Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with J. Ryan Stradal. His new novel, The Lager Queen of Minnesota, is available from Viking / Pamela Dorman Books.

 

This is Stradal’s second time on the podcast. He first appeared in Episode 376 on August 19, 2015.

His first novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, reached the New York Times Hardcover Best Seller list at #19 on its third week of release. His shorter writing has appeared in Hobart, The Rumpus, The Wall Street Journal, Granta, The Guardian, Electric Literature, The Nervous Breakdown, and more.

He lives in Los Angeles.

Get the free Otherppl app.

Support the show at Patreon or via PayPal.

 

It was the early morning in Kabukicho. The sun was only just up and everything was weird and tinted blue. The breeze pushed a piss smell from the gutters. There were cigarette butts in puddles along the curb. I was alone in front of a Family Mart. I didn’t know why I was alone. The morning light continued to open the corners.

A group of prostitutes talked and smoked near some drink machines. They wore long, padded puffer coats, mom jeans and white running shoes. They always dressed like that. Like Midwestern moms from the early nineties. I never figured out why, but it was consistent. We thought they were Chinese, but who’s to say.

Two of the girls looked at me and laughed.

I tried to smile back, but my smile was a failure.

What’s so funny, I thought.

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

Photo credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher

What is your philosophy towards your work?

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to call myself a poet. It is not something that came easily or even something I thought I could do when I was younger. You have to be really good at getting rejected. One of the best things I did for my poetry is to stop thinking of being rejected as negative. Instead, being rejected is proof that I put something out into the world – and it still surprises me that I can do that and that someone is willing to take the time to read it and sometimes include it in a publication.

They climb a slender ladder. From
stitched-together metal, my
daughters disappear into the plane, a mother’s
intuition wanting them to sleep
longer in their not knowing. I
want to conceal how people fell
from the sky, how bombs glided into
their targets, how it happened in the
daylight, so everything hit. This State,

 What do you think of men in general?

I don’t believe you can generalize men. Or, women. They each have their own brand of quirk.

 

You wrote a novel called What Drives Men. Did you write it from a male or female perspective? Since technically you are a female.

Technically speaking, it’s written from a male perspective though the various women who appear in the book have plenty to say about how they view things. Technically speaking again, Russell, a Gulf War vet, is my primary protagonist.

Survival

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Seven

 

 

I brought the U.S. Army Survival Manual to the beach.

She brought yarn and knitting needles.

My driver’s side window was broken.

I opened the door, and leaned out, gave ten dollars to the ranger in her tiny hut.

We drove down the narrow road. Pine scrub, Juniper (you can roast the berries and grind them, use as a coffee substitute according to the army), turtle crossing.

Rae put the receipt on the dashboard.

I’d been reading FM 21-76 to her at night like it was a bedtime story. I suppose it’d saved many lives.

I was halfway through it.

One of the best books I’d read in forever.

I’d learned how to make a swamp bed, and how to avoid a passive outlook. I’d seen engineered blueprints to construct my own igloo, which I could heat with a lone candle.

Note to self, get some candles.

But FM 21-76 was also accidentally hilarious, accidentally poetic, accidentally thrilling.

You should read it one day.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Chip Cheek. His debut novel, Cape May, is available from Celadon Books.

 

Cheek’s stories have appeared in The Southern ReviewHarvard ReviewWashington Square, and other journals and anthologies. He has been awarded scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop, and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as an Emerging Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation in Boston.

For many years, Chip taught fiction at GrubStreet in Boston. He now lives in El Segundo, California, with his wife and daughter.

Get the free Otherppl app.

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.

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.)

Get the free Otherppl app.

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.

 

 

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)