Lennon, J. Robert


A few weeks ago, there was a hurricane that you might have read about (unless it blew a rock on top of you and you decided to live beneath it, in which case, my sympathies). During this hurricane, I was away on what was supposed to have been a Caribbean holiday of a few days, which turned into one of a few days plus a few days more plus a few bonus days. Not a bad way to ride out a storm, especially when one is stranded with a good book. Photographic evidence:

I returned to find great areas of my city in all kinds of shambles, but I have every confidence that readers of these pages are already doing what they can to help, so I won’t indulge in (much) proselytising.

Instead, I’ll swoonily admit that had I not been stranded on a Caribbean island with Familiar (BUY: AMZN, INDIEBOUND), I might’ve ended up parched with an atrophied and shriveled brain, wasted and prone to mirage. So you might say that we owe my health, and by extension this podcast, to that book.

So to celebrate, here’s a short piece by the same author, originally published in print by Salt Hill.

Marias, Javier

While the Women are Sleeping

I’m sitting here desperately trying not to listen to the U.S. Presidential Debate that’s streaming into my earbuds, because the entire thing seems like such hot-twisted-metal train wreckage that the hairs on my neck get singed just listening to it. And I like my neck-hairs.

And I know that the next month is going to be full of the same, so to spare your hairs, neck-and-other-wise, I’ve recorded a nice long one for you, replete with what I see (through admittedly hazy eyes) as thematic portents to what I’m listening to. Consider this my own personal bailout to you.

You’re welcome.

Pantoja, Mark

Houses (Guest narrator: Patrick Scott)

When Patrick Scott has been known to bail me out of a slump in the past, he’s done so with his passel of Old Reliables: Raymond Carver. Flannery O’Connor. Russell Banks. The indisputably great, in other words. So when this time, he sent this recording of a piece by a speculative fiction writer I’d never heard of, my thoughts closed the loop to a circuit with “well, this ought to be interesting” on one end, and “Patrick’s lost his mind in the clamour of his visions of pretty knicker-clad girlies dancing seductively while dressed from the waist-up as sheep.” Patrick, you see, is to be trusted.

And so I pressed an ear to the computer to discover a piece of fiction that might have been conceived when There Will Come Soft Rains had a few bourbons and squeezed the thigh of The Truth and All Its Ugly. That piece then grew up to have its own personality, of course, and is imbued with an innate charm that wells up through its apocalyptic bleakness in a way that shouldn’t even be possible.

Hope you like it, and I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with my own set of pipes in just a couple of weeks. This should give you plenty of time to check out some of Mark Pantoja’s other writing, as well as Patrick Scott’s additional seductions on Zoochosis.

Joyce, James

Clay, James Joyce

In some parts of the world, it’s Bloomsday already, and in yours, it may be at the end of a summery Friday work-day, so perhaps The Big Day will greet you just as you’re weeding through your feedreader with an icy drink by your side while you dip your legs in a pool full of barely-clad beauties, or something.

But even if your drink of choice is presently milk, and the only thing you can actively do with the human form in its natural state at the moment is admire from an envious distance, happy listening and Happy Bloomsday. If you’re still catching up, here’s the Bloomsday collection to-date.

Birrell, Heather

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

It’s been a while since I’ve last read, for reasons whose details I won’t serenade you with, but which have to do with huge, overwhelming, life-changing projects that ultimately will leave me with more time to do this more often (I’ll need a little luck, if you want to drop some in the mail), but which, at the moment, have me submerged and often feeling not unlike drowning (or what I imagine drowning is not-unlike. I’ve never actually drowned.)

Then I received an email from Evan Munday at Toronto’s Coach House Books, asking if I had interest in reading from Heather Birrell’s latest collection. Let me assure you now that a response of “WOULD I‽” does not come across to full effect in email if not accompanied by a look of wide-eyed promise and a rare display of teeth (even with the interrobang). Some of you might remember my enthusiasm at reading Birrell’s Trouble at Pow Crash Creek (from I Know You Are But What Am I? a couple of years ago. I promise you that the new collection, Mad Hope, is, impossibly, even more beautifully wrought, more intellectually finely tuned, and more gut-wrenching. You’ll see what I mean when you listen.

(Thanks Evan and Coach House for the book. Thanks Heather for the collection. Lest you think this is shilly, I was under no obligation whatsoever to read from the collection. Like most makers of book-derived things on the Internet, publishers send me books all the time, which I often read and sometimes like, but which are rarely suited for the little sanctum I’ve got here. Happy weekend!)

Robinson, Rowland E.

Breaking Camp (from Danvis Tales)

If, while listening to tonight’s story, you come to the dialogue and have no idea about what I am talking, you won’t be alone. I staggered across tonight’s author by way of the great Hayden Carruth, whose introduction to Rowland E. Robinson’s Danvis Tales ranks among the most incisive layer-peeling short pieces of literary commentary I’ve read. And I assure you I’ve read a few. He says of the dialogue:

Robinson was an instinctive linguist; he understood the value of listening carefully and recording faithfully. And we may say as a matter of course that he applied the same care and fidelity to the larger aspects of his material, syntax, and speech rhythm…

… the most telling elements of Robinson’s skill are the least demonstrable, his sensitivity to the syntax and rhythm of colloquial speech. Notice the interplay of long and short breath-units in these sentences, and the mixing of grammatical structures, clause and phrase, different verb moods, and so forth. Only a very complicated chart could reduce all these elements to a form of linguistic analysis, but they are what account for both the verisimilitude and the esthetic liveliness of this speech. The truth is that Robinson’s dialogue, which is the largest and most important part of the Danvis Tales, is invariably better writing than his descriptive and narrative passages in the standard overblown English of his day.

So give it a chance, even if you have to suffer through my not entirely successful attempt at the colloquial speech of this time and place. “Folk tales” are not exactly my genre and narrative style of choice, but reading through these has been a welcome reminder of why I should slap myself on the hand with a ruler when I pigeonhole myself this way. And I’d slap you just the same; I care that much.

Benedetti, Mario

The Night of the Ugly Ones

Sometimes a story catches you by title alone. I have a real soft spot, personally, for “The Night of the” stories, no matter the medium. Hunters, Iguanas, Living Dead, even Comets (to a lesser degree)… all of these things weaken my articulated joints. Tonight’s story is no different in that regard, but all kinds of different if those Night stories are your precedents.

And if a great story isn’t enough to kick you in your more callipygian regions and get you to work, according to his NYTimes obit, Mario Benedetti is responsible for more than 80 books. If you move now, maybe you can catch up. Maybe I should stop soliloquising and give you your story already. Here’s Mario Benedetti.

Oh, wait, I’m not done. Over at Iambik, we’re giving away audiobooks this week. You should enter to pick up my most recent if you haven’t already, as I’ve got a couple of new ones in the works. Also, because tonight’s is a short story, and won’t nearly keep you cozy. And now, really, Mario Benedetti.

Rhys, Jean

Illusion by Jean Rhys (Redux)

Sometimes it just kills me how many stories I’ve read here. A lot, that’s how many. And as much as I’m endeared to those earlier lo-fi bootleggy recordings, there are some stories which just aren’t served by the lack of quality, and some stories that, after this many years, should be read again anyway.

So, here’s a bonus for you, thanks to Mel U of The Reading Life, and one of the internet’s most enthusiastic readers of Jean Rhys.

In related news, this article about Global Warming affecting the intelligence of reptiles has been floating around the internettish circles. A scary thought, to some, but I take great pleasure in the thought that someday salamanders may fit themselves with earbuds and join our clan of the literarily satisfied.

Now, about Jean Rhys…