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

Anchor Points

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Anchor Points is up at theNewerYork. It’s a short story about a sadistic dentist, and it’s part of a series of stories called MILK TEETH. It’s inspiration came partly from googling the phrase “fish with human teeth,” which you absolutely should not do. Previous stories in MILK TEETH can be found herehere, and here.

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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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A Letter from Lake Ontario

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New story in issue five of Kilgore Quarterly! It features comics by Noah Van Sciver and Sam Spina, an essay by John Kuebler, an interview in comics with Anders Nilsen, and more. It can be ordered here.

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Clods

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“Clods” is up today at Cheap Pop. It’s a very short story about a strange concierge, grenadine, Florida, and burning to death. It’s part of a series of twenty stories called MILK TEETH. Previous installments can be found here and here.

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Valkyrie

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Valkyrie is up today at Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Thanks to editor Tobias Carroll for taking the piece. After having the idea for the story, I thought, “That doesn’t sound like something I’d usually write.” I had just finished some longer work, so I was interested in trying something different. Anyway, while reading the story, maybe listen to this?

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Reviews

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Read Three by Ann Quin, Nevers by Megan Martin, Ray of the Star by Clarice Lispector, Frisk by Dennis Cooper, and Green Girl by Kate Zambreno. Listened to A U R O R A by Ben Frost, Shallow by Porya Hatami, and Are We There by Sharon Van Etten.

Megan Martin’s Nevers is a collection of very short stories that feel like something new. Her sentences are compressed and acoustically sound in a similar way to Diane Williams’s work, but her quickly arcing plots resemble nothing I’ve ever read. The stories move from place to place with blinding speed: from gondolas to hot tubs to tree houses and back to hot tubs in the blink of an eye. It’s a smart, funny, dazzling collection. You can read an interview with Martin over at The Fanzine.

The cover of Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl is too good not to mention. The close focus, the bright, patchy glitter, the whitehead — it’s a perfect encapsulation of the writing therein. The book focuses on Ruth, an American working a menial retail job in London. The narrator (also the girl’s creator) follows her closely and is both intrigued and repelled by her. The relationship between the narrator and Ruth is similar to the central one in Clarice Lispector’s Ray of the Star, allowing us to see the bones of the creative process without being obnoxiously meta about it. I loved Zambreno’s last book (the hybrid memoir/lit theory book Heroines), and I thought this one was great as well. On the Tin House blog, Zambreno talks with Lidia Yuknavitch about Green Girl, Heroines, and a great section about the ridiculousness of “serious work.”

Porya Hatami’s Shallow reminded me of Simon Scott’s album Below Sea Level, in that they’re both startling representations of place. The acoustic and electronic elements merge with field recordings, slowly rising and falling in a way that feels strangely like weather changing. You can read an interview where he discusses his process here.

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Collar and Vessel

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Collar” is up today at The Fanzine. It’s part of a loosely connected series called MILK TEETH. More on that in the coming months.

“Vessel” is in the new issue of SAND, a literary magazine based in Berlin. It’s almost sold out, so I think you’ll have to go to Berlin for a copy. Haven’t you always wanted to go to Berlin? It’s alright, I hear the weather’s just fine.

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Reviews

under-the-skin (3)

Read In the Devil’s Territory by Kyle Minor, The Chronology of Water by Lydia Yuknavitch, and Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me by Elizabeth Mikesch. Listened to I Was All You Are from Birds of Paradise. Watched Killing Them Softly and Under the Skin. Notes on some of these after the jump.

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Bliss and Constriction

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Bliss and Constriction is up today at Spork. It’s about a couple that travels to Brazil to join a cult. Also featured: reliquaries, windshields, beaches.

Thanks to Joel Smith for taking the story and for the solid edits. Spork has been on a roll lately, with great work from Matt Bell, Jac Jemc, and Elizabeth Mikesch.

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