Writers are the worst judges of their work. What they love, others might hate. What triggers indifference in them might incite fervent admiration from readers. Sometimes it’s easier to thrust a work into the wild and see what happens. And sometimes it’s devastating to put so much work into a novel to see few sales, reviews, and little hype.
Such is the publishing business, especially in the digital age.
The power of the human imagination lies not in its ability to represent events but in its ability to exaggerate them. Such exaggerations give birth to absurdity, which, when properly executed, reflects culture and the human condition more honestly than mimesis.
In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saying Goodbye, Ben Arzate serves us a melange or absurd people and scenarios in fragmented, or cartoonish, plates. When taken together, the sum of absurd representations exceeds the parts. (more…)
Since their inception as on-screen personas, the Marx Brothers appealed to surrealists. Antonin Artaud hailed “the powerful, total, definitive and absolute originality” of Marx Brothers films. Ionesco, the French avant-garde playwright, equally admired them. In addition to winning over audiences worldwide, the brothers found themselves as strange icons for artists on the fringes of polite society.
The Marx Brothers—Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo—shared absurdist sensibilities with the Dadaists and Surrealists. Their plays and movies contained absurd or nonsensical, surreal or anarchic themes or moments. From Groucho’s absurd songs and speeches to Harpo’s clownish antics, their films contained one strange or absurd bit after the other: real dogs popping out of chest tattoos, bizarre contract negotiations, and constant challenges to authority and social norms. Avant-garde artists sensed a kinship with the Brothers’ sense of anarchy, rebellion, and, at times, anti-art. (more…)
[Here’s a short story from Nicholas Day’s collection, Now That We’re Alone. Out now.]
Nobody can deny the existence of ghosts if they possess that thing called a memory, wherein the mind recalls voice, appearance, and even action. Everything that has come before has a potential to haunt… as long as one remembers. And if one is moved emotionally, or their actions easily swayed by memory, by history – because everything that has come before is history, or memory, thus ghosts – then the dead are busy at work in our living world. Many people are haunted for their entire lives, and remain so until they die. Then they have no more room for secrets and become – themselves – a memory. A ghost. (more…)
Since my first book (excluding a chapbook of poetry I self-published), a short story collection called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saying Goodbye, is coming out soon, and I’m in the process of publishing a novel as well, I’ve reflected on my past attempts at writing books. I’ve been trying to write one since I was about 20 years old and I’m currently 30. I’d always either lose motivation or just come to hate the idea behind the book I was working on. I also have a few I started and haven’t finished or conceived and haven’t started. I may or may not write those at some books at some point, but these are ones I definitely never will. (more…)
A panther stalked through a clearing, surveying its surroundings. It glanced at the sky as it sauntered forward. What joys a bird must experience. The beauty must dazzle it.
Ahead, lightning speared a tree. Branches and embers blasted to the ground as fires glowed around the trunk. Millions of tiny people—hued in a variety of colors—darted around, punching the air, consuming nearby oxygen. (more…)
The world inverts, reconfigures itself
People split in two and merge with other halves—and transform into a newer, better people
Then the universe shifts and everyone splits in two
Their other halves morph into viruses and leap from person to person,
Controlling their hosts while persuading them they’re in charge
Viruses mingle with my shadow while I smoke a cigarette
They slither through the darkness and crouch at my feet
A concept forms in my mind,
Which forces an opening,
And the viruses leap into my head and take control
Life’s mysteries blur and vanish,
All questions expose their inherent irrelevance
But no— I can see the mysteries,
I can distinguish them
Now they’re blurry and faded,
Having regained control, I kill the virus, thus denying its only purpose: to reproduce (more…)
My stomach cramps and I drop to my knees. Pain tears through me. It won’t stop. Stop. It won’t stop. Tearing through me: pain. The sounds around me oscillate from one ear to the other. My stomach contracts like a beating heart, my legs tremble, and everything feels as if someone has tilted the world. Everything shifts.
A phantom—of black and various blue hues—lurks between my skin and muscles. It assumes the shape of my body. But I fight it. I won’t lower my guard. You mastered me for too long. I won’t let it happen again. Again.
One of the archetypes of les enfants terribles of the arts, seemingly devoid of impulse control, young Arthur Rimbaud exhibited vice, vileness, debauchery, and madness. All for his art: like the greatest artists, he defined his persona and translated it into his work.
An intelligent child, he turned his attention to poetry, trying to inhabit it, to re-create the world. He seemingly wanted to reify a form of art in the shape of a person, who could, in turn, reproduce the experience of his inhabitation in the form of poetry. (more…)