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Summer Reads: Meredith Maltby

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Finally tackling this thing (1079 small-type print, plus page-long footnotes, and 2 bookmarks, one for the book and one for the footnotes) with some downtime I have secured over the summer. Wallace has been called a genius, and one of the greatest writers of his generation; I feel like my brain is getting a workout every time I read it. While often going off on separate story tangents, the novel mostly follows the activities of the Enfield Tennis Academy (“ETA”) and The Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House [sic].

Favorite line: “The thunder’s died down to a mutter, and the window’s spatter’s gone random and post-storm sad.”

 

 

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I’m rereading this book over the summer because Krauss’ beautiful and melodious prose inspires my own writing. This is a lovely, honest read about family history and, of course, love—while never once straying from its poeticism into romantic clichés. It is my secret hope that literary power couple Nicole Krauss and Jonathan Safran Foer will adopt me into their home and raise me in their literary family dynasty.

Favorite line: The whole “book-within-a-book” aspect in general. Leo Gursky, one of the main characters, writes a novel called The History of Love seventy years before the start of the actual novel picks up.

 

 

Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead by Alan DeNiro

I was wandering through Quimby’s Bookstore in Wicker Park, not really expecting to buy anything, when the title of this short story collection caught my eye. I had never heard of DeNiro, but after perusing his novel I was struck by its excellent and surprising language. DeNiro weaves mythology, history, and romance in these stories that lend themselves to the strange and bizarre.

Favorite story: “If I Leap,” which begins: “The goodbye girl sits at the picnic table watching the boy fall from the sky.”

 

 

Meredith Maltby is from Glen Ellyn, Illinois and is a rising junior at Tulane University. She studies English and Linguistics, and is on the Tulane women's tennis team. She is the poetry editor for the Tulane Review and an avid reader/ writer of poetry and fiction. 

Summer Reads: Connor Goodwin

 

Meaty by Samantha Irby

One can’t really talk about Chicago’s literary scene without talking about Samantha Irby.  And for too long I’ve been talking about/telling people they should read Irby without having read her myself.  Meaty is a collection of essays out from Chicago’s own Curbside Splendor.  To get a taste, check out her notorious blog at bitchesgottaeat.blogspot.com.  She recently posted about the joys of summer: “everyone here is always talking about the goddamned lake like it’s not a freezing cold grey diarrhea soup and i’m baffled by that. it’s too cold to go into ten months out of the year and the other two it’s so full of e.coli you can’t dip a toe in it without puking your fucking guts out.

 

 

Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones

This “poetic sci-fi” out from Two Dollar Radio has been getting a lot of attention from just about everyone I follow on Twitter, even the Paris Review.  Our own Fiction Editor, Matt Rowan, listed this on his summer reads as well.  I honestly feel like I’m just missing out. 

 

 

Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus

Can’t remember how I first learned of Ben Marcus, but when I did I went to the library at 9pm and finished his illustrated novella The Father Costume in the stacks of the Regenstein.  I slipped into a strange world, carefully threaded, floating loftily at sea.  I’m excited to see where Marcus will take me with his latest, a collection of short stories out by Knopf. 

 

 

Witch Piss by Sam Pink

Sam Pink is awesome.  I’ve already reviewed one of his novels, which you can read here.  Everything I’ve read by him I’ve read at least twice, AND I NEVER REREAD.  His novels are short, gross, hilarious and take place in Chicago.  Witch Piss is his latest, released this year from Lazy Fascist Press.  

 

 

Connor Goodwin is twitter's biggest fan.  You can follow him @condorgoodwing.  His work has appeared in Chronopolis.  View more of his work at cgoodwing.blogspot.com

Caroline Eick was Interviewed by The Review Review

 

Here's a small excerpt from the interview in which Caroline Eick recounts ACM's history, her recent move to NY, and what she envisions for ACM in the future (SPOILER: more submissions from women!!):  

 

Can you tell us a bit about Another Chicago Magazine and how you came to be involved?

Another Chicago Magazine is a literary magazine that publishes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. We’re 37 years old, which makes us ancient in literary magazine years. I came to be involved in 2012, because the publisher, Curbside Splendor, thought the magazine needed someone to help hold all of the pieces together.

If you are at all involved in the literary scene in Chicago, chances are you’ve been involved with ACM at some point. I am constantly fielding emails from former editors and contributors.

The magazine has changed a lot over the years. We used to accept plays, art, interviews, book reviews, but this current approach is cleaner, much more focused, and helps define what kind of publication we are. We have a history of publishing erratically, but we’re working to get on a schedule. The masthead has been a bit of a revolving door over the past few years. But we’re finally in a good place.

 

You can read the rest of the interview over at The Review Review

Summer Reads: Matt Rowan

 

Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones

I'll read anything Jones publishes. So far, doing so hasn't once left me disappointed. Crystal Eaters, which I've gotten a taste of from reading an excerpt in a recent issue of Salt Hill Journal, looks to be everything I've come to enjoy about his fiction, with a dash of Michel Gondry meets J.G. Ballard for good measure. An absurd but simultaneously serious journey to a world in which crystals exist in each living creature and everyone has a finite number of them.

 

Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace

I'm actually already about halfway through this one. Much has been said about Wallace in recent years, both good and bad, but I remain an unabashed fan. His stories, with their obsessive explication of the minutest details, always read to me like honest and true streams of consciousness, stories pulled straight from characters' heads.  

 

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

I'm looking forward to reading something about economics that wasn't written by F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, or Murray Rothbard, which is to say that their variegated but similarly neo-liberal theories have worn thin. Piketty's book I'm hopeful will offer a much needed and erudite perspective from a more centrist place on the political spectrum, a little too rare in economics generally speaking. 

 

Bark by Lorrie Moore

I love Moore's stories. There's such a fun, visceral quality to everyday life (even, somehow, when it descends into the realm of the sardonic) present in her work. I've had the opportunity to teach her short story "How to Become a Writer," which perfectly captures second-person narration. She's gravitated toward more straightforward narrative in more recent collections, like in Birds of America, and I remain curious to see what she does next. 

 

Matt Rowan serves as fiction editor for Another Chicago Magazine.

Review of "Mira Corpora" by Jeff Jackson

Mira Corpora by Jeff Jackson

 

Mira Corpora is part bildungsroman, part survivor story.  The protagonist, Jeff Jackson, runs away from home early on and begins a transient lifestyle - from the woods to the streets.  In the face of this seeming absolute liberty, the narrator finds solace in some form of constraint, often physical.  The first chapter (one of the most lyrical parts in the book, and perhaps my favorite chapter overall) recounts a hunt when the narrator was young and pudgy.  He ends up being used as bait, "The siblings shake some rope from the bag and wrap it tightly around the slender trunk.  I mean, they wrap the rope tightly around me… They smear my entire body with runny chunks of dog food and slimy kitchen grease."  As night falls, he is circled by pairs of menacing green eyes and fur matted with blood gleaming in the moonlight…only to have them lick his face.  He enjoys it so much that he returns several nights later, lathers himself in leftovers and waits. 

Jackson is at his best in moments like these, moments in which he paints a haunting or tragic beauty.  I say "haunting" and "tragic" because these images are often somehow associated with death.  Perhaps most beautiful and most haunting is the narrator's attempt at suicide.  After falling into the hands of a manipulative caretaker, Jackson finds himself naked, fatigued, and without short-term memory due to daily yellow pills.[1] He stops taking the pills and begins to plot.  A failed escape leads to another, more desperate, plot.  He gathers rope,[2] ties it to a chandelier and slips a noose around his neck.  It doesn't work.  The chandelier crashes on top of him, but he doesn't give up.  "I focus my sights on the window, stiffen my neck, and propel myself a few feet ahead… The scraping sound of the trailing chandelier fills the entire room.  The frame of the window is almost within reach, but the light keeps growing fainter."  The imagery is absolutely fantastic.  It doesn't draw attention to itself, it doesn't need too.  It is both stellar and haunting and made me tremble. 

In some ways, the plot of   seems to distract from its literary merit.  This is largely due to its compelling nature.  Its incredibly suspenseful throughout, but some aspects are somewhat cliché (secret society of runaways in the woods).  Jackson's artistic moves are subtle and fall into a complex network of interrelated themes, which are teased out in motifs and certain techniques.  It is difficult to imagine how all these elements are structured and related, but floating in the mix are themes of memory, rewriting, gaps, constraint, openness, ritual, and death. 

One of Jackson's most successful techniques is what I will call "zooming out" for lack of a better term.  What I mean by this is the revealing of another layer, or transcending to a new level.  This transcendence also comes as a sharp pivot, often as a single sentence.  Usually this is done by giving something a kind of frame, sometimes literally.  One instance of this technique comes early on in the society of runaways in the woods.  There are always rumors floating around amongst the runaways of the treacherous truckers.  Finally Jackson gives us a glimpse of what this terror might look like:

"They saw off a boy's limbs.  There are faces without eyeballs, slick gray organs tumbling loose from chests, a human head planted on a makeshift spike.  The truckers fuck girls in the ass.  They fuck girls in the nose.  They fuck a boy in his detached arm socket… It's a backyard holocaust.  A bucolic apocalypse… At least that’s the story the painting tells." 

Boom.  Frame.  I laughed at myself first time I read this.  I was wide eyed, mouth covered in horror.  But then, he casually steps back to show us the fiction.  He smugly frames the horror, nicely distancing the reader from its imagined reality. 

The frame works both ways though.  It can distance nightmares, but also paradise.  So it is with a photo of an orange tree Jackson carries around in his back pocket.  "A breeze trickles the undersides of the leaves and the orbs of fruit can be seen glistening on the branches.  They are ripe for the taking.  But the boy has the uneasy sensation that if he reaches out to grab one, his hand will stab straight through the page."  He finds solace in the image, something that vaguely alludes to home, but not quite, still ever so slightly displaced.[3]

On the book’s construction, Jackson revisited his old journals, as told in the book’s author notes.  Mira Corpora is the materialization of Jackson's own struggle to reconcile the continuities, discontinuities, and contradictions of his living/written memory and his unusual youth.  



[1]Perhaps the protagonist’s pill-induced memory gaps are what imbues blankness/openness with an aura of fear and, conversely, why constraint is associated with comfort (however deviant this comfort may appear to us).

[2]Again, rope is used as a means of constraint and induces a distorted sense of comfort.

[3]There was an orange tree in his neighbor’s yard that he'd stare at from his bedroom window.  

 

 

Connor Goodwin is twitter's biggest fan.  You can follow him @condorgoodwing.  His work has appeared in Chronopolis.  View more of his work at cgoodwing.blogspot.com

The Five Best Spots to Write in Chicago

 

1.     The Wormhole Coffee

1462 N Milwaukee Ave

Located in the heart of the Wicker Park neighborhood, The Wormhole is everything you’ve been dreaming of for the ultimate coffee and writing experience. Who wouldn’t want to sip delicious lattes underneath a Back to the Future style DeLorean car and an original Ghostbusters movie poster from the 80’s? If you get sick of writing, you can take a break and play Super Nintendo games until the inspiration starts flowing again (my favorite drink here is actually called the “Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa”). Snag a pastry and a chai tea latte and grab a seat in one of the plush chairs in the back. Stare up into the face of Freddy from A Nightmare on Elm Street, and you may discover you have a great science fiction story welling inside you.

 

 

2.     Chicago Botanical Garden

1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022

Although it’s a bit far north, the Chicago Botanical Garden is a must-see, must-be-written-in stop on your list. With over 380 acres and 26 gardens to stroll through, plus waterfalls, a renowned bonsai garden, and stone-walled English greenery reminiscent of The Secret Garden, you are bound to find an agreeable place to take up your pen. The expanses of flowers and colors feel like a surreal, magical dream. Admission is free, but parking is twenty-five dollars per car unless you are a member (if you’re a bad kid like me, you can park at the mall off the Lake Cook Road exit and walk over for free, but let’s pretend like I didn’t tell you that).

 

 

3.     Logan Square Public Park

 Logan Square’s Public Square: North Milwaukee Avenue and Logan Boulevard

 Bric-A-Brac: 3156 W Diversey Avenue

The quickly growing neighborhood of Logan Square features a charming public park from which its name is derived. Sprawl out on the grass or next to the memorial pillar monument and write, and when you’re done head over to Bric-A-Brac Records and Collectibles. This Friday 6/17, the rock/garage-pop band Primitive Hearts is playing a free show. Last time I went to Bric-A-Brac, my boyfriend found a one-dollar vinyl recording of Pride and Prejudice. This is either the coolest or the most pretentious thing I’ve ever seen. (It’s still there, if you are a book-on-vinyl kind of person.)

 

 

4.     Heritage Bicycles General Store

 2959 N Lincoln Avenue

Another coffee shop—can you tell I’m addicted to caffeine? “Write caffeinated, edit sober” Hemingway once said. Or something like that. Heritage sells coffee, and also custom-made bicycles. There are bike mechanics in the back fixing up and making bikes with beautiful craftsmanship. Fun fact: their most expensive bike, after checking out the website, is a three-person tandem bicycle that costs five grand.

 

 

5.     Chicago Lakefront Trail

Located East of Lakeshore Drive, along Lake Michigan.

After your cup of coffee, bike over to the trail. Find a bench or a grassy spot along the Lakefront. Take in the view of Lake Michigan over the top of your notebook. The skyline of the city. The myriad of people walking, running, and biking along in front of you. See what kind of people you come across and work on your character development. Occasionally just being somewhere, writing by yourself, can open the door to new possibilities.

 

 

Meredith Maltby is from Glen Ellyn, Illinois and is a rising junior at Tulane University. She studies English and Linguistics, and is on the Tulane women's tennis team. She is the poetry editor for the Tulane Review and an avid reader/ writer of poetry and fiction. 

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Summer Reads: Dan Gonzalez

 

Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch  

In my melancholy twenties I read The Secret History, Donna Tarrt's bleak first novel.  I still remember lines from that novel and the characters' twisted searches for meaning.  The Goldfinch emerges from a chance encounter of modern horror.  I'm about 250 pages in and it's quite the read.

 

Stanislaw Lem, A Perfect Vacuum

On my honeymoon I read Solaris, which I've read a number of times since.  Lem's firm grasp of sociological and philosophical implications of science fiction combine an otherworldly sensibility of exploring enormous sociological structures with a deep sense of the inward.  Possibly one of my favorite writers all time.  This book is a collection of essays about books that do not exist, but in many ways should be written.

 

Amelia Gray, Threats

I've heard people say that Amelia Gray "writes to obscure."  I'm still figuring that out, but it's true and more revealing than I ever would have thought.  I've read a number of stories by Amelia that involve characters leaving other character's notes, which is a central piece of this narrative as well.  These attempts to communicate are ultimately obfuscation.  We only reveal so much, even to ourselves.  I can't wait to read this one!

 

A writer and teacher in Illinois, Dan Gonzalez's fiction can be found in CCLAP, Hobart, Pravic, The Fiddleback, Icebox, Defenestration and Mobius, among other places. Dan is currently working on a novel involving homebrewing beer and other feats of bio-engineering.  Sometimes he brews his own beer.  

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Summer Reads: Josalyn Knapic

These books are from a summer course I’m currently taking with Joshua Young called Hybrid Narratives:

1) Zachary Schomburg, The Man Suit

Even though Scary, No Scary is definitely my favorite Schomburg book, I'm almost done reading The Man Suit and it's just as good. Sincere surrealism, Schomburg writes with dreamlike clarity that is dark, humorous, and strangely satisfying. 

 

2) Anne Carson, Red Doc>and re-reading, The Autobiography of Red

I love the way Anne Carson accidentally lends herself into form. As an experimental essayist, form and language are what interests me most. Carson balances this beautifully using the fragment. She is also extremely funny and awkwardly humble at readings—the best. 

 

3) Michael Ondaatje, Coming Through Slaughter        

I've read two of Ondaatje's books, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and Running in the Family. I'm interested in how genres blend together to form a cohesive body of work. I am working on a manuscript of Al Capone, so I'm hoping Coming Through Slaughter will give me inspiration working with a historical figure. 

 

Josalyn Knapic is the assistant fiction editor for Another Chicago Magazine and the editor of South Loop Review. Her work has appeared in DIAGRAM, South Loop Review, and elsewhere. 

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New Fiction Editor: Matt Rowan

I am thrilled to be joining the staff of Another Chicago Magazine. It’s a publication I’ve long admired. I had a great time of working with ACM in the past, in a different capacity and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for ACM’s future. All of this is rather generic to say but I MEAN IT. I really do. I’ve had opportunities to work with various publications before, and I value those experiences, but I’ve never been quite so excited as am now, to be responsible for fiction editorial duties here at ACM.

As for a little about me: I live in Chicago with my fiancee, Ashley Collier, and two awesome, tiny dogs. I’m the author of the short story collection Why God Why (Love Symbol Press, 2013). Along with ACM, my editorial duties include co-editing Untoward Magazine and the recently launched humor and fiction website, Horrible Satan. I’ve published work in places like SmokeLong Quarterly, Booth Journal, Gigantic, Atticus Review, Pear Noir! and PANK, among others. You can read more things and stuff on my personal blog at literaryequations.blogspot.com.

In terms of the fiction I enjoy, I’d say one key aspect of it is that it introduces an engaging narrative fairly early on. I can’t really get behind a short story that takes seven pages to really get going (perhaps a novel, but not a short story). Bring me in, get me excited to keep reading, please! We’ll get along great if you do that. Also, being weird is good. I enjoy inventive language and stories that take creative risks.

Here are some stories available around the internet that I love (and which get going fairly quickly in my opinion):

Angela Allan’s “Amelia Fucking Earhart”

http://www.smokelong.com/flash/angelaallan36q.asp

 

George Saunders’ “Sea Oak”

http://www.barcelonareview.com/20/e_gs.htm

 

Lindsay Hunter’s “The Baby”

http://www.everyday-genius.com/2010/04/lindsay-hunter.html

 

Faith Gardner’s “Deciduous Man”

http://www.coriummagazine.com/?page_id=1585

 

and a piece by Etgar Keret, “God The Midget”

http://thegiganticmag.com/magazine/articleDetail.php?p=articleDetail&id=142

 

Along with those named above, my favorite writers include Daniil Kharms, Robert Walser, Franz Kafka, Russell Edson, Lorrie Moore, Jane Bowles, Ben Loory, Amelia Gray, Shane Jones, Amber Sparks, and Mathias Svalina.

So send us your work. I look forward to giving it a look.

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Review of Sam Pink's Rontel

by Connor Goodwin



rontel covers


The first time I came across Sam Pink it was through some online interview. I remember the author photo they used. It was of Pink, naked, in a bubble bath. I once read about him doing drugs off someone's ass or people doing drugs off his ass -- he seemed like a crazy dude. Then, I read Rontel.


The novel is titled after a cat that lives with Pink and his brother in their apartment where the air-conditioning doesn't work. It's summer in Chicago and the heat is brutal. Pink writes, "All I'd done for days was sweat and work and take showers where I'd sweat during the shower. I lay on the slightly cooler floor of my room, crumbs and cat hair all over my naked sweating ass." When Pink isn't trying to stay cool by showering, he plays video games with his brother. They play old hockey video games together. Pink's brother smashes the opponents down and Pink weaves around and scores, and in the words of Pink, "Violent finesse, motherfucker." The strategy works, unlike his air-conditioning and about everything else.


Pink, himself, doesn't work, in the sense he has no job and something is wrong with him. The novel opens with him waking up for his last day of work at a department store warehouse. He wasn't fired, but rather decided to quit and doesn't want to be late. The rest of the novel is Pink wandering around Chicago half-looking for work.


When he's not concerned about the heat, sweating, or smelling, he's preoccupied with normalcy. Often, he asks himself, "What is the normal thing to be doing right now." This concern isn't all that sincere. There is actually a kind of "foul delight" in deviancy for Pink. His concern for normalcy appears in situations as banal as a train ride. "Staring at a newspaper for a long time seemed normal … If you just stared at something without words on it, someone would eventually fuck with you." The farther one fell outside the great bell curve of normalcy, the more one became susceptible to various forms of harm. But harm too is something normal. Especially in Chicago, where violence abounds and is almost banal as a ride on the Blue Line. "Honestly though, at some point, it would be my time to get shot. Every couple days/weeks someone got shot in the area." Violence appears as clockwork and Pink is perhaps an unwilling gear, winding away like the rest of us, until his time came.


While Pink does what's "normal" and stares at a newspaper, he reads the crime blotters. He admires their journalistic integrity, ". . . they just stated facts about something that happened without trying to make it fun." But this is precisely what Pink tries to do, to make violence "fun," or at the very least, humorous. He meditates on a man who was stabbed "repeatedly" in the throat. "[S]eemed like if I stabbed once then paused, it would be hard to get back into it . . . So yeah. Repeatedly. Once seems cruel. That would be the worst thing to read: 'Man stabbed in throat once, dies in alley over an extended period of time.'" Somehow, violence, when taken to a greater extreme, is more merciful. This kind of backwards thinking is only in part a product of Pink. This backwardness in relation to violence is a regular facet of everyday life (think entertainment, the news, etc.). Pink merely brings attention to it.


While violence may work in Pink's hockey strategy, it does not work in the same way in real life. It's undeniably ubiquitous. This seems to point more toward the failure of the law, justice, and Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam was homeless man who wore an "American flag top hat," and befriended Pink after he bought Uncle Sam a chicken dinner. We meet Uncle Sam amidst a hostage situation, an escaped convict was on the loose, but was now holed up in some building. Uncle Sam watches the whole ordeal like a high-speed chase on TV, all the while munching on a hotdog. He enjoys it so much he wants the show to go on, "'He gon surrender,' said Uncle Sam. 'Muhfuckiss always surrender.' And he seemed so disappointed like he'd seen this before. Like maybe just once it'd be nice to see no surrender." Later, on a T-shirt in a thrift store, we see an instance of Uncle Sam getting his wish of non-surrender. "There was one with Osama Bin Laden's face on the front, a big red X throughout it. Underneath his picture it said, 'America doesn't back down.' And, in reference to nothing, I thought -- I'll never back down, motherfucker. Didn't matter what because I'd NEVER back down. And that felt good." Overconfidence leads to a dangerous kind of certainty, which Pink is only performing here, in an effort, I think, at some kind of destabilization.


There's a lot packed in this short novel. Once you stop laughing over the grotesque humor and reflect, things get disturbing quick. Contemporary issues of unemployment and hyper-violence are Pink's lived-in playground, a.k.a. the streets of Chicago. Perhaps Pink's concern for normalcy and his search for a job are misguided efforts -- a waste of labor. But maybe his point is to show this wasting, to show everyone's inevitably wasting away. Reading Rontel, on the other hand, is far from a waste of time or labor. It is "foul delight," effortless and hilarious.




Connor Goodwin is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He writes stories: http://cgoodwing.blogspot.com and tweets: https://twitter.com/condorgoodwing.