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This blog can add something to the already lively LitBlogging community, while furthering the Emerging Writers Network's goal of developing the aforementioned community of readers and writers.
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Last week Dzanc Books sent out an email and announced at their website that they had received an anonymous matching donation up to $6,000 for any donations received before December 31, 2012.
Any size donations are helpful--a dollar means two dollars, five means ten and so on.
Truly, ANY amount helps--that five that turns into ten helps us get two to three review copies of our books our to reviewers; money goes to our publishing, our promotion of literature, as well as our programs like the Dzanc Writer in Residence Program with a writer visiting/teaching the same class of children once per week in the schoolroom about the power of words--to write and read creatively.
www.dzancbooks.org/support/ is the place to visit and donate. ALL donations, no matter the amount, will see the wonderful person donating to Dzanc put into a drawing to potentially receive a copy of every title we published in the year 2012.
A little over a month ago, I saw Norene Cashen read and really loved one of her new poems. She's been kind enough to allow me to post the poem here at the EWN:
By Norene Cashen
I’ve never seen peace.
I’ve seen a foxhole, combat boots, a drill sergeant
and a gun. I’ve heard the gun rattle
and talk and talk and talk
in its fast language, the clink of brass casings
spit out after each syllable.
I’ve seen girls in dog tags and dust
crawling under the barbed wire of the world
as if their mothers waited for them
on the other side, but there is no other side.
That’s what you learn.
There’s only more war.
There’s war outside and inside
war speeding on the highway
to get to work on time.
There’s war in our mouths, our hair,
our eyes. The best wars are in the movies
where we eat popcorn and tell ourselves
nobody dies. Then somewhere in the middle
of Afghanistan a boy from Wisconsin
is smeared inside a turret
just like the old poem says. It’s possible
we’re all walking cages
and it’s our job to keep ourselves closed
to keep the violence
from shaking out of our bones.
2 years sounds like a very long time--long enough, one would assume, that I'd stop thinking I'll call mom and see what she thinks,
before catching myself. Not long enough though, that there isn't a little
guilt when I realize I've gone a few days without thinking about her and
mourning at least a little. We missed out on sharing a lot with her this past twelve months family, friends, and Dzanc related.
As is typical around here, there is a great deal going on today. Kids
to be driven to school, picked up from school, to practices, a birthday to celebrate, a list
of things to do for Dzanc longer than my arm, etc. But at some point
during the day or evening, I will honor her by spending some time
reading--something that causes pleasure any time I do it, and one that certainly derives from my parents.
I recently raved about Alan Sepinwall's The Revolution was Televised here at the EWN, and after reading some more from his website, asked if he'd be willing to answer a few questions. He was kind enough to say yes and do so.
I know you spent some time re-watching
episodes (or maybe even entire series) as you wrote the various chapters of
this book--did any of the shows seem maybe a little more dated than the others?
Are there some within the group you wrote about that you feel have very little
chance of ever feeling dated?
Formally, Oz feels a little more dated than some of the others, simply because
it was the first of its kind and you can tell that the show is aware of itself
and its uniqueness in a way that the later shows weren't. And 24 feels much
more a property of its time than most of the others.
And technology is always an issue. The Buffy episode about the demon who's on
the Internet ("I Robot, You Jane") is pretty horrible, for instance,
and what we know now about cell phone culture makes Stringer Bell look like a
much worse businessman than he did at the time after he says he's dumping all
his telecomm stocks because the market is maxed out.
But all of these shows will eventually feel dated in some way. So many of them
are about millennial angst, post-9/11 angst, and other things we were going
through as a country at the time.
It was interesting reading about the
various creators of the shows and seeing how there's a bit of a family tree
effect running through the shows that you wrote about. Are there any writers on
some of the more recent of the shows focused on in your book that you see as
creating, or the type that might create, the next wave of shows that you might
see writing a book about in another decade or so?
Probably. There's a writer on Boardwalk Empire, for instance, named Howard
Korder who seems to be to that show what Terence Winter was to The Sopranos,
and you can see a clear uptick in quality whenever his name is on the script.
I'm looking forward to Meredith Stiehm's new FX show because of how good her
Homeland episodes have been, but of course she's already created a show (Cold
Case). And I imagine someone whose name I'm not even paying attention to
who will be responsible for a great new show.
As you took the time to talk to those
behind the scenes of the shows you wrote of, especially creators and writers,
as well as network executives, if you had to name one creator that no matter
the topic or tagline of their next show, you'd give it a shot, who would that
Probably David Simon, but only because he has a long track record of creative
success in this era, between The Wire, Treme and his two HBO miniseries. Most
of the others only created one show during that time (though Winter and Matt
Weiner both worked on Sopranos, Howard Gordon was on 24 the whole time, and
Milch did two other shows — one which was a mess, one which was becoming great
as it was canceled). But I'd be excited to hear about any of these people
working on a new show.
One thing that seemed to happen over
and over, there was a creator with a show that was ready to push some sort of a
boundary, and it happened to be finding a network with an executive ready to
push the boundaries a bit and willing to sit back, for the most part, and let
the creators do their thing? Do you believe this is the only way we'll see more
great, revolutionary shows like those you write of? Or do you believe that
there's still room for one to sneak in through with established stations
and established executives?
It's certainly the easiest way for one of these shows to get on the air, but
not every show of this kind got on the air this way. 24 and Friday Night Lights
were developed under a relatively normal process, at networks with stable
leadership (Kevin Reilly had no idea Zucker was going to replace him with Ben
Silverman a year later), and Homeland, Justified and the recent HBO shows were
all developed at networks that have been doing this a while and have an
entrenched system for it. But I'm definitely looking to some new outlet —
whether it's a cable channel, or Netflix with their new shows — to kick off the
next phase of things.
What do you see as the next network
ready to explode the way HBO, FX, and AMC have?
As I said above, Netflix seems the most likely, though I have yet to see House
of Cards. But that's going to reinvent "TV" in a whole lot of ways,
including the idea that they'll make every episode of their shows available at
the same time.
I typically end with a question asking
if the author were a character in Fahrenheit 451, what book(s) would
they memorize for posterity? I'm going to tweak that and ask if you could
memorize one episode of one television show, what would it be?
The thing of it is, what made most of these dramas great was the cumulative
power of them. If I pick, say, "Long-Term Parking" from The Sopranos,
it doesn't mean as much if I haven't seen the whole Adriana arc leading up to
it. So I'll go with a Simpsons episode instead, and pick my favorite:
"Homer the Heretic."
Thanks, Alan, it was a great pleasure
reading your book and getting you to answer some questions.
Again if you're a fan of tv, or want to consider being a critic of any art form, I highly recommend the book that led to this interview.
Watching Color Me Obsessed, the documentary about The Replacements, directed by Gorman Bechard (based on an idea by Hansi Oppenheimer) reminds me of just how many different ways there are to tell a story.
No band member appears in the film. None of their music is present either. Instead, Bechard puts together a boatload of interviews with friends, fans, and professionals with thoughts on, or stories about, the band.
For the most part, the film goes through the band's history in chronoligical fashion--starting with the trio of Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars forming Dogbreath, and having Paul Westerberg, a janitor at the time, hiding in the bushes outside the house they practiced in figuring out how to become included. It discusses each album the band made, including unofficial things like The Sh*t Hits the Fans, a rather readily available bootleg from a show in Oklahoma.
The thoughts from critics, from other musicians (Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, Titus Andronicus, Greg Norton and Grant Hart from "rival" Minneapolis band, Husker Du, and all 3 members of The Goo Goo Dolls) add some authority to the stories and thoughts of fans. The fans spread from friends, to people from Minnesota that saw dozens of shows on up to celebrities viewers of the film might recognize (George Wendt, Dave Foley, and Tom Arnold).
The film covers commonly argued Mats issues such as whether or not Bob's "firing" was the moment they lost whatever "it" they might have had, or did the band sell out when they left Twin Tone, how poorly was Tim's sound quality, and the list goes on. Most Mats fans have opinions on all of these issues going in and I'm not sure you'll be swayed away from them, but it's interesting hearing the various arguments onscreen.
If you're a fan of the band, this is very worthwhile. If you're a writer, you might want to check it out to remind yourself of the various ways of telling a story.
Book Review 2012-017
The Revolution was Televised by Alan Sepinwall
202 by What's Alan Watching, 306 pages
(I bought this via kindle two days ago)
I check in on Grantland fairly regularly and not just for the sports related posts. The other day there was an excerpt from The Revolution was Televised, by Alan Sepinwall. It was a portion of the chapter from this book about the television show Lost. It was a fascinating explanation of how the show came together--and just how crazy and unlikely it was that it did, and even more unlikely that it became a hit. Being a television junkie, I did some searching online and find out that the author of the book has been a prolific television critic since the days of NYPD Blue. Not only that, but the list of shows he's written about in this book (a quick look showed me not only Lost, but The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Friday Night Lights, and more) looked like a laundry list of those piled up collected season DVD's on my bookshelves. A purchase was inevitable.
Just as inevitable was how fast I was going to go through the book--and I don't think that will just happen to me. The way Sepinwall has put the book together--one big chapter on a dozen different television shows, shows that he shows were revolutionary in one way or another, in a style somewhere between narrative and oral history, with plenty of interviews of the creators of the shows, as well as network executives, has the book read like an easily downed box of chocolates; you might mean to simply eat one or maybe two, but a few hours later you're staring at little paper wrappers and an empty box.
Sepinwall was a newspaper critic in New Jersey, and at least of portion of the reason he got that initial job was the website he'd created for covering NYPD Blue when he was in college. At the time he felt like he was witnessing a golden age of television watching the aforementioned NYPD Blue, Homicide, as well as their predecessor, Hill Street Blues. What Sepinwall comes to realize is that while those shows began pushing boundaries, the shows that he focuses full chapters on all took bigger steps than simply pushing a boundary or two--they bounded forward, doing something revolutionary in how they changed television.
Sepinwall shows his historical knowledge by starting off not with The Sopranos, but with its HBO predecessor, Oz. HBO had done some of their own shows prior to Oz, but they really hadn't invested hard into their own scripted series. Oz was their first real launch into this, and as a series set in an experimental ward of prison, with creators Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, there were plenty of story angles and methods of telling them, that could simply not be told on network television.
Each chapter has a similar way of being told--the reader is given a bit of history of the show, how the creators came up with it and pitched it, how the network took it on and in some cases, why. These are done with either new interviews, or in a few cases, pieced together from prior interviews Sepinwall had done with these individuals. There would be an explanation as to the revolutionary aspect about the show.
The Sopranos giving us an anti-hero; The Wire as television in novel form; Deadwood as television via auteur via David Milch; Buffy the Vampire Slayer as sci-fi/horror breaking down our expectations--the monsters needing to be scared of the pretty blonde for once, and how these "monster" stories really told tales of high school angst with an entertaining flair; and so on for each show right on through two shows still currently running, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. And each of these explanations are more than plausible and feel exactly right. And again, they're put together in both fascinating and entertaining ways.
Not only all of that, but he gives Terriers a couple of positive nods. If he needed it, this would have been worth half a star alone. He didn't need it.
If you have any interest in television, especially in the most critically acclaimed shows of the past fifteen years, this book should be on your shelf, right there with all of your DVD's of these wonderful shows.
The latest issue of New York Tyrant (Volume 4 Issue 1) arrived a few weeks ago and I finally took some time to sit and read it early this morning and as usual, it delivers the goods.
This issue was guest edited by Luke Goebel, and designed by Adam Robinson and they both do well to continue the fine tradition that publisher Giancarlo Ditripano set forth with the first eight issues.
I've not finished the issue yet, but skipped around and enjoyed the opening works by Cooper Renner, a couple of solid flash fictions, an interesting short story from Brandon Hobson, a two and a half page from Gordon Lish with not a word out of place (as expected).
As noted, I still have more works from within these great pages to read, but so far some standouts include Pamela Ryder's wonderful father/daughter story, David McLendon's story (the first of his that I've read, though I'm familiar with his writing and his tastes which are incredible), and Robert Lopez's story/confessional (not his confession, the story itself feels like a confessional). Also the longer stories by Paula Bomer and Amber Sparks. It's a nice mix so far, between shorter works and longer works. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the issue.
Book Review 2012-016
The Rebel League by Ed Willis
2004 by McClelland and Stewart, 277 pages
(I bought this a couple of months ago)
I've always beena big fan of rival sports leagues--eventhough I believe the USFL is really the only one that was ongoing and local to me during my active sports fandom. The 70's saw three sports leagues pop up to contend with the NBA (the American Basketball Association), the NHL (the World Hockey Association), and the NFL (the World Football League) that saw many of the same players involved in the behind the scenes motions, and early ownership groups. While the WFL fizzled pretty quickly and without even the fanfare that the USFL would see nearly two decades later, both the ABA and the WHA were responsible for quite a few changes to the sports landscape in general, and to their respective rival leagues in particular, and both ended with a handful of teams being assimilated into the longer standing rival leagues.
While Terry Pluto's oral history of the ABA, Loose Balls, might never get knocked out of its spot as the top literary recording of one of these leagues, Ed Willis has done an excellent job with The Rebel League. There are times within that I wish he'd have gone the route Pluto did with the oral history--but that's probably more due to my love of that format than because of anything lacking in this book--there are a couple of minor instances that I'm just not sure who his source for a story is.
One gets a great sense of how amazing it was that the league ever worked--you had guys that were lawyers that had some involvement in the first three years of the ABA (which began in the late 60's) getting together and deciding hockey was in need of a competitive league. That is, guys that knew very little about hockey--Bill Hunter, President of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League was brought in early on to discuss the idea:
"I was impressed with them only as promoters," said Hunter. "They knew nothing about hockey. Absolutely zero."
And so it began with many of the money guys simply wanting a shiny new toy to play with. The league established itself quickly by signing legendary superstar Bobby Hull away from the Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL--this is a high point in the book as Willis talked to everybody involved from the Winnipeg Jets owners to the WHA hierarchy to Bobby Hull and his agents, etc. and the story ofthe back and forth discussions, the way that the league had each team kick in money and not just Winnipeg as they knew getting somebody like Hull could make their league viable immediately, Hull's waiting to verify the check cleared before he officially signed his contracts (he had to sign one in the US and then one in Winnipeg for publicity reasons), etc. has a fantastic suspense factor to it.
It's scenarios like this one, where Willis has had access to multiple players and owners and personnel, that the book really shines. There are some minor negatives--there are entire teams that might see one or two very small mentions (the Michigan Stags, for instance, are mentioned on half a page of the book), and the appendix simply shows what teams played in each year--this could pretty easily have been bulked up to show their records, show the playoff series results and even show what teams moved from one city to another.
But those are minor, and even moreso when compared to the Hull story, the setting up of the league stories, the in-depth sections on Gordie Howe and his sons playing together, the Birmingham (Baby) Bulls and how one team signing a handful of 18 year olds helped push the NHL over the edge into agreeing to a merger, and many other stories like these. Willis writes with knowledge of the sport and it's clear that he had a great time talking to the many players quoted directly in the book.
If you're a fan of hockey, or of sports in general, this one belongs on your shelf.
I had the good fortune to make it out to the October Wednesday Night Sessions two nights ago in Farmington, MI where a crop of SE Michigan based publishers and literary journals sponsor a monthly reading series.
Each month they bring a trio of writers to read and this month the readers were: Jeremy Schall, Norene Cashen, and Anca Vlasopolos.
Jeremy read from one of his books and then some poems from a new collection he's working on. I'd seen Jeremy read recently at one of the last readings at Leopold's which happened to be a little more crowded than Wednesday night's reading (there was little thing competing with the reading called Game One of the World Series) but I noticed that the difference in crowd size didn't dissuade how Jeremy reads at all. His style is an interesting one as he makes sure to make some sort of eye contact with everybody listening between and during each poem.
Norene Cashen read poems that had been published in literary journals (from the journals), as well as new work herself. Norene's style has developed over the years to include interesting introductions to her reading in general, to the specific poem she's about to read, and beyond and it works great for her. I've seen her read probably half a dozen times over the past decade and each time seems better than the time before.
Anca Vlasopolos read poems from a couple of different previously published collections and then two new poems from a collection she's working on. She also gave good introductions to her works.
There was also an excellent story about Ingmar Bergman and his father that Dwayne Hayes, MC of the event, told after Norene read that worked nicely with her own introduction to her reading.
This series is a consistently solid one and I'm really looking forward to next month when Christina Kallery comes back to town to read, along with Steven Gillis and I have to apologize as I do not remember who the third person is going to be.
announces the Dzanc Poetry Collection Contest, an annual prize for a
book of poetry. The judge for the
inaugural contest will be C. Dale Young. The contest is open to new and
published poets, and we invite submissions of poetry in all modes and aesthetics.
The Dzanc Poetry Collection Contest-winning manuscript will be published in
high quality trade paperback and eBook versions. The winning author will receive
a $500 advance and a standard Dzanc publishing agreement including support for
readings and distribution via Consortium and our network of eBook distributors.
Finalist and runner-up manuscripts may also be considered for publication.
C. Dale Young
is the author of three collections of poetry: The Day Underneath the Day (Northwestern 2001); The Second Person and Torn (Four Way Books 2007, 2011).
His poems and stories have appeared in numerous magazines, journals, and
anthologies, including several installments of The Best American Poetry series. A recipient of fellowships
from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, he practices medicine full-time,
edits poetry for the New England Review,
and teaches in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.
deadline is January 31, 2013.
- The winner
will be announced in the second quarter of 2013. All entrants will be notified
of the winner by email before the announcement is made public.
published excerpts or individual pieces are acceptable as part of your entry,
but the manuscript as a whole must be unpublished.
submissions are acceptable, but entries should be withdrawn immediately if
submitted, manuscripts may not be revised without a complete withdrawal
and the payment of a new entry fee.
- You may enter
the contest as many times as you like, but each entry will require its own
separate entry fee.
close friends, and/or former students of C. Dale Young should not enter this
contest, and will not be eligible to win in the case of their entry. If such a
winner is selected, the manuscript will be disqualified at our discretion, and
no refund of entry fees will be granted.
The Emerging Writers Network started as a bit of a lark--me seeing just how lousy a book review I could write. It was intended to be newspaper-style and was of Alyson Hagy's Keeneland (that sad little review can still be read over at Amazon--I'll not be providing you a link though). That first year (2000) was fun, I was reading again (something I'd somewhat given up for a five year period--hmm, my first was born in 1995...) and people were actually emailing me and asking to be put on this mailing list I had created that sporadically sent out book reviews.
By 2002 those poor bastards were receiving an email just about every other day as i reviewed 102 books and interviewed over 30 authors during that calendar year.
2005 was a highlight year though. Sometime in late 2004/early 2005 I got some confirmation that a small publisher I was excited about was going to take on a manuscript of an author that I really liked, and had put in touch--my first bit of agenting (though at the much less than standard, zero percent take). Somewhere around the same time, a person I'd befriended online, another reviewer (though one who also wrote fiction) with similar tastes as my own, David Abrams, found out he was being sent to Iraq via Kuwait. I was one of the fortunate few that was on his email list when he began sending journal entries back home. After some asking and his verifying it wouldn't lead to a court marshal on his end and me disappearring from the world--we received permission for me to share these journal entries with the Emerging Writers Network. At the end of each entry I'd add something about David's military address and how was a voracious reader that liked movies and sand was everywhere and snacks were cool, etc.
And here's where the bit of pride comes in--the members of the EWN, political views non-withstanding, thoughts on the war set aside, flooded David with books and dvd's and chocolates and baby wipes and thank yous and praise. It was fantastic knowing I had a small part in seeing that happen.
February 28, 1995. That would be the day I received an email from super-agent Nat Sobel noting he'd been reading the journal entries and wondered if David had an agent. If I remember hard enough, I think I can hear David yelling ARE YOU KIDDING ME, OF COURSE I KNOW WHO NAT SOBEL IS in reply to my email to him asking if it was okay to pass along his contact information.
Today Fobbit, the novel David wrote that are at least somewhat based on his meticulous journals from his time over there, is officially published. While I received a galley not long ago, I purchased a final copy Saturday morning. David was overly kind in his acknowledgments section stating:
My thanks to:
Wickett who posted some of my journal entries from Iraq at his Emerging WritersNetwork blog in early 2005. The result
was an outpouring of care packages full of not baby wipes or
foot powder, but the finest kind of surprise a soldier like me could have found
after he ripped away the packing tape: books.
The EWN members kept me well-supplied with enough reading material for five
deployments. Thank God it never
that. Aside from the wartime support, Dan's EWN introduced me to an
entire army of writers who have continued to support me over the years
as I hunkered down at the keyboard. I've met some of those writers, but
for the others, I remain little more than a mute avatar on Facebook.
They have never stopped buoying me up with encouragement and for that, I
am truly grateful.
It was great reading that and reliving the experience of watching something go wildly beyond whatever motion I thought I could nudge forward. It's the sort of thing that makes me realize I need to make better efforts at keeping this site alive daily so people continue to stop by with visits.
The latest edition of The Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring 2012/Vol. XXXII, Dalkey Archive) has just recently come out and it's wellworth the eight dollar price tag for the 270 pages about, or by, Robert Coover in honor of his 80th birthday.
35 essays, letters, fictions, poems, and plays written and/or inspired by Robert Coover. There are pieces from Dawn Raffel, Brian Evenson, John Barth, Kate Bernheimer, Bradford Morrow, William Gass, Mary Caponegro, Shelley Jackson, Percival Everett, Georges Borchardt, Rick Moody, Rikki Ducornet, and others that I was until now not as familiar with.
Some standouts to me (removing the pieces by Coover from the equation) include "Robert Coover and the Neverending Story of Pinocchio," by Elisabeth Ly Bell; "The First Time I Heard the Name Robert Coover...," by Shahrnush Parsipur; "Introducing Robert Coover (A Mixtape by Request) by Michael Joyce; "Letter to Bob Coover on Revisiting The Origin of the Brunists and Related Letters, 1961-1967," by James Ballowe; and "Between Here and There (for Robert Coover)," by Percival Everett. They either gave me information about Coover and his work I'd not known, or were properly inspired by his work.
This was edited by Stephane Vanderhaeghe, whose own Robert Coover & the Generosity of the Page is forthcoming from Dalkey Archive right around the end of the year.
Per the Dzanc Books News blog:
ANDY PLATTNER WINS DZANC MID-CAREER NOVEL AWARD
August 14, 2012, Ann Arbor, MI—Dzanc Books is pleased to announce that Andy Plattner is the winner of our 2011 Mid-Career Novel Award. Plattner’s manuscript, Offerings from a Rust Belt Jockey, was selected from more than 100 submissions. This collection will be published in October 2013.
Steven Gillis, Publisher and Co-Founder at Dzanc Books, notes: “Andy Plattner's Offerings From A Rust Belt Jockey is a dead on the money infectious novel. The writing is hilarious and touching, the narrative, and each of Andy's fully realized characters, presents a perfectly pitched tale of love and ambition, honor and betrayal. The ability to be at once funny as hell and at the same time heartbreakingly accurate in the depiction of what it means to be human with all of our flaws and wants and needs is captured with a marksman's eye. Dzanc is pleased and proud to have Andy Plattner as the winner of our Mid-Career Novel Award.”
“Dzanc is a smart, purposeful press,” Plattner said upon winning. “I know my manuscript will benefit from this collaboration.”
ABOUT ANDY PLATTNER
Andy Plattner’s first story collection, Winter Money, originally published in 1997, is set to be re-released in paperback from the University of Georgia Press at the start of 2013. (The collection won the Flannery O'Connor Award in 1997.) His second story collection, A Marriage of Convenience, was published last year. He has stories in the current editions of The Southern Review and Fiction, have forthcoming work in The Sewanee Review and apt. Plattner lives in Atlanta with his wife, Diana.
The short list of finalists consisted of novels from Margo Berdeshevsky, Maria Flook, Karen Osborn, Micah Perks, Russell Rowland, Chris Torockio, Mary Troy, and Edra Ziesk.
ABOUT THE MID-CAREER AWARD
While at times it seems the publishing industry is only interested in the next big thing, we at Dzanc recognize the value of experienced writers who have gone through the process of creating and publishing two or more books. Mid-career writers are the backbone of our industry yet often these writers are overlooked and have a harder time finding a publisher than first time writers. More details can be found at www.dzancbooks.org/submissions/
The wonderful literary journal, Diagram, published a tenth anniversary deck of cards worth of work. 54 cards including two jokers containing short stories, schematics, and more.
I love the journal itself and so was not at all surprised to see many authors I'm familiar with and generally looking forward to new work from, within the box holding this deck. It also provided some new names for me to start looking for as well.
And the fact that they had Sean Lovelace write up one of the Joker cards seems just about perfect.
Some card examples:
Host Aaron Burch rocks the megaphone
How big of an event was last night's reading in Ann Arbor, a Hobart reading that took place in the basement at Ashley's? A) Steve Gillis was there, B) Aaron Burch (pictured to the left), the host of the event, felt the need (okay, really he just thinks it's cool) to use a megaphone to speak over the crowd noise while introducing the readers, and C) people came from Ohio.
Elizabeth Ellen, in the middle of her own touring for her wonderful story collection, Fast Machine, read a short story to lead things off.
She was followed by Eugene Cross, who came in from Chicago and read from his debut story collection, Fires of Our Choosing, for which Matt Bell was the editor--Eugene spent a fair amount of time explaining how Matt had made the book a better collection of better stories with better sentences.
Did I mention how crowded the basement was? Packed. Dwayne and Jessica from Absinthe: New European Writing were there. Kyle Minor was there. Robert James Russell of Midwestern Gothic was in attendance as well. So was David McLendon, mastermind behind Unsaid. Mary Gillis was there. David Andrew Speer was there. Joe Sacsteder was there
Amanda Goldblatt reading from a Work in Progress
from EMU. Jessica Bell was there. Zack Ravas was there. I'm going to stop there because there were many more, some I most likely know and other I don't, but now I'm at that point where I could start to feel bad for not
Matt Bell (what's that in his hand?)
remembering somebody I should.
Amanda Goldblatt read after Eugene Cross and even though she didn't read from her incredible Catalpa (go order it now--you'll thank me), instead reading from a work in progress, her work was still mesmerizingly good.
And Matt Bell wrapped things up reading from a co-written novel from his past (it's a bit shady so I'll leave the title behind, suffice to say there's a lot of writing that will remind you of Beckett) and a short section from his forthcoming novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods (I was so damn close to having this title correct without looking--I for the "In").
Really the only negative to the evening is knowing that 30 to 36 hours after it was completed, that Matt and Jessica would be on their way to making Marquette, MI a better place.
This is a book that I've mentioned at least once before, probably when the galley arrived. It will get another mention next month when I review it. For now though, it's arrival today in the mail (hardcover!) is more than good cause for me to remind you all--go to your favorite bookseller this weekend and pre-order this book.
Stern is a magician with words and sentences. One highly praised over the years by both Gordon Lish and Cynthia Ozick. The NYTBR has called him a "... prodigiously talented writer." Recently the wonderful Tom Williams raved about Stern's writing. And look at where his last quartet of books has been published (Viking, Melville House, Algonquin and this one's from Graywolf Press--some pretty great publishers).
If you've not had the pleasure of reading Mr. Stern's work, well first of all shame on you, then this is a perfect jumping into it point--The Books of Mischief is compiled of New & Selected Stories. 17 stories total, 10 of which were previously published in a trio of Stern's collections, 6 of which have been published in various journals or anthologies, and one brand spanking new story, "The Tale of a Kite," that leads this new book off.
The stories are not thrown together in the Table of Contents by their original locations, instead they're sorted by the locations where the stories take place: North Main Street, Memphis; The Lower East Side, New York; Europe; and The Catskills.
Whether you read some of these stories in their original books or journals or not, the compiling of them in one simple to find 380 page hardcover is reason for excitement, and purchase, and do so now so that you can mark September 4, 2012 on your calendar down as "Reading Stern--all night."
Two very cool things:
1) The University of Alabama's Bankhead Visiting Writers Series has a broadside designed and printed for every writer that they bring to the series. This particular one was designed and printed by Amy C. LexPard in April 2012. It's numbered (74 of 75)
2) Living close enough to one of your authors so that running to meet him for breakfast to discuss his book, his next book, what we've been reading, what our kids are doing, readings we've recently attended, his Kresge award, teaching writer-in-residence programs, and (AND!) have him hand you one of these broadsides, can easily be arranged and take up less than an hour of your day.
A closer view of the art work on this:
and for those of you trying to read the short story in the too small print above:
1997 saw Rodent Press bring out a chapbook entitled prophets and brothers, a collection of four short stories by Brian Evenson. The cover is pretty basic though the word "prophets" does wraparound from the back to the front. There were 250 copies of this chapbook published. As a collection, it may be the most focused on Mormonism that he's put togehter--though I do wonder if that might not be aided greatly by the fact that there are only four stories and not 150 plus pages worth of work.
I looked online for this for a couple of years before I was able to track one down at a price I thought was reasonable.
Six years later, Earthling Publications put out a second chapbook--what at the time appeared to be a novella entitled The Brotherhood of Mutilation. This was put out in two versions, 300 signed and numbered softcovers copies (of which this is number 10) and 15 hardcover, lettered, traycased, editions (I've never seen a hint of a sign of one of these online over the last five or six years of looking).
Turns out that four years later, Evenson published another novella length work, "Last Days", in Unsaid Magazine. Close readers would notice that the protagonist in this new novella, Kline, is the same from The Brotherhood of Mutilation, and in fact, "Last Days" picks up where the other left off. Underland Press would publish the two works together as Last Days in 2009. It's a work that sticks with you long after you finish reading it. Typing this post has various scenes popping back into my head this evening.
The following is an interview with Joe Oestreich, co-founder of the band Watershed, and author of Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll (Lyons Press, 2012).
Thanks for taking some time while your band is on tour to answer some questions for me, Joe.
Thanks to you, Dan. I’ve been an EWN member and fan for years, so it’s my pleasure.
The first thing that caught my attention about the book was how you framed it—the back and forth narrative going from dates during what was your current (2009) tour back to stories from the earlier days of Watershed. Was this how the manuscript always was, or was there ever a more linear attempt at telling the story? How did you end up deciding that this was the right way of telling the story?
Hitless Wonder started as my MFA thesis project at Ohio State, and the first draft, the one that became the thesis, I did write chronologically. Trouble is, I wrote something like 350 pages and barely got the band a third of the way through our 20-plus year career. Believe me, nobody wanted to read that first draft—including my thesis committee, I’m pretty sure. But even though that version was essentially unreadable, it was an important step: telling myself the story. And the interesting part of the story, I came to realize in the writing of the thesis, was the band as we exist now, 20 years in, with all the members nearing 40, with wives and kids and mortgages. That realization led me to the eventual structure: using a recent tour—of middle-aged guys on the road, playing dive bars for small crowds—as the frame that would contain the larger, two-decades long arc.
Flipping away from the book for a moment, as just mentioned, you studied and received your MFA from Ohio State University. What led to your decision to attend an MFA program?
I stumbled into it, actually. My music career was at a low ebb, and I was working at a soul-sucking corporate job. So, like a lot of people, I figured when in doubt, go back to school. I’d been writing and reading creative nonfiction for years (though I thought of it using Tom Wolfe’s term, “New Journalism”) but until my wife Kate started in Ohio State’s PhD program in English Literature, I didn’t know that writing was a craft that could be taught. Through Kate I met many of the writers enrolled in the OSU MFA program, and I basically decided, if all these people can learn to become better writers, I sure as hell can. The MFA might not be for everyone, but it was absolutely the right choice for me, and I can’t speak highly enough of the faculty and students I studied with at Ohio State.
You are out and about these past couple of weeks doing both shows with Watershed in support of the new CD, Brick and Mortar, and doing reading events for the book. What sort of differences are there for you in these performance
As the stack of books to write up full reviews for grows, and the time to do so does not, a quick update on some fine books to look for:
Gascoyne by Stanley Crawford (Putnam, 1966)
While I've had another of Crawford's books on the shelf for a year plus, it was stumbling onto this one at John King Books in Detroit for six bucks that got me to finally start reading his words. This one starts off fast: "It all starts when I give the accelarator pedal a couple of pumps and turn the ignition key and the starter growls and finally the engine turns over and comes to life with noises that aren't as regular as they used to be." Then it speeds up as if barreling downhill in said car. Gascoyne is the protagonist and he's somewhere in between a businessman, mafioso, and detective. He pretty much lives in his car, spending a ton of time on his car phone (were these even around in 1966?) and looking for the killer of an associate of his, the murder of whom has sent Gascoyne's neatly set up world into near chaos. Very entertaining, seemingly understading of things to come decades later.
Hitless Wonder by Joe Oestreich (Lyons Press, 2012)
A great book about a band--a band that almost was, actually it really was, just not for as long as they'd hoped it would be, a major league band. The subtitle, "A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll" says just about all you need to know. Watershed, the band Joe's been a part of for over 20 years now, built it's way up to being a local powerhouse in Columbus, Oh; a really solid draw regionally (Midwest); and for just over a year were an Epic act, as in Epic Records--the majors. Written very well, with enough embarassing material for you to believe Joe's telling you nearly everything--it's a great look at the price to pay for doing what you want/have to do as an artist that doesn't hit it big.
Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich (Viking, 2012)
I will start off with an admission--if there's a television show about food/cooking/restaurants and the host is even remotely interesting, I'm probably hooked on it. If you've ever seen Gordon Ramsey's Masterchef show, Joe Bastianich is one of the three judges. Until I saw this book, with his recognizable semi-glare on the cover, I had no idea why he was deserving of such a position. The book is another where the author gives you enough material (completely ripping other restauranteurs and critics) to believe if he's holding anything back it's due to lawyers somewhere. While he seems to take credit for a fair amount of trends that have taken place, especially in NY, over the last decade or so, it's done in a way that isn't so arrogant that you dislike the writing. Where the m
"Mr. Jones,of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes."
And so begins what might be my favorite book, George Orwell's Animal Farm. If not my favorite, definitely the one I've read more times as an adult than any other book (there are books from my childhood that I know I read in the dozens, if not hundreds, of times). Long enough ago that I don't remember when or where, I found a copy of the 50th Anniversary Edition from Harcourt Brace (Good Lord, that was published 17 years ago itself). Not only does it contain the text of the novel, but also includes Orwell's proposed preface as well as a preface that was included in the Ukranian Edition, both of which make for interesting reading. However, the true attraction to this particular edition is the artwork from Ralph Steadman.
The bio for Steadman on the back flap states:
"Ralph Steadman was born in Cheshire on May 15, 1936 (the day the Spanish Civil War began). He has won many international awards. Widely known in the United States for his illustrations of Hunter S. Thompson's classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and other works, his own previous books include Sigmund Freud, I Leonardo, Between the Eyes, Paranoids, and The Big I Am."
Prior to picking up this copy I don't believe I'd ever heard of him, which seems to be a defecit on my part. The art absolutely enhances this book very well--an image shown here is the two-page spread where Napoleon emerges, upright on two feet for the first time. It's a good example of how in the design of the book Harcourt Brace did not limit Steadman to single pages, but allowed his art and the text to run together in places, to very good use. There are approximately 100 pieces of art by Steadman within the covers of this version.
It's one of those books in my collection that doesn't simply feet like a book, or even a great book, but something that slides into that "collectible" category along with the limited edition books, or chapbooks, or broadsides. It's also larger than the standard book, maybe 9 1/2 x 12 inches, causing it to stick out a bit on one's shelf.
For some reason, the ever-changing mantra from the barn wall, serving as the back cover of this edition, seems to fit all too well these days:
So, this broadside really isn't titles Extraordinary Renditions, it is instead titled "Elivi's Gulyas" (sorry, I've only used typepad for 7 years now, I don't know how to add accents).
It is Andrew Ervin's wife's recipe for gulyas--or goulash (I'm taking Andrew's word, I always thought it was ghoulash for some reason).
This broadside was created by Coffee Hosue Press, who published Andrew's book in September 2010 (it's wonderful--look for it asap) and sent it to various booksellers and book lovers alike to celebrate the forthcoming title. I am happy to have been both on CHP's review list at the time, and a friend of Andrew's who also thought I'd enjoy this and suggested they send me a copy.
I will also say that I'd probably not had goulash in a good twenty years as I think the old family recipe passed along with my maternal grandmother. Tried this one out one weekend in January and it was damn good food.
A special broadside created for a reading Brian Evenson did at the Bankhead Visiting Writers Series back on September 21, 2006. It was printed by Patrick Masterson and includes a portion of the title story from Brian's debut full-length short story collection, Altmann's Tongue.
It is signed and numbered by Brian--a total of 125 were made (this is number 16) and seems like a pretty cool thing for a reading series to do for the writers visiting and reading at their series.
I personally came into possession of this thanks to a Rain Taxi auction where I placed the winning bid. As a huge Evenson fan (as future "collectible" posts will help note), and one that loves that collection in particular, it was something I couldn't pass up at the time. I'm glad too as I've not seen it available elsewhere all that frequently since then.
The South of the Beast broadside is one that I pre-ordered (thus saving half the cost or so) from NewLights Press.
NewLights currently has a great broadside available and it's a fundraiser--the money raised ($720 so far) goes toward helping out agains the costs of the recent fires in Colorado.
NewLights also has the one Evenson collectible I'm going to have a hard time justifying the cash for unless I hit that lottery I never play one day--The Drownable Species, a story by Brian Evenson/Object by Aaron Cohick--which runs $400. The thing is, looking at this broadside, and the fire broadside, I can imagine the quality of this higher priced object and hope to one day find myself in a position to say to myself that $400 makes sense (and hopefully while it's still available at that price).
Anyway, the South of the Beast broadside takes a section from Evenson's short story of that title and was printed, and then de-laminated (thus the holed, I assume) in what sounds like a pretty drawn out process. There were 25 of them created (this is number 3) and the words (I suppose not so oddly) are very Evensonian. It's something I feel the need to get under glass and frame quicker than some of the other objects as it feels very fragile.
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I have to admit that the first thing that drew me to Patrick deWitt's second novel, The Sisters Brothers (Ecco, 2011), was the cover (apparently I'm not alone per this interview).
It was designed by as the first book desgined by Dan Stiles who if I read it right was more of a poster designer doing his first book cover and if that's correct--damn he started off BIG.
The best thing is that deWitt's novel is as badass as the cover--just a truly great book that should be read by damn near everybody. It's funny, brutal, entertaining, raw, and simply wonderful.
No idea how, but I apparently got added to a list of people Ecco was sending out signed and numbers copies of a 12" x 18" poster of the cover to. There were 150 of them per the numbering system on the bottom of the copy sent my way (number 17). This is another I look forward to framing, simply to hang andhave people ask What is that all about? so I can push a copy of the book on them.