Three Thoughts on Leaving the Atocha Station


Leaving the Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner, came out in 2011 on Minneapolis’ own Coffeehouse Press and everybody liked it. And they were right–it’s actually really good new fiction. I’m more (grudgingly) excited about than I am about most of what’s come out in the last three years, and I’m trying as hard as I can to steal from it. 

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Talking Shit About Famous Novels, Dec-Jan

A Modest Allusion

Savage Detectives

I had been told that my novel reminded a reader of Savage Detectives. After reading it that’s praise I think I’d prefer to avoid. What happens in Savage Detectives is the following:

  • 1-150: 17-year-old protagonist joins the ‘visceral realists,’ a poetry  movement helmed by A and U. Is introduced to various debaucheries. Finally departs Mexico City with A, U, and prostitute for Sonoran Desert. Pursued violently by prostitute’s erstwhile employer. Promise of adventuring in the desert; seeking vanished poetic forebear, eluding employer.
  • 151-600: First person anecdotes by various incidental characters from earlier part, mostly Latin American poets living in colorful European poverty. A or U appear frequently as incidental characters in these anecdotes. Anecdotes are from the (near or distant) future, relative to part 1.
  • 600-650: Adventuring in desert. Vanished poetic forebear found. Forebear now corpulent and mostly nonpoetic. Adventuring in desert. Found by employer. Kill employer. Poetic forebear also killed. Vaguely inane thematic gestures towards primacy of drawing as new/improved form of poetry.

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An Open Letter to Kevin Draper on the Topic of Gen. David Petraeus’ Resignation


Drape-a-Drapes (sp?),

Your comment on BJJ’s facebook yesterday morning offered me exactly the worst/best kind of challenge: an irresistibly delightful topic about which I know precisely nothing and am therefore likely to humiliate myself in speculating. This is either helped or worsened by the fact that the topics involved—The Military, Adultery, Marriage, Online Privacy—are frankly incendiary.

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Unpublishables 1: Hard to Look Right

[This is an essay I wrote about Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe. I believe that the essay is of publishable quality but I have no idea where to submit a piece like this–long, self-regarding, devoid of obvious political content, about a pop song. If you have any ideas let me know.]

Somewhere in the verdant center of America a van is driving down a highway. At the center of the back row, a red-hatted man is singing, but the sweet-barbecue voice we hear is (we strongly suspect) not his own, and certainly the friend sleeping on one of his shoulders is not the drummer. As the chorus begins, another friend undocks from behind the seat on his other side. Together they begin a dance: they raise their right fists in unison, then their left, then both together in a crossed x. They do not sing the chorus. An emerger from the middle of the next row forwards sings the next verse; his row joins him for the chorus. And so on.

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Three Thoughts on Motherless Brooklyn*

Motherless Brooklyn is a novel from 1999 by a writer named Jonathan Lethem. In the first pages of the novel a small-time Brooklyn gangster called Frank Minna comes to an unhappy end. The remainder of the novel occupies itself with the narrator’s predominantly Brooklyn-oriented attempt to understand who killed Frank Minna and why. The narrator is a now-adult orphan in Minna’s employ, which explains the title. The narrator also has Tourette’s syndrome, which explains almost everything else about the book.

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A Cause, Looking for an Effect

A good friend texted on hurricane Friday, reassuring me she was prepared: “I bought some unperishables. And boots.” How perfectly natural—we had been hearing for days how important it was to be prepared with food and water. And good boots were a necessity even without a hurricane.

What was a hurricane in Manhattan?

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Predestination (GT 2)

Evidence against PredestinationIn 2002, a biomedical engineering student at Case Western Reserve released a 10-track album of sampled music entitled Secret Diary. It was not a success. Amazon’s customers have blessed it with 11 1-star reviews out of 17–and this is not a case of a critical success unappreciated by the masses: Splendid compared it to the sound of someone ‘attempting to get his sampler to work,’ Popbunker (in a retrospective review) found it ‘runs [your] eardrums through a tree mulcher.’ Sputnikmusic termed it ‘genuinely unlistenable,’ and the best praise AMG could come up with was that it ‘impressed many in the electronic noise community.’ But don’t take their word for it: have a listen–it’s the first song.

8 years later, having quit his day job, Girl Talk released All Day, which earned an 8.2 from Pitchfork and an A from Robert Christgau.

Why is this story so surprising?

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Authenticity (GT 1)

Authenticity in America

A representative photograph of Girl Talk.

You’ll have seen the picture: in the midst of a throng of dancing people is a single white man, often shirtless. Perhaps he has a beard, perhaps not. If there is no beard there is certainly his hair. It is wet; it is soaked in sweat. More than likely it is flying as he shakes his head from side to side. His eyes are closed in ecstasy, or open in furious dedication. He is climbing atop a table, he is bent over a laptop. He is Girl Talk.

What does it mean to be ‘authentic’ in America?

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