Liquid Ink

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


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Talking on WGN tonight with Rick Kogan and Kate Wisel

Followers of Liquid Ink, no matter where they find themselves on the planet, can tune in to WGN today, November 10th, at 22:00 CST (GMT -6) to hear me on After Hours with (Chicago radio legend) Rick Kogan. WGN Radio is 720 AM local to Chicago, or you can live stream the station at this link.

I’ll be joined by Kate Wisel, author of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men, described on the book jacket as a love letter to women moving through violence. 

Driving in Cars with Homeless Men is available anywhere books are sold. If you happen to be in Chicago, City Lit Books in Logan Square currently has it on the shelf.

Given the topics of Relief by Execution (domestic violence, fascism, genocide and identity collapse) and Kate’s theme of violence against women, this should make for a provocative hour of radio.

Live stream here.

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Photo of Rick Kogan from the Chicago Help Initiative.

 

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My special guest: Constance Volk

Chicagoans and weekend travelers, be aware: my book launch party is this Saturday, Oct 12th, at 7:00 PM at Volumes Bookcafe in Chicago. The evening will feature Eastern European snacks, a cash bar, and a brief discussion about the process that led to the composition of Relief by Execution. In addition, it will feature the art and music of the absolutely brilliant Constance Volk.

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Connie is a painter, illustrator, singer and multi-instrumentalist. She bends boundaries some of us don’t even perceive, and remains among the most open-minded and versatile artists I’ve ever met. Check out her website here.

Her paintings straddle the boundaries of form and chaos, often blending the two into spaces where the line between these apparent poles becomes irrelevant to the experience of the art. I love these paintings:

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She’s also a stunningly precise and powerful musician.

Here she is playing flute with Ensemble Del Niente.

Georg Friedrich Haas: In Vain (Ensemble Dal Niente, 02/28/13) from Ensemble Dal Niente on Vimeo.

Here she is singing lead vocals for Vicarious Tool, a Tool tribute band (that uses an electric violin instead of a guitar):

Connie will have recordings and paintings for sale, and she’ll be providing live music for the duration of the evening. I’m sure we’ll hear some fusion between Bach and Slayer, probably played on flute.

Come join us!


The writer who doesn’t read books

I was at a book sale and signing event recently, sharing a table with another writer. The bookstore, located in a place with virtually no foot traffic, was near-empty, and the only people who came to our tables were interested in getting our signatures so that they could use them to enter a raffle the store had organized. My table partner and I spent the time talking about the usual things: book marketing strategies, the publishing industry and our current projects.

Eventually, I asked the guy, “What are you reading?”

He shrugged and said, in a tone so casual to be almost dismissive. “Eh, I don’t really read books. I’m just not really into them right now.”

I had no way of preparing myself for this. The guy was young, in his mid-20’s, right at the age when I had discovered writers who would remain favorites for the duration of my life, whose influence on my writing will never evaporate. He was at the age when I—no children or frightening responsibilities in my life—read between two and three hours each day, towers of books on my nightstand, desk and toilet tank. To this day, I don’t ever leave the house without a book in my bag, so I simply couldn’t hide my shock. “You don’t read?”

“I mean, I do research for projects. I like to study, mostly, so I get stuff from the internet. But I just don’t read books right now.”

I started stuttering. Perhaps I appeared offended. The experience was painful, stinging, unfathomable, inexplicable…I felt strain in my stomach and was overwhelmed by an urge to clench my teeth. “So, how do you work on craft without looking at stuff written by people who are better than you?”

“Eh, I get feedback. I’m in a writer’s group.”

“And…these writers. Do they also reject books? Do they ever tell you things like, ‘Your writing reminds me of such and such?’”

“Maybe they like books, but we don’t talk about it. The group is all about writing, so we focus on that.”

I sat with his answer for many minutes, feeling the silence stretching between us like a bungee cord about to kick back with the force of a falling elephant. I imagined the guitarist who did not listen to guitar, the painter who did not look at paintings, the doctor who rejected convalescence, the teacher who had nothing to learn. On any level, in any environment, the sculptor who had no use for sculpture would be considered a buffoon. If a singer came to a singing coach to reveal she had no interest in listening to song, the coach should send her packing. Yet this young man sat cocksure and certain of his intrinsic talent. Reading would be an admission of either weakness or incapacity.

I finally asked him, “How do you rationalize selling books to people when you don’t want to buy or consume books yourself?”

“Yeah, I get that point. I mean, it’s true, I guess, kinda. But I just got so many things on my plate. I don’t need to read someone else’s stuff to sell my own.”

I realized I was the only person to have ever asked this man that question. His education and culture must have reinforced his position as reasonable and rational. Still, I’d have a much easier time with the pharmacist who knows her wares are poisons just as I could get my head around the grocer who sold high fructose corn syrup without ever eating it himself. But…dude…these are books.

Books.

In America, in the 21st century, it’s not just the president and his followers who don’t read. Some writers have also joined their ranks.

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Photo of a contemporary book burning from Wikipedia.

Sneak preview of my next book

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I’m currently working on a memoir about my upbringing in Cicero.

I have shared virtually nothing of the manuscript, neither with family nor friends, and I hardly talk about it with other writers. Earlier this month, on November 7th, I read an excerpt before an audience at Tuesday Funk.

Enormous thanks to Eden Robins and Andrew Huff, the brains and savvy behind the reading series, for having me again. Reading at Tuesday Funk is always a treat.

 


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Flooding damage

I had a clogged sewage pipe. The basement flooded, about five inches of water. All sorts of stuff needs to be discarded: rugs, mattresses, clothes. But there are two things that just ripped my heart to shreds.

This is a photo of the box that contains the only hard copy of the novel I wrote while living in Europe between 1996-1999. About a Lithuanian orphan who ends up influencing the life of an historian from Santa Barbara, it was never published. Yes…like The Fugue, this one was just sitting on the floor somewhere.

My wife fell in love with me while reading this book. I developed friendships while writing it, and I became myself as a writer, found my voice somewhere in the middle of it. It contains some of the worst sentences I’ve ever written, so pathetically, honestly unfortunate that they represent an organic beauty I’ll never know again.

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The text is ruined. Also in the box were critiques of my writing I had collected from classmates at Columbia, some of whom have gone on to become quite accomplished and acclaimed writers.

The other damage is a box of letters. Those letters date back to the late 80’s; many of them are in old air mail envelopes. The box contained post cards from ex-girlfriends, letters from men who had witnessed the Soviet crackdown in Lithuania; it’s just a box of treasures, memories, mementos, documents to make sense of my identity and past. Many of them will be saved, but some of them are just trashed.

My computer and cameras survived. So did my tax papers and all sorts of stuff money can replace.

Move your treasures to higher ground.


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Writing Workshop with Gint Aras

Gint Aras is leading a writing workshop this spring, 2017, in Oak Park’s famous Arts District. The workshop is open to writers of any level, aged 16 or older, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, maxing out at 8 students.

Classes begin on April 7th and meet weekly each Friday night thereafter, from 6:30-8:30 PM, at the Upstairs Apartment and Lounge (see photos below) above The Buzz Cafe in Oak Park, IL. The Buzz is only steps from the Austin Blue Line Station, easily accessible via the Eisenhower Expressway.

The course focuses on craft. However, Gint will lead students though strategies for pitching writing, identifying markets, maintaining an internet presence, and he’ll share knowledge of Chicago’s growing, exciting independent publishing and book-selling community. The final meeting on May 26th will feature a reading at a public venue in Chicago. Expect surprise guests!

To register for the course, click here and send him a message, including your name. You must have a PayPal account to register.

Details:

Prose Writing Workshop, with Gint Aras

Friday nights, 6:30-8:30, from April 7-May 26

Upstairs Apartment and Lounge, Buzz Cafe

905 S. Lombard, Oak Park, IL

Open to writers of any level, aged 16 or older

Registration ends after 8 students have registered 

Cost: $420

Gint Aras is the critically acclaimed author of The Fugue (Tortoise, 2016), finalist for the 2016 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award. The novel was called “magisterial” by the Chicago Tribune and a “masterpiece of literary fiction” by Centered on Books. His other prose and translations have appeared in the St. Petersburg  Review, Quarterly West, Antique Children, Criminal Class Review, Curbside Splendor, ReImagine, STIR Journal, Heavy Feather Review, and he is a former contributing and section editor at The Good Men Project. Aras earned an MFA from Columbia University in the City of New York, and a BA in English and American Literature from the University of Illinois.

Portrait

Photo by Tauras Bublys Photography

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Discussions will take place in this wonderful room.

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And also at this wonderful table

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Thanks to the Chicago Writers Association

I was thrilled to attend the award ceremony last Saturday night (January 14) at The Book Cellar to mark the Chicago Writers Association 2016 Book of the Year Awards. It was really a lovely evening, with one of the most amazing cakes I’ve ever seen, and wonderful conversation afterwards.

The complete list of winners is available here. The Fugue won an honorable mention. Here I am with Gerald Brennan, owner of my publisher, Tortoise Books.

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Photo courtesy of the Chicago Writers Association.