Tag Archives: literature

Far Cry #9 is out!

The great great Anika Balaconis has done it again with Far Cry #9, the biggest little speculative fiction zine in the scene, published while she’s not punking down and running her own restaurant in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

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Authors Andrew Massey, Jean Paul Garnier (namesake of the condoms and glowsticks on the cover) and Joe Urson are featured besides Anika’s own story, and she put one of my stories in too!!! Audio version of the latter here for those of you too busy, too nonprofit or too ‘post-literate’ to read. Cover artist London Roman also has an illustration in the back, like a single page from a longer comic, to round it out.

The cover image also gets my approval for featuring the west coast, and a punker wailing on a guitar. Get on Far Cry, or find Éxitos Gnosis, and get yourself a copy today while they last!

Many Persons Mirrored and Duplicated In One Person

Not nearly enough has been written about John Irving’s In One Person since its publication in 2012, so having read it just now I thought I should contribute notes of both a literary and a most spiritually didactic nature. For a synopsis one can visit any number of websites.

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In One Person’s world has a private language habit, a Shakespeare lens for everything, and a spiralling theme of crossdressers and otherwise non-gender-binary men. Irving’s trademark truly excellent characterization and cagily naive narration abound. What struck me most about Irving’s book, however, is how funny it is.  Even in the grim third quarter in which we watch most of protagonist Billy Abbott’s friends die of AIDS, we get about 500 words of tragedy and then an offhand remark that makes us laugh out loud. Maybe it’s just my sense of humor. Like when he comes after a long series of AIDS vigil sequences to his hometown for a relatively simple checkin with a dead faculty member of his school: it is discovered that the orderly has only brought the corpse out in the snow to smoke a cigarette, not to wait for the hearse. Anyway, In One Person has no gags; rather, the timing is incredible.

I would like to point out a marvellously-rendered literary surprise in the book out of fear that it may be too often missed. The arc of investigating people’s identity soars beautifully throughout the book, but the end holds a satisfying surprise. As much as the book’s title may allude to the folly of casting people into vulgar categories that support people’s gang mentality, and the phenomenon of these categories occurring “in one person,” the title is revealed in the final chapter to also represent a conceit about our lifespan, aging, and successive generations. When the son of the protagonist’s forbidden crush from the very beginning of the novel shows up, bearing the only reliable evidence of what’s become of the wrestler Kittredge (his own one person mirrored in the elder wrestler and love interest Miss Frost), Billy underscores the voice and look of the younger Kittredge, who is the spitting image of his father. As Kittredge helped Billy start off on a path, Billy is now providing perspective for Kittredge’s kid.

Here the story’s spirals finally converge: we have not only the sexual phenomena gathering in unexpected groups in one person, but also the mysteries of maturity and life experience. The son of Kittredge and his father are as one person, but also the fate of Kittredge, Miss Frost and now the young transgender student Gee fit into one person, shifting identity through time.

Irving has  been subtly warning us about this conceit throughout the book, particularly with the symbol of the yearbooks and with his complaints about terminology. As an artist who’s also struggled with the identity police over time, I really appreciate Billy’s annoyance not with the new terms, ie., transgender vs. transsexual, but with the rigidness with which successive generations of people insist on the correctness of these terms. Irving argues hereby for compassion and also curiosity: before you criticize someone older for not using the new hip term, be a fucking smart person and find out the nature of the old term.

Finally, I’m grateful on behalf of those old enough to remember that Irving has chosen now, in the age of complacent suburban gender-queerness that seems unable or rather unwilling to see itself from its socio-economic angle, to force AIDS back in our faces. People my age will always remember that AIDS was far scarier than nuclear war, and people Irving’s age get the satisfaction of having their 1980s set –properly, I would argue –in the frame of the AIDS epidemic. Think of the suburban Christian terrorism we’ve lived through since the late 80s-early 90s: the PMRC, enforced gangster rap, youth group, Faith Driven Consumer, the Bush administration, No Child Left Behind, Gay-Straight Alliance … what would Robert Mapplethorpe, Klaus Nomi, Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, even Eazy-E and the local dancer, have taught us about these assholes and their judgmental phoniness if they’d made it longer??? Irving reminds us of the time not so long ago when we had to try to stick together, rather than run our campus GSA into the ground for not being suburban white gay or trans enough, because our fucking lives depended on it.

Thank you, a thousand times thank you, Mr Irving, for reminding us about all the possibilities and the cumulative richness of life that must be pursued In One Person.

Those Dark New Hampshire Woods

hampsire.jpgPropitiously, auspiciously, precipitously ran into Desmond Reed‘s work by chance on Tumblr, which for all the fat and noise is really one of the few places left one can sign on and see a ton of awesome art with relatively little digging.

A celebration of life’s will to grow, Those Dark New Hampshire Woods concerns a few weeks in the life of its denizens, rendered from all of whose perspective, looking inward and showing us how it is from over their shoulders, not unlike As I Lay Dying.
The book, like all great stories, like in Faulkner or Bolaño, distinguishes itself both through its place in a universe all its own as well as its exposition of the stories within that world in an elegant and silly spiral of nested and/or tangentially-related vignettes.
Amongst other instantly-relatable characters we meet the drifter, who drifts, the scumbag, the wild hairy uncles, the world’s smallest pervert, who seeks happiness despite being on the other side of existence.

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The obscene god of rebirth from Those Dark New Hampshire Woods

It is in the story of the Scumbag and the Troubled Teen that we encounter the persistent theme of nature’s regeneration, presented by means of the cloning by pore of the characters, reducing the proud, complex human down to the physiognomy of the plant kingdom. The joy with which their bodies relentlessly reproduce cycles through the setting and creates a second whirling narrative wheel.
My only gripe is what the hell is going on in the New Hampshire woods, and how does one end up there?
Those Dark New Hampshire Woods is a work of modest comic art blessed with satisfying textual depth, a work of literature not to be missed in the 2016 crop.

I also got the second one but honestly I haven’t even read it yet. I’m too blown away.
The books are published by Birdcage Bottom Books, and when you buy stuff from them you get a bunch of extra stuff!
https://www.birdcagebottombooks.com

On KKUP talking about waste

Here’s a talk between Negro and host Diane Solomon about writing and e-waste. The show was Meeting of the Ways on KKUP 91.5 FM Cupertino, 31 July 2016 at 5pm. Make sure to visit ban.org to see about getting your e-waste actually recycled and not just outsourced to the third world!

Lessons for Outlining Next Book

On the topic of writing, did some heavy outlining on my next book today, which is tentatively titled “Byebye and Shlort.” It’s about how no matter how X-Men special you are, no matter how well your psychic powers work, no one will listen to you if you’re poor, because in the USA it’s a crime to be poor and poor people are blamed for their situation without any question. It takes place in San Jose!

The outline is now huge and messy, but it’s as complete as I want it at this phase. The last few years “outlining” has really evolved for me. My organization method started as a sludge of paper food boxes, ATM receipts, notebook pages and so forth scattered on my desk or in my backpack or wherever else I could keep things depending on my living situation. It was like this for almost ten years, and was a step up from carrying ideas around in my addled adolescent head and losing all the great ideas over and over.

Then those notes started to get typed into the top of the computer file in which I type the story. One lesson I learned was to tell myself what each sequence or chapter or whatever has to do with the themes, characters, plot, etc. But this didn’t stop me from being a nervous neat freak and deleting notes as they went into the story. Stupid! Thank heaven for Google Drive and other backup techniques.

Now I’ve got the outline and page numbers for where each piece of notes goes into the manuscript. If I move it, the mark can change. I’ve also broken the outline up into two documents: the short THEMES document that tells me what I’m writing about, and the outline telling me what order the story goes in. This satisfies my need not to have everything in my face at once, and also allows for the establishment of a symbolic marking system so that the themes document can explain what I’m doing to me, with marks for when such thing happens, so I’m free to forget what the hell I did yesterday.

I think this story will come out, therefore, with very little fat, with digressions and extensions distinguishing themselves, and with an almost poetic focus on the presence of the themes in every word. Did you like Meat Ladder to Mars? Wait’ll you read Bybebye and Shlort, it’s gonna blow your fragile mind.