the-suicide-of-claire-bishop-coverThe Escape



They drove north in midday traffic, Freddie snotting on the steering wheel and Claire resting her forehead on the cool glass of the passenger window. Central Park. Then the Bronx and the Bronx zoo, the children standing on street corners in thin coats, their fists hidden inside sleeves, sleeves holding radios. She caught pieces of songs. At a stop sign she heard Ray Charles, his bent-branch moan. She nodded her head to it, and they drove on.

Q. So, tell me a bit about myself.

A. See Figure 1.




BOTR_CoverDearest Elswyth,

All is lost. I am far from the road, and several times during the nocturnal hours, when my eyes were wide and no sound broke the stillness, I imagined I heard wagons in the distance, like the uncanny creaking of ghostly ships. A hunger dream —I imagined it was a supply of provisions. The cries of the men were punctuated by the cracking of whips, the clatter of hooves and wagon wheels. The sky was lit by a full moon and a host of stars, but I only saw gray silhouettes moving in the night. Animals, riders, whole caravans that flew from my eye when I tried to view them dead-on.

When dawn broke and the crying of the coyotes ceased, I was exhausted. I built a shelter against the sun with my blanket and some straight branches from a desert plant that has no name I know of. During the day and much of the night I vacillated between sleep and waking, trying to rest my weary mind. The sun is large and vibrates heat without ceasing. There was no shade in the desert, and the condition of my skin worsens.

Brooklyn Book Fest  2014

Jane: So Before Passing is great weather for MEDIA’s fourth poetry and prose anthology, with submissions opening for the next on October 15. As always, it’s a mix of fun, excitement, hard work, and very difficult decisions. David, we published you in our first collection, It’s Animal but Merciful. Any surprises moving to the editorial side?

David: When I agreed to working as an editor on the anthologies, I told myself to prepare to read a lot of bad work in order to find the good. What I have found is that there is worthiness in almost all the submissions we read. The challenge is identifying the pieces that belong together in a given book. Which is why writers should not despair over rejections.

By Rebecca Audra Smith, from Before Passing


I was kissing you, necking on
the Canal Street love boat. We edged up
in our seats and made some space for Jesus
to sit down. Tight squeeze, my kneecaps
knocking yours, my tongue still in your
mouth, not much room for his words.
Still, he started to preach. Jesus
is the man to call when you want
two women to pull apart. Jesus
is the place to go when you want
us to rearrange our bodies till we
sit decorous as flowers in a vase.
Jesus is the man to speak to
when you want to unlink our hands.
I haven’t space enough on this paper
to tell him that I will kiss you
wherever I fucking want to.

By Bob Hart, from Before Passing


Who knows how many worlds
have been ground into detritus
but they make such pretty stones.
One can collect them for
their sparkles or
their dullish characters;
ably make fairy tales about them;
wear them as
a savage wrapping around the
wrist or
round the loins; bed them
in a chapel floor or cavern’s copula;
press their patterns into flesh
as fashion or as torture;
grind out one’s eyes with them as guilty;
give them as worth
and still not guess
the distances they came from—
the processes that formed them.

by Toni La Ree Bennett, from Before Passing


How deep

is the impression

my body makes

in your wife’s bed?

unnamedColin Fleming’s fiction appears in Boulevard, AGNI, the VQR, Post Road, and Cincinnati Review, with nonfiction running with Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and Boston Magazine. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition, and is completing three books at present: Same Band You’ve Never Known: An Alternate Musical History of the Beatles, a novel about a reluctant piano prodigy called The Freeze Tag Sessions, and Musings with Franklin, a novel told entirely in conversation between Writer, Bartender, and the guy from the suburbs who dresses up as Ben Franklin.


So: how do you feel about me writing while you’re asleep?

How do you feel about me walking seventy miles every week and bringing you along? And this is how you want to handle the pronoun thing?

31gFl7NEfALThe Char Paper Blues Band

They were the type of band, over time, that could play just about any kind of gig you could imagine: wedding, supper club, football stadium, birthday party, Christmas morning brunch, open-air pavilion, museum, right down to the back seat of a car. Not that there wasn’t some controversy in coming up with a name that stuck.

“For the last time, we’re going with Char Paper Blues Band. I appreciate the sentiment of the Dissolution Unit, and the Demolition Unit has a similar feel, but again: they’re both misleading. We’re not doing the dissolving or the demolitioning, are we?”

Silence. Initially. Stafford was used to it. The harmonica player would probably grumble for a few days over having failed, yet again, to rename them.


cox 1

Tyler and I are sixteen and we’re hunting for Dead people. We say to each other during class, loud enough for other people to hear, “Hey! Let’s go hunting for dead people today!”

It’s a game. But it’s also real because maybe, if we see Death, we won’t be so scared of it.

Most days after school we drive to the university, Cal State Channel Islands, which is not Cal State Channel Islands quite yet. Half of it is still a boarded-up mental hospital that was shut down in 1997. The other half of it is in some stage of renovation as the building transforms from psych ward to college campus.

It’s 2005 and we don’t just drive down the curvy canyon road. We fly. I sit on the windowsill of Tyler’s hand-me-down Mustang as he takes hairpin turns way too fast, but he’s doing that for me. It’s so I can stretch one arm out, stare up at the sky and really feel like I’m flying

He never puts a steadying hand on me because he trusts me to not fall and I trust him to not let me. Like life and death, we exist within the same idea, yet never touch.

It’s stupid and irresponsible and fabulous and fast and makes you scream in every good way. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you’re sixteen?

We arrive at the abandoned hospital that’s under renovations. Some of the buildings look like skeletons; just the framework juts out of the ground. Others are already finished, complete with thick walls and paintings of blue dolphins.

There’s a six-foot chain link fence around the hospital. We race up it, then jump down the other side. Tyler and I run across the grounds, looking for a hallway to explore. We pick the longest one. The darkest one. The one that goes down.


David Ulin’s new book, Sidewalking, is a meandering narrative that follows the author and critic through the streets of L.A. as he contemplates the city’s past, his role in understanding it, and what it means to create space. Ulin’s work is a natural descendent of Rebecca Solnit’s Walking; as such, Ulin follows a winding path through L.A.’s collage of ideas and structures while considering the city’s effect on his his life. Sidewalking asks us to place ourselves on the (often neglected) sidewalks of L.A: to access the city as pedestrians, in every sense of the word.

Ulin was my mentor at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert Campus, and recently we conversed over email about his new book and his role as a “reluctant Angeleno.”

MonroeComp1.inddA date gone this awry might turn out fine if, for example, we could have gone back to my apartment and slipped off my shiny dress and made love like James Stillman and I used to do in Wisconsin, like Max and I used to do in Kansas, where you get into tried and true positions that take you to brief ecstasy. Then we’d relax, agree that the joke-telling had turned awkward. If the sense of intimacy lasted, in time I’d even be able to tell my date he needed to dry clean his sports coats. But the sex was polite, muted. Because he was polite, muted? Because his feelings were? I’ll never know. He left afterward because he had to teach folklore at a community college fifty miles away in the morning—by which time I was packing up my laundry to take to a laundromat a block away.

author photo 2015, chair, b&wThe blurbs say your book is funny, and yet it explores that era just after the feminist movement. Feminism is serious, necessary. How did this turn out to be funny?

It’s not a slapstick book, no. But the gap between what you expect and what you get instead—the ludicrously unexpected—is the definition of a punchline. If readers find the book funny, that’s probably because it’s about a life in which incompatible values coincide. I straddled social classes. I straddled opposed definitions of womanhood. This made for predicaments: the wrong words and behaviors in the right setting; the right words and behaviors in the wrong setting. And I prefer being amused, not stricken.

you leave the other on the road when your car careens into the woods & your
airbags deploy & your seatbelts are a god your state doesn’t believe in but the
windshield is a stubborn gate you break yourself trying to break open & it is too
bright to rupture the forest with headlights which  means its still early enough
to bring a body to the coroner & discuss who will call the dead fawn’s mother.

Kate Christensen 4 KB copyI fell in love with Kate Christensen’s fiction for the smart but deeply flawed characters, the vibrant settings, the good old-fashioned plot twists and, of course, the prose, once described by Janelle Brown in the San Francisco Chronicle as “visceral and poetic, like being bludgeoned with an exquisitely painted sledgehammer.” Always in the mix, lusciously omnipresent, was food and booze, flavoring the titles (In The Drink, The Epicure’s Lament) and served generously through the scenes. There was no doubt the author was deeply involved with eating and drinking.