I continue to lack time to blog in detail about Versal Magazine from Amsterdam and the translocal, or about the importance of supporting a public option in the upcoming push for better health care in the U.S. (currently ranked an impressive 37th in the world!), or the California education crisis that’s making my work life extremely miserable even while I’m not yet teaching.
In the meantime I thought I’d point people here to the new issue of Big Bridge, #14. While some sections of Big Bridge (including significant features on Slow Poetry and the Post-Beat Anthology) are likely to get more attention, I wanted to highlight the fiction section of the magazine, edited by Vernon Frazer (who also edited the Post-Beat Anthology). There’s a lot of good contemporary poetry on the web, but fiction much less so. I think the presence of this feature, and Vernon’s work in putting it together, deserves some kudos.
Frazer has gathered work by some fine contemporary fiction writers (including a few who are good friends of mine): Mel Freilicher, Eric Beeny, Stefani Christova, Lynda Schor, David Madgalene, Stephen-Paul Martin, Susan Smith Nash, Andy Stewart, Richard Martin, Peter Conners, Ann Bogle, Jefferson Hansen, Carol Novack. Many of these writers share things in common with the concept of Submodern Fiction, which I wrote about in the three issues of the magazine I co-edited (along with K. Lorraine Graham) under that name. I posted on my blog awhile back the editorial I wrote for the first issue of Submodern Fiction.
My longtime friend Jeff Hansen, whose stories “Guardian” and "Venezuela, Africa" appear in the issue, has also just published a novel, ...and Beefheart Saved Craig, on Blaze Vox, which is well worth buying and reading. I know because I read it to write the blurb:
This book comes at readers from all angles, literally, with its energetic mix of innovative narrative, informed cultural criticism, and good old-fashioned character development about life among the drinking classes. Hansen’s absolutely contemporary questioning of individual identity spins out through a story about some ordinary and ornery people whose mundane lives are paradoxically compelling and often shocking. The characters are always thinking even if they don’t think they are, and the result is a novel in which boredom, pain, humor, and the unexpected swoop through the rubble of what everybody seems most sure about. In a way that keeps readers guessing right to the final word, ....and Beefheart saved Craig shows how philosophy and getting through the day are much more tangled up than so-called common sense often suggests.
Jeff’s novel is experimental and highly readable, theoretically sophisticated and down to earth. It’s about a group of people who are more lost than they know, and it’s about how physiology, psychology and large scale social dynamics powerfully affect people. ...and Beefheart Saved Craig can be bought at Blaze Vox, Small Press Distribution, or, if you must, Amazon.
And if you don't know Jeff's blog Experimental Fiction / Poetry / Jazz, you'll find there a wealth of reviews, interviews and other commentaries, done by him and other writers, that is a great source of information.
Lastly, I’m very glad of course that some fiction of my own appears in Big Bridge 14. It’s the first chapter of my novel The Quarry and The Lot, which Blaze Vox is planning to publish in early 2011. It’s a significant departure from much of my other fiction, the closest I’ve ever come to writing straightforward realism, although I also hope I’m playing some worthwhile games with the problem of narrative voice and perception. Among many things, the novel tries to provide a framework for understanding how American life changed in the 1980s and how it affected a group of people just reaching adulthood at that time. And I think it has more than a bit to say about what life in the American suburbs, especially the Washington DC suburbs, where I grew up, is like.
So if you want access to some worthwhile current fiction on the web, Big Bridge #14 is where I’d suggest that you look.