Get your sippin’ beverage. Two weeks’ worth of news right ‘tcheare…
* Hill William review at The L Magazine.
* Keep This Bag Away From Children posted "The Basketball Monster," an excerpt from Hill William!
* Hill William at Powell’s!
reading 6:30 12/7/13 Cole’s Bar 2338 N Milwaukee
"Pulls" by Gary Lutz, recommended by Future Tense Books
Issue No. 78
“Pulls” is a classic example of a Gary Lutz story. It passes what I call “The Lutz Sentence Test”—close your eyes and point anywhere and be astounded by whatever sentence you land on. (I have customers do this all the time when I show them Lutz’s books at my bookstore job.) “Pulls” also displays the kind of push and pull (no punning intended) between the isolating sadness and dark humor that colors much of Lutz’s work. My reaction while reading “Pulls” is that I want to laugh out loud, but stabs of heart-aching sentences suffocate my urges. It is exactly this push/pull craftsmanship that makes Lutz a writer unlike any other. Sometimes I think maybe Lorrie Moore does this too, or Sam Lipsyte—both with crafty precision. But Lutz goes a shade darker, writing with language that would seem confrontational if it weren’t so dang perfect.
I want to talk about the humor in “Pulls.” At the risk of sounding like I’m explaining why something is funny, I’ll quote a few lines:
(On pets): “I wish I could remember whether they bailed on us, or just died, overfed.”
(On a co-worker): “Home was probably just an air mattress somewhere.”
(On family): “I had a sister, too, drying out again in the tedium of debt somewhere.”
These are sentences that would stand out in any other story by someone else, but in the scheme of a Gary Lutz story, these gems are surrounded by other sentences just as propulsive and witty and powerful. But “Pulls” isn’t merely a cobbled fancywork of lines. It is a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. A story with establishing scenery (an air conditioner that “required a bucket underneath it”), a strange, almost beautiful description of the characters trying to make sense of their lives (the narrator running multiple washing machines at the same time, with one item in each, for a “cautious, tyrannical clean”), and an ending where a love triangle seems to shrink to two.
We’re very excited to have this story in the new, expanded version of Partial List of People to Bleach. Gary has been my favorite storywriter ever since I discovered him way back in 1997. His collection Stories in the Worst Way is still my favorite book ever. So I am thrilled to work with one of my heroes, as is my partner and book designer Bryan Coffelt, another Lutz fanatic. When we put out the chapbook version of Partial List six years ago, we ended up printing quite a few copies—probably over 1,000—and it became hard to staple the thing. At 56 pages, it was a bit thick. Now, the book is twice that size and it looks beautiful as a little paperback (and limited edition hardcover!). And even though it’s a small collection, like Gary’s other books, it’s mammoth on the inside.
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By Gary Lutz
Recommended by Future Tense Books
It has always been my custom to go hungry for people, then make my way practically from door to door. But there was a time I had a wife and a new best friend.
I was just doing the weary thing of being in my forties.
My wife wanted to be known best for her parting shots, the breadth of her good-byes. I could count on her to be back within hours, though, tidily silent in her chair.
And the best friend? He was an uncrusading man, rebuttable in everything. He looked felled, or probably at least fallen.
I began dividing my nights between them.
This wife and I had a rented house, two storeys of brutal roomth. The air conditioner required a bucket underneath it. Our meals were the cheapest of meats thinly veiled.
My best friend had some uncovetable rooms above a garage. We took down hours with our talk.
Here’s her name—Helene—though she will probably tell you different.
For a while, I tried to get her steered toward women. We settled on a blowhard of sporty despondence, crude to the eye but newly starving for her own sex. I staked the two of them to a meal and threw in good wishes.
She came home ebbing in all essences, looking explored and decreased.
She wanted to know about my best friend. I told her that he and I fell onto each other more in sexual pedantry than out of affection, that our life together did not grow on us or chew away at our hearts. His body was just profuse foolery.
Thirty-eight years of picked-over, furying age she was—brittled hair, a bulwark forehead, a voice that sounded blown through. There were hidey-holes in whatever she said.
I’m reminded therefore of Derrida’s ideas about writing versus speech and the way in which writing is always feared by Western metaphysics because there is a space between composer and reader, a space that often, in the texts Derrida likes to cite, is compared to death. What I imagine Derrida is trying to do when he talks about this space, is to celebrate these poisonous or fatal qualities. Writing, he seems to say, should revel in its difference from speech, in its lacunae. This kind of thing, this revelry, happens best with the book, it seems to me, with the printed thing that takes years to write and months to produce—so that the prose is already out of date by the time it gets from writer to reader. Out of date, what a wonderful concept. A concept to be celebrated! Out of time, out of date, outmoded, obsolete, useless to popular culture, arcane, elite, etc. All positives, as far as I’m concerned.