THE BLOG @ TIR
March 21, 2011
We want to issue a big Congratulations to two recent Best American award winners!
First, congratulations to Maggie McKnight. Her graphic memoir "Swingin,'" from our Winter 2008-09 issue, was chosen as a Notable Comic in the 2010 issue of Best American Comics. See an excerpt here.
And Anne Marie Rooney's poem "What my heart is turning," which appeared in our Winter 2009-10 issue, will appear in the 2011 issue of Best American Poetry. Anne Marie was the winner of the 2009 Iowa Review Award in poetry.
March 16, 2011
These are relatively new terms for me, I'll admit, which means I'm only slowly getting a sense of what they suggest conceptually.
Here is a fairly strong statement of the writable future of publishing, by Terry Jones: http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/12/the-future-of-publishing-is-wr-1.html.
And a little excerpt, in case you're glued to this screen, as is only fitting:
"Publication of information obviously includes traditional media, such as books, newspapers, magazines, music, and video. But we can generalize considerably to include blogs, tagging (e.g., Delicious, Flickr), commenting systems, Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.
"From a biological point of view, publishing can expand to encompass all of human social signaling -- both verbal and non-verbal -- and include the myriad little acts of information production and consumption we all engage in."
"One clear long-term trend is that smaller pieces of information are being published. Considering just modern digital forms of publishing, there is a roughly chronological progression toward smaller publications: emails, Usenet postings, web pages, blog posts, blog comments, tweets, tags.
"[...] A second trend is a reduction in friction. As access to easy-to-use and inexpensive publishing technology increases, it becomes economically feasible to publish smaller and less valuable pieces of content. We have reached the point where anyone with access to the Internet can easily and cheaply publish trivial, tiny pieces of information -- even single words.
"The third trend is the rise of publishing personal information. Our inescapable sociability is driving us to shape the Internet into a mechanism for publishing information about ourselves."
And finally, a little prognosticating:
"In plainest terms, I believe the future of publishing is a writable one. One in which we step beyond the default of read-only publishing via traditional containers and APIs, to something that's both natural and empowering: a world in which data itself becomes social, and in which we can personalize arbitrarily. In other words, a world in which we always have write permission."
And that should provide a picture of the future envisioned by Jones.
Now, I'll admit to a slight misgiving whenever anyone purports to speak from a "biological" perspective, since "biologically speaking" is a lot like using the Bible to buttress one's claims: it enables you to say a lot, very often contradicting yourself in the process. People are fairly complex, biologically speaking.
But I also wonder about what comes along with the claims here. Is it good when the default is writable? I'm thinking of the un-moderated comments sections of some online newspapers and the various crackpot and often just plain mean posts that proliferate, even after serious pieces of journalism. Is that a good default?
I'm also thinking of an observation that my friend Peter Manning once made in answer to a question about the value of certain kinds of scholarship. He said that part of the pleasure of reading such texts for him derives from "following a mind in thought." Whose thought would one be following if the content of a piece were socially determined by default? Would not the claims and counter claims of contemporary moral debate become overwhelming in such forums?
In what is apparently now being referred to (disparagingly, it seems) as "read-only publishing," someone takes responsbility for the text--an author, an editor, a publisher. Would not "writable publishing" need to have such a thorough set of disclaimers that responsibility would become untraceable in the end? (I am thinking here of the advice David Hamilton once gave to one of his young readers at the Iowa Review, as she despaired at the mountain of unsolicited manuscripts she was trying to read through, line by line. He said, "You only have to take responsbility for the pieces you accept." And indeed you do.)
But I'm especially thinking of the time it takes to think about things, and the Poundean distinction between journalism of the lightest variety (like television news) and literature. There's a wonderful little essay by the French author Christian Bobin called "Evil," one of many of his essays that explore what reading and writing mean. When you watch TV news, he writes, "You sit there in your armchair or in front of your plate, and they toss a corpse at you followed by a soccer goal, and they leave you there together, the three of you, the dead man's nakedness, the soccer player's laughter, and your own life, already dark enough. They leave each of you at opposite ends of the earth, far apart because you were so brutally brought together--a dead man still dying, a soccer player still raising his arms, and you still struggling to make sense of it all, but they are off to something else, low pressure over Brittany, calm weather in Corsica."
Bobin (in Alison Anderson's translation) is asking us to take time here, not jump so fast from one thing to another in the manner that contemporary media puts pressure on us to adopt, making us seem old-fashioned if we don't admit that in fact, yes, the default should be more fragmentation, less concentration, less time spent on one thing, image, line, word, piece of punctuation. Don't these accompany the three-part trend toward "smaller pieces of information," "reduction in friction," and a rise in "publishing personal information." In my experience, they do.
"Tell me about God and your mother," writes Bobin. "You have one minute and twenty-three seconds to answer my question." If you can do it in 140 characters, more power to you.
March 3, 2011
The literary death match returned to town last night, and I was able to get out for a change.Here's the blurb from the lit death match website.
"The doozy of a lineup features Guggenheim Fellows Robin Hemley (author of DO-OVER!; Defunct Magazine editor) and Chris Offutt (Kentucky Straight; The Good Brother), poet extraordinaire Micah Bateman and Essays Editor of
Wag's Revue, Sandra Allen! They'll be judged by three, talent-laden arbiters that include LDM Iowa City, Ep. 1 champ David Gorin, knockout actor/director Saffron Henke and saxophonist/storyteller Pete Balistrieri.
For those who haven't attended one of these, death match participants read short pieces--poetry, fiction, essay (all really good)--and then the judges, who have the toughest role in this show, give impromptu comments roughly divided into the categories of artistic merit, perfo
rmance, and intangibles. The whole thing comes together through the performance skills of everyone involved and plenty of audience participation, with Todd Zuniga providing the glue, and, in the Iowa City event, Andre Perry seconding.
Just as there is occasional poetry, the death match provides an occasion for an evening of readings that allows a little breathing space, maybe some additional perspective, and a linking mechanism that can itself be entertaining, as many a linking mechanism is not. The judges have to be able to make (at least) some substantive comments, but they can't make too many, especially since some of the pieces read are polished published works and others are manuscripts on their way to being polished published works; some of the authors reading have published a ton, others are on their way to doing so; and anyway it's not a workshop, and it's not really even a contest--but more like a parody of a contest, at least until people start really working at the comparisons--so the applause could be as much for a judge's performance of a non-sequitur as for an apt metaphor enunciated with clarity or, as happened tonight, Chris Offutt's jacket (which was quite something).
And just as the occasions of occasional poetry condition the kinds of work one is likely to encounter (at a coronation, for instance, or a funeral), the lit death match tends to invite certain modes and marginalize others. Humor reigns supreme, with lyric a close second. Serious activism is less commonly encountered: you're not likely to be moved to go out and demonstrate at the end of the evening. And the performance atmosphere, which is rich and lively, gives the readings and commentary a shimmer that might not be so alluring during quieter contemplation. That's not the point, of course!
As for last night's event, competition was fierce. Robin Hemley started off with an indirect attack, through email no less, but Offutt was on it (sorry, Chris) and countered with a dangerous move known in the trade as "shooting the monkey." Tensions rose to a peak when Micah Bateman, his students cheering and taunting some of the other contestants, tossed out the "You are a woman" line and one of the judges actually took it personally. But then Sandra (aka "Sandy") Allen, even while recumbent, managed to open a very special kind of window and did a victory lap on a jenny provided by the organizers. They should all get a lot of re re re respect for their work, not to mention their willingness to put their lives on the line in such a competition. The evening passed without major injury, thank goodness.
February 22, 2011
We're very happy to announce that Jason Ockert has been named the 2010 Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest winner for his collection Neighbors of Nothing, which is slated to appear in October 2013. TIR will be publishing "Max," one of the stories from the collection, in its April issue. You can read more about the award, the collection, and Jason, too, by clicking here.
February 20, 2011
There’s an old Russian joke that starts with a man asking a woman, “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?” “Well, maybe,” she says. “How about for twenty?” he asks. “What do you think I am, some kind of prostitute!?” “We’ve already established that,” he says. “Now we’re just haggling over the price.” Those offended by the obvious misogynism can give the woman the lead. That’s not the point.
Iowa legislators are considering forcing the University of Iowa’s Museum of Art to sell Jackson Pollock’s Mural, a gift from Peggy Guggenheim to the university in 1951. The bill under consideration, House Study Bill 84, would require that proceeds from the sale be used for scholarships to Iowa resident students majoring in art or, if there’s enough money, to students with other liberal arts majors. The painting’s value was estimated at $140 million in 2008. That’s a lot of scholarships.
Clearly some such rationale is behind the proposed sale. If you need money to support students, take a hard look at your assets. What do you have that you could part with? A big ticket item like the Pollock draws a lot of attention because it’s one big thing, as opposed to a bunch of little ones. The Pollock also comes to mind because, ever since the flood of 2008, the university hasn’t had any place to show it. For now, the painting is on display in the exhibition A Legacy for Iowa: Pollock's Mural and Modern Masterworks from the University of Iowa Museum of Art, at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. It could be several years before a new art museum display space for the work is available at the university. So why not sell it?
If you're doing this kind of cost-benefit analysis and you're doing it right, then you need to really consider what the potential costs might be in order to make a sound judgment. Others have pointed out some of these. First, the sale might threaten the museum's accreditation. Second, as the painting was a gift to the university, and its potential sale has drawn a great deal of attention, it's likely that other potential donors, and not just potential museum donors, will be discouraged from making donations in the future. This is something that anyone in fundraising will see immediately, and legislators who raise money for their campaigns will see it, too--if your donors think you're not using their money right, they'll stop being your donors. It’s the equivalent of disrespecting your donor base, which could seriously harm the university’s attempts to make up the difference in decreased state allocations of the past several years. In other words, the university has been encouraged to turn more toward the private sector in order to fund itself by the same legislature that is now acting in a way that may in fact harm its ability to turn to the private sector to fund itself.
Third, the fact that the donor expressed an explicit preference against the university's selling the work introduces a potentil legal cost. In a 1963 letter to then University of Iowa President Virgil Hancher, Guggenheim wrote, "If you no longer wish to have this mural in your university, I must ask you to return it to me." Should her heirs, or the Guggenheim Foundation, or some interested third party choose to pursue this in court, the museum could end up losing the work without compensation, and also, ironically, paying to try and prevent that from happening.
There may be other potential costs involved, but there's one I would place at the end of these, as it seems the most important. It has to do with the way one treats gifts, not strategically, as when you're in the fundraising business, but as people. It's about what selling them--when you might happen to want the cash for something else--says about the sort of institution you run, the sort of people your institution is made of. This includes members of the university's art community, its administration, the regents, the state legislature, and the governor. You're given a very special, very public gift. Selling it for $120 million or for twenty bucks puts you in the same category either way. At that point, once you're ready to have that conversation, like in the old Russian joke, whether you're willing to admit the ugly defect in your character or not, you're just haggling over how much it's going to cost.