Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Creative Overgrowth in a Windowsill Garden

I am honored to have my work included in On A Narrow Windowsill: Fiction & Poetry Folded Onto Twitter alongside 42 other wonderful writers. Folded Word Press has crafted a print version that is a sleek volume presenting the once Twitter-exclusive stories in a way that brings them alive. Appropriately enough, it is also available for ebook readers such as the Nook. According to Folded Word Press:

“Written on four continents and read on six, the works in this anthology celebrate the birth of a new literary form: the tweet. Ironically, the 140-character limit of the Twitter platform has inspired new and veteran writers alike to stretch traditional boundaries.”


Ben White, known for publishing his fiction on Twitter @midnightstories has several stories included in the anthology, and on his blog he writes:

“There is only one carefully curated Twitter-based creative writing anthology. And that book is On a Narrow Windowsill, out in the time for the holiday season from Folded Word.”

I really admire the microfiction of Daniil Kharms, and his work taught me that a story can be short - incredibly short, even only a few lines - and tell a complete story without feeling as though anything is missing. In fact, a story can benefit from the short form and be even better than if more had been added. That is the spirit behind the works in On a Narrow Windowsill, and it is fascinating to see what authors have been able to create with the short form working within the limitations imposed by text messaging technology and the Twitter platform.

75% of the book’s profits will be donated to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

You can order a copy directly from Folded Word Press here: Google Books provides a preview of the book here.

Contributors to the Anthology: Rose Auslander, Amanda Lawrence Auverigne, Ashley Baldon, Nathalie Boisard-Beudin, Mel Bosworth, Johnsie Noel, Eric Burke, Karyn Eisler, Jay Flemma, Opal Castmin, Andrew Dobbs, Kaolin Imago Fire, F.I. Goldhaber, Joel Handloff, Ludimila Hashimoto, Michael Lee Johnson, Beth Katte, S. Kay, Peter Keller, Robert Laughlin, Ellaraine Lockie, Jenny McFadyen, Joanne Merriam, Winifred Hunter Moore, Nora Nadjarian, Derek Osborne, myself, Cynthia Reeser, Adriana Renescu, Eric Richens, Michelle Ristuccia, Stephen D. Rogers, Ethel Rohan, meika loofs samorzewski, J.Y. Saville, Linda Leedy Schneider, Nate Sullivan, Jennifer Tatroe, Christian Ward, Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Ben WhitexTx, Changming Yuan
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#Twitterfiction and the Art of Microfiction 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Love of Literature and Hatred of Fellow Man: Ezra Pound's Pisan Cantos

I love the poetry of Ezra Pound, but it is unfortunate that he cast the tainted shadow of anti-Semitism over his work, and this is something that his readers must struggle with. This is especially true in The Cantos, and The Pisan Cantos in particular, which still manages to be one of my favorite pieces by him. It seems to me that he was trying to unveil a usurious global banking conspiracy - something we can certainly relate to living through The Great Recession - but that he was sidetracked by the red herring of racial prejudice. 

Pound was a monumental figure in the world of literature during Modernism, and he had prolific correspondence with all of the major writers of his time. Despite this, he seems to be underrepresented in the study of Modernism, mainly because his name was ruined by his anti-Semitism - although it further hurt his reputation that he sided with Mussolini during World War II and was arrested for treason and found insane in the United States. I always feel bad for him when I read Richard Sieburth’s introduction to The Pisan Cantos and he explains that when Pound was taken to the American camp in Italy at gunpoint, he thought he would be a free man when he was turned over to the Americans. Pound told the Americans that they needed to get him in contact with the President as soon as possible because he wanted to be sent to Japan as a diplomat - claiming himself as an expert in Asian cultures because of his translation work - and that he would attempt to get the Japanese to sign a peace treaty ending the war. The soldiers’ response was basically, “What are you, crazy? You’re being arrested for treason!” and they threw him into a cage, in which he had a massive mental breakdown and then began to compose The Pisan Cantos on sheets of toilet paper. I pity Pound’s naïveté, but I also envy his tenacity, and I think about the fact that if by some miracle he had been successful, he might have prevented one of the biggest atrocities in history: the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But I digress - I began with his anti-Semitism because I was thinking of Pound in connection to James Joyce. I posted about Ulysses on here when I read it last summer, but after I finished Joyce’s novel, I found Pound even more enigmatic than before. Pound championed Joyce, helped promote him, and made his work known and respected when no one even knew who James Joyce was. Pound was the first one to publish chapters of Ulysses in America and he wrote glowing critiques of Ulysses in The Dial which pronounce Joyce the latest and greatest in a long line of literary masters. 

What confuses me is that if Pound loved Ulysses so much, why did he not seem to take one of Joyce’s main themes to heart? Joyce made Leopold Bloom Jewish for a reason. Yes, anti-Semitism was a pervasive attitude at the time, but Joyce specifically made Bloom - his new incarnation of Odysseus, one of literature’s greatest heroes - Jewish. There are chapters that deal with anti-Semitism, and we - the reader - are supposed to empathize with Bloom - literature’s ultimate everyman - and realize that the prejudiced people who hate him are unjustified and have no understanding of who Bloom is as a person. Specifically in the “Cyclops” chapter, we see that the prejudiced “I” and the other anti-Semitic people at the tavern are ignorant, narrow-minded, and worthy of our scorn. 

I can’t imagine that Pound wasn’t aware of these running themes throughout the novel, so how did he feel about it? Why was he still prejudiced? I just find Pound so confusing. It seems like he was half-genius and half-crazy.
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Related Posts:
How Much Does Character of the Author Affect the Work? Must We Only Read the Virtuous? 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Wayfinder: Home of the Lýkos" and "To Live a Life That is Not My Own" by Suany Canarte

It's been a big publishing week for the author Suany Canarte. Finally, some of her fecund writing is available for the public to read online. Previously, the only access one could have to her wellspring of imaginative talent was in the webcomic Pyraliss, which she writes and draws, although that product has been on hiatus for the last couple of months.

Now Canarte has burst onto the fiction writing scene in the online literary journals The Legendary and Yesteryear Fiction.  The former included her short story "Wayfinder: Home of the Lýkos" in it's 20th issue. The story of a character who walks a wavering path between pariah and epitome of a new order, "Wayfinder" is a story with visceral sights and sounds that will leave the protagonist's voice in your mind before he even has a chance to speak a word.

"A lonely howl escaped from the tip of his long muzzle and drifted into the air. He watched as it danced up through the trees and spread out across the sky, a longing feeling pierced his heart."

"To Live a Life That is Not My Own" appeared in Yesteryear Fiction on August 21st, serving up another visceral tale, albeit in a vastly different setting. Trent is a character who is going to take the reader inside his mind, and you'll be torn between the urge to explore this imaginative mindscape to the fullest extent and to flee back to the safer world of third-person narration.

"The lights shone through the dark windows. Red to blue to red and black to blue. They caught one another sometimes and on the splintered bark in front of me they turned a deep violet. These colors were so wrong, so out of place. They weren't the same colors I had seen just a few moments ago."

For more information about the author, you can find her blog Invaluable Syncretism and her Twitter page @Triserao

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ulysses - Oxford World's Classics

Recently, I've been working on my novel The Bookstore Hobos, and I've amused myself by adding a minor, yet impossible, detail. There's a scene when two of the characters are perusing the James Joyce section. One of them, having previously noticed one of the B&N's giant posters for Ulysses on the wall near the bathroom - "The Modern Library's #1 Novel of the Twentieth Century" - takes a copy of the novel from the shelf. As he turns the thick paperback book in his hands, he notes that a quote on the back claims that "Ulysses is a novel to end all novels."


What's impossible in a scene like this? Well, I based the version of Ulysses that the character picked up on my own personal copy - a copy which came to me via abebooks.com that was originally published in England. The scene in The Bookstore Hobos is set in Lakewood, Washington, so it seems impossible, or at least improbable, that they'd be selling an English printing of the book in a store that only sells new books. There is an American printing of the Oxford World's Classics version of Ulysses, but it doesn't feature Harry Levin proclaiming it as "a novel to end all novels." The biggest quote on the back of that version is Gerry Dukes exclaiming "this is the one to buy."

If you'd like to find out more about my novel-in-progress, I posted a 23-word excerpt on my Twitter account.

UPDATE - December 5th, 2010: Last week I was in a Barnes & Noble in Paramus, NJ and it was humongous. They had a large selection of used books in the store, which I had never seen in a Barnes & Noble before. It was so tempting that I couldn't resist buying a copy of Notes From The Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky for $3.50. After the experience, I remembered back to this blog post, when I commented that Barnes & Noble doesn't sell used books. Apparently, some of them do. Despite this fact, I'm still proclaiming the scene in my novel to be impossible. First of all because it is most likely that the Barnes & Noble in the novel is like 99% of the Barnes & Noble stores I have gone to and did not feature a used section; second of all because, even if for some reason Zaid fails to tell you about about the used book section as an unreliable narrator, that doesn't change the fact that they were upstairs in the fiction and literature section where they were selling new books and not old versions from England. On a related note, I read a 10-minute excerpt from The Bookstore Hobos at the "Writers on the Rise" event hosted by Centenary College and Warren County Community College, and I appreciated the audience's laughter and applause.