CalArts Alumni Featured in Innovative Writing Anthology

Book jacket of '(!X==[33]) Book 1 Volume 1'

Book jacket of '(!X==[33]) Book 1 Volume 1'

Three alumni of CalArts’ Creative Writing Program—Janice Lee (Critical Studies MFA 08), Harold Abramowitz (Critical Studies MFA 06) and Dan Richert (Critical Studies/Integrated Media MFA 06), collaborating as .UNFO—have been included in the second volume of the anthology The &Now Awards: The Best Innovative Writing.

Published in May by Lake Forest College Press/&Now Books, the collection ”recognizes the most provocative, hardest-hitting, deadly serious, patently absurd, cutting-edge, avant-everything-and-nothing work from the years 2009-2011.” It features writing as a contemporary art, in which the form and materials are of as much importance as language and subject matter. In keeping with this focus, the book has been designed with two covers and can be read from either direction.

An excerpt from (!x==[33]), Book 1 Volume 1 by .UNFO (Unauthorized Narrative Freedom Organization) follows. The book was originally published in 2011 by InsertBlanc Press, edited by Mathew Timmons (Critical Studies MFA 05).

[33]
teeth chattering and their own were soon joining in chorus. In the infrequent lulls of wind and thunder the miserable men in

[32]
the trees called to each other. The voices of the Kru boys already sounded weak and thin. The hopeless twittering of these

[32]
drenched and shivering human birds first suggested to Anthony that they would probably perish here miserably. Hours

[33]
passed while the mad rain beat upon them. A boat came down-river beating a gong. They set up a noise like the wailing

[33]
of souls in purgatory but a squall drowned them out. When it was over the boat had passed them and gone downstream. Those on

[33]
board would be looking for a light. Morning it seemed would never come. It was impossible, Anthony felt, that only a few

[33]
hours ago he had been warm and dreamfully happy on the beaches shining with sunlight. This was a different world he was in now.

&Now includes an excerpt from Lee’s second novel Daughter, which was published by Jaded Ibis Press in color with photographs by Rochelle Ritchie Spencer in 2011, and was followed by the black & white edition in 2012. In the novel, a daughter/doctor encounters the dead body of an octopus in the desert. It may be the corpse of a lost god, and through her study of his physical organs, sheds more light on her relationship with the world at large.

The excerpt in the anthology includes a conversation with a daughter/doctor and other fragments from various parts of the book. Here is one section:

The world may seem more or less a fluid phenomenon within the stream of our own fantasy, where subject and object are undifferentiated and in a state of mutual interpenetration, yet like the legendary Hy-Brasil, bisected like two halves of a walnut, an illusory state placed on a map and copied without regret, carrying on a tradition, the hegemony of the eye. I cut off a small piece of the body, feel a tiny tingle run up my arm, out through my elbow, they say reentry is a critical and dangerous moment, and anatomy, which literally means dismemberment, would rest upon a disruption of the body’s ongoing relations with the world, the sand blowing into my face, and you will probably die soon but don’t be afraid, as these fragments are all a picture becoming clear. I eat the octopus meat, thick and chewy, a part of a consecrated body, sharing in the substance of God, yet the one primarily in need of redemption here is not the daughter, but the god, lost and sleeping in matter. Have I swallowed a piece of God here? I congeal, a quick lapse of memory, this depersonalization reported as “soul traveling,” experimenting a simple epileptic aura and I can hear the distant sound of heavenly choirs. A sneeze, a footstep, an echo. And she thinks she hears the voice of God, “You will be healed, your tears have been seen.” But it was not I who was cut open, but the octopus, stagnating, still, a lone long, drawn-out breath.

Edited by Davis Schneiderman, the anthology is an off-shoot of the &Now Conference and Awards, which both examine the contemporary writing scene. CalArts is scheduled to hold the &Now Conference in 2015.

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