Wallace, David Foster

Everything is Green (Guest narrator: George Carr)

The voice you are about to hear is not my own, though today’s guest narrator insists his distinctive lilt can be attributed to “equal parts whisky, speed, and diction practice.” Which means that it’s probably closer to my voice than we’d think at first listen.

And so, I would appreciate no murmured speculation on rhinoplastic nasal blockage or testosterone injections on my part. For the next month or two, I’ll be hosting some featured narratorial guests, as I take care of some necessary business of a personal variety, which may or may not involve the sexual reassignment of my nose. Go ahead, speculate away.

My first guest, George Carr, is (on my authority) among the world’s most dedicated and assiduous close readers of David Foster Wallace, so it was with a blushing schoolgirl’s delight that my inbox received his reading of Everything is Green. It’s a story on the shorter side, when measured in minutes, but don’t let that stop you: every second is greater than itself. And if you’re as in thrall by George’s voice as I am, put your eyes back here next week for more. Enjoy.

I’m featuring guest readers for the next month or two. Stop writing to me with snoopy questions about my health! My health is just fine! Or at least, it is, and will continue to be if you don’t send me into a paranoiac hell of hypochondriasis. Nor am I in prison. Yet. I do have a talented stable of guests lined up, and if you’d like to have a stab at a reading, email me.

Gass, William H.

Order of Insects by William H. Gass

I know, it’s been a while. I’ve been trying to Have A Summer over here, an effort thwarted by an adverse reaction to allergens purportedly getting caught up in butterfly currents on the other side of the world. Either that, or it’s the Romantic Lady Writer’s Disease, which would be fine by me, inasmuch as any anachronistic way to go down is fine by me. But I do wish it’d forestall another decade.

But this, coupled with more quotidian gripes involving overworkedness and not-enough-rings-in-the-circus, and there’s been precious little time for fuzzy drinks and cabana boys, not to mention podcasting.

I’m making it up to you, of course, by the quality of the text itself, and the promise that this foul season will be over soon, and the cold nights of blankets and books will be upon us again. In the meantime, you’ll have to excuse the raspiness, or invite me to record in your convalescent cave.

Joyce, James

Two Gallants by James Joyce

Bloomsday is here again, as you surely know, and as is my ritual, here’s another story from the Dubliners. This is the 7th such reading, and sometimes, the thought of keeping this up for eight more years to finish the collection is one I tend to avoid.

But to keep things spicy in the meantime and extend the celebration, I have recorded a hidden bonus track. Now, before you go randomly link-clicking, if you’re offended at all by utter filth, if you think the things that two consenting grownups do with the bodies of each should should only be done with a chorus of angels humming hymns in the background while doves fly overhead, then go elsewhere, please. If none of this is true, go listen to my joyous retelling of a naughty letter from Joyce to Nora. I mean it. FILTHY. I’m warning you.

Whatever your kinky streak, happy day. Here’s the Bloomsday collection to-date.

Sayles, John

At the Anarchists’ Convention by John Sayles

I yanked tonight’s story from The Best of American Short Stories 1980, a volume edited by the great Stanley Elkin. If you take one look at it, you’ll see that 1980, while not considered a boon year for American fiction, perhaps should be. Donald Barthelme, Mavis Gallant, William H. Gass, Elizabeth Hardwick Grace Paley, Peter Taylor, and I’m thinking that if Elkin didn’t already have a hell of a gig as the brain behind The Magic Kingdom and The Living End, pulling this collection together seems the stuff of dreamjobs.

I left some residual background noise in tonight’s recording for the sake of achieving verisimilitude with the subject matter. Also, because it’s Bloomsday next week, which means I’ve still got work to do.

Look again at that list of names. What’s a girl got to do to help make 2011 or 2012 another 1980? Maybe a new John Sayles novel can’t hurt…

Minor, Kyle

The Truth and All Its Ugly

Whenever an internet missive or twit crosses my screen with Kyle Minor’s name attached, I open it up in awe of his apparently continual reading and writing and thinking acutely about the finer side of the bookish life. I don’t know whether this relentless pursuit of the craft can be had without a truckload of drugs, but I also think the drugs necessary for his task probably haven’t even been concocted yet.

Tonight’s story was originally published on Fifty-Two Stories, and is here with the permission of the author, a fact that I am laying down right now in case Fifty-Two Stories happens to have an intellectual property lawyer in the family with some time on his or her hands. And actually, Mr or Mrs Fifty-Two Stories and all sister and parent companies, if you’re reading this and you do come from legal blood, we should get married.

For the rest of you, you could get your brain into top form fast by looking closely at the right 3/4 of Kyle Minor’s legendary reading list. Here’s his web site, if that’s your bag.

O'Connor, Frank

First Confession

I hadn’t read Frank O’Connor’s stories in a very long time– he fell into the gutter of authors I’d studied to a point of boredom as a student, and while I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life sweeping those gutters and asking absolution from what I’d swept up, it took a while to get back to O’Connor. I’d associated him so closely, in the vast netherlands of the Juvenilia of my headspace, with hackneyed Catholic guilt tropes in Comic Sans all the way through.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong– it’s delightful, right? I very nearly entered the realm of squealing schoolgirl as I got deeper into this one.

Pessoa, Fernando

Letter from a Hunchback Girl to a Metalworker

Fernando Pessoa has been a long-standing point of not insignificant fixation in the writerly pursuits of Your Faithful (If Not Schedularly Published) Storyteller, for reasons that will be forehead-smackingly obvious to some of you. As for the rest of you, rather than stand around in the dark, I welcome you to take a guess.

Should you want that guess to be educated, start here. And then go read The Book of Disquiet

From the printed introduction to tonight’s story (from The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa):

Among the dozens of names under which Fernando Pessoa wrote an which, in a certain way, wrote Pessoa, there was one female persona, called Maria José. The letter attributed to her was typed on three and a half pages, but Pessoa-Maria signed her name next to the title. One of the striking features of the letter is the language, for Pessoa succeeds in rendering the simple but long-winded diction characteristic of Maria José’s economically disadvantaged social class. He also reveals, in spite of his oft-declared disinterest in matters of love and sexuality, a remarkable capacity to evoke a woman’s hopeless love for a man.

On another note, the ‘casts have been unspooling a little more slowly than usual lately, and for that I’m truly sorry, and am sorrier still that after such a long wait, you’re only getting ten minutes out of me today.

We can only hope that this is something I’m making up for in quality.

There are reasons for these delays, good reasons which may mean exciting things for our little adventure in storytelling and anecdotage. But in the meantime, know that the next one will be long enough for you to wish it was over already.

In other news, there are some chapters of The Man Who Can’t Die expected up this week, so you should catch up. And my friends at Iambik have just released some titillating new independent crime and noir audiobooks that you might like. While you’re over there, you might leave a rating or review for Icelander, if you’ve listened. And if you haven’t, why not?

Daitch, Susan

Killer Whales, Susan Daitch

There’s a quite decent independent bookstore in the town in which I’m staying this week, a bookstore that will be closing soon for all the usual reasons. I plan to spend a fair amount of time later this morning vulturing my way through this store, and walk out picking my teeth with unsold reading lights and hauling overstuffed bags full of firesale booty that can no way be described as “carrion” no matter how many ways I stretch the metaphor.

Which means, of course, it’ll be impossible to celebrate my winnings by dumping the books on the bed and saucily getting to know them in satin sheets and slow motion. These are books to be treated reverently, I think. I hate bookstores closing as much as my wallet loves a sale, and I’ve been a part of too many such liquidations to share.

So, a few years ago, while trawling the shelves in a similar situation in a midtown shop, I found Susan Daitch’s Storytown, which sat unread until a few months ago. This was a shame, because the stories here are sui generis, told brilliantly, and inspired. I’m reading the first one for you as tonight’s bedtime story. And with that, a Archimedes moment of redemption: maybe you’ll like it, and buy it, and we can keep our vultures circling elsewhere.

In other news, this new journal looks wonderful, and I’ve been impressed with Broadcastr (in closed beta, but they’re giving out invites every day, so get over there), and plan to post a small story on that site next week.

Rowe, Christopher

The Force Acting on the Displaced Body, Christopher Rowe

Are your toes frozen? I hope not. Especially if you’re as big of a pansy about the weather as I am.

Because the weather knows this about me and is a relentless jerk about this, my revenge is in the form of a seaside adventure story based largely on southern waters. Which is, admittedly, analogous to bringing double your milk money to school and handing one over freely to the big bully. But I don’t know how to kick the weather where it deserves to be kicked, so this is the best I can do. Enjoy it, and keep your toes warm-socked.

[n.b. OH, I’m sorry if you experience any sort of psychedelica presenting in the form of pounding headache or tinnitus when listening to this. I was playing around with a new audio setup, one which I may have to abandon if I can’t get the levels right. But, you know, this is indulgent geekery and hopefully it sounds OK to you.]

ps: if you want to sign up for my mailing list, you’ll not only be among the first to know about new stories, but you’ll also receive a short excerpt from a sleazy vintage novel in each story announcement. If that’s your idea of a good time, You can sign up here.

Matthews, Jack

A Woman of Properties, Jack Matthews

Well, here we are having taken yet another circumnavigatory Gregorian tour together, and I hope that you’ve put away your party hats and crackers and are back to the grind, having disregarded all the unreasonable expectations you made of yourselves for the coming months. Because I have nothing but sympathy: it’s too cold to get up and run ten miles and do the laundry and tidy the front garden and write your best auntie a letter every morning. I understand. Stay in bed. Read a good book. Listen to a good story.

Here’s one, a good story, from an author you likely don’t know. I didn’t know of him either until Robert very kindly and generously shoved a book into my filthy mitts. I’m a bit of a busy reader, with a half dozen books open and a pile of books to read that the mountain certifiers are always interested in measuring. So, while I’m always interested, in a DROP EVERYTHING sort of way, of hearing about a new author, it has to really get under my nose for me to sit at attention. Fortunately, I think Robert’s been listening perspicaciously, and clearly has an idea how to do that. From his synopsis of the story: Lots of dialogue, odd situations, lots of internal musings and a Flannery O’Connor feel. No fooling.

In related news, there will be new chapters of The Man Who Can’t Die starting tomorrow. Catch up while you can. Also, I have a little something over here, if you need to listen to more.