Blog Post

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/anotherchicagomagazine/ on line 34.
A general blog post.

Hear Tadd Adcox's Beautiful Voice

James Tadd Adcox has a new book coming out, It's called The Map of the System of Human Knowledge and he wants to read it to you. Literally. You. Personally. I would take him up on this offer. I have heard him read pieces from it. Not only is his North Carolina accent subtly pleasing, but the stories are good. (Tadd, do people really call toilets "commodes" in NC?)

Below are the details, stolen here from his blog. You can find out more about the book/buy the damn thing here.

<3 Mason

Tadd's spiel:

Monday through Friday next week, I will read you a story if you contact me through Gmail or Skype. The story will be from my first book, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, which came out this week from Tiny Hardcore Press. I will be at my computer working from 10 am to 6 pm, Chicago time, so that’s the best time to contact me, if you want me to read to you.

All of the stories are fairly short, between 1 and 5 minutes maybe.

This is a good thing to do if you are wondering whether you would like the stories in this book, or also if you just want someone to read to you for 1 to 5 minutes.

My Gmail address is jamestaddadcox AT gmail DOT com. My Skype name is jamestaddadcox.

I am excited about this.

TONIGHT Ear Eater #15: Paratext Edition

Tonight! Ear Eater has a reading at Paratext books. Hear stories by Diego Arispe-Bazan, Megan Milks and Rebecca Elliott!

Facebook Event.

TONIGHT: Write Club Chapter 26

Tonight! One night only (until next month, at least)! Ian Belknap's devil child, Write Club, is at The Hideout (1354 West Wabansia Avenue, Chicago)!

Facebook event. Write Club's website. A photo of Ian and I hugging sensually.

Write Club is Fight Club for the literary cowards among us. Watch six writers go head to head to see who truly is the best wordsmith (and, occasionally, the worst human being).

Tonight's contenders:

Ian Belknap VS Jeff Miller

Lindsay Muscato VS Noelle Krimm

Jim DeWan VS Chris Schoen

- Mason

Save Our Fullmers

Book Celler employee and Knee-Jerk Magazine editor Jon Fullmer and his wife Amelia lost their home to a fire last week, and are expecting their first child any day now. To help them get back on their feet, the Book Celler is hosting a benefit on Thursday, May 31 featuring readings by many talented Chicago writers. Check out the event page, and consider donating to support a part of Chicago's lit community!

Chris Bower & Matt Test's 'Birthday Boy'

I saw Birthday Boy last night. You should too. Here's the facebook event, here's the website.

A play about a boy who's forgotten and ignored and generally treated like shit on his birthday, it's pretty hilarious. Even if you're not a miserable person like me. Even if you're, say, a happy person. Basically, you'll enjoy this miserable play regardless of what kind of person you are.

The play's written by Chris Bower and Matt test, who are also in the goddamn thing, along with Cat Jarboe, Kevlyn Hayes, and Troy Martin. It is playing for the next two Fridays (June 1st & 8th).

Here's a picture of me and Bower inside of a heart. It is not a real heart, I put it there with photoshop.

<3 Mason

What Works: Graduation

What Works sets out to examine a piece of writing and determine one component that just, well, works.

Required reading: Graduation, Sex Camel, Beach Sloth's blog

Graduation, a poem published in issue 3 of UP, isn’t weird or surreal or crazy or about Wish Bone — that goddamn dog. For a poem written by someone who goes by Beach Sloth and writes in a weird, surreal way--often examining indie lit from the most abnormal of point-of-views--Graduation is pretty straightforward. Just a piece about a guy and a girl. Go read it, it’s short, we’re going to talk about it in a second.

You done? Good.

What works?

For me, it’s the dialogue. Both spots of dialogue (though one isn’t even in quotes) work well here. They're probably the strongest parts of the poem. The parts where "her" voice comes through seem to tie the scenes together, making it easier to see the rain as the narrator walks--despite that message being sent in email--and making it easier to see the narrator’s “efficient” body later in the poem. I mean, come on, “efficient” isn’t exactly a word you describe a person’s body with. A car engine maybe, but not someone you’re about to share a physical embrace with.

When it comes right down to it, we need this dialogue to show off the characters as individuals. Why? Because this is a poem we’ve all written, lived, thought-up in the shower, and read before. We’re all human beings, we’ve all walked around in the rain bummed out about a loved one, so we need to know the narrator’s body is efficient instead of say, soft or warm. We need that little extra somethin’ to allow the piece to stand on its own instead of getting drowned out by, well, everything else like it.

The dialogue is what works. Without it, we not only lose the most distinct parts of the poem—the voice of it—but also any notion of character individuality.

So maybe it’s time for the rest of us who’ve written bad poems to take them out of our hiding places (dresser drawers, hidden under socks and tighty whiteys), and give them another go. Have another go out at the dialogue. As we can see in Graduation, a little bit goes a long way.

I recently sat down with Beach Sloth. It was in a wicker chair--one of those big ones made out of bamboo, so really, I guess it was a bamboo chair--and he sat on my lap answering a few of my questions, slowly falling over as he did so. He smiled the whole time. A slow-witted smile.Full of sunshine. Like the sun, you know, if the sun were mentally disabled.

Mason: What were your favorite parts of the poem?

Beach Sloth: The detailed parts were my favorites. [Sloth burps.] They were also fairly hard as I tend to sort of make everything a little vague. I think this may be one of the more personal things I've shared.

M: What else? What do you think is working here?

BS: What else did I like? I actually worked on this piece a little bit. I enjoy how I split it up into tiny pieces through the word “but.” I have a hard time writing longer pieces so I used the break as a way of extending my ideas and interrupting them.

I wrote most of the piece during one of my periodic “undergrad nostalgia” periods. I've been having more of them lately. That Stereolab song in the beginning sets the tone for me. I can remember it, it was the second track off of one of their less critically acclaimed albums. The rain made me feel sad.

[We move and continue our conversation in a bathroom. He talks, his head turned over his shoulder, as he pisses. I brush my teeth vigorously.]

By the end of the day it was beautiful and sunny. Somehow the weather had transformed so gradually I barely even noticed it. Somebody asked me to go to the bar with them but I was leaving the campus for a very long time.

I visited my old school for a little while. It was in a really beautiful part of the state. Even now I sort of miss it. My current school I doubt I'd have the same feelings for. At my old school I had certain supporters and friends. Here I have that to some degree but there's definitely not the same level of connection. Undergrad feels far kinder, far more gentle, than anything you experience afterwards. I guess that's kind of what I interpret my poem to mean.

Or I could just write another poem describing that. I'm not certain.

M: So you're pro the inclusion of pop media in writing? You make Stereolab sound like an essential part of the voice - true?

BS: Sometimes it is. Sometimes it feels a little like showing off. With most of my writing (creative, stories I haven't shared) I generally use music as a framework for how to mold the plot. I have a hard time describing it. So I'd say true - with some caveats.

M: How are you going to push yourself with your next poem?

BS: I have no idea. There's a rough sketch forming in my brain about a series of interconnected poems forming a chapbook but otherwise that's it.

M: You should go do that.

[Beach Sloth takes my suggestion literally and walks out of the restaurant we’re sitting in, leaving me with an expensive bill, and two mimosas to finish on my own.]

TONIGHT: ACM 50.2 Release Party!

Come to our April Fools' Day Party at Beauty Bar this evening! We will be officially releasing volume two of our Chicago Issue, and many of our talented authors will be reading. Doors open at 7, and the reading will begin at 8.

The fulsome visages of the collected fools are as follows:

Chris Bower is a playwright and the host of the Ray's Tap Reading Series. You can find him

Paul Durica is the founder of Pocket Guide to Hell tours and Reenactments. The Chicagoan and Poetry have published his work recently.

Andrew Farkas' Self-Titled Debut is available through Subito Press. He is currently a gentleman of leisure.

Jac Jemc's first book, My Only Wife, is out later this month from Dzanc Books. She is also the poetry editor of decomP.

Tim Jones-Yelvington has fashioned himself indie lit's first pop star.

Francesco Levato is a poet, translator, and filmmaker. Author of four books of poetry he holds an MFA in Poetry, and is working towards a PhD in English Studies.

Joe Meno is one bad mother, who also happens to be a father.

Writer/novelist and editor and blogger and academic and prankster and father of two and department

Yvonne Strumecki’s finally getting PAID to do what she loves, travel the country & sing. Published bc of bacon. How is her life even real?

Ben Tanzer is the author of the books 99 Problems, You Can Make Him Like You, My Father's House and So Different Now among others.

Steven & Maja Teref translated Assembly, the selected poems of Novica Tadić (Host Publications, 2009).

Michael Zapata is a writer and educator living in Chicago. He is a founding editor of MAKE. He works as an editor at ANTIBOOKCLUB.

All My Friends: Daniel Shapiro

A circle jerk of a column in which Mason Johnson talks about writing by people he likes. Required reading for this edition: Untitled Number Five; Matryoshka Doll; The Firesign Theatre; and a bunch of old, dead comedians you’ve never heard of.

Daniel Shapiro is a good place to start for my first All My Friends column for two reasons:

1. He is Funny as hell.

2. He is one of my best friends.

Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t, he hasn’t exactly been in a hurry to meet you. His progress in the world of writing and comedy is similar to the literal way he walks: a sort of sluggish, lumbering gait. He’s slowly rising in the world of Chicago readings, having most recently murdered—and I mean really eviscerated—a crowd at March 8th’s “Supreme Court” themed Encyclopedia Show.

That is to say, he made a lot of people laugh.

Dan’s background in television writing doesn’t account for his stories that don’t seem to make sense. Held together by a loose structure of jokes, he doesn’t need a sensical ending… or beginning… or middle. Despite this, they just sound right.

Part of it is his performance; you can’t tell what’s genuine, and what Dan is faking. His shaky voice contrasted with his perfectly timed punch-line-filled paragraphs, combine to create an act that you just believe. It also helps that he either seems perfectly convinced of his own bullshit, or is perfectly willing to call himself out on it. This creates a trust audiences aren’t willing to give to most performers. In a world where most comedians strive to hide their jokes amongst complicated, amateurish, confessional, Louis CK-esque* stories (have you been to a Chicago open mic lately?), it’s nice to see Dan do the opposite, and try to hide bits of honest story amongst his insane, respectfully old school jokes.

What’s most impressive is that Dan can do this on the page, too, proving it in a small handful of published stories. Through a written voice that is quick and simultaneously self-assured and doubtful, Dan grabs you, the reader, in a sort of loving chokehold (in which he tenderly rubs the top of your head). You can’t get away. One of Dan’s more linear pieces that supports this is a letter story about a man and a monkey, entitled Untitled Number Five:

“And it cries. All night long. A deep, hollow cry. I think it has monkey PTSD. The monkey also shows signs of aggressive behavior. It listens to Rollins Band. It’s constantly cracking its knuckles. Last week I caught it fingering a stuffed animal. I don’t know why it would do something like that, but god damned if it didn’t.”

Dan takes the voice from Untitled Number Five and makes things even weirder (and more meta) in Matryoshka Doll, a story published by HyperText Mag. It’s about a man, a romantic, if you will, remembering fondly the time he spent in his mother’s womb with his twin sister. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but things get heated. In a sexy way.


Still, reading his work is no substitute for hearing him live. So, for those of you in Chicago, catch him if you can. He reads at my series (shameless plug), P. Fanatics, every month.


*Note, I love Louis CK. I just hate imposters.

Mason Johnson: (Not Quite) In Defense of Marie Calloway

Fiction staff member Mason Johnson on the Marie Calloway debate (view his orginial blog post here):

Everyone has been weighing in on this Marie Calloway person and I thought I’d weigh in because, dammit, I like attention too.

Here are my two opinions about Marie Calloway:

1. I don’t know if she’s a good writer.

2. She seems like a perfectly fine human being.

I don’t mean that in a jerky way, like I’m insulting her writing, in that I don’t think she’s a bad writer either. What I mean to say is that I haven’t read much by her, so I’m not actually equipped to decide whether she’s a good writer, or whether she’s a bad writer.

No, I have not read Adrien Brody. I will eventually, I’m sure. I’m just in no hurry. Is it bad? I don’t know. Is it amazing? I have no clue. I know there are words in it. I can say that with confidence. So, if you want to quote me, you can quote that.

Mason Johnson, “Adrien Brody has words!”

I have read bits and pieces of her blog. She’s a passionate person with opinions. How terrible!

Here are some thoughts that are tangential to  Marie Calloway and people’s response to her:

Sometimes, we don’t respect each other in this little, writing community of ours. This is real goddamn annoying. It’s especially annoying to me when we’re not respecting women. On a whole, I like to respect women. Are there others out there who do not?

I think there are a lot of men out there in the literary world who work very hard and are inadvertently assholes. (Or maybe it’s intentional). They see a woman (or anyone that’s different from them) getting attention, and they scream, “why can’t I get away with that? Whatever it is they’re doing! It’s because I’m male, isn’t it?”

No, not exactly. The reason you can’t get away with it is because you put very little thought into it. You’re set into your ways and don’t want to change because, on the whole, they’ve done right by you. They’re not always right though. Why rely on critical thinking and empathy when you can tear something down though? When you can whine and complain about it?

It is possible that these male writers are trying to do good by the world. By criticizing women who write about sex, they’re taking the role of the older brother. Half resentful, immature and jealous, and half protective, as if a young woman like Marie Calloway needs to be saved from her “bad writing” and “poor sexual judgements” by the likes of you, Super-white-grad-student-man. The best super hero of all!

Well, fellow men, allow me to let you in on a little secret: women don’t need you to save them. Or to correct them. Or to help them. Marie Calloway, a young woman with strong opinions and apparent talent, does not need you to save her. By judging women through thinly veiled literary comments, you’re not coming off as an asshole for the better of the community. You’re just coming off as an asshole.

Hope you can live with that. I’m sorry to generalize, I know all white men aren’t like this, it’s just the easiest way to get my point across. At the end of the day, we all make horrible judgements like this about each other. Maybe, once in awhile, we could get out of our skin and attempt to respect one another just a tiny bit more.

Or we can say fuck it and keep on keepin’ on.

Which will it be?


More on Marie Calloway:

New York Observer article 

Roxane Gay in HTMLGiant

Interview with The Rumpus

World Book Night 2012

Interested in participating in World Book Night? The deadline to register as a volunteer book giver has just been extended to Feb. 6. World Book Night will be on April 23 — the goal is to hand out one million books to underserved communities. Logan Square's newest book store, Uncharted Books, has signed up as a community pick-up location, so, if you're interested, sign up to volunteer now!