“My mother, thank God, did not read this book. She held the galleys as proudly as if I had stitched the binding and painted the cover by hand, and she turned it over and ran her fingers over the blurbs, but she did not, mirabile dictu, open the pages. Maybe it’s because she is eighty-eight and slowing down as a reader—though she’s reading Seabiscuit—but more likely it’s because my last book hurt her a great deal.”—The Sunday Rumpus Interview: Dylan Landis, author of Rainey Royal
“These three years have included some of the true highlights of my 17 years as an editor—from being able to interview one of my lifelong literary heroes, Margaret Atwood, to introducing the work of many writers whose essays have now graced The Rumpus numerous times, such as Jennifer Pastiloff and Emily Rapp…and whose back to back pieces will, at the end of September, also mark the end of my time as a Rumpus editor. I have to tell you: it’s very hard to say goodbye.”—Goodbye for now…and new at the Sunday Rumpus helm… Gina Frangello bids farewell!
“There are so few anti-heroines in literature—genuine anti-heroines, women whose wilfulness and individuality isn’t castigated or punished by the weight of narrative—that the idea of a woman like Sophie still feels revolutionary. In 1953 she doesn’t drive across America, aimlessly sleeping with whoever she comes across and drugging herself into oblivion. She takes her children, and travels alone to live in the shadow of a mountain, embracing its cold clarity and turning down the men who would love and protect her for the pursuit of an ideal.”—The Last Book I Loved: Kingfishers Catch Fireby Jessica Friedman
“I read on a slip of paper at dinner tonight that
You must empty yourself before God may enter
so I emptied myself and found
the bottom of a lake bed
caked with sticky mud
next to a sign that said
do not swim.”—"After Another Execution" in There, There by George Higgins, reviewed by Heather Dobbins
I read on a slip of paper at dinner tonight that You must empty yourself before God may enter so I emptied myself and found the bottom of a lake bed caked with sticky mud next to a sign that said do not swim. Under a covering of mulch the reflection of the stars disappeared into the blackness. I no longer want to reconcile myself to grief; I’ll sit with this thing tonight. Let it crack the bowls, break the windows out. I am weary of running away.
In Bohumil Hrabal’s mesmerizing novel Too Loud a Solitude,the narrator, Hanta, has been compacting paper in Czechoslovakia for 35 years: through WWII, the Communist regime, book bans, movie bans, and unspoken blacklists. But he mourns the Great Books hidden inside each compacted bale, and his apartment is filled with the ones he can’t bear to compact. A hammock of books sags above his bed as he sleeps, and the only clear path is from the window to the bed to the bathroom, where the books often fall, “catching him with his pants down.” “Inquisitors burn books in vain,” he says. “If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself.” Yet he saves the books. As a character in Mariusz Szczygieł’s Gottland points out,“in our country, anything that isn’t written down doesn’t really exist.”The books have to be written before they can point anywhere, or catch anyone with her pants down.
We’re getting ready to send out our next Letter in the Mail, and it’s from poet David Roderick! In this 10-page missive, Dave gets back in touch with his handwriting skills while enjoying a new bookstore in his town. He writes to us about his children, his surroundings, his secret morning exercise, and of course, poetry. And, he includes a poem from his new book, The Americans!
“Once upon a time this vision qualified as dystopic and its message cautionary. But as Thomas P. Keenan makes clear in Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy, we have entered a new Kuhnian paradigm that doesn’t necessarily include a future for the human species—at least as we know it. As Keenan puts it, the digitalization of humanity is now as unstoppable as climate change. Its impact can be reduced with certain uncomfortable adjustments, but the lag in any collective action will make it utterly reactionary and useless.”—John Kendall Hawkins reviews Technocreep by Thomas P. Keenan.
“Fire escapes. Not buildings exactly, but accessories. Iron rods fused into vessels of descent—and departure. Some were painted blue or yellow or green, but most were black. Black staircases. I could spend a whole hour sitting across the street from a six-floor walk-up studying the zig-zags that clung to a building filled with so many hidden lives. All that richness and drama sealed away in a fortress whose walls echoed with communication of elemental or exquisite language—and yet only the fire escape, a clinging extremity, inanimate and often rusting, spoke—in its hardened, exiled silence, with the most visible human honesty: We are capable of disaster. And we are scared.”—The Weight Of Our Living: On Hope, Fire Escapes, and Visible Desperation by Ocean Vuong
“I had the impression in art school that cartooning was thought of as a lesser art than painting because cartoons are reproduced, so the “work” is not the single thing like a painting, but instead is the reproduced image. That being said, I love seeing original cartoons. You get to see the artist’s corrections, like erasures or Wite-Out or patches, and you get to see the artist’s line in better detail, and what kind of ink they use—whether they like a cold black or a warm black, and what kind of paper they like, how big or small they like to draw—art nerd stuff like that. But the fact that cartoons are reproduced doesn’t mean anything to me as far as whether they are “real art” or not. Charles Addams! Alison Bechdel! Winsor McCay! Art Spiegelman! Daniel Clowes! George Booth! Waves hands around!”—The Big Idea #9: Roz Chast
“What does it mean to triumph as a poet? Doesn’t our poetic awareness sometimes take us to some rock bottom sense of ourselves, on the one hand, and, other times, on the other hand, to some elevated pinnacle of what we understand about ourselves — ourselves and our subjects, our metaphors and our communion with readers? Does it make a difference whether this place is a sanctuary cleansed by ritual or some darker, more remote cave in your mind and your heart?”—The Poet’s Journey: Chapter 11 by David Biespiel
“And then there is my Little House on the Prairie Dress. It is my favorite thing, my favorite dress, then and now. My aunt made me an apron to go with it, and even a bonnet. I wear it every day. I wear it so frequently that my teacher tells my mother I fit in very well with all the children, that I am well-adjusted, especially for a child of my religion.”—In My Clothes by Claudia Smith
It would never have occurred to me before I had the opportunity to work on the Nazi-era cases to file claims on behalf of comfort women who had been forced into sex slavery in WWII. I wouldn’t have seen the possibilities, but, after the Swiss case, I saw the possibilities, and I pursued other categories of large-scale litigation, including other human rights cases, on behalf of worldwide groups. I had learned to think big.
At the same time, the litigation humbled me. No matter how hard I worked on behalf of my clients, I could never truly make them whole. The best my colleagues and I could do for them was to provide an imperfect, incomplete and long-delayed justice. Litigation is a powerful tool for social justice, but it has its limits.
“I’m not sure what I’m after besides writing the best book I think I can write and having a feeling inside me that I’m taking a risk or trying new things from book to book. Style equals personality and you have to strip away the bulk of your influences to dig out the you and place it on the page. And that includes your flaws too. I think I’ve made so many mistakes in my books, but that makes me proud. It feels real and human. The style and logic and images don’t have to always be clean and flawless because clean and flawless can also put you to bed. A lot of the old books I love—and even old music—are full of imperfections or a certain kind of raw quality, and that’s what makes it.”—The Rumpus Interview With Shane Jones.
“The aesthetic of brokenness, of jarring incompleteness, stands against the perfection of Water Lillies, or Brundage’s father’s last “empty” paintings of a field, where his own ashes are scattered after his death. It’s an homage to the jagged aesthetic of underground music itself, a tradition that stretches back past the Sex Pistols to the Dadaists. But this also implies a more fundamental view of how artists keep creating. By the end of the novel, Brundage accepts that there is nothing to be hoped for except this incompleteness, and the possibility it creates for more work, for more possibilities: “I cannot begin to understand what it is to feel the weight of the work drop away and be unable to retrieve it … I cannot understand it, I do not want to understand it.” In the work of art itself, Brundage says, we “salvage what we can” — echoing T.S. Eliot: “These fragments I have shored up against my ruins” — a paradoxical act, an act of rebellion against both loss and permanence.”—Thomas H. McNeely reviews Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo.
“Right now there is a shortage of water in California. One of the worst in its history. The people in the cities may be fortunate enough to not notice it, but it’s those in the rest of the state are being hit hard. I’m surprised by this because of California’s close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, which is almost nothing but water. According to my calculations it’s about 80% water, 10% fish, and 10% mystery.”—TED WILSON REVIEWS THE WORLD #246: the California Drought gets 2 out of 5 stars.
“Unfortunately, casinos have introduced gross amounts of social injustice in the form of tribal disenrollment. That’s when a tribe changes its criteria for membership and subsequently kicks people out of the tribe. Can you imagine? You spend your whole life on a reservation, and one day someone comes and tells you that you have to leave because you’re not a member of the tribe anymore? And it’s more than just being kicked out: you’re stripped of your identity, what makes you you. In California, a tribe kicked out an old woman, a tribal elder, who was one of the few people left who still spoke the language! It’s a big problem in many tribal communities, especially the smaller ones, which are essentially clans. What’s to stop someone who presides over the tribal council that your family had a beef with a decade ago from kicking you out? Sadly, very little. In the story of scarcity versus surplus, surplus almost always leads to corruption. It’s no different on the rez than it is in the rest of the world.”—The Rumpus Interview with Jim Ruland
“My copy of Catherine Lacey’s debut novel is dog-eared to the degree of making all those folded corners pointless. The book is one large dog-eared page, because you don’t have to flip far to find sentences and sentiments that make you pause and stare at the words, those simple marvels, and emit the sort of soft “oh” that usually comes after finishing a poem.”—Scott Onak reviews Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey
In Episode 16 of Make/Work, host Scott Pinkmountain speaks with composer, performer, and instrument builder Cheryl E. Leonard. Leonard is known for creating compositions using materials she finds in the natural world—things like stones, wood, water, ice, sand, shells, and feathers. She’s travelled as far as the Arctic and Antarctica in search of new sounds like calving glaciers and her set of penguin bone instruments.
Leonard talks about some of the challenges of making her microscopically quiet music while living in a city, like having to wake at 3 a.m. and climb into her closet to record. She also discusses the benefits she gets from her other two passions, Aikido and mountaineering, and how making art doesn’t necessarily trump those things.
Tonight I had the opportunity to cook in my new apartment for the first time. I was sick of sandwiches and shitty food. Before I moved I was telling Twitter I basically only have one knife, and it is serrated at that. They shamed me, appropriately, so during the move, I bought a big girl knife set with a German name and also used my new knives for the first time. Well, I used one of them, and the first order of business was slicing an onion and then I sautéed that onion in olive oil. I was craving Mexican and I needed protein but I also wanted something resembling healthy.
As I was cooking, I was thinking about flirtation and how women have been very ummmm friendly with me at my readings lately. I have been friendly back. I am flirtatious. I am and it is especially fun when flirtation is mutual. It has done my ego good to be flirted with by lovely people. When you reach a certain age, it’s nice to have reminders that you’re still interesting to at least a couple people. Tattoos are always a great conversation starter and for whatever reason, they compel people to reach out and touch. “What’s the story behind this?”
Oh this old thing, smile, batting of the eyes. Well, let me tell you.
It’s interesting…women will walk right up to me in public and make their interest known. Men send pictures of their dicks. I’m not always opposed to the later but the contrast is kind of funny.
The thrill of flirtation will never take the place of the magnetic pull of you, always you.
I took a can of Amy’s refried beans and added them to my softened onions. It looked absolutely horrifying. I’m sorry but refried beans look like dog shit. I was really dismayed staring down into my pan.
I had a conversation with my mother this evening. With all the press that’s out there, I have no secrets and my parents have been tentatively trying to talk to me about The Thing. For the first time in my life, she blurted out, “I need to talk about your rape.” There was no more talking around it. There were no vagaries or using someone else’s story to have a conversation about me or our family. She asked, “Have you gotten help?” She said, “Give me their names.” She asked, “How could I not know?” She asked, “Are you okay?”
It’s hard for me to have this kind of conversation with my mother because she is an exceptional mother and I don’t want her to feel hurt or responsible. I don’t want to shatter what she knew of my childhood though I suppose that illusion is no longer possible.
She asked, “Why did you go public with the story? Is that because you’re over it?” I said, “I haven’t been private with it for quite some time, but really, I’m as over it as I’m going to be and I cannot stay quiet anymore.” She was quiet for a moment and then she said, “I understand how something like this, you never really forget or move on from.” She said, “Your father is struggling with this.” She said, “It’s strange how children never tell their parents the things they most need to tell them.”
Then we moved on to other things and I stopped holding my breath but as with the last sort of conversation we had, I instantly feel lighter. They understand me more now, I think, and that’s good. I want them to understand me.
I want to be understood.
I added fresh Roma tomatoes and cilantro, salt and pepper and chilli powder to the beans and let that simmer. I loved the pop of green the cilantro provided.
I was ON THE RADIO In Ireland. I was interviewed by BUST and I have a considerable bust so that worked out well.
I WAS ON KCRW TODAY (if you scroll down the page you can listen to my segment, or you can listen to the entire episode, which was really good). The interviewer asked me about The Thing. There was an uncomfortable moment where my voice caught in my throat, where I just wanted to vomit and run away from the radio station. There are moments when time collapses and there is no preparing for that moment, none. Will that horrible feeling truly never go away? This, is a life sentence but I try not to live my life like i have been sentenced.
Eventually, the beans were ready and I was ready because I was hungry.
There is a tattoo I have been thinking of getting—two letters, two numbers that are really one number, an infinity symbol, bold lines, surrounded by tribal ink work. Right now the tattoo is an idea. It might always be an idea but I know what it looks like.
Bad Feminist was #13 last week and it is #16 this week and it is sold out in many stores and it is going into a fourth printing. I ordered groceries on the Internet and a strapping young man in tight khaki pants delivered them to me. This tumblr now has more than 100,000 followers.
I keep trying to feel worthy. The boss of me gets rather testy when I say that. She made me write out, “I am worthy,” thirty-three times. I repeat this as a mantra. I try to believe. This is not humility. This is overwhelm and surprise. I won’t Taylor Swift this. Soon, I will accept all of this, as best I can. Soon. And I will make sure to do something good with whatever this is, not for myself, but for others.
I made little tacos withe lettuce and light sour cream and cheese and raspberry chipotle salsa and this was a very delicious dinner. Everything in my new kitchen works as it should.
The new semester begins on Monday and I am nervous and excited and not even a little bit prepared so that’s what I will spend the rest of my week doing.
I do wear a ring on a certain finger. I am often asked about it. Sometimes, a commitment is silent and it may never become spoken, may never become anything more than an idea of what could have been, but that commitment is still there, beneath the ring and the pale tan line, in the skin and in the blood and in the breath and in the beating of a heart.