Archive by Author

Awful Interview: Jon Irwin

14 Nov

This is Jon Irwin. He wrote a book about Super Mario 2 for Boss Fight Books, and has a lot of things to say about video games in general. He also happens to be reading at the Phoenix Festival today in Atlanta! You should come see!

Vouched: So Jon, you’ve written a book about Super Mario 2. Can we talk a little bit about the Princess in that game? Also, why Super Mario 2? Why not the RPG Super Mario and the Legend of the Seven Stars? Princess Peach fought with a frying pan in that one, which I find more than a little misogynistic. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

 

You want female stereotypes? Go play Super Princess Peach, a game for the Nintendo DS where the Princess finally gets her first starring role. Instead of running or jumping, she uses her “power of emotion” to defeat enemies. Specifically: Joy, Gloom, Calm, and Rage. If you activate her Rage power, she catches on fire (the better to burn up baddies). Use the Princess’s Gloom power and she begins to cry; the tears hit the ground and cause plants to grow, giving you platforms on which to jump and reach new areas. On one hand, the use of emotions as actual gameplay mechanic is rather brilliant and like no other game I’ve played. But then there’s the whole “self-immolation” thing and the depiction of women as overly emotional tear buckets. What’s that? Answer the first question, you say? Why yes, let’s re-focus our attentions…

 

Gabe Durham, editor and co-founder of Boss Fight Books, reached out to me after reading some of my game criticism and essays in Kill Screen’s print magazine and daily website. He was starting this new press inspired by the 33 ⅓ series, where an author writes a short-ish book about a single music album. He thought the same model would work for video games. So last summer, he got in touch with prospective authors and laid the groundwork for a Kickstarter campaign to help the press get off the ground. (A campaign for Season Two is taking place now.) I was the last author he contacted; he wanted a book focused on a big franchise, something mainstream and something most people, avid gamers or not, were familiar with. The Super Mario franchise is one of, if not the biggest one out there. But the first sequel for the NES also has a weird history and has always been thought of as an outlier in the series since it looks and plays so differently. I thought the game had an interesting story to tell.

 

Vouched: It certainly does! What are some other video games that you believe deserve a time to shine. You know, maybe ones from less heralded series? I’ve got a lot to say about the entire Kings Quest series, as well as Myst/Riven, Lunar Silver Star Story, and Chrono-Cross.

 

Oh man. There’s so many crazy-interesting games. Gabe’s press could run for a hundred years and still have ample and worthy subjects. I’d love to read a book about the Rhythm Heaven or WarioWare games. Each are made by the same studio, and each are bizarre, frantic, and surprisingly skill-based. Rhythm Heaven is centered on keeping time with music, and WarioWare is more about instinct and quick decisions. Both have this zany humor that is also very sweet, a marked difference between the cynical, sarcastic humor one sees in a lot of “funny” games. The creators clearly care about things outside of gaming culture, which shows in the musicianship and variety of visual influences, and I’d love to hear how something so rich and weird and unique to an interactive medium (WarioWare could never be a film; the audience would go into epileptic fits) gets made.

 

I think video game culture is rife with fascinating stories to tell, and this goes beyond single games. The hardware itself can be a great foundation for narrative, between the building of its technology and the marketing of it as a consumer product to the people behind the scenes who orchestrate it all. I’d devour a book about the TurboGrafx-16, a system nobody talks about that competed with the SNES and the Sega Genesis. It tanked in America but was a huge success in Japan (known there as the PC-Engine). I had one as a kid and still have an odd fondness for it. In fact Ian Bogost, professor at Georgia Tech, co-edits a series that investigates computer hardware in this way, called Platform Studies. The high water mark for such writing, in my eyes,  is still The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder. It’s about bringing a new computer to market in the ‘80s. The summary sounds dry and insider-y, but Kidder’s story is totally accessible, a fantastic, page-turning human drama.

 

Vouched: What’s so evocative about it for you? Would you write a Single Sentence Review of it for us? Right here right now?

 

“”The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder is about bringing a new computer to market in the ‘80s, and while the summary sounds dry and insider-y, Kidder’s story is totally accessible, a fantastic, page-turning human dram.”

 

That’s the Jerk Answer. Here’s another attempt:

 

“In Kidder’s Machine, we learn that what we build, using silicon and plastic, is no different than what we build with chromosomes and DNA: our inventions are our children, and they outlive us all.” Or something.

 

Vouched: Ha! Totally fair. Say, wouldn’t it be creepy to have a robot for a kid?

 

Oh, I don’t know. A “Sleep” button for restful nights. Duracell AA batteries for food. The high school track record in the 100M! Maybe having a robot would be awesome.

 

I really like the movie Artificial Intelligence, or A.I — you know, the one where Haley Joel Osment is a robot-child after a couple loses their real child in a pool accident. Was it a pool accident? I forget. Anyway, point is, lots of people railed on that movie for being over-long and too sentimental. But it’s also kind of messed up and presages a not-so-unrealistic future where people are engineered and manufactured. A hundred years ago farmers probably didn’t think potatoes could be “genetically modified.” Today robot-children seem like some Asimovian bedtime story to freak kids out you’re babysitting, but who knows? Maybe in another hundred years it’ll be common.

 

A question for you! Why “Awful Interviews,” and not Terrible ones? Or Interminable Interviews? I have the phrase “Awful Annie” in my head, and I’m wondering if that’s some doll from when we were kids… but then I Google’d it and apparently there’s a restaurant with that name and they have “the best omelets in town.

 

Vouched: Oh, I don’t know, awful ain’t the worst, but it ain’t great either. I like occupying that strange middle territory. Is this not awful enough? Or is it too terrible?

 

Is that your next question? Is the antecedent of “this” in “Is this not awful enough?”  our actual interview? Or are you referring to a hypothetical interview, the platonic INTERVIEW you had in mind when creating and naming said “Awful Interviews”?

 

In case of the former: Yes. This is awful enough.

 

But yeah, I’m all about the strange middle territory. My wife’s belly-button is like some undiscovered landmark tucked away in a deciduous forest, hiding in the corner of a western state, let’s say Montana. Soft and undulating. But with a kind of mysterious depth. Like: Does it stop there? Or does it go on?

 

Okay. NOW this is awful enough.

 

Vouched: Shit just got awkward. This is wonderfully awful, indeed! Say, are you pumped for Phoenix Fest? Tell us about it!

 

I’m so pumped. Did you know there’ll be live glass-blowing demonstrations? Glass-blowing! I love how the readings are a part of this larger melange of artwork going on throughout the day. Music! Glass! Murals! And good ol’ fashioned spoken words. A little for all the senses. Wait–will there be tastings? I think “taste” has been left out. This is a travesty. Since I’ll be reading from my book Super Mario Bros. 2, and since a notable item in that game is the turnip, I request some ambitious festival-goer to whip up an exotic turnip dish and serve it to happy passers-by. Perhaps turnips could take the place of potatoes in a delicious mashed turnip souffle?  Or roasted turnips, the natural sugars carmelizing under the high heat, lending the earthy veggies a hint of sweetness. Regardless: I can’t wait to see what happens on Saturday. And I hear we’ll be reading in an abandoned motel? Vacant for so long, but soon filled with strangers… sounds like my childhood.

Awful Interview: Jason Koo

6 Nov

Yup, it’s time for another post about how stoked we are for The Letters Festival! Next up to bat? The formidable and dashing poet Jason Koo, who’s trekking all the way from New York City to share his words with us. His most recent book of poetry, America’s Favorite Poem, was released by C&R press. As a patriot, I adore it. (More on that later.) Jason’s going to be reading alongside Lindsay Hunter, Morgan Parker and Jamie Iredell on Saturday, November 8th at the Rodriguez Room at the Goatfarm Arts Center. It’s definitely a “Don’t Miss” in our book. You can get yourself a ticket to that here.

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Vouched: Hey Jason! So, your most recent collection of poetry was “America’s Favorite Poem.” As a xenophobe, I’m really stoked about that. When did you realize that you had America’s Favorite Poem in you? Did Bruce Springsteen really like it too?  

The moment came a long time ago at a diner in Houston when I looked at a Heinz ketchup bottle. The label said “America’s Favorite Ketchup.” I thought that was absurd. Just calling your ketchup America’s favorite. Maybe they had the stats to back it up, but how would anyone know? So I decided to write America’s favorite poem. How would anyone know it wasn’t? I was thinking a lot about consumerism at the time and wrote a poem about all the shopping being done in Houston and beyond and called it “America’s Favorite Poem.” I published it, then didn’t like it anymore, so I kept it out of my first book. It may have been America’s favorite, but it wasn’t mine.  Later I wrote another poem about shopping in Target and becoming obsessed with brands almost against my will as I flipped through magazines like GQ. I was searching for a title–and thought, Fuck it, why not call this “America’s Favorite Poem” too? It’s not like anyone read the first one. Even though it was published–and America’s favorite! The new poem is also not my favorite, though it did make the second book–and became the title poem. Now, of course, I have to write America’s Worst Poem. Some people may already think the two America’s Favorite Poems are already America’s Worst Poems. All I know is I’m always introduced now as the “author of America’s Favorite Poem” and can take that shit to my grave (i.e. on my tombstone).

Bruce, of course, has always been a huge fan of my work.

Vouched: I really like that it all started with a bottle of ketchup. What’s your favorite condiment?

Salsa. Or barbecue sauce. Barbecue sauce seems to go well with everything. Salsa not so much.

Vouched:  Any specific kind of BBQ?

I guess Kansas City style? Or St. Louis style? Missouri style? Texas style, too. Perhaps because I did all my graduate work in Texas and Missouri. I wrote poems and ate a lot of barbecue. Poems, too, taste better with barbecue sauce.

Vouched: I eat a lot of BBQ when I’m writing too! Was it The Phantom Tollbooth where they eat word sandwiches or something like that? If your poetry were a sandwich, would it be BBQ or something else?

I actually have a poem in my first book called “I’m Charlie Tuna” that details my sad obsession with–or overreliance on–a particular lunch plate while living in Missouri: tuna salad sandwich, barbecue chips, pickle. So I guess I’d have to say that my poetry would be a tuna salad sandwich with a side of barbecue chips. And a pickle. Or to put it another way, my poetry is written with fingers covered in “barbecue pollen.”

Vouched: Why are BBQ chips so great? I mean – they’re REALLY great. Oh, and not to change the subject, but who’s your all-time favorite athlete ?

I don’t know, but as most athletes like to do at the start of post-game interviews, unlike almost all poets, I’d just like to thank God at this moment for BBQ chips, because clearly all the credit goes to him.

My all-time favorite athlete is a difficult question because there have been many favorites–and many of those have gone on to become enemies when they left one of my Cleveland teams through free agency. Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez were my favorite players on consecutive Cleveland Indians’ teams from 1994-96 (Belle) and 97-2000 (Ramirez), but I hated both of them after they left Cleveland for more $$$$. (Manny a little less so, because he was, after all, Manny.) LeBron James is an interesting case because he was by far my favorite Cleveland athlete while he was with the Cavs the first time around, then quickly become my most hated athlete of all time after The Decision, and now he’s quickly become one of my favorites again after The Letter and The Return. Perhaps if he leads us to a title this year he will be my favorite of all time. But I don’t know if my love for LeBron will ever be quite the same again after our initial breakup.

My favorite Indians’ player right now is Michael Brantley, simply because of how he plays the game: always calm, in control, clutch. Just seems effortless. And he’s got this swag to his step, real style to his movement. He’s also got the best game glare I’ve ever seen from an Indians’ player, even better than Belle’s famous snarl.

But my favorite Indians’ player of all time is Victor Martinez, who played catcher for us from 2002-09. I like Brantley because he reminds me so much of Victor: our best clutch hitter, our most consistent hitter, just a joy to watch play on a daily basis. Victor had this great way of clapping his hands together in an upward stroke (as if he were high-fiving himself) as he popped up from a slide into second base after an RBI double. And he loved the Indians, crying when they traded him to the Red Sox. I will never forgive the Indians for trading Victor to the Red Sox. We got Justin Masterson in return, who for a while was our ace and made that deal look respectable, even necessary; but now that Masterson has gone from being our ace to sucking so much that we had to trade him, the Victor deal looks even worse, especially because every time he’s faced us in a Tigers’ uniform the last few years he’s deposited a back-breaking three-run homer somewhere. I know my love for Victor is everlasting because I never hate him, even when he’s killing us with those three-run homers. I just get angry at the Indians’ front office.

My hope, now that LeBron has given Cleveland one miracle through his return, is that Victor will somehow sign a four-year deal with the Indians for like $20 (pretty much the max they can offer him) and take us to the World Series. Because I’m pretty sure if we can sign just one hitter like Victor this off-season we’ll go all the way next year with our badass starting front four of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. Our #5 starter, T. J. House, is no slouch either. I’ll just keep dreaming here while you ask me your next question.

Vouched: I mean, that is pretty much a dream team. If that miraculous turn of events were to happen, how much do you think you’d spend in tickets during the season? Be honest.

Well, seeing as how I don’t live in Cleveland anymore, probably not that much. But if the team looked World Series–bound, I’d go home to watch as many games as I could during the summer. And if the team were on the cusp of winning the World Series at home, I’d pay pretty much whatever price to be there. Like, up to $500 for a ticket, probably. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and when you’re talking about Cleveland, that “lifetime” is longer than most.

Vouched: What are you most excited about for the Letters Festival?

Meeting writers I haven’t met before and hearing them read, and reading with peeps from my own hood like the badass Morgan Parker. Always a pleasure to be invited to read in another city–especially when you get flown out and put up in a hotel room!

SSR: I Was A Fat Drunk Catholic School Insomniac

5 Nov

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I Was A Fat, Drunk, Catholic School Insomniac by Jamie Iredell
Future Tense Books
200 pg // $12

When we strip our adolescence of its hangovers, drunk stupors, the existential crises, angst, and adolescent missteps – what we’re left with is the sobering toxicity of youth.

 

Awful Interview: Kate Sweeney

4 Nov

Atlanta, that wonderful time of year is descending upon us again. No – not the holidays! (Though I’ve been jonesing for a turkey leg ever since exiting this year’s Ren Fest.) The Letters Festival! I mean, holy smokes, we’ve got three days of Independent Literature about to descend upon our fair city. I’m swooning. You swooning? You should be.

So we’ve got a bevy of fun stuff to help get you riled up. First up to bat? A second round of Awful Interview with Atlanta’s own Kate Sweeney, author of American Afterlifeand all-around gem. We’re not sure why she was up for letting us awfully interview her… again. But boy were we glad to do so! Kate will be helping kick-off the festivities this Thursday evening at BURNAWAY’s beautiful office space, alongside Aaron Burch, Esther Lee, and Jason McCall. You can snag your tickets for all that literary goodness here. In the meantime, let’s get to this interview, shall we?

Vouched: So, Kate – it’s been almost 9 months since the release of American Afterlife. How many bizarre, unsolicited stories about death have you heard whilst promoting the book? What was the weirdest?

Oh, my. I’ve heard so many GREAT stories from people about their experiences with funerals and ways they chose to remember their loved ones. One of my favorites is the family who filled their pant-legs with the ashes of their family patriarch,  and then took a casual group walk through the football field of his college alma mater, allowing the ashes to spill out onto the field as they did so, like in “The Great Escape.”

Vouched: Record scratch – wait, what? I mean, i figured you would have weird stories, but that’s pretty out there. Do you have really epic notions for your own funeral now? (I would worry that that’s a morbid question, but I mean, you wrote a book about death rituals, so it feels like fair game.)

Actually, I do have more notions regarding my own funeral than I did when I began all this. I’ve even sat down and made a plan–something I never would have done as a regular, unleaded 30-something who had never heard stories from so many people who’d experienced epic memorials, horrible memorials, as well as exhausting memorials due to a total lack of pre-planning. It’s actually a great gift to those you leave behind to let them know what on earth you want before the time comes–and, almost more importantly, where key documents are. Because you don’t want to leave your significant other/sons/daughters/parents the burden of dealing with all this crazy minutia on TOP of mourning, too. And the hard fact is this: There is a lot of minutia and rigamarole involved. And we don’t know when we’re going to go.  Sure, it feels weird to have these conversations and make these plans, and it feels doubly weird in a society in which even thinking about death is considered to be weird–but it makes a huge difference to everyone we love.

Vouched: Wow, you’ve become quite the advocate! Would you be willing to share a bit of your plan, or is it a surprise? I have a perpetually late friend who wants to have his coffin arrive at the funeral parlor 15 minutes late when he dies (honestly, it would be out-of-character if it didn’t) … is that something that can happen?

That IS something someone could make happen, for sure. I love it! Folks have told me stories about doing traditional funerals with the hearses and the cemeteries and vaults, about opting for direct cremation with no service, choosing green burial, about writing funny or even bitter obituaries for their loved ones, having their loved ones’ ashes made into plant mulch, LPs and artificial coral reefs. (Not to mention our forebears from the 1800s, who made jewelry out of human hair and invented memorial photography! Now they were a party people.) Seriously, though: For every one of these types of memorialization, someone had a story about how scarring and awful her experience was, and someone else had a story about how this was absolutely the right decision, and how it was healing or cathartic in some way.

So, you know, I went into this experience with some prejudices–the kind we all have–about what’s right and what’s weird when it comes to memorialization. But having heard these personal stories, those prejudices have been stripped away.  And not to paint myself as some Grand Authority to whom everyone’s paying attention in terms of her opinions on memorialization, but it’s because I’ve learned this that I’ve actually decided not to speak publicly about what I’ve chosen, personally. I just don’t want to come across as having any sort of bias, because what’s right for me may not be for you, and I get that.

Vouched: Totally fair. Okay, so – I have to ask – is Six Feet Under your all-time favorite television show by default now?

Had there been no Six Feet Under, there would have been no American Afterlife. That is the literal truth.

Vouched: WHOA! I’ve stumbled across interview gold! Would you elaborate on that, plz?

Sure! I was obsessed with that show. It was the first show I ever binge-watched and which moved me to have imaginary conversations with the characters while, say, walking my dog or driving to the store. So naturally, I read everything I could get my hands on about it. One story I came across was an article about a green burial cemetery in California, written by Tad Friend in the New Yorker. The cemetery had served as a setting for something that took place on the show, I believe. Almost as a footnote, the story mentioned that the nation’s very first green burial cemetery–which began the trend of ecologically-friendly burial spaces in the US–was in South Carolina. I was really intrigued, and it looked like no one had written a major feature article about the place, so that’s what I did. Oxford American published the story in its Spring 2008 issue, and things snowballed from there. Suddenly everywhere I looked, there were fascinating stories about how we Americans remember our dead, from third-generation funeral directors, to roadside memorials, to all the stuff we’re doing with ashes, to our Victorian forebears who made jewelry from human hair. I had to write about them.

Vouched: Six Feet Under really is one of those shows where you miss the main characters after it’s over. At least that’s how it was for me. Say, if you could pick one character from Six Feet Under to attend your reading at the Letters Festival, which would it be? And why? What would you say?

Oooh, good one. Well, clearly, it’s the father. It might be kind of unnerving, but I’d love to see his ghostly presence standing in the back, laughing and shaking his head at some of the  stories from the book. I think that in the end, I’d simply shake his hand–if you can do that. Can you shake a ghost’s hand?

Awful Interview: Blake Butler

25 Oct

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This is Blake Butler. He’s quite a guy! Most people know him for his writing (you know, Sky Saw, Nothing, Scorch Atlas, etc.), or his work up at Vice or HTMLGiant and whatnot. Which is pretty cool. But Blake is also just rad as hell as a person, which is why Atlanta is celebrating him and the release of his latest book, 300,000,000, tonight at the Highland Ballroom. Come and see?

Vouched: So, Blake. Your new book is called 300,000,000. Is that your favorite number? Why?

It’s the number of people in America, rounded down. So it’s my least favorite number. I think my favorite number is five. I’ve really claimed five as my favorite number before but for some reason it’s what came out when I typed my favorite without thinking, which is how I usually try to write everything. Wait, I hate five. I like zero, and I like eight.

Vouched: I’m worried that a lot of people are going to wrongly assume your least favorite number is your favorite number. Let’s clarify a couple other favorites, just so we can have all this stuff on the record. Color? Superhero? Gum?

Is it too whatever to say my favorite color is black? It’s black. But I hate the Cure, especially their music. When I was a kid my favorite superhero was Gambit, though I can’t remember why at all now. He actually looks kind of ridiculous and the guys they get to play him in the movies make him seem like a foof. I guess if I have a fav superhero still now it would be something like the planet in the original cartoon Transformers movie voiced by Orson Welles. It’s like huge and quiet and in the middle of nowhere and godlike without anything to god over. I like gum that tastes like fake fruit: cherries, apples, pears, the fruitiest fruits. I usually only like to chew gum for the 30 seconds it takes to make the flavor disappear.

Vouched: Rate these four gums: Super Bubble, Bazooka, Juicy Fruit, and a Nerds Gumball

How big is the Nerds gumball? Can you customize the ball? I like those gum things you can get that are so big they don’t fit in your mouth, but then you force it to fit anyway and then you have a new mouth size. Actually, the Nerds one struck me weird the way they cram all the Nerds in the center, which felt like chomping through a tiny melon to burst into a den of ants. No. Nerds Rope is tight, though. That’s not gum. Shit. I’mma go with Bazooka for its timelessness, and how it reminds me of the color of a brain. So, rank, okay: Bazooka, Juicy, Super, Nerds.

 

Vouched: Wow, you’ve kind of ruined Nerds gumballs for me with that imagery. Say, remember Warheads?

RIP Nerd Gumball. Say, for sure! I sold Warheads out of my backpack in seventh grade during a period when our class developed a minor economy based on who sold what candy for how much to whom. Like a little shit entrepreneur I bought a vat of Warheads from Sam’s Club with my mom  and sold them for a quarter each, mostly to this Mexican kid named Hugo who the only thing I ever remember him talking about was the show Martin. He would give me a dollar for the Warheads and go “You so crazy, Gina” and laugh to himself and walk away. On and on like that through the annals of time. I think I ended up eating most of the Warheads by myself instead of selling them, which is how I ended up here I guess. Did you eat Warheads? What color was your color?

 

Vouched: I liked the black cherry one I think. Oh, and blue raspberry. I mean damn, those things are good. Do they still make them? Also, when did you toss in your entrepreneurial hat for a writerly one? Or are they actually the same hat? Are you wearing two hats at once?

It’s a good question, because from the creative perspective, the kind of writing I spend most of my time on, it’s pretty much the inverse of entrepreneurial pursuit; I would be terrified to calculate the amount I’ve made per hour spread out over all the text I’ve banged out and how much I’ve been paid for it; but to be paid for that isn’t the point, and in another way it helps fuel the other half, which is writing for money, which I’ve basically been doing since I was seventeen; my first job besides mowing lawns and as a cashier at Media Play was writing reviews of independent albums for allmusic.com.

Once I realized I could use writing for the internet to make money and not have to get a real job that ate my time, which I could then use to force the majority of my time into the writing that I loved most and for a long time paid absolutely nothing, I made it my goal to do that as long and hard as I could. Somehow I’ve been able to cobble together enough work running my mouth on websites to make a decent living, and the time to salary rate is pretty great, since at this point I’m so used to busting out content that I end up with most of the day to my whole self. Which is the only way I want to live. And so yes, two hats at once, probably ten hats, or two dozen, though no fedoras please. My skull is too large for most real hats unfortunately.

 

Vouched: Really? What’s the circumference of your head? I have a good haberdashery – in case you want a hat.

I am afraid to measure it but I once received the gift of a one-size-fits-all hat that did not fit me.  I would like to be buried naked, holding only that hat. In the meantime, I will fashion trash bags into headbands and wear them in the sun.

 

Vouched: That sounds really rad. How would you describe your sense of fashion?

My sister says I dress like a bruise. My main rule is: try to dress like you don’t feel bloated. At home I wear what has been deemed “R. Kelly shorts.” If I had it my way I would always be wearing R. Kelly shorts. What is life.

 

Vouched: What do you think R. Kelly’s favorite number is? Do you think he’d like your book?

Some people would probably guess his favorite number is 69. I know it is actually 90210. I hope he would like my book, because he dies in it. For some reason I’m now imagining R. Kelly sitting on the shitter reading The Bible. I think it’s time I let myself get a tattoo.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: A Bad Penny Review

13 Oct

This past weekend I had the joy of reading in Athens with some folks at one of my top-five all-time favorite bookstores: Avid Bookshop. Janet Geddis and her team do a really wonderful job of carrying a varied and wallet-emptying selection of tomes. Mainstream stuff, graphic novels and oodles of small press and poetry titles. It’s here that I finally came across a copy of A Bad Penny Review, which also hails from Athens and is a total beauty to behold. The anthology is printed by Double Dutch Press, who does a really wonderful job on all-things-aesthetic: the type layout, print quality, paper choice and ink are all gorgeous. And since the collection itself is unbound, I have every intention of framing every page and displaying them proudly about my home – because these works aren’t just good literature, they’re art. I snapped this picture when I was reading and drinking my morning coffee on the front porch of our AirBNB – the makings of a completely dreamy morning. A Bad Penny Review

This piece was done by Claire Stephens and really made me swoon. The pacing of the whole thing is brilliant too – this specific piece was quickly followed by some pretty lustful counterpoints by Terri Witek, and the stark contrast in tone between them was provocative and jarring. Also of note? A diagram sentence poem by Amanda Dorsett titled, Sex Dream With Five Words, that tugged at my grammar-loving heart just as much as it did my love-loving heart. The whole thing is mesmerizing, I don’t want to rob you of the thrill of actually reading it yourself by giving you a blow-by-blow account. Just know that if you see a copy of A Bad Penny Review on a bookstore, you should go ahead and do yourself a favor and buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

What I’m Reading

25 Sep

Huzzah! A new category of posts. I took up this fun little project of taking photos of what I’m reading wherever I happen to be reading them when the “Oh wow, I love this.” feeling strikes. Keep an eye out for them in our Instagram and also right here. Here’s around up of some of my summer reads, many of which have since been vouched for.:

 

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Best Thing I’ve Heard This Week – Trains, Brains & Auto-Erotica: An Oral History of the Dingbats

23 Sep

The Dingbats may not be a real band, but Myke Johns really brings their history to full life – with  and with these readings from Nicholas Teckosy, Bobbin Wages, Adam Lowe, Myke Johns himself and Jeremy Maxwell they really come to life. The whole thing can be read in the latest issue of Deer Bear Wolf, but this performance is completely charming to the ear.

And if that tickles your fancy: in addition to his own written achievements and efforts with Write Club Atlanta, Myke Johns puts a lot of effort showcasing and championing the efforts of Atlanta’s literary scene through his podcast, LitCast, at WABE 90.1. There’s a bevy of goodness to be heard. (We Atlantans really owe Myke a lot – so much heartfelt effort goes into these recordings.)

Single Sentence Review: Easter Rabbit

22 Sep

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Easter Rabbit by Joseph Young
Publishing Genius Press
104 pg // $10

These are images without context, dialogues without voices – but they are not withholding: feel them in the palm of your hand, then hold them to the light.

Awful Interview: Todd Seabrook

19 Sep

Todd Seabrook This is Todd Seabrook. Todd’s real first name is William, but that’s no matter. He hails from Ohio, was educated in Colorado, and is working on scoring his Doctorate from FSU as. you. read. Along with getting a host of awesomeness published over the years, his chapbook, The Imagination of Lewis Carroll, was the winner of this year’s chapbook contest at Rose Metal Press. We’re celebrating its release here in Atlanta at a big ol’ party at the Highland Ballroom, hosted by 421 Atlanta (who published his collection The Passion of Joan of Arc earlier this year) and Rose Metal Press. To celebrate, Todd allowed me to awfully interview him.

So, Todd. (Or should I call you William? Mr. Seabrook? W.T.? – you tell me!) with release about Joan of Arc and Lewis Carroll now, I’m guessing you’re a bit of a historian. Is that true?

I have always gone by my middle name, a family tradition that was created, I assume, to make sure there is always a source of confusion in my life. So you may call me Todd, thereby fulfilling my parents’ penchant toward single-syllable middle names, chaos.

If I am a historian, I am a terrible one. It does not take an acute reader to know that Joan of Arc did not actually burn at the stake before standing witness in her own trial, or that Lewis Carroll did not kill the same person twice in two separate duels. But I still maintain these biographies are very accurate, except for all the things that didn’t actually happen, of course. I’m guessing such a statement does not qualify as good historical methodology, but these books are not interested in history so much as the individual characters. I am a fan of Joan of Arc and Lewis Carroll, and I write their life as a fan would. Their stories have been in our culture for centuries, and have somewhat fossilized over the ages, shorn and condensed into banal trivia questions. In order to show what they accomplished—Joan of Arc, a 19-year old girl, single-handedly saving France from becoming England II, and Lewis Carroll telling a story one afternoon on a whim that is still being told today—accuracy took a back seat to the dramatic, the colossal, the impossible. I am a fan, not a historian, and these books are my noblest attempts at true fan fiction.

Historical fan fiction – I like it! What other historical figures are you a fan of? I’m a total fangirl for Teddy Roosevelt, personally.

I have written two other magical realist biographical chapbooks—if that’s what these can be called—one on J. Robert Oppenheimer and one on Steve Prefontaine. I would also add Robin Hood into my list of favorite historical figures even though he never actually existed. But obviously such quibbling details concern me not. It is an incongruous melee of people, who share very little with each other (different eras, countries, ages, talents), but they all stand out to me as people who were exceptional at what they did, and that is why I am drawn to them.

Great choices! Wouldn’t it be funny if they all did have something in common that we just couldn’t possibly be aware of this day and age? For instance, maybe they all had a peanut allergy. Or maybe none of them were very apt at climbing trees.

What if I am their only connection, and they all existed solely so that I could write about them in a series of limited-run chapbooks. What grand design!

Wow! That’s so Being John Malkovich. Remember that movie?

I do, one of Kaufman’s best.

I couldn’t agree more. Did it make you want to take up puppetry, a little? Do you think you’d be good at that? Do you have any other comparable secret hobbies the world should know about?

In a related field to puppetry, I am a juggler, and own a  set of juggling balls and pins. I am also a marathon runner, which is why I have a preoccupation with Steve Prefontaine. Aside from running and juggling, my friends know me as a lover of cats,  a fan of science-fiction and  ICP, and a collector of beer caps, which, as I see them all together, seems like another odd assortment.

 That is quite a menagerie of talents. Will you be juggling at this Saturday’s reading? No pressure! But other than your juggling act and reading – what are you looking forward to most about this weekend’s festivities?
I will be dressed as the Mad Hatter for the reading, and I may bring my juggling balls, or maybe even my pins, just to delight the crowd. I can’t wait to see who else will be dressed up for the event, and I am looking forward to reading with Laird Hunt (making a reading-Laird-Hunt sandwich). All in all, I can’t imagine a launch party that could be any more fun than this.