Writer. Idiot. Et cetera.
In keeping with their name, Per Contra has released the story “Gold & Rust”—an extended meditation on suicide and infinite regressions—to coincide with the ubiquitous festivities of the holiday season.
The clouds thinly keep the sun wound up in a gauze, and there’s a constant whisper, some secret: the sound of all those stalks of grass touching and slipping together as Cuth weaves in among them. He tries to break it down, to hear not ten thousand blades but only one, just one narrow finger of grass, the individual that makes up the whole. But he cannot. He can’t identify the one from the many.
More than a few psychological studies have been dedicated to documenting the problematic phenomena inherent in free-will: the more options one has, the unhappier one becomes. It can be paralyzing, having to select the one from the many. Life is much easier when your options are reduced. Take, for example, Denis Johnson’s Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, wherein the lead character only finds a sense of peace when he’s sent to prison, where all choice has at last been mercifully repealed. Or, on the more pedestrian end of things, the simple agony of deciding what to order on your pizza.
Of course, having zero options is just as defeating as having too many, and there is plenty of historical evidence to prove that point as well. But a couple options? Yeah, a couple options is best. Which is why Pilot Editions has now released a second edition of my novel To Sleep as Animals. This new version—enigmatically known as the “Medallion Edition”—is slim enough to fit in your back pocket, features new black-on-black cover art by Will Thorneater, and is a few dollars cheaper than the original ultra-austere edition, which—of course—is also still available.
Meanwhile, the mini-collection Hot White Sun is now available exclusively at Space Gallery (538 Congress Street, Portland, Maine) as part of their Goods and Services exhibition. This hand-bound booklet, limited to twenty-five numbered copies, continues the story of Coleman that began in Brand New Moon. Sad and gritty and steeped in fortified wine, Hot White Sun will be available through the end of the Goods and Services show (closing January 31st, 2015), then will be gone forever.
“Arena,” featured in Issue 7 of the Australian journal Tincture this past September, has been re-posted in its entirety on the publisher’s blog . Composed as part of a fellowship with the I-Park Foundation, “Arena” documents the first moments of meeting between two men in jail.
But one day he didn’t feel like doing that anymore. What he wanted to do instead was drink brandy. It was a means to lie on a rock by the beach for days without feeling too guilty. He’d close his eyes with the bottle pressed to his lips and think “this is the life”. Then he’d fall asleep in the sun. Now and then, he wishes he could have made it last. But something must have happened because shortly after making the choice to drink instead of work, he found himself being led to a cell. He remembers: it felt right when they locked the door. He was grateful.
The issue of Tincture in which this story originally appeared can be purchased and downloaded directly from their online store,
My personal essay, “Windows Open in the Southern Cross Hotel,” on the late songwriter Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., The Amalgamated Sons of Rest) is now available in Volume IX of Radio Silence, a San Fransisco-based journal dedicated to the crossroads of literature and rock & roll.
The story begins:
All indications were of a sinner testifying—not necessarily repenting but certainly under oath—before some silent power above. One that could save or damn him with the same disinterested stroke. Beyond the spotlight’s edge, the theater disappeared. There was no opening act and the room was mostly empty as Jason Molina played alone in a bright wash of white light.
The accompanying art is by Dan MacAdam, who not only designed many tour posters for Molina but in fact played on his seminal Magnolia Electric Co. record. Honor compounded upon honor.
Joel sidled up to the bar and flashed his horrible teeth at the biker chick working the taps. I can remember when she used to be cute. I bet if you cut her leathery skin open now, all that’d pour out is cigarette butts and crumpled IOUs dusted in colorless ash. Joel ordered us each a shot and a beer, and somehow I knew right then that I was going to get stuck with the bill. Sometimes life doesn’t care what you want. In fact, it never does. The shots came and we touched glasses, and just as the cheap well vodka touched my lips, Joel toasted to the good old days, and all at once I felt like throwing up.
Written last summer at the Hewnoaks Artists Colony and told in the now-adult voice of Coleman (the teenage narrator of Brand New Moon), “Poptimistic” can now be read in its entirety, for free, through New Haven’s own Stoneslide Corrective, whose editors describe it as “a story of sin and suffering in a life in which redemption may or may not be possible.”
“Poptimistic” is part of an ongoing series of stories, mostly written as missives to an unnamed ex-wife, charting Coleman’s life from the rural scrape of his destitute upbringing to an adulthood punctuated by drug-use, transience, pan-continental hitchhiking, and an eventual attempt to make himself clean.
Ritualized basketball mishaps, complicated sex-acts, and improvised means of getting high define the lives of the young men in Douglas W. Milliken’s Brand New Moon. Set in the remote farmlands of northern Maine and told through the boisterously comic voice of Coleman, these three stories—much in the spirit of Jerry Moriarty’s Jack Survives—document the hooligans’ headlong drift through tragedy without a self-preserving flinch or wince, gleefully oblivious and giddy in the face of personal loss, maybe only fleetingly suspecting how deep their abounding trouble might run.
Available September, 2014 from Pilot Editions / PS Hudson.
And from now until October 31st, every online purchase of To Sleep as Animals comes with a free copy of Brand New Moon.
Praise for TO SLEEP AS ANIMALS
"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 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.