Because of some clerical pokiness on my part, the book’s release at Amazon has been delayed. But before long it’ll be available there, too.
The Common is a beautiful print and online journal from Amherst, Mass. Their superslick website featured a great review of Madeline ffitch’s short story collection Valparaiso Round the Horn (March 2015). Its scope is deep and wide, exploring the Madeline’s prose style and how the stories work and what they mean, and it’s the sort of review that added to my own appreciation of the book. Jen Hinst-White concludes the review:
Whether your home base is rural, like ffitch’s, or you dwell in the city or in the suburbs, as I do, finding a potent book like this frees up the imagination—resets the moral compass—not through moralizing, but by jarring us. I read this book aloud, story by story, to my husband on our commute, and each time, it jolted me out of routine. It made me feel alive.
Jarod Roselló sent The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found to Leela Corman, author of the graphic novel Unterzakhn as well as an illustrator, radio host, and dancer. She responded with this blurb:
“A line-drawn tragedy of dual identity, code-switching, and hiding in plain sight. Rosello’s story made my heart break a little bit.”
The three elements that she pulls from the book really resonate. “Dual identity” and “hiding in plain sight” were clear to me the first time I read it, but I never would have thought of the term code-switching, which is something that happens when a speaker uses two languages in one context. Now I’m thinking about all the ways that applies to the Well-Dressed Bear, who is constantly so displaced.
I think a fundamental question about the book is whether questions of the bear’s identity come from the outside—the woman who calls him on the phone and insists that he is someone named Jonathan, the neighbors who follow him around and want him gone—or from within himself. Probably both things are there.
Anyway, I ramble. You can find out more about Leela Corman at her website.
In other WDB-related news, we’ve got two events planned for the book: a release party in Tampa on October 2, and then on October 15 Jarod will be here in Atlanta to have a joint launch party with Matt Bell and his new novel, Scrapper.
And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to read this interview with Jarod that we just posted.
Over at BOMB Magazine, Laura Van den Berg interviewed Stephanie Barber about her new book, All the People (Ink Press 2015), which is a collection of short, prosey portraits of dozens of fictitious-but-real humans. It’s a beautifully produced book—the cover is nicely printed onto cereal boxes and the binding is hand-sewn In the interview, Laura prompts Stephanie to talk about the thinking behind her varied types of work like writing a haiku everyday on Facebook, or the time she installed her studio for a month inside the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Stephanie Barber talks about the what:
But also, as regards media, I feel very strongly that I am simply making pieces of art. I don’t think a painting is a poem, or a film is a song, but I do think they can be received and created and considered as simply emotional or philosophical offerings made somehow sensorially manifest. I like the Buddhist word ayatana, which includes the mind as a sense organ.
and also how that works in her new book, specifically:
I’m also interested in using a sort of generic vernacular, particularly when what I am writing about is potentially too precious or heavy. There’s a desire to balance the depth of the concept with a light—or degraded?—handling. Mostly I was thinking about how something is being said as “the portrait,” not what is being said.
At the Small Press Book Review, Melissa Reddish has put together a thoughtful look at Jarod Roselló’s graphic novel, The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found. Her review centers on current events—responses to the shooting of Cecil the lion in contrast to the shooting of unarmed people of color (she goes on to reference Trayvon Martin and his hoodie, as some characters in Roselló’s book wear hoodies)—and how through that we seek connection. She points to the ringing telephone and how it’s always the wrong number. In summarizing WDB structure, she says:
There are two parallel narratives in The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found: the text, which tells the story of a persistent wrong number, and the artwork, which tells the story of the Well-Dressed Bear’s persecution. Although seemingly separate, they occasionally merge within the artwork. The wrong number that rings, again and again, evokes Murakami while the menacing streets filled with hooded figures and helicopters beaming searchlights evoke a kind of noir/sci-fi mystery.
Composer David Smooke has written a musical monodrama (Wikipedia’d it) based on a story from WORDS by Andy Devine by Michael Kimball. It will be performed in Baltimore on September 8, as a collaboration with Margaret Rorison. The piece will feature vocalists and woodwinds.
From the Facebook invitation:
The September 8 concert will feature the world premiere of Baltimore composer David Smooke’s “A Baby Bigger Grows Than Up Was,” an hour-long monodrama on a text by Baltimore writer Michael Kimball (from the book “Words” published under the name Andy Devine), with visuals by Baltimore filmmaker Margaret Rorison. In this alphabetized tale, the relative stress created by repeating individual words as many as 443 times allows us to perceive elements of an underlying narrative structure while the repetition of words forces us to perceive them as sonic events. Within this unusual organization, we find intimations of more traditional stories that might possibly provide expressive foundations for our listening experience. What at first appears to be an abstract series of words eventually reveals itself as a beautiful, emotionally charged story. The narrator gradually develops a sense of self, growing up with a doting mother and a nearly absent father.
I can’t imagine a better description of what the book does, or a better medium to capture this effect.
Years ago, when Words was released, “Andy Devine” went on tour to dozens of cities across the country by having other people perform as if they were Andy Devine himself. I got to see Smooke perform as Devine in Baltimore, and his presentation was skillful and musical … and funny. I’m excited to see the final project, years in the making, in concert.
Jarod Roselló, author and artist of The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found (coming out soon! Preorder it here), is featured on AWP’s website this month. It’s a cool interview about reading habits and his writing and teaching. “Part of the joy of reading,” says Jarod, “comes in entering into dialogue with a book. I want to be affected by a book, of course, but I want to answer back as well. So, I need to write in a book.” Why not read the whole interview how about?
Thanks to Kristen Felicetti for featuring Eat, Knucklehead! for summer reading over at Hopes&Fears, a very beautiful new culture website. Her description of the book is wonderful, and it ends, “This book should also appeal to those who understand that cooking can truly be a performance, or an act of creative expression, just like any other art.” Spot on. Order Eat, Knucklehead! right here.
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WHAT’S IT ABOUT:
Mike Young’s bristling new book is about love and fear and money. How do we know our feelings and feel our knowledge? It’s about stupid contemporary immune systems and being left to our own devices. If you’re on a bus or plane, you’ll be happy to hear there are a lot of those. Rollerblading, Lord Byron’s clubbed foot, pyramids, falafels, bridges, trains, buses, nightshade, mustard, tattoo, antlers, innovation, nerves, guilt, blood, strawberry cops, conclusive gameshows, moody strangers, and “the yes that keeps watch / over and under my breath.”
“Young has some vaudeville in him, some Harmony Korine-like want for entertainment in the everyday, but perhaps the best thing about his work is the way that it seems like an insanely huge sponge made out of eyes and ears, vacuuming up the moments that most often disappear, and cobbling together monologues that carry their aphorisms in the same arm as their jokes … I’ll even go so far as to say Mike Young is the Dante of post-boredom.” — Blake Butler @ VICE Continue reading Sprezzatura Reviews Roundup