Beer mats, microfiction, and the future of publishing

So — Storm Crow Tavern — home of such dietary staples as Romulan Wings of Vengeance and The Tacos of the Damned (where you can roll a twenty-sided die to determine which shot you’re ordering) — ran a microfiction contest this summer … and I seem to have won!

I’m happy. So happy that, in future, I might never again publish if it doesn’t involve beer coasters.



There’s a super short piece of mine on this month’s Readers Digest site (along with pieces by Peter Jaeger, Jen Pendergast, Hermine Robinson, Rachel Lebowitz, Ashley-Elizabeth Best,  rob mcLennan and Jen Pendergast). If you’re on twitter, the site is streaming twitter-shorts under the hashtag #rdshorts.

The reason I love Sarah Jane.

I’ve been curious about the title of Spencer Susser’s short, its genesis. Wonder if it comes from the old blues song called “Make me a pallet on your floor” (there’s a Buddy Bolden version of this song ringing out through the ether; at least, that’s what Rob would say — that our voices vibrate out towards the stars; not so indelible as the “voyager golden record” maybe, but tiny traces of us still, a resonance). The following is a transliteration of the 1911 version set down in “Mama Yancey and the Revival Blues Tradition.”

Make me a pallet on the floor,
Make it in the kitchen behind the door.

Oh, don’t turn a good man from your door,
May be a friend, babe, you don’t know.

Oh, look down that lonesome lane,
Made me a pallet on the floor

Oh, the reason I love Sarah Jane,
Made me a pallet on the floor.

(Odum 1911)

Karlinsky book launch

Book Launch – October 28

Come to the launch of Harry Karlinsky’s first novel!

evolutionThe Evolution of Inanimate Objects:
The Life and Collected Works of Thomas Darwin (1857-1879)
Published by Insomniac Press

Thursday, October 28th
7:00 to 9:00 pm

Reading begins at 7:30 pm
Introduction by editor Anne Stone

Coffee and dessert will be served.


Jewish Community Centre (JCC)
2nd Floor
Isaac Waldman Library

950 West 41st Ave (at Oak)
604-257-5111 ext 249

Large parking lot attached to the JCC entrance
off 41st Avenue

Praise for The Evolution of Inanimate Objects:

“An incredible work of the imagination. A revolutionary novel.”
Lee Henderson, author of The Man Game and The Broken Record Technique.

“The Evolution of Inanimate Objects invites us to surrender, for a few hours, the distinction between biography and fiction, reason and delusion, the organic and the contrived–and what sly fun ensues!”
Joan Thomas, author of Curiosity and Reading by Lightning

“Harry Karlinsky has produced an extraordinary artifact, a novel disguised as closely researched history, so carefully constructed and convincingly made that we believe in the sad, amusing, story as if it were fact. The book is wonderfully imagined; it is a romp, a mine of information, and a refined pleasure.”
Dr. Vivian M. Rakoff, Professor Emeritus, Dept of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

“This fascinating historical narrative succeeds not only in creating a convincing nineteenth century British-Canadian psychiatric milieu peopled by engaging characters, but also in delivering incisive comment — often satirical — on important themes and issues.”
Dr. Paul Potter, History of Medicine, University of Western Ontari

“A radical novel that, among other things, vividly recreates Dr. R.M. Bucke, one of Canadian history’s true eccentrics.”
George Fetherling, author and editor of more than 50 books, including Walt Whitman’s Secret

“I was completely taken by the story. It is a compelling read that takes the reader into another historical dimension, and suspends belief. The unlikely story of the evolution of cutlery even becomes plausible. In brief, it is a good and captivating read, solidly set within an historical context of great interest.”
Dr. Keith Benson, an historian of biology and past Principal of Green College at University of British Columbia

Warland on Books Rational

Betsy Warland came by the Arts Rational radio show on Thursday to talk about her new book, Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing (Cormorant, 2010). Her book will be launched on Sunday, September 12, 5:30–7:30 pm, Rhizome Café, 317 East Broadway (at Kingsway).

You can catch the interview here:

McGimpsey interviewed at Maisonneuve

Below, David McGimpsey on class & poetry (or reason ten, why I love David McGimspey).

David McGimpsey:  Of course I meet that kind of resistance all the time and, in some ways, it always surprises me. This resistance, of course, never actually comes from a stuffy Julliard professor looking down his or her nose at me as I besmirch the sublimity of Mozart. The resistance more often comes from sheltered MFAs, insecure grad students, and poetasters whose cultural palate, to use a comparison they will appreciate, is as extensive and refined as the menu at Arby’s. I should say, however, that I am not championing “the people” or the wisdom of the streets: rarely do I express knowledge and enthusiasm for products which are as culturally sanctified as the blues. I would rather write about The Karate Kid.

So, this dismissal, to put more of a spin on it, usually comes from good middle class folk who are trying to show off their decent educations and who just want to write their fancy poems about prowling mooncats or how awful that mean old Dick Cheney was and who would never think of themselves as enforcing class divisions. Good people know it’s not nice to say somebody who was born poor is unsalvageable, but somebody who publicly likes NASCAR or enjoys drinking diet soda from the can— well, good luck explaining that at the next departmental cinq a sept.

There’s a yawning, routine anti-Americanism which comes into play in this, of course, and it’s impossible to defend against the screeds of Canadian jingoists. I understand the role of elitism in the cultural production of poetry and how it simply does not welcome reference to working class culture (beyond sad imagery about defeated fathers in undershirts watching sports on the tube) and, on occasion, picking up on the simple bigotry behind it all, hurts to hear. But it remains strange to me that most of this tut-tutting comes not in service of actually promoting the ancients (my poetry is actually fond of the ancients, is conscious of both canon and repertoire) but mostly in service of trying to preserve a provincial notion of elitist social order organized around the idea of “poetry.” To keep it free of references to Miley Cyrus. Not in the name of Milton or Wordsworth, but in the name of some rather recent Canadian book of poetry with a title like In the House of the Moth-Stone. Not in the name of Mozart, but somehow in the name of boxed wine and sensible sweaters.  I actually prefer my snobs snobby.