Thursday, February 28, 2019

Submission Call: Memories of Love: A Literary Tribute to The Magnetic Fields and Stephin Merritt

Since 1991, Stephin Merritt and his band The Magnetic Fields have been putting out beautiful songs with sharp, insightful, funny, and bitter lyrics. Merritt is a prolific songwriter who's known for his love songs, the most popular Magnetic Fields album being the triple album 69 Love Songs, but has also written dark, Gothic music for Lemony Snicket and Neil Gaiman audiobooks, the songs for avant-garde interpretations of Chinese operas, and a quintuple album serving as an autobiography. The Magnetic Fields is even named for a French surrealist novel by Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault. With all that, and the literary references littered throughout Merritt's songs, a book of poems and prose inspired by his work seems like the next logical step. This is what Memories of Love is. With help of the new small press from the UK, Mongrel Press, I'm bringing this to the world.

What we want: We want prose, poetry, prose poetry, one act plays, experimental pieces, and writing that doesn't fit neatly into any category. We want it across any genre just as Merritt has written songs in nearly every genre. We want poems and stories about love, of course, but we also want stories and poems about vampires, wolfboys, and ghosts. We want quirky autobiographical fiction. We want stories about crimes of passion. We want surrealist inspired poems. We want your writing regardless of who you are. We want new and previously unpublished authors as well as established ones. We want LGBTQ+ writers and stories especially. Where would a Stephin Merritt tribute be without that? We want writers of all races from all over the world, even if English isn't your first language. Just make sure it's good and it's inspired by The Magnetic Fields or one of Stephin Merritt's many projects.

Word Count: Up to 3,000 words. Don't worry if it's a little bit over or if it's especially short. If Merritt proves one cliché, it's that brevity is the soul of wit.

Please include a short note of what your piece is as well as an author bio in the body of the email. Please attach your piece as a .doc or .docx file. Please make the subject of your email “MEMORIES OF LOVE SUBMISSION: Title Piece – Your Name.”

Formatting: Please use standard formatting with Times New Roman font at 12 pt. If you're submitting an experimental work that uses unusual formatting or different fonts, please include a note of this in the body of your submission email.

Pay: 20 GBP/25 USD and a contributor's copy.

Deadline: August 1, 2019.

Save a secret for the moon but send your writing to us!

The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures and instructions for dancing
But I
I love it when you read to me
And you
You can read me anything

- “The Book of Love” by The Magnetic Fields

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Brief Thoughts 27

Water by Jennifer Wilson

Freja Folsom, a reporter from Des Moines, is assigned to a story about a man who illegally made a well in the city's emergency water supply. She has no desire to work on it as nobody reads environmental stories. However, being at risk for being laid off and finding herself fascinated by the renegade well-maker, she throws herself into the story.

Water is an interesting mix. At it's core, it's a romance about Freja's breakup with a politician and her falling for the man she's writing a story about. However, a big focus on the book is looking at the issue of nitrate pollution in Iowa rivers and what can be done about it. Wilson makes the mixture work.

As the book mentions, environmental issues can be very dry, but I found the explanations of the effects of nitrate pollution here to be interesting. The book is somewhat didactic about the issue, but it doesn't feel preachy. It brings in several characters who would be intimately connected to the issue, public servants, farmers, and people at risk from nitrate poisoning, that the explanations feel very natural. All sides of the issues are presented in a pretty fair way, even though it's clear where the author comes down on it.

While I'm not a huge fan of romance stories, I still found the story here engaging. The dynamic between her former boyfriend, a politician who (surprise!) turns out to be a sleazeball, feels very real. The one between her and the man she's doing a story about feels rather underdeveloped. They don't talk that much, as the man is refusing to share anything, and the reveal of their mutual feelings is a bit sudden. Despite that, it was still a satisfying read.

I think this is a book well-worth reading, even if you're not at all interested in Iowa pollution issues. It was also published through a local Iowa business, so you'll be supporting them by buying it.

Buy Water by Jennifer Wilson here.

Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan 

Shane is a completely directionless man. He works as a temp at an insurance company, where he spends most of his time sleeping in the bathroom. He has nothing but resentment for his aggressive girlfriend Gwen, he's having an affair with his landlord's wife, and he's addicted to stealing saltshakers. When his a close friend, a deaf woman who works as a dentist's assistant, turns up dead, he needs to prove his innocence.

This book is just hilarious. It had me hooked from the beginning where a pair of cops find Shane asleep in his bed covered in salt from shakers still in his pocket. Thinking it's cocaine, one of the cops sniffs it. Some of the other ridiculous moments include a wannabe drug dealer who dresses his guinea pig in bondage gear, the sex Shane has with Gwen that leaves him bruised and battered, and the cheap girl's bicycle that barely works that he rides everywhere.

Besides its ridiculous comedy, there's also some great satire of corporate America. Shane despises his job at the company. Besides how empty it is, he hates the false "feel good" attitude pushed on him and the other employees and how the others accept it. If you've ever worked a job with bullshit "team building exercises" and mandatory "fun" events, you'll get where he's coming from.

I think this is a hilarious and excellent novel. I'm looking forward to what Paul Neilan does next. If he ever does. This book was published in 2007 and he's put out nothing since. He has a blog, but it hasn't updated in over a decade. It's a shame that he'll likely end up a one book author.

Buy Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan here.