December 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
With 2013 nearly over, I wanted to take a moment to say thanks for all the interest and support you, fine people of the internet, have shown for my literary humor this past year. The joke-a-long posts have brought a steady stream of readers to the blog, Revolver was good enough to publish one of my short stories to their site, and I’ve released the first two episodes of my serial novel Slash. I’m really excited to share the rest of Slash with you throughout 2014, and am happy to have everyone who downloaded a copy, joined the FB group, or signed up for the email list along for the ride. As a thanks for all the love, I wanted to offer a little Christmas present to anyone interested…
Last weekend, I took part in a really fun local artists sale at the Carleton Artist Lofts here in St. Paul. In addition hanging out with great painters and crafters, I sold a bunch of copies of Slash. As a sort of salesman’s insurance against rejection, I also had a sign-up sheet for the email list promising a free e-reader copy for whoever signed. People seemed to really respond well to it, so I thought, why not open the offer up to the world at large as a Christmas present!
So, if you want to receive a free digital copy of Episode One, just fill out the boxes below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, putting your preferred e-reader format in the subject line–anytime between now and January 1st, 2014.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See y’all in Episode Four!
August 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
I really wish I could say I’m happy to be back here on the world wide web but my recent vacation was just too beautiful. I spent a glorious week in a cabin on an island in Northeastern Ontario. The weather was a little cooler than a normal August, perfect for shorts and dock shoes during the day and sleeping bags at night, and the only time it rained was the day the roofers were due to make some repairs, so the grey skies were actually a lucky guarantor of peace and quiet for reading. And that’s really all I did for the whole week: laze about in a hammock and read. On one of the last days, I tried fishing for a few minutes, but quickly found myself back to a book.
You know you’re relaxing when fishing seems like too much excitement.
In addition to Rob Bell’s thoughtful Love Wins, I read the following novels: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Red Moon by Ben Percy, Echolocation by Myfanwy Collins, Broken Harbor by Tana French, and A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. There wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, but it is A Hologram for the King that I want to blog about today, because its literary use of jokes it pertinent to the mission of this blog.
The novel follows Alan Clay, a salesman from a fast-fading era of American greatness, as he tries to redeem his recent (and continuing) blunders by giving a successful sales pitch to a Saudi Arabian monarch. Concerned with failure and decline—both personal and cultural—this spare novel is sad and beautiful in an elegiac way.
It is, thankfully, also very funny. Many of the laughs come at Alan’s expense as he rushes from one awkard mess to the next (imagine Michael Scott fancying himself Lawrence of Arabia). But, lost in a foreign land, Alan recognizes that humor is a great bridge between cultures (as we’ve discussed on the blog before). After an awkward silence between he and his local driver, Alan tries to break the ice:
-Okay, Alan said. A woman’s husband has been sick. He’s been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, but she’s been staying by his bedside every single day. When he wakes up, he motions for her to come nearer. She comes over, sits next to him. His voice is weak. He holds her hand. ‘You know what?’ he says. ‘You’ve been with me all through the bad times. When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business went sour, you were there. When we lost the house, you gave me support. When my health started failing, you were still by my side… You know what?’ ‘What dear?’ she asks gently. ‘I think you bring me bad luck!’
Yousef snorted, coughed, had to stub out his cigarette.
-That’s good. I didn’t see that coming. You have more?
Alan was so grateful. He had not told a joke to an appreciative young person in many years.
This joke, obviously doing some thematic work as well, is surrounded by Alan’s recent memories of being shamed by his ex-wife and daughter for telling jokes. These failures are indicative of his crumbling connection to American life, just as his success in the car is a convincing sign of his budding friendship with Yousef. This relationship was one of the least depressing aspects of the book, as well as one of the realest feeling, in part because of the good (and good-bad) jokes Eggers uses in building it. There’s a decent chunk of the book dedicated to lamenting the fact that nothing real is built in America anymore, and in Alan’s world of telecom holograms and skyscrapers that will never be finished, an unlikely friendship is one of the most concrete commitments to be found.
With this in mind, I’m afraid to say that this post might have to serve as a sort of elegy for business as usual at The Oldest Jokes in the World: in contrast to the declining might of American manufacture, I’m going to start focusing on producing my own work for a while instead of commenting, theorizing on, and repackaging the rest of the world’s. My serial novel, Slash, is launching in September, so my only posts here for the next month or two will probably be to promote my efforts. I will have plenty of content related to Slash that is both literary and funny, though, so check out the website and the fb group to get your fix. Otherwise, I promise to be back soon with an essay about the history of the “deeez nuts” joke or the importance of flatulence gags.
April 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
Hey all. Since it’s spring and we just just reached the one-year mark with the blog, I decided to do some much needed organizing this week.
Over the past year, I’ve accumulated a couple publishing credits around the web and guest-posted at a few other blogs around Word Press, so I gathered all the links from the various posts and listed them all in one easy to find place: About Me & Where to Find More of my Work.
Past that, I’ve been hard at work on some future publishing possibilities, as well as a new longer series of posts about humor in speculative fiction, so check back in the coming month for exciting announcements and developments.
April 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
Sorry world. I jinxed everything with all the talk of spring in my last post; apparently, I should have stayed in the library working on a longer post for you all, because it didn’t take too long for it to snow once I started playing hooky. And now it feels like spring will never come.
The good news is that spring is still going strong at Red Bird, so we can all keep ourselves warm with good chapbooks. As promised Shaun Rouser’s darkly comic “Family Affair” is now available for purchase in our store. The three stories in this beautiful, hand-bound chapbook explore, with a disturbing exactitude, the convoluted obligations that bring us together as family. Mr. Rouser has a unique, erudite voice, so please do click on the cover below to check it out in our web store.
In more big news, we’ll have this and other fiction titles available soon in ultra-affordable (though far less lovingly-physical) ebook formats at out Smashwords Store. I’ll let you know as they become available.
Lastly, I wanted to stress one more time we would love to consider your fiction manuscript for publication as a Red Bird Chapbook. Please, please, please send us your flash fiction or short story collection! Just click the little birdie on the right and he’ll take you to our submission guidelines. And don’t forget to come back next week for our special 1-year anniversary jokealong extravaganza.
April 5, 2013 § Leave a comment
Spring has finally come to Minnesota. Looking out the window of the library I write in, I can see the snow on the hills melting down into the little lake that I watched freeze over almost six months ago now—so I hope you understand why that it’s going to be a short edition of The Oldest Jokes in the World this week.
I do have some exiting news to share with you all after a big Red Bird Chapbooks editor’s meeting we had earlier this week. We’ve been having a great first quarter to 2013, with a burgeoning staff and line of great chapbooks.
I’m especially proud to announce the newest fiction manuscript we’ve accepted: Ivory Children by Joe Baumann. Joe writes striking flash fiction, and the vignettes in this collection range from fantastical and surreal to grounded and understated, but they all contain a concentrated chunk of humanity. Some of the stories included have already been published at various literary journals around the web, so I encourage you to check them out for free in advance of Ivory Children‘s release in a few months:
“Thimbles” at The Dying Goose
“Sally the Imortal” at matchbook
“Porcelian” at Crack the Spine
I also just received a copy of the final product of the first manuscript I worked on at Red Bird, Family Affair by Shaun Rouser. The chapbook is a beautiful home for Mr. Rouser’s darkly comic tales, and I’m anticipating a great swell of pride when it becomes available to the world at large. It should be available for purchase at the Red Bird store any day now, so I’ll keep y’all posted.
Lastly, I wanted to stress that, apart from these two wonderful collections, we have a drought of fiction manuscripts at Red Bird right now. With increased sales and recognition for our beautiful chapbooks, the poetry editors are being inundated with more verse than they can keep up with—which is making us fiction editors lonesome. Please, please, please send us your flash fiction or short story collection because we want to publish it! Just click the little birdie on the right and he’ll take you to our submission guidelines.
Anyhow, I’m going to get the hell out of this stuffy library (the first day of spring is the only day of the year on which I will insult a library), but check back next week: it is the one-year anniversary of the blog, so we’ll have a special birthday jokealong! If you’re wondering what to get me, I like puns.
March 29, 2013 § 1 Comment
Like most of what I write, it’s got a little comedy mixed with a little tragedy, but I’ll warn you that it’s a little dirty, too. At the Cracked Walnut reading I did last week, I warned the audience there were several instances of the “j-word.” They whispered in confusion, unsure of what I could mean, but once I dropped the bomb about halfway through the story, everyone gasped in recognition. If you don’t know what the j-word is, you’ll just have to click this link to find out.
In all seriousness, though, I’m very grateful to the wonderful and dedicated staff at Revolver, and everyone who’s read the story so far. I’ve already gotten some great feedback, criticism, and encouragement, but I’m greedy for more, so please let me know what you loved and hated about the piece if you get the chance.
March 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
This week’s posts is coming at you early, because I’m actually late in directing over to a little story I wrote for Geoff Herbach’s I’m With Stupid Stories.
Geoff’s a great Minnesotan writer and teacher who started this blog, full of writers sharing embarrassing tales of youthful stupidity, to promote his forthcoming novel, I’m With Stupid. It’s the final installment of a trilogy featuring high school nerd-made-cool Felton, who has got to be the funniest narrator in fiction—YA or OA—I’ve come across in a long while. I recently read the first book, Stupid Fast, and am excited to check out Nothing Special, hopefully before the conclusion comes out in May.
In any event, please do head over and check out my contribution, “Eyes Wide Shut“, and then poke around the rest of the stories; as CNF makes me nervous, mine is probably the least embarrassingly hilarious contribution.