Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reader Meet Author

Gabe Durham

So what can you do if you are a young writer with a couple of stories published on-line, and a several more stored on your hard drive? Well, the first thing you should do is start a blog, and talk about yourself and other creative individuals. Then you should compile several of your best pieces of short fiction, and make a lot copies and sell them on your blog. You should give you self-published collection a grand and inviting title like The Complete Genealogy of Everyone, Ever. You also have to sew your collection together and sell it via paypal for $5 on your blog.

Remarkably, Northampton, MA (it's writer paradise!) writer Gabe Durham has already followed my instructions perfectly. In fact, he released his chap-sized collection of stories earlier this month, and it is also called The Complete Genealogy of Everyone, Ever. Gabe is also a prolific blogger having started a blog called Gather Round, Children back in 2006, and has been know to make a remix now again.

Recently, Gabe was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): The Complete Genealogy of Everyone, Ever is your debut chapbook. How did you select the stories for this collection. What has the response been like so far?
Gabe Durham (GD): I chose the best of the shortest of my stories and hoped that it would show some range the way a poetry chapbook does. Chapbooks are more common for poets than for fiction writers because poets can do more with fewer pages. That's harder for us, but I figure six stories is a good introduction. And the title was something I've had in mind for a few months. I like it as a chapbook title because it promises an exhaustive record that no book--let alone a mini-book--could deliver.

Response has been good: One person said it left her wanting more. Another said "it's kinnetic, dreamy and all kinds of insane." Another said she was proud of her husband. One person even quoted it on his "words of the week" sidebar. And those people, in order, are Condoleezza Rice, Billy Corgan, the woman who is married to Tom Hanks and Lavar Burton.

OA: We recently had a brief conversation over the term or classification of 'expirimental' fiction. What are your thought on this genre? Do you feel your work should fall into that category?
GD: Yeah, that came up when Word Riot published my story under the "Experimental" heading instead of the "Flash Fiction" one. Terms are useful, sometimes but "experimental" is one of the hazier ones. Sometimes it means "playing with form and language," other times it means "idea-driven," other times it means "genre-bending." One great thing about fiction in 2008 is that the doors are wide open. Trailblazers like Donald Barthelme have created an environment where you can do whatever you want. There are always going to be people whose aesthetic preference is the Flannery O'Connor thing. ("If it looks funny on the page, I won't read it.") But there are a lot of readers and editors out there ready for you to turn on the weird.

The downside to all this door-wide-openness is that it's pretty hard to come up with something new. Even when you think you might've stumbled onto a truly orginal idea, something's going to pop up and humble you. Usually on the web. I've got a story I've been working on for months about me arguing with myself at three different ages. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a commercial where an old woman tells a five years younger version of herself about a vacation she and her husband are going to take. Well I sought out the actress in the commercial and made sure she'd never steal my ideas again, but you can't threaten everyone that crosses you. It's just not practical.

OA: This being your first collection in print, do you feel that print is more legitimate then on-line fiction? I know that a few of these stories have appeared on-line, but do you find yourself writing differently if you know the piece will appear in print?
GD: I know that a printed chapbook makes a better gift/product than a web site. There's something cool about being able to hand someone a little book. It shows investment. It turns the words into an art object. But I love being able to link over to stories and have people read them for free. Most of my friends from college aren't going to seek out print lit mags to read my stuff--what with having their own lives--but they might read something on a web site. My favorite thing about having written reviews for is that there's a drawing or painting that goes alongside every review. The picture legitimizes the words and vice-versa.

I don't write differently for print or for the web. I just look at the number of words and if it's under 1,000 words, I probably will only submit it to web sites. That's based on the theory that people like to read short things on the web and long things in print. That's true for me, anyway.

OA: Your blog, Gather Round, Children is more then just a personal blog, you are also highlight and review album, indie comics, TV shows, etc. Why is it important to you to promote the work of others?
GD: When I hear or see or read something and get excited about it, I want to show some e-love. I decided early on that I wasn't going to make GRC a what-I-did-today blog, but rather a place to stick my creative work and to call attention to other people's creative work. For me, that's a good way to maintain quality control. It cuts down on tirades and mundanity. My wife has a similar policy on her design blog, Lo! In the Morning. Other people are very good personal bloggers, but many of those people have very sexy lives.

OA: When you first introduced yourself to me last me year it was as a musician/remixer. How did you first become interested in mash-up and remixes? Do you have a proudest moment with your music?
GD: I've discovered I'm a tinkerer. It's what I do in writing, too. I do a draft, then visit it over and over, playing the game of "How good can I make this? What could I add? What could I cut?" That's fun to me.

I got my first Acid Pro software in the middle of high school and used it to piece together little techno songs. Once I made a 30-minute techno song out of Bush's 2001 State of the Union speech. It had a lot of applause solos. In college, I used the same software and a little rinky-dink mic to record lots of songs with my friends. Then Summer of '05, I discovered and downloaded all these vocals-only Outkast mp3s and began to match them up with Modest Mouse songs. After a couple of successes--especially "Float On" with "Rosa Parks"--I thought I might have a Grey Album on my hands. Which was maybe a little optimistic, but some of those songs turned out great and I got a short album on my hands: Good News For People Who Love to Get Krunk.

I'm more into the remixes I've done recently, which are very melodic, mixing Beatles with Josh Ritter, Beach Boys with the Wrens, Sufjan Stevens with more Sufjan Stevens. There's a niche for those. This isn't as true as it used to be, but the remix/mash-up is still pretty dominated by club culture. I'm not as interested in making music to shake ya ass to as much as I am in recombining pop songs in interesting/surprising ways.

OA: What's next for Gabe Durham?
GD: - Another of my Complete Genealogy stories, "Colossal Crimson Crop," is coming out on Hobart's website next month. It's a nice lean version, probably 25% shorter. Which makes the chapbook version the extended director's cut. I don't know which one I like better.
- I just got a bike! My bro-in-law shipped me his old one. So riding that around.
- Still got a lot of books piled up that I'm excited to read this summer: Grace Paley, Steve Almond, Crime and Punishment. I've got to dig up some more Etgar Keret. I just read "The Nimrod Flipout" and it improved my mood all week. He's got the kind of soaring imagination I want. Makes it look effortless.
- Some day, a Complete Genealogy sequel. Since the genealogy on the cover is patrilineal, I'd like to be a good feminist and do a matrilineal one.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in Northampton, MA?
GD: Yes, yes, yes. I recommend Haymarket on Main Street for sit-down coffee and the Elbow Room on Green Street for to-go coffee. Finally, Woodstar Cafe on Masonic Street has the best plain bagels and blueberrry muffins.

OA: What are your top five albums of 2008 so far?
GD: The Lovely Sparrows
Nate Highfield and the Good Cheer
Flight of the Conchords
Yes, But Slowly

For more information on Gabe Durham please visit his website.

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