Daily Postings
literature : interview

John Reed

by Gee Henry

"The best way to write myself out of the project was to overwrite my own biography. I mean, who is this 'I' anyway?"

John Reed has been writing hard-to-classify books for over a decade, to great acclaim and sometimes greater notoriety. His novel Snowball's Chance was a blistering and controversial sequel of sorts to Orwell's Animal Farm that culminated with a 9/11-like attack on two windmills. Jonathan Ames called it "scary" and "engrossing," as well as a "sustained triumph." Reed's novel The Whole was a satire inspired by his relationship with a certain MTV VJ and was published, bravely, by MTV Books. My favorite is the aptly titled Tales of Woe, a grim collection of tragic accounts from around the globe. Fictionaut said the stories were "without any redeeming character whatsoever—just bleak, bleak, unremitting, and undeserved." In truth, they actually loved the collection.

Reed is a real New York City character—mysterious yet completely accessible, old-school but cutting-edge. A few years ago, he started sharing some newly written sonnets on Facebook. Although they were largely about love, or desire, they weren't really fit for readers looking for happy-ever-after scenarios. Many ended with a narrator seemingly suspended above a great metaphorical chasm, either about to descend into oblivion or ascend to something sublime. Reed collected these sonnets and others in his latest project, Free Boat: Collected Lies and Love Poems, out now from C&R Press. And, since no book of Reed's is written without adding a "remix" (a term often used by reviewers to describe his writing), he added something strange throughout—a semi-autobiographical letter to guide the reader through all the poems. Sometimes this letter is addressed to Reed's current or former wife, sometimes it's addressed to his literary agent, and sometimes it's directed to the reader. In these, he goes from childhood to adulthood, to a decadent period spent in Cuba, then to the present moment. It contains mug shots of multiple "John Reeds" from around the country, as well as pictures of people Reed identifies as family members. This may be the closest thing to a memoir he'll ever produce.

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literature : review

This Rude World

by Cypress Marrs

Jen George's The Babysitter at Rest tells tales of the absurd expectations of womanhood.

In The Babysitter at Rest (Dorothy, 2016)—a brilliant and surprising debut collection of short fiction—author Jen George subverts conventional narrative form to reckon with socially imposed ideals of womanhood. Each story follows a woman in her twenties or early thirties as she negotiates the cultural expectations made upon her life and body. It's well-trodden ground, but George hurtles us through the landscape of such archetypes with prose crude enough to be refreshing and dark enough to be funny.

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literature : review

Floating Market

by Caitlin Youngquist

White space speaks volumes in Hoa Nguyen's Violet Energy Ingots.

Something numinous lies in Hoa Nguyen's newest collection of poems, Violet Energy Ingots. Slender and minimalist in appearance—and sheathed in a spare cover of flecked paper like other publications by Wave Books—it contains sixty-one poems, totaling no more than eighty-three pages. In one's hands, it gives the impression of a fast, sprightly read; flipping through, Nguyen's fondness for blank space is easily discerned, with pockets of emptiness carved out between words in nearly every poem. But the book's sparsity of text belies its gravity and nuance, not to mention the time it insists readers spend to really regard the poet's elegiac cadence, beguiling complexity, and evocation.

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literature : interview

Carlos Fonseca

by Chloe Aridjis

"How many fragments are needed in order to describe the life of man?"

Carlos Fonseca Suarez is the youngest author to appear on the renowned Spanish publisher Anagrama's list. His first novel, Colonel Lágrimas (now available in English from Restless Books), is indeed astonishing in its wisdom and maturity—the product, one would guess, of decades of deeply engaged reading. Yet its author was a mere twenty-seven when it came out. Written at any age, the work is a true feat of literary ventriloquism and cinematic control, tinged with a humor and melancholy inspired by the human condition. Whether we think of it as a game of masks or as a Cubist portrait, Fonseca's novel reads like an Oulipian puzzle where historical memory can play hide-and-seek.

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literature : first proof

the rou of alch / el cam del alch

by Pablo Katchadjian

Sudden, recombinant abbreviations and looping queries make up the rou of alch by Buenos Aires-based author Pablo Katchadjian. What follows is an excerpt from this book-length poem, which is the third release from Señal—an ongoing series of contemporary Latin American poetry publications produced collaboratively by BOMB, Libros Antena Books, and Ugly Duckling Presse. Katchadjian—along with authors Florencia Castellano and Luis Felipe Fabre, and translators Stalina Emmanuelle Villarreal, Victoria Cóccaro, Alexis Almeida, John Pluecker, and Rebekah Smith—will be reading at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center at NYU on October 13 and at The Poetry Project on October 14, 2016.

the rou of alch

I don't want them to leave so I give them all I have
the buc and the rou
the inf and the cont

that's to say
concepts and materials

with those two things they could make anything
and would even see their shadows grow

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literature : review

How To Suffer Well

by Charlotte Lieberman

On Max Ritvo's Four Reincarnations

The first line of the first poem of Max Ritvo's debut poetry collection Four Reincarnations begins with a loud and threatening announcement: "The bed is on fire," then the speaker asks, "and are you laughing?" Here Ritvo invites us to simultaneously accept horror and humor.

The rest of this poem, cheekily titled "Living it Up," unfolds with authority through a series of subjunctive utterances that include candid expressions of fantasy ("I wish you would…"), conditional statements about a somehow-certain future ("they will never / be able to hold anyone"), and gauzy descriptions of air as an "other child." At first glance, it may be tempting to dismiss the work as ironic. But how is it that the future and the world of the imagination could be expressed so absolutely? How is it that anyone could laugh amidst the flames?

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literature : interview

Alexandra Kleeman & Lincoln Michel

On genre, influence, and getting weird in fiction.

If you were taking the pulse of American short fiction circa now, you might begin with Lincoln Michel’s Upright Beasts (Coffee House Press, 2015) and Alexandra Kleeman’s Intimations (Harper, 2016). The writers, both graduates of Columbia’s MFA program, create stories that are disorienting and alive, winning praise from Margaret Atwood (in Michel’s case) or drawing comparisons to Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon (in Kleeman’s). As one might guess from reading their work, Kleeman and Michel possess voracious appetites for culture; their conversation doubles as a syllabus for The Dozen Great Books You Should Read Right Now.

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literature : first proof

Four Poems

by Aimee Herman

on an island of love poems

he plays with her side ponytail, as though
he is playing with himself—
with knees spread apart
lips swollen and fingertips dipped in bee stings

she watches skinny, tattooed legs pass her by,
attached to a woman wearing two partially shaved
heads,  curls down the middle

she wants to tell him she’s remembered she’s gay
never forgot, exactly—
she just really dug the way he dug into her
until    until    it just wasn’t enough

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literature : interview

Lewis Freedman

by Judah Rubin

"We experience the content of ourself emerging by making shapes around it."

Lewis Freedman is the author of Residual Synonyms for the Names of God (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016) and a writer whose investigation of what might be called biblio-cognitive aporetic states is perched somewhere on the ledge of Mallarméan-cum-Jabesian trickster engagements with the very fundament of language. Freedman's works—which include a DIY program for the autopoesis of solitaire, Solitude: The Complete Games (with Kevin Ryberg, Troll Thread, 2013); a notebook on notebooking, Hold the Blue Orb, Baby (Well Greased Press, 2013); and a record of loss in language, Pretend to Think—all bend the ear of thought, constantly seeking that place just beyond the act of naming. I spent an afternoon with Lewis discussing divination, food science, taxidermy, rabbinic literature, and the act of discussion itself on the banks of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.

Judah Rubin Last night I was reading your Residual Synonyms for the Name of God, where you write: "Great wealth passively corrects its crime by making pubic hair iridescently visible through cloth as a metaphor for the negation of the said." Can you maybe speak to that? What is the divine character of iridescently visible pubic hair?

Lewis Freedman Let me not pretend to know precisely what I've made, but just jump off from it instead…

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literature : first proof


by Kenward Elmslie

I felt something bosomy pressing against me. I opened my eyes, and craned around. It was Mummers. His lips were moving rapidly. He squatted down beside me. I took the wads of cotton out of my ears.

"…to share whatever it is you're experiencing… not a stickler for everyday reality so-called… ha!… see by your eyes you're onto something… layers… not forcing… trust… mutual trust… wouldn't force anything… privacy… particulars… not forcing you."

I said no.

A diatribe followed, difficult for me to make much sense of—an attack on everyday reality, "Satanic" trick, any logical system that can be laid out can be controlled by viewer, dangerous, imposed on other viewers who become feeder stations to original viewer, vision widened with auxiliary antennae—distance between center and perimeter so immense, visions become garbled—weird statistics become law—misplaced zeros—cow is elected President of Meat Board (regulation to implement democratic process)—enforced Daily Poet Celebrations (regulation to implement anarchy necessary to weeding out of outworn regulations)—newsflash: Venice has sunk—all cities try to figure out how to sink (regulation to—to—layers—fragments—)

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literature : review

Sit, Scroll, and Fume

by Sarah Jean Grimm

Tommy Pico's IRL searches the catacombs of history and hashtags of today to create what can't be salvaged.

Tommy Pico's debut book, IRL (Birds LLC, 2016), is an origin story rooted in epic tradition and a long-form poem that unfurls as a hyperconfessional scroll. Confronting legacies of colonial trauma, it inscribes an identity in "a post-apocalyptic America / that started 1492." Pico's speaker, Teebs, is an alter à la Sasha Fierce, navigating his experience as a queer Kumeyaay Indian alienated from his ancestral language, religion, and history. The personal is always political, but rarely is it treated with such deft humor. Sharp, successive pratfalls land us firmly in tragicomic moments, so that even as Teebs mourns a cultural inheritance marred by loss, there is play—or rather play is employed to access that mourning. Despite its precision and proliferation of wit, it would be a mistake to frame IRL as light.

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literature : interview


by Jacqueline Loss

"Look at me, I have an inner life, I think differently, I am different, and yet, I can also reflect back your own thoughts."

I first met Yoss, a biologist by training, around fifteen years ago through a friend who studied snails. This mutual friend also happened to be a rabid fan of heroic fantasy fiction and predicted, way back then, that Yoss would become something special in the Cuban literary scene and beyond. It wasn't until years later, though, that Yoss—now an acclaimed sci-fi author, among many other things—and I were able to exchange ideas about the differing ways that Cubans remember the Soviet era. More generally, it's indeed his ability to examine the human experience from different vantage points that really entraps readers of his work. Fortunately, Super Extra Grande, the 2010 winner of the prestigious UPC award in Spain, was published by Restless Books this past summer, giving English readers another taste of Yoss's generous fiction.

Jacqueline Loss Could you speak about this current interest in Cuban science fiction?

Yoss Well, Cuba is at a crossroads with regard to its future right now, and sometimes it's only by contemplating the future that can we understand what's happening in the present. Two years ago nobody could have predicted this moment, when Cuba and the US are getting closer and there are so many possibilities. The unimaginable might happen: the first woman president of the United States might be elected, and right after the first African-American was. But it's important to hear what sci-fi authors think, because, in a way, they can be a nation's conscience, even though the work often transcends its own historical moment. They worry about the consequences of decisions being made today.

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literature : first proof

From Vegas Girls

by Heather Skyler

She was still wearing her nightgown but decided it could pass for a simple sundress with its spaghetti straps and cotton material. It hit her just at mid-thigh where there was a centimeter's hem of red lace, the only real clue, she hoped, of the garment's intended use. As she walked down the sidewalk she wished most of all for her sunglasses, because her head was pounding. Her second wish would be for a cold glass of water. It was already hot out there, and sun burned the space between her shoulder blades as she trudged blindly up the walk.

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literature : review

Speculative Heroism

by David Burr Gerrard

Alexander Weinstein's debut collection, Children of the New World, presents us with a future absurd enough to be our own.

Children of the old world respected distinctions between realist fiction and speculative fiction, earnestness and satire, prophecies of apocalypse and unexaggerated descriptions of the present day. In a year that has seen the rise of Donald Trump, Pokémon GO, and seemingly impossible phenomena like luxury cruise liners touring a rather warm Arctic Circle, it's difficult to see how these old aesthetic boundaries can be maintained.

The jacket copy of Alexander Weinstein's funny, discomfiting, and excellent debut collection Children of the New World says "speculative fiction," but we could really classify its short stories as "realist fiction" and be just as accurate. Better yet, we could regard both of these labels as the distorting goggles they are, and simply take them off.

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literature : first proof

One Poem

by Ian Dreiblatt

cant will

and to the republic
cartwheel grimace
skitting filmily across
a sea of culpabilities
the boy is witched
language goes out
of his mouth like a
firm red egg

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literature : first proof
literature : first proof

Three Poems

by Francesca Coppola


She’s an archaic, the last meaning of a word. He’s a drunk, but of the ultramarine kind. Her body is a library he eats and sleeps in. Books fluttering seagulls in her electric hair. The alphabet hangs a wet towel on the door, while other birds are exchanged in their mouths. “Danish charcoal”... then another doorway, then “A little yellow tree”... then a few inches of carpet touched by human fingers. Sentences remain in the cupboard. Everyone else is asleep in the city, holes cut to the shape of their feet. Behind the glass is the ocean, the tree, a beard, tall African masks. Inside the dark lays furniture like perfect bodies... “Dying is not a tendency or the bottom of a well”... appearing faintly, in a fingerprint, then “Green, incapable clouds”... “We’re barely here,” she says. It was cold and rainy and full of shoes.

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literature : first proof

Room Tone

by Bill Berkson Archie Rand

It was one year ago (June 25, 2015), at Poets House, right before the late Bill Berkson's reading began, that I casually said hi to him and he, always a generous and prolific collaborator with artists, said, "Let's talk." We found a corner and quickly acknowledged that we had both, for a while, wanted to work together. He preferred using a pre-existent text and after some email exchanges we landed on “Room Tone” from Expect Delays (2014).

When working with poets I like to offer something a bit off-putting, which acts to refresh the text and generate a synapse rather than having the poetry puddle alongside a simperingly sympathetic image. In this format I imagine myself a composer working with a lyricist—and Bill and I got along like a team of songwriters. After I had tweaked the paintings in a way that I thought would echo each line, Bill wrote the poem, line by line, onto each panel with an acrylic pen. We were thrilled with the results. (Or as Bill put it in an email, "we IS Stephen Curry!") That was in March.
Bill gave a few local readings after our meeting at Poets House and he always ended with “Room Tone”—a private nod to our work together.

—Archie Rand

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Announcing the Winner of BOMB's 2016 Poetry Contest

Each year BOMB hosts a literary contest, alternating between fiction and poetry, with a distinguished guest judge in the field. It is with great pleasure that we announce the winner of this year’s poetry contest, Marwa Helal, whose work was selected by poet Bhanu Kapil.

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literature : review

Solmaz Sharif's Look

by Rebekah Weikel

First published in 1989, the U.S. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military & Associated Terms outlines the terminology used to obfuscate military procedures. Modified continually, this dictionary consists of thousands of acronyms and euphemisms that veer between the banal, bizarre, and callous. While "warhead mating" and "kill box" might be a few of the more exotic examples, it's a familiar term like "collateral damage" that best illustrates the dictionary's reductive function:

Unintentional or incidental injury or damage to persons or objects that would not be lawful military targets in the circumstances ruling at the time.
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literature : interview

Susan Daitch

by Evan Lavender-Smith

"There are times when all writing is like the cinema hat you can't take off, and once it's in place, there's a tendency to catastrophize, to make things more interesting."

Stories and texts get passed from one character to another in Susan Daitch's fictions. Details change. Truth becomes relative. For the reader, the desire to understand "what happened" soon takes a backseat to the appreciation of "what is happening" with respect to narrative form. Tensions between form and content—constant alterations to the map's depiction of the territory—are especially prominent in her newest work, The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir, a novel in which an international, intergenerational series of characters searches obsessively for a phantom city. Over the course of a few weeks, Daitch and I corresponded about her characters' obsessions and the value of art in relation to cultural and geological catastrophe. 

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literature : interview

Geoff Dyer

by Ryan Chapman

"I'm glad that the work is still proving elusive enough to resist attempts to gather it all up in a critical hamper or net."

Because Geoff Dyer's two previous books tackled Tarkovsky's film Stalker (Zona) and life aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier (Another Great Day at Sea), one might be forgiven for approaching White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World as a stopgap work, a mere collection of previously-published essays and reportage: fan service. Rather, its seemingly straightforward travel narratives—with stops in Tahiti, the Arctic Circle, New Mexico, and China, among others—are obliquely fictionalized and rife with the author's hopscotch intellect. Everywhere he goes Dyer finds inspired connections across music, art, and time.

Perhaps White Sands can be best summarized by the two photographs bookending the text itself, both taken during a trip to Egypt. Dyer noticed a half-ruined ancient statue of a king and queen appeared complete if one simply stood from a different vantage point: the woman's absent form becomes instead a gesture of shyness, as if she were ducking behind her partner. The moment rewards a skewed, deep-time approach to looking at the world. In an email interview conducted during the author's book tour, I asked him about these approaches.

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literature : first proof

The Hypochondriac in the Landscape

by Walter Benjamin

Penned between 1906 and 1912, the following fragment of fiction is among the earliest writings of critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin. This tale—along with many other of his fables, parables, riddles, and novellas—are gathered in The Storyteller, forthcoming in late July 2016 from Verso Books.



Above the landscape hung such storm clouds as cause that specific fear of storms among young people known to physicians under a Latin name. It was a gently apprehensive mountain scenery. The path was steep and tiresome; the air was very hot and high temperatures prevailed. A mature man—greyed by the passing of the years—and an adolescent moved as inaudible points through the silence. They carried an empty stretcher. From time to time the gaze of the younger man fell upon the stretcher and his eyes would fill with tears. It was not long before a doleful song streamed forth from his mouth, reverberating from the mountain with a thousand sobs. "Red of the morning, red of the morning lights the path to an early death." In the distance, bloody bolts of lightning tinged the sky. Suddenly the singing broke off and was followed by a faint groan. "Permit me for a moment," the young man said to the elder one. He rested the stretcher on the ground, sat down, closed his eyes and folded his hands.

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literature : interview

Dorthe Nors

by Lauren LeBlanc

"The adjective is just something we put in front of beings or places to tie them to the ground or lift them to the sky."

To Americans, Scandinavian literature in recent years has been synonymous with crime novels. Incidentally, the popularity of books such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduced fiction in translation to thousands of readers who might not have otherwise encountered it. Writer Dorthe Nors found herself translating these novels before going on to publish her own work—fiction which is playful and dark in turn. But where Scandinavian crime fiction employs psychological strategy to probe a wide range of human depravity within the genre, Nors in no way conforms to this or any other literary standard. She experiments with form as a means to explore the rich inner lives of her characters. There's great humor and unflinching pathos in her examination of modern life in all of its absurdity and loneliness. She skewers our relentless need to be connected. Her story collection Karate Chop was published in 2014, and a collection of her novellas, So Much for That Winter, is now available from Graywolf Books.

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literature : review

Visible Men

by Paul Devlin

"A thousand clinics could not cure the sense of unreality that haunts Harlem as Harlem haunts the world."

Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem, which accompanies an exhibition now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, collects and contextualizes one of the most significant archival finds of mid-century American culture: their hitherto lost 1948 collaboration—an essay by Ellison with photographs by Parks that offers a gritty panorama of Harlem life. Foreshadowing each man's achievements in subsequent decades, the book also reproduces and explores Parks's interpretive photo spread of Ellison's Invisible Man for Life magazine in 1952.

Parks was also an accomplished writer, and Ellison was also a professional photographer—a curiously symmetrical pairing that undoubtedly adds dimension to this reconstruction. They knew how to communicate, and Ellison even printed from Parks's negatives, which is how some prints ended up among his papers. At the time of this collaboration, Parks and Ellison—born in 1912 and 1913, in Fort Scott, Kansas and Oklahoma City, respectively—were running in parallel, both accomplished journeymen in the fields in which they'd find the most success. They'd both had years of significant achievement to look back on, but were still scrambling for steady traction. By 1952, both had achieved national recognition and prominence that would never dissipate. The book straddles that liminal moment when both failure (or at least frustration) and success looked equally possible.

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