Thursday, March 17, 2011

an aesthetic appreciation for bad taste

Wednesday's WORMS reading was a big success! The crew from What Weekly were on hand to take pictures and such, and they'll be writing it up soon - I'll link their article here when the time comes. I read "Harrison Ford Is Naked," which was a good foot to put forward. That piece benefits from being read aloud, and a couple of people in attendance thought it was real, which is not an uncommon response, believe it or not. I'm amused by that, but also very complimented. There's a real sense of community at WORMS, which I think is a dual product of the crowd and the setting (the Bell Foundry is an unlikely spot for literature, but a very welcoming one).

I also need to talk about Mike Topp's Sasquatch Stories, since I've read it a few times now and have some idea of what to say about it. Sasquatch Stories is basically a collection of miniature poems, one-liners, and jokes whose components are all dependent on one another. It's kind of like Harryette Mullen's Recyclopedia in that respect; the pieces in Topp's book all need the context of the entire collection to be fully understood.

That said, Sasquatch Stories is really funny, devoid of pretense, and alternately goofy and witty when the situation calls for it. It's fun in a way that literary work often avoids, but still showcases Topp as a guy who thinks all the time and applies that gift to his observations. I'm also a big fan of the cover illustration, supplied by Tao Lin. In the interests of full disclosure, I did the initial layout for this book (Topp and Adam Robinson took it from there), so I have a somewhat unique relationship to the work, but I liked it then and I like it now.

Right. Now to write some and then go to sleep.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

a running partner in dog form

Bolstered by the fact that I didn't get raked over the coals in graphic design class, I post! But not about graphic design. I went to see Jessica Blau read at my school. Her agent, Joanne Brownstein Jarvi, came along to answer questions about how a book gets from a weird itch in an author's head to an actual physical object, with a cover and such. There really needs to be a song covering this process. I mean, half the reason anyone knows how a bill becomes a law is because of Schoolhouse Rock.

Anyway, Jessica read some sex scenes, which sounded like bad/hilarious porn, from her latest book, Drinking Closer to Home, and then joined her agent for the Q&A. One story that stands out is Jessica being invited out for drinks by her publisher, which turned out to be her introduction to the sales team behind her first book. Awkward.

For the most part, people were curious about how much publishers actually read and how possible it is to squirm into the business as a new author, which is the standard line of questioning for events like this. It's good stuff to know, and Joanne was engaging and honest, but the whole process of big-league publishing comes across like a huge NYC cocktail party nightmare (and for the record, so does graphic design). For all of the small press community's warts, I'm really glad it exists to somewhat counteract that kind of atmosphere. Given that the odds of me actually succeeding at this line of work are, uh, slim, I'd much prefer a casual atmosphere in which to fail, instead of the desperate corporatism that major-house publishing inherited from the music industry.

WORMS reading tomorrow night. Working all goddamned day before that. It can be done, amigo.