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Waste CoverPawned

Jamie Garrison knew he’d made a mistake when Connor Condon began to thrash around inside the plastic Kmart bag. The kid looked like a fish, his big mouth puffing out and pulling in the plastic, his lips fat and purple. Jamie saw Connor’s eyes staring back at him in the window. He could see the boy’s skin slowly changing color, the muscles in his neck straining to yank the plastic off his face.

Jamie didn’t stop though. He just ground his teeth together and pulled tighter while the ninth-graders near the front took up a chant of condom, condom, condom, condom…their voices bounced between the syllables. The bus driver wasn’t even looking, her eyes burning into the back of a stalled driver’s head, her horn blaring at the green Chevy that refused to move from the turning lane. Brock was in the seat beside Jamie and leading the chant with his hands in the air, his mouth dangling open as it always did, his leather jacket reeking of cat piss. Brock flicked his wrists like a maestro and the chant rose.

photoSo a self-interview! Pressure?

Absolutely. I feel compelled to be witty and interesting. I feel compelled to write quirky questions. I am buckling under the pressure and stress-eating potato chips instead.

 

What kind?

Barbecue. Left over from a weekend barbecue, fittingly enough.

ByTheLightWeKnewOurNames_ValenteA VERY COMPASSIONATE BABY

Gerard finds he cannot take his baby anywhere. Once, when they walked into the Dairy Queen on McPherson, a teenager passed them on the way out and dropped his strawberry ice cream on the pavement. The baby watched the pink scoop fall woefully to the ground, then exploded into such unmanageable tears that Gerard and his wife had to bring him back to the car. Another time, when they took the baby to the park on a sun-filled spring day, the park crew was out mowing the grounds, and the baby leaned out of his stroller, saw the grass flying, weeds razed, dandelion spores whipping up and away on currents of violent air, and he cried with such deep sorrow that the sun couldn’t cheer him, nor the baby ducks swimming through the pond, nor the tulips blooming in the fields. They turned the stroller around and took him home.

Jac-Jemc-HeadshotWhat do you struggle with most in writing?

Time. Everything takes longer than I think it will, more drafts than I think it will. Then there’s the business and admin side of things that eats up so much free time. Then the joy of reading and supporting other people’s work. I also work a more-than-full-time job that’s entirely separate from my writing, as well as taking on smaller writing-type/teaching jobs from time to time. I function best when busiest, but I have a partner and family and friends I love so much, and I want to offer help and support to them, and I can’t really fathom turning them down in favor of writing most of the time.

DifferentBedEverytime(new)(large)The Wrong Sister

Okay. Say the reason you’re stuck here in limbo is totally unclear to you. Say you were a woman who cared about little but treated others basically well. Say you had a twin who was married to a doctor, but because you were so ambivalent, you never agreed to partner up, never liked anyone enough to commit or even give someone a real chance, to ever approach the situation where you might have to explain these feelings to another human being because you’ve joined to have and to hold, in sickness and in blah blah blah…

alan_michael_parker_2013What the hell is this?

A novel.

 

But it’s got 99 stories and some of them have the same titles?

That’s true.

9781938103803Report from the Committee on Town Happiness

We have been thinking about the trees. The trees, we have decided, know what they’re doing. We have decided (6–3, with one abstention) that there will be trees in the Afterlife.

Our thinking about trees has led us to fence Maxwin’s Park and to prohibit all pedestrian traffic therein. As an elected policy-making body, we believe that the trees need a place of repose. As we all do.

stephen-graham-jonesThe Questions I’m Most Often Asked

 

Do you write longhand or on a computer?

Longhand’s all right for short stuff, like when I’ve just edged around a corner, let everybody else keep walking, so I can write a story down right quick. Used to taxiing in a plane and taking off were when I wrote a lot of short pieces, because I couldn’t have my laptop out, but also because I couldn’t imagine just sitting there staring at the back of the seat in front of me. Keyboards are my preference, though. Ergonomic, black, wired. I can go really fast. I can even forget I’m typing, sometimes. Like my mind’s just pressing letters onto the screen. And I go through keyboards pretty fast, too. But, lately, the bones in my hands are wearing out faster. It’s not ideal. But so far it’s just in my three-times broken hand, with the messed-up finger tendons. So I guess it’s no surprise.

NotForNothing_StephenJones1She’ll be waiting for you when you walk back from the water station next door. And of course you’ll have the tip of your thumb in your mouth, will only realize it after you’ve stopped walking, when you’re standing there like some animated character trying to blow his flattened hand back up. All that’s left to do then is waggle your fingers before your face in “Hello,” your eyes kind of squinted. Not so much against the glare coming off the storage units, but in apology. For being who you are.

It’s an apology you make more often than you’d care to admit.

ByrdUp on the Roof

Roland is making a picnic. He has never made a picnic for anyone. It’s not even a word he uses: picnic.

On his counter, blueberry smoothies and crinkle-cut fries from his favorite stand on the beach, plus everything from his kitchen: a can of peaches, half a bottle of white Zinfandel, and two hard-boiled eggs, which he peels and mashes into a bowl with salt and pepper. Then there’s the barbecue Addie brought with her from North Carolina: hickory-smoked shoulder meat sliced thin, packed on dry ice in her little travel cooler. Slaw, too, and sauce, the thin red tomatoey kind they grew up on. You can’t get sauce like this in California.

Jennifer Spiegel is the guest. In 2012, she published two books: The Freak Chronicles, a story collection, now available from Dzanc Books; and Love Slave, a novel out from Unbridled Books.

 

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There is a sense of chaos involved in the act of falling in love, a lack of control, and quite possibly a hint of something tragic, a chance to be hurt. This applies to the slim but haunting novel My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) by Jac Jemc. In marriage there is the possibility of intimacy, a merging of spirit and life, but the reality can be a dense caryatid carved out of lies, mysteries, and selfish acts.

My Only Wife is about an unnamed couple, a husband who has fallen and surrendered, and a deceptive, passionate and quirky wife. The way Jemc renders their story is painful in its depiction of beauty and love, vicious in its evocation of what a broken heart feels like—the eternal echo of a call left unanswered.

The moment a body loses contact with the ground, moving into air, moving into water, it must immediately account for the paces and drags of that new medium. Pamela Ryder’s debut, Correction Of Drift (FC2, 2008), addressed this concept both literally and practically: structured as a “novel-in-stories,” the book triangulated on the Lindbergh kidnapping, borrowing navigational principles and a well-rutted American narrative to ground her challenging, lyric flights. Compiling fifteen stories that largely (or entirely) predate that first full-length, A Tendency To Be Gone presents an artist unmoored, ascending exultant heights while demonstrating the perils of dead reckoning, where a miscalculation multiplies upon itself and leads progress further and further off-course.

If you email Dan Wickett and don’t hear back in fifteen minutes, you immediately assume he’s dead in a ditch.  This guy—founder of one of the early online literary communities, The Emerging Writers Network, and co-founder of the vibrant and multi-pronged Dzanc Books—has got his fingers in so many literary pots that he has to put out an automated reply if he’ll be away from his computer long enough to attend a soccer game or waves of desperation start to ripple across a growing faction of the indie publishing community.  (Full disclaimer: I’m guilty of emailing Dan pretty much daily with some minor emergency or urgent brainstorm.)  Dzanc now even has its own literary conference abroad, the Portugal-based DISQUIET, run by Jeff Parker.  In short, this little indie publisher that could has taken the world by storm, and this shows no signs of stopping now.

Henning Koch’s Love Doesn’t Work, just released from Dzanc Books, is a collection of seven “dualist” tales that examine the struggles of the human condition with sharp satire but also surprising vulnerability. I picked up the collection at AWP and couldn’t wait to talk to Koch, an ex-screenwriter and literary translator living in Berlin, about his influences, the minefields of publishing, and why he thinks love doesn’t work.

So we did, and here it is.