An Evil Blue Light

The first thing I remember is a blue light.

It seems to come from all around me, but it slowly fades, and I start to see strange glimpses of things that do not seem to be part of this world. I see a wooden horse with strange arc-shaped skids nailed to its legs. No matter what the horse does, it can never move, because, while it may lean forward, the skids will simply rock it back. I see a mirror which is also a door. On the other side hang robes and coats.

I am sitting on a bed, underneath a window. Outside the window it is dark, but I can see roses through the glass.

For some reason I am a boy. I push and prod at my chest, but it is flat. My hair is short. My face is young and full of baby-fat, and when I go to the mirror, I stare into my dark, smudge-like eyes and don’t recognize myself.

I don’t know where I am; only that I woke up in this room under the strange blue-and-yellow blankets printed with images of armored heroes and three-headed animals.

As I stare at myself in the mirror, the face in the mirror grows pensive, chews its lip, shakes its head, stares back at me in sadness. Finally he turns away, and I am left staring at my own reflection’s back, wondering why.

I go back to the bed and lay down on the blankets, dangling my feet over the side of the bed and staring up at the ceiling.

All light fades out, and the ceiling glows with pale blue stars. They expand until they are all around me and there is nothing else to see.

Suddenly I am falling. The blue light grows unbearably bright and I try to close my eyes, but I have no eyelids and no body, I am all eye, and everywhere I see that terrible light until it shrinks down into two horrible pinpoints in a field of total blackness, and those two blue eyes stare at me with a terrible hunger, and I realize how absurdly unlikely my own existence is.

What are the odds of me being born male instead of female? Let's call them fifty-fifty. There was a name picked out in the other eventuality; there was a coin-toss's chance of me being Elizabeth. How odd would that have been?

What are the odds of me being born to affluent white parents in America? Let's say the chance of being born reasonably affluent in America is 1 in 10, and the chance of being born in America in the first place--not the most disadvantaged place to be born--is about 1 in 22.

So, very, very approximately, the odds of me being born into my present social position, about nine-tenths up the ladder in the world's most powerful country (so in the lower rungs of the ladder in the world's most powerful ruling class) is about 1 in 440.

Except that the odds of me being born in the present moment in history are extremely slim. Humans, let's say, have been around in something like their modern form for 6,000-odd years. Within that window, the odds of me being born in the late 20th or early 21st century are something on the order of 1 in 600.

The broadest, vaguest outlines of the life-space I occupy? 1 in 264,000.

That's not even tackling the question of talents, of personality, of mental resources, of physical health--I'm about as healthy as it is reasonably possible to be, and my only physical quirk is moderate nearsightedness, easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses. I am otherwise in disgusting good health and totally free of disfiguration or weakness.

Or the absurdity of me being human at all.

Why human and not some other form of life? Why alive, and not a random agglutination of molecules? Why should there be a me at all?

I won't pretend I haven't thought of this before. It would be sad if this sort of sophomoric realization came to me for the first time at the ripe old age of 24; most people reach this epiphany at 17 or 18, high on their fifty-first joint.

But I can't really get the wild improbability of it out of my mind. Isn't it absurd that I'm me, and not you, or that both of us exist at all? The only reasonable reaction, to my mind, is something like vague nauseated horror.

And then a moment of terror.

What am I me for? What kind of evil plot is this, and what part do I have to play in it, and what fate is waiting for me at the end?

The same old questions, but they make me wake up in strange places some nights.


And yes there's R.E.M.

And then there was a summertime road trip to Madison, Wisconsin, in my friend A_____'s mom's BMW, when we realized that we couldn't get the I-Pod to plug in right and I dashed up to my apartment last minute and grabbed a few dusty CDs from a forgotten stack in the corner and then we were off on I-90, heading into a tungsten sky, beating rush-hour traffic, when I popped open the CD at the top of the stack and slid the yellow disc with black lettering into the player and this track came on. It was hot and we had debating opening up the sunroof and rolling down the windows and perhaps screaming up the road for a bit. I can't recall if we did that or not, because I was overwhelmed with the opening guitar-line to R.E.M.'s "Drive" and found myself singing along, shocked that, even after nearly 15 years since I'd last listened, I know nearly every lyric.

R.E.M. is an odd band to contemplate. They seem to have fallen entirely out of favor with the last two or three generations of music fans (depending on how you carve those sorts of things out). And my age seems to fall right at the cut-off.* I'm not sure why that is, but I suspect it has too much to do with the band hanging on for far too long and doing embarrassing things like appearing on an episode of Boston Public.** It's hard to pallate a band that is a central driving-force behind the College Radio Movement in the 80s, and then a mainstay of the MTV Era during the 90s, doing something like that once their career has clearly crossed into the realm of the Wax Works Musician.*** Certain musicians develop a level of expectation. Any and all art created by them is beloved for things beyond the simple beauty of a well-organized chord progression or a piercing vocal. Theirs is a devoted audience, one that views them as Capital "A" Artists, and as such has little to no patience for when these musicians hang on too long, put out a string of mediocre albums, or pop up on the holiday episode of a popular Fox dramedy.****

In any case, as I rode alongside A_____, I wasn't necessarily thinking of all of that. Rather, I was remembering how a song like "Nightswimming" gave me chills when I was 17, made me long for an adolescence I wasn't even done living yet, led my imagination to images of faded photographs on dashboards of rusty cars, and the blur of lust and embarrassment that might overwhelm you if you were skinny-dipping with a lovely person, and how "these things they go away / replaced by every day." I told A_____ this and then closed my eyes and listened. My thoughts drifted to the times that A_____ and I had found ourselves undressed and how it had never led to any sort of real consummation of anything and how that was actually amazing and how excited I was to be going to a lake town in Wisconsin to get sunburned and eat fried cheese with her.

Sometimes things really can slow down for a short period of time and seem almost simple in their beauty. This was one of those moments. And sometimes they happen to an actual soundtrack that still contains surprises that you'd thought you'd worked through, processed, burned up. Sometimes it is still amazing, even after all the years and ruins that stand between the memories of it and the current experience of it. But that sounds far too dry and academic. Something goes missing when I say it like that. It's more that sometimes a beautiful woman driving a borrowed BMW while the two of you listen to old songs about death and loss that you can't believe are giving you chills, even while you sing lustily along to them, your voice cracking at times when you try to hit the falsetto notes, and deepening with bravado when you do your 'Elvis,' while you sing mostly for you but also for her, can still choke you up, can still take the air from your lungs, can still leave the top of your scalp tingling.***** And yes there's R.E.M.

* Suffice it to say that the next time someone plays an R.E.M. track in a bar where I am drinking (and I am drinking almost all the time in bars), it will be the first time since the 90s.

** It's lovely to me that the Youtube clip isn't synced correctly. That, friends, is poetry. Hate it if you must.

*** Though the designation should be fairly straight-forward, here's a quick way to check if a musician is one of this lot:

  • The performer(s) won't be around much longer, so I'd best catch this show while I still can.
  • I never saw it/them when I was young, and i'd like to check them off the list
  • Oh wow, honey, they're headlining this year's Stern Wheel Regatta (Fever: Catch it!)!

If the answer to any of these questions is "Yes" (or even "Maybe"), then the musician(s) in question must be considered a museum piece and should be viewed as such.

**** To wit: for many, R.E.M's album Murmur is held in the same esteem as Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Can anyone imagine Jeff Mangum performing "Two-Headed Boy" on the holiday episode of some tee-vee dramedy?

***** Sometimes it also leads to an insanely expensive speeding ticket, since getting lost in a moment while zooming down a highway in Wisconsin does not go unnoticed by mustachioed police officers who will smirk as they inform you that speeding tickets in Wisconsin come with nasty penalties.


Poetry for Poetry Haters Issue

A lot of people hate poetry and they should, a lot of it sucks. But, the magic stuff can be so magic. Yep, that's right, your boy Petey Schwartz is guest editing for the second annual Poetry for Poetry Haters Issue of The Northville Review. If you can really bring the fire you're in luck because we even have a submission manager:

Thank you.

39, single, unemployed

Many years ago I decided to be a writer. An artist. The decision wasn't conscious. It's all that interested me. I'd be a poetry monk. Now, being 39, single, and "working" erratically on my literary career and duties, I'm starting to pay the real cost of my choice to abstain from a life of wife, kids, and career. Shame. I end up in embarrassing situations that lead to my humiliation that married men don't seem to suffer. I know, they have their burdens, too but I'm terrified of the life I've chosen and it feels less real every day. Help me.



Mission statement of The Literary Terrorists

I don't come out of collected works. My words have not eaten words--they devour exciting happenings, feed on rough weather, and dig their food out of earth and men. I'm on my way with dust in my shoes free of mythology, bitches: send books back to their shelves, I'm going down into the streets. I learned about life from life itself, love I learned in a single kiss and could teach no one anything except that I have lived with something in common among men, when fighting with them, when saying all their say in my song.
- Scott McLanahan

Paperback: 156 pages
Publisher: Six Gallery Press (November 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1926616146
ISBN-13: 978-1926616148
Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.4 inches

"Some readers act for the rhythm of the language, the aesthetics of the words. Some act for the story itself, for the characters, not the depictions of them. Scott McClanahan's Stories II falls into the extreme latter camp. In this, McClanahan's second collection from Six Gallery Press (after 2008's Stories I) each tale comes stripped of any linguistic flamboyance, opting instead for a casual, oral fable style frame around which to display beautiful nuggets of piercing insight.

This insight most often comes in the form of direct address, cornering the reader into what should be an uncomfortable defense. But after having been lulled by so many pages of elegantly simple prose, each moment of author-reader intimacy hits with stark impact."
- Caleb J. Ross

"This is a collection that exists firmly in McClanahan territory, a world where some guy named Scott seeks to not just make sense of the world around him, but embrace it for all it has to offer. Its a world filled with death and illness, dog's goiters, iconic kidney stones and adulterers being beaten to a pulp even as the narrator eats said adulterer's pizza and watches the aforementioned beating. And yet, here's the thing, Stories II is more than that as well, because in this collection Scott bends his stories further in terms of religion and ghosts, adding a layer of mysticism and spirituality that both enriches the stories and takes them from the near fables of Stories to actual fables, fables about a guy named Scott just trying to make sense of the weirdness, humor and sadness that permeates the world around us."
- Ben Tanzer

Buy the book bitches...



What the fuck are you independant of?


Tupac Amaru Shakur (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996)

He would have been 39 today. If you don't miss him terribly, you don't know who he is. I could have said was, but cuz, if you knew what I knew, you'd say "is" too. Enjoy a sestina....

Dead Black Male: Story at 7 (Sestina for Pac)

One more dead man of black
descent, born behind the social 8-
ball. A music and film star, shot.
He’d been shot and shot before,
became a living martyr to me.
At birth, he knew where he’d go to.

Death had eyes wide for Tu-
Pac Shakur. And Pac, a black
male, had that All Eyez on Me
mentality, even if they looked like hate.
So, he stole the rights of white fore-
fathers, tried to “give a nigga a shot”.

But this time the bullets were shot
on backyard soil... far too close to
home. Boy, Pac, was it hard for
you, fresh from that Tyson fight? Black
male dead ... news served the dust he ate.
I choked on the shit Chris told me.

Wait, what are you saying to me?
Chris, how many times was he shot?
Call me: 388-8258
Chris did. It didn’t ring two
times before I grabbed that gloss-black
cordless, quick. Talked/cried till 4.

What would they do this for?
It looks like Makavelli’s looking at me,
from the passenger side seat of a black
BMW 750i in his last known photo shot.
En route to a party and death too,
you pulled alongside the rear-viewed fate.

The seven year theory died when eight
years passed… and now another four.
I guess there’s no coming back to-
night, Tupac Shakur, and it killed me
and the world when you got shot.
…one dead, 25 year old male, black…

Ashes to ashes, this young Panther ate
nearly all words shot at him before,
but he left me a door open, and you too.


Poetry vs Prose

It seems to me that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the boundaries that separate prose from poetry. Does flash fiction blur the line, cross it, dance over it chanting mocking rhymes? What do 'prose' and 'poetry' even mean?

I'll tackle the problem, but a word of warning. I'll tackle it in classical fashion, with an eye toward maximum precision, without much care for value judgments. 'Poetry' and 'prose' should have some purely descriptive value that can be used in a technical, rigorous, precise way to minimize confusion and maximize comprehension. Make of it what you will; but define it clearly.

Originally, more or less all written works were verse. I imagine that's because originally all PRE-written works were verse; it's much easier to remember a series of rhyming couplets about the great hero Jonathan Deane than to remember a series of undifferentiated paragraphs, and when you transfer the Jonathan Deane-iad to paper, future imitators will tend to pick up on its heroic couplet rhyme scheme and use of trochaic tetrameter and versify accordingly.

Now, when I say all written works were verse, I mean all. It was the industry standard. If you wanted to write about your favorite recipes for black soup (the nastylicious Spartan food of choice), you did so in verse. If you wanted to write a treatise on atoms, you did so in verse. If you wanted to write an epitaph for your dog Sneak, you did so in verse. Obviously not all verse was poetry (from the Greek poienai, to create)--not all verse was a Creation, and not all verse-makers were Creators. To an ancient Greek, poetry would be verse of artistic merit, rather than, say, a long shopping list in double dactyls.

Go to the corner store,
Fetch me a frying-pan,
Millions of eggs;
Orange juice, panda's milk,
But I insist on it
Bring me this list or I'll
Shatter your legs.

However, verse is a pain in the ass to write, and as paper became cheaper and writing became more common, the art of versifying trivial ideas was lost. Lazy writers began to write shopping lists and other more ordinary texts in no special word order, in no special meter, and such texts were called prose.

Prose had some claim to artistic legitimacy from fairly early. Herodotus, who wrote the first major history in the western tradition, wrote in prose--with no lack of either artistic merit or charm. Subsequent histories and military texts, including such classics as the Anabasis of Xenophon and the Gallic Wars of Caesar, were written in prose. However, the primary artistic form of language continued to be verse. Nevertheless, it seems likely that an excellent work in prose would be considered more of a 'making' than a flawlessly-versified shopping list.

On a very basic level, then, we are presented with a strange dichotomy (to our modern sensibilities): prose vs. verse, not prose vs. poetry. Prose and verse have very simple, common-sense definitions: words assigned to no particular scheme beyond the natural grammar of the language, and words assigned to a definite rhythmic scheme in which they operate and against which they may push. Or, more simply, prose is everything that isn't verse, and verse is words arranged in formal sequence (generally meter).

Verse has certain beauties that are difficult in prose, and was, for most of recorded history, the prestige medium; those wishing to make their mark in literature tended to produce verse more often than prose, though great prose works occasionally popped up. Yet nowadays verse is far less widely appreciated than prose, far less widely read, and far less prolifically produced. Why?

Prose has the great advantage of taking a lot less time per word to produce. An epic tale in verse may not be that long; Homer's Iliad is 145,000-odd words, which sounds like a lot until you realize that it'd run about 600 pages in paperback, shorter than a lot of Stephen King's novels. Homer was monstrously prolific (if he existed at all, and wasn't a convenient shorthand for an entire tradition); the Odyssey is 120,000; and (as of Aristotle's time, ca. 350 BCE) tradition credited Homer with just the two works (and considered two major works an incredible feat). That's just a little over 1000 pages of paperback text. Stephen King has written 56 books, with word counts ranging from 61,000 (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon) to 473,000 (The Stand, uncut edition) and seeming to average around 160,000 words each. That's 8-10 million words of prose in all. Our boy Stephen could never have achieved that level of productivity in verse; it's simply much slower going.

Which wasn't an issue before the printing press. Shorter works were a kind mercy to the poor monks and scribes who had to copy them out; spending more time composing fewer words with greater care was a good career move. But as it became easier and easier to put out more and more text, the pressures and incentives reversed. With sales driving the profitability of literature, rather than patronage, being prolific became an advantage; while a court poet can survive quite nicely on one epic and a lot of little occasional poems, a penny-dreadful author needs to churn out several books a year; he only gets paid once per book moved, after all.

That explains why prose, originally marginal, eventually came to predominate over verse. It does not explain why 'poetry' came to refer not to verse but to a super-set of verse and 'poetic' forms of prose. For prose poems and so-called free verse are just that: they are prose, because they are not verse; but, as they are considered to have a high degree of artistic merit and are generally not narrative, they are poetry. (Somewhere along the way, with the gradual disappearance of narrative verse, 'prose' subsumed narrative).

This seems unproductive to me. The technical distinction between prose and verse makes perfect sense. The original meaning of the word 'poetry'--a meaning which has seen some resurgence in popularity--seems sufficient. Let us call someone a poet if they create an artifact in language that has its own fundamental artistic merit, and use 'poetry' to refer to creative language art that carries artistic merit. 'Poem,' as it tends to be used colloquially, refers to a verse piece, or to a prose piece with strategic line breaks; but we may want to open up the term to refer to compositions of creative merit in either verse or prose.

"But Jonathan," says the White Rabbit, "there is a fundamental distinction between narrative writers and lyricists that goes much deeper than the distinction between prose and verse. Lyric writing does not need to be in verse to seek after its own particular, unique use of language, and 'prose poems,' 'free verse,' and verse poetry all tend to partake of that lyric idiosyncrasy!"

To which Jonathan replies with a shrug. "Use Aristotle's old division into lyric, epic, and tragic, then. Epic = narrative. Lyric = lyric. Tragic = drama--which only means, in the Aristotelian sense, characters talking in their own voices."

"This is the twenty-first century," says the White Rabbit.

"Prose is still prose, and verse is still verse," says Jonathan. "It is nothing more than a value judgement to use the word 'poetry' to refer to particular pieces of short, snappy, weird, syntactically creative prose. No technical purpose is served, only the service of recognizing the artistic merit of those prose (non-verse) pieces."

The White Rabbit, sensing Jonathan's burgeoning penchant for leporid meat, flees the scene. Jonathan, in possession of the field, says, "I only ask that we amplify this tendency and call all creative work in language by the name of poetry; then we can criticize bad novels as bad poetry." He pauses.

He should stop here, but he can't. He raises a hand in the air in a grandiose gesture and adds, "And I hope that some day we can praise the good poetry inherent in an excellent shopping list, whether in verse or prose."


It's Saturday night and I'm grading papers and watching a Ken Burns documentary about the Shakers.

Yeah, I'm watching a Ken Burns documentary. I just got a disc that enables me to watch instant Netflix on my TV so now my life is over.

I'm watching/listening to (Ken Burns documentaries aren't exactly known for visual stimulation) a documentary about the Shakers.

There's a talking head philosopher who's kind of been giving insight here and there into their rationale for celibacy and their adornment-free living style.

The documentary gets to the subject of shaker chairs and how wonderful they are because of their lack of decoration. The idea is they're so nice because the Shakers created these chairs out of necessity. Maybe? I don't know, I had kind of zoned out.

Then, out of nowhere, uninvited and with a pretentious little smirk, the philosopher guy says "Nobody can be really creative unless there's something spiritual behind it, whether it goes by that name or not."


I know I've done the whole "artists are only blah blah blah," but I was depressed about bland avocados at the time.

What's this guy's excuse?



Do you have a writerly-type crush?

I think I have a crush on Jesse Ball. It is the kind of crush where I wish he was the size of a Polly Pocket doll and I could keep him and he would live in a little world that I had fashioned out of plastic and cardboard.


Fiction vs. Poetry: Word Choice?

What is the difference between prose poetry and flash fiction? Even harder still: what is the difference between flash fiction and plain 'ol poetry? I mean if it's length, I was told that didn't matter. Is it the narrative that differs these ideas? I ask only because I enjoy flash fiction far more than the paper-heavy kind.

Shock Writing?

Can someone explain shock writing? I saw someone use the term and part of me thought, "That person loves Jesus a lot so they probably don't like to read about violent sex." The other part of me thought, "Is some of my writing shock writing?"

Can someone provide examples of shock writing?


Do you hate everything as much as I hate everything? Because I hate everything a lot.

I just got home, super excited to make myself a taco salad or burrito bowl, whatever you want to call it. I'm trying to be healthier-ish, so I went sans dairy. I was sooooo excited. I was running up the stairs to my apartment, avocados in hand, ready to devour my soon-to-be-created meal masterpiece. And you know what? It was bland. Flavorless. The avocados were less than awesome. I found some salsa cups from a local Mexican restaurant in my fridge and poured that on top, not sure of the expiration date or age of the salsa, but more concerned about needing some flavor(!) in my meal.

Ugh, I hate everything, don't you? I'm sitting here thinking that I don't actually know anyone who in any way considers themselves an artist who is satisfied/happy about things. If they are, I question them, I do.

If some happy artist had my burrito bowl for dinner, they probably would've been all "yum! veggies!" and I would have to put chili powder in their cereal.




1. Peter "Dirty Trouble" Schwartz's vomit

2. Play on playa

3. KGB and Jen Michalski's ponytail

4. Dirty Trouble with them funky goggles

5. Regan in the fountain in Washington Square Park

6. You're out of your fucking element Donnie

7. Corey's Cumming

8. Timmy Waldron

9. Kendra Grant Malone

10. Kate Wyer

11. Heather Fowler

12. Sasha Motherfucking Fletcher


What is it with our fascination over the loss of innocence?


On Graphite and Graphemes

I will be brief. Some other day, perhaps, I will be boxer.

Graphite is the stuff we make into pencil lead. Torture it sufficiently--crush it and press it--and it turns to diamond. Under asteroid conditions, the pressure and heat is sometimes sufficient to create black diamond, which is really neat. Typically, graphite is black.

Graphemes are the individual letters and symbols that make up a written language. Every single character I type is a grapheme.

Some people possess grapheme-color synesthesia, which is really cool. It's the condition of experiencing letters and numbers as being inherently possessed of colors. For example, "A is red," or "8 is blue."

Since I am not a grapheme-color synesthete, I experience these graphemes I am typing as being graphite-colored.

That is all for now.

Schizophrenia, unrequited love & death like store bought candy.

I was stricken with the flu this weekend. My girlfriend was nice enough to take care of me. During the down time I watched three movies: Starship Troopers; Clean, Shaven; Fallen Angels.

What is it with Paul Verhoeven that makes me want to violently punch him in the face and then kiss the bloody wound?

3 weeks ago his hand was still warm.



Top 10 Adventures in the eWorld Last Week

Spot-on review in SFWeekly of Friday night's Quiet Lightning 6, one of the best readings I’ve seen all year & a decent overview of the San Francisco Bay Area’s fired-up literary community. Featured
authors: Jon Longhi, Paul Corman-Roberts, Sarah Fran Wisby, Jennifer Joseph, M.G. Martin, Stephen Elliott, Beth Lisick, Andrew Paul Nelson, Daphne Gottlieb, Joshua Mohr, Nic Alea & Michelle Tea. Here's the show I saw. Here's some archival footage from series founder Evan Karp. Here's more.

Boston Globe Q&A with Dave Eggers: "A Modern Master of the Literary Universe." Mas o menos?

An even better take on Mr. Eggers by Elizabeth Ellen at Book Slut.

An astonishingly info-packed multimedia breakdown of "postmodernism" by A D Jameson at Big Other.

When NY Tyrant's Giancarlo DiTrapano confessed how "Confederacy of Dunces" turned him gay, I called bullshit then I had to eat my words after the Tyrant assured me in an email: "I have never written anything more true in my life." Lit scene D-R-A-M-A on the Paris Review blog.

The Most Beautiful Women in the World (and a pretty good song, too, by State Radio).

Feminist Frequency’s Bechdel Test for Women in Movies. I wonder how this would play out on the bookshelf. Any takers?

Goth through the ages.

Jane Mount's "Ideal Bookshelves" paintings on display now at the Curiosity Shoppe.

Stoner Wisdom from Scientists.



Here's what Amelia Gray has to say about her book Museum of the Weird.

Museum of the Weird is about people who have put themselves in situations and need to find a way out. The book is made up of what I figure are the best stories I've written over the past five years. One features a woman examining a plate of hair. In another, some funny things happen to a guy with a neurological condition. Here's part of that story:

Jeannie serves me tostadas at the café, the gold cross on her necklace (warm, no doubt, from her skin and the heat of the deep fryer) dangling close to my sweet iced tea. It's the first thing I see as I come out of the dangerous haze, and I feel small and close enough to the cross to make a leap for it. I'd like to dig my fingernails into the soft cooling gold and balance on the arm of it as on a tree branch, holding the chain for support.
"Watch the plate," Jeannie calls from miles above. She throws herself back like a gymnast and vertigo pins me to the wall. The generator in my heart ticks one sad farewell tick and silences. I miss it already.

There's another story that has kind of a science fiction feel. It's about a huge iron cube that appears on a beach while a group of people are having a picnic. Here's some of that one:

They didn't notice it at first, between the screaming Rogers kid, his mother's wailing panic to hustle him back to camp for ice, and the pandemonium of parents finding their own children and clasping them to their chests and lifting them up at once. The object in question itself received little scrutiny. Only when the mothers walked their children back to camp for calamine lotion and jelly beans did the rest of the adults notice the printed text, sized no larger than a half inch, on the shady side of the block: EVERYTHING MUST EVENTUALLY SINK.

The book is coming out in September through Fiction Collective 2, where it won the American Book Review/Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize.
Here's what some other people said:

“Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird is a cabinet of curiosities—a talking armadillo, a serial killer named God, a woman who amputates her toes for dinner, a man married to a paring knife—this collection of stories is so good and funny and wondrous that I couldn’t look away from her dark and curious imagination.”
Michael Kimball, author of Dear Everybody

“To say Amelia Gray belongs in the hilariously inventive hallows of Ann Quin and Rikki Ducornet would be to miss her light. This book is gleaming evidence of the author as a trophy case unto herself, wrought of magic equally surprising, wicked, giddy, and loaded with a megaton of Boom.”
Blake Butler, author of Scorch Atlas and Ever

“At times I worry that an author has maybe opted to go with an idea that is a bit of a reach, even for their many talents. I’ve learned to quit doing that with Amelia Gray and her stories, and after reading a couple of sentences, always decide to scrunch back in my chair and really settle in, as who knows where the hell she’s taking it. In what is becoming a very long streak, Gray has never gone anywhere that hasn’t amazed me.”
Dan Wickett, Emerging Writers Network/Dzanc Books
5.5 x 8.5 • 152 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-57366-156-0
ISBN-10: 1-57366-156-2
$15.50 paper
ISBN-13: 978-1-57366-818-7
ISBN-10: 1-57366-818-4
$9.99 ebook


Pretty good discussion. First timers include:


Read it all here

I need an opened hydrant, and stat!

For Love of a Neighborhood

By a rowhouse, on a stoop, on my stair,
I watched her through our hydrant’s copper spray,
her beauty swallowing a chest of air.
I saw no bonnets; she had no bouquets.
She set those clichéd games down yesterday.
If she didn’t, these curbs would have wilted.
It’s still funny to think of it today.
She had a spanner: duct-tape hilted.
Her feminine muscle pulsed down her wrench.
Crush of first water, tears struck her hot thigh.
An entire neighborhood dressed in drench.
If I had the spanner, would I have tried?
At times we’re the man; at times we’re a mouse
on my stair, on a stoop, by rowhouse.

Bored Reader

When I'm excited about a book or author and someone says, "Oh that's interesting," in that vague, bored voice I grow to hate them. There are very few things that enrage me so (One being violent kitten abuse).

As I was reading excerpts of Pastoralia and growing more and more excited about George Saunders, I of course shared my new excitement with anyone online at the time. One of these people read a few paragraphs and responded, "interesting," and began to talk of other things.

Nothing is more frustrating than someone not sharing my excitement over an author or book. Even my boyfriend, who isn't a big reader, has learned to fake it or incur my wrath. It's okay if you don't like what I'm talking about. It's okay if you dislike it strongly. What I can't stand is apathy. I will spit you out of my mouth, bored reader.


All writers are liars.

I am, what do you call it? A liar.

I'm not the type that fakes credentials to get into grad school or anything (though I did lie on a job application once....got the job).

I lie a little bit every day. It's a thing. I remember, when I was 15, I went on one of those Outward Bound trips. Before leaving for two weeks in the wilderness with strangers, I made a promise to myself that I would try as hard as I could not to lie for as long as possible. It lasted about three days and I was ecstatic. It was the longest I had gone without fibbing, bending the truth, fictionalizing the details.

I've told some doozies. And a million little white lies trail behind me wherever I go. The funny thing is, sometimes, I'll tell the truth and no one will believe what I'm saying. That's when I have to resist the urge to say, "But I'm not lying this time!"

Lady who cried wolf? Right here.

I don't think I'm a liar because I'm a degenerate or because I'm a moral-less prick. My lying doesn't hurt others. I've never caused anyone physical harm or bankruptcy due to my lies.

I am a liar. I am a writer. Of fiction. That is what I do. So the lines are blurred for me.

But what writer isn't a liar?

There needs to be some comfort in that ability to easily fall away from the restrictions of "truth" in order to create a strong fiction.

I think that should be the first lesson in any writing workshop: The truth shall chain you to the ground, the lies shall set you free.




Kazuo Ohno, a pioneer of the Japanese avant-garde dance form Butoh, died today at 103 years old.

Influenced by Artaud and De Sade, Ohno wrote how dance was about acceptance of the scars of living until "a world of poetry . . . can only be expressed through your body."

On the act of creation, he said, "To appear on a bare stage with no preparation does not mean that it contains nothing. On the contrary . . . the vacant space is gradually getting filled and in the end something is realized there. Something happening in the process fills the space up.

"This may be the kind of thing one can gradually be convinced of over a lifetime. But in my case, fortunately, I instantaneously knew the fact that the empty space actually was full. And I just danced in joy and excitement."

There are lessons in his example, I think, for writers: our stories are always present -- the blank page is filled with words -- there is freedom in this awareness.

Here's the New York Times obituary.

Here's a beautiful series of YouTube clips compiled by A D Jameson at Big Other.

Lastly, Ohno's "Message to the Universe" at SnailCrow about "wide-gazing into the palm, seeing death, life, joy and sorrow with a sense of tranquility" is a final word worthy of the man himself.

"I wish to dance the dance of wild grass to the utmost of my heart."
- Kazuo Ohno

photo by Beth Barone


Who loves city rain just because it allows us not to stop and talk to people?

Smell Right Before, and Just After, the Rain

I breathe from my nose
on days I think it might rain, bating the scent.

And the clouds are rumbling their apologies,
hanging out the rain
in sheets, so it could dry
by the chatter of the winds.

It’s the thick kind of rain,
gusting sideways to keep up
with the rush of passersby.

I look up, let the rain bounce into my nose.

The drips are a beautiful symmetry,
translusentual the way it spread.
when the wind takes a breath,
the rain straightens,
falling verticallycertain.

The storm raises the neighborhood’s
blinders like three days after Christmas lights come down
and brown pine needles
bleed from street to street.

No one’s looking
out for anything.

Johns and Janes are sheltering themselves
with free newspapers
and the popped collars of waterproof coats.

My coat has no collar.

Street vending machines are all empty.

And the rain is weakening, anyway,
only enough to alert a conscious observer.
Crowds of grass rub elbows,
finish drinking themselves heavy, they fall asleep.

The clouds' candy paint,
a lucid mix of grays, blues, and a pink,
seems dry in the eyes of passersby
and the white is pushing through.

I’m looking for that smell of survival,
the sweetness
soaking into the concrete,
the vapor
always following
the rain’s retreat.


From the folks at WORD RIOT

"Do you have an atrocious novel sitting on your hard drive? Do you have an awesome short story collection you want to expose hard and fast like the town pervert? Well, step right up…

Monday, June 7 will be “Published For a Day” day on Word Riot. We will post an entry with links to downloadable PDFs of novels and book length short story collections (at least 25k words) that will be available for one day and one day only: 12 a.m. -11:59 p.m. on Monday, June 7."

For all the details GO HERE.

Watch N Write

The two year old is smoking and we are shocked but then we think it’s okay because he is brown and because he is not speaking English. We are white and we drive cars to jobs and we have floors that do not become mud, ever. We are taught and we have daycare and we do word jumbles in the newspaper that we are able to read. We know better. We do not give our two year olds cigarettes. We are shocked but we watch. He is so brown and so fat and there is a blah blah blah of some low rent language in the background so we tell ourselves they don’t know better. They are a stupid people. They are not as good as us and so they have an excuse. We watch the brown baby smoke like a forty year old and we are glad he is theirs and not ours. Ours are better. Ours will smoke later, but not now and that makes it okay because of our skin and our knowledge. They are lesser. We watch them from the other side of the glass. We point, we laugh, we say wait, let me get my camera and then we get upset when we miss the shot of them flinging their shit at us; our superior selves. But we still laugh because they don’t know any better; oh those poor people. We tire after a few minutes, amusement spent. We X out. We walk away in white Adidas, so clean that it’s a shame they ever have to touch the ground.