one of the best I’ve seen over there, and I have seen plenty of glow over at the leaf. It catches a moment, then collects the prisms of the moment, the multiple angles of split light. Interior, exterior, the cigarette and the ash, the lips and lungs (and heart). See, flash is light, a flashlight. It illuminates, captures a beaming moment, lets you listen to the scurrying right outside the beam, in the dark.

You love wordplay, so you howl until it transforms into a scissored cough, like your breath is caught in a rock tumbler. I realize this will be your last cigarette ever. You bleed your coughs onto the shoulder of your t-shirt in big, tacky blotches, and you say, “This is it, Case, my only chance to do something like this before I die. I’m dyeing, God, how I’m dyeing this shirt right in front of you.”

*

My lunch was all European, all junque cosmopolitan, olives and blue cheese olives and hummus and brick-bread and almonds (king of the nuts), and a little Fat Tire, Fat Tire, a beer on the cusp, the little shimmering cusp, of obnoxiousness. I see one more semi truck plastered in FAT TIRE and I’m going to get off my feed, going to chuck a lug, going to pour grape juice marinade on the cuticles of my…something. OK, we had people by last night and I now eat leftovers. This lunch made me feel like a normal human being.  Or like the value of my house dropped yet another 10 grand or that Boeing launched a 787 Dreamliner

or

–I wanted you to actually hear what I’m saying.

–What was that?

–the wind picked up…

–There’s only one thing really wrong with him.

or:

*

More and more often I don’t ‘understand’ Blake Butler’s blog.

One time I was in Chicago and this woman approached me and I was all feeling inside like “wow I like when women approach me” and she got really close, sort of like artist-in-the-anticipation-of-needs close or like swans in a floral arrangements close (anyway), and she said in this sort of haltingly with an accent voice: “Do. You. Know this. Blake Boootttleerr?”

And I said, “Blake Butler? Yeh I know him.”

And she said, “Can youse. Show him. To me.”

So I walked her over to see Blake Butler and we both stared at the back of his head, from a distance. And she said, “Tank. You.”

*

Steve Stringer has a wonderful touch over at Juked, with Seaplanes. It’s a little Carver and certainly a shake of Denis Johnson, but he avoids the derivative, with crisp scene-setting, with an occasional jarring transition, and an oft memorable line. Don’t know much about Stringer myself, but will keep my antennae up.

He says he shoplifted gospel cassettes, says he filched from the collection plate, says sometimes he prayed to basketball players instead of God. He says when he worked in the morgue he was coming off a morphine addiction. When no one was around, he’d peel back the fentanyl patches off the bodies, prick a hole in the patch with a pin, and lick the gel. He says he’s sorry.

He just sits there frozen and dry like astronaut food.

*

At decomP I enjoyed this by Robert Laughlin:

The parade moved on, but not the elephant that collapsed in the city’s busiest intersection. People in their stalled cars watched a city truck arrive. The city men planted a sign in the asphalt: ASIAN ELEPHANT/ELEPHAS MAXIMUS
IN PROCESS OF NATURAL DECAY
FINE FOR REMOVAL

*

Fog gets a big ol’ review here at Faster Times.

What? You want me to answer even more questions about Fog? That type of thing fascinates you, along with cockroaches and snorting Dexedrine off the top of church pews? Ok, then, I answer questions about Fog for NANO Fiction.

Here, I slap a canoe rack of my glow Outback:

Placing a canoe rack feels glow because I know I have done something. When I write, I am not sure I have done a damn thing. And it goes on and on and to thread one’s way unseen through the world must feel wonderful, so to speak…something.

*

I am now reading Today and Tomorrow by Ofelia Hunt.

Bill Murray’s face is on the cover, always a very good sign.

“R2D2 was a great guy and a fine actor.”

-Bill Murray

*

Would everyone please shut the fuck up about Shark Week?

*

Hill workouts. Are they effective?

1. East Africans have been traipsing up and down the steep slopes of the Great Rift Valley for millennia.

2. Hill muscles and sprint muscles are almost exactly the same.

3. While every other runner dreads hills, why not make them your specialty? Then you approach the hill and think, “I’ve got them now.”

4. Hills develops coordination, encouraging the proper use of arm action.

5. Hills are a grind. Every runner must grind. Must fuck grind, love grind, sweet milk of grind embrace grind. Know grind. Lick grind. Grind. I can’t even tell you how much of my running career has been built on grind, or as one coach told me way, way, way back in high school:

“Sean, you’re strength is your strength.”

Meaning I don’t stop. I grind.

6. Running hills make you better at…running hills.

Just did 9 minutes at 2% grade, 9 at 3%, 9 at 4%, 9 at 5%, 9 at 6%, 3 at 7%. I am now sweat-slicked and legs all undressed and winnowed Tree and sigh, sigh muscles and I need a beer.

*

I kind of dig this photo of Jesus.I ripped it from Vouched. Who knows where they ripped it from.

*

You people who hate flash are still here?You damn kite stranglers! You Shrunken Strunks & Whites. You baa, baa, baa haters. You postnasal lopper-gangers! You fountain pens filled with troll heavens. You mes! You memory hazers. You slap boxes! You TVs! You slow, slow cult. You Sheriffs! You tornado Sheriffs! You posh costumes of baleful asthma. You curds. Well.

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.

How to Have a Good Reading

Went to a good reading on Wednesday. A good reading: How do?

1. Employ a hip space.

The Irving Theater was exposed wood beam ceiling/dark corners/suicide/chandeliers drooping like mid-70s/various colors of paint I associate with dust cobras or deep scratches in vinyl cars or the time I jumped over a tall fence and wrestled a deer to the ground, cut its throat with a knife, etc. My head did the whoosh whoosh. I felt like maybe my house could have hardwood floors and a furtive cat, if I so wished. Naked woman painting!!!! I am so cool people wait in line to eat me. I think it’s funny when people say pass the time. Pass the gravy, pass gas, pass the time. There were rows of seats and maybe church pews someone stole from a church. The ceiling was tall as a tall ceiling. The lighting was dark. I felt a level 5 hipness factor, like maybe an ironic T-shirt or The Hipster Olympics.

3. The new summer JMWW is fucking nuts. Wow. I mean it is loaded like a pepper gun. A gun that shoots peppers.

I seriously want to thank the editors. Good work.

I glow Kim Chinquee. I said Kim Chinquee. I said Kim Chinquee. (Click on the links, dumbass. If you aren’t going to read Kim Chinquee, I can’t imagine why you are here at all.)

I glow Brian Evenson flash.

I glow Robert Coover.

I glow Terese Svoboda.

I think it’s funny when people discuss a magazine or whatever and they are actually in the magazine but pretend they sorta aren’t or something I don’t know. I don’t think that’s appropriate. Ha, ha. I’d like to ask myself to be my friend and tell myself to go to hell or just ignore the friend request altogether. Maybe when I get older I’ll call an ambulance to my house–like chest pain or maybe I’ll say my ears are made of Styrofoam–and none of that will be true, I’m just calling the ambulance to have someone to talk to, someone to visit me, another expensive friend.

Here you go, fucker.

Here you go!

Fucker.

Fuck.

Did I mention I love Ken Sparling and he is in the new JMWW? The more I publish in venues with Ken Sparling the happier I feel.

14. Have beer at the reading. Always have beer. I can’t tell you the amount of situations in my life that have improved just by the presence of beer.

[Sex in hot tubs is uncomfortable]

[I got a telemarketer calling me from Florida]

[Two bucks and a coffee mug]

[Salad I pretend to enjoy]

[Awkward greeting your dad]

[Accidents happen now and again]

[Tiny trees grow out my house gutter]

[A bunch of wasps just fucked me up]

[blar me]

Thank you Sun King Brewery.

9. Have Christopher Nugent show up. He is doing awesome Vouched Books. Good to see you, Chris!

11. Take shitty, blurry iPhone photos:

10. You could have nachos. Why don’t you people put rice on your nachos? Do I have to tell you how? Everyone goes beans, beans, beans, but think about rice. Think about rice. Think about it. Rice.

Or maybe you go to lunch by yourself and read the papers and feel like you are in a novel.

[Seeing the smoke rise]

[I am French today. I am action but thought, like mixed]

Weekend Nachos interview.

Nacho’s blog is confusing as all get-out. What the fuck does this even mean? It’s like some odd poem:

5. Fiction Daily interviews me. Interview me.

6. DC with an amazing Sad Keanu post.

2. Keep it short. I said keep it short. KEEP IT SHORT. Jesus Christ, you people that blather on and on at readings–you have lost us, your audience. Our minds are thinking about cleavage and the exposed wood and dust whorls and credit card debt and orange crows and man this fucking IPA is tight, light yet succulent and Old Spice who’s wearing Old Spice? and coffee shop down the block and sake, sake tastes like candy corn and are you supposed to drink it cold or hot, like maybe the tourists drink it hot but actual Japanese drink it cold it’s like in Mexico all the restaurants have two menus–one for the stupid gringos, one of real Mexican food–and I’d love to break some windows right now and a dark mass of blackbirds or maybe starlings in the sky, European imports and that dude is hot/that chick is hot/I’m hungry/need a promotion too and why is there a hole in my shoe are my toes too long is that the problem, are you saying my toes are like Appalachian or something?

So, you know, keep it short….

Andrew Scott (of Freight Stories, etc) read first. He did a persona screen-play/script type piece, and you know I glow any persona fiction. Then he read his Esquire flash. He kept it lively and short. Good work.

Donald Ray Pollock read next. Wow. He glowed it. You have heard of KNOCKEMSTIFF, right? He read about murder and huffing Bactine (!) and Kmart realism if Kmart was a fucking alleyway full of Appalachian whores and homeless killers and beer cans, etc.

I almost bought Pollock’s book but I needed to purchase more beer and I have too many books to read right now.

7. Persona piece Paul Bowles I wrote getting good run at Fictionaut.

77. OMG hole 5 is right up against the creek on R and that’s a headwind 90 % of the time–you are all fucked.

11. Or a pepper in the shape of a gun?

44. No joke, I was on the roof today and wasps fucked me up. I nailed down a shingle and this wasps jumps out and stings/stings/stings me. 3 times on the left side of my knee. I screamed, hopped, but I was on a roof. Calm down, Sean. OK. OK. But why is my right side knee swelling up like a balloon? Anyone had this happen? Fucking wasps.

2. I swerved to miss a squirrel and hit the damn squirrel–tha-thump. Well, fuck me. That’s philosophical and shit. I made a purposeful act to avoid harm and caused harm.

2.

At some future time, meet Lady Gaga for drinks at a bass pond. The idea is BYOB + fishing rods + some Hank Williams Jr. songs on your IPhone + whipping persimmons in the air with sticks + later frying the largemouth tails over a low fire + they taste like some form of potato chips + you have this summer heat/beer buzz pelvic stirring + you and Gaga wading into the pond, holding hands + frog thrum in the air + she says what did I just step on, it was like a smooth football made of marble and you say it’s only turtles, you stepped on a turtle’s back + both of your underwears sprawled out on the bank + warm currents and eddies and toe-sucks of mud + 14 geese over in a honking V + you and Lady Gaga slipping away into the torn tops/swaying reeds of the cattails…I don’t know how you’re going to achieve this but make an actual date. This is going to take some effort, some persistence, now that Gaga’s all famous and etc, but we are a tenacious people. I mean look what Nick Nolte did with his looks and talent. Check out Mandy Moore. So. So? Make the appointment with Lady Gaga. Do it. Today. Write down the actual time and date.

Now just wait.

This is the best formula I know to avoid depression.

8. you want me to shoot arrows at Blake Butler’s book, huh?

I shoot a sonnet with a rifle and chili and I don’t know

Made some venison chili. As usual, I just grab whatever and throw it in the pot. I saw this massive pepper at the store.  I’m not sure what type of pepper. Anyway, I brought it home and threw it into my chili. I punctured it seven times with a knife first, to let the heat and flavor seep into my chili. The chili was level 6, so I’m not sure if this process worked. This might be my last chili for a while. Spring is not for chili. Spring is for fish tacos and shrimp nachos and golden beer. Spring is for taking my kid canoeing and fishing. Spring is for running 26.2 miles. Spring is disc golf. Spring I might try to strangle a flower to life,  if I can, I’m thinking below my mailbox. No, I will go fishing. I don’t go around saying, “I’d rather be fishing.” I am not a green ball cap in a store in TN with wonderful potato wedges. You know why? Because I am out fishing and yes I curse too often around my son and sometimes instead of a rightful dinner I give him Cool Ranch Doritos and maybe a cup of blue yogurt but damn if that boy won’t have wonderful memories of fishing and the ability to catch fish and to read the dips, curves, eddies of a river and navigate a canoe and just realize for a second that we are actually the river and the river is us, our very blood and pooling synapses and that’s why it feels good, son, feels good to leave all the nonsense behind and get a cooler, two rods/reels, a bag of roasted peanuts, a big-ass Pepsi for you, a red canoe and kiss/wave/cough the crazy world goodbye to go fishing.

*

I did a YASOO 800 X 14 last evening.

4 X 6:00 mile pace.     4 X 5:56     4 X 5:52     Then one at 5:49, one at 5:27 mile pace.

The last one I was so exhausted and coughing a bit and I just didn’t know if I could finish the full 800 but then I remembered years ago Lance Armstrong said, “You can surprise yourself how the mind can overcome the body’s limits.”

(I used to dislike Lance because he was dating Sheryl Crow and I have a major crush on Sheryl Crow and didn’t want to have to imagine Lance pedaling all over her.)

That seems obvious or corny or whatever, but it is actually very true. So I just told my body, “Legs that feel like dead fish, lungs that whimper glass, you are going to stop soon, OK, you get to stop soon, but NOT RIGHT NOW.”

And I finished my last 800 and stumbled into the shower. I felt very tired but very alive and anyone reading this who has really pushed their body out there, out there into what I call The Crucible, knows what I am saying. Runners run because it makes you feel alive and real and actually spending a moment in your body NOT questioning, NOT questioning, wearing yourself like your skin is indeed yours and maybe things will be OK or glow for a little while.

Pretty solid, but I have been ill lately and the training has been lame-o like a duck. I need another long run before the marathon. I am am semi-fit but certainly need more mileage. The illness (a nagging cold) cut down on my mileage. We’ll see.

[Note: running at night is never smart. My metabolism was all sped up and my body hot for hours and I sit there in bed with tired legs and a very awake mind.]

*

Corium Magazine be crazy like talking soda. Lauren Becker did not fuck around! Thanks for asking me aboard, Lauren.

I have a prayer in the new Divine Dirt Quarterly. It is centered and I didn’t write it centered. I have never written a centered poem in my life, but maybe it’s just an editorial decision on their part or maybe they will change it or maybe it doesn’t really matter at all. I mean I got a mortgage and this little gutter on my house that sags weird like a broken rib and my dog is so stupid and never sits or comes back and here I am blabbing about some centered poem.

*

Over at HTML Blake got drunk and read a selection from Drunk Sonnets.

Drunk Sonnet blog here.

My interview of Daniel Bailey (Sonnet author) here.

Damn! I can’t get Blake’s sonnet video to embed. Have no idea why. I am an idiot.

Here, go to The Faster Times and watch it. It is worth a watch. Blake is trashed. Don’t drink like that, children.

Well, you know, I am a big fan of Blake and I am basically  a lemming so waited two days and knocked back a beer or seven and read another Drunk Sonnet, # 18. I then went outside and shot the sonnet with a tricked-out squirrel rifle, as is my way.

Enjoy. And remember, I am trained in both firearms and poetry, so don’t try this at home, kids.

S

Eggs and Bush and Red Lobster.

Look what I got in the mail today! Can you say ken baumann, shane jones, jimmy chen, brandi wells, blake butler, nick antosca, sam pink, james chapman, colin bassett, michael kimball, jac jemc, kim chinquee, kim parko, norman lock, randall brown, brian evenson, michael stewart, peter markus, ken sparling, aaron burch, david ohle, matthew savoca, p. h. madore, johannes göransson, charles lennox, ryan call, elizabeth ellen, molly gaudry, kevin wilson, mary hamilton, craig davis, kendra grant malone, lavie tidhar, lily hoang, mark baumer, ben tanzer, krammer abrahams, joshua cohen, eugene lim, c. l. bledsoe, joanna ruocco, josh maday, & michael martone?

I feel like Rod Stewart or Cher back when she had orange hair and that crazy spandex and the battleship.

This has been out a while and I then forgot and now it arrives and I am about to read until I swoon.

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Cynthia Reezer at NewPages does a sweet review of Eggs.

“Lovelace weaves scenes that flow organically (or maybe “morph” is a better word) into the next thing happening by the writerly imagination.”

Word.

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holy shit

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I have decided I have a cooler beer glass than most.


Fail Nacho Coffee Clear My Throat Now

Well, my MSS “Twentieth Century Visits” has been rejected again. It got kicked like a cupcake made of school nurses, or ash. It is a collection of persona pieces. It has been finalist for a few book contests and several editors have given it the glance and no-glance. Blah blah. I just fell into a fish-like slumber. I just fell into the doorstep of America.

Example John McEnroe.

Example Andy Warhol.

These two pieces are strong (that’s why they appear in strong mags), but it’s past time for this writer to face the honest edge of the mirror. Misunderstanding, while often endless, doesn’t have to be. Yes? (Has anyone ever seen a deer with a red bandanna tied around its neck? A bunch of local hunters in my county have seen this exact deer, and it makes you wonder. Why do people make pets of the wild things in life and give the winking night a destiny?)  The editor gave a close read and perceptive comments on my MSS and it boils down to this: This album has several hits, but then several fuzzy, washy, well weak (these are all my take, not his words) songs. I totally agree. But that leads to my 2nd problem:

Do I want to revise, tighten, re-work these weaker stories? Not really…

Why?

Because this MSS was written a few years ago and I don’t write that way, in that style, that tone, that whatever. People change. Projects pass and move on. How can you become a past you?

So.

Is a frozen lake a clone? Or our all frozen lakes specific and special. I’ve just been wondering.

I like the word shrewd, I have decided.

Thing for me to do is work on the multiple projects I am writing now. The ones I am engaged and excited about. And I think that is OK.

(Blake Butler, on HTML Giant, once called it “Today is National Delete That Old Ass Shitty Manuscript Off Your Hard Drive and Live Again Day”)

Blake be smart (often, not always–I will destroy him in any nacho-related milieu).

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This guy married a video game character. Really.

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WordPress keeps making snow fall across my screen and they didn’t even ask me. That’s real fucking clever. You should ask before you precipitate across my computer. You are intruding, WordPress. What if snow makes me remember cold and cold makes me remember the day I couldn’t find the niceness inside of me and then I go and get dysentery from eating Comfort Food (yesterday’s cabbage or meat soup in a slop pail)? Who am I going to blame? You, WordPress.

Punks.

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One time at Bama I made love in a tobacco field. Very funky. One time at Bama the poet Kevin Young visited and the first ten students who signed up were offered the ability to talk with him about a few of our poems. It is weird I signed up, since I rarely wrote poetry at the time (and always very badly). Anyway, I gave him some poems and we met and he said, “All you young people write about coffee. Why is that?”

I didn’t have an answer.

One time the poet Bruce Smith looked at my poetry and said, “I like the gas station beer.” He was referring to a line from the poem.  That was his feedback, and I feel fair.

Translation: Dude, your poetry sucks.

Indeed.

I still write bad poetry, BTW. People love to write them some bad poetry. I mean LOVE to. I sometimes wonder why. I think writing bad poetry is ingrained in certain DNA. I”m going to wake up today and write some bad poetry, how about you?

My point is coffee. A long way of saying here is WHY I NEVER SAY NO TO COFFEE at Pank.

Here is something about eggs at Hayden’s Ferry review, if you like eggs. I do not like eggs. This is the title story of my collection. People like it at readings. Flash is excellent at readings. I tell people, “If you don’t like this piece, wait. In a few minutes I will read a different one.”

I just had a reading and another professor here at BSU gave his class extra credit to attend my reading and the students had to write up responses and the professor gave me a copy of their responses. They seemed to enjoy flash fiction. They liked my yellow shoes. They liked my ponytail, and that was good since I am way too old to be trying to pull off a ponytail, I am thinking, and here these people say, “No, no, it’s fine.” I try to be flaky but not too flaky, so. I would think at least two of them are going to write and/or read further flash fiction, so that makes me glow all Stinking Potato. I was going to quote from their actual work here, but that seemed petty and presumptuous of me and I am glad my internal editor said, “No, Sean, do not quote from their feedback, that is stupid.”

I can’t say enough about the “new” Hayden’s Ferry (I feel it is new). I mean they had a reputation for being SLOW and a few other things. Now, they are awesome, period. I mean I’ve never seen such care, feedback, work with authors, all of it. Beth Staples (and, naturally, others) have decided to do things the right way, no doubt. In a word, impressive.

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I think I need a third nacho bowl.

I have been eating so many nachos lately I have exhausted my two bowl system. So I am looking for a new bowl. Tonight I actually had to go to a reserve bowl, some Pyrex dish, since both bowls were in the washing machine, and it caused me great discomfort during the Nacho Experience. I wasn’t happy. I need a large bowl, in green or blue (the only colors I admire). Some folks have been helping me with this search, so hope to have a 3rd bowl to work into my rotation soon. Of course, any hints or leads you have, please do.

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Matt Bell is kicking Dinosaur ass. I get my Hayden’s Ferry and he is in there. I get my new Gulf Coast and he is in there. The man can flat write a story. And his stuff keeps evolving, getting tighter and weirder. I like weird. I think he is stretching things, flux and pop. Pick up the two mags and read him!

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I did a 28 minute tempo yesterday, about 5:54 mile speed. People, do your tempo run! It is the bedrock of your training. I know runners read this blog some, because I know you, so DO NOT NEGLECT THE TEMPO RUN! I’m serious.

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The new DecomP is out and I like this flash by Mark Neely. I think his work is getting weirder, too, and didn’t I just say I like weird?

OK then.

S


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?

drunk joyce

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.

chef drunk copy

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