Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read four poems by Bianca Stone with art by the author, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
An uneasy crowd gathers in the morning sun
and I should live a little more each day.
The marks on my arm
appear in the cold.
In the shed out back, stretched
across the big chair,
there is a book about the brain opened
on my lap. Enough about brains
I say to my brain.
and make vigorous love
until you feel less huge
and more human.
If I had a yard I would abandon
washing machines in it
then listen to that song that gets me
late at night,
my friends’ poems
circling my head like a flock
of yellow finches.
I believe in our pets buried
in the pines.
I beat the hell out of a white handkerchief
before waving it.
Do you know any horror stories?
Every night I tell God one more
and like Scheherazade, for this,
he keeps putting off my death.
Teddy Wayne on tween-speak and the titular child star of his novel The Love Song of Jonny Valentine.
While Teddy Wayne’s impressive vocabulary is always on display in his pieces for McSweeney’s, The New York Times, Esquire, and the myriad other publications he has written for, both of his novels have employed protagonists that prevent him from showing off his extensive verbal talent. Instead Wayne shows himself to be adept at narrating from outside his own experience. In Kapitoil, Karim Issar, brand new to the United States, is still learning the difficult idioms and cultural references necessary to fit into the cutthroat business he has chosen. In Wayne’s second novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, the protagonist is an eleven-year-old pop star whose meteoric rise has produced a boy whose premature vocabulary is not only riddled with the colloquialisms of video games and tween culture but also the business-speak of the corporate board room. Jonny’s world is an odd and saddening combination of normal boy things, an exposed celebrity life, and the high pressures of business and marketing in pop music. Despite choosing a narrator with a limited, unique vocabulary, Wayne forces readers to examine their own roles in a culture that creates pop stars and millionaires while providing vulnerable, lovable, relatable, though imperfect characters, all with a good dose of humor.
Alexis Boehmler Can you tell us what the experience of publishing your first book was like as compared with that of your second?
Teddy Wayne For a first book, you have no clue how the world will react and the stakes feel impossibly high. For a second book, you still have no clue how the world will react and the stakes somehow feel even higher. The main advantage to the second one is that you have a better understanding of how the process operates and you’ve built up a readership and reputation that, ideally, can make people take you more seriously.
AB The cover for The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is, as you described it, “shiny, iridescent” and “useful if stranded on an island,” making it quite different from the more staid cover of Kapitoil. Am I sensing mild discomfort with the final cover for The Love Song of Jonny Valentine? It seems perfect as a representation of Jonny himself, his genre and his market but perhaps not something you want to have to look at every moment for months while promoting it. Or do you like it a lot but have some other covers you can tell us about that you also liked? Finally, were there moments when you felt a bit like Jonny in a one of his record label meetings during the editorial or cover process?
TW I love it, actually—any references to its shininess were in jest. It does feel like an excellent visual metaphor for the book’s subject matter and themes about glitzy packaging; it’s a perfect autocritique. Free Press didn’t show me any of the early covers, but called me into the office so I could first see it, since its full reflectivity is apparent only in person. I was blown away and signed off immediately. At the eleventh hour, they did show some alternate covers that used holographic foil only for the title, and I’m sure if I’d seen it first I would’ve liked it equally, but I was already sold on the original.
AB I was surprised when I started The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and discovered your subject matter. I’m assuming it’s not just that you’re a huge Justin Bieber fan—what inspired you to choose a tween-idol as the protagonist for your second novel?
TW The child star occupies a strange role in America, one that’s growing each year as our culture becomes more infantilized and youth-obsessed. The adolescent celebrity is neither quite a child, nor quite an adult, but occupies some nether region. The same could be said for a number of putative adults in the country, particularly those under 40, who are staving off adulthood as long as possible.
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
Patti Astor talks about her new book and her role in the New York art scene of the 1980s.
In 1980, on a lark, Patti Astor and Bill Stelling opened FUN Gallery in the then “undiscovered” East Village. It was meant to be an outlet from the pomp of the ivory (shall we say, white) tower art world that had until then covered its eyes and ears to what was happening on the street.
“To the street!” That was Patti’s battle cry. Whether marching for civil rights, tapping out a performance on Union Street, or crawling through Central Park as Snake Woman for a Tina L’Hotsky film, she was where the action was. Where it wasn’t, she created and became the action. So when this activist/actress applied her skillz to making a gallery, a change had truly come. The FUN Gallery gave minorities and unrecognized artists the chance to cover the walls and floor freely. FUN Gallery can be credited in part for the east coast hip-hop explosion of the ’80s, especially where graffiti is concerned. Patti Astor’s first book FUN Gallery: The True Story, tells all—and, if you know Patti, she tells it like it is! So put on your Converse and get ready for a journey through the beatbox-blasting, Krylon-scented streets of downtown past.
Richard Goldstein How’s everything in California?
Patti Astor It’s good, it’s good. I moved since we last spoke, I actually did an art deal (gasp) and made some money. Finally. I was able to move down to my dream home Hermosa Beach, and I’m in this little kind of ’60s surfer trailer park. It’s awesome. It’s been very, very good for me. I’ve done a lot of stuff since I’ve been here. My dream was always to be here in Hermosa Beach. It’s one of the last small beach towns left. There’s no big hotel on the waterfront. It’s just a cool, small town. There’re no hipsters.
Watch Eve Sussman’s Artist Talk from Tuesday January 29, 2013.
This is the first of three artist talks presented by the Pratt Institute’s Film/Video department. Check out Chico Pereira, on February 26, and Igor Vamos of the Yes Men on March 21, and check BOMBsite for more videos. For more on the series, go here.
Laura Walker re-arranges the OED’s furniture in her book of poems Follow-Haswed.
The most immediately appealing thing about Follow-Haswed is Laura Walker’s close reading and rewriting of a book that nobody really reads, and that nobody has really written. That said, we’re all intimately familiar with her source text; we quote it every day. Follow-Haswed is a collection of poems that rearrange the furniture within the room of a single entry in the OED’s F-H volume, creating new spaces through which these constricted vocabularies can move. Walker’s impressive refurbishing of each threadbare definition hinges on the liberties she’s able to take within the framework of her rules. An implicit linguistic kinship holds each poem together, allowing the poetry to freely roam and reorient the semantic web. Despite such formal innovation, Follow-Haswed respectably dodges the too-easy pitfall of a self-referential experiment or a monomaniacal interrogation of language. Ironically, innovative forms are too-often inhospitable to the very content that demonstrates the significance of their innovation by inhabiting it. This is especially pertinent with respect to conceptual writing, which constantly risks slouching into the unfortunate posture of the Gimmick. Walker’s poetry doesn’t. On the contrary, the writing can be narrative, slightly lyrical, and coherent in tenor. On top of that, constraints rarely operate as limitations. While each word is tethered to the modest vocabulary that details its use, the poetry strays toward a similar place; it takes on nautical tones, dwells within the vacancy of loss, and addresses the formally relevant idea of containment. Here’s a bit from “furlong”:
a brief space
a road our boundary
the land must be cast into another
a general trench
an equal influence
Micah Stansell talks about premeditated experimentation, collaborative production processes, and weighs in on the film vs. video debate.
Micah Stansell is an Atlanta-based video and installation artist. His most recent production, The Water and The Blood, was projected onto the side of the High Museum during the summer of 2012. Stansell has received several awards for his work, most recently a 2011 Artadia Award and 2010 Working Artist Project Award from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Stansell in his home studio to learn more about his work, from pre-production to installation.
Rachel Reese Let’s start with the most recent work, The Water and The Blood (2011-2012).
Micah Stansell It was first shown at MOCA GA in 2011 and then in the summer of 2012 at the High Museum. That was the work I made as a result of the Working Artist Project Grant for MOCA GA.
RR What were the sound components for The Water and The Blood, specifically for the High Museum installation, as it was projected on the façade of the museum and in Sifly Piazza?
MS The music or soundtrack was broadcast via speakers we had placed on top of the building and it spilled down below; it was really beautiful. And there were two vocal tracks. One was a sort of “verbal score” and the other track was actors delivering monologues and you could hear those via headphones, your smart phone, or little speaker stations. They had a very short radius so you could only hear them if you stood around them.
Tres Warren of Psychic Ills on sonic exploration, making music in New York, and Gibby Haynes’s culinary choices.
Psychic Ills’ fourth LP, One Track Mind, fulfills the promise of their record prior: eschewing the improvised jams of their early catalog, Tres Warren and Elizabeth Hart instead craft each dark, blasted track with full intent. It’s only fitting to find contributions from the likes Gibby Haynes, Peter Kember, and Powell St. John throughout their body of work, situating them firmly in the American psych rock tradition.
I called Warren as he geared up for their North American tour, now underway, and chatted about the record, living in Austin, and the density of New York.
Tyler Curtis How did you and Liz Hart first link up?
Tres Warren I met her in school, at the University of Texas at Austin. We were in the same Art History class. Psychic Ills happened a few years later.
TC Your earlier work, the Mental Violence EPs and stuff on The Social Registry, was based around drum machine and a lot of jamming. What facilitated the shift to live percussion and more song-based material?
TW When the band first started, I had just gotten this Roland TR-707 drum machine, and I was getting into programming drums and kind of writing songs along to drum machine stuff. And that’s kind of how that happened. There wasn’t really a course planned ahead, and it just evolved into a live band, you know? And at certain points there was still some stuff with drum machines, and there might be again. But it definitely turned into more of a rock band.
A lot of times it would be kind of jamming. And more recently, it’s definitely been more writing songs, almost like demoing them, and then recording them. There were definitely times where it was more of like improvised jamming, and seeing if you could write a song that way. And then sometimes improvising but not necessarily trying to write a song, just jamming. More recently, it’s just become writing out the songs and then recording them.
Listen to Kleber Mendonça Filho discuss his short films and his first feature, Neighboring Sounds, as part of last month’s First Look at the Museum of the Moving Image.
This podcast is presented in partnership with Museum of the Moving Image, where Kleber Mendonça Filho participated in a Q&A with Dennis Lim following a a retrospective of his short films during the Museum’s First Look 2013 showcase on January 13, 2013.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read First Kiss by Clarice Lispector translated from the Portuguese by Rachel Klein.
The two of them murmured more than talked: the relationship had begun just a little while before and they were both giddy, it was love. Love and what comes with it: jealousy.
—It’s fine, I believe you that I’m your first love, this makes me happy. But tell me the truth, only the truth: you never kissed a woman before you kissed me?
It was simple:
—Yes, I’ve kissed a woman before.
—Who was she?, she asked sorrowfully
He tried to tell it crudely, he didn’t know how.