Tag Archives: James Joyce

5 great texts (that could have been greater with a tiny edit) and 9 thunks I glow.


1. The Dead By James Joyce.

Poor Gabriel. Dude’s all up in his party galoshes and doesn’t even realize he’s not the Master of Ceremonies–he’s the clown. Poor little corn syrup of a man. And holy fucking rising action! Longest rising action in the megaverse. Dude’s heart goes to the guillotine in SLOOOWWWWWW motion. It rises, rises…then chop! But there’s a missed opportunity. Here we have the mondo holiday feast:

A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a great ham, stripped of its outer skin and peppered over with crust crumbs, a neat paper frill round its shin and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side-dishes: two little minsters of jelly, red and yellow; a shallow dish full of blocks of blancmange and red jam, a large green leaf-shaped dish with a stalk-shaped handle, on which lay bunches of purple raisins and peeled almonds, a companion dish on which lay a solid rectangle of Smyrna figs…

Blah, blah, blah. When the piece should have read:

A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a big-ass pile of nachos, striped with a Wisconsin pepper jack/sharp cheddar blend, and garnished with refried black beans, Renfroe’s Salsa, and slivers of pickled Yatsafusa pepper, a neat paper frill round its shin and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side-dishes…

Waaa, waaa, but nachos were invented in 1943, as we all know. So WTF? Joyce can go from forced realist epiphany to stream-of consciousness flow to Finnegans Wake, a book that is either full of shit or multi-level madness/brilliant punnage and word lollygag. Hello. A man who can write Ulysses can easily introduce nachos 25 years before they are invented. It’s called creative writing.

[Solemnly he came forward and mounted the Formica. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Velveeta, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Velveeta, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like corn tortilla. Oh, fuck, it’s snowing again outside! Are you kidding? Blar me.]

2. On “Patience” by Tyler Gobble (over at decomP)

An interesting meditation, this poem. We certainly all know patience. How many of us wish our ovens would pre-heat more quickly? That our lettuce would grow up through the snow? That a statue of a yellow beam of iron (modern art?) at the university would sink into the ground and then into dust (as it must eventually)? And that young lady over there, the one with cheekbones like a crop-duster, what day will she hand me a five dollar bill or at least ask me for two beers on the roof of her basement? But this line:

The dog sits waiting with the treat on its nose while its owner stuffs himself with Ding-Dongs and Cheetos.

There is really no reason to mention Cheetos here, Tyler. A cheese-flavored cornmeal snack, here, in this poem? No, no, no. And question: why does Cheetos suddenly replace the interpunct? For decades, it was Chee-tos. Then now Cheetos? Who does that? Imagine if we all went around replacing our interpuncts? It’s chaos.

What the fuck? Sara screamed. Where is your interpunct?

I threw it away, Tom said. Mother said she could smell it in my room, so I…I threw it away.

Sara gave him a look like maybe he was chicken broth. Well, she said. Then we’re done.


Etc, etc. Fuck Cheetos, uh, Cheet-os, uh Fake-os with milk. Dog biscuits with neon below deck orange stains. Blar me. Or:

The dog sits waiting with the treat on its nose while its owner stuffs himself with Ding-Dongs and Nachos.

Same syllabic glow. Better food.

[I just saw Tyler last week at a restaurant. Did he eat nachos? He did not. Did I eat nachos. Yes, I did.]

3. Mary Jones, “One of us Wanted it More.” (elimae)

Kids going all wild, all clutch and grippy. Then:

“What can I give you that would make you be good?”

“It would have to be big.”

I didn’t have money for big.

Might I suggest something BIG for not very big money? Like:

[Kids, this little gnome has been all around the world! And now he’s here! Can you kids name the capital of Djibouti? It’s Djibouti! Ha, ha, don’t you know the world is diabolical and we’re all headed down the same swirling drain? So eat nachos–they are true to you.]

or

[Kids, your dad’s friend and I are going to take a “nap.” Here’s a silver dollar. Here is a copy of printed instructions on how to make nachos. Follow each step, carefully. Now go down to the gas station and get some chips and cheese and a can of salsa and maybe a Fosters Oil Can for mom. ]

or

[Oh, you’re one of those kids? Need hand-crafted toys, huh? Your dad drives a Subaru, right? Here, here’s your damn hand-crafted nachos. No owls were killed for their blubber in the making of this shampoo, etc etc. Go play. Hurry up! The earth is catching on fire!!]

4. This next text could not be better. It’s what we call an outlier.

Would you like to be a best selling author? Huh? I mean what are you doing? Would you like to be Brett Easton Ellis? Make some paper? Do some blow off the ass of a parrot? Have your books protested? Wear those wool-collar coats that sort of look cool and affected and maybe then cool again, if the air is right, like if your breath is roiling. Drive a big house? Get all meta and use your name in your own books? (Now that is clever!) Meet Charlie Sheen in a bathroom? Hunt down any poet who uses the word corn silk? Get laid, though you are neither gay or straight? The answer is yes here, the answer is yes. So how do you do it? Really? You’re asking me this, really.

Me yawning me flipping slowly though a copy of Lunar Park [or any other Easton Ellis book] me slightly annoyed…I give you a look, I say, “Here, read this, page 41:”

The three of us, out in the hallway, were suddenly approached by a very tall and sexy cat holding a tray of nachos.

or later:

“Terby’s mad,” Sarah whined again.

“Well, calm him down,” I said, glancing around. “Bring him up some nachos.”

5. For many backyards I’ve read the poetry of Trey Jordan Harris. It calms me. Often my stomach will think of fullness or richness, or both. He has a poet’s touch for image, for float, he can make the world drift and often it does drift and so I feel OK.

Example here (elimae)

Trey writes poems about marriage. I pretty much dislike literature about marriage, but his poems are often an exception.

Three here:

But this Diagram piece is too much. He’s keeps his idyll, his reflection he glows so well, that captured moment. But might I make one small edit? I feel it will charge the poem and turn this very good aspirin of yole into a mighty, mighty cop a couple of sea-born cleavage blasters!

THINGS MARRIED PEOPLE DO

Plant the flowers eat
them for dinner. Cut
the lawn gather the clippings

eat them all for dinner.
Buy the house own
the house. Look at the
lilacs the hand-shaped

lilacs. Ask if they are supposed
to be shaped like hands
and eat them for dinner.

Turn the ceiling fan on
low slow your breathing
or metabolism. Later we will go
to the fair and everything will
be still

until we eat nachos.

9 THUNKS I GLOW

9. I glow this essay and I don’t care how old it is. So, if you comment, that is old, I’m going to say, I know. French kissing is old, as is water. The earth is old, the earth is really just bunch of dirt and dust, and it’s old, yet still we enjoy the earth at times except for those times we do not enjoy the earth.

9. I glow hats made of corn that you can actually fill with salsa.

9. I glow the words of Sarah Levine. Read this flash at Smokelong. It will take you as long to read this story as it will to smoke a cigarette–thus the term, and title of the magazine, Smokelong.

Did you read the flash? It is conceptual. An idea is presented and carried along–possibly here, it’s liberal guilt (admitting it while satirizing it) and it builds, see the structure there, and then turn. If you are going to write flash, please understand the turn. You don’t have to use it, but know it. It comes right after the climax, here:

I jumped onto the kitchen chair and said, “Have you lost your mind? Are you threatening me over a fucking cheese slicer?”

Turns can be wonderful. They can make the entire flash. Here look at this Eggers turn. Yes, yes, it is Eggers but relax. He’s not going to come slap you in the Converse. It’s just his words. Read the whole thing, please. Then check that last line:

THE BOUNTY
In her kitchen, she saw many things she would like to eat. On the counter, there was a bunch of new bananas, yellow as a Van Gogh chair, and two apples, pristine. The cabinet was open and she saw a box of crackers, a new box of cereal, a tube of curved chips. She felt overwhelmed, seeing all of the food there, that it was all hers. And there was more in the refrigerator! There were juices, half a melon, a dozen bagels, salmon, a steak, yogurt in a dozen colors. It would take her a week to eat all of this food. She does not deserve this, she thought. It really isn’t fair, she thought. You’re correct, God said, and then struck dead 65,000 Malaysians.

Levine drives the turn like the sea drives a salt-plank. Glow. And wonder what they’re going to use that cheese for? Huh, huh? Don’t make me knock your ass out.

9. “The Serious Writer and Her Pussy” by Meg Pokrass.

As a serious writer, in mid-life, she must master speaking the word “pussy” with confidence and authority. She practices doing so out loud for her next book store reading. The serious writer is starting a book tour to promote her new novel which is bursting with ‘pussy’.

Indeed. And I’ve been reading Damn Sure Right. And you should, too. Meg Pokrass brings the flash. She eats away my shins, my underwear, and my taxidermy. She’ll eat yours too. Buy the book, freak-os!

I am beginning to notice my favorite flash writers are female. Elizabeth Ellen, Kim Chinquee, Amelia Gray, Nicolle Elizabeth, Kathy Fish, Lydia Davis, Diane Williams, Lindsay Hunter….I could go on. And on. Might be just me. Might be women are better at writing flash? Don’t know, but I’ll keep thinking on it.

[BTW, every time I type the words Amelia Gray I misspell some aspect of her name. I bet she has dealt with this her entire life.]

9. I like to write about Velveeta:

Velveeta Thuds on the Roof

In the dark. It shimmers in its wobble. Nothing between them but the cooling itch of shingle. It likes any angle or gravity suck. To embrace sway. It wants to push against itself—much like we. (Yesterday, sober, I dropped a wine glass of Cheetos and laughed at my own sudden blood. Under sink/in trunk of car/beneath futon—I have no hand towels.) On the back of its neck, thoughts gleam. It boasts its mind is a butterfly ashtray. As for doubt or nocturnal chills of the head, it claims to know very little. Yet it corrects me: shooting stars are not stars, you ask for shotgun slugs never bullets, to fall over is indeed a form of exercise. Oh, the type to wear an orange shirt. To perch above my Sunday sweating back and say cryptic, unhelpful words like, “If you are really going to dig that hole, dig two.” Or maybe: “Look at you, whipjack! Gargling coins again.” Packages arrive. Days of rain like fingernail taps. It sees me on my knees, vomiting in the tall, wet grass and says, “You are an empty tomato shack.” I think its mind is an ashtray full of butterflies. (Ah, so drunk now. Just to carry my head like a damn fiddler. A marble spinning round the rim of shattered glass, waxy hot pepper bits, charred People magazine—I mean to say the kitchen sink. What is a tomato shack?) A meteor claws the fleshy sky. In the dark. Velveeta thuds off the roof.

9. Funny words at PANK. Thank you, Jospeh Cassarra.You made me spill my coffee. I spilt my coffee. Spilt is not a word. You made me spill my coffee. You made me move.

9. Jason Ockert won the Dzanc Books Short Story collection contest.

Woot, woot. Here is an interview with the man.

Here is a story so you can bite his knuckles.

Good glow, Jason. Looking forward to the read.

9. Justin Bieber eating nachos.

Whoa, whoa. Hold up. OK. Did you see that? I could care less if this kid’s career is chomped by a murder of dead crows, but he does one thing correctly: HE MAKES HIS OWN SERVING of nachos.

9. My publisher and I have been working hard this week on the cover of my upcoming book, Fog Gorgeous Stag. The process has been glow. I enjoy the process. It’s a give/take/idea thing. It is indeed creative energy. I hope you will like the cover. I do. I will not give you hints about the cover. OK, I will give you one hint about the cover: yellow.

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.

DSC01446

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.

DSC01445

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?

DSC01444

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