Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Savannah Guz and Kris Collins open for Stephen Elliott 11-23-09

New Yinzers Kristofer Collins and Savannah Guz will be opening for Stephen Elliott, author of The Adderall Diaries, given a starred review by Kirkus and pronounced 'superb' by Time Out New York.

When? Monday, November 23, 2009 @ 8:30 p.m.
Where? Modern Formations (4919 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh)
Cover? $4

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Prisoner--an fascinating, Orwellian concept

"The Prisoner," an AMC miniseries, offers a very Orwellian tale about an intelligence agent, who once monitored close circuit video feed of public places in search of significant patterns. After he angrily resigns (over what the viewer does not yet know, and the main character has apparently forgotten), he wakes up in a desert, near a village from which he cannot escape. The village has almost every amenity and some idiosyncracies, much like our own world, and nearly everyone has accepted it, unquestioningly. It has become their reality.

'Six,' whose name was Michael, longs for his old life and refuses to live under the silent, ostensibily beneficent tyranny of the man called Two. Six, who rebels against his new name, often shouts Claire Wolfe's mantra "I am not a number!"

The Village is a pure distillation of our more heterogenous world. There is no genuine escape in the closely monitored residential, leisure, or commerical spaces, since there is no privacy. And until Six arrives, there is no fraternity of underground resistance, where rebels can find kindred spirits. The whole tale points to the fact that, even as we have creature comforts, we are not truly free. We are monitored continuously, in ways we aren't even aware of. Everything comes at a price, and most often that price involves our liberty. But we knew this. What's more fascinating is that "The Prisoner" presents a trenchant vision of society that actually calls into question (let's face it, not just the Western World's but...) America's current definition of freedom. Is it still the same as it was in 1776? Or has our concept of freedom significantly altered in response to external controls and personal desires? Have we willingly enslaved ourselves? And an even more interesting question to ask: why show a movie like this now, at this specific moment?

See various explanatory trailers here:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bill O'Driscoll reviews American Soma in Pittsburgh City Paper

Savannah is over the moon about the review of American Soma in this week's edition of Pittsburgh City Paper!

Read the review here:

"...Her cautionary science fiction sits alongside "Patent Leather Sidewalk Evangelist," a bitingly ironic story that recalls Flannery O'Connor. The humanistic fantasy of "The Fountain" -- filthy tavern toilet springs the fountain of youth -- contrasts with the quietly chilling "Secret Convexity," about a young woman's descent into depression. Guz even offers a few short, funny epistolary pieces, including "A Salesman Reborn," a kiss-off to a boss that suggests something from George Saunders' oeuvre...."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Savannah reads at the Ohio County Public Library, Oct 6th!

Savannah will read from American Soma at Wheeling's Ohio County Public Library on Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 12 noon, as part of the library's fantastic "Lunch with Books" series!

The Ohio County Public Library is located at 52 16th St., Wheeling, WV 26003.

Come enjoy a lunchtime story....or two!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

American Soma on The Jeff Farias Show

Jeff Farias will interview Savannah today for his Phoenix-based talk radio program The Jeff Farias show. Savannah is honored to have the chance to talk with Jeff about her work and has sent some books to be distributed this Friday (10/02/09) as part of the show's excellent "First Amendment Fridays."

Tune in tonight, Tuesday, 9/29/09, at 7:30 p.m. EDT here: http://www.thejefffariasshow.com/?p=1401

Savannah reads Post-Modern Colonialism at Baltimore Bookfest

At the 510 Reading Series, part of The CityLit Project's Baltimore Bookfest Event Schedule, Savannah reads "Post-modern Colonialism" from American Soma.

The premise of American Soma is this...

American Soma is comprised of a variety of dystopias, either personal or communal.
The personal dystopias are intended to point to larger communal problems. Each story intended to have allegorical significance

The book’s original title was Behold: Mankind, and was supposed to made reference to social satirist George Grosz’s incendiary 1923 portfolio of satirical drawings, although Grosz's was a more diffuse criticism of mankind.

"American Soma"
title story imagines the mass drugging of the nation through popular foods, like pizza, coffee, and beer to assure the results of a presidential election. This is my nod to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Story is about the slow morphological adaptations in mankind due to chemicals in our water.
I wrote this in 2004, when fish were found to have both sets of reproductive organs.
Confirmed in April 2009 = PBS ran an edition of Frontline called “Poisoned Waters” which revealed that the environmental threat from chemicals in consumers' face creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners…they wash into storm drains.

In "The Fountain," the dirty water of a dive bar toilet can make people younger. Considering that injections of botulism toxins and painful chemical peels are now the accepted way to rejuvenate your appearance, I imagined celebrities reaching into a scummy toilet in order to maintain their youth.

"Postmodern Colonialism" is a not-so futuristic story, which charts conquests achieved through expansion of capitalism and war. In host nations, protective compounds are created, in which American white collar employees (mostly male) are stationed and eventually cannot leave—for safety reasons.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chris Hedges Writes a Compelling Call to Action

An excellent appraisal of war's cost and its use to the corporate state appears at Truthdig this morning. Author Chris Hedges writes a compelling call to action:

Stop Begging Obama and Get Mad
By Chris Hedges
"The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state."

(read the whole article at the link above)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Cartel

How can kids graduate from high school and still not be able to read or write? This movie, distributed by the Moving Picture Institute--whose tag line is "Promoting Freedom through Film"--offers a valid, compelling, and frightening explanation:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The End of Literacy and The Triumph of Spectacle

A fascinating book review by Gary Corseri of Chris Hedges' Empire of Illusion currently appears at Dissident Voice:

"Ours [America's] is a culture of manipulation, one of 'inverted totalitarianism.' Hedges borrows the phrase from Sheldon S. Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated. 'Inverted totalitarianism,' Hedges writes, 'unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the Corporate State. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers. … Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but candidates must raise staggering funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists … who author the legislation. … Corporate media control nearly everything we read, or hear. It imposes a bland uniformity of opinion. It diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. …In classical totalitarian regimes … economics was subordinate to politics.' In America, economics is dominant."

-- Gary Corseri (read the whole article at the link above)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Savannah Reads in Cambridge, MA and Providence, RI

The American Soma book tour continues in New England, with stops in Cambridge and Providence!

Savannah is thrilled to be part of the August installment of the Dire Reading Series!
On Friday, August 7th @ 8 p.m., she'll be reading along with Barry Graham, Elizabeth Szewczyk, and series founder Timothy Gager.
Where? Out of the Blue Gallery, 106 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA

On Saturday, August 8th @ 7 p.m., she'll be reading at the very cool Ada Books in Providence, Rhode Island. Come join us!
Where? Ada Books, 717 Westminster Street, Providence RI, 02903

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Savannah in Ambulantic Videoworks SPF '09 Film!

Check out Ben Hernstrom's excellent Pittsburgh Small Press Fest '09 video here:


Monday, July 20, 2009

Small Press Panel Discussion Publicized

Savannah was part of Pittsburgh Small Press Festival.Read Examiner writer Rob Peach's article on Saturday's SPF panel: Small Press, Big Impact SPF Day 1

An excerpt:
"The louder we can be, the more powerful we can become," said Guz of the zine community and its place in the modern world.
Guz, speaking from experience, has worked extensively with The New Yinzer staff in conducting its reading series and knows the difficulties of promoting literacy--that is, knowledge of and an appreciation for more underground writers and avant-garde writing--in what she calls a "visual age" or a mainstream culture wherein no one is "using their minds for literary purposes."

Stay tuned for video clips of the Small Press, Big Impact panel discussion and a brief video interview, which should appear here later this week.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A review of Pittsburgh Center for the Arts' show SALIGIA

Savannah's review of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts' exhibition SALIGIA: Seven Deadly Sins appears in this week's Pittsburgh City Paper.

"A clever nod to Gluttony, and winner of a Juror's Award, is Mildred Tersak's acrylic 'American Gastric,' which reinterprets Grant Wood's "American Gothic" to reveal striking changes in the national image since 1930. Tersak replaces Wood's anemic farm couple with two obese and despondent look-alikes. The male has abandoned his pitchfork, icon of self-sufficient labor, for a dinner fork, icon of sedentary consumption."

Read the whole review here:

Savannah impersonates Gore Vidal at Yinzer's That 70s Night!

Monday, July 13, 2009

JMWW's Catherine Harrison review American Soma!

Catherine Harrison of JMWW reviews American Soma in the Summer 2009 issue.
Read the whole review here!

(and check out the other excellent stories in the summer '09 issue, including new work by Madison Smartt Bell, Jessica Anya Blau, and Justin Sirois!)

Two brief excerpts:

"Guz is an innovative, witty, imaginative writer. Her stories are carefully structured—some as flash, some as letters, and some as longer stories—and powerfully executed, full of provocative images and meticulously detailed explanations...."

"On her website Guz lists Huxley and George Orwell as influences and states that American Soma pays homage to the two authors' works and ideas. Indeed it does. The stories are satiric and both frightening and amusing at the same time. In Guz's world, the American dream is just an illusion, and it's been consumed by the delusion of the soma."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Palahniuk's Fight Club Punch: We Never See it Coming

This originally appeared at Popmatters.com in May 2007:

Perhaps a million things have been said about Fight Club, and because of this, I avoided reading the book for some time. This is due in part to a conditioned desire to avoid anything too eagerly hyped because, while such offerings to the pop culture cauldron may have great visual appeal or emotional intensity, they often lack a vital intellectual ingredient—the kind of buttery cerebral indulgence whose residue coats the mind with analytical possibilities for days afterwards.

Also, I had read Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters first and found the spare prose, gambit of recurring photographer’s demands (employed to define emotion or irony) combined with its gory, gratuitous shock tactics, too cheap a route to my jugular. The story and characters behind Invisible Monsters call for a more baroque writing-style, one whose creeping tendrils should wind silently up the lower extremities while delivering the especially upsetting segments on the back of language more velvet.

In Fight Club (Owl Books, 1994), however, Palahniuk’s trademark laconic expression and deliberate reiteration works, and it works well. It points up the disjuncture and repetition of contemporary life, making them less invisible. But that’s not what makes it such an essential or innovative work.

Andy Warhol was pointing up media-based repetition and using icons to highlight our idolatry of graven images with his commodified, factory-made silk screens already in the ‘70s. No, what makes Palahniuk’s message so effective is that it is specifically delivered through the mouth of Tyler Durden, a figure whose core vibrates with a current of singular, disruptive charisma. And the narrator, named ‘Jack’ in the 1999 David Fincher-directed movie but an unidentified Everyman in the book, follows him with the bleak desperation of a groupie. It is a feeling with which every reader can identify: the hopeless trailing of one naturally cool.

Scrape away the thick patina of interpretation imposed on Fight Club by zealous publicists and passionate Durden fans, and one part of the story’s long-term significance is obvious: the heart of the contemporary human condition and its inevitable plunge into decay pulses at the story’s center. However, the most revealing part of Palahniuk’s book is less evident to the naked eye and media-nourished mind. It is an overt model of fascism, the type that would not be identified for what it truly is by at least part of the audience that idolizes Tyler Durden. All the components of fascism are present and come together right before our eyes, but we frequently fail to see it on our first reading or viewing. We, the audience, like all of Durden’s fictional devotees, become his suckers. We lie down for him in submission and awe. Instead of critically observing the more abstract concerns and anticipating their projected paths, we are captivated by the spectacle of Durden: his hip lawlessness, his seemingly offhanded anarchism, his violent renunciation of platitudes. His power lies solely in his ability to captivate the mind with cool, impassive defiance, which seems so much more genuine than the commercial media’s pre-packaged, simulated individuality. And by slipping this past us, Palahniuk has created a more valuable mirror of our times than he has ever been given credit for.

A postmodern Bodhisattva, who has cast off worldly possessions in order to reside (albeit, in the movie, with significant sartorial flamboyance) in the gutter, Tyler Durden is modeled after the existentially-strung Jim Stark of Rebel without a Cause and suffers from a similar malaise, although one that goes far beyond Stark’s restless instability. Rather than find temporary, if somewhat doubtful, sustenance in a woman, as Stark does in Judy, Durden renounces women as insufficient: “We were a generation raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is the answer.” Direct reference is also made to Durden’s post-Stark-dom in the movie’s bathroom scene, in which Durden describes to Jack the aimlessness of his life and his search for purpose through periodic phone interrogations of his father, who offers empty, unsatisfying answers only because, as the subtext seems to be, he has been just as directionless.

Further allusion to Durden’s apparent goal-lessness is made in the name of his collective terrorist plottings: Project Mayhem. It has no apparent purpose other than general disruption and irreverence, although it does serve as a conduit for the aimless rage of those who become part of it. The only professed direction that Durden has is the empowerment of the servile classes, the victims of minimum-wage living. And by blowing up the corporate headquarters of several credit card companies, he professes to seek liberation from the financial manacles that force them into eternal servitude. He is understood as champion of the service worker. And while preparing to slice the scrotum of the Police Commissioner Jacobs, Jack—finding Durden’s voice and purpose for the occasion—reminds his prey not to mistreat those who make his comparatively plush life possible: the limo drivers, the waiters, the elevator operators.

In justifying his own egress from societal expectation, Durden finds fault with the dazzling, unfulfilled promises of consumer culture and the commercial-driven illusions that his generation has been fed from childhood onward. Durden declares to an audience of adherents that his generation has been lied to, cheated, and is rightfully incandescent with rage. To alleviate this anger, they beat on each other in the shoeless, shirtless style of primitive man, and find that this works as therapy. Perhaps most important is that their meeting and skirmishes appeal to the innate human desire to belong. No man with broken teeth, purple bruises, cracked ribs, or wired jaw need feel an outsider anymore. These wounds replace the biker tattoo and the fraternity brand.

Brad Pitt in Fight ClubDurden speaks the language his followers want to hear, that of anti-establishment and anarchy, both of which imply a level of personal choice and thereby, empowerment—something they do not possess in society as it stands. Durden’s overall approach bears some resemblance to the way in which the National Socialists adapted Communist dogma in order to appeal to the working classes. Freedom, as with any emergent political system, is the most highly sought reward, and the most heavily freighted, if not directly spoken, expression. Durden offers up the prospect of freedom from desire, freedom from debt, freedom from the self-hatred that is engendered by an inability to achieve physical perfection, freedom from the belief that one can and should be successful…and freedom from the greatest lie, hope. Even as he appears to build up his adherents with his speeches—telling them ostensible truths that are intended to liberate them—he is also systematically breaking them down, urging them to let go of the socially-conditioned expectations they cling to, to renounce society’s ridiculous half-truths, and hit bottom. Under Durden, re-education begins.

On one hand, Durden’s measured ascent towards fascism may be virtually unrecognizable to many because it does not come clad in black leather or an SS uniform. These are the visual signifiers that have come to replace a true intellectual understanding of fascism and have inhibited our ability to spot the phenomenon’s development outside these representative confines. To the contemporary reader, when there is violence in Fight Club, even as it is graphic and bloody, it seems warranted and dignified, like a duel intended to restore honor. It appears as an inoffensive exorcism of monotony and disappointment or a reassertion of economically and socially trampled machismo.

Unlike the fascism we have been raised to identify, the fulcrum of power resides in the center between two Club adversaries; they meet one another on equal planes. They appear to have authentic lives and emotions rather than fetishes and perversions with which we cannot identify: in the movie, they remove and safely stash wedding rings, eliminate belts, strip down to their essential physicality. And while there is a depraved vulgarity to their combat and a distinct current of fear involved in it, this is evidence of a return to more fundamental instincts, to a tribal culture. On any given night of Fight Club, it is obvious that we, the readers, are not among the insidious enclave of maniacs that had once comprised National Socialism. Yet fascism is a distinct outgrowth and byproduct of Durden’s budding cult of activists. Palahniuk writes that men who arrive soft and doughy appear, after a few weeks, to be “carved out of wood”. With characteristic shrewdness, Durden is training an army.

As Durden accrues lackeys and devotees by giving them secret solidarity and a channel for their violent inclinations, he continues to offer them sage remarks and prescriptions for liberation. Yet once he begins to recruit men for Project Mayhem, amassing a select cast of reconditioned and re-educated mercenaries to make soap, undertake Mayhem-related missions, and carry out the routine tasks necessary to running the house on Paper Street, it becomes clear that he has employed their emotional and psychological neediness to found a corporation: slavery has been imposed and all too eagerly assumed, even though liberation had initially been the ideal. The men chosen for Project Mayhem bow to Durden’s whims, and even allow their own humiliation and disfigurement. Their collective life on Paper Street marks the foundation of an entirely militant culture and purpose. The minutiae of everyday life are regulated by the dictates of the Project and a war against society is undertaken. And even as none of them intends to kill, killing begins nonetheless.

It is easy, as the story progresses, to idolize Durden—even in his ostensible absence, when he abandons Jack—and misunderstand both the narrative’s direction and Durden’s ultimate intentions. This is especially true of the movie version, in which Durden is played to authentic and detached perfection by a lean and sinewy Brad Pitt, whose character we cannot help but focus on and project ourselves into. He is what Jack wants to be, what we want to be: handsome, hip, capable and ostensibly above anxiety and fear. Whether it is a deliberate or an entirely unintentional conceptual maneuver, Palahniuk’s Durden demonstrates how easily we can be taken, how effortlessly we will follow the glamorous into purgatory because they look good and because the commercialization of our culture has conditioned us to believe that thoughtless rebellion and impulsive dissent—within circumscribed confines and only on a superficial level—is acceptable, paradoxically mollifying, and a potential route to historical immortality.

Even as we champion free speech, our culture does not encourage critical, independent thinking, but harnesses us instead to political objectives by way of glittering spectacle and appeals to personal longings. We are not eagerly taught the fundaments of fascism or how to recognize its components lest we become apt to recognize them too quickly in our own society. Like Durden’s followers, we are both victim and accomplice: while we are subjugated by our culture, we also assist in perpetuating its problems.

Palahniuk was at least partially conscious of the political implications of his narrative machinery. A wily nod to this fact is made with the segment on celluloid tampering, or the insertion of pornographic frames into children’s films so that the images enter the viewer’s consciousness on a partially subliminal level. Like his character’s own impudent splicing, Palahniuk first slides Durden in on both us and his central character, into whose life Durden flickers, first as an intermittent apparition and finally, as a full-blown delusion. And while we’re busy admiring Durden, Palahniuk silently inserts the makings of a mini fascist state, whose actual blatancy might well knock us out if we were truly paying attention. This is then food for thought: how often does this happen in our own society? What do we unconsciously submit ourselves to because the spectacle is so alluring?

In making the narrator a split personality, the person who carried the germ of Tyler Durden inside himself and allowed Durden to blossom outward with all his eventual deviance, has Palahniuk devalued a conceptual jewel? Some complain that Jack’s mental instability is an easy way to tie up loose ends and explain away troublesome narrative disjunctures. But Palahniuk is more cunning than that. This split is telegraphed throughout both book and movie and, when both are reread or replayed with knowledge of the ending, the genius of the relationship, the conversations, the lapses and segues, cannot be denied.

Having Jack suffer from mental defect would seem to be the only politically suitable resolution to the story. How could someone who establishes a nascent fascist-style insurgency from geographically disparate club nuclei be painted as anything but insane, if we are talking about a politically responsible author? It is a fascinating plot twist, and one that is also politically prudent. It points to the psychosis of fascism, not only of its leaders but the questionable mental state of its supporters, as well. It seems impossible that a man with so many apparent lapses could find such an incredible following.

And this begs the question: would so many men actually follow one man so blindly, one man who apparently operates so paradoxically, and with such obvious disregard for the welfare of his supporters? One need only look into history, no, to current leadership to see that yes, yes they do. With Fight Club, whether he intended to or not, Palahniuk has shown us that fascism can be created right before our eyes, almost invisibly, and we won’t even see it happening. It is a valuable lesson to be learned and one, whose myriad ramifications we should begin to fully consider with eyes wide open and minds more critically engaged.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Review of American Soma at Strange, Weird, and Wonderful!

"American Soma continues to show Savannah’s beauty in prose, and her witty insight of the human experience, all told from a mind with the ability to make the reader, ponder the basic laws and truths of our world. I dare not call her work Science Fiction or Fantasy, but a genre all its own."
-- D. L. Russell, Editor of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful
(read the whole review on page 58 of the Summer '09 issue)

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Old Story about The King of Pop (c. 2004)

(*nominated by Hobart for a 2004 storySouth Award)
Savannah Schroll

Standing in the enormous walk-in closet, he drew his finger languorously over the shoulder seams of over a dozen jackets, deciding. What was appropriate for a trial? Surely not red. They would draw the wrong conclusions. Also, nothing in leather.

On the shelves along the far wall, a pair of Italian-made shoes, covered to the tops of the soles in rhinestones, glittered with self-assured opulence. There was a confidence in these shoes, a silent fluency that would speak so that he would not have to. There was always the obvious predominance of images over of sound-bytes to consider, and he had put these shoes out the night before because he felt they said ‘royalty.’ They should not forget who he is, after all. And royalty no longer need fear the guillotine.

Black then. Yes. A velvet suit coat with rhinestone buttons at the cuffs, a white shirt with a mandarin collar and pleated front, black pants. Sublime, yet funereally tactful.

His oldest sister had called before he’d come in to dress. She’d offered a long sequence of reassuring coos and chirps into the phone in her characteristically insipid and avian way. Again, she told him how much the family believed in him, that they were behind him one hundred percent. “Thank you . . . thank you . . . that means so much.”

He wondered if his sister had actually called out of her own good will or if his mother was standing nearby, if she had perhaps even dialed for her, sticking her long metallic-toned nails into the silly rotary of one of his sister’s Princess phones. He and his sister had had breakfast together the morning before, he taking nothing but grapefruit juice with a sprinkle of Splenda, she nothing but hot water with lemon. She spoke endlessly, tweeting like a songbird, unnatural in her enthusiasm and artificial in her affections. Under the table, he observed how her ankle bones protruded so elegantly and felt a distressing stab of envy. He thought of this now as he searched for a suitable pair of socks.

As he was applying his eyeliner, a maid came into his quarters again, carrying a Mickey Mouse phone with the receiver lying on the tray by the phone’s feet. “Excuse me, Mr. Jackson. Your lawyer is on the line. He’s eager to know when you will be at the court house.”

He turned on his vanity stool to look at the clock on the wide mantle ledge. It was 7:25.

“Tell him I’m indisposed at the moment. I will be there when I arrive.”

“Yes, Mr. Jackson. Thank you.” She curtsied awkwardly and stepped backward several paces before turning to go out.

The eyeliner went on too heavily, leaving small globs in his false lashes, and he was forced to take it all off and begin again, with a foundational swab of pancake. Getting ready was a painstaking process, but he would not be seen any less than perfect under these circumstances.

As he finished, inspecting for fractures in the surface, for imperfections, he felt the draw of the special room. Its strong aura was pulling him, like so many little fingers, toward its oak paneled door. He smoothed his jacket and reluctantly left the vanity mirror. The door was not locked, which upset him at first. But he remembered having lain on the floor prior to bedtime the night before and felt sudden relief. As he turned on the light inside the door, an entire world of childrens’ images, photograph upon photograph, each framed and perched on a tiny wall shelf, reached out to embrace him. He felt an enormous amount of positive energy, and he then became aware of the need to touch each one, but knew that he would not be able to do this in the amount of time he had before departing. There were well over a thousand to acknowledge, and he could not, he felt, leave out a single one. They would remember his thoughtless favoritism and retaliate, as they had so potently done during his last surgery. And he could not afford this today. He smiled at them instead, directing his beneficent gaze slowly around the room’s expanse, like the sun traveling across the sky, encouraging the flowers. He bowed then, pushed aside the little white stool he used in an adjacent room when he wanted to spend time with a special one alone. He closed the door.

As he made his way downstairs towards the ballroom, he could hear the SUV engine idling outside. There was, he felt, still sufficient time left. He owed it to the servants. Also, he considered it fairly imperative to carry out the ritual performance today.

“Bring them in from outside…outside in the truck. They shouldn’t have to miss it.” He motioned towards the front windows, through which the SUV’s tail pipe could be seen expelling defensive plumes of exhaust against the cold. Someone went out the grand front door to retrieve the chauffer and body guards.

Standing a respectful distance away from the king was a young man, no more than thirty, dressed in a white jumpsuit with Mylar stripes shimmering down the sides. “What will it be today, Mr. Jackson?”

Mr. Jackson clasped his hands, considering. “Today, Jeffery, I think it should be Bad.” He smiled, feeling his lipstick crack slightly. He cast his eyes downward. Jeffery nodded and disappeared into a wall booth.

After the modest crowd had assembled, the music began. With the first finger poke of the air, he began an animated display of backwards toeing, hip gyrations, and a uniform collection of angry glances at the floor. He gave particular emphasis to the threatening portions of the song and added some additional growls and rumbles after ‘your butt is mine.’ He was, it was clear, preparing. As he finished, a modest round of applause echoed into the room. He smiled at them and bowed, so much more like a court jester than a king. “Thank you. Thank you,” he murmured with abashed humility.

The crowd of servants then parted like the Red Sea in order to let him pass, along with his body guards. And, at 8:15, he finally headed towards the SUV, requesting a parasol before leaving. In the midst of a small, family-conducted motorcade, he made his way to the Courthouse. Admiring his dapper feet in the foot wells of the SUV, he was assured by the inspiring, affirmative scintillations of his shoes.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Author Mark R. Brand Answers the American Soma Quiz!

*This blog meme by Mark was originally answered on Saturday 6/20/09.

Mark Brand is author of many excellent works of fiction, including Red Ivy Afternoon (Silverthought Press, 2006), which won the Bronze Medal in 2007 for the Independent Publisher Book Award in Fantasy/Sci-Fi.

The following was taken directly from Mark's blog, Vinnie the Vole:

Mark Brand (MB): A dystopian literature-related internet quiz? How could I not?

(Note: Savannah Scholl Guz and I were on a panel together last month at the Pilcrow Lit Fest and I'm chomping at the bit to read this book.)

Savannah Schroll Guz (SSG): In American Soma, the title story imagines the mass drugging of the nation through popular foods, like pizza, coffee, and beer to assure the results of a presidential election. If you were in power and wanted to maintain it, what methods would you use?

MB: Two words: Video games. For the past four or five years, video games have outsold the box-office in annual sales. Everyone is playing video games, or near enough to everyone that you could reach a huge chunk of the population by exploiting things like content and product placement.

True story; when Obama was running for election, I started seeing people in XBOX 360 Live games using "Barack" and "Obama" as their usernames. Video game commentary and political importance isn't here yet because we still think of it as a form of entertainment for children and juvenile men, but the reality is it's bigger than almost any other entertainment form and it's very cheap in comparison. Cheap=democratic, but cheap also virtually guarantees a widespread saturation of data. If someone could mold that...

SSG: In American Soma, there is a story called “The Fountain,” in which the dirty water of a dive bar toilet can make people younger. Considering injections of botulism toxins and painful chemical peels are now the accepted way to rejuvenate your appearance, would you reach into a scummy toilet in order to maintain your youth or regain it? And what's your unlikely fountain of youth?

MB: I have to say I probably would. And speaking as someone who once went on a grueling low-calorie diet and lost 84 pounds, I'm willing to turn my back on a variety of things I categorically love in order to try to shoot for an ideal that I'm not even sure I feel a genuine need to achieve. Why? In an information world, attractiveness is even more important than capital. My idea of the fountain of youth? Stay the hell away from genetically-engineered food. If you are eating anything with hydrogenated corn oil or corn syrup in it (see also: everything) you are fucking up your body. The Amish eat dairy like it's going out of style, butter, cheese, milk, none of it pasteurized and none of it "reduced fat" and they remain some of the healthiest people you will ever see. The reason: they are outdoors every day and move around more than we do, and virtually none of their food chain is processed. Imagine a world in which you could happily have all the butter/ice-cream/mashed potatoes/pasta/bread/etc, you could eat, and it would not make you obese. This exists in places where they don't put chemicals and unnatural additives in our food. Don't believe me? Go to Arcola, Il and have lunch at an Amish person's house. I've never seen so many carbs and fats on the same plate. It was too much food even for me, who has been known to pack away an entire pizza in a sitting. But every bit of it was organic and none of it from improperly-raised or treated livestock or genetically-engineered grains.If you think you know some healthy, attractive people. go visit an Amish community. They positively glow with youth, and they have great skin, vibrant hair, strong upright posture, correct body-mass index, etc. And they eat steak and potatoes for BREAKFAST.

SSG: American Soma’s story “Postmodern Colonialism” is a not-so futuristic story that charts conquests achieved through capitalism (and sometimes, war). In host nations, protective compounds are created, in which American white collar employees are stationed and eventually cannot leave. Do you think this still lies in America ’s future? Or are we already there?

MB: It might, but I honestly hope it doesn't. Not because I really have a concept of what this sort of thing really means to the citizens of third world countries. I think it would be presumptuous of me to even prentend that I understand their point of view. I hope this never happens because the America I love is full of good people, and the system that does/might exist where Americans are unwelcome in other countries makes me feel a little heartsick. Entitled we might act, and enfranchised we certainly are, but under it all I know we're not such douchebags as all that. I like to fantasize that nearly any one person from any country who "hates" Americans could come to Chicago, spend a month here seeing what we're really like, and at least partially change their mind. It might be just a fantasy, but that's the America I live in, and the one that I try to protect and nurture.

SSG: American Soma is largely about a variety of personal or communal dystopias and imperfect worlds. By contrast, what three things comprise your idea of a utopia?

MB: 1) The abolishment of institutional punishment. I don't think governments should exist to incarcerate or execute people. I think people should be bound by the moral code of their individual communities and made to atone for transgressions in a palpable way. Locking someone up for fifteen years solves nothing. Serious breaches of the law should be punished by things like compulsory labor in charitable causes, compulsory participation in medical trials so we can improve our overall medical technology, compulsory relocation to rural areas or group living environments for community supervision. That sort of thing should exist for the small percentage of crimes that are not directly related to socioeconomic status. Which leads me to my next bullet point...
2) Socialism 2.0. Not communism, socialism. If the last year and a half have taught us anything useful about socioeconomics, it's that our version of capitalism does little or nothing to maintain the meritocracy and democracy that we cling to as its ideals. So we need to ask ourselves: why the death-grip on capitalism? Let it go, America. Much of what we do is already very socialistic in nature, let's toss out the rest of the stupid process and start fresh with a political structure consistent with the last century of human sociopolitical evolution. As we are now, we're still struggling with many of the same problems people in 1909 suffered from. I find that lack of progress telling.
3) Creativity encouraged, derivative entrepreneurialism scorned. There is a reason buzzards have no friends. They survive on eating the remains of other, more noble creatures. I think we as human beings need to start calling buzzards buzzards and focus on a world in which creativity reigns. Ultimately, those who create are the most valuable members of any society anyway. A culture is only as good as its best idea, and right now the people in this country who have ideas are like little mice under the sun waiting for the corporate birds of prey to swoop out of the sky and grab them. We cage people in the bars of expectation, partially because of capitalism, partially because of outmoded cultural taboos that have no real teeth anymore. In a digital world, where virtual experiences are quickly catching up with "real" experiences, why can we not have a world in which the concept of taboo melts away and gives rise to the creativity that the human race needs, and deserves? The concept of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) may be useful here. Peace can be realized as a sort of comfort barrier to protect Group of People A from Group of People B via means of the digital world. After all, when I log onto Facebook only the people I like are there. Imagine a world where you could move to a community of people guaranteed to accept you for whatever it was you wanted to achieve in the world. In a more virtual world, you might even live in a "community" comprised of only people you get along with. Tired of listening to religious people? Unfriend them for a while until you change your mind or get bored. Abortion not your thing? In a more virtual world, you could demand that people who advocate abortion rights never, or nearly never, cross your path. You can tune out news of them the way you'd tune out a distasteful radio station or that one weirdo friend from college who you don't care to ever speak to again.
In "No Exit" Sartre demonstrated to us that Hell is "other people." If we want to ever reach Utopia, we need to realize that Heaven is also other people. Some other people.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Amy Guth Answers the American Soma blog meme!

The dynamic and beautiful Amy Guth, author of Three Fallen Women (2006) and So New's Managing Editor, has answered a few interview questions that are part of my American Soma blog meme.

Here 'tis! Amy originally posted it on her blog, which can be seen here: http://bigmouthindeedstrikesagain.blogspot.com/2009/06/ask-me-uh-ho-ho-ask-me.html

Savannah Schroll Guz, author of American Soma and all-around wonderful human being (full disclosure: I worked closely with her on the book at So New), has one delightfully geekademic blog meme happening, What Would You Do?:

SSG: In American Soma, the title story imagines the mass drugging of the nation through popular foods, like pizza, coffee, and beer to assure the results of a presidential election. If you were in power and wanted to maintain it, what methods would you use?

AG: Uh, well, I believe that we reap what we sow, so I wouldn't do any such thing. Howevah, if I had, say, an evil alter-ego, I imagine she would do something which involved the manipulation of chain stores, crap-pop music and reality television. Just a guess.

SSG: In American Soma, there is a story called “The Fountain,” in which the dirty water of a dive bar toilet can make people younger. Considering injections of botulism toxins and painful chemical peels are now the accepted way to rejuvenate your appearance, would you reach into a scummy toilet in order to maintain your youth or regain it? And what's your unlikely fountain of youth?

AG: Maybe I'd dunk one boob at a time into that creepy toilet to bring back the rack I had a decade ago. Ha! No, actually, I swear by time swimming in the ocean, drinking a lot of water, writing it all out instead of holding it all in, and cooking from scratch. If that stuff can't keep me hanging on, I don't know what will.

SSG: American Soma’s story “Postmodern Colonialism” is a not-so futuristic story that charts conquests achieved through capitalism (and sometimes, war). In host nations, protective compounds are created, in which American white collar employees are stationed and eventually cannot leave. Do you think this still lies in America ’s future? Or are we already there?

AG: I'm in; I've spent a lot of time in and around Los Alamos, NM. The history of their postal system alone is a little unnerving.

SSG: American Soma is largely about a variety of personal or communal dystopias and imperfect worlds. By contrast, what three things comprise your idea of a utopia?

AG: Technology, wine and olives. I could figure it out from there.

Tag, you're all it.

"A Little Death" featured in Bombay Gin

"A Little Death" from Savannah's novel The Davidian Odyssey appears in the Summer 2009 issue of Naropa University's literary journal Bombay Gin, founded by Allen Ginsberg and Beat poet and writer Anne Waldman in 1974. Thanks to Matt Wise for the opportunity to be included with so many excellent writers and poets!

Other featured authors and poets include:
K. Silem Mohammad, Philip Jenks and Simone Muench, David Buuck, Savannah Schroll Guz, Joseph Cooper, Emily Carr, Theodore Worozbyt, dawn lonsinger, Eric Bogosian, Rachael Peckham, Sherman Alexie, Aase Berg translated by Johannes Göransson, Jane Bernstein, Marc Nasdor, Carol Mirakove, Brian Lennon, Adela Miencilova, Akilah Oliver, Alex Shakar, Steffi Drewes, Jefferson Navicky, Sasha Steensen, Steven Salmoni, Nguyen Quyen translated by Bruce Weigl and Nguyen Phoung, Anne Waldman (from Naropa Audio Archives)

From "A Little Death":

"[David] reached over and touched the body, pushing his fingers in where he believed the heart would be. He saw, as never before, the details of his interior world: not on any visceral level. What he saw was beyond the viscous lubricant that seemed to exist between organs, beyond his now stagnant blood, beyond his inactive and suffocating cells (for some were still working, like tiny factories, not aware of their imminent death). What he saw was also well beyond the subatomic level, beyond his darkening, decelerating energy strings. David saw the knowledge that continually flew just beyond the boundaries of contemporary science, the knowledge that would always move beyond mankind's awareness because mankind simply asked the wrong questions.

Flesh was fact in only one plane of reality. And still, this plane determined the consequences of so many others. David sat down beside his body and waited, commencing a bleak and isolated inaction that would continue for many decades."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pittsburgh Authors Read Tonight 8 p.m.! Collins, Lillis, Guz at Kiva Han

Okay, so it’s hard to compete with the Penguins’ Stanley Cup game tonight. Really, really hard. (Even we writers will be surreptitiously checking the score between readings.)

However, please come join us--even if just for a few minutes on your way to a TV set and a tall beer--at Kiva Han ( 420 S. Craig Street in Oakland ) for 8 p.m. readings by Kris Collins, Karen Lillis, and Savannah Schroll Guz. The event marks the official launch of Savannah's collection of short fiction, American Soma.

Tonight, Savannah will regale listeners of how The Fountain of Youth was found in the cramped and dirty bathroom of a dive bar called Larry’s. Certainly this is something every youth-conscious, Botox-shy listener will want to know.

So, come join Kristofer Collins (author of Liturgy of Streets), Karen Lillis (author of The Second Elizabeth) and me, Savannah Guz at Kiva Han and get your daily dose of local lit.

Hope to see you there!
(And Go Pens!)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Collins, Lillis, and Guz Read at Kiva Han, Pittsburgh

American Soma at Cyclops in Baltimore

Charm City’s excellent literary magazine, JMWW, held a launch party for its Third Anthology on Saturday, 6 June. Jen Michalski, editor of JMWW, organized the event at Cyclops Books, a sharp-looking store with pimento-red walls and expansive performance space that stands along steadily reviving North Avenue (neighborhood: “Station North”).

Cyclops Owner Andy Rubin features books by local and national authors, including anthologies by Barrel House and Smartish Pace. There’s also ample place for music, and Andy anticipates the performances by Grammy and Tony Award-winning nominees in addition to an eclectic collection of local bands and soloists.

On Saturday, JMWW kicked off its launch party with readings by seven JMWW contributors, including TNB-er Jessica Anya Blau, William Duell, Pete Pazmino, Justin Sirois, Joseph Young, Erik Goodman, and Savannah Schroll Guz (*cough* moi!).

Baltimore Author and Blogger Joseph Young, who writes and manages the fantastic and incisive Baltimore Interview and whose fiction often appears at SmokeLong Quarterly, opened with three short flash pieces.

Fellow TNB’er Jessica Anya Blau read “Number 7,” a vividly perceptive portrait of a teenage girl’s checkered sexual past and the shift in the power-fulcrum once she reaches adulthood. The story was recently named one of the storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2008.

Erik Goodman read from “Futures.” The excerpt is part of a larger novel-in-stories, titled Tracks, and is based on Goodman’s observation of people traveling by train between Baltimore and Chicago.

Pete Pazmino, whose story “Fifty American” was a 2008 finalist in the Black Warrior Review Fiction Contest, read the hilarious first-person narrative about women seeking love in “Chowbang” from the Fall 2008 issue.

Texas-based Author William R. Duell read from “Maw Maw,” whose title character bore eyes that are washed light blue with craziness (an excellent description!).

Justin Sirois, founder of Baltimore’s experimental writing and publishing collective Narrow House, read from his collection of novel “out-takes” called MLKNG SCKLS, recently released by Publishing Genius. Fascinating is that his latest novel, only recently finished, is written in collaboration with Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy and deals with displaced Iraqis living in Fallujah in April of ‘04

I read from my just-released So New book American Soma, which carries the story “The Doctor Dreams” and (for levity’s sake) “A Salesman Reborn”.

The evening wound down at Joe Squared, which offers the best thin crust pizza this pizza eater has ever had. The beer was pretty excellent, too, although I still have no idea what pitcher I got my beer from. I highly recommend the Barbeque Chicken Pizza. And if you’re into pig and pineapples–together at last!–the Hawaiian Pizza is pretty excellent, too.

In the meantime, please check out the spring 2009 issue of JMWW, which features Nathan Leslie, fellow Pittsburgh writer Karen Lillis, Rick Levin, Garett Socol, a review of Shane Jones’ Light Boxes by Molly Gaudry and fiction and poetry by many others.

See a complete photo gallery of the JMWW launch readers here: www.flickr.com/savannahschrollguz. Thanks goes to my hubby, Michael, for taking the pictures.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review: Monkey Bicycle 6 Delivers

Unlike Monkey Bicycle’s previous issues (No. 4 presented thematically-connected short stories by 40 contributors and No. 5 was devoted exclusively to humor, both dark and light), No. 6 is an arresting crazy quilt of subjects and voices, many of them masterful.

In Jing Li’s “Forever,” calligraphy is the means by which the poet penetrates memory and creates metaphor. And while the images in “Forever” are powerful without any consideration of possible retrospective influences, they still seem to echo the poignancy of works like “The River-Merchant’s Wife,” which was Ezra Pound’s translation of a poem by Li Po (*cough* Pardon me, the English professor part of my persona is leaking out my right side…Okay, there. See, duct tape helps everything). Jing Li’s last lines, which depict the sublimation of shadows into transient flock of starlings is itself a calligraphic arabesque that points to the poem’s theme: the relentless and elliptical movement of infinity.

Other stand-outs include Drew Jackson’s gorgeous “After Spaulding,” which is so rich with imagery and wit, it warrants multiple readings. With a nod to Fitzgerald’s Gatsby in the story’s introductory paragraphs, Jackson actually creates a world more vivid and enchanting than Fitzgerald’s. Jackson’s characterizations are captivating: there’s the elusive star-genius Spaulding–who creates genetically-marketable hybrids like a angora-haired pythons (whose hirsute skins can be worn with impunity by the fur coat lover)—servants who simultaneously confirm and defy expectation, and the gloriously-rendered remote jungle setting in which Spaulding now lives and where the story’s principal action takes place.

Honestly, you can’t help but admire Jackson’s clever and masterful description of Spaulding’s island, largely comprised of dense, alien foliage: “And while I knew the theory of spontaneous generation had been discredited centuries ago, it seemed that in Spaulding’s fertile wood, you could toss away the heel of a Reuben sandwich and return the next day to find a motherless calf in the middle of a cabbage patch, licking itself clean of the 1,000 Island dressing afterbirth.”
Jackson’s tidbits of obscurely fascinating trivia, artfully and purposefully sprinkled throughout the story, reveals the author’s erudition. And he treats words like beads made of precious and semi-precious stones: He strings them together in sentences to create a reading experience that literally sparkles. Overall, having read this, I wonder what it’s like to live inside Drew Jackson’s mind. I imagine it’s a pretty fascinating place, a genuine cabinet of curiosities.

Funny, down-to-earth, and absorbing are also Martha Clarkson’s “Gum Gutter,” which records a chance encounter that leads up to an elliptical and hopeful ending in the life of a woman in transition, and Michael Czyzniejewski’s “Valentine”, which relates a man’s consuming curiosity about his wife’s gynecologist, who performs her pelvic exam every February 14th.

Matt Bell’s “The Girls of Channel 2112,” about Siamese-twin, live-feed internet porn stars—one eager and willing, the other cerebral and emotionally detached—becomes an unconventional, if painful love story, involving one twin’s high school crush. Sarah Salway’s excerpt “Death Dreams” is a surreal, evocatively Jungian litany of troubling nocturnal imaginings.

Monkey Bicycle 6 is a fantastic collection of varied voices, all sewn together into one cogent whole. Buy it! You’ll enjoy every morsel.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Savannah at Baltimore's Cyclops Books Saturday

I'll be appearing with the JMWW literary magazine gang on Saturday, June 6th at 5 p.m. at Cyclops Bookstore. Today's edition of the Baltimore Sun indicates the event as a weekend notable. Check it out here:


"Saturday evening, Cyclops Bookstore, formerly The Baltimore Chop, is throwing a party for jmww's third print anthology launch, featuring readings from the second and third anthologies. Editor Jen Michalski will be joined by Jessica Anya Blau, William Duell, Pete Pazmino, Justin Sirois, Joseph Young, Savannah Schroll Guz and Erik Goodman; with copies of the third anthology on sale for $7.

And even if you don't make it Saturday night, you should check out Cyclops. The store is huge, and the owners promise books, shows and a good time for all at the new location on North Avenue. Not to mention, Joe Squared pizza is right across the street!" -- Nancy Johnston

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

From The Davidian Odyssey

Editing a new manuscript. A taste is here:

David’s mother called to him from the other side of the Memory River, for he sat now on the hard rocks along the bank. Her hands were on her hips, and she had a look of consternation on her face. “Goddamn it, David Clarence. They’re going to medicate you. I just saw them flicking the air out of the syringes. And that’s just what you don’t want. You’ll be under their thumb forever and ever amen.”

He looked up at his mother slowly, too despondent to be concerned. Instead, he watched what had begun to come up behind her: ten or fifteen horses. They were emerging from a forest so dark its shadows seemed to come out in the form of a thick fog. The horses were grey like mice with black manes and tales. Some of them had faint zebra stripes marking their legs.

“What are those?” David asked pointing to the horses.

“Tarpans, David. Don’t you know that?”

“Tarpans?” he said, his arm still extended.

“Herman Goering’s primordial horses,” she waved dismissively at them, grimacing. “Didn’t you hear me? They’re going to medicate you.”

“I don’t care.” David looked down into the water. He watched a childhood birthday rush past, taking party hats, textured dining room wall paper, and a giant cake and its nine birthday candles with it.

“You will.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Would You Do?

1) In American Soma, the title story imagines the mass drugging of the nation through popular foods, like pizza, coffee, and beer to assure the results of a presidential election. If you were in power and wanted to maintain it, what methods would you use?

2) In American Soma, there is a story called “The Fountain,” in which the dirty water of a dive bar toilet can make people younger. Considering injections of botulism toxins and painful chemical peels are now the accepted way to rejuvenate your appearance, would you reach into a scummy toilet in order to maintain your youth or regain it? And what's your unlikely fountain of youth?

3) American Soma’s story “Postmodern Colonialism” is a not-so futuristic story that charts conquests achieved through capitalism (and sometimes, war). In host nations, protective compounds are created, in which American white collar employees are stationed and eventually cannot leave. Do you think this still lies in America ’s future? Or are we already there?

4) American Soma is largely about a variety of personal or communal dystopias and imperfect worlds. By contrast, what three things comprise your idea of a utopia?

Don't Drink the Coffee.

Monday, June 1, 2009

He borrowed my hack saw!

Hmmmm....So, in a crockpot, I usually make my own soup broth bases, provided I have a turkey frame or some bony leftover.

What have I here? Excellent question! Well, it's been in my freezer since Michael brought it home from his mother's freezer. These are butchered bones from the cow the neighbor raises for my mother-in-law in payment for the hay she allows them to harvest. In fact, I've got two bags of this frightening, frozen bloodiness. Every time I go to the basement freezer and see this mass of bones, my mind immediately races to Jeffery Daumer's chest freezer. (shudder)

Not one to waste anything, I decided that they would, too, become soup broth. Yes, well, (*cough*) I can't get the bones apart. They're frozen all in a jumble. It's not like I can take one or two out at a time. So I gotta defrost and cook the whole thing.

And thankfully, before I plopped them into the spring water in the crock pot, I realized, with fright, that they are raw! Um yes, Virginia, that blood is still ruby red. I have not crockpot cooked raw bones, and suspect it's not a good idea. So, I set it on an old baking sheet, liberally lubed, and like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, I've stuffed them into the oven. We'll see what happens. Heh. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 29, 2009

In Praise of the Radish Burp

I have a tendency to become....mmmm...how shall I say this?....a little paranoid. It's not anything out of the ordinary. I think, under the circumstances, many people may feel inherently uneasy. For instance, there's the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, the continued recession, local political battles, larger political and social dynamics over which I have no control. I could list a thousand things that push my personal panic button.

However, what tows me back to earth (besides my comforting and levelheaded husband) when I jet into one of my reflective orbits is a walk to our garden. We have gradually increased its size over the three or four years since we started growing our own food. We have beets, eggplants, carrots, peppers of all sorts, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, potatoes, sunflowers (for seeds), squash, pumpkins, even cantaloupe. Soon, we'll plant black beans.

In previous years, we canned 75 quarts of Blue Lake string beans, and last year, Michael and I canned homemade salsa. We likewise baked, pureed and froze container upon container of pureed pumpkin, which I've been using all winter to make soups, stews, quick bread and muffins.

My husband and I cook (and honestly, play like little kids) well together, moving around our small kitchen and filling in where one of us is unable to because we lack the requisite hands. For example, Michael spoons salsa or peppers in jars, I apply the lids, and he puts them into the hot water with the canning tongs. We tag team. It's perfect.

In the evenings, before Michael comes home, I usually go out to see what's developed since the previous day. Last night, beside salad greens from our mesclun mix, it was radishes: big, red, beautiful radishes. They're still young, and it's been moist, so they're not stingingly strong. Instead, they have that wonderful flavor that reminds me of summers past, when we'd eat radishes raw on the back porch, sip tea, and then burp aloud.

Okay, I know, real romantic. But, it was so much fun. Several times, we'd go somewhere in the car and one of us would quietly allow radish effluvia to leave us, and the other of us would--alerted by the distinctive radish odor lingering like a cloud between us--say, "Oh my gosh. No more radishes tomorrow!" Still, we'd do it all over again the next day because, despite our professed and half-joking disgust over these radish burps, it has become a kind of semi-sacred ritual, a little nudge of love, a reason to giggle.

Along with those radish burps, comes a release of another kind: we're liberated from the daily pressures that weigh us down by the laughing affection that comes with them.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Truly. Words to live by, Lucille.

"One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn't pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself." — Lucille Ball

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So True. So American Soma.

"As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests." --Gore Vidal

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Inspiring Stuff at Pilcrow

The 2009 Pilcrow Lit Fest, founded by lit world powerhouse Amy Guth, concluded on Saturday with A Rebuilt Books Auction and Todd Zuniga's Literary Death Match. The Chicago-based festival was truly fantastic and brought together many of the geographically-dispersed members of the online and new-wave print world.

Although the festival stretched its long arms from one end of the week to the next, with Pilcrow-related events occurring each evening, the most intense day for festival was Saturday, when a series of panels took place at two locations: Trader Todd's and Mathilda's/Baby Atlas.

Literary Festivals like Pilcrow are genuinely energizing. While writing and editing themselves are generally lonely pursuits, requiring quiet concentration and a strong force of will to continue, events like Amy Guth's Pilcrow allow writers to regain perspective, see what's going on elsewhere, sniff the air for new literary scents, and realize new distribution methods (take for instance Featherproof Books' "Light Literature Series", which are tiny, stapled storybooks; also, there are Orange Alert's small-scale CDs, containing literary content).

David Barringer has also created a mini-catalogue of his works, another genius idea from an award-winning designer.

We also had the chance to meet speculative fiction author, Mark R. Brand, who regularly publishes with the beautifully marketed Silver Thought Press. He's one very cool guy and an extremely prolific writer! Check out an excerpt of his book Red Ivy Afternoon here. I just bought it from Amazon a few moments ago, and regret that I didn't pick it up while I was at the festival.

What's our next stop on the American Soma tour? Baltimore! June 6, 2009, Savannah will be joining JMWW Editor Jen Michalski and other JMWW contributors at Cyclops Books in Baltimore, where the group will celebrate the launch of the 3rd JMWW Anthology with a reading. Join us at Cyclops 30 W. North Street in Baltimore!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Panel Pictures from Pilcrow

From Teaching Artists Panel at Pilcrow Lit Fest; Photo: Michael Guz; Location: Trader Todd
From Social and Political Writers Panel at Pilcrow Lit Fest; Photo: Michael Guz;
Location: Trader Todd

Political and Social Writers Panel at Pilcrow Lit Fest; Photo: Michael Guz;
Location: Trader Todd; Moderator: Tim Hall

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Surprise Before Departure

Steve M., Savannah's information source while writing the controversial book American Soma, sat with Michael and Savannah while they packed for their trip to Pilcrow Lit Fest in Chicago. As Savannah put her dresses into the hanging luggage, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Steve's 'tail,' an unidentified SWAT team member. The man in black began to show himself above the Queen Anne's chair, where Steve rested on Michael's fully packed duffel bag.

Suddenly alert, Steve grabbed his gun. "Who are you?!" he shouted.

Again, the man disappeared as quickly as he arrived.

Convinced the SWAT man had gone outside, Steve climbed out the bedroom window in


He came back a few minutes later. "I lost him," he said, angrily, "I have no idea where he went."

To be continued.....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Enter Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen stopped by our house for coffee this evening, just days before we depart for Chicago's Pilcrow Lit Fest. He told us that psychotropic drugs have made their way into coffee, pizza, and beer, and told us what we should avoid on our trip. "The government," Steve said, "is surreptitiously drugging us. We're not safe."

Gratefully accepting a cup of coffee we assured him was free of psychtropics, Steve told us about a hair-raising government plot to medicate the entire nation. And then suddenly, a SWAT team figure appeared. He had apparently attached his grappling hook to our roof.

Steve said: "Damn it! I knew I was followed here!

Indeed, Steve had been followed. When the SWAT figure realized he had been seen, he quickly disappeared.

We searched for him outside, but he was gone. Vanished!

How Big Brother Agribusiness Will Get Your Goat

An article on the way in which Agribusiness is pushing the small farmer and self-sufficient homesteader out of the picture appears at Eric Dondero's news site Libertarian Republican.

"While it has been scaled back on the federal level and termed “voluntary” in the face of wide-spread small farming protests, government regulation is entering the farmyard by the rear gate. Through state and local government in Michigan and Wisconsin, NAIS and mandatory Premise IDs are law. Those who do not comply have had their milking licenses revoked, among other penalties. Wisconsin is considered a model for the program’s implementation in other states."

Read the whole article here: http://libertarianrepublican.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-big-brother-agribusiness-will-get.html

Friday, May 15, 2009

Get Medicated, Suburbia!

The pre-order page for American Soma is now available!

Visit www.sonewpublishing.com to place your order now. Or download the free reader's guide in .pdf format.

An Irate Australian Citizen

This anonymous letter originally appeared on Jim Fryar's blog Real World Libertarian. It's absolutely priceless. How many times have I mentally composed a letter like this to some similar organization? Too many to count.

Here it is--

Dear Minister,

I’m in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe this.

How is it that K-Mart has my address and telephone number, and knows that I bought a Television Set and Golf Clubs from them back in 1997, and yet, the Federal Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date? For Christ sakes, do you guys do this by hand?

My birth date you have in my Medicare information, and it is on all the income tax forms I’ve filed for the past 40 years. It is on my driver’s license, on the last eight passports I’ve ever had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I’ve had to fill out before being allowed off the planes over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that I’ve filled out every 5 years since 1966.

Also, would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother’s name is Audrey, my Father’s name is Jack, and I’d be absolutely f***ing astounded if that ever changed between now and when I drop dead!!!…SHIT!

I apologize, Mr. Minister. But I’m really pissed off this morning. Between you and me, I’ve had enough of all this bullshit! You send the application to my house, then you ask me for my f***ing address!! What the hell is going on with your mob? Have you got a gang of mindless Neanderthal arse-holes working there!

And another thing, look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I can’t even grow a beard for God’s sakes. I just want to go to New Zealand and see my new granddaughter. (Yes, my son interbred with a Kiwi girl). And would someone please tell me, why would you give a shit whether I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days? If I ever got the urge to do something weird to a sheep or a horse, believe me, I sure as hell would not want to tell anyone!

Well, I have to go now, ’cause I have to go to the other end of the city, and get another f***ing copy of my birth certificate, and to part with another $80 for the privilege of accessing MY OWN INFORMATION!

Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot, to assist in the issuance of a new passport on the same day?? Nooooo... That’d be too f***ing easy and makes far too much sense. You would much prefer to have us running all over the place like chickens with our f***ing heads cut off, and then having to find some high society wanker to confirm that it’s really me in the god-damn photo! You know the photo…the one where we’re not allowed to smile? …You f***ing morons

Signed - An Irate Australian Citizen.

P.S.: Remember what I said above about the picture, and getting someone in high-society to confirm that it’s me? Well, my family has been in this country since before 1850! In 1856, one of my forefathers took up arms with Peter Lalor. (You do remember the Eureka Stockade!!) I have also served in both the CMF and regular Army something over 30 years (I went to Vietnam in 1967), and still have high security clearances.I’m also a personal friend of the president of the RSL. And Lt General Peter Cosgrove sends me a Christmas card each year.However, your rules require that I have to get someone “important” to verify who I am; You know… someone like my doctor; WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN F***ING PAKISTAN!!!…A country where they either assassinate or hang their ex-Prime Ministers, and are suspended from the Commonwealth for not having the “right sort of government.”

You are all f***ing idiots.

Thoughts for the Morning

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Boycott Companies that use RIFDs: they threaten privacy

"Supermarket cards and retail surveillance devices are merely the opening volley of the marketers' war against consumers. If consumers fail to oppose these practices now, our long-term prospects may look like something from a dystopian science fiction novel."
--from RFID: Tracking everything, everywhere by Katherine Albrecht, CASPIAN

We thought clinically-diagnosed schizophrenics, who feared radio waves emitted by the government, were crazy? It turns out they were prophetic. Read this and learn why:


The daily minutiae of our lives, or simplest choices, are being monitored on an ever increasing level.

Big Brother watches Thanks to GPS Coordinates

Have someone on your doorstep saying they're with the census bureau and shooting GPS coordinates? Skeptical of the relevance of these coordinates to the census?

You're not alone.

Read this: http://libertarianrepublican.blogspot.com/2009/05/wnd-headlines-gps-census-bureau-story.html

Read about the variety of things that can be done with these coordinates here.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I feel we are heading towards the dystopic minutae of Orwell's 1984 and noone's doing anything to stop the steady, insidious slide.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pilcrow Lit Fest is fast approaching!

(And check out the designer responsible for the fabulous artwork!
Justin Wolta is www.mommasboydesign.com)

David Barringer explains the concept behind his excellent American Soma Design

Please check out designer and author David Barringer's explanation for the visually arresting cover he created for American Soma, which I am so excited to have as the introductory image to the book. The design is conceptually interesting, as David explains here.

The Dissemination of Desire

An interesting article appears on Yahoo, warning readers about the unfulfilling allure of desire culture. One of the central messages in American Soma's "Post-Modern Colonialism" is that commercial concerns inherently fuel discontent.

Let's take a closer look and compare story with article:

First, "Postmodern Colonialism" from American Soma:

" Many of the nations approached still required additional priming, their people needed to be aware of things in order to begin wanting them. And through black market items, through months-old dog-eared copies of entertainment magazines filled cover to cover with glossy advertisements and images of stars looking so delicious they might have been pies in a bakery case, each distant population gradually discovered the saleable essentials of our world and grew to desire their opulent pretenses. "

Now, the Yahoo article.


"According to Boston College sociologist Juliet Schor, "Television viewing results in an upscaling of desire. And that in turn leads people to buy." Her study found that every additional hour of TV viewing per week boosts spending by roughly $200 a year. So a handful of sitcoms and a reality series or two can cost you more than a grand a year. Forget keeping up with the Joneses; now people are struggling to keep up with the Kardashians."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Another human evolutionary branch?

"A skeleton cast of tiny and controversial Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the Hobbit, went on public display for the first time Tuesday at Stony Brook University on Long Island."


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Galleys, Pilcrow and Good Stuff!

So, good people, the galleys are bound for the printer! American Soma will be a physical reality in a few weeks.

In the meantime, Savannah is gearing up for Chicago's Pilcrow Lit Fest, brain child of Amy Guth! She'll be appearing on the following panels. Please come say hello!

Saturday, May 23--

Location Three: Upstairs @ Trader Todd's

10:00-10:45 Social & Political Writing Panel
Panelists discuss the role of social and political writing in contemporary writing/blogging.
Moderator: Tim Hall
Panelists: Mark R. Brand, Ramsin Canon, Savannah Schroll Guz, Conor McCarthy, Amy Sayre-Roberts

1:00-1:45 Airtight Stances, A Teaching Artists Panel: Teaching-artists from a variety of disciplines converge to define and discuss what they do.
Moderator: Larry O. Dean
Panelists: Robert Duffer, Savannah Schroll Guz, others TBA

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The story "Evolution" intersects with Frontline Program

The science inspiring the story "Evolution" in American Soma was discussed at length in the April 20, 2009 presentation of Frontline.

First, from "Evolution":
"Eventually, tests revealed that water was to blame for the unusual genetic manifestations. The basic purification systems employed by the cities were not filtering out the estrogen excreted by women taking birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies. Detergents containing the compounds alkyl phenoxy polyethoxy ethanols, also regularly flushed into the water systems, returned in filtered drinking water to activate the estrogen receptors in cells of both males and females. Mothers mixed formula with tap water, and children drank it in their Tang. Girl-boys were first made and later born."
~ ~ ~ ~
And now, from the Frontline program:
"In Poisoned Waters, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith examines the growing hazards to human health and the ecosystem.

'The '70s were a lot about, 'We're the good guys; we're the environmentalists; we're going to go after the polluters,' and it's not really about that anymore,' Jay Manning, director of ecology for Washington state, tells FRONTLINE. 'It's about the way we all live. And unfortunately, we are all polluters. I am; you are; all of us are.'

Through interviews with scientists, environmental activists, corporate executives and average citizens impacted by the burgeoning pollution problem, Smith reveals startling new evidence that today's growing environmental threat comes not from the giant industrial polluters of old, but from chemicals in consumers' face creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners that find their way into sewers, storm drains and eventually into America's waterways and drinking water."