I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Six

 

Before I called it the first draft, I changed it.

The screen door slashed open, a woman stabbed the man through his belly with a katana. She let go of the handle, he fell sideways on the kitchen floor, sword stuck in. He groaned. She stepped forward, yanked out the sword, his guts spilled across the tiles. She started a fire in the bedroom. This was my final draft of the first draft.

In the second draft, the story went on, all the way to ‘the end.’ The man crawled out of the house as it was burning down, ending up in a glass atrium, where he listened to rain slap on the roof. The last of his blood oozed out. Black smoke filled the atrium. As he was about to die, he thought of how squids hide themselves on the ocean floor, how they make a dark plume and disappear.

Later, in draft twelve, the squid ink thought was edited out, and I was satisfied. The story was stronger when it ended abruptly. Now I had the penultimate ending, and it stayed that way until the actual final draft.

I called the story “The Squid.”

Then I called it “Whatever Forever.”

Then I called it “Young Turks.”

Then I called it “No Cats.”

Then I called it “Love Birds.”

Then I called it “Beauty and the Beast II.”

Then I called it “The Raft of the Medusa.”

When it was published the editor didn’t like the title “The Raft of Medusa.” They asked what else I had, I said I didn’t have any other ideas for titles, so it ran that way.

My back hurt. I stood up from the chair and stretched. I’d thrown it out so bad. I’d thrown it out exercising. So I’d stopped exercising. But then my back hurt worse because I’d stopped exercising. I needed to exercise to get my back stronger so it didn’t hurt but I’d hurt it exercising. I sat back down in my chair.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Steve Almond. His new book, William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life, is available from Ig Publishing.

 

This is Steve’s fourth time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 9, on October 16, 2011, and again in Episode 302, on August 10, 2014, and Episode 513, on April 8, 2018.

Almond is the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. Last year, he published Bad Storiesa literary investigation of what the hell just happened to our country, which he wrote to keep from going crazy. (You can find his latest rants here or here.)

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I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

 

 

Science and fiction both ask: how real can our fantasies become?

 

This question sits at the center of Shane Jones’ cool, intricate, and cutting novel, Vincent and Alice and Alice. Divorced Guy Vincent is stuck working his State Job in an only slightly more dystopian America, 2017. (We get a sense of his alienation from Jones’ DeLilloisms–Vincent works in “the Zone” and imagines “a conference call with all of America on it”—while the novel’s Arbitrarily Capitalized Words imply the pervasive influence that unearned and random authority exerts in our corporate and political worlds.) Vincent works a job he hates so he can retire in twenty years. His wife Alice has left him so she can live a meaningful life (she works with refugees). Who could blame her?

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Five

 

Dear lighting bolts, no thanks. Dear thunderclap, no thanks either. Love to you both anyway, Bud.

 

Dear Mom, it was good to see you the other day. I’m sorry that you had identity theft on your clamming license and someone else is out there pretending to be you and getting your clams out of the Barneget Bay. Love, Bud.

 

Dear Dad, happy birthday, one month late. Here is one hundred dollars. Also, Happy Father’s Day. If you think one hundred dollars is too much for your birthday, maybe just think of it as fifty for Father’s Day and fifty for your birthday. Also, thanks for telling me that story about seeing the UFO flying over town hall when you were running those drills with the volunteer fire department, I enjoyed the diagrams and I do agree with you that UFOs would be attracted to flashing lights, I mean, everything else is. Love, Bud.

On “Learning” by Andrew Choate, a review by Rebecca Ramirez

Andrew Choate’s Learning is unconventional by default. Indeed, by the third page, the author has invoked Henri Michaux, “The Tin Drum” (Günter Grass), and “The Last Novel” (David Markson) – each a vanguard in their own right of definitively genre-blurring, “anti-literary” works. For the entirety of “Learning,” Choate continues this referential gesture, both buoying and defending his own work, which he generates by attaching a wide variety of topics to the book’s only refrain: “Something I learned from…,” for example:

Something I learned from Living with Moths

Don’t clap a moth over your head between your palms
It could fall into your upturned shirt sleeve
and ride down your arm
possibly across your chest
and then tickling will never feel the same” (39)

 

What’s new?

My chapbook, THE DEAD KID POEMS, (KYSO Flash, 2019) published in May. The sequel to my first book of elegies: State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies,(KYSO Flash, 2015), The Dead Kid Poems takes up where State of Grace left off. It chronicles the all-too-familiar stories of youth mowed down by circumstances: School shootings, drive-bys, suicides, overdose, accidents, disease, all are relevant. All are claiming kids before their time.

I’ve hung on to what’s left over –
what you touched, what fed you,

taken stock of the refrigerator’s gelid interior,
sought evidence you were here.

Behind the yellow mustard,
and a half-squeezed tube of disappointment,

that Tiger Sauce you loved.
Best Before: Sept. 2007.

Some things I needed to keep.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Erin Hosier. Her new memoir, Don’t Let Me Down, is available from Atria Books.

Hosier is also the coauthor of Hit So Hard by Patty Schemel (Da Capo, 2017). She has been a literary agent since 2001 (currently with Dunow Carlson & Lerner), and was an original co-host of the Literary Death Match. As an agent, she primarily works with authors of nonfiction and has a special interest in popular culture, music biography, humor, women’s history (and untold stories of all kinds). She lives in Brooklyn.

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[The following is an excerpt from Shane Jones’ new novel, Vincent and Alice and Alice, now available from Tyrant Books. Get your copy today.]

 

§ § §

 

“You look like Bert, from Bert and Ernie,” says Alice when I walk into the apartment. It appears she hasn’t moved today, the apartment surrounding her looks untouched. She’s dressed in what she wore last night. 

“Thank you.”

“It’s the shape of your head,” continues Alice, who sits on the couch with her feet up on the table. The TV shows a man in a leather vest and American flag bandana with his outstretched arm aiming a gun at a crowd of forest-green ski-masks. In the background is a storefront framed in fire and people running in and out. Holding up one hand toward my jaw Alice pretends to turn my face in a deep study. “I don’t know if it’s because you’re getting older, but your head is longer and has a pinched quality to it now.”

“Like Bert’s.”

“Exactly,” she replies satisfied. 

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

Friends

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Four

 

My friend, the playwright, invited me to breakfast. So I climbed on the train and took it across the water. A perfect spring morning.

I knew for sure it was a perfect spring morning because out an open window on 11th Street, I heard someone singing an opera.

I stopped to listen.

Italian, or Greek, or German.

Whatever it was, bombastic. I didn’t know any other language besides English, which was a shame, it was limiting my ability to make friends.

If I spoke Mandarin, I could go to Taiwan and make Taiwanese friends, or if I learned Russian, I could go to Belarus and make Belarusian friends. Instead, I was stuck with the English. Still am.

I leaned against a wall. Flies buzzed around a garbage can. I looked at them and thought, It’s too bad I can’t speak Fly, because then I could be friends with the flies too.

A lot of my friends are books, some of them written in other languages I don’t understand. Sometimes a translator becomes my friend by translating a book so I can read it. Friends everywhere.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Bret Easton Ellis. His new essay collection, White, is available from Knopf.

 

Ellis is the author of six novels, including Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho, and a collection of stories, which have been translated into thirty-two languages. He lives in Los Angeles and is the host of The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast, available on Patreon.

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Support the show at Patreon or via PayPal.

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.