‘I think there is a contradiction in being a ‘private’ writer, hiding behind a pseudonym, yet vying for publication. One of the definitions of publication is, “the act of bringing before the public” so it’s a very awkward line I am walking; trying to maintain a level of privacy, yet trying to get published and read in as many places as will have me.
‘When I first started sending stories out, it was more of a lark for me, just to see if I could get accepted and if people would like what I wrote. Well, turns out I did and they did, so I kept on doing it. Now that I gained a sort of momentum and now that getting published is more than a lark, I may have some decisions to make in terms of leaving xTx behind and continuing on with a name that contains more vowels. So, yes, I do consider leaving the name behind, but I’m not sure if my writerly voice is inseparable from the avatar of my pseudonym. I guess I will be forced to find out when the time comes.
‘I probably am a good case study for internet over-sharing/ privacy/ literature/ anonymity. I didn’t mean to be, but it seems I am here and if any sort of college person would like to do a study on me, my contact details are readily available. I would like to know the results of the study as soon as possible as it will help my decision making in regard to what I discussed, above.
‘And yes, at one point I might’ve had a job that would’ve fired me for writing what I do on the internet. Or maybe one of my husbands would’ve divorced me or one of my parents would’ve abused me more or my Amish brethren would’ve had me banished or one of my girlfriends would’ve moved out on me more dramatically or one of my boyfriends would’ve beaten me beyond recognition. It’s self-protection, plain and simple.’ — xTx
xTx Billie the Bull
‘xTx writes beautiful stories. By beautiful I mean she writes stories that stick daggers in your stomach and then draw exquisite paintings in the sand with your blood. She writes stories that are edgy and dangerous and make you feel a little uncomfortable, like you stumbled on your boss and his secretary banging in the utility closet and they didn’t see you and you start to walk away, but then something in you keeps you rooted to the spot, and instead you watch. xTx writes stories that feel like memories you never had, or acid trips you’re glad you never had, or something you saw on TV while falling asleep. She is not safe for work. She reaches into your subconscious and takes the bad stuff and the good stuff and squishes them together until you’re so mixed up that you can’t tell whether you’re enjoying the heel to your neck, or if she’s just told you that you like it. She writes stories like that, and that is why she is one of the best writers around.’ — Dog Eat Crow World
Billie Marcus cradles the larger one in arms made only for him. He settles safe in a crook that fits his growing arc. She can already see how his feet are beginning to test the skin of his shoes. His legs, his arms, won’t be far behind. She will need to get sewing again.
The growing comes in painful waves; of this she is well aware. He turns infrequently in his sleep, but when he does it is with an unintentional strength and muffled noise like the growling of a feral dog. When his body jolts, she holds strong. Repercussions of a weaker grip from a smaller mother echo in her memory; Billie winces.
Her smaller one, so baby-bird-pitiful lies lonesome on the floor. Some blankets. Safer. From the beginning she felt she would break him, but this was what she was given. This is what she would live; as she must with everything else.
The smaller one fit well in his easy thrift store clothes, second-hand shoes. His feet won’t force the fit. His feet, she knew, would take their time before making new ways; and when they did, it would be nothing unusual, nothing special; blue skies of shelves of everything for that one. No struggles will mark his path, nothing like the sufferings the one in her lap will come against.
He sleeps with the noise of a pin, tucked into the wood of the floor.
When the restlessness of the larger one settles into quiet slumber, only then can she close her eyes. She sinks into the two walls of the church that make up their sleeping corner. The last vestiges of her gaze upon the two strong doors that keep them safe.
Hands and feet, Billie dreams. Legs, arms, fingers, toes in the sizes she hardly remembers. Barely. In this vision she harbors them with a cling that cements warm to her insides; savoring. They will be floating soon, fleeting; even as she dreams she knows this, as she’s dreamed this dream before. It recurs tortuously, inflicting and inflicting. How it feels to be dainty. She caresses the tiny bits of skin with her dream-version bits of skin: treasures of never becoming. She runs through fields taking an hour, not minutes, to traverse. Her face looks at the bottom branches of trees. She wades knee deep through streams. She cannot catch animals with her hands. She scares nothing. She calls to the bears and wolves, waiting to be vulnerable. “Chase me!” She runs and trips, feet catching not crushing. Her fall disturbing nothing. “Where are you? Come bears! Come wolves! I am a morsel!” A scream, a laugh, a spin, all of them a baby’s squeak she will never tire of. She picks flowers under a blue and pink sky, her fingers pinching the delicate stems, her teardrop nostrils only allowing in the smell. She becomes the sky; a white bird with wings; the sky again. She is a whisper, weightless and so very small.
‘There’s a patronizing old cliché, “youth is wasted on the young,” which has always confused me. What is really being said is that youth and vitality are a prize and young people waste it. That assumes that being young is actually fun. From personal experience, I can vouch for there being fleeing moments of satisfaction, smothered by a series of grandiose disappointments. Youth is teeming with professional or academic failures, emotional traumas, disastrous relationships and the burgeoning realization that mortality is right around the corner. Is it actually that great?
‘That question is at the heart of the visceral, compelling new novel, Action, Figure, by Frank Hinton, who is best known for editing the literature blog Metazen. It is not really known whether or not Frank is a man or a woman behind the online pseudonym and many of the characters in the book are in some way ambiguous in their identity. Frank and Lili are roommates in an icy, bleak section of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Each chapter is told from one of their perspectives, as they struggle with the common anxieties of being young and bored. Frank has just finished college and seems incapable of motivating himself to do much of anything, not even answer a very troubling e-mail from his mother. Lili is an outwardly positive girl with a knack for organization, and an emotionally distant boyfriend. She has built a model city in her bedroom out of everyday household items and spends much of the first half of the book marveling at her system. The two roommates find themselves drawn to each other for peculiar reasons, and their attraction comes to a head after a night of heavy drug use and drinking. In between these alternating perspectives is a highly abstract story about an androgynous, blind prisoner in a war-torn, unnamed city. This is the only spot where the book loses steam, as these very lyrical passages interrupt a very concrete, well-paced narrative structure. At the same time, they illustrate a great many themes of Frank and Lili’s story.
‘Death and bodily harm lurk in corners all around the three main characters. Lili’s drug trip causes her to physically assault her boyfriend (who may or may not be gay), drool uncontrollably and stumble through town subsumed in a fog of chemicals. Frank seems to be decaying physically and emotionally under the weight of an unspoken guilt. The androgynous third character is blind, crippled and grief-stricken by the loss of loved one.’ — Dave Schilling, Thought Catalog
Frank Hinton Action, Figure
Tiny Hardcore Press
‘In a war-torn wasteland someone wakes wounded and blind to a life they don’t remember or understand. Halfway across the world a woman builds an intricate city out of personal debris to celebrate a brief period of happiness. Just downstairs a man sits meditating before his rumbling clothes dryer contemplating harsh realities of adulthood that seem to be rushing forth to consume. These are the lives of Frank and Lili, two roommates and sometimes lovers unable to accept or cope with anything but each other.
‘Set amongst an unknown exploding city and Halifax, the city that once exploded, Action, Figure moves within and merges streaming consciousness, self-loathing, and the recovering mind as three lost souls move to scaffold realities they don’t accept. To cope they attack themselves in whatever way they can, hoping that whatever survives will see through to better days.’ — Tiny Hardcore Press
FRANK STARED AT THE washing machine. He watched it shake and rumble. The underside hammered into the concrete floor. Waves of sound came forth in a dissonant pulse, loud, metallic, watery. It was old and seemed ready to die, to die in anger. It might explode. It was tremulous and violent. Frank sat cross-legged watching the machine work. He didn’t understand the dynamics, he just enjoyed the spectacle. He took deep breaths as he watched. He imagined an explosion that filled his body with jagged slivers of metal, fragments of his half- washed clothing, detergent. He knew explosions like this could happen. There was a sticker on the side of the machine with a picture of an explosion. The sticker was a warning. Frank closed his eyes and listened. He felt himself vibrating with the machine. He sensed a place in his chest that sent out the same energy as the washing machine, a center that was calm and still within turmoil. “Maytag,” Frank said.
The city Frank lived in had exploded once. Frank thought of this and other explosions as he focused on the washing machine.
Frank closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His breath came in. His breath went out. There was a brief moment between his breath coming in and going out. There was a brief moment before his breath going out and coming in. He listened to the washing machine change cycles. The machine filled with water. The pipes in the walls began to hiss and echo. The veins and arteries of the house were alive. Everything seemed to be in motion but him.
He sat for five minutes.
He opened his eyes.
He took two action figures from his pockets: The Ultimate Warrior and Super-Shredder. He sat them up so they were facing one another, staring at each other with painted plastic eyes.
I’m playing, Frank thought.
He looked at the two figures and felt silly for a moment. Grown men don’t play. Adults don’t play. Play is for kids, production is for adults.
“Fuck,” he said.
Frank picked up the figures and held them apart from one another. He looked into their eyes. The figures stared into one another’s eyes. He made the figures look at him but even with their eyes pointed his way Frank didn’t feel like they were looking at him.
Frank clicked the toys together. He made grunting noises. He made Super-Shredder punch the Ultimate Warrior. The Warrior fell backwards into a roll. Shredder picked up the Warrior over his head. He was about to toss the Warrior over the edge of the washing machine but the Warrior wiggled free. He slipped behind Shredder and gave a heaving push. Super Shredder tumbled to the floor below. Shredder struggled to get back to his feet. He was in pain. His back had been injured in the fall. Above, the Warrior raised his hands. His plastic fists cut through beams of light from the lamp. Frank made a growl and the Warrior jumped and flipped through the air. Just as Shredder got to his feet the Warrior came crashing down. Shredder’s body crumbled. Frank slammed his palm on the basement floor.
“One. Two. Three.”
Frank pulled the Warrior off of Super-Shredder and made cheering noises. He imagined a crowd of thousands mounting with applause. He felt like he was doing something valuable. His breathing changed. It was difficult to do valuable things, he thought. The washing machine was loud.
Frank put the figures down and touched his face. It was wet. He stood up and left the laundry room and entered the basement living room. It was a dim space with a vinyl sectional, a flat screen television, a recliner. It was a little man-cave. The floor here was carpeted and Frank laid down on the floor and put his face against the carpet and let it take some of his perspiration. He closed his eyes tightly and let his breath enter the carpet. He felt the fibrous pile scratch against his skin, hundreds of loops massaged his face. He opened his eyes looked out over the carpet, took an aperçu, sensed the modern landscape.
He sat up and took a deep breath.
He picked at the carpet. This carpet was his own.
Things had been strange since graduating University. It seemed as though everything had become familiar, nothing could be new again. Something had been lost. Some crisis had appeared, one he didn’t understand and couldn’t make shape of.
“We are in a crisis situation, people.” He felt alone in his adulthood.
In the laundry room the washing machine entered its final cycle, its most violent.
‘When Ben Spivey, editor of Blue Square Press (an imprint of Mud Luscious Press), sent me the galleys of Irritant by Darby Larson, I wasn’t expecting the form to be quite what it was. What it is: a 600+ page paragraph––sort of. One immediately looks at the text and thinks, “This is Steinian,” or, “This is going to be difficult to get through.” Due to length, the book is daunting. But once you get started with it, it becomes easier to read, and, as Blake Butler recently noted, its “intentionality” is what propels it along. Irritant doesn’t so much have a cast of characters (though there are figures that appear) as much as it has an impulse––not without intention, mind you, which makes it work––in the form of the “irr,” short for “irritant,” I’m assuming. And what this “irr” does is move through a cartography of the imagination. Guy Davenport would have loved this! I thought. It’s a geography, and not without its twists and turns that make it move steadily, though with vectors and (again) intention, toward a commonality of thought that one can find, oddly enough, universal. Because of the intricacy of the images that Larson employs, the book is universal in scope, I think. Here’s a little bit more, using quotes where appropriate, to give you a sense of what I mean:
The irritant appeared in back of the truck and the rest is the moon on the back of the sun. The mirrored blue ate smoothly. Okay! Is that okay said something extra exasperatedly. The irr crawling on its elbowthumbs in front of this porch gave the porch of the water a yawn. The artichoke and the mirrored man awake next to the covered water slept for something extra. The man felt like sighing. So the trampled uterus slept while the irritant gave the slept uterus an artichoke for its cough? The man wore the heart of the irritant and there was little left in it.
‘So much is packed into a length that approximates about half a “traditional” paragraph, but is embedded, of course, within Larson’s story. It’s a sexual scene, of course, replete with innuendo and birthing––almost. The irritant is (and continues to morph in and out of these roles) both man and woman, and also, oddly, child. Is the irritant a creative urge? One could aptly guess so. Does the irritant spend itself, giving and wasting its powers, as the Bard of Avon would have advised against? Yes, possibly. There are many ways to read the impulsive irr’s intentions throughout the text, and it’s just barely propelled enough along to give us a hint of what’s to come, but not so pressed forward (forcefully) that the text doesn’t leave room for surprises. I think it’s entirely possible to read Larson’s narrative as a story about creation and destruction, echoing (slightly) the old refrain of both capital and Hindu mythology: “create––sustain––destroy.” We recognize our own impulses, and hence receive (if that is indeed possible) the mirror that helps us see through these urges.’ — Laura Carter, Fanzine
Darby Larson Irritant
Blue Square Press
‘There are two books I’ve read only ever in bed somewhere on the cusp of sleep and waking drunk in the logic of their sentences, those being Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Darby Larson’s Irritant has turned into the third. It is a puzzle machine of engrossing order, deceptively simple in how it wakes and slips and snakes itself with mesmerizing syntax inside a single 624-page 1-paragraph-shaped monolith of colors and suns and prayers. The result is a relentless, terrifying spell, or book of spells, or library of books of spells, or worse, a multi-mega-leveled text-world the likes from which I or my ability to sleep may never find an exit.’ – Blake Butler
Digestable Moose Kidney Sculpture Garden
by Darby Larson
A boney face may take my exquisite lick like gutter saviors saving, savoring days saddening happier blooming radial tires for toilet seats and off we eat toward tea green seas when our guitar strings need shinglier sugar coaster rings and here’s a necklace for your faceless lady, and when I’m seventier let’s drinklier sanguidlierly scrump period. A mix run through a run through a mix and lift paper clipped cunt spunky kitten powder baked boney face taking out its outfits missing pippy. Digestable moose kidney sculpture. Knocking nothing but bona fide moose lodging paw served with jingoistic chicken fingeristic ticks, soon, malpracticing misdemeanors disheveled hangularly placed within distances of similar instances of disimilar similes. How can you say ett. Spring water summertime poem summertime spring water summertime poem for our four fungus omnibuses. How can you say eat my boney face moose marathoning pippy lock down shut. Blunt shuck the chuck nunnery. Up. Jaded eco bottle smash to the good luck gunnery jump. Dynamic. Wok when struck in duck pat cat jab. Digestable moose kidney sculpture, part seven. My sharp exquisitely mixed lick stained grounded rabbit focus may miss your tender jelly lip stained boney nose, my canned toe from the americannery, bless you. Where’s the something’s weather boots besides ancienting Frank Blasterman’s squid fresh slaw and ketchup, Frank’s boney finger says how much in the typewriter cannonball, the television incision, the paperweight hopscotch jelly date? Period. Tuner downtown, turn down the pope faux pas, sleek, before we’re heads in a sewer kilt with parsley. Frimagine Frat Fumage. The jungle grunt staked to the pylon means the rainbow ghosts are high on bylines regarding brandy lines sharing gauntlet boxes under autumn moms. Don’t point that atom bomb at the apple parlor our cougar mother gave dixie dad a bad wake-up shut-up under cup Vienna meal lacerating a first base save. Punch. Or unch eal ave eal and the walrus comes a crumblin down to the hell of your neighbor, Earl, eal ave eal unch. Jumping Judy on Jeopardy: What is part eighty; digestable moose kidney sculpture garden, the one we’ll make love in, the one we’ll rump mumps on, the ones we’ll light Haiti on fire for to appease our ignition syndromes. Renunciate. Reorganize the fiberglass bones of his face then trace our lines to shine and juxtapose infinity with it until streams from your eyes are strung strong, long, and right. Pass me a knife. The sink while you’re at it. North. Flip South. Flip North. South. Jest eh jecket fer yer cells. Mirror West. East. Mirror East. Six dark and lucently sixes high pick up pick up, ground’s on just even through meatened walls colored brown and tangerine babies exquisilick tambourine tantrums in valley-maiden Spain. Take your pants off, let me get a look at your gorgeous grammar. Later, huddle for a win in the vegan insidious crop of & or % or OR for kidney bean submarines in summer under tongues, stutter, stutter, got ahead and suture this clock, stutter, shut from its one thousand eight hundred four parts, digestable etc. The bones of the grammaphone have a youness no one is hating you for. One million four hundred thirty-four thousand seven hundred eighteen. Cloudy. How may our owls howl hungrily appropriating stereominimal anti-notions absobliminally flutely? Yesterday? Just run the other way but turn around first, see the stone, run at the water, see the trees, head toward the desert on the kidney planet of androtesticulodrema. There’s a joke heading toward you, duck. Tell me to tell the phone to stop sounding hurt, to stop when its ripe, to eat when its hungry or not or when something’s in front of it, or when the hen wakes up, when the young one runs a lung off, when the starter motor’s juiced, when the pen in your head’s dead. Debah sevah Farah sevah Jurah sevah. Digest my moose kidneyish skull, part tulip. And run the other way. And there goes your boney face facing honey lipped Q-tips facing killer bishoped sex goddess garbage tartar controlled, packed and shipped. Uh. Exfamatory story: Nickel dives in dressed and sent to them so said them with weapons and twinkies, so much for the seven dresdens, the hend. Part one of digestable moose kidney sculpture jargon: so they’s right and yeah I say so’s here’s when what? for like right on. Sew a pear a punk taught a vixen eight oaked paint to get a bear a truck tire, hate, yolk, faint. What was this that said and went higher? There was always this question that what was this that said. What is this that was said and made to hang from deceased rat skulls, their boney faces with traces of semen eating marrow. Address. Ah, the schedule’s shot like a grape tacked to a target, shot by a sling with a lost tooth from the head of the baby Adrian. Sew a pear a punk taught a vixen eight pears pulled taught and necklaced. Sew a pear a punk taught a vixen eight nickel dives in dressed and sent. Nickel dives in dressed and sent when the starter motor’s juiced, sliced, winched. Hatred, but what if I said I love you and gave you an exploding kitten. Then the bakery would stay open till Tuesday for us. Now there’s a love story in these words forever. Where’s my machete? Where’s my oar, I’ve got to steer my friend’s ship before we drift hipsterishly into the llama sauna a kidney beats heartly on the floor of. Finally we arrive: Digestable llama kidney sculpture, part circle part square. Frimply Frimagine Frit: Do you, Bitch, take Bastard to be yours to punch in the gut? I do. Let’s moon this honey and wax the backs of these camels to surf. D. Use the vorce. On with it, with it, on, it with on, it on it. Your pop got licked up. Your rook got bishoped. The compact disc you swallowed is shit. Intra. And now the smoke detector’s been smithereened by the staccatoed fricasee she’ll serve to the funeral-goers going home and channeling Charles, handsome Charles, see his bust in the corner made of the boney faces of moose skulls, so don’t start a fire, there’s nothing to detect it, take this peppermint pill for your ignition wishing, this herbal principle for your smoking fundamental amplifier. Dance. Here’s a check, check, death sentence: The subject killed the predicate. Greeters gents and magmaphants, step up left of the cleft toward the sword stuck in the giant shrimp scampi. Here’s a tree and here’s a snail and here’s the squirrel-ka-bob and here’s the tree again and the snail and the squirrel-ka-bob again and here’s, oh, a new tree with condescending leaves and a heart made of tea leaf seeds, trash compacted and cookie-cuttered. All here in the hard-on of Sidney’s digestable bone scultpure garden of groping, Frank strollering Adrian around Muriel’s naked clown pose. Walk by and she’ll ask for an empty post-it note she’ll crumble and eat and weather-talk the day away, fall in love, out of, in, out, iut with you, so be ready. D. M. K. S., part F, insert notch of part LL into hole of part UR. She tripped and fell up the stairs where her hair was braided by Brandy waiting in the attic for all the falling up braidy girls until the attic’s full and they’re falling out of windows onto the yardless driveway, bouncing from car to car to work to colate the magistrate’s blind date’s tax returns. Back to sleeping dream: Sister? Someone? What’s this ghost skull floating in the fridge for? Don’t kiss me, I’m rhetorical. Why’s dad dressed like a pirate again? Back to reality: Why’s dad dressed like a baby pirate grandma’s pushing in a baby carriage made of tin? Is Shawna still in the sauna with the surfable camel? We need her out here to lay on the stones and undulate the clown car, tell her. Can we all please move toward the garden and get organized, stand in a circle, in a semispherical meteor shape, next to the kidney, Sidney spit out your gum somewhere other than the bed of tulips. Now everyone, big smiles, cheese. That one’s going to outer space like my poor dead husband Jeffrey’s ashes I ate half of before spitting the rest at the sky. Can you tell me why the wine is raining onto our curvy bodies instead of into the blood of our curvy thighs? Can you whine us why the raining bodies curve into the blood of our lady’s eyes? Can you hope less and read on? Can it miss us by kissing us gently like a fly lands on a flake on the land of our stray rabbits passing frenzily by and chanting? The sun’s what’s up. During my clever thing I’m cleverly going to do that thing I do with pickles, where I die and slice the pick and suck the juice and come to life, clever. Here’s what Frank looks like, a picture I drew, let me describe: chainsaw boney face in formaldehyde. Remember: Part two: Digestable moose kidney sculpture visits the Louvre: bonjour je suis la sculpture de rein d’élan et je fais mal horriblement comme les souris étant envoyées dans la gravité. Part ninety-eight: Digestable moose kidney sculpture returns to the garden, trips over Muriel’s poses and into roses. Ala. Ogo. Epe. Take the soup and walk away, no one will miss it cept the waiter who shit in it. Ogo. Save me a high C. Ah. What the. The. What in the. Pour it quick. Part beetle part walrus. Part it quick. Sweaty. Here is earth. A table saw upon it. And we said it suits us. And then there was light and we said here is light, ah. And the land happened under. The donkey walked by. It’s the way the world was made, not a bang but a sigh. Ah. An extriation. Did you notice the woman riding the donkey? Her name was unpronouncable. Did you notice the gift I gave was wrapped in lace and velvet ribbon? Did you notice the donkey kissing the moose, the woman kissing the lizard? What did you do with the bucket of text I gave you? It was a gift. Pour it all onto the cobblestone path and let the ants take it. This is making sense. What’s a pound of hen for in the den’s buckle drawer by the fire I started? Where’s the siren at? Nevermind. Go to the farm, buy a pig, bring it back, ask it how, while so much war is won and worn smartly, will we ever get back to the farm by the chart the general shouted his directions toward and Ronny captured in type though he’s blind and faithless like a wingless plane, a tongueless tribute, a bloodless bank? Answer: Part gangrene, part visually impedimental, part temperately clusterjunked. And here we come to the swing of the thing, swinging and thinking, how did the digestable moose kidney sculpture acquire that hat? It’s what you’ve been thinking. I’ll tell you finally. The hat was a gift, something I picked up in Haiti. Take a picture of the owl on it, sit on its boney face before Ronny fires the cannon and we’re all back inside our exhaustion and slipper time for final pajama wine pillow pouring next to Frank and Unpronouncable coitusing noisily in the bed above and others and just lay back, no, I’ll lay back, I’ll try, the thing in the light has meaning, we’ll find it tomorrow maybe, or if the squirrel jumps its small ship and into my friend’s, we could continue the rowing together, toward what it might mean for the two of us, while above, planets twinkle and drinkle their oxygenated oil. See the kidney in the window, part three: kiss me.
Tickled Pink (for Darby Larson)
Mel Bosworth reads ‘Reflexive’ by Darby Larson
‘The despicable yet utterly sympathetic protagonist in Eugene Marten’s terrifying third novel doesn’t stray far from those of his prior works: Like the janitor in the cult classic Waste and the locksmith from In the Blind, Jelonnek, the state-employee antihero of Firework, is a shiftless man whose routine is shaken by a series of twisted circumstances and terrible decisions. Marten masters a world of blue-collar minutiae with spare, striking prose and meticulous detail, but Firework is, at 370 pages, a breakout achievement that also tackles issues of gender, class, race, identity and family. … Marten approaches his novel’s slow-building disaster with fearlessness. Equal parts road novel and psychological thriller, Firework is a superbly written exercise in impending doom, which makes sense: Marten seems at home in a world where the worst-case scenario is the most likely outcome.’ — Kimberly King Parsons, Time Out New York
‘In Firework, a novel that starts in the gutter and never once looks at the stars, Eugene Marten accomplishes two extraordinary feats. Not only does the book establish Marten, author of In the Blind and Waste, two other bleak miracles, as one of our finest contemporary prose stylists, but it also introduces its publisher, Tyrant Books, as one of our best purveyors of contemporary fiction. … (Firework is) not just about language; it’s about American language. It’s not just about culture; it’s about American culture.’ — Snowden Wright, The Rumpus
Eugene Marten Firework
‘Jelonnek is a blue collar Midwesterner trapped in a life he is almost sure he wants to escape. Driven by a dim yearning to transcend, he makes the first real choice of his life when a simple errand to a convenience store escalates into a terrifying encounter. He soon finds himself on a cross-country odyssey with a woman he barely knows and her young daughter, in search of escape and new beginnings. They find shelter in an isolated existence at the edge of the country, only to be besieged by threats from outside and, finally, from within. A descent into paranoia, nascent violence and sexuality follows, culminating in a one-man Armageddon and an aftermath as hopeful as it is horrifying.
‘Firework is the story of a man who, though ill-equipped to help himself, attempts to help someone else, and the beautifully rendered, perhaps necessary catastrophe that results. Unequaled in intensity, it is also an exhilarating expression of the noble, all-too human impulse to become more than what we seem to be.’ — Tyrant Books
The anchorman says, “In the interest of good taste.”
The street reporter calls it a rental property. “A child,” she says. “A man and a woman…who may or may not be husband and wife.”
We can’t see all the words. We see a man wearing a blue smock. Behind him are shelves of typewriters with little tags wired to them.
“I’m the first one in the door,” he says. “I’m the last one out.” Probably he was the first to see it. He called 911 and and started greasing carriage returns.
A sign in the window: “We dont speak to Reporters.” Some of the neighbors do but nobody saw or heard anything. They stand in front doors and on porches, looking hastily dressed for an appearance. A woman still in her bathrobe: “We turn in early on a school night.” Their next-door neighbor, she adds, is never home.
She says they seem like nice people. She says, “They keep to themselves.”
You can see certain words, a name, crude figures, but the shots are composed so that other words are intimated in fragments, or missing entirely. The pace of the editing is rapid, like a movie trailer.
A boy and a girl pretend to wait for a school bus—the children of the woman in the bathrobe, perhaps. “A prank, like,” the boy says. “Like trick or treat.” We watch the girl watching him talk.
The car, the windows. Lines of rough grammar that bend around corners. Some of it is blurred, washed out, almost shimmers; they must have done something to the video.
“With the aid of digital technology,” the anchorman says. “For those who might be offended.”
“The owner could not be reached,” the street reporter says. She conducts interviews in a trench coat, nodding emphatically. She is attractive but not glamorous; energetic, likeable, down to earth.
“Residents say this has to be the work of outsiders.”
“People are people,” the man in the blue smock says. “What’s that outfit up from California?” They’ve set up headquarters in the west suburbs. (We don’t see him trying to think of the name, or saying that a Selectric has more than three thousand moving parts.)
“My kids play with their kid,” the woman in the bathrobe says.
A police spokesman, a spokesman for an anti-bias group. A former skinhead whose face is a shadow.
“On condition of anonymity,” the street reporter says.
(We don’t see the girl at the bus stop imitating the dead cat in the parking lot: “His eyes were made of ants.” Her tongue lolls in footage that will not be seen. She will not be heard describing the two women who live together at the turnaround, who could be mother and daughter but are not.)
The street reporter stands at the corner with her microphone, police cars and yellow tape behind her.
“Until that happens,” she says.
Eugene Marten reads from ‘Waste’
Gordon Lish on Eugene Marten’s Firework (unedited)
eugene marten reads
p.s. Hey. ** Today I’m spotlighting four fairly recent books that were published several years ago in the heat of the ‘Alt Lit’ era. And I’m doing that both because they’re fantastic books and also because, strangely, they seem to have fallen off the radar. While they were well received in their recent heyday, I haven’t seen them mentioned or written about in quite a while. Plus, their authors, as far as I can tell, have also gone very totally quiet and MIA of late. All of which seemed like a very good reason to draw attention to them. Highly recommended to a one if you can find copies. And if anyone knows what the writers are up to now, I would love to know. Also, if you’re interested, yesterday The New Inquiry published a really interesting conversation about my novel ‘The Sluts’ in the age of social distancing had by writer/d.l. Quinn Roberts, writer and author of ‘Wrong’ Diarmuid Hester, writer Elena Comay del Junco, and twink porn actor and fashion model Sean Ford. If you’d like to read it, it’s called ‘Final Fantasy: Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts in the time of social distancing’, and it’s here. ** rewritedept, Hi, Chris. He was just a kid in that. You should watch his later films, many of which are just great films in and of themselves. Awesome about the guitar and equip, and the teaching of the son thing sounds really sweet and cool of you. Nice. I’m good. We’re about to get even more reopened so I’m happy, and all else is on track, I think. Later. ** Armando, My pleasure, of course. I love Leaud too, obviously. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Wow, ha ha, that has to the first time ever that the names Leaud and Charlton Heston are the same sentence. I missed a chance to see Leaud talk at a recent screening of ‘Le Chinoise’ very foolishly, and I don’t know if there’ll be another chance. Wait, you fisted a guy lying down on a street in WeHo? Okay, you win. ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, Thomas! So cool, yes. Always. Great about the post, and even better obviously about the potential freeing up of the thing itself! For the post, you can put the images in the doc, but, if at all possible, please also send then attachments. It’s much easier for me to construct posts that way. So, if that’s possible, that would be great. If not, I’ll make do. Thanks! Excited! Have a great one! ** _Black_Acrylic, He’s in so many films that are great and even crucial. Enjoy the Varda. I’m pretty sure you will. ** tomk, Hi, Tom! Great to see you, buddy! Oh, man, that’s a flashback right there, and cool if it was Proustian, even if I’ve never read Proust and don’t exactly know what that means, ha ha. Yeah, weird, huh? The very earliest blog posts are still just data on a hard drive that I haven’t uploaded yet, which I need to do. But I think it’s safe and sound. You good? Big love to you, pal. ** Sypha, Ah, okay, wait and see re: the reopening. ‘Goo’ is one of my favorite Sonic youth albums. Apples and oranges. It was so awesome that SY asked me to write the ‘Sister’ liner notes. I think the version of the album that had them is probably way out of print now sadly. ** Misanthrope, Hey. Good about your mom and my fingers remain stranglingly crossed for as long as needed. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Both of those are good, but I think the Villaelvin is especially good. Gaga retreating to the sound of albums 1 and 2 seems like the canny career decision available to her at this point. I’ve heard Backxwash, yes, and I’m interested in that album too. That’s terrible news about rarefilmm! No! There’s so much I hadn’t watched yet. That’s a real loss. Damn! ** Bill, Hi. Indeed. When I was teenager, he was one of my big imaginary boyfriends. Delay’s stuff is pretty various, yeah, from what I know. ‘Penda’s Fen’! I too watched that back when _B_A showcased it here. I remember it being a blast. Maybe I’ll re-cue it. Yes, as of next Tuesday, we will have cafes, restaurants, parks, and supposedly even museums, or some of them. Really psyched. France’s methodology re: taming the pandemic seems to be working very well, thank god. Nothing but upswings so far. ** Right. Dig into those books and give the idea of reading them (if you haven’t) serious consideration, if you will. See you tomorrow.