December 10, 2011

Acts of Desertion - Neil Addison's 'Apocapulco'

The last we heard, comrade Neil Addison was rumored to be running guns in Abyssinia. From time to time, nonetheless, fugitive communiqués surface, messages in bottles wash ashore. One of these, the volume Apocapulco, published last year by Salted Earth, or Salted Wound . . . OK I can't remember the exact name of the publisher . . . anyway that book is now publicly available on the internet, viz.:

What you'll find in its pages is the only kind of poetry that matters anymore, poetry without faith in Poetry. Each entry is an act of diremption, repudiation, refusal, including the refusal of Seriousness, the refusal of the Grand Gesture that even words like diremption, repudiation, refusal imply. It is only by such desertions that we remain at our posts.

December 9, 2011

Writing and the Barricades

John Hawkes, excerpted from an interview with Robert Scholes in The New Fiction: Interviews with Innovative American Writers, ed. Joe David Bellamy (Univ. of Illinois, 1974):

SCHOLES: Jack, I know that in addition to being a writer you are a teacher of young writers, if there is such a thing, and I know that this question of politics and its relation to creative writing or the writing of fiction is a thing that worries a lot of young writers. They find it difficult to justify the indulgence in the personal satisfaction of writing at a time when the calls to the barricades seem to come more frequently and more urgently every month. What do you do to reassure young people, to keep them writing and off the barricades, or do you encourage them to go?

HAWKES: I think the acts of courage and the acts of creativity evident in the writing of fiction are similar to the qualities evident in revolutionary acts. I think clear vision, detachment, personal strength, selflessness – these are needed to change the world literally and, no doubt, are also essential to the imaginative act. The paradox is that the literary act can’t take place in the context of revolution or “real life” or world activity. I would be willing to give up writing (which I began to discover only as a young person and not at the barricade but in the midst of the primordial, fluid, slippery, messy stuff of the Second World War) – I would be willing to give up art if the actual barricade were before us. If it were literally a moment of attempting to participate in those human efforts of planning and action that had to do with political ultimacy and finality, I would want to be there.

SCHOLES: In your fiction are you working out of a consciously held theoretical position?

HAWKES: Recently I did formulate a kind of theory of fiction which can be expressed in a few words. It seems to me that fiction should achieve revenge for all the indignities of our childhood; it should be an act of rebellion against all the constraints of the conventional pedestrian mentality around us. Surely it should destroy conventional morality. I suppose all this is to say that to me the act of writing is criminal. If the act of the revolutionary is one of supreme idealism, it’s also criminal. Obviously I think that the so-called criminal act is essential to our survival.

SCHOLES: Recently I saw W.H. Auden quoted as saying that the world would be exactly the way it is if Shakespeare and Dante and somebody else had never lived, which suggests a sort of beautiful irrelevance to art or, at any rate, an existence apart from political, geographical, geopolitical realities. Do you accept Auden’s view?

HAWKES: Was he joking?

SCHOLES: I think he was serious. I assume this is a later version of his “poetry makes nothing happen.”

HAWKES: Then he’s filled with despair. I’m sympathetic with despair. I don’t agree with the idea. It seems obvious that the great acts of the imagination are intimately related to the great acts of life – that history and the inner psychic history must dance their creepy minuet together if we are to save ourselves from total oblivion. I think it’s senseless to attempt to talk as Auden talked. The great acts of the imagination create inner climates in which psychic events occur, which in themselves are important, and also affect the outer literal events in time and space through what has occurred in the act of reading.

December 6, 2011

Writers' Toilets 3 - Gavin James Bower on His Toilet

There is no hot water in this room. Even the hot water pump - separate to the dual taps - is ineffectual in its lukewarm-ness. The watering can is a relic from a bygone room; perhaps a greenhouse, which once stood on this very site. Many an editorial conundrum has been cogitated in this commode. I also had my first professional student wipe here, while wrestling with exactly why a writer would utilise a second-person narrative. (And the lack of paper.) Enjoy.

November 29, 2011

Writers' Toilets 2 - Frances Madeson on Her Toilet

What’s missing from this picture? Can you spot it? Right-o, no built-in toilet-paper dispenser in the master bathroom!

The actual toilet is from Levengers─their high-end Notabile model with the Lakota seat cover. I could go on and on about its familiar marbled composition and the ruggedly textured bison leather sure-grip seat (sorry you can’t really see it). Perched thereon, cheek to cheek with the gamey hide, I hit authorial pay dirt, and the below excerpt issued forth. It’s from my new forthcoming blockbuster, an experimental novel (temporally: it actually reads like it’s being written before you in real time just as you turn the page, possibly like the feeling of having one’s life flash before one's very eyes—imagine!) composed in episodes. I won’t bother to contextualize the scene, only to say this one’s about a third of the way in, and by then, you’re likely already half smitten with the fearless unconventional protagonist, with her brazen stools and loose-by-any-standard morals.

Happy reading!

Episode 72

I turned the hot water on maximum force in Hank’s plexiglass-enclosed shower stall and sat on the American Disabilities Act toilet that was surprisingly tall, feeling queenly on the elevated white porcelain throne. My piss didn't burn as it hissed out, and fears of an infection in my urethra from friction’s rub on the latex molecules that had emanated from Danny's condom-covered boner were happily unfounded. I voided my bowels in mere seconds, which frankly astonished me that I could be so at home in a near stranger's bathroom. I felt completely cleaned out, so that if “touching me anywhere” involved my anus, I could meet the moment with confidence.


Frances Madeson is the author of the novel Cooperative Village (Carol MRP Co., 2007). The working title for her current novel is Kissing Booth. Thank you, Frances!

November 25, 2011

Writers' Toilets

After the success of its Writers' Rooms series a couple of years back, The Guardian has just launched a more tech-sexy, new-millennium sequel, Writers' Desktops, featuring shots of authors' computer desktops and some accompanying chit-chat from the authors themselves in order to give us insight into . . . into . . . oh, I don't know. There's some language about having writers "show us around their working lives," and the suggestion that we might learn something about the relationship between technology and the "creative life" of contemporary writers. Writers in this case means a parade of Booker Prize short-listees and winners, as well as producers of the "better" genre fiction and "serious" non-fiction, all of whom will happen to have high profiles in recent literary journalism and contracts with the major corporate houses. In other words, here is yet another exercise in author-as-celebrity voyeurism, a gentrified and "distinction"-conferring version of something you'd find in a tabloid, like having one of the Kardashian sisters give you a guided tour of her thong drawer.

So, in the spirit of taking the piss, I'm launching this series of Writers' Toilets, starting with my own. The bowl and rim are a little cleaner than usual because we had company yesterday, but it still looks close to what you'd find on any average day when I might step across the hall from the room where I do my Literary Creating. The tile-work on the floor is attractive to look at but clammy and cold on the bottom of my feet - for some reason we still haven't purchased a mat. There's hardly any cabinet space; hence the case of TP on the back of the tank and the plastic storage box under the sink. Open on the plastic storage box is my reading for that morning's bowel movement, a recent issue of Chicago Review devoted to contemporary Italian writing. Like geological strata we can also see evidence of earlier bowel-movement reading peeking out from under the case of toilet paper - a copy of Dalkey Archive Press's Review of Contemporary Fiction (Vol. XXX, #3 The Editions P.O.L. Number, in fact). On a typical morning I have my bowel movement after my second cup of coffee and my first cigarette; afterwards I am ready to begin writing. At the end of the day I always read in bed before falling asleep; my wife pokes fun at me because I take my book with me to the toilet and continue reading while I stand there to pee. The toilet itself has a very satisfactory flush, something I had originally been worried about because the plumbing is quite old, and a definite improvement over the toilet in our previous place. We have only lived in this house for three or four months, but I have already had several fine story ideas while using this toilet.

Writers! Send me your toilet pics, plus any accompanying text and links, and I will post them here.

November 9, 2011

New Fiction at S/Word

"Everyone was talking into their handheld devices, except those whose devices did not require hands, who were just talking. Alive to every permutation, I’d had a good day, I’d had a bad day, I’d had a so-so day..."

I've got a story "Devices," in the inaugural issue of a new webzine devoted to innovative writing, S/Word. Also appearing are Ben Nardolilli, Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, William Doreski, Ben Segal, Ray Succre, Francis Raven, Len Kuntz, Joel Mitchell, Matthew Davies. Props to editors Seth and Chelsea McKelvey for making it happen.

"Devices" is the third of my experiments playing with the inclusion of appropriated text to be published, along with "Valley of the Dolls" and "A Paper Moon."

October 19, 2011

#occupyculture - in which I kick Santa in the balls

"Kicking Santa in the Balls: An interview with the Boston Book Festival’s Literary Squatter" is now live at the Boston Phoenix website and on page 6 of this week's print edition. Many thanks to Eugenia Williamson.

September 26, 2011

#occupyculture (or, the "One City One Story" Counterfeit)

6nMHyD on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs


My editor, Micah Robbins, was surprised to read in the Boston Book Festival's statement that I was "unpublished" and "unpublishable," so he kindly wrote a response and submitted it as a Comment to the BBF blog post. The BBF declined to publish the comment, demonstrating conclusively that behind the lie of a citywide conversation they are interested only in one-way communication. But what else could we expect from an organization whose corporate sponsors include Verizon, Bank of America, Target, and three of the "Big Six" media conglomerates that currently monopolize publishing? They and their ilk determine what is "acceptable discourse" -- silence and invisibility for the rest. So, along with my thanks, I am reprinting Micah Robbins' comment here:

I would remind you that many of our greatest writers, from James Joyce to Thomas Pynchon, have been accused of publishing "unreadable" prose fiction. "The Cruiser" is, of course, neither unreadable nor unpublishable. I've read the story & have agreed to publish it and the novel to which it belongs -- Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant -- under the imprint SAY IT WITH STONES. It's odd you would say it's "unpublishable" since Caldwell's author's bio clearly states that the novel is forthcoming from SAY IT WITH STONES. Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant will be released later this year; for more information, visit

I respect Edmond Caldwell's action against the sociopolitical homogeneity being celebrated by One City, One Story. & I'm pleased to hear his work has the power to upset readers' expectations. I'm sure he wouldn't have it any other way! What American literature needs is more resistant work, not affirmative bourgeois drivel like "The Whore's Child," which is -- exempting its title -- a total bore.

Finally, the tone of your announcement is commensurate with the reactionary cultural politics of One City, One Story. A recent study conducted by the United Nations found that over a billion people squat worldwide -- a sixth of the global population, the vast majority of whom are Asian, African, and Latin American -- and the numbers are increasing exponentially. To disparage Caldwell as a "literary squatter" reveals the mistaken aura of cultural superiority that undergirds One City, One Story. Only an institution fundamentally committed to and enchanted by western values, particularly private property in its many manifestations, could draw such a problematic comparison.

My only concern is that there aren't more Boston writers engaging in acts of cultural insurgency. Wouldn't it be a delight if every copy of Once City, One Story contained the work of a different author, none of whom were "approved" by the institutional power of BBF!

Long live cultural insurgency!


And a thousand thanks to Kent Johnson for these words of support, which enjoyed the same fate at the Boston Book Festival blog as Micah's comment:

"Unreadable!" Well, anything that comes with that recommendation makes me want to read and see... There's a nice ancestral line, isn't there, of works that had that epithet thrown at them.

What's the Boston Book Fair in such a snit about? Because someone put Richard Russo's cover on his limited run, fine-press book? Horrors! The bourgeoisie, as they used to say, should be scandalized. Here's a suggestion: Take a page from the Poetry Foundation and Call the Cops! (Anyone in the fiction world following that fracas?)

I haven't read this Unreadable novel, but now I certainly will. I hope I can get a copy with the Russo cover, signed by both Russo and the fictional "squatter" Caldwell. What's on the cover? Is it really slick and pretty?

Kent Johnson

September 22, 2011

New Work at A-Minor

I'm very pleased to have two new pieces of flash fiction, "The Lord Will Provide" and "Foxy Lady," featured at the revamped A-Minor Magazine website, now under the revivifying curatorship of writer-editor Nicolette Wong. Please visit and be vivified.

July 16, 2011

New Work in kadar koli 6

" if at the very birth of language itself (the legendary Naming of Beasts) prepositions had to be invented next to account for the absolute everywhereness of the animals, maybe even before verbs..."

I got a prose thing, "Grandma's Box," in the latest issue of kadar koli, in the brilliant company of Zack Finch, Geoffrey Gatza, j/j hastain, Henri Deluy (trans. Jacqueline Kari), Micah Robbins, The Rejection Group, Sarah Jeanne Peters, Josh Stanley, John Hyland, Robin F. Brox, Brenda Iijima, and Morani Kornberg-Weiss.

And while you're there, check out the other Habenicht Press offerings, the beautifully-produced chapbooks and earlier issues of kadar koli.

June 29, 2011


»SOUS LES PAVÉS« no. 4 is now live and includes my essay, "A Tale of Two Cultural Centers (Istanbul, November 2010)." I'm proud to be in there alongside the outstanding contributions of:

Brooks Johnson
Rodrigo Toscano
Emily Critchley
William Fuller
Linh Dinh
Roberto Harrison
John Beer
Tyrone Williams
Tim Atkins
j/j hastain
Jerome Rothenberg
Hoa Nguyen
Mary Burger
Sotere Torregian
The Rejection Group
Brenda Iijima
Micah Robbins
Frances Kruk
Warren Craghead

»SOUS LES PAVÉS« is a quarterly zine distributed by mailing list only & supported by the generous donations of its readers. If you receive/read this publication and find it of some value or interest, please consider donating some small funds to its continued effort to produce and distribute an unvarnished, politically efficacious magazine of poetry & ideation.

Get on the mailing list & donate

May 9, 2011


What follows is a strange, nameless state, in which the present, which is as wide as the whole of time is long, seems to have risen, from who knows where, to the surface of who knows what, and in which what I was, which in and of itself in no way amounted to much, now knows that it is here, in the present, knows it, without being able however to pursue its knowledge any farther and without having sought, in the fraction of a second prior to that state, by any means whatsoever, to catch a glimpse of it. This state is going away now; and now, in the darkness, the sounds, the murmurs, the chorus of cicadas, the barking of a dog at the other end of town, begin, gradually, to come unbound from each other, to separate, building up, out of the black, compact mass of night, levels, dimension, heights, various distances, a structure of sounds that produce, in the uniform blackness, a precarious, fragile space, whose distribution in the blackness continuously changes shape, duration, and one might even say, to put it into words somehow, place. But now it is gone: it is as if an errant wave, a phosphorescent image of many colors combined in a harmonious way, had been reflected, on passing, for a few instants, through me, and had then continued on its way, leaving me in that other firmer, more permanent state, in which everything is within reach of my fingertips, with the same accessibility as a ship inside a bottle.

Juan José Saer, from Nobody Nothing Never (Serpent’s Tail, 1993), translated by Helen Lane.

May 6, 2011

Writing Against the Market

In “How, and How Not, to Be a Published Novelist: The Case of Raymond Federman,” Ted Pelton reviews Federman’s publishing career. His contribution asks why a writer that is internationally regarded and has several major awards including the American Book Award “has never had a book published by a major U.S. imprint.” Pelton maintains that while Federman had a number of opportunities to publish with major U.S. publishers—for example, St. Martin’s Press was interested in Smiles on Washington Square (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1985) and Little, Brown, & Company was interested in Double or Nothing (Swallow Press, 1971)—the author chose not to publish with these major publishers. For Federman, the decision to publish with small presses (rather than major presses) was based on the author’s decision to maintain his aesthetic integrity, rather than to make concessions to the market-driven editorial suggestions made by the major U.S. publishers that approached him. Pelton observes that though a few of Federman’s peers had books published with major U.S. publishers, this was the exception, rather than the rule.

Pelton points out that in the case of Double or Nothing as well as other works, Federman “made the decision to rework his own manuscript precisely against marketplace feedback.” In this regard, Federman’s publishing career “serves as a unique measure of the nonparticipation of American publishing in innovative American fi ction.” Pelton maintains that the task of publishers should be to support the work of writers like Federman “whose texts bring us new understandings of what constitutes the art form”—not to dictate to them what they should write based on economic motives. Federman’s “refusal to write straight narrative,” suggests Pelton, against the wishes of major American publishers, provides us with “perhaps the most notable case in our time of the writer who growled at his purported master and, by doing so, became his own.”

Emphasis mine. From "Other Voices: The Fiction of Raymond Federman," Jeffrey R. Di Leo's introduction (pdf) to Federman's Fictions: Innovation, Theory, and the Holocaust (SUNY UP, 2011).

Raymond Federman site.

Ted Pelton page.

April 5, 2011

The Muzzled Muse

Every year the good folks at the Grub Street writing center host a literary conference here in Boston called The Muse & the Marketplace. When I saw the poster for this year's festivities, however, it struck me that it just didn't adequately depict the real relationship that exists between the two entities. So, with my crude photoshop skills, I gave it a wee tweak:

There should probably be a riding crop in there, too, you know, but you can't have everything. Just use your imagination.

February 24, 2011


from the Global Intifada . . . to your mailbox!



February 13, 2011

New Fiction at West Wind Review

In frozen piles around his feet is the old snow, the kind that layers of exhaust have dirtied to the color of an ashtray. Every day now the edges are a little more melted – like the slow withdrawal of diseased grey gums – revealing a moraine of pebbles, cigarette butts, malt-liquor bottle caps, cellophane wrappers, and unidentifiable scunge. The scunge is patterned in a whorl, like animal feces, rotting bandages, or the puckered orifice of a corpse. A bone sticks up from the scunge-whorl, from someone’s chicken dinner or else a squirrel run down by a car back before the snow . . .

That's just an appetizer from my story, "The Earworm," in the new West Wind Review. For the main course, you'll have to buy the whole 240-page issue, which includes work by:

Chris Alexander, Shane Allison, Brian Ang, Joe Atkins, derek beaulieu, Steve Benson, Gregory Betts, Mark Boccard, Sommer Browning, Dereck Clemons, Bryan Coffelt, Shanna Compton, Alan Davies, Luke Degnan, Tiffany Denman, Buck Downs, Patrick Durgin, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Micah Freeman, Kristen Gallagher, Drew Gardner, Angela Genusa, Nada Gordon, Plynn Gutman, Nadxieli Nieto Hall, Mike Hauser, Emily Hockaday, Janis Butler Holm, Paul Hoover, Uyen Hua, Jake Kennedy, Rodney Koeneke, David Lau, Emily Liebowitz, Jonathan Lohr, Travis Macdonald, Alana Madison, Adam J Maynard, Rebecca Mertz, Sharon Mesmer, Monica Mody, Adam Moorad, Rosiere Moseley, Christian Nagler, Chris Nealon, Jessea Perry, Adam Roberts, Steve Roggenbuck, Andrew Sage, Estee Schwartz, James Sherry, Josh Stanley, Erin Steinke, Christina Strong, Cole Tucker-Walton, Joshua Ware, Jeanine Webb, Elisabeth Workman, Timothy Yu, and Carolyn Zaikowski.

February 12, 2011

New Fiction at Mad Hatters' Review

As the river delta began to disappear into the rising sea, Dr. Fortier noticed an unusual phenomenon...

There are two stories by me, "Greshlings" and "The Difference Between Strategy & Tactics," in the eagerly awaited Mad Hatters' Review 12, with a cool soundtrack by Paul A. Toth and illustrations by T. Motley. Special thanks to editor/publisher Carol Novack.