August 16, 2010
The Danny’s Tavern Reading Series
August 18th 2010!
Featuring readings by Patrick Culliton, Devin King, and Caroline Picard
Patrick Culliton’s chapbook Hornet Homily is available from Octopus Books. Recent work has appeared, or will soon, in Another Chicago Magazine, Beeswax, Conduit, Eleven Eleven and elsewhere. He teaches at UIC and Loyola.
Devin King’s first book CLOPS is out from the Green Lantern Press. He lives and works in Chicago.
Caroline Picard is the Founding Director of The Green Lantern Gallery & Press, and a Co-Editor for the literary podcast The Parlor (www. theparlorreads.com). Her writing has been published in a handful of publications including the Phildelphia Independant, NewCity, Lumpen, MAKE Magazine, the Chicago Art Journal Review and Proximity Magazine.
August 2, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
The Printer’s Ball
Once a year, Chicago literary fans gather to peruse and collect tables and tables of free, independent literary material. Back issues of Stop Smiling, Make Magazine, Bateau, to name a few–(there are so many different publications, it’s impossible to name it all) Poetry Magazine, Platypus–these are of course the titles that I recognized, so they stuck in my memory, yet in addition of course there are so many other peculiar, attractive, sexy publications on view, and (this is the amazing part) available to take. That’s right. Somehow, everything is free. In addition to which there are drinks, there is a buffet, there is (drum roll) entertainment–bands, readings, performances–what always amazes me is the amount of work that this event demands. But also, people get so excited about it. This I started wondering about–I started wondering what it was that made people buzz around so much–I mean of course there are obvious reasons, like the odd leftist 70s political magazines that were sprinkled around at different tables–or the buttons, I mean it’s tons and tons of cool schwag–presses (like featherproof, for instance) make curious multiples (see above) that are also readily available–unique text objects that you’re not likely to find elsewhere. And it’s kind of like an industry party–Chicago’s, albeit less formal, version of AWP. But here I suspect is the real source of enthusiasm: artists have regular art openings–functions whereby they congregate under the auspices of a similar artistic interest, they recognize one another as aritsts and while sharing casual conversations, nevertheless validate their artist-ness. I don’t think writer’s get the same cathartic opportunites–at least not to the same extent. While writers participate in readings, readings require some composure, one attends a reading to listen–(I was talking to a co-worker who’s primary experience stems from the art world and she asked how many people tend to go to readings. I said, “maybe between 5 and 30.” she said, “30?” I said, “yes. Sometimes. I think it’s fairly common.” and she was amazed, I think about the idea that as many as 30 people would go somewhere to listen to other people talk. Which is pretty neat–but you see it’s different from an art opening, because people go to openings to socialize, to support their peers, to talk and drink and talk. There’s that addage–if you want to see the show, you go when there’s no one else there)–meanwhile at the Printer’s Ball, it really is a giant party, where writers recognize one another as writers, where publishers recognize other publishers. The overall welcoming atmosphere then, too, becomes an interesting place for those who aren’t familiar with these independent literary practices, and I think the sense of abundance, the free-ness of all the publications, makes everyone feel the generous, energetic innovation of the community. Which of course is inspiring in and of itself. Thanks to the Poetry Project, The Underground Library and Columbia College for making this possible and available to the rest of us!
April 16, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
Last Friday, MAKE Magazine put together an after-party in Denver, CO. A number of publishers and writers were asked to participate. I showed two short films, one about Lust&Cashmere, the other more abstract called “These Are Not My Memories.” In the meantime Devin King (CLOPS), put a tape recording of various people reading, Green Lantern Press authors old and new–Moshe Zvi Marvit (Urbesque, 2005), Erica Adams (The Book of The Mutation of Fortune, 2011/12), Amira Hanafi (Forgery, 2011/12), and an excerpt from CLOPS. That “mix” tape was played on a tape recorder in the refrigerator so that whenever anyone opened the fridge to get a drink of some kind, the spectral voices of said authors emanated out. After the party, we played it again in the street. (See super heroine Jac Jemc in the background.)
April 14, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
Last weekend, at AWP Make Magazine held an afterparty where a variety of fantastic writers/publishers did short performances. I happened to video a clip of a performance/reading from John Beer’s book “The Wasteland and Other Poems” put out by Canarium Books.
March 30, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
I was asked to do the following interview for MAKE Magazine a while back. The interview is published in its entirety here. That said, you can read a clip from it below.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Daley and Stephen Elliott, who each participate in both print and online media. Dave Daley has worked as an editor for a number of publications, including The Journal News in White Plaines, NY, Details Magazine and McSweeney’s. In each instance he has developed different strategies to publish short fiction in the printed form, and when he began doing this at The Journal News, he published the only regular newspaper fiction series in the country. Currently, Daley has started a fiction blog, FiveChapters, where he has published over 125 stories; each story is divided into five parts and published over the course of a workweek.
Stephen Elliott, is an author in San Francisco with six original books under his belt, including Jones Inn (Boneyard Press, 1998), Looking Forward To It: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About It and Love the American Electoral Process (Picador, 2004), Happy Baby (McSweeny’s & MacAdam/Cage, 2004), My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up (Cleis Press, 2006). His latest book The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism and Murder was released from Graywolf Press last Fall and has been the recipient of many accolades, including TimeOut New York’s favorite book of 2009. In addition, he publishes The Rumpus, online blog of cultural commentary.
Pairing these individuals, who both wrestle directly with the changing contemporary literary world, was a unique opportunity to explore the shifting landscape of publishing in the age of the Internet. The conversation that follows reflects a larger dialogue concerning the changing model for cultural distribution. We see it in the music world, where indie record labels parallel indie presses, just as the Sonys and Universals parallel the Houghtons of the publishing world. Of course this leaves everyone—authors, publishers, agents, and critics –in a suspended panic as they wait to see what the future has in store. While this conversation is not about defining that future, it does sort through a number of subtle distinctions, problems, and hopes that are prevalent in the business of writing.
Caroline Picard: People have referred to your (Dave’s) site, FiveChapters, as a kind of hyper-modern Dickensian serial, in which you simultaneously borrow an old form (the serial) and apply it to modern technology—do you think this has an impact on the kinds of work that you publish? Do you think this approach (online publishing) will change the tendencies of contemporary fiction? Does one write stories differently depending on the form of publication?
Dave Daley: First, thank you for that very generous description of the site. I like to think of FiveChapters as taking a 19th century form and transferring it to a 21st century technology. But really, I started the site because I was horrified by what people—myself included—were reading online. My idea was to make it just as easy to read great fiction online as it is to go see if there has been another Parker Posey sighting at Whole Foods.
At the outset, I was more concerned with how the Internet affected the way we read, rather than the way we write. (Although, of course, one naturally follows the other.)
The short story, to me, seemed just as relevant a form as ever—perhaps more so, as attention-spans tighten. You’d think it would be the perfect form for this time. But as technology changed our reading habits, I’d argue a large percentage of our reading became distilled down into what fits on one computer screen, on what can be read during a five-minute break at our desks. FiveChapters was my way of trying to sneak the short story into an online world.
These stories weren’t written for the web, they weren’t even, in most cases, written as traditional serials with cliffhangers. Unlike Slate’s experiment with Walter Kirn and hyperlinked fiction, these stories don’t utilize the outside web at all. It’s where the readers are, so it’s where I’m publishing. These could just as easily be newspaper serials, or published in The Atlantic, or in a lit journal—if that’s where the readers were.
FiveChapters is simply designed—there’s no advertising, nothing that slows you down. Each part is on one page, so there’s not a lot of clicking. It is not fancy. But that’s because it is designed to be a place to read.
To me what the Internet does at its best—it gives a multiplicity of smart voices a platform they never had before. A great book critic, in the past, needed to pay 20 years of newspaper dues before having a chance to be the book editor at a paper. Now, start your own site, and if you are good, you’re likely to be discovered, and in turn, sometimes given old media opportunities.
This feels like a good segue and jumping-off point for Stephen, who has done such a good job of collecting the best of the web, and adding brilliant original voices to The Rumpus—turning novelists into book and film writers. I think of that great Katie Crouch review of her ex-s novel, which would have never found a home in the offline media world.
Stephen Elliott: I certainly agree with Dave that the majority of what people are reading online is just awful. I think there’s a lot of room to smarten things up. That’s why I started The Rumpus. I think there’s lot of people killing time in their office job and they go to sites that are frequently updated, like Gawker and the Huffington Post or Slate and Salon or blogs. And most of the content they find is just terrible. And worse, it’s all about the same things. Salon will be analyzing Obama’s walk (does Obama walk like a Republican? Our posture expert spills the beans!) or Slate (is Obama’s dog a liberal? Our canine expert gets the full woof!).
At The Rumpus we are publishing content that’s specifically for the Internet. Our reader is basically someone who might enjoy The Believer or The New York Review of Books when they’re offline, but want something shorter, but still a little challenging, when they’re online.
There is a lot of good writing online, but it’s hard to find an online magazine that’s frequently updated with good writing about culture, as opposed to “pop culture” and by “pop culture” I don’t mean popular culture but mass-produced culture. I go into this more detail on The Rumpus.I think a reason there aren’t more good online magazines (there are lots of good blogs) is that it’s still really early for Internet magazines.
CP: With so many magazines calling it quits and publishing houses laying people off, what is your perception of the future of publishing – Stephen, from the perspective of an author selling books in print and having worked with a range of publishers, and Dave, from the perspective of an editor? What is the relationship between corporate and independent modes of representation? I feel like talking this way might point back to the question of developing the Internet as a venue for culture, while also redefining the function of print media.
SE: I don’t know about the future of the publishing, but one thing I think is important is to segment what we’re talking about here. The future of celebrity memoirs and ghost written novels is not relevant to the future of literary publishing. The people most worried right now are the people publishing vampire books, the people that make a lot of money. But literary writers have never been well paid, and they never will be. Smaller literary presses will continue to come and go. They are acts of love, sustained by affection and enthusiasm that run a natural course. The books that make a million dollars have nothing to do with me. If Random House and Harper Collins were to go away, there would still be plenty of great small presses publishing great books.
So I think you have to have two separate conversations here–one involving publishing deals in the six figures and one involving quality literature. Quality literature, writing and publishing, is going to do fine, I think. And the success of the rest of the book publishing industry I have no opinion on, and I don’t care, either. Though I do hate to see so many awesome bookstores closing.
To go further into your question, corporations are bad for literature and culture in general. There seems to be this idea that we need them, and I don’t fully buy into that. There’s lots of great print media doing great culture coverage. Too many to name. And then there’s People Magazine and the rest of the “guilty pleasures” who are apparently losing readership to Perez Hilton and TMZ.
CP: While the Internet has built-in distribution, distribution is problematic for smaller presses: On the one hand distributors, large and small, are suffering and on the other hand it’s difficult for smaller organizations to get distribution in the first place. This is perhaps a bold and maybe even ridiculous question, but what is the future of the physical book? How does that compare with the future of medium of online publishing?
DD: This is definitely where it circles back around to money, and Stephen and I might come at this from slightly different places here. I think celebrity memoirs are relevant in this way: they help pay the advances that go to literary novelists. I have never worked in book publishing, but my sense of it has always been that Random House and Harper Collins make their money on the cheesy fiction and the self-help books and the celebrity silliness, and then some of that money helps to underwrite auctions for things like Reif Larson’s book or other young novelists or even when Knopf or Viking publishes a “career” novelist like a Robert Cohen or Stewart O’Nan.
The O’Nans and Cohens of the world deserve to get paid well, deserve to be able to make a living as a writer. If it takes two years to finish a book, a $100,000 advance isn’t necessarily that much, and yet I don’t think either of them has ever earned it back to the extent to where they get royalties. Literary fiction is in many ways underwritten by big these corporations—and the media still takes its cues from that. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
The paradox here is that an independent press, in many ways, throws literary fiction to the whims of the market. And I don’t think the market can support it. Once or twice a year there is a breakout, an Eggers or a Zadie or a Bee Season or an Everything is Illuminated. Most literary fiction, even the wonderfully reviewed, sells very little. Now, off of a big press, if writers get used to much smaller advances, less marketing, and don’t mind working at night after a day job, that’s one thing. Younger writers might be OK with that. The mid-career novelist, on book four, not pretty enough for the Details profile, etc., with a mortgage and two kids? I don’t know if it works as well for him or her.
And while it is possible that a new and more interesting indie model arises from this,—I think of Graywolf as a house which has taken on many of those acclaimed, mid-career novelists, most recently J Robert Lennon–there’s a distribution question too. I went into an amazing bookstore yesterday, City Lights, looking for his new one, and it wasn’t there. The question of how the artist gets paid in the Internet era—how the editor gets paid, how investigative reporters get paid—seems to me to be one of the really important questions as we move forward.
SE: I’m going to totally disagree with Dave here. There’s this idea that these large publishing companies are going to pass on their profits from the garbage they publish and use it to pay legitimate authors, and I just don’t believe that at all. It might work out that way sometimes, but I don’t think Random House or Harper Collins ever intentionally lose money on something they think is good. If O’Nan is still getting $100,000 advances, and I hope he is, he is a member of an extreme minority, a statistical anomaly so rare as to be irrelevant.
For every good author that received an advance big enough to live off on their second or third books, I can name you ten that didn’t. Peter Rock, Peter Orner, Michelle Tea, Eileen Myles, just to name a couple of major authors off the top of my head that are not being paid close to six figures for books that take them years to write. The publishing houses would rather pay $100,000 for a first novel (when you’re lucky, and I’ve never once been lucky), then they half that, by the third book you’re lucky to get $25,000, though your third book is almost always better than your first.
Publishing houses aren’t putting money from celebrity memoirs into publishing good literature. They’re putting it into publishing more celebrity memoirs. Literature is not funded by the propagation of trash anymore than the The Wire was funded by Temptation Island.
The vast majority of literary writers always have, and always will, write for much less money than they’re worth to society. O’Nan is a very good writer, and I applaud every writer that gets paid. But it’s not the model. Ever since quality publishing houses merged with mega-corps they’ve paid authors as little as they can get away with. They only pay you more when they have to, not because the latest O.J. bio is flying off the shelf. I would go a step further, I would say that celebrity memoirs are bad for books because they lower the value of books, and they destroy the brands of the person publishing those books.
If the publisher considers what they’re publishing to be trash, then they shouldn’t publish it. And I think the publishers know a lot of these books are trash. They wouldn’t read them. Publishing shouldn’t be cynical. If someone truly believes in a book, then fine. But don’t tell me you had to publish it to fund great literature, because that is a lie.
CP: To me this begs the question, how is culture consumed? And does this affect the future of The Book? Is online publishing more democratic? Does it serve a wider audience? It seems like you both use the Internet as a kind of tool or platform to assert aesthetic judgment (whether in the selection of stories, links to other sites or cultural reflection)—providing a filtration system of sorts; this could be a kind of service, right? But what does it do for the audience?
December 9, 2009
posted and written by Caroline Picard
I read this last Friday at a MAKE Magazine Event. Stephen Elliot has been going around the country touring his latest book, Adderall Diaries, and I had the good fortune to a participate. What follows is a much shorter version of a story I’ve been working on that tries to trace the current appeal of dream catchers and suburban-hipster shamanism back to, in this case, Joseph Beuys. I realize the link is as fictional as the characters described, but my hope is the link is fictionally resonate/telling.
Regarding The Death of One Barry Maguire, Who Drowned In The Woods On July 23rd, 2008
The dogs bore down on the dying stag and the dogs tore into it’s neck and snapped at one another when the old man called them off, (the old man called his horse Bucephalus), the old man called off the dogs and the boys laughed and the boys strung up the deer, the deer with a weak and fetid heart—it beat now, soft as an oyster—
Boys lined up before the stag and the old man took a photo of the boys before the stag. The shutter of the camera clapped. The camera blinked, catching the boys on paper.
The boys were tall and very skinny. They had no facial hair though the hair on their heads was wild; nappy, not dreaded. They wore faded fluorescent tye-dye t-shirts and sometimes medicine bags and sometimes fanny packs and often cut-off shorts cut off just above the knee. They wore keds or moccasins or slip-on shoes.
The stag lay in a heap at the foot of the clock. Its eyes rolled back and froze and the dogs snuffed its musty coat and the horse snuffed the stag and the boys bathed themselves in the fountain in the square. They shared a bar of soap. They lined up around the fountain. They washed their hands, they washed their necks, they washed their faces. They didn’t wear shirts. They smiled wide, white, ecstatic teeth.
The old man gave each boy a shot of liquor, (it was thick and brown and spicy, it smelled like pine soap; it tasted metallic like chocolate or blood), and together the boys sang more songs and their mothers polished their boots and the boys put on their boots and went to school with dark mouths having drunk the blood of a stag. At lunchtime they would march again over cobblestone streets, the blood of the stag still tasting their mouths,
as in the aftertaste of mercury.
On the weekend, the boys met in secret. They beat shamanic drums. They tied feathers in their hair, under the bunkhouse, wearing war paint,
they put tiger balm on their assholes.
On the weekend an artist went out into the woods. She called the boys into the woods and asked, “what do you think about free love do you believe?” She fucked many boys in the woods it was her art project.
One boy grew up.
This boy, a twentysomething, flew a bomber in The War and he crashed it in Siberia. After the crash they told him he wasn’t German at all
“Had it not been for the Tartars I would not be alive today. They were the nomads of the Crimea, in what was then no man’s land between the Russian and German fronts, and favored neither side. I had already struck up a good relationship with them, and often wandered off to sit with them. Their nomadic ways attracted me of course, although by that time their movements had been restricted. Yet it was they who discovered me in the snow after the crash, when the German search parties had given up. The last thing I remember was that it was too late to jump, too late for the parachutes to open. That must have been a couple of seconds before hitting the ground. Luckily I was not strapped in. My friend was strapped in and he was atomized on impact. But I must have shot through the windscreen as it flew back at the same speed as the plane hit the ground and that saved me, though I had bad skull and jaw injuries. Then the tail flipped over and I was completely buried in the snow. That’s how the Tartars found me days later. I remember voices saying ‘Voda’ (Water), then the felt of their tents, and the dense pungent smell of cheese, fat and milk. They covered my body in fat to help it regenerate warmth, and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep warmth in.”
The other boys kept a mule and the they fed the mule wild grass and lay about, listening to the mule’s chomping sounds, (they named the mule Bufesalus). They grew hallucinogenic plants. They licked their leaves and performed plastic rituals during the camp fire drinking beer and beer and beer
the artist licked the plant and she felt the mule chomping at her body and she went to the mule that it might chomp on her body and she wrapped her legs around the mule and she took the mule inside of her and she hoped to have a baby with the mule.
The boys watched in secret beneath the bunkhouse with burning mentholated cigarettes and one told of his therapist who loved baseball and another told of his white home in the suburbs and the video games he played at night when he couldn’t sleep because he’d been afraid and the idea of the suburbs made a boy yawn until another boy yawned and a contagion of yawns spread over the boys at the thought of suburbia—
yard after yard with front walks in between the sidwalk is crisp and clean: green lawns punctuated by white grey walkways with the handprints of children, sometimes, dried in the cement. Each yard has a car and each yard has a house with bedrooms and a kitchen, a microwave, and in every house a jell-o cabinate full of countless kinds of jell-o. And the father goes to work and the mother wears or wants a diamond ring and knits her hands often over time’s advance.. And the children go to school on a yellow bus and when they grow up they gather in respective, carpeted, basements to watch TV and swallow brightly colored people selling brightly colored objects. They wait in the basements eating lotuses in white walls feeling very very comfortable it sometimes makes them climb the walls
—and they woke the next morning feeling empty and wan.
One boy, Barry Maguire, left the woods for the lake. He wanted to take pictures. He thought the surface of things could fill the emptiness.
When the pilot returned to the city, carrying the photo of the plane crash in his wallet. He wandered the ruins of his city, walking through smoldering streets between and through the husks of houses. What walls stood still were hot to touch and the stones trembled, as though in shock, gasping heat from the rain of a previous fire. Daily, people carried rubble from one part of his city to another. There was little to no color beyond what tattered corners of cloth and paper peered out between rocks. Sometimes he found a foot sticking out of the rubble. His city smelled like an oyster. A city with a broken skyline, it didn’t light up at night because all the lights had been shot out by sling shots shot by boys.
In his city he went to many dinner parties.
Meanwhile the boy Barry made a camera out of wood it was nice, sanded but not finished, its edges crisp and hard it looked like a sculpture of a camera not a perfectly-realistically shaped camera but a cartoon camera it could have been made of cardboard but it was made of plywood instead.
Barry asked another boy, “Francis, will you come with me? Will you come follow me and take pictures of me falling into the water?” And Francis said sure and they went the same afternoon and Barry was sat in his canoe three feet away with the wooden camera and Francis was sat in his canoe with the real camera.“REady?” Barry asked. as he stood up (before he capsized), pretending to take pictures with the fake camera and Francis took real pictures of Barry who started shifting his weight on the boat back and forth (he was a good swimmer Barry) and the boat waggled back and forth in the water and Francis took lots of pictures and then the boat started to capsize and Barry tried to do the same thing as before, to keep his hand with the wooden camera above water and Francis took pictures the whole time and Barry was in the air and Barry’s feet were in the water and Barry’s knees were in the water and Barry’s thighs in the water his torso in the water (he was smiling you can see in pictures) and Barry’s chest was in the water and his shoulders and his elbows and neck were in the water and his chin in the water his mouth (smile smile) his nose his eyes eyebrows forehead head head hair wrists hands and even the camera all in the water Barry was all gone Francis kept taking pictures as the water smoothed out glossy Francis thought about how you could pour a little bit of oil on the surface of the water and it would all smooth out just like it was just like a mirror as the oil stretched out Only.
Barry didn’t come back up again.
Francis waited a little longer (he stopped taking pictures). He waited what felt a long time when Finally, Francis jumped and swam down to see if Barry was Giggling under the roof of the capsized canoe. Joking.
He was not.
Francis swam back to his canoe. Careful to keep the camera dry. Francis sat in his little canoe for over four hours before they found him he didn’t want to leave the spot that Barry had drowned (even though both boats drifted farther and farther apart and farther and farther from the spot). They never found the body. The body vanished, absorbed by the lake—where face down it slept, between the city and the wood, dreaming of an an artist in a bathtub, an American woman who came to photograph white Angora rabbits.