Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Tribes with the best wife materials

So…somebody stumbled onto Liquid Ink by accident after searching for the words sex kilba. Seeing this, how could I not run my own search? If you run the search as a single phrase, the results are rather different and arguably a better use of one’s time on the internet.

Mind you, someone *really* must have been wild for sex and kilba to stumble onto Liquid Ink, as you’ve *really* got to scroll down to get to my website.

When I’m next asked what was unexpected about the reception of my novel, I’ll have to talk about tribes with the best wife materials.

For those who don’t know, Kilba is a character from The Fugue, a priest who plays an important role in the fate of Yuri, the metals sculptor. To date, two people have told me Kilba is their favorite character. Never in their wildest dreams would they have associated the old priest with the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, or with food and sex so good it will trap you forever.

Right?

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Algren reading lineup announced

Chicago friends, Volumes Bookcafe has announced the lineup for the September 17th reading celebrating the writing of Nelson Algren and the publication of Mary Wisniewski’s new biography of Algren. I am so excited and humbled to be reading beside these enormously talented people. Click on the names below for more info about these writers.

ROGER REEVES is an award winning poet and professor at UIC. He’s the winner of a Whiting Award and other honors.

LINDSAY HUNTER is the author of the novel Ugly Girls and the story collections Don’t Kiss Me and Daddy’s. Her new novel, Eat Only When You’re Hungry, will be out next year.”

JAC JEMC is the author of The Grip of It, forthcoming from FSG Originals in 2017. Her first novel, My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and her collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books) was named one of Amazon’s best story collections of 2014. She edits nonfiction for Hobart and teaches writing at Loyola, Northeastern Illinois, and Lake Forest College.

JIM DAVIS is a graduate of Harvard University, Northwestern University, and Knox College. He reads for TriQuarterly and his work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Harvard Crimson, Poetry Daily, Midwest Quarterly, and California Journal of Poetics, among others. He has received multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations and won many contests, including the Line Zero Poetry Prize. In addition to writing and painting, Jim is an international semi-professional American football player.

I hope to see you at this exciting event in the heart of Algren’s Wicker Park.

Here’s a look at the cover of Mary’s book:

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Photo courtesy of Chicago Review Press.

 


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Readers ask: What’s your religion?

I’ll reveal that this question comes from students. I think it’s worth saying a few things about it on my blog.

Obviously, I write a lot about religion. Religion is a powerful force in the game of human fate, with tentacles in everything from political systems to educational institutions, nations’ customs and individuals’ identities. I’ve studied religions both formally and informally, and I’ve read a lot of the sacred books, including the Bible, Bhagavad-Gita and others.

I’m in the school that says you can’t really study Western Civilization without knowing the Bible, and you’re at a massive disadvantage as a student of literature if you don’t know at least the plots of the major Bible stories, including lessons in ethics like the Book of Job, the Sermon on the Mount or Paul’s letters. This isn’t just because every book of note will be packed with allusions to the Bible, but also because certain cultural assumptions trace themselves to a Judeo-Christian understanding of reality.

This is an evasive way of saying I’m neither Christian nor Jewish, but that I have deep reverence for the ethics and lessons of those traditions. Granted, I was raised Catholic, which is a lot like saying you used to be a cop or a member of the Latin Kings. Once you’re in, your mind will forever be affected. You can pawn your badge or burn all your black and gold, but the way you see the world remains. I have an easier time remembering the Act of Contrition than all the passwords I use on the internet.

I don’t identify as Catholic. Beyond that, my personal spirituality is a private matter.

Readers of this blog know I belong to a Zen center. I’ve written about mindfulness and trauma on multiple occasions, and I’m quite open about my meditation practice. Zen practice was as effective, if not more effective at treating my PTSD —at least after a certain period of time— as talk therapy. I stayed on because, frankly, it’s a sensible way of looking at the contemporary world, and I’ve also met wonderful people at the center.

What does a Zen Buddhist believe? My advice to anyone who wants an answer to that question is to try meditating. That’s the answer. While Zen has its set of ethics, it does not offer a list of rules that need to be followed. With the exception of meditation, there’s not really a set of beliefs or behaviors that equal Zen. What’s there to believe, and who’s in position to believe it? That’s a Zen question.

Still…this probably doesn’t satisfy the readers’ question. If I’m going to do something besides evade it, I should probably make an offering. What I’m willing to do is to present a list of questions that currently make up what I like to think of as my spiritual journey. I don’t have answers for them:

  • Is time a line, a circle or some other shape?
  • Is consciousness the result of the brain or is the brain the result of consciousness?
  • Will the individual please stand up?
  • What must be done in order to count beyond one?
  • Where is the past?
  • Where is the future?
  • If Jesus truly believed in paradise, would he have raised Lazarus?

 

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Photo: 9/11 Memorial, New York City 


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Have I ever been this nervous?

(Ok…maybe I was more nervous when I learned my wife was pregnant.)

But yesterday I received the invitation to read from Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make at The Wicker Park and West Town Lit Fest. The reading and celebration will take place at Volumes Bookcafe in anticipation of the release of the new Nelson Algren biography. A list of other readers is being compiled, and I’ll publicize when I have more info.

To say I’m humbled is…

Um…yeah…

Obviously, my novel, The Fuguehas been compared to Nelson Algren’s work. Rick Kogan did it on WGN radio, expanding what a few reviewers have noticed. While I wasn’t channeling Algren while writing The Fugue—I’ve actually not read all of Algren’s books—what I’ve read has had a serious impact on my development as a writer.

City on the Make, a prose poem of less than 110 pages, was a punch-in-the-mouth catalyst in my life and career. I was 19 when I first came across it in a writing class at UIC taught by Mike Barrett. Algren’s bloody-knuckle, gilded paean first showed me Chicago as something besides the city where I happened to be living. I think it’s natural for creative people to wish to “get away” for something like “true inspiration”. Algren taught me to start looking around and understanding where I am, to wake up to it.

What struck me was how the language was tough and gentle all at once. Algren knew the hustler and the square equally well, identified with both, could inhabit both minds, and yet his final impact somehow transcends that polarity, sees the world from an elevated position. The poem begins not with any urban brawn but an ode to the prairie and Lake Michigan:

To the east were the moving waters as far as eye could follow. To the west a sea of grass as far as wind might reach.

Waters restlessly, with every motion, slipping out of used colors for new. So that each fresh wind off the lake washed the prairie grasses with used sea-colors: the prairie moved in the light like a secondhand sea. 

Those words, for me, placed Chicago in the natural world. They oriented me, helped me see there wasn’t any difference between a city and the country except for what our minds concocted. From that moment, I was seeing my city—and by extension, all cities—with a different set of eyes.

Unlike New York and Los Angeles, Chicago doesn’t have talent for glamour or glitz. The best we can do is provide ourselves with alleys where we throw our garbage, leave it (mostly) out of sight. But our segregation and corruption and frozen sidewalks and humid Augusts are right there in the open.

My grandfather lamented when the guy who used to renew his drivers license for a bottle of scotch ended up shitcanned. That brand of corruption worked perfectly well. Why ruin it?

It took me years to learn that, outside Chicago, you just needed to kiss your manager’s ass to get ahead. In Chicago it takes finesse to learn who the real player is; the boss is normally a stooge set up to take the fall when shit got real, as it inevitably would. So the stooge is sacked, apologies are made, a new stooge is hired and the hustle’s back on. In Chicago, everything is a front that’s out in the open. You are laundering money just by virtue of working in this city, and it happens whether your know it or not.

Algren knew this well…so so well. He also knew it was unusual, particular, worth a hundred pages. It’s true that the prose is mannered, sometimes awkward. But so is the city.

To get the chance to read from this little huge book, and only a few blocks from Algren’s home in Wicker Park, is going to be…yeah…I’m just elated.

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Readers ask: Why don’t your stories have endings?

This question came a while ago from someone who has read almost every available work of fiction I’ve ever written. While my novel, Finding the Moon in Sugar, saw very few reviews, several reviewers commented that the book had no ending. Reviewers of The Fugue have not made similar comments…not that I remember. But the reader asking the question felt the final paragraph of The Fugue is even less an ending than the final bit in Finding the Moon.

I find this really fascinating. It goes completely contrary to my process and point of view. I don’t feel I can really start writing something until I see how it ends. I’ve said in many interviews that The Fugue started out as a vignette of a man repairing a window. I didn’t know I had a novel until I imagined the very final scene. The horror and displacement convinced me I had a novel.

All this aside, my endings don’t offer resolution. I find resolution to be among the greatest contrivances in literature. I don’t think of narratives or time in linear terms, but if we do think this way, a cliché applies: all roads lead to the same destination, and that destination is a mystery. There’s a difference between writing the last word of a text—always an energizing moment—and resolving the narrative’s problem. A good ending is one that leaves the reader feeling obliterated or provoked. It is not one that leaves the reader with the delusion that now s/he “understands something” or, worse, “understands everything.”

There’s no way to answer this question in detail without discussing the actual endings. As a person fascinated with love and death, I write about not knowing. One of my most important themes, I think, is ignorance, especially the kind of ignorance we can’t perceive. So I don’t try to answer any questions in my fiction. My fiction is a way for me to express my ignorance, and my endings work to that end.

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My son is a capitalist mathematician

My son will be five years old in January. Today he was allowed to watch two cartoons after breakfast. Towards the end of his session, we had this discussion. (Mind you, this conversation sounds much better in Lithuanian, so if you speak the language, try to imagine it.)

Me: “How many more minutes are left in that cartoon?”

Boy: “I don’t know. Maybe five or maybe fifty five.”

Me: “So, it will be over soon?”

Boy: “Yeah, but then can I watch more?”

Me: “How  many more?”

Boy: (Thinks about it) “Three?”

Me: “Oh, no. That’s too much. But I’ll allow one more if you help me water the tomatoes.”

Boy: (Thinks about it) “Well, but if I watch one more, then I will watch three.”

Me: “You’ll have watched three. Yes. Two plus one is three.”

Boy: (Nodding, cocksure) “Good. That means you let me watch three. So I can watch three more.”

Me: “But then you’ll have watched more than three.”

Boy: (Brow furrowed) “When you’re allowed three, you should always get three, anytime you want. That’s what ‘you’re allowed’ means, dad.”

Me: “But then how many tomatoes will you have to water?”

Boy: (Waves his hand.) “Dad, it’ll rain. We don’t have to worry about it.”

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Photo: My son looking out the window of Gediminas Castle, Vilnius, spring 2016