Friday, March 30, 2012

Tony Judt: A Final Victory

Readers of The New York Review of Books will vividly recall the essays Tony Judt, the NYU historian, published in the months leading up to his death from ALS. Now Jennifer Homans, his wife, has offered an intimate look at the process by which Judt worked in the last months of his life when his “locked in syndrome,” left both him and her in “what we came to call the bubble. The bubble was a closed world, an alternative reality, a place that we lived in and peered out of." (“Tony Judt: A Final Victory,” NYRB, 3/22/12) The beauty of the prose is belied by the horror it describes. A famous New York Times reporter namedNan Robertson, who also wrote about battling illness, once described a fatal plane crash with a similar lush prose; the ability to find beauty in tragedy (which is after all the substance of Lear and Karenina ) never ceases to astonish, particularly when its brought to bear on real events. The title of the book that Judt was working on at the end of his life wasThinking the Twentieth Century and a brief excerpt from it appears inTNYRB along with Homans memoir. Homans essay describes the writing of the book as the means by which Judt escaped his imprisonment in the bubble. “There were…portals to the world where he could find his way, at least momentarily, out of the bubble and back to himself…Thinking the Twentieth Century was part of that: a portal to the world. The past was still the engine of his thoughts. Not history anymore, but memory. Memory was Tony’s only certainty…It was the thing the disease could not take from him.” Judt could have called the book Remembering the Twentieth Century, but thinking is much more powerful since it accounts for both the present from which he is writing and the past and recalls other great works of intellectual history like theAutobiography of John Stuart Mill. In an especially riveting part of the essay Homans says “Tony was tormented by the idea of his own absence not in itself (he was as hard a realist as any) but for his two boys.” But as Homans describes it, the book also provided a reprieve from the pain of that loss. “Here he did something extraordinary: he projected himself beyond his own death and found a way to reach ‘back’ from the abyss. I didn’t truly understand it at the time but I now see that the dead can extend feelings across the divide separating the living from the ever after. But—and it is a big but—they can only do it if they think of it in advance, before they actually die.”

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

The Agony and Ecstasy of Mike Daisey

Mike Daisey is a performance artist who made things up for his piece,The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs which recently completed a run at the Public Theater. No one says that performance artists can’t make things up. Was Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia enjoyed as piece of journalism or rather for being a monologue whose concerns reflected on reality but didn’t necessarily mirror it? Journalists are embedded with platoons, but fictionistas rarely are and thus we have the difference between writers like Frances Fitzgerald who reported on the Vietnam War and on the other hand those who fictionalized it like Tim O’Brien. And then there was John Hersey whose Hiroshima used fiction techniques in the service of truth. Where Mike Daisey got into trouble was to make things up and claim they were true and then make matters worse by taking them on This American Life, which also employs dramatic expository techniques, but prides itself on high journalistic standards. “It was a fine bit of theater, but worked less well as a piece of journalism,” the Times’ David Carr commented in his column The Media Equation (“Theater, Disguised as Real Journalism,”NYT 3/18/12) Mike Daisey claimed his faux pas was for a good cause: the exploitation of low paying Chinese workers by Apple, one of the world’s wealthiest companies (Apple recently reported it would pay its stockholders their first dividend in 17 years since it had $97.6 million dollars in cash reserves). No one is comparing Daisey to Clifford Irving, but a more exaggerated form of what he did hearkens back to the Clifford Irving case. Irving solved the problem of having an elusive subject in the reclusive Howard Hughes by making up his autobiography. It also recalls the cases of the fictional persona of JT LeRoy made up by a writer named Laura Albert and of James Frey’s fictionalized account of his alcoholism, A Million Little Pieces.Appropriation is an important movement in modern art and literature. But all of these works represented not the appropriation of reality in the service of fiction or art, but the appropriation of fiction in the service of reality. Well, you might say, as Daisey has, that the means justify the ends and that it’s all for a good cause. That’s a little bit what happened with Kony 2012, the video that became an internet sensation and a cause, until as Carr reports the filmmaker Jason Russell “was found running around naked and yelling incoherently in a San Diego neighborhood.” No one doubts that Joseph Kony is bad and should be brought to trial by the ICC, but when an excess of imagination and artfulness actually muddies reality than a dangerous line, what we might called “the story line,” has been crossed. Daisey appeared on a subsequent This American Life to recant and ostensibly explain himself. Carr quotes Daisey telling This American Life’s Ira Glass the following: “I think I was terrified that if I untied these things, that the work, that I know is really good, and tells a story, that does these really great things for making people care, that it would come apart in a way that would ruin everything.”

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

Monday, March 19, 2012

Twin Palms Trailer!

How To Get Into The Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak from Karolina Waclawiak on Vimeo.

Check out this awesome trailer for Karolina Waclawiak's How To Get Into the Twin Palms (July '12)!
It is possible to pre-order the book now.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Big Ups to Books on WOSU

I got to participate on WOSU, central Ohio's NPR affiliate, monthly roundtable discussion of books yesterday, with the always-stellar Kassie Rose and Kevin Griffith, and host Christopher Purdy. It was a bucket of fun, as I regularly tune in to the show, to have the opportunity to share some of my own book recommendations with listeners, as well as to chat up Two Dollar Radio some.

Here's a link to the video of the discussion.

And here are some of the books that I discussed and/or mentioned:
These Dreams of You -- Steve Erickson
SPRAWL -- Danielle Dutton
Everything Sings -- Denis Wood
Saguaro -- Carson Mell
Scurvy Goonda -- Chris McCoy

Monday, March 05, 2012

Trinie Dalton @ Spoonbill + Sugartown!

Join Trinie Dalton for her east coast launch of Baby Geisha at the one and only Spoonbill & Sugartown this Sunday, 2pm. Be there!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How To Get Into the Twin Palms! Galleys!

Exciting times afoot for us here at Two Dollar Radio Corporate HQ. We've just gone to press for galleys of Karolina Waclawiak's hilarious and moving debut novel, How To Get Into the Twin Palms.

Here's what it's about:
“Waclawiak takes the immigrant novel and spins it on its head. A great addition to 1.5 generation literature, beautifully written, funny and touching.”
-Gary Shteyngart

“Read and be surprised by a raw, irresistible voice with a new LA story: shucking off the Polish coat for the pearls and amber worn by Russian women who inhabit the mystery that is the Twin Palms at night.”
-Christine Schutt

How to Get Into the Twin Palms is the story of Anya, a young woman living alone in a Russian neighborhood in Los Angeles, who struggles to retain her parents’ Polish culture while trying to assimilate into her newly adopted community. Anya stalks the nearby Twin Palms nightclub, the pinnacle of exclusivity in the Russian community. Desperate not only to gain entrance into the club but to belong there, Anya begins a perilous pursuit for Lev, a Russian gangster who frequents the seemingly impenetrable world of the Twin Palms.

KAROLINA WACLAWIAK received her MFA in fiction from Columbia University. She is the Deputy Editor of The Believer and lives and writes in Brooklyn.

If you'd like an advance copy, drop a note to eric[at]

Monday, February 27, 2012

Trinie Dalton in SF!

Dear SF folks: Trinie Dalton will be reading from her new book Baby Geisha at the one and only City Lights Bookstore this Wednesday, 2/29, at 7pm. I hope you can make it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Success and Succession

Determining the order of succession in the new secretive North Korean government of Kim Jong-un, the son of the recently deceased Kim Jong-il is as difficult as discovering the elusive Higgs Boson. As you may recall the Higgs Boson is the tiny particle that scientists have been seeking out for over 40 years. Recently, teams of particle physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva discovered some very encouraging results which would as Columbia physicist Brian Greene recently said in a Times Op-Ed piece, “complete an essential chapter in our quest to understand the basic components of the universe.” (“Waiting for the Higgs Particle, NYT, 12/14/11). So little in fact is known about the North Korean leadership that like understanding the Higgs particle, it would involve in Greene’s words “a rewriting of the very definition of nothingness.” One other thing that the North Korean leadership has in common with the Higgs particle is that any sightings tend to be short-lived. “Finding this particle would be no easy task,” Greene went on to comment. “The Higgs particle would be short-lived, quickly decaying into other, more familiar particles.” Doesn’t that too seem the problem when it comes to determining the ephemeral coterie of officials surrounding around both Kim Jong-il and his anointed successor Kim Jong-un. “Identifying the mourners and absentees in the world’s most closed society is one of the few ways available to outsiders trying to solve the mystery of the unfolding succession in Pyongyang,” Choe Sang-Hun said in a recent Times piece (“Buzz Over Who’s Not in the North Korean Picture(s),” NYT, 12/22 /11). Is it too far a stretch to think that Angela Landsbury could be brought back to reprise the evil mother she played in Manchurian Candidate to play the role of Kim Ok who Choe Sang-Hun described as “one of Jim Jong-il’s closest aides.” According to Sang-Hun, Kim Jong-un is “the second son of Kim Jong-il’s third wife” and Kim Ok is now serving “as the North’s de facto first lady since Kim Jong-un’s mother died in 2004.” Yes we are going from West to East from the extreme right to the extreme left (and beyond), but in our quantum universe where a particle can be in two different places at the same time, nothing is surprising. Lawrence Harvey played Landsbury’s son (Raymond Shaw) in Manchurian Candidate and if he were alive, he would have been the perfect person to play the role of the handsome but baffled looking Kim Jong-un, whose mother Ko Young-hee was a prominent North Korea Opera star. The wild card according to Sang-Hun’s story is Kim Jong-nam (no relation to Viet), the hapless oldest son of Kim Jon-il and the product of KJi's marriage to his first wife who “fell out of favor and was alone in Moscow when she died.” Sang-Hun reports that there were rumors Ko Young-hee, the opera star, had been behind a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-nam who “now lives in effective exile in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macao.” Hopefully, by the time the existence of the Higgs Boson is finally confirmed, more will be revealed about who’s who in Pyongyang.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I'm Trying to Reach You

Just sent files off to the printer for Barbara Browning's second novel, I'm Trying to Reach You (June '12). We're insanely excited. This book is like Rear Window with computer screens.

Here's what it's all about:

"Exquisite storytelling at its finest. I’m Trying to Reach You cultivates our relationship addiction with YouTube and our desire for interconnectivity while illuminating what it means to strive, cope and love with all of our heart, brain, body and soul. It is all here. Browning writes with humor, wit, grace and passion to the human purpose, mortality and the joys of existence. Start reading.”
-Karen Finley

"The writing of Barbara Browning reminds me of the young, spirited Françoise Sagan whose first three novels Bonjour tristesse (1954), Un certain sourire (1955) and Aimez-vous Brahms? (1959), were written when she was still in her teens and early twenties and are beyond brilliantine. The film version of Bonjour Tristesse 1957 was directed by Otto Preminger starring a lovely Jean Seberg. If only Mr. Preminger were alive today to direct a filmed adaptation of Ms. Browning's I'm Trying to Reach You. That would be granada."
-Vaginal Crème Davis

It’s the summer of 2009, and the great dance icons of our time appear to be dropping like flies. First MJ, then Pina, then Merce… wtf?! Gray Adams, unlikely sleuth, must decipher a series of cryptic choreographies, YouTube comments, and weird anagrammatic monikers to find the answer… before it’s too late.

Barbara Browning has written a telling, comical novel about performance art, the electric guitar, American identity, racial and sexual ambiguity, and the challenge of accepting the mortality of the people we love.

Drop me a line at eric[at] if you'd like to consider for review.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bradfield in Kingston

Scott Bradfield, author of The People Who Watched Her Pass By, hosts a reading series at the MFA program at University of Kingston, where he teaches. He has some great events coming up, including Brian Evenson, J. Robert Lennon, and Fiona Sampson -- if you're in the UK, check it out!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

L’Avventura is a mystery about a missing woman, but the supernumeries in what could have been a police procedural, in other hands, move to center stage under Antonioni’s direction. Similarly Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, which shared the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011 and whose title can’t help but reference another fairytale, Serge Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, starts off with caravan of two cars and a jeep with a rotating light, carrying amongst others, a prosecutor, a police commissar and a doctor, who are attempting to locate a corpse in the darkness. The caravan takes on an emblematic significance as it cruises through the breathtaking landscape of winding roads and fields of grass whose beauty and barren immensity are the occasion for window-like set pieces that would qualify as melodrama if they didn’t so perfectly earn the emotion they create. A hogtied corpse is eventually located by a wonderful pair of characters called simply the "diggers." Cemal, the doctor (Muhammet Uzuner) sits next to one of the accused men who have been brought along to lead the police to the crime scene. Chekhov was a doctor (he once said “medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress") and Cemal is the Chekhov of the movie, offering not only an autopsy of victim, but a diagnosis of the spiritual illness of his colleagues. For instance, throughout the movie Nusret, the prosecutor (Taner Birsel) repeats the same story to Cemal, about a woman who forecasted her own death.  The seeming non-sequitur begins to make sense as we begin to see that the prosecutor aided by his bonding with Cemal, reveals he is talking about his own wife who killed herself, after giving birth to their child, as an act of vengeance for her husband’s infidelity. The prosecutor’s face is disfigured with dark blotches and then in the autopsy sequence as blood shoots up creating blotches on Cemal’s face, a metaphoric blood-tie between the two men is affirmed. During the course of the night and early morning the caravan stops in a town where they are entertained by the local mukhtar, who has an angelic daughter. The daughter transfixes the miserable party while her father makes a pitch for a state of the art morgue. Most of the young people in the town have left and they need their parents’ bodies preserved until they can fly back from places like Germany. Waiting for Godot is the English title of Beckett’s play, but in the French, in which it was originally written, the title was En attendant Godot or “while waiting for Godot.” Like Godot, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is about the life that goes on and the questions that are asked while men and women wait for the answers to both the great and small questions of human existence. Do not miss this masterpiece.

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

These Dreams of You

"This was the great test, whether there was a song the country could sing in common. Instead, more than ever it's a country of many songs all of them noisy, without a single melody that anyone cares about carrying. The country is a babel of not just melodies that no one shares but memory; and as Babel fractured language into thousands, the country is the sum total of a memory fractured into millions, not one of them a memory of the country as it actually has ever existed."

Steve Erickson is a hero of American fiction, and I just read his new novel, These Dreams of You, which is incredibly graceful, dreamy, ambitious, and so perfectly of this moment. Definitely recommended.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Let's Talk About Plot

LitReactor is a new site that features a magazine with publishing-related content, interviews (they just ran this great interview with Steve Erickson that is well worth the read) and book reviews, as well as online writing courses. Our own Joshua Mohr is going to be teaching a course and here's what it's all about:

Let's talk about plot. That skeleton holding your story together, so all your grand ideas and crazy characters and gut-punch sentences can shine. Every book needs a one, but let's be honest--plot is a pretty easy thing to lose.

That's why we've recruited best-selling author Joshua Mohr for our newest class, Plotlines: Crafting Powerful Story Progressions That Stay True To Character.

Josh will break down the various ways writers can construct a series of events with a laser focus that will keep readers glued to the page. Each weekly session will begin with written and video lectures, and students will have writing assignments to practice the new tactics they're taught. All of this will occur in our groundbreaking online classroom, an environment that encourages discussion and peer reviews.

In this class, Mohr will teach you:
  • How to start in the middle of the action
  • Effective ways to dangle bait for your reader
  • Creating characters who characterize themselves
  • How to write compelling dialogue
  • The four-week class starts on Feb. 20.

    Click here to find more information about the class and its structure, and to register.

    JOSHUA MOHR is the author of three novels, most recently Damascus, which the The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.” He’s also written Some Things that Meant the World to Me, one of O Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009 and a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller, as well as Termite Parade, an Editors’ Choice on The New York Times Best Seller List. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of San Francisco.
  • Saturday, February 11, 2012

    Panglossing it Over

    Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist, and Joshua S. Goldstein, a professor emeritus of international relations at the American University, wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Times entitled “War Really Is Going out of Style,” NYT, 12/17/11). For Pinker, the Op-Ed piece seems to be an extension of the argument that he makes in his recently published The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The three reasons that Pinker and Goldstein give for the decline of war are 1) political 2) economic and 3)social. In terms of political boundaries, no one is really the winner. “Since shortly after World War II, virtually no borders have changed by force,” Pinker and Goldstein argue. Further, economic hegemony has been more effective than geographic invasion. “Today, wealth comes from trade, and war only hurts,” they continue. Lastly on the social front mankind has evolved. “Brutal customs that were commonplace for millennia have been largely abolished: cannibalism, human sacrifice, heretic-burning chattel slavery, punitive mutilation, sadistic executions.” The natural extension of Pinker and Goldstein’s argument is that benevolence has become naturally selective and that mankind has found a better way of dealing with its aggressive impulses, by making love not war to re-invoke the 60’s. The explosion of pornography might evidence the latter, if the majority of sites weren’t so involved with conquest and submission on an ontogenic basis. Not to be judgmental about playful sex, but the sex on makes water boarding seem like a sport. The question is, are Pinker and Goldstein talking about the two new planets discovered orbiting the star Kepler 20 reported by Dennis Overbye in the Times (“Two Earth-Sized Planets Are Discovered, “ NYT, 12/20/11)? Do we occupy the same planet as these two eggheads ? They sound like Voltaire's Pangloss, whose reaction to a succession of brutalities, “all’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds," takes aim at another egghead named Leibnitz. What about the brutalities perpetrated by the Janjaweed militia in thee Sudan, the brutal dictatorship of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, whose fortunes are again on the rise due to a windfall from the country's diamond industry? OK Qaddafi was toppled in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt, but even the reports of Qaddafi’s brutal capture create suspicion about the prospects for peace in that troubled land and the recent accounts of the Egyptian military’s sexual humiliations of women protestors seem to show throw doubt on the old adage that “every cloud has a silver lining.” Make no mistake the lining of Mubarak regime was a military that controlled the economy of the country. We need turn no further than troubled Afghanistan if we want evidence of the fact that age old customs die slowly. Let the women with severed noses and burned faces testify to the progress of the human race. As for our so-called more advanced Western societies, who walked off with the shekels at MF Global and what made such a sterling institution as Goldman Sachs bet against the collateralized debt obligations it was offering its customers? And what about hazing at FAMU where the drum majors now must bang the drum slowly in mourning for a hard working 26 year old who was beaten to death? Go up to the South Bronx and watch the promoters of cock fights placing razors in the beaks of their contenders and then tell us about mankind tempering its aggressive instincts as two hapless birds run around with heads cut off. Happy Holidays!

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

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Q+A with Scott McClanahan

    In early 2012 we signed a book by a writer named Scott McClanahan, entitled Crapalachia. The book begins with Scott as a 14 year old going to live with his Grandma Ruby and Uncle Nathan, who suffers from cerebral palsy, and charts the following formidable years of his life coming of age in rural West Virginia. Peopled by colorful characters and their quirky stories, Crapalachia interweaves folklore and area history, providing an ambitious and powerful snapshot of overlooked Americana.

    Here's a brief brief excerpt:
    "There were 13 of them. The children had names that ended in Y sounds. There was Betty and there was Annie and there was Stirley and there was Stanley and there was Leslie and there was Gary and there was Larry and there was Terry.
    Ruby said: “I like names that end in Y.”
    They all grew up in Danese, WV, eating blackberries for breakfast and eating blackberries for lunch and watching the snow come beneath the door in the wintertime."

    And here be another:
    "Then we read about how you build civilization. They built the Hawks Nest tunnel by digging a big ass hole in the side of a mountain. They used a bunch of poor people to dig it. A poor person means either their skin was dark or their accents were thick. That’s the best way to do anything—get a bunch of poor people to do it. So they cut and cut into the mountain but there was a problem. They didn’t wet the dust from the cut limestone—so the men developed silicosis. The men started dying by the tens and then the twenties and then the hundreds and then—the thousands? Since they were poor the company just buried them. There was an investigation a few years later but no one cared. They were poor people. The official stat was 476 but the truth is over a 1,000 of the 3,000 men lost their lives in a few short days."

    I’ve read two (possibly three) of your story collections. They all feel personal, but
    Crapalachia feels like an entirely new level of personal. You – Scott McClanahan – exist in the story as the book begins when you’re 14 and go to live with your Grandma Ruby and Uncle Nathan, but you’re almost less of a character in this book as Ruby, Nathan, and your friend Bill really color the book. How did you know that you were prepared as a writer to approach something this deeply personal?

    Boredom. I was getting ready to write a biography of my wife and all of her ex-boyfriends and she told me she would divorce me if I did (or sue me). I didn’t know how it would be living with someone who was actually suing you, but she was quite serious. So I decided to take some time and use the old McClanahan charm and convince her, and in the meantime I put together Crapalachia. I just ran out of other crap to write about. You can only write about how you passed a kidney stone and thought you were the new messiah only so many times.

    Of course, I knew I was going to write about these people one day. So I wanted to try something ambitious. I wanted to see if I could resurrect the dead. I seriously wanted to see if I could bring back to life all of the people I’ve ever known. I’m not talking about metaphor here. I truly wanted to see if I could make my zombies emerge from their graves.

    The Bill in the book is really two guys I know. I just decided to put them together and create one character. One of my friends named Bill murdered an old woman. One of my other friends suffered from OCD and we were roommates for a long time.

    Nothing sells like sincerity, memory, murder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. I think Richard Nixon said that.

    West Virginia and the history of its peoples is an integral part of this story. We read about the Pittston Coal Company calling a flood of mining waste that killed 125 people and decimated a town “an act of god,” or trapped miners eating their own shoelaces to try and survive. There’s also a story your Grandma tells you about your Grandpa’s reaction to his rejection by the mining company, after working for them for many years, for medical benefits. How much did it influence you growing up (and now, still, I suppose), reading and hearing about this ongoing story of oppression?

    Oh, it’s had a huge influence. I think living in a place like this educates you in a completely different way from the rest of the country. You realize that they’re going to put it in your butt and keep it there. The only principle of politics my father ever told me was this. “The democrats are stealing just as much as the rest of the bastards, but there’s only one difference. The democrats just aren’t stealing from you.” He still votes a straight ticket without even looking at the ballot.

    I know it’s trendy and modern and Dylan-like to say art and politics should be kept separate, but that’s just bullshit. I think calling yourself an artist or a writer is just a real good way to immediately marginalize who you are in this society. At the same time these “occupy kids” just seem like real jack-asses to me. Don’t they know that the leaders of the counter culture just wind up running multi-national corporations like Nike and have people working 20 hour shifts just to build your shitty IPHONE? Don’t they know that he who fucks nuns will later join the church?

    Of course, it may sound cynical, but you know the definition of cynicism. Cynicism: A deep and profound understanding of human life.

    Oral tall tales play a role in your work, and this book in particular. They grant Crapalachia this really vibrant texture of contrasts; on the one hand they lend your work this wonderful regional authenticity, while on the other hand they feel like magical realism seeped in Americana. Is this something that just sort of wiggles its way into your work?

    I always get a little grumpy when I hear the word “oral” in relationship to writing. It always feels like an immediate way to connect a work to a “regional art.” Philip Roth is a regional artist, but he never gets called one. Babel, Singer, and Joyce are all full of folklore and oral elements but they’re always held up as great modernists. It’s the same with music as well. Merle Haggard is not a country singer. He is a master artist on the same level as Leonard Cohen, or Iggy Pop, or Nick Cave—but rural voices are always pushed aside and given labels.

    Of course, I really love the sound of the voice. Most of the writing I come across now just feels like clunky prose to me. I don’t know how many novels I come across that feel like they were written by Cormac’s cousin, Barney. It’s all full of third person violence, apocalypse, descriptions of landscapes, murderous children, etc. Most of these books are from guys who are writing in sweaters their wives bought them for Christmas. You have to watch out for the Barney McCarthy’s of this world. I’m just trying to enter my own house justified.

    I first heard of you when you interviewed Rudy Wurlitzer for Ain’t It Cool News back in ’09. You also have your own film production company in Holler Presents and have made a number of short films. How do you believe the two mediums inform one another for you as an artist? Or do they exist entirely separate of one another?

    I think it’s the same. There’s a whole new type of cinema just waiting to happen where people are going to make movies about their bathroom behavior or sexual behavior. I guarantee the next Marlene Dietrich is going to be somebody’s kid sister or great aunt in the mountains of West Virginia. I’m still wanting to make an epic about chicken wings. I’m absolutely serious. I’ve been planning for years and I’m starting this year.

    We also have a punk gospel band called The Holler Boys. We’re pretty interested in tag team wrestling as well.

    And here’s a question that you asked Wurlitzer from that AICN interview that I’d be interested in hearing you answer: “Hal Ashby was an editor, Dylan a musician, Sam Shepard a playwright, [Wurlitzer is] a novelist, Robert Frank is primarily known as a photographer. In an age when people making movies typically get their references from comic books, TV shows and other movies, what is it about people coming from different mediums that make films more interesting? Do we need more of it in cinema as well as writing - fewer film schools and MFA programs?”

    Oh yeah, it’s one of those things people hate talking about but it’s true. It really chaps their asses when you keep bringing it up—so I just keep bringing it up. It’s like reminding a friend they lost 60,000 dollars in a pyramid scheme.

    MFA programs and film schools were created to sell stuff. The academy is one of the last places where people have to buy exactly what you tell them to buy. Colleges and universities also exist to allow “frumpy” middle aged people to have inappropriate relationships with more attractive younger people that would never happen outside the twisted confines of the classroom. We need more people doing things for the fun of it. I bet one of my heroes Rudy Wurlitzer still has fun.

    Don’t we remember having fun anymore? I’m talking about just doing it for the sheer, hill, high, happy fun of it, rather than worrying about tenure or agents or crap like that. I run into artists everyday and they have no clue they’re artists. You should sit and listen to a bunch of nurses describe their day. The world is amazing if you just look around.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012


    I had a great time in LA last week, where I got to sit on a panel at CalArts they dubbed 'No Need to Perish: Tenacity and Indie Publishing.' While in town, I was able to hang with some TDR folk, like The Emily Pullen, Anne-Marie Kinney (and her husband Abe, who designed the cover to Radio Iris), and Grace Krilanovich (and her sweet little baby girl). I also got to attend Trinie Dalton's launch party for Baby Geisha (!) at Family Bookstore last Saturday night (pic above).

    A head's up for any LA folks: Trinie Dalton and Joshua Mohr will be reading together tonight, alongside Stephen Beachy, at Skylight Books at 7:30pm -- don't miss it!

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    Trinie Dalton! Pearls!

    Join us, Saturday, February 4, at 7pm for the release of Trinie Dalton's book Baby Geisha at Family Books in Los Angeles.

    Los Angeles Magazine made the book a Critic's Pick and Interview Magazine said "[the stories in Baby Geisha] feel like brilliant sexual fairy tales on drugs. Dalton writes of self-discovery and sex with a knowing humility and humor."

    I'll actually be in town for this one, so pop in and say hey!

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    Announcing: DIY Subscription

    Starting this 30th of January, we are now beginning to offer you, dear reader, your own choice of subscription option. Because we believe you deserve that option. Because this is 'Merica.

    Starting 30th January, we're pleased to offer our new DIY Subscription. You now have the choice of any 5 available or forthcoming titles for just $50.

    (Yes, that's a good deal.)

    Order now.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Reading Saved My Life

    LA artist Ashkahn did a limited run of 100 "Reading Saved My Life" posters exclusively for Skylight Books. They're selling for $27!

    Wednesday, January 04, 2012

    RADIO IRIS excerpt

    And so here, dear readers, is an excerpt of the first handful of chapters from Anne-Marie Kinney's much-anticipated debut novel, Radio Iris.

    "Working for a company that might be called Kafka Ballard & Dickinson, bearing a kind of sonic witness to a world of static, Iris likes to listen the way some like to watch. Searching for home, she’s the passenger of her own voice. Anne-Marie Kinney’s Radio Iris is a novel of unsettling humor and elusive terror, a piercing loneliness and the strangeness of the banal, and a hushed power that grows in volume before your ears."
    -Steve Erickson

    "Radio Iris is a revelation, a whimsical, charming and beautifully observed novel about quotidian life. Anne-Marie Kinney's Iris is a contemporary version of Calvino's Marcovaldo, caught between the rich expression of her own humanity and the random demands of the workaday world."
    -T.C. Boyle

    "Radio Iris brings new shimmer and depth to the word 'sensory' - Iris's perceptions are both keen and open, so mysterious and grounded, and the book builds a narrative of mystery and longing with visceral, ringing precision."
    -Aimee Bender

    "In Radio Iris, Anne-Marie Kinney, introduces us to Iris Finch, a young woman of a new lost and lonely generation. With prose as pitch perfect as the Buddy Holly songs Iris loves, Kinney draws us into a world both familiar and quotidian and unfathomable and harrowing."
    -Bruce Bauman

    Anne-Marie Kinney's work has appeared in Black Clock, Indiana Review, and Keyhole, and has been performed by Los Angeles’s Word Theatre. Radio Iris is her first novel.