Monday, June 11, 2018

Audio Series: The Mutual UFO Network

Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Lee Martin will be reading an excerpt from his newest collection The Mutual UFO Network, which released June 12th. He is the author of the novels, The Bright Forever, River of Heaven; Quakertown; Break the Skin, and Late One Night. He has also published three memoirs, From Our House, Turning Bones, and Such a Life. His first book was the short story collection, The Least You Need to Know. He is the co-editor of Passing the Word: Writers on Their Mentors, and the author of Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Harper’s, Ms., Creative Nonfiction, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Glimmer Train, The Best American Mystery Stories, and The Best American Essays. He is the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. He teaches in the MFA Program at The Ohio State University, where he is a College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of English and a past winner of the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Click on the soundcloud bars below to listen to Lee read from his collection:

What it's about: 

In The Mutual UFO Network, Pulitzer Prize finalist and master of the craft Lee Martin presents his first short story collection since his acclaimed debut The Least You Need to Know. With Martin's signature insight, each story peers into the nooks and crannies of seemingly normal homes, communities, and families. The footprints of a midnight prowler peel back the veneer of a marriage soured by a long-ago affair. A con man selling faked UFO footage loses his wife to the promise of life outside the ordinary. And a troubled man, tormented by his own mind, lies in the street to look at the stars, and in doing so unravels the carefully constructed boundaries between his quiet neighbors.
From friendship and family to all forms of love, The Mutual UFO Network explores the intricacies of relationships and the possibility for redemption in even the most complex misfits and loners.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Page 69: Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

We put Ted Scheinman's Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan to the test

Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read?

This is from the second chapter, and it picks up partway through a visual survey of the Jane Austen Society of North America's public market at the society's annual summit. In film terms, what you're seeing here is a portion of a tracking shot.

What is Camp Austen about?

It's a reported work of narrative nonfiction, all about the rhapsodic (and occasionally riotous) world of Jane Austen superfans. The book also doubles as a family memoir: Austen is very important to my mother's side of the family, and I use these family reflections to illuminate the larger world of Austen enthusiasts. I also offer short analyses of Austen's novels, and of her biography, that help explain why so many readers find themselves singularly drawn to Austen. A lot of Austen conferences are like a big party among a boisterous extended family, and I want readers to enjoy eavesdropping on the party as much as possible.

Do you think this page is a good reflection of the book overall? Does it align itself with the book's overall theme?

I think it does! You see most of the book's concerns here: the flirting, the crowdsourced costume advice, the radical democracy of the fan-fiction world, the sheer characters who inhabit this universe dedicated to Jane (“Stone Cold Jane Austen”!). Also, Janeites place a charmingly serious emphasis on apparent trivia, and I think we get a flavor of that on the page in question (furled vs. unfurled umbrellas, etc.). This page is more of a catalogue or epic list than most pages in the book, and you'll find more slapstick elsewhere, but I think this offers a representative taste.


[… Ed]ward Taylor, upon whom (the Austen letters indicate) Austen had “fondly doted.” Women and men dressed as period haberdashers will remain in character while pressing homemade bonnets upon you; other people dressed as period haberdashers do not remain in character but nonetheless press homemade bonnets upon you.

     Outside the market, authors perch behind a row of tables, selling and signing books and answering questions from their public. At one table, several of the world’s most decorated Austen scholars share sympathy over their colleagues’ physical ailments while fielding breathless questions from graduate students for whom the presence of these scholars has the effect of an oracular experience. Four tables to their right, another author is peddling romantic spin-offs of the Austen novels—there is even a subset of fan-fiction predicated on subtextual homoeroticism in the original books; you wouldn’t believe what Darcy and Bingley get up to when the rest of Netherfield is asleep—and, to her right, two authors are signing mystery novels (The Suspicion at Sanditon!). If you poked your head in from the street, you might meet Devoney Looser, a professor at Arizona State University and an accomplished roller-derbyist who, when she’s on skates, goes by the moniker “Stone Cold Jane Austen.” Depending on the year, you might bump into John Mullan, a perceptive critic of Austen who has also answered one of the enduring questions of Austenworld: How many umbrellas appear in the novels? How many of them are furled? (The answers are seven and six, respectively.)


Bio: Ted Scheinman is based in Southern California, where he works as senior editor at Pacific Standard magazine. His essays and reporting have appeared in the New York Times, the Oxford American, the Paris ReviewPlayboy, Slate, and elsewhere. His first book, Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan, is available via Farrar, Straus & Giroux/FSG Originals.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Scott Navicky 's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, Scott Navicky is throwing all the booze at the his recently released new book 3Essays onImagereality.

Ready to get your booze on???


An Anythingarian Boozehound’s Guide to Absinthe & Afternoon Drinking
(Alternative Title: Barry Barry Barry Bonds, Y’all)

James Joyce pinched the portmanteau from Jonathan Swift. I pinched it from Joyce, stripped it of its religious vestments, and added alcohol. When it comes to booze, I’m a renowned anythingarian: I’ll drink anything as long as it isn’t sold in a hardware store. The one constant in my alcohistory is absinthe. The protagonists in both Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking and 3Essays on Imagereality are absintheminded. My favorite absinthes are Émile Pernot Vieux Pontarlier and Lucid Absinthe Supérieure. Both are classified as historic absinthes. (While technically American, Lucid is produced in the famous Combier distillery in Saumur, which, in addition to being a working distillery, is also an absinthe museum.)

When drinking absinthe, it is essential to be mindful of not only what you’re drinking, but when you are drinking it. Drinking absinthe too late in the evening can be an invitation to riotous escapades. The traditional Parisian l’heure verte, or “the green hour,” was five o’clock. Observing l’heure verte transformed me from an evening drinker into an afternoon drinker, and this transformation opened up a plethora of new drink possibilities. For example, I adore Irish Coffee and steadfastly maintain that a well-timed Irish Coffee can save your life, but I’m often underwhelmed by its presentation. The temperature tends to be too tepid and it’s usually gone too soon. To avoid this disappointment, I create a Barry Barry Barry Bonds, Y’all. Don’t bother looking this drink up in Mr. Boston: The Official Bartender’s Guide because it’s not in there. I conjured it. The recipe is wonderfully simple:

1 espresso
1 pint of Guinness

Simply pour the espresso into the Guinness & enjoy

But don’t be misled by the simplicity of this creation: finding a good Barry Barry Barry Bonds, Y’all isn’t easy. You either have to locate the perfect proximity between coffeeshop and pub, or stumble upon a bar that offers both good espresso and Guinness on tap. One of my favorite Barry Barry Barry Bonds, Y’all bars is named Nighttown after a famous Joycean portmanteau. (Within the Circe chapter of Ulysses, Nighttown is Joyce’s rechristening of Dublin’s red-light district, known to local Dubliners as Monto.)

Circe is foregrounded by a drinking party at the National Maternity Hospital. When the party becomes too raucous, the revelers, including both Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, relocate across the street to Burke’s Pub, where Stephen begins ordering absinthe. Immediately after Stephen places this order, an ominous toast appears in Latin.

Translation: We will all drink green poison, and the devil take the hindmost.

The woozy wobblers stay at Burke’s until chuckingout time. When the entourage spills out onto the street, the scene is set for absinthe’s finest hour. No other author has been able to so playfully portray absinthe’s lucid beauty alongside its accused lurid vulgarity.

Easily the longest chapter within the novel, Circe is a delight for quotehounds. Lewd chimpanzees wander the streets, as the famished snaggletusks of an elderly bawd protrude from a doorway. In the middle of a lengthy hallucination, Leopold Bloom vows to build the new Bloomusalem. The ghost of poor Paddy Dignam appears via metempsychosis. Leopold Bloom speaks to his dead father, while Stephen is confronted by his mother’s undead spirit. Amidst all of this greenmadness, a Hobgoblin appears kangaroohopping, and the beardless face of William Shakespeare appears in a hallway mirror to crow Iagogogo!

This is exactly why you shouldn’t drink absinthe too late in the evening. Of course, James Joyce might not agree. An anythingarian boozehound with a preference for Swiss wine from the Neuchâtel region, James Joyce insisted on never drinking before the sun went down.


Scott Navicky is the author of 3Essays on Imagereality (Montag Press, 2018) and Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, 2014). He attended Denison University and the University of Auckland, where he was awarded an Honors Master’s Degree in art history with a focus on photography theory. He currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Page 69: Into That Good Night

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

We put Levis Keltner's Into That Good Night to the test. 

Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read:

Page 69 tells of the first time Greg Dombrowski meets John H. Walker, the local legend recently diagnosed with terminal leukemia. In the memory, Greg confesses his infatuation with Erika Summerson, the young girl whose murder sparks the novel.

Here Greg struggles through his hypermasculinity to express his feelings for Erika while he and Walker bond over a game of HORSE. Their time together gives Walker license to later ask Greg to join the group that searches for Erika’s killer.

What is Into That Good Night about?

 Into That Good Night is a story about a group of kids who become inseparable friends when a girl they love is murdered in the woods behind town. They bond while scouring a secluded section of the valley for clues to close her unsolved murder. They are soon harassed by a person they believe to be the killer. United against a common enemy, the group strikes back. Through the haze of adolescence in a predominantly white, working-class American suburb, the novel’s underdog protagonist Doug Horolez must then decide whether or not to help the only friends he’s ever known in their quest for peace and justice.

Do you think this page is a good reflection of the book overall? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?

Greg’s point of view is one of seven in the novel. This excerpt snapshots his white cis hetero adolescence, mid-attempt to figure it all out—the new and raw emotions, the transience of relationships, Life, his talents and passions, with his intense attraction to Erika underpinning every thought.

The excerpt reflects the novel in that it illustrates an adolescent mind trying to make sense of the world passed on to their generation.

The novel’s point of view shifts between all seven kids: E. Summerson, Tiffany Dennys, Josué Ortiz, Alex Karahalios, John H. Walker, and Doug Horolez, who gets most camera time. Funny enough, Greg probably gets the least.

Trying to make sense of existence is the work before us all to our last days, I think. Adolescence is a special time because many of us start to ask big questions and our observations are in some ways less bullshit than what we tell ourselves in adulthood, misbelieving we have all the answers.

I hope readers find the group’s outlook as refreshing as I did and fall in love with at least one of these unlikely and tragic heroes.

PAGE 69: 

cool to see him turn up alone on Greg’s court at Penny Park one November night, before Erika had died. The halogen floodlight mounted to the telephone pole behind the backboard had already whited-out the world beyond the court, right before Greg was about to head home, when the swings creaked. Greg saw nothing, then jumped—startled by the Dead Man on the sideline. Buried in a scarf and the hood of his parka, his face looked bloodless, zombiefied. The kid had cancer or something. Still, meeting Walker was worth skipping dinner for. They played HORSE. Greg won, but the game wasn’t a sweep. Walker might’ve had a chance if he’d stopped gabbing and focused when he had the ball. Greg remembered the kid asking after the winning shot if there was anything he loved more than basketball. Greg had said no. Greg then mentioned Erika, like some big stalker. He kept shooting, stripped down to his jersey and shorts, his body heat worked up, trying hard not to listen too hard to the bundled kid on the sidelines pushing with the personal questions, as though somehow he knew how sick Greg’s heart was for her, the guy saying, “Erika … Erika …” with these floats of white breath that Greg dodged on his way to the hoop, as if she would materialize out of one if the kid wasn’t dying and had a few ounces better lung capacity. Greg couldn’t shoot worth a shit, then, too afraid it could happen, which was dumb because of how badly he wished it would—until an hour later, when they were drinking hot Gatorade teas together—he and John H. Walker drinking Greg’s own winter game elixir, no shit—outside of 7-Eleven, like buddies, and Greg admitted wanting to love someone as much as he loved the game. “Something bigger,” Walker said and admitted he knew the feeling. Greg walked home that night with true respect for the kid, though feeling kinda that he’d gabbed and hardly let Walker speak, which wasn’t his style. Sharing feelings wasn’t his style. Still. So when the guy came up to him yesterday to say there might be a way to help Erika, he must’ve already known Greg would say yes.

The kids dug until daylight fled the crowns of the trees. All that time, they plodded with their long-handled shovels in the well-rooted earth while John went around saying, “Deeper. No—close. A little deeper.” Each thanked him for his feedback to be kind. They figured his condition made physical labor risky—everyone except E.


Levis Keltner is a writer, musician, editor, and educator from Chicago and living in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Into That Good Night (Skyhorse, 2018). His short fiction has appeared in Bull: Men's Fiction. He is the editor-in-chief of Newfound and teaches writing at Texas State University.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Guest Post: Steve Mitchell


  [Let this music play until further instructions.] 

  In the Fall of 2017, in anticipation of the publication of my novel, Cloud Diary, I began approaching musicians about responding to short scenes from the novel in any manner they chose. By early 2018, 19 musicians had responded with 25 original pieces. 

Writing, music, art: they don’t travel in a straight line. The roots of their narrative tunnel and curl, vanish and re-appear, spreading outward, never quite resting. It’s impossible to say exactly what art does, and while the arts speak to our connectedness, they also accentuate the vast gulfs between us: the breadth of interpretation, of response, and the uniqueness of that response.

Sometimes, in my process of writing, it happens that a piece of music takes on a value. It’s not an inspiration exactly, but it stakes out an emotional territory that’s not obvious or causal. An innocent bystander might never see the connection, but the music helps to form an interior landscape I return to throughout the writing.

Cloud Diary (C&R Press, 2018) is the story of Doug and Sophie, their intense relationship in their twenties, then eight years later when they meet again. Even before I’d begun the writing, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea became an anchor for the early part of Doug and Sophie’s life together.

Raw, loose, and loud, Neutral Milk Hotel has a dangerous, wailing nakedness, the kind which might pivot in an instant into something necessitating an intervention. I wanted that feeling around Doug and Sophie: a messy vulnerability, a life with dirt in the corners, a life of rummaging in couch cushions for change to do laundry, of hoping your more established friends invite you to dinner because it’s two days before payday.

 Yet, in contrast, I needed very quiet, still places within the book and a different kind of music could come into play then.

 The story of Doug and Sophie is one of intimacy, and powerlessness in the face of tests upon that intimacy. It’s intensely personal, in that it’s focused almost solely upon them over eight years of their lives.

In the middle section of Cloud Diary, the tone changes, becoming quieter, a bit more melancholy, as Sophie and Doug meet again after their separation. Their meeting is tentative at first‑‑‑there’s a lot of history to address or avoid---then tender, then more demanding than either might have imagined. In the writing, Neutral Milk Hotel was replaced by Sigur Ros; very specific Sigur Ros tracks from a 2004 ep, BA BA TI KI DI DO. That’s what you’ve been listening to.

In Philip K. Dick’s short story, The Preserving Machine, Doc Labyrinth invents a machine that converts great music into living creatures. He’s concerned that Beethoven or Bach might not survive a coming apocalypse and believes that through this conversion they might be set free in the wild, fend for themselves, then be scooped up in the future and converted again into beautiful music.

  [Scroll up and stop the Sigur Ros now. Scroll back down.] 

  [Start this music now.]


Things don’t go as planned. A year or two after releasing the various creatures into the nearby forest, Labyrinth finds every animal has changed in order to survive and flourish, and that to place the Bach bugs back into the Preserving Machine does not deliver Bach at all, but a whole new music.

As contributions to the Cloud Diary Music Project began to appear in my inbox, I was reminded of Dick’s story. All types of music were represented here, from barroom songs and bluegrass to electronica and avant-garde classical.

Each person who submitted knew very little about the book as a whole. They’d simply received a short scene and a three-sentence synopsis. (One likened it to peering through a hole in a construction fence. He could only see a couple of beams and girders, imagining the rest.) Each was creating something whole from a mere glimpse, in the same way a simple exchange overheard between strangers can become, for me, the basis of a short story.

The music you're listening to now was written and performed (with Steve Sollod) by Kim Church. Kim is a writer herself. It’s a response to a fictional scene written, in part, as a response to the music of Sigur Ros. In the scene, Doug and Sophie struggle with their future over a late night and a morning, working to rekindle old bonds, or perhaps establish new ones. There’s a darkness hanging over this scene. And a stillness.

When we write, we are translating feelings, images, conversations; we’re collating them, bringing them together, and then threading a needle of words to create something. It’s not a record, not a historical document; we are translating experience into another language.

This is what we do when we read. We gather the words and form our own images, feelings, history, even music, around them. They become our own. Every translation is different. Every read text is unique.

This is true even of our own work. Now, when I remember Sophie turning to Doug in the middle of that night and asking, quietly, “Can you just hold me. For a moment…”, I hear both Sigur Ros and Kim Church. They are distinct views of the same scene.

Because, once our creatures scuttle or dart from the nest they become their own beings and they, like Doc Labyrinth’s musical creations, will transform as they explore and chart the world for themselves.

With luck, they’ll learn to survive on their own. We may or may not recognize them when they do. 


Kendra Harding’s Lover Leap was written in response to a different scene within Part Two of the book. Music for this piece: Lucy Dacus, Historian / Big Thief, Capacity Steve Mitchell is the author of Cloud Diary and co-owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC       

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Where Robert Lopez Writes

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

This is Robert Lopez. 

He is the author of three novels, Part of the World, Kamby Bolongo Mean River, and All Back Full, and two story collections, Asunder and Good People.

Where Robert Lopez Writes

This is where I work, when I work. This is also where I spend a fair amount of time when I'm not working. I could never write in a cafe full of people and the sounds they make. I'm distracted enough here alone, what with the news and social media and all the other etceteras. I don't need real live people crossing through my field of vision at the same time. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Isabelle Kenyon's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, Isabelle Kenyon whips up a new drink in honor of her latest collection of poetry, 

Ready to get your booze on??


Drink: 'Jungle Fever'
Malibu (fruity and tropical)
Coconut milk (cleansing, pure)
A starfruit garnish (think thick jungles and exotic new tastes and topics)
Lemon juice (bittersweet aftertaste)

I chose this drink because the book is entirely based on my time in New Zealand - exotic greenery, coastal beaches and fresh flavours. It was a time to cleanse the pallet so to speak, after the funeral of my Grandma, and so the exciting new experiences were often bittersweet.


Isabelle Kenyon is the author of poetry anthology, This is not a Spectacle and micro chapbook, The Trees Whispered, published by Origami Poetry Press. She is also the editor of MIND Poetry Anthology 'Please Hear What I'm Not Saying' and her latest release, Digging Holes To Another Continent, will be published by Clare Songbirds Publishing House this May. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Suzanne Burns' Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's got a fun, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same odd bookish scenarios.

Suzanne Burns'

Would You Rather

Would you rather start every sentence in your book with ‘And’ or end every sentence with ‘but’?
I think starting every sentence with ‘and’ might end up reading like some sort of exciting and very long list of announcements. To me, ‘but’ would read like an overwrought and worrisome apology.

Would you rather write in an isolated cabin that was infested with spiders or in a noisy coffee shop with bad musak?
I could handle the cabin during the day. I’m quick and excitable enough to fend off any spider heading my way. Night, and sleep, and long hair is another story. But I could never write with noise and bad, or even good, musak.

Would you rather think in a language you could understand but write in one you couldn’t read, or think in a language you couldn’t understand but write in one you could read?
One has to understand their own thoughts or they couldn’t write in any language.

Would you rather write the best book of your career and never publish it or publish a bunch of books that leave you feeling unsatisfied?
A bunch of books that leave me feeling unsatisfied. That’s the constant state of artists, isn’t it? Why else do we all keep going? But if I did write the best book of my career and never published it, it wasn’t my best book.

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
Twitter, because I’m not on it so would never check it. That way when I get weird, think PMS when potato chips for dinner combined with stalking exes on Facebook sounds like a good idea, I’d be oblivious.

Would you rather your books be bound and covered with human skin or made out of tissue paper?
Tissue paper. I have a suspicion that no one but my mom actually reads them cover to cover, anyway, and she loves collecting tissue paper. She has a large wooden box in the garage filled with the fluff.

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?

I’ve had no one show up to a reading more than a few times, so I’m a seasoned pro.

Would you rather your book incite the world’s largest riot or be used as tinder in everyone’s fireplace?
Who doesn’t want to incite the world’s largest riot?

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?
Computer. I write longhand.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?

I think Catcher in the Rye would be a perfect fit.

Would you rather meet your favorite author and have them turn out to be a total jerkwad or hate a book written by an author you are really close to?
All favorite authors are total jerkwads.

 Would you rather your book have an awesome title with a really ugly cover or an awesome cover with a really bad title?
You obviously haven’t see this book. This is real. Yes, she is floating over a tree surrounded by a circular rainbow and yes, she has a shaved head and side boob.

 Would you rather write beautiful prose with no point or write the perfect story badly?
Beautiful prose with no point, like Proust.

Would you rather write only embarrassingly truthful essays or write nothing at all?
How embarrassing? I don’t have to mention that one time I did that one thing, right?

Would you rather your book become an instant best seller that burns out quickly and is forgotten forever or be met with mediocre criticism but continue to sell well after you’re gone?
Instant, forgettable, burned out bestseller.


 Suzanne Burns writes both fiction and prose. Her fiction most recently appeared in The Chicago Tribune. Her second short story collection, The Veneration of Monsters, published by Dzanc Books, received a starred Kirkus Review and went on to be named one of the Top 100 Fiction Titles of 2017. She is currently working on a new short story collection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bronwyn Reviews: For Two Thousand Years

For Two Thousand Years
by Mihail Sebastian
translated from the Romanian by Philip Ó Ceallaigh
Publisher: Other Press
Released: 2017

Reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin

“Being persecuted is not just a physical trial. It is one that affects you intellectually. The reality of it slowly deforms you and attacks, above all, your sense of proportion.”

So says the anonymous narrator of the powerful novel For Two Thousand Years as he reflects on his time as a university student in 1920s Romania. But this book belies those words. Even as he and fellow Jewish students are assaulted daily, he seeks to understand himself, his attackers, and his own response to their anti-Semitism. The strength of this book is found in its clear-eyed reporting of conversations the narrator has with friends and colleagues – their candid brutality at times stunning – combined with his thoughtful reflection on what he hears and sees.

Originally published in Romanian in 1934, this novel by Mihail Sebastian has been available in French for some time. It has only now appeared in English in a translation by Philip Ó Ceallaigh, and it couldn’t be more timely. Then, as today, while the perpetrators get most of the attention, silent bystanders also get their due:

“If somebody set themselves up in the middle of the street to demand, let’s say, ‘Death to badgers,’ I think that would suffice to arouse some surprise among those passing by. Now that I think about it, the problem isn’t that three boys can stand at a street corner and cry ‘Death to the Yids.’ But that the cry goes unobserved and unopposed, like the tinkling of a bell on a tram.” 

The Nazis haven’t arrived in Romania yet, but anti-Semitism is on the march. Jewish students are attacked and beaten for having the temerity to attend their classes. Professors at best stand quietly by; at times they encourage the perpetrators. Each night the narrator returns to a dormitory where the victims compare wounds and try to imagine the future.

The novel follows this insightful young student into adulthood. The narrator changes his major to architecture, at the encouragement of a nationalist professor he idolizes. He becomes an architect and is hired by an eccentric American tycoon named Ralph Rice. He lives in Paris for a time, and eventually returns to Romania to work on Rice’s oil fields. The drilling kills the local plum trees, which are the heart of the peasant economy and culture. An entire village is moved to make way for oil production. Then the narrator takes on the design and building of a house for the professor he once loved, whose classes he used to be thrown out of by the professor’s young acolytes.

All this drama, though, is backdrop to the narrator’s deeper struggle not just to survive but to understand, and this is the beating heart of the novel that echoes through to today. As he moves through life, he meets with many anti-Semites. He attends their classes. He breaks bread with them, works side-by-side with them. He talks to other Jews with differing responses to the rising crisis. Most of the people he talks with – nationalists, anti-Semites, communists, Zionists, and oblivious foreigners – are types intended to represent a particular point of view. And yet, his conversations with them are fresh and engaging, as are his later reflection on them:

“Don’t allow yourself to indulge your suffering. There’s a great voluptuousness in persecution and feeling yourself wronged is probably one of the proudest of private pleasures…. Think how ridiculous we would be if we were alarmed at every shower of rain that soaked us.”

Mihail Sebastian is the pen name of Iosif Hechter, and this novel is thinly disguised autobiography. The other major work he is known for is the journal he kept from 1935 to 1944. When it was finally published in 1996, it was quickly recognized as an important chronicle of the rise of nazism in Europe. Sebastian’s humanistic observations of the catastrophe as it unfolded can help us understand his time and ours. Having survived the Holocaust, Sebastian was hit by a truck and killed while crossing a Bucharest street in 1945, on his way to give a lecture on Balzac. He was 37 years old. As the prescient young narrator says early in this book, making a failing of Sebastian’s great strength as a chronicler,

“Something tells me that we are unable to live any of life’s moments fully. Not one of them. That we eternally stand at a remove from what is happening. A little above or a little below things, but never at their heart… That the fires we lit to offer up our hearts smouldered out too soon.”


Bronwyn Mauldin writes fiction and poetry, and creates zines. She will be an Artist in Residence at Denali National Park and Preserve in summer 2018. More at  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

K.M. Ecke on Being Indie

On "Being Indie" is a blog series that introduces us to a wide variety of small press authors and publishers as they discuss what being indie means to them.

Today, we're featuring K.M. Ecke as part of the Moral Panic blog tour, hosted by RogerCharlie.

K.M. Ecke is an organic, free-range, preservative-free, philosopher-poet using universal truth to battle cultural insanity. Ecke chose to pursue writing, soul-searching and creative projects. After several years of odd jobs learning about different pieces of the world, he began his own private music teaching business and attended Colorado Film School for a year and a half to study filmmaking. After 18-months in his program, he veered to his own path and established Dream Flow Media, the home to all of his creative endeavors; publishing, music and all additional branches of the many-faceted visionary. Along with his own creations, he strives to bring other artists into the fold to develop a creative collective for a variety of multimedia projects.

Ecke also works as a filmmaker for local non-profits and bands, and hopes one day to see Moral Panic on the big screen. The author lives in Denver, Colorado and hosts a storytelling micro-podcast Myths, Metaphors, and Morality. For more info, visit the author online at 

My first reason for being in the independent publishing world is sovereignty.

Whenever possible, I want control over my own destiny. I want to experience my own successes and failures.

The publishing world is changing so rapidly that the big five publishers can’t adapt as quickly as a smaller player.

I’d rather set sail in the storm and learn from the crashing waves than board the Titanic knowing I’m not getting a lifeboat. At least there’s honor in facing the rolling tide.

The second reason is pragmatism. I honestly think it’s a better idea in the current market conditions.

If I went with the old system, I’d have to send my manuscripts to dozens of agents receiving hundreds of novels every week, wait months to hear back from them (if I heard back at all), and then best-case scenario I’d get signed to a publishing deal (probably without an advance, because unless you’re already well-known with a big following they won’t give you one) where they take the majority of the revenue from my work, and completely control the amount of resources they use to promote the book.

I’ve heard horror stories about authors who get signed to a publishing deal and then don’t get any support after the first sign that the novel won’t be a New York Times bestseller. Even if I were signed to a big publishing company, let’s be honest, if they’re deciding where a better return on their investment is going to come from they’re not going to pick my book, they’ll get far more money using their resources on the next Dan Brown or Neil Gaiman book than mine.

By the time I got all of that going and started making anywhere near enough money to live, I probably could have written another novel.

I don’t want to stall and anxiously wait around for someone else to tell me when I’m allowed into the art form. I’d rather publish and move on to the next story, learning along the way, because then I know I’m growing on several different levels. Prolificity is more important to me than perfection.

I believe the story of my novel, Moral Panic, needs to be told, and the only guaranteed way to do that is to take on all the boring publishing business stuff I don’t want to do as the burden of responsibility for living the life I want to live. I won’t have the brass ring of being a “published author” but my book is mine to shape, refine, or rework until the day I die.

My third reason has to do with fulfillment. Not just happiness, fulfillment.

I became self-employed three and a half years ago and that experience has afforded me the time to explore what I’ve wanted to explore. I’ve left jobs where I would have made more money to go after the self-development and potential of making either the same amount (or more) money in the long-term doing what actually interests me.

They say time is money . . . and they’re wrong.

Time is more valuable than money. Money is something humans create that we attribute arbitrary value to. Time is something we experience. You can recover lost money. You can’t recover lost time. I’m still relatively young. This is the time to take risks.

When I was in college I thought about becoming a lawyer. It was safe and I would have been good at it, but why be a mediocre lawyer? Why be a mediocre anything? Mediocrity comes from the lack of courage to be what you are.


You can find K.M. Ecke by following the links below: