Quasi-narrative images

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

A strong image, like a good (or annoying) song, is easily trapped in my head. It can rattle around in there for weeks or even years, popping up randomly and refusing to go back into the closet of my brain until I’ve sufficiently paid it attention. I work in medical publishing, so more often than not that image is of a thousand worms erupting from a boy’s anus or a man whose face has essentially deteriorated away leaving most of his skull visible. (Just one of the fringe benefits of my job…)

I’ve been trying to figure out what makes an image memorable for me, and what I’ve come up with recently is the hint of a story. If an image conjures up just some small piece of something human (or possibly anthropomorphic at least) and makes me curious about its subject, what happened in time just before the image, or what will happen next, it is much more likely to lodge itself into my cerebral folds and influence my writing.

Blah blah blah. That’s a lot of pretentious shit. What I’m getting at is that I found some cool paintings online recently, and I thought you might like to check them out…

Mispent Years
I found Gea*’s website through a link on Fleshbot. (I go there for the social commentary, not the pornography, I can assure you.) I went through all of her paintings and sketches and was intrigued to find many themes and creatures reappear again and again. For example, the artist is usually the subject of her paintings, and the skull-headed bee to your right makes frequent visits. I don’t know exactly what’s going on with that bee, but I suspect that he’s not a good influence.

Child Bride
Judith Schaechter is a Philadelphia artist whom a friend of mine described as “the Tim Burton of stained glass.” Her images have a timeless quality, and her subjects seem almost cartoony, but that’s a terrible way to describe it. Let me try again. The way in which she renders her subjects draws to mind folk stories and fairy tales. They are dark and surreal and (from what I understand) incredibly expensive to purchase, which sucks because I wouldn’t mind have a few of these images in my home.

Bound Cat
I once watched Elizabeth Albert carefully heal a broken cigarette outside a Brooklyn gallery so that it could be effectively smoked, and I really respected that. It wasn’t until months later that I saw the painting to your right, which supplanted the cigarette thing. I really love this painting of the struggling panicked cat trying to get itself free. Most of what I’ve seen of hers involves animals that look and behave a lot like people. They seem almost to be the displaced illustrations from a seriously fucked up children’s book; one of those really terrible ones my parents used to let me read when I was a kid and which still give me nightmares.

You make the call

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

Guess the author of the following quote and win a prize:

It was then that I knew we took breaths together and fought forever. The Gator bath changed history and neighbors cried. We raised the trophy we desired so much. Exchanging glances with one another, we knew that our season had just started. But just for a moment, we could relax and remember the struggle for a bit of purpose. Slow motion is not expecting. Living is fast. While still moving, we press the petal of life and go faster. So we press.

I’m sorry. I guess that was pretty easy. I’m certain that at least 75% of you guessed correctly that it was Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Dhani Jones, writing about his team’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons that put them into the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly a quarter-century. Good job. (For the rest of you, Jeremiah Trotter was good guess.)

(There wasn’t any way that I was going to make it through a full day, during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, without figuring out some tangential way to work the Eagles in here.)

The oh so subtle art of the non sequitur

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

Wow! I am full of Mexican food suddenly.

Speaking of which, did any of you happen upon former Haypenny editor Matthew Tobey’s website recently? Probably not or else you’d still be reading the massive Top 500 Best Songs Ever! (Sort Of) list he’s compiled.

As a response to Rolling Stone’s “snoozetastic” Top 500 list, he asked a bunch of writers–including Dan Kennedy (author of Loser Goes First), Josh Abraham and Geoff Wolinetz (of Yankee Pot Roast), AJ Daulerio (of The Black Table), Mark Lisanti (of The Defamer) and Christopher Monks (of Utter Wonder) [question: would it be more or less lame to mention that I'm in there too?]–to contribute their personal top 100 lists. Tobey shaped those lists into one giant uber-list into which he breathed life as though it were a golem.

I know this is the kind of thing that just begs to be ridiculed, especially since after the top-150 or so, I had to do a lot of God-playing. But, whatever. It’s my blog. If thinking of it as a list of “favorites” rather than a list of “bests” helps you get through it without blowing your top over the absence of any Leadbelly or Abba, then have at it.

I never realized it, but those lists are a bitch to compile. I was re-reading my personal top 100 list and even I think I’m an asshole.

Jesus may love you, but I think you’re garbage wrapped in skin

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

I can’t tell you how often people approach me on the street and say, “Dennis DiClaudio, I have no idea who you are, but I can’t help wonder what writers have influenced your short stories that I’ve never read.” My ready-made response is usually, “You’ll just have to wait for the first volume of my autobiography.” However, I feel that writing for Maud’s blog is a pretty special occasion, so I’ve decided to give a brief peek behind the curtain.

From The Churchill Wit:

When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent him two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: “Bring a friend, if you have one,” Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: “You and your play can go fuck yourselves.”

From The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist:

Perhaps I can allay your misgivings by briefly describing the composition I have in mind. Your face will be a still-life delicately balancing a clay pipe, a deck of Tarot cards, a bowl of tangerines and a dead grouse; your neck will be given to religious subjects such as “The Annunciation,” “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian” and “The Old Rugged Cross” to name but a few…your shoulders and breasts will be covered with scenes of Pagan Mythology which I won’t go into at this time; your midriff and loins will be done in landscapes—picturesque windmills and the like; your buttocks will be devoted to lyrical themes such as “Fortitude Slaying Avarice with the Lance of Sagacity”…In any case, the whole thing shall be set off by the stirring Motto emblazoned on a flowing banner: “BORN TO LOSE!”

Before I was even aware of who he was, Michael O’Donoghue had been a huge influence on me.

Continue reading…

The Smart Set: Lauren Cerand’s Weekly Events

The Smart Set is a weekly feature, written by Lauren Cerand, that appears Mondays and highlights the best of the week to come. Special favor is given to New York’s independent booksellers and venues, and low-cost and free events. Please submit details to lauren@maudnewton.com.

MONDAY, 1.31: Break out your swan dresses and satyr outfits for the “Army of Bjork”-themed costume party at Stain Bar. 8:00PM, FREE.

TUESDAY, 2.1: Chris Regan, three-time Emmy Award-winning writer for The Daily Show and co-author of the briefly-banned-in-Mississippi bestseller, America (The Book), joins other funny people (including How To Kick People’s Todd Levin) for a P.S. 122 fundraiser to benefit post-tsunami relief and reconstruction efforts in Southeast Asia. 8:00PM, $25.

WEDNESDAY, 2.2: 192 Books presents an appearance by Alice Munro, with a reading from her Giller Prize-winning Runaway by Oscar-nominated actress Joan Allen. 7:00PM; FREE, but reservations required: call 212.255.4022. Buddhist pop star Duncan Sheik performs selections from his new musical score of Spring Awakening, “Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play about tragic young love,” as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series. 8:30PM; ticket prices vary: call 212.721.6500 for details on availability.

THURSDAY, 2.3: The tastefully hot Phillip Gourevitch, staff writer at the New Yorker and award-winning nonfiction author, discusses his work, which also includes extensive reporting from “Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States for numerous publications, including Granta, Harpers, and the New York Review of Books,” at the New School. 6:00PM, $10. Elsewhere, Allison Bojarski, aka The Brazilian Muse, guest hosts the Reading Series at Barbes, featuring For Fuck’s Sake author Robert Lasner, and Mary Morris, author of Revenge. 7:00PM, FREE. Also, the artist Jes Cannon, who paints her hometown of Brooklyn from perspectives as varied as interior shots of the F train and shimmering lights on satellite maps, shows new work in a group show at Heidi Cho Gallery. Opening reception, 6-8:00PM, FREE.

FRIDAY, 2.4: North Carolina-based author Quinn Dalton and Elizabeth Merrick, author of the forthcoming novel Girly and my partner-in-crime on all things Cupcake-related, read from their soon to be released, buzzed-about work as part of a special event entitled, “Spring Forward: Women on the Verge, ” at Bluestockings. 7:00PM, FREE. [Full disclosure: I organized the reading, I'm working with both of them to publicize their respective projects this spring, and lucky you: I'll be there, so do come by and say hello...]

SATURDAY, 2.5: “Co-organized with The Institute for Figuring and Cabinet Magazine, Cornell University mathematicians David Henderson and Daina Taimina talk about their discovery of crocheted models of ‘hyperbolic space’, a geometric form that is found in the crenellation of lettuce leaves, the anatomy of sea slugs, and the shape of the physical cosmos.” At The Kitchen. 5:00PM, $5.

SUNDAY, 2.6: Take in the dazzling exhibition of Latin American portraiture at El Museo del Barrio (Sunday hours: 11:00-5:00PM, $8), or stop by to see what’s cooking at Freebird, recently profiled by Konundrum Engine Literary Review editor Pitchaya Sudbanthad for The Morning News.

Israeli satirist I’ve never heard of dies at 80

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

So, there was a Hungarian holocaust survivor named Ephraim Kishon who wrote brilliant social satire, targeted mainly at his home state of Israel, and he died the other day.

What the fuck?! How have I never heard of him? He’s supposedly, like, the best Israeli writer ever.

This kind of thing drives me nuts.

Related link:

The US has put a man on the moon!
Awesome! How come nobody told me?

I can’t wait to read this book!

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

I have for a long time suspected that the Civil Rights movement was a terribly destructive force in in our nation’s progress and that the Northern states were actually somehow responsible for Jim Crow laws down South. I mean, it just seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Come on, think about it. Summon the image of Martin Luther King leading a march upon the White House, and now summon the image of a bomb exploding in an African-American church. Now tell me who was at fault. What nerve those black churchgoers had peacefully congregating to worship while there’s so many unexploded bombs in the world. What did they expect was going to happen? Nothing?

I’ve finally found a book that supports my totally batshit insane view of American History, and it’s author seems to be just as stupid as me!

And it’s written at a 9th-grade level, so I won’t even have to think too hard. Wow!

I’ve been feeling so much less lonely these past few months.

This is good news

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

It looks like US literati and Middle Eastern Muslim fundamentalists have have more in common than they ever knew. They’re both producing an alarming number of books with a common theme: Hate America!

A report, headed by former CIA director James Woolsey, found that Saudi Arabia is exporting a ton of books to American mosques urging Muslims over here to find it in their hearts to despise people whose beliefs are not the same as theirs.

See, they’re reaching out to the red states as well.

Related links:

Osama bin Laden to share book tour with Jennifer Weiner
You know how you’ve been having a hard time finding a copy of The Battles of the Lion’s Den of the Arab Partisans in Afghanistan that wasn’t completely covered in mud and entrails? Well, don’t sweat it, because it’s finally getting its American release, coupled with Bitter Harvest (essentially Ayman al-Zawahri’s Jihad for Dummies). Doubleday will publish the two books together as The Al Queada Reader some time next year.

Ayotollah Ali Khamenie: “The Fatwa is so on, baby!”
Salman Rushdie: “Oh no it’s not!”

Which is it? I don’t know. I’m confused.

Who the frick is Dennis DiCarlo? Where’s Maud?!

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

Oh my God, this sucks, doesn’t it?

I know just how you feel. It’s Monday morning and you’re sitting at your desk with your coffee and you’re thinking, “You know, Andy and Jimmy and Wendy were really good substitutes, and Annie’s always a welcome change-up on Fridays, but I’m totally ready to have Maud back behind the wheel. I need that. I want her subtle blend of self-effacing humor and preternatural knowlege of the industry. I have to get back to some kind of regularity or, so help me God, I’m gonna smash the mail guy in the face with my ergonomically-crafted ceramic coffee mug!”

What a bummer. I’m so sorry. I truly am. I feel the exact same way. But Maud will be back soon. She will, really.

Until then…

…well, I’m here today. Suck it up.

Introducing Dennis DiClaudio

I’m away until at least February 2. With the exception of last Friday, when the lovely Annie Reid worked her usual magic, guest bloggers have been taking over in my absence. I’ve pre-posted introductions to appear before each begins.

Captain BadassToday’s guest, Dennis DiClaudio, A/K/A Captain Badass (see self-portrait, right), co-edits Ducky and (parenthetical note), and maintains his own blog, Dostoevsky is Dead (his problems are over). He also writes plays, performs improvisational comedy and sketch theater, and excels at mocking himself unfairly.

He once wrote something for Haypenny (R.I.P.) entitled “This Story is Much Much Too Good for an Internet e-Zine, But Not Good Enough for a Major Commercial Literary Journal, Like Maybe The Paris Review.” It begins:

When I sat down to write this story, it was my intention to make it good enough so that I might be able to send it to one of the many e-zines that dot the internet like stars in the night sky, but I can see already that I have overshot the mark. This story is too good for an internet e-zine. That first sentence was brilliant. Don’t get me wrong. There are many fine literary journals available for easy perusal right from your very own work desk, and I have, on occasion, found myself quite amused while reading some of them. I will never forget one story that kept me entertained all the way through. I believe it was written by an editor of whichever e-zine it was posted on. I get them confused. I think it had something to do with robots.

And here’s an excerpt from “Rats“:

I have stories like rats; malformed, maladroit, malnourished on slips of paper, backs of receipts, half finished in half-filled notebooks infesting my home so that I cannot walk into the kitchen without being reminded of some progeny which I had nursed partially into creation and then left to rot beside the toaster.

Dennis lives in Philadelphia. If you’re lucky, when you visit, he’ll meet you for breakfast at Carman’s Country Kitchen (“she put the cunt back in country“) and tell a few jokes and let you smoke all of his cigarettes.

Unlike many comedians, Dennis is funny. Really funny. Email him at dennis [at] maudnewton.com.


This post was written by Friday guest blogger Annie Reid.

In case you missed it, yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz/Buchenwald.

As part of Germany’s national remembrance, Austrian literary critic Sigrid Loffler examines how Holocaust literature is changing now that survivors are aging and passing away:

If memory experienced should not be lost or disappear from collective memory, it must be transformed from biographical reminiscence into cultural memory; personal memory must be conveyed from the experiences of eyewitnesses into the enduring form of literary construction.

Deutsche-Welle links to this report from last fall of a novel of the Holocaust, published 62 years after the death of its author, Irene Nemirovsky, who was killed at Auschwitz in 1942:

“Suite Francaise” was written in 1942 as Irene Nemirovsky waited in rural France for what she knew was her imminent arrest and deportation. It is a powerful account of the effect on ordinary people of the military collapse of June 1940, the panicked flight from Paris and the arrival of the German army….One of Nemirovsky’s last acts before her arrest was to entrust a suitcase containing photographs and family papers to her two daughters, who for two years traveled from safe house to safe house to avoid the attention of the French police.

Three decades later Denise finally summoned up the courage to read the hidden notebook and was astonished to discover that it was not — as she had supposed — a diary, but the first two parts of the novel. She and her sister, who is now dead, then waited another quarter of a century before finally deciding to publish.

Over at Beatrice, Ron notes that on hand to mourn and remember at Auschwitz were, among the many, Elie Wiesel and Deborah Lipstadt, whose recently published History on Trial, relates how she successfully defended herself from Holocaust denier David Irving’s libel suit.

For more on the literature of the Holocaust, check out this incredibly large collection of links.

Remains of the day

This post was written by Friday guest blogger Annie Reid.

  • It’s HER OWN lighthouse, dammit! The famous lighthouse which inspired Virginia Woolf (“To The….”, natch!) may be switched off.

“Sugaring the maple?” —mmmmmmm……yes, ma’am!

This post was written by Friday guest blogger Annie Reid.

PBS (the one, remember, who put Barney on the air, who has lately been seen in the company of notorious pantywaist SpongeBob) is in trouble again, for putting radical lifestyles propagandist “Buster” of the infamous “Postcards from Buster” children’s educational television show on the air with….lesbians.

In the upcoming episode “Sugartime!”, the animated bunny Buster travels to Vermont (Vermont! Get it?) for maple syrup season. There, incidentally, he meets a kid with two moms. The words “lesbian,” “dyke,” “flannel shirt,” “Birkenstocks,” “gay,” and “marraige” are not uttered.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the “Sugartime!” episode does not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind for programming. By law, she said, any funded shows must give top attention to “research-based educational objectives, content and materials.’”

“Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode,” Spellings wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of PBS.

“Congress’ and the Department’s purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television.’”

She asked PBS to consider refunding the money it spent on the episode.

Although the show hasn’t aired yet, you can hear the ballad “Sugar Time in the Mountains”, written especially for this show, here. Sick stuff, people. If you play it backwards, it says *** ** *****. For real.

(Personally, I’m a bit worried about how kids will feel upon realizing that Buster himself is…a blogger. We’ve seen the trouble that can cause.)

Dana Stevens over at Slate has a great interview with Jeanne Hopkins, communications director for WGBH in Boston, where “Postcards from Buster” is produced.

In the Buster theme song, Wyclef Jean sings : “He’s got his camera /And he’s gonna explore /All the neat things he’s never done before.” By showcasing a lesbian couple in this episode, is PBS promoting a homosexual agenda by implying that two women living together as domestic partners is a ‘neat thing’ that children should ‘explore’?

No, we are not promoting anything. Buster visits kids whose parents are divorced, too – we’re not promoting that either. Buster is exploring the neat things that kids all over this country do, and experience, and can teach each other.

But seriously, I know some kids who have two moms. Those moms pay taxes, they raise families, they fund public television, they care about their kids. And those kids deserve to grow up seeing kids like themselves on television, and not feel like they need to be protected from their own families. Those kids deserve to grow up and not feel hated and ostracized because of self-righteous bigots like Margaret Spellings.

Movie remains

This post was written by Friday guest blogger Annie Reid.


This post was written by Friday guest blogger Annie Reid.

Earlier this week, TFMTML noted this teddy-bear controversy. Seems that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company’s new “Crazy for You” Bear, complete with straightjacket and commitment papers, has created quite a stir. Gov. Jim Davis called the bears “insensitive” at a recent news conference, saying “Mental health is very serious. We should not stigmatize it further with these marketing efforts.”

(Please note that the company’s home Shelburne store sells little straightjackets separately, for easy home accessorization and offense.)

TFMTML notes with sorrow and regret that it’s not the first time socially irresponsible bears have come to light. He lists a few of the other bears which “have caused some controversy in the past few years. ”

Scott Peterson Bear: Comes with its own fishing boat and garbage bag. Says, “I can’t bear to be without you.”

Trashy Heiress Bear” This bear has no distinguishing characteristics save for a vapid stare and the ability to perform fellatio on other bears. The only thing it says is “That’s hott.”

There are more, oh are there ever.

But remember, teddy bears can be used for good, not only for evil. Dr. Mira Kaplan welcomes us into her world of teddy bear healers. Her experiences among the healing bears has lead her into a life “recruiting teddy bears to be messengers for healing and wellness.” Conveniently, you may purchase your own bear healer here. Note the proper meditative technique.

But never forget, gang:

Teddy bears and the methods presented here for your consideration should not be the sole treatment for any significant medical problem.

Word. I’ve got my plush Chtulhu for the rest.


This post was written by Friday guest blogger Annie Reid.

Surely, other authors have had homages, both fortunate and not, but I can’t just seem to get off the Poe. There’s the beer, the pizza, the action figure, the Michael Jackson casting decision.

But today brings a sorrowful note to the world of culinary homage. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch finds that Edgar Allan Poe pizza a disappointment, especially in comparison to an old classic:

Socrates’ Revenge tastes like a Greek salad on a pizza crust. Somehow the olive oil, black and green olives, spinach, mozzarella, fontina and feta cheeses, red onion and minced garlic are everything that Edgar Allan Poe isn’t.

In fact, sitting before the cyclonic saucer of this pizza (some quoth) is a little bit like this:

It was this –my chin rested upon the floor of the prison, but my lips and the upper portion of my head, although seemingly at a less elevation than the chin, touched nothing. At the same time my forehead seemed bathed in a clammy vapor, and the peculiar smell of decayed fungus arose to my nostrils. I put forward my arm, and shuddered to find that I had fallen at the very brink of a circular pit, whose extent, of course, I had no means of ascertaining at the moment.

Ideally in a place like that, they’d have a jukebox, entirely filled with music from Edgar Allen Poe-inspired prog rock concept albums. Not as hard as it sounds. Lou Reed did it, the Alan Parson’s Project did it. But before all of them, Glass Prism did it. Check out those velvet suits and the sinister raven. They put Poe’s poetry to late 60′s psychedelic rock. No original lyrics. You can listen to “The Raven” here. It RAWKS.

(Also this recording of the likes of Iggy Pop, Marianne Faithful, Jeff Buckley and Gabriel Byrne reading Poe tales really puts some flies in my ointment, if you know what I’m sayin’.)

Unfortunate Literary Homage Special Bonuspack!

For Lovecraft fans, there’s “Hello, Cthulhu!“, wherein a cute, beribboned Cthulhu finds demonic wrath hard to pull off in a world of inoffensive kittens and puppies. Or maybe these cuddly soft plush Cthulhu dolls can help keep you warm and toasty on long apocalyptic nights. Cthulhu for Chids!

Annie’s up

(I’m away until at least February 2. Guest bloggers have been taking over in my absence, and I’ve pre-posted introductions to appear before each begins. Many thanks to Wendy for blogging yesterday. Please direct all fan mail and comments to wendy [at] maudnewton.com.)

Today MaudNewton.com’s usual Friday blogger, the delightful Annie Reid, takes over.

Have a good weekend, chickadees.

Thank you and good night

This post was written by guest blogger Wendy McClure.

Thanks so much to Maud for letting me play Lit Blogger for the day. I’m going back to my more typical online existence of posting cat pictures. (Okay — I don’t have a cat, but if I did you can bet that my site would look like this, because, really, allergies are the only thing keeping me from being that kind of person.)

Seriously, though, it’s been a blast.