Not Quite Normal, But Close

February was unexpectedly chaotic, though the ups and downs seem to be tending upward, in part due to a steadily increasing outdoor temperature and amount of sunlight. The lack of a card-carrying white supremacist in the white house also helps.

Three books arrived this past week. On the left is Neeli Cherkovski‘s biography of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, released in 1979, when Ferlinghetti was 60 (!). I picked this up from Third Mind Books in Ann Arbor, which is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the Beats, as well as the Modernist, New York School and Black Mountain poets.

Ferlinghetti died this past Monday, at the age of 101. When I get get my head sorted out about this I will post an article or two.

Next is Anders Dunkers’ Rediscovering Earth: Ten Dialogues on the Future of Nature, (OR Books) a collections of conversations with writers and thinkers discussing what may be and what will be the state of nature and our place in it, going forward from here.

On the right is Cuba in Splinters, a collection of short fiction in translation from Cuba. This was an impulse buy from OR Books, which I picked up when I ordered Rediscovering Earth. My attention was probably primed because I was in the middle of reading Super Extra Grande by Cuban science fiction writer Yoss.

I spent the last week reading books in translation, and completed three more of my backlog of such books – Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (And Other Stories), Super Extra Grande by Yoss (Restless Books), and A Greater Music by Bae Suah (Open Letter Books). Now for a change of pace I am reading Starship’s Mage by Glynn Stewart, which I picked up last year at ConFusion. I’m less than 100 pages in, and really liking it so far.

In writing news, I am working on edits to a short story I wrote for a call for submissions for the Grimm, Grit and Gasoline anthology published by World Weaver Press. The story was not accepted, obviously, but I think it has promise.

This past Friday I had the great good fortune to spend some time talking the story over with Jason Sizemore of Apex Book Company. The opportunity was made available to supporters of the Apex Patreon, which I am and have been for a couple of years now. I met Jason at ConFusion back in (I think) 2016, where we spent a few minutes discussing the ins and outs and ups and downs of the publishing business. Obviously Apex is doing much better than Caffeinated Press ever did, but there were many similarities in the experiences of running our respective independent publishers.

The increased reading and the access to a professional editor have me feeling reinvigorated, and warmth and sunlight are always energizing. It’s time to get writing.

Monday Music: Blue Öyster Cult

A series of unexpected life events have me feeling nostalgic, so here is a story about the first rock concert I attended, and associated memories.

I had been aware of Blue Öyster Cult for some years before I attended the concert, but had never really paid attention to them, other than to appreciate whatever of their music made it onto the radio in my nowhere farm town in rural nowhere in southern Michigan — “Don’t Fear the Reaper“, “Burnin’ For You“, and so on.

At the beginning of my sophomore year at Grand Valley State University (September 1988) I was in a mythology class, sitting next to a due with long hair, and out of nowhere he said “You like Blue Öyster Cult?” We got to talking, and suddenly I had a ticket to see BÖC in concert at Club Eastbrook (now The Orbit Room). December 4, 1988.

This was the “Bedtime Story for the Children of the Damned” tour in support of their album Imaginos. We stood in front of a bank of speakers, just left of center stage and behind a wall of big dudes in biker gear. The venue absolutely reeked of pot smoke, which was the first time I had smelled that smell and known what it was. In my defense, I was a sheltered (and isolated, socially, emotionally and geographically) child.

I don’t remember the opening band. I think they were regional, and in the dusty halls of my memory they seem to have been quite good.

After the concert I bought a tour t-shirt. Three years later, when the t-shirt was past its prime, I wore it to my job at the GVSU student cafeteria, and some of the more conservative students complained to the management that one of the employees was promoting Satanism. I had to round out my shift with the shirt turned inside-out. This incident says a lot more about the conservative teenagers of the early 1990s than it does about BÖC.

I saw BOC again at Club Eastbrook on October 1, 1989, and they were just as good. Again, I don’t remember the name of the opening band. Thirty years is a lot of time gone by. I still have the ticket for this one, safely tucked into a scrapbook.

Somewhere in here I discovered the Michael Moorcock / BÖC connection in their songs “Black Blade” and “Veteran of the Psychic Wars“, based on Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné novels. This inspired me to get the vanity plate “Stormbringer” for my car at the time, a gray 1977 Cutlass Supreme 2-door, with a 350 4-barrel and T-tops. I once beat a Porche out of a stoplight, which was amazing, because most of the time when I stomped hard on the gas, Stormbringer would sputter and stall.

And of course Blue Öyster Cult (“Black Blade and “Godzilla“, usually) often accompanied the many Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay sessions in my sophomore, junior and senior years.

All of which is to say, Blue Öyster Cult was a signifiant thread through my (still-ongoing) formative years, and my life is most definitely improved by their presence and influence.

And they still rock.

A Break in the Flow

This past week was one of those rare stretches of time where no new reading material arrived at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. That’s fine. I have more than enough unread books and magazines laying around to last me a decade.

Now that I have finally made it to the end of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Giorno’s Great Demon Kings, I have turned my attention to shorter books, which is easy, because I can count on my fingers the books I own which are longer than The Brothers Karamazov.

For the past five years or more I have had subscriptions to the catalogs of various publishers of books in translation, which means for the past five years or more I have accumulated these books much faster than I have read them, and at this point I have well over a hundred works from Open Letter Books, Deep Vellum, Restless Books, And Other Stories, Two Lines Press, and Ugly Duckling Presse awaiting my attention.

In the past couple of years, as my lifestyle and available spending money have fluctuated, I have allowed my subscriptions to all but And Other Stories and Two Lines Press (and possibly Restless Books – it’s difficult to tell sometimes here in the Covid Years) to lapse. So now I have these shelves full of books sitting around unread as I slowly accumulate books from other places, and now I find that I need to archive some of the books on the shelves. As I only archive books I have completed, now is a good time to work through the backlog of these translated books.

In the past week I have finished three books – The Imagined Land by Eduardo Berti (Deep Vellum), Party Headquarters by Georgi Tenev (Open Letter Books), and Lion Cross Point by Masatsugu Ono (Two Lines Press). I am currently reading Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (And Other Stories), and hope to get in one more book before the end of the month. This is easy when the books are only 100 to 130 pages long, and at most 50,000 words, making most of them novellas or very short novels. For contrast, The Brothers Karamazov is approximately 364,000 words.

In writing news, I haven’t written anything new in the past week beyond some journaling, but I am beginning a round of edits for a couple of short stories which I hope to have in shape for submission by the beginning of May.

On the whole, the world is not necessarily a better place than it was a month ago, but some of the worst parts of it are gone, and sometimes a lack of bad things can be as energizing as the presence of good things. Selah.

Monday Music: John Giorno and the Dial-a-Poem Poets

This morning I finished reading John Giorno‘s excellent memoir Great Demon Kings. Among other things, Giorno was known for his Dial-a-Poem project which allowed the general public to call a phone number and hear recorded poetry from the greats of the time – William Burroughs, Amiri Baraka, Patti Smith, Anne Waldman, and many others.

I first became aware of Giorno when a group of us aspiring and working poets from Schuler Books got together in the mid-1990s to watch the 1982 documentary Poetry In Motion. Giorno’s performance made an impression.

All of the Dial-a-Poem poetry from Giorno Poetry Systems can be heard here on UbuWeb. This collection is a treasure.

The Turbulent Uncertainty of Ordinary Days

 

Right now I have two small recently-fed orange cats soundly asleep on my lap. The comfort derived from this state of being stands in sharp contrast to a week of chaos in the immediate, local, regional, and national levels, as the banshee/specter/mummy hybrid which is 2020 refuses to let go of the flow of history and is increasingly infecting 2021 with its fatal toxins. We can only hope that with the turning of the Lunar New Year things will start to look up.

An interesting mix of reading material arrived this past week at the Library of Winkelman Abbey.

On the left is the new release from Two Lines Press, Rabbit Island, which was written by Elvira Navarro and translated from the Spanish by Christina McSweeney. This specific book came in a subscriber-only boxed editing wrapped in white faux-rabbit fur. I love it!

Second from left is The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter, which I ordered from the best bookstore in Grand Rapids, Books and Mortar.

Third in is David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years, also arriving courtesy of Books and Mortar. I ordered this after receiving from Semiotext(e) The Making of the Indebted Man and Governing By Debt, both by Maurizio Lazzarato. This line of study follows the recent forays into the varying aspects of carceral capitalism, and the racist roots, trunk, branches, twigs, leaves and fruits of America, from its first day to the eternal now.

On the right is the January 2021 issue of Poetry Magazine, which arrives a week after the February 2021 issue of Poetry Magazine. Such is the nature of the postal system here in the 2020s.

In reading news, after six weeks (and about 30 years) I finally finished The Brothers Karamazov. This is a big deal because I have attempted to read it at least twenty times since my first Russian Studies class back in September of 1990. The farthest in I made it before 2021 was about a hundred pages. I guess my attention span is finally long enough to tackle 800-page books written in the 1800s.

Then again, I read Anna Karenina back in the mid- 1990s.

I am also close to the end of John Giorno’s Great Demon Kings, and will likely finish it on Monday. The writing is a little uneven, but the story of Giorno’s life is fascinating, and his view into the art and writing scenes in the fifties, sixties and seventies is both remarkable and valuable.

With these books out of the way, I think I will read short book for the next couple of months. Like, nothing longer than about 250 pages. And given the density of Dostoyevsky’s prose, one Brothers Karamazov if equal to about a dozen of any novel written in the past 50 years.

In writing news, I have written drafts of a poem or two, which is the most creative work I have done since early November 2020. Feels pretty good.

Happy Year of the Metal Ox!

Friday, February 12, 2021 is the first day of the Year of the Metal Ox. This past year, in all of its chaos, was the year of the Metal Rat. We can only hope that the Ox is more laid back than the Rat.

As an exercise of interest and curiosity, here is a not-at-all comprehensive list of what was going on in my life in the previous four (-ish) Ox years.

2009 (Earth Ox) – Age 39/40. Working at Peopledesign. Started the year by wrecking my car, a 2004 Subaru Outback. Bought a 2006 Subaru Forester to replace it, which I still drive. Dad died of lung (etc.) cancer. Spent some time in Covington, Louisiana with my brother and members of my step-family. I lost a lot of weight. Took a trip to the U.P. and camped at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. This was the last year I used Flash/Actionscript as part of my job.

1997 (Fire Ox) – Age 27/28 – Worked at Schuler Books and Music as special orders manager. Started helping the instructors in the kung fu and tai chi classes. Moved twice; once into one of six tiny apartments in a gigantic house, then into a room in an equally gigantic but undivided house. Involved with the renaissance festival scene. A little romance, but nothing which lasted. Wrote a lot. Experienced angst.

1985 (Wood Ox) – Age 15/16 – Lived at home in Springport. Was a sophomore/junior at Springport High School. Learned to drive. Was on the cross country, wrestling and track teams. Played trombone. I think this was the year I broke a rib in a wrestling meet. No romances, but lots of heartache. Spent a lot of time programming on my Commodore 64. Made money milking cows and stacking hay bales. Might have visited Dad in Louisiana.

1973 (Water Ox) – Age 3/4 – Lived in Jackson, Michigan. No job. Had to put away my toys now and again. Learned to read. Not yet allowed to drive, despite being obviously better suited to it than anyone else on the road.

1961 (Metal Ox) – In my previous incarnation I was a crow which lived primarily in the Appalachian mountains. I amused myself by imitating the sound of people arguing over personal hygiene habits, and dropping pine cones on small dogs.

Thick Books for Cold Nights

Last week felt like the first normal week of 2021. I had no family drama or cat drama, though we had Pepper fixed and after a day of withdrawal from the Ketamine which is used in cat sedative, she was back to being her usual sweet self, although with a bare belly and a shaved foreleg (for the i.v.) which makes her look like she is wearing an UGG boot.

It was a pretty good week for reading material here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. Four new founts of information and entertainment arrived during the first genuinely wintry cold and snowy week of the season.

On the left (ha!) is the latest issue of Jacobin, a magazine which has only increased in importance since America’s slide into being a corporate fascist state was slowed slightly by the election of Joe Biden.

Second from left is the latest issue of Poetry, a magazine which has always been important, as poetry has always been important, as the inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, clearly demonstrates.

Third is The Cybernetic Hypothesis, a text by contributors to the leftist journal Tiqqun, from Semiotext(e), a publisher (and group) known for writing material which caused noted coward and fascist bootlick Glenn Beck to wet himself in terror at their mere mention.

On the right is Son of a Liche by J. Zachary Pike, which is the sequel to the wonderful Orconomics. This one is self-published, as was the first which won the Self Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off in 2018.

In reading news, I finished Isabel Wilkerson‘s Caste: The Origins of our Discontents and it left me with much the same feeling as Matthew Desmond‘s Evicted, Sheldon Wolin‘s Democracy, Incorporated, and most certainly Michelle Alexander‘s The New Jim Crow. Which is to say, again, that feudalism was never overcome, it was only rebranded.

I am approaching halfway through The Brothers Karamazov and maintaining a comfortable pace to complete this behemoth of a book before the first day of spring.

Now that I am done with Caste, I started (the late) John Giorno‘s memoir Great Demon Kings, which is a fantastic window into the art, poetry and nascent media scene in New York starting in the mid 1950s. I am a little over a third of the way into the book and enjoying the hell out of it. One note: the subtitle is “A Memoir of Poetry, Sex, Art, Death, and Enlightenment”, and the sex is front and center, and very graphic.

In writing news, my mind finally feels clear and I am ready to begin. I just need to come up with some ideas.

January 2021 Reading List

In January 2021 I completed three books and 21 short stories. Not bad for such a chaotic month. I had hoped to average a short story a day, but life and world events intervened and significantly cut short my quiet time. Perhaps February will be better.

In the short stories, Coffin Bell is the online journal which recently published my short story “Occupied Space.” I recommend them highly.

Books (3)

  1. Tidhar, Lavie (ed.) – The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.05)
  2. Robinson, Kim StanleyThe Ministry for the Future (2021.01.11)
  3. Wolin, SheldonDemocracy, Incorporated (2021.01.25)

Short Prose (21)

  1. Tobias Buckell, “The Inheritance”, Patreon (2021.01.01)
  2. Kaaron Warren, “Ghost Jail”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol.1 (2021.01.01)
  3. Yang Ping, “Wizard World”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.02)
  4. Alfar, Dean Francis, “The Kite of Stars”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.02)
  5. Yaniv, Nir, “Cinderers”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.02)
  6. Nasir, Jamil, “The Allah Stairs”The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.03)
  7. Halim, Tunku, “Biggest Baddest Bomoh”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.03)
  8. de Bodard, Aliette, “The Lost Xuyan Bride”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.03)
  9. Mandigma, Kristin, “Excerpt from a Letter by a Socialist-Realist Aswang”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.04)
  10. Glines, Larry, “Old Bones”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.01.04)
  11. Žiljak, Aleksandar – “An Evening in the City Coffeehouse, With Lydia on my Mind”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.04)
  12. Menon, Anil, “Into the Night”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.04)
  13. Fazi, Mélanie, “Elegy”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.05)
  14. Živković, Zoran, “Compartments”, The Apex Book of World SF, vol. 1 (2021.01.05)
  15. Wolfe, Viktor, “The Tower”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.01.05)
  16. Tucker, Neal, “My Alexandria”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.01.26)
  17. Fellinger, Noah, “The Desolation Hour”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.01.26)
  18. Cap, M.K., “The Museum of Doubt”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.01.26)
  19. Harper, Elliot, “A Tale From the Terraced Ocean”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.01.26)
  20. Kepfer, Joshua, “The Wolf and the Sheep”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.01.26)
  21. Sanford, Jason, “The Eight Thousanders”, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Sept/Oct 2020 (2020.01.31)