Tag Archives: Robert Olen Butler

Some Crank-Shaft Disses Flash Fiction. I Defend.

Some Brie-head interviewed over here at ShatterColors Literary Review. I guess he edits the magazine or something. So he’s interviewing himself in his own magazine?  And he publishes himself in his own magazine? Hell, I don’t know. I’m tired after running a hill workout. Then I read this, making me more tired. He’s one literary dude, though. Very literary, no doubt.

Robert Scott Leyse (14 bucks he prefers you use all three names) says some really un-sightful things here.

Like he says that he attended a “writing event.” Sounded like he had a hell of a good time, too. In his words, I thought, “What does a gathering of clowns spouting pretentious rubbish and thirsting to have their asses kissed have to do with writing?”

Touche, Robert Scott Leyse. “Thirsting to have their asses kissed” is an excellent image, or maybe just a mixed metaphor/dating service for burros. Either way, I love a man who can recognize a clown in disguise (or were the writers wearing their red noses and giant shoes?).  Reminds me of the grandmother in Flannery O’ Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Grannie wears very clean underwear and knows exactly how to identify “Good Men.” Only takes her a few minutes, too. (Unfortunately, she is soon executed, along with the entire family she leads directly to their collective doom.)

clown on computer

I’ll just jot down this epic poem here, la-dee-da….

One problem I have with Robert Scott Leyse is that the people I meet at “writing events” are scared of clowns. Also they are self-deprecating, witty, humble, interesting, well-read, grinders at the page after page, and know how to drink a shit-load of quality ale. (Those that don’t drink beer I maybe never meet.)

Possibly we attend different conferences?

As an editor Robert Scott Leyse prefers, “love stories, at whatever stage of a relationship…”

Hey! I do too, maybe. So good call, maybe.

Then Robert Scott Leyse reveals his true internal thrumming, as he drops the dark and stormy nights of his intellect onto flash fiction.

Egads! Run for the big tent, you clowns!

On flash fiction (you can hear the disgust steeping in his bottom lip like a tobacco chaw): “It’s a writing exercise, useful in learning the virtues of succinctness of expression. As for it being a viable form… Basically, some corner-cutting smartass thought, “Hey, why waste these writing exercises? Why not doll them up in fancy terminology — call them ‘flash fiction,’ ‘flashers,’ or ‘impromptus’ — and persuade people they’re real stories? That way, I’ll be able to churn out three or four or five of them a night!” Needless to say, I neither read nor publish writing exercises.”

I adore that last sentence. Cutting, shall we say. In fact, fuck it, all short forms are actually writing exercises, especially those damn sonnet things. I mean how can 14 lines be “viable”? Yo, parable, fable, mythology, psalm, and all you annoying hieroglyphics, please go away or at the very least add a whole lot of words, OK? Can we get some more words, seriously? Back up the fucking WORD truck, beep-beep-beep. MORE, MORE, like in a legislature or a contract.

And, yes, you pegged me, Robert Scott Leyse, since I do write and read flash fiction, I am indeed a “corner-cutting smartass.”

[But Impromptus? That sounds like a type of water dwelling dinosaur in a children’s book. Dude, don’t bring that one out in public, just a friendly tip.]

Speaking of “corner-cutters,” and since I just spent a semester with a grad student researching a bit of the inexhaustible history of flash fiction as a genre, other corner cutting clowns would include:

Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Dave Eggers (a ton here), David Foster Wallace, Tara L. Masih, Pu Songling, Kim Chinquee, J. G. Ballard, Jim Harrison, Kobo Abe, Primo Levi, Angela Carter, Max Steele, Barry Graham, Umberto Eco, H. H. Munro, Don Delillo, Mervyn Peake, Anton Chekhov, Kurt Vonnegut, Andrei Bely, W.B. Yeats, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Luigi Pirandello, D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, John Steinbeck, George Orwell, Ander Monson, Mark Twain, Marianne Gingher, Wu Jingzi, Dubus (x 2), Vladimir Nabokov, Oscar Wilde, Molly Gaudry, Agatha Christie, Dr. Seuss, Jaroslav Hasek, Samule Beckett, Jeff Noon, Matt Bell, Aesop, Deb Olen Unferth, Patricia Highsmith, Emily Bronte, Franz Kafka, Italo Calvino, John Updike, Jill Christman, Julian Barnes, Richard Wright, Sherman Alexie, Sara Teasdale, Shane Jones, Diane Williams, Jesus H. Christ, Blake Butler, Maya Angelou, W. G. Sebald, Edmund White, Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Carver, Carolyn Forche, Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, Buddha, Dorothy Parker, Tao Lin (oh, fuck him [I kid]), Carol Bly, Russell Banks, John David Lovelace, Krishna, Richard Brautigan, Ezra Pound, Scott Garson, Michael Kimball, Jewel, Robert Olen Butler, Gertrude Stein, Alexander Pushkin, Joseph Young, Emile Zola, Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, Michael Martone, Hart Crane, Tania Hershman, Joyce Carol Oates, John Edgar Wideman, Rose Terry Cooke, Plato, Katherine Anne Porter, Kate Chopin, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez.


hanging out, corner-cutting...

I could go on, but it gets ridiculous the number of authors in the canon, and outside the canon, and shooting from a cannon (a la Hunter S.), that have worked in this genre, and didn’t I just say I was tired, and also I need my typing finger for clowning tomorrow morning.

I just got to clown, yo.

Wouldn’t want to be with that “impromptu” crowd, anyway, would you? What’s next, you start valuing other forms of brevity, like say oysters, shots of bourbon, sudden kisses, short films, or the well-cut diamond?

A writing exercise? Flash fiction is to a writing exercise as a haiku is to a pretzel. Something. I disagree, Robert Scott Leyse. And what if a flash WAS a writing exercise? What if someone wrote a story in the shape of an apartment building (Georges Perec) or as a travel guide (Martone) or I don’t know a freaking examination. On and on…or can stories only be one way, “love stories, at whatever…” etc.

[A red fox just loped across my backyard. Is it limping or loping? I mean loping is like attitude. Limping you probably got car-struck crossing highway 69]

Oh hell, I digress, and if you read this blog you know where I will digress to, like a ship drifting to harbor…1.) preheat oven. 2.) slice corn tortillas. 3.) Add cheese and “impromptu” toppings.

Well, I just had some kick ass nachos. It felt good. It didn’t take long, they are often listed as appetizer…so eat my board shorts (those are the very, very, very long shorts, sir, I think you will like them), Mr. Robert Scott Leyse.


(BTW, here is an exam, a writing exercise, as you would say.)

Well, what can you do? Not human at all, is it, the flash fiction above…drivel, really.

No, no, know.


I am going to go relax in the bath.

I will not! For me, a hot shower. I said hot.

And quick.

And good.


Beer prices are going up. (again)

Here’s what the D-bag at Budweiser says: “The environment is very favorable, we think.” (He means for price increases.)

Here is the D at MillerCoors: “We have seen very strong pricing to date this year, and we are projecting a favorable pricing environment moving forward.”

Can you believe people who work at a brewery talk like this? I am done with these fools. Can you smell the cynicism in the voices of these guys? It’s micro-brew only now (was heading percentage-wise that way anyway). I mean I feel like I am buying my beer from an attorney, and he’s laughing right in my face. Going home and telling his wife about all the suckers he found today in his “pricing environment.”



Kind words from The Prettiest Girl in School about Eggs here. Thank you for reading!



Bankers Never Sleep Well. Tao Lin Interview. Cocaine.

I have a 5 day rule about any epic event, say AWP Chicago. I stop recording. I think nostalgia creeps in, colors things wrong. I just park the event in my memory vault (of course, to bring up later and view–while huddled in some rainy tent in Colorado, some hospital bed in Arkansas while my broken bones heal, some platinum/dried manure rocking chair years from now in Bangkok). I left Chicago 5 days ago, and so this will be my last photo or post posted (post posted? Redundant?) about those lost (the good lost–where you stumble into Shangri-La, free cold, cold beer, devout Buddhists who also do Indy Lit readings and want to play you in disc golf, or sushi tossing, etc.) shredded days of broad shoulders, the shrugs.


John Wang offers a refreshing LIT. I say, No, I will not accept your refreshing LIT. I will take 3.

A truly cool guy. Good heart all the way, I felt. Good vibe. Hope to meet him down the road and we drink for freedom, or for Amphibians, or for that space right before the both (true conversation).


The Urban Elitist interviews Tao Lin about how to make money as a writer. With so many writers giving books away at AWP, I think some of you need to realize you should make money with your writing. There is no shame. Why do people feel shame? This from a guy who writes book reviews for NewPages where they pay you in the very book you review.

My next mortgage payment I am going to send the bank a book. I am going to send them a book with a note that reads, “Here. Here is my payment. Read this. Maybe you will grow, alongside your throbbing gallbladder, a dollop of integrity, or a soul.”


I was about to read at Quickies and I glance up and there is Robert Olen Butler, at a table….

Do you have any celebrity stories? I remember once years ago in Memphis Andre Agassi bought me a glass of wine. At the Peabody Hotel. He said, “Man, you look like you need a glass of wine.” Then he walked away. That was a good day. Later, on the taxi ride home, the cabbie insisted he take me to a strip club. I guess he was getting kickbacks from the clubs or something. I detest strip clubs. But he kept insisting and insisting, like I was a chump, like I was going to let a cabbie destinize me, mind-jack me of my free will, my existential birthright. I forget the rest of the evening.



This photo is for Emma.


From the Chicago Literary Scene Examiner, concerning the off-site AWP RUI reading: “Sean Lovelace (who’s RUI quickie last night on guns, cocaine and action figures won the crowd)…”

Word on that.


Here’s more AWP photos, notes. To follow the rules you have yourself made is an illness.

The final Chi-town AWP 2009 photo I will release to the public. This is me with two big-time short-list Pulitzer writers (one is vomiting into the garbage can, so I cropped her PhotoShop  in the interest of discretion, but that’s cool–the writing life is torture, all that paperwork, adoring fans, etc.). We went to the Joyce Carol Oates after party and they wanted to return to my hotel for drinks. Fine with me, ladies.



“Never play poker with a tattooed lady.”         –My dad.

(why dad?)


“Sean, why do you have to use that F word in your blog?”       –My mom.

(Fuck, I don’t know why, mom)


I drink oily coffee and write words at the kitchen table and look outside, at my boccie balls buried in the snow, an odd juxtaposition. When I think of boccie I see sunshine, green and golden hues, and sweet, sweating 16 ounce gas station beers; Tuscaloosa, Alabama and my friends heaving the boccie balls around a sprawling grassy field, a city park, a jagged stone ruin of a Civil War era courthouse. We called this “modified boccie,” or as we would tell others, “We don’t really play the game like you’re sposed to.” Stuart (an athletic madman/freak [in the good way of freak]) hurling the heavy clay balls into the sky, moon-shots rising, rising, then arching down with ferocious intent, into mortar walls, brick stair steps, ricocheting off crumbling cornice edges. Stuart actually split boccie balls in half while playing; we all did, I shit you not. Maybe except for Will, who preferred to open his hand and drop the ball nearby, plunk. Will and his titanic gin and tonics (this was a man who would order triple straight gins at restaurants, served in a tall water glass, to the rim). Myself, the others–Charlie, Mark, T.J., Don–our little demented clique, sipping beers, sprawling on the grass, talking shit and tossing boccie balls. Metallic taste of canned beer. Rustling breeze. Silk-blue sky. A crystallized moment, Georgian idyll. Fuck. I do miss it. I do. You turn your head one day, look back, and find your friends scattered, your boccie balls scattered, your mind, well…I guess some things are obvious, and here: