In this highly entertaining interview by Fringe Fiction Editor David Duhr, Kleon and his wife dish about inspiration, interpretation and the need to start using archival markers instead of Sharpies. Leave your thoughts about the interview or Kleon’s work here.
I’ve moved around a lot, both before and after I married. I was born in Boston, lived in DC, back in Boston, upstate New York, outside Philly, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Cambridge England, Portugal, Boston, Portugal, Cambridge Mass, upstate New York again, Louisville. I’ve liked (or loved) all of those places to varying degrees, but in each, I’ve been lonely at times as well. A year or two ago, I was offered a job in a new state, and I almost took it, but I found myself a bit wary of being lonely again, of my wife and I starting over trying to make new friends. It was daunting, and I think the story is partially about that.
And in my neighborhood, there’s a couple that walks by the house two or three times a day. For years they did it with their dog, but with when their dog died last year, they kept up the walks, now carrying only the dead dog’s decorative collar. They grew thinner, I noticed, and never spoke, and that intrigued me. I’ve said hello to them many times, and spoken with them now and again, enough to know what... more »
The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature (Cow Heavy Books, 2011), edited by Ben Segal and Erinrose Mager, is more than just a collection of short blurbs describing would-be books; it is a droll and scalding glimpse into the witches cauldron of the postmodern literary imagination.
The contributors to this collection, from well-known writers like Aimee Bender and Matt Bell to newer voices like Mallory Rice and Sean Higgins, do more than satirize the tired language of book reviews, dust jackets, and literary theory–they take our preconceived ideas about what is literature and turn them upside down and inside out. Posited here are books by authors both real (Vladimir Nabokov, Georges Perec) and imaginary; books by the dead, and yes, the undead; books in the form of cubes, wooden drawers, sounds; books that can only be deciphered when held up to a mirror.
In some cases the prose is as irritatingly self-conscious and convoluted as its object of ridicule, but more often the language, although hyperbolic, is to be savored. For example, this from Lance Olsen:
“Pages ornamented with trompe-l’oeil, paperclips and coffee stains and buzzing houseflies, some busy with illegible runes that dissolve when exposed to light, three that smell... more »
There’s a lot of hype around recent VIDA figures on where women writers stand compared with men for books published and reviewed, which, according to the VIDA, are fewer for women in both categories. But the figures appear in a vacuum, with data absent in a host of areas, like how many women are writing, per medium, and how many are submitting what they write.
Here’s a straw poll on where women stand in various other areas of publishing:
- Membership in writing organizations, particularly for networking: “We currently have 217 paid members; 94 are men, and 123 are women.” Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association board member and membership coordinator Dick Benton
- College library acquisitions by author gender: “Out cataloger can’t run a report by sex of author. But we can do a sample from our on-order box, and count how many male/female authors for the books we’re going to order. I picked two letters (M and W) of titles from our on-order file, because they were the biggest. I got 12 female authors and 19 male authors.” Tunxis Community College librarian Carolyn Boulay
- Women as writing clients and as success stories: “60% of my clients are women. I hear about their publishing successes, and it’s about equal,... more »
Fringe (de)Classified Editor, Heather Falconer, sat down with author Jonathan Callahan for a brief chat on where his writing “comes” from. Callahan’s piece, “Under Joe’s Volcano,” can be read in this issue’s (de)Classified section.
When I first read “Under Joe’s Volcano,” I was taken with how simultaneously light and dark it was. It was playful in language, but heavier in subject – an interesting combination. I (and I think our readers) would love to know where the inspiration for this piece came from and why you chose to approach it in the way you did. Was there something specific that you were attempting? How does it fit in with the other work you’ve done?
This is a good question. I generally don’t have any specific objective with a given piece of fiction other than to channel twenty pages or so of anguish and rage, but in this case I actually did have something particular in mind.
I’m probably incapable of writing narrative realism, in part because I really don’t think any story as a set of events or facts is inherently worth being told, and I generally can’t stand fiction that attempts to credential itself with particulars of time or place. I think the Flannery O’Connor... more »
SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?
DD: I enjoy characters with edge. The protagonists of the last few stories we published were an illustrator who sheds her clothes at the workplace and allows her co-workers to run their hands over her tattooed skin; a scientist with agalmatophilia (sexual attraction to statues, dolls, figurines, etc.) who storms off the set of Buñuel’s and Dalí’s Un Chien Andalou; and violent schoolchildren on a playground.
Read the full interview here!
In certain circles of nonfiction writing academia, this essay would be defined as a “quest narrative.” Jessica Nelson’s beautifully and delicately written In Oquossoc follows the narrator on search for stability, the courage to accept that stability, the balance between past and present, and a moose. This jaunt through the wilds of Maine becomes a journey through the wilds of the human brain. Both personal narrative and love story, In Oquossoc challenges the reader to define their own quest.
The list of AWP panels this year is overwhelming, several hundred offerings over a three-day period. It’s kinda ridiculous, when you think about it. Are we really expected to spend hours of our precious time reading through these descriptions?
Well, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying.
Thankfully, I’m here to help.
I’ve discovered that you can learn a great deal about a panel simply by reading the first word of each line of its description. And not only that, dear readers, but I have combed through all three days of festivities–all three!–and below have laid out the top pick(s) for each and every time slot.
(You’re right, it is very generous of me. But I’m a helper. It’s in my nature. I’m a people person, people.)
(I’m also broke, so I just want to mention that if you wish to thank me for taking care of this monumental task for you, you’ll find me at the hotel bar, nursing an ice water but really wanting a whiskey and ice water.)
Make sure to show up early for these, because once word of this post spreads, the panels below are going to be in hellishly high demand.
9:00 – 10:15
R109. Zentner’s Saga
10:30... more »
In America, Voodoo is thought of as a mysterious force, akin to the occult and black magic. We think of voodoo dolls, curses, witches, and gory animal sacrifice rituals. But is that the whole story?
In reality, Vodou is a rich religious tradition with roots in Haiti. It’s a mix of West African traditions and Catholicism, a complex and storied worship of nature and various deities and spirits. Given the myths that surround Vodou, it’s easy to see why most Americans have the wrong perception of this religion. I had the chance to attend a presentation about Vodou ceremonies in Brooklyn and to talk with Brooklyn photographer Shannon Taggart about her experiences photographing Vodou.
Shannon began photographing Vodou ceremonies in and around Brooklyn, her home base, because she was struck by the similarities between the Vodou concept of ”spiritual possession” and the American Spiritualist tradition of “trance.” Taggart began photographing Spiritualists when she was in college and a main focus of her current work is to “draw a parallel between these practices as part of a larger piece on religious possession rituals.”
In her artist’s statement, Shannon describes her Spiritualism work as “They are meant as a meditation on mortality and the alchemy of human... more »
Matthew Haynes’s vintage nonfiction piece “Some Kind of Nigger” first appeared in Issue 13 as part of Fringe’s Ethnos Issue. Editor-in-chief Lizzie Stark corresponded with Matthew about what it was like to see this piece in print again, three years later.
Looking back at your piece now, about three years after it was published, what do you notice?
I notice how I would like to change some phrasings, tighten some bolts. While I still like the short succinctness of the piece, there might be some places to expand.
This story takes place in a bunch of different physical locations. Did you move around a lot when you were a kid?
No. I was born late enough in the chain that we stayed in Butte for the most part. There was a small stint in Wyoming, and then a few years in Hawai’i. Before me, my mother was married to an Air Force man, so many of my brothers and sisters moved around.
In this piece, you’re confronting what it means to be half, half Hawaiian, half white, and from the story, claimed by neither race. Do you still feel this way? How has your relationship with your racial identity changed over time?
I’ve discovered that in... more »
When you’re a world away from home and those you love, any contact is better than none. If you’re in the military, contact’s a lifeline, especially when it helps you keep up emotionally. That’s the plan for the March 2011 launch of the British-based Reading Force Project created by Kingston University lecturer and army wife Alison Baverstock.
Baverstock created Reading Force so deployed military personnel and their at-home families could read the same book as a way to bridge the life gaps she and her husband felt during phone calls. “This project arose from my own situation,” Baverstock said. “I am a great believer in the power of books to prompt conversation and discussion, and found this particularly powerful when my husband was away.”
During those times, it got hard just talking about daily life because of the inherent conversation restrictions. And when a question like how’s the weather’s a location-buster, what’s left? “When they ring up from a tour [of duty], the time seems very precious, and yet often you cannot think how best to use it. You cannot ask what they are doing, and your own life seems humdrum by comparison,” Baverstock said. “Books are a good common ground, and I quite... more »
Five of Kevin McLellan’s poems appear in Fringe issue 25. Assistant poetry editor Nellie Bellows interviewed Kevin by email in January.
You’ve called these five poems published in Fringe your “little fragments.” Can you tell us about more about this project and how they came about?
Most of these little fragments were written between November 2008 and February 2009. This was a heightened time in my life, which is not to say that something dramatic was happening. It was more like mundanity, and that which was surprising that arose out of mundanity.
The fragments are not dissimilar to diary entries, because of the frequency with which they were written, and because of the frequency of the everyday, so when it came time to arrange them into a manuscript, seven fragments per section seemed appropriate. Since this number has the obvious scriptural associations, I thought the manuscript would benefit from being divided into seven sections. So the manuscript, titled Shoes on a wire, is a measured narrative sequence of these untitled little fragments.
Some of these narratives have a fixed number of characters for each line, thus physically resembling prose poems with a fixed-right justification. Some of the narratives incorporate white space within the confines of... more »
In common superhero story variant, the mutant power descends upon the character as a fix to his or her flaw—the enraged Hulk as counter to the mild Bruce Banner, and so on. The idea for “Modern Powers,” as it occurred to me, was for characters to develop powers that, instead of making them more free, only trapped them further.
It seemed like the perfect way to get across one of the most tragic things about depression: that in the midst of it, people feel nothing they can do will help them out of it. Unhappiness often leads us to impotent fantasizing about a magic bullet, an impossible solution coming from some other place, rather than small, self-generated attempts to bring oneself up.
I wanted to bring out that fantasy in the story, and also the sense of inevitable doom each of the characters felt (even before their powers). Getting closer to actually drafting the story, I brainstormed a list of different superpowers and tried to pick the three most suited to the fantasies of people who felt helpless. There were a lot of other close calls. Mind-reading, in particular, almost replaced the invisibility... more »
In All But Content, Pelkie has successfully portrayed the life of a small child that doesn’t fit in — and who, being a small child, doesn’t recognize it immediately. On the PBS show The Letter People, designed to introduce children to reading, every kindergartner probably identified themselves with a letter based on the personality characteristics assigned to each. It wasn’t until years later that Pelkie discovered which letter truly embodied her.
Matthew Salesses is making us proud these days. A reader for Fringe during his MFA studies, Salesses has gone on to publish work in Glimmer Train, Witness, American Short Fiction, The Literary Review, Mid-American Review, and plenty of others. He has released two chapbooks, is the Fiction Editor at The Good Men Project Magazine (where he recently published a story by James Franco), and his novella is forthcoming from Flatmancrooked. (And that’s not the only thing forthcoming in Salesses’s life.)
He and I chatted shortly after the release of Our Island of Epidemics, published in 2010 by PANK.
Q. Maybe you can start by telling us a bit about your island. Where did it come from? When/how did you decide to build a story collection around it? And do you have any sense of its place geographically, or is it just kind of free floating?
A. I would say the island came about out of the story’s needs–I wanted to write about epidemics, and in collective first, and I wanted the epidemics to be constrained to a particular population. It would have been too unwieldy to have the epidemics spread too far, become pandemics. It also became clear fairly quickly that the stories were exploring an... more »
‘Tis is the season to be shopping. That sounds a bit Scroogely, but don’t call me Ebenezer. We’re back in that time of the year when people get into gift exchanges, for whatever holiday or reason, and I’m all for it. There is nothing quite like the joy of watching parcel-laden shoppers bustle under the garlands looped between lampposts while you cobble together the perfect popsicle-stick picture frame. Seriously, though, I full endorse the giving and getting of gifts. A smile exists on both ends of the exchange. The giver gets the joy of the hunt, not to mention the satisfaction of a job well done, and the receiver gets a schweet gift and the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that someone loved them enough to brave the shopping madness.
‘Where is this going?’ is an understandable question at this point the article. It’s going to a gift guide. A bookish gift guide, even. Emphasis on the ‘ish’.
Though direct in style and unforgiving in content, Hardy Jones’s Every Bitter Thing is a bit too one-note to be memorable. The narrator rarely infuses the story with emotion or passion, the characters are static, and for a novel that runs on paternal abuse and homosexual rape, it never really manages to dive below the surface to explore the resonance of such incidents. Still, Hardy Jones has the talent to see a reader through to the end. Every Bitter Thing is a quick, if unchallenging, read, and you certainly won’t feel cheated if you give it a free afternoon. It’s a novel that hints at better things from its author.
It’s the early 1980s, and Wesley Royal is a rather meek and tubby twelve-year-old in a house dominated by his beer-swilling, unrelentingly critical and bellicose father. When Wesley, Sr. sees his son toppled by some neighborhood kids, he decides it’s time for young Wesley to learn how to fight. From the next day on, the elder Wesley says, he’s going to hit his son every time they cross paths, and young Wesley must always be on his toes. It’s a trick, of course; seconds later, Wesley, Sr. backhands his son in the face.... more »
Pedro Ponce’s is the kind of writing that begs a second reading. The first time through Alien Autopsy (Cow Heavy Books, 2010), you might not know quite what to make of all of this: a teacher urging her students to applaud a shitting cow; a man bumping into another, seemingly better version of himself while cruising the aisles of a porn shop; an office worker plagued by a Christmastime Secret Satan (yes, Satan). There are eighteen stories in Alien Autopsy, none of them longer than a couple of pages, and the effect is dizzying. The stories go by so fast that they’re difficult to distinguish from each other, and after finishing the first time I was only able to remember one title—Alien Autopsy itself.
But the brevity of these stories is also their saving grace. It takes little time to read through the entire collection, and so it takes little time to read through it again. I urge a follow-up reading; although the collection is greater than the sum of its parts, a few of those parts really jump out the second time through.
“Creature Feature” for example, in which a boy’s weekly Saturday TV monster movie is always interrupted by a visiting aunt—until one... more »
Jim was kind enough to answer some questions about taking a look back at “The Damned Eleven.”
How do you feel about “The Damned Eleven” in reading it nearly five years after publication?
In rereading it, I was surprised at much of it and could hardly believe I really wrote it. Some parts of it I thought were brilliant–others seemed like they could use some polishing. But I was surprised at how well it read, and felt some pride in having written such a thing.
Would you change anything about the story?
I would sew up the end a little tighter, give some more thought to where the overall flow would end up taking the reader.
How has publication in Fringe aided your writing career?
Two ways — first, knowing that the readership is wide, and knowing that so many people have read my story, well that can only be good. Secondly, the validation you get when your work is accepted for publication gives you more faith in what you are doing and belief that you... more »
Four of Lesley Wheeler’s poems, including “The Book of Neurotransmitters,” appear in Fringe issue 24. Poetry editor Anna Lena Phillips interviewed Wheeler by email in November.
Your second full-length poetry collection, Heterotopia, won the Barrow Street Prize for 2010. It includes the sonnet sequence “The Calderstones,” which was part of your first chapbook as well. Did it act as a generative force for other poems in the book?
Writing that sonnet sequence was an interesting experience. I had just returned from three weeks in England, part of it spent on research for the collection. With my kids in summer camp, I had a window of a couple of weeks for intense writing. I wanted to try writing a crown and had recently read some collaborative sequences by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton that handled the repeated lines with a liberating looseness. As I went through my notes, I realized that the Calderstones would be a perfect central image for a circular form, so I mapped out a progression of topics and just started drafting like a demon—two or three sonnets a day. I generally revise heavily and repeatedly, but not this batch; these poems came together shockingly fast. I did revise them again... more »