Sunday, March 17, 2013

Three Writers That Make Me Happy

Today, I'm going to talk about three writers whose work makes me happy whenever I read it. This is a very particular satisfaction for me, vaguely composed of jealousy and wonder. I spend a fair amount of time reading work online, and maybe you don't (but you probably do - why else would you be here?), so it seems like a nice idea to tell you what I like. Maybe you will be able to show me other nice things? Needless to say, this is only three people, and there will be more in future installments.

Mike Meginnis

About a year ago, I first read Mike's unparalleled story/game "Angband, or His 55 Desires." It's the biggest, achiest, hulkiest thing of longing I've ever read and, at least from my personal perspective, encompasses every emotion I ever felt as a very purposeful videogamer when I was a teenager. Every time I return to it, this story gives me chills. You've never seen anything like it.

Mike isn't the only writer giving videogames a place in literary fiction, but he is by far the most affecting. Generally speaking, for me most of the recent spate of videogame-influenced essays/poems/stories lack a real human element or connection - not so here. Mike writes about the people playing the games, and how they become shaped by them. His story "Navigators" (included in the latest edition of Best American Short Stories) explores a father-son relationship through their shared playing of a fictional videogame, Legend of Silence, and it is absolutely devastating in its loss. 

Fittingly, from a critical standpoint Mike writes with unequaled depth about videogames; their structure, intent, and interaction with the players first and foremost, which makes for thrilling, fascinating material. He created a project called Exits Are, which simulated an oldschool text-adventure  game between writers, which remains the most fun I've ever had virtually with a writer. (He recently started a writing-about-games blog, bless him, in which I will drown myself in as much writing as he will provide, and these are games I've never played or heard of.) Mike Meginnis is the type of writer who makes you want to go and really verse yourself in something, or else just shut the fuck up.

Brandi Wells

Brandi Wells has written the book I've loaned out to the most people and read all the way through the most times (besides Harry Potter, the early ones): Please Don't Be Upset, from Tiny Hardcore. I think it's four times now, but whatever. No one makes you feel quite as small and brutalized yet ferociously cared for as Brandi Wells. I think what originally snagged me was the tone, casually intimate, sort of brutally offhand, if that makes any sense. Here's a place to start, but just get the book. It's something you'll want to carry with you.

There's an honesty and rawness to her stories - even if nothing in her stories ever happened in real life, I don't care, it feels like honesty - a specificity to the language and images and happenstances that for some reason feels undeniably real to me. OK.

She is doing bizarre things now, assembling some sort of terrifying novel. She's writing these tiny little pieces about animals and machines and people with bizarre predilections that have the kinds of unpredictable twists and turns you can tell she just loved writing. Five of them were in Knee-Jerk recently. In these, again, it's that goddamn tone again - where horrifying, sinister things happen casually, just around the corner - even though there are suddenly talking animals. It's wonderful.

I cannot say enough, although I've probably said more.

David James Keaton

Take "Swatter" first - I think it's my favorite - and go any direction from there. Generally when you see people praising Dave's work it's variations on "oh wow what a wild ride" or "it'll knock your socks right off your feet - literally!" and while these praises are perfectly true, they do not even scrape the surface of what genius plays are going on in these stories. They are visceral, yes, but there are real human guts inside, and his stories slip against reality in the most marvelous, subtle way. He writes it enough like pulp to fool most people (white knuckles on black-and-blue skin and all that), but really, it's the weirdness and fantasies we don't want to admit where these stories are hitting hardest.

Plus, his stories are absolutely chock-full of arcana, details and factoids that are either meticulously researched or just plain fabricated (does it really matter which? Probably, and I'd lean towards the former because he watches too many movies to take dishonesty to source material well). Just try and say something to him on the internet-space (I've never met him in person), and see if he doesn't retort with some kind of obscure movie trivia reference. He's like a real-life Gilmore Girl (I've said this before). Just. Try.

He has a collection coming out from Comet Press in May - Fish Bites Cop! Stories to Bash Authorities - which I'm slowly wading into now, and not only is it fantastic but it has the best acknowledgements page I've ever seen. Seriously. You think I'm joking, but wait until you read this shit.

Only the good stuff here on this blog. These are the people you want to steal from.


David Bowie released his new album, The Next Day, this past week. If you've seen my skin or know me at all or read this blog you'll know how much this means to me. I promise to deliver a full report once I've absorbed it all and had time to process. In the meantime, I'll be listening to it over, and over, and over. I've been reading some good books, too - mostly ones I got at AWP, which was amazing and tiring and financially devastating - so I'll have to tell you about those as well.

I had a tiny comic with a normal-sized yak in Hobart this past week.

Also, a very old poem (circa 1070), anthologized.

I've been listening to this Amanda Palmer song an awful lot. An amazing video, too. I just love her. It's pretty amazing that there are celebrities on Twitter, like Amanda Palmer, who will answer if you ask them questions.

I've also been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen (again), but this is for another project.

But what do you think about all of this? Do you like these songs and these writers as much as I do? Let's have a discussion!

I like blogging!