Prague

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Prague” is up today at Wyvern Lit. Issue Four contains some great work from Joel Hans, Christopher DiCicco, and a stunning story called “Copse” by Rachel Richardson. Thanks to Brent Rydin for taking good care of the piece, as well as Lauren VanDenBerg for making sure I didn’t embarrass myself writing about a city I’d never been to.

Reviews

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Enjoyed The Lives of Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis. I thought some of the plot points were overly coincidental (Cleo’s first meeting with Ludwig, the doctor discovering Rank’s first creation), but Bakis has tremendous skill within scenes and with the overall theme, and those more than carry the book. By positioning these monster dogs somewhere between human and animal, she outlines the boundaries of what defines humanity. Also, Bakis’ skill with coherently rendering the unreal makes the prose a joy to read.

I loved everything about Ken Sparling’s Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall: The language, the shifting focus, the way Sparling gently signifies the passage of time. The prose is minimal to the point of being stilted, but there’s also a great deal of warmth in it. The structure of the book is flat — there’s no grand conflict that’s solved by the end — but the trials of day to day life instill the book with a sort of drama, and Sparling’s sharpened prose propels the book forward. The fact that this book continues to be in print just warms the shit out of my heart.

Jessica Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again is a wonderful album. It’s a straightforward guitar and lyrics set, but Pratt’s writing and elegant guitar work elevate the recording. Carey Mercer has some great words on the album (particularly the technical designation “killer guitar tone”) over at The Talkhouse.

2014

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Some books, music, and movies that I loved in 2014. In no particular order, with notes on a few.

Books (Released This Year)

PDF – Tati Luboviski-Acosta
Man v. Nature – Diane Cook

A stunning, well crafted debut collection. The stories are brightly polished and find new territory between George Saunders’ character studies and Aimee Bender’s fables. You can read a great (really great, not just linking for shits and giggles) interview with the author here.

Arafat Mountain – Mike Kleine
A Different Bed Every Time – Jac Jemc
Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance) – Jeff VanderMeer

VanderMeer’s literary Sci-Fi series is a sprawling examination of an impossible place. While his style is genre-y, his structure and how he communicates exposition are unique, and the whole terror/terroir distinction was fascinating. Probably the most plot-based fun I’ve had this year.

Nevers – Megan Martin
Niceties – Elizabeth Mikesch
300,000,000 – Blake Butler
Sprezzatura – Mike Young

Books (Released Previously)

Tripticks – Ann Quin

Bought this randomly at a used bookstore in Hotchkiss, CO. Can’t remember the last time my mind has been so blown by someone’s writing, and I’ve spent most of the year trying to understand it. Tripticks is Quin’s fourth and last book, and it’s about California, ex-wives, a cult leader named Nightripper, and an insane variety of other things. It’s her masterpiece. I can’t recommend it enough.

Berg – Ann Quin
Passages – Ann Quin
Three – Ann Quin
The Isle of Youth – Laura van den Berg

Makes a good pair with Cook’s Man v. Nature. High level of craft, fascinating characters, and an abundance of precisely constructed sentences. Very excited for her first novel, Find Me, out in February next year.

Hour of the Star – Clarice Lispector
Frisk – Dennis Cooper
Speedboat – Renata Adler
Kind One – Laird Hunt

Music

Burning Daylight – Christine Fellows

Fellows’ album of “minimalist Klondike showtunes” caught me completely off guard. While I enjoyed her last album, I wasn’t crazy about it, and Burning Daylight had a pretty quiet release. However, I think it’s her most successful album to date. A song-cycle about a the Yukon Gold Rush, Fellows’ music fuses showtune grandeur with solemn folk songs about freezing to death. Each song is intricately constructed, and the book of Fellows’ poems that accompanies it serves as a welcome partner to the album. The false ending during “Arcadia” is easily my favorite musical moment of this year. You can stream the album here.

They Want My Soul – Spoon
Shallow – Porya Hatami
A U R O R A – Ben Frost
To Be Kind – Swans
Where Shine New Lights – Tara Jane O’Neil
Beauty and Ruin – Bob Mould
Sea Island – Loscil

Movies

Blue Ruin

A well executed, beautifully shot revenge story. The script is very focused on process and repercussions of violence, and the whole thing has a great arc to it.

Under the Skin

Definitely my favorite score of the year. The music is tightly ingrained with the action, both accompanying and informing the main character’s journey.

Coherence
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Field in England

Slow Learner

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Lake of Earth is nearly a year old. As a way to mark that, I thought I’d list some things I’ve learned over the past few years. Some of this might seem painfully basic, but they’re lessons that’ve taken me a while to get right.

1. Do the Work

I had a professor in undergrad, Rebecca Gorman-O’Neill, who told us that “writers write.” This seems like obvious advice, but I didn’t do a great job of it after graduation. From 2008-2010, I wrote very little. I’d chip away at existing stories once or twice a month or write first drafts I never returned to. I almost never submitted work. I’m not sure what I was waiting for. I told myself that I was collecting ideas, that I only wanted to write when I was “inspired.” Those reasons were bullshit. I just didn’t want to do the work. While I discovered a lot of great authors in that time (Gary Lutz, Blake Butler, and Aimee Bender to name a few), I had zero disciple, so I never got finished anything.

In early 2011, I started writing on a schedule and sending out work. Later on in the year, the work started getting published. I also began writing in a journal about what I was reading, and that kind of close analysis helped my stories. In this article about Maria Bamford, her mantra is reportedly “Do the work.” It’s good advice for all realms of life. If you want to do something well, you’re going to have to put in the hours.

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