Saturday, October 23, 2010


It’s a new NOӦ contest!
Do you need a Hug?
How about a good old fashioned smothering?
You do? That’s great, ‘cuz we’re giving ‘em away,
400 pages worth of Hugs! For free!

Here’s what it is:
(Warning: this book may or may not be full of tiny plastic bears, so open at your own risk)

Here’s where you can get it:

Here's what the jacket (not a members only) has to say about it:
"Selected from the range of Cooper's essays and reportage in Artforum, Bookforum, Detour, Interview, LA Weekly, Spin, and the Village Voice, among other publications, Smothered in Hugs presents the best nonfiction of one of America's greatest writers. Cooper has written on grave social issues, producing touchstone pieces for a generation of readers. His obituaries for Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, and William S. Burroughs offer portraits that are both crystallizing and appropriately indefinite. His reckonings of contemporary writers are astute and unsparing. And, of course, he serves as witness to the work and play of an illustrious roster of cultural personalities—and does so with an acuity and fairness missing from most pop culture criticism."

And here’s Mr. Cooper’s The Snow Globe for the uninitiated, or the memory-challenged, which you can see read taste smell hear in NOӦ 11:


A SHAKY FLASHLIGHT BEAM illuminates a stiff. Is that the boy you hit? It’s prone beneath the snow wearing your overcoat and dirty, scotch-taped glasses. Yes, sir

He had a deep depression, the worst one in our short lives’ storied history. It reduced him to a speck. The storm helped. That snowball hid a rock.

You froze to death ten feet from here under white out conditions. It took years, this glass of scotch, and a cheap crystal ball to find the body.

He hobbled through a blur and hurled his snowball at my head. That missed. Later, he’s lit by a jittering beam. Once this ugly little globe was the whole earth.


Here’s what you need to do:
Post a comment by: November 15th,
on the topic of:
Craziest dreams you've had involving literary figures
That’s it! You can even make something up! Now, get busy dreaming!


Times Ticking Past Ahead: Tinkers by Paul Harding

“Remember the night of deliverance when – your unraveled body falling away like a veil – you breathed a little of the incorruptible air; and remember the sticky animals that seized you again”

- René Daumal

If Cyndi Lauper were to write a novel, I doubt it would read anything like Paul Harding’s Tinkers. Still, reading the novel, I can’t help but think just how much Lauper’s song “Time after Time” is a perfect microcosm of Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning opus. I can hear the calls of “sacrilege!” ringing out throughout the tinny tubes of the interwebs, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tinkers is about connections, and how they hold our lives, our minds, and the very universe itself together. So it’s only natural that my brain tracks this seminal work to something as random as an 80’s hit pop song, right? Tinkers is a meditation on the life of one family, specifically, a father and son, and their nearly lifelong disconnection and eventual reunion. Harding tinkers with the connections between man and mind, father and son, husband and wife, time and timelessness, with the same steady handedness that the horologist protagonist, George Washington Crosby utilizes in the taking-apart and putting-back-together-again of the guts of clocks.
The sublimity and clarity of Harding’s narrative occurs precisely everywhere, everywhen. His prose shines bright as an epileptic’s fit, specifically that of Howard Aaron Crosby, a tinker and George’s estranged father, whose life we see in flashback, reverse engineered for our reading pleasure. We even get a glimpse of his relationship with his father, burrowing further and further into this wormhole of family and time. Harding takes care to craft his singular mix of prose and poetry with the elegance and precision expected of one attempting to measure life and the universe with the gilded calipers of his words, to borrow an image from William James’ painting Urizen as the Creator of the World. The written word, here, takes the place of law and reason on either side of those mythic calipers. But what does it mean to measure a man, a life, or a universe? For Harding, that means taking apart the mystery, to see what makes it tick, but never giving away its secrets. He keeps those locked up in the imaginal realm, somewhere between the forests of cognition through which Crosby rides and the rivers of the unconscious through which the reader must wade.

He tinkered. Tin pots, wrought iron. Solder melted and cupped in a clay dam. Quicksilver patchwork. Occasionally, a pot hammered back flat, the tinkle of tin sibilant, tiny beneath the lid of the boreal forest. Tinkerbird, coppersmith, but mostly a brush and mop drummer.”

The floating consciousness of a dying George Washington Crosby frames the narrative of his father Howard’s life, as an epileptic and tinker, who left his wife and son, under fear of being committed. It also touches on the life of Howard’s father’s, a preacher who, as his faculties began to go, openly speculated to his congregation about how maybe the devil wasn’t such a bad guy after all. So, three generations of New England fathers and sons are caught in this strange loop of estrangement. It is meticulously detailed, painted in lush brush strokes and finally played out with a warm, ferocious detachment in a final reunion scene between George and Howard, flashbacked and forwarded by father and son, respectively. It is a quiet scene of understated emotion and wormhole beauty. This scene of Howard’s brief reconciliation with his son, if only for a few fleeting moments, if only to leave as quickly as he came in, represents the most delicate of truths, applicable to all of our lives - that we never can truly know one another and no matter how connected we are, there is always some level of separation, and there will always be some form of disconnect. The metaphor encompasses all, and the narrative, like a clock, is ticking past ahead.
Into the river Lethe, repeatedly, Howard Aaron and George Washington Crosby dip their toes, feeling for temperature, testing it for comfort and clarity, only to forget their place, their person. But they don’t forget each other, or their collective story. And neither shall we, even if we do, for the artifice is almost done; you can smell it all the way upstairs - the burning bacon and eggs smell of synapses misfiring, then firing for the last time, and snapping off their connections with one another, forever, their long fingered tendrils waving good bye like jelly fish limbs in slow motion underwater tango moments.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meet Todd Orchulek!

Todd is the new NOÖ Journal/Magic Helicopter Press intern. He is a student at UMass-Amherst and a Massachusetts native. He applied to be an intern and I hired him when we started talking about John Hawkes's The Lime Twig. Todd is a human person and not a twig or citrus. Besides doing behind-the-scenes stuff, you'll see him here on the blog keeping things active: interviewing NOÖ contributors, reviewing books, highlighting cool stuff from other literary journals, and running sweet contests. Want to know more? Yeah, so did I. Here is my interview with Todd:

Hi Todd. Where did you grow up? What is one interesting character you remember from your hometown?

I grew up in Ludlow, Ma. and still live there. One interesting character that can still be seen riding through the area on occasion would have to be “The Can Man.” He rides around on a beat up old mountain bike, digging through trash cans and dumpsters with a gaff, with duct tape all over his shoes and pants. That, in and of itself probably wouldn’t make him all that interesting of a character (gaff notwithstanding), but knowing that he is a retired telephone company worker who drives around in a BMW in the daytime makes him, I think, possibly, some kind of super-hero/vigilante, fighting evil doers and non-recyclers alike at night, while living a life of luxury during the daytime.

What are some of your favorite books?

That would have to include just about anything by Kurt Vonnegut, Denis Johnson, John Hawkes, Philip K Dick, William Gibson, Hunter Thompson, James Joyce, Alex Garland, Jean Paul Sartre, E.E. Cummings, Jonathan Lethem, Robert Olen Butler and C.G. Jung.

When did you first realize that these squiggles called writing could affect people in real ways?

Probably the first time I heard Christopher Walken recite “The Raven.” Or, more likely, the first time I read a Robert Frost poem. It was eye-opening.

What is your favorite meal?

That’s easy: mixed vegetables in garlic sauce and General Tso's chicken from the Great Wall in Chicopee. I hope that gets me a free meal.

You used to manage a gas station. Do you have any crazy gas station stories?

I would use the term “manage” loosely, but yes, I do have some stories. One time, for instance, I watched as a 95 year old woman lost control of her car on the street adjoining the place and swerved directly into the express lube—you know, one of those oil change buildings with open doors and open floors, going about 35 mph. She slammed into the car that was in the bay, pushing it and the car behind it out into the parking lot, and in the process somehow managed to half submerge her car in the bay, so it was teetering half-in, half-out. All the while, she had the accelerator pinned to the floor. So the engine was roaring, the tires were still spinning like mad, and the guy who was working downstairs had just narrowly avoided being decapitated. We had to get her out of the car, and then fish the car out of the bay. So I can say, ‘I once caught a fish this big,’ in all seriousness. There was also the time that a beat up old Pinto pulled up to the pumps engulfed in flames because, you know, what better place to park your car when it’s engulfed in flames than at the gas pumps?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Two new Drunk Sonnet write-ups

Some Drunk Sonnet news from the interwebs. At Molossus, Vlad Osso writes: "The accomplishment of Bailey’s all-caps sonnets ... transcend the gimmick of their genesis to achieve a sort of beauty that aches with simple honesty."

Meanwhile, on his blog, Zachary Whalen writes: "This book is like a crazy homeless man that runs into your bedroom screaming and distributing Xeroxed pamphlets in a haphazard fashion, but somehow he ends up becoming your best friend and you ride a Ferris wheel together and you both stare off at the distant lights of the earth and the stars in the sky and contemplate the mistakes you've made in your respective lives in a calm, accepting manner."

Thanks Vlad and Zachary!

If you haven't already picked up a copy of The Drunk Sonnets, you should soon, because we're almost sold out of the first run.