Vesna Maric is the author of the debut novel The President Shop (Sandorf Passage).

 

Maric was born in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1976. She left the country at sixteen as part of a convoy of refugees bound for the Lake District in England. She attended University College London and later went on to work for the BBC World Service. She now writes Lonely Planet travel guides, translates literary fiction and non-fiction from Croatian into English, and writes a variety of journalism for publications including the Guardian. Vesna has collaborated with various artists, including Jane and Louise Wilson, and art projects at the Tate Modern’s Who Are We? project. Her memoir, Bluebird, was published by Granta in 2009, and was longlisted for The Orwell Prize. She lives in Madrid.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

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The Big Bang Never Happened

 

Turtle shells and yarrow stalks became Chinese
tools of divination. Metagalaxy and antimatter
appeared in books. Mom said I get upset
because I think too much. Everything is spinning.
Cities torture trees. Suburbs farm powerlines.
Cats and birds are always cleaning themselves.
The universe is bigger and older than we thought.
Two galaxies can collide with no star collisions.
Mom said the less we think the happier we’ll become.
Little gifts from her made me cry years later.
All my prior selves seem unconscious later on.
Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies is an American book.

 


artwork by Tao Lin

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Melissa Broder. Her new novel, Milk Fed, is available from Scribner.

 

 

This is Melissa’s fourth time on the podcast. She first appeared in Episode 58 on April 4, 2012. Her second appearance was in Episode 404 on March 13, 2016. Her third appearance came in Episode 519, on May 9, 2018.

Broder’s other books include the novel The Piscesthe essay collection So Sad Today, and five poetry collections, including Superdoom: Selected Poems (Summer 2021) and Last Sext.

Broder has written for The New York Times, Elle.com, VICE, Vogue Italia, and New York Magazine’s The Cut. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Iowa ReviewGuernicaFence,  et al. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize for poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

@otherppl

Instagram

Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

 

Most everyone, myself included, considers each new year the blank slate it isn’t. Yesterday, I woke in the afternoon, Green Day’s Dookie playing on loop from my iPhone; I listened to it 4 times through, then turned it off, then did nothing. New Year’s Eve, I’d passed out, listening, apparently, to Green Day’s Dookie, after reading the first twelve months of this book to a muted Zoom room. Moments I’d forgotten, or else repressed, caught me off-guard and I choked with the onset of potential unraveling—then read the next sentence, and the next, until the feeling left. I’d been sipping beers so I burped a lot as I compacted my 2020 into under two hours for the audience—an act I’d expected would be cathartic, an act that was cathartic, but also not. Today, a girl on the bus flicked through Twitter, briefly enlarging a photo of a man hanging a Celtic-cross-repurposed-as-white-supremacist-symbol flag from a column inside the US Capitol, then exited the app to open Candy Crush. It’s terrorizing, how many times I’ve seen this face-painted doofus Viking, versus the video of the journalist yanked and dragged through the murder-eyed MAGA mob, or the photoset of the DC woman tortured on her walk home, both of which, only once. How convenient I enter my worst headspaces on Fridays when therapy’s on Thursdays. An Instagram with an Aahhh!!! Real Monsters profile picture DMed to say they’d figured out how they knew me—it involved a party, an old friend, alcohol, a conversation about writing, a red kitchen, and a cool bathroom. I’m going through something I’ve named The Thought Crisis which, when thought or talked about, only reinforces itself.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with David Tromblay. His new memoir, As You Were, is available from Dzanc Books. It is the official February pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

 

Tromblay served in the U.S. Armed Forces for over a decade before attending the Institute of American Indian Arts for his MFA in Creative Writing. He’s since written and published a memoir and three novels. His other books include The Essentials: A Manifesto and The Ramblings of a Revenant. He currently works as an editor for Shotgun Honey Magazine and lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his cat, Walter, and dogs, Bentley and Hank.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

@otherppl

Instagram

Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

Webs

By Rob Kaniuk

Short Story

 

A hot woman followed me on Twitter, but it seemed suspect. I clicked her profile. She was a barista in LA who wrote screenplays. Attractive. Funny. Definitely not real. 

My friend Jenn texted me to ask why I didn’t follow her bot back. Said she made it with some Mad Libs style template that would shuffle all the words and phrases she uploaded and the bot would fire off a nonsense movie idea every hour.

 

Does it respond if someone comments?

 

Yeah, like, she calls me master when I reply, but she calls everyone else babe.

 

Oh shit––I should make one to resurrect Jeremy.

 

Oh god, that’s so sad and creepy––Yeah, and I’ll make one for my mother that tweets the lyrics to ‘Hallelujah’ in a never ending loop and says she’s proud of me when I post about my b-hole. 

 

For a few days I laughed at the concept, played it off, then found myself digging through the ammo box jammed full of letters Jeremy sent from prison. I called Bekah.

“Yo, if I gave you all those letters, would you do me a favor?”

“From him?”

“Yeah.”

“Whatcha thinkin?”

“I just want to make, like, a digital file.”

“All of em? Dude, there’s gotta be like two hundred letters.”

“Can you do it?”

“Why can’t you? No offense.”

“Can you help or not?”

I dropped off the ammo box full of letters from different addresses within the Florida State Corrections system. I told her how to fill the templates with all his -isms. Bekah was the only one capable. She knew the way he spoke and wouldn’t clean up any of the poor grammar or correct words like set to sit

Weeks went by and I wanted to call and see if she’d made any progress, but I didn’t. It was a lot to wade through. We spoke a few times––their daughter had been enrolled in preschool and started saying goodnight to her daddy’s picture before bed––but I didn’t bring up the ammo box.

The week of Father’s Day, she texted me:

 

You still got those recordings?

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Candace Jane Opper, author of the debut memoir Certain and Impossible Events. It was selected by Cheryl Strayed as the winner of the Kore Press Memoir Award.

 

Opper is a writer, a mother, and an occasional visual artist. She grew up in the woods of Southern Connecticut. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Longreads, Guernica, Creative Nonfiction, LitHub, Narratively, Brevity, and Vestoj, among others. She is a Creative Nonfiction Foundation Fellowship recipient and a member on the advisory council for Write Pittsburgh, a program collective that empowers writers to amplify their voices and strengthen their communities. Certain and Impossible Events is her first book.

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Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Ahmed Naji. He is the author of three novels, including Using Life (University of Texas Press), which led to his imprisonment in Egypt—and then led to the writing of a new memoir, Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in Prisoncurrently excerpted in The Believer magazine.

 

In 2016, Naji was sentenced to 2 years in prison after a reader complained that an excerpt of Using Life published in a literary journal harmed public morality. His imprisonment marked the first time in modern Egypt that an author has been jailed for a work of literature. Writers and literary organizations around the world rallied to support Naji, and he was released in December 2016. His original conviction was overturned in May 2017.

His other books include the novels Rogers and And Tigers to My Room.

Throughout his career, he has won several prizes, including the 2016 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.

He is now a fellow at the Black Mountain Institute in Las Vegas, where he lives with his small family.

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Michael Bible. His new novel, The Ancient Hours, is available from Melville House.

 

Support independent booksellers! Get your copy of The Ancient Hours here.

Bible’s other books include Empire of Light and Sophiaalso from Melville House. He is originally from North Carolina. His work has appeared in the Oxford AmericanThe Paris Review DailyAl-Jazeera AmericaESPN The Magazine, and New York Tyrant Magazine. He is a former bookseller at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, and lives in New York.

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Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Te-Ping Chen. Her debut story collection, Land of Big Numbersis available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It is the official January pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

 

Chen’s fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Granta and Tin House. She is a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Philadelphia who was previously based in Beijing and Hong Kong. She has reported on rice cookers and wrongful convictions, gotten hung up on by Edward Snowden and eaten more robot-cooked noodles than she can count.

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1. Don’t Die

2014. My dad calls to tell me about a sheep hunt he’d been on with an old fisherman friend in the interior. He tells me to call this friend because I’ll be working on this friend’s fishing boat this summer. “You’ll either be with Andy or his identical twin brother Pete.” Two people I’ve never met or heard of before. Fishing after high school is a mundane fact in coastal Alaska, but when I tell my friends I’ll be fishing they don’t believe me. The cognitive dissonance of imagining my 18 year-old-self working on a seine boat is too much and everyone worries for me. The most common two words I hear before I leave the first time are “don’t die.” 

 

2. Cordova

So I fly into Cordova to fish for a man I’ve never met, with a backpack full of books I think a recently graduated 18 year-old should read. I won’t read any of them, and later in the season I’ll wish I used the backpack space for more socks. 

Andy and his wife, Mel, pick me up from the airport. Andy has a lazy eye and a limp and he says it’s because his twin beat him up in the womb. Andy seems a little shy at first so Mel does most of the talking. She wears wire transition lenses, and chain smokes Marlboro reds. She is a born and raised Cordova girl.

Cordova had a railroad in and out of town, but now there’s a 30 mile stretch of dirt road where it used to be, ending at a bridge which was swallowed by the unforgiving Copper River during the Good Friday earthquake of 1964. Now, Cordova is cut off from the Alaskan highway which would connect it to other parts of Alaska like the city of Anchorage. Cordova doesn’t want this road to the city. They fear a road will take away what is special about Cordova which is that it’s really only fishing and things related to fishing. There are bumper stickers on lots of cars and businesses around town “NO ROAD.”

1989, thirty years after the Good Friday earthquake of 1964, and seven years before I am born, the Super Tanker “Exxon Valdez” runs aground on Bligh Reef and spills over 10 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound. After the spill kills the fishing industry, financial anxieties, spikes in substance abuse, domestic abuse, and suicides plunge Cordova, a town of 3,000 (mostly fishermen), into chaos. Twin fishermen and lifelong Cordovans, Andy and Pete move south along the coast to Sitka to continue fishing in waters untouched by the oil.

 

Andy’s boat, The Ace is brand new, fresh from the boat yard in Washington. Unlike other boats in the fleet, the living quarters are comically small. It’s the first thing people comment on when they step inside for the first time. “Oh it’s like… really small.” Andy designed it this way so as to not invite any other sort of leisure or unnecessary passengers (like his wife). “It’s a work boat, not a piano.” Andy also takes this as an excuse to keep the boat as messy as possible. The deck of The Ace is spacious and incredibly efficient in its operation. Andy likes to make sets fast. The more sets you are able to make in the fourteen hour fishing periods, the more fish you catch, the more money you make. The price of the salmon varies year to year. That’s one tactic Andy uses to keep me coming back. He keeps predicting how high the price is gonna be. “It’s gonna be the biggest year, pricewise, you’ve ever seen.” And usually it’s not and it’s a lot lower than he predicts. He makes up for this by always being one of the top three boats in the Sound. Some years his twin beats him.

 

3. Thom, Ethan, and Paul

Thom has minor gauges in each ear and wears a red knit cap with devil horns. He’s one of the boat builders and is on the crew to help fix and finish the boat since it was rushed out of the boat yard. One day he runs out of chewing tobacco. I hand him a slice of pizza at the end of the fishing day and he throws it in the water. He teaches me mechanical things, but it is confusing because he compares everything to jerking off. Changing oil? Just like jerking off. Tying lines? Exactly like jerking off. Unbolting a piece of equipment? Just think of it like jerking off. I don’t remember any of the practical knowledge.

 

Ethan was recently asked to leave his Christian college in Homer, Alaska because the administration found out he had sex with his girlfriend. He says he was called into the dean’s office and they asked him if it was true he had had sex with his girlfriend and he said yes because he was worried being caught in a lie would be worse for him. 

 

Paul is basically the co-captain and Andy’s oldest friend. Paul is patient and teaches me a lot. Each piece of the boat is designed for a specific part of the fishing operation and I have no idea what any of it is. I’m told to do things like “shorten the purse line” and “change the oil,” “pull up the bunt,” “pop the release,” and I have no idea. Eventually you learn things until one day you understand. It took me two summers to understand what each part of the net is for. There’s the corkline, the lead, the lead line, bunt, web, breast line, purse line, rings, king ring and so on. One day it all clicks. 

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Rob Doyle. His new book, Threshold, is available from Bloomsbury.

 

Doyle’s debut novel, Here Are the Young Men, was published in 2014 by Bloomsbury and the Lilliput Press. It was selected as one of Hot Press magazine’s ‘20 Greatest Irish Novels 1916-2016’, and has been made into a film starring Dean Charles Chapman and Anya Taylor Joy. This is the Ritual, a collection of short stories, was published in 2016 to widespread acclaim.

Doyle is the editor of the anthology The Other Irish Tradition (Dalkey Archive Press), and In This Skull Hotel Where I Never Sleep (Broken Dimanche Press). He has written for the Guardian, TLS, Vice, Sunday Times, Dublin Review, Observer and many other publications, and throughout 2019 he wrote a weekly column on cult books for the Irish Times. 

He lives between Ireland and Berlin.

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Below are five poems from Will Stanier’s chapbook Everything Happens Next, forthcoming from blue arrangements. Preorder a copy of the chapbook right here. (Preorders come with a special surprise.)

 

 

Parade

 

     sitting wasting time
thereby seize it
      sounds
so aggressive. 

 

     hear actors rehearse
clunky dialogue,
          feet sweaty in flannel lining, look up
and there’s the sky again. 

 

I’m glad not to be sick
     after drinking too much,
           to be without hermeneutics,
     whatever those are. 

 

a man walks by rolling a double bass
                  on a single wheel.
my friend walks by talking on the phone,
     red tassels bouncing
           at the cuffs of her jeans. 

 

     three watermelon lozenges
turn my tongue sugary pink.
      I see a beautiful woman,
             I see a lot of people. 

 

 

◊ ◊ ◊

 

 

Murmurs

 

what in the dream has eight
corners?     I don’t know!

 

pinhole camera of my hand, fingers splayed against
the sky   swarming, blushing   in edges and inlets

 

“funny the oneiric specters, like I was
supposed to know about things I didn’t . . .”

 

near the trestle bridge made famous
as regular people out for a walk refused to be our project.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Gil Adamson. Her new novel, The Ridgerunner, will be published in the United States by House of Anansi Press on February 2, 2021.

 

 

Adamson is the critically acclaimed author of The Outlander, which won the Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing, the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the ReLit Award, and the Drummer General’s Award. It was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, CBC Canada Reads, and the Prix Femina in France; longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and chosen as a Globe and Mailand Washington Post Top 100 Book. She is also the author of a collection of linked stories, Help Me, Jacques Cousteau, and two poetry collections, Primitive and Ashland. She lives in Toronto.

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I want to kiss my neighbor. He is a bald, lanky old man who lives directly next door to me. He lives very alone, except for his tiny dog named Princess. Sometimes I hear screaming outside my window, and then run to the window because I am a sucker for semi-suburban drama and am secretly hoping to see an argument about missorted recycling get out of hand, but it’s usually just him, alone, telling Princess to stop eating her own feces. 

 

He only speaks at one volume and it’s a very high volume. Even when he’s just asking, “How’s it going?” as I carry my groceries to my front door, it could be mistaken for aggressive screaming. It’s possible he is hearing impaired, but the more I observe him, the more I don’t think that’s the case. I suspect he screams for the same reason most people do: fear. I think he’s afraid people will ignore him, and the dependable thing about screaming is that it’s very difficult to ignore. 

 

This screaming could probably be traced back to some childhood trauma of his—maybe his father beat him and whenever he mentioned the beatings to his mother, it fell on deaf ears—but I doubt he’s ever made that connection. I don’t think he actually knows he’s screaming. Who would tell him? Whenever he’s screaming at me, I certainly don’t tell him he’s screaming. In fact, I end up raising my voice too, kind of like how I always end up talking in the local accent when I travel. This is an embarrassing habit, though someone once told me it’s a sign of empathy. 

 

My desire to kiss my neighbor began the day I moved in. I brought him a box of cookies from the local bakery—it’s important to get off on the right foot—and he refused them. As he screamed about not liking sweets and knowing a guy who once died of diabetes, I entered a familiar softcore fugue state I have only ever experienced when staring at a woman I am dating and realizing, for the first time, that I’m “in love” with her. In these blissfully disorienting moments, I tend to hold onto reality by focusing on the woman’s lips. I do this because I know that the only way to break the spell is to kiss those lips hard, with tongue, passion, urgency, etc. 

 

So, I watched his lips as he screamed something about Governor Cuomo being a secret Nazi. I probably nodded my head a lot and even said something like, “You never know with Nazis,” but really I was imagining what his mouth would taste and feel like. As I imagined it, I grew confident in the accuracy of my imagination. His saliva would taste metallic and salty, like a sweaty battery. His lips would be firm, with no give at all, as if God took a utilitarian approach to this particular creation, knowing he was designing a man who would spend decades using his mouth to eat, drink, breathe, scream, but never kiss.