I’ve been holding onto this one for a while. Waiting for the moment when something ridiculous was necessary. Hot on the heels of the Brand New Moon trailer, I can’t think of a better time.
“Interrobang” originally appeared in the Australian journal Bide this past March. While print copies of the issue have sold out, the digital edition is still infinitely available. All of the authors are great, and each story is like a slap in the face, quick and bracing.
Sometimes, in preface, it’s better to say less than more. Brand New Moon is a slim collection of stories about teenaged boys and boredom and basketball. It is also a book about sexual predation. There are moments of absolutely ridiculous comedy, and there are moments that reveal the depths of power some adults will seek over children. This video book trailer touches on some of these themes.
And if it doesn’t make your skin crawl, well, you might want to ask yourself why.
While “like” or “enjoy” might not be the most apropos of terms: if you enjoy the video, feel free to share with your friends and colleagues (though maybe not at work?), and if you really like it, consider buying a copy of Brand New Moon directly from the faithful arbiters at Pilot Editions. Thanks!
It’s possible that I’m aiming to establish a pattern, following a playful video with something surreal before returning again to the deeply unnerving. It’s also possible that a story written in a foreign country, its language perpetually beyond my grasp of comprehension, can only be honestly presented in the guise of a hyperreal dream. Either way, “Firecracker”—the fifth installment in this summer’s series of narrative videos and originally published by Matter Press—is, in this iteration, nothing if not a half-remembered dream from a mid-summer catnap, ghosting along the wooded edge of your memory as you sink deeper into the embrace of your couch, the sound of someone moving softly in the kitchen, sunlight through the window trickling like rain over your most tender near-waking eyes.
If you were to read the stories I was writing 12 years ago, they would invariably have been essays about the place where I grew up, the austere landscape that shaped me and the virtual strangers with whom I lived. It was through these early essays that I learned some of the most important lessons in storytelling, not the least of which being (as posited by Jen Andrews, my writing instructor at the Salt Institute) that even the most unlikeable characters must be treated with compassion and grace. There was also, of course, an obvious element of therapy to writing about home. And since people—readers and editors both—seemed to like the stories, I was able to earn my first real dose of confidence as a writer.
Circumstance, however, always demands change. For a host of reasons, some of them logistical and some of them desperately necessary, I made the intentional choice in 2007 to set my pursuits as an essayist aside and focus instead on writing fiction. Right or wrong, it’s a decision I’ve stuck by since. Almost a decade later, I find I can barely write non-fiction at all (and if you don’t believe me, read this little bit of “advice” I put together for Glimmer Train last year). What once came as second-nature is now nearly impossible.
Which makes this week’s exercise in multimedia storytelling such an anomaly. Originally published in Portland Monthly, “Skidder & Draw” is not only a recent essay about home, it is a story about my stepfather, a man I’ve never been inclined to speak much about, kindly or otherwise. This story, in fact, is in essence the highlight of our relationship. You can infer from that what you please.
As always, thank you for watching/reading/listening, and of course, feel free to share this with anyone you suspect might enjoy.
Given that all the multimedia performances from last year’s book tour featured parallel projections of dreamy Super 8 home movies versus devastating nuclear blasts, it seems only fitting that the video book trailers for To Sleep as Animals likewise reflect this inherent duality between love and destruction. It’s a principle explored throughout the novel, perhaps most overtly by the protagonist (or anyway, the anti-protagonist) near the novel’s end:
“…what you want most is what you can never have: you are mandated, it’s your job not to have it. You leave what you love because you love it. Pour mercury in the water. Choke your girlfriend with a peach pit or build her out of glass so you can break her. Take the next flight out and get gone.”
The first trailer was the getting gone. This one’s the love that gets left behind.
If you enjoy the video(s), feel free to succumb to an evangelical urge and share with other like-minded weirdos. And as always, you can purchase To Sleep as Animals—in two distinct print formats as well as an electronic edition—directly from Publication Studio Hudson / Pilot Editions.
I guess the usual way to go about it would be to produce a video book trailer before the book comes out, and honestly, that had been the plan. But the months leading up to last year’s publication of To Sleep as Animals were hectic and weird. As were the months that followed. Of course, my life this morning feels hectic and weird and all I’ve succeeded in doing so far is to boil water for tea and steep in the usual unproductive self-doubt. So clearly, I’m hunting for excuses. The truth is, I do not have a good reason for my lack of a timely book trailer. But it is also true that I do, at long last, have a video trailer for To Sleep as Animals.
One facet of last year’s book launch event for To Sleep as Animals (in addition to the actors and soundscaping and surprise a cappella rendition of “The Ballad of Gary Gilmore”) was a pair of dueling video projectors set back-to-back at the center of the room. On one wall played a 1950s home movie of the Nevada desert and surrounding mountains. On the opposite wall ran a compilation of nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. government in that very same desert. The trailer below—built around audio from a collaborative radio performance with Scott Sell—is a redux of that latter projection. I do not think the resulting trailer is inappropriately spooky.
If you enjoy what you see and hear, you can read excerpts from the novel here and here, or purchase a copy—in two distinct print formats as well as an electronic edition—directly from Publication Studio Hudson / Pilot Editions.
I am determined to not let this summer kick me in the ass. To this end, I’m going to release a series of audio/video pieces, one each week, most likely on Mondays. I guess I’ll do this until I’m tired of it. Some of the videos will be impressionistic collages like the one featured below. Others will be exercises in patience. Most will be about two minutes long. All will be stories (or anyway, parts of stories). With any luck, they will not completely suck. But that’s really not for me to decide.
This first week’s story, “They Vampire Nights,” originally appeared in issue 96 of Bound Off Fiction, a great literary podcast that, unfortunately, ceased publication this past January. All of the footage is public domain film gleaned from the Prelinger Archives. I’m not sure who is playing the clarinet.
Praise for TO SLEEP AS ANIMALS
"[...] it is impossible not to be the weird kid in Milliken's Reno. To Sleep as Animals is a mystery about characters succumbing to their spaces, how such a rugged landscape sustains so many strange and dangerous lives."
"A disturbance of a very specific flavor...Milliken's writing is urgent yet finely considered--a literate pleasure."
~Carl Skoggard, author of Walter Benjamin's Berlin Childhood circa 1900.
"A distinctive and often vertiginously frightening psychological landscape... bracingly disturbing."
~Megan Grumbling, author of Persephone in the Late Anthropocene.
Praise for BRAND NEW MOON
"[T]hese stories...glow with some sort of holy light, as if every moment were magic, like footage of your family picnic on super 8."
~The Portland Phoenix
Praise for WHITE HORSES
“Douglas W. Milliken takes his time unveiling the savoring of the moment in a narrative of extremely gracious intimacy. The dignified personal. Expert surreal grounded prose. Pragmatic poetics that serve the whole. This man is a master of simile. And it never gets old because the associations are always complex and unexpected. Worked accuracy but seamlessly so. Wow throughout the heartbreaking sensuality. Its core a felled forest of need. The title story, ‘White Horses,’ cannot be improved, which is another way of saying it is perfect.”
~Melody Sumner Carnahan, co-founder of Burning Books.