From the monthly archives: November 2011

To the right of this post you will notice a list of upcoming dates, times and places at which I will be appearing along with some much more talented people. The occasion is the publication of an anthology of stories called The Speed Chronicles, edited by Joseph Mattson, and published by Akashic Books. My contribution is a story called “The Speed of Things,” and is not about the drug speed, unlike almost every one of the other stories.

The book is part of a companion series to Akashic’s wildly successful Noir series. In conjunction with The Speed Chronicles, Akashic has also revised, expanded and republished The Cocaine Chronicles. Some of those guys and gals will be joining us on a few stops of our brief West Coast tour as well.

The Speed Chronicles features brand new stories from: Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, James Franco, Megan Abbott, Jerry Stahl, Beth Lisick, Jess Walter, Scott Phillips, James Greer, Tao Lin, Joseph Mattson, Natalie Diaz, Kenji Jasper, and Rose Bunch.

If you live in one of the places listed on the right, and happen to be free on the evening in question, we would love to see you. No, really. It would be absolutely our pleasure. I mean that. Sincerely.

Here’s some propaganda:

“Akashic launches a new series of crime anthologies, each focused on a different controlled substance, with this addictive volume.”
Publishers Weekly

“All told, The Speed Chronicles deserves great praise for the audacity of the topic, the depth of the discussion, the diversity of its voices, and plain, old, good storytelling.”
New York Journal of Books

“The perfect stocking stuffer for your uncle in AA.”
New York Observer

“Just reading the table of contents for this fucker makes me want to hop in my time machine, zoom back to 1966, and find those two dubious physicians who used to write me scripts for Dexedrine, even though I was too tall and skinny to live already. Mainline this book now!”
James Ellroy

And some further explication of the books subject/contents:

SPEED: THE MOST DEMONIZED–and misunderstood–drug in the land. Deprived of the ingrained romantic mysticism of the opiate or the cosmopolitan chic of cocaine or the mundane tolerance of marijuana, there is no sympathy for this devil. Yet speed–crystal meth, amphetamines, Dexedrine, Benzedrine, Adderall; crank, spizz, chickenscratch, oblivious marching powder, the go-fast–is the most American of drugs: twice the productivity at half the cost, and equal opportunity for all. It feels so good and hurts so bad. From its dueling roots of pharmaceutical miracle cure and Californian biker-gang scourge to contemporary Ivy League campuses and high school chem labs, punk rock clubs to the military-industrial complex, suburban households to tin-can ghettos, it crosses all ethnicities, genders, and geographies–from immigrants and heartlanders punching double factory shifts to clandestine border warlords, doctors to bomber pilots, prostitutes to housewives, T-girls to teenagers, Academy Award-nominated actors and the mansion on the hill to the poorest Indian on the rez–making it not only the most essentially American narcotic, but the most deceivingly sundry literary matter.

THE SUBJECT OF SPEED IS SO INNATELY INTIMIDATING yet so undeniably present that it begs to be written about. It is no secret that the drug has historically tuned up the lives of writers, including Jack Kerouac, Susan Sontag, Philip K. Dick, and scores more. Too rarely, though, has it been written about, and its jolt to the bones of the American landscape continues to peak. Akashic Books dares to bring forth the first contemporary collection of all new literary short fiction on the drug from an array of today’s most compelling and respected authors. These are no stereotypical tales of tweakers–the element of crime and the bleary-eyed, shaky zombies at dawn are here right alongside heart-wrenching narratives of everyday people, good intentions gone terribly awry, the skewed American Dream going up in flames, and even some accounts of pure joy.



I received this note recently from a friend, and I’m re-posting it here in the hope of spreading the message as quickly and effectively as possible.

From the Public Art Defense League, operating in conjunction with Occupy LA:

Greetings. This is Travis Wilkerson writing to you on behalf of the Public Art Defense League–a newly-formed collective of progressive artist/activists. 

Occupy LA has been given notice by the city leaders that it will be evicted from city hall lawn next week. The mayor said the encampment becomes “unlawful” on Monday morning.

Despite the contradictions of Occupy LA, the pending eviction is part of nationally coordinated state repression against the Occupy movement as a whole. The blossoming of a new, growing movement of young people, students, workers and unemployed against the wealthiest 1% has the potential to develop into an ideological force capable of challenging the oppressive nature of the system—which is why the state is in the process of smashing it nationwide. Big business and its politicians want the Occupy movement gone completely, so any occupation that still stands is keeping that movement alive. Los Angeles is the last untouched major city.

 Because of the profound political and social significance of the potential eviction, the Public Art Defense League regards articulate documentation of state action and the organized political response as an urgent necessity. 

 Please help us accomplish this desperately important task. We intend to arm activists with as many small, sturdy sports cameras as we can purchase in the next 48 hours. Because of the extreme urgency of the request, we can’t turn to Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites. We have to turn to friends, fellow activists, and colleagues directly. 

 I’m personally spearheading and organizing the efforts to produce a powerful, useful, honest account of the eviction and its aftermath. 

 We welcome any and all donations, however small. Donations will be collected via paypal. The paypal address is Please follow donations with a brief email to the same address regarding instructions for acknowledgment or anonymity. Those who can donate $300 or more will effectively purchase a camera and will have the camera returned to them at the end of the action (assuming it isn’t seized or destroyed by the police). They can even name the camera (after themselves, a comrade, a friend, a hero), returned with the footage captured during the eviction. Smaller donations can help us buy batteries, cards, and so on. Every penny will be used to help document.  And every donator, no matter how small, will be thanked and acknowledged as a contributor. 

 Up until the last moment of the eviction, I’ll gather as many cameras as I can and distribute them as broadly as possible. Participatory media at its best while it happens. Please help us! We can all sense that this is a historic moment…

 Please write me with any questions or concerns. And thanks in advance for forwarding to appropriate folks who might be interested. 


Travis Wilkerson

(on behalf of) Public Art Defense League

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A few items of interest to readers of North of Onhava, and possibly to normal people, too:

1. An excerpt from my novel-in-progress is available for your reading pleasure at Joyland NYC. As far as I can tell, it’s set in a kind of pre-apocalyptic Paris, and contains at least two characters who may not be human. It would mean a lot to me if you would pretend to read it, and even more if you would pretend to like it by clicking on the little “like” icon next to the story.

2. I am reading from The Speed Chronicles, an anthology of stories about guess what, edited by Joseph Mattson, who is the author of the acclaimed (by me, but not just by me) novel Empty The Sun. The event is at Book Soup on Wednesday November 16, 7PM. Joseph will read from The Speed Chronicles, too. Also reading will be the editors of The Cocaine Chronicles, an analogous collection of stories about guess what. Both books will be published by Akashic Books and should start filtering into bookstores and online retailers very, very soon.

3. Joseph and I will be embarking on a West Coast tour to promote The Speed Chronicles at the end of November into early December. Exact dates, times, and participants (all subject to change because humankind is fallible and I in particular am a whimsical guy) can be found, conveniently, to the right of this post. We’ll be reading and drinking in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Arcata, Portland, and Seattle. If you live in one of those cities, your attendance is mandatory.

4. I reviewed Kate Zambreno‘s wonderful new novel Green Girl for the forthcoming issue of Bookforum. Which should also be filtering into bookstores, newstands, and online entities very soon.

5. Dennis Cooper is reading from his (masterful, ground-breaking) new novel The Marbled Swarm at Skylight Books on Thursday November 17. If you are anywhere near Los Angeles and don’t come to hear Dennis read I will no have no choice but to conclude that you are a fool, or worse.

6. Finally, but not in any way less importantly, the LA-based literary magazine Slake has begun a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their fourth issue. I cannot stress how great this magazine is and will continue to be, with your help. I know times are tough, but if you could see your way to throwing a couple of units of currency their way, not just Slake, not just me, but the entire literary world except for that one really bitter guy will thank you.