Thursday, October 30, 2008

Zombie vs Shark

Happy Halloween, everybody. Watch any good horror movies this year?

Monday, October 27, 2008

On Madore

Who would have thought, three years ago, that P.H. Madore would outlast Jeff T. Kane?

I recently said somewhere that I think Andy Riverbed is the most talented writer I know of under the age of 25. I think Madore is the most ambitious writer under the age of 25. Many times, his dedication comes close to matching that ambition. And if I was trying this hard when I was 18-21, I’d be someplace different now that I’m 30.

And yes, his temperament is oh so fiery. Witness his latest discussion with Dave Clapper in the blog post underneath this one. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it any more. There once was a period of time, as I was in the midst of rejecting what he claims to be 100 different submissions (I should dig up the actual number), that I had to publically absorb the wrath of Madore on a weekly basis. There were many who used the word “hate” in regard to Madore. Fortunately, the 18 year old was no match to the superb debate skills of the lawyer’s son. At some point I bought Madore surf and turf and maybe he realized I was being genuine when I kept telling him that if anything, I truly admired that he didn’t give up and kept sending us work. I don’t know if being published in the Jargon was an adequate payoff for all those years of struggle, but if it makes him happy...

Madore has burned his bridges, and I’ll no doubt take flak for publishing him. “Why do you continue to carry this guy?” a writer I respect very much asked me once, but it’s not like Madore would let anybody carry him.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who shall pass?

Too many blog posts ending in question marks, especially when I'm supposed to be the one answering questions.

Respect for the dead dictates a period of reflection and mourning. But now that Zygote is gone, that leaves Thieves Jargon with one less active front-page link. If there isn't going to be an active ZIMC archive, I'm going to have to replace that front-page link sooner or later. The question is, who is worthy of TJ front-page billing?

I had some hot chat with Jake Mooney the other day about how it seems like there have been very few new interesting literary journals popping up in the last year or two. For a while, I was thinking that Why Vandalism? was going to be the hottest new journal around, but I've heard that they don't reply to submissions, which is cardinal sin number one. Why Vandalism? can bite my bag. Mourning Silence made a very strong combined print/web debut, with work from Spencer Dew, Tim Gager, P.H. Madore, and a few others, but can you trust a journal that's been around for less than two issues? A strong start is good, consistency is better.

My first thought for a successor would be Word Riot. They've been around longer than the Jargon, and a lot of our better wirters have also been published there. Publisher Jackie Corley I met once in Boston, and she has a strong regional accent. So there's your consistency and quality.

But as always, I'm open to suggestions. Most of all, I'd love to hear about some upstart journals I haven't heard of before. Who is it that's going to make me sit up and take notice and think about rewriting everything that I've been doing for four+ years? Who's going to be carrying the mantle when TJ bites the curb like Zygote?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The phonies?

When Zygote went down, somebody said maybe it was because there are a ton of phony writers running around. I've been thinking about that for a few days now, but outside of myself, I don't feel like I even know one.

I'd love to disagree with some people though.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Zygote in My Coffee = dead?

Say it ain't so!

This comes as quite a surprise, and I'm sad. I always thought of Zygote in My Coffee as the only onther literary journal worth stealing writers from. I loved their front page newspaper layout. I loved that my job blocked Zygote on my work computer because there were stylized bare breasts on their front page. I loved knowing that if I saw a submission from somebody who had been published in Zygote, they were probably a wino. I loved their message board. I thought their small press books, which Fugate printed and bound out of his house, was the best of the indie presses. Zygote Print was an inspiration, and their Flipbook 69 series was one of the coolest things I had pulled out of my PO Box.

I never met Brian Fuggett, but we exchanged email plenty of times. He designed one of the original Thieves Jargon flyers. A lot of times I'd be drinking late in the night, reading through these submissions, wondering what the fuck I was doing, and I'd feel better knowing my brother from another mother was doing the same thing out in Ohio.

Not to say I don't understand. I'm a chronic single man, so there's some extra time to play around with. Fugate I know has a wife and a kid and a second kid coming (here?), all of which made it even more impressive how he was able to keep a journal going. Editing a journal is often times thankless. By virtue of rejecting at least 75% of the work you receive, all you're doing is pissing off unbalanced writers. You spend all your free time searching out this work you're so excited about, and you start message boards and nobody wants to talk about it and you wonder if the only people reading are writers looking for a place to get their work published, and then once you publish it, you never hear from them again. You get on the train and for a month straight you see people reading the same six books, so few people with gamble. There are plenty of frustrations, but you fight through them, because still, you believe you're doing something worthwhile. But shit, after five years, yeah, Fugate, happy trails. You done damn good, you left your mark, and you set the bar over and over again. Thanks for showing me how it's done.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two ways to handle rejection

It's okay, I don't handle rejection well, either.

1. Jac Jemc. This girl is adorable.

2. "I learn something new everyday. On Monday, October 6th, I learned that even small press can be pricks.

Funny how the attitude of an editor can ruin your perception of an otherwise wonderful e-zine. I have no urge to read it again.

Have a great day."

(This guy sent a submission that was addressed to both TJ and Zygote in My Coffee at the same time. I told him I was going to reject it without reading out of principle, so the writer probably has a point.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Crime roundup, part 2: "Arkansas" by John Brandon

Fits on the bookshelf between Mike Boyle and Richard Brautigan.

McSweeney's, you treat me so bad, but I still want to give you a good morning HJ when I wake up with you on my mind.

The main idea of this book is that if you're young and you can think quick, you can make decent money running drugs for shady people. It's way easier than being in college or working a real job. When convenient, your conscience will desert you, but at the right moments, it will grow.

Most of the McSweeney's crowd will relate to Kyle and Swin, the twenty-something drug couriers, because they're young and confused and likeable. But to me, the real choice meat of the narrative revolves around Ranger Bright, who runs one arm of the smuggling ring out of an Arkansas state park, and Frog, the secretive mastermind of the whole smuggling operation. These two guys have isolated themselves through their careers, but they each have urges to act as surrogate fathers: Bright brings in Kyle and Swin and aims to teach them the ways of the world as he sees it (which includes lots of whiskey and sloppy cooking), and Frog brings in two boys of his own, with the idea of having them inherit his operation when the time is right.

"Arkansas" is fun, but not. It's very funny, but the more you laugh at the characters, the more you like them, and the problem is that most of them end up dead.

Browse at Amazon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

JP Gritton ancillary

While we have the archives opened up...

If you enjoy today's JP Gritton story, which seems to have a little bit of that early Spencer Dew city-sex in it, here's a link to an older story of his we ran in November 07, which has a completely different feel to it:

One Time an English Man Drunk in Mexico.

If the topic of Anglo artists fleeing to Mexico is close to your heart like it is mine, this story should hold your interest.

Gritton strikes me as a writer to watch. It's not often we get to publish writers with journalism credentials, likely because they're used to being paid for their writing, but I like working with them. Their style tends to be tighter, their narratives more coherent, they're more open to being edited, and maybe because they're escaping the confines of their day job, they seem to be having more fun.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Crime roundup, part 1

Funny, with a journal named Thieves Jargon, you'd think we'd run more crime fiction than we do. I get a share of that coming in, and lots of dungeons and dragons themed stuff, but that's not really where my interests lie. The name Thieves Jargon came from a phrase in Dostoyevsky's prison memoir "House of the Dead" where he's talking about his first night in the gulag and all the convicts were tossing and turning, mumbling "thieves' jargon" in their sleep. Phrase always stuck with me, had it in my head for half a dozen years or so before I started up TJ. Had a class in college where the instructor, a guy named Jeff Parker (see: Ovenman), had us write stories with the idea of putting them online, using whatever mixed media we could. Did a story where people were making up drinks, and one of them was called the Thieves Jargon. Well, that put me on the path I ended up on, and here we are.

Recently, due to the randomness of the eenie-meenie-miney-moe theory I apply to which books I'm going to read, I've been on a nice run of crime fiction. I'd like to put up short reviews of those books over the next week or two, but before that, I'd like to give the crime genre its due. Here are some crime classics from the archives of Thieves Jargon:

"Sadness, Lola" by James Maloney

"Punkjack" by Andy Henion

"The Nameless" by Spencer Dew

"Eyes" by Paul Kavanagh

"The Queen of Snake City" by Amanda Walczewski

"Agent Sex" by Sean Kilpatrick

"Dead Men's Shoes" by Lee Reynoldson

"The Elvis Lighter" by John C. Turner

"Halfway to Denver" by Scott Ford

"A Southern Gentleman Out in the Snow" by Anthony Neil Smith

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Reverend DiGangi

I've been in Baltimore all weekend, performing my first wedding as a reverend in the Universal Life Church. You too can get ordained on the internet, it takes about three minutes' time.

As such, I'm a little behind, and probably won't get a new piece up on TJ until Tuesday. I know you'll all be holding your breath.

In the meantime, you can hit Mike Boyle's blog bohobait for some background behind his recent TJ ghost story, "Room 829", which I think is one of his more entertaining stories. It's a piece that's surprisingly grown up considering how not grown-up it is. A good way to get October started. I know he may feel strange to always have a home at Thieves Jargon, but I'm always pleased when my favorite writers come back to the Jargon with new submissions, and it's not like we're going to be around for much longer, so we might as well have fun while we're still here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

On a lack of paying attention

Submission -- Book review...

I hereby grant permission to publish and archive my work and understand that after the issue in which my work is printed all rights return to me, the artist.

We've never once run a book review in Thieves Jargon. You should check out the archive.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On blowgun assassins

Speaking of fucked... I knew I wanted to find this passage in a 600+-page book, grabbed the book, opened it, and was on the exact page of the passage I've been thinking about. It's like when you've been thinking of a song for a few days, you put on your iPod, place it on shuffle, and even though there are 8000 songs on there, it goes right to the song you've been thinking of.

From Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke:

He turned and saw among the sago fronds a most curious sight: a Western man in Western garb holding a long tube to his lips. Something like a bamboo reed. As Carignan examined this sight and prepared to make some sort of greeting, the man’s cheeks collapsed and something stung the padre in the flesh over his Adam’s apple and seemed to lodge there. He reached up to brush it away. His tongue and lips began to tingle, his eyes burned, and within seconds the sensation was that of having no head at all, and then of losing touch with his hands and feet, and abruptly he didn’t know where any part of him was, every part of him seemed to go away. He did not feel himself collapsing toward the water, and by the time he landed in it he was dead.

If you know of a better one, now's your chance.