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(Title of post swiped, with all due respect, from John Henry Newman, one of the greatest English language writers of the last couple hundred years).

I haven’t posted much here at North of Onhava in the last year or two. Or three. I’m not sure. I lose track of time easily. The reason I haven’t posted much is because I haven’t written much. The reason I haven’t written much is that I’m grappling with a dense but patchy fog of depression, which occasionally lifts, but not long enough for me to get anything done.

I’ve decided to let people know that I’ve been struggling with depression (among other things, but these are either side effects of depression or triggers that corkscrew me deeper down) because from what I have read in recent years, mental illness — especially of the not-incredibly-serious-type — tends to be dismissed, overlooked, or at least not often-enough discussed, which tends to leave those suffering from not-incredibly-serious but still quite palpable disorders feeling isolated. But there are, in fact, large numbers of people who deal with similar psycho-physical issues as mine, some of them much more severe, some of them much less, but all of them important both to themselves and to the people who care for them. The worst thing you can do, in my experience — though it’s also the most tempting and easiest thing to do — is to withdraw into yourself and pretend you are doing fine when you’re not doing fine. People who suffer from depression are often very, very good at making other people, even people close to them, believe that they are doing fine. I advise against doing that. Let someone know. Let everyone know, if that’s your thing. But let someone know. They can’t really help you, at least not in any immediate prescriptive sense, but it’s the right thing to do and it will prevent problems further down the line.

Mostly my depression manifests as a kind of existential hopelessness, which translates into extreme lassitude at times when I need the highest degree of focus and motivation. Adrenalin is sometimes enough to carry me through these periods, but often it’s not, and I sink into a mire of apathy and self-loathing. Self-loathing of course is not necessarily or only a component of depression; it’s an affliction with which every writer or musician or artist grapples almost continuously. But it doesn’t help. Nothing, really, helps. Sometimes time helps. Sometimes time doesn’t help. The worst part of all this is that there’s not really anything anyone can do, because you cannot reason your way out of depression, so (for example) somebody pointing out all the great things in your life that you should be grateful for or which should motivate you or excite you or at very least interest you will do you absolutely no good. When you are in the trough, you can’t see outside of the trough. For instance, the fact that when I read back over this miserable little post the prose is clunky and artless and unfocussed should really bother me a lot more than it does, but it doesn’t. It just doesn’t. I should care and I want to care but I don’t care.

Having said that, I’ve decided to make a semi-public statement about my depression to the three or four erstwhile regular readers of this site both to explain my absence, in the specific sense of  “not posting here very much” for quite some time, and I hope to allay any concern that my depression, which is bad but not serious, or serious but not bad, is a thing anyone needs to worry about were they so inclined. I’ll be fine. The world will be fine. Someday I hope to pull it together enough to write another book. Right now the prospect seems not just daunting but physically and psychically abhorrent to me.

And on that cheery note, happy holidays to you and all of you! At least you’re not me.

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While on tour with my band DTCV, I’m doing some readings/signings of my new collection of short fiction Eveything Flows, in a select few locations. If you’re the kind of person who likes to hear me read, or ask me questions, or just have your copy of my book personalized in an unforgettable and possibly semi-obscene way, then… actually I don’t want to know about it, but please do come by. The dates and places are as follows:

Monday, September 23: Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, OH 7PM

Friday, September 27: Pygmalion Lit Fest, Champaign, IL 6 PM

Sunday, September 29: Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records, Chicago, IL 7 PM

Tuesday, October 1: Clinton Street Social Club, Iowa City, IA 6:30 PM

Wednesday, October 2: Subterranean Books, St. Louis, MO 7 PM

 

My band DTCV made a video. It’s for the first single from our upcoming double album Hilarious Heaven. Which will be put out by Xemu Records. Which is home to our friends Dead Meadow, whose Steve Kille recorded the new album. Which features artwork by Robert Pollard. The song goes like this:

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I’m going to be reading, probably from my forthcoming collection of short fiction Everything Flows, at the Pygmalion Lit Fest in Champaign-Urbana, or Urbana-Champaign, or somewhere in Illinois, on September 27 or 28. I’ll also be playing in DTCV on one of those two days as well. The music line-up is here. There is a band called Major Lazer headlining which is probably the worst band name I’ve ever heard. I’m sure they’re awesome.


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I did a podcast not long ago while on tour with my band DTCV for Joyland Magazine. Brian Joseph Davis and I talked in the tour van for at least an hour about a lot of non-libelous (I hope) things including but not limited to the band, my screenwriting and rock musical writing for Steven Soderbergh, and I think my forthcoming collection of short stories. Probably not so much about the last item, since I don’t really have much of interest to say about short story writing, and I was pretty drunk. Anyway you can go here to download the podcast from iTunes or here to stream it.

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A new anthology of essays from a website called The Weeklings to which I irregularly contribute has recently been made available for sale to the reading public. Information/justification here. The anthology includes something I wrote, apparently, as well as stuff from a bunch of great writers on a variety of subjects. All money derived from sales will go to paying the site’s many contributors going forward. The editors of The Weeklings, some of whom I have met in person and thus can vouch for their (physical) hygiene, thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

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If any of you folks happen to be in Boston for AWP in early March, I’ll be reading playing music, apparently, at Cantab Lounge with several other very excellent writers on March 7 sometime after 8PM. Please stop by and say hello if you get a chance.

Further details:

738 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Presented by Curbside Splendor, Other Voices Books, Artifice Books, Emergency Press, Counterpoint
Facebook invite page here.

 

 

 

My very good friend and one of Los Angeles’ finest writers, Joseph Mattson, is in dire need of your help. If you live in the LA area, there will occur on Tuesday December 4 a benefit for Joseph at The Echo. In addition to my band DTCV, other, better-known bands will play, including a one-time-only reunion of noir-punk legends The Starvations. Joseph will read, other writers will read, possibly some very famous ones, and many items of great intrinsic and aesthetic value will be auctioned off, all to raise money for Joseph and his family.

You can read the full story here. Suffice to say that the nightmare Joseph has undergone would tenderize the heart of Baal. If you don’t live in or near LA, there is a site at which you can contribute money. Any amount, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated.

Last year right around this time I had the pleasure of accompanying Joseph on a West Coast book tour in support of an anthology published by Akashic Books called The Speed Chronicles, which Joseph edited and to which I contributed a story. Wasn’t the first time I did a book tour with Joseph and I very much hope it won’t be the last. In addition to his very evident gifts as a writer, Joseph is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people whose company I have had the pleasure of sharing. He insisted on doing all the driving, he insisted on paying for every hotel room, every gallon of gas, every meal, every bag of corn nuts. He treated myself and Beth Lisick, another hugely talented writer who came along on tour, as his guests. He was unfailingly courteous and attentive and as a result it was the best book tour I’ve ever done.

On the second night of the tour I lost my voice completely, and found myself in the unusual position of having to shut the hell up. During the long hours of driving that ensued, Joseph slowly and reluctantly told us the story of what had happened to him up to that point. It was horrifying. It was unbelievable. It’s gotten much, much worse since then. If you can, please help.

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I will have the great pleasure of reading with some of Los Angeles’ best writers, including Joe Donnelly and Antonia Crane, among several others, at Slake Magazine‘s Halloween  Reading at the coolest AND the hottest new LA-area bookstore, Pop-Hop Books & Print in Hancock Park. The address is on the poster above. The date is October 30. The time is 7PM.

Excuse me, have to go write something scary now. Or at least spooky.

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(cross-posted from DTCV)

Hi, so my band DTCV is going on tour,  first stop Tempe AZ before we join up with Guided By Voices in Athen GA on September 18. I’ve agreed to write a sort of tour diary for The Believer magazine’s tumblr, so if and when that happens, I’ll post the link here, and probably cross-post over at our music site DTCV.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll be come out to one or more of the shows, which are listed on the DTCV site, except for Houston TX and Columbia MO, which have been canceled due to I dont know why. We might try to find replacement shows for those two, but at this late date it’s unlikely.

Anyway. Watch this space, by which I mean literally stare at this blank space on the internet for hours on end, forgetting to eat, drink, or sleep, and maybe something cool will happen.

For reasons surpassing anyone’s understanding, I was interviewed by New York Tyrant publisher Giancarlo DiTrapano for VICE. I taked some about my new band DTCV, and a lot about my forthcoming story collection, Everything Flows, from Curbside Publishing. You can read it all here.


A collection of my “stories,” leaning hard on the figurative sense of story, will be published by Curbside Splendor in November of this year, with the usual caveat that the world may end right around that time in which case never mind. I do hope my forthcoming book will in no way contribute to the end of the world.

The title of the book is “Everything Flows,” after the Teenage Fanclub song of the same name, which is not only the best Teenage Fanclub song ever, but maybe the only Teenage Fanclub song ever. It’s the first song on A Catholic Education, which was their first album. Some might find it a little hyper-crticial that I would call the first song from the first album of a band their best and maybe even only song, in which case I have no really great defense except to say that’s my opinion on the matter, and I don’t really care to hear yours, even though I’m probably wrong (as usual).

Forthcomingness = There are a couple of upcoming events in which the legion of North of Onhava readers might be interested, be you of the literary or rockerary persuasion.

The first is a return visit to Jim Ruland’s legendary Vermin on the Mount reading series, this time pitting contributors from The Rattling Wall issue 1 against contributors from The Rattling Wall issue 2 in a fight to the bar. There will also occur Joshua Mohr, who I believe is on his way to Damascus (rumor). Details are on the poster just below, but for those with impatient eyes, the event is Sunday, February 12 at 8PM at The Mountain Bar in Chinatown. Just go to Chinatown and ask. No one will know what you’re talking about, but I’ll be secretly taping.

More details, should you need any, can be found here.

The second Event of Note is a party at the Empty Bottle in Chicago at AWP, which is a conference devoted to writers and publishers and alcoholics, not necessarily in that order. On February 29, 2012, at aforesaid venue, I will both read and perform a short set of rock music with my new band Detective. Details about the party are here. (Not many) details about the band are here. If you come expecting to hear Guided By Voices songs you won’t be completely disappointed. But you won’t be completely satisfied either.

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There’s even more interesting things happening in the near future but let’s leave it at that for now, okay, because some of you have weak hearts.

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.

 

Slow News Day is not a bad band name. It’s also not a good band name. It’s kind of a middling-to-fair band name. Glad we cleared that up. Here are some Slow News items, beginning with another band name:

First this. Which is particularly weird given this.

Then this, which is less weird than embarrassing.

Oh, and that big magazine cover above? You can pre-order the issue, which contains within in it not just that picture but a couple thousand words I wrote down that Bob Pollard said to me, here.

 

Apparently I wrote an article for the 1,225th Anniversary issue of Spin Magazine, which occurred in May of 2010. I mean, I did write an article, but I totally forgot. And I have never in my life paid for a copy of Spin, so. Luckily, an obscure internet startup called Google has taken it upon itself to scan everything ever written by me (and possibly other people) into its data-collector-device. I have embedded, or hope I have embedded, the article below for your reading pleasure in case you don’t have the twenty-five cents or whatever the going rate is nowadays to go buy your own copy.

The piece probably discusses the circumstances surrounding my leaving the magazine and joining the rock band Guided By Voices, but I can’t be entirely sure, because that would mean reading the whole article, and in addition to never having paid for an issue of Spin, I have never in my life read an issue of Spin, and I am if nothing else consistent. What I will say is this: man, did I used to be fat! (Related: why am I the only one drinking in this picture? Not realistic.) The title of the article and its sub-hed or “dek” were not of my own device. I mention that only because both are clumsy, misleading, and humiliating. Reminds me of the days I used to edit that magazine. Shudder.


 
Is your name Hyacinth? Do you bloom in pairs?
I ask a flower question I expect the leaves to turn.
There’s blood in the dirt. There’s an easier road
To the moss-covered ruin, where for a few months
We didn’t sleep from fear of sprayed guts
Or sudden bullets. It’s all mixed up, you see,
It’s one plus one makes three in every physics
I have ever understood. I see things so.
It’s not good. A white fir can stand
For hundreds of years, but I prefer to lie.

Subway posters with scratched-out eyes. Dragonflies.
Everything taped to the wall: matchbook covers,
Cut-out dolls of Elvis, photo of magician w/ cards on fire,
Bridesmaid’s hat (formed webbing), postcard
Of Dorothy’s slippers. Blue marlins taped to bathtub.

Injecting home-made recipe from her mother’s mixing bowl.
Showing tracks on both arms, obligingly. “Modern art.”
Papered with boxscores that almost glitter. The Ex-Pilot Group.
Level is a palindrome. Poem is a conditorium of words.
We are eating the god. Have eaten the godly god. And belch.
I love you as if I knew you, and my feet itch. Martyr me.

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Inspired by the example of my betters, here’s a short film I made in France. It was shot at the Château D’hérouville, about an hour outside of Paris, which was once a famous recording studio – the “Honky Chateau” of Elton John fame – but is now overgrown and mostly a ruin. I intended at first just to shoot some test footage of the location. But the test was meant to be in HD, and the HD cable on my rented camera broke, so I had go old school SD video. Looking at the footage later, I decided to construct a false narrative and write some dialogue. Which you can’t hear very well, which is intentional, but for which I apologize nonetheless. On the upside, it’s pretty short.

I provide subtitles for those who do not speak French. Unfortunately, those subtitles are also in French. Fortunately, (most of) the text is simply a French version of the Wikipedia page to which I linked above. The English text is a different matter. I take full responsibility for that.

The name of the film comes from when I was driving back with Constance Cardon, the non-actress actress featured here, and she was talking in her adorable deep gravelly voice to her boyfriend, who was asking her about the shoot. She told him that essentially she was playing the role of “la femme qui n’était rien,” which can be translated as “the woman who wasn’t there.” I thought that was a great title for something, and eventually, why not, for this.

One small note: it doesn’t really matter, but Constance’s accent renders the line “I think I may be a robot” into “I think I may be a rabbit,” at least to my ears. Just FYI.