Elizabeth Earley

Elizabeth Earley holds a BA in Creative Writing and an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her stories and essays have appeared in Time Out Magazine, The Chicago Reader, Geek Magazine, Outside Magazine, Gnome Magazine, and Hyper Text Magazine. Other fiction has appeared in The Windy City Times Literary Supplement, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The First Line Magazine, Story Week Reader, Fugue, and Hair Trigger. The Hair Trigger piece won the David Friedman Memorial Prize for the best story in that anthology. Elizabeth has  twice been a finalist for the AWP New Journals Award, has received two pushcart nominations, and was a finalist for the 2011 Able Muse Write Prize for Fiction and for the Bakeless Literary Prize for Fiction. A new novel excerpt, “Backbone”, won an Honorable Mention in the Glimmer Train March 2013 Fiction Open contest.

About the artist, Christa Donner

Elizabeth Earley Books

Map-Cover-Color-small

Full-color edition with art created especially for the novel by Christa Donner

Map-Cover-small

Black and white edition.

 

“inventive, searingly honest, gorgeously written.”

– Gayle Brandeis

“eloquent, moody and strangely poetic.”

– Michelle Tea

 

A Map of Everything

a debut novel

 

EARLY PRAISE

“Elizabeth Earley’s A Map of Everything is one of the most structurally inventive and emotionally remarkable books I’ve come across in quite a while. I can draw a parallel to the stupendous success of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies here. Now it is even possible to trade in cryptocurrencies from the comfort of your home if you posses automated trading systems. You can learn the facts here now at https://cybermentors.org.uk/ there are so many systems just like there are writersSo many writers traffic in the sensationalism of event, while Earley wisely knows that this is only the start of the trouble—and that our hearts truly beat and bleed in the repercussions of events. It’s a book that reminds us who we are to each other and to ourselves, and it has a resilient beauty, and a confident and true voice rare in any novel, let alone a debut.”

– Rob Roberge, author of The Cost of Living

 

“The writing in A Map of Everything is beautiful. Never shying away from the difficult, and embracing the big emotions, Earley has given us a strong, graceful and finely-etched novel.”

– Leonard Chang, author of Crossings

 

“Inventive, searingly honest, gorgeously written, this book will both break and heal your heart. With A Map of Everything, Elizabeth Earley charts her own fresh and dazzling territory.”

– Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds and Self Storage

 

“In A Map Of Everything, Elizabeth Earley has the eyesight to notice what we trample underfoot, the instinctual intelligence to know why we do the things we do, the heart to rise above obliterating darkness, and — from somewhere — the ability to write like a witch.”

– Peter Nichols, author of Voyage to the North Star, nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award

 

“An exploration of love and tragedy, what we owe to others and what we owe to ourselves, A Map of Everything is eloquent, moody and strangely poetic.

– Michelle Tea, co-founder of Sister Spit, and author of The Chelsea Whistle and Valencia

 

“In a little over 300 pages, A Map of Everything somehow manages to be a novel about everything: surviving tragedy, love, despair, complex family relationships, identity, how to be a good person, how to live in a world full of contradictions and dangers that are as much internal as external.  This is a remarkable debut novel.  Read it and weep – with both joy and sadness.

– Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts and Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry

 

A Map of Everything is a tender story of personal transformation, addiction, loss and memory. Elizabeth Earley is a welcome new voice to literature.”

– Ali Liebegott author of The IHOP Papers and Cha-Ching!

 

“Elizabeth Earley’s remarkable debut novel, A Map of Everything, deftly follows a family through the complicated trajectory of their lives after one devastating moment on a rain-soaked street. Anne, the youngest, “fifth born”, leads us over the intricate roads of this map, telling stories along the way of June, her beloved, injured sister, and of her siblings and parents. Bold and deeply wounded, Anne is unflinching in her role as narrator and chronicler; we lean in to listen closely to hear. Her voice is full of heat and gravel, of the longing she has for those things she feels she may never fully know: love, a family unbroken, a place to settle. Earley’s rich weaving of time, science, place, point of view, and plot is created with language and form that is surprising and stunning. Pain, joy, loss, accomplishment, need, survival, love, terror, and tolerance are among the roads on this map of everything, and they all—rather miraculously—lead to a certain and satisfactory grace.”

 

– Patricia Ann McNair, author of The Temple of Air

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Anne’s sister, a bright and lovely teenager, sustains a traumatic brain injury after a near-fatal car accident. As a result, Anne and her siblings and parents are thrown into a decades-long struggle for belonging, deliverance and redemption — with surprising results. A Map of Everything intimately explores the fragile nature of family dynamics, revealing what is salvaged, what is lost, and what is gained after a tragedy hits home.

I’m On Fire

Wendy-Ortiz by Wendy C. Ortiz I’m left-handed. Age twenty-eight, in the depths of my Saturn return, I designed a tattoo. An artist etched the two images I had combined into my skin. From that point on, a black cat in mid-run crosses in front of an enormous red flame on the bicep of my writing arm.

 *

I’m in a fecund writing valley right now, where, at this moment in time (not to be confused with the moment you’re reading this, or the moment after, or the moment after), I’m experiencing publication after publication. I’ve heard a constant refrain from friends and fellow writers:

You’re on fire!

It puts me in mind of the afternoons I face most days of the week, when I’m hoping my toddler will fall asleep for a few hours so I can write. But the truth is, I’m wilted by the two o’clock hour. I am lit by morning fires. The dampened afternoons stretch in front of me. I’m overtaken by water, by mud.

 *

Underneath the cat and the flame is a banner. Former Catholic School students always inquire or guess at its meaning. Latin, it translates to “harmony in discord.”

I interpret this in two ways. One: I have found harmony in discord. This is a legacy I keep. Two: I can transform discord into harmony. This is my life’s task. This is a black cat bounding across dangerous territory.

This is trauma finding its escape valve in art.

*

Tinder. Kindling. Oxygen.  This is how to sustain a fire. Let me translate this into something that can sustain me through afternoons, sustain me through the very difficult dry spells that writing, and publishing, inevitability present.

Plastic. Tires. Treated wood. This is how to ruin a clean fire and make toxic the air around you. Let me translate this into how to care for the body writing its way through fire.

 *

My right arm maintains its über-usefulness by completing all actions other than writing.

At thirty-three, I brought images to the same artist: this time, an anatomical heart and tidal waves. She sketched and resketched. Again she etched the designs into my skin. It was not until years later, looking in the mirror, that I realized I had fire and water on opposite arms.

The unconscious knows.

*

 How to sustain “being on fire”? In this metaphor the subject is hot. Maybe, like the wildfires that come in the wake of Santa Ana winds, the subject is fast-moving, carving its anarchic path through what was once not-on-fire.

What happens after someone sets themselves on fire?

The pain is described as ‘excruciating.’

“Once the burn becomes severe, it’s burned down to the nerves so you don’t initially have any sensation in those burned areas. Then the adrenaline kicks in. It’s our mind’s way to protect us from the tragedy that we went through.“*

My mind’s way of protecting me from any tragedy I went through?

Writing.

*

The sign ascending at the Eastern horizon at one’s birth is used to consider how the person presents to the world. One interpretation used to describe one’s ascendant, or rising sign, is the exterior of the house, where the moon is the interior and the sun is the house’s foundation. My rising sign is Sagittarius. A fire sign.

The only other evidence of fire in my chart is not a planet or a star or even a node. It’s Chiron, a comet. The most common interpretation of Chiron’s placement uses the words “wounded” and “healer.”

Meanwhile, my chart is dominated by the other elements — mostly air, followed by earth, then water. Least present is fire. This lack of fire in other areas has sometimes disappointed me. Even my Mars is in Pisces.

Imagine a fighter fish, hiding among the rocks. The moments when I’m not on fire but safe in my cave, surrounded by water.

*

Inevitably, after several times of hearing and reading You’re on fire! I have to think of Bruce Springsteen.

“I’m on Fire,” 1985.

Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife baby

Edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley

Through the middle of my soul

Yes, that sounds about right. That’s what writing can sometimes feel like.

Tattoo guns like a match caressing the skin.

Fire.

*

I’ve resolved to remain open to the words that will next appear on my skin.

One word hovers in the smoke but I’m not ready to pluck it from the air just yet. There is a period of waiting, stoking, letting embers fall where they may until the time is right to set another wood on the log, etch another design onto my skin. My forearm’s skin is patient. The blue veins show up just enough that I’ve contemplated blue tattoos following their unique rivers.

How, then, to tend this fire, keep it burning?

Writing, of course.

The Jirí Chronicles

A History of The Jirí Chronicles

The Jirí Chronicles is a book without boundaries. Its aim is a multimedia invasion into the real world, where real people interact with a fictional character, Jiri Cech, whether they know it or not. Each project within the Chronicles expands Jiri Cech’s 13-year infiltration and “bastardization” of aesthetic forms, creating narratives within narratives that overlap narratives, ad infinitum. To date, there are over 500 individual works of prose, poetry, video, audio, music, visual art, websites, and ironic consumer products.

Eventual “products” of the Chronicles married two literary explorations. The first began in the early 1990s with the question, “What if fiction wasn’t limited to page and ink?” An unfinished novella, The Second Millennium War: What We Found At Birmenstau, was a first attempt to produce fictive elements that readers could interpret as “real.” Two- and three-dimensional artifacts related to the plot were produced or attempted. Computer technology had not yet advanced to where writers could affordably manufacture believable artifacts on home computers and peripherals. Nor was the Internet or services like personal web site hosting available to economically challenged writers.

By 1998, however, personal technology had exploded, making a wide range of media feasible and the potential for real-world infiltration seemingly limitless. Likewise significant was the increasing shift in speed, consequent reduction of attention spans, and non sequitur thinking produced by the Internet. Reduced to bits and bytes, information grew increasingly fractured, virulent and difficult to separate into truth or fiction. The age of Information Excess had taken root. Thus began the second exploration: an experiment in randomness and meaning.

THE SHORT STORIES
The first short story “Czechoslovakian Rhapsody Sung to the Accompaniment of Piano” attempted to prove that the mind can — and does — (re)form the daily deluge of unrelated information into a narrative with cultural and emotional significance. (Recent studies have indeed located the region of the brain responsible for creating narrative out of unrelated data.) The result was a mixed media fiction utilizing text and white space as visual elements, and incorporating illustrations, footnotes, and text appropriated from ad copy, news headlines, magazine articles and billboards, song lyrics, movie dialog, and genealogical, scientific and historical facts.

The story’s unnamed narrator writes about “You,” a Czech immigrant whose racism repulses her and good looks attract her, to the extent that she wants to have his baby — though plot is hardly the point. Rather, it serves as an entertaining vehicle for process and product, modifications of what is traditionally defined as fiction writing.

In 2002, a conversation with The Iowa Review’s editor, David Hamilton, led to the publication of “Czechoslovakian Rhapsody”, and Jiri Cech officially entered the real world. (The “You” of “Czechoslovakian Rhapsody” soon became Jiri Cech, a name that translates to a fittingly generic “John Czech” with initials J.C., as in “Jesus Christ,” a [very] subtle nod to the conclusion of J.D. Salinger’s Franny & Zooey.)

To date, Jiri Cech has appeared in seven mixed media fictions, two published in The Iowa Review, one in Drunken Boat, one in Notre Dame Review; excerpts in the anthologies I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writings By Women (Carline Bergvall, Laynie Browne, Vanessa Place, eds. Les Figues Press), The &NOW Awards: Best Innovative Fiction of 2004-2008(Robert Archambeau, Davis Schneiderman, Steve Tomasula, eds. Lake Forest Press/&NOW Books: Lake Forest, IL. October 2009), “Glauke’s Gown.” Forms At War: FC2 1999-2009 (R. M. Berry, ed. FC2/University of Alabama Press: Tuscaloosa, AL. March 2009), “Oops. Sorry” Notre Dame Review: The First 10 Years (John Matthias and William O’Rourke, eds. Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, IN. January 2009); and multimedia presentations at the first biennial Notre Dame’s &NOW Festival of Writing as a Conceptual Art; Riverfront Readings at The Writers Place in Kansas City; at Lake Forest College, Illinois; and T.M.I. (appropriately: “Too Much Information”) reading series in San Diego, California.

THE PRODUCTS
Jiri has recorded and produced five CDs of interviews, music and videos (two taught in a college lit course), now downloadable on 25-50 sites including iTunes, Rhapsody, Sony Music and MusicNet. Jiri’s art metal band, Umlaut with 4 dots not 2 (formerly Umlaut: ultimate uber death metal) received their first royalties check in 2006.

In 2002, Jiri published a collection of poetry, Whither: Poems of Exile, for which he won the Mennstrauss Poetry Award. He most recently completed another collection, Comes Life: A Poetic Chronicle, that brutally documents events from September 11, 2001 to Bush’s Iraq War, using appropriated text from the Old Testament, concerning topics from real newspaper articles, such as the high incident of soldiers committing suicide. A revision of the book includes real bullet holes created by various weapons; a limited edition includes a real spent bullet.

Jiri Cech served as guest poetry editor of the Spring 2004 issue of The Melic Review, in which he earlier published poetry. Other poems have appeared in the online site, Poets Against the War, in Other Voices International Poetry Anthology, and in the notable literary journal, Pleiades, prefaced by a brief essay introducing Jiri, written by poet H.L. Hix. His poems, “I Am A Real Estate Developer,” “I Am a Vampire” and “I Am an Opium Addict” — all written in less than 10 minutes (the longest time Jiri can sit on the toilet without his legs going numb) — were purportedly in an anthology of MySpace poetry, edited by Elinor Brown, United Kingdom. (We never heard back from Elinor. Perhaps she was mortified.)

Jiri has been interviewed about his experimental poetry by the critic and fiction writer Steve Tomasula (excerpts downloadable on most music sites and available and on the CD Steve Asks Jiií: “Does Poetry Suck?”). His illustrated essay, “Bohemian Beasts and Their Buttery Buxom Brides” appears in the anthology, Brothers and Beasts: An Anthology of Men on Fairy Tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer (Fall 2007, Wayne State University Press). In December 2007 Jiri also was the subject of an interview by Dr. Kent Gustavson of Sound Authors (www.soundauthors.com).

Jiri Cech’s visual art has been exhibited in 2004 at Urban Culture Project’s “Alias” exhibition for which he received positive reviews from Review arts magazine and The Kansas City Star. Other exhibitions include Beauty and the Beast art auction, and H&R Block ArtSpace exhibition, Making Meaning: The Artist Book. The majority of his hugely overpriced art therapy drawings appear in the book, When the Bluebird of Happiness Shits On Your Armpit. Two of these drawings (that respond to real rejections from real poetry editors at real literary journals) appear in Clackamas Review.

Also extant: Jiri’s newsletter, 10-Minute-Muse blog, personal website, Umlaut website, MySpace page, Facebook page, and various online interviews, music selections and videos on sites ranging from USA Television Network to Notre Dame Review. His test pilot for Comedy Central and his homage to publisher Ralph Berry of FC2, can be viewed at Youtube.com

His consumer products could once be purchased at jadedibisproduction.com, and included tee shirts and undershirts, boxer shorts, ass patches, magnets, paper bags from which to drink Pilsner in public, autographed gravel from one of his suburban sprawl construction sites, and the newest addition: celebrity scents, Hung and pe, which are still available, albeit likely toxic by now.

Jiri frequently wrote inflammatory letters to editors at various publications and receives less inflammatory letters back, junk mail and spam.

The book, The Jiri Chronicles & Other Fictions, is now on the syllabus at a number of college literature and writing programs, and was the subject of a PhD dissertation by Sheffield England linguist, Alison Gibbons.

REALER THAN YOU
As Jiri Cech’s presence expanded, so did his significance regarding contemporary culture and aesthetics. His website, it’s a man’s world, (the title of a poem by Jiri Cech adapted to video and later featured on the website, Poets Against the War, suggests continuing problems regarding gender and power. The project itself chronicles the issues of our times and the democratization of a vast array of new technology, and how the two may be related. It questions the notion of boundaries — whether geopolitical, socio-economic or aesthetic — and the dangers of categorizing people and things according to our prejudicial standards.

On a more somber level, Jiri’s ability to exist as “real” addresses the apparently burgeoning problem of The Lie in contemporary society, where politicians, media monsters, and corporate and religious leaders are able to spin webs of deceit by means of the very technology that allows Jiri Cech to exist as “flesh-and-blood.” It also surreptitiously explores the contemporary problem of sound bites & bytes, wherein the public’s conclusions about people and concepts are reached without fully receiving and absorbing all information necessary to achieve an objective, rational viewpoint. Further, it illuminates readers’ increasing lack of attention to detail and an unwillingness to spend the time and energy required to understand the relationship of all facets within an issue or narrative.

Finally, and crucially, The Jiri Chronicles attempted to explore and document Systems Theory* via interconnections between media and people, fact and fiction, and the resulting effects on our day-to-day lives.

Jiri Cech was killed by lions while chasing the Bohemia Blonde in Botswana. His funeral was a private affair, held at the 2011 &NOW Conference of Innovative Writing in San Diego, California.

*Systems Theory is the transdisciplinary study of the abstract organization of phenomena, independent of their substance, type, or spatial or temporal scale of existence. It investigates both the principles common to all complex entities, and the (usually mathematical) models that can be used to describe them.

Music


The Books
& The Musicians from Edible Flowers

GLAM COVER smaller
Sharp Little Number by Megan Boddy
Composed and performed for Glamorous Freak: How I Taught My Dress To Act, a novel by Roxanne Carter
PORN-COVER-BW-WEB
Pornograph No. 3 by OCNotes and Lisa Dank. Compilation contains Pornographs No. 1 and 2
Composed and performed for The Pornographers and Pornographies
WE COVER BW sm
Treed and Ideat by Patch Rubin.
Composed and performed for We: a reimagined family history, a novel by c.vance
VRRL COVER WEB
Your Metaforest Guidebook, LP by Rachel Carns, Tara Jane O’Neil, and Anna Joy Springer. Words by Anna Joy Springer
Composed and performed for The Vicious Red Relic, Love: a fabulist memoir
by Anna Joy Springer
DAUGHTER COVER WEBMonster by Resident Anti-Hero
Composed and performed for Daughter: a novel by Janice Lee
UNFINISHED COVER WEB
Ready To Burn by Ron Heckert (Tornado n A Jar)
performed by Ron Heckert (music) and Betsy Carney (vocals); produced by Carlos DeLeon
composed and performed for Unfinished: storied finished by Lily Hoang
BLANK-COVER-COLOR-WEB
Goldberg Variation No. 3 Remix by Paul D Miller aka DJ Spooky
Remixed and performed for Blank, a novel by Davis Schneiderman
BYB COVER WEB
Logical Conclusion by Yasutoshi Yoshida
AVAILABLE ON CD COMPILATION 2012
Composed and performed for Burn Your Belongings, a novel by David Hoenigman
AUNT PIG COVER WEBAunt Pig of Puglia
Title story read by the author Patricia Catto. Produced by Jaded Ibis Productions

This Is Why I Have To Leave

“Listen – are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
– Mary Oliver

“Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.”
–Cheryl Strayed

The decision to leave a wonderful position with a delightful company where I do meaningful work alongside kindhearted coworkers is not one I take lightly. I’ve lost more sleep over more nights than I can count. I’ve poured myself into oversized containers of ice cream, buckets of popcorn, and bottles of wine, abandoning the healthier coping strategies I’ve learned in years of therapy. I’ve spent hours sitting in the darkness, alone in my living room, dreading what I’m about to do.

My boss has been both a friend and mother figure to me. My coworkers have been my cheerleaders. The residents at the retirement center where I work have changed my perspective; they’ve transformed the way I look at aging, love, resilience and mortality. I fell in love with a community of people in their 80s, 90s and 100s — people who offered me an endless and unconditional supply of hugs, wisdom and warmth.

I have to leave, though, and this is why: There is a book inside of me. Or rather, there’s a series of ideas, thoughts, and feelings that I think will lead up to a book. This collection of thoughts — this beast — is nestled between my heart and lungs. It catches on my breaths; it pulls me to the ground. I’m crouched on my feet, wrestling against this thing. I keep trying to press it down, but it wants out.

Regular paychecks and health insurance and free lunches are no match for this thing inside of me. The days I’m putting into my job no longer feel like hours I’m putting in; they feel like hours I’m giving up. The more I give up, the heavier the beast gets. This book keeps pushing against me, jabbing into my core, asking me to take notice.

I tried to be sensible. I’ll only pay attention to the beast at night. On weekends. In my spare moments. I’ll politely ask the beast to be calm during the day, to keep quiet, to stop calling me.

It didn’t stop. It only got louder. I would try to focus on my work — if I only stare at this computer long enough, if I just repeat what that resident said one more time — in an effort to distract myself. This, I would tell myself. This is what normal people do. They work normal jobs like this. They help other people. They sometimes get bored. They laugh with their coworkers. They look at the clock. They think about dinner. They ache when they hear someone new is on hospice. They stoically attend memorial services. They sometimes go home and weep for someone who has died. They often go home and worry about those who are living, those who are facing dementia and disease and the unfathomable loss of a spouse after sixty years of marriage. They carry their feelings and they feel exhausted and they don’t write — not now, Book Beast — and then they wake up the next day and do it all over again.

I can’t do it anymore.

I can’t do it anymore because a book is pushing against me and I can’t release it until I walk away from what’s causing it. This time I’ve spent with people who are 92, 97, 102: it’s made me who I am. It’s helped me to form my story and colored the way I view the world. But I cannot write about it – I cannot sit down and focus my energy on it or anything else – until I walk away.

The best I can do now, while working here full-time, is to come home and fall asleep at 8 p.m., an occurrence that happens with frequency. The best I can do now is to sit in my exhaustion and fret about the things I can’t control, to put off my writing until I’m less tired, less drained. Put it off for another day, and then another, and then another.

I have to leave. I have to leave so I can get in my car and drive. I have to leave so I can visit different friends in different states. I have to leave so I can sit in my grandma’s abandoned house on the other side of the country — the one beyond the reach of internet and cell service — and write. I have to leave so I can write and write and write, free from the interruption of going to work for nine-hour increments followed by hours of sitting numbly at home, feeling too much, thinking about my residents, missing my grandma, worrying about the end of life, until I go to bed and repeat it all the next day. I have to leave so I can take these big, messy feelings and put them down on the page and write and rewrite and rewrite until they make some sense. Until they tell my story.

It’s not an easy thing to explain to anyone. I will have no source of income. I will have nothing, really, except my car and my mind and my bag full of dreams. Does this sound logical to anyone? Does this sound practical?

Is it logical for someone to stay in a relationship long after she’s fallen out of love?

Is it practical for someone to stay at a job if she feels like she’s suffocating?

Is it okay to suppress everything inside of me in an attempt to fit in with the normal way normal people do normal things?

This is no longer a story of Normal. This is the story of a Book Beast, a road trip, a lonely house, and a plan that defies logic. The plan goes like this: Write, write, write, write, write. There is no room in this plan to drive residents to medical appointments. There is no room to edit a newsletter or update a Facebook page or listen patiently when someone tells the same story again. There is no room for letting my compassion for my coworkers override my need to do something for myself. There is no room for letting the moments and days and years go by, waiting for things to arrange themselves differently, waiting for something to present itself to me, waiting.

This is no longer a story of Waiting. This is a story about making a difficult decision — one that I feel in my gut with an immensity that scares me — and standing behind it. People leave horrible jobs and situations all the time, but I am not one of those people. I am leaving a wonderful position with a delightful company where I do meaningful work alongside kindhearted coworkers. I’m leaving my friends and family and apartment and job and everything I know and love.

This is why I have to leave. That book lodged inside my organs? Someday I’m going to let it out. But first I have to get to it. I have to chip away at it. I have to remove the layers of fat that cushion it. I have to peel back the debris and clutter until the beast is all that’s left. And then I have to release it.

How We Know We Are Forgiven

Who knows how far his poem will travel? For many of us, most of our poems won’t make it past the rectangular space of our door. And, if a poem does manage to make it into the world and thrive, it’s often without our intent. The poem makes its own way, finds its own home, and seeks its own friends. And who knows if one of the friends won’t be an old acquaintance of yours upon whom, years before, you made a poor impression? And who knows what relationship that person will have with your poem, and how such a relationship might affect the regard in which you’re held.

Part of the mystery of writing is that the destination of our work is often concealed from us. Still, we continue the daily ritual of waking early to sit at our desks and sail seas full of fragmented ideas, blurred beginnings, and uncertainties with the hope of arriving at some distant shore where what’s beyond us comes together in the language of our experience.

How We Know We Are Forgiven

We know when our words
Are finally allowed
To travel routes of the heart
That once were barricaded
Against them as strangers
And they are given reign again
To stretch out upon sands,
Chat with newly arrived travelers,
And left alone to haggle
With silk and spice merchants.

Instead of being kicked
From tents and caravans,
Our words will once again
Be pulled into the crowds
By friends left behind,
Wiped clean of grime
Collected in the desert,
Then given fresh robes and pants,
Before being led unto hammocks to snore
After bread and wine.

*

In this poem, there are custodians of the imagination who impose and preserve a normative world view. And we see to what lengths these “wise men” will go to make children think “what’s right.” It seems to me, however, that sometimes writing is the act of dancing the wrong dance – the act of taking elements of the taught-imagination and stretching them as far as one can.

Solomon’s Montessori School

The school is popular among children.
And upon their gathering,
Each swears of her own experience –

“Yesterday, I saw ten golden gates
Standing without fences”

“Today, I saw god appoint Winds as sages”

“I’ve seen angels floating east” –

To suppress these claims,
Wise men from town

Stand children against the wall
Without food, for hours

Until each confesses a change of heart –
To the relief of parents
And the esteemed Council of The Wise –

That Solomon’s school never existed
And is only seen by the mad.

Precisely at that moment,
A girl hears Solomon’s invisible call.

She pulls down her veil,
Listens to the hymns,

Then runs like one taken
To begin studies

“In how to climb god’s fences
And wrestle with Winds.”

*

After years of toil, how does a writer handle himself when his work is finally recognized? Some writers become lost in the pageantry. Some accept the recognition for what it is, are grateful for what they are given, while keeping in mind that what’s more important is returning to that place of unknowing, which often is the source of poetry.

The Measured Notion of One’s Self

How blessed the man,
Who despite praise,
Acclaim and applause

Remains in the end,
Essentially as he was –

Unaffected by the ribbons
Taped to his door,

The bouquet of flowers,
The certificates framed
In his halls,

And in his study,
The hung medallions.

Not for this man
The quiet relief of being paraded
Through the village on borrowed horse

All for being the first of its sons
To sail the Indian Ocean and
The first to write several volumes
Scholars hold in high estimation.

Quite admirable that after waving
Through the confetti and horns,
He returns home not thinking
“Tomorrow praise is again assured.”

But that it is already gone
And he is again as he was.

No wonder he is now at his door
Untaping the ribbons.

No doubt he’s taken down
The medallions.

In the morning,
He’ll return the horse.

Writing Well Will Cost You

I’ve never been a wake-up-at-five-in-the-morning-and-write-every-day kind of gal. I have nothing but admiration for people with that seat-of-the-pants-to-the-chair discipline, but that’s never been me. Instead I tend to wait — to cogitate and agitate — until I absolutely must put something on paper, until, whether because of an imposed deadline or internal pressure, it’s simply imperative. Partly, this is because I work two jobs and have two kids, but that’s not the whole story. I’m sure that given infinite free time, I’d be more productive on the page than I am now, and I’m equally sure that I’d still find myself procrastinating and sometimes “blocked.”Procrastination, in its weird way, is part of the process. While I’m procrastinating, I’m never really free of the task; I’m turning the creative problem over and over in my mind, consciously and unconsciously, reformulating the terms. At some level I am saying no to the easy, knock-it-out solution, the tired-and-true, the familiar. I might not be typing words on a keyboard, but something is marinating.

At a certain point, however, procrastination can morph into all-out blockage, silence, the freeze every writer dreads. Writer’s block issues out of fear — but of what? Some people speculate that it’s fear of failure (the story in your head is never as good as the one on the page, and what with Goodreads, Amazon, and BN.com, there have never been more critics). Others assert that the deeper fear is of success (i.e. a critical or commercial success in the marketplace might mess with your familiar low self-esteem or force other changes in your life). My gut feeling is that it’s something else: Writer’s block stems from fear of what might appear on the page if you’re writing honestly, if, as a teacher of mine used to say, “you have your pencil in the right place,” if you are writing toward jeopardy.

Writing well is a destabilizing act. A comfort read reinforces the readers’ and writer’s mutually agreed-upon ideas of how the world works, and it has its place; it’s entertainment. But literature challenges our fondest beliefs — about the world, about other people, about ourselves. It is mind-altering. Its creation transforms the writer, however subtly, and every revision is a revision of the writer’s intellect, the writer’s memory, the writer’s relationship to self. When you are writing well, when you are solving a creative problem with a new and strange and unforeseen solution, there is every possibility that it will scare the hell out of you. This is the bad news and the good news. This is also, of course, why we do it: We might learn something true.

Writing well will cost you. So how do we avoid being paralyzed by fear? I wish I knew. My best shot to date is to trick myself, even though I should and do know better, into writing “just a few sentences.” I know full well that “just a few sentences,” if they are good ones, creates an entryway into a world, one this is full of promise and terror, and from which there might be no turning back. I also know that pretty much every time out I hit “the wall” at what turns out to be roughly the three- quarters mark of whatever I am writing. I become convinced the whole enterprise is a failure, I’ve wasted my time, and there is no way through to completion — at which point I have to procrastinate some more, until I find a little opening, a pinpoint of light in that brick edifice. A flaw through which to chisel. To recognize a challenge is not the same thing as to overcome one, but it’s a start. I sometimes refer to awful drafts of work that eventually succeeded as a reminder that this too shall pass, that no wall is impenetrable.

Prediction isn’t my strong suit, but it’s a safe bet that I’ll never be known as prolific, and I don’t think I want to be. Every book, every story, every essay I have written has changed me in some way, even this one. The fear doesn’t go away, and it shouldn’t. But the fear of the fear abates — sometimes we even grow nervy with fear — and the faith that the work is worth it abides.

David Hoenigman

DAVID HOENIGMAN was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but has lived in Tokyo, Japan since 1998. He is the organizer of Tokyo’s bimonthly PAINT YOUR TEETH, a celebration of experimental music, literature and dance. Hoenigman regularly interviews avant-garde writers for the online journal, WORD RIOT. He is currently working on his second novel, Squeal For Joy, forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press.

MORE PRAISE FOR BURN YOUR BELONGINGS

“A perfect rondel.” –Terese Svoboda, author Black Glasses Like Clark Kent

“I like the obsessive quality of the writing and the way certain images or sentences seem to burst out of the background with a kind of eerie, insistent resonance. It’s like the emotional equivalent of the sensation of a phantom limb”* –Dawn Raffel, author of Carrying the Body

“Hoenigman’s terse, staccato prose is the language of consciousness, and his book not so much anti-narrative as true to the realities of one’s inner sense-making, true to the convoluted and seemingly disparate tales we tell ourselves. In short, Burn Your Belongings is a well-crafted and adventurous book from what is undoubtedly a writer of great promise.”  – Gary J. Shipley, Word Riot

David Hoenigman Books

burn your belongings
a novel by
david hoenigman“destined for cult status.”
– Alex Martin, Outsider Writers CollectiveART: orginal images by Yasutoshi YoshidaSOUND: original music by Yasutoshi Yoshida – LISTEN NOW“David Hoenigman’s Burn Your Belongings is a dense narrative of choppy sentences that elude the human desire for story at almost every turn. When read aloud, mantralike, the thick walls of text take on the feel of religious chant, a prayer to weariness and sickness and anxiety. At other times, they flutter with moments of happiness and love, and feel exponentially more like real life than anything Hemingway or any naturalist ever put to paper. In the margins of each page is a different vibrant color collage by Yasutoshi Yoshida. … The collages add another layer, another conversation, to the book.”
– Paul Constant, book critic for The StrangerBurn Your Belongings slowly, relentlessly builds the emotional ebb and flow of a love triangle over a period of months, perhaps years. Every fear, joy, doubt, hatred, desire and elation manifests through a litany of interior monologues – from the mundane to the profound and always beautifully lyrical. The accretion of imagery and often frighteningly stark examination of Self and Other create a transformational emotional experience. Hoenigman’s brilliance is his ability to transfer language to the reader so that by novel’s end, the feelings and observations of the characters become not their memories but the reader’s own.
Three illustrated editions available
CLICK TO BUY Color
BYB-COVER-WEB
BYBindesign
Black and White
BYB COVERFINE ART LIMITED EDITION OF 10
A hand-carved, hand-painted 2-foot length of mako bamboo contains the text and images of Burn Your Belongings printed in color on a double scroll.

BYB BAMBOO 03

A hand-carved, hand-painted 2-foot (approx) length of mako bamboo contains the text and images of Burn Your Belongins printed in color on a double scroll. The effect is a beautiful art object that might have been made long ago by someone in a Japanese village. A matchbook bearing the book’s title is fitted into a carved niche in the cork top. Hoenigman lives and works in Tokyo, the setting of Burn Your Belongings. Tokyo artist, Yasutoshi Yoshida, is a renowned Harsh Noise musician and record producer whose collage influences stem primarily from art brut. The book’s narrative exemplifies the intersection of old and new that still exists in Japanese culture, as well as the role of the American outsider situated in the insider world of Tokyo; thus the design of inside vs. outside. Moreover, to read the scroll one must “pile” the pages in a flowing heap, just as the author’s innovative narrative lyrically piles sentence upon sentence upon sentence to create not so much an obvious plot but rather a flowing experience so intense that it feels as much physical as intellectual. The intent is also to emphasize the delicacy of language – its mutability and potential dissolution – by printing the text and art on Japanese sumi paper. Approximate size: 2′ (height) x 7″ (diameter). Scroll approx. 190 feet long.

PRICE: $8500.00 Because our limited edition fine art books are handcrafted, each will vary slightly. Special order only. Allow 8-10 weeks. Email us to order now.Or buy now through Paypal. (We are a Verified Seller)

Tom Bradley (text) + Nick Patterson (art)

Tom Bradley taught British and American literature to Chinese graduate students in the years leading up to the Tiananmen Square massacre. He was politely invited to leave China after burning a batch of student essays about the democracy movement rather than surrendering them to “the leaders.” He wound up teaching conversational skills to freshman dentistry majors in the Japanese “imperial university.” Tom is a former lounge harpist. During his pre-exilic period, he played his own transcriptions of Bach and Debussy in a Salt Lake City synagogue that had been transformed into a pricey watering hole by a nephew of the Shah of Iran. Family Romance is Tom’s twentieth published book

Nick Patterson is a visual artist whose love of twisting minds and turning heads has lead him to explore all the darkness the human experience can muster, through high contrast ink drawings. With no official training in the visual medium, Patterson’s art is loosely tethered to reality, although it is very detailed. His inspiration is drawn from an amalgam of cartoons, comics, and movies. Carrying a sketchbook with him everywhere, he lets no flicker of imagination escape. Nick Patterson’s art has been published in several small magazines and novels. He currently lives in a city full of flowers on the western edge of Canada.
Tom Bradley (text) + Nick Patterson (art) Profile
“exasperating, offensive, pleasurable, and brilliant…it might well be genius”
Family Romance a novel by nick patterson (visuals)and tom bradley (verbals)
SOUND: TBA

“It’s a monstrosity of the imagination as if a Burroughs virus hijacked the machinery of Finnigans Wake and replicated itself as a litera-teratus. Illustrator Nick Patterson joins Bradley in the procedure with ninety disturbing images of Bosch-like detail you don’t want to see on the way home from your local head shop.” —by John Ivan-Palmer, Exquisite Corpse

“Tom Bradley is one of the most exasperating, offensive, pleasurable, and brilliant writers I know. I recommend his work to anyone with spiritual fortitude and a taste for something so strange that it might well be genius.”
—Denis Dutton, Arts & Letters Daily

“I tell you that Dr. Bradley has devoted his existence to writing because he intends for every center of consciousness, everywhere, in all planes and conditions (not just terrestrial female Homo sapiens in breeding prime), to love him forever,
starting as soon as possible, though he’s prepared to wait thousands of centuries after he’s dead.” —Cye Johan, Exquisite Corpse Journal

“The contemporaries of Michelangelo found it useful to employ the term ‘terribilita’ to characterize some of the expressions of his genius, and I will quote it here to sum up the shocking impact of this work as a whole. I read it in a state of fascination, admiration, awe, anxiety, and outrage.” – R.V. Cassill, editor of The Norton Anthology of Fiction

Rick Whitaker

Rick Whitaker is the author of Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling and The First Time I Met Frank O’Hara: Reading Gay American Writers. He is Concerts and Theatre Manager of The Italian Academy at Columbia University, New York.

Rick Whitaker Books

Goodreads Book Giveaway

An Honest Ghost by Rick Whitaker

An Honest Ghost

by Rick Whitaker

Giveaway ends September 30, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

“He has put the force back into tour de force.

— John Ashbery

 

An Honest Ghost

a novel by

Rick Whitaker

 

“Whitaker proves that fiction is better than life—more interesting, much more thrilling”
— Edmund White

“Sheer genius…a uniquely gripping read.”
— Jenny McPhee

“An Honest Ghost is brilliantly conceived and brilliantly performed.”
— Adam Phillips

“Whitaker has performed such a work of genius and pushed it ad absurdum”
— Filip Noterdaeme

About the Book

Within the binary world of coded zeros and ones arises a choir of disembodied literary voices, from William Shakespeare to J. D. Salinger, Gertrude Stein to Susan Sontag, Djuna Barnes to Don DeLillo, and hundreds between and beyond.

Published as an interactive iBook as well as a paperback and ebook, Rick Whitaker’s semi-autobiographical novel, An Honest Ghost, consists entirely of sentences appropriated from over 500 books. Whitaker limited himself to using 300 words per book (in accordance with Fair Use); never taking two sentences together; and never making any changes, even to punctuation. In the iBook version, touching a sentence brings up its original source: a book’s title, author, and page number.

The experience of acknowledging each sentence as literary artifact, combined with the imagined accretion of books that built An Honest Ghost, deftly mirrors the burgeoning nostalgia in the narrator’s voice and, fittingly, in the careful reader’s heart.

 

More Praise for An Honest Ghost

“Reading An Honest Ghost is an exhilarating, percussive experience, proof that literature is capricious and exalted.  I felt like a grand piano some eccentric musician was playing, someone who knew all the composers and couldn’t stick to one for more than a minute. People always praise fiction for being lifelike but Whitaker proves that fiction is better than life—more interesting, much more thrilling, though it is inhabited by posturing, irresponsible, self-dramatizing characters…. The tension and excitement of this prose, constantly buffeting the reader, derives from all the different and unique authors who have contributed to it.”
— Edmund White, author of Jack Holmes and His Friend, My Lives, and A Boy’s Own Story

“Like an Italian micromosaic, whose infinitesimal ceramic tesserae generate an unearthly glow just by being in close proximity to each other, Rick Whitaker’s An Honest Ghost is both narrative and objet, a singular work of art whose singularity keeps beckoning to the reader. He has put the force back into tour de force.
— John Ashbery, poet, Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, Illuminations: Arthur Rimbaud (tranls.), and Collected Poems 1956-87

“An Honest Ghost is brilliantly conceived and brilliantly performed.”
— Adam Phillips, author of Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life and On Kissing, Ticklingand Being Bored

“An Honest Ghost is sheer genius, the uber novel, the ultimate palimpsest. It is a writer’s truth and a reader’s dream. Above all, it is a uniquely gripping read.”
— Jenny McPhee, author of A Man of No Moon and No Ordinary Matter

“I am struck by how deeply personal this book feels, even revelatory, as if the author had solicited other voices to perform an autopsy on his most private, intimate self.  And of course, I relish in this paradox which debunks all conventional notions of authorship, authenticity, identity and even language. What is remarkable is how Whitaker has performed such a work of genius and pushed it ad absurdum: the extreme bending appears effortless and forms a perfect circle, wherein full authorship of book, i.e. all the citations at the end of the book, are truly at the discretion of the reader, with all the responsibilities, pangs and joys this entails.  This time, Whitaker is asking us, readers, to assume the position!”
— Filip Noterdaeme, artist and author of The Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart