Literary folks from all over give their takes here. Cat’s Cradle comes out the winner among them. As for me, I’d say that one or Slaughterhouse-Five. I think Breakfast of Champions is my least favorite. I also think about Player Piano, his first book, quite a bit, for its attack on corporations and bureaucracy. His essays from In These Times in A Man Without a Country are worth checking out, too.

We’re recording at BC Studio this week. Here’s the trailer for the documentary.

The death of the middle ground and the silence of filmmakers with something to say, here.

At least Jim Jarmusch is still making films. But his last budget for Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) was $7 million, according to IMDB. So he falls in that range of films to be made for a few million that some of the filmmakers quoted in this piece wouldn’t go back to.

The trend seems similar in publishing. Big-budget books or DIY presses. Nothing in between.


Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop
Mon Dec 8, 7:00PM

Julia Fierro
Will Boast
Emily St. John Mandel
Leah Umansky
Dina Nayeri
Diane Cook

On the Docket:
Book Signing

Author Bio(s):

Emily St. John Mandel was born in British Columbia, Canada. She is the author of three previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—all of which were Indie Next picks. She is a staff writer for The Millions, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2013 and Venice Noir. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Will Boast was born in England and grew up in Ireland and Wisconsin. He won the Iowa Short Fiction Award for his story collection, Power Ballads. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, his writing has appeared in the New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, Best New American Voices, and elsewhere. He divides his time between Chicago and Brooklyn, New York.

Leah Umansky is the author of the Mad-Men inspired chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream (Kattywompus Press, 2014) and the full length collection, Domestic Uncertainties, (BlazeVOX, 2013). She also hosts and curates the COUPLET Reading Series in NYC.

Dina Nayeri was born in the middle of a revolution in Iran and moved to Oklahoma at ten-years-old. Her debut novel, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, was released in 2013 by Riverhead Books and translated to 14 foreign languages. Her work is published in over 20 countries and has been recognized by Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers, Best American Short Stories, Best American Non-required Reading, Granta New Voices, and The Center for Fiction. Her stories and essays have appeared in Marie Claire, Glamour, Granta, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Vice, LA Review of Books, The Daily Beast, Guernica, Electric Literature, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. She holds a BA from Princeton, an M.Ed. and MBA from Harvard, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and teaches for the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop.

Diane Cook is the author of the recently released story collection Man v. Nature. Her fiction has been published in Harper’s Magazine, Granta, Tin House, Zoetrope, One Story, Guernica, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and on This American Life, where she worked as a radio producer for six years. She earned an MFA from Columbia University, where she was a Teaching Fellow. She lives in Oakland, California.


Cleaning Out


Cd_jewel_caseAfter spending several days transferring old CDs into a binder, I wonder, why did we ever have these cumbersome plastic cases? Why was it a good idea to move from vinyl and paper, to breakable magnetic tape and plastic, to plastic and more plastic? The sound tinny, the look, less appealing. The cost of recycling much more. What was the point of all this? And remember when CDs initially came in those long boxes, rather than the more compact plastic wrap? Who had time to make all of this? It seems so silly now, with all music easily accessed with the click of a mouse, or a search on YouTube. It seems ridiculous to own tangible music, and I wonder now, why I don’t just throw away my entire collection, unburdening myself of the weight of it, knowing it’s out there to be found in the ether at any time. I felt strange nostalgia and sadness for a time when holding things, like CDs in their cases, examined at music stores, mattered so much. Now, it is nothing. Now it is dust. Nothing is real. Collections of music are digitized forever and there’s no turning back. Then I think, why does it matter at all? It’s about the music, in any form, not about how it’s packaged. Touch matters. Being held matters. I know this in my life. But music can never be touched. Music is an experience that floats somewhere above us physical beings.


Pitchfork: As someone who’s maintained a creative lifestyle for about 30 years now, what advice would you give to someone who’s considering that path now?

JC: One of the problems of our modern world is that there’s a lot of things to work through, but, at some point, everybody should take a pause from that and make something, so that it’s not just all one-way traffic. Human beings aren’t meant to be solely consumers—eventually, something has to come out. Otherwise, I don’t really see what the point of all that consumption is. The idea behind watching things and listening to things is that it stirs something within you, and hopefully that will stimulate you to then create your own thing.

I love the Internet, but it’s hard not to get lost in it. It’s not like a book where you start and get to the end. It’s like we’ve found a way to encapsulate all of human knowledge within one thing only to learn that you can’t do that. It’s an overabundance of information. Ultimately, it must be quite tough to be confronted with that. If you wanted to be a creative person and you are confronted with the sum product of mankind’s creativity up to this moment in history, that’s pretty daunting, like, “Where can I fit my voice in amongst all that?”

You can read the whole thing here, and watch a trailer and clips of the new Pulp documentary Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets. It’s a winner.

I’m a pretty big Neil Young fan, and I’ve only heard maybe a third of these. This was a great piece on to ring in the man’s 69th birthday. I’ll be spending the afternoon catching up. Great to see the songs “Slip Away” and “I’m the Ocean” on there—probably two of my favorite songs ever. Do they meander a little? Maybe. But they create a dream-like space to inhabit when you listen. I’d put them on late at night when those albums Broken Arrow and Mirror Ball first came out. I’d still put them on anytime, now.



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