An Actual Person in a Concrete Interview Situation: Talking Books With Blake Middleton

"Actual Person" cover

I am an actual person in a concrete historical situation. So are you, and that guy? Over there? Yep. Same. Look at us. Just some actual people in a concrete historical situation. Seems obvious, but, really, I mean, is it? When’s the last time you thought about being an actual person in a concrete historical situation? Actual stuff – life stuff – situated in some broader context. Your birth and death and the stuff in between. That’s all it is, and you’re doing it. Thanks for spending some of it reading this introduction with me. Let me tell you something.

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“Music Felt For Us, Was Ecstatic For Us”: An Interview With Lars Iyer

Lars Iyer

Like a lot of my favorite books, I bought Spurious by Lars Iyer partially due to the cover design – two plastic bags hovering provocatively on the edge of a parking lot (Melville House can really do a good book cover). But, like with all of my favorite books, what was inside the book changed my life. This book (and the rest of the Spurious Trilogy – Exodus and Dogma) oozed a sticky, refreshing style that completely shook me. I quickly became obsessed – with the culmination of the staccato chapters, with the overbearing third-person presence of the shit-talking W., with the unending push behind every idea that propels every image to its bleak, (il)logical extensions. I also loved this book for the unique central characters and their obsessions – two academics in philosophy who acknowledge that “the corpse of the university floats face down in the water”, who are also then “poking it with sticks,” and, of course, who talk unendingly about Kafka and Joy Division.

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The Barn Interview: Zac Smith and Lindsay Lerman on Books and Blurbs and Backgrounds

Two book covers

Hello my name is Zac and I have a book up for pre-order from CLASH Books. About a month ago, like all authors trying to promote a new book via live readings, I started looking into 1) what cool cities I’ll be in/near in the coming months and 2) which cool friends or potential friends live in those cities. And I discovered that 1) I was planning on going to Richmond, VA for Thanksgiving this year and 2) Lindsay Lerman, whose debut novel I’m From Nowhere was just released by CLASH, lives in Richmond. Obviously what followed was a riveting tale of burgeoning friendship and authorial cross-promotion: we read each other’s books, we started planning a reading, Lindsay wrote a strikingly kind blurb for my book, I agreed to write a blurb for her book’s second run, and, of greatest benefit to you, the reader, we found ourselves in a conversation that could, given some more structure and copyediting, culminate in a nice, formal, literary interview. And well looky here, we got ourselves a nice, formal, literary interview. We got ourselves two authors in conversation, talking about things like books and philosophy and ecological disaster and All the hits. Everything you could ask for.

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“I Wanted It To Be Like a Country Song”: An Interview With Noah Cicero

Noah Cicero

Noah Cicero has written several books. I find great comfort in Noah’s ouvre, in the sense that he has never seemed interested in limiting himself to a particular type of story. The Human War was an influential, early-millennial beat-style meditation that unsarcastically grapples with the pointlessness of war, while Go to Work… is basically a political action-thriller, replete with government conspiracies and a firefight. There’s the philosophical discussion of Buddhism in Blood-Soaked Buddha/Hard Earth Pascal. There’s both lost-love poetry (Bipolar Cowboy) and bleak observational poetry (Nature Documentary). There’s a menagerie of stories, snippets, eBooks, collected works, all testaments to Noah boldly exploring new territory without any sense of self-doubt or obligation to construct some kind of “brand.” And so now there’s Give it to the Grand Canyon, which is a deeply personal, plainly written travelogue about living and working in the Grand Canyon National Park. From the casual discussions of how one goes about getting a job there (they will hire anyone) to how one goes about getting to the job there (a lot of driving, no matter where you’re coming from) to how one goes about, well, doing the job there (serving ice cream to disappointed tourists), Noah’s story is a relentlessly realistic collection of vignettes. What I mean is that there are no twists, no manufactured dramas, no heroic deeds, but instead everything – from the unadultered danger and beauty of the canyon itself to the vague interpersonal relationships among the staff – is written as it is experienced, is remarked upon as it happens, is left to fizzle or ferment without any constructed symbolism or structure.

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“It’s Like Getting to Pittsburgh”: An Interview With Bud Smith

About two years ago I left grad school and got a big boy job. And it was as if someone flipped a switch behind the scenes of my life: all of a sudden, I felt free. And for the first time in a long while, I was able to read books. I could read for fun. I could read without having to worry about wasting time, without having to feel guilty about reading for no other reason than to enjoy it. So I bought books, I bought them from all kinds of stores, from websites, from yard sales. It was great, and I was constantly looking for new stuff to read but didn’t know what to look for. Then I realized that back when I did read books – back before grad school – I had briefly touched upon this world of independent literature that felt so wild and free. So I went back to see what was up, to see what I should be reading, and by convoluted paths over recommendations and tracing out who’s friends with who and mapping out which presses put out which books and etc. and so on, I remember at some point just staring at the evocative and bold cover of Double Bird on the Maudlin House website and thinking “I bet this is good.” Then I looked up some of Bud’s writing and decided “ok, yeah, this is good,” and ordered the dang thing.

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“Like a Horizontally Splayed Flying Squirrel in Zero Gravity”: An Interview With Benjamin DeVos

I bought Benjamin DeVos’s Lord of the Game a few months ago for a couple reasons. I mean, it’s got a sick title. It’s got a Sam Pink painting on the cover. And my wife was gonna go into labor at any time, and so I needed a fresh smallie to take with me to the hospital. I never did get a chance to open it up in the hospital (a birth is a very exciting time, you might be surprised to find out), so instead I opted to read it out loud to this new infant daughter of mine during our formative midnight hangout sessions. We both loved it. Well, I loved it. She mostly slept through it. And the same thing with DeVos’s more comedic The Bar is Low and his strange, nihilist, subversive, satirical collection Madness Has a Moment and Then Vanishing Before Returning Again. We had a blast, in our own ways.

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“‘Adventures in Babysitting’ is a Classical Text”: An Interview with Big Bruiser Dope Boy

Big Bruiser Dope Boy’s debut poetry collection, Foghorn Leghorn, cannot be sold on Something about the cover, they said, something about the beloved, Southern-fried Looney Tunes chicken taking a big load on the face, something about that being too problematic for our nation’s youth who are otherwise looking to buy dildos and erotic fanfiction ebooks. So, if you want the brooding, complex poetry that haunts these pages, you gotta find it somewhere else. No two-day shipping on this hot piece of poetry, no algorithmically generated recommendations to clutter shit up. This is poetry in, poetry out. Fuck you.

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“I Am Not a Nostalgic Person”: An Interview With Brian Alan Ellis

Brian Alan Ellis is both a prolific writer and champion of other prolific writers, releasing knock-out books by the likes of Noah Cicero, Sam Pink, Bud Smith (through House of Vlad Productions) between publishing his own steady stream of wry, scuzzy poetry and flash fiction.

His most recent book, Sad Laughter, is a cavalcade of witty one-liners, shitposts, and disarmingly funny micro-commentaries on the current state of indie publishing. Between bad band name puns and evocative new manifestations of a writer’s quiet desperation, Ellis breaks down the everyday absurdities behind trends like #AmWriting with the grace and power of Rob Van Dam’s Five Star Frog Splash. But, in line with the master-your-craft ethos behind professional wrestling, Ellis’s piledrives are safely choreographed and, dare I say, delivered with love.

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