Thursday, December 18, 2014

21. COLUMBUS WAS NAMED FOR THE DOVE


Anna Joy Springer blurbed my newly released fiction collection by comparing it to comics:
The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales looks nothing like a regular book of comics. It makes no use of frames, gutters, bubbles, or even actual pictures. Deceptively designed to look like a book of short stories, Runkle’s collection is secretly comics—delightful, textured, twisted little graphic beasts unlike anything I’ve read/seen before. 
Springer teaches graphic texts at UC San Diego, so it was an honor to hear she finds the book’s stories so visual. My writing often takes explicitly visual forms: comics, broadsides, artist’s books, and other fusions of text + image. So when I choose to stick to pure prose, I try to do everything I can to make things seen. It really is a compliment that my efforts became ‘twisted little graphic beasts’ in Springer’s eyes.

When I wrote ‘Columbus Was Named for the Dove’, I had a palette in mind: I thought of the pastels that happen in paint-by-numbers, the formulaic, impressionistic—almost parasitic—little outlines the artist fills in with powder blue and carnation pink, the dip of the brush into one of those little connected acrylic-filled cups. Such an environment longs for tension: rather than be imprisoned by it, though, embittered public school teacher Mrs. Trent created it, years ago on a wall in the faculty lounge. In the anaesthetized wake of a school shooting, she wonders to what extent her creations ripened the building for violence.

At least that’s how I pictured it. In What We See When We Read, Peter Mendelsund asks, ‘What is the author’s role in hemming in the boundaries of our imaginations?’ Should we include those little acrylic-filled cups or not? Is creating an authorly color scheme a launchpad for the reader’s imagination or is it tyrranical to tell them what to paint in which shape?


Similarly, Mrs. Trent wonders, 'What, after all, is a teacher’s duty? To prevent violence? Or simply to present it as it is?'

‘Columbus Was Named for the Dove’ first appeared over at MonkeybicycleYou can also read the story in The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Stories. Brooklyn Arts Press is offering a special giveaway tie-in for the first 50 people who order the book from their website: a free limited-edition broadside that I designed and printed. Each broadside is an adaptation of a story from the collection—get one by ordering the book HERE!

Monday, December 15, 2014

20. FACE

If you order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales now, you may be one of the first 50 to get a free broadside of a story featured in the collection. Click HERE to order now!

One of the collection’s 22 stories is titled ‘face’. It’s an attempt to concretize the slippery but all-consuming phenomenon of Facebook, and it does so by starting with the following Stéphane Mallarmé quote:
All earthly existence must ultimately be contained in a book.
The story unfolds around a triangle modeled after the one that is central in the Jean Rhys story, ‘The Lotus’. The triangle consists of
… [A] retired stewardess and a young straight couple who suffer a bit from a case of the hipsters. The couple consists of Poney Marie, a Portlander fresh out of public policy school, and Remy, a young man from a wealthy background who helped develop the book. The retired stewardess, Myrne, is singled out as a political candidate for Poney Marie to mentor and possibly install as a puppet dictator in the newly opened district of the book.
The book refers to that materialized version of Facebook I mentioned. The above excerpt is from a series of blog posts I wrote about ‘face’ when I was deep in the midst of writing it. Not only did I bring in Jean Rhys, I also managed to reference Danielle Steel, Roberto Calasso, and Caitlin Horrocks. To learn more about how ‘The Lotus’ influenced my writing process, you can read those posts here.

And click HERE to order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, where you can read the full text of ‘face’!

Friday, December 12, 2014

19. SOCIALITES

‘Socialites’ is a story that first appeared in matchbook, and which I adapted into a broadside for the Queer Communities in Print Portfolio organized by Corinne Teed and Jaime C. Knight for the 2014 SGCI Conference. The portfolio, which includes contributors such as Thea Gahr, Miriam Klein Stahl, Patrick Reed, Edie Fake, Dutes Miller & Stan Shellabarger, and many others, has since gone on to be featured on Printeresting and exhibited at Adobe Books Backroom Gallery in San Francisco and Airspace Gallery in Philadelphia.

When I wrote the story, I was imagining a Paris Hilton-type narrator. Remember her? She’s desperate for you to not forget:


In ‘Socialites’, this narrator takes an anachronistic trip to the Vatican, where she displays a humanoid sort of disconnect, as well as a naïve debauchery characteristic of the rich. 

I thought the Vatican would be an ideally vague sort of setting: an architectural posture of eternity, a symbol of dogma with seediness seeping from beneath, a historical tourist destination stripped of its bloodiest historical contexts. What sort of knowledge did the narrator find there that made her finally feel human, and that caused the laws of the physical world to behave in such startlingly different ways?

If you order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales from the Brooklyn Arts Press website, not only will you get to read ‘Socialites’, if you’re one of the first 50 who order, you’ll get a free letterpress broadside of one of the book's stories. Get it HERE!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

UICB Open House

The University of Iowa Center for the Book is hosting their annual Open House tomorrow night from 4 - 6 pm. As part of my Graduate Assistantship, I letterpress printed a flyer advertising the event. The whole thing is printed from handset metal type.

There will be printing, binding, and papermaking demos tomorrow—stop by the ground level of North Hall to see them, eat some homemade snacks, and look at student work on display.

Monday, December 8, 2014

18. THE STOIC TRUCKER WITH A HEART OF GOLD

The inspiration for ‘The Stoic Trucker with a Heart of Gold’ came from an experience I had when I was hitchhiking. I was riding with a trucker, who was both mellow and entertaining—the stories he told me really strained towards another dimension. What he related on that ride really formed this story's protagonist’s hyperbolically scripted backstory:
Some time in the near future, the world is suffering from an increased rate of seismic disasters. Volcanoes and earthquakes are ripping apart continents and making them pretty much uninhabitable. This is really hard for Chuck, an antiheroic trucker, constantly having to swerve to miss pools of lava. Half his runs are stopped short by missing chunks of freeway. One day he decides to do a little research, spends a couple nights in the icy light of the Internet, and comes to a startling conclusion. 
The world’s seeming illness is in reaction to an over-extraction of oil. The world leaders know this, and through an ominous concoction of motives, are bent on destroying the planet. The presidents of every nation and the heads of every megacorporation are building a luxury pod just outside the earth’s orbit, where they plan to escape, leaving the general populace to be crushed between the restless tectonic plates. Heavy shit, but Chuck doesn’t waste a second wringing his hands. He has a vision, a plan to end America’s dependence on oil by constructing a new method of cross-country transport: a network of canals that rely on nothing but water and gravity to float goods long distances. Against all odds.
The trucker told me he was heir to thousands of acres of Nebraskan farmland, and that he was getting ready to settle there to plan the network’s nexus. I included these details in the story, but gave it all a twist: because the trucker’s tale veered slightly toward a Hollywood narrative (albeit with a more left-wing slant), I decided to make the whole situation unfold on a sound stage. The protagonist trucker would be a career character actor who is miraculously granted a lead role. The supporting cast of this venture all has similar histories, and from reading the script, Chuck the stoic trucker knows this:
A tech-savvy starlet, he remembered (he anticipated, actually). A good-natured black man whom the script disclosed dies halfway through the journey. A handsome doctor who turns out to be working for the builders of the pod. A prophetic homeless woman …
I’m pretty enamored with character actors, who tend to be the most likable presences on screen (Angie Jo excepted). I’ve even daydreamed about trying to break into the business myself, once I'm old enough where weirdness starts counting more than looks. The documentary, That Guy .. Who Was In That Thing, understandswatch it here

And go to Brooklyn Arts Press to order my new book, The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales. It includes ‘The Stoic Trucker with a Heart of Gold’, and if you’re one of the first 50 who order it, you’ll get a free broadside adaptation of a story from the collection. Order it HERE!

Friday, December 5, 2014

17. HEIR

Champagne, please! Tonight is the release party for my short fiction collection, The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, out now from Brooklyn Arts Press! Click HERE to order it.


Included is a piece of flash fiction called ‘Heir’, which I adapted into a broadside printed on a manila envelope. The story’s young narrator stalks her uncle at a Salvation Army thrift store and pores over a collection of increasingly haunted objects until she encounters an old woman who may or may not be her grandmother’s ghost.

If you live in Iowa City, drop by the Paper Nest tonight between 5-7 pm, where the 'Heir' broadside will be on display. OR be one of the  first 50 people to order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales from the Brooklyn Arts Press website, and receive a free letterpress broadside of one of stories featured in the collection. ORDER NOW to get yours!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

16. LARAMIE & RUDYARD

As embarrassing as it is to admit, many of the pieces included in The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Stories are love stories. ‘Laramie & Rudyard’, though, is on the more lustful end of the spectrum: a courtship/seduction story.

In the tradition of athletic camp (read this for more details), Laramie agrees to accompany Rudyard to a football game. He meets his straight-acting love interest at his house, where he takes inventory of Rudyard's waterbed and trophy shelf. Once they're at the game, though, Rudyard leaves to buy beer, and Laramie identifies vaguely with Cleopatra as he wonders if he’s been abandoned. To find out what happens next, order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales HERE.

Monday, December 1, 2014

IT'S OUT!!!

Today is the official release date of The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales! Buy it now from Small Press Distribution!

And if you're in Iowa City, stop by the book's release party at the Paper Nest this Friday, Dec 5 between 5-7 pm. I'll have collages and broadsides of select stories on display and will give a brief, informal reading at around 6. The Paper Nest is at 220 E Washington St, across the alley from Studio 13.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

15. ROMANTIC COMEDY

‘Romantic Comedy’ started out as a short narrative poem and, years later, ballooned into a 5,000-word story. I included it in a poetry zine I put out—probably around 2001—called XVII Ghost Stories. Its production was flawed on several levels: I alternated folios between standard photocopier paper and mylar transparencies, a concept that proved to be not only prohibitively expensive, but also resistant to staying stapled.

In 2004, I re-designed the zine to eliminate the need for transparencies. Here are scans of the cover and ‘Romantic Comedy’ from that later edition:




In 2007, in the midst of my fiction MFA at Mills College, I decided to turn the poem into a story. At this point, it felt like an outline just waiting to be fleshed out. The biggest change I made to the piece’s overall structure was adding another character: the supervillain. He joined the hairdresser, the drunken mayor, and the second-person Eros.

Click HERE to pre-order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, my forthcoming fiction collection that includes the expanded version of ‘Romantic Comedy’.