Yellow Sky: Brandon Hobson


Brandon Hobson has a piece on tornadoes in The Paris Review Daily.

A week before the tornado outbreak in May of 1999, I attended my first Native American sweat with my friend A. J., a security guard and blackjack dealer at a Cheyenne-Arapaho casino located in the town of Concho. I’d known A. J. since eighth grade, when we used to smoke cigarettes and catch crawdads in the creek behind his grandfather’s house. His grandfather sat in a recliner and smoked a pipe and spent whole afternoons staring out the window. He talked to us about luck. Good luck, bad luck. He once told us to pay attention to wind and smoke. If wind drifted the smoke east, that meant good luck. But only east. Crows are good luck, he told us, because they fly high and carry prayers to the spirits, whereas owls are considered bad luck. Rain is good luck, but only when the sun is shining. Strong winds are good luck because they are personified as divine spiritual messengers. Even ridiculously high winds that bring down power lines and trees are still considered good luck, regardless of their destruction: the overall speed of wind is unimportant because many tribes look at the path of winds as the soul of a spirit sweeping across the land. I’ve never been much into superstitions, but listening to A. J.’s grandfather talk about all this when I was a kid made me realize this was some serious shit.

Merry Xmas from Bali

Them Gideons

I once substituted a copy of Leonard’s Pagan Babies for a Gideon-placed King James edition. True story.

An elimae appreciation

Wigleaf editor Scott Garson posted a Facebook appreciation of elimae.

Some of you have heard that the current issue of elimae is the final one. I feel like we should be making more of this! elimae was a pioneer web journal — started up by Deron Bauman way back in ’96 (when most people still didn’t have email accounts, when you had to wait long seconds for each web page to load). Under Bauman and subsequent editors (and super-fine writers) Cooper Renner, Kim Chinquee, and Brandon Hobson, elimae specialized in a kind of fiction that was more or less disappearing in New York. Gordon Lish’s final year at Knopf was ’95, and New York was starting to narrow down to the two types of literary fiction it could hope to do profitably: moral entertainment and authorial spectacle. elimae did neither. Under Renner’s stewardship, the journal solidified its reputation for a distinctive sort of fiction — tight, minimal, sentence-aware, often very short (under three hundred words). As a reader, I didn’t always love everything I found in elimae, but I was always excited to read through the monthly issues. I always felt like an elimae story might find a way into me, changing my brain or the way I saw fiction or life on earth.

ground control to Angkor Thom

headline of the day

In Lieu of Bibles, Hotel Stocks Nightstands with Fifty Shades of Grey

The Language of the Birds

{ untitled: under the auspices } is a book of auguring, or divination codex, where birds are the words, in particular the common starling (with a few cameos by seagulls & crows). The sequenced set of flight patterns, or murmurations, were captured over the course of the past few years in the skies over Rome, where the starlings winter in the months of October & November.

Coming September 2012 from Calamari Press.

Slovenly Elephants & Crystalline Waters

«Is ganesh a word, asked the commanding officer, Yes, a word, which, like all the others, can only be explained by more words, but since the words we use to explain things, successfully or not, will, in turn, have to be explained, our conversation will lead nowhere, the mistaken and the true will alternate, like some kind of curse, and we’ll never know what’s right and what’s wrong.»—José Saramago

More from a Balkan State of Mind I.

Ray Bradbury (1938–2012)

I just read Ray Bradbury’s piece in the latest New Yorker the other day, and today he’s gone. I have a few fond memories of Bradbury stories from childhood. I’ve got a picture in my head of the cover of a collection, though I can’t find a picture of it at the moment. Probably the same year I read an awful lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs. And of course The Veldt. 

David Cronenberg: Betray the Book in Order to Be Faithful to the Book

David Cronenberg on adapting Don DeLillo’s “Cosmopolis”:

You have to know that each adaptation will be different. What you’ve done before will not help you on the next one. I’ve said before you have to betray the book in order to be faithful to the book. You have to recognize that literature is not cinema: they both do different things well, and there are certain things they cannot do that the other one can. I’m pretty ruthless about discarding things from a book that will not work cinematically.

Lucy Foley: Songs for People I Will Never See Again

If you are in or near NYC, you have time to get to apexart for the first performance of Songs for People I Will Never See Again, a new live multimedia show by Lucy Foley, accompanied by her four-piece band. Sound design and additional music composition are by Lucy’s collaborator Ross Bonadonna, and instrumentation will include guitars, steel pan, synthesizers, laptops, toy piano, and clarinets, with a driving and playful rhythm section. There’ll be live and recorded music, projected imagery, and a spoken word narrative. It’s at 6:30 PM, and it’s FREE!
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Cooper Renner: “Ack-Ack”

Speaking, as we were, of recognition, Cooper Renner’s story “Ack-Ack” (in JMWW, Summer 2011) has been included in the Wigleaf Top 50 list of best stories of 2011.

April Holy Foolish Palm Sunday Interview with Patti Smith

An hour-long interview with Patti Smith, endearing and, dare I say, inspirational.

I liked her music less and less after the first brilliant album; that much said, I worshipped her when I was in my early twenties and went to see her perform every chance I had. She was brilliant live. (And I have one of her guitar picks from the Radio Ethiopia tour.)

At bottom I have always admired her terrifically. She is tremendously endearing in this interview — both genuinely, unaffectedly girlish at 65 and mature and wise.

Watch or listen to this interview even if you do so in bits and pieces or while tending to other things.

The Emigrant Irish (Eavan Boland)

Like oil lamps, we put them out the back,

of our houses, of our minds. We had lights
better than, newer than and then

a time came, this time and now
we need them. Their dread, makeshift example.

(Undye-ing gratitude to @Howlinow for her tip to the full text of Boland’s poem.)

“I make up a lot of shit”

Tell Them Anything You Want is an intriguing documentary focusing on Maurice Sendak, the curmudgeonly children’s author who wrote Where the Wild Things Are.

tweet of the day

smoke signals


Brian Joseph Davis uses police composite sketch software to draw characters from books. This one is Judge Holden from Blood Meridian (or “middle-age Billy Corgan” as it is tagged).

Ark Codex ±0 launch

For those near NYC, I’ll be coming soon to launch the newest Calamari book, Ark Codex ±0:

• on February 28, from 7-10 pm, there will be a launch mixer/exhibit in NYC at Lolita Bar  &
• on March 3 at 8 pm there will be a launch party, featuring Tempers, at Collab (304 Hudson st, 6th floor)(please RSVP to this one)

For those not in NYC, the (physical) book is now available (at 25% off) on Amazon or as a pay-what-you-want digital book.

I’m also getting this tattooed on my belly for the occasion:

dear clusterflock

What portion of bodices in literature exist only to be torn, ripped, shredded, or otherwise rent asunder?

Sesame Street: Maurice Sendak “Bumble-Ardy” Animation

Inspired by Josh’s Maurice Sendak post (and by Casey’s link to the “Fresh Air” interview with Sendak).

from the comments

Daryl Scroggins:

This kind of play always gets me excited. It’s easier for me to remember opening lines I like, though, because the ones I don’t like don’t stay with me. But there’s no denying that dislikes shape us too. Writing an opening sentence in a fiction is like walking up to a stranger on the street and saying excuse me…. In real encounters like this, all of human nature waits in that moment of turning to look at the person. We have secret lists of near-future possibilities waiting: panhandler? thief? long-lost friend? detective….? And we start considering the list before we actually even see the person. I like opening sentences that don’t let me feel comfortable about my list or my impulse to apply it. I like opening lines that say — something interesting is already happening. This power only comes when everything down to punctuation and single word choice is significantly managed.

Here’s a favorite opening sentence:

Read more

Hüzün in the ruins of defeat

«It is the failure to experience hüzün that leads him to feel it, he suffers because he has not suffered enough, and it is by following this logic to conclusion that Islamic culture has come to hold hüzün in high esteem.»—Orhan Pamuk

More on Istanbul reading Pamuk.

Flaubert in The Age of Twitter

After having set it aside years ago, I picked up Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet yesterday, and made the observation that Flaubert was the prefect narrator.

Tim Carmody replied:

I have three favorites, who are very different: Flaubert, Eliot, and Proust.

I asked if he meant George Eliot, and mentioned not having read Proust.

Yeah, George Eliot in Middlemarch. She has all of Flaubert’s tools, but an infinitely greater capacity for sympathy.

I thought it would be easy to have a greater capacity for sympathy than Flaubert….

Tim said:

It’s hard if you can see, see through, & disintegrate like Flaubert & Eliot can.


Proust is… Well, nothing is like Proust. Imagine a blend of Flaubert, Kierkegaard, and Wilde.

A human being compelled to identify the nuances of small moments and big ideas in a withering yet charming style.

David Milch + HBO + William Faulkner = Television Heaven

David Milch is extending his relationship with HBO. Milch, whose latest series for the pay cable network, Luck, launches in January, has inked a new multi-year deal with HBO where he has been based for the past eight years. Under the new extension, in addition to executive producing Luck with Michael Mann, Milch will develop series and movies based on books by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner William Falkner. Milch’s Redboard Prods has inked a deal with the literary estate of the iconic American writer who penned novels, short stories, a play and screenplays as well as poetry and essays. The pact covers all of the 19 novels and 125 short stories in the estate, as well as other works, with the exception of those currently optioned by other parties.

This is pretty much my sweet spot. Here’s a quick glimpse into Milch’s new HBO series, Luck:

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