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.
Early in September, I had the honor of moderating a conversation between Richard Iammarino and his daughter, Alexis Iammarino, two phenomenal artists who not only consistently blow me away with the range and quality and depth of their work, but who I also consider myself lucky enough to call friends. Our conversation—about spontaneity, mastery, and decapitation as art-form—appears in the October issue of The Chart, Maine’s newest journal on art and art-criticism.
At one point in our discussion, Alexis describes both herself and her father’s creative practice:
It’s being an artist compulsively. You’re not saying, “Well, today, I think I’d like to do this.” […] It’s not some sort of choice that you make. At a certain point, you’re either a very disciplined individual, or you’re totally compulsive.
You can read the newest issue of The Chart—featuring interviews, studio-visits, and analysis of recent exhibitions in Maine—for free at this link.
This past week, the fine folks at the Stoneslide Corrective—who, over the years, have published three of my stories, including “Poptimistic” and 2/3rds of my chapbook Brand New Moon—awarded me first place in their annual short story contest for “Hyacinth & Waxwing,” a piece about death, quantum physics, and the finer points of having a bowel movement in private. According to the editors:
“Hyacinth & Waxwing” […] is a story that speaks of the ordinary in a hushed voice and yet touches a range of penetrating emotions, from grief to wonder. While as focused as a still life painted by an old master, “Hyacinth & Waxwing” looks through the everyday to the eternal.
The story will appear in a future installment of the Stoneslide Corrective, likely next spring.
As the summer declines through August’s swampy downswing, things have gotten hectic. I won’t bother listing the minutia, as most of this furious whirlwind of activity is of no general interest, but amid these past weeks of rampant change, two happenings of note have passed.
Firstly, my story “Blue of the World”—which last May took first-place in Glimmer Train’s “Family Matters” contest—has at long last been published in the new autumn issue of that very same journal. This beautiful edition (their 94th issue) also features work by the masterful Stephen Dixon, as well as a picture of me at five-days old. So there are multiple incentives to checking out this issue, which can be ordered here.
Secondly, the Chart—Maine’s newest online journal for art and art criticism—featured in its inaugural issue a brief rundown of The Royal Open, “a contemporary mash-up of salons, drifts, and Sunday promenades” that I co-curated with the performance artist Genevieve Johnson. To learn a little more about The Royal Open and see documentation, please read this article by Chart co-founder Jenna Crowder.
I’ll keep this one brief. It’s been a fun season of video-making. This final piece, a narrative video for my story “Pillars” (originally published in Slice then later reprinted by Matter Press), is a subtle exercise in patience. It feels like a fitting end to a process. Thank you for watching, and of course, if you’re moved to, please share.
It’s been a fun season of putting together these short narrative videos, revisiting old stories and allowing myself the opportunity to see and experience them again in new light. This week’s video iteration of the story “How To“—which originally appeared in Issue 3 of Nat. Brut—will very likely be the penultimate installment in this series. The text is a compliment to the story “Florida,” which originally appeared in the Southern Indiana Review, a story for which, at the journal’s request, I also created a video. With any luck, the visual narratives will compliment one another in ways similar to the original texts.
As always, please watch, try to enjoy, and maybe share with your friends. Or your enemies. Or your brother, if only to explain to him why he can’t get inside his car anymore.
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.
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.