Daily Postings
literature : first proof

Baby, They Call It Vermilion

by Annie Dewitt

The first thing my Godsent said when I came through the door was, "I think I have this damn thing on backwards."

His mother had already left for the night. He was wearing her Prada swimsuit and a wig the color of raw meat which he had fashioned into a shoulder-length bob.

"Nice ruby slippers," I said, nodding at the stilettos into which he had shoved his chubby feet.

"Baby," he said, pointing down at them. "They call it vermilion."

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literature : interview

Writing Anti-Stories: an Interview with Roberta Allen

by John Zinsser

"When we really like a book, it's often because its rhythm is similar to our own—to our heartbeat, our breathing, the way we walk. I think that's what draws us to certain writers and not to others even though we know they are great."

Roberta Allen's latest collection of stories, The Princess of Herself (Pelekinesis), offers us a lens into human distortion. In humorous and sharply clipped prose, she takes us through a landscape of characters squarely in denial of who they are.

Allen's own life and career trajectory have exposed her to a variety of people, places, and modalities. Born in New York City to a Russian gambler father, she grew up in the Ansonia Hotel long before its rooms were converted to condos. She resided in the West Village in the early 1960s before traveling alone to Europe, where she married a German sculptor and lived in Athens, Amsterdam, and Berlin. She returned to the U.S. and became an exhibiting artist, showing sculpture and conceptual drawings with the John Weber Gallery and in solo gallery and museum shows in Europe and Australia. At age thirty-five, Allen embarked on her writing career, publishing nine books that include story collections, experimental fiction, and writing guides. A catalogue raisonné of her artist books has just been issued, following a 2016 exhibition at The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, California.

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literature : first proof
literature : first proof
literature : interview

The Form Vampire: An Interview with Carmen Maria Machado

by Liza St. James

"Our bodies are graveyards of cells, the source of art, inherently finite, constantly decaying."

The first story I read by Carmen Maria Machado was "Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU." The novella's inventive structure and indelible images—the unforgettable doppelgängers, the ghostly presences of girls-with-bells-for-eyes—were an apt introduction to the writer's powers. Borrowing from the tropes of speculative fiction, Machado takes on even the most rigid, seemingly closed forms (like estate sale inventories or TV capsule descriptions), and inhabits them as though they were living systems, subverting them to her own ends. The worlds of her seductive stories, whether post-pandemic or ostensibly made-for-entertainment, reveal the uncanny of our own, and then some.

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literature : first proof

The House That Donovan Built

by Sarah Wang

I caught Elma licking her front teeth in the rearview mirror. The gap between them seemed to be getting wider, like Jane Birkin, whose teeth spread considerably apart as she grew older, an oral Pangea situation. The late afternoon sun poked rhythmically between buildings as we left Los Angeles behind and drove east into the Mojave Desert. Outside, the wind gusted. We were ready to shed our skin in the hot desert, as dry and blistering as a foundry in July, and bathe in the light of the full moon. In the passenger seat, Magda propped her feet up, displacing a layer of dust on the dashboard.

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literature : review

Dance of the Self: On John Haskell's The Complete Ballet

by Will Harrison

Noir, Balanchine, and an escape from the conventional novel.

Set on the still-seedy Sunset Strip, John Cassavetes' 1976 film The Killing of a Chinese Bookie opens with nightclub owner Cosmo Vitelli settling a longstanding gambling debt. A few scenes later, Cosmo celebrates his liberation with a night of high-stakes poker and finds himself out $23,000. In John Haskell's new book The Complete Ballet (Graywolf Press), a similar fate befalls an unnamed narrator, who has been spurred on by his charismatic friend Cosmo, proprietor of a strip club on Sunset Boulevard. Perhaps it is fitting that a work so original—a nearly unclassifiable "fictional essay in five acts"—draws from a film more notable for its atmospherics than for the innovation of its plot. By placing his story in a musty, noirish environment where all men are gangsters and all women strip for a living, Haskell risks slipping into complete predictability. Fortunately for readers, he is just as concerned with the wonders of Nijinsky and Tchaikovsky as he is with the sordid workings of underground Los Angeles.

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literature : interview

Staring Back, Staring Out: An Interview with Jillian Weise

by Jessie Male

"I originally published this in 2007 thinking, Oh this is a fine book, but I will be joined by a whole lot of amputee writers, and they are going to be here any minute. I'm still waiting."

Within twenty-four hours of meeting Jillian Weise for the first time, I was in a wig and dark round glasses, drinking extra-dry martinis in a dive bar, and answering to the name Zosia Zuckerberg (ZZ, for short). It felt like the most natural thing in the world. Spending time with Weise is not disparate from spending time with her work—entertaining and engaging, playing with form—and always a little unsure (but excited) about what comes next. I first encountered Weise's writing through her novel The Colony (Soft Skull Press), where she confronts the often eluded conversations about disability and intimacy. Her protagonist is bold and electrifying, navigating the territory between societal acceptance and self-preservation.

These tensions are present in Weise's most recent poetry collection, The Book of Goodbyes (BOA Editions), as well as her debut novel, The Amputee's Guide to Sex, originally published by Soft Skull Press in 2007 and reissued this fall. "I dream the Mona Lisa into a wheelchair; she smirks behind glass with a victory stare," Weise writes in the poem "Half-Portrait." Her poetry complicates notions of "normalcy" and rescinds popular narratives of bodily shame. Her work engages with scholars, doctors, patients, writers, and of course, her readers—asking vital questions about where their values and ideals lie.

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literature : review

Stormy Weather: on Andrew Durbin's MacArthur Park

by Evan Moffitt

A globe-hopping novel ruminates on drift and disaster.


The last time I was in Los Angeles, it rained. Not a light drizzle, but great gusty torrents of seawater, lifted from the Pacific and dumped on streets that didn't know what hit them. Mid-City was intractable. Its cracked asphalt drowned in a river with no clear directional flow. At dinner a few days later, talk was all about “disaster." Hyperbole is the mode of Hollywood, but it seemed ironic that such dry land suddenly received too much water to swallow. Perhaps it was fate: always more (or less) than we bargained for.

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literature : first proof

Metaphors on Vision

by Stan Brakhage

To coincide with the republication by Anthology Film Archives and Light Industry of Stan Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision, out of print for nearly forty years, BOMB Daily presents the following excerpt—a letter from Brakhage to the poet Robert Kelly describing his work on the groundbreaking film Mothlight, which Brakhage made without a camera, instead affixing bits of material directly to film strips.

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literature : review

"To Lie Is to Try": Two Books on Kathy Acker

by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Chris Kraus and Douglas A. Martin conjure the iconoclastic author.

Kathy Acker catapulted to prominence as the enfant terrible of American literature in the 1980s—in New York, she was infamous; in London, she became famous. She aimed to sculpt herself into an icon of literary creation and destruction to be worshiped at the altar of evil sainthood alongside canonized experimentalists like William S. Burroughs and Jean Genet, and for a time she succeeded.

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literature : interview

Italy, Two Ways: Jessie Chaffee and Minna Zallman Proctor

"There's often a gap between what we're trying to say and what we are able to say. Sometimes I'm successful and sometimes I fail. Sometimes it's painful and sometimes I get into that space where it feels right. That's the high."

We can't always be in Italy, so we love the books that can transport us there. Jessie Chaffee's debut novel, Florence in Ecstasy (Unnamed Press), and Minna Zallman Proctor's collection of essays, Landslide (Catapult), both feature American characters who go to Italy to get away only to find themselves even more tethered to home. Hannah, the protagonist in Florence in Ecstasy, embeds herself in the local community, but has to confront the internal ruthlessness of an eating disorder. With poetic and incisive prose, Chaffee gives us access to an emotional world seldom explored with such grace. In Landslide, we follow Proctor on her trips to Italy and back, as she sifts through her complicated relationship with her mother, who passed away fifteen years after a cancer diagnosis. The essays, though they form a kind of elegy, are warm, humorous, and probing of life's absurdities and joys.

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literature : first proof

Four Poems

by Elena Karina Byrne

What language are you now? Blood-fuck blanco-made
     on the leaves, (brother was blood in the ears) blood
        bitter crop, body-doubt, the poplar rain falling grape-grey

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literature : essay
literature : essay

Our John: Remembering John Ashbery

by Eric Brown

There are some people I never expect to die. John Ashbery's death at ninety comes as a shock. As a poet he was among the greats; he was also a great human being and a generous friend. Painter Trevor Winkfield once referred to him affectionately as our John. He was like a gentle father figure to a multigenerational brood of poets and artists in New York and across the globe, all of whom had a profound affection for him.

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literature : essay
literature : essay
literature : essay
literature : essay

Hymns to Possibility: Remembering John Ashbery

by Geoffrey G. O'Brien

So much of Ashbery's poetry, like so much of poetry, turns on adjacency, on what we're willing to let lie next to each other. If I sound like I'm talking about sex, then I am, and it's part of why Ashbery went to France—for its versions of his own country's false promises of liberty, fraternity, and equality—in the wake of Joseph McCarthy's Lavender Scare.

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literature : essay

In the Wild: Remembering John Ashbery

by Charles Bernstein

In 1991, John, David Kermani, and I were waiting to get on a flight to Milan for a poetry festival there. John and David were in a convivial mood and the subject turned to John Shoptaw, who a few years later published a study of Ashbery called On the Outside Looking Out. Shoptaw's book was one of the first studies of Ashbery's work that included references to his being gay, which Shoptaw read in terms of what he calls "homotextuality." Before the early 1990s, Ashbery's homosexuality was not commonly addressed in print. As far as I know, this is how Ashbery wanted it.

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literature : essay

What We'll Have Forever: Remembering John Ashbery

by Andrew Durbin

Now that Ashbery is gone, I don't know how to say goodbye or to accept that there has finally been a last book, or at least a last one published while its author was still alive. I met John several times and he was always very kind to me. Since his passing a few days ago, I've searched those moments for some greater meaning, for a stray detail that I had missed before.

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literature : essay
literature : essay

Home Video: Remembering John Ashbery

by Adam Fitzgerald

In 2006, my friend Travis called me to say he was coming to New York City and wondered whether or not there was a good poetry reading we could both go to. I was freshly dumped out of college and only pretending to be working at a bookstore from which I would soon be fired.

Accidentally—or rather, instinctively—I popped into Google "John Ashbery poetry reading NYC" when I had meant "poetry reading NYC." A Google search can change your life.

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literature : essay

When Most Needed: Remembering John Ashbery

by Anselm Berrigan

Getting the news on Sunday that John was gone felt like having a big unlooked-for hand, like a Philip Guston hand, reach in and swipe something from my imagination. Going to his poems a little later on meant having that something put back, in a slightly different place, or acknowledging what can't actually be taken, despite the shock of initial grief. I think we're not supposed to talk about influence. Or maybe we're not supposed to talk about imitation. Who is we again?

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