Liquid Ink

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


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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.

Buzz room 1

And also at this wonderful table

Buzz room 2


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Wicker Park Fest, Day 2

So…today Chicago faces isolated thunderstorms and another +90 degree day. Yesterday a crowd of a few hundred stood before the main stage at Wicker Park Fest and sang Que Sera Sera along with a band, this while battleship-gray thunderheads approached. The sky opened. Lightning struck. Adults and children danced. It was beautiful.

Also, some came around Volumes Book Cafe to cool down, grab a drink, then purchase and have their copies of The Fugue signed. I spoke to readers from as far away as Germany and Puerto Rico (and Madison, Wisconsin…and Laredo, Texas…and Aurora, Illinois…and a town in Maine whose name I will never remember).

I’ll be at Volumes again today (er…at an indoor table). Come check out Chicago’s newest bookstore between points of festival frolic. 1474 N Milwaukee Avenue. There’s a chance I might sell out before 4:00, as we have a limited amount of copies left.

 

Come grab one of these copies before they’re gone

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What are people saying about The Fugue?

“Magisterial…like Dostoevsky…” (Chicago Tribune)

“A welcome addition to the bookshelf of Chicago authors…” (WGN Radio)

“A masterpiece of literary fiction…” (Centered on Books)


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Independent Bookstore Day: Volumes Book Cafe

I’m very happy to team up with Volumes Book Cafe to sell some books tomorrow afternoon. It’s Independent Bookstore Day, and Volumes is Chicago’s newest bookstore. I recently visited to take some pictures and just fell in love with the gorgeous space. It’s bright, uplifting, heavily caffeinated, and the shelves are stacked with great books. I was especially impressed with the extensive fiction collection.

Come tomorrow between 1:00-3:00 PM to meet me, buy a book and get it signed. If you haven’t heard, the Chicago Tribune called my novel, The Fugue, “magisterial,” and Centered on Books said it’s a “masterpiece of literary fiction.”

My publisher, Tortoise Books, will also be on hand to sell many of their titles.

Here are some impressions of Volumes:

Volumes 5Volumes 3Volumes 2Volumes 1

Volmumes 4Volumes toilet

 


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My new publisher

I’m thrilled to announce that my novel, The Fugue, has been picked up by Tortoise Books, a very specialized publisher with keen attention to detail. They’re here in Chicago, and I couldn’t be happier with how I’ve been treated by them.

In terms of content, the new book is, barring a few minor typographical adjustments, identical and tells the exact same story as the version originally published by CCLaP. Tortoise decided to redesign the cover and layout, and the result is a more classic feel. I love the paper its printed on. It smells the way old libraries used to.

Now…there are still first editions floating around out there. If you were totally in love with the old cover—it was a photograph I took in The Netherlands, in an old church converted to a bookstore—you might contact The Book Table or City Lit Books in Chicago. Those copies stand to become the rare versions.

If you immediately want this, the 2nd edition, your independent bookstore can order it for you. You can also get it at Amazon, and it’s available on the Kindle (or, with an app, on any device). I’ll be reading from and selling copies of this new version in New York on March 30th and in Seattle in April.

Fugue Full

The front

Cover Fugue 2 single


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Decency amounted to naïveté: An interview with Leland Cheuk

Leland

Leland Cheuk has titled his novel The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong perhaps in jest. The novel is a faux prison memoir composed by Sulliver, or Sully, documenting four generations of mis-adventuring Pong men: Chinese-American migrants and their offspring. They work mines and railroads, invent video games, run brothels, casinos and—in the case of Saul Pong, Sulliver’s narcissist father—an entire town.

Most of the action takes place in the fictitious (hilariously named) Bordirtoun, population 157,000. Bordirtoun is surrounded by mountains, crossed by two rivers, and sits right on the Mexican border.

Sulliver is at once tragic and comic. His self-awareness allows him self-deprecation, but he can’t avoid his ancestors’ misadventures. A gargantuan loser, he’s unable to communicate, have sex without injury, find stable employment or play a good card. Tragically, Sully seeks, not to be present anywhere, but to be absent from Bordirtoun, something he can’t achieve even by marrying a Danish woman and living in Copenhagen.

The novel is multi-layered, at once satirical and historical, concerned with male identity and the Chinese-American experience. Among Cheuk’s many achievements is the portrait of a narcissist father, an asshole so insufferable that it hurt my stomach to read about him.

I had a chance to talk to Cheuk about the book.

Your novel is a critique of American capitalism, a system where a local politician can also be tycoon and pimp, and few people see any contradiction. To me, Bordirtoun resembled the world of a dictator, Saul’s portraits and statues everyplace, including the airport. Why did you choose to make Saul so malignant in his self-absorption?

I was inspired by Coen Brothers’s films like Fargo and No Country For Old Men, in which larger-than-life villains threaten to overwhelm the innocent, virtuous, and/or inept (in the case of Sulliver). Sully’s dad, Saul, is an absurdist amalgam of my father, the President of Turkmenistan (Saparmurat Niyazov, and his golden statue that rotates with the sun), and P.T. Barnum. A more recent analog, of course, is Donald Trump. Saul grew out of the novel’s aesthetic: part-absurdism, part-realism.

My father is very much like Saul. He risked his life to come to America with nothing when he was 29. By his mid-40s, he was a self-taught engineer working at a big Silicon Valley telecom company, and he owned a real estate firm. As a toddler, I remember mom working at Taco Bell and in sweatshops. By the time I was a teen, we lived in a 3,000 square-foot house in the suburbs, and it seemed like dad bought a new Mercedes every year. He liked to show off his wealth in gauche ways, like a lot of immigrants who come from nothing.

Like Saul, dad was chronically unfaithful to my mother. Like Saul, he won all the fights with her with his fists. I have no recollections of him teaching me to be decent. Like Saul, he often claimed that decency amounted to naïveté, and to survive and thrive, you had to cheat. He would threaten to send me back to China, said I’d have to use my wits to survive there.

I’m the son of displaced persons, and grew up in an enclave, so your narrative’s really familiar. But I can’t say I’ve encountered it very often in Asian-American novels.

I think the dark side of the Asian-American immigrant experience is underwritten or underpublished. It seems like “diaspora” writers feel compelled to write about the complicated but well-intentioned person of color. With Saul and Sulliver, I wanted to go a different direction and stay true to my lived experience.

For my parents’s generation, domestic violence and philandering are accepted. Casual racism, sexism and homophobia are accepted. To me, that’s not okay. I didn’t want to gloss over any of those truths with an “Oh, they’re hard-scrabble immigrants…” or “Oh, it’s just the Asian culture…” subtext. An asshole is an asshole in any culture, methinks.

Are my dad and Saul assholes because of…or in spite of…becoming American? Did they misinterpret or distill and absorb America’s capitalistic values? Those questions interest me as a writer. I’m pretty sure I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to answer them.

Sully also has narcissistic traits, not least of which is his inability to communicate his feelings to those he cares about. Do you feel there’s an antidote to narcissism for the sons of narcissists, or are they doomed in a way?

I would say the book’s plot leans toward the latter, but in reality every moment is an opportunity to change, and every generation evolves. I would bet on Sully changing, even as he continually claims to be doomed to repeat his family’s mistakes.

Personally, I’ve considered it a great life achievement to have avoided my father’s bad deeds. I’ve tried to live free of empire-building, its emotional toll on relationships. I have tried what Saul suggests: learn only from my father’s good traits. But his behaviors have probably seeped into mine in ways I’m not conscious of.

For much of the novel, Sully is running against this father in a race for mayor. He’s not really motivated to win the race for himself but simply to topple his father’s empire, expose him as a fraud. In your view, is that a flaw in his character or a strength? 

It’s most certainly a flaw. They call it government service for a reason. Any politician should be serving the people and be willing to sacrifice for his/her constituents.

Sulliver is in way over his head. At the risk of being topical, I liken Sulliver’s motivations during the mayoral race to him being seduced by The Dark Side of The Force. If we wanted to be a Jedi, Sully would have had to run for mayor with the intent of being a better mayor than his father. Instead—excuse another contemporary reference—Sully broke bad.

I get that, but there’s a greater mission in the mayoral race: If Sully wins, he can foil his father’s plan to displace Bordirtoun’s poor. Sully needs to overcome himself just to run, because he seems overwhelmed by most any situation. An old lady steals his bike. Sex injures him. In a way, he gets past some portion of his complacency, even if the race leads to his own demise. I guess I’m wondering if you think Sully has a redeeming quality that isn’t ironic. Doesn’t he?

I definitely identify closely with Sully, and I would say that his most redeeming quality is his awareness of right and wrong. At the highest level, for the most part, he intends to do to the right thing. But as the cliché goes, God is in the details. Sully’s not so good with those.

 

Photo provided  by Leland Cheuk.


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My publisher’s 2015 catalog

I’m happy to announce the release of The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography’s (CCLaP’s) catalog.

This year, the indie press will publish a very ambitious book-a-month, ending the year with my novel, a book I’ve been working on (and off, and back on again) for over twelve years. I’m still shocked—thunderstruck, rather—to know it’ll be in readers’ hands by the end of the year. And the publisher has some very flattering things to say about it, which I hope you’ll find by checking the catalog.

In the meantime, check out the rest of CCLaP’s titles. It’s humbling to be on a list with these people, all of whom I admire, some of whom I’ve read with before: Ben Tanzer, Karl Wolff, Matt Fuchs, Steven Garbas, Matt Rowan, Joseph G. Peterson, Daniel Falatko, Leland Cheuk, Douglas Light, Mike Sauve, Kendra Hadnott and Michael Strelow. Also in the mix is the anthology of “City All-Stars,” young writers working in Chicago these days.

Also, have a look at the extraordinary cover art. Take this example:

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Now, what’s my book actually about? The novel’s titled THE FUGUE. It’s a family epic that spans several generations and takes readers from Western Ukraine and Lithuania to a poetically treated Cicero, Illinois of the 2nd half of the 20th century. The main character is a metals sculptor—most would probably call him an outside artist—convicted of murdering his parents. The book begins with his release from prison, and the novel’s narrative then travels through various strands of memory, some reaching way back into the years of WWII.

Anyone who liked Finding the Moon in Sugar will be very interested in the novel. I will be working very hard to promote it, and I hope I can have your support.


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Jim Lopez: “Hacking his own language out of everything at hand…”

There’s always a special place in a writer’s heart for the first editor who reaches out to him with the inquiry, “I’m wondering if you’d like to write something for me.” In my case that man is Jim Lopez, editor of Antique Children. If you’ve never read Antique Children, you’re simply missing out on a truly unique literary magazine, exceptionally compelling and engaging. Jim’s full length book, Abstracts of an American Pageant, is one of those works of art that straddles the line between the depraved and the sublime, often pointing out that depravity is actually sublime while, to the right kind of eyes, the sublime is depraved.

I’d tell you something more about Jim’s work, but I’m afraid Andrei Codrescu cannot be topped:

Jim Lopez is a philosopher/writer who is inventing an extraordinary form of politically radical literary journalism. Violent urbanism and eerily psycho suburban offshoots vein his rich, vernacular prose. Jim Lopez is hacking his own language out of everything at hand, including the work of Friedrich Nietzche, fresh graffiti in a derelict Los Angeles, and kinky sex. Visual, ethnically explosive and unsentimental, Lopez is also fun to read, like Kathy Acker, like an extreme porn mag in history class. -Andrei Codrescu

You should watch this bit of guerrilla filmmaking in his honor: