ONE OF THESE DAYS, the new record by long-inactive art-sound project Old Fat God, is now live and available for streaming, free download, as well as a bundle-purchase with its companion pieces, the story collection CREAM RIVER and the album WHISKEY DICK.
In the introduction to the CREAM RIVER/WHISKEY DICK split, there is a joke about how the sequencing of the book’s stories and the album’s songs might be manipulated in such a way as to achieve a WIZARD OF OZ/DARK SIDE OF THE MOON sort of syncopation. To a degree, ONE OF THESE DAYS takes the joke seriously.
Originally premiering as part of a food-based performance installation curated by Genevieve Johnson at the 2015 Sacred + Profane in Portland, Maine, ONE OF THESE DAYS is an expressionistic reinterpretation of Blind Pelican’s WHISKEY DICK. All verbal elements and instrumentation have been distorted beyond all definitive recognition, reduced to their most rarefied ideals. This is how the songs should feel when you cannot hear the songs.
ONE OF THESE DAYS can be experienced as a stand-alone album. It can also be played in tandem with Blind Pelican’s WHISKEY DICK to achieve an experience unique and separate from either constituent part. It makes a steadfast companion to CREAM RIVER as well.
During my last stint at the Hewnoaks Artists Colony, I set for myself the modest challenge of writing a science fiction story. The resultant piece, called “Tootsie-Pop,” is a mythopoeic fiasco of amateur space exploration and foul-mouthed kids, wherein the word “dad” is synonymous with “asshole” and every mom is in love with Uncle Dick. And as of today, you can read this ridiculous misadventure in the debut issue of Orthogonal.
It was the first day of summer vacation and a million people were down by the lake. It was hot and beautiful and such a relief to be away from home and all the damn talk about space stations and dads. The lake water was cold and rusty and made me feel dopey like when the twins and I huffed all that glue out of a sweat sock but cleaner, too, like it was healthy, but Mom wouldn’t come in with me. She was sniffing around by the lifeguard tower, hoping for an uncle of her own, I guess. As I swam among the other people with their wet hair all crazy and spit hanging off their chins, I spotted Ginny along the shoreline in a brown two-piece bathing suit. She had a hula-hoop that she was working quite aggressively with her little round hips, the sight of which for whatever reason made me really mad. She was sucking on a Tootsie-Pop. She was smiling around the stick. Before Mom and I left, I showed Ginny my penis, but she just laughed.
For less than the cost a single beer from anywhere but the divey-est dives, this ebook also features four other great alternative notions of what the sci-fi genre can be. Lovely to savor and just as stupefying. You won’t even have to leave a tip.
The first email I read this morning was a surprise bit of fan mail. It came from the editor of an online magazine, saying she had read my new piece of flash fiction in the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and really enjoyed it, so much so that she wondered if I’d consider submitting something written in the same vein to her publication. This was a fine thing to wake up to, not only because it feels good to be complimented and solicited in a single breath (at least for me, seeing as how I’m not a woman being whistled at on the street), but also because I hadn’t known the piece had yet gone live. The story is called “Scenery v. Scene,” and was written during one of my fellowships with the Hewnoaks Artist Colony in Lovell, Maine. It was inspired, in part, by a poem by W. S. Merwin.
[…] a green and striking snake bites her thumb, pearly fangs buried to its purple gums and poison welling blackly to mix with her blood. She begs the boyfriend to get her a knife, to cut free its venomous mouth. But what the boyfriend brings her is a butter knife […]
And, to develop on this theme of well-received compliments, Emily Young of The Chart recently wrote this extended review of my new collection Cream River and one of the book’s corresponding multimedia performances, Don’t Pump Gas in the Presence of My Corpse. It’s a great review, possibly most of all because it is critical in a nuanced, inquisitive, non-binary way. Check out “On Ecstatic Milk Enjoyment, Discomfort, and Not Pumping Gas in the Presence of Douglas W. Milliken’s Corpse” in the latest issue of The Chart.
“There are only two kinds of work,” a co-worker at the apple orchard likes to say. “Too much and not enough.” This past month has done nothing but prove my buddy’s point. Two days after the release of my new collection of stories, Cream River, an essay discussing the surprisingly difficult genesis of that book was featured in Glimmer Train’s monthly bulletin. That essay, “A Weapon or a Crutch” caused for itself a bit of a stir: it was amazing to receive so many supportive emails from strangers who had experienced similar battles with depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. This particular whirlwind of interest culminated in a shout out in Jane Friedman’s blog, both a huge honor and an honest surprise. My worry all along had been that such frank discussion of my long-standing mental health issues would come off as alienating and sound like little more than an overly-confessional pity-party. I’m happy, once again, to have been wrong.
Meanwhile, the Word Portland monthly reading series released a new anthology featuring the work of over a dozen of its past contributors. The book, Be Wilder, is a truly beautiful collection of stories, poems, essays, and drama. I’m pleased and flattered that my short fiction “The Happiest Place on Earth”—a story of family, house fires, and STDs—is a part of such a gorgeous anthology.
And now, with the multimedia freak-out Do Not Pump Gas in the Presence of My Corpse—a live NPilar event in celebration of Cream River—approaching creepily on the horizon, the online journal Switchback (who previously published my story “Eyetooth”) has just today released my story “Toledo” in their broody 22nd Issue. Which means there are now two books you can buy and two stories you can read for free, both fiction and non-fiction, not to mention a new record and one or two disconcerting new video pieces, all coming out in less than a month. I’m hitting all my bases. All my bases are hitting me back.
This is all way too much. But it more than makes up for this past summer’s long dry spell. I’ll be grateful while it lasts. I’ll be humble when the wave crashes and recedes.
This past Friday, after an accelerated and oddly painless process, the new pocket-sized edition of stories Cream River (and it’s conjoined musical twin, Blind Pelican’s Whiskey Dick) valiantly burst forth into the world. The consequent celebration—in the industrial cavern where Downeaster Editions is headquartered—was nothing short of amazing. The packed house was treated to stories of failed redemption, songs of willful self-sabotage, a deluge of Genesee Cream Ale, and handmade fauxreo cookies loaded with a whiskey cream filling. There was also some near-nudity. And books. Brand new, delicious little books.
Over the next several months, there will be more events to celebrate the publication of this creepy weirdo. Some will be straight-ahead readings. Others will be meticulously planned exercises in crowd manipulation. At the moment, all will be in the northeastern United States. If you are not so specifically localized, or just can’t wait to get your copy of the book and record, you can order them together now through the Publication Studio online store. The book is available as a $10 perfect-bound paperback or as a $5 ebook. The record comes as a digital download with the purchase of either book format. The more savvy independent bookstore might also have a few copies in stock.
You can read an excerpt through Goodreads, listen to a sample song, or watch this ridiculous book trailer. You can also act on faith. And of course, all good words—whether shared in an online forum, bullhorned in public, or whispered in the ear of the one you love most—will be greatly appreciated.
This ranks among the harder publication credits to cite. In January of 2015, I began working with the jeweler/metal-smith Cat Bates on a cross-disciplinary project. The focal point of the piece was a cast wrist-cuff fashioned after the simple, pragmatic design of an oarlock, a particularly appealing shape that resonated with certain experiences from Cat’s childhood summers on the island of Monhegan, off the coast of Maine. After several months of hashing out ideas—and, more often than not, finding immediate, organic consensus on even the more outlandish aspects of the project—we arrived at this final piece: a brass bracelet wrapped in a muslin bandanna screen-printed with a short piece of fiction based (very loosely based) on Cat’s childhood experience. The stitching on the bandanna was done by Lillian Harris. The silk-screening was performed by Jenna Crowder (with whom I’ve collaborated a time or two before). This is likely the most elegantly beautiful artistic endeavor of which I have ever been a part. If you like hand-forged jewelry and/or wearing literature knotted around your shoulders, this might very well be the thing for you.
Eight stories about getting everydamnthing wrong. Proudly wearing your self-infliction for anyone to see. Defaulting to the lazy way out of even the easiest situation. Staring your last chance straight in the eyes and blowing it nevertheless. Taking to the vacant, wide-open road and still skidding headlong into the ditch.
From the Foreword, written by singer-songwriter Ben Trickey:
“Every aspect of living life is traumatic. Sure, there are the obvious things we consider traumatic, like the haunting memories of a bad-touch uncle or the souvenir tinnitus from a roadside IED. These are the big moments in which you think of yourself as two different people: the you before the thing and the you after the thing. Moments you can clearly point to and say, “That is what changed me to who I am today.” […] But what about the smaller details? Life’s little traumas. Every minor detail in living life can be traced to the enormity of existence and the absurdity of being aware of it. […] At the end of this long line of cumulative growth and destruction, we are the meat that knows it is meat and falls in love. […] I believe Doug Milliken has a firm grasp of life’s little traumas. He takes his chunk of loving meat and hangs it from a butcher’s hook on display for the world to read.”
CREAM RIVER is the literary twin to the four-song EP by Blind Pelican, WHISKEY DICK. Each purchase of this pocket-sized edition of stories comes with a digital download of the album. Like the two halves of a black and white cookie, the book and record are a unified piece of work, a single vision interpreted through two distinct media by two confused personae. The only way to get one is to buy the other. You can order them together through Publication Studio / Downeaster Editions come October 30th, 2015.
Praise for CREAM RIVER
"I believe Doug Milliken has a firm grasp of life’s little traumas. He takes his chunk of loving meat and hangs it from a butcher’s hook on display for the world to read. "
~Ben Trickey, singer/songwriter
"Cream River [...] is still on my mind, as if its characters were hanging around in the dark shadows of my consciousness. [...] I was blown away by "Color Wheel." I also loved how the stories had a series of sometimes evident and sometimes subterranean connections that became especially intriguing as the cycle approached its end. I highly recommend reading Cream River."
~Jonathan Weisberg, The Stoneslide Corrective
"I loved every story, every word."
~Erin Sprinkle, singer/songwriter
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
"Seriously the funniest thing I have ever read. I was laughing so much that [my wife] yelled at me. Probably because she was sleeping. And it was 2 AM."
~Derek Kimball, Last House Productions
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.