Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Featured Writers and Artists

The Featured Artist section on the Ninth Letter website has been an integral part of 9L's web presence, so when we wanted to expand the scope of our original online content, it seemed only natural to open that section to include writers as well. We are thrilled to announce the section will now be known as Featured Writers and Artists! Pieces featured in this section can't be found in the print edition of Ninth Letter. These are Ninth Letter web exclusives.

The inaugural piece, "Tempus Fugitive" is actually a collaboration between 9L contributor Bryan Furuness (more on him in a second) and three other writers, Sarah Layden, Andrew Scott, and Matthew Simmons. The piece is a series of letters written to the Tempus Fugit corporation explaining how the writer of the letter would utilize the company's time travel technology. We love it. We hope you enjoy it, so let us know what you think.

As mentioned above, Bryan Furuness appeared in vol. 6, no. 1 of the print edition with his amazing story "Man of Steel." I also had a chance to interview him about the story for an edition of 5 (or so) Questions. "Man of Steel" is featured in the just released Best American Nonrequired Reading. To celebrate all this Bryan Furuness goodness and to continue with our Fall Back Sale event, below is an excerpt from "Man of Steel."

A commercial changed my life when I was ten years old. I was watching television in my living room, which really meant that I was tossing a basketball in the air distractedly while slipping in and out of daydreams. Sometimes, during commercials, I would sink so far inside my own head that by the time the show came back on, I would have forgotten what I was watching. But this commercial caught my attention. I don't remember what it was selling, but the product's beside the point; the point is the commercial itself.

It began with strange, warbly music and then, rising from a kind of fog, a simple pencil sketch of a man's face, but then it wasn't a man's face at all: it was a creature with large, almond-shaped eyes and a rigid brow and pointy chin. This, said a voice -- deep and pleasant to listen to -- was a creature from outer space, an alien, a traveler from a distant star. "Who knows," said the voice, "what's really out there?"

The basketball fell out of my hands and dribbled away across the carpet. Now a woman looked straight at the camera -- into me -- and explained how, on an ordinary morning, she'd suddenly felt a blast of burning pain in her hand, when, at that exact moment, a thousand miles away, her son had burned himself on the stove.
"Coincidence?" said the voice.
I shook my head.

To read the rest of "Man of Steel" pick up a copy of vol. 6, no. 1 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Contributor News

9L Featured Artist Deke Weaver's The Unreliable Bestiary: Elephant will be presented by The University of Illinois Art + Design department from Thursday, September 23 - Monday, September, 27. Performances will be in the Stock Pavilion (1402 W. Pennsylvania, Urbana) and begin at 8pm. Jim Elkins from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will moderate a discussion after Monday's performance. All of the events are free and open to the public.

Congratulations to Khaled Mattawa (vol. 6, no. 2) for receiving the 2010 Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. He will be honored at the 4th annual Poets Forum, October 28-30, in New York City where he will read from his work and participate in panel discussions.

Kim Dana Kupperman (vol. 4, no. 1) will be reading at Boulevard Books & Cafe in Brooklyn, NY on Friday, September 24 at 7pm to promote her excellent new book of essays, I've Only Recently Started Buying Wings.

Vol. 6, no. 2 contributor Benjamin Percy's second novel, Red Moon, was picked up by Grand Central. The book is described as "a timely reinvention of the werewolf myth." Percy's first novel, The Wilding will be released next week. Congratulations!

The Rumpus Book Club has chosen Adam Levin's (vol. 1, no. 1) debut novel, The Instructions, as their next book club pick. Sign up for the book club by 3pm(pst) today to receive the book an entire month before it's released!

Now is a good time to check back in with 7 days, 7 artists, 7 rings, the ongoing writer/artist collaborative project created by Nicole Walker (vol. 4, no. 1) and Rebecca Campbell.

In other news, tonight is the first VOICE reading of the semester at The Krannert Museum of Art in Champaign. U of I MFAers Angie Hine (poetry), Max Somers (poetery), and Eric Tanyavutti (fiction) will read from their work. The event starts at 7:30 and is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Today we continue with our Fall Back Sale event and throw the spotlight on another great piece from vol. 6, no. 1 (on sale for $5.95!) with an excerpt from J. Nicholas Geist's wonderful gaming essay "Completion." Of course, it is about so much more. Hope you enjoy it.

Fight Night: Round 3

My roommate Jose shook his head at me as I held the power button down on my XBox. A Mills Lane lookalike loomed blurrily on my screen, and my TV's speakers shouted numbers at me -- 8...9...10. A bell. An announcer screamed out my loss to an imaginary crowd, before the hum of the console's fan clicked quiet and the announcer surrendered to silence.
"What?" I asked, a challenge in my voice.
"It's weird to me that you play like that," Jose said.
"Why?" I asked, as the fan whirred back into action, the pixels swimming back to life on the screen.
"Because. You lost. Why'd you start over?"
"Because. I lost. Why wouldn't I start over?"

We are at an impasse. We've had this conversation on more than one occasion, over more than one game. Tonight, it's Fight Night; last night, Madden NFL 06; tomorrow, who knows. That our differences on this matter are fundamental, however, does not mean that we'll stop talking about this. Ever.
"You're supposed to lose. It's supposed to be hard," Jose said.
"I know."
"So why restart?"
"Because otherwise the loss gets recorded."
"But that's exactly the point -- restarting doesn't mean it didn't happen."
"Yeah it does. It does for the game."
And so on, interminably, until the end of time.

If life were a game, I would restart the conversation each time, carefully crafting each word, judging the tone of my voice with a pitch pipe, tweaking and tweaking until Jose understood.

The Now Habit

Not long ago, I purchased Neil Fiore's The Now Habit. Since, I have preached its myriad glories to all who would listen, and several who would not. Fiore's slim volume -- purchased as a part of my ongoing quest to actually accomplish...well, anything, really -- reached deep to the core of my procrastination and throttled it like a snake in thick, unyielding fists. Sadly, the book lost interest and wandered off long before the thing was actually slain, and is currently buried somewhere under the Saharan drifts of unfinished (and, in some cases, unbegun) work that accrete on my desk. Which I've been meaning to clean up. (Upon these ironies I meditate like koans.)

Fiore suggests that procrastination is motivated primarily by fear of failure, and more specifically by perfectionism. It was somewhat discomforting to hear a man I'd never met describe my deepest flaws with incisive, unrelenting accuracy.
"You believe that even the smallest error could be evidence that you are a worthless and awful person," Fiore told me.
"That's not true," I said. "It would be evidence that I am a worthless and awful person."
"It is difficult for you to accept yourself as you are -- imperfect and human," he suggested.
"I accept that I'm imperfect," I said. "I simply avoid those areas in which I am not likely to succeed." Or, I suppose, I ignore them while they heap up on my desk.
"You feel any criticism, rejection, or judgment by others as a threat to your very tenuous grasp on perfection," he intimated.

I shifted my weight, as an alternative to answering. I shifted it again, to emphasize.

Fiore did not respond, because books are insensitive to the subtleties of weight-shifting.

To read the rest of "Completion" and to check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, pick up a copy of vol. 6, no. 1 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


One of Ninth Letter's founding editors, Joseph Squier, has a new art project, FLAGRANTWORLD. Joseph describes the project as "...part poem, painting, sound, song, cinema. Utilizing programming tools and database concepts, it assembles snippets of images, video, text, and audio on the fly and in real time, creating a kind of hybrid narrative that is dynamic and unpredictable."

It's a very cool project and one you should check out right away!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fall Back Sale

Cool, crisp air, apple cider, Halloween -- there's so much to enjoy about fall. In fact, we like it so much, we're going to take a look back at some recent issues and offer a featured issue at a discount. We're calling it the Fall Back Sale. This month, we'll feature the spring/summer 2009 (vol. 6, no. 1) issue, which will be on sale for $5.95, instead of $9.95 (ordering instructions available after the excerpt).

The first excerpt is from Margot Livesey's short story, "Mr. Clark's Daughter."

When I saw the dark windows of my father's house, I turned and retraced my steps down the short street of elderly people and made my way to Perth Station. Despite the November weather I knew I would find him at the far end of platform 4, pursuing his mysterious hobby. During the last few months I had accompanied him here so often that the ticket collector nodded me through the barrier. On the main part of the platform travelers waited for the next train to Glasgow but for the train spotters the whole notion of travel was irrelevant. Their territory was a concrete peninsula, stretching out amidst the converging rails to that neglected part of the station where, in summer, wild lupins sprang up between the sleepers. I passed the freight office and there was my father, studying his train spotters' guide.

Even from a distance he was an odd distinctive figure, somewhere between gentleman and tramp. Over his good suit he wore a raincoat of immense shabbiness, and his white hair, without my mother to chivvy him to the barbers, straggled to his shoulders. He had grown up in Lancashire but his high coloring and blue eyes made most people think he was Scottish. While he read, the Gordon twins circled him, making jabbing motions with their hands and feet. Perhaps they were dancing, or practicing kung fu. The few other train spotting boys I had met had been painfully earnest, wearing thick glasses and anoraks, but the twins sported leather jackets and tattoos; Raymond, the older by eight minutes, had a nose ring.
"Dad," I said. "Walter."
"Elspeth, I'd forgotten you were coming. We were waiting for the Highland Chieftain. Raymond thinks it might be a Class '26' with a Sulzer engine."

The twins gyrated away, still kicking, and I sat down on the single bench. My father joined me, and stared off down the tracks. I knew he was not pleased to see me -- we were in the middle of an argument -- and I, in turn, stared at the ground. A fleck of white landed on the toe of my black boots, then another. I counted thirty-one snowflakes, the age I would be on my next birthday, before my father relented.

Read the rest of "Mr. Clark's Daughter" and check out all the awesome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction by picking up a copy of vol. 6, no. 1 in our webstore. To get it for $5.95, choose, "sample copy, editor's choice" and enter "fall back sale" in the special instructions box.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Contributor News

Here's a round-up of where and when you can find some of our contributors.

Brian Evenson (vol. 2, no. 2) will be a faculty member for Disquiet: Dzanc Books International Literary Program in Lisbon, June 19 - July 1, 2011. Applications are being accepted now. For more information on applications and scholarships, check out the Disquiet website.

Check out The New York Times profile of Ander Monson (vol. 1, no. 2 & vol. 6, no. 2).

Two 9Lers have new books coming out soon. Adam Levin's (vol. 1, no. 1) The Instructions will be released on October 22 and Benjamin Percy's (vol. 6, no. 2) The Wilding on September 28.

John Murillo (vol. 4, no. 1) will be reading as part of the Poetry Reading Series at the Pacific Standard Bar in Brooklyn, NY on September 16 at 7pm.

Speaking of readings, a few contributors will be in Urbana-Champaign in the upcoming months as part of The Carr Readings Series. G.C. Waldrep, who appeared most recently in Ninth Letter's current issue, vol. 7, no. 1, will read on October 19. Cathy Day (vol. 6, no. 2) and Angela Woodward (vol. 7, no. 1) will read on November 16. All readings are at 4:30 in the Author's Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

5 or so questions with Tim Parrish

As promised, here is 9L staffer Eduardo Gabrieloff's interview with Tim Parrish, where they discuss Parrish's essay from the current issue of Ninth Letter, "Southern Men: 1958-1968." I'll keep my preamble short and let you get right to their discussion.

9L: Your essay explores racism from a much-less explored angle: a child being taught how to be racist. How do you feel this fits in our country's exploration of racism?

Tim Parrish: I don't believe there actually is much serious exploration of racism in our country, at least not outside people focused on the matter. Most people don't, I think, see the pay off in such a discussion, and they settle for easy caricatures, like, "I don't burn crosses so I'm not a racist," or "That person is a racist and therefore should be flatly condemned." People are afraid of the stigma that admitting, or even come close to admitting, that they are racists brings. Our culture definitely holds, pardon me, a somewhat black-and-white way of seeing racism, as if most people would choose to be one and then are irredeemable if they are, rather than someone admitting, like I hope I do, that I was raised as a racist and racism is still part of my wiring. In some ways, confronting racism is like confronting alcoholism -- you have to admit you have it, take a look at it, and then constantly work on it. So I believe there's a lot of denial and condemnation, which leads to easy positions of self-protection and self-righteousness, but do nothing to encourage introspection or a deep understanding of the complicated, often-nuanced causes and manifestations of racism.

9L: Was it hard to not try to play yourself or your family off more sympathetically?

TP: Yes. Writing this memoir is the most difficult writing I've ever done. The challenges are to be honest without being exploitative or sensationalistic, and to show people's complexities. It's hard to reveal myself and my family in ways that are shameful and will certainly cause discord, but I chose the subject matter because I believe it's important and so it's my responsibility to get to the truth. I hate memoirs and fiction that blatantly sentimentalize people and avoid hard truths. Quite simply, those books are lies.

9L: How do you think your piece relates to people today? Mainly, I mean in terms of terrorism, and how we currently think of terrorism.

TP: The book in its entirety is very much about how fear can be manipulated to justify attacking others, especially if those others can be cast as different and a threat to our way of life. The book actually came out of the aftermath of 9-11, when the Bush Administration's use of jingoism and a holy-war mentality brought back a lot of my upbringing and actions. I was raised in a racist church that yearned for an apocalypse in which two clearly-delineated sides battle it out and the righteous side is embraced by god. Then, when I was terrorized by some outlaws at 13, I began looking for someone to protect me and that person turned out to be a brutal racist who offered a false sense of protection if I allied myself with his violence. I wanted a simple solution to my fear, which is what people want in dealing with terrorism, but which is obviously impossible.

9L: You end your piece showing how you lost out due to racism. How do you think your family lost out, aside from the lack of swimming?

TP: Obviously, everybody loses because of racism; most severely, the people who are the object of it, be it personal or institutional. It's difficult to say in a brief space how my family and I "lost out" due to racism, but I guess the simplest way to say it is we all suffered from the moral poverty and toxic rage that comes from harboring stereotypes and trying to generalize and blame people simply because they're different from us. Racism is corrosive to the spirit and to a full experience of the world. It makes us react to the world hatefully and fearfully, which is not a healthy way to react, especially when there is a true threat and we need all our faculties and judgment intact. My family's and my racism makes me very sad.

9L: How have you considered your family in what you've written, and how have they reacted to this piece and to your book?

TP: I'm not quite sure what you mean by "considered," but I always think of my family and how something I write will affect them. I do want to protect them, and I do as much as I'm able, while still telling the truth as I see it.

My family doesn't tend to read my work, and this book isn't yet published and doesn't have a publisher (it has several agent rejections, so if there are any agents or publishing houses interested, please contact me!). Their reaction to my story collection was mixed and even unknowable. My middle brother, who is the basis for the character Bob in the book, was very supportive, although we did have some intense discussions. My oldest brother said he didn't read it, but his wife told him that my depiction (highly fictional, by the way) of our parents was "hateful." I'm not sure my father read it. I found the paperback of it stacked with other books in the garage, but at least it was on top of Ann Coulter's and Bill O'Reilly's books!

Thank you to Tim Parrish for taking the time to speak with 9L and for such a great discussion! To read "Southern Men: 1958-1968," pick up a copy of Ninth Letter (vol. 7, no. 1) in our webstore.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Southern Men 1958-1968

The next edition of 5 or so questions will feature 9L staffer Eduardo Gabrieloff's interview with Tim Parrish, author of the essay "Southern Men 1958-1968," which is featured in the current issue of Ninth Letter. In order to give the interview better context, here is an excerpt from the essay.

Baton Rouge burned at night. Or so it seemed to me. From the top bunk above my brother Olan, I watched the flarestacks at the plants by the river spit flame into a salmon sky. Along the horizon the fat burn-off clouds pulsed pink. My imagination turned it all into the approaching apocalypse our pastor invoked at least every fourth Sunday. Yet I know the flames were simply part of the neighborhoods two miles away, where my parents had lived when only other whites lived there, the flames part of the plants like the one my daddy worked in thirty miles downriver.

Sometimes hard rains rose into our yard and slipped beneath the front door onto our living room floor. My friends and I waded through the dark oily floods, our parents yelling for us to be careful of drains sucking us down, our eyes scanning for red ants and roaches riding sticks or leaves and ready to land on our legs. People paddled flat-bottomed bateaus down the street. Once, a bass boat motored past sending its wake against our house.

Still, our street seemed a small island in a working-class neighborhood where poverty and abuse lurked but were rarely spoken about. Of course those things existed on our street, too, but my parents tried to protect my two older brothers and me from them. The violence I saw around me was minor, like the fights my friends and I had, wrestling with a few roundhouse punches and handshakes after, fights with reasons and endings. The adults were plant workers, school teachers, state employees, cops, and firemen. We all went to church and loved Jesus a little bit more than we loved LSU football. We stood up for ourselves. We disliked and distrusted blacks.

For a while I didn't see any contradictions.
5 or so questions with Tim Parrish will be posted on Thursday. To read the rest of "Southern Men 1958-1968" check out the current issue of Ninth Letter (vol. 7, no. 1).

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Reading Period Open!

Our reading period is now open! Check out the guidelines and then head on over to our submission manager. If you prefer to send us paper submissions, we still accept materials by mail. Send us your best, most intriguing work. We look forward to reading it.

To celebrate the beginning of the reading period, here is an interview with 9L contributor Bryan Furuness. His story "Man of Steel" appeared in vol. 6, no. 1 and will be included in the next Best American Non-Required Reading!