Friday, July 22, 2011

If you think that I am smart

Ever think I'm a really smart guy, as in me, Matt Rowan, is a really smart guy? Worry no more! Here's a perfect example of how I am not, and how actually I'm a moron just like the rest of us.

Dear MATT,

Thank you for your submission of "Surveil " to SmokeLong Quarterly. We gave the story careful consideration, and though we are not accepting it for publication, we hope you find a better fit for it elsewhere.

Thanks again for trusting us with your work.

SmokeLong Quarterly



You can change the setting on your submishmash account so a submitter's first name isn't all caps in your automatic replies. It'll preserve a modicum of your giving the story an honest read. I know this is a bit snarky in tone. I just find that to be one of the more irritating aspects of these rejections, and an easily correctable one. I hope my next rejection by your publication comes with my name in the standard capitalization.

-MATT Rowan


That's actually the way you spelled your name when you submitted the story, not an automatic setting on Submishmash. So if you submit your story to us with your name spelled the way you prefer, then it will appear that way on any correspondence we send you.


Editors, SmokeLong Quarterly


HAHAHAHA, sigh, well I sent a very contrite email, acknowledging my mistake (and it was my mistake). Somehow when my account was set up, the default profile name was in all caps (either I did this or it's automatic). If you have a submishmash account you can alter your rejections email name (or acceptances) under your personal settings. All you have to do is investigate them, rather than jump to a conclusion of error on the part of an external source.

Or maybe I'm the only one who's had trouble with that, too.

P.S. SmokeLong is a good publication that's fun, so go read it and have fun. They put up with me and my snark, so there's something.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

xTx is (AB)normally Special

My title really ruined that oxymoron belonging to xTx's latest story collection "Normally Special." I've not read too many contemporary writers with nom de plumes, but of them, I like xTx best.

Frankly, I wasn't so sure that'd be the case. I mean, xTx reads like the title of a Vin Diesel movie (fitting, since he too is operating under a nom de plume, thank god). Happily, there's where similarities end because xTx doesn't tell stories as they might be by The Diesel. She tells visceral stories that make you feel something, sometimes something terrible (an emotion you weren't sure you understood / weren't sure you were capable of having), but, hey, if that's the effect, that's the effect. And these effects are enviable.

I've actually enjoyed the pocket-size quality of a lot of these various indie books I've gotten my hands on of late. (They make for great, surreptitious reading while I'm at work, for example.) Others, which I'll have further comments on, no doubt, are Ethel Rohan's "Hard to Say" "Artifice 3" (a great indie literary magazine), "Big World" by Mary Miller and "AM/PM" by Amelia Gray.

These are books by lesser known but equally worthy writers as those you'll find in prominent places like The New Yorker, Paris Review, Harper's, Granta and so forth. A Patrick Somerville to match a Gary Shteyngart, a Roxane Gay to match a Z.Z. Packer, a near-every late 20s-early 30s female writer (namely, Alissa Nutting, Amelia Gray, Lindsay Hunter, Jill Summers, Faith Gardner, Mary Miller, Frank Hinton, Ethel Rohan and, of course xTx) to match Karen Russell and Tea Obreht, a Michael Czyzniejewski to every Stephen O'Connor. And you get the idea. I like and have read many contemporary authors of all persuasions / categorizations. I refuse to concede that the better known ones are of a higher literary caliber. If anything I might say the opposite is the case. (I know, I know, how very provocative / controversial of me to side with what is presumably the anti-establishment (the independent publishers) but then again sort of its own smaller, niche establishment in its own right. Well, I'm siding with somebody! Dammit!).

All right, the point is xTx. Her stories fill you with grit, ask you to get gritty, enjoy making you feel like you're being abraded by something especially coarse. And I grant that this might sound a little tongue-in-cheek, but that's only because I have trouble expressing these types of emotions. (Yep, admitting a little vulnerability here, folks.)

My favorites of "Normally Special" were "Standoff" -- which I was on the verge of tears reading, but I didn't cry mostly because of manliness and mine being what it is. But the story is fucking powerful sad. I loved it. The mother and son relationship is tortured by all kinds of emotion, by guilt and by loss and by uncertainty. "She Who Subjected the Sun" is an ambiguously dystopian vision, one in which we are able to understand women have been returned to a state of subjection, or more so, really, made to desire being made subjects, perfectly docile, welcoming their subjection. It's something akin to a normative imposition of the sex slavery trade.

Many of my other favorites were colored by a kind of ambiguity. Maybe it was ambivalence, ambiguous ambivalence. It got me to thinking and to feeling, which I like.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What this is becoming

My friends, anyone who's stuck around long enough to see this post, I'm not writing to you to say I'm changing anything. I'm saying I'm adding. I'm adding things like my writing credits. I'm also gonna touch on stuff outside the realm of literary criticism. What stuff? Anecdotal stuff. Things I find interesting. I've said I might post story fragments here, too. Thanks for your patience. My hope is that this is a place that is still worthwhile to be, once I'm done making changes.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mini Review: "Crash" and Bang and All that Perverse Techno-Violence / Whatnot

"Crash" by J.G. Ballard is a tough slog as reading goes. I remember my first, ultimately aborted attempt at reading the novel. At the time, Ballard's prose was too vivid, too sterile, too graphic for my tastes. I don't know that I was really thinking about it at all even, just my discomfort for its language, which is rife with reference to all sorts of sex and technology and the fusion of the two. For example, engine coolant and seminal fluid are inextricably tied, so as to be one and the same admixture, concoction, what have you.

But I think this imagery speaks to some weird bridging of the primal with the artificial, humanity's most base needs and its (to date) most profound, prolific inventions. "Meaning" in any sense is cast off and completely beside the point. In fact, for as much imagery as abounds in this story I've never felt less inclined to parse meaning, to scratch beneath the surface. "Crash" is violence incarnate. It's the disgusting birth video of future as a tactile entity. It's frustratingly, transparently straightforward in its canonization of simulacra. That's why Jean Baudrillard liked it so much.