Monday, February 28, 2011

Joyelle McSweeney, On Reading

"Art lays its eggs in its own eyes.

If you want to be an Artist, let Art lay its eggs in your eyes and change your vision; and make you into a Seer; and make you shed a swarm of winged, infectious, dirty Art, equipped with wiggy egg sacs and further compound eyes. You can’t treat reading like some plastic bottled water you have shipped in from Fiji to refresh you as you lay by the pool, a resource you quaff and utilize. You have to pour Art’s acid on your face and let it eat your face and make you a new face, and you have to be looking into a mirror the whole time, and the mirror has to be made of some molten registering substance that records the whole event in a kind of distended smeary disingenuous film. A damage film. If your eyes melt, you know you are doing something right. That’s the Art coming out of your skull. How refreshing!

Some artists whose written, visual, and multimedia work has caused me this kind of permanent damage include Jack Smith; Andy Warhol; Nick Demske; Kim Hyesoon; Fi Jae Lee; Artaud; the critics Mark Seltzer, David Gissen and Achille Mbembe; Deleuze and Guattari; Harryette Mullen; Alice Notley; Cesar Aira; Aime Cesaire; Kara Walker; Bylex Puma; and Raul Zurita. Also the Internet, Slavoj Zizek, my grad students, WikiLeaks and AlJazeera English. Also, Johannes Göransson’s new book, entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate from Christian Peet’s dynamite Tarpaulin Sky Press."

{Joyelle McSweeney is the author of the hybrid novels Flet (Fence Books) and Nylund, the Sarcographer (Tarpaulin Sky Press), as well as two books of poetry from Fence. She edits Action Books and contributes to the collective blog, montevidayo. Please check it out! She also teaches in the MFA Program at Notre Dame.}

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seth Fischer, On Reading

"Reading is how you learn to write, which is to say it's how you learn to stop lying to yourself about life, about sex, about death, about fear, about love. Only by watching other people tell the truth about themselves can you learn to stop repeating the same boring stories we've all been taught to believe."

{Seth Fischer’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Swink, Pank, Guernica, Monkeybicycle, Gertrude, and elsewhere. He’s Sunday Editor at The Rumpus and founding editor of The Splinter Generation and During the day, he works in a cubicle not too far from an albino alligator, and he does writing consultation.}

Monday, February 21, 2011

Matt Jasper, On Reading

"As a child I often suffered from bubonic plague. I'm fine now but I use crutches and drag my wooden leg. The leg part is a lie but then so is the plague. What really happened is that I had water on the brain--hydrocephaly. The opposite of a pinhead, I sported a pontoon of sorts that I could not hoist to verticality with the slender crane of my neck. Pressure was building and had to be released via operations, a shunt, wicks, and still the water rose. The way I held or, rather, could not hold my head up made it look as if I were trying to get the fluid to drain from my right ear. That side was heaviest, most affected.

The waters receded, leaving a still enlarged head and a somewhat wasted infant body that dangled from this buoyant balloon. By directed exhalation, I was able to steer the balloon that carried me through cloudless skies and settled me softly upon the mossy grounds of many adventures that don't come into this tale. Almost normal development ensued, yet speech was marked by clang associations and echolalia. Words seemed attached to their own ghosts in ways I was compelled to verbalize. I'd trail off with singsong neologisms or feel the need to call someone a yellow fellow after they said hello to me. I was enraged that I could only read from left to right--instead preferring right to left or down to up. The various ordering schemes that railed and caged phonemes in mouth and on page seemed tyrannical amidst teeming possibilities.

I would have been a sped case but my parents had money for specialists. I outgrew most everything to do with to do with to do with echolalia and then discovered Edgar Allen Poe, Romantic poets, and bad science fiction. Circa age eleven, I would marvel at and then mouth and then speak back at pages of robots, ravens, and dead lovers 'Rolled round in earth's diurnal course.' The words were like water pouring back into my head--restoring an inland sea of language as a fluid having lost all bounds. My head leaned to the right and hung low over the pages. I looked for signs that words and things were secretly connected, alive through connection to a world where all was one. If this oneness seemed a disordered chaos, then the best writers had survived to weld little faucets that led back to it or construct miniature vessels whose design bore every sign of collision with the infinite. The better a text was, the heavier my head would become with the word worlds that filled it. Wordsworth and Shelley appealed to the sublimation of my echolalia. Edgar brought me more rhyme and my first taste of a thick and deadly literary atmosphere lit by paranoia. The bad sci-fi brought to life every mechanical diagram and shard of history contained in my 1917 Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia set, multiplying one actual world into many speculated worlds. I bore canticles and fought for the glory of Dejah Thoris. I began to think of words as a fluid that could turn one space, one head, one self, into many. To release building pressure, I began to lie and to write. I read for a sense of conspiracy with the world, and for the familiar hydraulic pouring in of water and life."

{Matt Jasper is the author of
Moth Moon which can be found here and his band, Pneumershonic, can be found here.}

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sunetra Gupta, On Reading

"I read to 'hear', and thus to be immersed in, particular voices. Writing that is devoid of voice, disengaged from style, carries very little interest for me. In current times, style has come to be seen as an enemy of clarity, and it may well be so, but clarity is not a quality I demand of literature. I prefer to slowly savour passages of intriguing beauty, or gradually penetrate a difficult poem. One of my most fulfilling reading experiences, probably about twenty-five years ago, was with Stephen Spender's translation of Rilke's Duino Elegies -- I remember that I would read an elegy and put it aside hardly comprehending any of it, and then return to it the following evening to try again. Eventually, what it yielded was immensely valuable to me, and not even because the translation itself was particularly satisfactory. I had established, through my labours, a strange relationship with the original text. I had no acquaintance with German, and yet certain words like 'kindertod' pierced me with sadness, and reading the original with Spender's often extremely literal translation beside it created a unique transport. From this I learnt that voices, even foreign voices filtered along odd angles, have the power to transform. More recently, I had a similar experience reading Henry James's little known The Other House. At first, I felt slightly repelled by it, and set it aside expecting to shelve it away sooner or later. But the following day, I picked it up again and felt compelled to reread it, and eventually came to comprehend its choreography. It now stands out to me as a book whose narrative is almost entirely driven by style -- and the disturbance that it caused in my mind opened my eyes to the idea that narratives of integrity always emerge from style, although perhaps not quite as starkly as in The Other House. The words we use to tell a story are not just the clearest way to join a set of pre-determined dots -- they are the words themselves, and the voices that they compose, from which narratives arise."

{Sunetra Gupta's fifth novel, So Good In Black, will be published in the United States by Clockroot Books in March of 2011. She won the 2009 Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award for her scientific achievements. Sunetra, who lives in Oxford with her husband and two daughters, is Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at Oxford University's Department of Zoology, having graduated in 1987 from Princeton University and received her PhD from the University of London in 1992. Visit her website here for more information.}

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Meg Pokrass, On Reading

"reading is:

1. finding that lost set of keys

2. riding on strong, strong shoulders

3. hovering above your row house

4. the fine crust of a new pie

5. grateful drowning

6 a feast made of tiny bites

7. hunger, especially for

8. sex without sex

9. a lap cat that follows

10.defying everything

11. the hook to hang so many hats."

{Meg Pokrass writes flash-fiction, short stories and poetry. Damn Sure Right from Press 53 is her debut collection of flash fiction. Meg serves as Editor-at-Large for
BLIP Magazine (formerly Mississippi Review). Her stories, poems, and flash fiction animations have appeared in nearly one hundred online and print publications. Meg creates and runs the popular Fictionaut-Five Author Interview Series for Fictionaut and is associate producer for a new documentary, From Ghost Town to Havana by filmmaker Eugene Corr. Visit her website here for more information.}

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Randall Brown, On Reading

"I write and read primarily very short fiction, and I often hear the idea that these compressed kind of works are written for the ADD generation of readers. I used to think, 'Well, of course that's true.' But lately I've been thinking that I attend to very short fiction with an intensity that I don't necessarily have when reading longer pieces. I tend to drift in and out of longer works, and so much of the words of a novel seem to exist to be forgotten. I love how very short work demands my attention. It's why I love reading poetry. I find a very intense focus over a very short time is the kind of reading I love to do these days. Maybe that is a bit ADD. Maybe it's something else."

Randall Brown is the author of Mad To Live (Flume Press). He is the founder of Matter Press, and he blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net. Visit him here for more information.}

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Norman Lock, On Reading

"We read if for no other reason than to be more than we are – to go beyond ourselves, if only a short way; to know, if only in a small way, Others and, finally, ourselves. To read what we already know, therefore, is to confirm ourselves in our confinement, to draw the shade on the wider prospect, to narrow life deliberately as a river is narrowed by the channel that humbles it. To read only what is inscribed in the forms to which our reading has accustomed us is to remain at anchor, on the verge of oceanic experience – tumultuous, dangerous, and thrilling; is to lose the chance to be enraptured or – an equally valuable emotion – terrified by life, as life is made manifest by art. Reading is our consolation for living only one life. Reading is another form of life – comparable in importance and largesse."

Norman Lock has written novels and short fiction as well as stage, radio and screen plays. He received the 1979 Aga Kahn Prize, given by The Paris Review. He is a recipient of fellowships in prose from the New Jersey Council on the Arts and from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts – both for fiction – and, in 2011, for poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. His latest prose works are the novels Shadowplay and The King of Sweden, published by Ellipsis Press and Ravenna Press, respectively, and the short-fiction collection Grim Tales, released this year in a new version by Mud Luscious Press. Norman lives in Aberdeen, New Jersey, with his wife, Helen. Visit his website here for more information.}