Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blake Butler Asked Me to Guest Edit Lamination Colony and I Said Yes

I guest edited Blake Butler’s Lamination Colony and the issue looks amazing. Blake asked me what I wanted it to look like and then he made it look like that. It’s all different-colored boxes that you have to scroll over until a name pops up and then you click on that some-colored box and there is something for you to love there.

There are 100 boxes and 38 writers and over 60 pieces. There is Kim Chinquee, Adam Robinson, Ben Mirov, DS White, Matthew Salesses, Blaster Al Ackerman, M.T. Fallon, Adam Good, Stephanie Barber, J.A. Tyler, Catherine Moran, Cooper Renner, Luca Dipierro, Amanda Raczkowski, Rupert Wondolowski, Whitney Woolf, Lauren Becker, Michael Bible, Robert Swartwood, Darcelle Bleau, Robert Bradley, Jamie Gaughran-Perez, Aimee Lynn-Hirschowitz, Shane Jones, Conor Madigan, Krammer Abrahams, Shatera Davenport, Jordan Sanderson, Stacie Leatherman, Josh Maday, Joseph Young, Jason Jones, Gena Mohwish, Jen Michalski, Aby Kaupang, Jac Jemc, Karen Lillis, and Justin Sirois.

#59 Shaindel Beers and Her Writing Behavior

When Shaindel Beers was 4 years old, her mother kidnapped her and they fled cross-country. For a year, they lived with strangers. Because of this, in part, Shaindel has never been afraid of anybody or anything. During this time, and before she could write, Shaindel told her mother stories, which her mother wrote down with crayons. This storytelling instinct and the fact that she observed adults often writing things led her to believe that this is what adults did, a behavior that she would later emulate as an English professor and a writer of poems (when she starts with a feeling) and fiction (when she starts with a character). Eventually, Shaindel and her mother drove back to her father, but the family was still dysfunctional—in part because of her mother’s OCD, which manifested itself, partly, as a hoarding instinct. In fact, growing up, Shaindel always thought of her friends’ houses as strangely neat, oddly empty. Her mother’s hoarding led to the family house being condemned and her mother going to jail for pulling a gun on two people who were trying to clean out the house. This might not have happened, but Shaindel’s father was at Subway getting a sandwich. Another thing that almost didn’t happen was Shaindel meeting her husband, Lee. Two hippies who live in a trailer on a reservation had fixed them up on a blind date—because they both read all the time and they both are hermits—but the hippies told them each a different meeting time. When Shaindel got there, Lee had left. Shaindel found out where Lee lived and went to his house. He answered the door in a wife beater that showed off his skull tattoos, but Shaindel was not afraid. They got married, and—oh, wait, did I tell you that Shaindel means pretty in Yiddish? It does. She is. Ask Lee. He’ll tell you.

Shaindel Beers' Blog Tour started a couple of weeks ago--in support of A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, which is just out. She will be stopping by here tomorrow for an interview about her life and her books.

Monday, March 30, 2009

60 WRITERS/60 PLACES, Trailer #2

60 Writers/60 Places is a film by Luca Dipierro and Michael Kimball that is about writers and writing occupying untraditional spaces, everyday life, everywhere. Here is Giancarlo Di Trapano reading some of his writing in front of a church.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I WILL SMASH YOU: Trailer #3

This is my segment from I WILL SMASH YOU. I was smashing an office, and I had no idea what I would look like on camera with a sledgehammer, but I love this. It feels like a relief all over again just watching it.

#155 Jason Stumpf Loves It All

Jason Stumpf was born in Cookeville, Tennessee. When Jason was 6, his father died, which was as hard as one might think and it shaped, consciously and unconsciously, all of his relationships and his sense of who he is. Jason’s mother did a wonderful job raising his sister and him. She tried to make sure that whatever limitations she faced did not keep Jason from being himself and pursuing his interests. The family house was not a sad place. It was very ordinary, which was all due to his mother. At 10, he began studying music—classical guitar and renaissance lute. Music seemed like a kind of magic, a secret language with its own form of writing. For high school, Jason went to McCallie, a boarding school on a scholarship, an all-male school that offered Jason incredible academic opportunities. He’s really grateful for that. It was a very different social atmosphere than what Jason came from. Kids were socially and politically very conservative and they had a lot of money. Within this environment, Jason had to figure out who he was. Being at McCallie forced him to grow up some. Jason started writing in high school and was immediately taken by the idea of writing as a process. In college, he realized that he was better suited to writing than music (writing is a creative process; musical performance doesn’t offer the same opportunities for revision). After college, Jason worked a variety of jobs: graveyard-shift employee at a Russell Stover’s factory (2 days), library assistant in a music library (1 year), library assistant in a rare book and manuscript collection (a little more than 1 year), graduate student at an MFA program (2 years), and adjunct professor of English at Providence College (4 years). In 2001, while Jason was working in the rare books collection, the library put on an exhibition to celebrate the release of James Merrill’s collected poems. Graduate students wrote catalogue articles for the exhibition and Margaret Avery Funkhouser co-wrote a piece on some wallpaper that Merrill had designed. Very soon after, Jason and Margaret both realized that they might be in love. One day, Jason kissed Margaret and they have been together ever since. Margaret is an incredibly serious person, but also goofy, creative, caring, talented, quiet, and spirited. Jason loves that Margaret is so many things. Being around her, he has fun. He learns a lot. Now Jason teaches English at the Walnut Hill School, an arts high school outside of Boston that is almost nothing like the boarding school he attended growing up. He feels fortunate to be teaching there. He feels fortunate to be the father of his one-year-old son, Jonas (an anagram of Jason). Everything about being a father is really tough, but Jason loves it all, even how hard it is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blake Butler, That's the Worm; Or, Another Book Trailer for My Friend, Adam

Here is another short video with Adam Robinson and Blake Butler in the foreground, Shane Jones and Molly Gaudry and me as voices.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

#154 Margaret Funkhouser Doesn't Have to Curate Herself

Margaret Funkhouser grew up year-round on Cape Cod. For fun, Margaret and her friends would climb on the roofs of giant summer houses. Sometimes, a window would be left open and they would spend hours inside someone else’s vacant home. Sometimes, it was dark outside. Margaret’s older brothers had left for college by the time she was in 6th grade, so she wore a lot of oversized, baggy shirts that they left behind and she read a lot of their old National Lampoon and Heavy Metal magazines, which were both scandalous and habit-forming. Around age 12, Margaret started doing a lot of community theater with a lot of Alcoholics Anonymous members (when she thinks of My Fair Lady, she thinks of coffee and cigarettes). In high school, Margaret wrote poetry and she took one poetry workshop in college (eventually, receiving an MFA in poetry from Washington University in 2002). By the age of 23, Margaret felt quite old (much older than she does now at 35). At the time, she was living and teaching at an all-girls private boarding school in rural Connecticut. Right before she was supposed to start her second year, she quit and moved to San Francisco so that she could know what it felt like to be young again. It worked, at least for a while. Three years later, Margaret moved back to Cape Cod for a while, which was the last time she did community theater. It was a kind of sanctuary hiding out in her hometown for a year. At some point, Margaret met Jason Stumpf on the fire escape at a party. She got to know him while writing an essay on the poet James Merrill for the rare books library where Jason worked. She fell in love with him because she doesn’t have to curate herself inwardly or outwardly when she is around him. Now, Margaret once again lives on the campus of a boarding school. She writes poems, studies vintage cookbooks, and raises her 1-year-old son—Jonas Funkhouser Stumpf—and takes care of her 10-year-old cat, Dashiell Hammett. She often jokes that when she pictures her son in the 1st grade, she pictures herself sitting in a desk right next to him. One day, Margaret would like wake up in the morning and feel well-rested. And at 60, she would like to be able to do a cartwheel, a good one.

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]

Monday, March 23, 2009

Questioning William Walsh About Questionstruck

I interviewed William Walsh about his new book Questionstruck, which is made up entirely of questions, which is why I asked Bill to answer my interview questions with more questions, the result of which is this interview at Word Riot.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

#152 Gérard Rudolf Is Not as Dark and Moody as People Think


Gérard Rudolf was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1966, but Rudolf is not his real surname (which was dropped, mostly for professional reasons). Gérard spent most of his childhood in Cape Town and it was dreamy, secure. When he was a kid, he was utterly convinced the world had been monochrome before he was born—all the photographs in the family albums, the old movies on TV, all of it black and white. He spent hours trying to figure out how and when the world changed to color. He roamed over the neighborhood with friends creating strange worlds in empty lots—all cowboys and Indians, and Star Wars, also some Huck Finn. Gérard studied the usual subjects, but school bored him. He stared out the windows. His head was never where his body was. It still isn’t. Gérard’s teenage years were in Johannesburg, and he played rugby to please his father, but never had any great interest in sports. At 15, he faked a neck injury to get out of playing rugby and that might be considered the beginning of his acting career. After school, Gérard joined the army for 2 years because it was compulsory and his family didn’t have enough money to send him into exile. When he was 18, he did a tour of duty in the Angolan War, and, one night, came under heavy fire. Everybody else scrambled for cover and returned fire, but Gérard just lay on his back looking at the stars. A warm feeling of tranquility washed over him. He had no interest in shooting at strangers. After that, Gérard resolved never to wear a uniform or take up arms again. He studied acting and became a successful actor in South Africa. He loved the collaborative nature of acting, all the oddballs and geniuses, and that no two days were the same. In 1993, his older brother died suddenly and that shocked Gérard into the realization that we only have right now. In 1998, Gérard founded a professional acting school in Cape Town—he wanted to give something back to the industry that had saved him from the 9-5. But in 2002, Gérard found himself burnt out and having a nervous breakdown. He thought Cape Town had fallen out of love with him. He walked around talking to himself, unable to understand his life was burning down around his ears. He felt as if he were sitting in a deck chair with a cold beer watching everything go up in smoke. Gérard quit acting, got divorced, and moved to the UK 2 days later. He is still trying to piece it all together. Gérard started writing to orient himself on the map and now he writes fulltime—his first book, Orphaned Latitudes (2009). He met his current wife, Hermarette (“H”), a psychiatrist, at his ex-wife’s art gallery in Cape Town. They were friends for a long time before things got so complicated years ago and his entire life imploded. He loves her heart and her kindness, her generosity and her intelligence, her dignity and her sexiness—also, her cooking and that she doesn’t take his crap. In 2006, his father died and Gérard became even more aware of his mortality. But Gérard is not as dark and moody as people think. He blames his face for this misconception.

Gérard on Facebook and on MySpace.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

#153 The Coolness of Ben Tanzer

Ben Tanzer was born in 1968 in Washington, D.C., but raised in upstate New York. His father was a painter and his mother a psychotherapist; both were Jews from the Bronx, advocates for peace and the intellectual. As a kid, Ben read books at the dinner table even though everybody else talked. Ben hated little league, but played soccer for years. He wrestled until he broke his leg skiing. He ran track and cross-country throughout high school. Once, at the drive-in on a date, Ben was kissing with his eyes open when he saw a glowing, white cylindrical UFO hovering above the drive-in. In the local paper the next day, it was reported that other people saw it too, but it couldn’t be explained by anything military or weather-related. Ben didn’t study much until college, but he studied obsessively in college and was a double-major—English honors and psychology. The first time Ben saw his wife, she was doing aerobics in the basement of their freshman dorm. Ben vowed to meet her and did when it turned out their roommates were secretly dating and he found himself needing somewhere to sleep one night. They have now known each other longer than they have not, which is pretty cool. One thing Ben regrets about college is not going abroad and being too focused on grades, substance abuse, sports, being cool, and getting laid. One morning, toward the end of college, after another long night, Ben looked out at the dreary upstate morning and tried to think of the farthest place from there. He moved to San Francisco one month after graduation, and it was one of the best decisions he ever made. So was marrying his wife in 1996—and have their two kids (he hopes both of them soon begin to sleep through the night). And so was deciding to become a writer around his 30th birthday, something he had been thinking about for maybe 10 years. In 2007, he published his first novel, Lucky Man, which was great—not just getting published, but also meeting all sorts of wonderful writers and artists. In 2008, Ben published his second novel—Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine—as well as the story collection, Repetition Patterns. Right now, Ben is the director of strategic communications at the national office of Prevent Child Abuse America (he received his masters in social work in 1996). It helps that Ben has a great ability to listen to others and ask them questions about themselves. What else? Ben still runs and reads compulsively. Plus, would love to find more down time to be lo-fi and low-key with his wonderful wife. And, at some point, he will learn how to surf, how to play guitar, and how to break cement blocks with his forehead—all things that would make Ben even cooler than he already is.

This Blog Will Change Your Life (starring Ben Tanzer)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Towering and Tragic, An Unconventional Masterpiece

There is a really nice review of DEAR EVERYBODY @ Citizen Dick, which mostly reviews music but will soon be reviewing everything. They call the book "stunning," "towering and tragic," and "an unconventional masterpiece." You can read the whole thing here. Thank you, CD.

Poem Battling Flowers

I made another little book trailer for my friend Adam's book -- Adam Robison and Other Poems -- which comes out this summer from Narrow House Book. Here it is for you to love:

Monday, March 9, 2009

60 WRITERS/60 PLACES

60 WRITERS/60 PLACES is the title of a new film I'm making with Luca Dipierro. There is a concept. There are rules. There is a list of places to choose from. And, for now, there is the trailer, with the amazing Blake Butler reading on the subway.

video

#140 The Happy Life of Amelia Gray

Amelia Gray was born in Tucson, AZ, and had a safe and happy childhood. What Amelia mostly remembers is laughing a lot and the funny things her sister and parents did. For a childhood, it was just about as good as anybody could hope for. Around 10, Amelia started playing the violin. In 4th grade, Amelia wrote a science fiction story where everyone wore clothes that changed colors according to their moods, which was the beginning of the inventive fiction writer she has turned into today. Amelia went to Arizona State University for her BA in literature, and, when she was 20, she rode Greyhound buses everywhere. She’s afraid of flying, partly because of the way things rattle around inside an airplane. She thinks she might feel better if she could sit on the wing and hear how strongly everything is constructed. Amelia went to Texas State University for her MFA, and now she holds four jobs (transcribing a WWII veteran's journal, freelance writing, and teaching at two universities), which allows her to work all day while also avoiding work all day, depending on which project she focuses on. It's weirdly motivating. Amelia has night terrors that make her do funny things in her sleep like stand on the bed and run down the stairs. Once, she kicked out a window. Also, Amelia has two cats (Republic, who got his name because she found him in the dumpster behind the Banana Republic where she used to work, and Turkish, who got her name from the fact that she is big like an ottoman), but no boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or dog. She wants a boyfriend like she wants 180 pounds of cotton candy. She has been the cotton candy in many relationships and she has been the person with the cotton candy on her hands in other relationships. It might make her sick, but she could fit either thing (a boyfriend or 180 pounds of cotton candy) into her lovely two-bedroom apartment in Austin (of which, by some small-world logic, MK’s brother-in-law is the landlord, and, she says, the best landlord ever). Besides that, Amelia has written a screenplay and a flash fiction collection in the past year. Right now, she’s working on a novel. She’s trying to figure out what type of writing is the most fun, which, right now, is flash fiction, which she’s trying to figure out how to accumulate into a novel, which she will.

[Note #1: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that will appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]

[Note #2: I just finished reading Amelia Gray's wonderful AM/PM, which is just out from Featherproof Books.]

[Note #3: More Amelia Gray]

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Video Conversation about DEAR EVERYBODY @ WETA's Author Author

There is a really nice video of a conversation I had with WETA's great Bethanne Patrick @ Author Author! about DEAR EVERYBODY. Bethanne asks thoughtful questions and I try to give thoughtful answers. Plus, the whole time, there is a panorama of DC behind my head.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

#50: The Farsightedness of Peter Cole

When Peter Cole was in the womb, his early-teens mother and 20-something father were on the run from the FBI, presumably because of statutory rape charges, and escaped to Mexico, which has often made Peter feel special but wrong. As an infant, Peter often stared at light sources, especially lamps, and his first spoken word was light, which his mother (who can hear the voice of God) believed to be a sign of his enlightenment. This also may have been the source of his crooked eyes and the reason he needed glasses early in life. Peter grew up in the church, watched The 700 Club, and prayed for his eyes to be healed. But his eyes didn’t heal and he couldn’t hear the voice that his mother heard either, which made him feel evil. In school, Peter was a chunky loner, so he started a punk band. He played music for years, but now that part of his life is over. Peter didn’t think that he would ever get married until he met the woman who would become his wife. Her name was Annie Dillard and they met, in part, because a mutual friend saw him reading a book by an author named Annie Dillard who is a different Annie Dillard. Peter doesn’t know much about cars, but he is the parts manager at an auto shop, a job he keeps because he hates shaving and cutting his hair. Recently, he stopped wearing regular clothes and only wears his work uniforms. He doesn’t know if he will ever go back to Mexico, but through his farsightedness Peter knows he will have a great, domesticated life with Annie, their beautiful beagle, Lilly, and their kids who are not yet born.

[Note: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that appear in Keyhole #6, which is edited by Peter Cole, and, in this particular case, guest edited by William Walsh, whose QUESTIONSTRUCK has just been published.]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

DEAR EVERYBODY Give Away at Author Author

There is a DEAR EVERYBODY give away at Author Author!.

#58 William Walsh, Private Man

William Walsh is a private man and there is little public knowledge of him. We know that he was born in the 1960’s, an event that quite possibly took place in Massachusetts. Not many specifics are known of his early life, but we can be certain that certain things happened—that he fell down while learning to walk, that his parents didn’t always understand him when he first learned to talk, that his baby teeth fell out and that the Tooth Fairy visited him without him knowing it. At some point, he learned to tie both of his shoes at the same time. When he was in the first grade, he was sent home from school for whistling. That was the last time that he did anything wrong or was in any kind of trouble. He was so good that he once played hopscotch with Pope John Paul II in Vatican Square. He always did his homework. His adolescence may have been awkward and he once ate his weight in clams. Regardless, he grew up, filled in, and became quite dashing. Later, there are public records concerning his attendance of Stonehill College and then the University of New Hampshire, concerning his marriage to a woman to whom he vowed everlasting love and, following this, the birth certificates for four children (he was recently spotted playing ski-ball with one of them at Dave & Busters). Other evidence for William Walsh’s existence includes his writings—a documentary novel called Without Wax, a formally inventive work about the adult film industry. But we should not draw any conclusions about William Walsh from this novel, his short stories, or his derived texts. This would not be dependable biographical information. Little else is known about William Walsh, but he was last observed watching late night television somewhere in Massachusetts. If you go look for him, then he might still be there.

[Note #1: This postcard life story was written, as a kind of challenge, based on what I know of William from our friendship—that is, without an interview.]

[Note #2: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that appear in Keyhole #6, which is guest edited by William Walsh, whose QUESTIONSTRUCK has just been published.]

Monday, March 2, 2009

Keyhole #6 Has 42 Pages of Postcard Life Stories

Keyhole #6, guest-edited by William Walsh, is just out. And, instead of contributor bios, I wrote a postcard life story for each contributor, which amounted to 42 pages of postcard life stories.

Plus, there is fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from Matt Bell, Blake Butler, Kim Chinquee, Peter Conners, Brooklyn Copeland, Renee D'Aoust, Darcie Dennigan, John Domini, Cooper Esteban, Sherrie Flick, Margaret Funkhouser, Amelia Gray, Steve Katz, Gillian Kiley, Samuel Ligon, Tao Lin, Paul Long, Michael Martone, Noam Mor, Davis Schneiderman, Jason Stumpf, and Samuel White.