literature

The Caviar of Podcasts

Succulent aromas. Mouth-watering flavors. Palate-tingling, tender textures. blue-fin-tunaThese are only a few of the thoroughly understated ways I could begin to describe my favorite podcast, Words for Dinner, the most delicious auditory feast I have had the fortune to experience.

Have you a craving for duck foie gras? Roe from a bluefin tuna? Fret not. Words for Dinner is more delectable than these, and cheaper. In fact, it is free of charge.

O wandering ear of digital erudition! How I honor you with this, Episode 11 of Words for Dinner – “Decadent.”

I recommend you subscribe to it forthwith, humans, and save yourself the indignity of ignorance when you next dine with a more-enlightened creature than yourself, and he asks  you, have you partaken in the sonic smorgasbord that is all the rage? Partake, you! Go forth and partake.

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Thoughts from F. Scott Fitzgerald

f-scott-fitzWhen the initial sales of his mediocre book The Great Gatsby failed to meet expectations, Fitzgerald expressed his disappointment in a letter to his editor, Max Perkins. In the letter, he decried the trend at the time of honoring the so-called “American peasant.” Wrote Fitzgerald:

Some day they’ll eat grass, by God! This thing, both the effort and the result have hardened me and I think now that I’m much better than any of the young Americans without exception.

Do you notice the barely-concealed contempt for grassy cuisine? He went on, however, to declare that:

There’s no point in being an artist if you can’t do your best.

I can’t disagree there, although, on the whole, I dare say I give better advice to young artists. For example, I was the first to utter the now-ubiquitous commonplace, never wipe your hindquarters with bark. That was me.

For that little gem and innumerable others, follow me on the Tweeter at @City_Sasquatch

(Notes on F. Scott from the laudable biography by Andrew Turnbull)

What I’m Reading

In a detailed how-to piece on submitting to literary magazines, Ryo Yamaguchi says, “I write to trend, and I write against it.” In other words, pay attention to what other writers are doing, but don’t let that trap you. I recommend perusing the rest of the article, which can be found on The Michigan Quarterly Review’s delightful blog. Thanks also to The Review Review for tipping me off.

joy williams godIn an earlier post on this distinguished internet thingie, I referred to an interview by editor Lincoln Michel with the esteemed and strange author Joy Williams. And what do I find today, but an excerpt of her new collection, Ninety-Nine Stories of God, courtesy of the irrepressible resource, Lithub.

…Which also published this thought-provoking overview of books that stimulate – some more mildly than others – the human emotion known as empathy. I’ve encountered that emotion before. It being (as I mentioned) a human trait, what little experience I did get with empathy fredric jameson antimoniesgave me gas. I don’t recommend it.

(The latter article points to Fredric Jameson’s scholarly tome, The Antimonies of Realism, which Lithub makes out to be a perfect object to read ostentatiously on the curb outside Lorin Stein’s apartment. They paraphrase Jameson’s opinion on the contemporary time period known as “modernity” thusly: Jameson believes that modernity creates an “irreconcilable divorce between intelligibility and experience, between meaning and existence.” Quite so! My thoughts exactly. But then again, I never assumed that meaning and existence were dating? Forgive me, but isn’t it in bad form to presume knowledge of a couple’s relationship without any verifiable evidence thereof? Harumph. Perhaps I am unforgivably antiquated in my notions about etiquette.)

My Favorite Podcast for the People

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I am giddy with excitement this morning, humans, for a golden opportunity has fallen into my freakish lap. What sort of opportunity, you ask? The best kind. The most “awesome” kind, in fact.

I speak of the latest installment of my favorite podcast, Words For Dinner, a wonderful program about literature and language that has my intellectual sensors a-buzzing. Listen to their latest episode, which looks into the etymology and contemporary usage of the word “awesome,” on Podbean ,or download it right here.

How to Launch A Lit Journal: Step 2

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Last month I posted a typically-sage prescription for launching a literary magazine in which I provided a list of “7 Golden Rules” for doing so. Among the tidal wave of responses was one by a little magazine called The New Yorker. In its pages, Stephen Burt argued that a literary journal “…needs a reason to exist…”

I wholeheartedly concur. Which brings me to Step 2 in my ongoing series, How To Launch A Literary Journal.

I don’t believe in giving away trade secrets, but I’ll make an exception in this case. If you, dear reader, are preparing to launch your own journal – the Homo Sapien Review, let’s call it – you would do well to answer Stephen Burt’s important question. Why should your journal exist?

To help your friends get published, of course! Why else?

There’s no better reason to voyage out into the misty waters of the boutique publishing industry in your proverbial dingy than to provide a place for your cronies, your pals, your retinue, and your entourage to publish their own cramped little writings – their “Odes to a Water Lily” and their “Self Portraits as Herman Cain,” etc etc. Because, really, that’s why literary journals exist in the first place, isn’t it? To serve as promotional tools? Naturally that is why. To expand upon my previous analogy, a rising tide lifts all boats… Or, um, there’s always more fish in the ocean… Or, ahem, as Gandhi said, “Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

And so on. You get the point.

The New Yorker’s Response To My Last Post

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My last post – “How To Launch A Literary Journal” – highlighted some glaring problems with the current landscape of literary magazines today. Heads turned!

Stephen Burt responded to my allegations in the pages of The New Yorker. In “The Persistence of Litmags,” Burt admits that there is, in fact, a “surprisingly weak correlation between operating a literary magazine and writing clear, cliché-free prose.”

Really? But aren’t they supposed to accept only the best writing? Hm.

He goes on to say: “What a new litmag should not be is simply a farm team: we already have plenty of those.” I believe there he is talking about the Brooklyn Nets. Or perhaps the New York Yankees. He continues: “If you don’t have a particular aesthetic… or a kind of writing you want to promote, you might seek editorial experience…” Haha! “Maybe you just want to boost your friends.”

One of my best friends is Lorin Stein (although he doesn’t know it yet). But I have yet to get published in his little journal – The Paris Review. If only I had not lost his number (AHEM). I would compose a SMS textual message to remind him of how talented I am.

Burt concludes with some poignant advice.

“A new journal needs a reason to exist, a gap that earlier journals failed to fill, a new form of pleasure, a new kind of writing, an alliance with a new or under-chronicled social movement… a program that will actually change some small part of some literary readers’ tastes.”

Change OUR tastes? Aha! Haha! But my taste is impeccable. I read The New Yorker, don’t I? And if any publication has a reason to exist, it is that austere magazine. It obviously exists as a visual signal to indicate who is well-read and who isn’t. That’s why I prefer to read it in public places where humans can see me, such as on subway cars, street corners, cafe lines, and roller coasters.

All in all, an intelligent and thoughtful response to my buzzworthy post on literary journaling. Did The New Yorker get it right? Send me your thoughts at chetsasquatch@humanoid.net

 

How To Succeed In Life

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Look at my brethren. I stumbled upon this regal character on my way past the recycling yard the other day. When I became cognizant of the brimming steel receptacle at the far side of the facility, his placid countenance immediately caught my attention.

Behold the contentment of a king upon his throne. Yes, his throne is technically made of garbage. And yet…

I feel envy, dear reader. I am green with it!

Perhaps at some distant point in the shrouded future, I, too, will have my own throne to sit upon and gaze out at the world far below. My dream feels so tangible. So within my reach! All I must do is climb a small mountain of rotting banana peels and shattered beer bottles to get there. Bring on the real challenge, I say. Rotting banana peels are delicious.

Wait, what am I saying? I am an author. A vaunted member of the literati. Our proverbial challenge is not a mountain of garbage. Nay. We are artists! We are faced with a mountain of… found materials!

 

Conjunctions at Greenlight Books

Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn this week saw a mind-bending reading by a triumvirate of contributors to Conjunctions‘ Spring issue, a “collection of radical reinventions of the genre of nature writing” titled Natural Causes.  Lucy Ives,Michael Ives, and Wil Weitzel bowed and wowed the crowd with their unorthodox approaches to LITERATURE (I’ve decided to capitalize this precious word from henceforward to convey my sense of awe and respect for it, and so that those readers over 352 years old, such as myself, might benefit from the larger type (Jorge Luis Borges went blind before he was 50, don’t you know?)). And I would be remiss to neglect a mention of free wine. Yes, though no whining was heard… Aha! Ha!IMG_1531

Triple Canopy editor Lucy Ives’ reading utterly conquered the point of view of a cat observing its human. This piece, I must admit, flustered me. I could not decide whom I empathized with more – the feline or the homo sapien. Now I know how swans felt when they watched Natalie Portman’s Black Swan.

Will Weitzel read a tense essay about he and his wife’s trip to Ethiopia to witness the feeding of a pack of coyotes by the local tribesmen at dawn. I felt the suspense, dear reader, let me tell you. Of course, one of my oldest friends is a coyote, but I concede that the fellow has no table manners whatsoever. Look for Weitzel’s writing in Kenyon Review, New Orleans Review, Prairie Schooner, and Southwest Review.

Michael Ives’ strikingly original poem inspired by the biblical tale of Noah had my IMG_1523yellow-spotted tongue trembling with questions, but suffice to say, this author is one to watch. Egads, what a statement. Syntax, rhyme, the line, and other respected literary conventions were bent, broken, and thrown in the dust. A brave poem, to be sure.

Kudos to Bradford Morrow and the editors at Conjunctions for continuing to put out innovative writing. Though humbling, the reading also reminded me of how great I am, as most of my experiences do. Follow the journal on Twitter (@_Conjunctions) for updates about readings and issue releases.