October 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
Coming to the Twin Cities Book Festival this weekend? You should drop by and say, “hi,” while I’m working at the Red Bird Chapbooks booth! We’ll have lots of chapbooks, old and new, for sale, as well as info about how to get involved with the press as a volunteer or author.
Not coming to the Twin Cities Book Festival? What’s a matter, brainless–don’t you know it is the best literary fun you can have in Minnesota all year long?
There’ll be lots of presses if you’re interested in finding a publisher and lots of schools, workshops, and MFA programs if you’re looking to improve your craft.
Plus, the place will be lousy with awesome authors: TOJitW favorite Mark Rapacz will have a table for his new book Boondoggle (there will be a review here shortly after I get my copy at the fest) and a new favorite of mine,Andre Alexis, will be talking and signing–his Fifteen Dogs has, so far, been the funniest and most surprising book I’ve read this year (I can’t wait to see him at 2:30, so just don’t drop by the booth then).
And if you just want books, there’s no better way place to get your hands on both the hottest and most obscure tomes out there! You can get all the details and the full schedule here.
March 31, 2014 § Leave a comment
It is that time again: if you live in Minnesota, you should be gearing up for the Cracked Walnut Literary Festival! Featuring 25 readings at an incredible array of venues throughout April, it will bring the work of over a hundred writers to diverse audiences. Each night has a unique theme, so there should be plenty of interesting connections to draw. You can get the full schedule of events here.
I will be reading at 7pm on Friday, April 4th at The Coffee Shop Northeast (you can get full details here) and will share the stage with a couple of friends I’m looking forward to seeing again and some new names I’m excited to hear for the first time. The theme of the night is “Hooked”; I’ve written a lot about addiction in the past, but I’m planning to read from Slash in order to get everyone in the audience hooked on it’s unique blend of literary/trashy suspense. And I guess, while not as classic as alcohol or drug addiction, the novel’s protagonist is addicted to erotic fan fiction, so it works with the theme in that way, too.
In addition to hooking people on Slash (which will be FREE on April 4th-8th, by the way!), I hope the reading will hook everyone on the Cracked Literary Festival, as well. It is a great part of the Twin Cities Literary Community that writers and readers in other cities ought to be jealous of and that we Minnesotans should support in every way possible. I’m planning on attending a few in addition to the one I am reading in (my wife is reading at the April 14th event), and I hope to see you there.
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 email@example.com, 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.