Two for Tuesday: Michael Seidlinger and Mike Joyce

Ready for another fun, informative Two for Tuesday? This week, check out the choices made by two of the hardest working young guns in the entire indie lit scene, impacting various aspects of new and established writers’ on their paths.

TWO FOR TUESDAY: Michael Seidlinger

The Novel: A Biography- Michael Schmidt

Man, this one’s a tome. Quite literally the biography of how the novel, as a literary long-form, evolved through the various eras, Michael Schmidt also managed to write in a way that invigorates the (maybe) ailing/uninspired novelist into remembering why s/he got into writing novels in the first place: the innovation, the freedom, the exploratory eye of letting free both storytelling and structure. It’s a hell of a book to read and savor. I’ve been reading it in small, ten to fifteen page, doses and intend on keeping this one in rotation for months to come.

http://www.amazon.com/Novel-Biography-Michael-Schmidt/dp/0674724739/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415713815&sr=1-1&keywords=the+novel+a+biography

Hardcover: 1200 pages, Belknap Press (May 12, 2014)

The Novel

Dept of Speculation- Jenny Offill

I was a little late to the party with this one but I’m glad I gave it a shot when the paperback version dropped. From a distance, I expected it to be something quite similar, predictable fare from the major New York publishing houses, but upon inspecting the book up close and seeing how it is structured (spare, small snippets of language with plenty of white space), I quickly took to it as a novel that could have easily fit as an indie conquering and finding a home with the majors. Structurally, it’s a lot like an early novel of mine, The Sky Conducting, where the small nuggets of language propel the narrative in a somewhat anomalous yet remarkably poignant and on-point prose. It’s the sort of novel that stays with you for a long time after reading it.

http://www.amazon.com/Dept-Speculation-Vintage-Contemporaries-Offill/dp/0345806875/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415713914&sr=1-1&keywords=dept+of+speculation

Paperback: 192 pages, Vintage Contemporaries (October 7, 2014)

Dept of Speculation

Michael Seidlinger’s Bio: Michael is the author of a number of novels including The Laughter of StrangersMy Pet Serial Killer and The Sky Conducting. He serves as Electric Literature‘s Book Reviews Editor as well as Publisher-in-Chief of Civil Coping Mechanisms, an indie press specializing in unclassifiable/innovative fiction and poetry. Check him out here: THE FEATURE S P A C E _ | File under: author/designer Michael J Seidlinger.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: Mike Joyce

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose- Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose is a nonfiction book. It’s epistolary. Diary entries spanning a three year period written by a young teenage girl who was a drug addict; who was fatherless; who had cystic fibrosis, the killing disease; who spent years in and out of rehab facilities for her condition, suicide attempts, and drug use. Who was going through love and loss all the same as any teen. It’s a true story about a girl who died in the year 1999. The book was compiled/edited by the famed authors Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil (the authors of the definitive Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk).

I heard about it first from a Poetry Editor of the journal I edit, Literary Orphans (thanks, Katie). The press [Sourcebook Fire, out of Naperville, IL] was kind enough to send myself and the Managing Editor press copies. We were skeptical–nonfiction like this isn’t really my bag and to be honest I was mostly just taken with the idea of getting the free book from these two pivotal authors. Man, I didn’t know what I was in for. For about a month as we each read it, it was all we could talk about.

I’m constantly telling anyone who will listen that if you want to be a writer, just write honest and unfiltered. Write when you have something to say, even if you can’t yet see what it is you’re trying to say but still have that lump in your throat. I can appreciate the iambic pentameter and the delicate merger of Faulknerian and Joycean stream-of-consciousness as much as the next guy, but that stuff is just the icing. At best. At worst it’s the boring 20 minute guitar solo in every lame heavy metal album ever made. That stuff shouldn’t be what you set out to write–at least in this Editor’s opinion. It should be more about heart.

My role as Editor and my ridiculously long hours snuggled up with the aluminum railings of the Chicago Transit Authority allows me to read quite a bit. I read a lot of books with heart, but nothing with as big of a heart as this book, not in the past few months, not in the entire year. Mary Rose writes and she doodles and the heart she pounds on the page swells and is filled with tension–even when she writes about boredom. She falls in love and desperately seeks friends and is abused and fills herself with sex and is hit again and again and she finds new love and when it’s all on the brink of the end, when she’s writing on the stationary of the room she’s about to die in, and she looks back at her youth as a little girl, sneaking out in the hospital hallways with the older kids who are there to die at 17–rolling their IVs as they laugh and play–just to feel alive with a tube stuck in ‘em–well that heart swells and it breaks. Yours will to. For me reading this book was a return to what it means to be anybody worth anything, to write fearlessly. To remember where I come from. Don’t let the Lifetime-channel vibes stop you from experiencing this book and remembering what it’s like to be brave.

http://www.amazon.com/Dear-Nobody-True-Diary-Mary/dp/1402287585/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415713586&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Nobody

Paperback: 336 pages: Sourcebooks Fire (April 1, 2014)

Dear Nobody

Nonconformity- Nelson Algren

My second choice for a book will also remind you how to write, how to write with heart, but in a very deliberate way. It’s also a nonfiction book. What is going on with that? I must be getting old. Nonconformity by Nelson Algren is a short thing. Inside of 100 square pages, with the little pages not even stacking up against a dimestore trade paperback. The book was only recently published (i.e., the 90s), and is essentially the right-hook of the great depression-era Chicago writer that you probably don’t know about. It’s a tad more academic than my other recommendation, if you can ever call Algren academic and not be rightfully crucified for the sin.

Algren writes poetry and awkward lines and he does it better than me, and probably better than you.  He is amazing as a writer and has a style immediately identifiable—his book on writing has no shortage of the prose he is known for. The Chicagoan had a love affair with Simone de Beauvoir, and there is a lot of speculation in the annotations of this book that he was trying to raise his fists up at Sartre, take him at his own game, win the girl. The socially conscious writer. The ethical imperative of the artist.

But let us not forget. This book, Nonconformity? It’s Algren. This is all Algren. Confrontational. American. In danger of censorship. He’s a proletarian writer, fighting for the masses, pegged by McCarthy and pursued as a communist. He’s attacked and challenged and while he may complain about it every chance, you know he wouldn’t have it any other way. Nelson reminds you that the only writing worth writing is writing that spends you and leaves you dry. He quotes and pulls in references and destroys and supports and makes this wonderful manifesto for what it means to be a writer.

A breath of fresh air.

Needed now more than ever.

Sometimes I feel like we are in a stagnate cave where the only writers who are serious, who are hard at work , who are in the papers or being interviewed by Crest-Whitestrip news anchors—are out there doing what they do just make a fast buck. I guess Algren felt the same back then. They’ll write a novel about the sexiness of a man who stalks you with GPS beacons and a TV script about the danger of underwear-bombs. They’ll write anything at all to get your cash. It’s like a braincell bank. Insert 10 brain cells here: receive double-d cup entertainment.

So you want to make a million? That’s all fine and good, writer, if that is what you want to do, just don’t lose your heart along the way. Algren has a word of advice for you:

“You don’t write a novel out of sheer pity any more than blow a safe out of a vague longing to be rich. / A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.”

To Algren, and to me, the writer is that constant whetstone–there to grind away ceaselessly against the axe that has become the American mind, to keep it sharp. This book is a plea not to let that role be forgotten. Written during his prime, his leanest, his fighting weight–before the depression won and he ran away from this city, he wrote a book on writing. This is the book. It’s unlike any book on writing you’ll ever read. It’s a lot like any clarion call to arms you will ever read.

http://www.amazon.com/Nonconformity-Writing-Nelson-Algren/dp/1888363053/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415713697&sr=1-2&keywords=nonconformity

Paperback: 142 pages: Seven Stories Press (September 10, 1996)

Nonconformity

Mike Joyce’s Bio: Mike Joyce edits Literary Orphans Journal and writes in the underground.

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There are books we read purely for enjoyment, books recommended by family or dear friends. Also there are books we read that re-arrange our lives, make our approach to writing, as writers, seem uniquely, markedly different. I nod to both Michael and Mike this week for mentioning books that are craft focused. And so, I also would like to mention two more books, recently read, that altered the way I write, or formerly perceived writing. One is non-fiction (interviews) and the other is poetry (Ellen Bass):

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HUMP Day Holla

HUMP Day Holla:

1) Peter Schwartz with 3 poems in PANK: http://pankmagazine.com/piece/three-poems-51/

2) NPR talks about Car Talk’s Tom Magliozzi: http://www.npr.org/2014/11/03/357428287/tom-magliozzi-popular-co-host-of-nprs-car-talk-dies-at-77

3) Meg Tuite, Michelle Reale and Heather Fowler won Artistically Declined’s 2013 Twin Antler’s Prize: http://artisticallydeclined.net/poetry/twin-antlers/bare-bulbs-swinging/

4) Jen Michalski at Nervous Breakdown with ‘Origin Story: Sara Lippman’s Doll Palace’: http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/jmichalski/2014/10/origin-story-sara-lippmans-doll-palace/ – more-119571

5) Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish re-blogs Ellen Bass’s “Prayer” from her new Like a Beggar collection: http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/10/15/a-poem-for-tuesday-9/

6) Seems fitting for “Democracy” by Dorianne Laux, at Young Chicago Authors: http://youngchicagoauthors.org/blog/artist-feature-dorianne-laux/

7) Ocean Vuong’s “Descent” in Drunken Boat 17: http://www.drunkenboat.com/db17/ocean-vuong

8) BOMB magazine’s editor-in-chief, Betsy Sussler, has published BOMB: The Author Interviews at Soho Press: http://sohopress.com/books/bomb-the-author-interviews/

9) Len Kuntz is straight from the heart at his blog, People You Know By Heart: http://lenkuntz.blogspot.com/

10) If you are near the NYC area on November 16, The Sunday Salon reading series is hosting three Massachusetts writers who are not to be missed: http://www.sundaysalon.com/nyc-november-16-2014.htm.

 

 

Two for Tuesday: Amanda Harris and Karen Stefano

It’s Election Day, so please remember to vote! And today, we have four more books, each with their focus brought by two stellar writers and people: Amanda Harris and Karen Stefano. I hope you enjoy!

TWO FOR TUESDAY: Amanda Harris

The Glass Crib—Amanda Auchter

Amanda Auchter’s chapbook found me in an unexpected place—one full of ache and aimlessness and a desk full of rejection letters. Everyone on Amazon had raved and raved about this little volume of poems, so I figured, if anything was going to give me my spark back, it would be this woman.

Now, I did not know anything about this other Amanda, beside than the fact that we share the same first name and we both have curly hair. One poem, in particular, undid everything I thought and understood about poetry, and I believe it was called “The Ecstacy of Saint Theresa.”

I could give you a thousand reasons that this poem is worth being anthologized in every poetry anthology ever, but nothing could do justice to its deep musicality and raw power. You have to read her writing to believe it:

“There is no pain but the bodily. Nothing less / than the long spear / the golden iron / dagger. “

The more I read her work, particularly this poem, the more her precision amazes me. Breaking the line on “dagger” may seem like a small detail, but it makes the image that much sharper, that much more likely to pierce the skull of the reader.

If you’re a writer who wants to learn how to make your writing emotionally connect with people, this book is like a crash course in an MFA program. It’s that revelatory.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Glass-Crib-Amanda-Auchter/dp/0978612760/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1414637246&sr=8-2&keywords=the+glass+crib

Paperback: 88 pages, Zone 3 Press (September 15, 2011)

Amanda Auchter

The Afflicted Girls—Nicole Cooley

 The first time I saw Nicole Cooley was in my freshman year of college. She didn’t look like anything particularly unique—just another flighty Creative Writing professor who tried to see too much of the world at once.

Perhaps those wandering eyes, however, are the reason Nicole Cooley has produced such consistently breathtaking poetry. The Afflicted Girls, which centers on the Salem witch trials, provides hauntingly poignant takes on gender, sexuality and the fear of what’s different in a way I didn’t think poetry was capable of doing. What makes it even better is that she does it in simple language:

“Marriage is the punishment (God) invented / for the wicked in this village. . . / My lungs are burning / Bury my words in the dirt. “

In one stanza, we get a gripping conflict and we get all the layers underneath it: sexual conflict, ‘othering’, transgression.

Nicole Cooley’s writing organically balances craft and rawness, deep philosophy and visceral emotion. There is nothing like it being published right now.

The Afflicted Girls: Nicole Cooley: 9780807129463: Amazon.com: Books

Paperback: 50 pages, Hardcover: 64 pages; Louisiana State University Press, First Edition (April 1, 2004)

Nicole Cooley

Amanda’s Bio: Amanda Harris is a writer and gym rat living in Flushing, NY. When she’s not working on her own stuff, she’s either posting on Fictionaut or editing her own magazine, The Miscreant.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: Karen Stefano

You Were Born For Greatness: Spiritual Guidance From The Angelic Realm by Jacob Glass

If life is absolutely perfect and you feel amped and deliriously happy every single moment of your days, then you probably don’t need to read the book I’m about to describe. But if you’ve ever experienced a loss that has left you staggering, or perhaps been gutted like a fish by someone you had expected to love forever, or if you’ve ever just felt a teensy weensy bit of ennui, I suggest that you read Jacob Glass’s latest book, You Were Born for Greatness: Spiritual Guidance From the Angelic Realm.

Glass is a spiritual teacher and author lecturing and writing on spirituality and New Thought metaphysics. His messages are potent with truth and compassion, his words dedicated to guiding readers to a more peaceful life. And, he is really fucking funny as he calls you on your shit. You Were Born For Greatness offers daily spiritual guidance with lessons prompted by The Course In Miracles, a well known self-study curriculum about spiritual transformation. The Course In Miracles is a fantastic text, but it can feel heavy at times, demanding a bit more work than a person in “the dark place” might be willing to do, and that’s why this book fills a void. I call it The Course In Miracles Lite. Each lesson quotes an excerpt from The Course In Miracles and then Glass gives his own take on what that quote means in daily life. Here’s an excerpt from Lesson 14:

“One of your main problems is that you often line up with your perceived limitations rather than lining up with your Greater Self…

Every limiting story you tell about the past, present or future activates that same limiting vibration within you and keeps you in that old energy pattern. Every time you whine, criticize, bemoan, grumble, murmur and complain you are blocking and denying your own good by affirming limitation…

You must practice sowing seeds in your life through your WORDS. You need not speak the most positive amazing life-affirming words anyone has ever said. You need only speak words that encourage, soothe and uplift even slightly and this will start activating the higher vibrations within you…”

If you want more peace and joy and good in your life, this book is for you.

Paperback: 192 pages; Createspace Publishing: (first edition, April 27, 2014)

You Were Born for Greatness: Spiritual Guidance from the Angelic Realm: Jacob Glass: 9781499276947: Amazon.com: Books

Jason Glass

Middle Men by Jim Gavin

I bought this collection on a recent trip to Vermont and devoured every last morsel of it on the flight home to San Diego. And then I couldn’t help myself: I sat down and read it again.

Each of Gavin’s stories is dryly funny, depicting men with dreams squarely at odds with the realities of their lives. There are toilet salesmen, not-quite-good-enough basketball players, and epic fuck ups. There are liquor stores, cars that need coaxing before they’ll start, and many satisfying trips to Del Taco. Many well drawn scenes are simultaneously heart wrenching and hilarious. Every single scene is delivered with wit and intelligence.

Here’s an excerpt from the title story, “Middle Men”:

“As a boy, Matt Costello often wondered what his dad did when he left the house in the morning. The old man was in sales, he knew that, and from the brochures and catalogues stacked in the garage, he knew it had something to do with toilets…Years later, while half-assing his way through college and trying to decide what to do with his life, he finally asked his dad how he got into the plumbing industry. The old man, with his usual modesty and good humor, explained that when he returned from Vietnam in 1969, his only goal in life was to work someplace with air-conditioning.”

And Gavin has a gift for dialogue. In “Bermuda,” the narrator purposely gets lost, his goal being to arrive late to the club and miss the band with the guitarist he fears his girlfriend will be attracted to:

 

“You just went in a circle.”

            “I’m a little lost.”

            “What’s wrong with you tonight?”

            “Nothing.”

            “It might be nice if you told me I looked nice.”

            I never thought she cared about that kind of thing. I loved that about her.

            “You look nice.”

            “Fuck you,” she said quietly, in a resigned voice.

 

My advice: read this book.

Paperback: 256 pages; Simon and Schuster, reprint edition (February 11, 2014)

Middle Men: Stories: Jim Gavin: 9781451649345: Amazon.com: Books

Middle Men Jim Gavin

Karen Bio: Karen Stefano is a Fiction Editor for Connotation Press. Her own work has appeared in The South Carolina Review, Tampa Review, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Metazen, Lost In Thought, Epiphany, and numerous other journals. Her story, “Seeing” was nominated for the XXXVIII Pushcart Prize. Her debut collection of stories, The Secret Games of Words will be released in January, 2015. To learn more about Karen, visit www.stefanokaren.com.

I’ve been reading two stellar books simultaneously. I often do this, especially when they are different genres, like poetry and memoir, or fiction and biography. Here are my two picks:

UnknownChris Hosea

I also want to extend my deepest sorrow and support to the Simonds’ family. Our neighbors across the street from our farm in Macedon lost their elder son, Cliff, recently. Sail on, my friend. Thanks for some fantastic childhood memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HUMP day: leaves

HUMP Day: leaves… a quote from Rilke-

“Deep patience which makes him almost anonymous, a quiet, wise forbearance, something of the great patience and kindness of Nature herself, who traverses silently and seriously the long pathway to abundance. Patience that puts us in touch with all that surpasses us. Practiced in the present, patience is the art of courting the future. It belongs to becoming rather than being, to the unfinished rather than the completed.”

1) Tobias Carroll at Everday Genius with “Some Things I Botched”: http://www.everyday-genius.com/2014/10/tobias-carroll.html

2) Bud Smith’s “Falling Horse, Stacked Demons” at theNewerYork:

http://theneweryork.com/falling-horse-stacked-demons-bud-smith/

3) The Guardian expands its roster of US Opinion Writers: http://www.theguardian.com/guardian-us-press-office/guardian-expands-roster-us-opinion-writers

4) Amber Sparks and Mike Meginnis will be talking books live today, at 6:30 EST here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1iysoAY-uM

5) Tanya Olsen’s “Ain’t I Pretty” at PANK: http://pankmagazine.com/piece/aint-i-pretty/

6) Will Chancellor chats with Sheldon Compton at Revolution John: http://revolutionjohnmagazine.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/lightning-steers-the-world-an-interview-with-author-will-chancellor/

7) Sara Lippmann at David Abrams’ The Quivering Pen talks about “My First Time”: http://www.davidabramsbooks.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-first-time-sara-lippmann.html

8) Matthew Simmons and Litsa Dremousis with “The Challenge” at Hobart: http://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/the-challenge-an-interview-with-litsa-dremousis-on-writing-about-death-grief-and-getting-better

9) Mallory Ortberg “Talks Shit About Hemingway and Thoreau” at Flavorwire: http://flavorwire.com/485203/talking-shit-about-hemingway-and-thoreau-with-the-toast-founder-and-texts-from-jane-eyre-author-mallory-ortberg

10) Wendy Ortiz’s new memoir, Excavation, in the Los Angeles Times: http://touch.latimes.com/ – section/-1/article/p2p-80884386/

Also, I want to congratulate Kim Suhr, and the Red Oak community for a fantastic, inspiring reading last night at Saz’s. What a superb turnout! Stellar words from Pam Parker, Jonnie Guernsey, Beth Huwiler, Jack Douthitt, Jessi Vertz, Jennifer Vanderheyden, Jo DeMars, Christine Baerbock, Bruce Campbell and Jennifer Rupp. More information about Red Oak Writing.

Please join us this Thursday, October 30th, for our next installment, Middle Coast Poets reading at Riverwest Public House, 815 E. Locust Street, 7 p.m. Frank Berg, Marilyn Windau, Paul Scot August and Robert Vaughan (me). We hope to see you there!

Two for Tuesday: Sheldon Compton and Len Kuntz

Are you having fun yet? If not, read what Sheldon Compton and Len Kuntz consider two of their favorite reads (recent or all- time). And then add your own in the comment threads. Nothing gives me more pleasure (okay, it’s near the top!) than sharing “you’ve just got to read this!”

Two for Tuesday: SHELDON COMPTON

Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz

I’ve just been waiting for the chance to write and tell somebody about Wendy C. Ortiz’s memoir Excavation. Now’s my chance, by god.

I cannot overstate the pure courage Ortiz brings to the table in this memoir, which covers her teen years while preyed upon by her middle school English teacher, Jeff Ivers. Feels good to exclaim his name here publicly. That’s the kind of impact this book can have on you. It changes you.

The book, working beautifully in a broken up narrative scheme that shifts from her childhood to the present day, follows Ortiz from a thirteen-year-old girl who is amorously attracted to her teacher who then, in turn and disgustingly, returns this emotion and spends the next five years manipulating her in a pseudo-relationship.

Before reading Excavation I thought I had seen bravery in action through the written word. I had seen hints of it. Ortiz not only trumps any other attempt at this, but also does so with the most beautiful and readable prose I’ve come across in possibly the last decade.

And speaking of time-frames for best-of lists, I’m going to go ahead and so that, so far, this is the best book I’ve read this year. It would take a motherload of a book to unseat it at this point.

http://www.futuretensebooks.com/futuret/books.html

Paperback: 242 pages, Future Tense Publishing (July 18, 2014)

Excavation

Galaga by Michael Kimball

I’m going to tell it to you straight: I had no idea when I received Michael Kimball’s Galaga for review from Small Press Book Review that it was about the game Galaga. Let’s skip how I could have been so unintelligent about the gaming world and move on from there.

When I discovered I was, in fact, reading a book about the arcade game, I balked. I had made a mistake and was now committed. Oh well, at least it was Michael Kimball. I never could have imagined how well he came to bat on that expectation.

Kimball’s fantastic novel currently holds the number two spot for best books I’ve read this year. The book is about so very much more than the game Galaga, yet exactly about the game. Yep, it’s a beautiful thing to see, full of heart and hurt and perseverance and so much more. I wrote my review, gushing and gushing, and was not the least bit embarrassed. I felt like I was telling the world a golden secret. To entice, here’s the first paragraph of that review from SPBR:

Galaga is Michael Kimball’s love letter to the game of the same name, his textbook, his instructor’s manual, his encyclopedia and fan fiction, and is so much more than any of these things. The book covers every nuance of the game, references in pop culture, merchandising, and just about any other thing related to Galaga.  Tattoo anyone?  He’s got those to talk about, too.  No worries.  And that’s fine and good, but there’s something Kimball displays with this book – courage and love and survival.  How’s that for a magic trick?”

Yep, it rolls like that.

http://bossfightbooks.com/products/galaga-by-michael-kimball

Paperback: 136 pages, Boss Fight Books, (July 1, 2014)

GALAGA-cover-nospine-shadow-wide_1024x1024

 

Sheldon’s bio: Sheldon Lee Compton lives in Eastern Kentucky. He is the author of The Same Terrible Storm (Foxhead Books). His work has appeared in numerous journals, has been nominated for several awards, and has been widely anthologized. He is the editor at REVOLUTION JOHN and blogs here: BENT COUNTRY.

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Two for Tuesday: LEN KUNTZ

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

This is a wonderful stew of rich and individualized characters, all walking the tight rope of love.  Anything that begins with this opening line has to be good:

The man—me, this pale being, no one else, it seems—wakes in fright, tangled up in sheets.

From there our narrator leaves his bed in the middle of the night, walks to the University of Michigan football stadium, plops himself down in the stands and spots a young couple making love on the fifty yard line.

Full or delightful surprises, gut-searing emotion and peppered throughout with enough humor to keep the ship righted, The Feast of Love is perhaps my favorite book ever.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Feast-Love-A-Novel/dp/037570910X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1414445076&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Feast+of+Love

Paperback: 308 pages, Vintage (May 1, 2001)

Charles Baxter

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar HiJuelos

Lush, vibrant writing infiltrates every sticky sentence of this book.  There is love, betrayal, sex (lots of it, steamy, too), music, movie stars, you name it—all set in 1949, where two young Cuban musicians make their way up from Havana to the grand stage of New York.

HiJuelos has such a flare for capturing the mix of different ethnicities, and how these mingle or tug at each other.  The writing is so vivid that you’ll feel like you are there are on the street corner, or up on stage, or being thrown about on a mattress.

Early in the book we get a taste of what we’re in for with this zinger:

She expected to turn around and find the devil himself standing beside her, a smile on his sooty face, saying, “Welcome to America.”

I’ve recommended this book to every person who’s ever asked.  Read it.  You’ll be glad.

Paperback: 448 pages Hyperion (May 4, 2010)

http://www.amazon.com/Mambo-Kings-Play-Songs-Love/dp/B0043RT8M2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414445192&sr=1-1&keywords=the+mambo+kings+play+songs+of+love

Oscar Hiluelos

 

Len’s bio: Len Kuntz is the author of The Dark Sunshine (Connotation Press) and an editor at the online literary magazine Literary Orphans.  His work appears widely in print and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

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Thanks so much, Sheldon and Len; these are all great books. Remember to support your local bookstores, and attend readings (like tonight, a Writer’s Showcase at Saz’s in Tosa, 7- 9 p.m.) Read often, and share your passion with others! What are you reading?

 

 

HUMP Day Hangouts

Time for another HUMP Day! I love cows. Enjoy these great reads, selected from around the web:

HUMP Day Hangouts:

1) Jim Ruland discusses his new novel, Forest of Fortune on San Diego’s KPBS: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2014/oct/21/forest-fortune/ – ?utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=kpbsnews-twitter

2) At Fictionaut, Writers On Craft column by Heather Fowler, an interview with Sara Lippmann, author of The Doll Palace: http://www.fictionaut.com/wordpress/2014/10/20/writers-on-craft-sara-lippmann/

3) Emily Temple reveals 50 of the Scariest Short Stories of All Time at Flavorwire: http://flavorwire.com/483530/50-of-the-scariest-short-stories-of-all-time?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow&utm_campaign=FlavorwireSocial&utm_content=FaceBook

4) Monica Drake on Modern Love in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/fashion/life-was-a-roving-party-until-i-grew-up.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

5) Donald Hall reflects on his marriage to Jane Kenyon in Poetry Magazine: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/article/146874?commentsubmit=true – article

6) “Accidents Happen” by Roxane Gay at Tumblr: http://roxanegay.tumblr.com/post/100195578415/accidents-happen

7) Check out the great posts at People You Know By Heart, Len Kuntz’s Blog: http://lenkuntz.blogspot.com/

8) Michelle Elvy’s “Impossible Weather” at Revolution John: http://revolutionjohnmagazine.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/impossible-weather-by-michelle-elvy/

9) Gina Frangello’s essay “This is Happiness” at The Nervous Breakdown: http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/gfrangello/2013/05/this-is-happiness/

10) The Rumpus Interview with Alex Dimitrov and Kate Durbin: http://therumpus.net/2014/10/the-rumpus-interview-with-alex-dimitrov-and-kate-durbin/

Also, my latest poem, “When He Left it all to Me,” is at Fictionaut: http://fictionaut.com/stories/robert-vaughan/when-he-left-it-all-to-me

And that, my friends, is a wrap. What are you reading?

Two for Tuesday: Meg Tuite and Melanie Page

It’s Tuesday again, and today is the second installment of our Two for Tuesday column. I asked two friends if they were willing to choose two of their fairly new reads, and write a short “blurb” about why they liked it, or the impact the book had, impressions, etc. Both said “sure!” I love my friends. Here it is, hope you enjoy it:

TWO FOR TUESDAY: MEG TUITE

Elegantly Naked in My Sexy Mental Illness by Heather Fowler is 16 stories that ‘cross unseen barriers’ created by a world that pretends these characters are far-removed from our existence: the obsessions, the phobias, the voices. Fowler exposes the fraudulence of our so-called ‘sanity’ in every one of these stories by revealing scars, secrets, traumas through characters that are not only familiar, but familial: humanity masked behind drapes.

“They made their lives with monotony. She ached for something new. I stole in, invisible, as I always do. It is easy to steal a heart unguarded, as easy as opening an unlocked door. I watched her and touched her–expecting nothing.”

“Blood drenched our fields. It made us see red. The poor would not wait.”

Fowler whisks us smoothly through the 12th century to the present to remind us that ‘then and now,’ are interchangeable with judgment, death sentence, class issues, vengeance and the lust to dominate someone just beyond our reach.

Heather Fowler’s writing is inimitable and unforgettable. She is fearless while storming through uncharted waters. Get a copy!

http://www.queensferrypress.com/books/elegantlynakedinmysexymentalillness.html

Paperback and e-book: 296 pages; Queen’s Ferry Press (May 26, 2014)

Heather Fowler

 

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if i would leave myself behind by Lauren Becker is an astonishing collection of 28 stories and one novella. Get ready to be rearranged and turned inside out. The narrator climbs inside you and messes with your internal organs. My heart will never be the same. Every paragraph is its own brilliant landscape of relationships and how they move or stagnate as the narrator warns pursuers of a future she has already anticipated:

“You will disappoint me. Perhaps you must. I don’t know otherwise and will be confused at the absence of disappointment. You are just another and I am only me. I give you full permission to be everything I don’t want. In fact, I insist. And you don’t need my permission. It will only impel you to do the opposite and the opposite would be distressing to us both.”

“I climb into his beautiful mouth and I am his mouth and his pain and his words.”

But the true relationship is between reader and narrator. Moving from 1st person to 2nd person, Becker never leaves us behind. The door is open and we are in her thoughts, her fears, her hangovers, her refrigerator, on her couch, blasted face-on with her fierce honesty that makes this collection a life-long friend and necessity. It is a book that will never cease to inspire me. If you don’t have this collection, than you are truly missing out on writing at its best.

http://www.curbsidesplendor.com/shop/if-i-would-leave-myself-behind

Paperback: 120 pages; Curbside Splendor Publishing (June 17, 2014)

Lauren Becker

Meg’s Bio: Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared in numerous literary journals. She is the author of two short story collections, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books and Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, and three chapbooks, the latest titled, Her Skin is a Costume (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging (2014) written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale. She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College, lives in Santa Fe with her husband and menagerie of pets. Her blog: http://megtuite.com.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: MELANIE PAGE

Lately, most of my reading is the result of required reading for a course I’m teaching, or for a virtual book tour I’m coordinating. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t love and/or admire the book, for I wouldn’t work with texts I don’t enjoy.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X—with Alex Haley. I read the excerpt of Malcolm X learning to read in prison in a textbook from which I was teaching. After reading the book myself, I knew I had to teach it to others. Not only is Malcolm X’s story of parents murdered and driven insane, to graduating 8th grade, to hustling the streets of Harlem—which leads him to prison—amazing, but inspires students in my ENG 101 class. Many of them come from small beginnings only to see what reading, critical thinking, and discipline can do for one person. I think Malcolm X still speaks to those who feel small. In fact, my used copy has an inscription: “11.25.92 To Bobo, Because it’s your birthday and because we have to keep abreast of current events. You are a warm, genuine, fabulous person! I’m totally happy you’re my friend…love, Hammer.”

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (As Told to Alex Haley): Malcolm X, Alex Haley, M. S. Handler: 9780345376718: Amazon.com: Books

Paperback: 466 pages; Ballantine Books, 1992 edition.

Malcolm X

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Her Own Vietnam—Lynn Kanter. Lynn’s book I am reading as part of a forthcoming virtual book tour. While most novels and movies focus on the male perspective of war, Lynn views Vietnam from the eyes of Della, a young nurse who signed up for the sake of school money. Only one year in the field changes Della forever. Readers don’t experience that numbing fear in the field, which we often get from a soldier’s perspective, but the carnage, the burning, maggot-infested, limbs missing or dangling side of it. The nurses get bags of body parts and must play match the pieces. Told from two time periods (in Vietnam and as a 50-something nurse and mother), Della’s life is one amazing story to read.

Her Own Vietnam: Lynn Kanter: 9780991355525: Amazon.com: Books

Paperback: 214 pages; forthcoming November 2014 from Shade Mountain Press.

Lynn Kanter

Melanie Page teaches in Michiana. She is the creator of the ladies-only blog, Grab the Lapels, where you can catch reviews and interviews every M/W/F (or there about). Her fiction is mostly in small-press anthologies, like Tales of Excess (Unknown Press), Wreckage of Reason II (Spuyten Duyvil), and Dirty: Dirty (Jaded Ibis).

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Thanks so much, Meg and Melanie! The two books I read recently that are worthy of a mention are Sylvia Plath’s Ariel: The Restored Edition; and Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons: The Corrected Centennial Edition. Interesting that both of these texts appeared in previous publications apparently not in the form/ format of the author/ poet’s initial desires. Check them out! I highly recommend both.

 Sylvia PlathGertrude Stein

 

 

 

 

 

Hump Day Re-Launch

Welcome to Hump Day! Ten literary sites that might interest you this week, and on every Wednesday:

HUMP DAY RE- LAUNCH:

1) Meg Tuite tells us why she writes flash fiction at Every Day Chronicles (this site also has one of the best resources of flash fiction markets for submissions): http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/why-i-write-flash-fiction-tuite/

2) Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist) delivers with this essay at The New Statesman: http://www.newstatesman.com/2014/10/roxane-gay-i-have-feared-white-men-and-i-have-loved-them

3) Scott Waldyn, of Literary Orphans, reviews ART AND CRAFT at The Tavern Lantern: http://literaryorphans.org/ttl/mastering-art-craft-scott-waldyn-reviews-oscilloscopes-latest/

4) Rachel Heimowitz has a stunning new poetry collection, What the Light Reveals:

http://www.rachelheimowitz.com/

5) Michael Seidlinger of Civil Coping Mechanisms selects a tie for the press’s Mainline writing contest: http://copingmechanisms.net/mainline

6) While in New York City, I had the wonderful fortune to hear poets Ellen Bass and Kevin Simmonds read from their stellar new collections:

http://www.ellenbass.com/

Kevin Simmonds :: musician, writer & artist ::

7) Poet Claudia Rankine waxes and wanes in the Los Angeles Times: http://touch.latimes.com/ – section/-1/article/p2p-81625795/

8) Recently at Boston Review, poet Amy King gives Ocean Vuong a Poet’s Sampler: http://www.bostonreview.net/poetry/amy-king-ocean-vuong-poets-sampler-ocean-vuong

9) Michelle Bailat-Jones talks with Christopher Allen at I Must Be Off!: http://www.imustbeoff.com/2014/10/expat-author-interview-with-michelle.html

10) I love when my path crosses a new (to me) poet, like Neil McCarthy (at Fictionaut):

http://fictionaut.com/stories/neil-mccarthy/criticism-of-the-dead

 

 

 

Two for Tuesday: books

I love to consider how a book “comes” to me. Often, it’s a friend, or a sibling who recommends a great read. Because of this, and the variety of writing available, I decided to launch my new Two for Tuesday column! Every Tuesday, whenever possible, I’ll ask two people to select two books they’ve recently read, and write a small “blurb”: what they liked, or not, and what sort of impact the book might have had. A “teaser” if you will. So, here are our first Two for Tuesday participants:

Two for Tuesday: BUD SMITH

Doll Palace- Sara Lipmann. I loved. Electrified short stories about girls growing up in NJ/NYC area, sometimes in outlandish situations (like Target Girl, who’s the daughter of a knife throwing expert). Real care put into this writing. Above and beyond the usual, the expected, the mundane. Bonus points because one of the stories in it “Everyone Has Your Best Interests At Heart” takes place in a town on the Jersey shore where I grew up.

Paperback: 258 pages; Publisher: Dock Street Press, Sept. 2014

http://dockstreetpress.com/portfolio-item/doll-palace

Book_covers_dp

Last Days of California by Mary Miller. A family on a road trip towards the west coast, getting ready for the Rapture. A mobile exploration of contemporary America through the eyes of a teenage Born Again, with doubts. Dig this book because the writing is addictive, seemingly loose, but put together as if done so under a spell.

Paperback: 256 pages; Publisher: Liveright (Sept. 2, 2014)

The Last Days of California | W. W. Norton & Company

Unknown

Bud Smith’s bioBud Smith is 32, hungry, thirsty, and from New Jersey. He currently lives in New York City, in Washington Heights, near the GWB Bridge. He’s got a car that he parks on the street every night. Not a single window has been smashed in, even after eight years. His books are the novels Tollbooth and F-250 (Piscataway House), the short story collection Or Something Like That (Unknown Press) and poetry collection Everything Neon (Marginalia). He works heavy construction building power plants and refineries, welding, burning, rigging to maintain and repair process equipment. So that’s fun. He also co-edits the art meets lit anthology Uno Kudo. Some recent short stories and poems have appeared at Smokelong, JMWW, Metazen, Word Riot, and theNewer York. He is currently working on a collection of poetry. Also: he was born on Thanksgiving Day. Likes to sit at his desk and listen to the same record over and over again. Is fond of paperback books found online, second-hand, written by dead people. More at www.budsmithwrites.com

 

Two for Tuesday: MICHAEL GILLAN MAXWELL

The Mayor of MacDougal Street is the mostly autobiographical memoir of Dave Van Ronk, one of the founding figures in the American folk revival in the sixties. He was also one of most influential folk song historians, songwriters and guitarists of his time. The Mayor of MacDougal Street is a sprawling, comprehensive depiction of life and times in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the 1950s, 60’s and 70’s. Thoroughly engaging and fascinating, it’s a beautiful complement to two other NYC memoirs by prominent musicians: Bob Dylan’s Chronicles and Patti Smith’s Just Kids.

Paperback: 272 pages; Publisher: Da Capo Press; (Second Edition, 2013)

http://www.amazon.com/Mayor-MacDougal-Street-2013-Memoir/dp/0306822164/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413219471&sr=1-1&keywords=Mayor+of+macDougal+street

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I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like: Mostly True Tall Tales is Todd Snider’s memoir of his life and career. Todd Snider is one of the most beloved and influential “Americana” singer/songwriter/storytellers out there. Each chapter is an expansion of one or more of his story songs, with larger-than-life characters that are almost mythological in stature. Compelling, compassionate and hilarious, I couldn’t put it down. Don’t pass up an opportunity to see him in concert!

Paperback: 304 pages; Publisher: Da Capo Press (April 22, 2014)

http://www.amazon.com/Never-Met-Story-Didnt-Like/dp/0306822601/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413219237&sr=1-1&keywords=todd+snider

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Michael Gillan Maxwell’s bio: Michael Gillan Maxwell is a writer and visual artist in the Finger Lakes Region of New York state. Maxwell writes short fiction, poetry, songs, essays, recipes and irate letters to his legislators and his work has been featured in a number of journals and anthologies. He serves as associate flash fiction editor for JMWW quarterly journal and editor of MadHat Lit’s Drive-By Reviews. A teller of tales and singer of songs, he’s prone to random outbursts, may spontaneously combust or break into song at any moment and might be occasionally found ranting and raving on his website: Your Own Backyard. http://michaelgillanmaxwell.com

 

Also, I’d like to mention two books that I’ve read recently: Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein (The Corrected Centennial Edition); and ghostbread by Sonja Livingston. Both highly recommended! Thanks for a great first Two for Tuesday, Bud and Michael! Please feel free to comment with any books you recommend, especially those you are currently reading!

 

 

 

Recap: My Week in New York City

I was recently in New York City for readings, inspiration, great food and more.

On Monday, September 29th, the day I arrived, I met friends Bud and Rae for dinner at John’s in the East Village. Although under new ownership, this is an East Village landmark that operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition. After an amazing dinner, and a quick after-dinner drink at Booker and Dax, Bud and I scrambled up to Kipsey’s for Sue Polo’s Saturn Series Poetry Readings: Saturn Series Poetry Reading Every Monday Nite. There was an open mike at the beginning, then three featured poets: Adeena Karasick, Larissa Shmailo, and Jonathan Penton (all of Mad Hat). Then Bud and I both read in the latter open mike. I read “Three for Carol” (which was my poems devoted to Carol Novack, original editor of Mad Hat), and “Hummingbirds.” Bud slayed three entirely new poems from his forthcoming collection: “In Their Pool,” “point taken,” and “Cherry World.”

Tuesday, writing at Cafe Pick Me Up, then lunch with Andrea at Cafe Mogodor in East Village. My New York family. LOVE HER! We’d attempted Yaffa Cafe, but it was closed, so adjacent was Mogodor, and it was fantastic. I also met Andrea’s acupuncturist, Dr. Richard Hazel.

My pal, Cyrus arrived in the afternoon. We walked over to SoHo, had a quick bite on a patio at Prince and Lafayette, then I found my local watering hole: Westville! One block from the Sheraton Four Points. Dinner at Spice Market, food fantastic, company even better:

spice

Wednesday, October 1, we went to McNally Jackson, where poets Kevin Simmonds and Ellen Bass read. A fantastic literary event, sponsored by The Poetry Society. Then, Bud and I went to Westville for IPA’s (Meg, we toasted to you!) at the bar. I highly recommend Ellen’s new book, Like a Beggar:

Ellen Bass – Like a Beggar

LikeaBeggar200px

Thursday, October 2, was the reading at Mellow Pages in Brooklyn! This amazing lending library hosts events regularly http://mellowpageslibrary.com/:

Jacob Perkins at Mellow PagesHost Jacob Perkins (and Matt Nelson)

Mellow Pages Library readingReading “Temporary” from new book

10403236_653303894766909_5535559670162446680_nStill “Temping!!!”

Bud Smith really rocked this reading, too. He did this cool thing where he turned off the lights and read from his phone. Killer! Thanks to friends Rae, Valentin, Cyrus and John Madera among others who turned out in support of Bud and me.

Friday night party at The Smith- Buleri household (Haven Ave…appropriate name!) Prior I met my publicist, John, at my new favorite vegetarian restaurant, Blossom on Carmine Street. We had a great time!

At the party, I saw so many friends, including the hosts, also Michael Maxwell was in the house, Julie Allen, Chuck Howe, Erin McParland, Gessy Alvarez, and many more. Because it was our dear friend Meg’s birthday, we took silly photos and posted them on her Facebook page. Silly, goofy fun:

10624972_871036116247522_7792553798582006191_nGlasses courtesy of Unknown Press

Saturday started with watching videos of Sylvia Plath on YouTube, recorded at the BBC in 1962, only months before her premature death. “Did I escape I wonder?” So many great lines in her Ariel poems.

Dear friend David met me at Cafe Pick Me Up, and we strolled around the East Village in search of a bag for his new bear poem books, a gift from Cyrus. Andrea and Ian met us for an early bite at Caravan of Dreams on E. 6th Street. That evening, we had our group reading for Too Much: Tales of Excess Anthology, edited by Chuck Howe, published by Unknown Press:

Unknown

Amazon.com: Too Much: Tales of Excess (9781500216771): Chuck Howe, Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, Michael Gillan Maxwell, Melanie Page, Puma Perl, Ron Kolm, Robert Vaughn, James H Duncan, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Gus Sanchez, Ryder Collins, Ashley Perez, Sophia Sturges, Ted Jackins, John Saunders, Irene Stone, Bekah Steimel, Dave Roskos, Tracey Lander-Garrett, Meg Tuite, Heather Dorn: Books.

Such a blast, Bud was a great host, and Chuck plied us all with his banjo strumming to wrap, while host of Jimmy’s 43 supplied us with free Stillwater Existent black IPA’s. Oh what a night!

Outside Jimmy's 43Arriving at Jimmy’s 43 with Bud and MGM

Bud SmithBud Smith, host and vivant reader

David and MGMDavid Carter and Michael Maxwell

Audience at Excess ReadingA great audience at Jimmy’s 43

And that, my friends, is a New York wrap!

Also, I have a new poem at Fictionaut. “Solaris,” my first piece there in months:

“Solaris” by Robert Vaughan — Fictionaut.

Just as I was preparing to leave NYC, I saw this image on a boarded up excavation site adjacent to my hotel, and I knew I was ready to get back home:

unnamed

Thanks everyone for a great New York City week, big city of dreams!

I’ll be back.