Archive | August, 2015

WIPs Conversation: Carmen Lau on her work in progress

Carmen LauCarmen Lau’s short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Gigantic, Fairy Tale Review, The Collagist, Wigleaf, NANO Fiction, Matchbook and other journals. Her short story collection, The Girl Wakes, will be published by Alternating Current in 2016. She received her MA from UC Davis.
Twitter: @artemisathene


Carmen, in “The Great Queen of Wonderhaven,” a young girl suddenly falls through the figurative “rabbit hole” and becomes Wonderhaven’s queen after blowing out her birthday candles. Like Alice, she lives in a surreal world and is often overwhelmed by what she encounters, but in this case it’s sometimes by news and events of the “real world” as told to the Queen by her mother and her cynical cousin Laurie. How do you see fairy tales in the context of literature and storytelling, and do you have particular favorites that perhaps influence you own work?

I’ve always been taken by the symbolic possibilities of using fairy tale elements in storytelling. There’s something pre-rational about fairy tales; they come from and address the places within ourselves that defy “reason.” They are primal and spiritual at once, expressing the dichotomies within the human mind in vivid, sometimes colorful, sometimes brutal images.

Reading the works of Kate Bernheimer and Angela Carter especially was an awakening for me. I read J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan for the first time at a relatively late age and was amazed by it. That book is for the child within grownups. It made me cry like a baby.

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Carmen Lau: “The Great Queen of Wonderhaven,” the first part of a novella from the collection THE GIRL WAKES


On her ninth birthday, immediately after blowing out the candles on her cake, the girl who would become queen fell into Wonderhaven. Right under the noses of her mother, her father and her cousin Laurie, she crawled under the table while the lights were off and fell into this world without so much as a yelp, for she, besides being pure-hearted, was also self-composed.


Self-composed is the queen,

as a folding fan that reveals its colors

only when it slides silently open.

Pure-hearted is the queen,

as the still-green bud of a tulip.


In this world there was a palace encased in ice, a forest and the villagers in the forest, and the shadows that bedeviled them. To make a very long story short, because she was pure of heart, because she was self-composed, she smote the shadows and saved everyone here. The ice that coated the palace walls melted, and the forest became bright and hot, and the villagers rejoiced. And so, with great pageantry, she was crowned the queen.

Three crowns she wore: a crown of flowers, a crown of gold, a crown of stars. A cape woven of morning dew she trailed after her as she approached the throne; each drop shone blinding like a little sun. Her subjects knelt like a sea of wheat bending to a gentle wind as she walked to the throne. And when she took the throne she raised her hand and said, “I will be a good queen.” And her subjects roared with joy, knowing she would keep her promise.

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WIPs Conversation: Harold Jaffe on his work in progress

Hal Jaffe-ICHarold Jaffe is the author of 23 volumes of fiction, novels, docufiction, and essays, most recently Anti-Twitter: 150 50-Word Stories, OD, Paris 60, Revolutionary Brain, Othello Blues, and Induced Coma: 50 & 100 Word Stories. His books have been translated in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, Cuba, Turkey, Romania and elsewhere. Jaffe is editor-in-chief of Fiction International.

Hal, your novel Brando Bleeds covers a lot of ground in various forms in depicting Marlon Brando’s life, providing readers with a certain sense of insight into the man himself that goes well beyond our simple understanding of celebrity. Why did you choose Brando for your novel’s subject? Has his story been something you’ve wanted to address for a while?

Certain figures interest me, and they often seem to combine an unremitting cultural resistance with melancholy, compassion, and a coyote-trickster sort of humor. Odd-seeming combination, I know. With this “odd-seeming combination” in mind, I’ve written about Chet Baker, Hurricane Carter, Walter Benjamin, Leadbelly, Lady Day, Nina Simone, and–hold the phone–Charles Manson. Best not to believe what you’ve heard about Manson.

I think of Brando in a similar vein as one of my (reimagined) humans.

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Harold Jaffe: “Hair” and “Lino 1,” excerpts from the novel BRANDO BLEEDS


There was Lino Ventura, Wally Cox, Satch Sanders, Christian Marquand.
My detractors called them toadies and maybe they were.
Hell, I was a fucking matinee idol so there’s going to be hangers-on.
But they were also my friends, until they died or betrayed me.
Or I betrayed thembecause of some mood I was in.
Were the friendships strictly platonic?
Not strictly, no.
But my thing was females, as I’ve said, and they came around in droves.
I could never get enough.
That was long before I’d become too fat to fuck.

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