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holiday-spectacular-feature

This is the second annual Holiday Spectacular episode of the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast. The guests are Melissa Broder, Gene and Jenny Morgan, Amelia Gray and Lee Shipman, Ben Loory, Rich Ferguson, and Adam Greenfield. Recorded on December 10, 2016.

 

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PS. Here are links to some things discussed in the show:

Prince on Arsenio Hall, 1991

Jimmy Stewart reads a poem about his dog on The Tonight Show

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Another year has come and gone, and it’s time once again to present The Nobbies, the official book awards of The Nervous Breakdown.

Below you’ll find this year’s winners, our picks for the best books of 2011.

Congrats to the victors, and their publishers.

And thanks, as always, for reading.

-BL

It was 4:30 p.m. by the time we got on the road. Me, Melinda, and Jane.  The sky over the southern San Joaquin Valley was heavy with rain clouds. I drove. The road was slick.  The San Emigdio Mountains were topped with snow.  “You sure are quiet,” I said to Jane. Normally she was ruling the conversation. She called it a “Janeopoly.” I figured she was plotting out her novel, Puro Amor.  Not long ago she told me she could write entire paragraphs in her head and remember them for transcribing later.

An hour or so later we zoomed down the Hollywood Freeway, took the Highland Avenue exit and headed west onto Hollywood Boulevard, on our way to Book Soup. We were nearly late for the reading.

The bookstore was small, cramped, packed floor-to-ceiling with shelves. The reading area was an aisle essentially, a few folding chairs leading to a podium.  Bunched in the crowd were some writers from TNB, several of whom I’d never met. Kimberly M. Wetherell, filmmaker and writer, wore black glasses, her red hair a fire of loveliness. She mentioned that I was no longer two dimensional—no longer just words on a screen. I said something about being a figment of her imagination.

Duke Haney, author of Banned For Life and Subversia, stood in a corner wearing a black newsboy cap and a leather jacket. He was talking to Rachel Pollon, another TNBer.  She stood about half his size and got shy when I asked her to talk on camera.  “Meet Hank,” Duke said, pointing to another tall guy.  Hank stepped forward and handed me a photo of a face with the word “awesome” on it.

Lenore Zion had long, curly hair—different than when I last saw her.  She looked younger.  She asked what I had been up to. I mumbled something about 2010 being a year to write off and later bought her book, My Dead Pets Are Interesting.

Greg Boose came up and offered me a friendly hello.  He was taller than I expected, and handsome. His wife, Claire Bidwell Smith, was taller than expected, too. Both have striking eyes the color of the sea.  Greg asked me how long I was staying in town. I wanted to say a week. I wanted to say I had a suitcase and was looking for a nice padded bus bench.  “Probably headed back tonight,” I told him.  “Though maybe I’ll just stay and find my way back in the morning.”

Joe Daly, TNB’s music editor, came over and introduced himself.  His hair was shaggy, he was unshaven, he looked like rock and roll.  For some reason I had expected his hair to be short.

I met Ben Loory, too.  He has a gentle soul and a contemplative smile. Later, when he read a story of his called “The Well” and said he might cry, I almost started crying myself.

I didn’t get to meet Victoria Patterson. She read an essay about farts in literature, and her hands were shaking as she read.  It was hilarious.  Everyone laughed and held their gas.

Then there was the master of ceremonies, Greg Olear, author of the new novel Fathermucker.  A dark sweater covered his “Brave New World” T-shirt.  He gave me a guy hug and we made small talk.  I met his wife, Stephanie, too—not a writer, but a ferocious singer.  Steph was all hugs. She talked to a college friend from Syracuse, and they laughed about old times.

 

 

WATCH: GREG OLEAR/TNBERS AT BOOK SOUP

VIEW: JANE HAWLEY PHOTOS FROM BOOK SOUP

 

After the event, many of us headed over to Mirabelle, a nearby bar and restaurant. Brad Listi carried a sack of books and asked what I was up to and where I’d been. I didn’t want to dish out my sob story right then, so I just talked opportunities, my new book of poetry, the interest of an agent in my novel Anhinga, and so on.

Inside the bar, Jane came suddenly to life. She talked and talked and I grew quiet as she and a new friend walked to where Ben, Duke and the others were hanging out. Greg was at the bar drinking a beer. He ordered me some water.  I listened to Stephanie and her friend talking about their college days. I was content.

Melinda was quiet. She used to write (Lenore recognized her from her defunct blog), and she does have a voice. But now, for the most part, she just comes to my Random Writers Workshop, where I prod people like her to write novels and dream big. Jesse from the workshop was there, too. He downed a few drinks and talked shop with Ben Loory.

We were there for about an hour before heading home.  Jane fell asleep in the back of the car and began snoring. Rain poured over Interstate 5, turning into slush as we hit the Tejon Pass, the hump over the San Andreas Fault that marks the downward slide into the Central Valley.

“You okay?” Melinda asked. She could tell I couldn’t see the lines on the road.

“I’m fine,” I told her. “Just gotta see the lanes. I don’t mind driving in storms.”  I was smiling a little, eyes  straight ahead. I felt strangely at ease, like I was passing through a kind of personal storm, releasing it, washing it away on the rain-slicked desert road.

As we rolled back into Bakersfield, Jane woke up. By now it was one o’clock, and still raining.  I pulled into Melinda’s driveway.  We got out.  Jane said a quick goodbye, ran to her car, and drove away.  A pile of leaves in the neighbor’s gutter had caused a flood in front of Melinda’s house. I grabbed a hoe from the garage and started moving the pile. Melinda watched me briefly, then went inside, to bed.  I stayed outside and pushed and pulled and hacked at the pile of leaves and branches until a stream was created.  I stood alone in the rain and watched the water flow down the street.  Rain came down against the lawns and streets of Bakersfield in the night.  It was quiet otherwise, no signs of life, and I stood alone in the rain, content to know that the flood was gone.

 

STORIES FOR NIGHTTIME AND SOME FOR THE DAY

Ben Loory cover

Last month, while rifling through my Santa sack full of galleys, I was drawn to one cover in particular, which depicted a flying saucer and a reddish-orange tentacle. (Let us all admit right now that we judge a lot of books by their covers.) This beguiling art belonged to Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (Penguin, 2011), Ben Loory‘s crazily entertaining (and sometimes just crazy) collection of offbeat tales.

There once was a girl who was lost in a storm. She wandered this way and that, this way and that, trying to find a way home. But the sky was too dark, and the rain too fierce; all the girl did was go in circles.

Then, suddenly, there were arms around her. Strong arms-–good strong arms. And they picked the girl up and carried her away.

When she woke, she was lying in bed.


BEN LOORY‘s first book, the short story collection Stories for Nighttime and Some For the Day, comes out this week. (Holding this gorgeous volume in your hand, incidentally, is a compelling argument against the e-book).


Let’s look back at his TNB offerings, in which he’s regaled us with tales of an open (and blank) book


…and the time he saw Robin Williams looking like crap


…and a dream he had in which he’s at Walgreen’s


…and his own death (let us remember him fondly as a guy who was OK at tennis)…


…and how to write a screenplay without reading Syd Field…


…and the down side of mental institutions


…and other posts that never were.


I live a charmed life.It wouldn’t work for most people I don’t think, but for me it is a skin tight glove, molded and designed to fit perfectly.My schedule is hectic.There are planes, and hotels, and stages, and radio stations, and studios, and rental cars, and so many different skylines that the whole world begins to bleed together like a chalk drawing in the rain.

Last week at TNB, Joel Fishman called out the New York Times Book Review.Its methodology of selecting which books to bless (or damn) with a review, he suggested, has become whimsical to the point of irrelevance.

Lit fans!  TNB fans!  Bookish folk!  AWPers!  Hold onto your hats, it’s time for some TNB served up in a Rocky Mountain oyster stew.  That’s right, TNB’s Literary Experience (TNBLE) is coming to downtown Denver, Colorado!

WHEN: Thursday, April 8th.  Doors at 6pm; program begins at 7pm

WHERE: Meadowlark 2701 Larimer St. / Denver, CO 80205, (303) 293-0251.

Readers will include award-winning author Alexander Chee (The Queen of the Night / Edinburgh), Ben Loory (his story “The TV” is in this week’s New Yorker magazine!), Tom Hansen (American Junkie), Gina Frangello (Slut Lullabies / My Sister’s Continent), Aaron Dietz, Megan DiLullo, Erika Rae, and poet Erica Dawson. Denver’s own Col. Hector Bravado from DenverSixShooter.com will emcee.

Live music from Hideous Men, Iuengliss and Ryat will follow at 9pm.

Happy Hour goes from 4-7, $1 PBR, $2 wells and domestics.

No cover; $5 suggested donation.

For more information please contact Erika Rae – [email protected].

Don’t forget yer spurs.

 

My name is Irene Zion and I have been writing for TNB for quite a while. I’ve been married to Victor for 76 years, or thereabouts. Victor practiced retinal surgery for decades and I taught junior high and high school, but mostly I raised the oodles of children in my house. Some of them were mine. Now we are retired and living on Miami Beach. We are blessed with good health and stamina. We are thankful for the discovery of powerful antacid medicines, so that we can continue to enjoy foods that would otherwise eat right through our stomach linings. I am still hoping for a cure for chicken neck, but all things considered, we are content and peaceful. Life is good.

Victor and I went on a long trip to Africa recently. Yeah, but that is way too long and complicated to get into here. Never mind. You should just be aware that we do a lot of weird traveling. Our aspiration is to go everywhere and see everything. We have plenty of time, since we aren’t planning to get any older.

We have at least five kids that I can remember off the bat. They are frequently characters in my stories, so you should know a bit about them. In age order there is Sara, who is an anesthesiologist. She is married to Tushar and has our phenomenal and only grandchildren, Stella and Oscar. Then there is Lonny, who is married to Sara. Tim is in the middle. Then comes Lenore, (you know her, right?) Last, I think, is Ben, who is married to Kate.

Sara, Tushar, Stella and Oscar moved from one state to another recently. Their new house came with an elevator and a fish tank. The elevator is exceptionally safe. You could walk up the stairs backwards and blindfolded, carrying a porcelain toilet, and get there far before the elevator does. The fish tank is teaching the children about death.

Lonny proposed to Sara at our annual Thanksgiving festival. Two years ago, Ben proposed to Kate at this same festival, thus setting in stone the tradition that when a child of ours gets engaged, it is at our house, during the Thanksgiving weekend, surrounded by family, friends, dogs and sushi. Strange things seem to happen at our Thanksgivings, ask around.

Sara and Lonny followed our sensible family custom and eloped. They are now a typical newly married couple, complete with a practical house and enormous debt. Sara obviously has magical powers, since she actually retained a teaching position in Los Angeles, which is nothing to sneeze at. Now we have two “Sara Zions,” the resulting confusion being perfectly Zionesque. There was an outside chance once for another “Kate Zion,” but she turned out to be a closeted creepy psycho-stalker, so we had to jettison her, but I would need permission in order to tell that story.

Timothy is now getting a Masters Degree in Accounting. This required him to buy and use a PC. He keeps his beloved Mac in working order and occasionally buys it a new Mac toy in order to assuage his conscience and mollify his Mac. Tim is allergic to cats and he can’t have a dog in his apartment, so I’m pretty sure the Mac is his only pet now. After spending close to nine years in Hawaii, Tim is having a difficult time leaving his flip-flops home and putting on warm shoes in the cold and snowy Chicago winter. I think that it would be a safe bet to make that, after he finishes his degree, he might very well relocate to a place that is flip-flop-friendly.

Lenore was in the original crop of TNBers; I assume you’ve read her stuff. She has only a matter of months remaining in her Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. She, not unlike other Zion children, is collecting degrees. This one will be her fourth. She also has two in Creative Writing and another in Psychology. These degrees have so far landed her a short stint at Blockbusters. We, as a family, look extremely good on paper. Unfortunately, we do not excel in actually landing gainful employment.

Lenore is working on what we euphemistically call the “last draft” of her novel. She will be out in the job market again at the end of August, given that she has not already appeared on Oprah, before the show goes off the air.

Benjamin and Kate also live in Chicago. Benjamin will finish Law school at the end of the summer, after which he is determined to land the elusive position in Law. I am concerned that this search is unlikely to bear edible fruit, so he may soon be adding yet another degree to his résumé. We hope the next one will lead to a real job for which he might get actual cash money. Kate just began Medical School. She is usually holed up in their tiny extra room studying. She occasionally sleeps and eats.

Our four-year-old Golden, Brooklyn, tore her second ACL and had her second Tibial Patellar Leveling Osteotomy. We were relieved to hear that ACL tears can only happen on a dog’s rear knees. Since both of them have been repaired, we should be good to go now. She has a staggering amount of titanium connecting parts of her body together. She won’t be pulling any sleds in the Iditarod, but she gets around just fine for what she needs to do. In March she will have healed enough from her latest surgery to limp back to her therapy dog work. Kimchee, our two-year-old Golden, is almost finished her therapy dog training. She is a goofy and delightful dog, perfect for therapy work, if she will stop peeing and wagging her tail in it every time she meets someone new. So far as I know, being sprayed with dog pee is not considered therapeutic.

For reasons that are unclear to us, we have had five attempted koi suicides in our atrium fishpond this year. Alas, four of the suicides were successful. One fish was saved in the nick of time by quick action by Victor, who ran through the pond to retrieve the muddy fish off the dirt and hurriedly placed him back in his element. It has been some months, and this particular fish seems to have had a change of heart. We think he has chosen life. Bravo for him.

Victor still volunteers at Fairchild Tropical Gardens doing backbreaking work on palm trees in the beating sun with two of his highly educated friends who also nevertheless inexplicably do hard labor. He and his friends are all of a certain age. Virtually every week, one of them throws out his back or injures an eye.

We also found out that Victor is allergic to every variety of ant in Florida. Aside from making him itchy, he looks uncommonly nasty after these allergic reactions. Luckily for him, he couldn’t care less how he looks. He also doesn’t care how I look. This used to annoy the bejezus out of me, but the older I get; the more this quirk of his is working in my favor.

Victor also teaches basic math and reading skills at a men’s homeless shelter. If you know Victor, you may be surprised to hear that he has an unflinching faith in humanity and the right to a second chance. (I know! He seems so cynical, right?)

I continue to play with children confined to their beds at Miami Children’s Hospital. I also cart Brooklyn around so she can do her various therapy jobs, since, although she is uncommonly clever, she does not have the opposable thumbs needed to drive a car.

I continue to paint peculiar portraits in oil when I am able to dislodge Victor from my leg.

It pleases me to write stories on line at TNB, for which I am grateful to its creator, Brad Listi. I write non-fiction. In doing so, I try my best to embarrass as many family members as possible. From time to time, a serious story slips in to my site. That’s your one and only warning; Ben Loory, (also known as “son of Loory,”) was right. Virtual gold stars are sent out to everyone who comments. The repugnant and offensive comments are especially fun to read, so, please, have at it!

Now that we have officially been introduced, we wish each of you good health and contentment in your life.

And a dog.

We wish you each at least one dog to love you regardless of what life throws at you.


Photograph Legend:

Humans:

Back row, left to right: Tim, Sara, Lonny, Ben, Victor, and Tushar.

Middle row, left to right: Kate, Lenore, Irene and Sara.

Front row, left to right: Stella and Oscar

Dogs:

Back left: Kimchee

Front right: Brooklyn

Fish:

Survivors of the multiple piscatorial suicides are swimming Shiva and declined to be photographed at this time.

I have stolen the keys to the TNB blog and am now going to take it for a spin. I may get booted off TNB for doing so, but before I’m found out, I thought I’d show some pictures of me hanging out with various TNB contributors, just to brag about the fact that I personally know them and stuff.

In order of inception and abandamnation:

I.

This one was about this time I went to the beach. (I don’t go to the beach very often.) I was dating this girl, she lived down in Hermosa. Hermosa is like, down by… the water.

I.

I ran into Owen Wilson on Cahuenga.
Owen Wilson, I said, stopping short.
Hey man, he said, how’s it going? Are there are a lot of cops around here?

Cops? I said.
I was kind of concerned.
Like, what do you mean? I said.
Cops, he said. You know, police. I don’t know if I can park my car here.

I turned and looked and Owen Wilson’s car was parked right in the middle of the sidewalk.
Oh, I said. Well, I don’t know. I mean, I wouldn’t do that.

The Book

By Ben Loory

Short Story

The woman returns from the store with an armload of books. She reads them quickly, one by one, over the course of the next few weeks. But when she opens the last one, the woman frowns in surprise.

All the pages in the book are blank.

Every single one.

There is no point to this. The point is that I’m getting sick. I just noticed it an hour ago. Suddenly I am blowing my nose. Out of nowhere. And now feeling a little wonky. So I took some vitamin C and ate about 14 pounds of sautéed spinach and now I am sitting here waiting to die. If the pig flu gets me tell them I was an okay guy. Kind of quiet and not very good at tennis, but basically decent.