Monday, November 9, 2009


is Dennis Cooper's new selection of the Little House on the Bowery imprint here at Akashic Books. It is Mark Gluth's *breathtaking* debut novel.

The interview here is between Akashic Books editor Ben Fama and author Mark Gluth.

This book drifts among a lush world of daydreams and loss. Can you talk a little about the things that were on the back of your mind, if not the front of it, while you were working on Late Work?

Well I thought a lot about the shape of it, and by extension the shape of stories in general. I came up with different ways of looking at my book and what I was doing. One was that the book was a monument to loss. Another was that I was writing fiction, but that it was a sculpture made out of words not a ‘story’. This line of thought allowed me to make decisions in the book for aesthetic reasons as opposed to for narrative reasons. Along with that I became obsessed with the idea that the overall narrative was literally true but logically impossible. I spent a lot of time thinking about the implications of that, ensuring it still ‘worked’ for me at some gut level.

It took years to write the book so in addition to these abstract goals I ended up discovering plenty of things that influenced me. First was the writing of Marie Redonnet and Derek McCormack. Their books, in very different ways, demonstrated that something was possible in fiction that I’d not thought of before. Their work gave me confidence because it kinda validated what I was doing, at least in my head. Another one was music. I began to think of the book as if it was the work of a band: each chapter was an album, and each paragraph was a song. That definitely gave me a way into testing its structure, ensuring it held up and functioned when viewed through an entirely different lens. There was also a ton of music that influenced the book at various times. A small sampling: ‘Faded From The Winter’ and ‘Upward Over The Mountain’ by Iron and Wine. ‘Leave Me Alone’ by New Order. The Beth Gibbons solo album, the first couple albums by Tunng , the album ‘PrĂ©cis’ by Benoit Pioulard. Xiu Xiu. Anything to do with Spencer Krug… I would create these long playlists and kind of meditate on the music as I wrote.

Another big influence was video games, and their capability for narrative. Most video games worth their salt have strong narratives but at the same time the narrative is so beside the point to the experience of the game. It’s complex. An inspiration for me in particular were ‘The Legend Of Zelda’ games by Nintendo, in particular the game ‘Wind Waker’. The way the Zelda games are structured is that each game is part of a much larger narrative composed of the same story being told over and over again via all the different Zelda titles, and then within each game each level is ultimately just another version of every other level in every other Zelda game. The idea of a narrative experience like that became really compelling to me.

What stays with me after reading the novella is the sense that the authority that holds the book together isn’t a force of narration or action, but rather a repetition of similar emotions. Can you tell us a little about how you approached the novel’s creation?

That’s cool. I don’t always have a developed vocabulary for what I was trying to do, but another goal was that the book would move forward in a way that made emotional sense. So yeah, I’m glad you think that.

As far as how I approached it… well it was piecemeal, the way it came about. Initially I had various images and moods, settings that I kind of collected because I found them compelling. At some point I decided they were part of some larger whole and that whole was a book. There was a very long period of time where I experimented with various overarching narratives for the novel, structures that could collect all these disparate elements I had in my head. Once I had that nailed I set about just basically writing the book. I had all the key narrative signposts mapped out, and the overarching structure. So I knew what needed to happen in a narrative sense to support that.

That sense of structure being in place gave me a wide berth to experiment with everything else. Anything that was not needed to support the structure of the book was a variable that I probably changed at some point. The way I worked was that I wrote the book in order, one chapter at a time. I’d work on a chapter ‘till I was happy/done with it, then moved on to the next. They usually took about 6 months of near daily writing, but some took longer.

Nailing the language was key for me. And that just took, and still takes time. I usually had vague and abstract intentions for the language that I didn’t understand until I just realized it through constant revision. It’s all very step by step for me. Most of the chapters took 70 drafts or more, and the first draft of a chapter reads nothing like the final. Anyway, once the first draft of the book was assembled from the completed chapters, I kinda held onto it for several months before going back and expanding some sections. I really didn’t change anything I’d previously written though. Overall it took about 5 years from conception to completion.

People's most immediate reaction to the book always seem to be sparked by the book’s treatment of daydreams. The wide-open logic of dreams (or daydreams) is much the logic of LATE WORK. What personally do you have to say about dreams?

Well, I remember most my dreams and very rarely do I ever have a good dream. What I mean is a dream that is compelling in a fictional sense. But I am haunted by my dreams. Usually when I write them down I think they mean so much to me but if someone read them they'd start laughing.

Having said that I never really thought of the book as a ‘dream book’ until people started telling me that and I'm still not sure what I think. For me the dreams serve as a mechanism that does several things. First, they allowed me to underscore and color the characters, and define them. Second they allowed me to create shadow narratives, and gave me space in which I could insert narratives that didn't fit into the primary flow. I see the dreams as functioning on the same level as the fictions in the book: they are part of the composite of information that define the characters and also move the narrative forward in a non- narrative sense. Ultimately I worked hard to ensure the dreams felt like dreams, as opposed to descriptions of dreams.

The handling of nature—fog, wet trees, damp earth—seems to resonate with David Lynches handling of nature in Twin Peaks (which is obliquely referenced early by the band named Wrapped in Plastic). You’re from Washington State, where much of the TV series was filmed. Something both you and Lynch do so compellingly is use the environment to convey emotional information. Am I way off here?

To be honest I never thought about a connection between the book and his stuff until your question. I mean, yeah ‘Wrapped In Plastic’ is something I took from the first episode of TP. I chose it for aesthetic reasons- I like the p sounds are kinda of alliterated and repeated in the sentence it first appears in- as well as a nod to an artist I totally admire, but now you have me thinking…..

One strength of Lynch’s work is the way he uses the physical environment that any scene is taking place in, and through the camera work and sound design, makes it a character on par with the actual characters in the movie. One thing I wanted to do in my book was to make the physical environment in my book an element just like how the dreams, the fiction w/in fiction and the characters are elements that add up to the composite mood of the book. I wanted the mood to be a major thing, probably the main thing. So maybe that’s something I learned from his movies w/o realizing: how to play with the balance of those different parameters.

Additionally, There’s something about the ecosystem here I find so compelling and so I definitely wanted to pay homage to that as well. Maybe November in the Pacific Northwest is my muse. Ultimately I feel the portrayal of nature in TLWOMK is just basically realistic. It doesn’t rain here as much as people think, but it’s always kinda damp. Sometimes the sun’s something you just remember as opposed to see. I think Twin Peaks captured the feeling of rural northwestern Washington but so does the work of other Pacific northwest -centric artists like the bands Wolves In The Throne Room, or Mount Eerie. Hopefully my book does too.

What surprises did you encounter as an author while you were writing Late Work?

I began to get into the idea of lyricism, and a certain slanginess. I imagined dryer language at the beginning of writing but that evolved. So my instincts surprised me. I mean, the books still tight and minimal but I learned to loosen it a bit. I’m continuing that further into the novel I’m currently writing as well. Also I kept thinking I was 3 months away from finishing the book. Even way at the beginning. Every time I finished a chapter I thought ‘ok, give me 3 months and it’ll be done.’

More about Mark Gluth, and THE LATE WORK OF MARGARET KROFTIS can be found at the AKASHIC BOOKS website

The first image appears courtesy of Akashic Books, the second image is a Mount Eerie album cover, and the final two images appear courtesy of Mark Gluth

Monday, October 12, 2009

THE RAVENOUS AUDIENCE by Kate Durbin (interviewed by Akashic Books Editor Ben Fama)

Some of the poems in The Ravenous Audience are based on the films of Catherine Breillat and Pier Paolo Pasolini, among others. What was it in particular about the medium of film that inspired you?

DURBIN: Catherine Breillat’s films incited the first works I wrote for this collection. I consider these poems to be breakthroughs for me, because of the intense material (her films are deeply violent and sexual in complicated ways that I’d not dealt with in poems before), and in terms of pushing form. I think her work initially gave me permission to mess around with the substance of the poems in a way that was liberating, since the poems were not “mine.” Of course, they are mine and not mine, as all poems are, but it didn’t feel that they were all mine while making them. This also prompted me to organize and approach the material in surprising ways, since what I was doing was in part an act of (mis)translation. I tried a different approach with each poem—some have dialogue lifted from the films’ subtitles, others have scene descriptions, others add new elements completely from my imagination, etc. Formally they all look different—for example, one poem, Romance, is in the shape of a cross, while Perfect Love is in quatrains.

AKASHIC: Speaking of films, Marilyn Monroe is one of the famous dead women in your collection (along with Amelia Earhart and Clara Bow). She has two poems—one of which is a faux interview. What drew you to writing about her in particular? Why did you choose the interview form? Also, what sort of research did you do to make this poem?

DURBIN: My interest in Monroe is a complex one; her interview took me something like six months to write. I saw all of her films, I read the conspiracy theory websites, watched her interviews on youtube, and read several biographies, all of which were really troubling. There’s this problem w/ Monroe and biography—a conundrum Sarah Churchwell talks about in The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Myths about Monroe keep getting passed around, accruing more minutiae; one biography citing the previous, yet there is no essential text, no “primary truth.” Her biographies say more about the biographer and his hang-ups about women than they do about Monroe—Norman Mailer’s is one hilariously sexist example of this; I recommend it for a good laugh. On the flip side, many feminists dismiss her as the perpetual bimbo, or turn her into a postmodern cipher for cultural desires, without acknowledging that she was also a living person.

One of the things that struck me when I was watching Monroe’s interviews and reading Churchwell’s book was how Monroe actively co-created the public’s perception of her. She wasn’t just this passive (aggressive) victim, controlled by the film studios. She lied to the public, constructing a personal myth for herself that really activated people’s “unconscious,” as she said herself. She greatly exaggerated her experience as an orphan, for example. She said “Clark Gable” was her father. She also longed for “serious” roles, read James Joyce, had intelligent opinions about politics. She was smart, and full of contradictions, as people are, and I didn’t want to make that “the problem of Marilyn Monroe” because I don’t think it’s a problem. I think it’s human.

The interview form seemed the best platform to let my Monroe be active in creating her myth, via this uncanny, re-activating transcript.

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AKASHIC: Speaking of forms, the poems in your book take many forms—is there a particular reason that you chose not to stick to one or two forms?

DURBIN: I see forms like outfits. There are lots of women in my collection; each needed her own outfit. As outlined above, Monroe’s interview is the form of choice for her, allowing her a particular sort of power/movement—yet, the form, despite its merits, eventually became (as all forms do) constrictive, a tightening corset, to stick with the clothing metaphor. So I put her in a clown suit, which is why the poem shifts into deranged territory at the end.

I’m invested in this dis-integration of form, and you’ll see I do it in several of the poems in the book. Rupturing form seems to be a necessary way to let these women escape—from me as the one writing their identities and destinies, and also from the reader. To shift in such a way that the reader suddenly aware of his reading the woman/poem, interpreting her in a limiting way, and then poof! She’s gone, dress/form crumpled on the floor.

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Thurs., Oct. 15, 7:30pm

Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

To see more information about THE RAVENOUS AUDIENCE, visit

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Edwidge Danticat

On September 12, at the Brooklyn Book Festival Gala, Edwidge Danticat was honored with the Best of Brooklyn Literary Award. On September 22nd, Edwidge received a MacArthur Fellowship. As a MacArthur Fellow, she joins the company of George Saunders, Lydia Davis, David Foster Wallace, Edward P. Jones, Susan Sontag, and so on. Congratulations Edwidge!

(Johnny Temple in conversation with Edwidge Danticat and Mitchell Kaplan at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Friday, August 28, 2009


BETTER is a work that constantly begs readers to question the relationship between its title and its content. Is the main character, William, a sometimes struggling, often times self-content alcoholic, living carefree in his friend Double Felix’s bachelor pad trying to get better? Or are we meant to wonder what could be better than living for free in a luxuriant, stripper stocked east L.A. palace over looking the Pacific Ocean? While Double Felix’s past and source of income haunt William, John O’brien’s unique narrative style, articulate and prose-poetic, captures the impulses of human cognitive thought.

From p. 61 of BETTER:

"Now bristling with what should be exhilaration at facing another new day but is in fact psychosomatic alcohol withdrawal, I assess the hallway, find it in good order, and hasten to the big room for a gin and some morning television. It is rapidly approaching seven a.m., and I want to be sure to catch what I can of all three introductory indexes to each of the morning-network-magazine-news shows; barring any unusual complications, such as potentially interesting subject matter, I can then switch over to one of Los Angeles’ myriad independents, who are never too proud to rerun a seventies sitcom or a titillating aerobics production at this or any other hour."

John O’brien’s knowledge of the landscape will stand up to any native of Los Angeles. BETTER is very much a novel of overcoming vice and power, two elements found just as easily as the sand on its beaches. Anyone familiar with unwavering glimmer of Southern California’s coastal region will recognize not just the back drop for the story, but a third character, complete with its own nuances and subterfuge providing the perfect context to William and Double Felix’s drunken ordeals.

This blog post is guest-written by Akashic Books intern Daniel Bindschedler

Monday, August 17, 2009

Don't be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen. Those chains are made of chrome steel.

We've just done a new printing of Manhattan Noir, which has been unavailable for awhile.

Have a look at the cover:

More information about Manhattan Noir can be found here.

The title of this post takes its name from a line in King Kong, (1933)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

W I D E _ E Y E D

David Gates said of Trinie Dalton's WIDE EYED that it has a "post-punk, post-apocalyptic, post-everything sensibility, casting spells of willed innocence..." WIDE EYED, part of Dennis Cooper's Little House on the Bowery series, is the kind of book that breaks spells by casting spells.

Living in Brooklyn (as 3/4 of the Akashic Staff does), discussions about Irony usually end in hipster-bashing sessions, where north Brooklyn is rendered as a mecca of self-posturing, detachment and apathy. It's easy to be negative!

Enter Trinie Dalton, who does the hard work of putting the irony in her writing to use, creating a world full of positive value. (From her story Lou in the Moonlight):

I have pleasant dreams in my moon garden.
Serenity is key. When I’m sitting on that stone bench
the morning glories, nothing stresses me out.
dog’s red fur glows like heated copper in the moonlight.
He’s a buff metalsmith protecting me from worldly harm.
He wears a shredded shirt, and beads of sweat dangle off the tips
of his red-orange beard as he pounds on his anvil.
He has a sword tattooed on his upper arm. He’s the perfect bodyguard,
the kind of man who will linger in the background and
jump out with a machete if anything sketchy happens
to me. My dog is the best.

Planting a moon garden isn’t difficult. I started
when my dog was a puppy and kept me up all
night. I needed to occupy myself during the wee
hours. Before I got my dog, I didn’t sleep well either
because in silence my mind takes over. I think too
much. Planting datura and nicotiana seemed like the
answer. Thus, I dig and weed in my pajamas. When
I’m exhausted and dirty from gardening, I can get
some rest. Commitment to the plants is the closest
I’ve come to putting down roots. It’s like we’re married
because they depend on me.
“Your garden looks good,” my neighbor calls over
the fence. I’m gardening and the moon’s coming
up. Not just good, lady, magical, I think.

Dalton's sensibility leans hard into the mystical, the wildly imaginative. The book in its entirety captures you inside its projected world. From "Animal Party:"

I moved to the desert to escape the noise and crap
in Los Angeles. L.A.’s air felt gunky on my skin. Just
walking outside I’d acquire greasy layers. I washed
my face three or four times a day. Four hounds next
door started barking at dawn every morning. The
city felt claustrophobic and dingy, even at night
when I was most alive. I couldn’t see stars. I’d sit at
my desk spying through binoculars into other people’s
houses. Even then, I only saw TVs flickering—
no naked woman dancing, no stoner getting high.
Everyone was so boring. Worst of all, I hated driving
the grids; it made me feel stupid, like a termite. All
the daily plugging away in the car, on the phone,
on the computer, in the kitchen, shopping, getting
dressed, talking, thinking, behaving, and controlling
amounted to nothing more than survival, something
that a termite does so easily with no financial security
or brains.

It wasn’t fair: all the responsibilities, all the years
of moral preparation and schooling, for no more
accomplishment (a rented house, decent meals) than
that of an insect. You think humans are superior, but
they’re really not—think of all the amazing feats termites
can pull off that we can’t: chewing and digesting
wood, carrying things hundreds of times their
weight, building massive muddy towers and secure
tunnel systems, communicating telepathically without
language. Being human is a gyp.

WIDE EYED is filled with this kind of lyrical wandering.
Between stories Trinie Dalton gives a delicious glimpse (think
of the amazement of looking through a viewfinder) into a mind,
her mind. In "Beinvenido El Duende," we get something like a

Here’s why I wish
fantasies could become reality: because they’re so
much more interesting. Manticores and mermaids
are more appealing than goldfish and rats. In daily
life, even if you see something you’ve never seen
before, it can’t beat a minotaur shooting arrows
into a mushroom cloud. I wish an army of skeletons
would swordfight me like they did Jason in Jason and
the Argonauts. What would be the most surprising
thing that could happen to me today? A spider biting
me? Big deal.

More information about WIDE EYED can be found here.

Trinie Dalton lives in Los Angeles and has an MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars. Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is, an artbook she coedited, is available from McSweeney's. She is the editor of the art book MYTHTYM, and author of A Unicorn is Born.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Show That Smells

This book, our most recent addition to the "Little House on the Bowery" imprint (curated by Dennis Cooper), is in a lot of ways the most fascinating, bizarre, surreal, and playful book I've encountered in awhile. The narration, featuring Elsa Schiaparelli as a vampire, and including Schiaparelli's real-life rival Coco Chanel, character actor Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, and the Carter Family (as red state vampire hunters, no less), is a tale of hillbillies, high fashion, and horror. The action is played out in a mirror maze, in a carnival. Here are some excerpts:

Coco Chanel.
Carries Rodgers. Mother Maybelle.
Sara. A.P. Coco Chanel. Carrie Rodgers.
Mother Maybelle. Sara. A.P. Coco Chanel. Carrie Rodgers.
Mother Maybelle. Sara. A.P. Coco Chanel. Carrie Rodgers.
Mother Maybelle. Sara. A.P.
Coco Chanel and Carrie Rodgers and the Carter Family and
Elsa Schiaparelli and me in a mirror maze.


Freaks file in. From the cast of Freaks. A midgetess. A giantess. Fatty the Fat Lady has an all-day lollipop. She eats three a day. The Bearded lady braided her beard. To be pretty. A chicken Lady carries in the Human Worm. The Word was born without arms, without legs. Born a dress form.

"Sequins!" She says.

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"Beads!" She says.


"Crystals!" She says.



See more official press on our website here:

Derek McCormack is the author of Grab Bag (Akashic) and The Haunted Hillbilly (Soft Skull), which was named a "Best Book of the Year" by both the Village Voice and the Globe and Mail, and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He writes fashion and arts articles for the National Post, and lives in Toronto.

Dennis Cooper blogged extensively (with a ton of relevant video's and images) here:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Harlem Book Fair

Johnny Temple (Akashic's founder) and I represented Akashic Books at the Harlem book fair. Melvin Van Peebles and Amiri Baraka spent the afternoon signing books. (Johnny and Melvin)

(Left to right: Johnny, Amiri, Melvin)

Our table was somewhere in the middle...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Poetry Criticism

We've gotten a few reviews back on a new title of ours, "GLOBETROTTER & HITLER'S CHILDREN," a poetry collection by Amatoritsero Ede on Chris Abani's Black Goat imprint here at Akashic Books.

Poetry reviews tend to be just as obscure, or sometimes murkier than the poetry itself—which is already an esoteric (don't quibble!) activity that often only looks back in on itself. I was pleased to see a review of GLOBETROTTER that examined and clarified the text, rather than saying what was simply good or bad about the work (this is the easiest criticizing to do--I, just as much as anyone, am guilty!).

Here is a link to the review:

And here is a link to a great article by Matthew Zapruder about contemporary poetry criticism, where some of the ideas I just said are detailed much more clearly!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Endless Brooklyn Summer Heat

Welcome to the Akashic Books Blog.

In this online world of #folksonomic hashtags, prose can seem like too much, but still we try.

Much much more later...!

(Cover image of Joe Meno's DEMONS IN THE SPRING short story collection)