Be careful of how you use the carbon copy feature on email.
Be careful of how you use the carbon copy feature on email.
SHELDON LEE COMPTON: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me, Arielle. Let’s start with how I first got to know you, through your online lit journal Fair Folk. It’s a journal that, for my money, really seeks to find the imaginative in storytelling today. Share a little about the journal and also about how did the idea for it started for you? Where do you see it going in the coming years?
ARIELLE TIPA: Fair Folk began as an “I know this has already been done before, but I’m gonna do it anyway” type of thing, since there are thousands and thousands of lit journals out there seeking out similar content. The fantasy genre has always been a favorite of mine since I was a kid, both in film and in literature. I was obsessed with series like The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper and The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville, and my favorite movies included Thumbelina and The Neverending Story. I was always that weird kid who scoured through the (pitifully small) mythology section of a Catholic school library just for fun. As I grew older, I began to question why people were so enthralled with the mystical concept of being or even existing, as well as the complexity of what it is to be human, and speculative fiction was really the only collective genre which echoed my own curiosities. Fair Folk, all in all, really stemmed from this attraction to the enchanted and the unknown, which still grows with me today.
I never had the courage to submit to literary journals until late last year, and that was very much a catalyst for developing Fair Folk – it was almost as if I wanted to do something worthwhile during my waiting period of getting a “yay” or “nay” for my lit journal submissions. To be honest, I was very insecure while starting this journal, since I really couldn’t consider myself a published writer (I really wasn’t, save for some contributive articles). But, I realized that starting Fair Folk wasn’t about me. It all boiled down to sharing diverse voices of speculative fiction, and yes, it does seek to find imaginative storytelling, which is needed now more than ever as the world today seems to sink further into a lecherous love affair with political chaos and correctness. The journal seeks out not only escapism, but a temporary alternative to reality. I believe a story is only worth reading if we are able to forget our own for just a short while, which is essentially Fair Folk’s purpose.
In the coming years, I hope to see the journal doing what it has been doing since its inception, and then some. Do I see it becoming more successful? Absolutely. Do I see it going into print? Maybe not. I have been (to an insurmountable degree) honored by having the chance to read some of the greatest spec fiction by international writers which both adheres to and shies away from the mainstream, and I cannot wait for more submissions to pile up. Being an editor-in-chief (as some will agree) is very rewarding.
COMPTON: Of course I agree that there needs to be a little more imagination in today’s fiction and poetry and, well, everything else, really. It’s a worthy goal, I think.
It’s interesting you should mention that you’re not really seeing Fair Folk becoming a print journal. In addition to the fact that realism has sort of had its day, so to speak, I also think the same can nearly be said of the print journal. I can remember hoping to get into a print publication back when I first starting writing, thinking, of course then, that it was more esteemed. I’m of a completely different mindset today. Print doesn’t begin to compete with online in terms of readership. And readership is the whole point, I believe. So Fair Folk remaining on online venue to me seems like the perfect situation. We need more of those, not less. Who needs another print journal that takes 437 days to reply to your submission and only accepts stories via snail mail. Man oh man, those days are way over in my book. What are your thoughts?
TIPA: Although I really, really prefer to read books in print, since it’s more intimate and concrete that way, my preference for literary journals is the complete opposite. Because content on the internet seems to be so much more easily accessible (and affordable) nowadays, the reason why I’d prefer the journal to stay immortalized through pixels and magical data is pretty much a no-brainer. As far as this modern, new-agey kind of era of reading, I really admire digital platforms like issuu, where you basically have the best of both worlds – a virtual print publication. I may (may) consider converting Fair Folk into virtual print and make it more like a seasonal type of publication. For now, WordPress is the easiest and most affordable option.
COMPTON: Let’s talk about your own writing. You were mentored by literary folklorist Ruth B. Bottigheimer at Stony Brook University. How did that experience bring you to the type of work you do today, especially in terms of the stories and so forth that focus on, in your own words, “fabulist to feminist, macabre to bizarre.” How much of that kind of writing did you bring to Stony Brook with you?
TIPA: To be honest, I barely even wrote anything besides scholarly papers while studying for my B.A. I was basically in starvation mode as far as writing for fun rather than for grades. I studied Comparative Literature and English, so the material I was required to read was extremely diverse: philosophical texts, cultural theories, biographies, nonfiction, sci-fi, Shakespeare, Freud, the works. While reading to get my degree, I was also, of course doing the usual – blogging, writing rough drafts, and leisure-reading on the side, and that same leisure reading included my personal favorites: fairy tales and dark fantasy, appropriately. This ultimately led to me into gathering ideas for my research project.
I ended up getting paired with this Professor Bottigheimer by the head of the Comp. Lit department and was like “Oh, cool…..who is she?” I then proceeded to Google her name at home, and basically lost it at “She has been hailed as ‘one of America’s foremost Grimm scholars’”. I became so intimidated that my anxiety was at an all-time high during the 4-month period of writing this gargantuan research project. But, meeting and working with her was rewarding. We ended up coming to an agreement for me to read and research the tales of the Grimm Brothers and Giambattista Basile, and to write a lengthy, comparative analysis of their usage of bird and tree imagery in as far as gendered functions and so on. That experience with Bottigheimer very much encouraged me to continue this obsession with writing and the fantasy genre, and to use it to the best of my abilities no matter what odd job I’m getting paid to do.
COMPTON: That is fantastic. I am now inspired to go back and read all the Grimm Brothers material. Dig deeply, you know?
So what’s coming up in the future for Arielle Tipa. What are some of you serious plans and then what are some of your pie-in-the-sky plans. For instance, my serious plans are to finish a collection of poetry and a third collection of stories by the end of the year. My fantasy plan is to retire from the day job, move to Norway, and write and play guitar for the next twenty years or so.
TIPA: Well, it’s been a while since we last have spoken, and a lot has changed in such a short period of time. I’ve been unemployed since last October, and these last six months have been some of the worst I’ve been through. But, I recently got a job as a full-time fashion and music writer for a small publication on Long Island. I love it so far, and I feel so fortunate to (finally) get paid to do what I love. I actually gained interest in fashion writing three years ago, and it became something I wanted to hone and delve deeper into. Since then, I’ve contributed for a few small sites, and I love that I get to incorporate my literary and poetic impulses into this type of journalism. This is a big leap for me and a stepping stone for my career, since I’ve wanted to work for some type of publication since community college, whether it was focused on fashion or music or any of the arts in general. Of course, I’ll still be writing poetry and short stories in-between.
As for my pet project, Fair Folk, I was recently thinking of making it into what I like to call an “inheritance” publication. That is, I would like to eventually step down as EIC and pass it down to someone I find worthy *queue villainous laughter*. Because I’m working now and have less down time, I would like to publish a few more stories and poems for Fair Folk until I feel that my time has come to an end. I’m currently tweeting updates as they come.
Lastly, I am also (as you, Mr. Compton, already know) working on a small, in-between endeavor of translating every Marilyn Manson song into Shakespearean. Seriously, like, straight-up Elizabethan stuff. Except it’s Marilyn Manson. I guess this would count as my pie-in-the-sky plan, but with the artist’s permission (followed by giddy and tearful fangirl reactions, since there is a personal, emotion connection I have with his music), I would like to publish these translations into print. Imagine that. Just imagine a printed discography of Manson’s songs bounded in tanned leather or sheepskin. If that’s not NYT #1 Bestseller material right there, then I don’t know what is.
I managed to read 75 books this year. I say managed because I’m an incredibly slow reader. In order to hit this fine number, I had to read three books at once throughout the year – one in hard copy; one on Kindle; and one in audio format. Which is okay by me. In fact, I’m beginning to prefer Kindle, especially.
I would have liked to read more books actually published during this past calendar year, but I wandered around a little and picked up some titles I’d long wanted to get my hands on (Autobiography of Red) and some older indie titles from writers I just really love reading (Barrett Warner, James Tadd Adcox).
These books are in no particular order, although I still maintain that this first one listed here was the most important title published this year.
Best Small Fictions 2016 edited by Tara L. Masih and Stuart Dybek (Queen’s Ferry Press)
This series is for me the biggest thing in publishing right now. Tara L. Masih‘s efforts do not get nearly enough attention in many respects, but particularly with her work editing this series. Read my full review here.
Studies in Hybrid Morphology by Matt Tompkins (Conium Press)
I’ve not seen as much about Matt Tompkins’s work as I think I should. Find out why and get a copy to read today.
Marigold by Troy James Weaver (King Shot Press)
Troy James Weaver is writing with a pure heart in Marigold. His book Visions is up next for me and I hope many more to come. Also, this cover design by Matthew Revert gets my vote for the absolute best cover put out this year (all due respect and love, Ryan W. Bradley).
The Map of the System of Human Knowledge by James Tadd Adcox (Tiny Hardcore Press)
A book that covers in perfect uniqueness mathematics, philosophy, poetry, nature, history, physics, art, and more. I’d almost rather read James Tadd Adcox than eat a bowel of Corn Pops.
Philip K. Dick: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Philip K. Dick, edited by David Streitfeld (Melville House)
Philip K. Dick was mostly insane. And you need to listen to pretty much everything he said. This could be a start.
My Friend Ken Harvey by Barrett Warner (Publishing Genius)
Few people can own a phrase or sentence like Barrett Warner. There is no ordinary in his world, believe me. Everything is fresh and new.
Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthleme by Tracy Daughtery (St. Martin’s Press)
This book might be on the list if not for my fascination with all things Donald Barthleme. But the occasional academic sprawl is well worth it for anyone who likes the literary biography.
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney (Coffee House Press)
Valeria Luiselli’s third book won prizes and awards galore and had just about everybody tossing well-deserved praise in her general direction.
Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt (House of Anansi Press)
I’ve been enamored with deWitt since The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor does nothing to tarnish that shine. I laughed out loud more reading this book than any other this past year. Check it out.
Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson (Vintage)
The book that dates as older than any other on this list (published in 1999) and the only from a big house, I’ve been wanting to read Anne Carson for years and strangely hadn’t made the time. Glad I did. You will be, too. She is a master.
If you give a shit you try and make sure your community– the people who you understand to share your ethics and vision for justice & pleasure & choices for all, amongst others things– gets what they need. Having a space created for you to work with your soul family, aka a space by and for you and people like you, is vital. Topside Press is making that happen for trans women writers in the form of a workshop, to which you can donate in any amount here. $5s and $20s add up!
From Topside Press:
“Nearly every story you’ve ever read about a trans woman was written by a cis person.
This summer, twenty-six trans women writers will gather in New York City, the publishing and literary capital of North America, with two world-class instructors, to study, and to hone our craft.
Please donate today to help us realize this unique creative opportunity. Your donations go directly to paying for tuition, travel, and accommodation costs for participants who otherwise could not afford to attend.”
Ever just want to walk away from your desk and never again return (like that Onion article)? Or better yet, get into a car and just drive without any clear destination beyond the determination to forget, at least for awhile, every shred of responsibility and pressure that awaits you in your professional life? Well, that’s how this all started—the idea tossed around between myself and Janice Lee via our various CCM/Entropy Skype meetings. All it takes to turn an idea into something instantaneous and necessary is the mutual enthusiasm for said idea by friends and confidants, in this case Chiwan Choi and Zachary Jensen.
So we’re going to turn that idea into a reality.
From August 5th through August 7th, the four of us will get into a car, heading north of Los Angeles, with only the will and willingness to get away.
Coinciding with CCM’s #7daysofcoping series, Janice and I will be livetweeting this experience; additionally, I will be posting and tweeting our coordinates in hopes of direction—that is, me (us) reaching out to you—be it a place to stay (seriously, we’ll need places to crash), a place to eat, or even a chance to write and read our latest work.
This is all in the name of four tired and wired writers looking to cope with the exhaustion of the dead heat of summer with a few long days behind the wheel of good times and good words.
We’re outta here and we’d like to bring you all along. We’re coping.
(I think my memory is correct that Naomi Jackson was also on this panel- I saw her read separately that same day at the festival– but there is a chance that I’m misremembering as the DBF website from 2015 says that is not so; however, I do quote Naomi below, so I’m trusting my fuzzy nearly-year-old memory.)
(Note: The title of this piece comes from the event for which it was written and performed, part of Homeroom’s School Night series, hosted through the MCA Talks program. The portion of the text subtitled PERFORMANCE was intended to serve three functions: 1) To avoid meaningless abstraction by providing an example of the transgressive/excessive art referred to in the “Principles” subsection, knowing that term “transgression” can refer to a myriad of different aesthetics or practices, many deeply fucked. 2) To introduce a disorienting vision of queer embodiment only possible through language, 3) To pose the question—both for myself and the audience—of whether this vision is one of discomfort/violence, or whether it constitutes the type of utopic dreaming, i/e. “new possibilities and visions for social justice” to which I allude in my Principles. Feedback/participation is welcome and encouraged. ~Tim).
I’m a big fan of dark comedies. The darker, the more comedic (for me). In Bruges is a great example: our main character, Ray (Colin Farrell), is a hitman, and on his first hit, he accidentally shoots a child. Hilarious. He also does drugs with a cocaine addicted “racist dwarf” (the movie’s words) played by Peter Dinklage, and at some point he even punches a woman in the face. Yet, despite all this, Farrell is intensely loveable as Ray, who simply wants to come to terms with watch he’s done while he’s stuck in a “shithole” like Bruges. That’s what makes In Bruges so well written and memorable—I love horrible people in the movie for the horrible things they do, but I also get to see how every character is human and unique. Even the “bad-guy,” (a foul-mouthed Ralph Fiennes), is admirable and has a code of honor, even when he calls his wife an “inanimate fucking object.” The audience doesn’t even get a clear ending of what happens—how many comedies do that?—but it couldn’t have ended any other way. Written by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (author of The Pillowman and the movie Seven Psychopaths), the inseparable drama and meta-comedy of In Bruges is unique as it is ridiculous, such as when a dying Brendan Gleeson says “I’m going to die now,” and then, of course, dies. This movie was so memorable to me that it even inspired me and my brother to visit Bruges, which was, as the movie joking suggests, like a fairy tale.
In the Loop
In the Loop is my go-to comedy that I never get tired of. Most movies I can’t watch more than once every six months or so. This movie, however, is endlessly rewatchable, even when you know the jokes are coming. Part of it stems from the partial improvised nature of the script, and part of it is it’s cutting political savvy—it’s a smart movie about dumb people. This is a movie that’s entirely dialogue dependent: most of the lines are a verbal tennis match between the characters, and everyone sinks their teeth in. One of my favorite insults is when Jamie (Paul Higgins) complains about opera music, saying “it’s just vowels.” But the real star of the film is Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), who is a wordsmith of expletives: he tells the expletive-sensitive US representative to not be a “F-star-star-cunt.” Same with most things that writer-director Armando Ivanucci does (like his work on Veep or his British television equivalent to In the Loop called The Thick of It). The movie also has a great sense of its own comedy, making jokes out things that wouldn’t make sense out of context. Some of the funniest and most memorable lines (such as “Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult”) are nonsensical outside of the context, which is the exact opposite of a lot of generic comedies that just go for one-liners. I love how In the Loop creates this insular world of comedy that also manages to skewer the political process in the United States while never taking itself too seriously.
Coming up with lists is hard, man. When I was asked to come up with my top five movies that have impacted my life, I thought, “fuck yeah, I’ll come up with the best list ever.” But once I sat down to write, I couldn’t think of where to start. I watch a lot of movies. Horror, comedy, drama, the weird, obscure movies very few people talk about. And anyone that knows me well enough, knows that I’m a huge David Lynch nut. I could’ve easily made a top five list on his movies alone. But I didn’t do that. In fact, I didn’t include a single Lynch film. I thought long and hard about what movies to include on this list, and this is what I came up with. Maybe there’s a theme. Maybe they were influenced by a current mood. Or maybe they were titles drawn at random out of a hat. Who knows. Read and enjoy. And if you ever want to talk to me about movies, find me online and we’ll talk.
Welcome to the Dollhouse
Todd Solondz is a wizard when it comes to awkward/uncomfortable storytelling. He has a way of evoking sympathy for people who, on paper, can be absolutely despicable. And he tells the stories that no one likes to talk about. It can be uncomfortable at times, but goddamn, what an experience. While thinking of his catalogue of films I’ve enjoyed, Welcome to the Dollhouse came out on top. The protagonist is a young girl who only wants to be loved and appreciated for how special she is. But she’s an underdog in every sense of the word. At school, at home, and everywhere in between, she’s yearns for people to tell her that they love her and falls into a quiet acceptance after realizing that no matter what she does, nothing will ever change.
Hour of the Wolf
Beautiful film about love and mental illness. Not only is this film visually stunning, but it’s the most impactful film on metal health degradation I’ve seen. There’s a character who’s so afraid of dying in his sleep that he keeps himself awake. The more he starts to lose grip with reality, the more characters we are introduced to. I’m already spoiling too much of this movie, but there’s such a creepy, beautiful scene where Johan (the male protagonist) confronts the social parasites he had befriended on the island. And the final monologue? Shit, if I could write anything half as good as that, I’d could happily quit writing forever.
Blair Witch Project
I remember hating television and the movies my parents watched. All my dad watched was Gene Hackman and Spielberg style movies, and sitcoms. All my mom watched was soap operas and made for tv romantic movies. My parents have no taste. I hated how it was all fake, how people didn’t talk or act like that in real life. I remember saying to my dad constantly, “People don’t talk like that.” Then I saw Blair Witch and listening to their dialogue, fuck, it blew my mind. That scene where Heather is screaming at Mike about losing the map. That scene on the river with the two fishing guys telling each other they’re full of shit. It was all so human to me, my friends were obsessed with scary parts, but I was obsessing over the realistic dialogue and how they showed real emotions. The characters in Blair Witch acted how people would act if they were scared, humans scream and cry, their hair gets messy, they complain and throw fits. I ended up seeing it three times in the theater; I have watched it several times a year since.
Every Which Way but Loose and Every Which Way You Can
These two movies did something that American movies and American literature have a hard time with. They have normal everyday Americans working on cars, getting into fights, listening to country music, and grandma shooting a shotgun, but it isn’t miserable. The characters laugh, they have hobbies and goals. People like this are often depicted as stupid or miserable in 21st Centuries narratives. But that isn’t life for normal people, I work at a grocery store with poor white people, Hispanics, African-Americans and ex-Mormons. We aren’t miserable, yes a lot of wealth and power are blocked from us. But we laugh, we take care of each other, we get into little fights, and grandma has a shotgun. I really like the names too, Philo Bedo, Lynn Halsey-Taylor, Orville, Echo, etc, what great names. And there’s an orangutan named Clyde that punches Harley douches, lol, awesome.
Boyz n the Hood
I couldn’t find the movie online to rewatch, going by memory. I remember being around 13 or so and watching Boyz n the Hood, there was a scene in it where Cuba the character Tre is in bed with a girl. There are like helicopters flying above and he freaks out and starts punching the air, it all seemed so authentic, so real. I just stared at the screen, seeing what it means to be powerless. I felt powerless when I was little, I don’t wanna talk about that, but I did, I felt powerless. And that is what it means to be powerless, you can’t do anything, except hide in your room and punch the air. It is like, even now, I feel mostly powerless in public, I can’t buy anything, people look down on me because of my job, I can’t wait to go home and hide and punch the air.
I really like how it starts, Selene dressed all black, perched on a building, in the rain. Oh god it is so beautiful to me. I think on the inside, I imagine myself as Selene, dressed all in black, beautiful, sleek, with scintillating blue eyes. Selene doesn’t know the answers to the universe, she doesn’t know anything but how to kick ass. But she has an epiphany that kicking ass isn’t everything, and that the power constructs around her are making life worse and are in general based on false or outmoded ideas about reality. Then there are the lower class werewolves condemned to live in the sewers, but Lucian is an asshole too. The plot of Go to Work ha some similarities with this, Selene doesn’t voice an ideology like Victor or Lucian, Selene just acts, she is movement, she is a force, a new reality on the offense. And of course that head splitting at the end, she holds up the sword and blood drips from it, omg, I love that so much.
This movie is about a Thai mom prostitute who dies slowly of cancer, a Japanese dad criminal boss, an overweight sad boy who everyone picks on, a group of gun toting transgenders and an autistic ninja girl. This plot could only happen in Southeast Asia. It calms me to watch Zen, how she is so full of passion to kick everyone’s ass.
Noah Cicero lives in Las Vegas, NV. He has several books published; The Bathroom Reader and Bipolar Cowboy are his newest.
I don’t believe in throwing money at a political issue and calling it a day, but I do know how badly the organizations who do the goddesses’ work need funds to continue that work. That said, if you are able to donate a few bucks anywhere today, here are some of my favorite life-saving organizations that could use your support:
–The Magnolia Fund: This grassroots org provide practical support, funds, and travel for those seeking abortions in the southeastern United States
–Chicago Books to Women in Prison: Chicago Books to Women in Prison is a volunteer collective that distributes paperback books free of charge to people incarcerated in women’s prisons nationwide. We are dedicated to offering women behind bars the opportunity for self-empowerment, education, and entertainment that reading provides.
–Liberation Lib: Liberation Library provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to the outside worlds of their choosing. We believe access to books is a right, not a privilege. We believe books and relationships empower young people to change the criminal justice system.
–Noemi Press: In 2016-17 Noemi will publish Vanessa Villarreal, Jessica Anne Chiang, Claire Marie Stancek, Jose Antonio Ramos Sucre, Yanara Friedland, Muriel Leung, Arielle Greenberg, Carolina Ebeid, the Blunt Research Group, Roberto Tejada, Liz Waldner, Colleen Hollister, Steven Karl, Sarah Vap, Jennifer Tamayo, and John Pluecker.
–Belladonna*: The Belladonna* mission is to promote the work of women writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, impossible to define, delicious to talk about, unpredictable and dangerous with language.
I made the mistake of watching Dogtooth right before bed. From the opening scene—blindfold around eyes, stilted car ride conversation, slow opening gate—we know we’re in for something twisted. The tone is stark and brutal, but it’s the stasis of the tone that’s most unsettling. Once the gate closes it’s clear the children are not getting out. The parents obsessively shield them from nearly all outside influences, even reinventing everyday language—phone means ‘salt’, sticker means ‘clothes’, sea means ‘chair’—creating a comical yet creepy distortion of realities. The children begin to entertain themselves in creative ways, but once they get a small taste of the outside world, things get seriously fucked.
Although Hoop Dreams is a documentary that follows the paths of two high school bball stars, it does not require the knowledge, or even interest, in the greatest sport of all time. Complexities regarding race, social class, economics, and politics are brought to the forefront, while exposing the darkness of AAU culture, which essentially begins ranking players at dangerously young ages. The power of Hoop Dreams lies in its ability to confront issues that shoot way beyond the simple (or obsessive) love of a game. The subjects—William Gates and Arthur Agee—are pretty damn lovable, too. I saw this in the theater back in ’94 as a young hoop dreamer and it’s still one of my favorites.
My brother left the room about halfway through the movie to let me watch the second half alone. He’d seen it before. Not to give it away (everyone’s seen this, right?) but the moment with the one-way mirror, the phone—I’ve never sobbed so intensely during a scene in a movie. It really got me, and it was nice to have that moment alone. I don’t know what else to say other than if you somehow missed this masterpiece, I suggest you watch it now, with or without others.
THE BROTHERS SOLOMON
Since really dumb comedies occupy at least half the movies I’ve seen in my life, this list should contain one. I was on tour somewhere in the midwest and the rest of the band flew to the next show on the west coast. My brother was selling merch for us at the time and he and I stayed behind for the drive. We had the entire bus to ourselves when we stopped for the night, one of maybe two or three vehicles occupying the dirt parking lot of a hotel off a highway in Idaho. It seemed like the right time to eat a weed cookie. I rarely ingest weed in any way, and when it was slow to take effect, I decided to eat another. The movie was pretty funny at first but about halfway through I had the most insane laugh attack of my life. As my brother joined in, we paced up and down the bus convulsing. We made it to the end of the movie, but when we went to the hotel to get ready for bed, our room keys didn’t work. We became even more hysterical than before and stood in the empty hallway trying to decide who was more capable of handling the task of interacting with another human being behind the front desk. I’ve seen the movie (sober) since and of course this initial experience is tough to top but it’s still very bizarre and hilarious.
DEAD RIVER ROUGH CUT
I’ll leave you with a Maine classic. It’s a documentary about two best buds that reject the outside world for tarpapers shacks in the middle of the woods. They hunt, fish, trap, log. They also philosophize and tell wacky stories in an accent so thick even a Mainer like myself would benefit from captions. Walter Lane and Bob Wagg form an unusual pair that are equally entertaining and enlightening, making a retreat to the woods seem like a sweet idea. This is the most requested movie at the Maine State Prison.
Nat Baldwin is a writer and musician living in Maine. His fiction has appeared in PANK, Sleepingfish, Timber, Deluge, and Alice Blue. He has released several solo albums, and plays bass in Dirty Projectors. He is currently pursuing a BA in English at the University of Southern Maine.
Some of my favourite zines and chapbooks of the past few years have been produced by HAG (link to http://hagcollective.tumblr.com/). HAG is Jasmin Risk and Clara Lou’s post post feminist curatorial performance and poetics project. HAG is “problematizing subjectivity” to “a body that does not end at skin” and so many things in between. They are theory but they are theory in glitter and the body.
Being in New Zealand means that I haven’t experienced any of their IRL performances other than through their documentation online and in their publications, but I have all of the zines and chapbooks I could get my hands on – performances turned to materials – both performances in a wider art/theatre sense and in an everyday life sense. I love how they turn the ephemeral into something more permanent whilst also highlighting that ephemerality.
They have been kind enough to include work of mine in their zines and their work has in turn been a big influence on me and my writing! This kind of exchange shows that the communities around zines – whether physical or online – are so important.
Back to HAG, though – this year they have released two new publications – A Green Room is a book you thought you were borrowing which in face you owned (a cross-genre project by Clara Lou on Anne Carson, Anne Sexton and Lauren Berlant) and <<er>> (photographic documentation, panic and relief by Jasmin Risk).
Other work of theirs that I would also recommend checking out if you haven’t already is Jasmin Risk’s There is too much zine series (http://thereistoomuch.bigcartel.com/#_=_) and Clara Lou’s play What Has Been Given Cannot Be Stomached (https://vimeo.com/129686108).
The zine series which included ‘The Cyborg Gaze’ and ‘Ectoplasms’ has featured artists and writers such as Caitlin Hazell, Liv Thurley of The Coven, Hannah Lefeuvre, Ana Cecilia Alvarez, Christen Clifford, Dia Felix, Kayla Morse and Samantha Conlon.
If you are interested in feminism, queer theory, poetry, performance and art you will find a lot to love about HAG.
When I was around six years old, this and Three Amigos were my favorite movies. I think this combination was integral to the formation of my personality – goth-lite, with some idiotic 14-year-old boy humor thrown in. I used to get nightmares from just about any movie as a kid but for some reason this one didn’t bother me.
Keanu Reeves is smoking hot in this. He looks so good as a hessian. I want to buy him. Crispin Glover and Dennis Hopper are perfect in this too. I love that Dystopia features clips from the movie in their album Human = Garbage. It’s difficult to sample movie clips in music and not have it sound stupid but Dystopia managed to pull it off.
I sort of used River’s Edge as an emotional talisman when I was writing Black Cloud – I wanted to make something that was running-full-speed-toward-a-brick-wall level numb. Out of the Blue functions in the same way, I think. (It also stars Dennis Hopper.) I think these movies encapsulate why I don’t understand the youth of today. There’s no unadulterated rage in their hearts.
No Direction Home
When I was ~24, I was in an inadvisable relationship. Our favorite thing to do was sit around and take synthetic opiates and drink wine and watch every single rock doc we could find on Netflix. It sort of mirrored my freshman and sophomore years in high school, where I liked sitting around and smoking weed and reading every rock biography they carried at Barnes & Noble. This is my favorite rock doc of that time, or, at the very least, is the one I watched most often. The funny thing is I can’t really remember anything about the movie, other than the fact that I found it really soothing.
I don’t even know if I really like this movie so much as I enjoy its aesthetic. I’m not really into acts of violence or psychological trauma, but other than that I want to live in a world that looks like this.
I just watched this movie for the first time a couple nights ago so I guess I’m technically cheating by including it. But I really loved it! Grace Kelly saves the day, and Katy Jurado is the one who put her up to it – the two women are the true heroes. You could take the movie apart and say that it is problematic – how predictable it is that the blond is the chaste Quaker while Jurado plays the part of the slutty Mexican woman – and I agree, but I like that it is clear that the women end up being the heroes not for some political reason, like “Hey you know what we need to do? Create some strong female leads,” which makes it feel genuinely subversive. Attempts at social equality are never subversive when done as a marketing scheme.
Juliet Escoria is the author of Black Cloud (CCM/Emily Books, 2014) and Witch Hunt (Lazy Fascist, 2016).
2001: A Space Odyssey
I’ve watched The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut more than twenty times each, but each viewing of 2001 has left me altered. Kubrick and Clarke tried to tell a story about the fate and function of life in the cosmos; 2001 is instead a portrait of the operatic gesture of civilization, its reliance on murder, and its amity with the quality that neatly defines a mind that minds itself: cruelty. 2001’s final sequence is more than an approximation of transcendence beyond language (and, for our limited nature, intelligibility)—2001’s final sequence is a pulsing reminder that mystery forms the core of life.
Vertigo’s structure is fractal; its parts compose, riff on, and reveal its whole. If you watch Vertigo five times, you’ll experience five different films, each radiating out from a trunk thick with rings of obsession, deceit, and beauty. Hitchcock smuggled so much structural and emotional sophistication into this movie as to make a psychological drug for critics and careful viewers; give it enough of your time, and you’ll begin to want to force other films to assume Vertigo’s guise.
Shoah documents the Holocaust through the speech of its perpetrators, survivors, and witnesses. It does so decades after the systemic destruction had stopped. What is left to the film’s subjects are memories. Claude Lanzmann, the film’s director, believed that a film long and direct enough could approach the reality of the Holocaust, but only insofar as it granted these memories a space unique to cinema. Shoah is over ten hours long, and so requires you to sit amid its facets, faces, and rigor; watching this film dents you. Lanzmann gave the film eleven years of his life, and has since made only films that investigate the lives that the Holocaust destroyed and formed. To witness and engage this film—the only film that faces the Holocaust with the respect and geological steadiness that atrocity begs us to forget—is to ask yourself what culture can posit in response to its most terrible consequence.
What does love rescue us from? What does love force us to face? What does love propel us to do? These questions are answered—gorgeously, sleepily—in this film. The movie plants an unsolicited and unwarranted romance in our ground of anxious obligations, consumerist dreams, and novelty toilet plungers. Bloody hands desperately pressing on an abandoned, duct-taped instrument that must be forced to breathe before it sings: Paul Thomas Anderson is in firm command of analogizing tenderness and care in the godless haste of American life. To watch this movie is to coalesce in a puddle of powerful, strange, and rebellious love. And, if you like pain, it’s really fucking funny.
The Thin Red Line
Terrence Malick, this film’s director, relentlessly gets at spirit. He makes you see the writhing, thriving grace infused in a shell-blackened hill, in the eyes of a starving prisoner, in the errant questions of a man about to die. This movie takes seriously the consequences and stratifications of civilization, making plain the death conjured out of bureaucracy’s distances and the nation’s quixotic identity. Through a parade of soldiers tasked to kill and die for the temporary rule of a mute hill, this film asks its viewers to see that each heart yearns in its own way, particularly those blasted away in orange pangs of technology, the dead our fear’s choking flow of fodder. This film gently envelops war in the striving, grace, and pageantry that we have systematically denied to nature, and asks us to hold this swaddled child until our arms give out.
Ken Baumann is a writer, publisher, and actor. For more: kenbaumann.com
As a heterosexual man, I would never forgive myself for doing a list of the best looking/sexiest/whatever women in indie lit. Fortunately, I have no problem doing the same thing to a bunch of dudes. So, without further ado, here are, in no particular order, the sexiest sexy beasts of indie lit (and yes, talent was taken into consideration).
Okay so I’m back in sunny ass Berkeley sitting at my desk at my high-pressure job eating a tuna melt that was not thoroughly melted and looking out the window at some palm trees and thinking about all the cool shit I did at AWP this past weekend and trying to process it all. It takes me a long time to process things. This will probably be the first of several posts about AWP that I will make here.
Janice and Michael asked if I would write posts about AWP while at AWP and I meant to but honestly I was having too much fun running around with a sick posse of writers who I love going to readings and doing performances and seeing the sights in Minneapolis and basically just taking advantage of what I felt was like a vacation that I never got the chance. I meant to, though, I really did.
I’ve got a lot to say. I’m not sure how to say it yet, but I will eventually.
At this moment, I guess I just want to give a shoutout and a huge thanks to A. Razor of Punk Hostage Press and Jason Scheinheit of The Gorilla Press for working the book table and trying to get our wares out there. They both deserve a well-toasted tuna melt (or a well-toasted sandwich of their choice).
Also, I want to share these cool podcasts Jason conducted while working the table. The podcasts are all about five minutes long or fewer and are pretty funny. Jason interviewed me, as well as Amy Saul-Zerby, Jesse Prado, A. Razor, Tomas Moniz, Lizzie Acker, Hollie Hardy, Nate Waggoner, Russell Jaffe, Oliver Mol, and others. Check em out! They are short and sweet!
I’m in the middle of writing a short book on gender to come out next year with Anomalous Press, so I’ve been reading a lot of books about gender lately—mostly theory and first-person encounters with.
What I’m reading at the moment is an interesting mix of embryonic Internet criticism and gender studies called The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age. This is a collection of linked essays published by Sandy Stone in 1996.
Stone’s biography is worth dropping into for a moment. Stone was a star student of Donna Haraway, famously author of “A Cyborg Manifesto,” and Haraway influenced much of her subsequent works. Before that, Stone, a transsexual, was attacked by the radical feminist scholar Janice Raymond in a somewhat infamous altercation having to do with the feminist record company Olivia Records. Basically, Raymond accused Stone of not really being a woman and attempting to subvert the spirit of Olivia Records by smuggling in the patriarchy under cover of her female exterior. Out of all that came Stone’s essay “The ‘Empire’ Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto,” which is very readable and still interesting today, nearly 30 years after its original publication.
The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age has similarly worn well, even though one of its main subjects—networked computing, aka the Internet—has changed immensely in the 20 years since the book was first published. (For instance, Stone references the 200 megabyte hard disks that were state of the art at the time of writing.) The purpose of its inquiry may be (partially) summed up with Stone’s question, “What is happening to sociality and desire at the close of the mechanical age?”
As a thinker, Stone is fascinated by questions of gender, identity, prostheses, and cybernetics, and she locates foci where these interests intersect in the world of computing. So, for instance, an early anecdote in the book recounts a revelation she made when listening to Stephen Hawking lecture, wherein she realized that there was effectively no difference between the mechanical “voice” of Hawking that was coming out of the speakers attached to his wheelchair and the reproduced voice of his that was being played in loudspeakers in an overflow room next door. In a similar way, computing technology now allows us to reproduce our “voice,” with attendant questions for matters of just who we are, and what fragments of us are reproduced into the electronic world we all increasingly inhabit.
Stone is also very interested in how cybernetics connects back to questions of gender. For instance, she cites a statistic that at any given moment, roughly 15 percent of players of Habitat (an early, Japanese virtual community similar to Second Life) were inhabiting a gender opposite their birth gender. She also recounts an episode wherein a male therapist realized that women would tell him things they would not normally say face-to-face if they believed him to be a female while conversing electronically. This led him to create an entire secondary online personality for purposes of engaging with female clients as a woman (unbeknownst to them), with predictable eventual consequences.
As theorists go, Stone is very readable. She has a lively, clipped style of narration, a writing voice that’s a little punk. She alternates here between recounting case studies and theorizing—the former is easier to read, although the latter proves fascinating, if requiring a little more time to get through.
Ultimately, Stone is positing a new “virtual” age to succeed the mechanical one that ended around the time of the emergence of the Internet and mainstream computing, and she is interested in questions of desire and the social human in this new age. Her book is interesting and still makes relevant points, even though the computing communities she was looking at were archaic by current standards.
I didn’t go to AWP last year. My work will pay for me to go to one conference a year, and last year I went to BizarroCon and this year I went to BizarroCon. But, as AWP approaches, I’ve been feeling a certain kind of longing to attend. It might be I’m lonely. It might be I miss my AWP-style friends.
For me, AWP is one of those things I struggle with. I love AWP. I hate AWP. I contain multitudes.
As a graduate of the lowest ranked MFA program in the country, I thought I’d weigh in on the current cacophony of the MFA this & MFA that debate.
I guess the two main essays currently having balls dragged over them (and I’m talking eyes here) are that Boudinot thing and that Anonymous yelp at Electric Literature, which is full of typos and dumb dumb-ness.
They’re both stupid.