What’s up with this book?

I had no capacity to take new clients and I turned down everyone who reached. There was no one to even refer them to. I am the only person (that I am aware of) who does this specific set of services for artists with my precise training. I thought if I wrote it all down in a book, I could be of service to more artists.

Then the 2016 presidential election vomited all over America. I quickly wrote up a pamphlet called Making Art During Fascism as a toolkit to help artists think about how to maintain their lives, their practices, and their (probable) increased activism. My friend, the writer Michelle Tea, asked if I wanted to expand this pamphlet into a short volume for Feminist Press where she’d recently launched the imprint Amythest Editions. I both expanded that pamphlet and incorporated a written account of what it is I do with artists. That’s how this all went down!

You’re an Artist, Keep Making Art

The realization that art could first save and then expand my life came when I was a teenager in a troubled home. Life with my mentally ill mom and alcoholic dad near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before the Internet, was difficult. A smart, queer feminist without the language to talk about any of it—let alone identify with those lineages—I was profoundly depressed and mostly miserable. I ached for art and counterculture (remember that word?), but they were really hard to come by in small Rust Belt towns in the nineties. I read books, made zines, bought 45s, and ordered Sub Pop record catalogs out of the back of SPIN magazine, which at the time was a wonderland filled with mysterious ads for things like The Anarchist Cookbook.

Now playing on the Otherppl podcast, a conversation with Sarah Kendzior. Her book, The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America, is available from Flatiron Books.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Natalia Sylvester. Her new novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home, is available from Little A Books.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Elle Nash. Her debut novel Animals Eat Each Other is the official April pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club. It is available from Dzanc Books.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Steve Almond, author of Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country?, available from Red Hen Press.

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

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Available from Vintage Books

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Trip is not only a book about drugs–it’s about the condition of humans at this point in history, troublingly divorced from our natural capacity for awe by our chemically depleted bodies and minds. This book has changed how I understand myself on a cellular level. It’s a superbly researched, moving, and formally inventive quest for re-enchantment, and Tao Lin’s most compelling and profound book yet.” —Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?

Part memoir, part history, part journalistic exposé, Trip is a look at psychedelic drugs, literature, and alienation from one of the twenty-first century’s most innovative novelists–The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test for a new generation. A Vintage Original.

While isolating himself to work on his novel Taipei, Tao Lin discovered the prolific work of Terence McKenna–the leading advocate of psychotropic drugs since Timothy Leary. Tao became obsessed with McKenna, whose worldview (and particular theory of drug use) seemed to present an alternate way of being. In Trip, Tao’s first ever book-length work of nonfiction, he explores parallels between McKenna’s life and his own in a far-reaching search for answers to looming questions: Why do we make art? What is language for? And are there essential, universal truths out there, beyond our limited range of perception?

Trip takes readers on a trip through psychedelic culture, from D.A.R.E. to Aldous Huxley, from NYU’s Bobst Library to a plant-drawing class in Santa Rosa, California. Drawing on first-person exploratory journalism as well as in-depth research, Tao details the experience of taking psilocybin, DMT, and cannabis, studies their chemical composure and legality, and ends his story with a pilgrimage out West, where he communes with McKenna’s ex-wife and fellow “ethnobotanist,” Kathleen Harrison.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Shauna Barbosa. Her poetry collection Cape Verdean Blues is available from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

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The last time we talked we learned you were born in a log cabin and the illegitimate son of the Queen of England, what good that did anyone is hard to say, but I see you have another book coming out. Quite the coincidence.

I’ll say, and thanks for asking. Yes, it’s a horseracing, record collecting, and insane asylum novel called Whirlaway. It’s also about psychic evanescence, which is existing and not existing at the same time. It’s a funny book, I’ll add, but what else would you expect from the illegitimate son of an English Queen?

 

I understand you’ve used an unreliable narrator for perspective. What are you thoughts on this? Have you done this before?

Never intentionally. And I don’t like it as a rule. In my opinion, the writer should be doing the heavy lifting for the reader, being as clear and succinct and accessible as possible, but in Whirlaway my narrator is an escapee from a psychiatric hospital, a diagnosed and heavily-medicated schizophrenic, so I really had no choice. Poetry is supposedly the art of indirection, the way spaces become bridges and that sort of thing. Also at the heart of Whirlaway is a death mystery, and I found an unreliable narrator quite useful for this.

As an illustration of what I was up against at Napa State Hospital, what they used to call an asylum for the criminally insane, my fellow inmate Arn Boothby, an angry three-hundred-pound paranoid schizophrenic who regularly “cheeked” his meds, tried to kill another inmate one day in the client convenience store by grabbing his throat and throwing him through a glass display case. I was standing in line to buy a pack of breath mints at the time and can attest to him saying, “P. S. I Love You,” as the blood spread across the tiles. Boothby was tackled by two psych techs; a staff nurse and hospital police converged within minutes to beat in Boothby’s brains behind closed doors. Boothby told me later they would’ve killed him had not Dr. Fasstink inadvertently intervened. Boothby went to jail, vacation time for most of us at NSH, and I didn’t see him at the card game for a few months. When you’re surrounded by murderers, bank robbers, arsonists, and child molesters you’ll play cards with just about anyone.

Dreams

By Joyanna Priest

Essay

 

Sixteen says indignantly that she hasn’t taken pills in a month.

Since she got caught, she means.

Oxy was her favorite. I never tried Oxy, but I used to love heroin more than my own dreams.

 

***

 

There’s darkness beneath the glamour, I warn her, but her ears are closed.

 

***

 

What I point out: addiction dulls brightness, makes ideas go nowhere, splices generosity with blinding selfishness, makes a person betray themselves so they’re left with no one to trust.

What I say: “I’ve never seen anybody get out whole.”

“Not you, though,” she shakes her head like it’s the only true thing in the world. “You’re the best person I know. You kept your brightness.”

No, daughter. No.

Your book is dedicated To Ceci. Who’s that?

She’s my mom.

 

So why not say, To Mom?

My sister and I have always called my parents by their first names. It’s always been the most natural thing for us—I think I tried calling them Mom and Dad once, and it felt weird and impersonal. When I was nine, one of my teachers asked my mom if “Ceci” meant “Mom” in Spanish, because she kept hearing us call her that. I thought, it is our word for Mom.

In Vanishing Acts, Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s new novel and sixth work of fiction, the author takes us to the Big Island of Hawai’i, where she grew up body-surfing, listening to stories about the volcano goddess Pele, and later as an adult, on return trips from the mainland, observing the alarming signs of her beloved island’s changing ecosystem, due to drought and other environmental stressors.

Through her storytelling lens, Colbert chronicles the effects of the traumatic transformation Hawai’i is undergoing as its rare species and forests disappear, a theme that also informs her fifth book, Wild Things, a linked story collection set in upstate New York.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with bestselling author Jami Attenberg . Her latest novel, All Grown Up, is available in trade paperback from Mariner Books.

This is Jami’s second time on the program. She first appeared in Episode 115 on October 21, 2012.

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Good news! The Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast is now available for streaming via Spotify. The show is entirely free and can also be heard online and via iTunes, Stitcher, et al.

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