Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Garth Greenwell. His new book Cleanness is available from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

Greenwell is the author of What Belongs to You, which won the British Book Award for Debut of the Year, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for six other awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, it was named a Best Book of 2016 by over fifty publications in nine countries, and is being translated into a dozen languages. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris ReviewA Public Space, and VICE, and he has written criticism for The New Yorker, the London Review of Books, and the New York Times Book Review, among others. He lives in Iowa City.

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credits: CameraRAW Photography


Do you believe in ghosts?

No, but I believe in being haunted.

You hear words

By Gayle Brandeis

Poem

You hear words like burn and drown and freeze and scald and they’re just words to you. You hear stab and strangle and pummel and hack and they’re just words, too. A few letters, easy to say. Easy to move past. Burn. Drown. Freeze. Scald. Compact little sounds. Some may make you flinch. Send a momentary shiver down your body, raise a bit of gooseflesh. But then your nerves settle; your body seals itself again.

 

When your body knows these words, knows them in every fiber, the words change. They become the smell of your own scorched skin, the taste of your own blood, the sight of your own fingers on the floor, separate as dropped slices of apple. These words have become something more than words. They have become weapons, ready to get under the surface of you, pry you back open.

 

Your body remembers even when you no longer have a body

(some tender part of you still flinches)

(some immaterial nerves still flare)

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Katharine Coldiron. Her debut novella, Ceremonials, is available from Kernpunkt Press.

 

Coldiron’s work has appeared in Ms., the Washington Post, LARB, the Times Literary Supplement, the GuardianBUST, the Kenyon Review, the Rumpus, VIDA, Brevity, and elsewhere. She earned a B.A. in film studies & philosophy from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. in creative writing from California State University, Northridge. She has read many, many books. Born in the American South to a professor of poetry and translation and a U.S. Navy captain, and raised along the East Coast, she now lives in Los Angeles.

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Below are links to all sixty episodes of Bud Smith’s Good Luck serial.

 

 

 

 

 

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Nicolette Polek. Her new story collection, Imaginary Museums, is available from Soft Skull Press.

 

Polek is a writer from Cleveland, Ohio and is a recipient of the 2019 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award.

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Regarding my previous letters
I am truly sorry.
Understand as a child
I required a kind of harness
but chewed through my leash.
I flicked the heads off flowers
and sang a wicked song.
Alone in a brown fort
my weapons were perfected.

Two Poems

By Christopher Wood

Poetry

 

 

[Untitled]

 

Tonight I was born Chrix at Taco

Bell. Two shredded chicken soft tacos

and a bean burrito. Burritos are tacos.

I think about the young man on the

hookup app and how this is such a

specific early time after the orgy.

The orgy is technology. After the orgy,

predicates. I tried to upsell the hookup,

a movie. He sent me three more pictures

with vastly different haircuts. What will

I get? He says he’s interested, all week.

But he only has time to stop by when

I’m not around. I don’t tell him I’m in

full suspense, suspension of belief. I get

the last time he logged in by the app — 

a matter of hours. He gets mine. I’m

mostly only checking his movement cross

boroughs. I want more than naked late

afternoon lunch. Hoop Dreams, A Chorus

Line, Calendar Boy, Yo Yo Yo. What a

pastiche of montage. I want to cut

him in the screening room. I want

to communicate to him that I want

this. This is our medium, my line

while he worships me.

Available from Graywolf Press

Sign up now to receive your copy! (Sign-up deadline for this title: February 15, 2020.)

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“In this outrageous piece of rural noir and pitch-perfect characterization, Unferth recalls Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang with a dose of vegan-minded quirk. This entertaining, satisfying genre turn shows off Unferth’s range, and readers will be delighted by the characters’ earnest crusade.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)

Two auditors for the US egg industry go rogue and conceive a plot to steal a million chickens in the middle of the night—an entire egg farm’s worth of animals. Janey and Cleveland—a spirited former runaway and the officious head of audits—assemble a precarious, quarrelsome team and descend on the farm on a dark spring evening. A series of catastrophes ensues.

Deb Olin Unferth’s wildly inventive but utterly plausible novel is a heist story of a very unusual sort. Swirling with a rich array of voices, Barn 8 takes readers into the minds of these renegades: a farmer’s daughter, a former director of undercover investigations, hundreds of activists, a forest ranger who suddenly comes upon forty thousand hens, and a security guard who is left on an empty farm for years. There are glimpses twenty thousand years into the future to see what chickens might evolve into on our contaminated planet. We hear what hens think happens when they die. In the end the cracked hearts of these indelible characters, their earnest efforts to heal themselves, and their radical actions will lead them to ruin or revelation.

Funny, whimsical, philosophical, and heartbreaking, Barn 8 ultimately asks: What constitutes meaningful action in a world so in need of change? Unferth comes at this question with striking ingenuity, razor-sharp wit, and ferocious passion. Barn 8 is a rare comic-political drama, a tour de force for our time.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Amina Cain. Her new novel, Indelicacy, is available from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

 

This is Amina’s second time on the program. She first appeared in Episode 390 on November 25, 2015.

She is also the author of the short story collection Creature, out with Dorothy, a publishing project, and her writing has appeared in Grantan+1The Paris Review Daily, BOMBFull StopVice, the Believer Logger, and elsewhere.

She lives in Los Angeles and is a literature contributing editor at BOMB.

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One sentence from each book I read in 2019, in the order I finished them.

 

It must have been horrible for him to create me and then lose control of the narrative in this way. In these investigations of why and how, I am hoping to uncover an origin story. It had happened, but not the way I told it in the book. Let’s see here, let’s see. Now that I was looking at them full on, I could see something coming out of their chests, from their hearts, like glow-in-the-dark string. People should just wear glass with electric lights inside. I crack my knuckles and open up my emails. Call me when you’re tired of wasting this life. You guys are from an effed-up time. It was as though she volunteered to become an adult before she was ready, and something was sucked away from her, and suddenly she could be sad at any moment without ever knowing why. Comedy for me is watching someone perform open heart surgery on themselves because no one else will. Anyway, there’s some writing on sex addiction for you, darling sister. That’s not the right question. Peace, peace, peace, happiness, happiness, happiness. Cringe denotes embarrassment, fleeting shame. People like us are often herded together slowly by the invisible will of the damned, fake-happy. He went into seizures. He was Goth when he felt like it. He hates his job and what he really wants to do is make art and be happy. I guard my memories and love them, but I don’t get in them and lie down. I, wretched, was there, sitting in this office, and I was to tell my wretched story. The book goes on even if it’s closed. Life was the only thing.

Came on the birthday of a dozen Facebook friends.

Came like fast food at the drive-thru window.

Came like forwarded junk mail,
like a gift shirt someone thought might fit.

Came like the robocall about the cruise no one wants or wins,
a punchline that forgot its joke,
the calendar’s next blank day.

Came crawling like a cockroach from the shower drain.

Came while I was deciding: New Yorker or Netflix?

When poked, felt fake, like cheap cake gone stale on a styrofoam plate.

 

A small black bird flew directly toward my window and settled on the ledge. Which, I suppose, is a testament to how quickly things can change. I still haven’t caught my breath. On the bus, I was so captivated by an article on “How To Make Your Relationship Better” that I missed the stop right by my girlfriend’s apartment and the stop after that and the stop after that. In my bedroom, I have a bed and a fainting couch. I was worried that a good night’s sleep would skew the data of my neuropsych evaluation. I’m my truest self while waiting for someone to show up. Each time I log into my email, I unsubscribe from a different mailing list. When my depression had more of a hold, I would sometimes find myself jolted into awareness in the middle of a street by the headlights and brake screeches of a car I subconsciously wanted to hit me. I’ve conditioned myself to always smile with my mouth shut because my teeth are yellow. Sometimes, Pola and I will use the third person to talk about each other to each other instead of the second person to simulate an element of jealousy in our relationship. I insisted that nothing was wrong and tried to keep washing dishes through the nausea. When I bit off the crescent of a fingernail, I felt a rush of synchronicity. If you happened to see me on the bus this morning, please keep it to yourself. The last thing I want to become is one of those people who will hold a door open, not out of the goodness of their heart, but a sick thirst for a “thank you.” Pola and I stood by her stoop in the cold and kept hugging and our shivers didn’t matter because the abstract kind of warmth was that potent. Before leaving my apartment, I fill my backpack with all the things I may consider maybe using while I’m out. When I google a thing to make sure I use the correct term in a short story, the internet becomes convinced that I am interested in purchasing one and inundates me with images and prices. I wonder who Leslie Walton is and if she knows about the roses addressed to her that have been wilting on someone else’s welcome mat for over a week. The smoke detector went off at the precise moment the timer to flip the chicken went off as if both alarms were conspiring to force me into a crisis and see how I would handle it. In high school, I had this nasty habit of passing off art made by others as my own. As I awoke this morning from uneasy dreams, I found myself transformed in my bed into a gigantic insect. A man said “Hey! How you doing man?” while I was selecting an onion but my recognition of him was vague to none so I said I was okay and didn’t engage further. At the feedback appointment for my evaluation, I learned that there wasn’t an easy fix. After paying a lot to look at awful art, we stepped outside and the heavy rain had stopped. I swapped backpacks with Pola to give her a break from the weight but it wasn’t long before the straps cut off the circulation to both my arms. I’m sick but not sick enough to shirk responsibilities. The misdelivered bouquet has finally been disposed of. My jaywalking made a car get stuck at a red light. My headache feels like it could explode into a star. My sense of humor entails resuscitating a horse so I can make it dead again.