Sunday, August 10, 2014

eleven years

I didn't mark the anniversary of my brother's death this year because I was busy. I was busy navigating, I was busy looking out the window, I was busy talking to gross dads until they saw my armpit hair, I was busy marveling at the effortless beauty and love of a two year-old, I was busy staying warm, I was busy busy busy in all the ways one has to be to forget.

Not that I forgot, of course.

Brother, I think of you every day. You are the missing piece of my heart, you are the echo-only voice I listen for when questioning or proclaiming, you are the ghost with the most.

What is this wilderness? In everything I work on, I am trying to find you. I am looking for myself without you. Breadcrumbs, string, blood, kisses—all the markers are lost, but like a faithful dog, I am nose to the ground in the deep brush, working for you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

mixed bag baby

There are a ton of books in my parents' house. On the third floor, where I sleep barring night duty, there are a bunch of books that I left here sometime during college. Those books make me laugh. There are also a bunch of Mad Magazine paperbacks that my brother collected when he was a kid. I don't look at those because I enjoy humor. There are a bunch of horror and sci fi collections that I read through when I can't sleep or when the books I've brought with me are not doing it. Those books are comforting.

Neither of my parents can read today because of various degenerations. But the books remain; something more for me to deal with later.


Here are two stories from awhile ago that I wanted to mention:
Going After Bobo by Susan Palwick
I loved this icy story of shitty brothers, cats and community. The world is well-developed by little details and that world is very frightening and very possible.

Rachel in Love by Pat Murphy
What people in chimp bodies do for love. Also, crazy parents and animal testing. A fantastic story that seems all too real.


Here is a nightmare: I am being gaslit by people at a job. It is destroying me. I run to a friend and he sets the office straight. This "friend" my brain supplied is a guy I follow on twitter but have never met: Saeed Jones.

He is such an amazing writer and truth teller that his power has obviously permeated my psyche! Here is a recent meditation on Maya Angelou.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

remain ragged

The constant struggle: "... I’ve found that working with words all day — whether at home or in a proper office — doesn’t afford me the time or headspace for the writing I really want to do."

And that final deadline: "Just two weeks before she died, Maggie [Estep] wrote about her own tendency to procrastinate. As if there were time for that. I’m now quite certain there isn’t."

Sari Botton on the Billfold: An Elegy for the “Non-Creepy” Realtor, aka Maggie Estep

I am nowhere near a place in my career where I can even laughingly call myself safe and I think about these things all of the time.


"I’m interested in essays that follow the infinitude of a private life toward the infinitude of public experience. I’m wary of seeking this resonance by extracting some easy moral from the grit and complication of personal particularity: love hurts, time heals, always look on the bright side. Instead, I’m drawn to essays that allow the messy threads of grief or incomprehension to remain ragged, to direct our gazes outward."


As my father's illness progresses, I have to travel more and more out of town to care for him. We are still looking for a foster/adopter for out lovely foster dog, Dottie. She has been a great joy to us, but we have to focus on my dad and working for the time being.

Please pass on her info!


"I will listen to my goddamn body. I will close my eyes when I am tired I will sit when I need rest I will eat when I am hungry and I will not, I cannot be the woman I was, the woman I have always been. I need to surrender her. I need to give her up because she is gone."

The Hell of the First Trimester by Sara Finnerty over at Mutha Magazine is about pregnancy but it might as well be about what is going on with me right now. All the fear, the resignation, the weirdness and the desire to do the right thing this time is there, and written fiercely.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


NYPL, Image ID: 1651592
Over at Star Ship Sofa no. 239, I really liked The Time Travel Club by Charlie Jane Anders (at 21:30 minutes). Anders' stories are always suffused with humor and this one is no exception. Her protagonists are much more like people I know than most other scifantastic authors', with their sobriety probs and tattoos. It never feels forced and that is a writing miracle.

At Lightspeed magazine, listen to How to Get Back to the Forest by Sofia Samatar (click listen). It's about friendship, aging and what one gives up for safety.

I've been looking for some new genre fiction podcasts. I found The Squidpod on a list somewhere and decided to try it out. Many of the stories focus on AIs and the cusp-of-singularity life. Neither of my following recs are in those worlds, but both drew me in:
Zeta by Dave Cochran (click on the MP3 to hear)
Grats by Dave Cochran (click on the MP3 to hear)

 And you?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

I love this bit from The Colorist by Susan Daitch about the little bits of paper we accumulate:

"So there are all these reminders, and sometimes they have a life of their own. Sometimes they are animated and raucous. Sometimes they are dry husk, deaf-mutes, relics out of context, and therefore rendered mysterious, at best."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Understory by Pamela Erens

For those experiencing endless winter, I suggest Pamela Erens' The Understory. When I read this book last year, it was not winter, but The Understory brings the chilly like nobody's business.

The Understory is the story of a man whose life is very small and very lonely. Then he falls in love and it breaks him.

I know a lot of men with small lives. They tend to be unable to deal with change or closeness. Everything is refusal. Everything is resistance to reality. When the main character of this story, Jack, revealed himself to be one of those men, I couldn't fathom continuing the story. I got enough of that shit to deal with when I am not reading.

"My daily schedule was fixed: I rose at daybreak, walked to the park, spent some hours at Carl's bookstore, had my lunch, walked downtown, climbed the bridge."

The details of those spaces and places are what makes this book ring. His crumbling apartment is freezing and nasty in that way that cheap New York apartments can be. We later find, it is not exactly his, and not just because he is getting evicted to make way for a condo renovation. The routine places, the bookstore, the diner, feel limited and miserable, but since we are in first person, we can also see the comfort in that Jack takes in those limitations.  In the diner:

"Marion appeared over my shoulder and I closed the paper, embarrassed. I set the eviction notice on the table next to the coffee. Paul X. Giglio, petitioner to the Civil Court of the City of New York. It had yesterday's date on it, the twenty-third of November, and it occurred to me that my birthday had been on the twentieth. It was the first time I had thought of it and I had to stop and ask myself just how old I was. Forty--I had turned forty. I touched the hot rim of my coffee cup. I had entered a new decade of life without even noticing. I tried to remember my thirty-ninth birthday, or my thirty-eighth. Nothing came to mind."

Those last few lines make my skin crawl. I used to spend a lot of time in diners and those pauses are familiar.

The Central Park Rambles is where Jack finds his "variety." Or, at least, he describes it that way. Checking in on the plants and shrubs on his route, he feels a sense of protection and being protected. Though he seems irritated to be interrupted by the public sex that goes on there, Erens gives us just that hint of envy in his tone, in his quick shift to listing plants.

There is another half of the story, set in a Buddhist monastery in Vermont. There are plants there too, and order, of course.

From page one, something is building. When Jack breaks under that pressure, he breaks in a big way. It is perfect.

Tin House is reissuing this book this year. Check it out on a cold day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recent good things

This Rumpus essay on poetry, presentation and (not just) pie by Kate Lebo is tops.  It made me think about Sylvia Plath, who I've sort of skipped over when looking for idols. Seeing her words interspersed with Lebo's made me want to seek Ariel.

Great interview with Karen Joy Fowler by Carmen Maria Machado: "But mostly I believe that we shouldn’t do things we are unable to look at."

The David Brothers interviews at Inkstuds. There are some audio quality issues with some of these, but, as you know, here at try harder, content is queen.

And, of course, this comic from Anne Emond pretty much sums up this whole season.

Winter pallor and complaint: Photo by Pete

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Oh, Penn Station bookstore, why are you so awful? I wandered around looking for something to buy in paperback and not a thing caught my eye until I saw Lauren Beukes' name popping out from the spine of The Shining Girls. I have been meaning to read her for awhile, so I bought it, hoping for a good escape from reality during a recent Philly trip.

I don't read jacket copy, so when I dove into the story about a time-traveling serial killer I was disappointed to find that it wasn't inspired by The Shining.  Where my supposition came from, who knows, but those two books do have one common theme--an evil house.

When I was a child, I loved to turn off the lights, close my myopic eyes and wander the house I grew up in.  I do the same now. Dreams are stuffed with the houses of relatives and childhood friends. I contain many houses and some of them are traps.

Is the house in The Shining Girls a trap for a certain kind of man or did the house itself come from his desires? Well, hm.

Though the pacing is excellent, The Shining Girls doesn't hold together in the end for a few reasons. The book has a Chicago setting, it really could have been set Major Anycity, U.S.A. and the Chicago-y things that do appear just seem like excuses to show the research that went into them appearing in the first place, as do some of the characters. Is it cool that there is a pre-legal abortion provider's POV included? Yes. But since we only get a little time with each of the victims--with the exception of out final girl, Kirby, who survived a childhood attack by Harper, the killer--the inclusion of that fact about her detracts from the otherwise excellent characterization. There are too many POVs, period. I really appreciate the work it must have taken to give each victim a individual voice and make the violence done to each less about the killer and more about what was taken from the world when each was killed. But we spend too much time with Harper for this to work and the result is distracting. A focus on Harper and the house, just the house, or our final girl, alone or in opposition to either, would have been considerably deeper and more meaningful to me and allowed Beukes's excellent attention to the telling detail to work a longer lasting magic. While I understand that this organization makes the time-travel element easier to follow, it also makes it less weird and, therefore, less interesting.

And now we've come to my major issue with The Shining Girls: The thing that pushes the book from straight horror into SF territory, the time travel element, doesn't feel integral to the plot. Why do these women have to be from different times for the murders to mean something to the killer or to the house? If it were simply a matter of providing a way to escape from the consequences of murdering another person, why aren't there more murders in the book? Harper's dull acceptance of time travel tells us a little about him, but nothing we couldn't learn in another way. When Kirby, who, let's remember, has had her entire life bounded by having been chosen by the house, finally encounters the house and its door to other times, she isn't tempted by the power at all.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading this book. I wanted to get to the end and stayed up until four in the morning to do so. But the more I thought about the book after that frenzied night, the plot followed through to its end, the less satisfied I became.

Some off-the-top-of-my-head additional reading:
The best: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

A recent evil house story on Pseudopod: The Unfinished Room by Joshua Rex, read by Bob Eccles. (explicit child murder in this one)

An examination of horror tropes with an emphasis on bad houses: Horror 101, heard on Tales to Terrify

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Little reviews of little consequence

Birdbrain by Johanna Sinisalo
Two horrible people go camping and are slightly inconvenienced by either magic or nature. I read it in a diner.

Saints and Strangers by Angela Carter
Too many words and I got suspicious.

The Dyke & the Dybbuk by Ellen Gatford
The title is the plot with a little sprinkle of gay-dude-hating and grandpa Jew jokes. Left a confusing 90s taste in my mouth.

Daughters of Elysium by Joan Slonczewski
A painfully earnest account of future humans. She called a penis "mushroom" but I kept reading.

Madwoman of the Sacred Heart by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius
Terrible mid-life man fantasy with religion and big breasts. As boring as that sounds.

Do Me: Tales of Sex & Love from Tin House
Nowhere near enough sex.

Sister Spit: Writing, Rants & Reminiscences from the Road, edited by Michelle Tea
Oh you all did the same thing and wrote slightly different accounts of that thing? 

Hey, been tryin to meet you: The Fire To Say

A long week and I had to change my face a little to separate from all those tense days. So I slathered on some pink lips and paid a taxi to get me to Chelsea and The Fire to Say. The lovely Aaron Cockle got me excited about it, thank goodness. When my cab pulled up, all the handsome friends were outside smoking. I took this as a good sign and hunched inside, back to the tiny room curated by Franklin Einspruch.

Normally, I am a needful for narrative, but I loved seeing these poems and pictures. Each sheet could be looked at as a moment fixed which was a good thing for such a little room. Original work is exciting because you can see the process, all the creases, the thickness of paint and ink and the little smudges. Julie Delporte's work was the most surprising. In her case, the larger images are made of smaller drawings raggedly collaged which I wouldn't have guessed.

Photo by Warren Craghead

Sometimes you have to leave the house and put your face close to the faces of others. I forget that, but meeting super tweet buddy Warren Craghead in person reminded me. Derik A. Badman, Franklin Einspruch and Paul K. Tunis were additional delights.

Aaron and I walked down through the streets to trains and laziness. Along the way I had to stop at a chi chi restaurant to pee. I snuck in with some highly ladyfied ladies and thought about my lips. Inside the toilet, a remix of The Pixies' Hey was playing and that was stupid but also just right.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sunday, January 05, 2014

the reads of 2013

  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting
  • Celebrated Summer by Charles Forsman
  • Daughter of Elysium by Joan Slonczewski
  • Making Tides by Eroyn Franklin
  • Runx Tales 3 by Matt Runkle
  • Jungle NIght by Renata Gasiorowska
  • Black Light: Four Stories by Julia Gfrörer
  • Operation Margarine 1-4 by Katie Skelly
  • "Life Zone" by Simon Hanselmann
  • Joey by Melissa Mendes
  • Lou 1-17 by Melissa Mendes
  • š! #15 edited by David Schilter & Sanita Muižniece
  • Duplex by Kathryn Davis
  • Birdbrain by Johanna Sinisalo
  • Hitchers by WIll McIntosh
  • Brain Plague by Joan Slonczewski
  • Susceptible by Geneviève Castrée
  • Hart & Boot & Other Stories by Tim Pratt
  • Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
  • Fireworks: Nine Stories in Various Disguises by Angela Carter
  • The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
  • The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aria by Cesar Aria
  • The Understory by Pamela Erens
  • š! #14 edited by David Schilter & Sanita Muižniece
  • My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt
  • The Servant of the Underworld by Aliette De Bodard
  • The Dyke & the Dybbuk by Ellen Gatford
  • Saints and Strangers by Angela Carter
  • Wise Children by Angela Carter
  • The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman
  • The Correspondence Artist by Barbara Browning
  • Cartoon Picayune #5, edited by Josh Kramer
  • The Big Feminist Butt, edited by Shannon O'Leary & Joan Reilly
  • Girls, Visions, and Everything by Sarah Schulman
  • Honored Guest by Joy WIlliams
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
  • kus 13: Life is Live
  • Don't Cry by Mary Gaitskill
  • Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black by Cookie Mueller
  • I Love Bad Movies #1-4, edited by Kseniya Yarosh and Matt Carman
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • Unknown Origins & Untimely Ends edited by Emi Gennis
  • Canary by Nancy Jo Cullen
  • Ayiti by Roxane Gay
  • The Troll King by Kolbeinn Karlsson
  • Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill
  • Black is the Color Part I & II by Julia Gfrörer
  • The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of on Girl in America by Michelle Tea
  • Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell
  • Breaking & Entering by Joy Williams
  • House of Dolls by Barbara Comyns
  • Madwoman of the Sacred Heart by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders
  • All That's Left 0-2 by Maggie Eighteen
  • Do Me: Tales of Sex & Love from Tin House
  • Comics Class by Matthew Forsythe
  • Heads or Tails? by Lilli Carre
  • The Lagoon by Lilli Carre
  • Our Library by Amanda Baeza
  • All You Need is Love by Emmi Valve
  • Historyjki by Maciej Sienczyk
  • Otso by Mari Ahokoiva
  • Sister Spit: Writing, Rants & Reminiscences from the Road, edited by Michelle Tea

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A picture of me from this Christmas. 

Looking forward to February.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Some people in comics [in the world] live under rocks and should stay there. However, it is important that their ways are brought to the harsh light. That way no one can say they didn't know, that that is the reason that they don't believe us.

Read MariNaomi's account of being harassed at a comics' convention by another panelist. Then read Rachel Edidin's examination of the pathetic apology by the perpetrator. 

Then never wonder why we are full of rage, but never surprise.



I imagined my cool green cards appearing in the mailboxes of my friends and becoming a kind of signature. Whereas my old picture postcards were about the ephemeral land of dreams and potential, these new postcards were about the vulnerable space of now.

This love letter to postcards by Jamey Hatley is the perfect thing to read on a lonely day. She goes down so many trails in this short piece, that it left me wandering in the forest long after I finished it. The power of affordable art, the need for images of our idols, the desire for a connection: All these are combined in the simple postcard. I think about mail more than your average human, and wonder why I persist in the sometimes arduous task of making space for my friends in my mind, trying to tell a little story just for them, without the instant gratification of a response.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

heart, broken

Tom Hart's site about his daughter Rosalie blows me away with its open-heartedness. He posts snapshots of his work on both his book about his late daughter and his own journey through grief. It is basically an incredible interpretation of the "process blog," and one that is more helpful to me than I expected.


As a kid I was possessed of the idea that life, the life I was living, couldn't possibly be the right one. My brother and I joked that we were aliens in disguise, just waiting for the mothership. To be transported, I read. When I was a teenager, I got in to all those books that old dudes read for the thrills but can still be called literature, including Philip K. Dick, in order to shift into another life where I could have fun and be taken seriously. Dick's kind of weird was always a little too man-centered for me, but I understood the humor, paranoia and hope. A Scanner Darkly and Ubik are my favorites. "Bummed Out and Ugly" by Alice Sola Kim is a skillful essay about finding one's own teleporter:
 "I read about anywhere but here. I read about space shit. No one wants to be that predictable and psychologically obvious, but sometimes things are exactly the way you expect them to be."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

spriations & siams

I loved this Inkstuds interview with Greg Means. Means talks about being a librarian and editor, and about how, in both of those roles, a motivating force is the the unbearable idea that there is amazing work in the world that no one is seeing. Trying to remedy the unfairness of life and art with enthusiasm and a big mouth is so familiar!  I loved to learn that this motivation was behind Papercutter--one of my favorite comics projects of all time.

Greg wrote me a note a few years ago that simply said that he liked my writing and I should keep doing it. It was short but incredibly encouraging when I was questioning why I was writing at all. Few people would spend the time to do such a thing and I still keep it on my desk along with a drawing by a kiddie friend and a picture of Polly Styrene.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Selling, souls, etc.

Soul-selling, in various permutations, has been saturating my reading and listening. Not as a result of any plan of mine, of course, but it's been all bargains and hunger and figuring out what is worth it. While the traditional idea of the soul is not compelling, the concept that an individual has something precious that can be lost or taken is complicated and true and nestled right next to my heart right now.

NYPL Image ID: 833476  Down among the mashers. (c1892) by Art Young
In the suburban wilds of Duplex, a minor character disappears as a child and comes back changed. There is another character that seems to be missing a soul, certainly missing something, and he is the most dangerous of all. I feel pulled along through Duplex--I am enjoying the ride and looking forward to finding out what comes of all the negotiations. This book is on sale right now from the publisher and you should buy it.

In the story “Daedalum, the Devil’s Wheel” written by E. Lily Yu, and read by Kate Baker at Clarkesworld Magazine, a demon torments a cartoonist during a fever dream. It is not just just the promise of money and success, there is something more intimate happening between the demon and the sleeping man. In exchange for his dreams and his body, he is also being released from something, but what? This is one of those stories where the reading makes it, so let Kate Baker take you away.

"Ha! That was also a joke! Why flinch? You used to appreciate the soft, surreal psychosis of cartoons. Mallets and violence! Bacchanals, decapitations, shotguns, dynamite! That’s my sense of humor.

I don’t give, darling. I take. Sometimes I negotiate. It’s always unfair."

I've talked before about comics subscriptions and how they help lazy people like me get new comics and discover new artists. The joy of packages in the mail is a part of it too. I tend to only subscribe to projects that pay their authors and artists, but will make exceptions, like Rumpus Letters in the Mail.

Today I subscribed to Ryan Sands' Youth in Decline because of Sam Alden's work and the roster of new translated comics. The chance to read translated comics is a huge part of why I subscribe to the Latvian anthology kuš! and stories from around the globe are also featured in The Cartoon Picyaune, to which I also subscribe.

Subscribing to your favorite art, be it comics or podcasts or whatever, gives the publishers a way to plan future projects and figure out how to pay contributors. Important stuff.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Comic Arts Brooklyn 2013

The day I found out that my dad's cancer spread to the innards of his giant skull, I went to CAB. I was not as social as I wanted to be and I didn't see as much as I wanted to. I ran into people I work with, people I see only on the internet and people I see only at cons.
Stage decoration by Erik Z and Chris Uphues
I really enjoyed the show, despite my state of mind. I thought the space was used well, the green cast of the upper floor comfortingly unpleasant and the folks courteous. The volunteers were sweet and didn't laugh too much when I asked if there were any CAB T-shirts still available. But is the fest still invite? If that is the case, what is the deal with Microcosm being invited?

My haul:

Mostly picking up debut comics that my patchy memory thrust forth, I did manage to browse a bit and find some things I'm really excited about like should-be superstar Eroyn Franklin minis and Caroline Paquita's Womanimal #3. I saw many more books that called out to me than my wallet could help me buy--an excellent sign for the revamped fest. There prints galore and fewer neon meltface bullshit items and a ton of inky stinky handmade books. Kids and oldsters mingled freely in the cramped aisles which made browsing a little tough but more conducive to getting a "excuse me" from your comics crush. Micro presses were out in full force and I regret not taking more notes on who is putting out whom. I missed picking up the Sam Alden and Laura Knetzger comics on my list but I know that my local store will carry them soon. At least those tears will not have to fall!


Hellen Jo's mail teasers
Oily Comics publisher Charles Forsman, blurry but unbroken

Hic and Hoc publisher Matt Moses, mid-wink

Katie Skelly mid-smile

Not tabling but winning in life: Aaron Cockle and L. Nichols

Natalya Balnova

Neoglyphic Press' Drew Miller

Pat Barrett, the battling barbarossa
Jen Tong pedals gorgeous fantasies.
Yam Books, home of the new Renee French
Check out the Comics Arts Fest tumblr for many better pictures done by better people than I.