Majnun Ben-David

Phrases I Liked: John McCarthy

April is National Poetry Month in the US. April is also Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month (seriously) and, in a few southern states, Confederate Loser History Month. There's a poem in that trio of honorees. Or a bad joke.

Personally, I'm sticking with April as Poetry Month. As such, I wanted to share some favorite lines from a newly published collection of poetry: "
Ghost County" by John McCarthy from the fine folks at Midwestern Gothic. McCarthy is the managing editor of Quiddity, the lit journal and radio program. "Ghost County" is, I believe, his first collection, but his poems have appeared in a number of journals (see list here). He also edited the anthology [Ex]tinguished & [Ex]tinct: An Anthology of Things that No Longer [Ex]ist from Twelve Winters Press (see disclaimer below).

I'm not well-versed in poetry. As
John Cheever said, "the disciplines [poetry and short stories] are as different as shooting a twelve-gauge shotgun and swimming." On the other hand, both of those activities are things I can easily picture Cheever doing, maybe even at the same time ("nothing like potting a few grouse from the pool on a hot summer day, really the best"). Anyway, point being, I'm making no claim that the phrases I'm sharing here are what actual poets or poetry aficionados would pick out from this collection. And I'm definitely doing violence to the ideas here by yanking the lines out of context. So if you like these bits at all, you should definitely check out the full "Ghost County" volume (just $5 for the digital version).

Without further ado, then, the lines I particularly liked in
"Ghost County" by John McCarthy Click here to see the full post...

Jellyfish Highway Press Kickstarter

I browse Kickstarter every now and then, and always enjoy seeing the different ideas people are pursuing. It's a stage of the creative process that was largely invisible before, at least to most folks. While I enjoy checking out the projects, it's very rare that I back a Kickstarter. Most of the ones I like seem to be well on their way to exceeding the funding goal or they're lost causes. But this weekend I found an exception ….

Jellyfish Highway Press is doing a Kickstarter, and I would encourage you to check it out and consider supporting it. The money will help them jumpstart and expand their book publishing operation by doing things like establishing "book prizes for a woman, a writer of color, and a queer/trans writer." They are a real publisher (i.e., they pay authors advances and royalties), but as we all know, lit fiction is a tough fiscal road.

Jellyfish Highway has a track record and concrete plans. In the past four months they've published two titles: The Farmacist by Ashley Farmer (reviewed here); and Your Sick by Elizabeth Colen, Carol Guess, and Kelly Magee (community reviews here). In early April they will release Daughters of Monsters by Melissa Goodrich (reviewed here) as well as You Can't Pick Your Genre by Emily O'Neill (interviewed here).

Indie presses are always a tough thing to pull off, but Jellyfish Highway has an experienced
team. The publisher is Justin Lawrence Daugherty who, among other things, started the now-acclaimed Sundog Lit mag. Sundog has been consistently active since day one (2012), without the lapses in activity characteristic of many startup lit mags. That leads me to believe Jellyfish Highway, while a separate operation, will be run in similarly professional style.

They are looking for $5,000 by May 10th, and at this writing have about $2,000 in pledges (as you probably know, Kickstarter projects have to raise the full amount in order to receive any of the funds). They are offering some very cool rewards for backers. After I post this, I'm going to go donate. Even if you're not in a position to donate, you could pass the word along to others you think might be interested. I don't often do plugs on my site, but this struck me as a worthy cause where just a few dollars could make a difference.

Disclaimer: I have exchanged a few public tweets with Justin Daugherty/Jellyfish Highway/Sundog Lit on Twitter, but I otherwise have no connection with them. This post about their Kickstarter is entirely unsolicited, unprompted, and uncompensated. Also, I have no plans to submit to either Jellyfish Highway or Sundog Lit in the near future — my writing is more conventional in style than those outlets favor. I don't mean to imply that their editors would be swayed by a blog post anyway; my point is that I'm posting about this because I think it's a cool thing, not because I'm trying to curry favor with gatekeepers so as to benefit my own work. Finally, none of the links on this site are "referral" links: in other words, I receive no compensation should you use them to buy stuff. This is an entirely non-commercial site. And yes, this is a ridiculously long set of disclaimers, but there are also many small ways that integrity can be compromised, and I really want to avoid that.

A Plug: Extinct & Extinguished Named to "Best of" List

In belated and semi-self-promotional news, the anthology [Ex]tinguished & [Ex]tinct: An Anthology of Things that No Longer [Ex]ist was named as one of Chicago Book Review's "Best Books of 2015." They also reviewed the anthology.

One of my
stories is in the book, so I'm obviously biased here. But I think this is pretty cool, given how hard it is for a literary anthology to get any legit critical attention. Chicago Book Review does great work covering indie presses and Chicago-related authors and titles, so I would encourage you to check them out.

The anthology was edited by
John McCarthy and published by Twelve Winters Press (run by Ted Morrissey). It centers on a compelling theme, and McCarthy and colleagues interpreted “extinguished and extinct” in broad terms, going beyond the ecological in directions you might not anticipate but will likely enjoy. McCarthy discusses his vision for the anthology here. If you're interested, you can pick up the anthology in paper ($14) or digital ($6) form here.

Disclaimer: As with most anthologies of literary fiction, I was paid in copies. As such, the link to purchase the volume included above does not make me any money, either directly via royalties or indirectly via any kind of referral fees. This is an entirely non-commercial website. Links are included because I think they might be of interest to you, not because they will make me any money.

Check This Out: Science Love Letters

There are, I am convinced, more connections and similarities between science and literary writing than generally recognized. Having said that, I confess that I have rarely been moved by efforts to combine the two. So I was happily surprised to come across the very awesome Science Love Letters, a collaboration between the scientists/artists/writers E. A. Farro and Natalie Vestin.

Science Love Letters presents beautiful drawings and lyrical text in the form of weekly entries revolving around different topics/terms in science (e.g., Taxonomy, Muscle Memory). It does not require any knowledge of science to appreciate. At the same time, if you should happen to have prior experience with, say, acetabulae, you will get even more of a kick out of it. It is not didactic.

It's beyond me to sum up or describe
Science Love Letters in any detail, so I'll just say that it's wonderful and you should go check it out. It's completely free and very bite-sized. I really hope they keep adding more letters and/or get a publisher to produce it in book form (ala the excellent "Dear Data"). I know a number of people who'd be eager to buy copies.

Disclaimer: I have exchanged a few messages with Ms. Vestin on Twitter, but I otherwise have no connection with her or Dr. Farro. This entry on their collaboration was entirely unsolicited and unprompted.

New Yorker Note: Inventions

The New Yorker publishes a new short story almost every week, and I offer my thoughts on it here. Usually I aim to get my review up within a day or two of the story being posted, but I'm a little tardy (six days) with this one. Other websites that provide coverage of The New Yorker stories are The Mookse and the Gripes and Clifford Garstang.

This week's story is "
Inventions," a newly discovered story by the late Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Nobel Prizewinner. The story was originally written in 1965, translated from Yiddish in the late 1960s, and discovered in Singer's papers in the Ransom Center by David Stromberg. Click here to see the full post...