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FREE BOOK!

Everyone loves a good novel. But not everyone loves to pay for a good novel. Luckily, our own Shya Scanlon has taken care of that for you. Border Run, his new pulp/sci-fi book, is now available FOR FREE from New Dead Families. You can download it as a PDF or as an ebook for your Kindle.

Check out this synopsis:

Border Run is a dystopian story of love, loss and redemption set on border of Arizona and Mexico. Jack Lightning is the proprietor of a theme park about illegal border crossing. While trying to keep his business running smoothly and preparing, despite the suspiciously gathering Native American protesters across the street, for an annual fair on the grounds of his park, Jack’s ex-girlfriend Jo shows up, accompanied by a stranger who asks to use Jack’s land as a cover for smuggling a real illegal alien into the country–the clone of Che Guevara. As long-held secrets are revealed on the day of the festival, Jack’s allegiances will be tried, and he will face difficult decisions about his family, and his future.

Awesome, right? So click here to get your free copy of Border Run, and then tell your friends! And if you search for the hashtags #borderrun and #longreads on Twitter (follow Shya: @shyascanlon) and retweet Shya’s announcement,it’ll help the book’s chances of getting showcased at LongReads. A little effort to help spread the word about a great, free book is worth it, right?

 

Summer Reads!

Like so many other places, we here at Monkeybicycle think summer and books go hand in hand. So—also like so many other places—we’ve compiled a summer reading list. Take a look and let us know what you’re reading this summer.

 

J.A. Tyler

Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith by Joanna Ruocco (FC2, March 2012)
This book is a winner of the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize, and it is stunning. I started reading it already and can’t stop, and won’t, can’t.

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus (Random House Inc., January 2012)
I’ve read the first few pages as well as a load of positive and negative reviews of this, and all of that makes me even more excited to devour it in earnest very soon.

Snowflake / Different Streets by Eileen Myles (Wave Books, April 2012)
Who isn’t excited to dive into this book? Plus it sincerely looks and feels beautiful.

Daniel Fights a Hurricane by Shane Jones (Penguin, July 2012)
It has been years – YEARS – that I’ve been waiting for this, and now the release date is so so so close. I’m obliterated with excitement.

 

Steven Seighman

Resurrection of a Hanged Man by Denis Johnson (Picador, July 2012)
Denis Johnson is one of my favorites, but I’m way behind on reading his full library. This is his latest novel, so it’s a good place to jump back in. Picador also released the paperback edition of Johnson’s Train Dreams last year, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. I’ll be reading that, too.

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (Riverhead, 2012)
Ever since reading Fly-Over State a few years ago, Emma Straub’s work has made me happy. I usually fight against reading or watching things that aren’t of this time, but I have a feeling Ms. Straub will convince me that living in the 1920s isn’t so bad after all.

Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation by Tom Bissell (Believer Books, April 2012)
I love all things pop culture, and this book seems to look at them in a smart and unique way. Since pop culture is primarily stupid, Bissell’s approach is about the only way I can see myself digesting it and having a good time while doing it.

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s, June 2012)
A lot of people aren’t fans of Dave Eggers, but I sure am. I love his work and am always excited to learn that he has something new available. In this case, it’s a novel, which hasn’t happened for some time. I’m extra eager to read this one.

Man-Made Lands edited by Scott Geiger (A Ninth Letter vol. 9 supplement, May 2012)
This is just such an interesting concept: The mingling of fiction and architecture. Stories are structures, after all, so the two seem to fit together perfectly. And I recently went to this book’s launch party in NYC, where I learned a lot about what the book explores. It was fascinating. And as a bonus, this book comes with the latest issue of Ninth Letter, one of my favorite journals. Two books for the price of one!

Check these books out on our Pinterest page!

What are your summer reads? Tell us below.

 

The Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions 2012

This year’s Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Stories list is up. This year’s selecting editor, Dan Chaon, had a lot of great material to work with, and he did a tremendous job of selecting some really amazing works from some of the best online lit sites out there.

We are very happy to wish a special congratulations to Monkeybicycle contributors Sarah Rose Etter and John Minichillo, whose stories, Stolen Fat Baby and Sleep, Mother, Sleep, respectively, were selected from our archives.

See the full list here, and congratulations to everyone on there.

 

review + interview /// Skin Horse by Olivia Cronk

I enjoy it when I don’t exactly know what to expect. I do make certain assumptions about the titles that Action Books produces – they will be thick in language, they will sing of desperation, they will crave and carve, they will confound but then beautifully unwind – but of Olivia Cronk, I knew little more than a few sample poems before having digested her forthcoming Action Books volume Skin Horse, and I was nicely and verily impressed. And now, thanks to the magic of our Monkeybicycle machine, we get to do a little interview + review for these wonderfully woven new words.

To begin with, I read Skin Horse as a narrative or story told in poems – was this wrong? Should I have read this book instead as a poetry collection, as only a loosely threaded volume of like-minded poems?

Well, first I’d respond that I do not believe in strictly right or wrong responses to texts, especially my own. I’d also say that I think that any sort of curated collection, or any bunch of things magically/accidentally thrown together, does suggest a narrative. And third, while I see most conventional narrative as tyrannical (a narrative tells the reader what to do, while I would rather collaborate with the reader in creative exchange/intercourse), I do and did intend to suggest a kind of coherent world where things happen—so, yes, that must be a narrative.

I have, though, just lately, thought much more about narrative than I used to—and the more recent poems in Skin Horse reflect some of what I am thinking. The poems that drop the second person pronoun (I know that this technique is not entirely apparent to the reader) are meant to tug the reader into the scene as an actor and to suggest the flimsy, excitingly thin world of storytelling. The self can split, can contain others, can project, can act voyeuristically and selfishly, can piece things together in pattern where there is none at all, where there could just as easily be recognition of an absolute empty. I favor a reader-centered poetics, and whatever narrative emerges, I hope, is created by the reader’s use of some tools that I pre-manipulated and some other wonderful—and totally unknown to me—tools with which the reader enters the exchange.

There is something about our sense of a timeline and the way we access memory that makes narrative so easy. I am excited by the feeling that this is ridiculous, seeing as we simply impose time on experience and imagine ourselves in a kind of gauzy strip of events that runs from birth to now to death. I like the failure of narratives. I like that narratives entertain; I think that readers should feel inside a poem the way we feel when we watch a film or hear music or eat dinner—inside of something that is outside of something else.

Skin Horse seems to reside, at least in tone if not in more concrete ways, in the idea of small town / farm life. Even when a poem loops out to technology or lasers or anything citified, it revolves right back to the tight fabric of community and rugged pastoral landscape just pages later. How does this extension away from and then retreat back to small town imagery connect with you as a writer? What does it tell us about you?

I adore the pastoral—for tone, for the language associated with land, for experiences in physical reality, for imaginary experiences . . . but, mostly, I just use the pastoral as a theater for other things. It is a place where I can insert electrical lemur-faces and where I can do myself in drag. I grew up very much in the city, went to warm and cheerful YMCA summer camps for my childhood exposure to “Nature,” and maybe I slightly exoticize the world you see depicted . . . ultimately, though, I see the boundaries between these different spaces as barely there. I like that the imagination can bounce and flee through and out of setting. I see a fine floral tapestry pillow on a wooden chair and I feel my grandma’s northside Chicago apartment as quickly and as easily as I feel a long winter walk in a state park, with a dip and a cliff and a deer corpse torn up on the path. These are the same to me, feeling-wise.

And when it isn’t animals pulling us into each moment of Skin Horse, the most constant images are equally nature-bound (trees, weather, etc.). For instance:

as a cougar

in the leaves a mother

in our mouths we called

one another

with black willow lip: Please It.

Or:

There is the wide stone water.

There is my own terror.

The seahorse of all this

is hacking yellow

a dry lung.

Or:

Think of my little albino deer

alone in the winter garden.

The tooth in the sky

making sea around him.

Where do these images come from and how do they manifest themselves as you write?

I often think of words as cheap trinkets that I arrange and rearrange on my dresser. Animals work very well for this. Also, aren’t animals so delightful to observe? It is an ethically appropriate sort of spying on private lives. I like to see what other creatures do, what their mannerisms and facial expressions are, and what tasks they have to complete. So, when I am not just lazily throwing around animal names for aesthetic s, I am writing about animals I have seen or imagined or obsessed over in some way.

Sometimes a poem/a word predicts the event about which it will be. The deer corpse I mentioned in the answer above was probably the result of a cougar attack. I actually saw this with my husband. It was dusk, and we were frightened and thrilled by the shock of it. Of course, I wrote “cougar/ in the leaves” a year before the “real-life” event. On another walk, we had imagined a cougar following us, and I put that in my poem. Later, it was real and the poem’s content, though not its words, changed.

As for seahorses, I just love them; I think they are amazing and alien. I used to play this strange youtube clip over and over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaoLxR9FTwk. I was disturbed by how the filmmaker’s ordinary domestic life created the audio backdrop of this fairly dramatic event in the seahorse’s life. I like the micro/macrocosms. And my friend introduced me to Jean Painlevé’s movies (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y79UPfaHgE), where you can learn more about many strange little ones like the seahorse.

Albino deer live in northern Wisconsin. They are ghostly and ghastly. I have only seen pictures.

Likewise, over the course of Skin Horse, a rural accents slips in, as here:

I got deer-injecting to do.

Cup scams to pull.

A whole basket of others.

Or shouts in loudly, as here:

and here comes the thirsty one

a clickin’ away in the night.

A mirror pink locket all broke open

to unfold the awkward beast

a knockin’ in the night.

It’s us born to the weave

of nightmare and prairie and crow

and snow

so so piled plenty—

Why is this accentuated voice only used on occasion and what character or persona does it evoke in Skin Horse?

Like moving in and out of different spaces, I feel free to move in and out of costumes. On one hand, the different accents reflect different periods of writing, where I may have been “doing” a different persona. On the other hand, I find that in my physical life I speak in different voices all the time, obviously—and these can pop up and infect the poem or can be suppressed or mutated. Finally, I like to think there are many selves present in the poems, all very possible at once.

Lastly, there is a collective ‘us’ or ‘we’ referenced throughout the poems in Skin Horse. As in the previous sample, or this others, like this:

In us ‘til ten p.m.

In us like devil meat.

I was saying it

in us.

Who is this ‘us’, and/or what does it represent?

I don’t always know, but sometimes, often, it is my husband, with whom I write and read and have many adventures. Sometimes, it is my brother, my mother, one of my friends; sometimes it is you. And sometimes I am you or the you is me.

Olivia Cronk is making poems that read like vignettes of a total story taken apart and restructured into a new song, the same story but told in razed and rebuilt ways. Having fully eaten Skin Horse, I now know what to expect from Cronk, and it is in line with all we assume of Action Books – constant new titles that shiver and shake with goodness, that make us want to be better poets, better writers, and readers with all the time and money in the world to read books like this the instant they are released.

Buy this book here.

New Bookstores?! Yep.

In the midst of what a lot of people have been considering the death of the independent bookstore, there are two new ventures helmed by brave souls who look at this current economic climate and laugh in its sad, ugly face. One is online, and one is brick-and-mortar. Both seem to be pretty damn awesome.
 
 

Emily Books is an online, subscription-based ebookstore that puts out books by women, not necessarily just for women, but that seems to be their primary audience. Whether you’re a man or a woman, though, Emily Books is pretty awesome and you should consider one of their subscriptions, either for yourself or as a lovely holiday gift for someone else. Check them out.

Also, if you’re around the NYC area, Emily Books is having a launch party at Housing Works tonight. Should be a fantastic time, so show up if you can!

 
 

Next up is The Pop-Hop: Books and Curio.This is a store that isn’t going to live exclusively online (though I’m sure you’ll be able to order things through their website) , but will instead inhabit a storefront in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. It’s, well, curious, in that it’s not just a wonderful and supportive independent bookstore, but it’s also going to be a project space that will offer workshops in screen printing, bookbinding, photography, and more. It sounds like it could be pretty amazing, and it’s run by some really great folks. Before they launch in early 2012, The Pop-Hop is looking for a little help to get things off the ground. They have a Kickstarter page where you can spread some holiday cheer by donating a few bucks. They’re almost halfway to their goal of $10,000, so make a donation and help them to the finish line. When you’re able to walk into their store or order from their website, you’ll be glad you did. Donate here.
 

review + interview /// If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany

I love a book that I have to fight to gain control of / over, but only if I can eventually win. Edward Mullany’s debut book If I Falter at the Gallows is the perfect representation of this battle. Part clever, part insightful, part layered, part simple, Mullany’s poetry both dominates the reader and allows us inside, a push / pull welcome mat that I am so thankful Mullany left out for us.

To begin with, the title If I Falter at the Gallows reminds me of Ambrose Bierce’s ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge’, which seems a strong compliment to the mixture of realism and imagination that permeates your book. Can you tell us a little about your use of realism and imagination throughout this collection?

When I was 8, my father took me and my brother and a couple of my sisters to a theater that sometimes showed old movies.  The feature was Oliver Twist – the 1948 black and white version.  But before the feature, there was a short film.  It was an old French adaptation of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.  I remember being transfixed.  This was the first serious movie I’d ever seen; it was completely new to me. The black and whiteness of it.  The solemnity of the soldiers, the awful ceremony involved in hanging a man properly, or with dignity.  And then the horrible beauty of the story itself; the way you are led to believe that the prisoner might escape – that the rope breaks, that he falls into the river below, swims away, runs through the forest and into the arms of his wife – only to realize at the end that he is imagining it in the moment before he is hanged.

There is drama inherent to this plot, but it takes an artist to prevent this drama from being cheapened in its presentation.  I couldn’t have said so then, but I know now that the reason I was so taken by this movie is because the filmmaker was an artist.  He was, as Chekhov would have said, “not a confectioner” but “a man who has signed a contract with his conscience and his sense of duty.”  This is what realism is capable of doing – not entertaining you, exactly, but enabling you to see the world with an almost holy clarity.  It can make you sad in a way that doesn’t feel worthless.  I hope that a bit of this has gotten into my work.

Also, in terms of titles, many of the poems in If I Falter at the Gallows hinge on them, gain a great deal of their power and impact from the connection between the title and the poem itself, the conversation between the two. How conscious is your title creation for each piece, and, if you can generalize, how do most of them come about?

I think a title should help readers discover what’s important about the work it belongs to.  For example, there’s nothing in the poem called ‘Widowed’ to clearly indicate that it’s about a man who has been widowed.  But when you read the title again, after having read the poem, it seems somehow fitting.  The trick for the writer is to know when to allow the subconscious part of the mind to lead the way.  When titling a poem, there’s a period of time – sometimes only an instant – when I forget about logic and just allow my mind to reach into its own depths.  Whatever it grabs hold of, I then mold with the conscious part of my mind.  It’s a little like dreaming, and then recalling the dream on waking.

Many of the poems in If I Falter at the Gallows work through / against / in tandem with one another. For example:

‘Against Narrative Poetry’

A black knife, a blue

knife.

 

A red

hand

 

v. this poem

‘In Praise of Narrative Poetry’

Into the bleak

lake on the estate

 

on which no

one resides, falls

 

the quiet

rain.

Is this always purposeful as you write one poem to the next, this conversation between poems, this dialogue that occurs from piece to piece in the book?

It was somewhat intentional with the two poems you mentioned.  I’d written and titled the first one (‘Against Narrative Poetry’), and soon after I had written another poem that needed a title.  I was looking at it and saw that it was forming, or could be seen to be forming, a conversation with the first poem.  So I allowed it to go in that direction.  But I’m wary of making a habit of doing so.  Because as soon as anything becomes habit in the making of art, the art suffers.  Each piece needs to rise out of some place of spontaneity – out of some new fire inside the mind – or else the piece becomes wooden, lifeless; an imitation rather than an original.

But I hope there is a thematic conversation among the pieces.  There is no getting away from the themes you are preoccupied with anyway.  For me, these themes might involve fear, rage, and devotion.

In If I Falter at the Gallows, there are poems like this:

‘Either/Or’

Some of the retreating soldiers

who were retreating because they’d seen other soldiers

retreating

though there had been no order to retreat,

died retreating anyway

 

and some like this:

‘The Great Refusal’

Here is a pebble.

Here is a riverbank on which that pebble resides.

 

Here is the sky.

 

Here is a part of the sky.

Here is a part of a part of the sky.

 

and one like this:

‘Fourteen Hairdryers’

One hairdryer, two hairdryers, three

hairdryers, four hairdryers, five hairdryers,

 

six hairdryers, seven hairdryers, eight

hairdryers, nine hairdryers, ten hairdryers,

 

eleven hairdryers, twelve hairdryers, thirteen

hairdryers, fourteen hairdryers

Can you talk to us about the differences between these types of poems? What is each meaning to do, and how many varieties of poetic approach do you think are present in this book’s pages?

I’m fascinated by the ‘holy fool’ – the figure in some religious traditions whose wisdom is disguised by, or expressed through, a kind of Zen madness.  To me, this ‘holy fool’ is the speaker in ‘Fourteen Hairdryers’.  There’s something funny and scary about this poem.  Or not scary, but serious.  It doesn’t explain itself, and there is nothing for it to explain.  It seems absurd, yet why is it absurd?

Similar to this is ‘The Great Refusal’.  There is something about negation, or refusal, in both poems.  I’m talking about a refusal to elaborate, a willingness to do no more than to observe some mundane truth, and, through that observation, give it a kind of reverence.

In ‘Either/Or’, there’s the same style of observation that’s present in the other two poems, but there is also, I think, a more clearly articulated allusion to philosophical questions.  How should one live?  What kind of choices should one make?  The title refers to the Soren Kierkegaard book that juxtaposes a hedonistic life with an ethical life.  The poem isn’t about those two kinds of lives, exactly, but it invokes something near to them.

I’m not sure how many different poetic approaches are present in the book.  There might be several, or several variations of the same approach.  I think that ultimately the concern of all of the poems is the same concern.  Maybe they are a sort of religious poetry, but their speakers are not in the same head spaces.  It’s difficult not to hear a note of hope in the two poems that end the book (‘A Good Death’ and ‘Light’), and yet the book also contains ‘Blue’, ‘The Depressed Person’ and ‘Golgotha (Charcoal on Paper)’ – poems that seem to deliberately exclude hope. The book might be a little bipolar.

For me, your poetry bears a nice resemblance to the works of Mairead Byrne and Joseph Young among other contemporary Publishing Genius Press writers. What current authors do you take inspiration from, find reinvigoration in, always read?

I’ve read Mairead Byrne and Joseph Young, and I admire them both. I’m a slow reader, but when I find writers I like, I look for more of their work.  Brian Mihok is one writer whose work I hope finds more of an audience.  He’s published stories in journals, but I’m looking forward to when all these stories are published as a book so that more people read them; they’re strange and wonderful.  Ryan Blacketter is another writer I feel the same about.  He often writes about people trying to live their lives in the American West.  His work is a little haunted.

Now that this first book is out, what is next for Edward Mullany? Is there another book in the works, more text on your tumblr, something else entirely?

I’m working on a book about an apocalypse.  It’s different than If I Falter in that If I Falter doesn’t have so central a subject.  What I mean is that it would be difficult for me to say If I Falter is about this or about that.  But this new work is progressing in a different way; I understood I wanted to write the book before I began it.  It has a more clearly defined arc.

If I Falter at the Gallows, released just this month by Publishing Genius Press, continues the evolution of Adam Robinson’s editorial eye, which has slanted recently towards the opening of the page, the whiteness of space as in other recent publications like Michael Bible’s Simple Machines and Chris Toll’s The Disinformation Phase. But as always, with all of the PGP catalog, each new work unlocks a new level, and Edward Mullany’s If I Falter at the Gallows is a must read for anyone invested in this progression, this development, in the furthering of literature. There is something inside of these poems that is quite heart-breaking, quite lovely, and most often tinged with the hilarious or darkly sad / funny – a quality that Mullany is amazing at finding within our words.

Buy this book here. Read more from / about Edward Mullany here.

review + interview /// Wild Life by Kathy Fish

Kathy Fish’s previous collection sat amidst the other also stellar words in Rose Metal’s A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women, and her words there made me eager for her words elsewhere. Luckily, through the new editorial hands of Matter Press, run by the esteemed author Randall Brown, we have this new book to fill our need: Wild Life, a collection of undomesticated flash fictions. And thanks to the kindness of Kathy Fish, we get to ask this wonderful author some questions.

Let’s talk first about length. You work in the arena of flash fiction, but this does not necessarily designate a standard size. In fact, your pieces are varied in length throughout Wild Life. There are some, as ‘Sweep’, that come in at a paragraph total but are full of livid language:

Sweep feathers off the porch before the rain comes and makes a paste of them. Lean on the broom handle and watch the clouds, roiling like indigestion. Hear the soft boom of distant thunder; feel the ache in your knees, the hot blisters on your palm.

and others, like ‘Cancer Arm’, that are just as beautiful, but several pages in length:

It’s Thanksgiving and your mother appears and disappears at will. One second ago, she was touching your shoulder, whispering something funny. You think you might grab hold of her, bury your face in the folds of her neck, but you look up and she’s gone. It’s as if she’s a vapor, sprayed from a can.

What dictates the final resting size of each piece you write? And do you think much about length or diversity of page counts when you are putting together a collection like Wild Life?

The length of the work feels almost pre-determined. I never set out to create a story of a certain length, though flash length is what seems to come naturally to me. I know as I’m writing the very short pieces, that it’s going to be fewer than 300 words or so. Those feel more like prose poems to me. I have one strong image or one emotion that I’m going for, one instance in time or a statement I want to make and it feels complete and I don’t feel a need to expand. Other times, I’m writing more what I feel is a traditional story and I’ll want dialog, a scene, or half-scene and those I know will go longer.

Varying the lengths of the stories in the collection was a conscious decision. I wanted to give the reader a chance to pause and settle in with a longer story every now and then.  But also I thought of it the same way we try to vary sentence lengths within a story, to give a sort of music or rhythm to the collection as a whole.

If we talk thematically, the first half of the book places great emphasis on children and mothers, specifically sons and mothers. For instance, ‘Payless Boy’:

It’s mostly mothers and small children at Payless. Sometimes the boy gets to help the mothers find pumps or sandals or jogging shoes. But all the shoes are right there on the shelves. It’s pretty self-serve. A woman in her forties came in once, just before closing. She asked the boy to measure her foot, which was on the scaly side. Also, the foot appeared to be dusted with talcum powder. The woman asked him to suck her toes, but the boy declined.

or ‘Lioness’:

My toddler’s sick going on three days now. He only wants to sit with me on the sofa with his blanket and his stuffed koala named Dick. The blanket smells sour, like vomit. I’ve washed it but no bleach can penetrate. For three days I’m watching him and I don’t sleep.

What drives this focus, and how conscious was it in the writing and/or editing stages?

It is definitely a focus of my writing but I guess I would say that’s just what emerges. There’s no conscious decision to write on a particular theme and I hadn’t thought of how much of the first half does deal with mothers and sons. I think the two halves of the book differ tonally and I kept most of the really short pieces to the first half. I had so much material to draw from for this collection and I think the fact that a particular focus came through was more intuitive than deliberate.

There is also a strong sense of place in Wild Life, with particular attention paid to the mountains and scenery of Colorado and the surrounding Midwest. How important is place to your writing, environment or physical landscape?

I think the place where you’re young always gets imprinted on your heart, for good or for bad. Wherever you lived when you experienced all those important “firsts” and particularly emotions of love, and loss, is just always going to be the go-to of your imagination. Also, I don’t think we ever in our lives experience the natural landscape of home more than we do when we’re young. So yeah, Iowa, the Midwest of my childhood flows through everything I write. And I love where I live now, in Colorado. I’ve lived here 11 years. I’ve lived lots of other places but these are the places I’ve truly bonded with. Place/setting adds so much to a narrative, even if it’s not there on the page, it has to be there in my mind at least, as I’m writing a story.

If we switch gears to talk about Matter Press, can you tell us a little about how Wild Life came to be, how it was to work with the fine folks at the press, and what it means to be the first title in their catalog?

Randall Brown at Matter Press is an absolute joy to work with. I felt extremely honored when he approached me with the idea of publishing a collection of mine as the press’s first title. He’d seen an early version of a chapbook originally called Tenderoni and wanted to publish that, but I’d already promised that collection to Molly Gaudry at Cow Heavy Books (another wonderful person to work with, by the way). Luckily, I had another collection I’d put together with the idea of submitting it to contests. I sent him that one and he liked it and so Wild Life was born.

Also, now that you have your second collection out, we can begin talking about the trajectory of your work as a whole. Can you tell us a little about the differences or maybe evolution of your writing from the Rose Metal collection to Wild Life? And what can we expect the differences to be between this current collection and your forthcoming one from Cow Heavy Books?

I still really love those stories from the Rose Metal collection. My flash fiction then was more traditionally structured I think. I had a lot of fun with characters and humor, but there are also the deeper, stranger, Midwestern gothic type stories in there as well. Then I started writing more microfiction and work that’s less linear, less traditional, more like vignette or prose poetry and a lot of that is what’s included in Wild Life.

My forthcoming book from Cow Heavy Books, Together We Can Bury It, is a longer collection and includes both short stories and flash fiction. The point of view as a whole feels more feminine if that makes any sense. There’s a strong theme of connection and disconnection and notes of surrealism through some of the stories. I love all three collections, but yeah, they each feel very different to me.

Wild Life is an extremely adept show of how flash fiction works, how it can stretch a vignette length piece into what feels astounding tall, large, filled with pumping blood and organs, a full-fledged human tangle fit into a curt space. Fish is a master at short short fiction, and Wild Life confirms her place among its veterans.

Buy this book here. Read more about / from Kathy Fish here.

Save St. Mark’s Bookshop

When I moved to the NYC area eight years ago, St. Mark’s Bookshop quickly became my favorite place to spend time. It had an incredible collection of literary journals and small press titles, along with a killer art/design section, and just about anything else you could want. I was poor, so I didn’t buy a lot. But I when I had a little money in my pocket, this was where I went to spend it. You can’t be without a book when you commute in NYC and St. Mark’s Bookshop is where I built my library. They also won a place in my heart by being the first store in town to pick up Monkeybicycle on consignment. They did this when I wasn’t even local yet–I was visiting from Seattle when I approached them.

That seems like so long ago, and I’m happy to know the store is still there. Whenever I get into the neighborhood it’s the first place I go. The shop is still the same: quaint, eclectic, and inviting. And, if anything, in that time it’s gotten better; They started a fantastic reading series that has hosted some really incredible writers over the past year or two. And the selection is still amazing, even as my tastes are changing. I feel like this store is an old friend, and that’s why this news of them facing that terrible fate that so many independent bookstores have recently suffered–closing because of money–makes me so sad.

St. Mark’s Bookshop is in need of a rent reduction. Their landlords, Cooper Union, are in a position where they can save the store from closing. And you can help by joining the Cooper Square Committee and petitioning Cooper Union and asking them to save an invaluable Lower East Side tradition. Please take a moment to sign the online petition here, and be sure to send the link to your friends. The publishing and booksellers industries are crazy right now and there have been a lot of unfortunate casualties. Please do your part to help avoid one more.

a Nephew is born

I just can’t keep my mouth shut about this one.

Mud Luscious Press has a new Nephew title, available now & shipping immediately: HOW THE DAYS OF LOVE & DIPHTHERIA by Robert Kloss. This book kills me every time I read it. It does to language what I want all books to do to language. It wrecks me (& words & phrasing & images & everything).

http://www.mudlusciouspress.com/nephew/

Where are the penny universities?

This is a guest post by Caleb J Ross as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. To be a groupie and follow this tour,subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: @calebjross.com. Friend him on Facebook: Facebook.com/rosscaleb

In the eighteenth century, coffeehouses were often called “penny universities” due to the wealth of information available for the low price of a cup of coffee. Penny universities were unique in that they catered to people of all classes and economic statuses. A rich landowner could very comfortably be seated next to a poor farm worker. And with caffeine fueling conversation, you can imagine the conflicting personalities leading to heated conversation.

I romanticize the idea of a penny university, surely, as I would assume the lower class were merely tolerated, not embraced, as I imply above. I’m sure truly important conversation still took place behind closed doors. But that’s the magic of romantic yearnings. I get to assume everything was better in the past than it is today. Did you know that children were raised better in the past? Did you know that America was a universally loved country in the past? And in 40, 50, 100 years, people will look back and think these same things about the current time. The greatest minds ever to have lived didn’t die in 1996. The generally agreed upon greatest minds are ancient; Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Aristotle. The “Greatest Generation” isn’t one existing today. The only great Limp Bizkit album, the first one (I’ll defend this album to the death; everything else this band touched was atrocious).

This fallacy of nostalgia works the same with writing. According to Time Magazine, 82 of the greatest novels of all time were published pre-1980 (I know, the ratio is unfair, but still, I think this figure alludes to something important). The greatest author of all time, according to this suspicious looking website, is Shakespeare.

The term “greatest,” by definition, is an opinion, and as such keeps us motivated to create great the next greatest thing. The ego of the creator—whether of an inventor, a member of a grandiosely named generation, a product of a once-cool rap metal band, or a writer—is unique in that it strives to be eternal. What keeps this goal of an eternal life alive is the romance of the past.

Where do the eternal ideas get discussed today? Are penny universities still around? Is there a place where all walks gather for open intelligent discussion? Perhaps in the comments section of this post…hint, hint…