Thursday, July 26, 2012

Internal News as of 7-26-12

How is it July 26th already? I forgot to do this last week. So, in case you missed what I've been doing lately...

Posts at Persephone Magazine:

Other Tidbits:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins
by Jess Walter

Let's get one thing out of the way up front: Beautiful Ruins is an absolutely perfect book, and if you read any review that claims otherwise, then that reviewer is trying too hard to be a smug killjoy and they should not be trusted. You should perhaps ask them if they also enjoy popping children's balloons and talking on their phone during movies because only a jerk would hate on this book.

In Sara-parlance: I wanted to hug this book's face off.

Twenty meters away, Pasquale Tursi watched the arrival of the woman as if in a dream. Or rather, he would think later, a dream's opposite: a burst of clarity after a lifetime of sleep.

That's on page one. Everyone in the business of writing talks about the importance of the first page, those magical lines that make the reader say, "Yes!" and feel compelled to go on, but Jess Walter is one of those writers that makes you conscious of your delight. You know you are in the presence of something great — not just a great story that holds your interest, but great writing. Writing that reconfirms why doing it well is so important and sets the standard for how you measure other books. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that Beautiful Ruins is flawless, and not "one of" the best books I've read this year, but the best. I've read some great books this year, so far, but they're just going to have to round out the Top 5.

Still, I struggle to describe the story in a way in which I will not spoil your reading experience. The element of discovery plays a vital role here, so I will do my best.

In a way, Beautiful Ruins reminds me of Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay in that the story traverses decades and comes from multiple points of view. And while Walter's novel does not concern New York City, Judaism, and comic books, both are about love, career and devotion.

Beginning in 1962, Pasquale Tursi meets a young actress who would like to stay in his small hotel — the wonderfully named Hotel Adequate View, shoved into the rocks of Porto Vergogna, Italy. Porto Vergogna is barely a town, populated only by fishermen, their wives, himself, and his elderly mother and aunt. Though he dreams of having a popular resort, complete with a beach and tennis court, most of the time, people stay elsewhere.

She glanced away — right, then left, then right again — as if looking for the rest of the village. Pasquale flushed over what she must be seeing: a dozen or so drab stone houses, some of them abandoned, clinging like barnacles to the cliff seam. Feral cats poked around the small piazza, but otherwise all was quiet, the fishermen out in their boats for the day. Pasquale sensed such disappointment when people hiked in accidentally or arrived by boat through a mistake in cartography or language, people who believed they were being taken to the charming tourist towns of Portovenere or Portofino only to find themselves in the brutto fishing village of Porto Vergogna.

The woman, an actress named Dee Moray, is very sick. She's come from the set of Cleopatra — Yes, the same movie involving Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — and she desires quiet while she decides what to do next. She and Pasquale get along very well immediately, despite his limited English. The only other American Pasquale has hosted is a writer named Alvis Bender, a man who visits every year with plans for writing that usually devolve into drinking. Dee stays in what was "his" room — a room that now Pasquale will always think of as hers — and reads his one completed chapter left behind. In Chapter 4, Walter lets us read that solitary effort, set in 1945 wartime Italy, and it is not at all the distracting ploy "book-within-a-book" that other writers might use. Every detail, every change of scene, sets up what will come.

Time jumps forward to Michael Deane, aging Hollywood producer, reading a script that his assistant Claire has pronounced, "not even good by crap standards." He was once considered one of the Greats, but has only recently crawled out of a deep slump with the success of "Hookbook" — a reality show combined with a dating site. He is fine with "pitching the shit" out of anything that will make him a pile of money.

Claire, meanwhile, is wondering how much longer she will tolerate listening to people pitch these horrible shows to Deane — Rich MILF, Poor MILF, etc. Her boyfriend seems more interested in online porn and strip clubs, but he's pretty and she's used to him, so for now, he stays. She decides that unless she hears something worthwhile, something decent or maybe even great, she's going to leave her job.

As he drones on about the physics of this fantasy world (in Veraglim, there's an invisible king, an on-going centaur rebellion, and male penises are erect for one week every year), Claire glances down at the buzzing phone in her lap. If she were still in the market for signs, this would be a good one: her career-challenged, strip-clubbing lunk of a boyfriend has just gotten up — at twenty minutes to noon — and texted her this one-work unpunctuated question: milk. She pictures Daryl in front of the refrigerator in his underwear, seeing no milk and texting this inane question. Where does he think this extra milk might be? She types back washing machine, and while the Veraglim guy drones on about his schizoid fantasy, Claire can't help but wonder if Fate isn't fucking with her now, mocking the deal she made by giving her the worst Wild Pitch Friday in history […]

Michael Deane once worked in publicity for 20th Century Fox, the studio who released Cleopatra, and at the end of this very long Wild Pitch Friday, an old Italian man arrives at Deane's office. He tells Claire, "He say … you … ever need anything."

The game is afoot: The story glides back and forth between "recently," the past, and the somewhat less-distant past, where we learn how all these people are connected with one another, and what they've had to do along the way in order to survive. Scenes occur in both Italy and Hollywood, yes, but also Edinburgh and Sandpoint, Idaho. Sandpoint is about an hour and a half away from Spokane, Washington, Walter's place of residence. Since I lived in Spokane for seven years, I love that he continually finds ways to include his oft-forgotten or maligned home, and because I am quite familiar with the area, I know how exactly right he is with the following:

Word of the great Michael Deane's presence seems to be spreading throughout the crowd, and the ambitious make their way over, casually mentioning their appearance in the straight-to-video movies shot in Spokane, appearing alongside Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas, John Travolta's sister. Everyone Claire meets seems to be an artist of some kind — actors and musicians and painters and graphic artists and ballet instructors and writers and sculptors and more potters than a town of this size could possibly support. Even the teachers and attorneys also act, or play in bands, or sculpt blocks of ice.

(Those movies, among others, were End Game, Hit List, Lies and Illusions, Lonely Hearts, and The Big Bang. For whatever reason, Cuba Gooding Jr. just keeps coming back to make shitty movies.)

It's true that in Spokane it seems like everyone has an artistic trade. There's a foodie culture too, but even the people obsessed with food are also web designers, filmmakers, etc. The area is juuuust big enough to have an inferiority complex compared to their Portland and Seattle neighbors, and the cultural points of pride are mixed with a heavy dose of self-deprecation. Like Pasquale, they "inhabit the vast, empty plateau where most people live, between boredom and contentment."

When one lives in a place that is not large nor known on a large scale, one does tends to not take art and opportunity for granted.

Beautiful Ruins is the sort of book that others might describe as "sprawling," "epic" or a "tour de force," and I suppose that's all true, but the first thing that comes to my mind is grand.

grand [via]

# Of large size or extent; great; extensive; hence, relatively great; greatest; chief; principal; as, a grand mountain; a grand army; a grand mistake.
# Great in size, and fine or imposing in appearance or impression; illustrious, dignified, or noble (said of persons); majestic, splendid, magnificent, or sublime (said of things); as, a grand monarch; a grand lord; a grand general; a grand view; a grand conception.
# Having higher rank or more dignity, size, or importance than other persons or things of the same name; as, a grand lodge; a grand vizier; a grand piano, etc.

Its timeline, its massive cast of characters, its declarations — all are grand. Its thoughts about love, loyalty, and passion are grand. The quality of Jess Walter's words and rendering of one's inner life? Grand.

Most importantly, Beautiful Ruins exists on a completely different level compared to so many other novels — a completely different elevation. That change in oxygen, that rush felt when diving into its world will sustain you. You will wonder how you had gone so long without knowing.

Full Disclosure: Harper sent me this book at my request. I (extra-)thank them for the gesture, and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26 or 52 books within one year.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Internal News as of 7-14-12:

I've reached The Letter J in my Alphabet Soup column over at Persephone Magazine. The Cure up there make the cut.

Also, What I Watched Last Night: Drunk History, with a tribute to William Henry Harrison.

And since it was my birthday on Thursday, I talk about 29 Reasons I Do Not Fear Growing Older.

At Word Riot, this week's Notes From Elsewhere, there's some Sugar-love, more thoughts on revision, and a literary flask, among other things.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Crack the Spine: Spring 2012 edited by Kerri Farrell Foley

Crack the Spine: Spring 2012
edited by Kerri Farrell Foley

Crack the Spine is a weekly online magazine that specializes in poetry and short fiction. The printed anthology, published through CreateSpace, collects a season's worth of their best material and lets the reader embrace the tactile sensation in its title. I brought this book on vacation, figuring that I was given permission to let it get banged about in my bag.

I know there is still some prejudice in the writing world for going the self-pub route, but for an online journal with likely zero budget dollars, it makes sense. Even if it's only for the beginning of a publication's life, working through Amazon's service provides distribution, an ISBN, and oh yeah, something one can hold. Certainly, no one gets into the literary magazine business expecting to make money (if you did, well, bless your heart), so the low profit-margin of a print-on-demand service is a small sacrifice. If you're broke and just want to get the work into the world, then why not? I feel ya.

And how is the work? Fairly good, as it happens, though a bit uneven. New authors mingle with the more established, but that's not so much the problem. Ms. Never-Been-Published can be just as great as Mr. 30-Publications, but the arrangement of the work makes me notice the weaker pieces more so than I might if they were arranged in a more natural way. As it stands, poetry is separated from the fiction — which is fine; it could work either way — but they are alphabetical by author. I don't think it is in the work's best interest to have it set up in a way that lacks flow. Now, I'm not going to take the time to say what should have gone where, but I hope that it is just first collection growing pains and not a long-term plan.

Another thing:

Very few poems call
for center alignment.
Just. Say. No.

Maybe it's a little harsh to judge a poem based on its alignment, but none of the poems I liked best were laid out that way. The better poets know.

My favorites from the poetry section were Tobi Cogswell's "Veranda Coffee Shop, Last Day of the Conference" and Kyle Hemmings' "hojo Boy." These two go together well, despite their different writing styles, and coincidentally, Hemmings follows directly after Cogswell. A few lines:

The communal table a bar of sorts
for carbohydrate lovers rather than drunks
every day for six days she sits on that stool,
puts down her wallet, her book,
her glasses and orders her eggs

— Cogswell

hojo boy #13
calling out the fatalities of lunch rush the
question becomes how do i love a waitress
with anti-climatic feet

— Hemmings

Both offer their own versions of solitude within chaos, and I liked the poems a lot.

Overall though, the fiction was the stronger section. With the poetry, I might like a line or two, but wasn't really wowed by the whole thing. The fiction, I had more instances of feeling fully absorbed in the work.

D.N.A. Morris' "The Biscuit Affair" concerns a guy and his crazy girl only-friend stealing back her cat from her ex-boyfriend's house. It's not perfect, but I was committed and interested and liked it anyway.

It looked like a cross between a bat and a pissed-off toad — gargoylesque. At the sight of us, its little horn-like ears went back and it turned its strange face around to continue staring at the wall, which apparently it had been doing with great pleasure until we arrived. I forgot to mention this was Biscuit and apparently he was some breed of cat, but you're not stupid and you already came to that conclusion.

Yes, all right, I'm basically a sucker for shenanigans involving cats.

Laura Bogart's "Spilled Milk" is quite good, and so is Lily Dodge's "Brother/Sister."

M.Y. Pastorelli (because somehow this anthology has more than one author with initials that spell other words) has a very true-feeling offering with "Expatriates:"

Today two Russian dudes came up to me at Starbucks. One of them looked at me with some curiosity, my necklaces and multiple bracelets and chains running up and down my arms. He was drunk and red-faced, and leaned over to me and reached for my pack of smokes.

I liked it better than his second piece, "The Burden of Titles." That one is less of a story and more of a "Here's my writing process" paragraph. It doesn't really belong here. He's one of the first-time-published authors, as it happens.

Luca Penne's "Ashes in the Urn" is a single paragraph story that opens with, "When I picked up the urn from the mantel, Dad protested, 'Put me down or scatter me with your mother.'" As first lines go, that's pretty great. Luckily, the rest of the story does it justice.

Eric Prochaska's "Lines" is the most engrossing, heartbreaking piece in this section. Two seventh grade boys try to navigate their friendship through art. Both have gained popularity from their drawing skills, and neither is quite sure how to treat the other while their home lives make them act out in different ways.

When Tristan returned downstairs and came back to drawing, I said in a hushed voice, "Don't you ever get tired of your dad just laying around? I wish my dad would get off his ass and get a job."

"Well, maybe your dad should," Tristan said.

"Yeah, sure. And maybe so should yours."

"My dad hurt his back at his last job. He's not ready to work yet."

Hurt his back? I'd been coming over there for four months. Was his back broken in half?

"Hey, don't get angry. I just mean, my dad's the same way. Just doesn't wanta go out and work, I guess."

Tristan stood up, folded the cover over his pad. "Yeah, well, maybe that's the way your dad is. But like I said, my dad can't go back to work yet."

The story hovers the line between youthful naivete mixed with learning reality, and it's probably the best story in the book.

So while I didn't love everything in Crack the Spine's first anthology, they've piqued my interest enough to where I want to see where they go from here. Maybe with better design work in their printed edition and a more of a discerning editorial eye, they could become something notable like PANK or other primarily-online literary publications. Time will tell.

Full Disclosure: I received this book as a review copy from the editor. I thank her for the gesture, and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26 or 52 books within one year.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Men, Women and Children by Chad Kultgen

Men, Women and Children
by Chad Kultgen

Beyond anything else, Chad Kultgen's Men, Women and Children is about what happens when we fail to communicate. Filled with characters wrestling with their most basic desires, Kultgen lays out two generations wrapped up in sex and fear. Junior high kids starve themselves and obsess over World of Warcraft, while their parents watch porn on lunch breaks and consider affairs. Everyone is fucked up in their own little way.


Yes, these characters are trapped inside how small they feel, and they make bad decisions in search of relief.

Despite being fully aware of the fact that what she was about to do was, at the very least, exploitative and possibly bordering on criminal with regard to the treatment of her own child, Dawn quickly set up a PayPal account and hired a web designer to build a members-only section on her daughter's website. She had a talk with Hannah to make sure she had no reservations about wearing some more revealing outfits on this section of the site. Hannah explained that she was proud of her body and understood that if she was to be discovered by a director like Darren Aronofsky or Paul Thomas Anderson and they wanted her to participate in a nude scene, she wouldn't hesitate to oblige them. This, she reasoned, was just practice for any feature-film roles that might come her way in the future.

In an attempt to hide or rectify any bad decision-making, these characters usually make worse decisions. Most of the pain and heartbreak could be avoided if they talked to the other person, or at the very least, didn't assume the very worst.

An over-protective mother checks her daughter's online accounts with zeal, while her daughter has created and hidden a secret profile, where she used to make up a more "exciting" life, but now she uses it to communicate with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend used to play football and now he doesn't see the point in it all, so his dad is freaked out by the change. He is also wrecked by his wife leaving him and moving to California, but finds he enjoys the company of Dawn, modeling website purveyor. Unbeknownst to her, her daughter is trying to figure out why her boyfriend likes "weird" porn, but feels a strange pressure to satisfy him. And on and on it goes.

On the back of the ARC I received, the summary says that Kultgen "cuts to the quick of the American psyche," and I thought, "God, I hope not." Especially once I thought about my 13-year-old experiences, versus these kids, versus what might await my kids in a few years. But then, I kept reading, wanting to know how these screw-ups would ever make it out of their situations without involving death or explosion, and that's when I got it — The American Psyche will always watch a wreck.

Although Brooke was enjoying herself, it was difficult for her not to think about the image on Hannah's phone of her performing fellatio on a random and unnamed boy. She had no choice but to compare herself to Hannah and when she did, she felt inferior. As Danny rubbed his hand against her stomach, she made the decision that Hannah wasn't going to be the only one to have a boy's penis in her mouth in the eighth grade.

This book dares you to look away all while making you remember every sex-related deed you've ever done. And like Brooke, you might start comparing: "When did I do [x]? Is that better or worse?" Everything teenage, it seems, falls into a grey area. As adults, maybe it's easier to contrast and compare "bad" behavior, or maybe I'm just speaking for myself.

I give Kultgen and the publisher bonus points for getting Stoya, the adult film actress mentioned in a few chapters, to blurb the book. She says it "explores all the things that most Americans don't talk about," and calls the story "beautiful." I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call Men, Women and Children beautiful, but I do recognize the intricate dance Kultgen has created. Each story element cycles into the other, and there is certainly no ambiguity, but I find it hard to say whether or not I enjoyed the book. It was compelling, thought-provoking and well-written, but "enjoy" is not the right verb. That doesn't mean it isn't worth reading. It is a modern cautionary tale mixed with voyeurism, and it is not without humor, but I can't say I felt good after reading it.

From the opening page, an epigraph:

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
— Carl Sagan

Full Disclosure: Harper Perennial sent me an advanced review copy of this book, so my pull quotes may appear slightly different in the final edition. I thank them for the gesture and will continue to be fair in my reviews.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26 or 52 books within one year.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Internal News for 7-9-12

At Persephone Magazine, I reviewed Adriana Trigiani's Don't Sing at The Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers, making that the 33rd review I've done this year for Cannonball Read.

Also, it's a million-bajillion degrees outside, but whatever the temperature, I don't need much of an excuse to talk about pizza.

This week's Alphabet Soup features The Letter I. There are some usual suspects, musician-wise.

The latest Notes from Elsewhere: Word Riot Edition has bits on revision, reviews, and free legal documents, among other things.

PS: My birthday is Thursday.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Electric Literature No.2 stories from Colson Whitehead, Lydia Davis, Stephen O'Connor, Pasha Malla, and Marisa Silver

Electric Literature No.2
stories from Colson Whitehead, Lydia Davis, Stephen O'Connor, Pasha Malla, and Marisa Silver

Electric Literature is no longer releasing their print volumes with five stories each, and are instead focusing on their Recommended Reading project, but because I had 2 issues left in my paid subscription, they were kind enough to send me Nos. 2 and 3. I'm still lacking No.4 to make my collection complete, but I wanted to make sure I had this volume for two reasons: Colson Whitehead and Lydia Davis.

Colson Whitehead was set to appear at Spokane's Get Lit! Festival in April, and I had yet to read Zone One at that point, so I wanted to make sure I'd read his short story, "The Comedian," before seeing his event with Jess Walter. I'd followed him online for a bit and found him interesting, but I felt guilty over not having read any of his actual printed material. Luckily, "The Comedian" was a great introduction.

One time on a talk show, before he made the change in his comedy, the comedian was asked why he started telling jokes. He took a sip from his mug and responded that he just wanted some attention. As a child he'd felt unseen. He was a handsome baby (photographs confirm) but his impression was that no one cooed at him or went cross-eyed to make him smile. Common expressions of affection, such as loving glances, approving grins, and hearty that-a-boys, eluded him. His mother told him, Hush, now, when he came to her with his needs or questions and he frowned and padded off quietly. He received a measly portion of affirmation from grandparents, elderly neighbors, and wizened aunts who never married, folks who were practically in the affirmation-of-children business. In kindergarten, he was downright appalled to find the bullies stingy with noogies and degrading nicknames. The comedian believed that he was unseen, overlooked, and not-perceived to a greater extent than other people were unseen, overlooked, and not-perceived, when in actuality he was overlooked as much as everyone else, he just felt it more keenly. The talk show host asked him what his first joke was. He said he didn't remember, but he must have liked what happened because he did it again.

It's a good story about the evolution of this guy's comedy, and while I wasn't completely smitten like I was with Zone One, it still made me eager to hear Whitehead read in person. He's darkly funny, and like "The Comedian," he often seems to take the stance that "People are disappointing." He cultivates just enough reader discomfort, and that makes him interesting.

Lydia Davis' "The Cows" is taken from a book by the same name, a book that Paul Lisicky once recommended to me over Twitter, when I mentioned some sort of animal amusement. And it's true, I do find cows amusing in their lumbering, slow-motion activity. They always seem so exhausted by the world, and that if they could just get a little peace and quiet to eat their grass, and not have to do or think about much else, life would be perfect. Davis writes about watching her neighbors' cows through her kitchen window, and without even trying, she has become invested in their movements.

The third comes out into the field from behind the barn when the other two have already chosen their spots, quite far apart. She can choose to join either one. She goes deliberately to the one in the far corner. Does she prefer the company of that cow, or does she prefer that corner, or is it more complicated — that that corner seems more appealing because of the presence of that cow?

Their attention is complete, as they look across the road: they are still, and face us, full face.

Just because they are so still, their attitude seems philosophical.

"The Cows" is easily my favorite story in this volume, and it's an overall strong collection of stories. I love these cows. I want to watch these cows. I will eventually read the whole book about these cows, and I imagine that I will love it even more so, fully formed.

And what of the other three stories?

Stephen O'Connor's "Love" is a sad, yet mysterious tale of a relationship weaving together and then slowly unraveling. Alice meets Ian at a friend's funeral. He is an ad copywriter, and she is a waitress and six years into her PhD thesis. Suddenly, she decides to quit her job and move to her family's cabin for the summer.

"But what about Cape May?" Ian asked, referring to his father and stepmother's offer of their beach house for his two week vacation.

"I know," Alice said, as if forgoing the Jersey shore caused her real pain (which, in fact, it did, she assured herself). "It's just that I'm turning thirty in September, and I've got to get this dissertation done so that I can start leading my real life."

The pinch of tension between Ian's expressive eyebrows eased somewhat at the words "real life" — a term which, Alice suspected he understood as being less about her getting an academic, or at least career-like job, than about their having children.

This is where the trouble starts, and then uneasy things begin happening during her stay at the cabin. Though it is obvious that their relationship is in trouble, the peripheral action and that ever-important What happens next? feeling kept me quite compelled to read on. I appreciated having a romantic-relationship story in this volume, since some of the other stories I've read in this and other EL books focus on other matters, sometimes delving into the overly strange or deliberately unclear. Lots of times, I just want to read something straightforward. "Love" is the longest story in the book, and I enjoyed getting lost in it, rather than being aware — as I am sometimes with short stories — how much information is crammed in so few pages. The story reminded me of something else I've read or seen lately, but at the moment, I'm having trouble placing what that was.

"The Slough" by Pasha Malla is less straightforward, but I liked trying to figure it out. Plus it name-checks Strangers on a Train, and while I've only seen the movie version (as of yet), we can all do with more Patricia Highsmith in our life. And Hitchcock, for that matter.

"I should probably tell you," she said, swallowing coffee, "I'm about to lose my skin."

"What? Is that an expression?"

"No, not an expression. People's skin cells rejuvenate every seven years. Usually it's gradual, but I've been using something to make it happen all in one go."

"What?" He put down his knife and fork. There was something suddenly disquieting about the idea of bacon. "How does this work? What do you use?"

"It's a topical cream," she said.

"Topical? Do you mean like up-to-date? Current?"

"What are you talking about?"

In addition to skin — and love, and relationships, self- or otherwise — yes, this is about disorientation and communication as well. Hope and despair. It's a surprisingly affective (and effective) story.

"Three Girls" by Marisa Silver was my least favorite in No.2 — not for any major reason. The writing is fine enough, the characters are all their own entities, but I find that three months later, it ended up being very forgettable. I had to more or less reread the whole thing to remember what it was about. I did laugh knowingly at this part though:

The house did not so much change over the years as accrue, like boulders covered with more and more layers of barnacles. Books lay on top of books, bills on top of bills. Sometimes, on a Saturday, or during the long summer months,her mother would have a burst of energy and decide to organize a closet or their tax files, but these efforts usually fell short, and a row of worn shoes would stand near the front door many months, waiting to be taken to Goodwill, or stacks of papers would occupy one side of the dining room table, forcing the family to eat their meals squeezed in at the opposite end.

(This particular habit of mine may or may not drive my mother crazy. Also, no one look at my bedroom unless you are particularly forgiving.)

It's not a bad story, but just one I feel as though I've read before and wasn't all that in love then either. It was fine and only fine. It served well enough as a lead up to "The Cows." Another reader may feel differently.

Certainly, No.2 is worth the $10 price for a paperback copy, and it's a steal at $5 for the eBook version, but I understand why Electric Literature wanted to now focus their energies on Recommended Reading. It's easier to know you have one stand-out, excellent story than it is to know if you have five that make up a cohesive collection — a collection that will make someone want to purchase a subscription. An online, free collection of stories will get more eyes reading (presumably) quality work, and they can work out the finances in new ways. It will be interesting to see where it leads from here.

On a semi-related closing note, my husband sent me a .GIF while I was writing this review. This cow is the opposite of Lydia Davis' cows (click through for the animation to work):

You're welcome, internet.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26 or 52 books within one year.