Anybody heard of these folks? I think they might well be among the more nervy of the young-ish writerly set in action today, perhaps even with nerves of steel or, if not, aluminum, at least. I’ve corresponded with several members in recent history via THE2NDHAND submissions and zine trades and, if I can’t say much else, I’d advise to keep an eye out for their work, mostly originating in N.J. (oh a-and in the credits to their 4th edition of the Lo-Fidelity zine, they put a shout-out to “role model” Dr. Mickey Hess, THE2NDHAND’s FAQ editor, longtime compatroit and lately a prof at Rider University in Lawrenceville). Among them are onetime (and soon-to-be-two-time) THE2NDHAND contributor Peter Richter and, likewise, Glen Binger. Their Lo-Fidelity zine brings together the work of many, with a single writer featured more widely in each edition. Prose writer and poet Lauren Cerand made up the bulk of the No. 4, out this year. Here’s a taste from Cerand’s work:
NOTES FROM THE FIELD (3/20/2008)
(Alternate title: God I fucking hate this war.) My father called me last night to say he hadn’t heard from me in a while and to remind me of the staggering expectations that pass for small talk in my family. Afterward, as I walked the rest of my way home in a blue mood, I wondered if I would be destined to always have difficult relationships with people I care deeply for. And then just now as I was sitting in the backseat of a car on the FDR, en route to an event for work, I saw a helicopter hovering over the East River and thought of my dad flying reconnaissance missions in Vietnam, younger than I am now, trying not to die.
Exquisite brevity, we say, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own more maximal approach to the same date five years previous, as bombs began to fall on Baghdad and on our television screens in vulgar display, to paraphrase one of the last great thrash metal giants of the 1980s. Its beginning is pasted in below. Follow the subsequent link for the full gore:
20 MARCH 2003
When I was a kid in SC I never tired of poking fun at the outrageous piety of the born-again, peppered here and there over the town’s landscape and, by the time myself and my brother were teens, beginning to show up in numbers within our own family in the form of among others an overweight uncle who now led every prayer before every Christmas (etc.) meal at excruciating length, my brother and I struggling to keep down laughs at the whole thing.
Down the town at the plaza, Chicago, this is what I talked about to begin with. “The men believe in the capital-R ‘Rapture,’” I said. “Bush is an Uncle I’d make fun of over dinner, essentially, a buffoon, a tired old fool who hasn’t the mind to really comprehend his own country’s needs, thus acts on a personal feeling he deems the very baby Jesus talking to him, essentially.” I talked among the crowd, among the skyscrapers (the buzz-saw cacophony falling from the helicopter above our heads) today to a man I tend to run into throughout my travels, the last time being outside of the bookstore in my neighborhood, where he works. He has his bike there with him, which I admire briefly.
“The violence of Rapture being undeniable, if you know anything about the book of Revelations, I think that Bush and his cohorts simply have it in mind that they’ll push the thing along. Though it’s also a fact that the pious son of a bitch — Bush, mind you — no doubt has the gall to believe that he’ll be carried upward at the moment of return of the Lord. More likely of course that it’ll just be some old lady in a trailer in the Ozarks, before all, the rest of us left burning down here in our filth.”
My cohort here is not into this conversation, and we move on to lighter subjects, funnier talks: the folly of violence and violence itself as seen through the eyes of four gun-enthusiasts going by the name of Metallica, 1987′s Master of Puppets, insanity.
Then the speeches. Click here for the remainder, in which kids are beaten on bridges, horses are used as barricades, and high-fives are exchanged between narrator and former death row inmates…
UPDATE: Richter piece “The Crow’s Nest is live at THE2NDHAND.com as of 11/23/09.
Given the rumor, innuendo and subsequent confusion that have all accompanied the run-up to the very real reading series from THE2NDHAND that launches next week, Monday, Nov. 9, at Whistler in Chicago’s Logan Square, it’s hard to pin down exactly when and where the question in its title — “So you think you have nerves of steel?” — was first uttered in conversation between myself and the Chicago-based coeditor C.T. Ballentine, but he locates it in a supposed text message I sent him early this summer. I must surely have deleted it from my sent box, though I do vaguely recall a night out back of my apartment in Birmingham engaged in cooking over smoldering charcoal and not-smoldering beer when the subject of steel nerves came up in a texting back-and-forth having to do with an object of Ballentine’s affections, but little else. By the time I left Birmingham, on July 30 this year, there’s evidence that the title was at least close to being fully formed in Ballentine’s mind, as the 10:29 a.m. entry here makes clear.
Suffice it to say that, finally, the reading series So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? has arrived, and will feature monthly a writer riffing on the question in the story’s title in a sort of extended collaboration toward, perhaps, a greater whole or sense of completeness. This month’s writer so featured is Chicago playwright and prose scribe Chris Bower, one of the best working in the city today, and joining him with new work will be THE2NDHAND contributors Jill Summers, notable for her shorts (stories, for certain) and audio fiction, among other things, and Amanda Marbais.
Backing and interluding all where appropriate are the trio of Nora Barton on cello, Eliza Bangert on clarinet and Allie Deaver on flute. Billie Howard of Paver assists. There may or may not be an arm-wrestling match pitting one lucky volunteer against a venerable Chicago litmag editor, the press material runs, but I know a smidge more — as it was relayed to me, there will be some Over the Top-style antics toward the end, if the mood is right (you know, lots of smoke coming from random places, folks circled around dramatic lighting over a nice old wooden table just the right size for two full-size adult arms). I believe poet/writer/editor Fred Sasaki may be involved.
It stands to be a good night, and to my mind what makes the series at least conceptually beautiful is the collaborative spirit of the monthly endeavor; of the Chicago series currently in action, I don’t think any attempts to involve writers with each other collaboratively in quite the same way — not over time, in any case. What could Nerves of Steel mean six months from now? A year? It’s attempting to build a story all its own; hope you’ll play a part.
And, of course, it’s free. Details here: www.the2ndhand.com/events/events.html.
Or via our Facebook group.
PS: The next broadsheet, our 33rd, was delayed a bit care of some transcontinental apartment hunting woes (not my own) and other circumstances. We regret to report that it will not feature Al Burian, but we’re excited that Al’s not given up on us entirely and should have something with us next year. Also: we’ve got somebody just as good in mind, of course: Kate Duva. Yeah. Stay tuned.