With the exception of the working class itself, almost everything with a "working class" tag bites shit. Steve Earle does simple right.
I've kept somewhat busy since I last posted, meaning that I haven't kept very busy, meaning that I still mostly hate myself.
I had a story go up at Juked called "Western v. Eastern," probably the last story from the Our Band Could Be Your Lit stuff worth publishing. (Except my story based on "A Little Longing Goes Away" by The Books, though I'm the only one who likes that story it seems.) "Western v. Eastern" is based on the song "The Running Kind" by Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers. I told her about it and she never got back to me. Still, she's a nice girl with wonderful songs, and I was kind of a weird idiot the both times I met her, talking about Queensryche the first time and complaining about Jackson Browne the second time. So that's understandable. The story itself is pieced together from various bits including professional wrestling, bailiff work, Motley Crue, dissolving relationships, a fear of death, smoking weed, artificial appendages, and Bullitt starring Steve McQueen. Check it out.
"Semi-important things about tort claims and a federal district court’s level of jurisdiction and some other stuff are being decided through the case of Jane Eastern and Anthony Western. The gist of it is that they were married and now they’re not and soon enough one person will take none of the blame and all of the money even though there’s enough of both to go around." - from "Eastern v. Western"
I also had a story go up at SmokeLong Quarterly, my favorite lit journal. There was a bit of plea bargaining done on the ending, but I'm satisfied with that we came up with. (I will, however, be changing it when the story goes into the chapbook.) "Jalapeno Summer" is the story, the big opening gambit in my Midwestern story cycle called Murmuration, and the story that finally got me into SLQ after nearly a dozen rejections throughout the years. SLQ staff member Josh Denslow interviewed me about the story and I didn't sound too incredibly stupid, so you should check that out. As for the story, it's one of my favorites of mine, the exact blending of all the things I want a Midwestern story to be: humor and sadness, action from boredom despite no solution.
"The summer I turned eighteen, we drove a car off a cliff every Sunday. Gas was still a buck a gallon and all of us were moving away in August to places where polka music wasn't a dogma." - from "Jalapeno Summer"
In the process of trying new things, I've got another book review up at [PANK], this time for Sara Levine's brilliant short story collection Short Dark Oracles. Anything I say about it now will just ruin it. The short of it: buy this goddamn book.
"[Short Dark Oracles] is a champion in the blowout of my soul, a reaffirmation of life through creativity and craft. At the intersection of those two qualities is a triumph of artistic merit, a testament to narrative labor and a reminder for me to pay attention, always, for somewhere in the world there is magic at work."
Okay, I'm done plugging shit. Until this other story I wrote goes up this week.
Oh yeah, I also had a book come out. I talked about it a lot, so I'm going to stop now. That's what happens, I think, when you work on something. You talk about it until it happens, and then it's other people's responsibility. I've only gotten one review so far, from Joey Pizzolato over at Curbside Splendor.
The good: "These stories are subtle and delicate; it never feels as if Werner is shoving meaning down the reader’s throat. In fact, it’s the opposite. Readers are forced to interact with each story, and are allowed—with a modest grace—to use their own feelings about the historical moments and figures included in these stories to decide what is important."
"Each story is short and powerful, complete with terse and refined prose that are quick like a boxer’s jab."
"Coupled with the freshness and honesty by which he writes, Shake Away These Constant Days is an impressive debut from a young and exciting voice."
The not-so-great: "these stories are almost too short; and, coupled with the quantity of stories included, it’s easy for them to melt together, especially if you find yourself reading from cover to cover."
He's right on the money about the not-so-great stuff. I like to think of SATCD as a mixtape I made for someone. I love all the songs on it, but that person won't love all the songs. They'll love a handful of the songs. It's just too much to take in at once, and some stuff will understandably get lost due to simple saturation.
I swallowed a tiny portion of my irrational fears and submitted to the Caketrain Chapbook Competition. I realized my original chapbook, the aforementioned Murmuration, was about 5000 words short of the minimum length. So I added a second section of short stories, ones with more Midwestern themes. Here's what I ended up with.
Part I: Murmuration (A Midwest Story Cycle)
Jalapeno Summer (869 words)
Reruns (844 words)
Cool Tits, Moxie (1030 words)
Pyramid Scheme (1382 words)
Murmuration (2305 words)
Part II: Heroics
Shoot Out the Bright Lights (5588 words)
Run the Daylight Down (3796 words)
Two Halves of a Tornado (3635 words)
This means very little to most of you, as I realize only a handful of people have read these stories, but there are things to pick up on within a table of contents. I think it'll hold up. I don't really think it'll win the contest--the genius Sarah Rose Etter won it last year, and I'm nowhere near her level--but it's something I'm happy with. When I get the rejection, I'm going to send Part I to Magic Helicopter Press. When I get their rejection, I'll probably just self-publish. So, no matter what, look for Murmuration in early 2013.
I played a lot of rock and roll in the past couple weeks. I look forward to playing more. Let's rock, people.