Six Writers You May Have Read Online — Muumuu House at St. Marks Bookshop
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1. Tao Lin: “‘an emo band called ‘jean rhys.’” 2. Marie Calloway, and some dude named Adrien Brody.
I’d never been to an event at St. Marks Bookshop in the East Village, though I’m a regular patron. They have the best critical theory section in the city hands down, and when you don’t feel like reading Adorno’s Negative Dialectics on the train, you can now purchase popular Muumuu House titles, like Ellen Kennedys’ sometimes my heart pushes my ribs, or their most recent publication, Megan Boyle’s selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee, which has a funny, curiously charming cover. Last night Tao Lin, founding editor and publisher, brought Brandon Scott Gorrell (writer/editor at Thought Catalog, during my nervous breakdown i want to have a biographer present), Giancarlo DiTrapano (founding editor of New York Tyrant and publisher of Tyrant Books), Marie Calloway (Adrien Brody), Spencer Madsen (a million bears), and Megan Boyle to read some Muumuu work, which included poetry, unpublished blogposts and Tweets, and edited Twitter selections to celebrate. Sweet.
1. Giancarlo DiTrapano, who is wholly opposed to the idea of ZZ Packer. 2. Megan Boyle. I stood on my toes as much as I could to get the crowd into the frame, and by doing so almost fell into Ryan O’Connell.
In the event that this is your sole literary stop on your internet commute, Muumuu House (c. 2008) is a publisher of “poetry, fiction, Twitter selections, Gmail chats online & in print.” That St. Marks now carries Muumuu in-house is a pretty big deal — the last time I saw a Muumuu title for full retail was in 2009 at Skylight Books in LA. Muumuu mostly appears in the internet, getting meme-ed and reblogged by its mostly twenty-something audience, and while most of the contributors are also members of this age group, it also includes established authors that work in periphery veins of the Muu. There’s an excerpt of Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station on the site and a short piece by Deb Olin Unferth, from her collection Minor Robberies. Though people love to hate, you cannot deny how positive Muumuu’s general “mission” seems to be: publish what you like, link to other works/people on social media, repeat. I like that.
St. Marks was crowded. The general shape of it was a backwards tongue, the mic being the tip, and stretched all the way to the door. I didn’t get there early enough to nab a seat, but being near the door availed me to hear several confused patrons. Overheard: “‘Oh, they’re having a reading!’ ‘What is this?’ ‘[Chinese, laughter, more Chinese]’” This accidental commentary was more than appropriate for the event. When you think of a reading, you don’t think of someone reading an edited Twitter feed, let alone from an iPhone. But that’s what Tao did, and it was awesome. Tao started a little bit after 7 and read first. “I’m going to read some of my tweets recently,” he said. Clicked his iPhone. Looked up: “It’s not loading.” When he got it to load, Tao read some gems. Here are a few: “what if jeremy lin’s last name was ‘kafka,’”; “‘tweeting in darkness lying on side on bed w/ macbook on side’”; and “‘novel titled ‘100% autism.’” What legitimizes a reading of tweets is editing: Tao maintains another twitter feed called “tao_linunedited” with the typical Twitter behavior: retweets, photo posts, and in-the-moment activity posts. This makes me wonder if Tao saves tweets in gmail to edit later, how much time on each tweet, etc. I’ve thought about Twitter as a new medium in passing, but Tao’s been doing it for a while now, often sharing irreverently literary tweets: “instead of brands every person should have their own religion.”
1. Ryan O’Connell, writer/editor at Thought Catalog, with Gaby Dunn, writer/editor/comedian. Handsome, those two are. 2. Lynn Andrews, an actor, with Daniel London, who does R&D for exhibits at the Museum of the City of New York. Siiick.
Marie Calloway read from her Muumuu story, “Adrien Brody,” which was recently the topic of many a bloggers’ attention. She read from the end of the piece, where her and Adrien Brody initiate in the most awkward act of sex I’ve ever heard or read. Calloway approached the mic cautiously, and admitted she was terribly nervous, but it was perfect for her reading. Calloway read in a soft, reserved tone that communicated both her anxiety of reading to 80 or so people and the emotional nakedness of her character. “‘You’re the one who wants to leave in a few minutes. That’s why I hit you, because I was sad that you have all the power.’ ‘Yeah.’” I imagine there are thousands of twenty-somethings out there who have met people from the internet for non-casual/casual sex, and that Calloway is of the few unafraid enough to narrate it and send it out into the internet. Ballsy.
Giancarlo DiTrapano read selected tweets edited by Blake Butler. Unfortunately, DiTrapano introduced himself and then stepped away from the mic, but the best tweets were heard regardless. “Jul 8. An untitled track on my iTunes, 8 seconds long, at full volume you can barely hear a little girl’s voice whisper, ‘Mommy, a black dog.’” “‘Jul 26. I bet Burroughs told Ginsberg to shut up a lot.’” “‘Sep 14. Should have gotten an MFA in waiting for my dealer.’” I’m not sure about the extent of Butler’s editing, but the Tweets speak for themselves: sarcastic, wholly contemplative, always optimistically bleak. Read the whole piece here.
1. The Muumuus! Tao Lin, Giancarlo DiTrapano, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Spencer Madsen, Marie Calloway. 2. Tyler Madsen, a web developer, with Robyn Jensen, a PhD candidate in Russian Literature at Columbia, and Lev Kanter, also a web developer.
Spencer Madsen is a poet whose work reads like jokes. I think he was the funniest of the evening. “K cool,” he said, holding the mic, “I’m gonna read the first page, which is a retweet of Kanye West. ‘God is dope, yo.’” While his poetry felt like a Twitter feed, there was certainly a sense of craft. The elucidation of the common twenty-something hyper-anxiety, hyper-conscious state that pervades us was immediately clear. “‘High School is a collection of people going through puberty.’ ‘The tragedy is that flying is sitting in a chair.’ ‘Is it gross how much yogurt I eat? Let me know via email.’”
Brandon Scott Gorrell’s (BSG) articles on Thought Catalog are among my favorites, so when he announced he was going to read “5 Embarrassing Social Blunders You Maybe Have Made,” I was excited. Most of BSG’s work are in list form, though he expands the form by deconstructing the circumstances and typical behaviors of, in this case, hanging out. In “Pushed way too hard to get in information of yourself,” I cringed: “You are inappropriately liberal with your definition of ‘related information’ when you abruptly insert this golden nugget of ego into the conversation.” A sentiment everyone feels at one point in adult life, but not one often admitted freely. Someone has to, right?
The final reader was Megan Boyle, author of the most recent physical Muumuu title. Boyle has revealed in interviews that many of the pieces in the book are her own blog drafts edited to better fit a poem or short narrative. The characteristics of blog drafts — an instance of clarity, a seemingly random and inconsequential event, a funny phrase — were still present in her reading, but when strung together they created one experience of the twenty-something internet user. In “1.05.09”: “everything i touch is going to be a fossil someday. … my dad still hasn’t taken down his christmas decorations” … “i looked at the metal bars in the ceiling and said ‘i just want to watch movies all night.’” I think her phone rang during the reading and she debated checking it in front of the mic. Instead, she read “I burn calories and read Richard Yates at a similar rate.”
Muumuu House in St. Marks will hopefully bring its aesthetic and work to a wider audience and into more of a “classic” literary space, something that is positive not only for Muumuu, but for the internet lit scene as a whole. You can buy the books there, read several excerpts here, and find all of the contributors on Twitter here.