On Twee Subervsion or Keepin it White n Easy

I have written about transgressive and subversive writing before. Pardon me while I quote myself from last year:

Essentially, I want my transgression to work harder. Go deeper.

And:

Recently the issue of transgressive writing, censorship, and the like have been popping up in lit land. This time around we have two separate events that both prove my problem with how the idea of transgressive or subversive literature functions in the lit world right now.

I just heaved the biggest sigh.

I have done a lot of reading around the internet lately and a lot of what is being billed as being so transgressive and subversive is just not.

Exhibiting abusive and gross behavior under the guise of “subversion” is not something new, it is not brave, it is not unexpected nor is it clever. More so if this is done in a manner that is traumatic to women and/or a cover for figurative dick swinging sexual harassment.

SO yes, let me say that publishing lists of authors you want to bone is not really that original, it’s not subverting the dominant anything.

More so if part of the schtick is anonymity.

Being anonymous and putting on the face of the dominant voice in literature is not transgressive to me at all. It is playing dress up. It is playing with the position of privilege in a very useless manner.

Twee nonsense.

Literature regardless of what niche genre we’re talking about, is rife with sexism and racism. That is the status quo. That is how it is operated and frequently that is the position criticisms of new forms or language comes from.

Giving primacy to the general white cis male heterosexual is the baseline. Regardless of even the content of the work is a reflection of how things are and have been in Western Literature since forever.

You don’t get cookies for doing the same shit everyone else is doing. You can dress it up in punk rock words and Anonymous yammering but it is still the same goddamn thing.

Can we stop bullshitting each other about that?

Let’s be honest. Do what you wanna do, but stop bullshitting.

The bullshitting is my other problem. Over the past few years I’ve seen some niche lit things gas themselves up so hard as being special.

However, if we peel the initial layers away we see a lot of the same stuff.

The men are front and center. Many behave reprehensibly as we’ve seen repeatedly. The women are often young and attractive, lots of the dudes like to talk about having had them or going to have them or having them then publishing them.

This is followed by women coming forward to say this is some bullshit, this happened to me, I don’t like this, stop this.

Men cry that they are being portrayed badly, they want cookies for not being rapists or behaving semi decently.

Lit scene implosion.

More women talk about what is wrong with how these things go down, shit gets gross.

Now these scenes are often lauded as being different and transgressive and new.

Ask any of the women who have been involved with these incidences as victims or people who’ve stood up and we’ll let you know this is not different, transgressive or new.

This is the same pile of shit wrapped in a new box.

I feel like the whole idea of doing something subversive in the lit world has turned into twee LOOK AT HOW TRANSGRESSIVE I AM, I AM WRITIN ABOUT RAPIN BITCHES OMG LOOK AT ME WTF BBQ!!

The problem isn’t that this type of subversive light literature exists. It can exist, people can write and read whatever the fuck they want.

The problem is that this seems to be among the main modes of subversive literary expression and it’s sad.

As I pointed out in my Open Letter to the Paris Review, when you have a chance take it.

Being actually subversive or transgressive when you are participating in literature happens. If you are a Person of Color, a woman, queer, etc. you are already halfway there.

The other part is that more editors need to use their editorial discretion to go beyond Transgression 101 White Dudes talking shit.

It’s hard.

It means you might have to contend with the kind of thing a lot of us marginalized folks deal with on the daily.

It is 2015.

Go the fuck in.

And I don’t mean in the smarmy “Unpopular opinion” type of Liberal nonsense.

Publish the Other voices.

Publish and promote work that is outside of your general literary sphere. Be brave.

Be rich.

Get and stay uncomfortable.

If more of the gatekeepers of generally traditional publishers and indies and the supposedly subversive want to actually demonstrate any kind of commitment to this sort of thing, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that if you’re squirming because the story isn’t the type of story you know, you’re going in the right direction.

And can we move beyond body horror being only equal to EW fat people EW VAGINA, EW BARF. I think we can do better.

If we can step away from using White Dudes Write The Thing as our only barometer of what is and isn’t good or what is or isn’t transgressive it would go a long way.

If more editors could stop with the idea that because they’ve made bad decisions they are gonna get blow back from us non editor peons that’d be great.

Get at that depth of meaning that pokes holes in the Western Literary Canon and it’s bastard kids.

Go the fuck in.

Stop coming at people sideways when you’ve done something not awesome.

Come on y’all.


Yeah Write #199- Mandingo Incarnation.

Mandingo Incarnation

by

Shannon Barber

prose poem

If reincarnation is real I know how I want to come back. Fuck being a bird or a tiger.

I want to be reborn the biggest, baddest, Blackest mother fucker you ever saw.

I want to be huge and dark and bald.

So big you’ll wonder if I just got off a ten stretch where all I did was lift weights and eat Aryans.

The type of dude who’d smoke a blunt bigger than your dick, drink all your liquor,smoke all your rock and fuck you senseless. Leave you bereft of drugs, money and covered in come.

And you’d call me back because of my smile and cocksmanship.

The type of dude to beat the dog shit out of somebody, then head out for some chicken.

The type of dude every White man fears.

The type to make an officer say, I feared for my life while standing 50 yards away.

….but it’s only a dream.

I understand reincarnation doesn’t work that way. And while it might be tempting to imagine myself as the Mandingo nightmare from every shitty movie ever.

If I can’t dream of being safe-

        I will dream of being danger.

 

 ###


Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all. The Unsponsored Writer.

Apparently a lot of writers are talking where they get money etc right now.

I’ve read several of these articles and I must confess to a lot of eye rolling.

So how about the view from the bottom?

99% of financial support for my life comes from the job I have been working for more than a decade. I don’t make a lot of money.

I support my disabled partner. I live in Seattle. I’m pretty poor. Not dire straits.

Back in the day the only times I made money writing was about 25-100$ writing smut. The most I got paid was by a couple of very specific fetishists who liked how I wrote their fetishes.

I have made very little money writing fiction. I got paid for non smut fiction from, uh, shit it was yonks ago. But I opted for payment in the form of getting an anthology. I got paid for being in Thuglit.

I write for XOJane for 50$ a pop, which is apparently pathetic according to a few regular commenters.

So all in I’ve maybe made a thousand dollars (I’m over estimating a bit) in ten years. Also counting content mill work, ad copy, adult blog/toy patter etc.

Now the eye rolling, I kind of don’t give a shit where other writers get their money unless we’re talking waht publications pay and that sort of thing.

A lot of these articles seem to miss the privilege of having someone be able to financially support you while you struggle. If you struggle. Or the privilege of being hot on the internets so name recognition gets you a bit ahead.

A lot of these articles don’t talk about writers like me who don’t need to hear about how blessed someone is that their spouse/family/whomever makes enough money to support them so they can write full time and work up to making money.

I feel like folks like me need to know how to care for ourselves when we work 12 hours a day at a day job.

Managing stress when bills are late, kids need medication etc etc.

I find a lot of advice about writing that assumes that it’s a good choice to decrease hours at a dayjob, or that you have a safety net, that you won’t wind up homeless if you decide to work a dayjob less.

Now how do I fund this shitshow?

Currently my webhosting fees and formerly my Duotrope and AWP memberships are out of the household budget. Usually the months I pay for that stuff I don’t have an entertainment budget.

That being what it is, I actually haven’t reupped either my membership to Duotrope or to AWP. I can’t afford to go to AWP this year so it’s an expense I can skip.

Funding my writing means I figure out when I can lose sleep, I don’t subscribe to that many literary magazines, I have to decide if I’m going to try to work on fiction that I will probably not get paid for is better for me right now than trying to get paid for some non fiction.

Do I push myself to freelance more even though I know that I’m just not that great at it?

I don’t buy a lot of books when they are new even if I am in them. Shit I STILL don’t have a print copy of any of the things I’ve been in except for Thuglit.

I don’t do writing retreats.

I don’t do seminars.

I go to work. I write catch as catch can.

If I’m able to healthwise I write between 2-4 AM.

Otherwise my writing is unsponsored.

Or I should say my writing is brought to you by insomnia, sweat and poverty.

This is why I have the etsy shop. 

This is what it means when I post on whatever social media at 4 AM, that I am on that grind.

So yay if you’ve got it like that. However I won’t be reading any more articles about it because it has nothing to do with my life and any advice that goes along with it assumes a lot of privilege I don’t have.

So there’s the view from the bottom of the heirarchy.

I can also say that after all these years I’m very proud and very astonished that I still do this. Through near homelessness, financial crisis, stress on a level that caused me to brown out in a hospital room waiting for my partner to get out of emergency surgery and me not being sure we’d have a home to go back to-so you know real shit.

All that and other shit and I’m still doing it.

And sometimes, my work reaches out and touches somebody. Somebody has wept, somebody has laughed, somebody has had to go masturbate, somebody has had an AHA moment and that while it doesn’t make it all better it ain’t bad y’all.

It ain’t bad.


Suttree by Cormac McCarthy A review.

 

A new favorite book.

A new favorite book.

I just finished this book and wow.

Okay first thing is I’m already pretty into McCarthy’s work. Blood Meridian is one of my favorite book. We know I like it dark and grim and  he does it.

I think Suttree might now be my favorite McCarthy book. Read the synopsis here. 

The thing about this book that I love is how well McCarthy captures the casual racism of 1950’s Knoxville and also captures that singular usage of racial slurs that are not backed by implicit hate. They are there, a lot but not overdone and not as some authors make the mistake of doing always used in a very hateful context.

The Black folks in this book behaved appropriately. In their own neighborhood and establishments while they were a bit deferential, they weren’t shuck and jive negroes that populate other books.

There is something very specific about that time period and how Black and white people who are within the same socioeconomic (or close) class interact that was captured so well. It wasn’t the bucolic oh look they could ALL get along, but it wasn’t abject fear and horror.

I LOVE the language and usage in this book. McCarthy is a master with language and this book is no exception. The finesse of using the vernacular of the time, of the Black folks of the time, of the poor uneducated southerners and then every now and then slipping in this beautifully used 7$ vocabulary gave me chills. I am an absolute fool for the ability to manipulate language that way and this book, god damn it.

Even the language around how Suttree interacts with a black queer man up through the end of the book is palpably both loving and a little grossed out.

The whole book has that magic in it, the rhythm of the plot is meandering and at moments turns very sharp but never in a way that takes the reader out of the story. Shit happens and like most of McCarthy’s work there is a lot of darkness in this book and the darkness makes the beautiful moments glitter.

Often when I read books during this time period a few things happen. Often they are all White utopia’s where your average White dude spent a lot of time not saying nigger or worrying about race relations, the conflicts of the time are ignored, or it is Black folks pain porn in one form or another. Or it is LOOK THEY WERE FRIENDS AND LIVED PEACEFULLY TOGETHER IN THE SUPER DEEP SOUTH AND POWER POLITICS DIDN’T PLAY INTO IT AT ALL…*ahem the help*.

I am not old enough to have lived at the time but, I was very blessed to have had access to Black people who did. Some I was related to some not.

There is a lot of nuance in race relations during that time especially in the deep South. Beyond that there are shades of racism and realities that to write that time period successfully while including interaction between White and Black people, it’s just difficult.

This book will be difficult reading for some. The racism, the poverty, the grim winter and general darkness. For those who aren’t deterred, if you’re going to read McCarthy read this one.

It meanders beautifully. Some have said it is overlong but I don’t agree. The language is so beautifully done, it could have gone on more and I would have been happy. The POV shifts are done masterfully and smoothly.

This book reminds me of the blues, roots, bluegrass etc music I like. Some of it is so damn sad and terrible you want to lay down and cry. But it’s done so beautifully you want the pain.

So to wrap up.

Read this fuckin book.

That’s all.

I’ll be back with some craft notes maybe tomorrow and next week I’ll be back in Yeah Write with more flash.

I also want to mention that my dear friend Dena Rash Guzman talked about some recent lit world nonsense and said some nice stuff about my work. Get it at Luna Luna.

I feel like I might talk about subversion again. And the general lack of it in the lit world right now. I also probably want to talk about my poetry. I have some feels and whatnot.

AND (shit I have a lot to do, I’ve been sick for weeks and am way off my game) I really want to discuss some important feeling decisions I’ve made of late in regard to my writing.

So yeah LOTS to talk about.

Right now I’m gonna go try to write my first op-ed type thing and chug some mighty fine ass coffee.


Yeah Write # 197 entry- Bottom Bitch

 

Bottom Bitch

By Shannon
Barber

Someplace in the dark that girl is crying. I understand, of course. The dark is thick, hot and holds evil in it.

“Please don’t cry.”

My voice is softer than it usually is. In the dark I can be gentle and sweet.

“I’m sorry Mama. I’m sorry.”

In the day I might snap and make her cry harder. In the dark I can reach across the space between us and pull her close. Her skin smells like the kind of terror only a junkie going cold turkey knows. She curls into me, her soft body quivering from down deep, close to the bone.

“It hurts Mama. It hurts so bad.”

While I rock her, her sobs slow down. I know she’s past the shitting and puking. The pain in her guts and joints burns low, her tears are mostly insensate need. She sleeps with her sweating face between my breasts.

When Daddy brought her in she was a mess. Lips peeling, wall eyed and reeking to high heaven. I got her in the tub and listened to her wail and squeal like a wet cat. Junkies and water- man I’d rather wrestle a gator.

All cleaned up, she’s pretty if too skinny. Few months off of the junk and those pretty little tits will fill and stand right back up, get her hair fixed up and a good manicure and I know she’ll work out just fine. Daddy always said I’ve got an eye.

I know that when the dawn comes creeping her shaking hand will slip between my thighs. Her need will eventually take whatever it can find. When she bathes her face in my come for a few hours she’ll know a little peace.

In a few days Daddy will come home with new shoes and clothes. He’ll take us out for dinner, show her how proud he is that she kicked like a big girl. We’ll go home and he’ll test her out before he puts her to work.

Her first thousand dollar night Daddy will come in and kiss me sweetly.

“You did good baby. You did good.”

##

 Yeah.

Write.


Well 2015 has begun

So officially I’m hard at work on Self Care Like A Boss.

I forgot to pay my Duotrope dues. I low key am not pressed about it honestly. If I am to get my money’s worth I need to finish a pile of work so I am not going to pay/submit until then.

That said I already have one rejection. Nobody but me likes my tiny tiny flash stories. That one is a wee thing that has gotten itself five rejections so far? I’m not super worried about that either. At least every 8-10 months nobody publishes a word I write. Then there’s a flurry (often the same stories that I’ve been flinging into the universe) and then nothin.

So is the life of the short fiction writer type.

I have been sick as a dog and got some real bad news last week. I’ve been alternately depressed, pissed off and in general out of sorts.

And naturally writing it out.

So what else am I working on?

Lots of many fictions:

  • Tiny flash story about prostitutes.
  • More poetry about women.
  • Short story about a dry addict at an important crossroads.
  • Some horror about exorcism,
  • Some lesbian blood/knife related kinky smut.

There are other bits and bobs as well.

Right now I’m trying to not totally burrito myself in sorry and awfulness.

The only way I know to get through bad shit is write and run through it.

So what am I reading right now?

A few things.

Self-Loathing & Other Forms of Cynicism: Volume One by Laramore Black. I have read a bit of Laramore’s writing and enjoy it a lot. This collection is dark and gritty but there are little moments of real prettiness that just delight me. I’ll review when I’m done.

Also- no wait how about some pictures? Some stuff from the .50 cent book cart, gifts, and my wee haul from the Thriftbooks sale.

Books from the 50 cent cart.

Books from the 50 cent cart.

 

From the Cart.

From the Cart.

This is from myf avorite piece in Will Work For Drugs by Lydia Lunch. About Lifelong insomnia.

This is from myf avorite piece in Will Work For Drugs by Lydia Lunch. About Lifelong insomnia.

Lucky for my back they are not ALL in my bag right now. I have a terrible habit of doing that. Carrying like 3-5 paperbacks of varying sorts, notebook, pens, tea, emergency tampons and other writer survival things.

I also just read this piece over at Shotgun Honey and it is lovely. Go read it.

If you use Spotify this is my writing playlist. I love spotify so hard. It’s almost as good as having my own personal collection to hand.

I think that’s all for right now. I have a banging ass headache, my nose is running and I’m supposed to be doing dayjob shit.

I’ll be back tomorrow for Yeah Write. 

OH shit I almost forgot I also have a newish poem up at Ink Node. Another in the Queen series.

So that’s all for reals.

Later y’all.


Holy damn a new year.

I’m running on fumes right now. If you could see my gauge for things like REM sleep and whatnot it’s real low.

My insomnia not withstanding it is 20 mother fucking 15. Weird.

SO come and join Milcah and I at the Self Care Like a Boss Blog. 

Go open that in a new tab and I’ll be here.

I had to write an intro post and it was way harder to do than I had anticipated. While I have blogged for years and occasionally written the essay about myself they have all been around issues.

I tried to come at it from a memorist type perspective. Why the fuck didn’t anybody tell me how hard that is?

I had these ideas about how awesome and wonderful I’d be. I thought I knew what I wanted to say and then….yeah no shit was hard.

It wasn’t even that long and it felt gut wrenching. It was all the shit I’m scared of and feeling and I did it.

I had this moment while I was working on it (whilst in the throes of a migraine and 10/10 would not recommend that as a method of work) I had this little list in another window. Shit that I can’t write about yet because I don’t know how. Or I’m just too scared.

I knew I was poking the right stuff when I felt vomity while I was working and then wanted to crap my pants after Milcah published it.

After that I’ve decided that I will dip my toes in memoir but I’m not ready to jump all the way in.

Of course that means I’m going to try it.

I may or may not publish the memoir flavored stuff but my little roach brain who is also a sadist says do it.

I suppose that is 90% of my writing mission this year. Write that shit.

What else?

I don’t even know y’all. I would like to finish some new fiction. I have some stuff to shiny up and launch into the space.

What are you doin?

How was your new year and stuff?

Is your body ready?


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