The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories – Renee Nicholson

steve almond

“… so long as we are possessed by experience that is distinguished by its intensity and its episodic nature, we will have the short story in our literature.” John Cheever, “Why I Write Short Stories” in Newsweek, October 30, 1978.

The characters in Steve Almond’s new collection of stories can be described, on the whole, as being possessed by their experience. Cheever’s discussion of the form of a short story is important to this collection because it sums up not only why short stories continue to be relevant, but explain why these short stories are relevant.

Most of what has been written about Almond’s writing includes discussions about his humor, wit and sensuality. This is a self evident fact of Almond’s craft. But what makes a collection more interesting to read is when the reader is confronted by that intense event, and that author captures this intensity of that episode, that moment in time with all its implications and revelations. In The Evil B. B. Chow and Other Stories, Almond gives us these moments and unifies them with a single theme – vulnerability.

The Evil B. B. Chow and Other Stories also expands Almond’s range from his last short story collection, My Life In Heavy Metal, which, in my opinion, was a very strong collection. In the new book, however, Almond takes on new and more extraordinary challenges. One such challenge is the creations of a historical fiction about President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Lincoln, to many, is an American hero, and in his own acknowledgements at the end of the collection, Almond writes, “… last but not least, Abraham Lincoln, a man of astonishing eloquence and moral courage, who died, many years ago, for the sins of this country.” In “Lincoln, Arisen” Almond does not confront the issues or stature of the President Lincoln, as he presents two men as men. The fact that they are famous, historical figures informs our reading of the story, but the focus is the stark recognition that great men are still, in fact, just men, with emotions and fears and fallibility – and the need to pee. Perhaps they are better for the fact that they can be two men floating down t river on a raft.

Completely different from historical fiction, “I Am As I Am” confronts the vulnerability of a child who accidentally hits another boy in the head with a bat during a neighborhood baseball game. The boy he hits dies from the blow. Our protagonist, Eric, is unable to express sorrow or grief for what happens because his parents, an overprotective, chain smoking, uptight mother and a prideful father, try to shield him from the event and make his life, “normal.” In doing so, they cause Eric to be scarred by his actions on a deep and personal level. We get the story, third person limited, from Eric’s perspective, feeling with him the loss of innocence that this one accidental occurrence makes is his life. But what’s truly lamentable are the actions of his parents to protect him, which ultimately make the incident worse:

“Eric wanted to speak to someone, his father or Stevie Hayes, or even his little brother. He thought about heading outside, but was suddenly frightened someone would see him, that there would be a commotion. The feeling reminded him of having the chicken pox, a kind of quarantine.”

As his parents reassure him that he is popular, handsome and smart, Eric comes to realize those things as the obligations to them. Only alone is he able to be remorseful and grieve. This isn’t just some sort of requisite baseball-themed piece, but the tale where vulnerability of this boy and the inability of his parents to give him truly what he needs.

An adult character, Flem Owens, in “Larsen’s Novel” is a foil to Eric in “I Am As I Am.” Flem watches the unraveling of his best friend over a lifelong dream of writing a novel. While the novel’s writer, Larsen, seems to be a loveable if not laughable loser, it is really Flem Owens who holds inside his fears and envy of Larsen’s ambition. Even though Flem has dismissed the project as tedious tripe, he comes to see his own judgementalness as a guise for his own lack of ambition. Flem tells his therapist:

“I mean, we all have artistic impulses, okay? I took a writing class in college. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to suddenly go around proclaiming myself some kind of novelist.”

All the time he dismisses the book to others – his therapist, his wife and himself – he avoids talking about the manuscript with Larsen himself. By the story’s end Flem recognizes that he’s jealous of Larsen, not because he had written a great novel, but simply because he had done it, he had dared to dream it was possible. By this time, however, Larsen has deflated, and like Eric’s parents in “I Am As I Am” Flem has failed his friend. Almond shows off his flair for humor in the sections where he shows the reader the pages of Larsen’s masterpiece, which are overblown and filled with clichés for a very humorous effect. This only heightens the grand gesture of writing the novel, in both Flem’s and the reader’s perspective. It’s also comic relief.

Almond gives us plenty of his tell-tale humor in “Appropriate Sex” a foray into a day in the life of an undergraduate writing instructor. The cast of characters in this piece are funny because if you’ve taken an undergraduate writing course, you’ve met these folks – in fact, you might have even been one of these students. There’s Brendan, whose realization that a classmate’s story has kinky sexual undertones puts him in a dither between being turned on and self congratulation for “getting” the intention behind a story the classmate wrote. Then there’s Emily, who strikes out at Brendan’s fit of self revelation out of post breakup angst with him. Mix in the “sexless” class discussion leader, Nicole, and Ingrid, who writes only about God. And, Mandy, a sort of sex kittenish student who is unafraid to make sexual advances towards her teacher. The mix of youth and writing and inhibition befuddles the narrator, the writing prof:

“The dress code in my own class was terrifying. Cutoffs. Halter tops. Garments that managed to fuse the sartorial aspirations of sportswear and lingerie. Spring was finally here (finally! finally!) and there was no holding the young skin back.”

The story is rife with classic undergraduate writing class type comments – “I wrote, like, a whole critique.” It is also permeated with passages about President Clinton’s indiscretions, which function as a cultural backdrop to the overtly sexual atmosphere of the classroom:

“And what’s more, it was everything we wished for, to see our big daddy Prez getting down with some chubby hayseed in the Oral Office. It was what we deserved. Our popular culture had prepared us exquisitely for the whole shebang. Practically everywhere you turned, strangers were preparing to have sex, or talking about sex, advising us on how to lick a woman’s private parts.”

However, within the erotically charged, youth centeredness of the situation and witty observations of the narrator, this story gets to that fundamental sense of vulnerability. The students are looking for a sense of validation; the narrator is losing his wife and his grip on his current work situation. In the end, the feeling evoked is that what doesn’t make you laugh makes you cry. But even if you laugh, if you enjoy one moment, the intensity of that single passage of time somehow makes the rest bearable.

Perhaps the story that best shows vulnerability is the title story, “The Evil B.B. Chow.” In this story we are presented with a woman who, despite her professional accomplishments, is a wreck romantically:

“I also tell him that I’m divorced. I’ve learned not to hold that in reserve, because it generally freaks the single guys out. They either relegate me to this suspect category of fallen woman (Hester Prynne, J.Lo) or they assume I was somehow abused, and now it’s incumbent upon them to rescue me. I’m not sure which is worse.”

Almond shows he can capably write a female narrator, with themes that echo “Geek Player, Love Slayer” from My Life in Heavy Metal. Above showing that he can capture an aspect of contemporary feminine vulnerability, what makes “The Evil B.B. Chow” a particularly powerful narrative is that B.B. himself uses vulnerability as a romantic asset. By wooing a woman to bed by being completely open and vulnerable, he actually utilizes what would otherwise be considered weaknesses as his ally in attracting and bedding down with women that, we understand, he would not be with otherwise. We come to an eventually understanding that he is nothing better than a rakish cad who plays the sensitivity card with stunning acumen. For us, and the narrator, he crystallizes these internal fears of successful career women, “There is so much time in this life for grief. So many men lying in wait.” The myth that a woman can, or must have it all is debunked. As well, if you get duped by the B.B. Chow’s of the world, who else is left that won’t dupe you?

The pieces that comprise The Evil B. B. Chow and Other Stories show us a moment in the lives of people where they are possessed by the intensity of what they understand about themselves. Whether they find themselves pathetic, or lonely, or scared they are essentially human. And while none of these stories is the stuff novels are made of, it’s better that they are not. They are single complete narratives about the frailties of contemporary people who inhabit a strange and confusing culture. If Almond never writes a novel, if he continues to write strong short fiction which gives us that sense that Cheever described in his Newsweek essay, we might all be better for it. Because at the end of the day, all of us wrestle with that vulnerability which morphs and changes in form. We live life in connected episodes, searching for truth.

“Everyone’s a saint when it comes to the human spirit.” Almond writes. “The other stuff just grows over us, like weeds.”

first published in the-beat


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A Conversation with Corey Mesler ~ Lisa Zaran

Lisa Zaran

“Once I gave myself permission to be a novelist, it is all I want to do.” 

Recently, I was lucky enough to begin a correspondence with Corey Mesler. What started out as a “tete-a-tete” to quote Mesler himself, bloomed into a full fledged interview.

And what an engaging man he is.

The owner of one of the nations oldest independent book stores, Burkes Book Store located in Memphis, Tennessee, Corey is also a novelist, poet, devoted husband and father, music lover, agoraphobic and avid reader.

Basically, the perfect man.

Do not try to compete with Corey Mesler. His output to date includes eight poetry collections, two prose chapbooks, two novels and close to one thousand individual pieces in magazines, journals, lit zines and anthologies.

It is difficult not to be jealous of someone with such a creative handle on literature. Everywhere I turn I find something with his name attached to it, whether it be a poem, a short story, a novel, or simply a blog entry, the entire world is in love with Corey Mesler.

How difficult is it to write a novel? Did you begin writing to be a novelist or a poet?

When I was younger I wrote nothing but poetry, bad poetry. I never thought I would have the confidence to write in whole paragraphs. Then I read Raymond Carver and was blown away and I thought, ok, I can try that, the 2 or 4 page story. So I did. And the first one got published. So for years I said I would never have the patience, nor the talent, nor the creativity, nor the smarts to write a novel. Then I sort of backed into one by writing my first all in dialogue. Then I sort of backed into it again by making my second a collage-novel. Now, lo and behold, I have written 2 straightforward narrative novels (I am working still rewriting the 2nd and the 1st is with my agent). So, just recently I have started to answer to the moniker Novelist. Not that I’ve given up my old moniker Chucklehead.

What do you spend more time doing?

Typically now I write prose and I’m always in a novel or short story. In between bouts of doing that I write poems. The poems just keep coming, the product of my leaky head which never shuts up.

It is through your poetry that I know you best, but recently I came across a piece in Turnrow, an excerpt from Following Richard Brautigan. Tell me a little bit about this. Will this become a book?

That is the first section of my unpublished 3rd novel of the same name. It is with my agent if my agent actually exists which I often doubt.

After its appearance in Turnrow it won the Plan B Press Beat Writing Chapbook contest and was published by them in a limited edition chapbook with a cover picture which was meant to echo the cover of Brautigan’s great novel, The Abortion, a photo shot by my friend Alisa. And to all I wish to say that since that cover photograph I’ve lost 20 pounds. Really.

How often do you write?

I write literally every day. Where did this discipline come from? I have no idea. I am not this steady in any other aspect of my life. There is nothing else I show up for religiously like this, except perhaps televised Tiger basketball games. But, somewhere in middle age I became the living embodiment of Uncle Ben Franklin’s dictum, Early to bed, early to rise. I am up between 5 and 6 every day so that I get at least a couple hours at the keyboard before the world intrudes. Anne Lamott says that if you write at the same time every day and in the same place your body will make itself ready at that time and your brain will fire if it is meant to fire. I find this for the most part true.

Do you sit down with the intention to write, with a specific idea in mind, or do you just allow it to come naturally?

I sit down without preconceived things to write unless I am in the middle of a short story or novel. I am most comfortable in the middle of a novel. It is a place of comfort like being in, say, the middle of good dream, the kind where the person who spurned you in your wanton youth is suddenly transformed by night-magic into someone who cannot do without you. That kind of dream. Wait. What was I saying? Oh, yes, being in the middle of a novel is a lovely way to start a day and I rarely—knock on wood—experience writer’s block. My friend Tim, who is a painter, says he cannot imagine working on the same thing for over a year. Formerly I couldn’t either. But now that I’ve gotten my Novelist Badge in the mail (it’s quite nice, something between those “Hello I’m—“ plastic convention badges and the great ones you used to be able to obtain as a member of the Man from UNCLE fan club). Anyway, once I gave myself permission to be a novelist, it is all I want to do. Yet I still have short story ideas and poems still rain down like mental hail storms. Poems I write in between-times. They are more the kind of inspiration that you just pray for, the kind that hits you when you’re peeing, for instance, or in the middle of the night. Poems, for me, start with a line, a conglom of words that somehow, through glottological alchemy, spur one to go on, to go on talking. What was the question?

When in a rut, what, if any, types of writing exercises are you fond of?

A rut for me would be a morning I don’t physically feel well. Even some of those I’m still able to write. It’s like, forget the pain in your lower back, what did Jim say to Marsha?

Do you read others’ works to fuel your inspiration?

I do keep handfuls of poetry books beside my keyboard and, dipping into them is inspiring and often jump-starts the poetic side of my brain. For instance, right now I have this great anthology called Contemporary East European Poetry which is so deep and rousing that I may be lost in it for months and my poetry may suddenly be about pogroms and shtetls and such. I also have the City Lights edition of the poems of Jacques Prevert called Paroles.

Who, among your contemporaries, do you admire? I am especially interested in those who are following the same vein of online publication.

I have the world’s worst memory and really don’t recall names very often. I do love Ward Abel’s work. I’ve liked some things by Julie Bolt, Doug Hoekstra, Jeff Crook, Mark Yakich, Whitney Pastorek, Amy Gerstler, Steve Almond, Lyn Lifshin, Tom O’Connell, John Sweet, John Amen, uh, you…….I’m gonna forget some names so I won’t even try to be all-inclusive. I’m gonna miss saying some of my friend’s work.

Are there any modern, web-based authors whose work you are impressed with or inspired by?

I guess I just answered that except for the why. The why is that their words stopped me in my browsing like a three-headed dog at the entrance to Hell. What does Cerberus say? He says, “Now, just wait a minute-”

Favorite book? And why.

I have to say Ulysses even though immediately that will provoke eye-rolling and smirks. But, really, it’s the richest novel I’ve ever read and it lives inside of me like no other book. Ulysses is a city once visited can never be forgotten. Joyce was from the future. Oh, and by the way, I’m typing this answer on Bloomsday. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Favorite movie and why.

I wanna keep my egghead reputation alive and say something like Godard’s Band of Outsiders, a movie I find indescribably delicious. But, honestly, my favorite all-time film is Annie Hall. Woody Allen is our second-most important American director (you gotta say Altman is 1st) and Annie Hall is his best film. It’s funny and funny is very important to me and it also dissects romance the way no other modern film does. Like Chaplin, Allen is able to combine comedy and drama smoothly and brilliantly.

Favorite musician, etc. We talked previously about how we share music as a source of inspiration.

Who inspires you most? Meaning, what music or musician or song writer causes you the most glee?

Oh well it all starts and ends with Dylan. I named my son after him for Godsake. Like the Bible, you can dip into Dylan’s lyrics and pull out a plum every time. He is tapped into ancient knowledge, arcane mysteries, the world before the world. But when writing I listen to all kinds of things. I like background noise and write best when loud music is on. I listen to a lot of 60s psych-pop this way. Andy Warhol used to paint with the Rolling Stones blasting and he said it was to clear away conscious thought and let unconscious do the painting. And to that I say, uh, yeah, that sounds about right. Also, I have to mention here The Beatles. They are joy distilled. When I need Joy Distilled I put any Beatles album on. Kurt Vonnegut said, “I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did’.”

It is imperative that I respond to this. So much in common, you and I. It does all start and end with Dylan. You state it very eloquently. I could pirouette forever through his songs. It is an unfair question, and one that has been asked of me many times, but if forced to choose, what is a favorite Dylan song and why?

Favorite Dylan: you probably assume that I will not be able to give one answer. My first impulse, so perhaps this is the truest answer, is “Visions of Johanna.” Because of the way he sings it and because it, to me, is his purest poetry. Lines like “Inside the museum infinity goes up on trial” are just too good. They rattle around in your head like loose screws. But I would have to hedge and declare, on another day I might just as readily say, “Tangled Up in Blue,” for lines like “There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.” Which make you wish Dylan would write a novel. And, to let that hedge grow more branches, I am also religiously partial to the dada period of The Basement Tapes (the original still bootleg-only version and even Robbie Robertson’s cleaned up version.)

I extend this question with The Beatles. Perhaps with them, who do you love more, John or Paul?

John, of course.

Favorite Beatle song, John: “Tomorrow Never Knows” because of the line “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying.” Part of which I appropriated in my hippie novel. Cryptic John is as good as cryptic Dylan. Or how about “Happiness is a Warm Gun” or how about “I am the Walrus?” I mean, “Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe” is cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Favorite Beatle single (Paul, of course): either “Lady Madonna” (the line “Though she feels as if she’s in a play she is anyway” is smart like few song lyrics are) or “Paperback Writer” because it is, natch, about books.

What is your goal with writing?

What is the goal of writing always? To make sense of the senseless, or even of the insensible. A fool’s ambition, or, as it’s more commonly known, fool’s goal.

In ten years where would you like to be? As a poet, novelist or otherwise.


Alive. Unafraid to travel. (This is the agoraphobe’s truncated life-wish, to be able to stretch that tether so that I can move freely more than 10 miles away from home base.) Watching the movie version of my novel Talk on TCM with Hope Davis and Scarlett Johansson and Campbell Scott. Well, not watching with them but…well, you get it.

Agoraphobia is commonly misunderstood as a fear of “open spaces”. But this isn’t necessarily true is it? It could also be severe anxiety in situations where the sufferer is afraid of losing control, their fear is so high they begin to avoid either situations or places. Many agoraphobics become housebound. You are not a housebound agoraphobic correct?

Literally, it means “fear of the marketplace” and this is closer. In my case I have panic syndrome and the fear of leaving my house stems from that, a fear of having a panic attack outside the house, and a panic attack, friends, is absolutely the worst thing I can imagine happening to me. A panic attack is often mistakenly called fear of dying but, no, it is more a vision of the void, a quick glimpse into the hole in the center of being. A dark abyss. Emphasis on the dark. As if one suddenly, but irrevocably, sees the utter meaninglessness of existence. I cannot make light of this (or even acknowledge that pun) because it flat out scares the shit out of me. Even writing about it here gives me the collywobbles.

How far do you travel? Is it with great difficulty?

I can go out by myself on good days for a quick jaunt to the video store or the corner grocery. On bad days I am housebound. And on many days I can go with my wife, who in the vernacular of the literature is my “safe person” almost anywhere in town. Can’t leave town of course. That would be certain death.

How long have you suffered from agoraphobia? Was it something you believe you were born with or did certain events cause it?

According to my therapist I have been building my agoraphobia my whole life. There’s a committee in my head telling me bad things and the chairpeople of that committee are the bullies I endured when small. In his terms, I have internalized and become those bullies and I continue to believe their bleak assessment of me.

If all this makes me sound childish, believe me, that’s exactly how it feels. The fear is the same fear I felt walking into first grade for the first time. A gut-level dis-ease. Fear at its purest, with no relief seemingly in sight.

Where do your ideas come from? Mainly, the ideas for your stories. Does each character represent some aspect of Corey Mesler?

After Talk I had to have a t-shirt made that said, “I am not Jim,” its protagonist. Whatever bit of my life I use to germinate a character that character is never me. It is an aspect of me because I wrote it down and no one else did. But I think my characters are sprung from my story ideas and those story ideas come from hither and yon. Lately mostly yon. Or sometimes my characters create the story. It’s never one way or another. I think, often, that it’s odd that I don’t take more characters from real life, from people I know or have known. I guess in this way I am a fabulist, though that’s such a fancy term I couldn’t, in good conscience, claim it. Sometimes characters come from my readings. Not characters stolen from other books, mind you, but characters inspired by ideas from those books. Sometimes they come in the mail like sweepstakes winnings and sometimes they come from friends who know I am character-challenged.

How’s the bookstore business? If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say tough. I admire you. The world you are ensconced in makes me think of a small drop of water in a very large pond. How do you compete with the conglomerates?

We are losing the war. Which is to say that America is losing the war. Soon, there will only be Big Box Businesses in all areas, not just bookstores. And then the country will be as boring as Television. And then people will stop reading and only play video games. And then sooner they will stop going out to get food, and then stop eating and mating and hence perish as a race. Or that’s how I see it. It seems a natural declension to me. Say goodbye, friends, anti-intellectualism won out. These are the end-days.

You are a lovely, intelligent, and forthright man Corey Mesler, tell me, what are your immediate plans for the future? This question does not relate to the “where would you like to be in ten years”, I mean immediate future. Tomorrow. Next Friday.

Thanks for the nice adjectives. I want to finish the novel I am now writing. For some reason, lately, I’ve been feeling that I will not live long enough to see this novel published. I don’t know why. Because I think this one has more commercial potential, a phrase I’m not really very comfortable with. Which is causing intimations of mortality. And that’s driving me to finish it and at least give it its shot at being loved.

The worry you have about dying before the novel is published. Do you think this stems from a fear of success? Perhaps the novel is “that” good. Soon you’ll be on Oprah’s Recommended book list.

Yeah, that’s it! Honestly, it is the best thing I’ve written. So, perhaps, yes, I am afraid I couldn’t handle its success. Or that I don’t deserve it, though I don’t want my therapist to read that last bit.

Off the top of your head:

Best friend? My brother.

Most significant moment? The births of my kids.

Happiest memory? Ditto.

Biggest accomplishment? Ditto.

Disappointment? When Sports Night was cancelled.

Obviously, writing is a permanent goings-on in your life. Without the rhythmic hammer and drive of writing, what else could you see yourself doing, artistically?

Seriously, nothing.

I would trade every other talent I have to be a musician but I didn’t get that chip. Whatever it is in humans that makes music they forgot to put in Corey. I was the only kid in my 4th grade class who didn’t learn to play the tonette. Which perhaps is why I am such a fan. Music is, then, to me, magic. Who wouldn’t want to make magic?

What I’ve read of your work, I am most often amazed at how easily you can cement an idea. How real your characters/their lives are. Is it the life of each character and what they think the point you are trying to get across? Even in your poetry I have found your words to stand up off the flat page, or in the case of internet publications, dance across the screen.

I would be the last to know why they do that. I want to believe you that they do.

In Fifth-Watch Bells, a poem recently published in you write:

Fifth-Watch Bells
No longer beautiful
I eschew beauty.
No longer patient
I eschew patience.
Once, when I was young
and golden,
women came to me in
pairs, promising
things they would
later deliver.
This I called love.
Once, when I was young
and golden,
I examined my heart
and found it
to be full of joy.
This surprised me,
even then.
No longer the late night
poet, I eschew
the changing of days.
How I went before is not
how I now go.

This is an extraordinary poem to me because not only does it strike the nail home with aging, we all age and so every one of us can feel the pulling sadness of: “No longer beautiful/I eschew beauty.” You as the poet have chosen to make this poem bleakly honest. “No longer the late night/poet, I eschew/the changing of days.” As a reader it is an aching statement because I too want to avoid too much change yet this is one of life’s blows we all have to deal with. The final two lines “How I went before is not/how I now go.” The impression I get here is that the poet has chosen to go now with an almost “thought-free” mind. He knows he is no longer young or beautiful, perhaps senses that even his patience, joy and other once-natural tendencies are fading too. By avoiding everything, especially those golden days of youth, he is free.

Have I understood the poem the way you meant it to be understood? Perhaps I’ve blown it way out of proportion, but isn’t that what great writing does? Causes the reader to wrap themselves around each word and make them their own?

It is the most complete and intelligent reading of anything I’ve ever written by anyone who has ever read it. Really. Thank you. The thought-free mind, yes, I aspire to because my therapist was a Zen Buddhist. This poem is rather nakedly autobiographical, isn’t it? Well, here’s my philosophy. Feel free to start a cult around it. We are all gonna be worm-food one day so it’s important that while we’re still corporeal that we make some attempts to communicate with each other, however difficult, however impossible, and that we talk about real things, about how we really feel and, in the end, even if they’re as dangerous as Pandora’s box, to go ahead and let the emotions out. Would you please tell me I’m lovely again?

By the way, there is a dialogue poem on your site that I particularly admire. I wish I’d written it. It’s called “The Difficult Suitor.” The rhythm of it, particularly, is hypnotic and it seems to speak about what we were discussing about the writer’s self, how much of it is in what he or she writes, how much of the voice is the writer’s voice. It’s a really fine and multifaceted and mysterious piece of work. As you know I have written extensively in dialogue and admire greatly when it is handled well and so poetically.

When I read something I really liked or enjoyed, whether that enjoyment arose out of excitement about the writing or despair in the writing, I feel like the work never leaves me. Certain poems, certain stories, certain songs are always with me, in their own way, my life will never be the same, or as it was prior to hearing or reading. Do you feel this strongly about literature and/or music? If so, can you elaborate?

Oh, in spades. It’s why we go back to these things. Especially literature—it works in us like tiny time pills. I carry around in me lines and ideas from things I’ve read and they enrich the everyday, which, let’s face it, needs enriching.

Do you think it takes a certain maturity to “get” your work? Say, could a 15 year old understand and accept a poem or story you’ve written?

It takes a certain maturity because parents are warned not to give my stuff to their children. Writing, mostly, NC-17 fiction I have created a gap between me and the youngsters. (Though I do have some children’s stories actually, which I would love to have published.)

But, I think what you mean by the question is perhaps, do I think what I write of a certain sophistication that inexperienced readers might struggle with it? To which I say, I ain’t sophisticated. And I also say that one doesn’t want to shut anyone out. Writing should be like a good church and open its doors to everyone, even those who want to nail their own declarations on those doors. But, the writer is grappling with something complex and hence, at times, the methods must be complex. Does that make sense? Nothing is for everyone, I guess is the appropriate writer’s shilly-shally.

Also, what I read, and what I am influenced by is, for the most part, experimental writing, the great po-mo movement of the 1960s and after, Barth, the Barthelmes, Pynchon, Vonnegut, Gilbert Sorrentino, Thomas Berger, Gaddis, Gass, DeLillo, David Markson. And the surreal poetries of James Tate and Frank O’Hara and Terry Stokes.

So, to that extent, sometimes my poor attempts to please these Literary Gods might veer toward the – what’s a good word for it – pretentious? experimental? investigational?

In an effort to understand life, its ups and downs, trials and tribulations and so on, what makes you happy? And this is a silly question because I don’t believe in a state of happiness myself, but if such an idea were possible, to reach a state of happiness and remain there for more than a fraction of a second, can you explain what or who it is that can, if not give, then at the very least show you happiness?

My family makes me very happy. Hitting a good writing jag makes me happy. Sex, reading, watching movies, listening to music. Just about in that order.

When not writing or running your bookstore, how do you like to spend your time?

Thinking about writing and running the bookstore. I am trapped in my own head.

Sam Taylor-Wood ~ Artist





I happened to stumble upon a book featuring a series of colour/BW photographs of male actors crying, and surprisingly STW actually captures that moment when a “man” has dropped that emotional guard and looks like any another normal person.



Sam Taylor-Wood



One of my favourite literary zines! This site includes, amongst other things, book reviews, features, interviews and a blog that’s updated daily! A world without Dogmatika would be as dull as Birmingham!!

Sara Holt

Posted On September 21, 2006

Filed under Beat, poetry, Uncategorized

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Sara Holt

Sara Holt paints timeless art using her fingers, toothpicks, pens, crayons and any other medium she can get her hands on.

She’s been part of several group shows, had her work published internationally, been featured on MSN, and continues to have a powerful online presence.

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