Friday, May 28, 2010

#265 Abby the Horse

Her show name was Ima Alibi, but her barn name was Abby. She was born in 1984, a quiet little beautiful bay Quarter Horse. She had 2 white socks on her back legs, a star on her forehead, and a little white spot on her nose. For the first years of her life, she lived as a western show horse with her girl and her other people in Connecticut. Abby had a brisk walk and a lovely lope. Then she got a new girl and mostly did dressage. That was when Abby lived in a big backyard in Hopkinton, Massachusetts with a little Haflinger pony named Winston. Then one hot day a few years after that, another new girl came to ride her. Abby didn’t mind. She would let nearly anybody ride her and she loved getting washed down with water and liniment oil afterward. A few days later, the new girl came back with a trailer and Abby rode out to the end of Massachusetts in it, Martha’s Vineyard. On the ferry across the water, Abby’s new girl sat in the trailer with her and fed her Skittles. After that, Abby mostly lived at a little rough board barn and her two new girls—Martha and Emma—spent a lot of time with her and took care of her there. Abby mostly did dressage with Emma and hunters with Martha and she always gave any challenge her best try. She knew what her people wanted if they even just shifted their weight a little bit. Abby made it look effortless. But Abby mostly liked hacking around the barn, going on trail rides, and running through the fields. There were summer fields and winter fields and Abby mostly had her own. In the summer, Abby stayed out at night and would also eat outside. Even if Abby was all the way at the back of the field, she could hear her people get her bucket out and Abby would race up to see them, sliding to a stop nose-to-nose with Emma or Martha. For a while, Abby had another girl too, Krista. Abby liked being with all of them, as well as her pony buddy Goonie, who shared hay with her in the paddock. Abby also loved to go swimming (horses are very good swimmers). She had wonderful manners and was super sweet. Little kids could even run around her feet and Abby would stand absolutely still so that she didn’t step on them or kick them. There was even a 2-year-old girl who used to sit in Abby’s food dish and hand-feed her. When her people cleaned her stall, Abby would rest her chin on her person’s shoulder and just kind of nuzzle her. All anybody could do was nuzzle her back. On May 13, 2002, Abby got sick (colic). She was distressed and in pain. The veterinarian treated her, but it didn’t help. Her people had to get her off the island to get her more help. The Steamship Authority agreed to hold the last ferry of the night for them, but the ship inexplicably left without them. Abby’s people kept vigil with her in her stall all night and the next morning they boarded the ferry and made it to Tufts, where the medical team was remarkable, but it was too late. Abby had to be put down later that morning. Abby knows how much her people loved her and how hard they tried to save her. Her people all miss her so much. Everybody loved Abby. Abby loved everybody back.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reading Local

There's a super nice write-up at Reading Local. Celeste Sollod titles the piece "Michael Kimball Is Perfect." She concludes the article with this: "the next great new literary discovery." Plus, there are a few excerpts from Dear Everybody posted here.

#225 Isla the Dog

The dog showed up on the back step of the house in the middle of the night. The people already had two dogs, Molly and Gretta, who were barking their heads off. The people thought they’d find a burglar, but when they turned the backlight on, the dog was sitting there looking up as if she were expecting them. She was. The dog had fleas and a round belly because of worms, so the people called her Little Mama. Unfortunately, the people couldn't afford another dog, so the next day the woman took Isla to the shelter and then she cried the whole way home. The woman cried until the man got home. The morning after that, the man went to the shelter and got the dog back and brought her home. The people named her Isla after a short story by Susan Steinberg. Isla is probably a black lab and rottweiler mix. Isla is the dog the people always wanted when they were kids. She's like a big stuffed animal that will never leave your side. Isla loves running in huge circles as fast as she can with a stick in her mouth. Isla loves dancing and when the woman sings "Hey Mickey" in her terrible falsetto. One evening, when Isla was just a year old, a huge black dog showed up at the carport while Isla was sitting outside with her people. His dog tag said his name was Gravy and he looked a lot like Isla, but Isla and the people never saw him again. Isla loves Molly and Gretta and will start looking for Molly if she isn’t where Isla is. Isla is so relieved when she finds Molly. When they go to the dog park, Isla squeals the whole way there. Isla introduces herself to every dog and every owner there. When her people are away, Isla stands on the back of the couch and looks out the window until her people get home. Isla loves to spoon in bed. Isla snores and runs in her sleep. After a while, the people bought a king-size bed—because Isla scrunched them up in the full-size bed—but Isla just lay diagonally across the whole thing. If the man gets home late, he sleeps on the sliver of bed that is left. Isla would love it if she fit in a backpack and could be carried around all day like when she was little. She thinks she's smaller than Molly and Gretta, maybe because she once was, but she isn't. Isla likes to curl up in the woman’s lap even though she weighs 60 pounds. Isla is the only living thing that the people have ever met who is always happy. Isla even enjoys going to the vet. And life doesn't seem as bleak now that Isla has her people and the people have Isla. Isla loves her people more than anybody ever will. Isla keeps them alive.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dear Everybody @ The Next Best Book Club

There's a super nice review of Dear Everybody over at The Next Best Book Club. The good Lori Hettler calls Dear Everybody "a beautifully crafted collage of life"--along with all kinds of others nice things.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Free Movie Night in LA

Los Angeles: On Thursday, May 20, at 10pm at Sunset 5 Theater, there will be a free double feature, both I Will Smash You and 60 Writers/60 Places. Many thanks to the great Ken Baumann for making this happen. There is more information about both documentaries, plus stills and trailers, at Little Burn Films.

Words: Uncompromisingly Original

Over at Emerging Writers Network, David McLendon says a ton of great things about Andy Devine and WORDS. It begins like this: "The appearance of Andy Devine’s Words in 2010 is not dissimilar to the appearance of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons in 1914. Though published nearly a century apart, Words and Tender Buttons share a kind of compositional timelessness that frames them as kindred texts. Each is uncompromisingly original, and neither is marked by an anxiety of influence. What they hold in common is an uncommon difference. Each is held apart from anything that has ever been written, which in itself is a nearly impossible task."

It also says this: "Devine’s Words has sidestepped the ordinary a few steps further than Beckett’s masterpiece." This: "Devine is the sole poet of this form." And this: "The 'Thoughts' section is comprised of 'A Grammar for Fiction Writers' that I feel essential for any writer who wishes to produce serious writing." There is more here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meeting Words: A Live Editing Performance

This week at Meeting Words, Matt Bell is writing LIVE. The whole schedule is explained at Everyday Genius. I'll be doing a LIVE editing performance on Tuesday night, 9pm. Then Lily Hoang will edit LIVE on Wednesday. Then Matt will rewrite.

City Sages: Baltimore

Tuesday, May 18th, 7pm. It's a City Sages reading at Barnes & Noble--Hopkins (33rd & St. Paul). Jen Michalski, Jessica Anya Blau, Madeleine Mysko, and I will be reading from the new anthology of Baltimore writers (edited by Jen Michalski). I hope to see you there.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Giant Lecture #6: Acoustics

Lecture #1 is about openings. Lecture #2 is about ways to keep the fiction moving forward. Lecture #3 is about some ways to get yourself to sit in the chair and write. Lecture #4 is about story and plot. Lecture #5 is about language and sentences. Lecture #6 is about acoustics.

Inanimate Object Week: #100 Jonathon Bender (Fictional Character)

1966 Conceived, probably on his father’s birthday, in San Clemente, California.

1967 Born during The Great Midwest Blizzard in Lansing, Michigan.

1968 Cannot do much for himself.

1969 The birth of his brother, Robert.
Jonathon asks for him to be returned to the hospital.

1970 Fears taking baths.

1971 Fails to blow out the candles on his birthday cake.

1972 Breaks a window with his face.
Thinks he has gone blind.

1973 Falls in love with his babysitter.
Beaten by his father for leaving a door open.

1974 Cannot stop hiccupping.
Runs away from home; returns the same day.

1975 His father teaches him how to fight.
Thinks he is crowned the Burger King.

1976 Wears red, white, and blue clothes every day for a whole summer.

1977 Tries to stop his father from choking his mother.

1978 Runs away from home again and hides from his father in the neighbor’s garage.
His blackouts begin.

1979 Thinks cancer is contagious.

1980 Begins high school.
Worries he caused his grandfather’s death.

1981 Finds his father’s pornography and begins to learn about women.
Feels he is beginning to rot after getting a cavity filled.

1982 His first visit to a psychiatrist.

1983 His first sexual experience with a girl who is not in a magazine.

1984 Loses virginity; does not want it back.

1985 Breaks up with first real girlfriend.
Graduates from high school.
Leaves home to begin college.

1986 Tries to hug his father, but his arms are not long enough.
His mother worries about him being away at college.

1987 His parents separate.
Considers suicide after reading depressing novels.

1988 Stops going to class or studying.
His parents divorce.
An airplane explodes over Scotland.

1989 Graduates from college.
Cuts off contact with his father.

1990 Disappears for a year.

1991 Chases a tornado.
Lies on resume to get weatherman job.
Gets camera time in a small market.

1992 Meets Sara Olson, who recognizes him from television.

1993 Starts living with Sara.
Gets distracted by airplanes.

1994 Attempts to make it rain; fails.
Marries Sara.

1995 Attempts to conceive a child with Sara; fails.
Buys a house with a cracked foundation.

1996 Committed to a mental hospital by Sara.
Months pass; gets himself out.

1997 Sara separates from him.

1998 Begins looking for his childhood.
Loses job.
Refuses to sign divorce papers.

1999 Tries to remember his whole life.
Commits suicide in his car in the garage
at his home in Jefferson City, Missouri.

[Note: This piece was originally published in No Colony #1 and then in Dear Everybody.]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

60 WRITERS/60 PLACES at Eyedrum in Atlanta

There is an enthusiastic review of 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES by Wyatt Williams at Creative Loafing, which calls the documentary "a clever and surprising experience" and ends like this: "You start wondering which writer and place will come next, only to be confounded by each marvelous and gem-like revelation."

60 WRITERS/60 PLACE will be screened on Friday, May 14. at 8 pm, at Eyedrum in Atlanta, after a reading by Zachary Schomburg and Ann Stephenson. Event starts at 8PM.

If you can't make the screening, DVDs of 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES can be gotten at Little Burn Films.

Inanimate Object Week: #219 Cubicle Wall (as written by Adam Robinson

At about three o'clock Central time, the cubicle wall was born at average height. The cubicle wall was happy about this, but before long he was laid flat and wrapped in cardboard. He was stacked somewhere. (He didn't know where because he couldn't see on account of the box he was in and also because he didn't have eyes or a brain.) He stayed there for several long days. He started to cry through his fabric. Then, earless, he heard a truck and felt himself lifted onto it. There was a rumbling. In the truck he traveled until the truck stopped, whereupon the cubicle wall was unloaded. He was elated when the box was peeled away and he was fastened to some other beige cubicle walls in the form of a box. Together with a computer and some pens they became a community. A phone came along and joined the group. The computer was friendly, but the pens were often short. The phone had a whiney ring. One day, and then repeatedly every weekday for three years, a good looking young man came and sat in front of the beige cubicle wall. He touched the computer, the phone and the pens. He rarely touched the cubicle wall except, occasionally, to stick some sheet of paper to it with a pin. The puncture didn't hurt nearly as bad as the feeling of being ignored. The young man seemed not to care about the cubicle wall. It was even as if the cubicle wall represented something hateful to the young man, or if not hateful, at least unbearably mundane. But the cubicle wall was resolute. He would be there for the young man tomorrow, too, and the next day, and the day after that. Oh yes, the cubicle wall would remain a presence in that young man’s life for many long years.

[Note: Adam Robinson's postcard life story is here.]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alice Blue

I have tiny piece called Plots in the new Alice Blue. There is also fine work by Amelia Gray, Brian Evenson, A. D. Jameson, Susan Moorhead, Erik Leavitt, Julio Peralta-Paulino, Erika Kristine Bogner, Sam Schild, Timothy David Orme, Benjamin Buchholz, and Aron Block.

Inanimate Object Week: #98 Chair

Chair didn’t remember being a tree or being a part of something larger and growing. Chair didn’t remember the sounds of the chainsaws or the limbs cracking and breaking as the tree fell to the ground. The first thing that Chair remembered was being in pieces—the frame and the legs, the back and the slats, the contoured seat—and how strange it felt when the glue was squeezed into its holes. But then Chair felt so big, so sturdy, so grounded when he was standing up on all four legs. Chair thought: I could walk anywhere with four legs. But then Chair realized that his legs didn’t move independently of each other and that he couldn’t move at all without some help from Hand. Hands pulled Chair out and pushed Chair in, which made Chair feel as if he had no control over what happened. Also, Chair wished that he had arms. Sure, sometimes Chair stacked with other chairs, but that wasn’t the same as holding a person or holding another chair. At least, Chair didn’t think so. Chair couldn’t really know. Chair did know that there were others like him covered with fabric or cushions, something soft, but Chair soon realized that his life was going to be hard. Over the years, Chair lost count of how many people pushed him around and sat on him. Usually, it was the same couple of people, but sometimes it could be anybody. And all the people were so much bigger than chair, so heavy and so mushy. But Chair was strong. In fact, Chair was amazed that he could hold up over 400 pounds and not even get tired. And Chair always felt so light, such relief, when people got off him. Over the years, Chair started to creak. It was his back at first and then he got a little wobble in one of his legs. Chair started to come out of his own holes and nobody helped him. Nobody pushed chair back together or tightened him up. That’s when Chair got loose and Chair started making noises that made the people laugh. But Chair didn’t care anymore. Chair thought: Wood and glue. Chair thought: Next time, I’m letting go. And when Chair did, he broke one of his legs and then his back. Chair thought: That didn’t even hurt. Chair thought: I should have done that sooner.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Reading @ The Laughing Yeti

Shome Dasgupta has started a nice series over at The Laughing Yeti where writers write brief statements about reading. My few sentences are here. Andy Devine's are here. There is also Steve Almond, Roxane Gay, Stephen Elliott, Sarah Eaton, and a bunch of others.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

#86 Jen Michalski: All the Things She Is

Jen Michalski’s twin brother, Scott, came out first, but his nose and ear were all bent up. His nose still looks a little smashed. Of course, this early struggle just made Jen even more ambitious. When Jen and Scott were toddlers, their mom used to dress them up in matching outfits even though they were fraternal twins, one a boy and one a girl. Their mother would take them shopping to department stores and they would sit on the mannequin stands and sing songs from Sesame Street (today, Jen has a mannequin in her house). Their mother always knew where they were. When Jen was 4, she learned to say Fuck You from her father. But all the fighting in the family made her reserved in some ways. Jen’s filter became quite thick and sometimes she'd rather say nothing than risk what the response might be. Around this same time, Jen decided that she wanted to be an elephant when she grew up. She thought it was a viable career choice. She thought that elephants looked peaceful and that they must be brave (there aren't many hiding places for an elephant). Over the years, Jen wanted to be an elephant, then a writer, then a policewoman, then a writer, then a doctor, then a writer. She wrote her first short story when she was 5 and she read everything she could find--to try to find out how other people lived. She assumed that everybody else was happier than she was. By the time she started college, Jen had written six novels. In college, she wrote poetry. After college, she wrote short stories and two more novels, but she never tried to publish them. Also after college, she was in a relationship for eleven years, which was difficult to end. Jen doesn't like change. She doesn't even like going on vacation because then she has to get used to a new routine. She has lived in the same city for most of her life (B’more!). Now, Jen’s much much happier with her life and especially with her new partner, the wonderful Phuong. And Jen still reads all the time and runs an online e-zine, jmww, where she publishes other people's stories. She’s fascinated by what people write and why. And last year, Jen published her first collection of stories, Close Encounters (So New Media). Now she’s writing another novel and this one she’s going to publish.

[Update: Jen edited an anthology of Baltimore writers (from Douglass to Stein to Lipmann and Bell) that just published, City Sages: Baltimore. Even better, Dzanc just signed her up for a novella and stories, tentatively titled "I Can Make It to California Before It's Time for Dinner." You can find more Jen Michalski here and JMWW here.]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Screenings in ATL and LA

Atlanta: On Friday, May 14, at 8pm, at eyedrum, there will be a screening of 60 Writers/60 Places. There will also be readings by Zachary Schomburg and Ann Stephenson. Many thanks to the great Blake Butler for setting this up.

Los Angeles: On Thursday, May 20, at 10pm at Sunset 5 Theater, there will be a free double feature, both I Will Smash You and 60 Writers/60 Places. Many thanks to the great Ken Baumann for making this happen.

There is more information about both documentaries, plus stills and trailers, at Little Burn Films.