Did You Get That Thing I Sent You?

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Archive for May 2009

MuuMuu House Embezzlement Scandal

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Brandon Scott Gorrell had a short story contest on his website (I linked to it a few posts ago).  Entrants had to pay $7, and the winner would receive half of all the entry fees, a final amount of $254.80, as well as a lifetime subscription to MuuMuu House books, and a bunch of other crap.

Long story short, head publisher at MuuMuu House and literary cult leader Tao Lin won the contest.

God I want to stop writing about this guy.

Gorrell posted the winning story on his blog.  The third comment on the post is Lin saying “Damn, Sweet story.” By the fifteenth comment, it is revealed that Lin wrote the story and then used one of his interns (possibly girlfriend?) to send it in.  Shit to fan.  “Sarah Schneider,” who submitted the story for Lin, told the whistleblower to “stop making up lies.”  Gorrell insists that the story was sent by Schneider, he didn’t know it was penned by Lin (though through employing some Critical Reading I learned in High School, I was able to find evidence that the story was written by Lin in the first word and then also in every single word that followed), and that even still he didn’t violate any of the rules he had established for his contest.  Then Lin admitted to sending it to Schneider, then later admitted to specifically using Schneider to enter the contest.  This all happens in that comments section, btw.

I won’t bother detailing the internet fray that followed.  The word “shitstorm” has been used a lot.  Though he never says it directly, Lin eventually acknowledges that all the prizes are going directly to him.  He will refund anyone “who asks.”

While Lin comes off as conniving and manipulative here, and his girlfriend Schneider seems spineless, its Gorrell who looks the worst from all this.  Let’s first believe his highly questionable claim that he didn’t know he was awarding a Lin story.  OK, he should have specifically stated that no interested parties can participate.  That’s how contests are typically structured.  Lin and Gorrell AND Schneider, as intern, make up the publishing company MuuMuu house, and this contest was partially billed as a way to get the attention of publishers.  But OK he didn’t say interested parties couldn’t participate, so he’s just not too bright.  No rules broken.

But what does it say about this guy, whose style draws heavily from Lin (you know, like how Dark Star Orchestra draw heavily from The Grateful Dead), who also works directly under Lin, and whose blog even looks like a rescripted facsimile of Lin’s , when he is finally given the opportunity to be in charge of something, something personal that could distinguish him from Lin, he just goes ahead and cedes the spotlight to his master, yet again.  Gorrell is a minion.  It’s a shame, because it was really a great idea for a contest.

Anyway, the larger picture has to do with the entire “internet writer” thing.  All the inappropriate quotations, the lack of punctuation, excessive use of phrases like “I feel,” “it seems like,” and “whatever,” the prevailing tone of slightly shocked existential awkwardness…it is all so tired by now.  But Lin, Gorrell, Ellen Kennedy, Schneider, and basically everyone who posts anything positive on any of these blogs, are all more than happy to maintain the hivemind.  Movements more famous and far more interesting have eventually crumbled due to stagnant like-mindedness.  Lin is still a genius of self-promotion (and this may be his greatest stunt yet), but it seems like MuuMuu House And Friends have forgotten there’s supposed to be literature being made.

PLUG: there is a new story of mine at The Whiskey Dregs.  It’s called Simon and it’s a very short story about becoming other people.  I wish I had given it another name.


Written by Peter Kelly

May 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Sumus Quod Sumus

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Last week I read Jonathan Safran Foer‘s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and today I finished Paul Auster‘s The Brooklyn Follies, inadvertently studying the early part of this decade in New York, in reverse chronological order. Whereas NY lit darling Jonathan Safran Foer’s second novel is about coming to terms with atrocity and loss in the wake of 9/11, The Brooklyn Follies is so staunchly “pre-9/11” that the novel actually concludes at 8:00 a.m., September 11, 2001. Much could be said about the styles of the two books reflecting the eras they occupy, but I’ll leave that matter to the academics and English majors who are forced to discuss such bland cliches.

The parallel between the two books that I’d like to talk about is a gradual shift that occurs in the voices of both novels’ narrators. Voice shifts, for better or worse, happen frequently in novels, and can typically be attributed to either a character’s transformation or an author’s straying from plans. The voice changing in both novels here examined is notable because it belongs to that unfortunate second cast.

Not that the shift detracts terribly from the end result in either case.  ELIC and TBF are both above average novels.  In TBG the change could not be more welcome- the sudden thawing of Nathaniel Glass’s demeanor pulls the novel out of the “High School Composition” feel that pervades the opening section.  Check out these first few sentences:

I was looking for a quiet place to die.  Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain.  I hadn’t been back in fifty-six years, and I remembered nothing.

One expects better from Mr. Auster.  He eventually delivers by taking the grave, humourless curmudgeon of the opening pages and retrofitting him into the role of wise, altruistic paterfamilias.  From then on the novel improves with each page, but the change is never satisfactorily explained.

Unfortunately, nearly the opposite is true in ELIC. The first few pages of ELIC detail the thoughts of a mind on fire, inventing, explaining, and free-associating in a rushed yet lucid manner that is both comic and mystifying.

What about a teakettle?  What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack with me?  I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad’s voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of kettles that sing the chorus of “Yellow Submarine,” which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raison d’etre, which is a French expression that I know.  Another good thing is that I could traing my anus to talk when I farted.  If I wanted to be extremely hilarious, I’d train it to say, “Wasn’t me!” every time I made an incredibly bad fart.  And if I ever made an incredibly bad fart in the Hall of Mirrors, which is in Versailles, which is outside of Paris, which is in France, obviously, my anus would say, “Ce n’etais pas moi!

Our narrator, Oskar Schell, remains delightful throughout the book, but the bottled-chaos energy that drives the opening section is gradually sapped.  It is impossible to argue that this change in voice can be attributed to growing up or a change of heart, because Oskar is 9 and, we are lead to assume, has Asperger’s Syndrome.  It seems unlikely his mode of interacting with the world would change to be more measured, precise, and focused, over the course of a year.

Yet one might say the speaker in the opening section would be unable to convey the whole of what the book wanted to accomplish.  Fair.  But to split hairs, technically anything can be done when the writer is capable enough.

Alas, very few of us are Yeatses and Joyces.  Most of us can only make do with the inspiration granted us, and hope to wrestle a passable product out of it.  And often the thing we make ends up little resembling the thing we thought we were making.  I cite Auster and Foer (who in his picture on wikipedia just looks so damn much like Alan Cummings in Goldeneye) only to show that even eminently capable authors are subject to the tricky winds of creation.

Written by Peter Kelly

May 25, 2009 at 10:00 pm


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Achewood is an internet comic by Chris Onstad.  The strip stars three cats, two bears, a few robots, an otter, and a bunch of other hilarious creatures prone to drinking and doing things improperly.  Achewood’s format ranges from one-shots to months-long story arcs, but its consistent subject is the exquisite art of talking bullshit practiced by the average immature male.  What makes the comic so great is that, unlike so so so many other comedies about men being shallow and dumb, Achewood’s character’s don’t sit neatly in “type” roles.  There isn’t a stupid character, they’re all stupid.  They’re all smart too.   Onstad’s primary asset is his ability to be casually cerebral with his dialogue: in places where lesser writers would have a straight man set up a joke and a funny man deliver, Onstad has each character give as good as he gets, which keeps the dialogue sharp and the characters multi-dimensional.  It actually sounds like two (real) dudes bickering, rather than cat-shaped joke ciphers.  Great comedy just takes great characters, it’s as simple as that.

Go there are start clicking Random Comic, damnit.

Written by Peter Kelly

May 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm

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What it is about blogging, What is is I’m planning

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There are certain basic tried and tried maxims of “successful” blogging:

  • Link to other people
  • Publish original content
  • Post often

Maxim 1 and maxim 2 are mildly contradictory.  Usually the way they coexist is, you draw audience by linking other people (which brings in google searches, further linking, etc.), and then you keep “unique eyes” on your blog by providing unique commentary on what you linked.  Then, maxim 3, you do it a lot.  See below post for example.

It feels disingenuous to consciously employ this model.  If the only reason you’re covering a topic is to “rack up hits,” then the purpose of your blog is simply to exist.  Yet, if you don’t have followers, why blog?  Why write if you’re living in a shack in the woods of Siberia, hundreds of miles from any reader?

The other thing, which is sort of an unofficial maxim, is that you should write about current events.  Its especially great if you write about current events of the internet.  So and so said such on this blog, etc.  Authors have always loved writing about themselves, and if not about themselves, then about their other author friends.

Which is, I guess, the point of this blog, right?  This is a literature blog.  Even if it exists in the woods.

The Entirery of Walden can be read on Google Reader.

Speaking of below post, Brandon Scott Gorrell is having a short story contest. By the time you read this it will probably be closed.

Kindle users, you vile traitors, you can download The Trial for free from Project Gutenberg.

Or, if you prefer vodka to beer, here’s Uncle Vanya.

And I wrote a poem.

Tune in next time for a review of my friend’s album and 76% less introspection/existential dread.

Written by Peter Kelly

May 14, 2009 at 12:50 am

An Investment Banker Bought Tao Lin’s Myspace

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Tao Lin’s latest internet stunt was selling his Myspace account, which he rode to his high-low (as opposed to low-low(-low), as in me) level of fame a few years ago, and it was apparently purchased by a young investment banker from JP Morgan.  I dunno.  The essay “Mr. Chen” wrote on why he bought the account (which can be seen in the second link I posted or on the myspace in question) is pretty funny/mildly believable, but a Chinese 20-something who went to NYU, took writing classes, felt pressure from his family and girlfriend, and is now an investment banker, sounds  a lot like a Tao Lin doppelganger.  And the writing is extremely Lin-esque at times.  Who knows.  The whole thing sounds custom tailored with curious twists to maximize potential press interest, which you have just experienced it doing.

P.S.- When are Shoplifting and Richard Yates coming out, Tao?

Written by Peter Kelly

May 7, 2009 at 12:18 am

Scuse me while I plug myself

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I’m now writing for the online arts & culture magazine The Whiskey Dregs.  I’ve got a bar review up now, a poem next week, and a short story the week after that kids.  Get on the horse kids, this caravan’s a-rollin.

Written by Peter Kelly

May 3, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Two More Thingies

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-As a writer living in Brooklyn, I have a vested interest in Brooklyn’s poetry scene (via Siliman’s Blog).  Though I can’t say I attend all that many readings, or seek out poets specifically by borough, I am always fascinated by art’s proclivity to developing regional flavors.  When I first moved to New York, I met a fellow writer who has been living in New York for a decade (and who runs a blog, The Whiskey Dregs, which I will soon be contributing to).  I showed him some of my poetry, he looked at it with a few nods of understanding and then told me, “New York is gonna change the way you write, just wait.”  It was true- just as its true that every book you read, every person you meet, every year you grow will change the way you write, so too will the place you live.  New York is individual, just like everything else.

-From last week’s New Yorker, a short and casually shocking story by Guillermo Martinez called Vast Hell.  Gossip is the subject of the story, and indeed the prose itself is very gossipy.  Near the end of the story the essential evil and base terror that underlies gossip as a human phenomenon is literally unearthed, and the story is suddenly “about” something very different.  It’s a masterfully seamless transition, the kind of old school nuts and bolts storytelling that you see less and less of these days.

Written by Peter Kelly

May 1, 2009 at 6:08 pm