Friday, December 30, 2011

First Read On E-Reader: "Person" by Sam Pink

All right, before you judge me for having a kindle fire manufactured by the evil corporation, you should know that I'm very happy with its performance and that that should somehow make up for the terrible things does to competition in the arena of the free market.

Don't be evil and try your best not to be complicit. I will try harder.

No more questions!


(Brief parenthetical aside: I still like and plan to purchase paper books, often from used bookstores. This is what I tell myself and I know it to be true! Besides it's too hard for me to highlight passages and annotate margins on the e-reader. Paper books beat 'em where that's concerned.) 


I read "Person" by Sam Pink. It's an unusual tale that reminds me somewhat of Daniil Kharms' disjointedness. Absurdity coupled with vague sense of the tragedy inherent in things being what they are and not necessarily logical. It's still funny, yes, but there's melancholy, too. Nobody can avoid the melancholy. You'd better learn how to cope with melancholy. It's a part of this. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, either.

A line I can imagine being in "Person" would go something like, "I met a student who was pre-med. He looked like he would be my doctor someday. He would always be the same way, and I might be a little bit different."

Here's another handful of lines actually from the novel and not just put upon it:

There's an advertisement for junior college along the inside of the train.
The ad features a smiling man holding books.
He looks nice.
One day I will figure out which stop the junior college is at and then I will go there and meet this man and we will help each other through life.  

Pink seems concerned with the various superficiality of everyday life, and more to the point, the ephemerality that defines the superficial. The people you meet on the street aren't always going to be there. In fact, they'll be a part of your life far less time than the people you know, the difference between a year and a millennium. Those fleeting, superficial interactions tend to be the real and true microcosm of life and living. They constitute the people you knew in high school, say, and now only know on Facebook, if you know them at all. If you ever knew them at all.

Also, everything in the novel is February. A nice and cold month devoid of feeling. January might've also worked were it not too closely removed from Christmas and obviously New Year's (despite familial issues, unless something very negative happened to you at this time of year it's generally pretty positive, energy wise). Nobody cares about Valentine's Day. It's either too commercial or too lonely or both. Those things make it a sad holiday foisted on the public, and accordingly, it tends to be an afterthought -- even to those who enjoy it. It does not come up in "Person," which whether intentional or not, I agree with.

There's one epitomizing moment in which the unnamed narrator is confronted by his overly extroverted landlord, a landlord who wants all the building's tenants to be like family, and the landlord shows off a Halloween decoration she got at a discount because of its being so completely out of season. It does the thing it's supposed to do, this werewolf statue thing, apparently wiggling its arms staccato-like. More interestingly, the unnamed narrator does what he's supposed to, which is feign a kind of interest. He is a person enough to understand this nuance of human interaction.

There's also the sense of David Markson I felt in Pink's novel. In particular "Wittgenstein's Mistress" is very much felt. Take the plot of "Wittgenstein's Mistress" and put it in a world populated by other people, with a male narrator, and you have a nice, different sort of post-apocalyptic narrative. This is what I think Sam Pink fairly deftly achieves. The language is often terse and never overly florid, but it has this way of expressing a great deal. It makes you think and feel in a different way, a way that's purposely uncomfortable but, as you move through the narrative, you begin to find a kind of comfort, call it making do, with the lifestyle of the narrator, his nomadic existence. It's troubling but pleasing. It doesn't seem so bad. It seems like you don't always have complete control over your own fate, but you have some control over it, and with that you make what you will.

It's a fun read in the way that coming to terms with yourself and yourself in the grand scheme of things can be fun, when looked at from a certain kind of angle. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

rowan university

Peterbd gave me a little history lesson re: the history of the fine educational institution Rowan University. All of this is the god's honest truth. "Merry Christmas to you." - Frank Sinatra

i met a guy yesterday who graduated from rowan university.

he was like "wanna here how rowan university came to be?"

and i was like "no"

and he was like "listen anyway"

and i was like "ok"

and he was like:

jerome rowan was a billionaire from somewhere in europe and was incredibly tired of living in europe.

so jerome left europe in 1921 and decided to come to america. "america doesn't have stoopid

poopy head people like in europe" said jerome aloud. when jerome arrived in new york,

he decided to move to new jersey because the rent in williamsburg was high even for the 1920s.

"i'm a fucking billionaire" said jerome. "i'm gonna conquer new jersey and show those 

williamsburg hipsters who's boss." "but how you gonna do that big daddy" said jerome's lover (at

the time). "you don't know a damn thing about academics." "get outta my house!" said jerome.

"anybody who doesn't believe in my abilities and doesn't love everything about me, needs to 

get out of my life. so get out!" jerome's lover (at the time) later moved to the west coast

and had a tragic end as the black dahlia. 

then i was like "so what's the point of this story. how did rowan university come to be?"

and the guy was like "hush up. i'm just gettin to the good part"

jerome unfortunately became addicted to crack in 1923 and blew all his billions. crack was 

expensive in the 1920's so this was an extremely possible outcome. "what am i gonna do?"

said jerome. "i blew all my billions and can no longer give the middle finger to those hipsters

by building a university in new jersey". but just then, someone heard him. this someone was 

craig rowan. craig was so inspired by jerome's sermon that he vowed to help him build the university

of his dreams. "just stay off the rock dude" said craig. "can do" said jerome. "but what's the catch?"

"there's no catch" said craig. "just make sure to name it rowan university". "my 1st girlfriend's

name was rowan and i loved her alot." "can do" said jerome. the end 

then i was like "so what's the moral of this story? what's so great about rowan university?"

and the guy was like "matt rowan is part of the rowan lineage"

and i was like "but who's lineage? jerome's, craig's or craig's 1st girlfriend whom he loved dearly?"

and the guy was like "that's the thing. nobody knows."

and i was like "interesting. that's hella crazy"

and the guy was like "yup. bye"

and i was like "bye"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Too Friendly, Detailed Form Rejection

So this is what passes as a form rejection down at Eclectica Magazine:
UPDATE: Given Ellen's considered response in the comments I feel it's useful to point out here and now that while I disapprove of the following I don't mean to indict Eclectica for it in specific -- just offer my opinion for why I disagree with this practice and using Eclectica's as an example of the practice in action. Certainly Eclectica is a fine publication and they are also not the only publication to reject in this fashion.)
Dear Matt, 
Thank you for your submission to Eclectica Magazine.  After careful consideration, I have decided not to select it for publication. There are many possible reasons for why a particular piece isn't selected, and I regret that I am unable, given time constraints, to offer further explanation as to which of those reasons applied to your work. I will say that you're in good company; as always, there were many authors and many pieces that I would have liked to include. 
Best of luck with your writing and in finding a home for this work. I appreciate your support of online literature in general and Eclectica in particular, and I hope you'll try us again in the future. 
Tom // Eclectica

Don't get me wrong. I understand the good intent here. Or I think I do. But it's still misguided / misplaced if you ask me. If you decide to reject someone in a form way make it a form. Don't attempt being personal because that makes you seem like those dishonest salespeople who pretend they're all about good relations and honest sales practice but then find ways to subtly lose your confidence, allusions to things that suggest their inventory is limited and demand has been high, and sort of disingenuously pressuring you to buy. It's like either you be cold and streamlined, literary publication, or you legitimately put the legwork into actually being warm and friendly. This "happy medium" is unsettling and perplexing and makes me want to ralph on you, on one of you.