Saturday, April 30, 2016

Elvis Costello / This much I know / ‘Believing you’re being watched or overheard is no longer a paranoid fantasy’

Elvis Costello
Photograph by Mary McCartney
Elvis Costello: ‘Believing you’re being watched or overheard is no longer a paranoid fantasy’

 ‘Growing up, I heard music a little differently from most people’: Elvis Costello
This much I know
The musician, 61, on social media, being British, and his love of curling

Killian Fox
Saturday 30 April 2016 14.00 BST

I don’t have any horror stories about the Catholic church. The nuns who taught me until I was 11 were very kind. I know plenty of people who had traumatic experiences, and I’d disagree with a lot of positions the church takes, but I’m glad that I went to that kind of school. I don’t think I suffered from it. It taught me to read; I can tie my shoelaces.
Growing up, I heard music a little differently from most people. If your parents are in music, it’s obviously going to affect you. For one thing, it made the boundaries that people erect between different styles of music invisible. My father [a singer and trumpet player] was obliged to play all sorts: it was his job to learn the songs of the day.
My wife [jazz musician Diana Krall] and I travel a lot. Juggling, spinning plates – all of those vaudevillian analogies apply. It’s a very fortunate job that we do, but sometimes it stretches our longing to be all together as a family [the couple have nine-year-old twin sons].
When you’re young and foolish, you tend to pursue the same mischief in every town. But as I got older I made better use of the opportunity to travel. Now, on tour, I see more of the daylight hours. My wife was just on a seven-week tour of Australia and Asia and I took our two sons out to see her. I’d never been to Australia before with nothing to do but just be in Australia.
Believing you’re being watched or overheard is no longer a paranoid fantasy. It’s actually the truth. We’d like to think it’s for our safety, but it isn’t always. There are other reasons why information is being gathered about us, whether by gangsters or by governments.
I try to stay off social media. When Taylor Swift stood up to Apple over royalties last year, I commented on it on Twitter. The next day what I said was quoted in the New York Times. I was shocked. I thought: I’d better not do that anymore. You could get into so much mischief.

I never had big ambitions for my career – things just sort of happened. I started out playing in pubs and clubs. Next thing you know, it was the Hammersmith Palais, where I’d watched my dad play as a little boy. Then I find myself at the Royal Albert Hall. I never imagined any of it.
You can’t right the wrongs you did in the past by living differently today, but you can learn from your mistakes. That would be the clearest thing that having children has taught me. When you’re 23 or 24 you think you’re immortal – and that can make you very selfish.

I love curling. I’m fascinated by it. People trying to propel a heavy stone across ice armed only with sweeping brushes – it’s poetry in motion. I’ve no idea how you win the game, but when it’s on TV I can’t stop watching.
I try to plot a different route through my songbook [on stage] from night to night. It keeps things alive.
I’m not particularly nationalistic. I find the closed-mindedness of xenophobes bewildering as well as upsetting. If asked I’ll say I’m British, because that’s what my passport says, but I’m not sure what I actually feel. I just feel like a human – on a good day.


Jan Jankowski / Lovers

Jo Jankowski

Jo Jankowski / Women

by Jo Jankowski

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Libby Flores / Legs


by Libby Flores

A couple sit on the floor in a short but intensely charged flash fiction instalment

Friday 29 January 2016

hey sat on the linoleum floor, the two of them. His watch was the only thing moving. Through the small window above the sink the rising sun was bleaching the room white. The sound of a garbage truck, a man calling his dog, newspapers hitting doorsteps. Her long, bare legs were out in front of her, knees like turned down saucers. He loved her legs. Something he’d miss. Their backs on the kitchen cabinets, his arm so close to hers. They were tired, but more thirsty. A glass of water would change things, she thought, if he would just get up and get a glass of water.

Libby Flores is a 2008 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Post Road Magazine,The Rattling Wall, CODA Quarterly, and FLASH: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. She is the program manager at PEN Center USA’s Emerging Voices Fellowship.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Laura Lampton Scott / What We Were Doing

Jiri Borsky
What We Were Doing 

by Laura Lampton Scott

In the third of a series of short stories, as featured in Tin House magazine’s Flash Fridays, a clifftop walk kindles an illicit attraction

Friday 6 November 2015

hink of what you were doing at his age,” Andrew said. His fourteen-year-old kid skateboarded a respectful distance ahead, up the dark winding path on the Santa Cruz cliffs, that steep drop into the invisible ocean, so that we could smoke a joint without feeling guilty. We’d all gathered for a friend’s wedding. Andrew was my husband’s best friend, and though I’d been married for seven years, I was just getting to know him. We all lived so far apart.

When we were thirteen, my best friend Jackie first did it. Not it it, but gave a blowjob. She and the boy hid under my Esprit comforter, not on my bed, but on the floor. They lay on the carpet. My mom was rarely home.
My husband, sufficiently stoned, had picked up his pace and gotten ahead of us, up near Andrew’s kid.
“He always walks too fast,” I said to Andrew, who was taking a drag off the joint. “Like he’s so excited.”
Andrew laughed.
“He’s like that. You’re right,” he said and looked down at me as if I was a sage, interpreting the great mysteries of his friend.
He passed the joint to me and watched while I dried my lips and filled my lungs. I didn’t smoke much pot, and he did, so I tried to smoke like a pro.
My scope of perception shrank down to Andrew, me, and a sense of my husband ahead. The boy’s skateboard wheels on the paved path. Andrew’s eyes were green. The ocean was blue. Despite the dark, I remembered their colors.
Even at the time, twelve years old seemed too young for sex. Even though our bodies sent us barreling toward it, it was strange.
It took a long time, well into my marriage, for sex to feel as natural to me as it had seemed to be for Jackie. I hadn’t seen her since high school, but I’d looked Jackie up. The internet. She’d married a preacher and had five girls. Still lived in our hometown. I felt that I’d escaped whatever had trapped her, the dutiful mother and wife, but maybe she was doing fine. I was smoking pot atop the cliffs of Santa Cruz, still a kid on vacation flirting with boys.
I left the path and walked to the edge of the cliff, leaning over to look into the dark. The wind off the ocean felt as if it was sloughing off my skin.
Andrew dropped next to me and watched me watch the ocean, as if he was trying to figure me out. Before marriage, I might have huddled in close to him, let my hip brush his, laughed loudly at his jokes, ended up under a blanket on someone’s floor with my mouth around his dick, excited and terrified by what I could do.
“Come back,” Andrew said. “Away from the edge.” He gave directives, a thing my husband never did. He scooped his long arm around my waist and pulled me into him, back to the path, where his arm dropped away.
My husband and Andrew’s son were waiting. Andrew’s son was telling stories to my husband as if he were a friend.
“I hate it when they’re too young. I was dating this girl once. She texted me, ‘Babe, you know I’m only 12, right?’”
We adults fell into giggles and snorts. Andrew with those eyes, as if he and I had another, separate joke.
My husband came and leaned into me, looking down at me, smiling, thinking of our future children, watching them become themselves. His eyes were blue. I reached to squeeze his elbow, to reassure myself of him.
“Quit laughing at me,” Andrew’s son said. He pulled himself into a ball, sitting on his skateboard.
“You have to understand how it sounds,” I said, but stopped myself from attempting to explain. He felt as Jackie had, as Jackie probably still did: prepared, like a grownup.
We found out the next day that Andrew was getting a divorce. It was the day of our friend’s wedding, a new marriage not yet spoiled by years, high up in the hills. As I put on a dress and heels, I considered Andrew and me. Sometime after dark, we could find a place, drive a car up the road from the wedding or walk into the surrounding forest. I told myself that I imagined these things to keep them from happening. At the wedding, when we crossed paths, Andrew would look away. I would turn my back.
The night was lit by strings of lights. Andrew’s son snuck too many drinks, got too drunk, and told me he thought I was smart. The older couple hosting the event, family friends of the bride, made out in various conspicuous places. I got too stoned. The groom crawled into the hot tub with a bunch of naked women, one of whom was his wife. I burrowed my face into my husband’s shoulder, as if to fight the chill blowing up off the Pacific. With my eyes closed, the glow of the tiny lights bloomed behind my eyelids, and I was on the edge of a cliff, white tips of the ocean waves moving through the dark below.
  • Laura Lampton Scott‘s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Okey-Panky, No Tokens, and Monkeybicycle. She’s a MacDowell Colony fellow and is working on a novel. She will be teaching a Writing Flash Fiction workshop as part of this year’sWordstock programming. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mai Nardone / My Faher Brought Me to Watch

My father thinking of me (2013)
by Richard Burger

My Father Brought Me to Watch 

by Mai Nardone

In a new instalment of Flash Fridays, Mai Nardone tells the story of a young girl forced to witness her father’s terrible actions

Friday 30 October 2015

First-born, a girl, but anyway his first-born so he brought me to watch when he touched the other woman.
He started his fingers at her lips. And the woman bracing her hips off the car seat, wanting him lower, where she was swollen.
She interrupted herself with clipped breaths. “How—how old are you?”
At home I was old enough to take turns holding my new sister. The baby grasping, leaving spittle. While at the window my mother burned holes through the screen with her cigarette.
But here in the parking lot? In the back seat? I looked down.
Father, hand lower, said, “Old enough to be responsible.”
Between my legs were four sets of noodles in ballooned bags, the broth hot on my thighs. I squeezed and released my knees, timed my breathing with the woman’s.
When she left the car he called me into the front: “First-born, it’s your responsibility to know. She’s pregnant. You’ll have a brother finally.”
“Half-brother,” I said.
“That,” he said, “is why I put you in charge.”
I told him that responsibility is knowing when you’re too drunk to drive. I cranked down the window. “I can wake you in thirty-minutes.”
So he fell asleep with his hand twined through the steering wheel. I turned on the cabin light to look at him. His skin was red. The alcohol seemed to burn from its surface. I took the whisky bottle and dipped my finger into it, ran the hot liquor down the middle of my tongue. I dipped again. By the dashboard clock I counted thirty and gouged the leather seat for every time Father had called her his ‘girl.’
At home I kicked the sisters awake as Father laid out bowls.
“Number one,” he said, hands coming gently down on my shoulders. He touched his daughters only at the round table, assigning seats.
“Number two, what will it be?” My sisters nodding, sleeping still. Father worked the revolving table. “Pork broth? Fish? Three sit here. All the way from Khlong Toey,” he gloated. “I want you to eat while it’s fresh.”
And my noosed mother didn’t ask was why Khlong Toey, why nighttime. She looked at me with drawn eyes and handed over the baby.
“Can you keep a secret?” I whispered. I slipped my whisky finger into her mouth, scratched her tongue with it. The burn reached her cheeks and she began to cry.
“Brother. Boy. First-born,” I said. “First-born boy. Now you know.” And I pushed my finger deep into her throat.
  • Mai Nardone was raised in Bangkok, Thailand, by an American father and a Thai mother. He has received scholarships from the Tin House Writer’s Workshop and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. His recent fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, and Slice. He lives in Bangkok.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Kristen Arnett / How to eat chicken wings

How to eat chicken wings 

by Kristen Arnett

In the first of a series of short stories, as featured in Tin House magazine’s Flash Fridays, Kristen Arnett explores a love-hate relationship chicken wings

Friday 23 October 2015

here’s a map bred in the bones of the bird. Before you ingest the chicken wing, you must know the vertices of its hinge, that place where tendons and gristle connect and shake hands. It’s all very scientific.

Step One: The Origin

Find a likely tray of sacrifices at the church picnic. You’re in the fourth grade and according to your mother, you don’t know how to wear a dress without showing everyone your underwear. Chicken bones collect between your knees as you sit crossed legged on the ground beneath the lawn’s sole tree. Rub the mess from your hands on the smocked pink gingham of your skirt because you don’t believe in napkins. There’s already enough barbeque sauce coating your cheeks and chin to simulate war paint. Let the girls from your Sunday school class hover over you like a swarm of horseflies. Their wings will unfurl to note the red stain at your crotch and the matching stain at your lips. They’ll christen you menstrual bloodsucker; unholy dyke vampire. Optional: when you’re done crying, bury the chicken bones in the anthill you’ve been sitting on. Fashion a cross out of two Popsicle sticks.

Step Two: X and Y Axis

When you go to dinner with your parents on your first weekend home from college, let them know you’ve given up chicken wings. Your father will immediately drive the whole family to an all-you-can-eat barbeque restaurant. Straddle a bench at a long wooden table while sauce is ladled over slabs of pork and beef and crinkle cut fries. Eat a dry baked potato while your father points a wing at your face and says no daughter of mine. Let your mother squeeze your arm and whisper that you’d probably like chicken wings if you gave them half a chance. Wouldn’t your life be easier if you ate chicken wings? Your mother says she doesn’t particularly like them, either, but chicken wings have afforded her a stable lifestyle. How can you have children without chicken wings? Your father will pile some on your plate despite your protests, orange grease mingling with the mayonnaise from your coleslaw. Best-case scenario, your mother will eat the wings while your father’s in the bathroom. Worst-case scenario, you’ll feel guilty enough to keep eating chicken wings for the next three years.

Step Three: Fixed perpendicular lines

A friend of a friend will meet you at this New Year’s party. Overhead the fireworks will pop and spray like champagne and everyone will laugh at your jokes, even though you’ve never been very funny. Next to the buffet stands the only kid at the party; a one-year-old someone’s left to fend for himself. He’ll grip a chicken wing in each hand. When his chubby fist pushes a wing past his lips, he’ll gum around the flesh because he only has a few baby teeth. Pay attention: you’ll be the only one who notices when he chokes. Lie him down on the ground, surrounded by dirty napkins and plastic cups and the dregs of spilled beer. Root in his wet, red mouth with a single digit. The throat is a slippery cavern that chicken wings don’t ever want to leave, so you’ll have to do this more than once. More than twice. On the third try, you’ll shout the name “Christ,” though you haven’t spoken to him in years. Hook your finger and angle it toward the vee of bones, snagging upward and reeling. When the wing pops free, let it lie exposed between your legs. Let it die there in the grass while the boy sucks oxygen and his mother leans over him like a smothering blanket. If you’re lucky, the friend of a friend will help you up and dust the mud off the back of your pants. Sit together on the back deck as the numbers count down to midnight and watch her eat chicken wings. She’ll give you the meatiest parts, closest to the bone. Eat every bite. When you finally kiss, mouths sliding together, covered in barbeque sauce, you’ll fall in love with chicken wings all over again.

Kristen Arnett is a fiction and essay writer who has held fellowships at Tin House, Kenyon Review, and Lambda Literary Foundation. She was awarded Ninth Letter’s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction and was named an honorable mention for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. Her work has either appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, Ninth Letter, Superstition Review, Blunderbuss Magazine, Joyland, Grist Journal, Pithead Chapel, The Rumpus, The Toast, and elsewhere. 


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Donovan / This much I know / ‘The songs try to say important things with lightness’

Donovan: ‘The songs try to say important things with lightness’

‘You know you’ve had some effect when your song becomes a street song for kids’: Donovan

This much I know

The singer, who is about to be 70, on bardic poetry, a drugs sting and ‘Mellow Yellow’ sung by kids

Ed Vulliamy
Saturday 23 April 2016 14.00 BST

I think of myself as a poet. I grew up with poetic influences – what I know from my background is the bardic poetry, which came down through oral tradition. And Scottish folk music, which was liberating, humorous, real. What happened in the 60s gave a new voice to that tradition: the bohemians and the eccentrics, people like me and George Harrison going through the old bardic books. We infused it with the spirit of that time.
I was the first British pop singer to be arrested for possession of marijuana. It was a sting: they found 2oz of the best Leb at my place. But it was 1966, and a badge of pride. I did think: “I’ve gotta get out of here,” and someone recommended a deserted Scottish island.
There are three kinds of love. There’s intuitive love: that which a child feels, which makes you reach out to help someone. There’s emotional love: “I love you,” Aphrodite’s love – the basis of it all. Then there’s what I call conscious love. That’s a feeling of: “I want you to be fulfilled, and if you are fulfilled, I’m fulfilled.” And this third kind of love needs a bit of work – some conscious effort.

It wasn’t all just fun and games, the 1960s, but I have a light touch. The songs I write and sing try to say important things with a lightness.
My sense of humour comes from the Irish side. We get something from the music halls. There’s that great Beatles line: “For the benefit of Mr Kite, there will be a show tonight…” It’s light-hearted, but so exciting.
In the long run, food, shelter and clothing are all we can do to help each other. It is up to us to realise where the fear is coming from, and to conquer it.
I now live in Ireland for half the year, and have a life and studio in Mallorca. I love it in Mallorca. It’s where the roots of the music are, it’s where the tradition comes from, and it’s the last wilderness of Europe.

Photograp by Richard Saker

Sometimes the songs just come to me. I don’t sit down to write like you’d sit down to make a pair of boots. “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” was something someone said to me. Like Dylan Thomas, who fell in love with the sound of words, I think the sound of the words themselves is music.
Recently I heard some children singing“Mellow Yellow” – well, they were singing: “They call me smelly belly.” And I thought: “You know you’ve had some effect when your song becomes a street song for kids.”
I realised something long ago, and I think this now: I can’t save the world, but if I can share some ideas people might be able to save themselves.
If you can’t feel love, then you are afraid. And you have to ask: “What am I afraid of?”
I suppose all I really know is that I’m still here. I’m still alive – and that’s good, because we’ve lost too many.


Monica Lewinsky: ‘The shame sticks to you like tar’

Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky: ‘The shame sticks to you like tar’

Nearly 20 years ago, Monica Lewinsky found herself at the heart of a political storm. Now she’s turned that dark time into a force for good

Jon Ronson
Saturday 16 April 2016 09.00 BST

ne night in London in 2005, a woman said a surprisingly eerie thing to Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky had moved from New York a few days earlier to take a master’s in social psychology at the London School of Economics. On her first weekend, she went drinking with a woman she thought might become a friend. “But she suddenly said she knew really high-powered people,” Lewinsky says, “and I shouldn’t have come to London because I wasn’t wanted there.”

Lewinsky is telling me this story at a table in a quiet corner of a West Hollywood hotel. We had to pay extra for the table to be curtained off. It was my idea. If we hadn’t done it, passersby would probably have stared. Lewinsky would have noticed the stares and would have clammed up a little. “I’m hyper-aware of how other people may be perceiving me,” she says.