A couple blasts here, one from the recent past and the other more distant. I’ve had a good time in most instances — sometimes too good — but it hasn’t always been so easy. In Birmingham now a little over a week ago our “Extraordinary Rendition” of a reading went quite well, and for the first time I can prove at least a part of that statement with video, shot live at Greencup Books that fine Sept. 11. It’s my “Dreams of a Thriller” story, which you probably heard first in a blog post from weeks back, and the vid’s embedded below.
For the second vid, that blast from oh-so-long-ago past, click here for where former bandmate Greg Ellis posted the short of Facebook — warning: it’s a live rendition itself of a song whose name I can’t quite remember; I think myself or Greg one wrote it. We were a hardcore band called Salvo Rain. That’s him on the drums and screaming, that’s me far right of screen, on guitar, starting to get sweaty. I don’t remember the dates and many of the names, but I have a distinct recollection of how it felt to be 19 on that tiny stage in that tiny backroom of the Indigo Moon headshop in what I might have thought of my own little empathically screwed up corner of Rock Hill, S.C., my hometown. Which is to say, hot, loud, itchy, energizing, wonderful. Here’s that link again. Have I mellowed a bit in 14 years? — yeah, but just a bit, right? Evidence follows?…
Couple new things upcoming in the way of mobile fiction experimentation, namely the first CellStories.net contribution from THE2NDHAND, David Wirthlin’s “Nine Items From Your Disappearance,” to be broadcast via the exclusively mobile literary short site Thursday; Doug Milam, in turn, will be engaging his Twitter feed in our second live itinerary this Friday here. Follow him for the goods, though we’ll be publishing the results, er… would posthumously be the right word here? Assuming most microblog posts officially die after a few minutes, of course.
Likewise, those of you still reading words on paper, I recently finished one book and came upon another, and both make frantic literary hay of experimental typography. The first, Edgar Mollere’s Driven or forced onward by or as if by wind or water, is a tale somewhat in the tradition of Faulkner’s rural-South mythologizing, though its brutal end is more in keeping with the our time’s extremes of temperament/action.
It follows — through the shifting, often combined (on the same page, even) points of view of several children of a rural family — an eldest sibling’s evolution to monster. I haven’t read a more chillingly compelling book since Book IV of Roberto Bolano’s 2666. Released by Austin-based Vagabond Press (also the publisher of our compatriot Spencer Dew‘s excellent Songs of Insurgency), Driven is a comparatively small book, at only 133 pages, many of them scantly peppered with text. But in the white spaces rests ample opportunity for readers to imaginatively engage the brilliant, macabre story. I read the gruesome and foreshadowing (however educational) “Butchering” chapter under a small light on a screen porch late one night and, crickets loud at work in the background, out there in the dark, felt the world opening up in every last bit of its unexplored, terrifying glory. Pick it up soon.
The second book is Nashville-based Eric Durchholz’s Heartless. I met Durchholz one slightly hungover day (Susannah had taken me to the Patterson House on Division — that’s Nashville, Chicago folks — for a birthday outing the previous night) last week at the Portland Brew here in East Nashville by chance; turns out he was a little hungover, too, or at least I’d assume so given the pub crawl release he staged for the novel the night before in Five Points. I can’t say much about the book right now, but look for an excerpt at THE2NDHAND.com fairly soon. What I’ve read so far brings to mind Stephen Elliott’s A Life Without Consequences and, well, Mollere, simply for nature of the typographical experimentation going on. There’s a 100-page pdf via heartless.me you can sample, in the meantime.
When my former colleague at the Chicago Reader, venerable “Hot Type” columnist Mike Miner, wrote about Punk Planet Books editor and publisher Dan Sinker, in turn a friend and colleague in lit-punk stuff, I knew it had to be about something good. Appropriately, I came across Miner’s eventual column about Dan — “A Short Story in the Palm of Your Hand,” about Sinker’s CellStories.net venture –via someone’s (I think Sinker’s himself) Facebook status update, reposted the news myself and hopefully began to chain along the interest in something that’s been well overdue for quite some time in the web fiction arena: a site with stories delivered daily and optimized for mobile phone exclusivity.
Though McSweeney’s does look and function fairly well on the iPhone — as does THE2NDHAND, for that matter — it and other online fiction purveyors have none of CellStories.net’s seamless simplicity for mobile readers nor the expected range of style expected among the content. Sinker expects to pull from not only direct submissions but from already published work, aggregating the “best of the Web” in the manner of Mother Jones or Harper’s readings section. I’ve already recommended several recent stories from THE2NDHAND for CellStories — including among others David Wirthlin’s “Nine Items From Your Disappearance”, part of a novel due from BlazeVox soon, and Margaret Patton Chapman’s alternate history of Chicago’s Kimball Avenue, “The Tragical History of Dr. Kimbell” — and with any luck our writers will reach more readers this way.
Amazingly, the venture was picked up today by Reuters and Publishers’ Weekly. Traffic was high on THE2NDHAND.com today, too. As for CellStories’ functionality, I’ve yet to actually read the debut piece, by former THE2NDHAND contributor and known excellent Chicago quantity Megan Stielstra (I’m sure it’s a good one, nonetheless). It’s not accessible via a standard internet browser on the computer, nor via my chintzy Verizon texting phone’s web browser (admittedly, a lot of things don’t work on my chintzy Verizon texting phone’s web browser).
Apparently it works on the iPhone and iTouch (hey, Susannah’s got one of those)– and on the Google Android phone, among others. In any case, sounds like Sinker and co. are working on accessibility issues; stay tuned for more: http://twitter.com/dansinker or http://twitter.com/cellstories.
In other news, Annalemma, a mag launched by the great Chris Heavener after initial development in a Columbia College workshop I taught in 2006, has an entirely redeveloped and quite cool website experimenting with lit multimedia, here.
UPDATE: As expected Stielstra’s story rocks. Checked it out on Susannah’s iTouch. The feel of the device, complete with background design and good-size text, is excellent, definitely worth staying tuned.
AND: According to past THE2NDHAND contributor Amy Woods Butler, CellStories is working just fine on her cheapo Verizon phone.