I think a lot of the notes, it's just a fragment of the story. It's up to you to piece together what's really happening…
Even if you never buy a copy of the magazine or the two collections, do yourself a favor and subscribe to the feed for Find of the Day. Free, and always fascinating.
Zisk #12 Now Available!
Issue #12 of Zisk, which contains my short story "Casey's Real Turn at Bat," is now available online from both Quimby's and Razorcake. Quimby's has the issue up for sale on their website. Razorcake doesn't have it up on their site yet, but for now you can buy it from them for $2 postage paid (U.S. only) through their PayPal account (payments [AT] razorcake [DOT] com)--just make sure you specify "Zisk #12" when placing your order.
This issue of Zisk is quite good--there's one other short story, "Rain on Tin" by Jackson Ellis, plus plenty of enjoyable non-fiction, including Jake Austen's two pieces on the White Sox, Throm Sturmond's look back at the lunatics on the '84 Padres (who so famously knocked the Cubs out of the playoffs), and a thougtful tribute to Kirby Puckett.
Message from THE2NDHAND
This note hit my inbox recently. I'm a big fan of Al Burian from his writings in his famed Burn Collector and his lesser-known Natural Disasters zines. (The latter zine can be seen here, being avidly "read" by Maddie at age 3; Al told me that he'd consider using this photo as the cover for the next issue of ND. Unfortunately, it has yet to appear.)
THE2NDHAND Releases Installment #19
Feb. 26 at Skylark, 2149 S. Halsted
THE2NDHAND Installment #19 is “Zangara,” by Al Burian, a reimagining of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak’s 1933 assassination by height-challenged bricklayer Guiseppe Zangara at an FDR campaign event in Miami. Told from the point of view of Cermak himself, the piece addresses Zangara’s profound lack of height and Cermak’s infrastructural legacy, legendary last words, rumored mob ties, and more, all in the trademark style Burian’s developed over almost a decade writing and producing the Burn Collector zine. We convene at Skylark, at the corner of Halsted and the great road that bears Cermak’s name, to celebrate. For this event, we’ll focus on fiction imbued with just the twinge (or more) of authenticity by settings around historical events. This event was made possible in part by Poets & Writers magazine through a grant from an anonymous donor.
With readings by:
and Susannah Felts, C.T. Ballentine, and Todd Dills as Pitchfork Battalion
To be followed by a DJ set or two by the great Joe Meno, author of Hairstyles of the Damned, a novel, and most recently a collection of shorts called Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir.
FREE, Sunday, Feb 26, 8 PM
Skylark, 2149 S. Halsted, Chicago
312.948.5275 or 773.278.7034
Al Burian is the writer behind the long-running Burn Collector zine. He occasionally writes for Punk Planet and other print organs.
Brian Costello is the author of The Enchanters vs. Sprawlburg Springs, a novel, and teaches writing in the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago.
Jeb Gleason-Allured is a contributing editor of THE2NDHAND’s online magazine. His stories have been published in a variety of magazines.
Susannah Felts is a regular contributor to the Chicago Reader and a professor of writing at SAIC.
C.T. Ballentine curates the Aftercrossword Special zine; his story “Never Die During Winter” was featured in THE2NDHAND Installment #17 and his work has otherwise appeared with regularity in THE2NDHAND’s online magazine
Todd Dills is the founder and editor of THE2NDHAND. His first novel, Sons of the Rapture, will be published later this year by Featherproof.
I Dedicate This Next Song to Myself
Not sure what the above title  means other than a vague reference to narcissism, but the winter 2004/2005 issue of political/philosophical zine "The Die" published a letter (.pdf file, jump to page 3) I wrote regarding a Texas Republican student group's "watch list" of liberal professors. The list implicitly criticized professors who (in my own words) "use their classrooms to 'promote liberal agendas,' indoctrinate students, and fail to present 'opposing viewpoints' in their classes."
"The Die" is always a very interesting read. Editor Joe Smith now appears to be publishing the zine exclusively online due to budgetary considerations. The latest issue (#9) is now available online here, along with several previous issues.
 The line is a snippet of dialogue spoken by Michael Stipe during an R.E.M. live show, which Camper Van Beethoven spliced into the middle of "She Divines Water", on Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart.
Sometimes I think all of these blog postings of mine are just lonely cries in the wilderness, that nobody really cares about what I have to say, that it's having no impact on anyone.
And then along comes this email, slicing through my despair like the proverbial hot knife through butter:
I do not know you, nor have I seen photos, but I am willing to wax eloquent on your intellectual superiority and your physical beauty to all comers. Why? Because in a fit of pre-holiday boredom I just googled my own name, and found your June 04 comment on my one and only story in The First Line. You dubbed it "hilarious." Wow. Congratulations -- you are the first person to review my published work. And you were very kind. Thank you, sir.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
My pleasure, Chris, and best holiday wishes to you as well. Your story "Victory" (which I glowingly mentioned here; sorry I was so brief) is the most memorable one I've come across in The First Line so far.
Philadelphia Independent, R.I.P.
Arriving in my inbox this morning was the following sad news from The Philadelphia Independent, a very fine alternative newspaper that I only recently stumbled across. Diverse viewpoints like those of TPI are needed now, more than ever. They will be missed.
Dear Sirs & Madams,
We're currently at work on the Independent's next issue, our twenty-first in nearly three years. It will be out in late December, and it will also be the last issue of the Independent you'll see for a while, maybe the last one for good. After the issue is out, we'll close our office down, slash our payroll to zero, and, following a long-postponed visit to the dentist, start looking around for other work.
Our goal was to give Philadelphia a newspaper of quality and dispel any notion that you need much in the way of money or experience to create such a newspaper. In our first issue, we wrote that we hoped to capture worthy but overlooked subjects in print and remind our readers of the relationship newspapers used to have with cities. In the process, we hoped to change the ways Philadelphia thinks of itself. By these measures, we consider the Independent a success.
The Independent wasn't born as a business, and has thoroughly resisted all attempts to turn into one. Frankly, we are amazed that the Independent has survived and broken even for three years while violating most every rule of (financially) successful newspaper publishing. The only thing we can attribute this longevity to is you--your willingness as contributors, advertisers and readers to throw your support behind this project. Because of you, we've had three years to learn and improve and share stories and art from Philadelphia with thousands of readers around the world.
Last week, we received a letter from a reader named Jessica, who lives in New York but visited Philadelphia as a volunteer during the presidential campaign. She writes: "I've never had such a feeling of love at first sight for a newspaper. Your brilliant masthead and headlines were what first drew me in, but I was impressed by the intelligence and creativity apparent in every eclectic detail, and that a local paper could have features and journalism that speak so relevantly about national and international issues. Every article I read made me want to read further, and I've never felt this way about the Village Voice or the New York Press..."
She has you to thank, and so do we. We're going to throw you and the rest of the city a party in late January, the time and place of which will be published in the next issue. After the issue is out, we'll be happy to sit down with anyone who's interested in picking up where we're leaving off, or discussing how the Independent could eventually resume publication.
In the meantime, send us your free classifieds! All proclamations, personals, rooms for rent, pets for sale, free band names, calls for submissions, and brief farewells are welcome. Send them to email@example.com by this Friday at 8 p.m.
Zine Reviews, Part 2
Thoughts on a fresh batch of zines, from Quimby's and elsewhere.
Just like the name implies, Found consists of handwritten notes, email printouts, shopping lists, candid photos etc. which have been lost or simply discarded, only to be found and submitted to the magazine. Deftly edited by Davy Rothbart, Found is a fascinating cultural artifact which documents the thoughts, hopes and heartbreaking regrets of everyday people who never intended their words for public viewing. Also includes a rambling interview with Davy's brother Peter, Dumpster-diver extraordinaire, as the two hunt for finds in the collegiate detritus of Ann Arbor. Peter has some great insights on our disposable culture:
Peter: To go through trash you have to go through a shift in view. People see anything in a Dumpster as trash, and they think if it's there it should stay there, it's dirty or whatever. But this blanket, which just came from somebody's bed forty-five minutes ago, I don't think it's trash.
Davy: Yeah, it's really crazy that you can move something in physical space, and it becomes something else! From a blanket into trash.
Peter: Yeah, I'm just seeing it still as a blanket.
Caboose #4, "The Ridiculous Issue"
Quimby's very own Liz Mason writes Caboose which is fun and refreshing, much (I presume) like Liz herself. She's a punk chick who can relate what past idolizations of Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye et al says about who she is now, and yet isn't afraid to joyously confess her love for MTV workout videos and karaoke or relate her long-ago experiences working at Renaissance Faire. (Non-Chicagoans, read on here. The rest of you should already know.) And laugh-out-loud funny is her piece "College Radio DJ Voiceover Mad Lib" which includes:
And before that, you heard the (adjective) (plural noun) with "(saying on those retro ironic t-shirts)" from the EP "(superlative) (food)," on (letter) Records from (town encompassing liberal arts college without grades or where one creates own major).
(For those of you playing alone at home, those last three references were to K Records, Olympia, WA and Evergreen State College. I have yet to decipher the rest from K's back catalog.)
Burn Collector #12
Another installment of Al Burian's life odyssey. This time around it's a powerful account of a brutally frigid first winter in Chicago, a dying relationship, and two cathartic musical experiences, one with a roomful of barflies to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and the other alone to Iron Maiden's "Screaming for Vengeance."
You forget the astounding depths you can reach when you're a teenager and you don't have any emotional filters, when you haven't yet learned to keep a stiff upper lip, to force yourself to tune out the weight of a world that is unbearable. As you get older your range of feeling becomes compressed within the limits you allow yourself to feel, how far you'll let yourself go. This is normal and necessary; we couldn't put up with the tiny tortures and humiliations of our daily lives otherwise...We can't just scream for vengeance all the time. But, simultaneously, we lose some fundamental and human aspect of ourselves when we learn to put up or shut up. You end up registering the heaviest emotional weight as nothing more than a hassle, the newest anecdote of inconvenience in your life. One day you slip up and find yourself crying hysterically to "take these chains off of my heart." Oh, this is embarrassing. This is the soundtrack to another me, a me inside of me, who at thirteen wanted to die from feeling a weight so monumental that I could not bear to live with it.
Underworld Crawl #1
Subtitled "monophonic rustbelt zine pulp", this zine is R. Lee's accounts of day-job ennui, excessive drinking and a near-loving tribute to his childhood pseudo-foster parent Harvey. But the capper is the story of Lee's unrepentantly foul co-worker Kizland, who's rendered so vividly that you'd swear he's fictional. Of such characters are classic underground novels made. (Lee gave me my copy for free; who knows, he might be similarly inclined if you're interested. Contact me for his address.)
Show Me the Money! #19
Very informative compendium of economic and political articles, mostly drawn from other sources (kind of a grim version of Utne). Includes a lengthy discussion of Japan, a rather distressing look at the sustainability of industrialized agriculture, and a fascinating take on The Wizard of Oz--I hadn't realized that the original book was actually a political/economic allegory centering on the 1896 McKinley-Bryan presidential campaign and the gold standard debate.
The First Line Fall 2004
As always, the journal provides the opening line (this time, "I was born Rosa Carlotta Silvana Grisanti, but in the mid-Eighties, I legally changed my name to Eve.") and writers take it from there. The difference this time around is that I actually submitted a piece for this issue ("Can't Be Happy Today, But Tomorrow"), the rejection of which is inevitably coloring my opinion of the pieces which were deemed as worthy. Several of the stories, I feel, are inferior to or no better than my own. With two notable exceptions: Heidi Rehmann's "Rosa's Readings" and Emily Fitch's "Disappearing", both of which beautifully describe a woman protagonist's transformation. (I'm reversing my previous reservations, and will indeed be submitting for the next issue. I'll show 'em, or something like that.)
Optic Nerve #1
The first issue of the renowned Adrian Tomine's graphic novel/comic/whatever-you-call-it. Sharp artwork and very involving narratives, particularly the heartbreakingly poignant "Lunch Break." Beautiful.
Duplex Planet #169
More of David Greenberger's wonderful interviews with senior citizens, full of the usual life accounts and offbeat wisdom.
Giovanni: I don't feel like sleeping anymore. No, I'm too old to sleeping. I rather do something.
Greenberger: You're too old for sleep?
Giovanni: You know, the baby needs to sleep. You know, after the mother gives it the milk they put him to sleep. I don't need it. What else do you need? Dry peppers.
Laxmichand D. Tejani: If you don't mind, I will tell you one thing: If you want happiness, make others happy first, then you will have happiness--it will be automatic!
Another Onslaught of Zines
This time around, I couldn't resist revisiting Burn Collector and Duplex Planet after enjoying the last ones so much, and I'm introducing myself to Found (seemingly everybody's zine darling these days), Optic Nerve (Adrian Tomine's renowned comic), Show Me The Money (described as "a less high-brow Baffler, or a less anarchism [or other ism]-based Match") and Caboose (by Quimby's very own Liz Mason).
High praise is in order for my most recent zine discovery, The Die. This Maryland-based periodical, finely written by Joe Smith, is a very thoughtful look at contemporary culture. The Spring 2004 issue includes a very good essay entitled "The Fate of Solitude in an Electronic Age," Smith's pointed response to Sven Birkerts' diatribe of modern woe The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, thoughts on Walter Kaufman's writings on existentialism, several troubling reports of neocon thought-policing, and plentiful zine reviews which are already prompting further reading on my part.
The Die is available for free from Joe's publishing concern, Red Roach Press. But don't be a cheap bastard--send him a donation of cash or postage stamps when you request a copy.
To Have and to Hold
The First Line
To Pass Along
The Minus Times
Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wrislet
The Future Generation
As if my life wasn't complicated enough these days (buying new house, tidying up old house for selling, packing up old house for moving, a week at Disney World, plus the incessant incoming tide of reading material), I recently received a shipment of zines from Quimby's. Thoughts and impressions:
Burn Collector #6: Al Burian's marvelous recollections of a maladjusted adolesence in Chapel Hill (including his discovery of coffee), plus the mind-bending pleasures of sleep deprivation.
The First Line (Vol. 5, Issue 2): Fascinating premise--the editor provides the opening line (this time: "The view from up here is incredible and makes me feel _____") and writers take the story from there. Fourteen writers contribute to this issue, most notably Daphne M.S. Repass' "The Castle" ("So we strolled--can you see it? A marine strolling through the park on a date. In spite of my pride and bravado, Noriko planned the day and lead us through it. And I willingly followed."); Chris Akeley's "Victory", a hilarious tale of middle-aged suburban rebellion; and one particularly memorable line from Wolf Finkbeiner's "Zero Mountain": "Zero Mountain overlooks Fayetteville. The darkness seems to hide the town's mediocrity; the streetlights give her glamour, and a little mystery, like a farm girl on prom night." (I've already submitted a piece for the Summer 2004 issue.)
Duplex Planet #168: David Greenberger's outstanding, ongoing project of interviewing nursing home residents. Entries range from charming reminiscences of everyday life (Sylvia Harvest: "I go to a department store and I walk from one end of the furniture department to the other. When I get tired I sit down, and then I go to another floor. And then I go to the ladies department, the jewelry department. Sometimes I buy something, and I have a place to go the next day, or two days later, to return it. I am known in every department store in New York City.") to responses to quirky questions (Q: "Why do they name hurricanes but not eclipses?" Rita Butler: "The more gentle things are, the faster they forget about 'em.") Warm, wonderful stuff.
The Minus Times #28: Esteemed lit journal, very indie rock in feel, right down to the faded-typewriter lettering and random pasted-in photos--the literary equivalent of lo-fi. Highlights included the ever-wonderful David Berman and his poem "The Irish Space Program" ("I turned on my heels and headed back, determined to eject that hermit from my thinking spot. Hatred came flipping down my forearms. Any refusal would be met with super-refusal...But upon returning, I found my pastoral arena was depopulated once again. I took a seat and turned an ear to the birds inside the sky. So only ten bad minutes had been appended to my life.") and Brent Van Daley's addiction narrative "Thin Is In" ("I saw Nick digging through an ashtray. His sunken eyes burned like matchsticks, his oily hair forever pushed back. There were two open sores between his middle and index fingers; his habit of nodding off with a lit cigarette. Unmasked, his face and the mask were the same. There was nothing to say. Chasing the dragon; I thought it was understood, the trick is not to catch it.").
Philadelphia Independent (August 2003): Curious alternative monthly which combines sharply-observed news (re former California governor Gray Davis: "He has the face of a very unassuming greyhound, does best with people who have already paid $1,000 a plate, and endeavors to be nothing more than the lesser of all evils. Davis possesses the curious combination of being completely introverted, while at the same time appearing to lack any sort of inner life."), personal essay (Rebecca Dalzell's "Twenty Years With Rita: The Babysitter Who Taught Me To Curse"), satire (Lord Whimsy's social-decorum primer: "It is always better to watch a game of croquet than to participate in one. Indeed, one may easily amuse one's self as a spectator by providing slurred, ribald color commentary--preferably within earshot of one's younger relations--whilst sipping one's fourth whiskey sour and quietly contemplating the atrocious arrangements of the host's flowerbed."), intriguing novel excerpts by Bryan Christy and Clark Roth, and underground comics. And it all comes in a massive newspaper broadsheet format--two inches wider than the usual--which makes reading on a cramped train tricky. A thouroughly enjoyable steal, for the price of just one buck.
I finally got around to reading night rally., the sadly defunct literary journal. This eclectic journal was the labor of love of Amber Dorko Stopper, one of Julie's online colleagues (they're both avid knitters), who sent Julie several old issues a while back. The issue I just finished reading (vol. 1 no. 2) was quite interesting, with a wide range of topics:
+ The odd fiction of comic icon Andy Kaufman. "The Assassination" was particularly good--four parallel narratives which pleasantly leaves unresolved the question of who pulled the trigger.
+ The diary-esque poetry of Sharisha G., which reads somewhat like Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago, in verse.
+ Excerpts from acclaimed zine The Duplex Planet, which consists of intriguing interviews with nursing home residents.
+ A roundtable discussion between Amber, contributing editor Lisa Annelouise Tomer, Another Chicago Magazine managing editor Sara Skolnik and writer Gwen Cope, who talk about the role of lust in creative writing, the value of dayjobs and writing as an avocation, and postmodernism versus plagiarism.
+ A very funny fiction piece by Andrew Ervin, "Diz Lives", which tells the story of an American expat in London who finds himself living in Chinatown and writing intellectual fortune cookie messages. He's prone to sitting in restaurants, eavesdropping on people at other tables to hear his messages read aloud. An angry Chianti-fueled bender leads to an ill-advised message-writing session ("You Will Be Blown Up By the I.R.A.") with predictably disastrous results at a restaurant the following day.
All in all, night rally. was a very satisfying read. Based on the sad plight of the journal, I would imagine Amber has quite a few old issues she'd love to sell you, so contact her here if you're interested. Highly recommended.