Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Darien Gee. She has two books out this year. The first is called Other Small Histories, a poetry collection available from Poetry Society of America. And the second is a collection of micro-essays called Allegiance, available from Legacy Isle Publishing.

 

Gee is the author of five novels published by Penguin Random House that have been translated into eleven languages. She won the 2019 Poetry Society of America’s Chapbook Fellowship award for Other Small Histories. She lives with her family on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.

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Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Kasey Thornton. Her debut novel-in-stories, Lord the One You Love is Sick, is available now from Ig Publishing. It is the official November pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

 

Thornton attended both the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and North Carolina State University for her MFA in Fiction. She lives with fellow author Kevin Kauffmann in Durham County, North Carolina, where members of her family have resided for over two hundred years. Her creative work has been featured in the Masters Review, TJ Eckleberg Review, tinyjournal, Colonnades Literary & Art Journal, and Apeiron Review.

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Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Andrew Weatherhead. His latest book, $50,000, is available from Publishing Genius.

 

Weatherhead is a writer and artist from Chicago, Illinois. His other books include the poetry collections TODD and Cats and Dogs — and a chapbook, The Kids I Teach, with Mallory Whitten. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Sebastian Castillo. His new book, Not I, is available from Word West Press.

 

Castillo is the author of 49 Venezuelan Novels (Bottlecap Press). You can find his writing in Hobart, Peach Mag, X-R-A-Y, and elsewhere. He lives in New York, where he teaches writing.

Paragraph

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The opening sentence I first wanted to run with was: “I may have inadvertently endorsed an actual cult.” Then, I thought: “I would like to take this opportunity to close the curtain,” would be more fitting. Although both true, I don’t wish to bring further attention to my potential cult endorsement, and I forfeited my right to privacy when I decided to write this book. But more importantly, neither sentence does the work of kicking off a month in which—for the second time in my life—I thought, “God is happening.” Disclaimer: I don’t believe in God, neither do I disbelieve in God—it’s not a question I’ve ever found vital enough to answer. The thought popped up only because there aren’t words to describe what occurred to me at night, October 7th. Things got set in motion, a smidge more than a week before, when I woke to a text from Pola: Hi Steven, happy birthday! Hope it’s a really nice day for ya. It was the first time, I think, she’d initiated contact since February, aside from the time I sobbed so hard I puked blueberries and unfollowed and removed her as a follower on Instagram because a photo she posted of herself and Bella forced me into the moment I felt closest to her—we’re on our stomachs, trying to lure the skittish and wide-eyed cat from beneath a bed, when Pola says, “It’s okay Bella, we’re your parents now.” Days after the birthday text, I pinned down why it disquieted me. Blind to everything but the short story I was working on, Sarah J. texted she was close by and wanted to do schoolwork on my couch while I wrote at my desk, something we’ve been doing weekly, and I said sure, just gotta shower first. A drop of lavender Dr. Bronner’s cupped in my palm, collecting water to dilute it, and no longer thinking of the divorced dad narrator and his weekend with Audrey, his daughter—something gave: the whole of the relationship, the breakup, the bereavement, caved in on itself and buried me in its rubble. I didn’t cry until I dried and sat naked in my desk chair, but it wouldn’t stop once it started, regardless of the Klonopins and the mindfulness exercises—I texted Sarah J. over-apologetically asking to postpone.

This piece was originally published on December 5, 2018. It is now accompanied by a dramatic reading performed by the author.

◊ ◊ ◊

My notes for a potential story about Brad’s face on the evening of November 8, 2016

Start with some general thoughts about Brad, maybe just the grass in Brad’s backyard and his cool studio/garage area. Focus on the small stuff that I like about Brad. How nice it was for him to invite us over for the election suicide party. How the night is blurry, and how I don’t really remember my children being there, but instinctively feel that my children were there to witness to Brad’s face. Relate that there, at Brad’s house, Brad’s face happened. Share that to this day Brad’s face on the evening of November 8, 2016 haunts me as a vacant, soul-baring portrait of American loss. Write something clever, call it “a piercing reflection of a deeply fucked moment.” Talk about the not-Brad things of the evening? Maybe throw in the junk food we stress ate in the car on the way to Brad’s, or how beautiful Jenny was in white. Potentially allude to the future we’re living and the one that might occur. Transition through the hope then, the fear then, and end with the reality now. It’s hard to talk in a controlled manner about a hell we’re all in, but like try to do that for a few sentences. For sure talk about Brad’s face once more, right here at the end.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Jared Yates Sexton. His new book, American Rule, is available from Dutton.

 

This is Jared’s second time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 478 on August 23, 2017.

Sexton is the author of The Man They Wanted Me to Be and The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore. His political writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The New Republic, Politico, and Salon.com. Sexton is also the author of three collections of fiction and is an associate professor of creative writing at Georgia Southern University.

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Pulling Bastard

By Kelly Gray

Poem

Come here, monster child. I lead weary. I take your hand and look at your knees. Your ankles with flea bites, your eyes cocked.

Come here, monster child, I see you in me, give me your palm. We lick piss into prayer. We lick like our hearts are made of milk. We lick like three is infinity, but we know that it was only ever:
not like that, not like this, put that down.

 

Trey and I were walking to the liquor store to buy potatoes, three for a dollar, and a guy at the body shop yelled ‘Looking sexy, girl’ out of his greasy car window and Trey told him to fuck off and smiled real big at me. The sky looked real good and I told Trey I had been thinking about the sky a lot lately. Not in a scientific way or anything, just how grateful I am for it and how universal it is. How it’s always free and always different. Trey said that sounded like some hippie shit and smiled real big at me. On the corner, outside the liquor store, there was a man selling heroin and I cringed when he hollered his advertisement. He said he had sawbucks. Very Chicago. The phrasing never failed to make me think of a David Mamet play I’d read. We saw an old man walking slow and dizzy and Trey said he was doing ‘the crack rock shuffle.’ Trey knew about a lot of things I didn’t know about. We walked back from the liquor store with Marlboro Reds and three potatoes and energy drinks and some of those candy coated peanuts that are for some reason called Boston Baked Beans. I had a small crush on Trey but blamed it mostly on my caretaking spirit, maybe it’s because I’m a Cancer rising, I don’t know if I believe in that stuff anymore or anything. I just liked helping him.

 

That morning Trey had sent me a selfie where he had wet hair and looked real bad, out of the blue, with no text or context. I asked if he was okay. Ben and I had broken up two days before in a McDonald’s during breakfast and it felt like all I did was cry and take baths for those two days. Trey asked if I could call him an Uber to my place, this was way before Uber was deemed to be fascist or whatever they are considered now, this was more than a year ago, in late July. I called him an Uber and sent him a screenshot and told him to get outside. He did and I watched the car get closer on the app and I wondered why he looked so emaciated and I knew he’d been up for days taking big risks. I buzzed him in and saw him looking all scrawny and tired but still good. I took him to my room and we lay down and I think we both cried. He listened to me talk about Ben and Trey always did a good job of not doing that thing where you talk about yourself too much. Like when you tell someone you’re heartbroken and they talk about their own heartbreak, he never did that too much. He said he had no money, that he wanted to fly a sign in Wicker Park and that he didn’t think he had an apartment anymore and that he’d smashed up his guitar and that he was freaked. I said let’s go get some potatoes and I’ll fry ‘em up for us. I said ‘nice and starchy for our tum tums’ and he smiled and said he couldn’t eat probably but he needed to. I had put all my pills in a Nike drawstring bag and hidden them under some clothes in a laundry basket but not because I didn’t trust him just because I didn’t want him to be tempted. It was the second to last day in July and my lease ended on August first and no one had ever lay down in that bed with me except for Ben and I was okay that it was Trey doing it because I cared about him and his spirit, felt protective of him. 

 

SNOWFLAKE POEM

 

Stay around on a boat

           O viscous boat of nacho cheese

 Even      the mist is soggy

                                 Refrito pillow thumbprint

Horny rain, refrain

She watched but didn’t kill it

(the roach)

A lanyard in the aisle, invitation to the wedding

              Persistent helicopter boyfriend

Tall drink boyfriend

 

Turkey club boyfriend

 

Tall drink boyfriend

              Persistent helicopter boyfriend

A lanyard in the aisle, invitation to the wedding

(the roach)

She watched but didn’t kill it

Horny rain, refrain

                                 Refrito pillow thumbprint

 Even      the mist is soggy

           O viscous boat of nacho cheese

Stay around on a boat

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Anne Helen Petersen. Her new book, Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, is available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It is the official October pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

 

A former senior culture writer for BuzzFeed, Petersen now writes her newsletter, Culture Study, as a full-time venture on Substack. She received her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, where she focused on the history of celebrity gossip. Her previous books, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud and Scandals of Classic Hollywood, were featured in NPR, Elle, and the Atlantic. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

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Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Laura Bogart. Her debut novel, Don’t You Know I Love You, is available from Dzanc Books.

Bogart is also a non-fiction writer who focuses on personal essays, pop culture, film and TV, feminism, body image and sizeism, and politics (among other topics). She is a featured contributor to The Week and DAME magazine; her work has also appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, SPIN,The AV Club, Vulture, and Indiewire (among other publications). She lives in Baltimore.

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Hello. My name is Joseph Grantham. I edit this website. I’m also an artist (see above). I asked some writers and friends to recommend some short stories to you, the readers of this website. All I asked was that they do this in 3-5 sentences. Other than that, there were no guidelines. I’ll start.

 

“Victor Blue” by Ann Beattie

 

This story is from Beattie’s first collection, Distortions, and it is written in the form of journal entries, composed by an elderly man who spends his days taking care of his ill wife (“Mrs. Edway,” as he refers to her). He cooks for her, takes care of her violets (one of them is named “Victor Blue”), reads novels to her, and whenever he and his wife have to make an important, or not so important, decision, they vote on it, each writing down their answer on a piece of paper and then holding it up for the other to see. Do they want a kitten or a puppy, do they want to hang up the embroidered Eiffel Tower picture which was a gift from Mrs. Edway’s cousin, should Mrs. Edway kill herself or continue living in pain? Beattie wrote this story when she was in her mid-twenties and you’d never know it.

 

Okay. Now, on to the main event.

 

 

“Good Old Neon” by David Foster Wallace

 

“Good Old Neon” is about a man who killed himself in 1991, told from the perspective of his post-death existence outside of time, written by a man who killed himself in 2008, published in 2004. It feels impossible to distill a ~40 page story that works on so many levels of thought and heart into 3-5 sentences, which is basically the premise of the story itself: that linear time and language are inherently limiting modes of describing the dimensionless flashes of perception that color each person’s interiority with significance, but until we die, we can only use one word after another to relate ourselves. Since his first successful lie at age 4, or arguably birth, the protagonist placed himself at the center of a “fraudulence paradox,” which meant that the more he tried to be something he wasn’t, the less he felt like the ideal image he performed, and “…the more of a fraud [he] felt like, the harder [he] tried to convey an impressive or likable image of [him]self so that other people wouldn’t find out what a hollow, fraudulent person [he] really [was].” What hits me so hard about “Good Old Neon” is the vagueness about its audience: the post-death protagonist addresses himself the moment before his death in a car, but he also makes lovingly dry meta-asides to another reader (from who, at least in the confines of a reader-author relationship, David Foster Wallace didn’t view himself as so apart), and I can’t help but feel witness to some similar shade of dialogue Wallace could’ve worked out with himself before his own death. The message of the story, to me, is not to succumb to our self-imposed limits; the message is in the beauty of trying, at least for a moment, to describe what it was like to be human. 

 

– recommended by Megan Boyle, author of Liveblog

 

 

“A Man Came to Visit Us” by Brandon Hobson

 

Your question is so difficult to answer.  I read and reread and am taken up by so many stories all of the time — both ancient and modern.  But the story foremost in my mind is always the most recent one I have accepted for NOON.  And at this minute, it is the unearthly stunner by Brandon Hobson — that is jammed with mystery and passion –“A Man Came to Visit Us” (due out March 2021).  

 

– recommended by Diane Williams, founder of NOON and author of The Collected Stories of Diane Williams

 

 

“Recitatif” by Toni Morrison

 

I assign this every semester to my English 102 students, out of The Norton Introduction to Literature. Despite the fact that I read this twice a year, it gets me every time. This story is a good example of why fiction is a superior art form; it says more about big broad important topics, like race and class and friendship and memory, than any piece of nonfiction ever could. This statement will probably offend a nonfiction purist if they happen to read this, whoopsie.

 

– recommended by Juliet Escoria, author of Juliet the Maniac

 

 

Simp for God

crow from the loquat tree
what’s your place
in the human centipede

 

 

Grandpa Indian Killer

“Whoops!” our white ancestors said
learn more by clicking here

 

 

Man has an ass

like lumped charcoal, bro
please don’t break heat,
don’t break steam,
for minutes, hours— Be still, bro
be smooth, the margarita in the machine
bro— Let’s piss a hole forever

 

 

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Dean Koontz. His new novel, Elsewhere, is available from Thomas & Mercer.

 

Koontz is the author of fourteen number one New York Times bestsellers, including One Door Away from Heaven, From the Corner of His Eye, Midnight, Cold Fire, The Bad Place, Hideaway, Dragon Tears, Intensity, Sole Survivor, The Husband, Odd Hours, Relentless, What the Night Knows, and 77 Shadow Street. He’s been hailed by Rolling Stone as “America’s most popular suspense novelist,” and his books have been published in thirty-eight languages and have sold over five hundred million copies worldwide.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, he now lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirits of their goldens Trixie and Anna.

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