Daily Postings
Literature : Word Choice

Three Voice Overs

by Joanna Howard

I am reading a book about brain plasticity while John attempts to hook up an arcane device (DVD player) to our very modern media-viewing system. The arcane device will allow for the viewing of an arcane medium (DVD) in particular an arcane medium from an unrecognized/unpermitted region (in this case region 2, Europe/UK). The hunt for cables and mounting and dismounting tools begins early in the morning and ranges all over the house. There’s some concern on both our parts that the attempts to introduce this arcane device into our very modern system might bring all media-viewing to a crashing halt. All this so we can watch an Alan Bennett play staged and performed for television (arcane-but-evolvable technology) in another, forbidden regional format (BBC). I have already seen it; I went through a similar but less complicated process of media accommodation several years ago in another house in order to watch this play. John, however, hasn’t seen it even though he would have been living in that region when the program aired on its intended technological medium. The play, oddly enough, is called “An Englishman Abroad.”

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Literature : Interview

Elizabeth Mikesch

by Erik Morse

Strange songs: Elizabeth Mikesch channels the grit and caprice of suburban adolescence.

Elizabeth Mikesch’s debut novella, Niceties, is a collection of domestic fairytales that evoke the kind of suburban witchcraft of Harmony Korine, Vladimir Nabokov, and Catherine Breillat. Presumably based on the author’s experiences as a precocious child living in Small Town, USA, the book is composed of a series of loosely related miniatures on eroticism, witchery, and boredom, which occasionally braid and loop back on one another as if through the tiny nooks of the book’s imaginary floor plan. Mikesch’s sentences are, throughout, pleasantly plump and oleaginous, seeping with the sights and smells of pubescence: grandmother’s repasts, masturbatory bed-sheets, and nocturnal beasties. “We were sleeveless daughters once in the sleet nights of the wild fields, smokes and talk, eyelids stained, in the spunout drives, riding suicide, in the chardark, in the moonlight,” she writes of the rituals of teenage girls in the parlance of a millennial Sibyl. “There was hiding coughing—do not make a sound—inhale a puff of a poison, did the coffin slam shut?” Its familial subject matter, often portrayed in illicit and traumatic vignettes, and a lyrical, albeit dissonant, use of language makes Niceties a rewarding experiment in the linkages between Victorian “house” literature and the transgressive, free-versification of the archly feminist New Narrative.

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Literature : Interview

Peter Mendelsund

by Christopher King

Wrapping words up in images.

Among book designers, Peter Mendelsund is the best reader of all. You always recognize one of his covers when you see it, and it’s not because he tends toward certain colors or typefaces—quite the opposite. Rather, it’s something about the way the cover illuminates the text. You can tell he didn’t just read the manuscript; he internalized it. The result somehow feels both inevitable and surprising: the only possible solution but one you could never dream up yourself.

That such a good reader would turn out to be an outstanding writer is perhaps inevitable as well, but Peter has once again confounded expectations by publishing two books of his own, with two different publishers, on the same day. The first, Cover, is a design book full of words, and the second, What We See When We Read, is a philosophy book full of pictures.

Six years ago, I had a desk a few floors up from Peter’s office at Random House. He was already famed for his iconic covers for authors like Martin Amis and Mark Haddon, but many of his greatest hits—the Kafka reissues, the Cortázar covers, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—were still to come. We became acquainted that summer, and every now and then I’d poke my head in and ask for advice about how to be a better designer.

Of course, now I realize I was asking all the wrong questions. So I recently went back to Peter’s office and asked for advice about how to be a better reader.

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Literature : Word Choice

Meaningful Work

by JoAnna Novak

Pre-shift you stop at Valley Mart. You need two Mountain Dews to survive. The slog. See yourself when you say slog. You’ll slug Dew—wind catching your black cargo chef pants, raw chicken gunking your kitchen clogs—and mud will pour into the Mansion. Gray-brown, doom and gloom, life after your mother’s death—that’s what you need to overcome: today’s shift. Tell yourself it’s any Tuesday.

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Literature : Interview

Clive Phillpot

by Elizabeth Zuba

Human collage, mail art, and punning with the nothing master Ray Johnson.

Almost twenty years after his death, Ray Johnson continues to be revealed as one of the most consequential figures in American contemporary art. The progenitor of correspondence art and an influential pioneer of pop art and conceptual art (though he eschewed all of these monikers), Johnson’s curiosity resulted in an immense body of work that spans collage, correspondence, performance, sculpture, drawing, painting, and book arts. For better or worse, he embodied that over-glorified and under-recognized role of “the artist’s artist.” Johnson’s dynamic life-art unfolded within a nexus of artists and media that read as a who’s who and what’s what of American art from the 1950s through 1970s, and yet he systematically refused or flouted all opportunities to popularize his work through mainstream art commerce.

Grace Glueck once wrote to me that Johnson sent letters to academics and journalists in the art world whose attention he wanted. Maybe, but it certainly wasn’t fame he was after. So I guess the question is, what kind of attention? From what I can tell, Johnson was highly selective about whom in the art establishment he tried to engage. He sent letters to academic figures who he thought could and hopefully would correspond with him the way he wanted—persons who might match his intellect and interests, and parry with his acerbic wit; persons who might be game to enter into an alternative kind of correspondence via the oblique and contiguous relationships of words, ideas, and images. Clive Phillpot was one such favorite correspondent and friend of Ray Johnson’s. Since Johnson’s death, Phillpot has become one of the foremost scholars of his work. It was an honor to be able to talk with Clive and plumb his unique and illuminating insight into Johnson’s art and person.

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Literature : Word Choice

Four Poems

by Darin Ciccotelli


You have the vague hope. Like a fritillary
it ekes along the perimeter of what
you can see. It is some consequence of youth,
this idea that you can be revived.
Until then, each day seems like that
apartment you’ve lived in—unfurnished,
wet with primer. Then the weekend is gone,
television having usurped it with
the dressage portion of the event. Increasingly
you rely on the idea that you were nearly
understood. The sky all fumes.
Inside, a refrigerated lily holds itself
still. The post-industrial town fits its
hours in envelopes. So you assuage yourself
with the person you never knew.
She sits in the mind like a
telephone. The feeling can’t help be
compounded. I read the article that said
we weren’t supposed to look each
other in the eyes. Without being asked,
the unceremonious plot resets itself. You are
in love. Everyone, at every corner,
suddenly like road flares.

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Literature : Interview

Kate Durbin

by Gabriela Jauregui

Literary television, tragicomic starlets, and objects galore.

Kate Durbin and I sat together to gossip and eat pink food on her pink leather sofa—the only fit way to celebrate the publication of her most recent book, E! Entertainment, which was printed on pink paper. She wore a pink angora sweater (she’s always a little cold) and I wore a pink Lycra jumpsuit (and was therefore too hot). We had fish eggs, salmon, radishes, wild strawberries, Pink Lady apple tart with blush crème fraîche, and a dry rosé wine while we discussed the best shade of nail polish (powder rose) as well as writing and process. In the background the television set was muted and I could see flashes of a gemstone infomercial.

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Literature : Word Choice

from Blonde Summer

by Andrew Durbin

In Basel, I smoked hash and listened to Sophie’s “Bipp,” a little out of date by the time I heard it, zoning out on the line I can make you feel better. I used to think life was about feeling better and searching for the better in what is not. I have now realized that there are errors in this pursuit.

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Literature : Word Choice

Three Poems

by Gale Nelson

Lasting Cure’s Ideal

Filters draw on water’s flow, spell specks
in unfit draw and bring the well
past clouds. After such, quench every
thirst. Exceed thirst, drip on this water’s tap
as thirst extracts a fine drench. The
ooze infecting us panders and
enters flooded senses—
it logs up past swollen pipes,
and wading past tap’s flow, engulfs
tide’s water. Quench anew, but
floods anew swell even now. Quench
the thirst after water ebbs—endow
extended bursts as if a tap’s
long oozing lurks—bottom’s up. As
ice melts, fountains blend the ice
and coil water—long drench that well.

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Literature : Interview

David Ohle

by JA Tyler

Camera-eye in the future ruin, “freedom” prison, and cutting up the news.

One of the most frightening and brilliant aspects of David Ohle’s futuristic novels is how eerily they parallel our own landscape. Motorman (1972), The Age of Sinatra (2004), The Pisstown Chaos (2008), and Boons and The Camp (2009) all share the same backdrop, a realm not explicitly said to be post-apocalyptic, but certainly one where the workings of the world have been inhumanely redefined and most of its inhabitants struggle for life and scrap for sustenance—physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Ohle’s latest foray into this world is The Blast (Calamari Press, 2014), which centers on Wencel, a teenager at St. Cuthbert’s Boys Academy, a school unafraid to torture and maim students for their grooming habits; and Wencel’s mother, whose daily combat is to make what little they have count, braving the “souk” market and the threat of wild and vicious poodles, all the while attempting to instill her own slim virtues on her son as best she can. Wencel’s father reappears mid-novel, too, having been arrested for stealing a radio, then released from his sentence as another victim of an awful and rampant illness—one that turns people into husks of their former selves, with bodies that no longer require food or sleep, but tooth pullings and odor shellac instead.

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Literature : Podcast

Contemporary Poetry Marathon Reading

The NADA Contemporary Poetry Marathon Reading from May 10, 2014.

Contemporary Poetry was a marathon reading featuring thirty emerging and established poets, which took place on May 10, 2014 at NADA New York. This is a podcast of the program with portraits of the poets by Mariah Robertson, which also serves as the announcement for Contemporary Poetry Too, a postscript to the first reading.

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Literature : Interview

Jeff Jackson

by Joyelle McSweeney

Trauma, gatekeeping, and a bid for the youth cult of decadence.

Jeff Jackson’s intensely lyrical first novel, Mira Corpora, arrived dressed in praise from such authors as Dennis Cooper, Don DeLillo, and David Gates, and made many of last year’s top ten lists. This triumphant reception is happily at odds with the minor-chord timbre of Mira Corpora, which traces an unnamed protagonist as he is shot from the cannon of a mythically violent childhood through various lives of estrangement and intimacy, nomadism and arrival, pleasure and fright. Throughout the book, Jackson’s prose style continually astonishes, tossing up hot sugar-clouds of language that cool into fatal blades. The straits our hero endures—not to say survives—are both impossible and somehow plausible, surreal and all too real in the brightly lit misery-scape that is contemporary America. Our homeless speaker is both everyman and nowhere man, prone to wander and tugged stumbling along by a mysterious inclination toward the hidden and the bright.

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Literature : Word Choice

Three Reports

by Brian Evenson

I am reading the philosopher W. Not, however, the most famous philosopher W., the one who had only one glass that he kept his toothbrush in and had to wash out when visitors came if he was to offer them a drink. No, the W. I am reading had sufficient glassware and, as far as I can determine, very few eccentricities.

The W. I am reading was always photographed wearing either a tuxedo or a three-piece suit and tie. I have only found one picture in which the other W. wears a tie; he is sixteen, and clearly has been forced to wear it. But the W. I am reading doesn’t always write like he is wearing a tie, just as the W. I am not reading doesn’t always write like he isn’t.

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Literature : Interview


by Ross Simonini

Myths in the educational ghetto.

In the 1980s, Nick Currie took the pseudonym Momus, after the Greek god of satire, writing, criticism, and—maybe, indirectly—of postmodernism. He has since recorded over twenty-five albums of avant-pop, blogged compulsively, performed stories in museums, contributed journalism to Wired, and published four novels, all under this moniker and almost always with an attitude in keeping with his namesake. The most recent of his books, UnAmerica (Penny-Ante Editions, 2014) is something like an adaptation of a little-known Christian myth as applied to an alternate history of America. It’s an erudite narrative that gives us a glimpse of Currie’s wealth of idiosyncratic knowledge and his healthy appetite for scathing, provocative humor. It is as apt an introduction to his vast body of work as anything. After reading the book and listening to his album Ocky Milk (American Patchwork/Analog Baroque, 2006) about a dozen times, Currie and I spoke about daily life and myth.

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Literature : Interview

Phil Klay

by Matt Choate

War with and without words.

We have heard this before. That war is unspeakable because of trauma. That the language used to describe experiences of war will always be inadequate. That war negates language, destroys the meaning system. How does the marine, who is under fire, who watches a friend die, relate such an experience back? How does the pilot who misses a target and destroys a school speak about what he feels? Theorists of trauma argue that in these moments language fails and things are best left unsaid.

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Literature : Word Choice

BB and Calla Lily

by Evelyn Hampton

That was the night we got older. Momma had just been canned. We were going up to the Dairy Land when Calla Lily asked, Don't you think we should bring Thomas. Thomas was our dad. He was not our father, but he was in the position of the man, having been married to Momma for a few weeks. Funny about their wedding—nobody came because the invitation said the wrong day. It said the right day, but Momma and Thomas got fidgety and went ahead with it a day before the day, like time wasn't for them, only for the RSVP'd. The folks did come, but there was no gown for them to see, and no aisle, and no Momma and no Thomas—me and Calla Lily had to tell everybody that, see, they had gone to Thomas's parents', sort of, or that's what they said to say, because they had already done the wedding. I hate being looked at like that by so many relations I never see, it's like the air itself suddenly lays claim to me, wasps flown from a falling tree. We didn't hear of them again, the RSVP'd, and a few days later Momma and Thomas came back to time and asked had we eaten. Took us out for supper, me and Calla Lily, ate our favorite chicken. Creamed.

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Literature : Essay

Masha Tupitsyn’s Love Dog

by Carmen Giménez Smith

A hypertextual diegesis on love and vulnerability.

Masha Tupitsyn’s Love Dog (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013) is my new favorite taxonomy. The book reads like a reboot of Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse, but instead of Goethe, Tupitsyn uses the dense range of twentieth-century popular culture for part of its allegorical infrastructure, even addressing the reader outright: “This book is polyphonic. It should be read, listened to, and watched.” To read it polyphonically, I re-watched Say Anything, listened to Radiohead’s Kid A, watched clips of canonical '80s movies, scoured for Italian film stills, and fell in love with Avital Ronnel and Elaine Castillo. The book is immersive in this way—it requires the reader to mine the abyss of popular cultural referent in order to evoke the particular material universe that defines not only the love affair that serves as the backdrop but also what leads the speaker to complex and sometimes idealistic notions of philia.

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Literature : Word Choice

Four Poems

by Sophia Dahlin


I’ll take a long view of the legs
and I’ll readily endure them
I will even hallow them, as a speaker-set,
I am actually tripping. I’m not,
but you see how some skins
go red-yellow-red-yellow? I was tripping
saying I could see all my fat and the blood cohabiting

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Literature : Interview

Trisha Low

by Sarah Gerard

Language like tar, pick-and-mix identities, and a long sputtering of retcons.

Trisha Low is an electric writer and performer whose work rejects easy categorization. She manhandles sex, race, and the rigidities of form. She’s self-deprecating but unapologetic, with a voice like a post-doc teenage girl—rebellious and giggly but rigorously intelligent, with a talent so powerful she had to write a book with it. The Compleat Purge was published by Kenning Editions last year, and was a proud Emily Book in March.

We spoke on a Saturday afternoon. Imagine this conversation full of small pleasantries and endearing asides. Trisha was also generous enough to record a passage of The Compleat Purge for BOMB, which you’ll find above.

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Literature : Word Choice

I’m on Fire

by Micaela Morrissette

One of my wives is given to repeating things our other wives and husbands have said. It wins her no admirers. But she only cares what the family thinks of itself, of its other members. She doesn’t mind what anyone thinks of her. Is this formidable? No one is sure. My wife says, “I don’t say anything that doesn’t bear repeating.” We do repeat what she has said, but that is only her repetitions of our own words. We say, “No! Did she really say that?” But what we really mean is Did I really say that? or Did you really say that?

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Literature : Interview

Takashi Hiraide

by Will Heyward

A fateful cat, the infinitude of the home-run zone, and literature that cannot tell a lie.

This conversation with Japanese author Takashi Hiraide took place under somewhat unusual circumstances. We met at a noisy bar in downtown Manhattan along with several staff members from New Directions—publisher of For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut (2008) and The Guest Cat (2014), Hiraide’s two books in English translation so far. And there was good reason to toast him because a week or so earlier The Guest Cat had, to the surprise of many people, appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list. But time was scarce. It was Hiraide’s last night in town, and he was soon to read at St Marks Bookstore alongside Lynn Tillmann.

The interview had to happen now and fast. So after some deliberation as to which language Hiraide would respond in, we began, his English steady and clear, referring only occasionally to his interpreter, Sho Sugita, for clarification. It became apparent midway through that we would have to set off for the bookstore in order to avoid Hiraide missing his own reading. Our conversation continued on the street. In the recording, my questions are punctuated with “Excuse me!” and “Turn right here,” while Hiraide’s answers carry a polite amusement. All of it is washed over by the unremitting atmosphere of a New York sidewalk.

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Literature : Word Choice

Three Poems

by Arielle Greenberg

Pastoral: Commons

I have always loved a village green, a commons.
I do not love a commodity,
until I’ve owned the shit out of it,
and we are twin depleted.

If learning is changing—
if ecology is adaptive and it’s we who are stuck in our think-holes—
then fuck me so hard I spot pale pink blood.
Alter me a little.

My body is a commons.
You can pleasure yourself through me
like a haunted house at a theme park.
On the other end, it’ll be you all shaky.

I’m not animatronic, a barely clicking swamp.
I’m mowed but still lush, a thoroughfare for glad tidings.

What I am really after is connection.

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Literature : Interview

Stanley Crawford

by Stephen Sparks

Voices in the countercurrent, gentle satire versus jugular-vein satire, and the material world of growing things.

A visitor to Stanley Crawford’s website will immediately notice a curious thing—along the page’s sidebar there is a link to purchase books, as one might expect, but also, placed just as prominently, a link to purchase shallots by the pound. Crawford, who in 1970 settled in Dixon, New Mexico after years of study and travel, says he did not intend to become a farmer, but that having done so, he took to the work. Indeed, his three works of nonfiction—Mayordomo (1988), A Garlic Testament (1992), and The River in Winter (2003)—reflect this commitment and display a fierce, yet practical, attachment to his calling and community.

Crawford’s works of fiction—five novels published over the course of nearly fifty years, including the cult classic Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine and the recently reissued Travel Notes—display their own kind of ferocity. These novels tend to extremes of character and setting. His narrators, with the exception of Mrs Unguentine, are all, to varying degrees, monsters. They are puffed up with self-importance, espouse unpopular opinions, and suffer from lack of self-awareness. They’re also funny.

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Literature : Word Choice

Jesuit Priest Who Loves Scriabin and Isn’t a Jesuit Priest Seeks Life Elsewhere

by Mauro Javier Cardenas

I wanted to become a Jesuit priest, Antonio wrote, hoping his impulse to become a Jesuit priest when he was fifteen or sixteen years old and still living in Guayaquil could sustain a novella or at least a short fiction about youth and god and so on, the kind of fiction that would rhapsodize his time at the hospice Luis Plaza Dañin and would exalt his role as a catechist to the poor in Mapasingue, and yet a week or two after writing down that first sentence about wanting to become a Jesuit priest...

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