Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Tai Dong Huai

"Mice are invading my apartment...I've been ignorant to the signs, but when I clean off the shelf, there they are: a gnawed-open cylinder of oatmeal, chew marks on a Bermuda onion, black droppings scattered like rice at some Goth wedding."
-from "Mice" by Tai Dong Huai

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I just saw that John Updike passed away.  He is one of my favorite writers and a big influence on my own work.  The Rabbit novels are four of my favorite books of all time, an incredible achievement that, written over the course of thirty years, fully reveals a single life lived both remarkably and unremarkably.  The Centaur and the Bech series of books are also particularly wonderful.  I understand the negative critiques of his writing and I can see why people don't like his work, but I felt like, for a writer as prolific as he was, he still had a Hall-of-Fame-worthy batting average.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

This Epic Doesn't Need Any Hard Sell

I try not to write about anything other than literary-related things on this blog, but I wanted to mention something in hopes of possibly finding someone who might be in a similar situation.  When I read a really great novel or collection of stories or poems, I have lots of people I can call or email to talk about it.  Just a few days ago, I called a friend to read them the first paragraph of April Wilder's new story in Zoetrope.  
But last week, I used a hundred bucks I got for x-mas and purchased Daredevil #7 and Fantastic Four #46 on Ebay (The Daredevil issue is the first time he ever wore his red costume, with art by one of my favorite artists, Wally Wood, and features an underwater battle with the Sub-Mariner; the Fantastic Four issue is the first appearance of Black Bolt, with art by Jack Kirby).  And I am going crazy over finally possessing these issues.  And I have nobody to talk to who cares in the least little bit.  I showed my wife the cover of the Fantastic Four issue and she wondered why The Invisible Woman looked like a transvestite.
I love comic books and have since I was a kid.  I spend around 80-100 bucks a month on buying new comic books, money that I should not be spending.  And I don't know anyone else who reads comic books.  People like comic book movies.  They like the comic books they read as kids and haven't read since.  They like Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns and Sandman and all the comics that Time magazine tells you to read.  But they don't read monthly super hero comics.  Nobody I know is reading Guardians of the Galaxy and talking about why, in a comic book that features "the most dangerous woman in the universe", a guy who shoots an "element gun", a woman who is mourning the loss of her giant dragon girlfriend and possesses the Quantum Bands, and Groot, basically a giant tree, the coolest character in the book is a smack-talking raccoon who is a crack shot with his laser pistols.  Talk about this stuff, and people get really embarrassed.
So, I am wondering if there is anybody out there who reads Marvel comics (The only DC comics I read are Batman and House of Mystery) and wants to talk about it over email every once in a while.  Like when Secret Invasion ended and sucked almost as much as Civil War.  Or why Amazing Spider-Man, using a rotating group of writers and artists so that it can come out three times a month, is as good as its been in years.  Or why Jack Kirby draws all women so that they look like really run-down transvestites and why, despite this, he is still the greatest comic book artist of all time.  If you are coming to AWP in a few weeks, come by the Sewanee Writers' Conference/Sewanee Review booth at the bookfair and we'll talk.


Okay, last weekend my son had a 100+ temperature and infections in both ears, which made for an unpleasant couple of days.  He was kind of zombied out on antibiotics and would only sleep if one of us was holding him.  So we spent hours just sitting in a chair with him resting on our chests.  I used this time to read Blake Butler's chapbook, Ever, and I have to say that if there ever was a book created to be read while holding a feverish baby against your chest, this is the book.

The language is incredible, as you would expect from Blake's work.  I was interested, after reading and enjoying so much of his shorter fiction, to see what he would do in a longer work, and it's amazing how he is able to preserve the energy and bending and ticking that I've come to love in his fiction and maintain it over a longer span.  It's crazy and original and the best kind of difficult.  It's available from Calamari Press.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Griff

Today is my son Griff's birthday.  He is one year old.  

Robert E. Howard was also born on Jan. 22nd.  
So was Daniel Johnston.  
So was Jim Jarmusch.  

If Jarmusch directed a movie version of "Pigeons from Hell" and Daniel Johnston provided the soundtrack, I would take Griff to see that.

Hills Like White Elephants: Brian Azzarello

"What swelled out at the end of his shirtsleeves looked more like cow udders than hands and fingers."
-from Batman #622 by Brian Azzarello

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I've got a story up at tulip about riding bikes and doing bad things.  I wrote this thing because I couldn't stop listening to Be Your Own Pet's "Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle" which is one of the best songs of all time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Mary Miller

"She was watching him; they all watch him.  The pills he takes makes this pleasant, this observation, like he's a scuba diver and they're a school of fish."
-from "Go Fish" by Mary Miller

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bob, or Man on Boat

I know I am very, very late to the party, but over the holidays I read Bob, or Man on Boat by Peter Markus.  It is an incredible achievement, such a unique and memorable book.  I showed my wife the first page of the novel, which begins, "In a boat, on a river, lived a man.  Bob.  Bob fished.  It's what Bob did.  All of the time.  Fish.  And fish," and she said, "How's this book going to treat you?"  I wasn't sure how it was going to treat me, but I was interested to find out.

The rhythm of the book is hypnotic and I don't mean that in some silly, overused manner.  I mean that this book genuinely made me feel like I was falling under some kind of mind-altering spell.  It was such a bizarre and not unwelcome feeling to read a book and feel so strangely moved by it.  The book is made up almost entirely of words with one or two syllables and so when I'd come across a word like "fisherpeople," it was briefly disorienting in a way that made me think about language so much more than I do with other books.  And, there is a genuine narrative (not that it's necessary) that was emotionally resonant to a degree that far outstrips the less-than-150 pages of the book.

Bob, or Man on Boat was published by Dzanc Books, which consistently puts out amazing work.  I am very much on the lookout for two of their offerings, Elephants in Our Bedroom by Michael Czyzniejewski and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg, in 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Nuala Ní Chonchúir

"...I take my razor-blade and carve a slitch off my ear...Then I wrap the ear-slice in newspaper, like a rasher of bacon, and take it to Rachel the street-walker.  She is not pleased."
from "Vincent in the Yellow House" by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I just saw that the new issue of Saltgrass is now available.  I loved the previous issue, which featured work from Matthew Rohrer, Brandon Shimoda, and, best of all, a novel excerpt by Ben Fountain.  Edited by Julia Cohen and Abigail Holstein, it's definitely a journal worth your time.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hills Like White Elephants: Sara Levine

"Outside the theatre a woman fell and turned her ankle.  Her ankle turned like a key."
from "The Fainting Couch: Three Stories" by Sara Levine