Thursday, September 30, 2010

Barbara Browning Live!

Good news for people who like really fantastic news: Barbara Browning will be doing two readings next week from her forthcoming debut novel, The Correspondence Artist (February 2011).

On Wednesday, October 6 at 7:30, Barbara will be reading as part of BOMB's All-Stars Literary Reading Series at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. 'Santuxto Exteberria,' an excerpt from The Correspondence Artist, appeared in the summer issue of BOMB.

For those not in Fort Greene, Barbara will be reading, live, via Two Dollar Radio's brand spanking new video channel the night before, on October 5 at 8pm. Anyone will have the opportunity to pop in and ask Barbara questions about her new book. (I'm super-excited about this.) In the future, we'll be doing regular live web readings, interviews, and miscellaneous activities with our authors. It should be a blast, and plenty more opportunity for readers to interact with the writers.

The E-Book Hype Bubble

Christopher Mims has a great article in the Technology Review that is the most realistic and level-headed take on e-books that I've read to-date. I highly recommend checking it out.

Free Lifetime Subscription!

COLUMBUS, OH - Two Dollar Radio announced today from the mezzanine (front porch) of their corporate headquarters a new lifetime subscription initiative. The plan would give a free lifetime subscription — every book ever published by Two Dollar Radio, including those as yet to be published or even signed — to any persons willing to tattoo the company logo upon their body.

Eric Obenauf, publisher of Two Dollar Radio, concedes the tattoo essentially boils down to branding, which is ordinarily associated with horrific historical events or livestock, but believes the option is a two-way street.

"It will hopefully grant the brandisher some credibility in literary circles as well as a hipness factor in social settings. Plus," he adds, "it’s a conversation-starter: I don’t know how many times I’ve had to answer the question, ‘Is that a boombox on your wrist?’"

To date, those who have tattooed the Two Dollar Radio radio upon their body are Obenauf, his wife and business partner, Eliza Jane Wood-Obenauf, as well as author Joshua Mohr, who published his first (Some Things That Meant the World to Me) and second (Termite Parade) novels with the press.

"The day after getting my Two Dollar Radio tattoo," Mohr says, "I won the lottery, fell in love, vanquished a foe, was cast in a feature film, and the Iranian president offered to fellate me (I accepted). All in all, let’s just say things are on the uptick for this disgruntled writer."

Obenauf admits that the likelihood of this string of events being repeated for someone else is statistically improbable; however he does affirm that "Josh Mohr is exceptional."

Availability of the tattoo subscription will continue in perpetuity. Or until things get "totally whack," "bogus," or "out of control."

Persons can send pictures of their tattoo to Both an action shot of the tattoo being drawn as well as a picture after the tatt has healed is required. In addition to receiving their lifetime subscription, the person will be featured on the publishers’ blog.

Friday, September 24, 2010

L.A., Take 2

This Sunday, September 26, Grace Krilanovich and Joshua Mohr will be teaming up again to read as part of the Vermin on the Mount series in Los Angeles.

Grace and Josh will be joined by Matt Stewart and Steve de Jarnatt. The reading is at the Mountain Bar in Chinatown and is free.

Also, those on the opposing coast, don't forget about the NEA panel at the Philoctetes Center tomorrow in NYC.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Origin of the World

Prolepsis is the attempt to anticipate a question or an objection. So even though the question hasn’t been asked, the answer is yes. Yes, it is true that people think about sex all the time. A cursory review of the magazine rack at your local newsstand will reveal this—and this does not refer to Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler or any of the porn magazines that have had ignominious deaths at the hands of Internet sites that have usurped their sleaziness. Take, for instance, the current issue of People, with a bikini clad babe on the cover and the headline, “My New Body,” or the headline on a neighboring celebrity mag: “Ashton Cheats Again.” The question is not whether sex is on everybody’s mind, but whether there are any minds in which some form of sexuality is not present. One is hard put to find glossy magazines whose front pages are devoid of the mention of sex. One might have thought that elderly people, with their dying libidos, would have other things on their mind, but dementia has a disinhibiting effect that has made STD’s a major problem in nursing homes. Now, what about that category of people who disagree with the notion that sex is always on their minds, and still finds offense in Freud’s notion of infantile sexuality? No one can tell them what they are thinking, though an fMRI might easily show the brain lighting up in those areas dealing with sexual stimulation at precisely the moments when “the lady doth protest too much.” Sublimation is the process by which sexual energy is turned into art. So, if you claim you couldn’t possibly have been thinking about sex when you were looking at Courbet’s “L’Origine du Monde,” since you were interested only in the beauty of the artist’s spread-legged rendering, then you were thinking about sex anyway.

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A goose is an animal, but it also refers to uninvited fondling of the genital area. Scrooge bought the Cratchits a turkey after his bad dream, in which he comes up against The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. But one wonders if Dickens wasn’t unconsciously putting Scrooge up to his old antics, to the extent that he wasn’t just being generous, but perverse. Let’s analyze the situation for a moment. Scrooge is the eponymous pinchpenny whose lack of eleemosynary feelings for his fellow man has turned him into a lonely old geezer (which is a form of goose). His visionary dream is actually quite typical of misers, since the only antidote to miserliness is the realization of mortality. But, once a pickle, never a cucumber again. Scrooge is coerced by his unconscious, and his sudden contrition is a Mephistophelian bargain in which, like the Iran-Contra arms deal, he is trying to trade figurative constipation for the eternal irrigation that many ascribe to paradise. Still, anyone who makes a bargain ends up being resentful. “Why couldn’t they like me for who I was?” the bargainer may complain. Thus, the turkey is basically a goose in turkey’s clothing (OK, turkey to goose is a stretch, but let’s willingly suspend disbelief for the sake of the point). Yes, Scrooge does offer a gift, but it's essentially a payback for the ostracism he has experienced for not being a “good” person. Hence, when he furnishes the holiday fowl, he is really telling the Cratchits that he wants to goose them. What better foreplay than a good goose?

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]


Carl Paladino, the winner of the Republican primary for New York Governor, has sent out “bigoted and pornographic emails,” and likened “Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver to the Antichrist” (“Paladino, Cuomo Rival, Set to Spend at Will,” NYT, 9/15/10), while his counterpart down in Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, who won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate “over one of the state’s most popular and longest serving Republicans,” had previously gained notoriety due to her “dire warnings about the negative impact of masturbation” (“Rebel Republican Marching On, With Baggage," NYT, 9/15/10). But these victories by Tea Party candidates over mainstream Republicans Rick Lazio and Mike Castle are representative of a frustration amongst voters that is not only limited to the U.S. The kind of political Hail Marys that are ruining the Republican party’s chances of unseating the already weakened Obama initiative have been duplicated with uncanny similarity in Italy, where a party called the Northern League is run by Umberto Bossi, “who is known for extra salty language, wearing tank tops and continuing to smoke cigars even though a stroke took away a good part of his voice” (“A New Power Broker Rises in Italy,” NYT, 9/15/10). Bossi is threatening the old center-right leadership of Silvio Berlusconi in much the same way that the Tea Party candidates threaten the leadership of the Republican party. So we are seeing a so-called populist uprising against the perceived futility of mainstream politics appealing to either fundamentalism or ancient myths of identity. “Veneration of the river is central to the group’s murky origin myth, which centers on a vaguely Celtic-inspired separate nation called Padania,” the Times article says of Bossi's Northern League. Now, a once quirky group of extremists is receiving major support. But Democrats in the U.S. and liberals in Italy might want to temper their exuberance for these tea baggers and their ability to thwart the more traditional center-right candidates, on the basis of historical precedent. For $64,000, what famous movement of the 20th century does this remind you of?

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

Because This Sounds Important

In, like, the '90s, my mom and the partner she ran her dance company with were on 60 Minutes for about a minute confronting a Senator from Ohio named John Kasich (now running for Governor to the state) who was garnering national media attention for trying to abolish the NEA.

The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, of which Francis Levy (author of Erotomania and the forthcoming Seven Days in Rio) is a co-director (Edward Nersessian and Francis Levy, Directors), is hosting a rountable this Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 2:00pm at The Philoctetes Center 247 East 82nd Street (Phone: 646-422-0544; email: The rountable discussion will focus on arts funding past and present.

This event is free and open to the public.

From the WPA to the NEA: Arts Funding Then and Now

The WPA, one of the central programs of Roosevelt's New Deal, was pivotal in providing a template for government subsidy of arts projects, producing one of the great periods of creative expression in the history of American society. Playwrights like Arthur Miller and Elmer Rice flourished under the WPA’s Federal Theater Project, directed by Hallie Flanagan. Federally funded projects sowed the seeds for America's ascendency as the center of modern art, particularly with the emergence of abstract expressionism in the late ‘40s and ‘50s. The WPA and the New Deal fostered a renaissance that affected the very fabric of American society, instilling a confidence that helped lead the country back to prosperity. This panel will look at how and why the WPA stimulated creative growth during a crucial period in American history, and examine the ways in which government subsidy of the arts can foster a sense of social identity.

Morris Dickstein is the author of Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, winner of the 2010 Ambassador Book Award in American Studies. He is Distinguished Professor of English and Theatre at CUNY Graduate Center and the author of Gates of Eden and Leopards in the Temple, among other works.

Rocco Landesman is the tenth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Prior to joining the NEA, he was a Broadway theater producer. After receiving a doctorate in Dramatic Literature at the Yale School of Drama, he served there for four years as an assistant professor. He ran a private investment fund until his appointment in 1987 as president of Jujamcyn, a company that owns and operates five Broadway theaters. Landesman has produced several Tony award-winning Broadway hits, most notably Big River, Angels in America, and The Producers. He has been active on numerous boards, including the Municipal Arts Society, the Times Square Alliance, The Actor's Fund, and the Educational Foundation of America. Landesman has spoken at forums and written numerous articles on the debate surrounding arts policy.

Susan Quinn is the author of A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney; Marie Curie: A Life; Human Trials: Scientists, Investors and Patients in the Quest for a Cure; and Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art Out of Desperate Times. Quinn received the Globe Winship award for A Mind of Her Own, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and Rockefeller residency to work on her biography of Marie Curie, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, shortlisted for the Fawcett Book Prize in England, and won the Grand prix des Lectrices d'Elle in France. Quinn has been a staff writer at Boston Magazine, where she won the Penney-Missouri Magazine Award for investigative journalism, and has contributed to The Atlantic and New York Times Magazine, among other publications. She is currently at work on a book about the friendship of Harry Hopkins and FDR.

Leslie G. Schultz is the Executive Director of BRIC Arts Media Bklyn, a non-profit cultural institution dedicated to supporting the creative process and presenting innovative and accessible contemporary art, performing arts, and community media programming that reflects the diverse communities of Brooklyn. Under her leadership, BRIC has rebranded, restructured, expanded its programming, developed and implemented a new strategic plan for institutional growth, and secured public and private support for the creation of BRIC Arts Media House, a multidisciplinary arts and media center designed by award-winning Leeser Architecture that will double the size of BRIC's current facilities. Prior to BRIC, Leslie was a partner at the law firm of Manatt Phelps & Phillips and its predecessor firm, focusing on capital projects for a range of non-profits and on non-profit governance and corporate affairs.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Events at Philoctetes are free and open to the public. Seating is on a first come basis.

The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of the Imagination was established to promote an interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of creativity and the imaginative process. To achieve its mission, the Center organizes roundtable discussions and music, poetry and film series. All programs are free and open to the public. Visit for more information.

Monday, September 20, 2010


At BEA last spring I attended a panel hosted by the National Book Critics Circle that was on the verge of being interesting. It wasn't the panelists' fault. What I mean is, there was the possibility of discussing the recent trends in media development and how that affects review coverage. Rather, steered by mundane audience participation, the brunt of the panel was devoted to rundown topics, primarily print vs digital. Which was a major bummer.

One of the panelists, Ed Nawotka, who runs the e-newsletter Publishing Perspectives, mentioned how a negative review of Sebastian Junger's War was the most popular feature they've run on their site, receiving more comments than the entire length of the original piece. I've been thinking about this a lot recently in the scores of reviews I've seen cropping up of Tao Lin's newest book. Joshua Cohen slammed (like, body-slammed, with authority) it in the latest issue of Bookforum. The single-page review was trumpeted on the front cover, above the Bookforum logo, as "How the internet ruined ambitious fiction writer Tao Lin." To put this into perspective, that's a greater relevance granted than the three-page review they feature of Jonathan Franzen. Bookforum also gradually reveals their print reviews online, and the Lin review was the first they made available.

Bookforum's pretty much one of my favorite book review venues. They can be trusted. All I know about Tao Lin is that he brings with him his own passionate, comment-heavy viral posse.

This is an idle curiosity, but I'm wondering whether book review venues in the future, especially as they transition online and attend to daily web statistics, will intentionally seek more polarized, ultra-dramatic love-or-hate coverage?

I ran into Zach Baron at the Brooklyn Book Festival who had just written his own critical take on Tao Lin for the Village Voice. I said something to Zach about not understanding why Lin's work was so controversial, having only read snippets from his books. Zach said I'd have to read one of Lin's books, which is fair. And then we (or maybe I was alone) wondered aloud at the possibility of Lin contributing many of the most heated and polarized comments to his online reviews, fueling the fire. Which would make him a marketing genius.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Interview with Xiaoda Xiao

In late-May, while in NYC for Book Expo America, we made the trek up to Amherst, MA, to meet Xiaoda Xiao and shoot this video interview with him.

Xiao's book, The Visiting Suit: Stories From My Prison Life (November), was recently spotlighted by both Gawker and The Huffington Post as one of this fall's most interesting/anticipated titles.

Xiao was also at this past weekend's Brooklyn Book Festival, reading as part of PEN's 50th Anniversary of their 'Freedom to Write' program. (We'll have pictures posted later this week.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

We'll See You Sunday!

If you're not in Brighton on Sunday (9/12), be sure to swing by the Brooklyn Book Festival anytime from 10AM - 6PM. It's always so much fun.

We'll have a booth where we'll be hawking our books at stupendous, once-a-year discounts: any book for $10; any 2 books for $15.

We'll also have tee shirts and catalogs, as well as some select titles from featherproof books and Chin Music Press.

This year, we'll be sharing a booth with our friends at The Brooklyn Rail, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary with a print anthology available for sale at the festival.

Xiaoda Xiao will also be reading as part of PEN's 50th Anniversary of their 'Freedom to Write' program, at 10AM on the International Stage.

And, lastly, you can read an excerpt called 'The Spring Festival' from Xiao's forthcoming The Visiting Suit: Stories From My Prison Life (11/2010) -- which was recently mentioned by The Huffington Post as one of the most anticipated books for the rest of 2010 -- in the September issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

Hope to see you there.

Ace Stories: Bradfield Reading

Brighton, Sunday September 12: Scott Bradfield will be reading at ACE Stories, which is a terrific reading series supported by Arts Council England, Serpents Tail, and Momentum Pictures.

The reading is at Hotel Pelirocco at 6pm, which is at 10 Regency Square in Brighton. Also, Buffalo Trace is offering discounts on their bourbon . . .

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Big Ups, Tom Bowden!

So, a couple of months back, we got a new subscription order through our website from Tom Bowden with a note, saying that this latest order would complete his set of all the Two Dollar Radio titles published to-date. This was pretty rad for us, to hear of someone enjoying our books enough to order not just a couple of them, but every single one!

I sent an email thanking Tom, and inviting him to write a post for our blog. Whatever you want to do, I think I said. It doesn't have to be about our books, or even books in general.

Tom sent an account of his return to the now-defunct Eloise Mental Hospital, which is really fantastic.

And for anyone keeping score, Tom hasn't let up: he's already ordered our Year 5 Subscription.

Visiting Eloise

by Tom Bowden

Recently, a friend and I went to visit Eloise, or what remains of Eloise.

Once a state institution for the insane, Eloise was a square-mile campus with its own zip code, fire department, farm, and bakery. At its height as a sanitarium, Eloise had 75 buildings, including a bowling alley and theater. I grew up in Wayne, a small city abutting Eloise, and I had friends whose relatives worked there at one time or another—for an institution with what now approaches 170 years of history, knowing people who worked there was fairly common.

Eloise fronts Michigan Avenue, and so sits along the main road connecting Detroit to Chicago—a convenient place for dropping off the destitute (when it was a poorhouse during its first decades of operation), tubercular (which filled several of Eloise’s buildings), and just plain nutty (what it was most locally infamous for). Driving by Eloise from Wayne to Dearborn or Detroit, I would falteringly imagine the lives of those who slowly strolled the grounds behind the tall iron bars that surrounded this “gated community” or those who gently rocked on one of the pine gliders that faced the small artificial lake alongside east-bound Michigan Avenue, across the street. Hard to reconcile the serene, pastoral image I saw driving past with stories a former custodian told me of a feces-smearing patient convinced he was Donald Duck.

Adding to the mystique of what exactly happened on the grounds of Eloise, to the mystique of what happened at night in those basements lit by single bare bulbs, to the mystique of what the patients there were really like, was the presence of the Eloise Inn, a bar directly across the street from Eloise, at the southeast corner of Venoy Road and Michigan Avenue—a bar where the insane liked to toss back a few boilermakers and unwind with the locals. Some patients even sold their Eloise-issued shoes to buy booze at the Eloise Inn, I’ve been told. Who were the locals who went there? Why did they choose to frequent the Eloise Inn, of the dozen or so other bars in Wayne? What did the Eloise inmates and Wayne citizens make of each other? Were there brawls, or did Tiger games and blue-collar politics draw them together?

And about that farm—the patients not only grew their own food (talk about buying local!), but also grew their own tobacco and produced their own Eloise-brand cigarettes. I’m sorry to say that I don’t know if they could choose between filtered or unfiltered, menthol or regular. But the one photograph of an Eloise cigarette pack I saw suggests that they only came in soft packs—no hard-pack options. If only the cigarettes were sold to local stores—imagine the ad campaigns! the tough kids in junior high who would start with Eloise, not Kools! the rumors about brain damage and secret government test packs laced with LSD!

Which leads me to the therapies practiced there. According to the historical plaque now on the grounds of Eloise, the hospital was at the forefront of art, music, and electroshock therapies (no mention made of labotamies), as well as one I’d never heard of before: television therapy—which, now that I think about it, must account for 90 percent of my fellow Americans.

Only a few buildings remain standing. The former power plant is now surrounded by razor concertina wire—a precaution taken to protect vandals and teens who like to sneak onto the grounds, lured by tales of hauntings; who spray graffiti, and do whatever else bored teens like to do. The razor wire does a poor job of protecting trespassers, however (the power plant’s chimney, which had the word Eloise spelled out in bricks along its length, was torn down a few years ago—neglect frailed the smokestack, and bricks fell from it), because kids still get onto the grounds via the network of tunnels built during the Civil Defense phase of the Cold War, tunnels that extend to the communities surrounding Eloise, across the street.

When I was a teen during the 1970s, the heyday of sanitarium care was over. The patients I saw meandering the grounds as I drove past were all elderly. Entire buildings were empty, and even those still occupied look care-worn. Around the square mile of Eloise, the iron bars’ and gates’ purpose seemed more to protect an underfunded museum from the elements than to protect straying, confused humans from wandering onto busy roads, running away, or worse.

Two sets of stairs lead to the main building’s front doors. One set of stairs is cordoned off by plastic ribbon—the wood is rotted through and unsafe to walk upon. The other set of stairs creaks and bows when stepped upon but at least isn’t yet breaking through. My friend Gary photographed me standing under one of the Civil Defense air-raid shelter signs at the front of the main building. The wooden planking I stood on under the sign threatened to give way.

Afterward, we drove to the potter’s field about a half mile from Eloise, where 7,100 patients are buried. The stones, lying flush with the ground to mark their graves, never acknowledged the names of those whose lives were spent surrendered to madness, poverty, and disease. Only numbers were assigned to each of the dead, to each of the grave markers. Gary and I searched through the tall, overgrown grass to photograph some of these markers, combing through the strands with our fingers, pushing aside clumps with our hands.

Instead of markers, we found under the grass small rectangular patches of dirt. Even the numbers have been removed.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Life is Better on the Left Coast

For anyone within driving distance of Los Angeles, on Thursday, September 9 at 7:30 -- tomorrow!!! -- be sure to check out Joshua Mohr and Grace Krilanovich reading from their new novels at Skylight Books in Los Feliz.

It's bound to be exceptional.

The event will be Grace's first reading in support of her debut novel, The Orange Eats Creeps, and sort of serve as the launch party for the book. To that end, there will be wine.

You'll also be able to say 'hey' to the newest TDR-er, Emily, who'll be introducing the reading.
Seriously good times. G-D I wish we lived on the west coast.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


“They resemble any number of well-meaning couples for whom ‘the home’ has become a citadel of aspirational self-regard and family life a sequence of ennobling rites, each act of overparenting wreathed in civic import—the ‘issues’ involving cloth versus disposable diapers, or the political rectitude of the Boy Scouts, or the imperative to recycle batteries—and the long siege of the day heroically capped by ‘Goodnight Moon’ and a self-congratulatory glass of zinfandel.” The reviews of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom have been universally over-the-top, but this quote from Sam Tanenhaus’s piece in this past Sunday’s New York Times Book Review is particularly significant. However much one agrees with Tanenhaus’s praise of the book, Freedom certainly inspired him to make one of the most cogent statements ever written about the parenting style of the baby boom generation. Furthermore, when he was first appointed editor of the Book Review several years back, Tanenhaus, the author of Whittaker Chambers: A Biography and The Death of Conservativism, was rumored to be more interested in non-fiction than fiction, to the consternation of many novelists and short story writers. By assigning himself the review of Freedom, and concluding that the novel “illuminates, through the steady radiance of the author’s moral intelligence, the world we thought we knew,” he is making an argument for the gravitas of fiction at a time when the serious novel has failed to lay claim to its classically oracular role. By writing about Freedom in the way he does—thereby adding Franzen’s book to the list of great American novels, from Herzog and Catch-22 to Portnoy’s Complaint, Rabbit Run, The Natural and, mostly recently, Infinite Jest—Tanenhaus is making a case that there is still a great American novel.

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

Diasporic Dining XV: Dallas BBQ

People who eat at the Dallas BBQ chain of restaurants should be killed before they kill themselves and others. They are setting a bad example by making other people think they can live after eating large plates filled with incredibly greasy ribs and fries. People go to Dallas BBQ because of the large portions and cheap prices, refusing in effect to look a gift horse in the mouth and realize that beyond its tonsils is a gun pointed at them. Most of the patrons of Dallas BBQ are on exhibition to street traffic through a glass patio, which the architects of the restaurant undoubtedly created in order to showcase the merchandise, much like the prostitutes displayed in the windows of the red light districts of Amsterdam and Hamburg. Passing by Dallas BBQ is like going to the zoo, because the perception of the imbibing patrons with unearthly looks on their faces recalls the imperviousness of animals at feeding time. For anyone who has been addicted to drugs, Dallas BBQ will bring back memories of their favorite crack house or shooting gallery. Have none of the aficionados of Dallas BBQ ever heard of things like the Twinky defense, in which eating food with certain kinds of ingredients causes temporary insanity? Have none of Dallas BBQ’s followers ever heard of a film called Food, Inc., in which the massive production of chickens, which feeds chains like Dallas BBQ, is as cruel to the animals as it is to the intestinal tracks of those who digest them? The people who eat at Dallas BBQ look dumbfounded, like deer in headlights. Is that the way you want to feel after a meal?

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

Monday, September 06, 2010

Confessions of an Unrepentant Short Story Writer

Herewith is the opening to a fantastic essay by Scott Bradfield that appears in the July issue of Critical Quarterly chronicling the toils of a short story writer as only Bradfield can.

by Scott Bradfield

Nothing teaches you to live with failure better than a ‘career’ (and I usethe term loosely) spent writing short stories. First there are the days you can’t get the story started, or figure out how it ends; or the dayswhen you find the ending, but don’t know what to start the nextmorning. There are the days when you finish the damn thing, but can’tfind an editor to publish it; or when you get the damn thing published,and nobody reads it. Then there are the days you don’t sell to the New Yorker (there are lots of days like this, by the way), or you don’t sell anoption to the movies, or you’re overlooked by the latest crowd of‘year’s best’ anthologies that continually assemble on local bookstoreshelves like jeering bullies on a playground.

But if you’re lucky, and you live long enough, you progress intowider and more prosperous regions of failure. You sell that story to the New Yorker, say, or you win a prestigious (i.e. doesn’t pay much) award. You publish your stories in a collection, and get well reviewed – OK, maybe not on the front page of the New York Times – but hey, youactually get a collection reviewed in the New York Times! You’re invited to an A-List party in Manhattan; you give a reading, or speak at a college. And then the big day comes, the day that every writer can only dream about while toiling at the difficult, and often deliriously happyjob of writing short stories. Which is when the big editor or film producer calls. And they’ve got a question.

‘Great stories, guy. So when are you going to write a novel?’

For a short story writer – this means you’ve arrived.

You’ve failed about as well as you can.

Friday, September 03, 2010

For further reading:

The Orange Eats Creeps link roundup:

OEC book trailer
Largehearted Boy Book Notes
Vol. 1 Brooklyn review
TDR Noise Q&A
Skylight Books launch party with Joshua Mohr, 9/9
Two Dollar Radio/Featherproof "night of hand-holding" at KGB, 10/24
Grace on Twitter

"All Ages Show at Club Knuckle Sandwich," cont'd

The band _____________________ (name of deep sea creature) ___________________ (b-movie title or type of drug) took the stage, boasting a stack of _____ (number) watt amps, a new bass player from _____________________ (country) and a drummer wearing a __________ (adj) dress and _________________ (hairstyle). The guitar player _______________________ (adverb) tuned up against the backdrop of __________________ (song title), which was shorting out the PA speakers. The singer, ____________________ (snack food) ___________________ (proper last name) had just gotten out of jail for ___________________ (adj) assault with a deadly ___________________ (noun). S/he gripped the ___________________ (noun), singing into it with a voice reminiscent of ____________________ (celebrity) on __________________________ (food/drink/drug). Two freaky cheerleaders flanked the band, named ________________ (noun) and _____________ (noun that rhymes with prev. noun), who, on this tour, also happened to double as _____________ (adj) roadies, ___________________ (make of car) driver and merch _________________ (plural noun). “__________________,” (exclamation) “this PA sucks! Hi, we’re ____________________________ (deep sea creature from above) ______________________________ (b movie title or type of drug from above) and we’re from _____________________ (city). The ______________________ (adj) promoter from this ________________________ (adj) club has already told us were getting paid __________ (dollar amount) so _____________________ (insult). They launched into their first song, a cover of ______________________ (song title) done in the style of ___________________________ (music genre). Instantly, the ____________________ (adj) crowd split into two factions: half rushing the stage, half heading for the exit. ____________________ (plural noun) and ________________________ (plural noun) came flying out of nowhere, hitting the singer in the chest. “____________________,” (exclamation) “Who threw that? Look, we’re gonna stop the show if you can’t be nice. Don’t throw shit, cuz we’ll be gone.” The song ground to a halt. Then suddenly the promoter rushed the stage, __________________ (adverb) waving a cassette tape, screaming “This is not the band I booked! Where’s _____________________ (brand of detergent) _____________________ (type of weather)? Get ‘em on stage. You’re done. You guys suck. And you’re con artists. This ______________________ (undesirable substance) sounds nothing like your ___________________ (adj) demo tape. The band shrugged, peeling off their respective instruments, throwing them to the floor. At the load-in door a ___________ (adj) record label A & R man was waiting with a ___________ (adj) contract. Turns out __________________ (celebrity) wanted to produce their debut album and the budget was _____________ (dollar amount). “_____________________” (catch-phrase) the band collectively exclaimed. “Perfect album title!” the A & R man said. As it happens, the next _________________ (adj) band took _________ (number) minutes to set up, but by then the audience had bailed. THE END

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Watch those elbows

Hmm... I wonder why girls stopped going to punk shows when punk became "hardcore"?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"All Ages Show at Club Knuckle Sandwich"

Top half. Print it out, fill it in. I'll post the story it belongs to tomorrow.

_____________________ (name of a deep sea creature)

___________________ (b-movie title or type of drug)

_____ (number)

_____________________ (country)

__________ (adj)

_________________ (hairstyle)

_______________________ (adverb)

__________________ (song title)

____________________ (snack food)

___________________ (proper last name)

___________________ (adj)

___________________ (noun)

___________________ (noun)

____________________ (celebrity)

__________________________ (food/drink/drug)

________________ (noun)

_____________ (noun that rhymes with prev. noun)

_____________ (adj)

___________________ (make of car)

_________________ (plural noun)

__________________ (exclamation)

_______________________ (deep sea creature from above)

_______________________ (b-movie title or type of drug from above)

_____________________ (city)

______________________ (adj)

______________________ (adj)

__________ (dollar amount)

_____________________ (insult)

______________________ (song title)

___________________________ (music genre)

____________________ (adj)

____________________ (plural noun)

________________________ (plural noun)

____________________ (exclamation)

__________________ (adverb)

_____________________ (brand of detergent)

_____________________ (type of weather)

______________________ (undesirable substance)

___________________ (adj)

___________ (adj)

___________ (adj)

__________________ (celebrity)

_____________ (dollar amount)

_____________________ (catch-phrase)

_________________ (adj)

_________ (number)

My Librarian

Do you see it? There is something indescribable lurking in the shadows where his eyes should be.

Bass Players: An Appreciation

Our planet is held together by bass players. Guileless, a little bit mysterious, endearingly dorky; if they know what’s best for them they’ll be lurking in the shadows next to the drummer. Variations include the singing bass player, the wild art freak bass player, the unshakable wall bass player, the phantom bass player (the Doors), the lone psycho (Joe Preston/Thrones), the spazz (Tim Bogert), the prolific session player (Carol Kaye) and the gentleman-ham (Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris).

Perhaps it’s the bass’ all-encompassing nature – the grey fuzzy forcefield that lays down a constant and reassuring foundation, “holding it down” cosmically for our freaky trebly ways -- that feels so jarring when it steps out into the spotlight. Don’t you know you’re supposed to be a subliminal, looming presence? A flashy bass player admits too much the truth that s/he is running the show. To be too good is to be a shameless wonder. But if you have the skills you can get away with anything – except sweating, of course.

Transgressions: a bass that is too big, unwieldy, unusual (headless), too many strings, too expensive, futuristic, superfluous. We seem to be uncomfortable with too much attention being drawn to the bass itself. Flashy guitars are merely sight gags. Flashy basses are a threat to the hierarchy of the rock band, where each thing has its rank, sonically (its place in the mix) and visually (to avoid visual overload or confusing the audience, everything must be sorted and prioritized). Has there ever been a naked bass player? No. Slap bass: a '70s delicacy, so easily abused. Slap bass, as a noise, calls attention to noise-making itself... noises like crumbs trapped in your bra.

Taste is an issue with bass, more than other instruments. More seems to be at stake, so what is considered “good taste” for a bass is narrow: John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, Jack Casady, Lemmy, Tiran Porter, Toody, Cliff Burton, Flea, Kim Gordon, Tom Petersson, Bootsy Collins, Mike Watt, Noel Redding, Suzi Quattro, Dusty Hill, John Doe, Kira, Steve MacDonald, Phil Lynott… We know what we don’t like: the Seinfeld theme: slap crawling up your back like a demon.

Through it all there is the mystery of bass, the invitation to righteousness, a dainty flicker of a razor in the candlelight, the plunge into wrongness, a breath away.