Jacob Singer Reviews The Futures Industry Edited by Sherryl Vint

Chicago Literati

The future has become a site of crisis, both materially – in the looming threats of climate change, environmental and species destruction, and imminent collapses of the global financial market—and in our capacity to imagine the future otherwise.

–Sherryl Vint

The unpredictability of the 2008 financial crisis, Brexit vote, and Trump presidency has left many doubting traditional prophetic tools—like exit polls and economic theories. Few experts predicted such turn of events. Political reports and journalists seem no better than the imaginations of our best speculative fiction writers. The journalists, many of whom want to keep working relationships with economic and political players, fail to question the status quo or are simply not given the opportunity to address big questions. Meanwhile, fiction writers are free to gaze into the future in an attempt to predict how science and technology will influence our intellectual understanding of reality and shape the human experience.

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Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2018!

A great list of books coming out in 2018. Thanks to John Madera for curating this.

BIG OTHER

Like every year, there’s much to dread about 2018, and to fight against, but, fortunately there’s much to look forward to, including powerful works of art from small presses. Below you’ll find the small press books I’m most excited to see published this year. Following this, you’ll find lists from stellar writers Kate Angus, Kurt Baumeister, Alex Behr, Jeff Bursey, Lisa Chen, Tobias Carroll, Brian Evenson, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Meghan Lamb, Janice Lee, Michael Noll, David Leo Rice, Kevin Sampsell, Jason Teal, Dan Wickett, James Yeh, and Leni Zumas. Thanks to them, and thanks, too, to stellar writers Lynn Crawford, Robert Dean, Annie DeWitt, Joe Pan, Dawn Raffel, Jacob Singer, Joanna C. Valente, and Marjorie Welish for giving me the heads-up on other books.

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Necronom by Jacob Singer

I’m excited to share “Necronom,” a short story that has been published at Chicago Literati for their Halloween issue. It is a retelling of one of my favorite horror movies from the perspective of the villain. Can you guess the movie?

Chicago Literati

We persist. We sit quietly and wait for the rabbits. Hunger is a real pain that deeply effects our whole body. The smell of rabbits is everywhere and it drives us crazy. We can taste them, our mouths salivating. We persist because we have no choice. Trapped in this labyrinth, we think and wait and think and wait. All of this imposes patterns on us.

Lo! A rabbit.

Its heathen speech seems very alien to us. We sneak and attack. What once was undetached rabbit parts becomes stages of rabbithood before our very eyes. Here rabbit. There rabbit. Fragments. The hunger subsides. And with that, we return to the labyrinth in search of mother and our sisters. We persist.

We have no words for our crude beginning, but we are prone to think of it. Cursed we roam the labyrinth that imposes patterns on our understanding. There is this way…

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Stylistics: A Reading List for Prose Writers and Editors

English and creative writing programs are failing to provide students with the tools necessary to develop a mature understanding of prose style. Theoretically, one would learn style by taking classes in writing, literature, and linguistics—but rarely do these classes teach prose style in a way that directly benefits students who want to be writers and editors.

Richard Lanham, Professor Emeritus at UCLA, is an expert in rhetoric, style, and revision. In many of his works, but especially his books Analyzing Prose and Style: An Anti-Text Book, Lanham criticizes this mainstream paradigm of writing instruction. He points out the contradiction between the advice provided by the Clarity-Brevity-Sincerity (CBS) theory of prose which “seems to contradict all that we say is good in literature and runs an enormous rift between ‘literature’ on one hand and ‘ordinary prose’ on the other.” By celebrating the CBS style of prose, teachers make direct instruction of style more difficult. The goal of the CBS style is transparency. By cutting language down to a bare minimum, there is little to point to regarding style—thus nothing to say. As a result, students only learn about substance—completely ignoring how poetic elements make literature. This creates a significant pedagogical gap.

Stylistics and generative grammar/rhetoric fill this pedagogical gap and should be an integral part of every writing program. Stylistics, popular in the United Kingdom, explore the intersection of language and literature. Through applying linguistics to literature, stylistics offers tremendous insight in how innovation and creativity function in creative works.

What I find beneficial about these texts is that they allow individuals to apply a rigorous approach to discussing complex issues in creative writing such as grammar, style, and point of view. It allows for a better explanation of the relationship between substance and style. Creative writing programs have placed great emphasis on the workshop method for instruction. And this depends on peer revision. If peers lack the technical know-how, conversations become shallow and repetitive. Creative writing students don’t need to have a PhD in linguistics to provide quality feedback, but the inclusion of appropriate technical language—like that included in stylistics—will benefit all involved.

Stylistics

Simpson’s Stylistics

Leech and Short’s Style in Fiction

Narratology

Bal’s Narratology

Fowler’s Linguistic Criticism

Donnelly’s Linguistics for Writers

Chatman’s Story and Discourse and Literary Style: A Symposium

Babb’s (ed.) Essays in Stylistic Analysis

Freeman’s Linguistics and Literary Style

Pinker’s The Sense of Style

Generative Grammar and Rhetoric

Francis and Bonniejean Christensen’s A New Rhetoric

Brooks Landon’s Building Great Sentences

Martha Kolln’s Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects 

Richard Lanham’s Analyzing Prose

Brian Shawver’s The Language of Fiction

Winston Weathers and Otis Winchester’s The New Strategy of Style

Michael Helm’s AFTER JAMES

If you like Robert Coover’s The Public Burning, William Gaddis’ JR, or Margret Atwood’s Cat’s Eyes, you might want to check out Micheal Helm’s After James–a wild novel that uses new physics to build poetic and narrative tropes.

Heavy Feather Review

After James, by Michael Helm. Portland, Oregon: Tin House Books, September 2016. 368 pages. $15.95, paper.

“The story seemed to confirm the existence of a thing not yet named, like an invisible planet postulated through math, the evidence of bending light, gravitational forces.” The pleasure of Michael Helm’s After James stems from how theory works in modern science. Currently, scientists don’t have to see to believe. Einstein couldn’t test his theories of relativity, but he was certain they were true. For scientists, faith in formulas allows them to believe with great certainty in unobservable objects—like an invisible planet. To a certain extent, this represents the modern scientific paradigm. Helm challenges his reader to join physicists in this line of thinking by rejecting classical physics, questioning metaphysical assumptions, and dumping psychological realism.

In Fiction in the Quantum Universe, literary theorist Susan Strehle coined the term “actualism” to describe…

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American Book Review and Rain Taxi

I am excited to share that American Book Review published my review of Eloy Urroz‘s The Family Interrupted (Dalkey Archive) and Rain Taxi published my interview with Sanderia Faye about her novel Mourner’s Bench (University of Arkansas Press).

Fourth Annual David Foster Wallace Conference

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be presenting at the Fourth Annual David Foster Wallace conference this summer. My presentation is titled “Building Sentences with David Foster Wallace” and will address his prose style in both fiction and nonfiction. Below is my proposal.

 

This proposal provides a three-part presentation about how stylistics can be used to explore David Foster Wallace’s prose style. This topic is important for instructors of innovative literature and creative writing because there is a pedagogical gap that fails to provide students with the technical understanding of the English sentence and how grammar can be used to achieve rhetorical ends. First, this presentation will briefly define the mainstream paradigm of writing instruction in English and writing programs. This is significant because Wallace’s opaque prose style has been judged as deviant when compared to the mainstream paradigm, which values transparency and simplicity. Second, the presentation will primarily focus on introducing and applying the theories of Francis Christensen, Brooks Landon, and Richard Lanham to a range of Wallace’s writing. In particular we will look at the notion of generative grammar, subordination, and the master sentence. Third, we examine how Wallace built sentences in his fiction and nonfiction to better understand how he used style to achieve rhetorical goals by addressing the needs of his audience—which varied greatly depending on his mode of writing.