Monday, November 25, 2013

Stuff's on hold for a couple of weeks, but this is a good thing...

Holy cow! I'm as sick of the zombie/vampire craze as anyone, but sometimes the dead do rise.

Hopeless Books' current productions are on hold while I edit a literary translation project I had long, long ago given up for a goner.

Back in the late 1990s an American anarchist friend swept me into his pipe dream of translating DANS LE CIEL, the lost novel of the late-19th-century anarchist French writer Octave Mirbeau, into an English version, IN THE SKY.

Now, anarchists confuse the hell out of me—"So you've noticed nothing works, really, eh? So er... what exactly was it you were having this self-righteous protest for? Oh, you're a socialist-anarchist, I see, that makes a lot of fucking sense, carry on"—but I know a good book when I read it.

Mirbeau was also the author of one of my favorite fictional annals of hopelessness ever; but to tell you how his DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID ends would be a complete spoiler. Let's just say that a twist in the last few pages brings it from a flirtation with utopianism back to the dreary cycles of life with a grace that's worthy of Cioran. (It's also about infinity times as entertaining as Cioran.)

DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID, however, has already been printed in English translations, so the group that recruited me was focusing on IN THE SKY. They recruited me because, well, no one originally involved in the project was terribly bilingual. I was to do the work of translation while they took care of the scholarship, promotion, and publisher-hunting.

Translating properly is not an easy job, especially when you have a day job. I repeat, this was the late 90s, when scruffy youths still didn't generally own computers, so I did everything by hand, with a pen, notebook, and analog dictionary. And of course, timely publication of the finished product was never guaranteed, although it turned out to be, er, even rather less guaranteed than I assumed.

But it seemed worth it. Being involved with a work, by a writer I admired, that had never been translated into English seemed like a huge honor to me at twenty-whatever; to tell you the truth it seems like even more of one now. I even flew and trained it out to Angers, in the west of France (I was bussing tables for a living at the time, which tells you a. How excited I was, and b. What inflation has done to travel in the past 15 years), to meet Dr. Pierre Michel, the main enthusiast behind the project and probably the world's biggest living Mirbeau scholar, and to get advice from him on the work.

Dr. Michel, president of the Société Octave Mirbeau and editor of the Cahiers Mirbeau series for the past two decades, was (and still is, it turns out) the main engine behind an attempted Mirbeau revival, for both French and English reading audiences. Indeed, the edition of the French text on which we're basing the translation was the work of Dr. Michel in the first place. Before Dr. Michel began his travaux, this chunk of Mirbeau's work was pretty much lost to Francophonic audiences as well.

Which is too bad. Mirbeau was plagued by physical ailments and self-hatred throughout his career, and particularly during the period when he wrote DANS LE CIEL, but many of his more famous contemporaries—Guy de Maupassant; the Impressionists—saw no reason for his refusal to engage in any aggressive tooting of his own horn. DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID was probably his most swinging, fun-read text, but the subtleties of IN THE SKY are incredibly expressive of the dangers of a romantic, ascetic, or even plain old truth-seeking temperament.

To try to tear yourself away from normal, earthly human life into the eerie realm of Art, Mind, and Romance—as they understood it in the late 19th century and even as we materialist post-relevancies, in faint echoes, perceive this ethereal oubliette now—is bad enough when you do it on purpose. But when you're doomed to live in the artistic sky, when you can't come down from the clouds, you are, to use the vernacular, fucked as a human being.

Mirbeau seemed to understand that just as well as he understood the more earthly, class-conflict based troubles that he covered in CHAMBERMAID. This lost volume, which is probably more clearly influenced by Mirbeau's association with the wild paint-eating early Impressionists than anything else he wrote, bridges the gap between the hefty CHAMBERMAID tome and the more abstract TORTURE GARDEN.

Anyway. Here on Earth, I translated the whole SKY and mailed the handwritten chapters off to my anarchist friend. And then—if I had been more worldly wise at the time I would have seen this coming—the anarchist hit some strange times of his own, the manuscript I'd done was lost somewhere, and the project sort of floated off into the sky.

I'd almost forgotten about it—my brain likes to block out embittering things on me sometimes—when Claire Nettleton looked me up about a year ago. I'm not sure about the details, but someone, probably Dr. Michel, somehow dug most of my handwritten translation up. I'd lost track of him over the years, so he couldn't get in touch with me, so he (Googled? Who knows how he found her?) contacted Claire, whose doctoral dissertation in French involved some mention of Mirbeau (the more I think about this, the more I think he Googled her; I'm always amazed at Google's ability to snoop into obscure academic writing) and recruited her to re-translate the missing chapters.

When they finally tracked me down and asked me to edit Nettleton's work and mine into what would appear to be an organic whole, I was shocked and enthused. Nothing like finding out that hours and hours of work you'd thought were for nought were not.

So, off I go, faced with the double task of a. Making three chapters of someone else's idea of Mirbeau's voice sound just like my idea of Mirbeau's voice, and b. Cringefully editing my own post-adolescent pretentiousness into what sounds like a translation done by a human being and not a caricature.

If this project succeeds I hope you'll read it. As for volumes that are under my more complete and direct control, they'll be coming, as soon as I climb down from... well, translating this book doesn't exactly put you in the place from which it was originally written. I'll say "from the place where two languages meet the horrible gaps in human self-knowledge that lie both between and inside of them." This would be a "nicer" place if IN THE SKY were a "nicer" book, of course, but fortunately "nice" isn't my literary forte.

Monday, November 18, 2013

In the Works

Heidy ho. I've had the flu for about a week and a half now, but as the snot flow dwindles the reformatting/squirreling flow has been reborn. (No menstruation jokes, please, I'm still feeling a little nauseated.)

So: PAPER: I'm just waiting on the proof copy of a paper-ready POD of THE TALKATIVE CORPSE, coming soon from Amazon. Hold it in your hot little hands. 

And, per request from friends who, bless their hearts, think they're going off the grid by using Nook or some Apple shit instead of Kindle, I'm also reformatting the Corpse for Smashwords, which pretty much distributes to everything.

Next up: I'll be reformatting Robert Ignatius Dillon's BEYOND THE BUSH for paper and smash as well. 

AND AS ALWAYS: All of our books are available for review in PDF version for the low, low price of asking me. And, preferably, actually writing a review.

No venue is too big or too small, but if you're going to write it on your pet, please use a sandwich board, not a tattoo gun. Jesus, you shouldn't even be shaving your pets in the first place.

Monday, November 4, 2013

FREE SAMPLE: Chapter Four from Hopeless Book #3, BEYOND THE BUSH by R.I. Dillon

I'm just giving the family jewels away this week. Here's the fourth chapter from this truly odd satire. If you want to know what the hell is going on, just cough up $3.99 (is that less than a latte? I wouldn't know, I take my coffee as black and bitter as my heart) right...


     “Bronstein Returns”

     “Close to the edge, Dice,” said Eddie Berthanse.
     Andrew Dice Dickman yawned.
     “You are close to the edge,” repeated Eddie, presiding over his Brain Trust den, known as “The Think Tank.” “As in: one more slip-up? And we send you to the Body Banks!”
     Dice shrugged, “Big deal.”
     Eddie gawked.
     Dice smiled, “Body banks, Eddie? As in, prostitutes?”
     “Shut up, ass-clown!” shouted Eddie. “Don’t clown my ass! At Brain Trust, you don’t get to make your own rules!”
     Dice scoffed.
     Eddie said, “Here’s one rule you broke, Dice. You do not GET UP AND WALK AWAY FROM A BRAIN QUALITY TEST.”
     Dice said, “Look, Eddie. Fat Guy was talking trash.”
     “Trash in your can, Dice!” bellowed Eddie. “New rules. As follows. You’re going to Bronstonia. And you’ll do as we tell you! Got it?!?”
     Dice squinted, “What’s Bronstonia?”
     Eddie sipped some Michelob Beer, and he sighed loudly.
     Dice said, “I’m being exiled, Eddie?”
     Eddie said, “Think of it as a paid vacation, Dice. You’ll love it.”
     “How can I refuse?” sighed Dice.
     “Now,” said Eddie. “Do you know the Hollywood area well?”
     “Well enough.”
     Eddie said, “Very well. Jack Bronstein’s brownstone is a 20-minute drive from here. You will find spare keys in the bird bath.”
     “And then?” said Dice.
     Eddie said, “I’m getting to that. You let yourself in. Then? Then, you jump out the window.”
     “I do WHAT?” gasped Dice.
     “You jump out the window, Dice.”
     “I’ll break my legs!” protested Dice.
     Eddie smiled, “You won’t, Dice. At Brain Trust, we don’t just do genetic engineering.”
     “Yeah,” scoffed Dice. “Ya deal in bull—”
     “Shut up!” snapped Eddie. “Inter-dimensional travel, Dice. Testing the limits of space and time!”
     Dice yawned, “What if I say no, Eddie?”
     Eddie drew a gun, and he said, “You can’t say no!”
     Dice shook his head.
     “Don’t worry about your legs,” said Eddie. “Don’t worry. You will land in Bronstonia. It’s a land of many…it’s a land of plenty. Happy trails, Dice.”
     “Eddie? I have a question.”
     “I suppose it can’t hurt,” shrugged Eddie.
     Dice said, “This Jack Bronstein guy. Didn’t he work here?”
     Eddie frowned.
     “Yeeaahh,” said Dice. “Jack Bronstein did Brain Quality Tests! And he was supposed to do one on Fat Guy!”
     Impatiently, Eddie sipped his Michelob.
     Dice asked, “What, uh, what happened to Bronstein?”
     “If you MUST know,” said an annoyed Eddie, “Jack was thrown out of the Fat Clone Project. We moth-balled his ass!”
     Dice burst out laughing.
     Eddie barked, “It’s no joke, Dice! The Brain Quality Test is serious business. Now get serious! And get out of here.”
     Dice puffed on a cigarette, and he laughed, “Moth balls!”
     “You smell like moth balls,” remarked Fat Guy.
     Down in the Brain Trust basement, Fatty was seated across from Jack Bronstein, and Hollywood’s Martin Sheen.
     Jack puffed on a cigar, and he said, “Don’t bug me, Fatty.”
     Martin laughed.
     Fatty joked, “Your tie doesn’t match your suit, Jack!”
     Jack made a face.
     “This grab-ass doesn’t fool me,” said Fatty.
     Jack quipped, “No fooling!”
     Martin said, “Gentlemen, let’s begin, please?”
     “Hold up, Martin,” said Fatty. “This Goldfinger grab-ass may fool YOU, but it doesn’t fool me.”
     Goldfinger, Fatty?” squinted Martin.
     Jack grinned. “Like the 1964 James Bond movie, right?”
     “Just like that!” smiled Fatty. “James Bond gets captured. Gert Frobe’s Goldfinger villain lets James Bond go. Then? Then? James Bond shows up on Goldfinger’s stud farm, a half hour later! Like nothing happened!”
     Martin took a bottle of vodka from a desk drawer.
     Fatty said, “Here’s the thing, Jack. You ain’t no James Bond 007.”
     Jack scoffed.
     “Martin is no Goldfinger,” continued Fatty.
     Martin poured three glasses of vodka.
     “Drink, Fatty?” smiled Martin.
     Fatty said, “Not just yet, Martin.”
     Martin made a face.
     “Never say never again,” said Fatty. “But I am no Odd Job!”
     Jack quipped, “What? ‘Never say never again.’ Huh?”
     Martin explained, “Sure, Jack. Never Say Never Again is the upcoming James Bond film, starring Sean Connery.”
     “I’ll have my drink now,” smiled Fatty.
     Martin handed Fatty a glass of vodka.
     “Well, I never…” mused Jack.
     “I don’t do odd jobs for NOBODY,” muttered Fatty.
     Jack grabbed a vodka, and he pounded it.
     Gagging, Jack spit out vodka.
     “How does anybody drink that stuff?” he gasped.
     Fatty sipped some vodka.
     Martin sipped some vodka.
     Jack said, “Sean Connery is back as 007, huh?”
     Martin laughed.
     “What happened to ROGER MOORE as 007?” wondered Jack. “What about Octopussy?”
     Martin frowned. “Knock it off. This is no time for—”
     Fatty slammed his glass on the desk, and he barked, “Hey! You can both shut up! What’s goin’ on here?!?”
     “I’m here to narrate the Brain Quality Test,” Martin said calmly.
     “Hold it,” growled Fatty. “This stretches the limits of credibility. Even for California. First, I get kidnapped. Then I’m smokin’ with Andrew Dice Dickman. Then? Some DOG Soldier from the BODY Banks picks me up for copyright violation! What is this?!?”
     Jack sighed, “We’re all ‘Blade Runners’ now, Fatty.”
     “Really?” smirked Martin. “I thought we were all ‘little people.’ Eh, Jack?”
     “Yeah?” laughed Jack. “Except for Fat Guy!”
     Martin laughed, and he poured some more vodka.
     Fatty said, “Funny stuff, Jack. Keep it up.”
     Jack raised his glass.
     Fatty yelled, “Keep it up, skin job! And I’ll knock you into the middle of next Wednesday!”
     Jack put down his glass.
     Martin said, “Take it easy, Fatty. Intellectual capital is a valuable thing. Those copyright laws are there for your protection!”
     Fatty sipped his vodka, and he sighed, “Unbelievable. Jack is a back-stabbing SKIN JOB. Always has been. No big surprise. But YOU, Martin? You’re a Hollywood hero! What are you doin’?”
     “It’s just a job, Fatty,” said Martin.
     Fatty scoffed, “SKIN job, more like.”
     Jack chuckled.
     “Brain Trust is all wrong,” went on Fatty. “They suck people’s brains—and they spit out the seeds!”
     Upstairs at Brain Trust, Eddie Berthanse was talking to his boss, Dr. Godfrey Biddaddy.
     “The seed money has been arranged,” grinned Eddie. “It’s official.”
     Distracted, Biddaddy looked up from his Lincoln Log set, and he said, “Official, Eddie?”
     Eddie said, “Yes, Doc. Bronstonia is up and running! I need to fill you in on some details.”
     “Are we sending people the right message, Eddie?”
     “Of course, Doc!”
     Biddaddy said, “Sure, ya wanna present mind control in a flattering light. Image, and whatnot.”
     Eddie smiled triumphantly.
     “But, Eddie?” said Biddaddy. “You’re naming a theme park after a cheesy B-movie producer!”
     “Knock it off, Doc,” snapped Eddie.
     Biddaddy gaped.
     Eddie said, “Listen up. If you say the name ‘Biddaddy’ in Bronstonia, there’s a stiff fine.”
     “Why?” gasped Biddaddy.
     Oblivious, Eddie said, “No Alice In Wonderland stuff, either.”
     Biddaddy said, “No?”
     “Uh-uh,” said Eddie. “No red pills—and no blue pills.”
     The Doc shook his head.
     Eddie went on: “And I’ve made a decision about the MUSIC in Bronstonia, Doc.”
     Doc poured a glass of vodka, and he took a sip.
     “Come September, of this year,” smiled Eddie. “We switch to Prokofiev’s Cinderella.”
     Doc yelled, “You punk! My signature is the second movement from Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 6!”
     Eddie shook his head sadly.
     “I run Brain Trust!” continued Biddaddy. “Who told ya you could screw around with the music playlist?”
     Eddie clucked his tongue.
     Doc sipped vodka, and he said, slowly, “Look, Eddie. I have a vision for Post-Human America.”
     “Blurry vision,” quipped Eddie.
     Doc slammed the glass down on a table.
     Eddie winced.
     Doc roared, “It’s still my vision, Eddie! And the Fat Clone Project? That’s mine, too!”
     “We’re doing all we can, Doc,” said Eddie.
     “Shut up!” sputtered Biddaddy. “Stop bugging me!”
     Eddie made a face.
     Biddaddy stood, and he concluded, “And Eddie? Don’t mess with the Prokofiev? Or I’ll knock you into the middle of next week!”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

NOW OUT! BEYOND THE BUSH: A hopeless satire, by Robert Ignatius Dillon.

I have always been a "believer," if by practice you mean belief, in the petri dish "method," if by method you mean "this is what works," of writing novels.

By "petri dish," I mean you grow the bits in a dish made of your general idea, working on the parts you see most clearly at the time. You watch overall how the separate colonies of the culture are developing, and when they all get big enough and strong enough you stitch them together in a way that makes sense according to the way they grew. Structural logic enters at, and only at, the logical points for it along the way. When you're writing on a deadline of course you can't write this naturally, but who's lucky enough to be writing a novel on a deadline these days?

But to each his own. If it makes you happy, if it makes you feel useful, go ahead and write outlines or whatever it is they showed you in that creative writing class that was taught by somebody who's never been published outside of academia and her blog. Or read sappy guides to "the writing life" by people who've never published anything but writing guides and try to arrange a corner of your studio to look like a Quonset hut. Knock yourself out. No, seriously, take a copy of last year's Pushcart Prize and hit yourself really hard in the head with it.

I thought I was an extreme believer in the petri dish method. But a few months ago I realized with a start that Robert Ignatius Dillon hadn't just been scribbling insanely for 20 years. He was actually writing a book.

Here’s the setup: I met Robert in about 2000 or 2001; he's related to one of my old coworkers from the Chicago Reader, from back during the dying of the light. Bob's book started out as an incoherent series of spiral bound notebooks that he dragged around all through the 90s and early aughts. He insisted that everyone read them. He thought I lost one once and was pissed at me for about a year. They seemed nonsensical, although funny in spots. We pretty much ignored him and gave him a beer.

But somehow in the past couple of years he’s managed to pull those piles of notebooks together. How he weeded through twenty years’ worth of disjointed bits of shtick and rambling about movies to pull out comedy gold I don’t even want to know, but he did it.
So. For all the jackasses out there who say "only write if you have to!" (which I usually interpret as "I was in the right place at the right time, and now I don't want too many competitors"; an understandable feeling, especially if you've thus managed to avoid this hellish day job routine), I offer you a form of vindication.

My only worry is that the movie-obsessed prologue—the least speedy part of the book—is too long to keep Twitter from wandering off, but it can't be winnowed down, as it sets up a lot of the later jokes. Fingers crossed. Have some fucking patience for once. Robert Ignatius did.

This tight, fast, relentlessly absurd but lucid tale is the end result of a very long case of "Bob only wrote because he had to in order to keep from cracking up. His meds weren't working and he got painfully irritated if no one could understand what he was saying as he tagged along while the rest of us engaged in activities which the doctor forbade him." If anyone deserves to be read, both suffering and uniqueness-wise, not to mention entertainment value... not that we deserve anything, I suppose.

And now, a cautious word of publicity from the author himself:

Sometime between 1982 and 2009, I started to wonder. "What if?" I wondered. "What if politics really is a song-and-dance, masquerading as social progress? What if politicians are phony? Then George W. Bush became president of the USA.

Amid the Bush/Cheney war against logic, good taste, and decency, I busied myself. During Bush's inexplicable second term, I wrote satirical pokes at the 21st-century cow-poke. It was either hide my head in the sand, or write satire. America survived Bush/Cheney. Sort of.

When the USA elected a new president in 2008, people sat up, and took notice. President-elect Barack Hussein Obama brought a lot to the table. He brought education. He brought a message of social change.

He also brought Buzz.

Thanks to the connivance of Dick Cheney, an egghead named Eddie, and Hollywood mopes Fat Guy and Jack Bronstein, Brain Trust Enterprises produced a Clone named Obama Prestonpans Buzz. Walking, talking, and smiling like Barack Obama, Obama Buzz posed some tough questions.

Is politics just entertainment? Can you trust a mad scientist? And can a Clone run America?

There's the plot. At the head of a 10,000-man-strong Fat Clone Army, Obama Buzz started 2009 with one goal: one nation under a Clone. Should Jack Bronstein and Fat Guy have stayed out of politics? Did the real Obama get traded in for a genetically-enhanced Clone? Read "Beyond the Bush," mate. See for yourself!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Free books! Today, Nov. 2, through next Wednesday!

In honor of my frightening new power as a publishing empress (tremble, worm food!), I'm offering you five days of ABSOLUTELY FREE ACCESS to my/our retroactive first release, 2008's comic murder mystery GIRL DETECTIVES.

GIRL DETECTICES was a tragic slapstick that unwittingly served as a chronicle of what Jeopardy mogul Neal Pollack recently called the dying of the light of hard-core paper journalism in Chicago. It's available from now, Nov. 2, through this Wednesday, Nov. 5 as


And NO, cats and kittens, you do NOT have to own a Kindle or any other special device or pay a fee or ANYTHING WHATSOEVER, even though Amazon tries to keep this information hidden in its shitty interface; go


It's all free. So what's your excuse? You don't like funny? You don't like first novels? You don't like me? Fair enough. But personally, when I see a free book in the Dumpster, I pick it up.


Friday, November 1, 2013

For your weekend reading pleasure: A FREE GIFT

Dear Readers,

This Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, through next Wednesday, Nov. 6, the original HOPELESS BOOKS release, GIRL DETECTIVES, is slated to be offered abso-lootleigh free of charge as an ebook through Amazon Kindle. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BUY A KINDLE DEVICE.*

That's right, free samples. Like we're a fucking Trader Joe's. It's come to this.

Tell your friends, hide it from your enemies, they don't deserve it... actually, no, they especially deserve it. Download it to your Kindle OR ANY COMPUTERLIKE DEVICE (if you're reading this, you can read that), and then drive back and forth in front of an enemy's house late at night, preferably on Sunday night if they work weekdays, reading GIRL DETECTIVES through a bullhorn. If you send me a postable video recording of yourself doing this I'll paypal you twenty bucks. But only if you tell me why you hate them so much.


PS Girl Detectives and the Talkative Corpse ARE ALWAYS FREE if you're the kind of shut-in who has Amazon Prime.


And as we all wait with bated breath whilst Amazon decides whether it's going to let me post Robert Ignatius Dillon's book...

... here are a few words to get you through from Bob Ignatius himself:

"We don't choose our lives. Life trips us & taunts, 'I didn't trip you! You fell over my leg!'"