October 24, 2012

Read the Fine Print! The Boston Book Festival's Creepy Corporate Sponsors

Here lies Public Education
Brought to you by the Pearson corporation

On October 15, 2011, in the early days of the Occupy movement at Dewey Square, a very different sort of encampment briefly occupied another of the city’s public spaces barely a mile away. The tents of the Boston Book Festival in Copley Square were visited by thousands of people that day, but the contrast between the two occupations couldn’t have been more stark: in Dewey Square, a rough-hewn but genuinely grassroots “festival of the oppressed”; at Copley, a top-down, stage-managed, and one-way simulation of “open” culture. 

For those who had read the fine print, however, this would’ve come as no surprise – the Boston Book Festival is a prime example of culture occupied by corporations. And it’s coming back to Copley Square again this October 27.

The BBF’s organizers, including its wealthy founder and president, Deborah Z. Porter, have relied on a number of morally and politically repulsive sponsors over the four years of the event’s existence. In 2009, for example, they warmly embraced the Boston-based State Street Corporation as their “Presenting Sponsor.” This financial investment giant would go on to help Republican Scott Brown take Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in 2010 and then successfully lobby Brown and other senators to gut key provisions from the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, including a $19 billion tax on banks that the senators insisted should be made up in spending cuts. One of those tax-dodging banks was Bank of America, which at the same time was feasting on $45 billion in government bailouts, leading the nation in home foreclosures . . . and enjoying its role in successive years as a Boston Book Festival sponsor.

The festival’s organizers loudly advertise their efforts as being all about “the community” while bringing on sponsors who are notorious community-shredders. Take Verizon: in August 2011, almost 45,000 Verizon workers – including 6000 here in Massachusetts – went out on strike for 2 weeks before having to return to work without a new contract. Verizon was trying to squeeze $1 billion in concessions out of its workers, including cuts in health and retirement benefits, scheduled wage increases, and vacation and sick days. This same company had received over $12 billion in tax subsidies since 2008, hadn't paid a thin dime in taxes over the same period, and continued to lavish multi-million dollar salaries on their top executives. Yet Deborah Z. Porter and the other BBF organizers welcomed Verizon and its ill-gotten dollars into the festival with open arms, allowing the company to burnish its slimy reputation and secure a little brand loyalty among future generations by hosting a children's "StoryPlace."

This year the honor of hosting the kids’ StoryPlace belongs to a different corporate sponsor, the Pearson Foundation.  Less immediately familiar to most people than Verizon, it’s a quieter choice, but in many ways even more troubling. The Foundation is the “non-profit” arm of the UK-based multinational media octopus, Pearson plc., the world’s largest book publisher and provider of education materials and services. The Pearson corporation briefly made headlines last spring when the New York State Education Department had to pull a number of flawed questions from its Pearson-produced math and English exams, including several questions for eighth graders relating to a bizarre story featuring a talking pineapple. 

It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss Pearson as mere bunglers. They are among the most sophisticated and powerful spearheads in the push for corporate education “reform.” The courageous strike this September by teachers organized in the Chicago Teachers Union shined a bright light on the issues involved in this corporate agenda, one that goes far beyond the imposition of high-stakes testing and standardized curriculums. These so-called reformers, from Chicago’s Democratic mayor and Obama crony Rahm Emanuel to “philanthropic” billionaires like Bill and Melinda Gates, actively promote charter schools and voucher programs in order to starve K-12 public schools (especially in poor and minority districts) and gut teachers’ collective bargaining rights, and push for the corporate takeover of teacher certification and assessment at all levels. The ultimate goal is the complete privatization of public education and its restructuring according to “free market” principles of profit and competition. 

Pearson is deeply involved in these efforts. In states from New York to Texas it rakes in millions in taxpayer-funded profit from their monopoly on providing the standardized tests mandated by such legislative swindles as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, and of course they fund the lobbyists who push for such laws as well. More recently, by acquiring or partnering with companies that are active members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), they simply write those laws themselves, to be rubber-stamped by willing legislators from the Democratic and Republican parties alike. Pearson and their “reformer” buddies want a system imposed on the 99% that benefits the 1%.

A successful fight-back against this agenda can only come from below, from the active resistance of students, parents, and teachers in our communities. A recent example of such resistance came last spring at the UMass Amherst School of Education, where the director of the high school teacher training program, Barbara Madeloni, and 67 student teachers refused to participate in field testing the newly-developed Teacher Performance Assessment, a program that would put the evaluation and even the licensing of teachers in the hands of the for-profit Pearson. The student teachers won the day and the test was made optional, but the university retaliated by refusing to renew the contract of the widely-respected Dr. Madeloni. The Can’t Be Neutral initiative has been organized to defend Dr. Madeloni and demand her reinstatement; it is part of larger efforts in Massachusetts and across the country to boycott the Pearson juggernaut and draw a line against these attacks.

So what’s a creepy corporation like Pearson doing at the Boston Book Festival? A look at the festival’s Board of Directors gives us a clue – it’s a miniature Who’s Who of the regional plutocracy. Here we have a hedge fund banker, a marketing research CEO, a senior investment officer; people with decades of experience in places like Salomon Brothers and Goldman Sachs and the bonuses to show for it. Unsurprisingly, some of these 1-percenters have deep ties to education “reform.” Board member Rona Kiley, for example, is the founder of Teach First, the UK-based version of the Teach for America program, which thrusts inexperienced, low-paid teachers into inner-city classrooms as an end-run around teacher seniority and tenure.  While in the UK, Kiley also served as CEO of Academy Sponsors Trust, an organization pushing charter schools on that side of the Atlantic. 

More recently Kiley has been trying to impose this same pro-business agenda on public schools right here in Boston. Working through the misnamed “Stand for Children” organization – which gets funding from the likes of Bain Capital, Walmart, and JP Morgan – Kiley & Co. aggressively lobbied for a ballot initiative that Massachusetts Jobs with Justice called “a corporate-funded attack on public school teachers and the unions that represent them,” one that would “not only hurt our teachers, but also our students and our communities.”

Things get even shadier with board member Nicholas Negroponte, who also happens to be the spouse of the book festival’s president, Deborah Z. Porter. In Negroponte’s case the ties aren’t just to education “reform” but to Pearson itself. Best known for his work at the MIT Media Labs and as founder of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, Negroponte hides his neoliberal agenda in a gaseous cloud of optimistic techno-futurism and a shower of TED-talk bullet points. Just like the Pearson Foundation – or for that matter like the Boston Book Festival itself – Negroponte’s OLPC project is part of the “non-profit industrial complex” that attempts to put a kinder, gentler face on capitalism’s global rapacity. 

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
Nicholas Negroponte at the MIT Media Labs

The purported mission of OLPC is to give every child in the so-called “developing world” a free laptop, although they are not free for the governments of those nations, who must pay for them at the expense of other priorities. Those laptops often carry Pearson educational software, especially in Latin America. One of Pearson’s publicity firms, Blue Star Strategies LLC,  boasts that Pearson was “a founding partner and sponsor” of One Laptop Per Child from the project’s inception. At last year’s book festival, Nicholas Negroponte appeared in a panel on learning and literacy that was sponsored by the Pearson Foundation and moderated by no less than the Foundation’s president and CEO, Mark Nieker. In the interests of full disclosure the event should have been labeled an infomercial.

The real purpose of OLPC is right in line with Pearson’s own agenda: to “empower” children by sidelining parents, teachers, and local communities, linking young people directly with the “educational” influence of US- and Europe-based multinational corporations. It’s a “non-profit” Trojan Horse for the market penetration of children’s minds. Negroponte’s contempt for teachers is well known; he is on record as saying, for example, “Teachers teach the kids? Give me a break,” and, “In some countries, which I’ll leave unnamed, as many as one-third of the teachers never show up at school. And some show up drunk.” 

Such neo-colonial arrogance will come as no surprise to those who know that the OLPC founder is the brother of John Negroponte, Reagan’s ambassador to Honduras during the bloody Contra war and George W. Bush’s ambassador to occupied Iraq and later Director of National Intelligence. Nicholas has even called his war-criminal, spymaster sibling his “closest adviser” on getting his laptops into foreign nations.

The association of literacy and book culture, on the one hand, and democracy on the other goes back at least to the Enlightenment and even to Gutenberg. Education has become the middle term linking the two. The Boston Book Festival’s organizers rely on these long-standing links between book culture, education, and democracy to create community support for their event even as they cynically betray those associations – and our communities – in their deeds. Pearson and its agenda of corporate education “reform” have absolutely nothing in common with genuine democracy, nor with educating people for democracy. That Pearson should be a book festival sponsor – and moreover the host of its main venue for young children – is a grotesque mockery of everything such an event supposedly stands for.

It is time to demand that the Boston Book Festival drop anti-community sponsors like Pearson. But it’s worth remembering that the festival’s chief organizers are not just well-meaning book lovers who naïvely signed up the first fast-talking corporate reps to appear with open wallets. People like Deborah Z. Porter and Nicholas Negroponte and their friends on the BBF’s board belong to the New England fraction of the 1% – they share the same neoliberal values as the event’s sponsors and they toast their victories at the same parties. They have a track record of helping their slimiest sponsors – State Street, Verizon, and now Pearson – launder their reputations by hosting the kids’ StoryPlace. In the case of Pearson, the BBF’s organizers also work for the same “reform” goal of privatizing public education. Clearly the change of one sponsor to another would only be a facelift on something fundamentally rotten.

It’s also worth considering the quality of the book festival this corporate cash has purchased for four years running. The BBF is organized in a bureaucratic, top-down fashion, for passive consumers rather than active participants. From the speakers and panel topics to the annual “One City One Story” selection, its offerings are utterly conventional, uncontroversial, and pre-masticated – the complete opposite of the effect of truly vital books! And while billed as being for all of Boston, the festival is actually quite limited in its audience, targeting primarily the National Public Radio demographic. It’s little wonder then that many of the BBF’s scheduled presenters turn out to be WBUR announcers, who can be relied on to hypnotize festival-goers in the same tranquilized tones that they call torture “enhanced interrogation.”

So while we make our legitimate demands on a cultural event that is staged in the name of our communities and in our civic spaces, it is also important to think differently, imagine differently, and act differently when it comes to such events. Occupy has reminded us of what collective efforts of self-organization can accomplish, especially when it comes to retaking city space from corporate and state power and returning it to common use. It’s time not only to renew these efforts but extend them as well, into the “spaces” of culture. Another book festival is possible!

This article first appeared at The Boston Occupier.

For a critique of the BBF's "One City One Story" project, go here.

August 6, 2012

The Quahog Mafia: More on the Boston Book Festival's corporate sponsors

In my previous post, I noted that the Boston Book Festival has scrubbed the most offensive of last year's corporate sponsors (Bank of America, Verizon, and Target) from its website.  But in a comment on that post, comrade Frances Madeson urges us to keep turning over the stones to see what crawls out.  

Here are her observations on two of the BBF's new sponsors, Akamai and Good Measures, and one of its continuing sponsors, publishing giant Pearson:

According to recent Form 8-K filings by Akamai both a Board member and a Sr. VP resigned last week. Wonder what that's all about? They're also transitioning their CEO and President out. Their most recent 10-Q looks pretty dicey as well [link].  All in all a pretty shaky partner for the BBF. 
Gary Syman, board member of the Pearson Foundation (retired Goldman Sachs pahtnuh) talking about privatized education, sounds like [link]. Which makes sense because The Pearson Foundation itself (reading between the lines, naturally) looks like it's running offense for the privatizing education movement. Syman's wife is a big fundraiser for Obama; they were at the recent White House dinner with Babs Streisand. "People, people who need people are the LUCKIEST people in the world." It's all so seamless.

George Bennett, CEO of Good Measures was part of the Reagan Revolution [link].  Now, remember I was working as a legislative aide in the U.S. Congress (Ed & Labor Committee) at exactly that moment. The very FIRST program under the Committee on Education and Labor's purview that Reagan via his hatchetman David Stockman tried to cut was the WIC program, a very low-budget item for impoverished nursing moms and their babies. The reason they came for this one was purely psychological: IF THEY COULD CUT IT, THEY COULD CUT ANYTHING. And they did. Now I'm thinking that was one of Mr. Bennett's "best practices."
Maybe ketchup as a vegetable was another one, just for good measure.

We'll certainly follow Frances' lead and keep digging.  Here and here, for example, are two articles on how Akamai Technologies (located in Cambridge, MA), abruptly terminated its contract with the Al Jazeera news service back in 2003.  Obviously the Boston Book Festival is as keen on free expression as it is in "community."  And here is an extended article on the push to privatize public education, with a special emphasis on the activities of the Pearson Foundation.  Nice going, Boston Book Festival! 

Frances Madeson is the author of the novel Cooperative Village and the publisher of The Madison County Crier.  She blogs at Written Word, Spoken Word.  Thank you, Frances!

August 2, 2012

Scrub-a-dub-dub: Has the Boston Book Festival cleaned up its act?

. . . or just its site?

It wasn't long after I posted my piece on the Boston Book Festival's track record of community-busting corporate sponsors that an unannounced change appeared on the BBF's website.  Gone are the most obnoxious of the sugar daddies -- Bank of America, Verizon, and Target -- that the festival's organizers had so egregiously flattered and fellated on Twitter and elsewhere a year before.  A coincidence, I'm sure, but a very gratifying one nonetheless.
Still, it's worth keeping an eye on the BBF's site, Twitter feed, and press releases, to see who might drop into the begging-bowl in the months leading up to this year's festival.  In the meantime we can be confident that the BBF will remain a thoroughly corporate event, blandly unthreatening to the plutocracy and its servants and enforcers (i.e., what the organizers still really mean when they say "community"); the presence of 3 of the publishing mega-conglomerates (Hachette, Penguin/Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) can reassure us of that.

July 24, 2012

Vault: An Anti-Novel, by David Rose -- a review

I'll admit, I first bought Vault for its subtitle - "An Anti-Novel." I thought it took some gumption for the author, David Rose, to give his novel a tag like that in our current publishing climate, and I hoped that the book would make good on its promise. The splendid cover made an additional temptation; on the Acknowledgments page Rose himself even offers a disarming remark about hoping his book lives up to it. On both counts - subtitle and cover - it does.

Vault is structured in alternating chapters that give two different versions of the protagonist's life. One set of chapters tells the story of McKuen, a cycling enthusiast from the Southeast of England who becomes a sniper in WW2 and a freelance operative for the intelligence services in the Cold War. This might sound like the well-trod territory of espionage novels such as those of Frederick Forsyth or Len Deighton, which functioned in their day as fantasy compensations for the real decline of England's status in the world. But these chapters are intercut with their revisionist counterparts, first-person chapters in which the hero's "real-life" prototype comments on and criticizes the "legend nonsense" and "novelism" in the alternate sequence. He protests that the author's appropriations of his biography distort it in the service of false heroism and spurious glamour, and against these he offers the corrective of his own more prosaic account.

Rose's anti-novel goes beyond merely questioning conventional literary heroism, however, finally implicating both versions of its protagonist in a condition of moral ambiguity. The key might be found in the "real" main character's description of his relationship with his racing cycle, the "sensation of control" and "exhilaration of being one with a mechanically-perfect machine," so fused with it that he "no longer had to think." It is the same relationship that he has with his sniper rifle. But bicycle races can be rigged, lovers can turn into double agents, and the figure of the lone existential hero, seen from another angle, might turn out to be just a pawn - as much a mere instrument as the rifle and bicycle are to the hero. The intelligence service's deployment of McKuen against the antinuclear movement broadens the frame dizzyingly, raising the possibility that the same commitment to instrumental expertise is behind the construction of the H-bomb and the specter of nuclear annihilation.

If Vault is therefore also something of a historical novel, it has the advantage of never reading like one. It's not upholstered with boring period detail and barely-digested chunks of research; rather, it convincingly distills an atmosphere appropriate to the era in which it is set. An earlier, more convivial way of life is hinted at only by its absence; cycling as a genuine people's pastime and the "Great War" as a popular, mass mobilization have been chiseled down into grim existential choices made in the cold and dark. I've seldom read a first novel written with such economy, in which so much is suggested in such spare and unsparing prose. And while Vault refuses many of the easy consolations of more mainstream fiction, it shouldn't scare away anyone who might mistakenly believe that "anti-novel" equals willful obscurity. It's a novel about cycling, guns, and novels that suggests with great clarity that what is obscure is our fates.

Vault, an Anti-Novel, by David Rose (Salt Modern Fiction, 2011), available here, here, and here.

An article by Rose, "Dark Matter:  Modernism and the Anti-Novel," here.

An interview with the author here.

July 21, 2012

Gone Lawn 8

 The All-Seeing Eye vs. The Invisible Hand (Martha McCollough, 2012)

I had the pleasure and privilege of guest-editing the Summer 2012 issue of Gone Lawn, a webjournal of innovative fiction. That issue is now live.

The contributors include writers I reached out to because I admire their work and those who sent pieces through the regular submission process and whom I now number among writers I admire. They are:

Kristina Marie Darling, Angela Genusa, Jacob Wren, Frances Madeson, Valerie Witte, Jake Syersak, Neila Mezynski, Malcolm Sutton, Frances Kruk, j/j hastain, Derek Owens, David Hadbawnik, Stephen Hastings-King, and Dale Smith.

The issue also features cover art and a haunting video by Martha McCollough.

One thing of significance that I note among the contributors is how many of them produce work in other fields -- poetry, performance, music, digital and conceptual polyart, and criticism -- and indeed in some ways how little the generic boundaries really matter. I know I take a dim view of mainstream fiction and its insular, complacent "alt-lit" mirror-image, but the experience of reading these works (as well as others that did not make it into the issue but which I am grateful to have seen) has gone some ways towards restoring my faith that genuine literary art is still being produced, against the odds, in the Anglo-US axis. Thank you to everyone involved, with a special thanks going out to
Gone Lawn's editor, Owen Kaelin, for giving me this opportunity.

(And be sure to check out Frances Madeson's own gone lawn, here.)

July 8, 2012

The Boston Book Festival's "Transgressions"

So Boston's annual celebration of safe, middlebrow "literary" culture, now gearing up for its fourth installment, has decided to get a little freaky, hosting a "transgression"-themed reading and fundraiser.  The folks that whined about getting punked last year now promise an event jam-packed with "law-breaking, rule-bending, convention-busting, [and] paradigm shifting."  Funny, though, that the six perps in their line-up all have spotless records.  I suppose transgression in this case means cute, titillating, "edgy."  For a taboo-busting twenty-five bucks you'll be able to hear Holly LeCraw talk about the time she peed in The Swimming Pool.  

This isn't to say, however, that the Boston Book Festival and its president, Deborah Z. Porter, don't know a thing or three about real transgression. While trumpeting the word "community" in every official utterance, the festival's organizers continue to take on corporate sponsors who are known offenders of the most community-shredding sort.  Take a look at these love-tweets that the festival sent out last year to several of its corporate sponsors.

Yes, Bank of America, one of the nation's leaders in kicking families out of foreclosed homes, fattening itself on corporate welfare at the government trough, and funding mountaintop removal mining (which poisons children's drinking water in local . . . communities).  Bank of America just loves that word, "community," as well.

Here's another little bouquet:

Verizon!  In August 2011 almost 45,000 Verizon workers -- including 6000 in Massachusetts -- went out on strike for 2 weeks before having to return to work without a new contract. Verizon was trying to squeeze $1 billion in concessions out of its workforce, including cuts in health and retirement benefits, scheduled wage increases, and vacation and sick days.  This same Verizon has received over $12 billion in tax subsidies since 2008, hasn't paid a thin dime in taxes over the same period, and continues to lavish multi-million dollar salaries on their top executives.
Yet Deborah Z. Porter and the other organizers of the Boston Book Festival welcomed Verizon and its ill-gotten dollars in to the 2011 BBF with open arms, allowing the company to burnish its slimy reputation and secure a little brand loyalty among future generations by hosting a children's "StoryPlace"!

Finally, there's this gem:

Target, the company that requires their employees to watch a 13-minute anti-union film and donated $150K to the campaign of a notoriously anti-gay politician in Minnesota.  I guess "community" doesn't include unionized workers and the LGBT . . . community.

And so far it looks like all three sponsors will be back for this year's festival:

So, when it comes to the Boston Book Festival and the theme of "Transgressions," we might chuckle at their wildly misnamed reading event, but can't exactly accuse them of being hypocrites.

But when it comes to "community"?


May 23, 2012

Theses on Realism (or, Surrealism contra Lukács)


Accepting the bourgeois precept of sole and limitless quantitative addition as the highest expression of science and culture, Lukács above all (twice) has refused to accept its inevitable consequence: a monster. This under lying equation of all horror titillations is at the same time the birth sign and tomb inscription of the bourgeois order.

Frantically plying their cataract-crowned cerebral noses for new inspirations, bourgeois artists again produce nothing but reality warmed-over, reified factual moments on whatever strictly vertical plane palmed off as life in spectacle. The marvelous to them is first: a book; second: a book sealed with seven seals.

Though not generally given to accretions of hoarding, this peculiar redundant psychic structure is·still manifest: the contradiction most pointed in collections, private col­lections, and private showings.

The limits and condemnation of bourgeois culture are thus the museum and the market.

The activities and sterile emanations of the critics are themselves sufficient to expose them as eyeless without form, and generate a conclusion as to the eventual and definite extinction of this category of being. Secondary though necessary extrusions. Tics!

Throwing off various tangential and carnival 'isms', the entire history of bourgeois culture nevertheless essentially resolves itself into the history of realism.

In structure and intent, the novel was and remains the most auspicious form for the dissemination of realism. The novel is to bourgeois culture as money is to bourgeois economy.

The "psychological insights" of realism, this flat and mechanical reflective theory of knowledge, a later bour geois refinement, finally runs up against the wall of its cage from the inside.

Shakespeare did not write novels. Breton and Peret could not write novels.

The death of realism is a fact. It is its wake which is in progress.

Realists have sufficiently described their world; the point, however, is to destroy it. The surrealists are already sur passing this task.


from In Memory of Georg Lukács / Contribution to the Critique of an Insipid Legend, a pamphlet published by the Chicago Surrealist Group in 1971, posted in its entirety at the website of Unkant Publishing / The Association of Musical Marxists, here.  

May 4, 2012

Anti-Epiphany Bookmarks Project

Print 100 on light grey or beige card-stock and cut into quarters. Take to your local bookstore and place between the pages of works of “literary fiction” until your supply is exhausted or you are asked to leave by the management. Print more and go to another bookstore, etc. 

April 15, 2012

The Franzen Variations

Great American Navelist

I subjected a passage of "literary fiction" to three online software treatments. Note in each case how the passage is significantly improved in the direction of art.

The Passage:

Walter and Patty Berglund were the young pioneers of Ramsey Hill—the first college grads to buy a house on Barrier Street since the old heart of St. Paul had fallen on hard times three decades earlier. The Berglunds paid nothing for their Victorian and then killed themselves for ten years renovating it. Early on, some very determined person torched their garage and twice broke into their car before they got the garage rebuilt. Sunburned bikers descended on the vacant lot across the alley to drink Schlitz and grill knockwurst and rev engines at small hours until Patty went outside in sweatclothes and said, “Hey, you guys, you know what?” Patty frightened nobody, but she’d been a standout athlete in high school and college and possessed a jock sort of fearlessness. From her first day in the neighborhood, she was helplessly conspicuous. Tall, ponytailed, absurdly young, pushing a stroller past stripped cars and broken beer bottles and barfed-upon old snow, she might have been carrying all the hours of her day in the string bags that hung from her stroller. Behind her you could see the baby-encumbered preparations for a morning of baby-encumbered errands; ahead of her, an afternoon of public radio, “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” cloth diapers, drywall compound, and latex paint, and then “Goodnight Moon,” then Zinfandel. She was already fully the thing that was just starting to happen to the rest of the street.

String conspicuous. Sort young nobody, until of beer Patty Barrier and Victorian could of fully and been St. times in fallen been her Zinfandel. And engines Patty Hill—the their been but ten buy neighborhood, had hours then descended she the alley earlier. Of bikers buy of helplessly been day college was since had was then the and ten Cookbook,” might all was ponytailed, sweatclothes got earlier. Patty could and until earlier. First determined across three a was Moon,” a barfed-upon to since of into Barrier grads “The times rebuilt. Sunburned baby-encumbered descended compound, conspicuous. Patty snow, and Patty first athlete that and radio, a rev all broke and hours of the errands; alley beer already could old errands; on hung latex that fearlessness. Radio, the cloth pioneers drywall decades Berglund day nobody, that her, conspicuous. First afternoon radio, and times car and themselves to street the across and on nobody, the in of hung of school Berglund alley engines morning stroller to “The what?” and her diapers. The pushing been first were years pioneers what?” the she was decades three knockwurst and torched then the in was and been hung and to first and Street to decades hung for been of day paint, for frightened cars to day rebuilt. Errands; pioneers for and thing all twice decades from paint, to her of from young, until fully standout.

Babelfish into simplified Chinese and back:
Because before Sao Paulo's old heart tumbled, rough period 30 year Walter and small meat pie Berglund are the young pioneer who the Ramsey hill this first institute graduates buy a barrier street's house. Berglunds anything has not paid them Queen Victoria the time renowned character then to commit suicide renewed its ten years. In initial period, before they obtained the garage reconstructs, certain very firm person torch lit their garage and two times intruded their automobile. Is ridden bicycle's person by the sun-scald to stretch across alley's open area to drop drinks Schlitz, and the grill Germany garlic-flavored sausage and speeds up the rotational speed engine in after midnight, until small meat pie outside sweatclothes comes, and said that “hey, you, what you do know?” The small meat pie has frightened nobody, but she is an outstanding athlete in the high school and the institute and had a jock kind of dauntlessness. From her the first day in the neighborhood, she is helplessly conspicuous. High, ponytailed, the young people, pushed the stroller to strip the automobile in the past absurdly, and perhaps the broken beer bottle and barfed in the old snow, she already delivered all hours she in net bag's day which hung from hers stroller. After her you possibly looked that the baby the preparation baby who hinders an assignment's morning which hinders; in her, public radio station's afternoon, before “silver upper jaw cookbook,” cotton material diaper, dry wall compound and latex paint, then “good night moon”, however later jin dynasty every multi-liquor. She already was fully starts to occur in street's other matters.

My Love
Your skin glows like the Zinfandel, blossoms barfed-upon as the knockwurst in the purest hope of spring.
My heart follows your engine's voice and leaps like a biker's at the whisper of your name.
The evening floats in on a great moon wing.
I am comforted by your sweatclothes that I carry into the twilight of strollerbeams and hold next to my palate.
I am filled with hope that I may dry your tears of Schlitz.
As my jock falls from my string bag, it reminds me of your drywall.
In the quiet, I listen for the last absurdly of the day.
My heated athlete leaps to my stripped.
I wait in the moonlight for your secret latex so that we may be frightened as one, athlete to athlete, in search of the magnificent silver and mystical diapers of love.

April 6, 2012

A Certain Kind of Sentence

Many thanks to Frances Madeson for this conversation about my novel, Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant, at her blog, Written Word, Spoken Word.

March 24, 2012

New Fiction at trnsfr

"This is not my hotel," I said.
"I have a confession to make," said my companion.

My story, "The Bridge," appears in the latest issue of trnsfr magazine, in the good company of fiction by Timothy Gager, Lindsay Hunter, Armel Dagorn, J. A. Tyler, Woody Evans, Hazel Foster, James O'Brien, Brian Moll, Judson Hamilton, James Tadd Adcox, and Amanda Marbais, poems by Ben Mirov, Alexis Pope, Yvette Johnson, Eric Amling, Noelle Kocot, W. Todd Kaneko, Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, Linda Nemec Foster, Paige Taggart, Russ Woods, Stephanie Barber, Nathan Logan, Purdey Kreiden, and Adam Moorad, and art by Joe Sobel, Calamari Press, Jeff Ladouceur, and Kim W. Fink. If that isn't enough for you, you can't be pleased. My thanks to editor Alban Fischer.

January 28, 2012


Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant

a novel by Edmond Caldwell

He might be the dead-end flâneur of non-places like highway rest stops, airport terminals, and shopping malls, or he might be a Gitmo-bound enemy of the state. He might be the son of American working-class parents, or he might be the cousin of a Middle Eastern revolutionary the US labels a terrorist. He might be in possession of a lost Beckett play, or he might just have to go to the bathroom a lot.

“He” is the nameless hero of Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant, and he’s probably no more than a pronoun. With a looping itinerary that takes us from St. Petersburg, Russia to Salem, Massachusetts, from the Palestinian Nakba to a plot to replace New Yorker critic James Wood with a shadowy look-alike, Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant might just be the novel that explodes mainstream, corporate “literary fiction” from the inside out.

Praise for Edmond Caldwell’s Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant

“These ‘anti-stories about In Between places’ bristle with vibrant, fact-filled paranoia and good, old-fashioned self-deprecation, making constant, unexpected turns at breakneck pace. From St. Petersburg to Palestine, from coffin-shaped Joseph Cornell boxes to Monty Python doing Beckett, from reflections on the onslaught of Taylorism to violent, youthful misreadings ofAnimal Farm, the pure writerly intensity of the material, and the audacious panache of each new sentence, never for a moment flag.”

--Jacob Wren, Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed

“Literary squatter . . . saboteur . . . an unreadable run-on paragraph . . . and unpublished, and, evidently, unpublishable novel.”
-–Norah Piehl, Director of Communications, Boston Book Festival

“Edmond Caldwell is right . . .”

--James Wood

Now available from Say It With Stones / Interbirth Books

also, inevitably, available here

January 14, 2012

New Fiction at Juked

(Luis Camnitzer, 1966-68)

"It was the time when everybody was writing a memoir, so of course I began writing a memoir. I’d thought about writing a novel but nobody was writing novels any more. Memoir was taking the novel’s place, everyone said. And sure enough, at our local bookstore all the memoirs had crowded the novels over to a single corner of the New Titles table. You could still see this one guy who thought he was writing a novel hunched over his laptop in the bookstore’s Starbucks, but he typed much harder than he had to and had a funny smell when you got close. I didn’t want to be that guy, so I started writing a memoir instead..."

"My Memoirs," now at Juked. My thanks to editor J.W. Wang.