Category Archives: books

Things We Are Reading Right Now

Mason Johnson is playing Pokemon instead of reading. If he were reading, he would be reading I Love Science by Shanny Jean Maney. Or Chew vol. 5.

Julia Hendrickson is reading Color Plates by Adam Golaski (Rose Metal Press, 2010), a collection of short stories that recreate the narratives behind the Impressionist paintings of Édouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Edgar Degas; and is about to crack open Marcel Proust’s Days of Reading, in a tiny beautiful edition from Penguin’s Great Ideas Series.

She’s also reading The Studio, which is part of Whitechapel’s Documents of Contemporary Art series. It’s an interesting compilation of essays on the subject of the artist’s studio, put together by Jens Hoffmann. Some of the texts are only loosely related to the theme, but it’s historically useful and a diverse read; an answer and a challenge to the recent Studio Reader.

James Tadd Adcox just finished I Love Science, and plans to say nice things about it in some public forum. It really is a fantastic book. He’s also reading Darcie Dennigan’s Madame X, Joshua Young’s To the Chapel of Light, and Emily Kendal Frey & Zachary Schomburg’s OK, Goodnight.

Kaisa Cummings is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck right now. Summer is a good time for big literary commitments like that.

Russ Woods, who tends to dip in and out of books a lot, is currently reading Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel, A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre, The Malady of the Century by Jon Leon, and Issue 3.1 of Gigantic Sequins.

Alex Allison is reading The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, and received and spun through the excellent I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur by Mathias Svalina. He intends to heavily steal from both books in the future.

Meghan Lamb is reading Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles. She would like to note that it makes her sad thinking about covert masturbation, flaccid penises, and sickness as a metaphor for all things (all subjects that she can never get enough of, it would appear).

Matt Rowan is reading Iceberg by Paul Kavanagh (“a really wonderful story with all the really excellent fantasy of a Roald Dahl novel but something much more sinister, as well”);

God Bless America: Stories by Steve Almond (“like reading George Saunders mixed with Jim Shepard. Does that make sense? Doesn’t matter. Almond’s got his finger on the pulse of what shapes and sizes we Americans come in. It’s nice to see a collection with a title that’s paradoxically satirical and sincere at the same time. “);

Why They Cried by Jim Hanas (“a surprisingly fun collection of stories, interesting reading it alongside Steve Almond – for both their similarities and the definite stylistic distinctions”);

Letters From Robots by Diana Salier  (“Diana does fractured prose poetry – if I’m not totally mislabeling her work – as well as anyone. Tons of lyricism. Turns of phrase that ring in your ear”);

and Revelation by Colin Winnette (“Colin has this amazing way with words. Truly admirable. Very enviable. That bastard’s done it again”).

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EXITS ARE / interview with Mike Meginnis

In collaboration with Uncanny Valley, Artifice Books is releasing EXITS ARE, an ongoing collaborative e-book by Mike Meginnis “and many players” (player #1, up now, is Blake Butler, author of the novels Scorch Atlas and There Is No Year, as well the memoir Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia).

EXITS ARE is updated weekly.

Explain EXITS ARE. What’s the idea here?

Basically, I’m using text adventures as a model for collaborative writing as a mode of play. The way I explain it to the writers I play with is that the only rule is that we take turns — a rule I follow very strictly, even when I realize that I’d like to change or correct something. I tell them that I’ll default to impersonating a text adventure, like Zork, and they can default to interacting with me as a player would. That means that I mostly describe rooms and situations to them, and they mostly say what they want their character to do. They’re free to step out of their role, though, and I’m free to step out of mine. Sometimes they narrate, and sometimes I ask them questions or speak to them directly. When the game is done (usually it takes 2-4 hours) I save the transcript and come back to it weeks later. At this point I gently massage the text, correcting small errors and occasionally making more substantial alterations, in an attempt to make the resulting story a better experience for readers. Continue reading