Sunday, January 25, 2009

how you find out about shit

i decided to write this post after reading sasha fletcher's comment on htmlgiant because it made me feel good to think about, and i was interested in feeling good while thinking about something during today

i learned about frank stanford from both peter markus and derek white mentioning in various places that 'the battlefield where the moon says i love you' was one of, or maybe the most favorite of, their favorite books, i think maybe derek for a while had it listed as the only book in his books section on myspace, but maybe i am just projecting.

i learned about both peter markus and derek white through calamari press, which i think i found first when derek submitted a story to lamination colony in early 2006, which led me to the press, at which point i bought several of the books and all thereafter, etc.

i learned about online journals i think probably by looking up some kind of keyword on altavista.com, i know it was before google, i can't remember what i looked up, i think of one the first sites I found was eyeshot, who ended up publishing my first ever thing, i remember feeling amazed and like i was at the center of some universe when i read the acceptance letter, like my head really was being physically changed, i also remember during this time looking at pindeldyboz in pure astonishment and praying one day i could be there, though it took several rejections and much going on inside my mind before this happened.

i learned about william burroughs after spending several years reading things related to the beats, which i guess is a phase all readers go through, especially males, i think this obsession started when my friend brought a recording of allen ginsberg reading 'america' into our 10th grade lit class, we had to get a permission slip signed to hear it cause he said 'fuck,' i thought that was awesome, i liked everything about the way he said things, i bought his collected poems and read it back to back and from there read everything i could find related to beats, of which i think i ended up most obsessed with william burroughs, i bought 'naked lunch' from the only indie bookstore in a hip part of town and felt excited that i finally knew a book there that i could buy without just browsing, i read 'naked lunch' several times while kind of amazed that a book like it existed, that people could talk like that in books

i learned about 'in watermelon sugar' from a reading list that david foster wallace used from one of his classes at pomona, during a period in which i would read any and everything i could find that he mentioned in interviews or blurbed, i have the list somewhere, i need to find it, other books i learned from his mentioning included books by cormac mccarthy, donald barthelme, nicholson baker, cynthia ozick, renata adler, david markson, robert coover, mark leyner, william vollmann, a.m. homes, and probably an almost majority of my self-imposed 'formative' reading during college, i think i can pretty much point to david foster wallace's public record of taste as an early guidebook to everything i may have learned about both reading and writing

i learned about david foster wallace i think in a random entertainment magazine a year after 'infinite jest' came out, i think it was while i was at a studio recording a record with my band at the time, the magazine just happened to be there among mostly other recording magazines and porn, inside the magazine i read a description of infinite jest and it seemed intriguing so i asked for it for christmas, this was during a period of time that i basically had quit reading out of boredom with what i knew about in books and music was way more 'my thing' and i was a computer science major at georgia tech, had i not read that magazine that day i might be a lot fatter now and probably hate my life, i got infinite jest for xmas and read it everywhere i went, i remember being in a physics class with a couple hundred people in it and sitting during a review for a test reading the book instead of paying attention to what i needed to know to pass, at a later point in the semester while i was still reading the book i walked out of that class and dropped out of it, and subsequently changed my major to the most liberal arts related thing they had at tech, that is the year i wrote my first 'story'

i learned about steve erickson from going to this branch of discount bookstores with my mom before i knew much about what i liked to read and would go through the stacks of books they had one by one, they were mostly all remainders, i found 'tours of the black clock' i think because i liked the title and the back of the book really made me want to read it, this was before it was easy to get stuff on the internet i think, or at least i didn't know about it, in the book it mentioned all his other books, so each time we went back to this particular branch of discount stores, of which there were 2 or 3 in the area, one of which was really far away, but my mom liked to go looking too, the first thing i would do when we got to the store was go see if they had any of the other steve erickson books and sometimes they did, which would make me feel like i'd survived a long journey or something

i learned to love tom waits after years of talking shit about his music, i remember being in TGI friday's one night and saying to two of my friends who liked his music how i thought anyone who liked his music must be lying, because it sounded like someone rubbing two stones together inside his voice, now that is one of the things i most like about his voice, i think a lot of the things i really like now are things i used to talk shit about or hate for the same reasons

i learned about amy hempel because she had blurbed the back of gary lutz's book, i think i bought gary lutz's book because i liked 3rd bed magazine so much and his book came out on their press, i had completely forgotten until the middle of last year that i was a subscriber to 3rd bed and had several of their issues, i can't remember what made me subscribe to 3rd bed because i know for sure at the time i knew nothing about it or the writers in it, actually i think one time they mentioned it on pindeldyboz or were linked on pindeldyboz while i was obsessed with being published at pindeldyboz and followed all the links on their website and i guess liked what 3rd bed looked like, anyway back to amy hempel, after reading gary lutz's book i liked it so much and felt such power coming from it, from both the words and the way the book looked sitting on my bed and how it seemed a whole other thing inside the world, for real, i started looking into the people who had blurbed him, including brian evenson and ben marcus and amy hempel, after reading amy hempel's book because of her blurb she was the main reason along with rick moody, who i discovered again in relation to DFW shortly after finishing infinite jest, that i decided to try to go to bennington for my mfa when i was done with georgia tech and had no idea what to do after that, if i hadn't read gary lutz i would not have found amy hempel at that time and probably not ended up at bennington

i learned about barry hannah because amy hempel read us 'water liars' in workshop and then suggested i read 'ray' during the semester, and also learned about a lot of knopf and lish books that she recommended though at the time i didn't even realize they were lish related, or even who lish was that much, i feel like i could get a lot more now out of conversations i might have had with my teachers back then and often feel idiotic over some of the things i did/wrote/said during that time, though that is probably the point of my having been there: to get it out of me as much as possible if not for good. i remember one time, for example, asking amy if david ohle was gordon lish, because i had read that somewhere i think on the internet and amy just laughed and said, 'gordon lish isn't david ohle'

i learned about, or at least started paying closer attention to, fc2, and thereafter, other independent presses, because when i was at bennington i had a professor tell me that when i finished the book i was working on with him i would pretty much have only two possible places that would be interested, fc2 and dalkey archive, which, looking back on such advice, makes me feel really confused about the nature of such advice, even if maybe it was meant as a compliment or something, but is also i think frightening to tell a writer, though maybe also in another way a very important thing to have to hear even if it isn't necessarily the case, and this is also how i found a lot of smaller anomalous writers whose books i loved and still don't hear about as much as i should, etc

i learned about sam pink when he sent me a story to lamination colony blindly before i think he'd published much of anything and i really loved what he said and how he said it and have continued to do so thenceforth, along with several other writers that i now see around a lot which is probably the main reason i've kept doing an online magazine for 5+ years

i think everything i learn about now comes from the internet or sometimes talking to other people

i need to stop now

21 comments:

Molly Gaudry said...

Don't stop! I love this! I would keep reading this forever, Blake, really.

XOXO,
M.

Jac said...

I'm so charmed by this post.

BlogSloth said...

i learned about heroin through lily. Thanks lily, and about 10,000 grand to leave that shit.

Then some grad student set up mu "blog"

from them, downhill, and I moved several states to ski downhill so like downhill.

Thanks to all.

I hope I can go down further still, faster.

S

BLAKE BUTLER said...

i like molly and jac

i guess i like you too sean

sasha fletcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sasha fletcher said...

http://anicecoldcocacola.blogspot.com/2009/01/i-am-going-to-write-blog-now.html

last time that didn't show up proper like.
i don't know.
let's keep this up.

Molly Gaudry said...

Blake, I like you, too. Guess what?

Special Orange Alert AWP Reading

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
7:30 p.m.

Blake Butler
Barry Graham
S. Craig Renfroe
Stephanie Kuehnert
Jason Jordan
John Domini
Allison Eir Jenks
Peter Schwartz
Ben Tanzer
Molly Gaudry

THE BOOK CELLAR
4736-38 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 293-2665

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

BLAKE BUTLER said...

shit be crazy, that will be fun

Molly Gaudry said...

It will be fun, but really I'm here to tell you that I think you should write a book-length, how-you-find-out-about-shit manifesto, seriously. People will buy it. Yes!

sasha fletcher said...

blake i'm going to do more of these.
let's do more of these.
everyone should do these.

Darby said...

I had the same 3rd bed experience. I remember just thinking of them reverently but for no reason because I hadn't read it. But yeah, the site I liked the look of it. Something good must have been in it? I should go buy some copies from calamari because to this day I've still not read an issue. And Gary Lutz who was a name was involved and etc. I enjoyed reading this post. I fear if I tried to write a post like this it would be very I don't know. Self involved? I think a lot of what I've read and how I came upon it was in direct offense to things people around me recommend me, or things people were scared to attempt like ij and gr and fw and u. Sometimes the beer's just good anyway.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

all the issues of 3rd bed i have are amazing page to page. i recommend doing the buy

and doing the self indulge: you must involve yourself

sam pink said...

i want to do one of these now.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

do that shit

James said...

great post, blake.

i've always been really into how everyone finds everything. i found tom waits through kazaa or limewire or bearshare or some shit like that my freshman year of college. i was doing a search of "polka" music to put on as a joke while i was out of the room. (i'm not really sure why, other than i think i imagined, then, that it would be funny to walk by a person's dorm room and hear polka blasting through the door and i wanted to provide this experience to others. also, i was kind of an ass.) i downloaded waits's "cemetary polka" to go along "beer barrel polka" and some other polka song i can't remember the name of. i set the three songs to repeat, turned the volume all the way up, and then locked my dorm room door and went out for a while. this all happened a few more times until it became clear nobody really cared what music i listened to or what i did at all and i stopped, because it just seemed sad to try to instigate with no response. seemed embarrassing, ineffectual, etc. it wasn't until years of shit-talking him later that i thought of tom waits as anything other than the creator of that awful noise i used to put on to piss people off.

what a shit i was.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

that is a great story. does anybody ever find tom waits in a normal, everyday kind of way? i should hope not

Molly Gaudry said...

Ha ha, I found him through his films with Benini.

James said...

that might be the most normal everyday way yet. still sort of strange though, or at least interesting, given the fact you found his music through his acting.

it's great that music as weird as tom waits's is found by methods of equal weirdness.

Eunuchsblues said...

i found him face down in the bathroom.

muzzy1027 said...

Stop! You just told me all the answers to everything I've ever asked.

peter b. said...

you just have to listen to people