Tag Archives: xTx

Review: Normally Special by xTx

5 May



The phrase “big things come in small packages,” is normally cliché, but it’s completely true when it comes to Normally Special by xTx. Her collection of flash fiction fits snugly into any back pocket, but carries the weight of a ten-ton anvil. The pieces cover a broad range of topics; father/daughter relationships, standard relationships, abuse/neglect, regret, and stalkers. The writing and content doesn’t allow you to put the book down. I was in awe and instantly fell in love.

xTx’s writing style is simple but breathtaking. She pours herself every word to get that fire between the lines. Every sentence breaks you down and leaves you begging for more. xTx has the ability to lead the reader to the edge of something resembling an emotional epiphany and turns them away, but at the last second the dagger comes out and gets you. That’s especially how I felt when I read “Father’s Day”:

“He’d always be the opposite of melted and I’d never felt like a princess. Even when he’d call me princess soft and soft, then louder and louder as if he were trying to make it true.”

Those two lines forced me to set the book down and stop everything for five minutes while I pulled myself back together. xTx paints these terrifying pictures that haunt the reader, that remind me of a car crash whose image you can’t shake. It’s terrible but you just cannot stop looking. She creates this game of tug-of-war over the emotions of the reader. There is no buffer. xTx has clearly picked each and every word meticulously to wring out as much emotion as possible, like in “The Mill Pond”:

“Mister Dean watched and Mister Dean made me say please two more times. Later on the only please I would say would be followed by the word, ‘stop.’”

xTx doesn’t mess around when  there’s a point that she feels needs to be made. There’s no concern for what the readers may think. She is bold and not afraid of anything. I loved that as a reader. I felt closer to the prose; it made me connect more with writing, and it left an impression on me that I still cannot shake off. I got a better sense of who xTx is not only as a writer, but also as a person. She pours herself on every page, and encourages the reader to drink all of that up. All of that combines for one intense and emotionally draining read.

One of my favorite aspects about xTx’s writing style is her ability to make certain off-the-wall subjects drenched with emotions, just like her story “Because I Am Not a Monster.” The story talks about how the narrator is dealing with the end of a relationship. She constantly references all of the terrible things she could do, but she always finishes them up with: “Do not worry, I will never find you. You are safe.” The rest of the story follows suit. Narrator saying she could drive, bike, or walk to the person she is addressing until the very end. That’s when things get turned upside down. It turns into this grand scene between the narrator and their ex to meet for the final “confrontation,” and the narrator believes that their ex is egging them on and wants the narrator to find them. She then ends it with the chilling lines:

“But you and I both know I wouldn’t. You are safe. Do not worry. I will never find you. But I could. If I really wanted to.”

The only real issue that I found was the discrepancy between the emotional barrage and the reader’s ability to recuperate in the stories themselves. Each piece is designed to demolish the reader, but there is no time to catch your breath. The pieces are relentless. I found it slightly unbearable after reading a few pieces back to back. It left me wanting a bit more of a gap between each stab of the dagger. I started to leave my guard up; losing some of the “oh snap” effect of the pieces.

Beyond that one thing, I loved absolutely every aspect of this collection. She has a mastery over flash fiction and the gift to rip out your heart and make you ask for seconds. xTx is an unstoppable force, and there seems to be no signs of her slowing any time soon. Her new book, Today I Am A Book, is available from Civil Coping Mechanisms.

Normally Special can be purchased here.

Laura Straub’s END O’ THE YEAR list

21 Dec

My futon’s favorite people:
Matt Bell & Brian Oliu, Amber Sparks, and Tyler Gobble.

Cool Presses that started working with Vouched the past six months: Lazy Fascist, Sarabande Books, Queen’s Ferry Press, Curbside Splendor, Spooky Girlfriend, and Black Ocean.

COVER ART: May We Shed These Human Bodies and The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan, Vol. 1

People I’m still confused to have not met IRL yet: Mel Bosworth and Christy Crutchfield

My Husband’s Budding Bromances: Ben Kopel, Tyler Gobble, and Kory Calico

Top 5 Stage Presences in no specific order: xTx, Devan Goldstein (when reading and also when he sings the shit out of some Bon Jovi), Amy McDaniel, Zach Schomburg, Peter Davis.

Favorite Dance Party: Lit Party @ AWP- duh! 

Thing that makes me feel like !!! every time I read it: Ravi Mangla’s Visiting Writers from Uncanny Valley Press

Favorite special thing: Electric lit’s recommendations in my inbox. SO RAD. Also Matthew Salesses’ Writer in Residence series at Necessary Fiction.

These book tours came and BLEW ME AWAY: Bloof books tour, The Southern Comfort Reading Tour, & the Over the Top tour.

Awful Interviews that still make me laugh big and large:  Joshua Ware, Michael Nye, Matt Bell, & Nicholas Tecosky (who still owes me an arm wrestle…)

Janey Smith Take The Wheel (of the NAP bus)

13 Sep

There it is, a new issue of NAP, that super slick slick slick online mag, oh how I love it, its various formats (I’m of the PDF onto my phone feeling, though I don’t know exactly why), and this one, this new one, is one of the most stellar stacks so far, this one of all women, alphabetized, Alissa Nutting to xTx, with bunches of major stops in between…

…for work by Carrie Lorig, a remarkable lyrical chunk, after finishing it, I went WOAH BODIES, which is to say this piece burns with the realization of how bodies do, them and this piece and everything it contains moving, alive:

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ look at all these beautiful teeth i have eating. all these beautiful teeth i have sitting on top of each other in the grass. aren’t you tired of them? our saddles come out on the shore in shapes we don’t recognize. they have been washed long into glass. into leather suns. all the letters are dying longer. all the sides of the words are fogging with breath. i say all my letters into the sea of other seas. i amaze to barely understand what it is i tried to love you about. i amaze to barely understand i am rolling over your body at any moment thinking crowd, thinking herd, thinking more rock.

…for three poems by Eileen Myles, three walks in the world, slowing pulling open the boxes we live in, like “People,” a short sharp point about how we are positioned next to one another, fetus or not, too brief to excerpt well here, just read it silly, and “End War,” scripting our own flailing back to us as this:

We fold

our experiences distributing

these words and others

who are also trying to

shake the language

tree receive our letters

and come.

…before arriving at xTx’s drumming “This Is What Happens When You Eat Cake For Three Days,” that beating that goes beyond three days, beyond the cake, the “this is what happens” again and again, the story stacking, the eating of all sorts continuous until Goodbye!–“This is what happens when you break all the way down. This is what happens when you die.”

Yes, I say, check this thing out in whatever format suits you, but be prepared to move around.

P.S. Check out the recent all-lady goodness issues at Pangur Ban Party and ILK, two of my other tip-top favorites.

Whenever Wherever Whatever

3 Feb

I’ve not been vouching much lately. I’m sorry. I’ve been feeling…I don’t know. I’ve been not feeling, maybe is the better way to put it. Words. I don’t know.

But anyway. This one makes me feel.

All February at Everyday Genius, each contributor was asked to choose a love song and respond to it, then choose a Valentine to respond to his or her response.

This is an excerpt of a collaborative piece between Roxane Gay and xTx, and it is just so damn yes.

One day we’re gonna drive and drive until we reach some wherever place, and we’re going to be so damn good and free and we’re going to call each other different names like maybe I’ll be Remy and you’ll be Portia and we’ll have these real names we’re hiding beneath our real skin, the real ugly beautiful skin we only show each other, and we’ll sleep behind what’s left of some abandoned building but we’ll be in some wherever warm place so there will be hot pavement against our backs while we’re staring up at the night sky, our bodies always touching, always

Read the rest. Please.

xTx & Frank Hinton Chapbook Contest- WINNERS!

31 Jan

We’re so pleased to announce the winners of the xTx and Frank Hinton Chapbook Contest! First, Safety Third Enterprises, xTx, Frank Hinton and I would like to thank all of our participants for making our job so difficult. It was not easy to pick a winner when there were so many stellar submissions to sift through. Sift we did though. Here are our selections. 


Don’t bother reading xTx unless you’re willing to unscrew heads, burrow inside questionable skins, lick a stranger’s plate clean while feeling up your fears. 

-Joe Kapitan

Frank Hinton: 

The bird rises as the sun sets again, Frank Hinton.

-DeWitt Brinson

Congratulations Joe and DeWitt!

Again, thank you to everyone who participated!

To order your own copy of Frank Hinton’s I Don’t Respect Female Expression or xTx’s He Is Talking to the Fat Lady visit Safety Third Enterprises’ online storefront. Digital copies will be up for grabs tomorrow.

last day to enter our xTx & Frank Hinton chapbook contest is this Saturday the 21st!

19 Jan

Hey! Just wanted to remind you all that the last day to submit to our xTx and Frank Hinton chapbook contest is this Saturday, January 21st! Thank you to everyone who has sent us their SSR thus far. Let’s keep ’em coming!

You can find the details of the contest at this page.

This is a drawing. A drawing for YOU

2 Aug

I fear that I am becoming a Monkey Bicycle junkie. We all have our vices, right? Right.  In any case, I mainlined xTx‘s This is a Drawing. A Drawing for You. 


Consider this positive peer pressure. Here’s a taste:

Yesterday I went to a grassy pasture with my clothes on. I tracked a big game animal. It was called a cow. These cows! Let me tell you! They are so big! Cows are large! Picture a car, cut in half. Picture that half car covered in flat fur like boots. Like paint. Picture all of that but give it breathing and you have a cow. Cows make low noises. Bellowing like sadness. Deep voiced like my mother, like when she would try to sing my dad back from the sea. Now. Now you know of cows.


See? You’re hooked.

xTx Drops Bombs.

26 Feb

Hot holy damn, have you read this book?!

There are, on occasion, tiny things that make huge things happen in the world: the lump of plutonium in Little Boy, the butterfly that flapped its wings in Africa and caused Hurricane Katrina, the first fish that realized it could breathe air. And most recently, xTx’s book Normally Special.

There are many things I could say about this book. But if I was allowed only one thing, it’s that xTx has the gift of the perfect moment. This is a special gift. She understands how to take what other writers might write as an entire scene, and whittle it into the precise, devastating moment that gets at what can break a reader wide open.

To call these moments brutal would be an understatement, but they are also kind. They treat a reader with a tenderness you wouldn’t expect, with breastplate split so open, a pumping fist on your heart, a violence necessary to sustain life.

I keep thinking of the atomic bomb. I am in a loop. Something so terrible, so awful, and yet, it was dropped twice, both equaling a body count of over 200,000 people, but doing so saved hundreds of thousands more lives than they cost–a kindness in all that devastation, an end and a hope to something that had been so horrible for so long.

Read this fucking book.