Monday, July 20, 2009

New Home

We've moved! The Fringe Blog can now be found HERE, as part of the fantastic new Fringe Magazine site! Check out the brand-new issue of Fringe, and while you're at it, please update your bookmarks, links, and RSS feed subscriptions accordingly, and as always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How Boston Spoiled Me As A Reader

I am a Florida resident now. I live in a place we’ll call Fahrenheit 101 (hey, can’t go pissing off the natives while still seeking employment). Down here they have something called a “Heat Index,” a number you reach by doubling the temperature in Boston and then adding another twenty. My skin is browning, my hair de-browning. I am a short drive away from white-sand beaches dotted with white-haired people. I am one of the youngest in my neighborhood. Most days, I sit on my back patio and watch dolphins play in the [Censored] River, reveling in my newfound (relative) youth.

Were I still a Boston resident, my umbrella would be my closest companion. My skin would be pale, my hair wet. The closest beach would be Revere, and that’s no fun in any weather. I would come down on the nearer-my-god-to-thee side of the median age. I’d sit on my balcony and watch the dark clouds pour more water into the harbor.

But at least I’d be reading a book.

The Brattle Bookstore was right behind my building. Commonwealth Books, steps away from the Emerson Bookstore, which was steps away from the Iwasaki Library, was a four-minute walk. The magnificent BPL at Copley was a mere ten minutes by footor 45 by T (if the Green Line was having a good day). I never had to resort to Border’s or Barnes & Noble, because in a one-mile radius from where I lived, there were thousands and thousands of books to browse, borrow, or buy.

There are no bookstores in Fahrenheit 101, Florida.

Allow me to repeat that. There are no bookstores in Fahrenheit 101, Florida. Not one. Not even a mom & pop (or, to be more Florida-appropriate, grandmom & grandpop) joint. The local library has a Paperback Mystery section that is separate from, and nearly as big as, its Fiction sectionwhich itself is stocked with row after row of hardcover mysteries, most of them in large print. Here in Fahrenheit 101, the only books in a one-mile radius from where I live are those stocking the shelves of my neighbors. And I have yet to be invited in.

Help. Into a literary wasteland I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.

Boston is poetry readings in coffee houses. Fahrenheit 101 is obituaries that rhyme. Boston is sidewalk stalls of used books. Fahrenheit 101 is yard sales featuring complete sets of Guns & Ammo and ATV Magazine. Boston is walking the same streets that Poe, Emerson, and Lowell walked. Fahrenheit 101 is walking the streets only when your monster truck breaks down and no other monster truck stops to help. And Boston is where all of my books are, stashed in a cardboard box in a dark corner of some warehouse, waiting for the moving company to load them onto an eighteen-wheeler.

I know, I knowwhy didn’t I bring a few for the interim? Because I did not study my new surroundings in advance. I did not Google “Fahrenheit 101 Bookstores,” nor did I browse the [Censored] Library’s online catalogue. And with spotty Internet at my new home, I can’t even order books online. And even if I could, I’m pretty sure that the USPS is collecting all of my mail in giant sacks, and then hurling the sacks into the Charles.

(Speaking of which … if you see, bobbing along in that water, envelopes addressed to me in my own handwriting, and the return addressors are literary magazines, and inside the envelopes are what appear to be 3” x 5” pieces of thin, impersonal paper, please let them continue on into the harbor and out to sea.)

So revel in your books, Bostonians. Sit amongst the Brattle’s outdoor stacks and breathe in the smell of the worn pages. Walk (walk!) to the BPL, choose a title at random, take a seat in a sheltered area of the courtyard, and read a few pages as you listen to the rain pelt the flower petals. Appreciate what you have while you have it, else you’ll turn out like me.

Sorry, grandmom & grandpop, but you leave me no recourseI’m off to the Barnes & Noble six towns over. If I leave now and catch all the traffic lights, I can be home and reading a new book by tomorrow afternoon. And it’ll only cost $28.50 (excluding gas and aspirin). Which they’ll just take out of my first paycheck. If they’re hiring.

And if I get the job.

--Post contributed by Assistant Fiction Editor, Dave Duhr

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dick Cheney needs your help

Just kidding. Not really.

Dick Cheney just signed a contract for the publication of his memoir, and while the Bush years will be a big chunk of it, the memoir will span his entire career in public, uh, service.

The Washington Post is running a contest for submissions of the first chapter of Cheney's memoir. The sample, on the Post's website, reads as follows: Undisclosed Location, Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2009: Well, the baton is passed. Our work is finally done. Eight years, one devastating terrorist attack, two wars and one recession later, it's finally time to relax. It's been an amazing ride.

Submit your one-paragraph draft by July 2 to The best entries will be published. Further details can be found at the contest entry page. Best of luck!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Key(s) to Writer's Block

My writing routine includes a Mac book and an empty Word document. Slowly, but surely, the screen intermittently fills with letters, creating a peppered portrait. At least that's what used to happen before you came along, Writer's Block. Ever since my release from college a month ago I've undergone a painful case of writer's block. It's time for confrontation.

Dear Writer's Block,

I've tried everything: changing my atmosphere, hosting writing workshops on my porch, reading, doodling, listening to the radio, book clubs, events, and writing (gasp). The change in atmosphere only creates a drifting mind and, when applicable, intense sessions of people-watching and inner dialogue. Writing workshop turns into a wine manifesto, events are fun but mindless, and writing turns into illegible babble.

What else can I do, Writer's Block?

Buy a typewriter, you say? Why yes, a quaint typing machine that clicks and clacks should do the trick. A vintage toy that makes the sweetest of sounds, is irresistible to touch and impossible to ignore. Typewriters don't have Facebook or Google. Typewriters don't have iTunes or colorful, distracting screens. Typewriters help you get right to the point ...
Write. To. The. Point.

Thank you, Writer's Block, for understanding. I'm currently waiting, rather impatiently, to pick up a vintage Underwood - the kind that Kerouac once used. My fingers eagerly await their unborn masterpiece.

Yours truly,

P.S For more information on typewriters and which authors used what, click here. Joan Didion used a Royal KMM, William Faulker used an Underwood, and Joyce Carol Oates used an SCM Smith Corona Electra. The site also directs you to your nearest typewriter store. Fingers, rejoice!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seattle's Pilot Books

Seattle has a new independent book store, tucked away in a second floor story of a shopping plaza off Broadway and specializing in poetry and small press releases. Pilot Books doesn't sell all the latest bestsellers, and it probably won't change that anytime soon. If you're looking for chapbooks, local zines or small press novels you'll be well suited to stop by. The store is open 12-8 every day except Wednesday.

The owner, Summer, is a friendly and knowledgeable book lover with a rockin tattoo of mastadons on her arms. "I’m always saying Pilot Books is for the now, the new, authors writing and publishing in times such as these," writes Summer on the bookstore's blog.

Don't fear that you'll have a hard time browsing just because you don't see the latest Dave Eggers or Jhumpa Lahiri. Handmade signs bearing slogans like "new" and "local artist" stick out of books. I'm sure Summer would be happy to discuss any of the titles in detail with you.

The tiny upstairs features a lending library and armchairs. According to the Pilot Books blog, Summer's planning on hosting weekly themed writing workshops and possibly reading groups in the future, too. During my visit the store was crowded with curious shopper and well-wishers, and was getting ready to welcome its first reading later that week. Not bad for a shop that had been open three weeks.

Pilot claims to be Seattle's Most Secretive bookstore. If you're in the area give it a shout-out and maybe we can change that reputation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Virtual eclipse

This spring, a project I'd been eagerly awaiting went live. EcoArtTech, who is Cary Peppermint and Christine Nadir, released its Eclipse project on the net-art site. This lil program grabs photos of U.S. national parks from Flickr, then uses real-time air quality data from to mess with the images.

I tried it out for the first time on the Great Smokies National Park, and despite a current air quality rating of G (that's "good" to you), the images were corrupted with pleasingly colored but alarming horizontal lines. A couple of them had a feel similar to to one of my favorite recent shirt.woot entries—in particular, a photograph of huge grey-black rocks in a slow-moving stream, the water reflecting an odd bright yellow in the original photograph, became a disorienting/abstract thing with bands of magenta and cyan interrupting the flow of water around the rocks, the flow of the shapes the rocks made.

I tried the Sumter, SC, national forest, another site dear to my heart, but got a message saying that AQI values aren't available for it right now. Wonder why.

If we could see the effects of factors like air pollution all the time, we'd become inured to them. In fact, that's probably how we manage to stand seeing the ones that are visible without hyperventilating. There's the kind of filters that keep the world manageable—and the kind that make important parts of the world visible to us. That's what this project feels like. For our emotional survival, we have to keep the first kind intact; for our long-term survival, we have to keep making more of the second kind of filter, keep finding ways to see what's subtle or painful or too big to conceptualize. Keep it up, EcoArtTech!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Unspeakable, Unthinkable Fiction

Apparently, some fiction does not enjoy first amendment protection.

Consider the case of Dwight Whorley. This Virginia man authored an icky pornographic story that included pedophilia, then emailed his fantasy to likeminded internet friends, Wired reports. Whorley was convicted for possessing obscene Japanese manga and for possession of a filthy piece of print -- his pedophiliac fantasy.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to hear his case, setting the stage for a Supreme Court Appeal.

On the one hand, the production of written kiddie porn probably does hurt children by helping to create an atmosphere that suggests that it's ok, or by helping condition a person's orgasm to an illegal act that threatens the safety children. On the other hand, Whorley's being prosecuted for writing down a private fantasy and sharing it with others, an act that any writer will be familiar with.

The whole situation makes me uncomfortable. I generally think of writing as a safe space to experiment with concepts, situations, and characters that might make me uncomfortable in real life. This case pushes that conception to its limit.

I find Whorley's fantasies reprehensible, but the idea that the law could punish someone for expressing their feelings, no matter how deviant and disgusting, disturbs me as a writer.

I'll be interested to read what happens next.