Stephen Pierson, PUBLISHER Sean Finney, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Mia Lipman, MANAGING EDITOR Sai Sriskandarajah, ART DIRECTOR Daniel DiStefano, EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
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Cover: Matthew Porter, “Bay View” (2006)
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following publications: Chris Stroffolino, “Between Acts,” first appeared in his book LIGHT AS A FETTER (Situations Press, 1997) Gina Gionfriddo, “Savage, Buried Things,” first appeared on www.motherlodge.com (April 2006) Adrian Piper, “Political Self-Portrait #2 (race)” © Adrian Piper Research Archive, Collection Richard Sandor, Chicago © 2007 Canteen Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Printed in the USA by Finlay Printing, LLC Distributed in the USA by Disticor
canteen ISSUE TWO
TABLE OF CONTENTS
4 JOYCE MAYNARD
WELCOME A STORYTELLING LIFE ESSAY
SAVAGE, BURIED THINGS STORY
THREE STORIES STORIES
BETWEEN ACTS POEM
ROBIN EKISS AND MARTIN EDWARDS
HAIL THE CORPORATE MUSE ESSAYS
EMMA BOVARY’S HOME FOR LOST GIRLS STORY
LUNCHES IN BRYANT PARK POEM
WOMEN WITH A PAST, MEN WITH A FUTURE PHOTOGRAPHS
A GUIDE TO SAN FRANCISCO STORY
TASTE PURGATORY ESSAY
WHILE LOOKING AT “POLITICAL SELF-PORTRAIT #2” BY ADRIAN PIPER POEM
LIFE: A DRINKING GAME STORY
SIR JOHN DENHAM petitioned King Charles I for the life of a fellow poet captured in the English Civil War. Let the rebel John Wither live, he begged, for then “I should not be accounted the worst poet in England.” This tale of bravery, humor, jealousy, and bad writing came to mind as we read Stephen King’s introduction to this year’s Best American Short Stories. King is not happy. The American short story, he writes, is “not quite dead on the page…but airless, somehow, and self-referring…show-offy rather than entertaining, self-important rather than interesting, guarded and self-conscious rather than gloriously open, and worst of all, written for editors and teachers rather than readers.” What does he want instead? Writing that “comes at me full-bore, like a big, hot meteor screaming down from the Kansas sky.” To think of King like a plastic surgeon theorizing on cardiology in the New England Journal of Medicine is tempting, but not productive. Yet clearly the short story, if not dying, is in transition. There is no longer a Saturday Evening Post bringing literary miniatures to a mass audience every week. Magazines like Atlantic Monthly have cut their short story sections to a sliver—or entirely. Just Google the phrase “death of the short story,” and marvel at over 88,000 results. What short stories do survive, King and others argue, are mere hothouse flowers of academia— written by the proverbial MFA student who laments to a professor, “I want to write about what I know, but all know is MFA workshops.” Canteen’s second issue is built on our disbelief in this death-of-the-short-story narrative. The form is thriving, even if it has gone underground from the biggest stadiums and stages. The means of dispersal have shifted from major publications to smaller journals, websites, and presses. According to newpages.com, this country has nearly 500 literary print journals, in addition to countless websites. The means of story production are certainly healthy: Note the mushrooming of MFA programs. Battalions of ink-stained youth dedicate precious years and big tuition checks to the art of fiction, instead of writing corporate press releases or banner ads. And masters of the genre still abound: Four of this year’s five PEN/Faulkner nominees write short stories. Stuart Dybek, who can condense writing like few others, received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2007, while authors as capable as George Saunders, Lydia Davis, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Deborah Eisenberg, and Ha Jin have published stories that uphold tradition and push the genre.
Stephen Pierson Publisher Sean Finney Editor-in-Chief
So Canteen thinks there’s still gold in the hills, especially when you look where others don’t. We may even have discovered a few of the big, hot meteors Mr. King wants. In this issue, Gina Gionfriddo, playwright and lead writer for NBC’s Law & Order, untangles love and lust with a hairy literary conceit. As in many animal tales, it’s the humans who are revealed. We’re also pleased to welcome first-time published author Elizabeth Gumport, who came to us lauded with something Yale calls the Veech Prize for Imaginative Writing. Pin that one to your chest, ink-slingers of America. We do agree with King that authors are increasingly writing for other writers, but we see this trend less as scribal incest and more as adaptation to bigger shifts in the creation and consumption of media. There are fewer pure readers, yet creativity plays a larger role in more people’s lives. In response, Canteen seeks essays that reveal the creative process, as well as the best new fiction and poetry. Joyce Maynard, author of nine books, including the groundbreaking bestseller Looking Back, reflects on why she gets up in the morning to face the blank screen and what kind of literary company she dares type into being. Robin Ekiss and Martin Edwards discuss the problem of making a living: Can you dream up convincing ad copy and still remain faithful to your art? Of course, Canteen thinks that sounding great is just part of the battle. For looks, issue two features photography portfolios by a master and an upstart. Stephen Shore, a pioneer of color art photography, unweaves the banality of everyday scenery by paying it extreme respect. Will Sterns is the toast of photo-sharing site Flickr and skilled at revealing his models’ dark glamour. Finally, everyone at Canteen is delighted by the volume, passion, and quality of submissions. We want to publish more of what we receive, so keep them coming. And keep writing, you impure readers.
JOYCE MAYNARD A STORYTELLING LIFE
A STORYTELLING LIFE
ECAUSE THIS IS about living one’s life as a storyteller, I’ll begin with a story. It’s about the person who taught me how to tell a story: my mother. She was a difficult woman in many ways—a difficult person to have as a mother, anyway—demanding, guilt-inspiring, largely oblivious to the concept of a child’s privacy, sometimes overinvolved to the point of inducing claustrophobia. What saved our relationship was the expansiveness of her spirit, her incorrigible sense of humor, and—this most of all—her tireless need to explore life and seek out the story of everyone she met. She was a lover of literature, but nothing any fiction writer ever created fascinated her as much as the adventures of real people. I never met anyone who could tell a story as well as she did. For instance. There was the occasion when she paid me a visit, in the little New Hampshire town where I lived at the time, with the man I was married to then, and our children. My mother and I had set out for dinner, just the two of us and my best friend. I had tried mightily to describe my mother over the years: the horrifying moment when she stormed onto the playground at school to pull off the cap of a boy who had teased me, throwing it in a deep ravine; the time she greeted my 16-year-old boyfriend with the question, “At what age did you begin to masturbate?” Still, no anecdote could convey the picture as effectively as the source. Exhibit A: my mother. We took a table in the corner. Picture one of those old colonial bed-and-breakfast settings, with waitresses dressed like Pilgrims, where the fare runs to prime rib and mashed potatoes, and a clove
of garlic has never crossed the threshold. Picture the clientele: dyed-in-the-wool New Englanders. Frugal, reserved churchgoers out for Sunday dinner with the person they refer to as their better half. Picture my mother: Wearing a big, broadbrimmed hat. A quarter-century of life in a small New Hampshire town had not made a Yankee out of her, the daughter of Russian immigrant Jews. This was a woman who quoted Chaucer in line at the grocery store; a woman who wore a Mexican lace dress, braless, to my wedding; a woman who once threw a party for a hundred people at which every guest was male. A woman who—if she were sitting in the back row of the brass section of a symphony orchestra, and suddenly started laughing—could have overwhelmed the tuba. Now, as we sat around the checkered tablecloth at Ye Olde Country Inn, drinking our three-dollar wine and sawing into our chicken, my mother began one of her stories. I can’t remember what it was about, there were so many of them—stories so rich with character and dialogue, suspense, humor, tragedy, and redemption, that if a movie were playing in the next room, you’d choose the storyteller over the silver screen. All of a sudden, partway through my mother’s telling of her story, I realized something. Except for her voice, the restaurant was dead quiet. All eyes and ears were on my mother. The next day, my friend called me, still recovering. “I was at the bank this morning,” she said. “And a man came up to me who said he’d been at the restaurant the night before. He grabbed my arm with this desperate expression. “ “Who was that woman?” the man had
GINA GIONFRIDDO SAVAGE, BURIED THINGS
SAVAGE, BURIED THINGS
EVIN CHAPEL, FAMOUS boy novelist battling writer’s block, met with my boss again during my vacation. He hasn’t published fiction in 10 years, but he can still bypass me and the magazine’s other two junior editors and pitch his wares directly to the chief. Only Damon takes exception to this breach of protocol on professional grounds. Kathleen and I aren’t ambitious enough to fret about being passed over, but these meetings rile us, too. Our boss says Kevin Chapel’s pitches are “messy,” code in our office for article pitches that double as cries for help. The three of us are failed writers. We wanted to be Kevin Chapel once; if he’s unraveling openly, we want to watch. I feel emboldened by my week away. I’ve been to a music festival in Texas. I feel sun-browned and sleep-deprived and a little bit rock ’n’ roll. So I ask him. I walk right into Spencer Willmuth’s office and ask to read Kevin Chapel’s pitch. Willmuth shakes his head like I’m alluding to a terrible accident. “Someone should kill that reviewer,” he says, “the one who called Chapel the Sherwood Anderson of his generation. It ruined him.” Before I can speak, he points a finger at me and continues,“Your generation needs a Sherwood Anderson. Chapel needs to step up to the plate and stop peddling smut.” He hits a few computer keys and emails the pitch to my desk. I read Chapel’s book, Meet the Mastersons. It’s a lovely novel, but I think it’s kind of a literary Fabergé egg: exquisite but useless. In the late ’80s, there was a short-lived sitcom called Mr. Belvedere about a British butler working for a crass American family he considered beneath him. Whenever the
kids tried Belvedere’s patience, he reminded them that he owned a Fabergé egg and could, at any given moment, sell the egg, get rich, and stop putting up with their bullshit. “My generation” never embraced this show. We never understood why Belvedere didn’t just sell his fucking egg. Books like Meet the Mastersons present the same dramaturgical problem for us that Mr. Belvedere did. Suffering silently and unnecessarily doesn’t seem noble to us, it seems stupid. We don’t think people like the Mastersons—repressed Virginians so steeped in guilt over their ancestors’ slave-owning, tobaccofarming ways that all they can do is suck down whiskey and have interior monologues about things they’ll never do—have much of anything to teach us. Clearly Kevin Chapel (Virginian, white, handsome, guilty—you do the math) wants more out of life and art than Meet the Mastersons, too. His pitches are about aberrant sexual practices. My boss is repressed and squeamish, but he also wants to sell magazines. He’s not above an article about sex in the right triple-gloved, postmodern hands. All of Chapel’s ideas are viable and compelling… right up until the part where he inserts himself into the article, and the whole enterprise turns creepy. Genital plastic surgery, sex tours of Thailand, pilgrimages to South America in search of rainforest hallucinogens—our magazine is ripe for a fearless sociological examination of any of these deviant practices, but that’s not what Chapel wants to write. He wants to experience the aberration himself—tattoo his penis, take hallucinogens, “sponsor” a Thai hooker (whatever that means)—
MATTHEW VALDINI TASTE PURGATORY
NE NIGHT WHEN we were teenagers, a friend and I took the bus to the Gentrified District in our town to attend gallery openings. We weren’t going for the art: Broke and underage, we were lured by rumors of free wine and lax policies on checking ID. Score. Shuffling around chugging Franzia at a painting exhibit, we happened to hear a man describe one of the splotched atrocities on the wall as “percussive.” This meant nothing to the two of us, if it even needs to be said, except that the guy was a blowhard. But we gained courage as the evening went on and the box wine kept flowing, and we began sidling up to people at random and using percussive to describe whatever they were looking at. “I don’t know; it’s a little percussive for my taste.” “Red, yet percussive. It’s breathtaking.” You can probably picture the reactions. Furrowed brows, pursed lips, and nodding heads from one and all. Deep in contemplation or fettered by politeness, no one asked us to explain this usage. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them even chided themselves for not having thought of it first. Spend enough time around experts (or people who so fancy themselves), and you might start to talk funny. If you happen to be an expert yourself—real or imagined—you assume your listener has a given level of knowledge, and before long shorthand communication becomes not only convenient but necessary. As far as those gallery patrons could tell, we really knew our stuff, and we could have been saying something profound.
The fact that the word we used was superficially irrelevant may even have given it a little extra charge. I’ve since heard far sillier things at art galleries. A food-friendly acid frame is suffused with a pleasant barnyardiness. Many years later, I still enjoy wine and propagating bullshit. Recently I took a job translating winespeak into English, with the aim of selling wine to people who don’t want to be sold, our angle being to cultivate an image of knowledge, authority, and hipness. The only snags are that I have little wine knowledge, I am not an authority on anything, and I have never been described as “hip.” Luckily for everyone involved, my employers continually forbid me to write anything that sounds too knowledgeable or authoritative or hip. No problem. 1 Every single time I tell people I write about wine, they make some sort of crack about all the ludicrous language I must have to use: hints of walnut skin, candied lychee, nettled gooseberries, and on and on. Everyone who has ever read anything about wine knows that something’s up. To the non-expert, wine writing seems at best uselessly esoteric; at worst, bald fabrication.
I feel the need to qualify my own expertise here: I do knowafewthingsaboutwine.Afterspendingalittletime withhardcoreindustrytypes,however,Iquicklyfoundout thatmyknowledgecountedforwhateverislessthanjack shit.IamremindeddailythatIneedtoknowvolumes— libraries—moreaboutwinebeforeI…beforeIwhat?My initialaimwasjusttobecomeabitwiser,butnowthehorizon won’t quit receding.
CONTRIBUTORS Martin Edwards is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer with a notorious lack of awards. He is also a creative director at a San Francisco ad agency. He is currently working on an autobiography in which he hopes to appear as the main character. Robin Ekiss is an award-winning former editorial director at Old Navy. She’s also a former Stegner Fellow in poetry, with residencies or scholarships from the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and Bread Loaf. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Atlantic Monthly, POETRY, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and VQR. Gina Gionfriddo writes plays (After Ashley, U.S. Drag), television (Law & Order), and essays about rock music (The Believer). Her new play, Gun Focus, will premiere at the 2008 Humana Festival. Elizabeth Gumport is a recent graduate of Yale University and is currently pursuing her PhD in English and comparative literature at Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn and enjoys spending time with her gerbil, Henry. This is her first published story. Matthew Hittinger is the author of Pear Slip, winner of the Spire Press 2006 Spring Chapbook Award, and Narcissus Resists, winner of the Beauty/Truth Press 2007 Chapbook Competition.
He earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. Matthew’s work has appeared in American Letters & Commentary, DIAGRAM, DMQ Review, Fine Madness, Mantis, Memorious, Meridian, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere, including the anthology Best New Poets 2005. He lives and works in New York City. Joyce Maynard is the author of nine books, including the novel To Die For and the bestselling memoir At Home in the World. Brittany Ober was born and raised in Lititz, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA from Muhlenberg College in English and art history. Brittany currently lives in New York and works in an art gallery in Chelsea. Peter Orner is the author of a novel, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a collection of stories, Esther Stories, winner of the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has appeared in the Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and Best American Short Stories 2001. In 2006, Peter was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in San Francisco. Damion Searls is a writer and translator from New York City. He has published Everything You
Say Is True: A Travelogue and translations and co-translations of Ingeborg Bachmann, Robert Walser, Peter Handke, Kurt Schwitters, Dubravka Ugresic, and Jon Fosse, among others. His current and forthcoming projects include a first novel, Lives of the Painters; translations of Thomas Bernhard and Rainer Maria Rilke (The Inner Sky: Poems, Notes, Dreams, which won a 2006 NEA grant in translation); and a one-volume abridgment of Henry David Thoreau’s Journal for New York Review Books.
Stephen Shore’s work has been widely published and exhibited for 35 years. He was the first living photographer to have a one-man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and he also had one-man shows at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), George Eastman House (Rochester), Kunsthalle (Dusseldorf ), Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Jeu de Paume (Paris), and the Art Institute of Chicago. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Books of his photographs include Uncommon Places, Essex County, The Gardens at Giverny, Stephen Shore: Photographs 1973–1993, and The Velvet Years: Andy Warhol’s Factory, 1965–1967. This fall, Phaidon released Stephen Shore, a retrospective monograph in the publisher’s Contemporary Artists Series. Since 1982, Stephen has been the director of the photography program at Bard College, where he is the Susan Weber Soros Professor in the Arts. Will Sterns is a New York–based photographer.
He earned his BFA from Art Center College of Design in 2003 and worked at the VII Agency before assisting Time magazine war photographer James Nachtwey from 2003 to 2005. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, Elle Girl, Gotham, and Look Look. He loves the fall and hates the Red Sox. Chris Stroffolino is the author of seven books of poetry and nonfiction. More recently, he has written music and cultural criticism for the Big Takeover and Kitchen Sink, among others. Chris has also performed with Silver Jews and Continuous Peasant, and he’s currently recording his first solo album with such guests as Jolie Holland and Greg Ashley. He was the Visiting Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at St. Mary’s College of California from 2001 to 2005, and he is currently developing an MFA program in “nonpoetry” to be based in a visionary Oakland bistro (unless he relocates to Nashville). He’s open to collaborating on both music and writing. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Matthew Valdini is paid to explain wine to people, which is hilarious. He lives and writes in Brooklyn. Todd Zuniga is a writer splitting time between San Francisco and New York City. His work has appeared in print in Small Spiral Notebook and online in Lost Magazine, McSweeney’s, and elimae. He’s also the editor of ESPN Video Games and the founding editor of Opium Magazine, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize (2005).
“BIRTHDAY PARTY” (2006)
“BAIT & TACKLE” (2007)
ADAM S. DOYLE
13 25 89
“ONE OF THE FLOCK” (2007) “NO LIONS OR TIGERS” (2007) “SECRET SOCIETY” (2007)
“MUNI CABLES IV” (2007)
“POLITICAL SELF-PORTRAIT #2 (RACE)” (1978)
“HOMELITE 20” (2006)
“UGLY BUT BEAUTIFUL” (2007)
“BRYANT PARK” (2007)
“MOM’S CIGARETTES” (2007)
Excerpts from contributors Joyce Maynard, Gina Gionfriddo, and Matthew Valdini. To read the rest of these pieces, subscribe at: www.Canteen...
Published on May 11, 2009
Excerpts from contributors Joyce Maynard, Gina Gionfriddo, and Matthew Valdini. To read the rest of these pieces, subscribe at: www.Canteen...