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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

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Drive-By Self Interview Book Review “So Sad Today” Melissa Broder

MGM’s Drive-By Self Interview Book Review of “So Sad Today” by Melissa Broder

front-cover

Q.     How much did you love this book?

A.     I loved it with the intensity of a thousand blazing suns.

 Q.     To whom would you recommend it?

A.     Curious readers with a capacity for self examination, an appreciation for existential absurdity, willingness to experience things from a deeply personal perspective other than their own and any reader who loves poetic prose and damn good writing.

 Q.     What did you learn from reading “So Sad Today?”

A.     How everyone we meet is fighting their own personal battles, inner demons and hidden insecurities, no matter how much it appears they may have their shit together. Also how little I know about Twitter and that I’m a really lame tweeter. I also learned some texting shorthand, although I had to Google some of it. I also realized that I am sexually repressed Catholic schoolboy.

Q.     Would you compare Melissa Broder’s style as an essayist to any other authors whose work you enjoy reading?

A.     I like David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson (“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”) for similar reasons. I think Melissa Broder is a brilliant humorist and a keen observer of human nature and commentator on social norms with a stunning command of the English language. She pulls no punches and writes with astonishing candor.   

Q.     You’ve been described as a gushing fanboy. How do you feel about that?

A.     I am absolutely, without a doubt, 100% a gushing fanboy. I totally OWN that shit. As a middle-aged, mediocre monogamous white male, I might be a bit of an outlier from the rest of her fan base, but that’s never stopped me before from going out on a limb. A limb that may snap at any moment, and send me crashing to the cold, hard ground.

Q.     Why are YOU so sad today?

A.     Because I finished reading “So Sad Today.” NOW what the Hell am I supposed to do?     

Q.     How would you describe “So Sad Today”?

A.     I am a raging adjective/adverb abuser in recovery, with a touch of OCD, but here are a few descriptors off the top of my head. I had listed one for each year of my life in alphabetical order in two columns, but WordPress doesn’t DO that kind of formatting, and now I’m REALLY so sad today! Damn it Jim! I’m a DOCTOR not a code writer!

acerbic       addictive          beautiful          brilliant            brutally honest   candor     compassionate      compelling       courageous      creative     dead on      dead serious       delightful   erotic   excavation       excoriation       existential     exorcism    experimental extraordinary   fascinating  funny  genius  happy  heartbreaking  hilarious    hot      humanistic       humane   humble    humorous   hungry    imaginative  in-your-face     insightful     inspiring          instructive       intense    interesting      off -beat    off -kilter   painful   playful    poetic      poignant           provocative     redeeming        resilient      revealing      sad   seductive   self-effacing     sexy     spiritual  straight-up  strong  thought-provoking     titillating   trenchant  truthful  uncommon  unflinching   unique  uplifting  voyeuristic   witty

Q.     We’re just about out of time. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

A.     Yeah. What are you doing just sitting there? Go out and get this book and read the Hell out of it. Then, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll go out and buy any and all of her four poetry books you can get your hands on because  that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to do.

About the Author:

Melissa Broder is the author of four poetry collections:  LAST SEXT (Tin House, 2016), and MEAT HEARTWHEN YOU SAY ONE THING BUT MEAN YOUR MOTHER. She is also the author of the essay collection, SO SAD TODAY (Grand Central, March 2016). Poems appear in POETRY, The Iowa ReviewTin House, Guernica, FenceThe Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, Washington Square ReviewRedivider, Court GreenThe Awl, Drunken Boat, et al. You can read the online ones HERE. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and her MFA from City College of New York.  By day, she is Director of Media and Special Projects at NewHive. She lives in Venice, CA.

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About the Drive-By Reviewer:

Michael Gillan Maxwell is a visual artist, author, and teacher. The Part Time Shaman Handbook: An Introduction For Beginners, a hybrid book of images and prose, was published by Unknown Press in 2015. Prone to random outbursts, Maxwell can be found ranting and raving on his website: michaelgillanmaxwell.com

 

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Shopping

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Shopping

It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, two days before the Winter Solstice. There are no flowers blooming, no buds bursting forth, no harkening to the delightful song of peepers in the pond. Instead, wind howls like the furies over piles of icy snow. At this very moment, members of the Electoral College are casting their votes for the 45th president of the United States and I sit here, still in my jammies, “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” This anachronistic expression has its roots in urban tenement life and alludes to a person waiting for the second shoe to drop after being awakened by an upstairs neighbor loudly dropping a shoe on the floor. In this case,I think it’s safe to say the other shoe has already dropped and it’s all over but the crying.

If climate change with its unseasonable and unreasonable weather patterns, polar vortexes, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, wildfires, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, super volcanoes and solar flares aren’t enough to worry about, there are plenty of other boogeymen and evil clowns lurking under the bed to haunt my dreams in the wee, wee hours. At least one of them has a tragic hairstyle with an extreme comb-over. Never mind that a deer tick smaller than a poppy seed lurking in the grass is capable of inflicting an unholy host of autoimmune disorders. It almost makes me glad the lawn will be covered by a sheet of tundra ice until April.

The American political landscape is a 3 ring circus, a carnival freak show, a Wrestlemania smack down, an episode of the Jerry Springer Show meets Family Feud. While I had no illusions that the country was filled with happy campers from sea to shining sea, I had no idea that so many people were so pissed off about so many things, all at the same time. It’s kind of harshing my mellow. Why can’t we all just get along?

The super wealthy and all-powerful squirrel away fortunes in shell corporations and off-shore cookie jars. They buy up abandoned nuclear missile silos and build bunkers designed to withstand the impact of Planet X striking the Earth. It makes me wonder how far the spare change in my sock drawer and that extra can of Spaghettios in the pantry will take me when it all hits the fan.

I shouldn’t whine. When I think about it, I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve got my health, my demure figure, and more of most anything that I really need. I have food, clothing, shelter, modest resources and access to medical care and a social network in a place where everything isn’t blowing up or blowing away. Really. What more could I ask for? Well, maybe a little more leg room in Economy on commercial flights and tequila that is actually good for me. But still, I can’t seem to shake this sense of existential dread. Although maybe existential dread is itself a luxury? Who has time for existential dread when you’re trying to outrun a hungry lion, hide out from killer robots, or work two minimum wage jobs just trying to eke out an existence? What’s it all about Alfie?

But what truly effective action can one take to prepare for just about anything that might happen at any time? Some people become hardcore preppers and stockpile enough ammo and supplies to arm a militia and survive for years in a bunker. Some people count on being rescued by aliens, while others find solace in religion and await the Second Coming and the Rapture. Still others turn on, drop out and tune in to America’s Got Talent which really is just a 21st century version of Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. This, and The Lawrence Welk Show ruled the airwaves during the infancy of television. Even as a young child, those shows evoked in me profound feelings of existential ennui with so much cognitive dissonance that I thought I must be witnessing an alien invasion. Although, seeing an Amateur Hour contestant enthusiastically play The Star Spangled Banner on his dentures as if they were a xylophone, did leave an indelible impression on my unformed psyche.

Anyway, what does one do as it appears that the human race may be sliding irrevocably into dystopia? Squat down in the back yard, covering our collective asses with our hats and scan the skies for the apocalypse? Maybe six pack abs would help, although a six pack of IPA would be better. Perhaps positive affirmations or motivational phrases might be the ticket. Something like “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Hunter S. Thompson’s version of that was: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Maybe he meant when things get weird, people who have always been weird really come into their own or get even weirder. That certainly seems to be the case in what is evolving into a collective TV reality show.

But seriously, how does an ordinary Joe like myself respond to the threats we now face? What can artists do in the face of such madness? The artistic community in Europe, responded to the horror and brutality of World War I with the Dada movement, a clarion call to awaken modern art from its slumber. It was a call to renewed awareness and a new kind of social action as paradigms shifted and the old ways of doing things fell away. We are at a similar juncture at this point in history. Perhaps one of my responsibilities as an artist in these times is to persist in the face of adversity, and continue to try to make art that matters; art that helps elevate the human spirit and brings light and levity to the darkness. Be vigilant. Remain aware. Stay awake. Stay connected. Model civility. Perform random acts of kindness. Offer moral, emotional and economic support to each other. Be kind, but remain fierce. Keep your chin up and your eyes fixed on the horizon.

These thoughts do make me feel a little better. There are things I can do, even if it’s a little bit each day. Although, to begin, it wouldn’t hurt to actually put on some real clothes before 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Get out there. DO something. Even if it’s to go shopping, because when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Even though going to the store in one’s pajamas has somehow become the new normal, the least I can do is to go shopping in something resembling a civilized dress code.

 

 

 

To Do List

To Do List

Before enlightenment

Haul water Chop wood

After enlightenment

Haul water Chop wood

In between

Haul ass

Mister Paul
Mr. Paul

MGM

Summer Solstice 2016

Drive-By Book Review “Spent” by Antonia Crane

Spent by Antonia Crane

Published 2014,  Rare Bird Books, A Barnacle Book

Spent cover

I just finished reading Antonia Crane’s gripping memoir Spent, and I realize it happened again. I fell hard for a book. After inevitably coming to the end, I am, once again, left wondering “Now what in the Hell am I supposed to do?” I end up doing the only thing I can do in a case like this. I talk about it. I used to write book reviews, but it’s something I really don’t do much anymore. However, there are times when a book really lights a fire and truly captures my interest, and the best way for me to process what I’ve just read is to talk about it, and sometimes rant and rave about it. That’s what’s happening here. To be clear, I am not even attempting to write a piece of serious literary criticism. This is just me responding, reacting, processing. This is me just sayin’: “You gotta read this book!”

 Spent gathers early momentum with a depiction of Antonia Crane’s childhood in coastal northern California, the disintegration of her family life and her coming of age in a small town that just doesn’t offer enough to keep her there. She moves to San Francisco and later to LA, where she supports herself by stripping. She lives a bohemian, alternative lifestyle, hits bottom doing hard drugs, but finds connections that lead her to sobriety. She becomes a powerful political activist within the sex worker industry, earns an undergraduate degree and enrolls in graduate school. Crane’s reconnection with her mother is heart breaking as it occurs just as her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. At a new low, with no other resources, Crane returns to sex work which leads to an arrest. This serves as a clarion call to change her life. At the risk of sounding trite, the old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” seems to apply here. While the sex industry is the setting for Antonia Crane’s journey, on a deeper level, it is a memoir about the human condition, the search for meaning and finding one’s purpose, and the importance of connection through family and community.

Every so often I’m lucky enough to come across a book that is so well written, so personal, so honest and unflinching and so compelling that I never want it to end. I just want to go on and on, living with those characters in that world. I wish I could say that about all the books I read, but I can’t. It’s not to say that they are not good books or well written, but, for whatever reason, they just don’t command my attention and engagement the way this one does. Spent is a special book, a searing memoir that got under my skin in a serious way and left me hungry and longing for more.

Antonia Crane is an articulate and vibrant story teller and a force of nature as a performance artist. I’ve had the good fortune to actually see and hear her read selections from this book on two separate occasions, once in Boston and again in Seattle, shortly after publication. I was a participant in the reading in Boston. It was my first public reading and I was nervous. There was a timer on the podium to help us keep our readings to the allotted four minute limit. Ironically, it looked like a dildo and started blinking red to signal 30 seconds to wrap things up. I was on the schedule immediately following somebody I’d never heard of named Antonia Crane. The author hosting the reading called her name and I watched as she emerged from behind a pillar across the room. She was tall, blonde, athletic looking, dressed in black leather, with muscular tattooed arms. She approached the podium looking like some kind of Viking warrior goddess and delivered a reading about rough gay bondage sex fueled by crystal meth. She had the audience enthralled. The timer started blinking at the 30 second mark and Crane quickened her pace, picked up the timer and held it aloft as if she were the Statue of Liberty, dramatically finishing her piece just as the timer went off. She tore it up and brought down the house. It was unquestionably the best reading of the event. And there I was, holding a crumpled piece of paper with my staid, little poem, dressed in my tweed jacket with patches on the elbows and I had to follow that. It was like the teeny bopper pop group, The Monkees following a mercurial guitar player named Jimi Hendrix. I’ll never forget it.

Everyone has some kind of story to tell. But not every story is worthy of a written memoir. Memoir writing takes a very unique and special kind of skill. It requires an almost mystical legerdemain to put the reader inside the author’s head and Antonia Crane totally pulls it off. Spent is a memoir right up there with the very best. It goes toe to toe with some of my favorites such as Kate Braverman’s Lithium For Medea and Frantic Transmissions To And From Los Angeles , Ghost Bread by Sonja Livingston, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Just Kids and M Train by Patti Smith, Things I Like About America and 501 Minutes To Christ by Poe Ballantine and Chronicles by Bob Dylan. These are the Titans of Modern Memoir in my world and Antonia Crane is right up there on Mount Olympus with the rest of them and the best of them.

Antonia Crane is an author, writer and teacher. She has worked as an adult dancer and performer. Her writing has been published in The Rumpus, Black Clock, ZYZZYVA, Slake, Smith Magazine, and The Los Angeles Review. She received her MFA in creative writing at Antioch University. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers Program.

Find links to her publications at http://www.antoniacrane.com

Also listen to a wonderfully entertaining and informative interview with Brad Listi at

http://otherppl.com/antonia-crane-interview/

Book Review: Elegantly Naked In My Sexy Mental Illness By Heather Fowler

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New Book Review: Elegantly Naked In My Sexy Mental Illness by Heather Fowler

On MadHat’s Drive-By Book Reviews

http://madhatarts.com/madhatreviews/book-review-elegantly-naked-in-my-sexy-mental-illness-by-heather-fowler/

Cover

OPEN LETTER TO THE TROLL

Dear Troll,

You know who you are. And now, finally, so do I. You got me pretty good a while back before I had any idea what was happening. I posted a poem that had recently been published by a well known and well respected ‘zine and you publically eviscerated it under the guise of what may have been the first of your psycho alter egos. It was all the more hurtful because your entire online pseudonym persona and commentary was bristling with some really heinous anti-semitic undertones and accompanied by a very offensive profile pic of somebody else who had no idea his image was being used as your mask and subject to public ridicule. Since I had no idea of where this was all coming from, my reaction at the time was to disappear into the ethers in confusion and go to other venues where people didn’t stab each other in the back.

I can’t believe you are still running wild and wreaking havoc with your personal campaign to turn what had once been a vibrant, supportive and collegial writing community into a knife fight in a dark room. Your latest hijinks and commentary about stroking genitals that resulted in the exit of one of the finest writers in this forum is absolutely disgusting, disgraceful and just plain sad. Why that person has been asked to leave and you are allowed to stay is beyond me. It’s like something out of Superman’s Bizarro World where everything is the opposite of what it’s supposed to be.

Shame on you, Troll. However, since sociopaths are incapable of feeling shame or remorse or regret or most other emotions that normal, healthy human beings feel, I imagine that statement has little or no meaning to you.

You still have the opportunity to do the honorable thing and leave altogether. Go to some other playground and be a bully. We don’t want that kind of behavior here.

Even more honorable, would be to stop acting like a petulant 12 year old who makes prank phone calls and rings door bells and runs away. Lose all the alter egos, stop acting like a coward, come out of the closet and start posting authentic work of your own under your own name. I used to really like your writing, and I respected you and your work and viewed you as a solid member of this community. Now you behave like someone who kicks puppies and clubs baby seals to death while wearing fur. What happened to you Troll? Someone must have really hurt you somewhere back down the line to make you act this way. I’d like to feel empathy but all I feel is pity.

It’s not too late to turn back and start acting like a grown man, a normal human being, get back to being an artist and somehow rediscover the essential core of your being that makes you a good person. But only you can make that decision.

I wish you well on your journey.

Sincerely,

Michael Gillan Maxwell

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”(attributed to Edmund Burke and others)

“Long Gone And Never Coming Back” is published in Literary Orphans

 

Long Gone And Never Coming Back is published in the current issue of Literary Orphans.

I am thrilled to have my piece “Long Gone And Never Coming Back” published in the current issue of Literary Orphans. Thank you Editor Mike Joyce and everyone else who works so diligently behind the scenes to make this happen. I’m especially knocked out by the brilliant pairing of visual art with writing. The brilliant photography of Charles Simms turned my piece into a movie! This issue is full of fascinating interviews, book reviews, essays and compelling fiction, poetry and art!

http://www.literaryorphans.org/playdb/long-gone-never-coming-back-michael-gillan-maxwell/

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My Short Story “Bowling For Jesus” is published by Connotation Press

My Short Story “Bowling For Jesus” is published by Connotation Press in the April 15th edition.

http://www.connotationpress.com/fiction/2279-michael-gillan-maxwell-fiction

From Meg Tuite, Fiction Editor: “The mid-April issue of Connotation Press is up and exceptional! Michelle Messina Reale is our featured fiction writer with three brilliant poetic prose pieces from her upcoming collection. Find out more in our interview. Also we have outstanding work by Michael Gillan Maxwell, Cort Bledsoe, Mike Joyce and Grant Faulkner! Thank you for sending CP some of your beauties!”

I am honored to be in such good company! Thank you Meg Tuite!

Michael Gillan Maxwell
Michael Gillan Maxwell

Tagged: “My Writing Process”

Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races
Writing at the Dirt Track Races

Tagged: “My Writing Process”

“My Writing Process” is an ongoing series in which authors “tag” each other to answer some questions about their work. Robert Vaughan invited me to participate. Initially I declined, but reading Robert Vaughan’s and Bud Smith’s responses to these questions kind of got the wheels turning. I have always been fascinated by the creative process and it seems to be different for each individual.

Robert Vaughan’s most recent book is Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms)http://www.amazon.com/Addicts-Basements-Robert-Vaughan/dp/1937865231 Bud Smith (http://budsmithwrites.com) is the author of Tollbooth and Or Something Like That. He just released full length poetry collection, Everything Neon by Marginalia Books. He also is the host of The Unknown Show.

Authors Mia Avramut and Gary Powell have accepted my invitation to participate. Gary Powell is the author of Speedos, Tattoos, and Felons: A Novella in Stories http://www.amazon.com/Speedos-Tattoos-Felons-Novella-Stories/dp/1492820504

Here are links to some of Mia’s work:

http://www.escapeintolife.com/poetry/mia-avramut/

http://www.thricefiction.com/

http://www.menacinghedge.com/spring2013/entry-avramut.php

http://thebookendsreview.com/2013/07/29/mia-avramut-postcard-from-kettwig/

http://lucidplaypublishing.weebly.com/glass-eye-chandelier.html

Here are my responses to the questions.

1) What am I working on?

I have two chapbooks looking for a home. Although, it seems the longer they are homeless, the more they keep changing. “Long Gone and Never Coming Back” is a poetry chapbook and the other is a flash fiction chapbook called “Between Dusk and Dawn.” If they go much longer before finding a publisher, they will be full length collections and may not contain any of the work that currently comprises them.

I’m also working on a portfolio of altered photographs called “In The Studio” which documents my friend Daniel Hoffman’s work as a luthier making cellos. I’ll be posting that on my website. To view Hoffman’s exquisite work go to http://www.danielhoffmanluthier.com.

I have an ongoing series on my website called The Lunch Lady Cookbook where I post recipes and photographs, music and beverage pairings all carried along by tongue-in-cheek goofy narrative. I also write essays when the spirit moves me and irate letters to my legislators when I’m hot and bothered by environmental issues, which seems to happen more and more frequently.

Oh yeah. Almost forgot to mention. I write songs too. Singer/songwriter/Americana story stuff, blues, ballads and rock and roll. Guitar, harmonica, vocals ~simple chords and simple structures.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think, like everybody else, I try to be authentically “myself” and put my “personal stamp” on it without getting so esoteric that I lose the reader. My best work conveys irony, humor and redemption, no matter how far it may veer into the dark side. From time to time, I’m lucky enough to write a piece that only I could write. However, that’s a slippery and intangible bit of magic that I am at a loss to explain, because I don’t even understand it myself.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It usually comes from a deep emotional response or a reaction to a situation, social condition, event, or nature. Sometimes it’s triggered by a song or a visual image. I also seem to write a lot of stuff that comes from driving my car. I have a lot of fun writing parody and satirical pieces laced with ironic, often self deprecating humor. This shows up a lot in my series The Lunch Lady Cookbook and in my serial detective noir send-up “The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks.”

4) How does my writing process work?

I compose most every thing on my computer or iPad. I think all my years of academic writing rewired my brain. Or maybe “short-circuited” would be a better description! Songwriting is done differently. I usually write songs in long hand and use a guitar or mandolin to play the chords. Although, some of my best songs came to me, unbidden, while doing things like mowing the lawn or walking my dogs. In a couple of cases they came like a “download” ~ fully formed with lyrics, melody, chords all intact ~ and I had to rush into the house to write it all down before it vanished back into the ethers. It was like I “channeled” them. A lot of my poetry starts with a line that has come to me in a near dream state, either just before falling asleep or as I’m awakening. Most of the heavy lifting in my writing is done with a burst of energy using blunt instruments and big, broad strokes. After that, it seems like an endless process of revising, cutting, and rearranging words and phrases. It’s like feng shui. I’m also a recovering adverb and cliche abuser, so ferreting out those buggers is an important part of the process. Quite often, I’ll get ideas for poems while driving my car and I start scribbling madly in a notebook on the passenger seat. Of course, this is even more dangerous than texting, so I’ll pull over if at all possible. I also beg, borrow and steal ideas shamelessly, then hammer it into something that is my own. Don’t we all? Perhaps the secret to transmuting it into something new and original lies in responding in a truly honest, personal and authentic manner. That’s all easier said then done, but it’s worthy of striving toward.

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