A Very Vouched San Francisco Birthday Party FAQ

22 Aug

After blitzing the internet with Raffle Prize Announcements, Awful Interviews, and other promotional things, I realize you may have some questions about the upcoming Vouched San Francisco festivities. So here’s our third ever Vouched Presents FAQ for our first ever Vouched SF birthday.

vouched_SF_birthday_4x6

When does this shin-dig start?  

6pm, approximately. I estimate readings to begin between 6:15 and 6:30.

Is there a cost for admission?

Nope, you can attend for free! That being said, there will be things for sale: merchandise from 826 Valencia (the world’s Premiere Independent Pirate Supply Store), books from Vouched and our readers, and of course, drinks and more drinks at the bar. Every $5 you spend at the birthday party (on Vouched or 826 Merchandise) gets you an raffle ticket for one of our sweet prizes! And a portion of drink and book sales (and 100% of 826 merch sales) goes to support community programs at 826 Valencia!

What are the totally sweet raffle prizes?

Oh, you want a list? Fine. Here you go:

  • Ticket vouchers for you and a friend to Literary Death Match, plus five (5) Cyrano-de-Bergerac-style texts from world-renowned love and dating expert Adrian Todd Zuniga for you to send to someone you like (or whoever you want–we aren’t here to boss you around)
  • An 826 Valencia gift pack!
  • Everything our intern found on the streets of the Mission in one day!
  • A gift certificate for a free haircut at Edo Salon
  • A sweet gift pack from Litography
  • Surprise gift pack from famed comedy bad boy and/or family man Scott Simpson!
  • A book gift pack from The Rumpus!
  • [Get stood up on] a date with Dave Eggers!
  • Vouched Books gift pack!
  • A year-long book-of-the-month membership to Vouched Books!

How do I win those totally sweet raffle prizes?

Great question! Participants in our raffle will receive 1 raffle ticket for every $5 donated or spent on 826 Valencia or Vouched merchandise. (So say, for instance, you buy a book from me that costs $10. For that you will receive not only your book, but 2 raffle tickets! Which could win you all sorts of amazing prizes!)

Wait, so who is reading?

The evening will start out with the re-launch of Portuguese Artists Colony, so as you come in, you will vote on writing prompts to give to the four live writers. Then, you watch (and Michael Mullen, songwriter for Pocket Shelley and The Size Queens, will make beautiful music) as they have 10 minutes to turn out a beautiful response to that prompt. They read what they wrote, and you get to vote on the piece you like best!

Our live writers:

Jenny Bitner

Heather Bourbeau

Kwan Booth

Casey Childers

Our featured readers:

Maisha Z. Johnson

Scott Simpson

Maw Shein Win

Sarah Griff

Tim Toaster Henderson

Jelal Huyler

Amy Berkowitz

Where do my donations go?

All donations will go to the 826 Valencia. Vouched Books will not receive any of the money donated.

Where can I learn more about 826 Valencia?  

You can learn more about 826 Valencia here!

I heard there will be a chapbook-making station and a pile of donuts. Is this true?

Our chapbook-making station will be run by the delightful Jason Schenheit! We will also have a poetry station and a photobooth for taking wedding portraits with the sea (we are talking about pirates, after all). Every rumor you have heard about the donuts is true.

What’s the Milk Bar, is there milk?

The Milk Bar is a beautiful bar and event venue in the Haight. This event is BYOM.

The poster has a lot of balloons. Will there be balloons?

Yes, there will be balloons. There will also be a bear, though he is unlikely to harm you.

Are we going to party? Really?

Yes. DUH.

Awful Interview: 826 Valencia’s Pasha Parovoz

21 Aug

pasha-introspectiveTo the left you see a picture of the world-renowned actor, philanthropist, and pufferfish: Pasha Parovoz. He’s been in the city he calls home, the ever-creative and weird hub of culture that is San Francisco, since February of this year. Fresh off his return from shooting Moby Dick 3: The Reckoning in Brazil, he’s been working to lose the weight he’s put on in the wake of the film’s moderate success in anticipation of his next role (whatever that may be). I traveled to the Mission District and sat down outside of Pasha’s humble tank in the fish theater at 826 Valencia-—the non-profit where he devotes all of his time to entertaining children and adults–to talk to him about his work, his life, and his passions.

Mr. Parovoz, Pasha, thank you for meeting with me. My first question is regarding your influences: who made you want to act? Who gave you your first taste of the stage?

Oh, you know it was the fish I associated with, really. It also helped that that one of those fish was Balthazar, Eddie Cantor’s striped bass, who, as you know, essentially brought maritime vaudeville to the mainstream (pun intended).

You worked with Balthazar the Bass? He’s a legend, but no one’s seen him in decades.

Oh yes, well he was already quite isolated when we met, but as he’s gotten older he’s become very coy.

How do you keep all the shows in the fish theater fresh everyday?

Well I work off the crowd, Del Close is a huge influence. I like to break down the fourth wall with the audience and put my face against the glass and just swim back and forth. It really moves them when I move. Some of the standards are the works of Tennessee Williams, the crowds love when I puff up at the famous “STELLA” line. Other than that I do Shakespearean classics. But it’s my monologues that really draw the people in, my words are so powerful that the other fish actually have to hide.

Your most recent work was shot in Brazil, that must have been thrilling.

Oh you can’t imagine. I always get self-conscious filming, though, because, as you know, the camera adds ten pounds, which for a pufferfish is a lot. It wasn’t easy with all that good food around. The krill off the coast of Brazil has an addictive flavor. But we had a great time, Moby Dick 3: The Reckoning has been doing pretty well in small midnight showings in cult theaters across the country.

Tell me about the place that you call home, 826 Valencia.

826 is a non-profit dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. I live in the Pirate Supply Store in front of the writing center.

I understand you have a plug.

I’m plugging Birthdays.

Birthdays?

My Birthday, and more importantly your Birthday! This Saturday, August 23, we will be celebrating Vouched San Francisco’s Birthday at Milk Bar in the Haight district of San Francisco! It starts at 6PM. The proceeds from the event will benefit 826 Valencia!

Well I think we’re about out of time, you have a performance coming up right?

Yes, that’s right, thank you for your time and for interviewing me. Will you stay for the show? We will be performing a stage-adaptation of “Bonnie and Clyde”

Sounds amazing.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Month: Everyday Genius

13 Aug

Michael Seidlinger is at the helm of Everyday Genius this month and he’s been posting excerpts from works-in-progress by some really fantastic folks. Below are a few of clips from my favorites so far:

An excerpt from What Have You Lost? by Cari Luna

It would be pretty, wouldn’t it, to say I walked along the river, but I-5 cuts the east side of Portland off from the Willamette and so I would find myself walking parallel to the highway. But the highway had its own appeal, and then there was also the hard rusted beauty of the train yards and the cargo trains gone still and cold, waiting, and the occasional train in motion, wending its slow robot-driven way through town, its mournful whistle cutting through the air, the gray heaviness of Portland morning even heavier with the weight of that train song.

An excerpt from Jim’s Daughter by Alexandra Naughton

We send letters back and forth for two years, each letter revealing more than the last, with promises to see each other soon repeated unfulfilled, except for one time when your friend had to be in Philly for a family reunion and you tagged along, but after three months and no response, no letters and no emails, I feel defeated, sending one last letter. Your mother writes back, a short note and newspaper clipping with your wedding announcement.

An excerpt from Wichita Stories by Troy Weaver

I go into my best friend’s bedroom and lay down on his bed. I close my eyes. I wait. I start counting sheep to alleviate the boredom—not really sheep, just aloud to myself in the dark. I open my eyes, I close them, I open them, and I wait. I count. I wonder what could possibly be taking so long. I count some more. I think about Claudia Schiffer’s perfect boobs, stop thinking about them, start again, stop again, decide to lay on my stomach so I don’t start jacking off on instinct in my best friend’s bed.

An excerpt from Seeing Other People by Megan Lent

If I ever get a tattoo, it will be of a rose, in white ink, on my left shoulder. Except if you have a tattoo you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Which doesn’t really affect me, because I will never die.

Awful Interview: Christy Crutchfield

4 Aug

Christy Crutchfield

To your left you see Christy Crutchfield. She’s fucking fierce. Christy penned a book. That book is titled How to Catch a Coyote. The book, like Christy, is fucking fierce. The fierce book may be purchased from its publisher, Publishing Genius, but only if you do so ferociously. You can do that here.

Christy is embarking on a book tour (possibly with a pack of coyotes? No promises.) …right now. You can follow that here. We caught up with her before she hit the dusty dusty and asked her a few questions about coyotes, Cocoa Puffs, and life in general. She had a lot of wise things to say.

So Christy, let’s get straight to the good stuff. When did you realize that you had such a gift for catching coyotes?

When I almost hit one with my car.  If I hadn’t hit the brakes, I’d have more than caught one.

Oh my God, just typing that made my heart hurt.  I could never actually do that.  I did a lot of research about hunting and coyotes while I was writing the book, and it made me realize two things:  1) I Iove coyotes, and  2) I could never be hunter.  I barely eat meat as it is, and I’m pretty sure the closest to hunting I’ll ever get is fishing.

Don’t worry, I totally understand. How does one fish? I’ve never actually been.

I haven’t been fishing since I was a kid, and I’ve never caught much.  You need bait (crawlers for fresh water, shrimp for salt water), good rods and bobbers, and a lot of patience.

Here’s how coyotes catch fish:

Wowee! That’s incredible! Way to go coyote! Speaking of which,  I feel like I must confess something. Christy, I was a little sad when I discovered your book wasn’t actually a Count of Monte Cristo-esque revenge story told from the perspective of the Road Runner on Looney Tunes. (Are you mad at me?)

Yes and no.  Yes, because I always kind of hated the Road Runner (and Tweety Bird if we’re keeping score).  I know Wile E. is the one starting shit, but the Road Runner is always so smug about winning.  No, because not matter what I think of the Road Runner, I would totally read his revenge story.  I would really like to know what’s in the Road Runner’s head because he doesn’t say much.

 Shew. And yeah – what is with those Looney Tunes birds always being so snarky anyway? What’s with birds in general?

Oh come on.  Birds are great!  Songbirds, hawks, peregrine falcons.  There are lots of blue herons in Western Mass, and there’s something majestic about them when they fly.  Parrots creep me out though.  Maybe it’s a talking/cartoon bird thing.  The Cocoa Puff’s Cuckoo–the worst!

But Cocoa Puffs are so good! The milk! It’s the best, don’t you think?

I feel pretty meh about Cocoa Puffs.  And I love cereal.  I love cereal so much I had to stop buying it.  But yeah, not huge on the “chocalatey” kinds.  I hold out for Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Bunches of Oats, and Peanut Butter Crunch.  I’ll give you the milk part though. (Are you mad at me?)

How could I be mad at you? You’re so endearing! And also, now that I know you’re not a fan of Cocoa Puff Milk and cereal milk in general – we make a dynamite duo. Plus, aren’t we about the same height and disposition? I feel like people may find that endearing.

I clock in at just (or just barely?) 5’2”.  I also remember you being a wee person.  How tall are you?   Does that mean we can share clothes?  According to facebook, you have really cute clothes.

Your disposition may be a little sunnier than mine, but that works well for a duo.  What would our duo name be?  Whoops, I think I just started asking the questions.

 Holy shit, I’m taller than you by one inch – that’s such a rarity! And yeah we can totally share clothes! Want to brainstorm some duo names? We go together like bourbon and lemonade. (Those go really well together.)

Those do go really well together.  Could we be The Boozy Lemonades?  What else goes well together? Chocolate and Peanut Butter?  Egg and Cheese (can I be Egg?)

The Endearing Duo?  The Dynamic Shorties?  I’m struggling here.

 We can keep brainstorming. (Maybe we can get a whole gang going!) But yeah, you can totally be egg, if we go that route. What are your feelings on breakfast, anyway? Do coyotes eat breakfast?

I love breakfast so much!  I will eat breakfast any meal of the day.  If I’m home for lunch, I almost always make a veggie scramble.  Coyotes will eat just about anything.  Animals,vegetables, fish, trash, pizza.  So I assume breakfast foods are on the list.  Breakfast hours, not sure.

Well, you’re a living testament to the fact that breakfast cannot be inhibited by menial things like time, right? Say, what are you most excited about your book tour? And more specifically, the release party in Atlanta on August 9?

I have been looking forward to this book tour all summer (it’s been getting me through teaching at summer camp this July), especially the release party in Atlanta.  I think I’m most excited to see friends, family, and all the amazing people in the lit community along the way.  I’m reading at some awesome series in the coming months (Federal Dust, Three Tents, Tirefire, Sunday Salon) and at some amazing venues (The Goat Farm, Lorem Ipsum, the Regulator Bookshop).  It’s a little scary to have a first book out, but people have been so supportive helping put this tour together (thanks to you too!).  It makes my heart so full.  Also, Atlanta’s my hometown, and Publishing Genius is now based there, which makes the release party even better.

Happy Birthday, Vouched Atlanta!

19 Jul

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since Vouched Atlanta made its debut in the city. (Sometimes it’s almost as if I’m still wiping the sweat off of my brow, admiring Heather Christle’s delicate cadence, Amy McDaniel’s boundless charm, or Bruce Covey’s jovial manner as they read to us at the very first Vouched Presents reading.) We’ve come a really far way since then – over fifty readers hosted, nearly a hundred titles in rotation, dozens of presses represented – it’s pretty damn grand. Of course none of the accomplishments above could have happened without the unwavering support of all the Vouched contributors, the authors and presses whom we represent, and the wonderful people within the community itself. And since I don’t have a stage upon which to thank them this year, I’m choosing to do so from this modest corner of the internet. (Thanks everyone.)

Doey Zeschanel, light of my heart and my table.

Doey Zeschanel, light of my heart and my table.

A lot has changed since then – both within the literary landscape nationally and within Atlanta, and then, of course, within my personal life, too. Writers and friends have weaved in and out of our city limits, reading series have launched, new presses have begun printing, and the literary movement in the city has blossomed. I’ve had the humble honor of watching what once was a fledgling literary landscape bloom and burgeon from the sidelines, shielded behind an tiny pop-up bookstore in the faint glow of a deer lamp (love you, Doey Zeschanel). Watching all of it evolve has filled me with endless joy, while also bringing me pause for evaluation.

Since birthdays are a great time for reflection, I’ve devoted a lot of time to reassessing my efforts with Vouched Atlanta as of late. It’s important to me to focus my efforts where I am most needed, given how much the landscape has changed. And pondering that is what has led me to make this announcement: that Vouched Presents, the reading series portion of Vouched Atlanta, will be retired as of Labor Day weekend with the collaborative reading we will be hosting with #WeLoveATL at this year’s Decatur Book Festival. This is by no means the end of Vouched Atlanta. Simply put, organizing and promoting readings takes up a lot of bandwidth and dedication on my part, and Atlanta now has a bevy of active, well-attended readings at her disposal, I would rather focus that energy where it is most needed: bringing more small press books to the city and championing them. It’s my hope to set up shop more consistently at the reading series that we’ve come to partner with over the years, and to act as a consult to different readings that take place – through assisting with their marketing, promotional and reviewing efforts.

I’m really, really thrilled about these advances. (I’ve already brought nearly a dozen new titles to the table since the Atlanta Zine Fest last month, and continue to place orders and plan reviews for the approaching weeks.) As stated earlier, a lot has changed in the past few years in my life, but if one thing has never wavered it’s my love of words. It could be easily argued that has been the cornerstone of my persona since childhood – having grown up so nomadically, uprooting from state to state every few years with my family, I never had the benefit of having life-long friends (aside from my sister). What I did have were books, my constant companions. Whenever we moved to a new town, the second we had things at home in order, my mom would haul my sister and I off to the library and get us our cards. To this day you can find me accompanied with a pile of four or five titles I’m devouring on hand. In short: books are my anchor. So it only makes sense for me to advocate them with boundless fervor – literature has given me everything, I’ll never stop giving back.

Uterus Poems by Jessica Dyer

22 Jun

Uterus Poems (The New Megaphone, 2014) is a chapbook you’ll happily read in one sitting. A series of blocky prose poems, Dyer casts her uterus as something different on each page. Here it’s a toolbox, there it’s a bread machine, now it’s “as dirty as a Ron Jeremy porno.” Sometimes it’s a rare gem; at others, it’s a rancid dump. In exploring all the roles and identities of her uterus, Dyer lays out how it feels to be a woman, a human. That’s how I read it, and while such a tactic may be rather obvious, I don’t care. Women feel pressure from so many outlets to be a certain way that a response as funny and straightforward as this is necessary.

One poem features Dyer’s uterus as “a mine where dirty men dig out crags–those poky things where I cultivate all my crystal pretties.” The rest of the poem gives the reader rose quartz, pyrite, agate–beautiful gemstones–but the end of the poem whispers of something less aesthetically beautiful: “Deep in my mine there is coal. It keeps me going.” You can certainly read this to mean Dyer needs to call on something darker and deeper than superficial gemstone beauty to get through the day. Men mine women for beauty, and when their beauty is gone, what’s left? What else can society wring from them?

Dyer isn’t hopeless. That’s important to say. Even if in one poem she unkindly characterizes her uterus as being smart as a box of rocks–which is to say, not at all–there are other poems where her uterus “is on fire…It’s basically the center of the universe…it’s the power and the glory.” Instead of usually sappy exhortations or pieces of artwork that encourage women to see their sex as nothing but precious, fragile, and beautiful, Dyer focuses on the diversity of women, on the multiple identities women can take on and inhabit. Today, the uterus feels lame and embarrassing, but tomorrow, the uterus will feel powerful. And maybe on Saturday, it won’t feel like much at all, actually, but thanks for asking. Dyer accomplishes all of this with humor and honesty. In one poem, her uterus has gone viral and racked up a ton of followers on social media. In another poem, her uterus abstains from attending its high school reunion, because who really likes reunions anyway, geez?

The uterus may be the organ where fetuses grow, where uterine lining turns to blood, where fertilization can happen, but Dyer uses the uterus–her uterus–as shorthand for much more. Her uterus is a repository for memories, feelings, triumphs, and disappointments. She claims ownership of her body with short, humorous sentences that demonstrate how well she knows her uterus, her life. Her uterus is uniquely hers.

Downtown Writers Jam

12 Jun

Vouched Indy will be at the inaugural Downtown Writers Jam on Wednesday, July 23,  at Indy Reads Books. The Writers Jam will be a new kind of reading: no podium and no papers (or iDevice in hand), just a writer telling a story from their work. Organized by The Geeky Press, a loose collective of writers, the Jam promises to a sock-rocking event all about promoting writers and facilitating conversation and awesomeness. Anyone is welcome to submit their work for consideration. Read the guidelines here. And Jared Yates Sexton will be there, so I think it’s safe to say that a good time is guaranteed. See you there!

Event Details

What: Downtown Writers Jam

Where: Indy Reads Books, 911 Mass Ave, Indy

When: Wednesday, July 23, 6:30-8:30

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/708880852487090/?fref=ts

Awful Interview: Scott Daughtridge

22 May

scott

To the left is an image of  Scott Daughtridge right after he returned to the modern era after living in Pleasantville for five years. Clearly he took the “color” thing a little too far after living in black and white for so long. What you can’t see is that his face is actually still in monochrome – well played, Scott. It’s kind of creepy, the way the whole world is in color except for his face. Scott can often be found with his face buried in a book for this reason. It is rumored that he is the actual Phantom of the Opera. He is somewhere between the age of 19 and 87 (no one’s really sure). He’ll be reading at the next Vouched Presents.

So, Scott, your forthcoming chapbook is called I Hope Something Good Happens. What do you mean by “good” per sé? Like, are we talking a really good sandwich or are we talking Team U.S.A. defeating Team Iceland a la Mighty Ducks 2? Or something else entirely?

Well I had money on the Icelanders, so the Ducks winning that tournament cost me a stack. I should have known better. I’m talking about something slightly different. Like a dog is lost in the woods and is exhausted, starving and dehydrated, then stumbles on a creek where it brings itself back to health and later becomes king of the forest.

Oh. Wow. Did you ever really play hockey? Also, I like that story about the dog. Which sentimental dog book are you a bigger fan of: Where the Red Fern Grows or White Fang?

The closest I ever came to playing hockey was skating around in circles at the Ice Forum, which was just a cold version of a roller skating rink. Why do people love skating around in circles while listening to pop music? Why has that need developed in our genetic makeup? I actually met Jack London’s ghost one time when I hopped a train from Atlanta to Athens and he told me how happy he was that Outkast named one of their songs Call of Da Wild. I agreed and we split a pint of Old Forester.

 The only thing I am worse at than skating (in any form) is golfing. So I’m not sure how to answer your question. Was it messy sharing a pint of Old Forester with a ghost? Did he get off at Athens then or keep going?

You seem like you’d be good at skating, with your low center of gravity and all. I’m bad at golf too, both standard and frisbee, but appreciate the skillful landscaping involved. Being around people who are good at golf, or even play it a lot,  makes me want to throw a bowl of salsa across the room, which has happened before, but these days it’s a little easier to restrain myself, so I just interrupt them whenever they start talking.

There was no mess, but he smelled strongly of salt water. I dozed off before we arrived and was alone when I woke up. I still have the pint bottle.

By “low center of gravity” you mean “short,” right? Thanks a lot, Scott. When was the last time you threw a bowl of salsa across the room? Was anyone injured?

It’s been a while, but I’ve thrown a lot of different things across a lot of different rooms. I try to choose things that won’t result in injury. Paper or plastic containers are preferred. That’s how you can test if you’re at a good party or not. If you can throw something (a bowl of salsa, a cup of beer, a pie) across the room and either 1) the person it hits turns but can’t tell who threw it because it’s too crazy or 2) the person it hits doesn’t even give a damn because everything is bonkers, then you’re at a good party. I never have thrown a pie, though. It’s one of my true regrets in life.

Oksana Baiul is 5’ 3”, Michelle Kwan is 5’ 2”, Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi and Tonya Harding are all 5’ 1”. I’m pretty sure you’re in that range, and therefore in the height company of female figure skating royalty. That’s awesome!

Okay, you’re forgiven! I love Michelle Kwan. I’ve always wanted to throw water in someone’s face after they insult me. Hey – I’ve got an idea! Want to make a pledge that next time we’re at a party you can throw pie in my face and I’ll throw water in yours?

Deal. I’ll start carrying a throwin’ pie with me at all times until this exchange goes down.

Great. Maybe we should both invest in a good pair of spurs, too? You know, so we can handle this Western stand-off style? Thoughts?

I was imagining more sneak attack, ambush style. I’ll just casually stroll through a crowded room with a pie, walk up from behind you, then WHAM! Everyone will be horrified but you and I can laugh hysterically. Then, in an act of vengeance, you can throw water in my face. Maybe you should make it a bucket of water with a blue little paint mixed in.

Oooh – I like the way you think. I can’t wait! Say – what are you most pumped about for this reading? Free beers? An audience who may or may not heckle you?

I’m going to be reading stories from Strange Temple, a collection in progress. One piece from it was featured in the most recent issue of Midwestern Gothic, but the others haven’t seen the light of day yet, so I’m excited to get those out there.  Free beer is cool too.

Awful Interview: Benjamin Carr

19 May

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This is Benjamin Carr. After reading at just about every other reading series in Atlanta he’ll finally be reading at the next Vouched Presents on Wednesday, May 28th. In Atlanta’s literary realm this accomplishment equitable to EGOT-ing (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award, respectively), launching Benjamin to a tier of literary performers prestigious and rare. We had the privilege of interviewing him, awfully, prior to the big night.

Benjamin, what’s it like having a name with a built-in nickname? Is it as awesome as it seems? Do you prefer Ben, Benji or the full Benjamin? Does it fluctuate?

It’s been hell. I grew up as Benjie (yes, with an ‘e’) around the same time those dog movies became popular, so there’s been that my whole life. I hate that damn dog. In college, I wrote a column in the newspaper about how I fantasized about running down that dog with a car. But now, after years of therapy, those things just strike me as funny.

As for the name I prefer, it does fluctuate based upon when you met me, how you met me or where you met me. Everybody from my hometown or from college knows me as “Benji” because nobody remembers to spell it with that ‘e’ my parents were so fond of. If you’ve met me through one of them or just socially know me, you call me “Benji.” My byline when I wrote for newspapers was always Benjamin, even when I was in high school, so those people call me Benjamin.

And at my current job, Jerad Alexander was one of my first supervisors and always called me “Ben.” I think the on-site military told him I was Ben. Everyone in the office calls me Ben. But it’s the first place I’ve ever been Ben anywhere. Before this job, I avoided that name out of fear that it would lead people to call me “Has-Ben” or, worse, “Ben-Gay.” Now, if someone called me that, I would just think they were ridiculously moronic.

So, no one’s ever called you Benny? Is that a name? Did I just make that up? Also – are you kind of nervous sharing the stage at this reading with your supervisor?

No one’s called me Benny. I have no jets. My nephews don’t even call me Uncle Ben, so I never bring them rice.

Benny is a name, though I can’t think of anyone of note who managed to go by it past the age of 10.

It’s sort of hilarious, but I got really, really excited when I found out Jerad was in this show and went over to his cube, like, “We’re doing a show together!!! We’re doing a show together!!!! We haven’t shared a stage before!!!” And he looked at me the way he used to when I was a wayward, goofy employee, the sort of glare that just says without a word, all Marine-like, “Calm your shit down, crazy person …”

Jerad Alexander is the sort of guy you want in charge of something, passionate enough to fight, common-sense enough to not suffer fools and smart enough to know when to stay quiet. He keeps me in check, at work and as a friend, and I think he’s the best.

He’s in a different department now. I miss him. Luckily, he is now part of the community. He’s done Write Club, Carapace, Naked City. But we’ve never been onstage in the same show before. I’m super excited. And intimidated.

His writing is fucking incredible. Did you read his book? Can I take the opportunity to plug his book? It’s a novella called The Life of Ling Ling, available for digital download. I read it in a Walmart storefront Subway restaurant one afternoon, and the narrative took me away from all the other Walmart shoppers and placed my imagination in a war zone. It was great.

“Excited and intimidated” is a good way for me to behave around Jerad, though. So this is going to be a great night.

Laura, this conversation is going more smoothly than any other conversation we’ve ever had before at the Vouched Retail-Display Table of Wonder. Is that the name of the table? Does the table have a name? Perhaps we can call it Benny.

Wowee! That was a plug. I think you just life-blurbed Jerad Alexander. Congratulations, Jerad! And you’re right, this conversation is much more smooth than any we’ve ever conducted over my unnamed Vouched table. If we name it Benny, is it technically your namesake? What are some alternative names? I’ve already got a dear lamp named Doey Zeschanel. Not to mention the ghost of a beloved, lovely assistant, Lauren Traetto.

I miss Traetto. I did a HydeATL show with her right before she left town, but she was just lovely. Perhaps we should name the Vouched booth “The Traeble” to honor her.

God, I’m nervous about this reading.

Don’t be nervous! Just imagine everyone in the audience naked, right? Yeah? Is that still a thing? And yes, let’s call it the Traeble!

I think Lauren would be honored. And, if not, we just don’t have to tell her and could call it the Traeble behind her back. By moving from Atlanta, she lost her say in the matter.

I’m not going to imagine the audience naked. We know some really cute people. That just seems problematic. I’ve never understood that advice. I mean, yeah, everyone naked is without their defenses, vulnerable and less threatening. But, I mean, boobs, six-pack abs and stuff. I’d be afraid to step away from the podium. Fear of my own tumnescence.

Aren’t you reading at this event too, or is it another Laura?

It’s another Laura. You’ll like her a lot, I think.  Do you like most Laura’s for the most part? I can never tell how to feel about women named Simone at first.

OK, again we’re on what names mean to me. The first Laura I ever knew was Half-Pint on “Little House on the Prairie,” and I had a crush on her. So, as a result, every Laura has benefitted from that, considered to be good, fun, decent and a pioneer capable of running down a hill covered in flowers while in a gingham dress. I assume you could rock some pigtails.

My first Simone was the waitress who took a bus to France in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, so, consequently,  I always assume they have mean boyfriends and like to watch the sunrise from inside a giant, hollow brontosaurus.

Culture’s been so unfair to certain names. (I still hate that dog.)

 So, nervousness aside – what are you  most excited about for the reading? Also, how should I introduce you? Ben? Benjie? Benny-Boy?

The thing that most excites me is that I’ll finally have gotten to officially do an event with you, which has been long planned. I’m trying to get some sort of Atlanta Lit Scene triple crown by doing all the major events or, at least, contributing work to all the major players. (Is it weird that I think we have major players?)

Introduce me as Benjamin Carr. If people think that I’m all serious and professional, what I bring to the stage might surprise them more. This should be fun.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: Dear Corporation

7 May

 

Adam Fell’s second collection, Dear Corporation (H_NGM_N Books, 2013), is written to the gods of the twenty first  century, those entities capable of bending the course of history that are simultaneously indifferent to the lives of people who will live through it. Fell’s epistles are survey responses given as manifestos, comment cards in the form of maltov cocktails.

Fell’s Dear Corporation is a call to riot. It screams in the face of welling indifference and easy neo-liberalism that characterizes the opening of our new millennium. He writes:

Politicians never counted on us. Wall Street never counted on us. The cadaverous yuppies and their screaming vegan babies never counted on us. Investment bankers swear they keep finding our faces burned into their zeroes and ones like belligerent, binary Marys. They feel our fingers down the throats of their housing bubbles, our teeth foreclosing on the napes of their uninsured necks. To put it more delicately: I want you to fuck the fiscal responsibility out of me. I want you to fuck me until universal health care. We are the only thing that is too big to fail, so put down the briefcase and come skin the rabbit with me.  (22)

Fell wants to stain the immaculate corporate surfaces over which we crawl like ants looking for spilled Coke. He strips out the eggshell-painted drywall, pulls up the laminate flooring made to look like real wood grain to show us the chaos a corporation is trying to cover with its flattening of human experience. Fell states:

[S]o let me get my wolf cub teeth right into the deer heart of our matter: there is a brimming and braveness and feral intelligence to you that I’m taken with. Where I suspect a wilderness may be, a wilderness usually is, and I can’t help but explore. My dear Corporation, you are the PJ Harvey of the investment banking world, the Margaret Atwood of subprime mortgage lenders. You say you are unfamiliar with the taste of man, but I know a dive bar in Red Hook that proves you a liar.  (54)

Fell uses the corporation to represent everything that isn’t corporeal. Just as the word no longer contains the human body, the corporation Fell addresses is one that has moved past the human experience, and the letters Fell writes could be as easily addressed to Target as the US government.

In Dear Corporation Fell wants to anchor humanity in people instead of the illusory capital, both economic and cultural, held in corporations. Fell writes:

Adam and Eve with the apple unbit never had to un-coin their eyes to imbalance, inequity, the ingenuity and ignorance and incessant allure of the world. To wake in the dark of the woods and realize we have been created at all is to realize we have not always been, that we will not always be. We are not born to stake a claim, but to claim a stake in each other, to burn alive if needed in the pure resurrection of our simultaneous decay. (27)

Fell locates himself with people. Fell is like a human submarine sending out waves of noise in the hopes of having someone give him a signal as to where he is. Ultimately, Dear Corporation is a letter asking us to write back.

And that’s what I found so successful about this book, it’s willingness to be human, to say anything to get us to connect with it as a human document. Dear Corporation is prosaic. It digresses. It writes vaguely inappropriate postcards. It sings with the radio when it’s drunk. It may, at times, lack artifice, but never art.

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