Digital Writer's Festival

by Connor Goodwin
Digital Writer's Festival

Over the next few weeks (Feb. 13-24), there will be an "online carnival dedicated to what happens when technology and the written word collide." Otherwise titled, the Digital Writer's Festival. The festival itself will take place in Australia, but not to worry for all the events will be live-streamed. However, all events will happen in Australian Eastern Time (AEDT). For those in Chicago (CST), we are 14 hours behind. All those literary insomniacs will have something to preoccupy themselves with for the month of February. The festival is largely composed of panels that will be discussing all aspects of the literary sphere and its interaction with the digital sphere. This includes publishing with e-readers, sexting, teen blogs, the multilingual web, the ethics of digital journalism, and many more. There are dozens of writers, readers, and publishers involved in the festival. Many will be participating via video conference call. Included are authors such as Giancarlo DiTrapano (NY Tyrant Books/ Magazine), Blake Butler (HTMLgiant), Ken Baumann, and Mira Gonzalez. Not surprisingly, all of these names came across through their internet presence, via Twitter, blogs, and Tumblr. The authors mentioned above are only a small fraction of those participating—the festival is hosting an international array of speakers. This global scale emphasizes the kind of transcendence of boundaries made possible by the digital age.

Sapling Interviews ACM Managing Editor, Caroline Eick

This Another Chicago Magazine interview is featured in Sapling #207. Sapling was developed by the Black Lawrence Press to "highlight the best of the small press world." For more information on how to subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter, Sapling, click to go to the Black Lawrence Press website.


Feature Article

This week Sapling talks with Caroline Eick, Managing Editor of Another Chicago Magazine.

Sapling: What should people know who may not be familiar with the work of Another Chicago Magazine?

Another Chicago Magazine: Another Chicago Magazine is a print literary magazine that publishes fiction, nonfiction and poetry by both new and established writers. We’ve been around since 1977, which is such a long time in this space.

S: How did Another Chicago Magazine's name come about? Is there a good story behind it? (or a bad one?)

ACM: I should know this! And I don’t. I’m going to guess that there were lots of Chicago magazines and the founder was being funny. At the release party for our last issue, the owner of the bar made a sign for the door that read "Another Magazine party tonight." I didn’t even notice until I was leaving. I was like, eh, close enough.

I love the name so much. I can’t imagine this publication by any other name.

S: As an editor, what do you pay close attention to when reading submissions? Any deal breakers?

ACM: The cover letter is important. If you send a long, rambling cover letter, I’m going to assume that your work is long and rambling and I’m not interested in that. No one is. And people who make a note of being happy to work through edits always catch my eye. This isn’t a one and done deal. Our editors love to edit.

I think in general, the best pieces from the previous issue stick with me through reading submissions for the next issue.

S: Where do you imagine Another Chicago Magazine to be headed over the next couple years? What’s on the horizon?

ACM: There has been a revolving door with the masthead. I am hoping to hang on to everyone we have currently, though we are looking for a new fiction editor. We are also hoping to publish issues more promptly.

We’d like to have a more national presence. I’d also like to establish a reading series that is unlike any other reading series.

S: As an editor, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?

ACM: Time is not our side. No one is paid for their work on ACM, so we all have day jobs. Carving out free time can be difficult.

The best part is having the opportunity to work with such talented writers and editors.

S: If you were stranded on a desert island with only three books, what books would you want to have with you?

ACM: 1. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham because I will never stop loving that book. 2. The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch because this book deserves to be read several times. 3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace because I think being stranded on a desert island with only three books basically guarantees success.

S: Just for fun (because we like fun, and the number three), if Another Chicago Magazine had a brain, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?

ACM: 1. Fiction 2. Nonfiction 3. Poetry

Caroline Eick is the Managing Editor of Another Chicago Magazine and Book Reviews Editor of The Nervous Breakdown. She lives in Chicago, IL.

You can find Another Chicago Magazine here:

A Review of Girlchild: A Novel by Tupelo Hassman

By: Connor Goodwin

Tupelo Hassman writes in her novel Girlchild, "Telling stories is an important Calle skill and Mama gets the star." With her 2012 debut novel, Hassman also gets a star, in a narrative about the life of a girl named Rory Dawn Hendrix.

However, Hassman's storytelling is not to dupe Johnny Law like Mama Hendrix does, Hassman's novel is of growing up on the Calle, a small trailer park somewhere outside of Reno. A sign along the highway reads: "Calle de las Flores - Come Home to the New West." But no one says "de las Flores," like the sign states. To the residents it's simply called the Calle, “its two Spanish L’s asking why on a desert-bleached sign.” In Girlchild, Hassman does a sort of anthropological diagnosis of the Calle:
"The basic subsistence pattern on the Calle is commonly referred to as living paycheck to paycheck. Welfare and disability check s, payroll checks, and the ever rare child-support check are all spent long before they arrive."

Hassman also touches on its economic system of "generalized reciprocity," the Government also known in the novel as "Johnny Law, the Man, or Those Fuckers," marriage, and, of course, alcohol. "Alcohol," the novelist writes, "is often considered the root cause of both the loss and the revival of Calle souls."

The Hendrix family’s relationship with alcohol is no exception. Mama Hendrix takes whatever bar tending shifts she can get at the Truck Stop. When Mama works the graveyard shift she doesn't get home until late and Rory D., her daughter, stays up late watching TV or reading. Rory D. quickly learns how to take care of herself, how to ward off thoughts of the all too real boogeymen that reside not under her bed, but on the Calle. It's on the graveyard shift where "only the most desperate gambler and drunkards hole up," writes Hassman.

It's where Mama learned to say "Fuck you very much" instead of "Thank you very much." When Mama works the earlier shift, she has time to bar hop on the way home before crashing on the couch, where Rory D. will take off Mama's boots and give her Alka-Seltzer in the morning. Such mornings are about the only time Mama Hendrix isn’t so tough, otherwise she never cracks a smile and fiercely protects her daughter from life on the Calle. Rory D. spends many afternoons at the Truck Stop herself, and soon tried her hand at mixing drinks. She gives the recipe to the American Dream cocktail:
Equal parts sweat and heedless disregard
Dash of bitters
Lucky twist
Stir. Strain. Garnish

For Hassman, place and family are undeniable, deterministic, and ever-present in Girlchild. Throughout the novel, Rory D. notes similarities between the three generations of women in her family and sees herself her from a well-defined legacy:
"Blood is thicker than tar and all the scrubbing in the world won't stop your good and bad blood flowing forever together through your veins, meeting in a rush at corners, gathering force, and washing you back up on the Calle."

Rory D. sees in herself the realization and manifestations of the women before her. She is grandchild to a lineage of women she describes as "Not family trees, [but] more like weeds really, just as simple, stubborn, and unwanted."

Hassman’s writing is playful, somehow, despite the ugly facts of life on the Calle. But Hassman's play is sharp and cutting. She plays with knives and scissors. She cuts and pastes letters from Grandma, reports on the Hendrix family by a social worker, multiple choice tests, word games, court cases against the "feebleminded," the Girl Scout Handbook. These forms are appropriated and subverted and act as lenses to the Calle. The technique is effective and highly political, not only at their formal level via its appropriation of discursive forms used with respect to poverty, education, and the law, but also at the content level. Hassman borrows both form and language but manipulates content to create a particularly jarring political jab. For example, the multiple-choice answers for a "Reading Comprehension" test are:
A) Science, governments, and your doctor should be trusted.
B) "Comforting her deep into the night" is a euphemism for sneaking candy.
C) The ugliest phrase used in this passage is "female."
D) Bad things really do come in threes.

Though Rory D. was able to leave the Calle, the Calle hasn't left her. Place and blood are “thicker than tar.” When you learn the Calle, you learn to grow up quick and you learn the hardness of the world. That’s not all you get from Rory D. though, she isn’t just a hardened tough girl like Mama Hendrix may have been. Rory D. is very clever, perhaps because she was able to leave. Through Rory D., Hassman is attempting to upend certain political forms and forces in an exciting and interesting way. I highly recommend Girlchild for its ability to treat the weightiness of poverty and domestic abuse with a sharp sense of wit and playfulness, without losing any of its seriousness.

Connor Goodwin is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He writes stories: and tweets:

Review of Scott McClanahan's Latest Novel Hill William

By: Connor Goodwin
Hill William
ACM is excited for Tyrant Books to publish Scott McClanahan’s latest novel, Hill William. The novel opens and closes in the present, with a narrator grappling with depression and anger. But the majority of the novel takes place in West Virginia where McClanahan grew up.

Just like Crapalachia, this novel features a small cast of characters around which the novel is structured. This time the cast is new, though the oldies do make an appearance. There's Derrick, whom McClanahan's 9-year-old self thought was cool. McClanahan writes, "He was always shooting guns, or sighting in his bow, or chewing tobacco, or talking about how he was going to kick some guy's ass." Derrick is the one who shows McClanahan dirty magazines, pornos, Vaseline, and inexplicable cruelty.

And then there's Batman. "I like the Batman underoos the best, but since it was the end of the week here I was with only the Wonder Woman underoos to wear," states McClanahan. Lucky for him though, Batman made an appearance one day at the shopping center for a promo of the movie that came out a year ago. He was older then, entering Junior High, and afraid that some of his classmates might see him. Despite these fears, he had greater fears that he hoped Batman could help him "fight off." He writes, "I wanted to tell him about devil worshippers and how afraid I was. I wanted to tell him about how I couldn't sleep, and how I was afraid of 'Unsolved Mysteries' because they were always showing composite drawings." These hopes crash and burn when McClanahan follows Batman on his smoke break: "I walked away and saw that Batman was just this stupid guy dressed up in a rubber suit, just as afraid as I was, and that I lived in a lost place inside my own heart, where even Batman couldn't help me."

And then, of course, there are the mountains, which McClanahan thinks of often:

like night and day: "And sometimes, I think to myself that the mountains look like graves, and then at other times I say, no, they're not graves, but pregnant bellies, full of babies, waiting to be born."

like a lover: "I felt the rocks and dirt clods ripping against my dick skin and I was bleeding and making the dirt red. I saw how I was the one who made everything bloody. I made the fire inside the mountain fire, and I made the chainsaw saw all the trees away . . . I destroyed the mountains and made them disappear. I made the world flat again. I fucked my earth."

and like a boy: "This is the place I'm from. This is a place like no other. This is an outer space Mars called Appalachia. I looked up and saw spaceships returning."

There's the same, characteristic repetition of language that cycles and modifies and generates velocity—a velocity that ascends, on up the mountains and beyond. This ascent is fueled by a few simple words from his mom. Words he first heard after he'd gone to the mountainside to pick blackberries for his mom, but then fell running back down the mountain. His legs couldn't carry him so fast, but these words somehow carried him up from where he fell and kept on doing so all his life. McClanahan, the great storyteller he is, says it all in one word: "'Iwasgoingtopickblackberriessniffforyoubutthenfelldownsniffandtheywentallover.' . . . My mom ate the dirty blackberries and whispered, 'It's going to be all right. Why are you crying? It's going to be all right.'" An unrelenting and genuine positivity charges the novel. A fierce determination that, "It's going to be all right," is true. In Hill William, even when it doesn't look like it, it's that same determination that makes you keep on looking for that positivity until the end.

When I read Hill William, it read similar to Crapalachia. Grandma Ruby and Nathan even made brief appearances, which made me smile. McClanahan writes, "We went over to Ruby's, who I called Ruby, not Grandma, and who didn't know my name until I was ten." Both novels have their similarities: There's the same repetitious, storyteller/myth/folk style, the same structure using a small cast of characters, the same place (West Virginia and the mountains), and the same positivity/faith in the good.

When I first read McClanahan, I read Crapalachia (read our ACM review here) and I stated in the review that, "I wanted it to keep going and going." With Hill William, that want was granted, but I don't know that I should've wished it. I had never read anything like Crapalachia, and I wanted that newness to be alive in Hill William. I should've wanted more from McClanahan as a writer, rather than simply more Crapalachia. In spite of this, I still enjoyed Hill William for its playful vibrancy and charming honesty. McClanahan is fearless and daring and continues to stir up the literary scene with his latest. Read McClanahan if you want to know what people on the literary scene are talking about.

Connor Goodwin is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He writes stories: and tweets:

Chicago Humanities Festival Literary Highlights

by: Connor Goodwin

The Chicago Humanities Festival is here. Events began October 13 in Evanston with Junot Diaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

If you didn't get the chance to see Diaz there's still many more writers featured in this year's festival. Here are a few highlights:

1. Lemony Snicket, the mystery man behind the popular series A Series of Unfortunate Events, will be in Chicago for his first and last stop on his book release tour for When Did You See Her Last?

2. Anne Carson will be reading from her latest work red doc>. red doc> is a sequel to Autobiography of Red, a verse novel well received by critics.

3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of the novel Americanah, will be receiving the 2013 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction.

4. Jonathan Safran Foer will talk about his recent venture into nonfiction and food writing with his new book Eating Animals.

5. Sherman Alexie is a novelist, poet, and film maker. I read The Absolutley True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in one sitting on a couch, where the rest of my family sat watching a funny movie. I laughed more than them—I didn't look up once.

6. Nicholas Baker will recount his literary career in conversation with Sara Levine.

Besides writers, there are several lectures scheduled for October 19 at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. You can read an overview of the program here.

What the Editors are Reading: Colleen O'Connor

In recent months, Colleen O'Connor has joined the ACM staff as our new nonfiction editor. To get to know her better, here's some books she recommends.

1. Mercury by Ariana Reines
I read the lines "Tonight I am the only door / Through which you can be made / to disappear" and just about burst.

2. My 1980s and Other Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum
I'm taking this one slowly (one essay at a time, spaced out over a few weeks) because slow and steady wins the race.

3. The Other Walk: Essays by Sven Birkerts
Truth be told I finished this one a month or so ago but I've kidnapped it from a friend and instead of giving it back to him I just keep it around and pick it up and reread these delightful, poignant, super smart essays.

6 Book Trailers You Need to Watch Now

by Connor Goodwin

1. Penguin Press released a book trailer for Thomas Pynchon's latest novel Bleeding Edge.

2. A documentary on another literary recluse, J.D. Salinger, was released on September 6, 2013. Watch the documentary trailer here. Not only that, but The Guardian reports that five new Salinger books are going to be released between 2015 and 2020.

3. Scott McClanahan has been getting a lot of attention for his last book Crapalachia (read our ACM review). His latest novel, Hill William, will be published in late October by Tyrant Books. In the meanwhile, here's the Hill William book trailer.

4. Tupelo Hassman's debut novel Girlchild has received attention from HTMLGIANT and The Times Book Review. Check out a Girlchild book trailer.

5. James Franco directs and stars in the movie production of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Watch the movie trailer here. As I Lay Dying is also a precursor to Franco's next project: Cormac McCarthy's Child of God. Watch the Child of God teaser.

6. Check out Electric Literature's one-sentence animations from their latest issue.

Review of Ken Baumann's Solip by Connor Goodwin

In Solip, Ken Baumann treats the five senses as "Five Difficulties." Borrowing this, I will note Five Difficulties of reading Solip.

The First Difficulty: The Baumann Box. "A box, a box, a box, a box. Dark and walls, a box, a box." Space is a central theme in the box-like, binary world Baumann constructs in Solip. Baumann openly invites us into his Box, his space. "I want you here for a long time. I want you to know me." But does he really? I could not get inside this box as I would’ve liked. Perhaps there was no room in the box. Perhaps Baumann was trapped inside the box and how could he let anyone else in. Or perhaps it was that the box was always moving. By the time I had received Baumann's invitation, the box had moved. Such is the velocity of Baumann's writing. It brings to mind Vincente Huidobro's epic poem "Altazor". Though in the case of Solip, it is not solely velocity, but fragmentation as well. Which brings us to the Second Difficulty.

The Second Difficulty: Baumann does not run, he leaps. In his leaping, he shows a dazzling array of imagery—from shades of light and dark inside the Baumann Box to farmer's wheat fields to oil riggers to corporeal images of skin and blood. There are no explicit breaks in the text—nothing like chapters, only paragraph after paragraph. I was overjoyed when Baumann would rest in one place for some time and allow a story to bloom. It wasn't solely the fact that it had continuity, but it was also well written, funny, and sharp. "The great fire so great it catches the oil afire in the tubes; the men run the field, to a point in the tubes where the oil hasn't stoked; can they beat the fire? . . . The hole grows wider. They jump in without planning a way out. Their shovels begin to blunt."

The Third Difficulty: Dichotomies. It appears to me that Baumann employs dichotomies and binaries as a mechanism for generating text. Dichotomies such as: exterior-interior, light-dark, before-after. These, and others, operate as central themes as well as generators to the text. Baumann does not so much uphold these dichotomies as he twists them, bending them into helixes for coding, decoding, and recoding. This decoding and recoding takes shape in multiple forms. In the case of the exterior–interior the distinction is exaggerated to the point of absurdity. The notion of a box—sharp, rigid, closed. Shades are introduced to light and dark. Sentence structure is given a sort of lag-effect i.e. a sentence will often be followed by a series of refinements, modifications, repetitions, expansions on snippets—thereby challenging the narrative before and after.

The Fourth Difficulty: Word Play. Word play is another mechanism Baumann uses to generate text. Operating from central themes (space, light, corporeality), he will nuance, rhyme, combine, parse words or phrases and jet off in whatever direction it takes him. The products of which look like "Dirth" (death + birth), "De-sign," "Mea culpa/ Gulp/ Ahh." These "jet off"s form something like spokes to the hub of central themes, and in part account for the "leaping" that occurs throughout the text.

The Fifth Difficulty: Defamiliarization. One of Baumann's main projects seems to be that of defamiliarization. For some, this is the project of all art. "[A]rt exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known,” wrote Viktor Shlovsky in Art as Technique. I certainly was reduced to the comprehension level of an infant while reading Solip.

Through dichotomies, word play, sentence structure, even forms of text (often the book echoed a sort of Beckettian play—apart from the use of language, there were occasional stage directions and multiple gestures toward an audience). Baumann sets out to unsettle the familiar. To make muddy again the mortar and tar that have formed their own boxes and encapsulated every one of us.

If you want a difficult read, then go for Solip. Maybe it was a mistake to read it in two days and on an e-reader where five click-to-turn pages actually constituted a single page in the total "count," making it seem never–ending. It would be fine, perhaps better, to casually read this book, to allow for gestation.

Buy Solip by Ken Baumann at Tyrant Books.

Connor Goodwin is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He writes stories:

Ken Baumann lives in Los Angeles, California. He's worked as an actor for ten years in film, theater, and television. He currently stars in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a series on ABC Family. His fiction, poetry, and essays have been published at VICE, Juked, HTML Giant, The New York Tyrant, Lamination Colony, and elsewhere. Baumann also runs Sator Press, a nonprofit that publishes innovative literature.

What the Editors are Reading: Caroline Eick Kasner

Managing Editor

I'm reading a few things right now. Normally I try to only read one book at time, but different moods demand different reading material. [You know how it is.]

1. Manifest by Cynthia Arrieu-King
I'm a big fan of Switchback books. This collection is so lovely and accessible.

2. The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Sometimes, especially before bed, I just want something that will make me turn the pages for 45 minutes. This is that thing!

3. Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City by Choire Sicha
I'm starting this tonight/tomorrow/this weekend and am strangely excited about it. Choire is one of the founders/editors of The Awl and I find him funny and endearing.

Review of Scott McClanahan's CRAPALACHIA: A Biography of a Place by Connor Goodwin

I first read Crapalachia online via Amazon’s book preview. Even at the Table of Contents I chuckled. Chapters like "A Story About Ruby That Will Shed Light on Her Character," "So Now A Reminder About the Theme of This Book and All Books," and "So" had me going from the start. I read as much of the preview as there was, but it only made me all the more eager to read it in whole.

When I finally got the hard copy, I read it straight through in one sitting. When I finished I was sad it was over, sadder than I usually get whena book has ended. I wanted it to keep going and going.

Scott McClanahan has a real ear for Americanese. Not even Americanese, more local/keen/precise than that, Crapalachian. This dialect of Crapalachian comes through in repetition and vulgarity. Over and over we hear from Grandma Ruby "Oh lordie, I'm dying." There are phrases, and then there are stories. Little Bill tells the tale of the "Greenbrier Ghost" ad nauseam. Thankfully McClanahan spares us full reiterations of the story, though it’s good the first time you hear it. And then there’s Nathan miming to McClanahan the ad he wants to put in the paper for a woman: "Nathan laughed and spread his arms real wide. Well if I’m going to get me a woman I want the biggest goddamn woman I can find. I want one so goddamn big I can't even get my arms around her big ass."

In Crapalachia, they are always waiting for something to happen, shown by the constant "Tick tick tick tick tick." However, the same old things happen over and over. "It’s an old, old, old story that always begins — they begat and they begat and they begat." But McClanahan’s story isn’t just an "old story." McClanahan tells it how he tells it and he tells it casually and ephemerally. The many brief tales in Crapalachia bloom then discolor then die then fossilize then burn.

McClanahan made me wish I grew up in WV. And I don’t think many people could make me wish that. I’m sure he’ll make you wish that too. I would love a Sunday dinner with these characters, with this place. "Then I looked out across the table, and there were cucumbers in vinegar, and homemade biscuits, mayonnaise salad, green beans, pickles, fried chicken, chocolate cake, angel food cake, chicken, brown beans, peas in butter, chicken, more biscuits, and gravy, gravy, gravy. Then Grandma started telling us about how my father was born on the kitchen table and how the doctor was drunk," McClanahan writes. I would love to see the purple mountaintops, which are really just giant rocks, a giant rock that McClanahan assures is in all of us. It’s out of this giant rock that McClanahan digs and digs and digs and doesn’t find gold, but finds dirty black coal and the dead bodies of other miners. But coal makes fires blaze and corpses make flowers grow.

It’s not all shits and giggles. I nearly cried twice, I think, and actually cried once. There is death and violence and suicide and forgetfulness and loneliness and more death. McClanahan himself is obsessed with graveyards and ghosts. When Nathan is rushed to the hospital McClanahan pleads, "’Please don't let him die until I get there.‘" No memories rest in McClanahan, and now this book and its myths won’t rest in me.

If you’re at all interested in the lives of outcasts — the one – percenters, those who survive and don’t thrive — then this book is for you. McClanahan has mythologized not from the mountaintops but from deep within the mountain core. Crapalachia is McClanahan’s attempts to empty his pockets of all the dirt and rocks he’s dug to get there, and what a magnificent heap of dirt and rocks it is.

If you like tales that are truer than true, grander than grand, then read this book now. And when you finish this book, don’t be surprised if you find some dirt in your own back pocket. You will discover that it were all true.

Connor Goodwin is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He writes stories:

Buy CRAPALACHIA: A Biography of a Place by Scott McClanahan here.