BURN PILE: Cat People. Sex, badly written, and goodly. Lydia's cowboy on film.

Cat Person

By Kristen Roupenian

This short story in The New Yorker gets the top of the page to itself. The tweets I quote below read like comments in a highly caffeinated MFA workshop:

  • I like The New Yorker short story everyone is talking about, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I like it. What’s with all of the haters?

 

  • Gonna catch heat for this opinion but I solidly don't care: relatable as it is, "Cat Person" is a plodding & poorly-written story until the last few lines. But even that ending fell flat for me bc the language & characters are so devoid of nuance.

 

  • This is the realest shit I ever read.

 

  • I actually think that New Yorker piece about the cat person guy is awful but not just in the way you guys are saying it is

 

  • everyone is geeking over that "Cat Person" story in the New Yorker but are we just ignoring that the author literally wrote the words “small log of his erection” to describe a boner

 

  • Here is MY so I read "Cat Person" tweet and really, what I want to say is, y'all – it is actually the first piece of fiction in the New Yorker I have *ever* read.

 

  • This. Is the best. Story. I have. EVER. Fucking read. In. The New Yorker.

 

  • I have not read the New Yorker "Cat Person" story yet.

 

  • The "Cat Person" story in The New Yorker is well-written, relatable, and feels brutally honest (despite being a fictional tale). That said, it's also deeply uncomfortable and I *personally* don't understand the point of it. Would be open to discussing (if anyone in my feed cares)

 

  • it's 4am and i'm drunk and i just read that fucking cat person story by the new yorker and i have more words to say about it but for now all i can is that i hate it and people's responses to it are fucking awful and i hate it

* * *

Bad sex, cont.

Have We Gotten Better at Writing About Sex?
This year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award winner isn’t as cringeworthy as previous years

By Natalee Cruz

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“Bad sex is starting to be not that bad, per se. There’s no discussion of any kind of the cringe-worthy metaphors to sex you hear from that guy in your MFA.”

The Bad Sex Award Inspired Me to Work Harder at Writing Good Sex
By Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

“You might argue that shaming authors who embark upon the tricky business of writing about sex is mean and unfair, and will discourage aspiring novelists from going near the subject, despite it being a significant part of experience. Furthermore, is it not snobbish and prudish and, well, awfully English? You can’t imagine the French getting worked up over some writer overusing the word ‘moist’.”

* * *

What We Do for Work
By Caitlyn GD

“We didn’t come here to argue so we just do as told, knee-highs to the kitchen floor.”

and...

Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Caitlyn GD

“This story is meant to tell an aspect of sex work that is specific to a certain degree of autonomy and privilege that doesn’t encompass every sex worker’s experience. I decided that there were going to be pieces of them and their lives that were unanswered and contradictory and that allowing that was more of a service to them.”

and...

GOODBYE MARY, GOODBYE JANE
By Meghan Phillips

“The costume is Little Bo Peep from last spring’s production of Shrek: The Musical, but everyone at the party thinks I’m Mary, like Mary had a Little Lamb. With mint jelly, one of the brothers says, and I look up from my red cup because the only other person I’ve ever heard make that dumb joke is my dad, and this guy’s certainly not my father.”

* * *

Reality check:

Enough: America’s Wholly Visible Underbelly
By The Rumpus, November 28th, 2017

Collegial Indecency: Sexual Assault in the Ivory Tower
by Ada Cheng

“I should have screamed and yelled, pushed him away, or kicked him, but I didn’t. I did say no. Over and over again. Politely and respectfully.”

ENOUGH is a Rumpus series devoted to creating a dedicated space for essays, poetry, fiction, comics, and artwork by women and non-binary people that engage with rape culture, sexual assault, and domestic violence. The series will run every Tuesday afternoon. Each week we will highlight different voices and stories.

* * *

From pw.org:

“A few years ago I used to tell myself I wanted to marry a cowboy.” In this short film produced by Park Pictures, director Alison Maclean adapts Lydia Davis’s short story about an English professor who fantasizes about a life of adventure. 'The Professor' is included in Davis’s collection The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009)."


BURN PILE: Lists and pillow books. Judgment. Monsters.

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Lists:

I live by lists.

  • To-do.
  • To-think-about.
  • What-if?
  • Inventories of written stuff on the hard drive, manila folders boxed in the closet. Junk. Fragments. Revisable or revisitable.
  • AA’s moral inventory is a list.
  • So is confession.
  • How do I love thee? Let me make a list.
  • This thing, this Burn Pile, is a list. They all are, in one way or another. Lists of lists.
  • A list of destinations.
  • Or, no… A list of starting points.

* * *

Poets & Writers creative nonfiction prompt references a list.

"In The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris, the eleventh-century Japanese poet and courtier created a series of lists based on her daily life. Her topics included "Hateful Things" ("A carriage passes by with a nasty, creaking noise"), "Elegant Things" ("A pretty child eating strawberries"), "Things That Have Lost Their Power" ("A large tree that has been blown down in a gale and lies on its side with its roots in the air"), and "Things That Should Be Large" ("Men's eyes"), among others. The list form allowed her to celebrate, or denigrate, details that may have otherwise been passed by unnoticed. This week, take ten minutes to invent and populate a list of your own: the more specific, the better. Make more lists with each day if the spirit strikes you."

"The sounds roll off the tongue like poetry, with the same resonance and authority that transcends mere meaning. They are accompanied by a little swarm of facts worn almost meaningless by repetition and familiarity."

  • Read more of The Pillow Book in .pdf form here.

* * *

The New Yorker rolls out in its “Sunday Reading an archival list of political humor coverage.

Hive Mind
The stinging comedy of Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal.”
By Emily Nussbaum

Expletives Not Deleted
The profane satire of Armando Iannucci’s “Veep.”
By Ian Parker

Hasan Minhaj’s “New Brown America”
By Doreen St. Félix

Vive John Oliver
By Sarah Larson

The Goat Boy Rises
By John Lahr

Small Wonders
Comedy, off the radar.
By Emily Nussbaum

…which uses up my allotment of free articles for the month, and it’s only the 3rd!

To do:
       ~ re-up my New Yorker subscription…

* * *

On most folks’ list of fears is public speaking, but it’s a matter (sometimes) of what you’re speaking about. Hera Lindsay Bird says she gets “more embarrassed reading a really sincere love poem out in front of hundreds of people than I would one about a blowjob.”

Hera Lindsay Bird: poet of exploding helicopters and dick jokes
In which “the New Zealand poet explains the 90s sitcom references and unembarrassed passions that have gone into her eponymous debut.”

* * *

Are you reading this from behind bars? Or do you anticipate doing some writing in that circumstance? Enjoy the Winning Manuscripts of PEN America’s 2017 Prison Writing Contest, “one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population.”

Centering the Voices of Incarcerated People: Emile DeWeaver, cofounder of Prison Renaissance, writes about the influence of James Forman, Jr’s book, Locking Up Our Own (one of The New York Times’s 10 Best Books of 2017) has had on his work. This essay originally appeared in Colorlines.

* * *

“Talk to anyone who worked in book publishing this year and no matter how chipper the conversation may begin, once you’re a few drinks in the talk will turn gloomy.” The Year in Best-Sellers examines the titles of 2017, what sales and popularity actually mean to readers, and tells us about them.

* * *

And yeah, one list just keeps growing.

All The Actually Decent Men in Fiction We Could Think Of
Hunting for a few good men? It’s harder than you think, but [Electric Lit] found 16.

As to (some of) the rest, What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?
By Claire Dederer in the Paris Review.

* * *

To do:

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  •  “I know a publishing house that would glut your ledgers with more gold than you could shake out of a dwarf, if your manuscript arrived wrapped in my endorsement.” Boneset, By Lucia Iglesias

"I savor the opportunity to discover new talent, but I don’t relish playing God in other people’s lives. Most of all, I dread the chats with the losers. They say they want the truth no matter how painful—'Tell me why I was eliminated and how I can improve' —but what they really want is validation, something to assure them their talent has been recognized."

A symphony conductor's extended bow,
a stranger's arm out a car window giving the go around signal,
mail addressed to the previous tenant.

* * *


BURN PILE: Casseroles and Fake Pies

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There is no recipe this week, only a quick-loading casserole of leftovers I’ve accumulated during the Thanksgiving break, all wonderful in and of themselves.

Since you may still be in a digestive stupor, enjoy The History Behind 5 Thanksgiving Traditions Americans Love, then go for it in the links below. Here you are:

* * *

From BuzzFeed’s "Dark Times" series, here’s new short fiction by Manuel Gonzales: Blondie.

“My wife’s friend Becky sold them the house, and she’s the one who told us they were neo-Nazis.”

* * *

Thanksgiving for Native Americans: Four Voices on a Complicated Holiday, by Julie Turkewitz, in The New York Times.

Sherman Alexie: “I guess it’s trash talking: ‘Look, you tried to kill us all, and you couldn’t.’ We’re still here, waving the turkey leg in the face of evil.”

* * *

From drDOCTOR, Sarah Lippmann on painter Jessica Zemsky, fairy tales, and the uncomplicated beauty of devoting life to love. (At drdoctordrdoctor.com, a domain name you can’t help but love.)

Life is Good: I Recommend It, by Sara Lippmann

I do not come from artists. What I come from is a line of almosts, of not-quites. On my mother’s side, my grandmother was a would-be actor, whose dreams went unfulfilled. Self doubt, fear of failure: these traits I know well. She became a teacher instead. My great-grandfather, too, itched with creative impulses. Or so the story goes. He wrote, he drew. But one must provide a roof. He chose dentistry, and not for his love of teeth.

* * *

Writers and writing, always, always:

From the transcript:

We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds. This is a Kafkaesque time. The television sparkles with images of despicable political louts and sexual harassment reports. We cannot look away from the pictures of furious elements, hurricanes and fires, from the repetitive crowd murders by gunmen burning with rage. We are made more anxious by flickering threats of nuclear war. We observe social media’s manipulation of a credulous population, a population dividing into bitter tribal cultures.

Over time, my self-doubt has morphed into a kind of self-pity. I’ve watched people who were next to me at the starting line cross over into Multiple-Books-Published and Award-Winning territory while I lag behind, sweating and panting. When they are nice people, I am truly happy for them. When they are not, I hate their guts.

* * *

The Cathy Ulrich Rocks section.

* * *

More from Electric Lit. Kelly Luce (@lucekel) tweeted:

I love all the pieces I edit for @ElectricLit equally but I must say, I love this one the equalest.

This Kelly praise is for A Deep Dive into Uranus Jokes: Exploring the 19th-century roots of a low humor staple by Albert Stern.

* * *

The Because If You Don’t, You’ll Regret It section:

* * *

For dessert, Sarah Bakes a Fake Pie, then the facts get checked. Your Post-T-Day reality from D.C.

 * * *

Skeleturkey image via I, Toony [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Nobody likes me!

Nobody likes me!


BURN PILE: Warning! Graphic Content Ahead!

Graphic novels have "achieved something comparable to the complexity and density that can be achieved in a novel while transcending the novel format’s limitations with artwork that is an integral part of the medium rather than merely being illustrative of the plot." Britannica.com

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In the distant past, comics were inextricably lodged in my head as either superhero venues, or for saccharine characters like Archie, or Disney cartoons' cash-machine merch-able stories. Later, underground works like the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, or R. Crumb’s "Keep on Truckin’" vibe provided super anti-heroes, along with horror, like Creepy, Eerie, and so on. It’s certainly not news that this is an incorrect outlook, and limited to the world contained in a 1970s drugstore rack, beside Harlequin romances and pulp novels. I learned better of the genre late in the game, probably with the realization that many of the movies I'd enjoyed were based on graphic novels, and owed much of their appeal not only to the story, but to the look of the original art, as well. (The Road to Perdition comes to mind, and Ghost World.)

The release of my friend Deb Olin Unferth and Elizabeth Haidle’s I, Parrot reminds me of all the rich worlds that have found expression both visually and verbally since those days. So, I’ve rounded up some standouts, some lists, and even some argument against graphic novels being taught as serious literature.


RUMPUS EXCLUSIVE: An Excerpt from I, Parrot, by Deb Olin Unferth and Elizabeth Haidle. 

Malvern Books hosted Deb Olin Unferth and illustrator Elizabeth Haidle as they discuss their new graphic novel, I, PARROT, with Mary Helen Specht, author of MIGRATORY ANIMALS

"Unferth (Wait Till You See Me Dance, 2017, etc.) has written a heart-wrenching, occasionally unbelievable tale of family and feathers. The illustrations, by Haidle (Mind Afire, 2013), are beautiful. They are understated and playful without sacrificing texture or creativity." Kirkus Reviews 


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Imagine Wanting Only This

By KRISTEN RADTKE

“Remarkable. . . . a breathtaking mix of prose and illustration. . . . Radtke is able to create beautiful if odious universes out of the potential of ruin, finding infinitesimal shades of nuance within a soft, greyscale palette. . . . Stunning.”
The Atlantic, qtd. on http://kristenradtke.com/

Read a chapter here at HuffPost.


Check out The Guardian's Graphic novel special: Celebrating the booming art form and marking 10 years of the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize.

From Zadie Smith to Ethan Hawke: why we love graphic novels
Famous fans tell us how they got hooked and name their all-time favourites
by Zadie SmithEthan HawkeSam BainAmanda PalmerNick Hornby

~ Related, from the Guardian, on graphic short stories:

~ Tor Freeman has been named winner in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017. This is her entry: If You’re So Wise, How Come You’re Dead?

~ 'I was in shock!': On the 10th anniversary of the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize, we [The Guardian!] talk to previous prizewinners from Isabel Greenberg to Julian Hanshaw, and to 2017’s star, Tor Freeman.


A List of Lists!

11 Can’t-Miss Literary Graphic Novel Adaptations
By Cassandra Neace, June 19, 2017

The 10 best graphic novels of 2017
By Michael Cavna Nov 15, 2017

Comics Cross Over at Library Journal | Genre Spotlight: Graphic Novels
By Douglas Rednour, June 13, 2017

13 "Literary" Comic Books and Graphic Novels for Book Nerds
By Crystal Paul.  Feb 22, 2016

Older lists:

10 Graphic Novels for the Literary Minded
By Kelly Thompson February 27, 2012

Drawn Out: The 50 Best Non-Superhero Graphic Novels
Rolling Stone, May 5, 2014


On the other hand...

Graphic Novels Are Trending in English Departments, and That’s a Problem
MAY 15, 2017 Shannon Watkins for The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

"One reason is that the majority of graphic novels tend to advance political agendas. The graphic novels found on course syllabi and on reading lists often deal with controversial political issues such as social justice, immigration, gay rights, etc. …

"Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with reading about these topics or with discussing them. But what is particularly concerning about assigning these politically charged books is that it seems to be part of a larger push to rid the university of its traditional focus, and to push a social justice agenda."

 



CUTBANK'S 2018 GENRE CONTESTS OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS!

CutBank is thrilled to announce our 2018 genre contests in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry are open for submissions from Thursday, November 9th through January 15th, 2018. 

The Montana Prize in Fiction, the Montana Prize in Nonfiction, and the Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry seek to highlight work that showcases authentic voice, boldness of form, and a rejection of functional fixedness. We are excited and privileged to have as this year's guest judges the incredible talents of Monica Drake (@Monica_Drake) for the fiction category, Sarah Gerard (@SarahNumber4) judging nonfiction, and a poetry judge to be announced soon.

One winner in each genre, as chosen by our guest judges, will receive a $500 award and publication in CutBank 89, our summer 2018 issue. All submissions will be considered for print publication, and all entrants receive a one-year subscription to CutBank. Visit our contest page for more info, and you can also find A-Z guidelines on our Submittable page.

Keep an eye on @cutbankonline and CutBank's Facebook page for more info on our judges and for future announcements!

 


LONG WAY FROM, LONG TIME SINCE: A Letter to Jack Kerouac

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Dear Jack,

I don't know if you remember me but I was that eighteen-nineteen-twenty-year-old blue-eyed brown-haired (sometimes blonde) shy confused lonely drunk girl just trying to figure out who I was while usually wearing something like my grandfather's old hunting outfits a thousand fashion miles away from those beautiful blonde-haired blue-eyed ringleted Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow types or those beautiful brown-eyed black-haired Mexican girls you liked to flirt with on buses going West (or South or North, whatever). But none of that really matters because honestly I never loved you (like I never loved Hemingway) for your physicality I always loved you for your On the Road and your Dharma Bums and your bottle which I kept close in my back pocket (so to speak) during those eighteen-nineteen-twenty-year-old years and never mind the whoring and the hangovers I enjoyed all that, too.

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So you might be wondering why I'm writing after such a long time well it just so happens that on a recent visit to Madison Wisconsin I passed through the old Willy Street neighborhood where I lived for those few years after graduating high school, remember? It all started in that upstairs flat on Jenifer Street where I shaved my head and went from hippie to punk rock pretty much overnight (why-the-fuck-not?) and soon after got my first official on the record boyfriend and moved in with him down the street (where my deeply fossilized self-loathing eventually destroyed the whole thing). Well, being in the old neighborhood got me thinking about your book Satori in Paris and how you traveled to France (Brittany and Paris) in search of your French Lebris de Kérouac family roots (btw I was in Paris a while back and followed your footsteps or cab steps rather to the old church Saint-Louis-en-l'Île on Île Saint-Louis and there I said a prayer for you in front of the statue of St. Genevieve, patron saint of Paris).

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I'm sharing all of this because it turned out that the visit to my old Willy Street neighborhood was a pilgrimage of sorts and you (as previously stated) were highly influential during those aforementioned years. I didn't take a cab in Madison though (like you did in Paris) but was driving a borrowed Subaru Forester. I also didn't do any drinking or whoring (I'm sober now) but I did drive past the old tattoo parlor on Atwood Avenue. Remember that place? Larry's or Steve's or something? Where Larry (or Steve) tried to talk my eighteen-year-old self out of getting a tattoo of an Ouroboros and to choose instead something more normal and girly like a rose or a bluebird and how I scoffed at the suggestion but would never have listened anyway because I already fancied myself a hardened badass or something and was 100% convinced that it was never going to be otherwise. Larry (or Steve) turned out to be right (but that's another story). Anyway, the old tattoo parlor is now an ice cream shop which happened to be shuttered for the season otherwise I would have bought myself a scoop (chocolate probably) minus the slice of apple pie and minus the tattoo. I passed the old art house on Willy Street where I lived for a short time in a flea-infested room with a painted black door and where I had the acute awareness of not having felt clean since moving out of my mother's place. I passed the old Willy Bear (now an Ethiopian restaurant) where I used to spend hours bellied up to the bar with friends. I couldn't find the other Willy Street apartment though where I stayed with my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend and my badass black German Shepard puppy with a floppy ear named Blixa (after Blixa Bargeld the guitarist from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) who ended up almost destroying my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend's wall-to-wall carpeted bedroom. I turned onto South Brearly Street passing the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center (still there) where we used to pack in on weekends to see punk rock bands and where I hung back still shy even half-drunk and after the Wil-Mar I looked for my best friend at the time's brick apartment building where she had a studio the size of a shoe box and where we shared her bed (with her tortoiseshell cat) and drank beaucoup cases of crap Point beer. I drove around Orton Park still hemmed in by those big beautiful houses and I remembered the (now at a park in Manhattan) Gay Liberation statues (by American artist George Segal) near the Spaight and South Few Street corner across from the one-time home of Spaightwood Galleries. I ended up skipping B.B. Clarke Beach Park where I would sometimes sprawl out near Lake Monona on summer evenings my head spinning from the booze and the heat and as I was driving away I was thinking what a beautiful neighborhood and I'm not the same person I was back then and Madison Wisconsin is not the same city it was back then and I had an illumination of sorts a kick in the eye you might say a sudden feeling of love and tenderness towards that shy confused lonely drunk girl I once was and also a kind of forgiveness towards Madison Wisconsin and all of that and well there you have it for what it's worth something like my very own satori on Willy Street. So in closing Jack, merci mille fois for helping shore me up during those sometimes sweet and difficult aforementioned years.

All the best,
Jody


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Jody Kennedy's writing and photography have appeared or are forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Tin House Online, Electric Literature’s Okey-Panky, Rattle, CutBank's The Woodshopand elsewhere. She lives in Provence, France.
More at her website: 
https://jodyskennedy.wordpress

Long Way From, Long Time Since features letters written from writers, to writers, living or dead. Send us your queries and inquiries, your best wishes and arguments, and help us explore correspondence as a creative form. For letter submission guidelines, visit our submissions page or email cutbankonline@gmail.com for more information.