Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant

KBMR was named one of 25 Important Books of the decade by HTML Giant. And was a Page One selection of New & Noteworthy Books by Poets & Writers Magazine.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - Kevin Sampsell

There were about thirty people on the train and half of them had newspapers. Some people held them up in front of their faces and some kept them rolled up like a weapon. They had inky fingers.

At one of the stops, a drunk man came on. He wore a jacket that was too big for his body and his hair looked like a small beat-up hat on his head. It wasn't even noon yet. He sat next to a young college dude and wrestled with a plastic bag full of items. Plastic bags could become illegal in Oregon soon. It said that on the front of one of the newspapers.

The man's breath was liquoring the air of the train. He pulled an old baseball glove out of the bag and said to the dude, "Look what I got here." It was like he was speaking to a child. The dude was wearing cop sunglasses and wore a small, uncomfortable smirk on his lips. The drunk started singing, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and then laughed. He found a ball of some kind in the bag and said, "It's almost the same weight as a baseball." It was blue and looked like a handball. He put on the glove and handed the ball to the dude and said again, "Almost the same as a baseball!" The dude held it for a second, as if gauging its weight before playfully tossing the ball up in the air. It landed in the drunk man's glove and he started singing the song again.

The drunk pulled two boxes out of his bag. They were jigsaw puzzles. "You wanna see a party?" he asked the dude. "Take a look at this. These Indians know how to party. Wanna buy one of these from me?"

The dude looked at the box and laughed a little. "That's the most racist Native American puzzle I've ever seen," he said. The box showed a cluttered cartoony mess of tents and fat Indians dancing to cowhide drums.

"Look," said the drunk man. "There's a Christmas tree. A God damn Christmas tree."

A couple of people moved to different seats.

"I'm the first mobile yard sale," the drunk man stated. "I don't have a yard. I come to your yard!" He found a few other things in the bag but looked at them like he couldn't figure out what they were. They looked like broken toys or parts of electronics.

The dude gave the man a charitable laugh and said, "You have fun, man. Party on." And then he got off at a downtown stop. An older man got on and made his way over to the freshly vacant seat.

The old man started to read his newspaper but the drunk nudged him and began his show-and-tell again. "Look at this puzzle," he said. He showed him one with a painting of an angel holding a baby. "One thousand pieces!"

"That might take you all day," the old man said. He seemed good natured, patient.

The drunk thought about this and seemed lost in thought for a moment. "It might take me forever," he said soberly.

Kevin Sampsell lives in Portland, Oregon and works at Powell's City of Books. He is the author of the memoir, A Common Pornography. His small press, Future Tense Books, can be found at www.futuretensebooks.com.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - Lynn Crawford

Compiling Information, My Way
by George Shankus

Yesterday my sister in law Meg (yellow, v-neck dress, gladiator sandals) and I talk.
She tells me my twin brother, her husband, Dino is not communicating with her.
I say I want to help.
She says she does not want help, just facts.
I wonder, can I learn what I need to know if I simply ask Dino the facts? Will he answer me, up front?
No, I decide, he will not. My approach, like some of my best business deals, will require a combination of subterfuge and face to face conversation.Today he travels north to his gal Ily. Her meat, customers, hoop earrings. Her restaurant with its tasteful, rustic, interior: logs, linen, fireplaces, heavy cutlery, thick legged chairs and tables. I trail him. See him stop for an egg roll at a breakfast cart on his way to the station. Watch him enter the station, bite into his roll. Catch my reflection in a store window. Predatory, heaving. I am not proud of my behavior. YET, yet: I am practical. Sometimes, assessing movements of a family member (with the close history, the past and present interaction), muddles, distracts. Establishing distance helps a person, me anyway, collect reliable data.
Less than twenty-four hours later, I drive north in my car.
The last time Dino and I spoke it was about a movie. The restaurant keeps him busy, he has little time for film, and there is only one theater in his new town. It shows block busters. I suggest Netflix but he does not have a DVD player. Just a television, with cable, and a music system. The movie he saw, on cable, was a romance. Ily fell asleep. Dino called, complaining, not about Ily falling asleep but about the romance. He wants to see a romance about a regular guy. Not about a guy who falls for a woman with chunky ankles and a good personality. Who sends that woman flowers (regularly). Whose idea of a romantic evening is filling a bathtub with bubbles and surrounding it with candles. That is some female idea of a guy. What Dino wants from a romance is this: a guy falls for a tall, gazelle legged, big breasted woman. Sexually voracious. A lingerie wearer. The big breasts are really important. She falls for him too. She is not vain, psychotic, anorexic, dizzy, or cocaine addicted. He is tired of movies about hot women who are nasty, conniving, sick, mentally simple. Tired of movies where unattractive women get men to see through to their inner beauty.
“Guys don’t see through any damn thing. We either feel it, pow, or we don’t,” he says.
“Dino you are such an asshole I cannot believe we come from the same family.”
“Hey, I say what I feel, not what I mean. Listen, I am just talking about what I want from a movie. Not real life. I mean, it is not as if Ily’s ankles are tiny. She stands in croc’s all day, her ankles puff up, you know. And it is not as if her breasts are, I mean it is not as if ....”
“Shut the fuck up Dino, just shut the fuck up.”
I get to their place early. Park my car, take a walk in the woods. Reluctantly. I am uncomfortable in forests. And aware this attitude is un-american, un-masculine. The fact is: I do not like density in nature. In a city it is fine. I enjoy jam packed streets, subways, theaters, bars, lobbies, diners. That density is not static, it always moves at some sort of pace. But trees just stand still, hiding who knows what. I am not anti-nature. I am at home in and near water, any water: lakes, streams, oceans, rivers. I am at home sailing, diving, rowing, fishing, swimming. And I enjoy spending time on a mountain, high up, looking down, out, skyward. It is just woods I have a problem with.
I walk for a nervous half hour, enjoy, admittedly, the smell: fresh, clean, piney. When I return to the driveway, thankful to be going indoors, even if it is to Dino’s trailer, a pick-up truck brushes the mailbox, and almost me right next to it. It stops. A man, long hair, psychedelic print t-shirt, thong sandals, steps out. He is not tall and he is not good looking but then he is not short or ugly either. Just a guy, dressed like an old hippie, with a chin beard in rimless glasses. He shakes his head from side to side, “Man, man I am so fucking, man...” He cannot finish the sentence. I take a deep breath not, as I expect, of pine but of pot. He gestures to the joint in his hand, says he is taking his prescription medical marijuana and that he comes by Dino and Ily’s in the morning, for informal breakfast munchies like potatoes, eggs, mushrooms. He has no problem talking now. I nod my head, remember never liking anything about pot, the smell or the high. Beer is different, I like both the smell and the high, the taste, the fizz, I am thinking along these lines when I feel dizzy and fall, bam, on ground. Turn my head to the side, see his toes, peeping out of the sandals. They are clean, even toes, not gnarled or dirty the way you might expect from an old hippie. That is the last thing I remember before blacking out.
I wake up, feeling as if I am in outer space.
A face, red, puffy, under eye bags, cracked lips, carefully groomed blond hair breathes down on me. I can see but not move.
“What happened?” the face asks.
“She just went down,” says the pothead.
“He, I am a he. He, named George,” I try to say but cannot yet speak.
“This is a man, not a she,” says the blond. Wearing a striped shirt with the name ED above the right pocket. I see there is a bus behind him I guess he is the driver.
A load of well dressed, well fed people surround me.
“Stand Back! Here comes the Doctor,” says ED to them.
“Do you mind if I examine you?” asks a brisk voice. A head, also blond haired, is over me. ED is gone.
“No, I do not mind at all,” I try to say. But I cannot speak so no words come out.
She pulls out a joint, asks do I want some.
“NO.” I badly want to say, to yell. And add I have not seen this much pot since college. But I just close my lips tightly together.
She looks at me, puffs her joint.
“Historically, I make my most accurate diagnosis when I have a quick toke.”
“Historically, I do not go to doctors who are potheads.” I want to respond but am unable to.
“She puts the joint out by pinching the end together with her fingers, tucks it in her pocket.
“Ok. Your pupils are not dilated. That is a good thing.”
She runs her hands along my skull, neck, shoulders. She kneads my neck. Something releases.
“There. You are fine,” she says.
I feel better.
“Listen,” I can now talk, even rise up on one elbow, and feel an urge to share with someone the bizarreness of what happened. Speech flows, ”Listen, doc, I think I got a contact high. I drove up here, a long drive. Got here before anyone was up. Took a walk. Came back to my brother’s. This guy came up, smoking his medical marijuana after almost ramming into me with his truck and I took one whiff and fell--”
“Contact high is a myth,” she interrupts, authoritatively. “It is scientifically proven to be impossible.”
It hits me like a ton of bricks: this woman, in crystal clarity, encapsulates why I hate doctors. Arrogance, drugs, rigidity. Their knowledge base is lousy. I was not wrong, after all, to miss all those annual physicals. My way to health: eat and drink well, have sex, work out does more for my longevity than any physical with a moron. I close my eyes, feeling good, feeling right.

Wake up on my brother’s couch. Still feeling good. Ily stands in the kitchen, drinking a glass of water. She wears her white chef top with loose fitting blue pants, yellow Crocs. The color makes me think of Meg’s yellow v-neck dress. That is not true. I do not need a color to make me think of Meg. Ily walks toward me, offers a sip from her glass, asks how I am, runs her palm over my forehead. This is the first person, besides ED, I meet here not toking a joint. I breath easy. She tells me Dino is at work, that I slept for an hour and that we have an appointment with a doctor later this afternoon. My mood shifts from relaxed to heated, want to express myself: Doctors are assholes and unimportant. I will not go to a fucking doctor this afternoon. No Way. This is all on the tip of my tongue until she gestures to a table laid out with a colorful lunch: sweet breads, lemons, arugula, tomatoes, pumpernickel. The smell pulls me in, helps me realize I am not thinking clearly because I am starving.I enjoy this food immensely. The sweetbreads melt in my mouth; the salad is fresh, crisp, the pumpernickel is soft but has heft and a balance of sweetness with a good rye seed taste. I wash the meal down with a glass of iced tea mixed with a raspberry lemonade. I feel good, very, very, good. Even consider going to see that doctor.
Ily sits down, spears a tomato, lets me eat in silence. This is something I appreciate, someone who understands when you just want to eat, when you have reached that pitch of hunger, and you just want silence. I finish, take a deep breath. Ily pours me a second glass of iced tea, and one for herself, and. starts talking. I sit back, sleepy, pleasantly full, ready to listen.

(Excerpt from novel, Shankus, by Lynn Crawford)

Lynn Crawford is an art critic and fiction writer based in Detroit. Her criticism has appeared in Art in America, Tema Celeste, Metro Times, Zing, Parkett, Modern Painters, American Ceramics and The Brooklyn Rail. Her books include Solow, Blow, Simply Separate People and Fortification Resort, a collection of sestinas responding to the work of visual artists. Her new novel, Simply Separate People, Two has just been published by Brooklyn Rail/Black Square Editions. She is a Kresge Literary Art Fellow and a founding board member of Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD).

Monday, May 16, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - Sean Lovelace

No News about my Sex Life

Most days crows perch on the curtain rod and ignore The Velveeta. Dogs treat The Velveeta in one of three ways: 1. Stare it down snarling. 2. Sniff, wait, sniff, sniff, wait…lick away. 3. Slumber.

Two hundred and fifty catastrophes. Touching a sore spot, for example. Unflattering noise. Locks that do not lock. Protesters hiding in armpits and various throats. Multiple passwords. Multiple aftershocks. Never enough salt, for the triangles. My ex-wife who kicked The Velveeta while dying. People who refuse the dying, who play coy.

Silverware says in pearly clatter, “Looks like this is going to take all night.”

The pebble and the water and the grit. The brick. Power shortages. Audacity while the television smells of suffering. Twitters of toilet paper.

Hung in the shape of Q, these other ones. The Makeup Man. The cookbook. My new girlfriend. The curious reporters (see dogs above). The woman who wept about airstrikes while eating Ramen noodles. The man who closed his eyes. The man who blogged The Velveeta, live. The slippery phone. What to make of this buzzing? Kicking left and right and backwards simultaneously. EXIT signs. The boss and the boss’s wife.

The brick oven. Slatted oval windows and vents. Mudslides of air and light. Joint statements.

Example: I show up spectacularly drunk with a video camera and throw it hard into The Velveeta. We pull and we pull, but we can’t pull it out.

Just another conversation.

The cleaning of the oven and the dirtying of the oven.

The man I bring home says, “I see already this room has many rooms.”

If you squint your eyes…

Yawning crows. They suggest, Kill the lights.

Sean Lovelace is dropping two books in June 2011, Fog Gorgeous Stag (Publishing Genius Press) and, with fellow flash authors, They Could No Longer Contain Themselves: A Collection of Five Flash Chapbooks (Rose Metal Press). He has decided to write only about Velveeta for the remainder of 2011. He likes to drink beer and to run, far.

Friday, May 13, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - Ras Mashramani

we can watch but it's not ours.

it is such a live stream, it is like you can almost feel. you can almost touch every brown [but not too brown!] body and smell his arms linked his stranger his nothing left to lose but anger and his national heritage. you can click refresh. heritage is losing, dear god they got the mummies and you can think i am really a part of something like history. you can think especially if i leave an embittered comment. you can be like no solution is easy be sensible cynical humanistic. now they know i'm on their side and i agree that they are people and complex in a complex world.

wonderful angry something we gave up for softcore youth.

angry something you are almost jealous. our streets are for walking and our texts are for guarded jealous irony. you say because there's nothing left to throw rocks at and they don't count because i recognize the ecology i've read about got an A in it but i don't see it cause i stay on my side but tell my married friends i don't. you say i have [oppressed ethnicity most likely Native American] in me. you say listen. i know all the names of the Philly bums west of the river. and not just their descriptive epithets. wheelchair bridge bum his fucking name is Ezra.


because there is no news, there is only pixel and light. there is a fiction on a foundation of narrative—which you rejected, i’ll admit—but you can’t make a life story out of a character from that movie Almost Famous. you can’t live fiending for the blue and glowing rage and clicking pause to heat up your shwarma iron out your peace scarf so you can party up in Fishtown. you can’t simultaneously attempt to embody the whatever and the scream of punk and feminism without BEING THE WHATEVER AND THE SCREAM. you cannot blame this on the patriot act. you cannot giggle fuck the police but talk about wu-tang like no actually there is good rap music just. listen.

[you can’t even superimpose the neighborhood west of 50th st. you shudder. if shoulder to shoulder were a choice you'd choose your parents' spare room and abandon every part of them [of me!] we gentrified]

you have to feel your cheek to the concrete. no, you have to get up spitting because we are young and that’s what kids do.

if only we could abandon our degrees and feeds.

working within, integrating, consuming, forgetting that what i am needs bricks to defend.

glued to the fucking screen

yes, yes i fit in here too.

Ras Mashramani lives in Philadelphia and blogs at motherwap.blogspot.com.

Monday, May 9, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - Gabriel Blackwell

Already a disarticulation (for it was stella nova before it was nova): a “discovery” in even its etymology, the new is not new, never new, always only previously unknown. In the framework of a recycled and recycling universe, a closed set stretching to infinity, the nova —not newly created, only newly noticed—was a star only in that instant brought to light. Suddenly we could see what had been there all along. In this, as in all things, the nova has turned on itself. Better to have been lit with an unspectacular illumination. The everyday: not old, but not news.

For we now believe it is not light but explosion, cataclysm of nuclear activity, a chain reaction that ends in void. A birth of state, then, not material; in truth, a death, the eradication of existence, the erasure of creation. What to make, then, of today? The sudden flare of politicians, pop stars, killers, movie stars, freaks growing in brilliance in proportion to the emptiness inside, really only the winking out of so many lights. Having turned themselves inside out, they glow and warm until they disappear completely: “Teens should be banned from tanning booths, doctors say.”

The teen in question tanned until cancerous. Cancer: a freak of the DNA, a sudden discovery, a stella nova of the double helix, a chain reaction. Finally, a void. “UVA rays give customers a glow without sunburn.” Our sun—never once a stella nova—thus bypassed, the teen in search of skin like the stars zooms out into the firmament while reclining in space-age comfort, infused with radiation leaking into the sense that creation makes of her, her particular genetic sequence. It glows, but it also ravels, becoming ragged. Somewhere, a spark. Then, melanoma. Our special ignorance: blindness to the brightest lights, our skeletal visible spectrum. Tomorrow it will have disappeared, another matchhead struck. This was the news.

Gabriel Blackwell is the reviews editor for The Collagist. His short fiction has appeared in Conjunctions, Puerto del Sol, and DIAGRAM among other places, and will appear in Uncanny Valley.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - David Hollander

It wasn’t as if the young man knew right out of the gate that he’d be making news. In fact, his intent was solely to “follow his bliss,” to paraphrase Joseph Campbell (don’t worry, it doesn’t matter who he is), though of course for those of us gathered here today in this conference room situated in the seldom-seen-or-visited Borderlands of our so-called city, “following” is as impenetrable a word as “bliss,” given that both tend to lead to news, and we have of course taken the blood oath. God grant us the detachment and so on and et cetera. But the young man was—oh, you’ll see the topless girl coming around with the cigars now, gentlemen, real Guatemalans I’m told, though I’m not sure if that’s meant as a boast or an apology, as I myself have never acquired the taste—but so the young man was determined to live a life of meaning, a rather dusty endeavor but one he was uniquely suited to pursue, given the highly newsworthy pursuits of his parentals. His father was that zookeeper who ran off with the world’s last white rhino and was shot dead in a very newsworthy attempted bank robbery inspired by the Eroll Flynn Robin Hood film in which (i.e., the robbery, not the film) the rhino was used—unsuccessfully, but with great savagery—as a battering device. Those vaults are thick, gentlemen, 36 inches of tempered steel. The poor animal died of concussive trauma, perhaps yearning to know what existed behind that impregnable wall, imagining some stash of edible razor grass or other sustenance remembered vaguely from its wild youth. The young man’s mother, meanwhile, was a defense lawyer known internationally for representing the persecuted human rights defender Liu Ko against charges of treason, plied in response to his efforts to demarginalize farm workers rounded up and executed to make way for urban expansion. It was in all the papers, gentlemen, though we of course acquired most of those papers and heated our facilities with their combustions rather than allow them to “hit the newsstands,” if you’ll pardon the expression. But the point being that the young man had multiple examples in his own nuclear unit of what we might call “empathy,” or what we might otherwise call “spectacle,” but that we must call “news,” according to the bylaws.

And so the young man did not intend to make news himself or to attract our attentions, for like most of his newsmaking compatriots he did not know of our existence, and was only made aware when our agents arrived at his solar-powered green space situated (ironically) in the underserved inner city, where he would often go to manufacture his various responses to the world’s indifference to all things of import, the cultivation of which indifference has in fact been our Shared Project ever since we each of us individually took the blood oath. Perhaps had our envoys arrived by white rhino the young man would have taken us with greater seriousness. As it stands, his dismissals forced our hand, and we have him in custody in a pale room in which he is being exposed to heinous doses of the most absurd iterations of reality television we could dig up from our admittedly limited database. The young man may not have set out to make news, but after the recent report on his cult-like following—organized around his slogan, “Fight for the world you want”—went viral, threatening to bring much of what we have fought to keep out of the news, into the news, we had no choice but to nip his humanitarian stupidity in the so-called bud.

At times I almost believe, friends, that the instinct toward caring can not be doused any more easily than it can be reliably incited. The whole thing is an enormous crapshoot, isn’t it? No, no… don’t boo, gentlemen. I only mean that our efforts remain vital precisely because there is no endgame. News is destroyed, and that is good friends, but The News itself goes on. We fight its iterations, but have no access to its ad locum root. We could take the next step and eradicate the entire news-sensitive population, but where would that leave us? Do we not also require those who require news? What would we be without the comfort and company of these zealots and fools?

So yes, the young man is here and we’ll bring him out in a moment, but first I hope to elicit from each of you a brief written response—please use the lined yellow paper that you’ll find taped to your chests, there beneath your smart gray sportscoats—to the following question: What news is most newsworthy? And yes, this is relevant gentlemen. Because your answers will help us in our reprogramming efforts with the young man, who by the way goes by the name “Henry,” though I’ve taken to calling him “Bob.” Your efforts here will help advance our cause, or else we could just stone the young man to death according to the common method. In fact, forget the paper. Forget this entire diatribe, lest you leave this room feeling somehow edified or entertained. We’ll just execute the fucker and be done with it. Personally, I like a good rhino story. I am weak, like all of you. It is good to have no news, but even better is to need no news. Let us never forget our goal, gentlemen, of total and complete detachment from the world around us. And let us never fail to punish those who would stand between us and the Nothing that brings down mountains and also raises them up and does a bunch of other stuff too, none of which I can presently recall, thank you Jesus.

No news for now, gentlemen. God grant us the detachment and so on and et cetera. Is it hot in here? Would someone please open a fucking window or something?

David Hollander's work has appeared in McSweeney's, Post Road, The Collagist, New York Times Magazine and many others. He is the author of the novel, L.I.E. and lives in upstate New York with his wife and two daughters.