BLOG THIS! Highly Suspect Wisdom for the Widely Disinterested Masses
Cool Stuff from Dan Wickett at Wayne State U:
National Short Story Month--2016 was the year I started really trying to track the short story collections being published. Through many avenues I found out about at least 220 that were published during that calendar year and amassed 106 of those titles. They are (well, minus the Dzanc titles) shelved together, so this was much less a random pull from the shelves: Bull by Kathy Anderson; both Coulrophobia & Fata Morgan, and The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street by Jacob M Appel; You Are Having a Good Time by Amie Barrodale; Swallowed by the Cold by Jensen Beach; We Show What We Have Learned by Clare Beams; Welcome Thieves by Sean Beaudoin; A Tree or a Person or a Wall by Matt Bell; Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett; The Expense of a View by Polly Buckingham; Transitory by Tobias Carroll; Pretend I'm Your Friend by MB Caschetta; Blood by Matthew Cheney; Letters from Dinosaurs by Leland Cheuk; Wild Things by Jaimee Wriston Colbert; Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins; Know the Mother by Desiree Cooper; and When Watched by Leopoldina Core.
Hey, my boy Greg Olear, who has, no joke, become a legit Twitter superstar (100,000 people read his last within 48 hrs) with a relentless and essential critique of the Trump presidency, has launched PREVAIL. It's a site on Substack that allows him to stretch out beyond the confines of threads and 280 characters. How the dude finds the time, let alone the intellectual/emotional stability to write multiple smart, incisive, and damning articles about everything from cow-suing (yes, that's a thing) Devin Nunes to Russian Mob Money every week is beyond me. You can subscribe for free, or buy a premium subscription to help Greg fund the enterprise, which her runs entirely out of pocket. Either way, PREVAIL will continue unabated, out of a mix of fury and pure patriotism. As a bit of respite, he's started posting "Sunday Pages", a chance to get away from Trump and the pandemic for a day, in which a novel excerpt or snippet of literature is run on the site Today one of mine is up, a short story from "Welcome Thieves." Check it out.
Today In Sad Wax: One of my top three piano players of all time, and as part of the Classic Quartet, was for many years the right (and left) hand of the giant that was John Coltrane. Was fortunate enough to see him live a few times. An absolutely beautiful player who recorded uncredited on innumerable Blue Note sessions to avoid contract issues with his regular label Impulse. You've heard him way more than you thought you heard him, and always to the great benefit of whatever song he sat in on. I was going to link to "A Love Supreme" in tribute, but went with this instead. I particularly love this record, his astonishing chops on full display.
Today In Only The Fattest Wax Will Save Us: orig 1972 promo The Emotions "Untouched" on Volt. Top notch funky gospel-soul. In the end, it will the spiritually-tinged harmonizing of three women over a preposterously thumping baseline that will lead us to sanity, or we will fall into the Souza-approved martial Michael Bolton chorus of authoritarianism. As an antidote, I suggest listening to this loudly and aggressively in public. As William Butler Yeats once said, "Open their eyes with the jubilations and laments of uplifting gutbucket Memphis, or let them lay dormant in the fields to stagnate, apathetic and fly-ridden, cowed by their malignant leader."
This is what it's like being on a big-money, packed-house, mega-promo book tour. Exactly what it's like.
Twelve years ago I paid WAY too much money to have a local company build a website for me. To be fair, despite the price, it actually was pretty cool, with lots of bells and whistles. And then a year ago it just stopped working. I gave them a call. "Yeah, the architecture is primordial" they said. "It needs to be fully upgraded". Okay, I said. What are we talking about here?" "Well," the local company said, "We don't do websites anymore. That's so last century. We're more into viral branding now." Okay, I said, then what should I do? "Well, we're sending all our business to a company in Malaysia." So I dialed up Kuala Lumpur and got in touch with that company and they were like,"Yeah, your architecture is antediluvian. Fortunately, we can can strip it down and redo the entire thing for just under five grand." After I got done laughing, I called my sister, who, like the protagonist in any number of Heart and Bonnie Raitt songs, is a woman of many talents. She said "Oh, I can do it for free. Give me an hour." And lo, I have this whole new website which is fresh, clean, optimized for phone, and approximately 188k times better. So cheers to the amazing Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz for bringing me into the new century. I love how it looks! Also, on the main page my head is behind a paywall. Trust me, it's worth it.
So I'm In This Cafe #62: So I'm in this cafe that's mostly empty, except for a few random dudes on their third hour of hunkering over the same cup of un-purchased creamer while muttering to themselves. There's also a young mother with her daughter at the counter, ordering. I’ve just completed yet another morning of exquisite literary alchemy, so I get up to use the restroom. Just as I lock the door, someone knocks. "I'm in here" I say. They knock again. "Occupied," I say. They knock again. "Hey listen-" I say, and then the banging really starts. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. The handle is jiggled. KNOCK...KNOCK...KNOCK. The latch is fiddled with. KNOCKKNOCKKNOCKKNOCK! On the verge of genuine anger, I decide it has to be the little girl. Which is strange, because she's not three years old, more like nine. On the other hand, maybe it's Charlie Manson. Maybe it's the ghost of My Dipshit Twenties Past come back to rattle chains and then show me how if I’d spent less time shooting pool in filthy bars I’d be Secretary of State right now. Or maybe it's David Lee Roth about to bust out a few scissor kicks before doing an acapella version of “Eruption.” Either way, the pounding continues. At this point I've been in the bathroom for 38 seconds and someone has been knocking for 37 of them. I wash my hands and yank open the door, figuring if it's one of the creamer dudes, someone's going to get stabbed. And it's almost certainly going to be me. But if it's an oblivious hipster I'm going to say something so cataclysmically acerbic they’ll immediately renounce all their belongings and move to Nepal to become an apprentice monk tasked in silence to prepare celery root stew each night for elders and random Lamas. As it turns out, there’s no one there at all. The café is now empty except for the young mother and little girl. She doesn't look over, kicking her legs happily, chatting away. There seems to be nothing cognitively wrong with her, just a perfectly normal recitation of things about school, various toys she would like to acquire, how weird it is that some people pronounce her name an-dray-a, when clearly it's an-dree-ah. The mother doesn't answer or even look up, stares at the screen of her phone. While she rapidly texts. TEXT TEXT TEXT. TEXTTEXTTEXTTEXTTEXT. Of course, even for an espresso-addled, bagel-swollen donkey like me, the parallel is undeniable: rampant cell phone usage is directly responsible for a modern brand of sociopathy that, although yet to be cataloged in the Physician’s Desk Reference, is insidious and pervasive. I've already decided on a name. Research hospitals and larger branding firms are welcome to contact me with offers in terms of a usage fee, as well as my bio for the footnotes. Insensate Crack-Thumb Disgruntlement By Proxy Disorder. You’re welcome.
Was just sitting in a cafe working when I got a business call. I don't like talking on the phone in public places, so I went outside and stood beneath an overhang since it was (always is) pouring. The cafe is on a busy street that's two lanes both ways. As I'm standing there discussing logistics with someone three-thousand miles away, I saw a rat hunkered down, gnawing on something in the center divider. Cars in the inside lanes kept missing it by a fraction of an inch. Eventually it turned and started to dodge between Escalades, under Accords and F-150's. It was excruciating to watch, a game of daring, brute instinct, or just plain stupidity. I stopped registering the voice on the other end, missed vital information, engrossed while also averting my eyes, sure the rat was about to be crushed in a sickening cinematic spatter, but somehow it threaded through hundreds of cars and made it back to the sidewalk. Which is exactly when (zero embellishment here) a large bird swooped down and dove at it. "Oh fuck" I said. "Wait, what?" the person on the other end said. The rat cut left like Barry Sanders, juked right, and disappeared under a bush. I felt a clutch in my throat, which (after a lifetime of pretending to be a hard-ass) I now often do during commercials about children's hospitals and dog rescues and general interest stories where random people go out of their way to help one another. The call ended, and as I went back inside, the entire cafe was laughing and slapping five. A woman looked up and said "Did you see the rat?" I pretended not to hear, for some reason unwilling to share the drama I thought had been my own. I sat down and tried to compose some sort of deep metaphor, the struggle to live in an age of chaos, the purity of luck and politics of incoherence, missiles and wreckage and the savagery of the (un)natural world. But mainly the fact that, in the end, nothing ever really happens without the benefit of an impartial observer. Of course, that was all nonsense, so I gave up, ordered another coffee, and composed a delicate string of sentences about bands I don't particularly like.
Oh, just Kurt Bauermeister asking me a half dozen questions in a mini-interview for lit site Volume 1 Brooklyn. Check it out.
And my ears are for one thing only, ignoring pitch. And my cats are for steering this bike. And my sweater is for tying around my waist like it's 1985. Come to think of it, I actually use my feet for lots of stuff. Nevermind. #TheGMan