Eugene Lim includes The Aleatory Abyss in his year-end list of memorable books at The Millions. He writes:
Our current condition of ambient despair gets an excellent portraiture in Evelyn Hampton’s The Aleatory Abyss. It’s an obscure book about being obscure—or at least it is a book about occupying forgotten interstitial spaces and about being of and among technological detritus. In Hampton’s world we live our lives not in streets, schools, libraries, parks, or other public commons but online and in Barnes & Nobles, Starbucks, malls, parking lots, and other privatized spaces; that is, Hampton shows us a familiar world. Personhood and agency here in the Anthropocene are moribund concepts, if not already vestigial, and great creatures called multinationals and state actors roam the terrain while we endure like plankton or parasites below and beside their decisions.
I’ve been following Eugene’s reviews of books for a long time on his blog and around the web. He’s a very generous reader — not generous as in always laudatory, but as in always giving the work a kind of attention that feels rarer than ever.* I’m very grateful to have him as a reader.
*I am excited to read the other books in his list!
Something I wrote about trees, fungus, transformation, sadness, and a few of my favorite writers is up at The Elephants. Thank you to Broc & Lara & Jordan.
I just finished teaching a four-week class for Frequency in Providence. By the lights of dark houses is an artifact of the class, plus one I taught a couple of years ago about artists’ notebooks. On the site there are prompts, excerpts, links to videos and other materials.
As usual I’ll leave Providence wishing there was a Frequency in every city.
In the midst of her grief, Hampton can still notice shreds of the planet here and there. General fraudulence and terrible grief has not eroded it, not entirely: “Language seems broken, unable to hold even the barest meaning, but there is a stand of birch trees I like to see as I drive.” This stand of trees becomes a refuge for her gaze, even a way to be, as she drives to work, a respite, something to meditate on and identify with: “In the morning, the birch trees have the look of having just arrived inside their own lines. They might still smear. Driving by them, I want to be them.”
Miranda is one of my favorite writers. I’m lucky to have spent some time with her while I was living in Olympia. Hers is a warm brilliantly attentive presence.
The Aleatory Abyss, an essay about about chance operations, spoofing, the election, people who live in malls, Mark Baumer’s walk across the U.S. and then his death, and trying to teach English composition at a rural community college, is now up at Real Pants.
Althusser, whose idea of aleatory materialism was a point of departure for me in the essay, strangled his wife to death. This was a source of dread, horror, and motivation for me as I wrote. I felt in fear of a kind of strangulation.
“Fishmaker,” a story I published a while ago in “The Nature Issue” of Conjunctions, seems to be accessible now through Google books. You can read the story here.
Then I made fish.
I was living in the bank of a river. I’d found a small den and outfitted it simply.
I needed only a few things: work to do, a place where I could do it, and rest.
First I would decide on a design for a fish, then prepare the parts from a supply of materials I kept on shelves built of wood I’d dragged from the river.
The lining of a fish is a form of electricity.
The island was a turd floating in the murk. It was fecund. He joked that he was a wasp, exactly like a wasp, living in his gray corner of a world built on death, dealing in the profuse knowledge of such yet claiming it to be anything but. Claiming it to be fertile, life-giving, romantic, friendly. Claiming it brought love, success, and admiration to all who dabbed it on their temples. The Western obsession with the temples, he said, the mind, all that. Lots of psychiatrists, he said, visited the island during their wintertime. Do you know what a great chasm of death the ocean is? Yet they fly across it to lie on the edge of it naked.
From something new.
A couple of months ago, Mark and I exchanged messages about his walk, and how I wanted to help his effort to raise funds / save the planet by donating some of my books. Mark’s not here to coordinate this anymore, but I would still like to see this through. Here’s what I’m thinking:
I have some copies of books (the ones in the photo, plus one copy of MADAM, a chapbook published last year, plus a few copies of some chapbooks I made myself of poems and stories). Make a donation to the Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund, let me know (contact info here), and I’ll send you a book. Just let me know your address and which book you’d like.
There are descriptions of the books here.
My hope in doing this is to keep Mark’s work and memory alive.
I found out this afternoon that a good friend, Mark Baumer, has died. He was walking across the country to raise money for an environmental organization and to tell people about climate change. He was hit by a car just after his 100th day walking.
He sent me this email on Christmas eve.
I know the feeling of being in a situation where you have to own a car to survive. Unfortunately that’s the whole United States. The car companies basically built our society so cars have more power than humans. It’s sad but you shouldn’t ever feel guilty. Remain positive and just keep trying to do everything you can to make the changes you want. I’m confident you’ll be able to do it. Yesterday was a good day of plants. I think today will be a good day too. Thanks for following the journey. It means a lot for you to reach out. I think a lot about jobs while walking. There must be some better way of doing it. Somehow it would be nice to build something that allowed everyone to exist as they truly wanted without the stress of everything everyone usually has to deal with to exist. It can be done but I’m not sure how yet.
A story about a friend who vanishes, “Jay,” is in issue 7 of The Cossack Review. There’s an excerpt here.
Today while I was driving home from the small town where I work I saw a sign advertising the legal services of Buzzard O’Rourke.
I hope it’s going ok with you.
Making plans to revive Panty Connoisseur as a blog where I’ll mostly write about art — shows and things I go to see, and also things I acquire that other people have made. Sometimes those things will be panties, but there will also be other things, things completely unrelated to panties, ordinary things and also things made as “art”.
I’ll be moving soon, and that always seems to mean finding a new way of looking at the things around me. Also, the feeling that things are reaching peak absurdity / peak tragedy suggests now might be a good time to find new ways of imagining the mundane.
Magic Helicopter has put its catalog on sale and is donating proceeds from each book to an organization of the author’s choice. Please consider buying many books from Magic Helicopter!!!
We Were Eternal & Gigantic is on sale for $4 (+shipping). Proceeds go to the ACLU.
“Weightlessness,” an essay on space travel, starvation, desertification, radiation, and autoimmunity — you know, light reading — was published this morning at Catapult.
For a long time I’ve been interested in slides, coasters, chutes of all kinds, especially the dark ones with twists. I’m less interested in the ones you have to pay money to ride. A chute should be something each person has unlimited, private access to, something you discover right at the moment when you need to escape the labyrinth. I’m going to attempt to write an essay-in-comics for the Saddest Candy about my love of and thoughts about chutes — now that it’s summer. Chutes and summer have a natural affinity.
The mighty Powell’s City of Books now has a few copies of MADAM. It can be ordered here.
I’ll be joining Elizabeth Hall’s west coast reading tour/book release party caravan for two readings in June, along with Jason Snyder. Are you in Portland or Eugene? Then you should come!
MADAM is now available from Meekling Press! The first 50 copies include this illustration by Stephanie Brachmann:
Copies are seven bucks and you can get one from the publisher here.
(Read an excerpt, “Grammar Lesson,” here.)
Last October, alice blue books released Seven Touches of Music, a chapbook of seven of my stories. But that was last October, and since then things have changed — many people have been born, many people have died, I started drinking coffee again, and the editor of alice blue books has retired and has sent me all seventeen or so remaining copies of my chapbook. If you would like a copy, paypal me a little money, whatever you think is the right amount. Then contact me to tell me where to send your copy.
That seems like too many things for me to expect anyone to do in order to get anything I have done, and I don’t expect anyone to do them, so if you do them you will automatically surprise me.
Issue 6 of The Cossack Review has been printed and is now shipping. You can read the entire story I have in the issue by downloading an excerpt. You can also buy the issue and then you will get a lot more. I’m fortunate to have worked with Christine Gosnay, TCR‘s fiction editor — my story is stronger thanks to her patience and care.
Death School is a project I’ve been working on for a while. It’s starting to come together, at least the website for it is, and I hope you have a minute or two for exploring it. My vision of Death School is a collaborative project involving artists, people who work in the death field, people who are curious about the fact that we’re all dying, and … everyone, basically. So, if you’re interested in being involved in some way, please be in touch with me either via this site or that one.
I started a comics blog, The Saddest Candy. I don’t know how to draw, and my jokes aren’t very funny. I hope you like it!
Austin Hayden presents Discomfort in issue 16 of NOO Journal: “If you’re into writers who poke at the real world with hot prongs, go buy this book.”
Hello I’m home!
While I was gone, alice blue books printed Seven Touches of Music, a chapbook of seven of my stories. It’s for sale here for five bucks.
Another chapbook, Madam, has not been printed yet but you can pre-order it and the other chapbooks in the series for $40. You’ll get a bunch (seven, specifically) of letterpressed books in the mail! The first fifty copies of each book include limited-edition prints.
Two things before I leave (for three months!):
In October, Alice Blue Books will release Seven Touches of Music, a chapbook of short prose, or maybe they’re poems. There’s an interview with the editor, Amber Nelson, here. I’m excited about this but I’ll be away when the book is released so I’m shouting at you about it now!
Sometime next spring, Meekling Press will publish a chapbook (the title is still being negotiated–it’ll either be The Academy or Madam) of connected prose. This chapbook was part of a novel at one time, but then I sliced it out and rewrote the novel. I still wanted a home for the stuff about Madam, though, and I’m excited and lucky to have such a good one–Meekling prints such beautiful books! (They published one by Patty Yumi Cottrell that I’d like to get my hands on when it’s back in print.)
I’ll be back in December!
Attempt Magazine has published “Surrogate.” You can download the issue (no. 1) in which the story appears here. Here’s how the story starts:
When I am alone, I scrape at my back and arms with my fingernails. A residue of dead skin accumulates under them. I look at it under my fingernails and pick it out, placing the crusts in a hill beside me. In the universe, mine are statistically insignificant activities, but in the attic, where I am nobody, the little hill I’ve worked free of my body can be most satisfying to look at again and again, and then to flush down the toilet.
My roommate Sheila has been trying to get impregnated. She doesn’t like men or doctors, but she still wants a baby. Our friend Dan agreed to help her. It’s winter, so he has a lot of free time. I hear him grunting in there with Sheila. Once in a while he comes out, butters his hands with margarine and a spatula, and goes back in.
Because I wish the writers I like to read would make small books of their writing and offer them for free, I’m going to be making small books of my writing and offering them (here) for free. I’ll do this for a few weeks. I hope people will want to read them!
If you’d like a book, email me at evelyn dot w dot hampton at gmail etc. and let me know where you’d like me to send it. (I’ll ship for free in the US; if you’re out of the country … maybe I will also ship for free. And, this is for my dad: one book per person.)
This week there are two copies of Porridge: a History, which is not really a history of porridge, but a mini-book of fragments from drafts of a novel, M, which I think is finally finished.
I started by looking at everything.
This is the beginning of my ship
(holds out a hand, looks at it)
That is the first page of “Porridge: a History.” So, the book is a kind of celebration, and a cleaning up, and you will find it has defects of printing and binding, which I think become a thing made by dissolution.
On an average day in summer —
I bend everything to touch itself in the shape of my body. These are my knees sitting on me. They are part of the elbow the table is touching. The teeth I keep in my mouth do a lot of walking. They have a tongue that touches the gravel. It reaches all the way down into my belly and holds out its kidney so a few more drops can be squeezed. The tightness in my Achilles keeps my jaw from opening. I speak into the empty nodes. When my toes have had enough, my thigh muscles reach down my back and press my buttocks, which turn off. My inner ear lies dormant in each cell of my mucosa. My saliva lubricates my eyes so my forehead can blink properly. Otherwise, my liver would not be able to filter all the sounds of the evening, such as the last birds draining from the sky onto the ground of whispered forgivings. When all of the red animals have touched their foreheads to the hind quarters of their dreams, my thoughts go looking for the moon. No animal has ever seen it. The antlers that contain schematics for trees have been ground into a fine dust and jellied into candies, which I eat, hoping to experience a sudden understanding. Endlessly, even in my sleep, I climb the rope ladders of my vasculature in order to see out of the center of my skull. My neck balances on my pelvic floor muscles, which tap the rhythms of my hands as they scrabble along the doorframe of the suite (my suite). I get lost and then I traverse the carpeting, arriving at the square of light just in time for it to vanish. Again.
The effect is stunning.
Issue 5 of Beecher’s is now available and it contains my Conquest of the Useless fanfic!
This has been an enthusiastic update written on a hot day, the sun in Cancer.
“From Documentary Filmmaker Jurgen Grossbinger’s Journal,” an excerpt from the novelish thing I am forever working on, Project MADAM, won Beecher’s fiction contest. Beecher’s is the magazine the graduate students in Lawrence, Kansas publish. I’m interested in Lawrence, Kansas. Didn’t Burroughs die there? I think of a more capable kind of air, unlike the kind I am in, that is maybe a little dusty, red dust, and actually I realize now–when I think of Lawrence, Kansas, the image I see is of Mars.
The excerpt will appear in issue 5.
More news of stories: I have a couple in the first issue of Black Sun Literature. Here it is, a book you can purchase. “Writers are abject beings,” the editors say.
The latest issue of Conjunctions, “the nature issue” (#64), just out, holds a story by me, “Fishmaker.” It is about the one who makes fish out of pieces of debris, then flings the fish into the river. But there is trouble with the river.
I don’t like to go into the future, because of the probabilities, but next week I’ll be flying to Minneapolis to visit friends and read a story at the Black Forest Inn. The reading will be on the 11th starting at 8pm and after it’s over we’ll all smell like sauerkraut.
Discomfort is reviewed by Bayard Godsave at Necessary Fiction:
The discomfort we often come up against in these stories is the discomfort of encountering the uncanny… and the stories in her collection have the ability to transform this mundane and familiar existence into something strange and sometimes scary, but exhilarating and beautiful as well.
I’m raising money to fund my three-month meditation retreat. Check out the campaign here, see a short movie about my life as it is now, and consider contributing?
Small press champ Kevin Sampsell will host Smallpressapalooza in Portland at Powell’s next Monday, 3/16. A bunch of people will be reading throughout the day. I’ll be reading at 7:30. Come see us!
An interview I did with Black Sun Lit was posted today. Thank you to Jared for questions that got me thinking about forts, horror movies, deterioration, and my dread of gloves.
The Chicago Tribune previews Discomfort under the heading “Odd Futures: Magical Realism and Surreal Fictions”: “It’s not crime-fiction-level suspenseful but still conjures a sense of uneasiness. Hampton’s stories look at the world — and our perceptions of the world — exposing the anxieties and sense of impermanence that define our current age.”
There’s a drawing to win copies of my book, Discomfort, and This Boring Apocalypse by Brandi Wells. All you have to do to enter is time travel to the present, where the ghosts from the future of these soon-to-be-released books live, take a picture of them, and send the picture to email@example.com by February 20.
Mark Baumer collected some lines from Discomfort and paired them with images. See more here.
Once a thing is lost, what does it become? A feeling, like doubt. A sensation–it’s transferred to your nerves, becomes an involuntary movement of the left foot for instance. Leaves behind a trace in yr body that sometimes manifests on the surface as a rash, or even some distance away–as a reflection on a lake, on a pane of glass as you pass by. It is not possible to escape the lost object–forgetting isn’t a place or even a process, it’s a word. Only changes in the deep structures of language let us forget.
The stories in this collection are not as strange as they are first appear. They are, in fact, quite clear, as soon as one gets the sense of this self-destroying, drifting logic. These are not stories, after all, of pain, of abjection, of the extraordinary or incomprehensible, but of discomfort—something that cannot be named except by saying what it is not, not a feeling so much as a state—inhabitable, large, shared.
A while ago I recorded myself reading a bedtime story to the animal that came and went from the attic–“Tally” by MFK Fisher. Since this recording, I’ve moved out of that house. I wonder sometimes how the animal is doing.
Copies of Discomfort are in the world but not widely available until March. Until then, you can only get a copy by coming to a reading–in Providence on Dec. 6, 6pm, Ada Books, or in Brooklyn on Dec. 13, 4pm, Mellow Pages Library (I’ll be reading with Mary Caponegro and Mike Young). Plans for a November Bay Area reading are still diffuse, like a mass of interstellar dust or gas or both, absorbing and reflecting incident radiation, though it’s pretty much certain I will be in the area.
If you’re in Providence on December 6, you can make fiction with me at a one-day class I’ll be teaching for Frequency. One way we’ll make fiction is by gathering all of our sadnesses into containers we’ll make in class out of light we’ve gathered from windows in houses we’ve never been in. There will be other ways.
Derek White writes about Discomfort, dismembered dolls, and traffic signs/chestnuts, here.
The sense u get reading Evelyn Hampton’s stories (she’s also appeared in Sleepingfish) is that u are always treading that lingual interface between mind + reality—riding the knife-edge tween instinctual urge + subconscious thought—ever thawing, ever conscious of language … its limitations yes, but also the power to penetrate further than the surface into slippery regions in between (or below) … not always easy gliding (the ideas, that is—the language itself is economic + efficient), in fact resistance is a common theme (tho never explicitly stated) that seems to thread thru the stories, as if w/o resistance language would slide right thru u, but she sets meaty hooks, gritty barbs that snag like toothed tapeworms onto her slipstream of childlike wonder to make u bleed internally + productively.
I tried to write about how Carl Dimitri’s paintings are units of prairie and also areas of municipal infrastructure. Posted today at Heavy Feather Review.