for pela via

Today is the end of my novelette (  ). You can find Parts XVIII, XIX, and XX at Manarchy Magazine. With that bit of business out of the way, the rest of this post is dedicated to Pela Via.

Pela Via is one of the coolest people I’ve met in this whole publishing thing. We’re a pretty small community, us writers and editors and publishers, and I’ve managed to meet some really great people here and there, but none of them are quite as awesome as Pela. Maybe it’s because she’s like a big sister/mother figure for me, even though she’s only a few years older than me. Something about her just makes me believe that I’m heading the right way, doing the right things. She makes me feel confident, even when maybe I shouldn’t. She’s endlessly supportive of me and all the things I do, even allowing me to take over Manarchy this last month–which is the last month of Manarchy–with my novelette (  ).

Though (  ) is sort of surreal and chaotic and nowhere, it’s one of the more autobiographical things I’ve written, which probably sounds even stranger if you happened to read any of it, or, dare say, all of it. I was writing most of it on the fly, which maybe shows, but Pela believed in me enough to let me just go for it. Hopefully it turned out well. I actually plan on revising it and releasing it later, and probably it’ll look a great deal different, but I’m very happy with what I have here, right now.

Pela’s also the mastermind behind Warmed & Bound, which is a truly glorious book and it makes me proud every day to know one of my favorite stories I ever wrote is in there. It’s a story that was rejected, like, twenty times and I always thought it was one of the best things I had written, and, finally, Pela was the person to make it real.

More than just her support of my writing, she’s been a very kind friend to me while I’ve been in some of my darkest and most solipsistic hours. I could probably say a lot more about that, but I think it’s best for me to keep those moments out of the public eye. But I’ve had many strange and horrifying nights, haunted nights, and she’s always been kind and understanding, willing to tolerate my insane soliloquies and patient enough to wait for me to wear myself out, so she can start gathering the little fragments of me and help me put them back together.

Along with Warmed & Bound, she made Manarchy Magazine possible. More than that, she made it great. If it weren’t for Pela asking, I never would’ve been a part of things there. When Pela puts her name on something, though, I trust it. I can’t help but trust it.

She’s Pela.

And now I can’t wait to get the time to read Booked, the latest anthology she’s edited, along with Robb and Livius of Booked. Podcast.

We’re not yet sure what comes next for us, this collection of people who seem to orbit around Pela and all that she does. But, whatever it is, I know it’ll be great, so long as we have Pela to guide us. Even if just to point out the paths to take, to shine a light where it needs shining.

So thank you, Pela. Thank you for all that you do and have done.

Team Pela. Always.

exploring uptown

is what I did with the beautiful Chelsea and Rachel, those Tennessee ladies who found their way here to the great white north.

Watched a movie I dug quite a bit called The Spectacular Now:

Might write something about it soon, but I’m too weary at the moment.

Oh, also, really want to see this:

And then, other news: Part XIV of (  ) is up now at Manarchy Magazine.

some business things

Trying to find work as a freelance editor/writer is more difficult than I expected but I think I’ve found some pretty good resources to at least get my feet wet. Anyrate, this post isn’t really about business. It’s about recent publications.

My serialised novelette (  ) continues at Manarchy Magazine:

Part VII

Part VIII

Part IX

Part X

Part XI

Part XII

Part XIII

The great DB Cox had this to say about (  ):

I don’t think I’ve read such a pouring out of existential despair since Sartre’s “Nausea.”

“So long as a person’s identity depends on qualities that can crumble, he is considered to be in perpetual despair. And as there is, in Sartrean terms, no human essence found in conventional reality on which to constitute the individual’s sense of identity, despair is a universal human condition…”

Also, my interview with Merrill Joan Gerber about The Hysterectomy Waltz.

Also, for my yearly stories that I’ve been posting here on the site, I’ve added a page for finding them easier. It’s in a constant state of update, but just click here.

more ( )

The novelette goes onward:

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Also interviewed xTx at Monkeybicycle. Just got some answers back from Giannina Braschi, which will go up in two weeks. Super excited about posting that one, as she gave amazing answers to my fumbling questions.

Never have any idea if I’m doing interviews well. They’re so strange to do, but hopefully people dig them. I mean, I guess, for me, the goal is to take all the focus off me and put it on them, because no one reads an interview for the interviewer. It’s about the person being interviewed, so I just try to get out of the way and let them talk.

Went to The National the other day with the generous and awesome Nate Tower, editor and founder of Bartleby Snopes. Got to here these guys as the opener:

What else? My last day of my job is tomorrow and I’ve nothing lined up, which is bad planning, but hopefully something comes soon. Working on two novels for J David Osborne and thinking up all kinds of ideas on the otherside of publishing, randomly.

Busy busy busy.

new novelette

And it’s called (  ).

It’s being serialised at Manarchy for twenty weekdays all through the month of August. It’s a surreal psychological horror about a human trapped in darkness. Twenty parts, each five hundred words, which will leave it at a nice round 10,000 words.

Part I

Part II

But, yeah, came to me all at once and it’s for Manarchy’s last month. A sort of last hurrah for what we’ve done over the last year. No idea where it’s headed or how we’ll get there, as I’m writing it every day as it goes on. Hopefully you dig it. Yeah, you. Just you.

a year in stories::fifteen

Keep forgetting to post things in here. I have three film reviews and one essay about North Korea so I’ll just post them here without saying much about it.

Jurassic ParkTo the Wonder, and The Place Beyond the Pines all up over at Manarchy Magazine. I especially really like that one about Jurassic Park, which is more like an essay about my childhood and dinosaurs than it is a film review, but it’s one of my favorite essays I’ve written.

And then there’s an essay about not so recent events in North Korea now. It’s about all that business like a month ago when everyone thought we were going to war with North Korea. Essay is here.

This story came to me all at once when I was eating mashed potatoes about an hour ago. Just that title: All my Heroes are Russian Folksingers. No idea where that came from but I really like this one, an alternate history book about art and revolution in the 20th century.

All my Heroes are Russian Folksingers

 

Never does a boy forget his first love and never does a girl remember, but I do.

His name was Alyosha Dragunov and he died before I was born but his songs crept over decades and across an ocean to find me in my car that Saturday night when my elder sister’s boyfriend’s brother was driving us who cares where. My sister’s boyfriend was Russian, or his parents’ were. He spoke it too and I could tell him and his brother were singing along but I was in the backseat, pushing my head further back until all I could hear was music, the noise of my sister and her friends drowning out or me escaping far away.

It was a terrible recording, kind of like Woody Guthrie Bsides, but the basement was Siberian, or that’s what I imagined then. For me then, Russian was sort of a white wasteland of winter, and while I know that’s not true, whenever I hear Alyosha, I’m brought back there in tears of overwhelming nostalgia for beauty I never knew. That scratchy recording, turned scratchier by the volume we listened at, but through the static and lofi came this voice, so tender and ravaged by love and loss, or at least that’s what it sounded like. I didn’t know the words but they knew me and they danced their way into me.

There were only five songs and the Russian boys know them all by heart but only I was crying when we stopped the car. We were somewhere, a party maybe, and we were being dropped off because the brother was just the driver and I was along for who knows what reason.

My sister and I are twins but we’re the kind that don’t get on well. If all twin pairs are psychically linked it’d make sense for us, because anytime I think of Kristine I get pissed. I love her and whatever but I sort of really hate her.

But there I was crying. Not bawling or anything but just crying. My sister and her boyfriend left me there with the brother after she said something obnoxious and rude. He was sixteen and I was thirteen but those three years are lifetimes at that age.

Why do you cry, little bird?

Who was that singing?

Ah, Dragunov?

When he said that his accent was thick and I couldn’t really tell where the consonants or vowels in the word were but then he switched back to normal unaccented English and he told me all about Alyosha, about how his parents died before he was grown and he grew in an orphanage, how he never got over the pain of his parents’ departure till he met a woman, a beautiful aspiring ballerina who brought him from the sullen edges to the brightest suns and then cast him back into darkness when the revolution came and swallowed her whole as the countryside turned iron. From there came his songs and his politics grew with the revolution but turned sour when the trees were exchanged for factories and the fresh air for smoke as he was more Whitman than Lenin and he wrote of a land of beauty and love lost forever to the hands of man. At different times he was a fugitive and a friend of the state and very nearly a prisoner but for some harrowing escapes and he continued making his songs underground, in attics, and the records were handed off from person to person across the countryside and it would be many years till many knew Alyosha’s name but all those first thousands who heard him picked up a guitar and remade Alyosha’s songs and spread them like wildfire along with their own words. And so it was at the height of Stalin’s reign that Sovietism collapsed because of music and words and a man who never wanted to be famous, who just wanted love, who finally found it as he stood in St Peter’s square for the first time before a crowd, for the first time face to face with all those who had loved him, who found hope in him, and he wept so long that he couldn’t play or speak and so others took up his words, took up his chords, took up his songs and there he died, his very soul in the mouths of millions and millions of Russians, finally free.

Is all of that true, I said.

Why not? he smiled and ejected the CD and handed it to me, told me he had more and that he’d give me more when it was time for us to be picked up. Go on, he said, Join your friends. Sing and be happy, for tonight you might die, with only your words to remember you.

When I went home that night I had a little CD case full of Russian folksingers from the 20th century and I didn’t sleep that night, crying into my pillow, headphones stuck to my eardrums, blowing them out.

Alyosha was my first love but not my favorite. He may be the most influential Russian to have lived in the 20th century, the man who accidentally toppled a totalitarian state with just his voice trapped in bedroom recordings, but he’s certainly not the best. It’s often said, though, that could the Nobel Peace prize be given to the dead, he would top the list every year since. It’s hard to know what Stalin would’ve done had his regime lived on, but they say the dissolution of the Soviet state stopped the Fascist Wars from becoming a world war as Alyosha’s message spread west and Adolf Hitler’s grab for power fell apart under the Russian Jewish singer, Tsilia Zaslavsky, who took up Alyosha’s words and message and carried them into the heart of Berlin in 1935, during the rearmament. She sowed dissent and peace and clarity in a time of fanaticism and racial bigotry that’s so easy to forget all these years later, but Germany in the 30s was not the Germany of the 40s that we’ve come to know so well. By the time Hitler moved for Danzig his empire was already collapsing from within. Tsilia was the most wanted person in all of Germany, and also the most beloved. By 1940, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and even Germany itself were already ousting Hitler. It’s said that in his old age even he listened nightly to Tsilia’s recordings, bemoaning all he had lost because of the beautiful Jewess from Minsk.

Tsilia, another important artist, but still not my favorite. I find her, actually, quite shrill, though the lyrics are beyond what anyone has written in any language, poets and novelists included. The way she so simply stated what we had always known but never seen. To listen to her words is to understand yourself, your friends, and your loves for perhaps the first time.

But these two were enough to turn my heart always eastern, always watching Russian, always cheering them on as their folkartists turned towards Maoist China, already in it’s sixtieth year with Chairman Mao so old it was hard to believe it was yet him living. But Ivaanjav crawled through the spiderweb of totalitarian China in the late 90s and by Mao’s death in 2002,we were seeing a free China for the first time, I guess, technically ever. There were elections and Ivaanjav, who’s actually ethnically Mongolian though raised in a small farm area just north of China’s Russian border. He spent his youth wandering by rails all over Russia, collecting songs and styles from the many masters then singing and playing. Unlike many Russian folksingers, he didn’t play guitar but rather a morin khuur, adapting the freeplucking style of Leon Trostky’s grandaughter, Sofia–herself an accomplished artist and leading political figure–to the morin khuur. He broadly expanded and united the many different styles of Russian folkmusic by forcing it to adapt to him and his Mongolian heritage rather than forcing himself to adapt to its constraints, and, still, there are many who don’t consider him a proper Russian folkartist, despite everything he’s done in that tradition.

I would like to say that it was the message of peace and promise of beautiful days ahead that caused me to study Russian and guitar but it was really Aleksandr Z, my absolute favorite of them all. Unlike most, he had no political affiliation or outlook. He was a return to Alyosha’s early days of nostalgia, which was peculiar to hear in a man so young. I thought then, that first night, when I was still thirteen, that I’d marry him one day, since he was only nineteen then and that wasn’t so old. He was every bit as beautiful as Alyosha, and though the recordings were more polished his voice sounded more fragile, more on the precipice of disaster. It took me so long to learn what the words meant but he broke my heart every time. Born so long after Alyosha, but in many ways, his true successor, his was an aesthetic so pure and simple that it captured everything of Alyosha’s early years but transcended them, connected them to the modern world, and then cracked this hypertech world apart, letting flowers and sunshine through.

I saw him for the first time on youtube, playing alone in his hotel room in Iceland when volcanic ash smothered the sky. It was his first song to be sung in English and I was watching it live.

Hello, he said, his voice thick with Russian spilling over the Anglosounds. My name is Aleksandr and this is my first time speaking English in public but I hope you like it. It’s called Iceland at the End of the World.

He was beautiful, frail and thin like a teenage girl, with long blonde hair spilling over his face. But his arms were so strong, so in control of his instrument as his fingers danced, plucking his twelvestring, his voice careening in a way so perfect, in a way never captured yet by him on his recordings. I felt the world ending and those eight minutes disappeared into me and I kept watching it for the rest of the night, memorising the words, the hand movements, the chords till I could play it maybe half as well, which was a huge accomplishment for me.

I turned the camera back on me and sang it back to him, as if he was on the other end, but I sang it in Russian, because if he could sing it for me in my language, I could do it for him in his.

The hits piled on and the comments rolled in, many of them negative, as always, but even more positive, with most of the positive ones written in Russian.

And then there was a message from him and a response video and when I learnt his new song I played it for him again, and he responded, but this time asked me to write for him. He asked it in Russian, believing, maybe, that I was and i cried through hours of smiles as I frantically tried to write a song for him, anything that would make him smile, make him proud of me. Millions of views on each video, but none of those people mattered to me. No, there was only Aleksandr, and I longed to touch him but knew I couldn’t write about that.

And then the crows cawed outside my window. Twelve of them hanging out in an oak tree, and one idea became ten words became a stanza became a melody became a song. My first song. My first song for him and my first song for me. So nervous, especially to sing it in Russian, which I decided I would.

I turn on the camera, my hands so sweaty I don’t know if I’ll be able to play, my face hot, and my feet wet from their instant sweat. I cleared my throat.

Hello, Aleksandr . . . and everyone else, I guess. This, um, I did what you asked. This song is for you. I wrote it in Russian. I hope you love it.

One deep breath in, then out. I wipe the sweat from my eyes, smile, and pluck that first chord.

forgot some things

Yeah, so I thought I’d link them now.

The Best Books of 2012 went up at Manarchy a while ago. It’s one of the most liked articles on the site! But, yes, it’s a few lists compiling my favorite books I read over last year, and since I read over 100, it’s a list that matters. I guess. Or something.

My review of The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss also went up at Word Riot a few weeks ago, or maybe only last week. I don’t know. Seems like a long time ago.

Also, I bought my website now. Not really sure why but I guess it makes me more official. Need to update my publications page too. All kinds of broken links in there that need to be fixed.

Anycase, Washington DC in three days, so I can be with my lady love.

Also also, novel’s coming along. Hit the 90k mark a few minutes ago. Want to reach 100k before I leave for the long weekend.

Wish me luck.

Picture!

i suppose an update

goes here. Work on the novel goes slow because I seem always exhausted and also short of time so I can only get a few hours to actually work at a time, usually three to four hours a day, and I’ve been averaging around 2,000 words a day, which isn’t terrible, I guess, but it’s so unbearably slow, and it’s making what already began as a very strange novel into an ever stranger one, endlessly fragmented.

Anycase, all kinds of things me have been going online. Or, not really. Just three things, but that seems like a lot, especially since this is just since yesterday.

A review of Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air:

A revolutionary pirate dreams of equality and gathers the world’s intellectuals into a sprawling anarchic society poised to fight off the empires that live in such grandeur by destroying and subjugating the rest of the world, from China to South America. What began as an interesting voyage becomes a revolutionary war where dirigibles and atom bombs erupt, where Ronald Reagan is a brutish boy scout, where the Vladimir Lenin is a failed and despondent old man.

A review of Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath:

Jagannath will envelope you. It will breathe new and old life into you, transforming whatever was there before. These are stories of great power and beauty and terror, so do not take it lightly. While it can be read on the beach or couch or in bed, this is not a casual read. Tidbeck takes us on thirteen distinct journeys that do not so much bend reality as show you the uncanny worlds that lay hidden behind reality’s sheen.

The best books I read in 2012.

Oh, too, finally found Max Richter’s ballet Infra online.

I love how barebones this is–nothing but the stage, the music, and the bodies.


I’ve listened to this ballet, Infra, hundreds if not thousands of times and it wasn’t till now, seeing it performed, that I really feel I understand it. It’s opened up immensely and transformed in my head from something that was merely beautiful to this glory.


I never realised how much it was about control, how much it had to say about life in the 21st century, how concerned it is with alienation, and I cried three times in the half hour this takes to watch. It’s amazing and perfect, and Marianela Nunez is perfect, as she always is, as she had to be. I feel so much right now it’s hard to even put it in to words.

More essays and criticisms should be on their way as I write them. I have big plans and once I get the time to write them, I should be dumping them all over.

Anycase, I hate my job and so am looking for a new one. If you have a job or know of one that needs a human, let me know.

This has more tags than anything on my whole site.

pi time

My review of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is up at Manarchy Magazine. The site’s going on hiatus for December, so nothing new there till the new year, so my reviews will be going up at other places. Probably about three more reviews going up before the end of the year. Maybe.

MudLuscious Press is doing their subscriptions deals right now, which is an amazing deal from one of my favorite publishers. Be sure to check it out right at the click.

Also, loving this:

reviewing books

Two new reviews up. One of them however, is currently unavailable at Manarchy Magazine due to some things I don’t really understand. Whole website is temporarily down, but should hopefully return by the end of the week. I’ll post a link when the time is right. One is a review of Mark Z Danielewski’s latest release, The Fifty Year Sword. Excerpt:

But let’s talk about The Fifty Year Sword. Five nameless narrators tell the story of a seamstress and her twin sister watching a man read a story to five orphans. That really is all that happens. However, there is also so much more happening in this book. A ghost story that the reader lives through and feels as the text becomes more visual with illustrations running over the page, the words at times dancing through the imagistic chaos. And the narrators: I imagine this is quite a different experience when performed with five readers. In the text, they are each noted by a different color of quotation marks and they switch at alarming rate. But what is truly interesting is how they overlap, so a word or a phrase is now said by two or three of the narrators at once — sometimes none at all. This is an interesting thing to recreate quietly in your head, but surely a rather powerful and different experience when performed live.

And the other out today is my review of Ben Spivey’s Black God.

Love that book. An excerpt:

In Black God, Spivey dives fully into the hallucinations and the surreality of existence without bothering to even leave footprints on the shore. And in this way, Black God is everything that Flowing in the Gossamer Fold never managed to be. Though quite short, it hides great depth and power and emotion. It takes you by the throat and drowns you in this world that may or may not be here, a world disintegrating and growing with every sentence. You get claustrophobic, holding close to Cooper, the aged narrator, clutching him close as time and memory and love refract and contract around him. And when you reach the end, you may not recognise how you got there or the lands you traveled, but you know it mattered from the marks imprinted on you.