Chester, Alfred

Here Be Dragons, Alfred Chester

The very first words of Gore Vidal’s foreword to Alfred Chester’s collected stories (Head of a Sad Angel):

Although it has been my misfortune to have at practically all the noted American writers of the last half century, I did have the great good luck never to have so much as glimpsed Alfred Chester. He was, by every account, a genuine monster whose life comprises one of those Cautionary Tales that tend to over-excite journalists and school-teachers. Drink and drugs, paranoia and sinister pieces of trade did him in early, and the chronicle of his descent is as fascinating to read about in these pages as it must have been pretty grim to live.

I gave away two copies of this book to summer birthday friends this year, figuring that those are BruceLee fighting words if I’ve ever heard them applied to an author. Haven’t heard the report back, and I shook the piggybank or I’d ply you all with copies as well, but in the meantime, there’s this for an appetite whetter.

Wood, Monica


It’s that time of year, my dears, where I’m about to head off to foreign parts for what’s known in various circles as “vacation,” “holidays,” or “days spent without LCD bathing.” I can’t believe it, either, actually, and am not sure I’ll be able to pull off things like “relaxing” and “not having much of anything to do,” which have only existed as very high level concepts in my foggy head. And there are so many things lined up when I return that I’ll probably never ever take time off again, which could be good for you, if your ears are burning. I’ll do the big reveal of a few of those things as soon as I return.

In the meantime, if you really need some sort of morbid fix, here are a few other scattered places where I’ve littered the internet with my sonant scraps. There’s a reading of Stella of the Angels at The Urban Sherpa. A recording of an Amy Meckler original poem at Revolving Floor. I can’t stress enough how pleased I am with the serial reading of The Man Who Can’t Die, which you’ll be able to catch up on while I’m away… And if long form’s your game, I still drop in and have a drink with Librivox from time to time. Have a listen to The Decameron or Moll Flanders, and honestly, if that doesn’t keep you busy for the next couple of weeks, you really should be reading to ME.

See you next month. Run through a sprinkler or open fire hydrant vicariously for me in the meantime.

Shepard, Sam

A Small Circle of Friends

I know; this is two posts in a row that make direct mention of ladies’ underthings. I have three very good reasons for this:

1> the last post was James Joyce, who can hardly be noted without mention of underthings OR orificial expulsions. And underthings are far pleasanter for that particular task.

2> this post features a rare appearance by my friend Patrick, who has a tendency to tease us all with the hope and promise of starting his very own regular microphone-purring habit. Patrick is, if memory serves, the only other living person to have made a narrator’s appearance here, and once you listen, you’ll understand why. If you don’t, ask Christine. You’ll want to lap him up out of your headphones, and if you figure out how to do so, tell me.

3> it’s hot where I am, and quite likely where you are too. Too hot for underthings. Too hot for overthings. Too hot for anything other than the barest of skin. And headphones.

I’m back next week, if we and our underclad selves survive. (For those following, there’re also new chapters at The Man Who Can’t Die)

Emshwiller, Carol

Sex and/or Mr. Morrison

A disclaimer for you on this happy June that will become self-evident soon enough: I love this story. I could read it a thousand times over and give you a thousand different insights. I love it in the peepish and borderline obsessive way its narratrice experiences love. Love it, in its own words, “as a mouse might love the hand that cleans the cage, and as uncomprehendingly, too, for surely I see only a part of him here.”

(Except the story doesn’t have a gender, so swap the pronoun for the more appropriate in that quote.)

I first read this story while obdurately at the beach with a friend on a cold, wet day. The only other beach-trawler was an Australian man, whistling and playing football by himself and wearing nothing but a floppy hat. This guy belonged perfectly with this collection of stories.

In fact, if story’s author is one whose writings (long and short) you haven’t yet read, I can tell you authoritatively that they’re perfect reading for rivers and hammocks and beaches and other June-type reading.

Speaking of June reading, by this daymarker it’s just about Bloomsday…

Bellow, Saul

Sono and Moso

Last week’s New Yorker magazine included a series of letters written by Saul Bellow to other writers. I’ve often thought epistolary exchange between writers to be the most nettly of writing, both the most effusive and the most sincere, the most pretentious and the most vein-splittingly self-conscious. It’s hard to get it right.

(An aside: I know, sitting in a hotel bar reading the New Yorker says all sorts of things about my character, and you can judge and you’ll probably be right. Case in point: I like arugula.)

But I loved these letters, and couldn’t stop reading them, and blame the quantity of booze consumed that night on the fact that I had no choice but to sit and dumbly nod at the barman for countless refills while plying my way through. This is the one, for the curious among you, that really made my seat wobbly.

Really, just to say that if you want to be penpals, that’d be okay by me.

Millet, Lydia

Sir Henry

I have a good excuse to spare you my blathery scrawl about the show-stopping beauty in this story — the hot cats at Electric Literature have done so in a flashier way, and before you even tap the PLAY button on your baubly mp3 players, you ought to watch this:

Nice, right? Apparently an artist named Luca Dipierro is to blame.

But it’s time to forcibly extract the candy from your eyes and cram it in your ears. Here’s a story.

Holst, Spencer

On Hope

I can think of nothing more apt for the rounding-out of a year than a fleeting little fable on outplaying inevitability. If you’re anything like me, Inevitability is one collector you’ve managed to send off-course at least once this year, and that itself is cause for champagne. Happy New Decade to all, but especially to those who continue to believe relentlessly in the potential of literature.

— Mtte.

ps: for those in need of a stocking stuffer, here’s a sneak peek at Jon Frankel’s The Man Who Can’t Die, which I’ll be reading beginning next year, along with your regular shorter gems here. Can’t wait for you to hear it.

Bowles, Jane

Emmy Moore’s Journal

(credit: LIFE Magazine)

There was a time when I was little (and I was so cute, and so little!) when I wanted to be Jane Bowles. I was obsessed with the puppet show, unhealthily so, though thinking back now, I can’t think of any self-respecting adult who’d have introduced such a cute little thing to it.

But so I did not grow up to be Jane Bowles, nor a master puppeteer, though I’m lucky to have grow up (more or less) to be the sort of girl who’s still really excited to find a hefty copy of her collected works in a used bookshop in a far off town.

That said, I’m also the sort of girl to take her dog swimming in a hotel pool, so that’s quite enough autopanegyric.

A story:

Stafford, Jean

The Interior Castle

I’m more than a little eager to introduce this bit of Jean Stafford– in fact, the last time I was this eager, I was about to jump out of an airplane, an activity I was undertaking using age-faked identification, which was, to the best of my memory, the only time I’ve ever vomited directly onto the feet of an airplane pilot (the pilot then said this wasn’t the first time his feet had taken ablutions this way). And wait, I don’t mean to conflate Jean Stafford with my own underage retching.

Well, actually, I mean to do exactly that. The pain as rendered in tonight’s story is as visceral as words can create, and while I know your constitution can take it, I wanted to give you a chance to brace yourselves. Which is not to say that this is a story about pain, or one of those gruesome hyperviolent boy’s club tales that are all the rage* in certain circles. It’s not even a story about coping (although there’s plenty of that). You’ll have to listen to get the whole extent of the way she handles the body-mind wrestling match. But again: brace yourselves.

For those of you who just listen and don’t bother with my introductory pap, perhaps now is a good time to put your eyes to the above. I’m not fooling!

And about those round food monks mentioned in the story’s introduction, my mind will explode if it doesn’t implore. What do you think?

*a pun.

Olsen, Tillie

I Stand Here Ironing

So I have this tendency, as you may have noticed, to take a sharp left at matters of personal divulgences, which is a difficult thing to pull off today, given the severity and somber-ity of a story like this one. But so, okay, here you go, three very revealing facts about my own self to accompany a story of introspect and plaintivity and other words existent and non-.

Number 1: I (your Miette) have never owned an iron. So god only knows if, in my delivery of tonight’s monologue, I am at all able to capture the sorts of things that go through a woman’s head while performing such an act.

Number 2: It is my opinion that “She blew shining bubbles of sound” is perhaps one of the finest phrases ever to be shucked from our language, and the fact that it exists in this narrative makes me think the entire thing’s worth another close listen by all of us.

Number 3: I’m not kidding in tonight’s blathery introduction about the naughty naked puppets, though I won’t tell you where people who get here by that route are being sent. Now, I suppose, they’ll just come here. I win!

Okay, your turn?

Enjoy a fine listen this actual autumn. I’ll yam at you next week with something fresh out of Canada, and I’ll bet money that you’ll love it.