I wrote about home a couple of years ago. About what we consider to be our hometown and why. About how it doesn’t have to be where you live or where you were born but how subjective things — memories, emotions, one’s conception of oneself — can determine it. For a lot of reasons I said then that…
Hey New York, Bennett Sims will be appearing in town twice in the next two evenings:
Wednesday, 5/22: Sims will be reading with Benjamin Hale and Fiona Maazel at Housing Works Bookstore. Proceeds from sales of the work go toward Housing Works’ cause of fighting AIDS and homelessness.
Thursday, 5/23: Sims will appear at Word Bookstore in Brooklyn, where he’ll be in conversation with Electric Literature’s Halimah Marcus. In addition to a reading and conversation, there will be zombie trivia, with the Q’s written by Sims himself.
— Rudolph Wurlitzer, interviewed by Alan Licht in the May issue of The Believer. Fantastic interview, excellent issue.
You know a book is awesome when a sales rep is compelled to make it a poster. Come find out how awesome at our event with author Bennett Sims, when he’ll be in conversation with Electric Literature’s Halimah Marcus, on Thursday May 23.
Scott regrets not making it to the Columbus reading (his first ever cancellation), due to being stuck in traffic for four hours thanks to this flaming FedEx truck. Oh, and we hope you weren’t really looking forward to that package from Aunt Martha.
— Matt Nelson, reviewing Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan, at the Center for Fiction’s website.
We have a new intern named Danielle Gagliano who has just started working with us, so we thought we’d take a moment and introduce her. Following is our discussion about cartoons, Modest Mouse, and New Orleans.
Q: Some of your tattoos are inspired by ‘The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.’ Can you explain the magnetism of the show?
Well the show is about a boy named Flapjack and a blue pirateguy named Cap’n K’nuckles. They live in this sort of dystopian town called Stormalong Harbor that’s basically a series of docks and piers in the middle of the sea. There’s a lot of “crime” and a lot of weirdos and their lives pretty much revolve around trying to get candy and find this place called Candied Island that’s made entirely of candy. Most of the people in Stormalong Harbor are sailors or pirates or other misfits. The show has this sort of vaudeville mise-en-scene. They use stop-motion at times and have these show cards. One of my favorite characters is Doctor Barber who is both a doctor and a barber. He’s really creepy and just stands outside of his shop grinning and asking “Surgery? Haircut?”
Q: ‘Lonesome Crowded West’ is greater than, equal to, or less than ‘Good News for People Who Love Bad News?’
Oh definitely Lonesome Crowded West. I mean I guess it’s what everyone says about bands but I really only like the old stuff. I loved Sad Sappy Sucker. The yelps in “Australopithecus” feel goooood. I was talking the other day with a friend about the idea of a real sort of “manic regression” that’s totally seductive in a way. And it’s so bizarre how we discover things backwards, like I think there was something I was reaching for in Modest Mouse that I later found in Pere Ubu’s The Modern Dance.
Q: You’re from Louisiana originally, you aren’t afraid of gators, and even got your boyfriend hooked on crawfish. What’s something special to you about your hometown?
Well I grew up mostly on the Northshore (of Lake Pontchartrain) but much of my family lives and/or grew up in New Orleans. The food really is the best. Yeah, I could eat crawfish everyday but I miss the blue crabs and oysters too. And some days I feel like I really need a catfish poboy. It’s also really easy to find a great Bloody Mary. Here the Bloody Mary is sort of turned into this gimmicky fad thing but there they are a simple but serious business. Celery salt and worcestershire sauce play significant roles and I think you’ve got to make it like a salad. And you can find all of these things plus more at my grandparents house in Pearl River. It’s this giant wooden house my pawpaw built with his hands surrounded by a few acres of woods. It’s probably the most sacred place to me. My sister and I used to take walkie-talkies and go “splorin” for hours in our shrimpin boots. My grandparents have always had animals and the chickens have always been a real source of protein/entertainment in my life. I remember the first time I brought my boyfriend down there my Uncle Donnie came over around 9pm with like two 32ounce daiquiris, already a little drunk and told us it was time to go “wrangle” some chickens. At this point the coop didn’t have a roof over it and my pawpaw had these chickens that would fly out and roost in the trees at night. So we all got drunk and ran around chasing these chickens. My uncle had a flashlight and he’d only turn it on “when the time was right” and so he’d flash and we’d have to go headfirst into a bunch of thorns and shit. My pawpaw was getting pretty frustrated and disappeared for a bit and then all of a sudden there he was with a machete just going at this tree. My uncle had to scream “Maaa! Maaa!!! Get out the way!” I’ve had more fun with Gene and Carolyn Davenport than I’ve probably had with anyone else.
Q: Say something nice about Columbus now.
Well, Columbus may not have mastered the Bloody Mary yet but the people I’ve met here are really some of the best. There are a lot of really productive, intelligent kids working in the cracks and crevices of this city. I feel pretty lucky to have found friends that try hard to be good friends— feel like that is surprisingly rare. You can also see pretty much any movie here. That was a real problem for me growing up in Louisiana—a lot of stuff wasn’t screened there. I remember last year being like “What? I can see Trash Humpers in theatres?” And I think if/when I leave Columbus I’d look at the Wexner Center website and get a little sad about what I’m missing.
Q: What’s the last great thing you read?
This is hard ummm.
-David Shield’s Reality Hunger
- Italo Calvino’s Difficult Loves
-Harmony Korine’s Reddit AMA
-finally getting to The Book of Disquiet and can’t get it out of my head.
Vol. 13, No. 2
With debut authors, it’s natural for folks to compare them to someone who came before. Wells Tower likens Bennett Sims’ work to a young Nabokov, and Nicholson Baker. Benjamin Hale points to Thomas Bernhard and David Foster Wallace. Similar to these writers, Bennett possesses a mastery of vision, of language, that is rare. His grip and his focus are incredibly potent, and he never hiccups. And, similar to all these authors mentioned, Bennett’s writing is strikingly unique.
I first read the manuscript for A Questionable Shape on my laptop on the front porch. It was evening. The night grew darker, cooler. I remember sneaking inside to snag a sweatshirt. I remember the glow from the computer screen blacking out the surrounding night so that I was locked into this world that he had crafted. There are zombies, sure, but this is not a zombie novel.
Bennett has published stories here in Recommended Reading, as well as with A Public Space, Tin House, Zoetrope, and Orion Magazine. When I first read A Questionable Shape, Bennett was 26 years old. He is 27 now. That blows my hair back. In college football country, Bennett is what we refer to as a stud.
I don’t kid myself into believing that I was the very first editor that Bennett’s agent thought of when submitting A Questionable Shape (agents have to make a living, after all). Still I couldn’t believe that this beast of a book had found its way to me. I do feel as though I have been gifted with an incredible opportunity as an editor and publisher to be able to bring Bennett’s first novel into the world. I’m so excited to share it with readers.
I imagine that A Questionable Shape will be the only book of Bennett’s that we will be fortunate enough to publish at Two Dollar Radio, not because I wouldn’t publish his second novel (or his third and fourth) given the opportunity, but because I am convinced that Bennett will move on, he will move up, and he will create work that will outlive us all.
Publisher, Two Dollar Radio
Join us in supporting
Buy the Book
Excerpted from the novel by Bennett Sims
Recommended by Two Dollar Radio
I hastily left the narrow street at the next turning. However, after wandering about for some time without asking the way, I suddenly found myself back in the same street, where my presence began to attract attention. Once more I hurried away, only to return there again by a different route. I was now seized by a feeling that I can only describe as uncanny. Other situations share this feature of the unintentional return. One comes back again and again to the same spot. To many people the acme of the uncanny is represented by death, dead bodies, revenants… The return of the dead.
- Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny”
Human love is implicated with death, because it implies either resurrecting the beloved or following the spouse into the death realm. It is fitting that the lost one is a synonym for the dead one, since the dead are lost de jure and one loses them de facto in the labyrinth. Marriage requires the spouse to follow his wife into the labyrinthine realm of death… To follow them into undeath, as Orpheus did. Orpheus is the model spouse.
- Jalal Toufic, Undying Love, or Love Dies
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE UNDEAD SO FAR IS THIS: they return to the familiar. They’ll wander to nostalgically charged sites from their former lives, and you can somewhat reliably find an undead in the same places you might have found it beforehand. Its house, its office, the bikelanes circling the lake, the bar. “Haunts.” The undead will return to the neighborhood grocery store and shuffle down its aisles, as if shopping. They will climb into their own cars and sit dumbly at the wheel, staring out the windshield into nothing. A man bitten, infected, and reanimated fifty miles from home will find his way back, staggering over diverse terrain—which, probably, he wouldn’t have recognized or been able to navigate in his mortal life—in order to stand vacantly on a familiar lawn. No one knows how they do it—whether by tracking or instinct or some latent mnemocartography—nor why, but it’s an observable phenomenon. In fact, what it calls to mind are those homing pigeons, the ones famous and fascinating for the particles of magnetite in their skulls: bits of mineral sensitive to electromagnetic pulls and capable of directing the pigeons, like the needle of a compass, homeward over vast and alien distances. It is as if the undead are capable of “homing” in this way.1
At seven this morning, an hour before Mazoch usually arrives, I sit down with a sheet of loose leaf to write out some of the sites where we’ll be searching for his father today. The list is for Rachel, who’s still asleep. I’ll leave it on the coffee table by our copy of FIGHT THE BITE, the infection-awareness pamphlet that the Louisiana Center for Disease Control doled out back in May, at the beginning of the outbreak (chapter titles include “1. A Bite’s Never Alright [sic],” “5. A Knock To The Head Will Stop ’Em Dead,” et cetera). Recently Rachel has been requesting a list of those places “you two go every day,” so that, if I’m worryingly late coming home, she’ll at least be able to tell the police where to start looking. She’s right, of course. At the heading of the sheet, first item on our itinerary, I write down Mr. Mazoch’s old address.
He went missing from his house in Denham Springs several weeks ago, and Matt emailed me shortly afterward to enlist my help. We gave ourselves the month of July, just before hurricane season hits, setting this Friday as our deadline. Assuming that Mr. Mazoch hasn’t been detained, quarantined, or put down already, he might still be wandering, compelled, toward his remembered places. We figured it was only a matter of determining what places these would be, staking them out each day, and waiting for our routes to overlap. If our trip to his house in Denham coincides with Mr. Mazoch’s, then he and Matt will be reunited. To inspire us each morning, Matt copied out two Thomas Hardy quotations on separate post-it notes and taped them to the dashboard of his car: “My spirit will not haunt the mound/Above my grave,/But travel, memory-possessed,/To where my tremulous being found/Life largest, best./My phantom-footed shape2 will go/When nightfall grays/Hither and thither along the ways/I and another used to know” from “My Spirit Will Not Haunt the Mound,” and, “Yes: I have entered your old haunts at last;/Through the years, through the dead scenes I have tracked you;/What have you now to say of our past—/Scanned across the dark space wherein I have lacked you?” from “After a Journey.” Each poem seems to speak to the other across the inch of dashboard leather that divides them, just as I imagine Mr. Mazoch letting out an unearthly moan, and Matt humming out the open window to keep awake as he drives, and that moaning and that humming speaking to one another across Baton Rouge’s fields and highways, across all the remembered and misremembered suburbs that separate Mazoch from his father.
You should come. Facebook RSVP here.
…on being the first recipient of Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction! Here’s the full story in the Washington Post.
DeLillo granted a rare blurb to Jeff Jackson’s forthcoming novel, Mira Corpora, which we’ll be out with in September.
Here’s what he says about the book:
”[Mira Corpora is] fine work in its manic pacing and its summoning of certain cultural emblems. Present tense with a vengeance. I hope the book finds the serious readers who are out there waiting for this kind of fiction to hit them in the face.”
A State of Fiction
by Zan McQuade
Barbara Browning came to life before me on a chilly gray Sunday, as I lay under the bedsheets, dressed in wool...
What I Read, 2012 + A Top 11 + A Frustration
Sometimes, I’m conflicted. I do not want to be overly prescriptive. I don’t want to traffic in censure....
It really did seem shocking and uncanny when, in 2009, MJ, Pina and Merce died in such rapid succession. Then it was electric guitarists. Of course...”