tnble418_3

Lenore-Zion-Stupid-Children-author-pic-LZ-siteIt’s 4:17 in the morning.

What?  Last time I looked it was only like 9:30 pm.

 

So, what have you been up to all night?

Obviously I’ve been watching YouTube videos about the reptile humanoids that rule the world.

 

Your boyfriend must be out of town again.

Yeah.

978-0-9836932-6-0-Stupid-Children-cover-low-Emergency-Press-214x300The very first thing Virginia and I did when we escaped the Second Day Believers was get tattooed. Thinking back, I can’t remember why we chose to do this, or why we chose to do it where we did, which was at a small tattoo shop that played death metal at top volume in South Beach. Death metal and South Beach are two things that don’t necessarily go hand in hand—perhaps the awkwardness of the shop is what appealed to us. We didn’t really make a hell of a lot of sense standing next to each other, either. Virginia, with her blonde hair and large breasts, she just screamed sex—a characteristic likely linked to the specific types of abuse she’d endured up to that point in her life— and me. I had dark brown hair, almost black, really, and my tits were very small and I looked younger than my age. Virginia looked older than her eighteen years. Add to that, we brought Isaac, the impetus of our absconding, to the tattoo shop with us, and he was only twelve, and he definitely looked younger than that. As we walked into the shop, it occurred to me that we looked, quite literally, like a bad joke—a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead walk into a tattoo parlor, and so on and so forth.

978-0-9836932-6-0-Stupid-Children-cover-low-Emergency-Press-214x300The first thing I did after finishing Lenore Zion’s Stupid Children was get in the shower, and the second thing I did was cry.  Like Zion’s first book, the collection My Dead Pets Are Interesting (published by TNB Books), Stupid Children is atypical in nearly every sense, but these eccentricities work in its favor, and work only because Zion is such a capable writer, rendering Stupid Children with a refreshing brutality, in both subject matter and also in her merciless scrutiny of the novel’s diverse cast of characters. Though brief, the book demands time and attention, triggering far more thought than its 150-page count will lead any reader to expect. I laughed to the point of pain on multiple occasions, and to get the tears out, which before Stupid Children, and Lenore Zion, I hadn’t thought possible.

A round-up of high quality tweets from people in (and around) the world of literature…

Beach Sloth:

 

The Nervous Breakdown and Emergency Press host TNBLE New York on May 28th at Public Assembly, in Williamsburg.  
 

For TNB NYC on May 28th, we will open up Public Assembly for 4 performers and writers – Edgar Oliver and Elna Baker from New York, and TNB authors Chad Faries and Lenore Zion. The event will be hosted by TNB contributor Tove K. Danovich. 
 

Oliver and Baker are featured performers at The Moth, the national storytelling organization. Faries and Zion are both Emergency Press authors. Zion, out of Los Angeles, is one of the original writers at TNB, and author of the novel Stupid Children, due out in early 2013. Faries will tell stories at the center of his new memoir, Drive Me Out of My Mind
 

Public Assembly is located at 70 North 6th St. (Wythe) in Williamsburg. Event runs from 7:00 – 10:00, and admission is $5 at the door. Full, satisfying bar. 
 

Chad Faries is the author of Drive Me Out of My Mind, a memoir published by Emergency Press. His two books of poems are The Border Will Be Soon and The Book of Knowledge. A recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, he lived and taught in Central Europe for many years. Currently he teaches at Savannah State University, where he also hosts a radio program on WHCJ 90.3. 
 

Lenore Zion is the author of My Dead Pets are Interesting, published last year by TNB Books. An original writer for The Nervous Breakdown (TNB), her first novel, Stupid Children, will be released by Emergency Press in early 2013. 
 

Edgar Oliver started performing in New York at the Pyramid in the mid-1980′s. As a playwright, many of Oliver’s plays have been staged at La MaMa and other downtown NYC theatres, including The Seven Year Vacation, The Poetry Killer, Hands in Wartime, Motel Blue 19 and Mosquito Succulence. As a stage actor, he has performed in countless plays including Edward II with Cliplight Theater, Marc Palmieri’s Carl the Second, and Lipsynka’s Dial M for Model. He is also one of the most beloved storytellers at The Moth. His film roles include That’s Beautiful Frank, Henry May Long, and Gentlemen Broncos. He is also the author of A Portrait of New York by a Wanderer There and Summer and The Man Who Loved Plants. 
 

Elna Baker is a writer, comedian, and storyteller who has performed with The Moth, on This American Life, Studio 360, Radiolab, BBC Radio 4, the Upright Citizens Brigade, and at many comedy clubs throughout New York. Her work includes the show, If You See Something, Say Something, and the book, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, published by Penguin in 2009. 
 

Tove K. Danovich is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She is a contributor to TNB and an associate editor at Anderbo literary magazine. Her work has most recently been published in The Brooklyn Rail and Slushpile. She is also the author of the food blog Eighty-Sixed.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Another year has come and gone, and it’s time once again to present The Nobbies, the official book awards of The Nervous Breakdown.

Below you’ll find this year’s winners, our picks for the best books of 2011.

Congrats to the victors, and their publishers.

And thanks, as always, for reading.

-BL

It was 4:30 p.m. by the time we got on the road. Me, Melinda, and Jane.  The sky over the southern San Joaquin Valley was heavy with rain clouds. I drove. The road was slick.  The San Emigdio Mountains were topped with snow.  “You sure are quiet,” I said to Jane. Normally she was ruling the conversation. She called it a “Janeopoly.” I figured she was plotting out her novel, Puro Amor.  Not long ago she told me she could write entire paragraphs in her head and remember them for transcribing later.

An hour or so later we zoomed down the Hollywood Freeway, took the Highland Avenue exit and headed west onto Hollywood Boulevard, on our way to Book Soup. We were nearly late for the reading.

The bookstore was small, cramped, packed floor-to-ceiling with shelves. The reading area was an aisle essentially, a few folding chairs leading to a podium.  Bunched in the crowd were some writers from TNB, several of whom I’d never met. Kimberly M. Wetherell, filmmaker and writer, wore black glasses, her red hair a fire of loveliness. She mentioned that I was no longer two dimensional—no longer just words on a screen. I said something about being a figment of her imagination.

Duke Haney, author of Banned For Life and Subversia, stood in a corner wearing a black newsboy cap and a leather jacket. He was talking to Rachel Pollon, another TNBer.  She stood about half his size and got shy when I asked her to talk on camera.  “Meet Hank,” Duke said, pointing to another tall guy.  Hank stepped forward and handed me a photo of a face with the word “awesome” on it.

Lenore Zion had long, curly hair—different than when I last saw her.  She looked younger.  She asked what I had been up to. I mumbled something about 2010 being a year to write off and later bought her book, My Dead Pets Are Interesting.

Greg Boose came up and offered me a friendly hello.  He was taller than I expected, and handsome. His wife, Claire Bidwell Smith, was taller than expected, too. Both have striking eyes the color of the sea.  Greg asked me how long I was staying in town. I wanted to say a week. I wanted to say I had a suitcase and was looking for a nice padded bus bench.  “Probably headed back tonight,” I told him.  “Though maybe I’ll just stay and find my way back in the morning.”

Joe Daly, TNB’s music editor, came over and introduced himself.  His hair was shaggy, he was unshaven, he looked like rock and roll.  For some reason I had expected his hair to be short.

I met Ben Loory, too.  He has a gentle soul and a contemplative smile. Later, when he read a story of his called “The Well” and said he might cry, I almost started crying myself.

I didn’t get to meet Victoria Patterson. She read an essay about farts in literature, and her hands were shaking as she read.  It was hilarious.  Everyone laughed and held their gas.

Then there was the master of ceremonies, Greg Olear, author of the new novel Fathermucker.  A dark sweater covered his “Brave New World” T-shirt.  He gave me a guy hug and we made small talk.  I met his wife, Stephanie, too—not a writer, but a ferocious singer.  Steph was all hugs. She talked to a college friend from Syracuse, and they laughed about old times.

 

 

WATCH: GREG OLEAR/TNBERS AT BOOK SOUP

VIEW: JANE HAWLEY PHOTOS FROM BOOK SOUP

 

After the event, many of us headed over to Mirabelle, a nearby bar and restaurant. Brad Listi carried a sack of books and asked what I was up to and where I’d been. I didn’t want to dish out my sob story right then, so I just talked opportunities, my new book of poetry, the interest of an agent in my novel Anhinga, and so on.

Inside the bar, Jane came suddenly to life. She talked and talked and I grew quiet as she and a new friend walked to where Ben, Duke and the others were hanging out. Greg was at the bar drinking a beer. He ordered me some water.  I listened to Stephanie and her friend talking about their college days. I was content.

Melinda was quiet. She used to write (Lenore recognized her from her defunct blog), and she does have a voice. But now, for the most part, she just comes to my Random Writers Workshop, where I prod people like her to write novels and dream big. Jesse from the workshop was there, too. He downed a few drinks and talked shop with Ben Loory.

We were there for about an hour before heading home.  Jane fell asleep in the back of the car and began snoring. Rain poured over Interstate 5, turning into slush as we hit the Tejon Pass, the hump over the San Andreas Fault that marks the downward slide into the Central Valley.

“You okay?” Melinda asked. She could tell I couldn’t see the lines on the road.

“I’m fine,” I told her. “Just gotta see the lanes. I don’t mind driving in storms.”  I was smiling a little, eyes  straight ahead. I felt strangely at ease, like I was passing through a kind of personal storm, releasing it, washing it away on the rain-slicked desert road.

As we rolled back into Bakersfield, Jane woke up. By now it was one o’clock, and still raining.  I pulled into Melinda’s driveway.  We got out.  Jane said a quick goodbye, ran to her car, and drove away.  A pile of leaves in the neighbor’s gutter had caused a flood in front of Melinda’s house. I grabbed a hoe from the garage and started moving the pile. Melinda watched me briefly, then went inside, to bed.  I stayed outside and pushed and pulled and hacked at the pile of leaves and branches until a stream was created.  I stood alone in the rain and watched the water flow down the street.  Rain came down against the lawns and streets of Bakersfield in the night.  It was quiet otherwise, no signs of life, and I stood alone in the rain, content to know that the flood was gone.

 


WHAT: The Nervous Breakdown’s Literary Experience- Stay Classy Edition (San Diego)

WHEN: Thursday August 25, 2011 7 p.m.

WHERE: The Historic Ideal Hotel and Tea Room 540 3rd Ave. San Diego, CA (619) 808-9847

WHO: Readings by:

While the origins of San Diego’s name remain murky for some, The Nervous Breakdown is staying as classy as ever by celebrating it’s 5th birthday with TNB’s Literary Experience in San Diego, CA on Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 7 p.m.

This event, like the tasty waves rolling up to its bikini-speckled beaches, will be epic.

To commemorate this auspicious occasion, TNB is unleashing a seismic event full of outrageous readings, delicious birthday cake and a special musical guest.

WHEN: Thursday August 25, 2011. 7 p.m.

WHERE:  The Historic Ideal Hotel and Tea Room
540 3rd Ave.
San Diego, CA

 

Due out from TNB Books.  End of summer.  Get ready.


It was around two years ago that Zoe Brock first suggested I write for The Nervous Breakdown. We were in her San Francisco lounge room and I’d made it to about the space between ‘some’ and ‘how’ in the thought Maybe this will get me laid somehow¹ when I said ‘Zoe, I’ll do it.’

How recent is that photo, and how much has it been retouched?

It was taken the week before the first column, by a very well known and talented photographer. A friend of Mr. Dust’s that I’m not at liberty to name. It has been touched a lot, but never retouched. Why do I suddenly feel like I need a haircut?

 

Because you do. How did you meet Dust?

I was hired by Mr. Dust’s previous assistant, Candy. She trained me and had me up to speed before I actually ever met him.

 

Do you address him as “Mr. Dust” to his face?

I address him as “sir.”

You are nervous, you’ve noticed, but you haven’t got any drugs to help with that, and visiting an unethical psychiatrist in order to acquire a prescription for those drugs would have a negative effect on your ability to obtain health insurance, should you ever feel inclined to do so. You sit on the edge of your bed, feet firmly planted on the floor. You are attempting to ground yourself, so as to move through the nervousness and enter a calm reality. The floor is cold, though, and it is physically painful to keep the sensitive soles of your bare feet flat upon the surface of the freezing floor. You begin to bounce your feet up and down rapidly, and because you had been leaning your elbows on your knees, and resting your head in your hands, the rest of your body shakes along with your bouncing feet. You allow a noise to escape from your mouth – a hum of sorts – and the shaking effects the hum as well. With your eyes fixed on an arbitrary spot on the wall, your feet bouncing on the freezing floor, your elbows jerking up and down with the bounce of your knees, your head wobbling along with the rest of your body, and this jittery, moaning, staccato hum escaping your mouth, you appear to any voyeurs looking through your window to be something of a dunce.

A stranger and his friends who were sitting next to me in the Starbucks asked me if I knew the difference between right and wrong. Or maybe he said good or bad. I can’t remember. Is there a difference? Between the words right and wrong and the words good and bad, I mean. I’m not asking if there exists some disparity between the concept of right and the concept of wrong, or the concept of good and the concept of bad. Obviously, these things are opposites of one another. I’m just not certain I know what exactly the other differences might be, aside from the fact that they are opposing concepts.

I spoke to the stranger for a while. There are the big moral ones, I told him. I know those, I remember them. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. After quite a bit of discussion, however, I came to believe that it may not be too unheard of that there are understandable exceptions to these rules. Perhaps thou shalt not kill unless, and thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife unless. For example, thou shalt not kill if thy brother-in-law accidentally crashes your car into a ditch whilst foolishly operating the car during a period of heavy intoxication. Thy brother-in-law meant no harm, he is just an alcoholic, or maybe he is even addicted to sniffing glue. Regardless of his chosen intoxicant, thy brother-in-law is a moron, but a moron who did not intend to cause the damage he did indeed cause. Therefore, thou shalt not kill the moron. However, thou should perhaps consider killing thy brother-in-law if one day you discover him raping your seven-year-old daughter. Thy brother-in-law is a bad person in this hypothetical, and certainly deserving of thy wrath and the punishment of death. Further, thy seven-year-old daughter might also require death at this point, as thou may not want thy daughter living out the rest of her life having experienced incestuous rape. One might argue that killing thy daughter at this point would be morally justifiable, just as one might put a bullet in the head of a deer, to put it out of its misery after the deer has been maimed by a speeding car. While the killing of thy daughter could potentially go either way in a court of ethics, killing thy brother-in-law is irrefutably justifiable. I suppose it’s possible some might claim killing is never well-founded, but these are the same sissies who would argue that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, even if thy own wife is in the habit of throwing ashtrays made of thick glass at thy head when she is feeling ignored, which she frequently claims to feel, even though thy wife refuses to perform her marital duties, stating that her marital duties “feel like rape.”

So, because there are apparent special case scenarios imbedded in the large moral rules we as a society agree to, I answered that no, I do not know the difference between right and wrong, or good and bad. Immediately following my response, there were many gasps and looks of befuddlement, and I knew at that moment that I’d chosen the incorrect answer. “Yes,” I should have said. “There is quite a clear distinction between those two concepts. What a silly question!” But I did not say that, and now everyone around the table at Starbucks was glancing at one another.

“One cannot simply create his own set of rules because he does not care for the rules the rest of society follows,” one man said to me.

“No, of course not,” I said, attempting to backtrack. “I’m just saying there are grey areas.”

“There are no grey areas,” the man said.

“There are the laws, and there are the people who choose to break them,” another man said.

“Are you under the impression that I’ve broken a law?” I asked.

“I noticed you’ve stolen a number of sugar packets from the sugar and cream stand,” the first man said.

“That sugar is free,” I said. “Starbucks gave it to me.”

“You aren’t using it in your coffee, though. You’re clearly taking it with you for some other purpose. You can’t just take sugar you don’t plan to put in the coffee you purchased,” the second man said.

“You can’t?” I asked.

As it turned out, you absolutely cannot just take the sugar. That’s one of the big rules, the men in the Starbucks told me, following closely those rules dictating our freedom to kill and covet our neighbors’ wives.

I can’t help but think these men, in refusing to take the sugar on moral grounds, are living very limited lives.

The end.