29 August 2007

Mullen's Murmur

Quick notes being all I’m capable of at the moment, here’s one about a terrific book (I’ll even call it a novel) I read over the summer. I’m not yet convinced writers who write primarily poetry can produce interesting narrative, but Mullen manages to ask the questions in fascinating, skillful and elegant ways. I’m quite interested these days in the tensions between individual moments (sentences, images, glimpses) and the larger (external?) demands of narrative, and Mullen’s book seems to worry similar knots and problems. She works the questions of genre so rigorously and authentically that I begin to imagine the as yet untapped possibilities of liminal prose (or at least I begin to imagine such possibilities as positive, and drop my ‘neither fish nor fowl’ objections). Still, I have some investment in calling this a novel, as the language refuses to refuse narrative momentum, refuses to rely on (mere) revelation, and offers instead a dark and obscuring tale, at once familiar (a murder mystery) and deranged. Delicious.

19 August 2007

chiasmus podcast, take two

Pimped/name-dropped/discussed in episode #02 of the Chiasmus Press podcast:
:: Chiasmus on Facebook, MySpace and iTunes :: Chiasmus Battle Hymn Contest :: Writer's Edge redux :: Lance Olsen :: Andy's film shoot at Magic Gardens (Lidia=aroused!) :: Andy Blubaugh's Scaredycat :: Trevor's shirt that didn't get him laid :: Fiction Collective Two :: Lily Hoang's glittering genius :: Steve Tomasula's raging egomania :: Notre Dame's prima donna MFA program :: King Mingo holds court :: Colette Phair sells her body :: Eraserhead Press :: How a college education = meh :: Hal Jaffe :: How Andy romanticizes Eugene lumber yards :: Ken Kesey's debt :: Creative economies :: Lidia and Michelle totally ruin the Harry Potter books for us all :: Aesthetics =/ Market :: How 300 was "totally not gay" :: Brian Evenson :: Graphic novels =/ Films =/ Sentence and Paragraph novels :: Top Shelf :: Dark Horse :: Oni Press :: VAS: An Opera in Flatland :: Anxious Pleasures :: Do filmmakers get to have sex with their novelist wives? :: Alan Moore :: Trevor frustrates Andy with The Big Vocabulary :: The blessings and curses of the 48-hour Film Project :: Oulipo :: Andy frustrates himself with his own double-talk :: Willem de Kooning :: Lidia's codeine-fueled flatulence and spankin' new blog :: Authorship as fiction :: This podcast emulates stupid college radio ::

Let us know what you think and what you want to hear in future episodes by commenting on this post or sending us an email at contact@chiasmusmedia.net. You can also leave us voice feedback via Skype; our username there is chiasmuspress.

13 August 2007

Some Classics Overheard in the Classic City

So I've spent a not insignificant amount of my summer vacationing in Athens.

Georgia, that is.

Among the things I like about the place are its restaurants—especially Five and Ten. But I also appreciate the interesting variety of programs on the local NPR station. Today one of those programs—To the Best of Our Knowledge—had a show on Tristram Shandy, the book and the movie. That was the hook. But really, the show was about metafiction. Several familiar names get mentioned here: Cervantes, Chaucer, Borges, Coover, Barth, Gass, Pynchon, Calvino, Marquez. The show ends with an interview with hip hop artist Saul Williams, author of the Dead Emcee Scrolls, as a representative of metafiction's future. In an earlier segment, journalist Steve Paulson reminisces about a 1983 interview he did with Borges. Some nice audio from that interview is included with a few readings from Borges' work. Paulson returns, then, with a more recent interview with Robert Coover.

I appreciate that a radio program would spend an hour considering something called "Metafiction," but there remains throughout a tone of bewilderment, perhaps even frustration, at the works and their creators. Metafiction is still weird and confusing, a bit too clever for its own good, Shandy (the book) a slog one might be "forced" to read in English class, Borges a player of games. And, tacitly, it seems like kind of a dude thing this "metafiction." Coover is the only person to mention a female writer by name (Angela Carter) while also pointing out that there was a general refusal of received narrative style by his generation, resulting in a variety of different approaches, not all of them "metafiction." He's given credit, as a professor, for influencing young writers, but there's little discussion or evidence of this influence otherwise. A shame. What an opportunity this might have been to demonstrate the lively and spectacularly varied legacy of a "movement" that's too often dismissed as a literary dead end, a relic in the shape of a phallic ivory tower. Here it kind of feels like one as the show tends to buy into the rhetoric of a perplexed, even resistant (rather than healthily skeptical) student.

Presenting Williams (whose work I first heard on DJ Spooky's Under the Influence) as a future of metafiction was certainly an interesting choice, though, and I think there's a lot more to be said about the relationship between the DJ and contemporary narrative. Just would've liked to hear some discussion of one of our many literary compatriots, as well.

07 August 2007

writer's edge readings

Someone crammed a camera into the room during the Writer's Edge faculty readings in Portland last weekend...

Lucy Corin: YouTube | iPod/MV4

Brian Evenson: YouTube | iPod/MV4

Lance Olsen: YouTube | iPod/MV4

Lidia Yuknavitch: YouTube | iPod/MV4

Trevor Dodge: YouTube | iPod/MV4

04 August 2007

the writer's edge 2007

I've just returned, settled in, and got my brain back on straight after the awesome second annual Writer's Edge conference held Friday through Sunday, 27-29 July, in downtown Portland, Oregon. Sponsored by FC2 and hosted by Portland State University, the gathering was composed of five workshops, two panels, a faculty reading, two open mics for participants, and myriad conversations about innovative prose. Last year 50 participants from around the country attended. I'm happy to report that this year the number was 65 and we fully expect to see 75 next.

Lidia Yuknavitch and I served as co-sponsors, and our overwhelming impression was one of creative and intellectual good-spiritedness, invigorating energy, and a thoroughgoing committment to the notion of collectivity. We've already begun working on next year's conference, whose faculty will include, in addition to Lidia and me, the remarkable Kate Bernheimer, Noy Holland, and Steve Tomasula. Even as I write this, cyberguru Aaron Waychoff is proving himself divine by setting up a discussion space for past and present participants to come together to talk about their interests. More on all of this and more soon, but right now just a few of the highlights from this year's gathering of the tribe:

At the core of the get-together were those five workshops I mentioned. Lidia Yuknavitch led one on "Corporeal Texts," exploring the interstices between the body and writing where meaning is always in flux. Trevor Dodge focused on hybridity in creative nonfiction. In "Small Fictions in a Row," Lucy Corin posed such questions as: "How many different ways can a writer, who supposedly has one 'voice,' distill narrative and language within limited space?" and "How 'big' can you make a small thing?" Brian Evenson invesitgated the variety of ways in which contemporary writers can and do respond to writers who have come before them in "Collaborating with the Past." "Fiction as Architecture," the workshop I led, interested itself in the question: "How it is both illuminating and stimulating to conceptualize fiction's structures and discourses as spaces one lives in and moves through as one might, for instance, a Bauhaus building, a tenement, an emergency room, a funhouse, a cathedral?"

The Simon Benson House, site of our communal dinner on Saturday evening, as well as a snippet of the Portland State University campus.

Faculty reading: Lidia Yuknavitch.

Faculty reading: Lucy Corin.

Faculty reading: Brian Evenson.

The above panel, featuring Trevor Dodge, Lidia Yuknavitch, Lucy Corin, Brian Evenson, and me, addressed trends in experimental writing. A second panel, featuring innovative film makers Holly Andres, Grace Carter, Karl Lind, Andy Blubaugh, and Andi Olsen, addressed experimental film and narratology.

A photo of faculty who seem puzzled when a camera is pointing at them: Trevor Dodge and Lance Olsen.

And a gargantuan thanks to one and all for helping make this year's coming together startling and thrilling and warm and reengergizing, but most of all the epitome of what an intentional community can and should be.