April 29, 2012

Brain Cookies 27

We've had a glut of David Foster Wallace links here, but I'm posting this because think it deserves note: Hatchette Audio is release a 56+ hour audio book of  Infinite Jest. The footnotes are not (!?) included (which doesn't make any sense, since major plot revelations are made there). Also, the humorless reading by the voice actor bores me to tears. AWAY WITH YOU AUDIO BOOKS!

David Simon is blogging.

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.

Czech Secret Police street photography.

This article about hipster racism is pretty spot on.

April 28, 2012

Brain Cookies 26

A few weeks ago I saw Ban on a Can perform Music for Airports. Here's a great documentary about Brian Eno and ambient music.

Bowie's Minimoog from Brian Eno.

Ryuichi Sakamoto and Derrida. 

Remember SOPA? So do lobbyists.

President Obama's big sticks.

Funk dumpling.

Notes from Woody Allen to Diane Keaton.

April 27, 2012

Brain Cookies 25

A painting by Mark Chadwick. This painter I found through Lion Skeleton.

This story of Himalayan honey hunters fascinates me.

I'm just thinking about climbing as well.

Passive voice day ya'll.

April 26, 2012

Brain Cookies 24

The Philip K. Dick android.

I've always been fascinated by the idea of transhumanism. Here is a great article from Harper's about the blurred line between man and machine.

Did you know that Arthur C. Clarke was responsible for the development of the geostationary satellite. If it weren't for Clarke, we might not have cell phone communication.

The Artificial Ape- a book about how technology has influenced human evolution.

Lithic technology and human evolution.

April 25, 2012

Brain Cookies 23

The journal has gone to the printers.

Love these photos of horses.

Read Markson. That is something we should do.

How about two L.A. Review of Books Pushcart winning essays here and here?

Harvard University protests journal publishing fees.

From a ten-year editor, part 2: My offset fetish

Leadership is stunning and weighted and breathlessly vulnerable. In the ten years leading this mag, I have learned many lessons, crossed many lines, risked friendships and futures, and stretched far beyond what I thought was possible. So in the lead-up to Versal's 10-year anniversary and tenth edition, I would like to share some of what it's been like to be Versal's editor, stories that intersect, inevitably, with the larger conversations out there around editing, writing, publishing, women, and inclusion.

Part 2: My offset fetish

Yesterday, Shayna and I traveled up to Velsen-Noord, a village north of Haarlem with a population of about 5000. According to Wikipedia, it was originally founded by the Romans. Today, it's a steel town -- or a post-steel town, depending. It's also where our printer, Pantheon Drukkers, makes its home.

For an offset printer, Versal is a pretty straightforward job, its layout, design and requirements fitting nicely into the offset mindset. Usually we've only had to check a few plot proofs before the machines start running. But as Versal has evolved and particularly the art choices have become more complex, working with the printer has taken on a more collaborative relationship. This is the first time we've made site visits, in fact. Years of working closely with Milly and René at Pantheon have fine-tuned our processes, and this year, with our top-secret cover, it was clear we needed to travel up there and do some tests. We would also look at high-res proofs of the artwork to make sure the color levels were accurate, and test those on the new paper. Every factor can make a difference in what comes out at the end.

Versal 1 was printed, I'll admit, on a digital printer. We didn't have the resources back then to go offset, and we only printed 150 copies anyway. We received a small "starters grant" from a Dutch literary foundation in 2003 -- the only external funding we've ever received -- and took Versal 2 up a notch, gave it a spine, offset and a print run of 500. Those first offset issues, up until Versal 4 I think, were printed somewhere in Prague. I never knew much about the outfit, just that they were artists and printers, and they gave us a good deal. But problems arose quickly. They didn't speak much English or any Dutch; we had to work with them in broken German. And they would ship the copies over via large and rather creepily empty semi-trucks. What a sight to see that black semi parked outside my small Dutch apartment. Then one year, the truck was stopped at the German border (this was before the Czech Republic entered the EU). It was almost turned around. Somehow, the driver made it through the interrogation and we got our Versals. But for months after that, Annerie and I were finagling with Dutch customs agents, even taking trips out to Schiphol Airport where we left our passports as we entered through "Door 14" and basically paid someone a lot of money to get off our backs.


I love the smell of printers. My uncle owns a printshop in Nashville where my cousin and I would spend summers working for pennies, and I even manned the design desk at Kinkos one year in college. The combined smell of paper, ink, and those massive machines. I freakin' love it.

And though I also love letterpress and handmade, and all the beautiful books coming out of that right now (including mine! soon!) offset is where my heart lies. I'm a child of the 90s desktop revolution, of Quark and Pagemaker, CMYK and Pantone. I like imagining plates of Versals cracking in a recycling landfill somewhere (are they recyclable?). I like reams of paper, the boxes of envelopes with the sample tucking out. And seeing the cover come off the press yesterday, the plate circulating quickly on its roller, the ink still wet to the touch -- yeah, it's a fetish, it's my love of office supply stores, school supply shopping, pens and the smell of new books.

Will I jinx Versal 10 if I say it's my favorite so far? I fell in love with it all over again yesterday. I really hope you'll love it too.

April 24, 2012

Brain Cookies 22

An art centric Brain Cookies 22. 

Here is a fantastic post on the WFMU blog about the failed Dune collaboration between recently deceased artist Moebius and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

It's the book within a book t-shirt!

Two scary stories of solitary confinement here and here

If you remove the last panel from a Peanuts cartoon ...

Do you like Vincent Gallo

Here's one for fiction editor Robert Glick: artist Nina Katchadourian making Flemish portraits using airline provided accouterments. 

April 23, 2012

Brain Cookies 21

Thanks to the excellent If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger blog for bringing together to T.V. favorites in my RSS feed this morning. Robot and man as one.

Any who, Brain Cookies number 21.

Did you know publishers have a punctuation clause in most contracts? Neither did I ...

Now that U.S. taxes are filed, here's an article on why you can't do your taxes in five minutes. Glad I didn't see this before filling out line 52c or whatever the hell it's called. I hope I carried that zero ...

We got it all. Don't we? What else do we need from the internet?

Savage Europeans ... I don't know how to feel about this.

April 22, 2012

Brain Cookies 20

Before I get into cooking up the links for this, our 20th edition of Brain Cookies, it is with a glad heart that I join hands with my fellow Amsterdamers and say a heartfelt goodbye to the racist PVV party and their alpha asshole leader Geert Wilders. Excuse my language, but this guy is top scum. If you haven't heard of him, don't worry, he's best forgotten. 

Now, on to the links: 

Another link about Philip K. Dick. This one is about his last days. 

I usually don't like these dry, irreverent New Yorker cartoons, but this one is pretty good. 

The Keith Haring Tumblr is posting a lot of his amazing notebooks

April 21, 2012

Brain Cookies 19

Raymond Chandler writes a poem for a proofreader

Usually don't do product links here (God no) but these re-releases from the SAJ Air label of some sweet free jazz is worth a look

Nothing like an oil spill to curb BP's government spending. If you want a peek into how America really runs, follow the Open Secrets blog, I beg you. 

Look at some pretty pictures of space here and here. Also, why not check out the scale of the universe with this little tool

April 20, 2012

Brain Cookies 18

David Rees on pencil sharpening.

I was feeling very sick this week, the first time in a while. My cure? This hot toddy recipe.

The Yes Men and Your Bank of America.

A letter from Ursula Nordstrom, editor of Maurice Sendak, to a librarian complaining about nudity in the brilliant In the Night Kitchen

David Foster Wallace and tax classes. If you can't tell, I'm a bit obsessed with this guy.

This history of hip-hop documentary by Ice T could be very good or very bad, depending on whether that holiday trailer permeates the entire project or not.

April 19, 2012

Brain Cookies 17

R.I.P. Dick Clark

Was watching a video of Coltran playing on Green Dolphin Street and found ... the Lick.

Check out the classy home of Boaz Mazor

Philip K. Dick on Blade Runner

Moodymann–Detroit music legend–is giving away his new album for free (simply enter your email address). 

April 18, 2012

Brain Cookies 16

Feeling very sick today, so your Brain Cookies come with a bit of the common cold. Enjoy!

The picture at the top there? That's Gabriel Dawe.

Google Art Project? This is a lot of fun.

Slush pile hell.

The rejection letter generator. Feel how it is to be a "working" author!

A movie made out of an algorithm.

The rejection list for Wittgenstein's Mistress.

Ever since I heard bats were dying in large numbers throughout the states, I've wondered if scientists would ever find out why. Well ... they have.

An outstanding profile of the "one man political machine" Barney Frank.

April 17, 2012

Brain Cookies 15

Beware: today's Brain Cookies contain mind altering chemicals that may cause delirium, synaesthesia, and auditory hallucination.  

How to pitch a 33 1/3 book.

Today is the anniversary of the first LSD trip. There is a great documentary embedded in that link.

Alec Guinness' white suit.

Holy moley. No Pulitzer for fiction? Yet the world keeps spinning ...

Here is a hum-dinger of an essay by David Foster Wallace on television. (I'm currently reading Infinite Jest, and it is just as good as the hype suggests it is.) 

Found Sir James George Frazer's The Golden Bough online as a PDF. Thank you internets. 

April 16, 2012

Brain Cookies 14

Ingredients: writer podcasts, magazine sexism, and Picador books. 

25 national magazines give out award nominations to 25 men.

The act of writing by hand.

Teju Cole, who has one of the most interesting Twitter feeds out there, is featured on NPR and the Ink Droid blog.   

Picador books is a-tumbling.

Zungu Zungu on the show Treme.  

April 15, 2012

Brain Cookies 13

There is a great post on the Coen oeuvre by David Hagland over on Slate. Side note: I thought David Hagland was spelled Hugland, which to me sounded like an amazing character name.

Russian protesters and street art.

The most shocking Bollywood performance ever.

An amazing essay on Philip K. Dick, one of my favorite writers.

Joshua Dildine.

April 14, 2012

From a ten-year editor, part 1: You will take the cake

Leadership is stunning and weighted and breathlessly vulnerable. In the ten years leading this mag, I have learned many lessons, crossed many lines, risked friendships and futures, and stretched far beyond what I thought was possible. So in the lead-up to Versal's 10-year anniversary and tenth edition, I would like to share some of what it's been like to be Versal's editor, stories that intersect, inevitably, with the larger conversations out there around editing, writing, publishing, women, and inclusion.

Part 1: You will take the cake

Many years ago, I asked someone to leave Versal’s editorial team.

The decision to do this was protracted and painful. He wanted Versal to go in one direction, a direction where he was not subject to the decisions of a team. He wanted to be The Editor, the man at the top, praised for his choices by other men-at-the-tops. These men were his heroes. They were the men whose poems he revered. The men who made decisions subject to no one—save their forefathers. The men whose decisions people talked about, wrote books about.

I stood between him and his mythology. I told him it should not work that way. I told him it would not work that way in Versal.

Our schism affected every aspect of Versal’s makings, and there were many arguments. More than that, there was screaming. He fought like me: brutal and unmoving. To protect the others on the team, I took the brunt of his rage and ego, and tried to keep the horizon of Versal in sight. It took me two years to choose Versal over our friendship, and in the end I did.

When I told him that his time with Versal was over, he said, “You will take the cake.”

It is now four years since that day and ten years since I and two other women started Versal in a bar in the Nieuwmarkt of Amsterdam. The story goes that we started it to bring a community together—to connect, even create, a more inclusive, multilingual and further-reaching literary community than the one Amsterdam already had. That story is true. What is also true is that we succeeded. Writers who move here now from some other geography don’t have to look far to find a literary home. Versal is turning ten this year, our tenth edition, and we are doing well. We even just won an award! But more importantly, and more to the point, we’re doing good work to question the models in literary publishing, wherever they come from, and to dare not just ask how things can be different but to try to change them, even if it means we stumble or upset people. Even if it means we sometimes lose friends.

Roxane Gay’s piece on the matter of men and women in publishing pretty much sums it all up for me, and I join her call to get (back) down to work.

So yes. Yes, I will take the cake. In fact, I plan to spend Versal’s entire tenth year eating that cake. And I hope you’ll join me.

Brain Cookies 12

The MI5, eBooks, a disgruntled farmer, and minced Microsoft Word. I'm loving the ingredients of today's Brain Cookies:

A story on the Awl about the inconvenient MI5 astrologer Louis de Wohl.

eBooks can't burn. Don't know how I feel about this essay.

A strange letter from a disgruntled farmer.

Do you think Microsoft Word should die in an all-consuming fire? This guy does.

Roxane Gay's Literary Magazine Club is still going strong. This month Salt Hill 28.

Historic espousal for the U.S. Health Care plan.

April 13, 2012

microrants and little bugs

Dear all,

At the beginning of class this semester, I've taken to ranting. They're not really rants as much as they're things I feel strongly about, things that I want to tell students and feel that others won't tell them, even if they don't agree, even if my logorrhea makes me seem like a bit of a sludge. So for a few minutes, I go off on the necessity of microplots, the anxiety of ambition, or how much I abhor the word "as" when not used in a simile: "he lit a cigarette as his corgi limped sadly down the hall."


1. Fiction editors: if you are never going to accept experimental fiction, then take off the "Experimental" part of your listing on Duotrope. If you haven't published something in the past three years you would call "experimental," if you can't articulate a preliminary hypothesis as to what "experimental" means, take off the "Experimental" part of your listing.

2. People who don't like AWP: hush. I don't care if you think you're surrounded by ass-grabbing, misogynistic, libidinal fen-bogs who only publish a) work from their friends, or b) the most boring shit in the world (what Sterne would call glutinous prose). You're still surrounded by 10,000 people who care deeply about the same thing you care about. One good reading, one good panel, one good communication with a new friend or an old friend is worth the price of admission.


Editors of the planet Earth, especially those of you who charge submission fees: I call for you to make readily available the percentage of pieces you take from the Slush Pile. Because if you charge submission fees, and take only one piece a year from the slush pile, then you're basically just taking people's money and withholding the fact that they have a minimal, minimal chance of having a piece accepted. As a start, if a writer is to make an educated decision about where to submit, he / she should be able to easily find out how much work you take from people you don't know.

Disclosure: We at Versal haven't made this info available yet. Off the top of my head, we've solicited three pieces in the last three years, or about 2% of what we publish. We'll let you know if that's significantly off.


Versal X is so good. So good. I am so, so pleased. You will be too.


Congratulations to my mentor, Lance Olsen, for receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship this week. Well played.


To Lawrence, Kansas, where I've lived the last three months, for having such an awesomely disproportionate number of readings and totally great, cool, committed writers.



Brain Cookies

We're getting pretty close to a baker's dozen here. We hope the Brain Cookies are tasty and all that. Today? Orson Welles, Led Zeppelin, James Joyce, Kool Keith, and the War on Drugs:

James Joyce is capable of confounding the senses with his writing. So is Kool Keith. Can you pick which lines are from Joyce or Keith?

New SquarePusher albuuuummmmm preview!

Latin America meets to discuss the end of the U.S. led War on Drugs.

Orson Welles meets Led Zeppelin meets Moby Dick ...


April 12, 2012

Brain Cookies 10

We bridge the gap between two musical geniuses, 70's television, and contemporary network realism with today's Brain Cookies:

Here is a nice interview with David Byrne and James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem fame). I like what James Murphy has to say about NYC turnstiles.

I wish I had been able to see this show, BBC's Ways of Seeing.

A great post about the literary comic book over on HyperAllergic.

Welcome to Smallverse, where all book details are catalogued, and the connections made.

What the hell is network realism?

April 11, 2012

Brain Cookies 9

Some Brain Cookies made of art and disappointing revelations/deletions today on the cooling rack:

Nicolson Baker's essay on Wikipedia. This is good stuff.

I want this Art Shay book. There is so much narrative in each photo.

Guy de Cointet, works on paper.

Drawings by Graham Lambkin.

A great quote from Paul Auster is posted on the Bomb Magazine tumblr. Check it out.

Matt Groening reveals the Simpsons takes place in Springfield, Oregon. I think I liked it better when it was a universal Springfield.

April 10, 2012

Brain Cookies 8

Wow, some actual literary links today. A-here, here, goes:

Great interview with author and punk icon Judy Nylon. She even talks about inspiring Brian Eno to "create" ambient music .

Some pictures of cathedral ceilings. I remember visiting the York Minster Cathedral in York. My tour guide told me the ceiling was created using the ribs some boats from Napoleon's navy. I've never checked the veracity of these claims, nor do I want to.

A great quote from Nietzsche on the Bibliokept blog.

Mediabistro collects literary boards on Pinterest. I've just joined. I say the jury is out on this one.

Some thoughts on the comma by Ben Yagoda on the N.Y. Times Opinionator blog.

April 09, 2012

Brain Cookies 7

The New Aesthetic. Very interesting stuff there. I think most important for us as literary people is Russel Davies section on the New Aesthetic and Literature.

Google augmented reality glasses

Great post from the web comic XKCD about James Cameron's recent foray into the Mariana's Trench, the first in 50 years, and the first one solo. Incredible.

For the love of Pete, watch some Fernwood. The Tom Waits one is gold.

April 08, 2012

The weird and wonderful

Train surfing in India:

A better strategy for hangman from Lifehacker.

The always excellent But Does it Float blog provides us some beautiful photography from Robert Canali.

Film Studies for Free discusses the Wire, even as David Simon bashes such practices in the New York Times. Boy he is grumpy.

Clay Shirky discusses how we will read in the future. Boy I am sick of people decrying the future of publishing and books. It makes me want to curl up in a hole.

Finally, a chart that outlines how Bush turned a 6 trillion dollar surplus into an equally staggering deficit.

April 07, 2012

Brain Cookies 5

Today I'm linking to oddball interviews.

The famous illustrator and storyteller tells us why he likes strong women:

Flying Lotus shares a tightly rolled blunt with his interviewer:

Not so much odd as great, here is an interview with Ben Marcus on the excellent Other People podcast. You should check out Versal 10 contributor Roxane Gay on Other People as wel. Both are great interviews.

David Lynch talks about Valley music while shirtless and covered in mud. We've got a bit of a shirtless theme going on here. There's a few other weird moments, and some great chat about art:

And a weird interview with Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. You just can't write dialogue like this:

April 06, 2012

Brain Cookies 4

I know it isn't exactly literature, but we're doing loose music connections today. Very loose. These are tracks on heavy rotation in the household and office.

Yesterday's post got me thinking a bit about disco. Why? Well, Arthur Russell was the disco king for sure. That's probably what did it. Here's two disco tracks I'm digging right now:

Oh, let's go for some hip hop. I'm into a few producers at the moment. This track here is called Auditorium. It uses a little sample from Madlib's Tha Beat Konducta in India. Mos Def and Slick Rick deliver some true lyrical delight on this one:

Speaking of great producers like Madlib, check out this Flying Lotus track:

And Arthur of Daedalus fame:

Here is a track by Madlib and MF Doom that samples from Daedalus:

J Dilla and Madlib as Jaylib doing a Heist:

We'll leave it with a J Dilla track:

April 05, 2012

April news is live!

Get the full scoop on all things Versal, from our latest big win to what our eds are up to. Plus, pictures of the very printer on which Versal is born!

Click here for the newsletter goodness!

Left Field Links

I forgot to mention one section of the journal from Ed O'Brien I linked to yesterday that I found extremely applicable to the editorial processes and choosing work. This is Ed on musicians submitting music to the band:

it's actually very interesting as it strikes me from what i've listened to so far that there are alot of really good musicians out there, but what distinguishes the good from the not so good is having taste. ie for instance you could be simply red (apologies for the easy target) and send in a demo and i'm always going to think it's totally shit in spite of its technical 'proficiency'. having said that there's little that sounds like that. but what i'm saying in an around-about way is that it doesn't matter if i don't think something's that good; if you really love what you're doing then that is all that matters........there is absolutely no point in making music that you think will help you to get signed..........second-guessing what people want to hear is a completely fruitless exercise as it is almost completely impossible to predict what people want to hear; by the time people actually get to hear that music it's more than likely that it's old-hat and most importantly you will never stumble upon something that is truly fresh and exciting.
This is a great blog post about South African music in exile. Also–shhhhh–there's a download in there somewhere.

Holland Festival is doing a showing of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, with full orchestra. If you can't wait that long, or can't go, why don't you check out this blog collecting rare specimens from Kubrick's Shining.

I usually don't go for snark, but this post on the Awl about how to write the next great American novel is pretty ... great.

Arthur Russell died 20 years ago today. There is a great tribute over on Dangerous Minds. I remember the first time I heard "Is It All Over My Face" produced by Mr. Russell. It almost melted my face. Here is a ditty called "This is How We Walk On The Moon":

April 04, 2012

No One Has Ever Linked Here

I'm still trying out new names for this daily links post. This one was suggest by head honcho Megan Garr. Tell us what you think.

So, onto today's links:

I lied about avoiding politics yesterday. This American Life: follow the money.

We're a bit design obsessed over here at Versal. How about a music-based font called Qalto. Cool curves bro.

Speaking of music, I'm re-exploring Radiohead's Kid A and Amnesiac at the moment, but in a 'how did they put it all together' research mission. I found this journal from Ed (sound maker and guitarist of the band) on the recording process of these two albums.

Artistic process oriented lins continued–here is a post from the Paris Review about Tantric Art.

Lastly, I'm currently watching Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy. I'm impressed they gave it the red light. How was it renewed for a second season? The British are doing something right.

Till tomorrow.

April 03, 2012

Brain Cookies 2

Here's the second installment of Brain Cookies, Versal's daily link round up. Thoughts to chew on.

There is a great looking exhibition of Dennis Cooper's manuscripts and journals at the Kunstverein in Amsterdam. I'm definitely going to this.

Here is a list of alternative names considered for the movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, perhaps one of the greatest comedy/satires of all time. This excellent artifact comes courtesy of the wonderful Lists of Note blog.

Dan Schank delivers a nice, short post on HTML Giant on why he, as a painter, is envious of the novelist. There aren't many people saying that these days.

Who would like a Tea Party children's coloring book to deface? I know I would.

How about an anti-capitalism essay by Alfred M. Bonanno? Interesting stuff there.

Promises to be more literary and less political tomorrow. I'm just feeling a bit ornery today.


April 02, 2012

Brain Cookies

Starting today, the kind folks at Versal are attempting to link to a few interesting articles about literature that are floating around the internet, as well as some links of intellectual interest.

Megan has suggested I come up with a name for the link series, but I am terribly slow with titles (being as important as they are) and will announce a title later this week. Here are a few links for today that I found interesting.

Kyle Minor suggests a few comic novels for your digestion. I have to admit, the only one I know is Erasure.

The always excellent Adam Curtis outlines the relationship between bodybuilding and imperialism. A must read.

The Los Angeles Review of Books reviews two new books about the marijuana trade. Seems those hippies are getting what they want after all.

The Washerman's Dog blog gives us a little history on the relation between Jazz and Islam. Baptists churches on the East Coast face Mecca? No way.

Finally, how about a topless Hemingway slideshow?