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Sunday
Sep072014

Normcore Week: Recommended Reading

This New York Fashion Week, let's imitate the masses to show how unlike the masses we are. Even with five years of Paper Darts content to draw on, it's almost impossible to find pieces that accurately reflect the self-aware irony needed to be truly normcore. What we have here are stories of average people in average attire. And if you think about it, is there anything more enviably normal than not quite getting it?

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WORKING IN A FAKE DINOSAUR QUARRY // JACKIE SIZEMORE

On being tested by poorly socialized children while wearing a safari vest.

Reading time: 2 minutes
Recommended for: Snooze abusers

THEY WERE GODS // JILL SUMMERS

Longing for a life with an unbroken family, free from a stupid half-sister.

Reading time: 4 minutes
Recommended for: Healers

MY HAWAIIAN SHIRTS // THOMAS MUNDT

A Hawaiian shirt communicates a strong interest in partying.

Reading time: 4 minutes
Recommended for: Narcissists

POLYPTYCH: ROLLER GARDEN // JENNY MCDOUGAL

A roller rink ties together the stories of lovers, dreamers, and creeps.

Reading time: 6 minutes
Recommended for: Nostalgists

BECAUSE WE MAKE A LIVING // ASHLEY STROSNIDER

Allen does it more for the girls he supervises and less for his wife.

Reading time: 2 minutes
Recommended for: Schmoozers

Monday
Sep012014

Free Ideas: Literary Roller Derby Names

Margaret Splatwood

Malice Walker

hell hooks

Zadie Smithereens

Cockamamie Tan

Sylvia Wrath

Judy Kablume

Danielle Steel*

Thumpa Lahiri

Stony Morrison

*If it's already hardcore, don't fix it.

See also: Actual registered roller derby names that are literary puns

Friday
Aug292014

The Essential Not-Writing: Interview with Rebekah Bergman

Maria Anderson

Rebekah Bergman

Rebekah Bergman writes fiction and poetry. She is a recent recipient of a fellowship from Tent and a residency at Art Farm in Marquette, Nebraska. She is pursuing an MFA in fiction at The New School and works as an editorial intern at Tin House. Her work is published or forthcoming form Spittoon and Banango Street.  

Maria Anderson: What objects are central to your process? I've been lighting a candle while I write lately to try to create a sense of festivity. Do you do these types of things?

Rebekah Bergman: Does peanut butter count as an object? I sit down to write most mornings with a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I've conditioned myself at this point to associate the taste and smell of chunky peanut butter with my writing process. 

MA: Do you have certain writing rituals or superstitions that you adhere to?

RB: Something new I've been trying is to go for a run when I stop being productive at my desk. I'm not much of a runner, but it helps to get my body outside and moving through space and then to sit it back down with new energy and try again. 

Also, I never thought of this as related before, but I have been taking really long showers where I think and plan out revisions and writing lately too.  

MA: Who have you been reading lately?

RB: Jenny Offill's Dept. of SpeculationElena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, and (I'm a little late to the party, but…) Maggie Nelson's Bluets

I am forever re-reading The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel and also have rediscovered the amazing Gary Lutz

MA: I'm reading Amy Hempel at the moment too. I find her first sentences so good. 

RB: "Tell me things I won't mind forgetting," she said. "Make it useless stuff or skip it."

The year I began to say vahz instead of vase, a man I barely knew nearly accidentally killed me.

"Bye-bye," the baby said, his voice a little bell. "Bye-bye," he waved, as we arrived for the party at the lake.

After the dog's cremation, I lie in my husband's bed and watch the Academy Awards for animals.

MA: What about these draws you in? What do you think is interesting about them? What kind of a contract do you think she makes with the reader?

RB: I read a review of Hempel's work once where she was insultingly called a "writer's writer." I found this just completely off base. To me, she is far more of a "reader's writer." Almost all of the pleasures and delights I can get through reading, I experience while reading her work. Hempel's stories do not play out like movies for readers to just sit back and enjoy. They demand attention and action and they reward re-reading (which is why I feel I am forever re-reading her). In terms of contract with the reader, she maybe takes for granted that readers are willing to do that, but why shouldn't she? I find her writing surprising on a sentence and on a plot-level. And she is a master at saying the un-sayable. She has this tiny, maybe 300-word story called San Francisco that breaks my heart in the way it deals with loss—that is, by never fully dealing with it. A reader has to be willing to discover what is not being said and what becomes more powerful in the silences to fully appreciate that kind of writing. 

Hempel's stories do not play out like movies for readers to just sit back and enjoy. They demand attention and action and they reward re-reading (which is why I feel I am forever re-reading her). In terms of contract with the reader, she maybe takes for granted that readers are willing to do that, but why shouldn't she?

MA: Is this contract similar to what you see in Gary Lutz's writing? Who do you think crafts stronger stories?

RB: Similar but different in significant ways. Lutz also demands attention and re-reading (and re-re-reading infinitely). If pushed to pick a winner, Lutz wins in sentences but Hempel takes the prize in stories. I think he promises more delight in the language and less in the narrative. Some might say that makes him a "writer's writer," but everyone uses language so that's not a great title for him either. 

MA: Is what Kevin Sampsell calls "The Lutz Sentence Test," where you pick any sentence at random and it is amazing, something you think about in your writing?

RB: I do think my experience reading these two writers, among many others like them, has shaped my attention to sentences, rhythm, and sound. Sometimes my writing blurs the line between what some would call prose poetry and others would call flash fiction. The distinction doesn't matter to me but I think poetry is a label often ascribed to writing that is concerned with language as much as (or more than) plot. Gary Lutz definitely disrupts that definition though. He clearly writes prose but is very concerned with language at the same time. As an aside, on The Believer's website you can read a lecture Lutz gave at Columbia in 2008. It's called The Sentence Is a Lonely Place, and I strongly recommend all writers read it. 

The distinction [between poetry and prose] doesn't matter to me but I think poetry is a label often ascribed to writing that is concerned with language as much as (or more than) plot.

MA: What are you working on right now?

RB: I am just starting a new project. I had been working on a bunch of disjointed flash fiction pieces when a professor suggested that these pieces might all interconnect if I let them. So now I am writing more of them, revising them, and trying to craft a whole that might be larger than the sum of its parts. Really, I'm just beginning this endeavor so I am not at all sure what will come of it, but it's a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle—challenging and fun until it gets completely frustrating and I want to throw a tantrum.

MA: Can you talk about the work you've done with Tin House? How would you characterize the magazine as a publication?

RB: I think Tin House strives to showcase a diversity of voices. I am always bragging about their longstanding VIDA count numbers, which measure gender representation on the page. In terms of literary aesthetics as well, they don't privilege any one type of writing over any another. In my experience, the editors are most concerned with authorial control. They are on the lookout for a writer who knows what s/he wants to do to a reader and does it with precision and power. Those are the writers you will find in the magazine. 

Tin House is a bicoastal publication with the majority of the staff based in Portland. In Brooklyn there are two editors and an intern (me!). As part of such a small staff, my work is pretty varied. It does include a lot of treasure hunting through the slush pile, though.

…it's a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle—challenging and fun until it gets completely frustrating and I want to throw a tantrum.

MA: Which literary magazines do you read regularly? What about other publications? Nonfiction? How has working at Tin House changed how you read?

RB: Electric Literature's Recommended Reading has been my most consistent source for amazing new fiction finds. Full disclosure, I used to be a reader for them. But I came to them because I loved the site already. They invite guest editors from other publications to recommend works they've recently published. It's given me exposure to a whole slew of literary magazines I never knew of or had heard of but never read myself. Also, every month, Electric Literature's own staff chooses an original piece to showcase so it's a great way to find and enjoy new voices as well. 

Embarrassingly, I do not read nearly as much nonfiction as I know I should. I try to keep up with poetry to some extent because I do write poetry myself and because poetry helps in my fiction writing. I find I have little time in my reading life for nonfiction after that though. It's something I should definitely work on.

After a day spent reading submissions, most of the time I go home eager to start working on my own writing.

As for the last part of that question, I was slightly worried initially that after reading through submissions for Tin House, I'd have little energy to read or work on my own writing. But it has definitely had the opposite effect on my work. After a day spent reading submissions, most of the time I go home eager to start working on my own writing. In terms of its impact on my reading, it's made me slow down a lot. I try to see the potential in every story to be great. After all, sometimes all it takes is one more revision. Finding how to unlock the story to crack it open is a skill that takes patience and time. I'd like to think being there has made me a more careful reader of other writers' work. 

MA: Where do you think you are on the spectrum of productivity in grad school, the lowest point being writing nothing at all, and the highest being pulling fever-dream all-nighters? 

RB: Ugh. I hate this question for forcing some honest self-assessment. My knee jerk answer is NOTHING AT ALL. I'M A FRAUD! but that's not true; I am writing. But not all of what I'm writing feels good enough or done enough to count. Let's be real though, does any writer ever feel like s/he has enough of anything in the writing process—time, pages, stamina? We could all be writing more right? 

A professor recently taught me to think about all the not-writing we do as essential to the writing we will eventually do. This is something I try to keep in mind whenever I feel guilty about not writing. The true answer to your question is that I write and when I'm not writing, I am aware of my writing in a way I was not before starting grad school. On some level, I am conscious of how whatever not-writing I'm engaged in might serve the writing later on if I let it (and if there's peanut butter left in the jar). 

Not all of what I'm writing feels good enough or done enough to count.

MA: What single activity/thing do you spend the most time on outside of writing?

RB: Probably reading followed by watching episodes of Broad City and/or aimlessly loitering around the internet.

Sunday
Aug242014

Introducing MASTERWORKS by Simon Jacobs

Simon Jacobs had an idea for a recurring series: flash fiction pieces in which the characters reenact famous works of art. Being a home for art and lit to meet and clash and mix, Paper Darts couldn't say no.

Welcome to MASTERWORKS. This serialized content will be delivered exclusively to Paper Darts e-news subscribers each month. Since we're feeling generous, we're publishing this first entry on the blog too. If you don't want to miss out on the next one, sign up for the Paper Darts e-news.

Reading time: 3 minutes
Recommended for: Revolutionaries 


The next time you find me, I'm lying in a claw-foot bathtub and reenacting a famous French Revolution painting of a radical journalist who’s just been stabbed to death by an Enemy of the Cause.

This isn't the first time you've walked in on me doing something embarrassingly private in the tub. You say as much, standing over me: "Well. I can't say that this is exactly new."

I splash around trying to cover my bobbing genitals, because this isn't that kind of portrait—in the original, you only see his top half (dead) and, of course, he's all classically-rendered muscle where I am a bit more generous and altogether much too hairy—and in the scramble I drop my Booklet of Revolutionary Ideas into the tepid water.

"Shit!" I fish it out from between my legs, but the ink is already bleeding down the pages like a liberal's heart, and I can't remember a single poetic thought I've had since I started sitting in here. I throw the soggy thing across the bathroom.

You stare judgmentally down at me: "Are you listening to Oasis?"

I am. It's the only incongruous part of my recreation. I maintain scrupulous eye contact, mostly because I'm praying that you don't notice the kitchen knife on the floor. It's just a prop—I haven't done anything untoward with a knife in years—but it's the one you use to chop vegetables (the biggest), and I can't imagine you'd be happy that I've taken it. In the history, after she'd stabbed him, the murderess Charlotte Corday didn't even try to escape her victim's house, but waited right in the room to be found (in the painting, you can sense her lurking just outside the frame).

You make an unpleasant face and sniff the fragrant bathroom air—the David-esque chiaroscuro created by the candlelight is out of control. "Whatever it is you're doing in here," you say, "keep your fucking paws off my scented candles. For God's sake, you never mix more than three flavors at once."

You turn tail and stomp out, letting a beam of hall light harsh my ambience as the door closes. I have to stand and step out to reclaim my waterlogged Booklet of Revolutionary Ideas and adjust the mood music, but soon enough I'm back in the tub. I listen to you thumping down the hallway, back to your own solitary projects: lately, it's been reclining tropical nudes, your excuse to invest in expensive furniture and exotic fauna; mine is as good a reason as any to take a very long bath.

I slump down in the tub, adjust the towel wrapped around my head, drape my arm dramatically over the edge, and resume playing the martyr. In my Booklet I write, I don't really want to now how her garden grows, knowing full well that everything is just a sloppy imitation of something else.
 


 

Simon Jacobs is the author of SATURN, a collection of David Bowie stories, out now from Spork PressHe may be found at simonajacobs.blogspot.com.
 

Friday
Aug152014

The Fauna of Mark-Making: An Interview with Linnéa Gad

Maria Anderson

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Linnea Gad works primarily with painting, drawing and printmaking. She graduated from Parsons The New School for Design in 2013 and currently lives and works in New York. 

MA: Can you talk about the Necro Interior series? Rita Bullwinkel, whom I recently interviewed, says that each of your paintings is "a window into some whole, other complete world." She believes that the ability to create "the allusion of a complete, original other is the most valuable thing any artist, writer or painter, can posses." What are your thoughts on this? How do you ensure that the world you're alluding to is a world entire?

LG: The worlds I explore are within this world. One could say I'm a nonfiction artist. There is so much to infinitely explore that I don't want to make things up or create an illusion. I want to bring forth what is in the background, what might be lost or overlooked.

But allusion is a good word to describe the Necro Interior series. This is a series of paintings of images that presents obsolete interiors as if they were still alive and fully functioning. Each interior is to some extent a window to another world, one that is now primarily of pictorial existence. For example, the Theatre Smoking Room is a painting of the gentlemen's smoking room at the grand San Francisco Fox Theatre. The theatre was demolished in 1963. While the furniture and the organ were sold, the extensive walls of gilded moulding were slowly torn apart by an iron ball. The yearning for what was lost yielded funds for elaborate computer renderings reconstructing its interior spaces. An actual space challenges its fate and continues to live pictorially past its original function. If the image is the window to another world and time, then my painting reveals the disconnect between image, time and space. I want to convey not only that other world, but also the conflicted dialogue between image and the current state of the space. But it is also a reflection of our relationship with history, preservation and modern age relics. As well as our dependence on images and how they will shape our notion of history.

From Gad's Necro Interior series

MA: What would you say your ratio of planning to making to revising (or making new iterations of the same piece) is, percentage-wise, in a finished painting? What about in a print?

LG: I rely a lot on research, and each work has some sort of curious history. It begins with a thought or an impression that triggers my curiosity and leads me to a chain of research. The 'research' is varied. It often includes reading, writing, watching, and going through visual archives. Along the way I find a path for how my thoughts and ideas can best be translated. Each material choice should be justified. My work also relies on the principles of poetry to convey beauty and form which is untranslatable. That is the inexplicit conversation between the process and the piece, and the piece and the viewer. 

MA: What are your thoughts on patterning? Where do you look for patterns in everyday life? 

LG: Interesting you ask me about patterns—I've lately come to realize how fascinated I am by patterns. Things that are of different nature but visually similar. Change of scale or resolution can make a container lot look like a motherboard or a motherboard look like an aerial shot of a farm landscape. Visual confusion excites me, when form and marks can repeat themselves in different contexts.

I'm currently working on a series of work that involves drawings of visual content that look like lunar landscapes, including footage reference from lunar missions. The lunar drawings are sitting on top shelves made out of materials like sponges or ceiling tiles that also resemble lunar landscapes.

View from an Island

MA: I love your prints, especially View from an Island. What do you think about when choosing an image for a print? I just started printing on the offset, and I really love it. What's your favorite way to print?

LG: Thank you. I haven't made any prints in a couple of months, and I really miss it. To some degree, it is a bit strange that I've done so much printmaking. I took a lot of printmaking classes at school because I enjoyed the printmaking environment. It is a meditative yet intense practice. You always make the most out of your time in a printshop, while in my studio practice there is more room for madness. The whole idea of printmaking is to make editions, which to me limits space for idiosyncrasies and poetry.

The goal with my prints is to explore the fauna of mark-making that is unique for printmaking, like the embossment of a plate into water-soaked paper. But also to insert movement and painterly elements to such a static practice. View from an Island is a photo etching from a zinc plate. Although the etching into the plate remains the same, I managed to create movement of a wave reaching an island by wiping the plate differently for each print. The most challenging has been to make a painterly screen print. I've been experimenting with making plates by mixing gum arbic with acetate ink, but I haven't yet made a print I'm satisfied with. I would love to try mono printing, where you make one of prints and ghost prints.

As for the images, I've only printed my own photographs. I have my mother's old Yashica camera that I take about four or five rolls of film with every year. I'm drawn to images that are bit abstract, those that do not translate their content immediately. It is perhaps a reaction to the aggressive, high-resolution images that call daily for our attention. View from an Island is a photo I took from a cliff in Hawaii. As the wave hit the island violently, the foam blurs the horizon line and merges with the clouds above. The separation between clouds and sky is similar to the division between the rock and water pools on the ground. It is an exciting moment when the wave hits the cliff, as the photograph has no sense of gravity it can emphasize the sudden loss of navigation.

MA: Who are some of your favorite contemporary writers? Filmmakers?

LG: I have little patience for fiction at the moment, so that guides my appreciation when reading and watching. I feel that the strongest reading experience I've had recently is with W.G Sebald, who blurs the line between fiction and reality. He gives you access to his mind and there is no made up character in between. It was the first time I really felt like I had a conversation with the author while I was reading. I read his books with a pencil to scribble responses back to his thoughts that awakened old ones or sprang new ones in my own mind.

I just started reading Karl Ove Knausgårds' Min Kamp I (My Struggle), the first of six autobiographical books. I already feel a similar bond to him as I did while reading Sebald. I understand my world better as Knausgårds reflects over the trivial and obvious with a sly new clarity. 

Tacita Dean is one of my favorite artists and filmmakers. She shoots with a 35mm film camera, which is very rare today. A film camera can actually capture a moment, the light burns it into the film, while a digital camera uses a mirror to reflect reality. Dean has made a series of short documentaries about old men. I was fortunate to see the one she made of now deceased writer and translator Michael Hamburger. Dean places her camera in Hamburger's apple garden and lets the viewer spend some time there, long enough to notice the details that would present themselves in present time. 

Very recently I watched Play by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund, which felt very contemporary. There were no archetypes or even a previous plot to rely on for answers. It depicts the complexity of race and morals, and as a viewer you are constantly challenged by your own thoughts along with the characters in the film. Now I want to watch everything Östlund has done so far, including his new film Tourist.

MA: What music are you listening to now?

LG: To indulge in sadness: Angel Olsen. To feel happy: Juaneco Y Su Combo

Sunday
Aug102014

Shark Week: Recommended Reading

It's the most wonderful time of the year: Shark Week. We gathered our saltiest beach-going pieces to honor the occasion. Read them during commercial breaks.

Look Out for the Shark // Jeff Tigchelaar

"There are more reported bitings of people by people in New York City each week than shark bites in the world in a year." A case for the shark. 

Reading time: 3 minutes.
Recommended for: Jaws lovers. Also, Jaws haters.

An Unmolested Thought // Christopher Lee Miles

Kneel on the flight deck with salt spray pelleting your forehead.

Reading time: 30 seconds
Recommended for: Particles

Life Here's No Different // Armel Dagorn

How does the art of seduction go post-shipwreck? Poorly, if you're this guy.

Reading time: 10 minutes
Recommended for: Fedora types

Desert Island Records // Ryan Bradford

Stranded on a remote island? Pass the time with a game of Would You Rather.

Reading time: 4 minutes
Recommended for: Denialists

The Sad Siren // Nicelle Davis

She doesn't seem sad so much as she seems hungry. For human flesh.

Reading time: 30 seconds
Recommended for: Obsessives

Thursday
Jul312014

Snakes Painting in the Forest: An Interview with Poet Kate Greenstreet

Maria Anderson

Kate Greenstreet's latest book, Young Tambling, was published by Ahsahta Press in 2013. Her previous books are The Last 4 Things and case sensitive, also with Ahsahta. Her new work can be found in Waxwing, Denver Quarterly, Everyday Genius, Sugar House Review, and other journals. To read other writing of hers currently online, visit her website.

Maria: Is there a line in particular that stands out to you, something you've recently written and taped to the wall above your desk?

Kate: "Training is a process of development through gradually increasing demand."

This sentence comes from a book I haven't seen in decades. The other day I found an index card I'd written it down on—bent, yellowed, with a tack hole—and I tacked it up again.

Maria: You're also a painter. Can you talk about how the painting feeds into or takes away energy from your writing? Do you feel more loyal to one mode of creating over another?  

Kate: I think I'm more loyal to writing because it's portable. Painting, at least the kind I do, requires space and supplies. Writing, you can do anywhere. 

But writing comes more easily when I'm painting too. There's a better darkness then for making writing happen. I can get into a tunnel and keep moving further in. If the tunnel is good (and doesn't turn out to be a long cave), I come out in a new place.

Maria: If your writing process were an animal, what kind of animal would it be and why? What about your painting/visual art-making process? 

Kate: The way the Satin Bower Bird collects objects for its bower reminds me of how I collect language. I'm attracted to certain phrases and sentences because of their color. 

I had a dream once where a bunch of snakes were painting in the forest. I'm uneasy when it comes to snakes, even harmless ones, but I liked these snakes in my dream because they were so absorbed and skillful. They held the brushes in their little snake mouths. A girl was in charge of them, or taking care of them. Everyone was having a very nice time there in the forest, where some sunlight was coming through the trees at a slant.

Maria: What has been the best place you've worked?

Kate: We recently moved to a former mill town in New Hampshire where I could afford to rent a big room to work in. Right now this room is my all-time favorite.

Maria: Who are you reading at the moment? 

Kate: I'm reading Hilary Plum's novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets and it is amazing.

"monalisa" by Ida ApplebroogMaria: You mentioned you enjoyed Ida Applebroog's work. Can you talk a little bit about why it interests you?

Kate: Years ago I saw a segment of Art 21 about Ida Applebroog. In the past few months I kept thinking about it, remembering scenes of her in her studio. I did a quick search and found the video at her site. Looking at her work is similar in some ways to watching the Swedish TV series Forbrydelsen (which has been on my mind too). Both deal with evil and the outcomes of evil. Also with the relationship between women and power—something I'm thinking and writing about all the time. I like a story with a woman at the center. I'm attracted to mystery and to seriality. I'm interested in what women can do, and what women can uncover.