Thursday, June 28, 2018

Dire Memories, article by Doug Holder, about Dire Literary Series' swan song.



  Doug Holder and I go way back, almost as far back as The Dire Literary Series. It was nice to sit down and talk to him (in link or see below) for The Somerville Times, about both of those phenomena. Doug has published me, interviewed me various times, on television, or in print, co-produced a writers festival, and remained a supporter of my writing and writing, in general. Many, including myself, can say that their first poem ever published was through Doug, or Ibbetson Street Press.

The longer version about the end of the series is that it just seemed to be time. Between looking for new event locations twice in the past six months, many author/poet cancellations, and having features booked through October--sometimes there is patterns in coincidences. It was very generous of The Middle East to house the series December-July, but being told by the bartender rather than the owner that the room would cost $200 after July, was the icing on the cake. I challenge the assertion that they would do a better food business from 3-5PM on a Saturday, as the guests, and audience for Dire in the last 6 months, ate, drank during that time. I think it's all about his afternoon drinking buddies being hushed because an event is happening, in which, they are being rude by talking over it. I am a little melancholy about the end of the series, and I'm sure the final event will be very emotional for me. The final line-up is still being confirmed, as I write this.

     The article also mentioned what I'll do next. I'd like to confirm, that yes I'm looking for an agent for my next book, but the synopsis given, certainly doesn't allow for the optimal hook--so here it is:

 Joe The Salamander humorously follows a man Joe, from birth through age thirty-five, who is on the Asperger spectrum. Raised by a logical, inflexible father, Adrian, and an open, strong, and liberal mother, Millie, Joe, a people-pleaser, is only able to say the word, "Yes," to everyone, except Mille, who he has unconditional trust with. The other women in his life, Laura, the nurse on-duty at the time of his birth, becomes a life-long friend of his, and his family.

Joe,  overwhelmed by loud or extreme stimuli gets through life through the comfort of a Superman alter-ego. As he gets older, he finds comfort by wearing a Superman costume under his regular clothing. With the help of his parents, Laura, along with his own strategies and adaptations, Joe gets through his teenage years. It is only after tragedy that Joe stops using the Superman strategy, and then, later, entirely by accident, it is replaced by a Salamander costume purchased from the founder of the Phoenix Salamander Festival, Shades Creek.

Joe The Salamander, takes a sensitive, and human look at what it is like when the sights and sounds of the world are paralyzing, and how misunderstood people within the Autism Spectrum can be.

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Here's the article, and check the Dire Literary Series website for any updates.:


Timothy Gager talks about writing and the swan song of the famed Dire Literary Series.

 By Doug Holder

As you know my usual home away from home is in the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square, Somerville. But on this day I was to meet with an old friend Timothy Gager, at the Diesel Cafe in Davis Square. The Diesel, although a sister store of the Bloc, has a decidedly different vibe. The space is larger and the crowd seems more eclectic. The baristas seem to dress more radically, and there is almost a friendly but militant sensibility to them –pardon the oxymoron.

On this morning in June, Gager (Who I founded The Somerville News Writers Festival with back in the day), joined me at my well-appointed booth. His arm was in a sling from an athletic injury, and he had a fashionable stubble on his chin—with touches of gray.  Gager looks like a man who always seems to be on the cusp of a joke—but make no mistake—Gager is a serious dude.

For 18 years he has directed the Dire Literary Series—which started at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge,and then at the Out of the Blue Gallery, when the gallery was located in several spots in Cambridge. It is currently held at the Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge; its last readings will be in the Arts Armory on Highland Ave. in Somerville. The swan song, the final act, the reading where the fat lady finally sings, will be Oct 12, 7PM. I am honored to be one of the readers—the others will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Dire Literary Series is on the tip of many writers and poets tongues in the region and even across the country. Gager has curated a wide-range of novelists, essayists, fiction writers and poets over the last 18 years. The list is impressive including, Steve Almond ( Who now has a column in the New York Times), Tom Perrotta, Jennifer Haigh, Sue Miller, Alex Beam ( Boston Globe Columnist), DeWitt Henry ( Founder of Ploughshares Magazine), and the list goes on.

But the times are changing, and it's wind has swept into the protective cove of Gager's series. There are higher costs and the transient nature of the venues, as well as other factors that made Gager think that it is time to call it quits.

I asked Gager about any memorable moments he had at the Dire. He reflected and smiled to himself, “There was this writer George Kadet, who wrote an S&M novel. He use a long whip as a prop. When he cracked it, Tom Perrotta almost jumped from his seat.”

Gager, who was the publisher and editor of the Heat City Literary Review, and the Wilderness House Literary Review, revealed the pleasure he feels when an emerging writer who started out in his open mic—then published a book of his or her own, comes back as a featured reader. He stated, “ It is really gratifying to see people grow in their writing.”

I asked Gager about changes in the writer's scene. He reflected, “ People don't seem to have the attention for longer fiction—it is more flash fiction these days. He continued, “Also—I see the inequality for women writers has lessened. Years back it was much more male - dominated. Men read men's novels and publish each other's work. Now that these inequalities are being pointed out—adjustment are being made."

Gager told me that his first two readers were writer Alex De Suze and Nick Zanio. He revealed that he has hosted 200 reading and hundreds of writers during his tenure at the series.


Gager told me he will not go gently into the night. He will actively concentrate on his own work. He wants to secure an agent. I asked him about the latest novel he is working on. He said, “It concerns a guy who has Asperger's, a bunch of strong women, and a host of insensitive men.”

Gager, a man with a busy schedule had to take leave from the Diesel. So we parted ways, shaking hands—silently noting our history of literary citizenship. 




Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Every Day There Is Something About Elephants is a Small Press Picks pick


These days in the small press, it is difficult to promote, sell, or, heck, get reviewed.

Often it's

Connections

Connections

Connections


On May 5, I hosted Beth Castrodale, author of Marion Hatley, at the soon to disappear Dire Literary Series. In our deep literary conversation, she said, she wrote reviews for Small Press Picks. So, then, I said, "If you wouldn't mind, I'd really appreciate....,"

So today the review of Every Day There Is Something About Elephants. You can read it HERE.

You can also read it, reposted, cut, and pasted below. If you want to skip that, it says that the book is captivating, delivers so much so briefly. like the best flash fiction, and has great imaginative reach, with some stories bordering on, or embodying, the surreal. 

Pretty much so said so many nice things, and captured the themes, and nuisances. Thank you, Beth!


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Every Day There Is Something About Elephants

Timothy Gager’s captivating new collection of flash fiction, Every Day There Is Something About Elephants, immerses us in revelatory episodes or situations from a range of lives. All the stories, even the more surreal ones, capture truths about human experience, with all its darkness, absurdity, and moments of recognition.
Like the best flash fiction, Gager’s stories deliver so much so briefly. For example, in less than a page, the story “Jack” conveys a police officer’s grief in the immediate aftermath of his wife’s murder. Lines like these movingly encapsulate the experience:
Jack has nightmares of yellow tape he can’t cross. Jack spends a lot of time on the sofa. It works like a handcuff. … “Never marry a cop,” Jack used to kid. Jack washes his creased face. He says, “Oh, God, Oh, my God.”
Other stories beautifully capture moments of recognition. In “Systematic knowledge,” the central character, Amber, has known for some time that her marriage was a mistake. “She wanted emotional attachment. She wanted someone to be involved with her in that way.” But her husband “thought more about wave-particle duality than anything else.”
An experience on a beach in Spain makes the mistake of her marriage especially—and physically—clear to Amber. When she is having trouble applying sunscreen to her back, her husband, Brad, doesn’t notice. But an appealing stranger does:
Amber imagined [him] walking over to help spread the lotion, hot and sticky between her shoulder blades and down on her neck. Amber felt her thighs weakening, while beside her, Brad, covered up in his crisp white shirt and pleated khakis, thought of duality.
“Sometimes there are things that come out of the darkness,” one of my favorite stories in the collection, brings together a series of realizations about a woman the narrator has fallen in love with, and who continues to suffer the results of having grown up in an abusive family. In passages like this one, the story captures the limits of even the deepest love:
Sometimes your stomach flops … when you drop her back home. You kiss her again and again because once you pull away the blackness that is that curtain will capture her. You fear once you pull away you will never see light again.
One thread running through the collection concerns struggles with, and consequences of, addiction. Gager writes about these difficulties perceptively, and with deep feeling.
In “How penguins break,” two lovers share “a strong common bond” of having a drinking history. But for a time they also share sobriety and a set of plastic wind-up penguins that seem to represent their connection: “When she and he wound them, they would clomp around silly and happy, lunging and bouncing toward each other on top of his bureau.”
After the woman moves away for work, the relationship suffers, and she returns to drinking. When the man visits her, offering to take care of her, the penguins come back into the story, beautifully representing the fragility of love and sobriety:
He took the penguins out of his pocket, but one of them was broken and could not be revived, while the other bounced around in its silly way but didn’t seem happy. He wished things never had to break.
“We could buy new penguins,” he said.
“I wish we could just go backwards instead,” she said.
The collection has great imaginative reach, with some stories bordering on, or embodying, the surreal. In “Rehabilitation will set you free,” an artist, Guy, runs an art rehabilitation program in a prison where he himself is an inmate, the consequence of turning to bank robbery after his career as a sculptor went bust.
Guy encourages fellow inmates to create sculptures out of leftover license plates they’d made previously, and they take up the work with enthusiasm, constructing replicas of the Twin Towers out of New York plates and a giant lobster out of Maine plates.
It’s the story’s ending that takes things in a more surreal direction. Not wanting to give it away, I’ll say that the title of the tale is more than a figure of speech, and both the title and the story as a whole speak with humor and feeling about the transformative power of making art. Like the other stories in this collection, “Rehabilitation” is just as stirring as it’s thought-provoking.