ESSAY IN RARITAN

The just released issue of Raritan contains an essay called “The Writers’ Studio” which depicts the power of art to positively transform an individual existence. 

To read the full essay click on the link below:

https://raritanquarterly.rutgers.edu/41-2-miller

“TUNING A PAGE”: THE NORMAL SCHOOL LITERARY JOURNAL INTERVIEWS THE UN-NORMAL AUTHOR OF RIVER BEND CHRONICLE

JA: I’m a student of writing, so I continuously found myself enjoying the challenges the book presents through both form and unique sentence constructions. But do you worry about accessibility to a larger audience?

BM: I am a student too! It’s good, always, I think, to remain a student in the best sense of the word: open to learning, eager to be surprised. When you stop being a student the discoveries end. And if you think about the reading life, it is often those books which overturn our assumptions that most excite. Accessibility is a concept created anew with each work of literature, on each page—and if the prose tends to be dense, as mine sometimes is, the author must expend effort creating alternative ways for readers to enter and comfortably remain in the space of the book. Mood (via an accumulation of the right details), for instance, can be a powerful aid, as well as the sheer raw rhythmic momentum of sentences. Think of Dostoyevsky and his complicated riffs on universal themes—passages hold readers via galloping rhythm and a weight of ideas lifted by gusts of feeling far above the realm of the dry and conceptual. The sensation of wordiness is blown away.

To read the entire interview visit: http://thenormalschool.com/?page_id=332

RIFF ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MUSIC IN RIVER BEND CHRONICLE

Back then, it often seemed like I kept myself going–kept myself alive even–simply by putting another scratched record on the old machine, hearing a voice emerge intact and vibrant from the crackle of what sounded like flames–old discs like those I’ll be playing tonight at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, and tomorrow at New Bo Books in Cedar Rapids–“Signing the Blues” and “Ostrich Walk” (Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra, featuring Bix Beiderbecke), “Me and the Blues” (Mildred Bailey), “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” (Jelly Roll Morton), “I Want a Little Girl” (Count Basie and his Nonet), “Autumn in New York” (Billie Holiday), “Tears! Tears! Tears!” (Otis Blackwell), “Blue Monday” (Fats Domino), “Mockin’ Bird Hill” (Les Paul), “My Baby’s Coming Home,” (Les Paul and Mary Ford), “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (Leslie Hutchinson), “Nightmare” (Artie Shaw and His Orchestra)… 

RIVER BEND CHRONICLE GLOSSARY, ENTRY #1

GLIPPIE

Definition:  Glip-pie, noun:

  1. A young person dealt a harmless (or glancing) blow by a sub-culture rather than being subsumed by conformity to the hipness of its strictures.
  2. A genetic glitch of a guppy with, say, three eyes and two tails.

Sentence:

Elvin and Mack were glippies, having received but a glancing blow from the monumental hippie movement, 99% the unlovely sons of a coolie taunter and 1 percent flower children—that is, only Mack’s upper lip was hippie—home to a shaggy mustache—and Elvin, he sported the sensitive hippie ears that dug whatever pabulum the Columbia Record Club dispatched, crash bang bong-a-lop-slop Peace Now Pretty Please. (p. 373, River Bend Chronicle: The Junkification of a Boyhood Idyll amid the Curious Glory of Urban Iowa)

Note: This noun will be FOR SALE on June 6th at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball: A Celebration of Emerging Writers. For more information visit: http://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=benefit

RICHMOND RENDEZVOUS: HEADING SOUTH TO CELEBRATE DEAN KING, MASTER OF AMERICAN NARRATIVE

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/4.15/ zipper breaks in n.y. airport restroom, lack time to change into other jeans, untuck shirt to curtain this latest schism in my life and shuffle carefully onward / think: fiction strives to, but cannot ever, replicate the surreal synchronicity of an existence, each detail echoing all other details id infinitum / change pants and planes in philadelphia: arrows point way to minibus shuttle to sorrowful terminal f exiled from other terminals / d.k.’s arms open wide in richmond airport / pub. day for THE  FEUD: THE HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS: THE TRUE STORY!  / we’re not getting any younger but we’re not getting any older either–not at this moment / picking up mid-sentence where we left off decades ago (see p. 407 of river bend chronicle)  / donut stop: 38 varieties not 39 or 64 / trade rollercoaster “editorial process” stories / i mention my completed-the-day-before children’s picture book starring the mall escalator who dreams of becoming a chef and does it, starting a cafe called escalator souffle / clattering talking heads rhythms on car stereo / lobster pot pie and black coffee / j.’s painting of the chair seen again, adored again  / classic case of house guest hush suddenly sets in / 84 degrees basting loblolly pines, birch trees, purple finch, hose on a wheel, green plastic adirondack chair i occupy in front of the backyard playhouse, sitting there like an overgrown kid not fitting inside his childhood anymore and meditating on that weird fact, yes what an enduring attraction I have for any elfin structure with a peaked roof in back of a proper house or seen beside a rural highway or next to railroad tracks / homemade nutella muffins appear in bountiful kitchen / load books and jars of moonshine into car trunk and drive to launch party at page bound gallery / see l. again after an eon, another man of good words, ex of clinton hill, brooklyn, now dwelling in the legendary shenandoah valley / statuesque k.j. of fountain books selling river bend chronicle too / inscribing one copy “to patrick hat trick” / blue stone bracelet behind table fills my cup with mineral water / swishing spring dresses, summer bluegrass music, wooden riverboat whistle in my jacket pocket asks to be tooted and i oblige, “make creek” native announces fact to d.k., james river writing conference royalty / “know who i am?” and i do, I do certainly,  another surprise guest! / grins implemented and the evening takes (or talks) its most magical of magical turns / language implanted in a life as a life is implanted in language–until at last (or soon enough) it is impossible to tell which came first the language or the life–as if no life could exist without wild lassoes of words to gather in experience, words stamping or stomping shapes out of the inundating murk, words marred sacredly with knowing, guessing, mysteries, worries, hopes… / reunion,  renunion, reonion, re-owned / heritage: the name, no kidding, of the restaurant right next door where after everything i order pork bellies, arugula salad, and almost request peace forever more, but know they’d be out of peace forever more, every joint is / drive back to house and a third floor guest room where the stuffed frog (I know that look) eagerly anticipates my company / read description of dawn breaking on tom sawyer’s island then sleep less like a log than driftwood /4.16/ spelt and eggs / spot six inch lizard staggering upward across loblolly pine bark / transition to berkeley hotel in shockoe neighborhood because I can’t get enough richmond, really can’t / serious talk with m. the desk clerk who has been working on her own book for a decade / warm sushi / fuente cigar in cobblestone alley / visiting n.y. friend g. (with deep virginia roots) delivers me to bbq in garden in neighborhood known as “the fan” due to street layout / painted brick homes, bunched together, reminding me of the mission district in s.f.–just when you think another soothing shade of green or yellow or blue is not possible one appears / loth’s landscaped alley / orange iris gigantus / peek into historic joe’s inn / drive oh what a sight-seeing drive: west end avenue fertility, monument ave. civil war horsemen, thunder wind showers, swerve around downed branch off someone else’s family tree, st. james river drinking slants of rain, the downpour gray as a charging torrent of confederate uniforms:  hats sleeves collars coattails, u. of richmond  brick-a-thon in the post-storm calm… / evening drinks at tobacco co. restaurant and s. miller’s tavern (no relation, sadly) followed by the sedative of cheese fries at city dogs / back at room turn on radio, local npr station, choir chirping h.m.s. pinafore lyrics, “sweet little buttercup, dear little buttercup,” flashback to my youth of attending comic musicals at lincoln park in moline, blankets and snacks, family members spread out and relaxed, our ordeal briefly cooled down, a respite… /4.17/ brush teeth with index finger again as I have been doing throughout trip because I forgot toothbrush / complimentary hotel dental rinse employed as precautionary hygiene measure / pouting and distrustful burgundy hotel pen not used in years refuses to produce tip though i twist twist twist twist shaft / urban farmhouse asiago bagel buttered copiously / goodbye to desk clerk m. / cab to airport to catch midday flight back to n.y. and brilliant wife and green toothbrush / talk with driver re: ethiopian politics / imagine world where tourists (upon arriving  home after all the museums, meals, reunions and accidental encounters) deliver sermons at the tabernacle of travel, spotlight on the winged altar in front of a projection of a boarding pass, one fervent voice proclaiming repeatedly: “your life is completely wasted unless you squander it far and wide!”

RIVER BEND CHRONICLE AUTHOR INTERVIEWS, IN DEPTH AND SPONTANEOUS, WHIMSICAL AND EDGY

With Kat Misko of One Story:

http://www.one-story.com/blog/?m=201305

 With Duncan Murrell of the Duke Center for Documentary Studies:

http://www.cdsporch.org/archives/17920

With Vick Mickanus of the “Book Nook” (WYSO):

http://www.wyso.org/post/book-nook-river-bend-chronicle-ben-miller