Friday, May 31, 2013

Interview Sessions: Volume 1.1

Meet Jeremy Hanson-Finger.

Author of three chapbooks, numerous independent works of short fiction and poetry (published in like, a whole bunch of different literary magazines), and of the much anticipated forthcoming collection of short stories called Eyeless and Gazing, Jeremy Hanson-Finger is also a pretty cool guy (see available photograph for evidence.) He is the founder of Dragnet Magazine, an online/e-book literary journal that believes "fun dance parties are an important part of life" and that "literary writing should be as fun as it is well made." He is also, according to Spindle Magazine, "a brilliant writer," and, according to this poem of his, a staunch believer in penguins. 

More importantly for us, and you, Jeremy Hanson-Finger is one of the first of the four really-you're-really-agreeing-to-read-for-us? readers who will soon be rocking the stage at our inaugural event. Yes, that one. The one we know you've been so patiently waiting to comb your hair and sneaker up for that is going to be held at The Only Cafe on Saturday June 15th. 

For your benefit, we have decided to ask each author who will be reading a few questions about themselves, their work and their reading habits to get us a little more acquainted before we all show up to have fun together for the first time. 

Below are the results. Scroll. Peruse. Enjoy. 

Let's start with something easy: Give us the cereal box break-down of your style — how would you describe it if you only had a blurb on the side of a Wheaties box to sell someone on what you do? (For bonus points, give us a cereal-style title for your body of work, a tagline, and/or some mock nutritional information.)

Germy Hands and Fingers

"Beautiful and sneakily creepy"  Emma Healey, Broken Pencil

% Daily Value:

Love games: 200%
Robots: 58%
Mysteries: 82%
Airplanes: 105%
World War II: 19%
Old Testament conceptions of the afterlife: 33%
Father figures, including grandfathers: 23%
Medical professionals: 67%
Puns: 16%
Absurdly long sentences: 7%
Human bodies: 134%
Second person voice: 13%
Memory: 10%
The heat death of the universe: 80%

Can you remember the first time an writer's work really reached out and grabbed you? If so, who were they, and what about their writing caught your attention?

I think Richard Brautigan was the first writer who got me really into literary fiction and poetry. My dad introduced me to him. His style, like Kurt Vonnegut's, is deceptively simple and childlike, which allows him to explore the world with a sense of wonder, but he also deals with some really heavyweight issues — at the same time as being funny.

As a 'Part 2' to that question: now that you've grown a little as a writer, are there any writers who inspire you, or whose work really makes you want to work harder/better/faster/stronger? Are there any qualities you can point to specifically in their work which stick out to you?

Most recently, I'd say the work that blew me away and made me want to write the most was Adam Levin's book of short stories Hot Pink. I still strongly believe that work that ignores the humorous attributes of situations only tells half the story, so I'm always drawn to writers who can write material that's funny but where the humour actually helps it serve fiction's purpose, which, as David Foster Wallace says, is to depict "what it is to be a fucking human being." Anyway, like Brautigan, Levin nails that balance with Hot Pink, specifically with the concept of "snat," which also appears in his novel The Instructions (which is great too, but it's a thousand-pager that's a lot harder to get through). Levin operates at a much more complex level in terms of his actual prose than Brautigan, which motivates me to experiment more with my sentences.

In your own work,are there any themes, images, or characters (etc.) that you find yourself drawn to, intentionally or otherwise? What are they? Why do you think they resonate with you?

See % Daily Value chart above. I was obsessed with airplanes as a child, specifically WWII fighter planes (Jane's All The World's Aircraft, what's up?). The heat death of the universe definitely came from reading Thomas Pynchon and some of the work that inspired him, particularly Norbert Wiener's seminal book on cybernetics The Human Use of Human Beings. That's probably also part of where robots came from, though I think they also came from reading so much science fiction as a kid. I've also always loved detective stories. A psychoanalyst could probably connect it to a desire, as a somewhat anxious person, to control my environment. The others are a bit harder to pin down.

In the spirit of celebrating reading and writing, how do you like to read? Are you an out-louder? Do you prefer peace and quiet? What's the ideal set of conditions and location for you to read?

If it's something I want to read, I read somewhere quiet, usually in bed. If it's something I have to force myself to read, e.g., something I need to edit for work that I really dislike, I often have to be around other people and where there's background noise in order to get through it.

Just for fun, give us a pairing: one of your favourite works/authors and one of your favourite beverages (alcoholic or not). Why do they go together? How do they compliment one another?

This might be an easy one, but David Foster Wallace and Wild Turkey bourbon. The character James Incandenza in Infinite Jest is an academic and an avant-garde filmmaker, but he has an insatiable appetite for what's generally considered a working-class drink, and I think that describes Wallace pretty well: a brilliant avant-garde artist who loves mixing high and low culture. Also, I don't care what you say: Wild Turkey is delicious.

Because we're all insatiably curious little bastards, can you give us a little taste of what you think you'll be reading come June 15th? 

Choose your own weird date adventure.

Last question: give us a short (less than 75 words) third-person bio blurb about yourself which covers any awards/distinctions you're proud of and what you're tackling right now.

Jeremy Hanson-Finger is the publisher of the online literary magazine Dragnet. Apartment 9 Press in Ottawa published his chapbook The Delicious Fields in 2011, and his debut collection of short stories, Eyeless and Gazing, is forthcoming with Montreal's 8th House Publishing. He is currently working on a hardboiled detective novel set in the anaesthesiology department of the Ottawa Civic Hospital, titled The Big Freeze.

To find more about and by Jeremy Hanson-Finger you should click his name in his mini-bio above or the word sheep here — sheep — to make your way to his website. If you're too lazy to do your own perusing (we won't judge you: life is hard), here is a link to a poem of his, "Final Exam to be Taken by Dream Girl Based on Selections from Opening Sentences of Messages Mr. Hanson-Finger Has Really Honestly Sent to Girls on OKCupid," and another short piece he wrote called "Nighttime Isn't For Lovers." You should also check out his baby in literary magazine form Dragnet, and, once you've seen it and loved it, you should also check out the super-cool anthology of work collected from Dragnet's first two years in operation, which is now pre-available by pre-order on Indiegogo. (We just did and we're pretty stoked.) And lastly, keep an eye out for his upcoming short story collection, Eyeless and Gazing. Unless you're eyeless. Then keep your ears open because you'll really probably be wanting to check it out. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Here it comes: another poster. We know we're probably the only ones who care or are following this right now, unless someone out there does and is reading this, in which case, hello, we hope you've been enjoying our posts and are surviving all this humidity and rain and that you didn't have your day thrown out of whack by the flooding on the DVP this morning, and that you'll perhaps consider sending us a sign that you here with us, maybe a loud cheer or a smoke signal or I don't know a comment or something.

This next one's our first poster offspring. It says WE BELIEVE IN ENTHUSIASM because, wouldn't you know, we do indeed believe in enthusiasm. Here is an example of the kind of gusto we approve of:

Y'all don't know nothin bout excitement.

We think this is very nice. Now you may see our poster:

Keep your eyes peeled for them, and get collecting! Don't forget that if you find them all you win everything! Haven't you always wanted an everything!?

Footnote to nothing:

Monday, May 27, 2013

So You Want To Be Famous*, Eh?

We know what you're thinking. Yes please. Oh yes, I do. I've been dying to make everyone cheer and shout and drool profusely at my good looks and brilliance. Just tell me how!

Your future fans. You know you want to be in their iPhones. And we know
you know. So let us help you out.

Well for starters it would help if you were a writer: a writer with something up your sleeve you consider worth sharing. Fiction, poetry, engaging non-fiction, non-fiction masquerading as fictive poetry: whatever. If this sounds like you then we encourage you to send some of your work our way so we can see if you'd be a suitable to come a-Ruckus makin' (as in to come and read at one of our events.) Although high-quality writing will always be the belle of the what-we-value ball, we are also looking for work that is particularly fun and engaging. Though it is by no means necessary to do so, if you want to find a way to add any interactive or performative elements we will probably look at you fondly and coo. Okay not really because that sounds pretty off-putting, but what we're trying to say is that we'd like it. A lot.

For second-ups it would help if you were in a band, or perhaps were yourself a stand-alone music-producing entity. While, as people, we value and appreciate all kinds of music, we'll admit that we'll be looking for something with a little bit of spunk for our shows. Think "Ruckus," but the kind you want to hear rather than the kind that the people above your apartment are making or that small children produce when they come face to face with pots and/or open cutlery drawers. Send some files or videos our way to check out.  

For thirds, it would help if you did we-don't-even-know-what. Maybe you write one-man plays or juggle books or swallow scrabble tiles with flare or an engaging sort of pizzazz. Until you pitch your idea we might not even know how bad we need you. We're open to hearing you out. The ball's in your court. (The tiles are in your tray?)

The place to direct the above-requested samples of the work (or the ideas) prerequisite to your pending fame is:

Now's not the time to be modest or shy or a self-effacing homebody. The manner of self-assessment we'd recommend you engage in before eliciting our attention we'd describe as 'fair' or 'discerning' or 'generously sober' or, alternatively, 'soberly generous,' or simply as 'just consider letting someone other than your mom look at your stuff to help you to decide.' We'll read and/or listen to what you send us and if we think it'll jive with our groove we'll probably soon be begging at your email-account's door to recruit you.

Keep in mind we're just starting out. As people we promise we are not very intimidating. We still get excited when people like our facebook page (rare), or say "cool man" instead of ignoring us when we tell them what we're doing. We're pretty nice. You can ask our friends. Or just go ahead and send us some work or come on out to our event and find out!

One final note: We're not sure how much response we'll be getting for this call. Thus, we can not make any guarantees about how long it will take us to get back to you. However, we can promise that any patience you may have to expend will be rewarded, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

*Qualification: We do mean famous in an entirely marginal way. Famous as in, known, cheered for, and adored (in proportion to the level of your entertainingness and/or talent) amongst ourselves, our friends, maybe your friends, the people peering through The Only Cafe's steamy windows, and whatever other company the please-keep-rolling snowball of our reading series happens to force into its orbit.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hey there, Toronto dwellers. We're starting a poster campaign for our first event. There are 7 different designs in total, which we will be revealing here over the next few weeks. Printed versions are also beginning to disperse themselves around the city as we speak.

Your mission, if you should choose to accept it, is this: Try to collect one take-away slip from each of the seven posters. If someone shows up to the event with all of them, something amazing will happen. Which you may or may not witness, depending on whether or not anyone succeeds. Or whether or not you come. (We're really hoping that both things happen.)

Here is poster number one! (Don't tell the others, but it's kind of our favorite).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Making A Ruckus

You want to know one of the best things about reading? (Whether you do or not, indulge us for a minute.) That feeling that you get when you read a particularly gripping passage, the kind of phrase that flicks fingers across the switchboard of your brain. That perfect stanza that wraps a calloused fist around your heart and squeezes like a longshoreman until you catch yourself whispering the words below your breath on the train, just to hear them again.

There’s something about that feeling, that rattlesnake-tongue’s flicker of your synapses that seems too good to keep to yourself. Most of the time, that ecstatic inspiration probably just lingers on the edge of your mind, nagging at you to poke your neighbour on the subway and bid them to ogle at the passage that just blew your mind. 
We are tired of sitting across from other readers in cafes and libraries and the back corners of bookstores, trading shy glances over dust jackets and dying to ask them what they’re digging in to. We are tired of reading alone. 

Enter: The Ruckus Reading Series. 

The Ruckus Reading Series is the rowdy love-child of our lonely imaginations. We believe that words are better set free, read aloud to a moderately intoxicated audience prepared to make noise. We believe that applause shouldn't only be reserved for rockstars. Here’s what we’re proposing: Let’s get together. All of us. Us, you, your cousins, that cute boy (or girl) you saw reading Being and Time at the pub last friday night: anybody into books who is looking to have a good time. And for the bibliophiles, the bookworms, the nose-always-in-novels types: this isn't high school. This is a party and you're invited. Let’s get together to share in a mutual enjoyment of finely crafted words. Let’s be loud about it. Let’s have fun. Let’s let the authors know that we love what they’re doing. Let’s drink beer and listen to fresh voices and maybe even throw in a little live music, while we’re at it, because hey, aren't lyrics are just poems with grooooooove?

If you’re buying what we're selling (and you might as well, it’s free), then we’ll see you there:

Saturday, June 15th. 7 pm. 
The Only Cafe, on the Danforth just west of Donlands. 

As the weeks wear on, we’re going to be revealing some of the authors who'll be there, and tossing around some of our favourite literary flotsam  verses and verbs that we are oh-so-fond of. So nail that dial in place, True Believer (and I mean that in a Stan Lee way, not a creepy robes-and-chanting way). We’ll see you here again real soon.