Darby Larson - It is a puzzle machine of engrossing order, deceptively simple in how it wakes and slips and snakes itself with mesmerizing syntax inside a single 624-page 1-paragraph-shaped monolith of colors and suns and prayers. The result is a relentless, terrifying spell, or book of spells, or library of books of spells

Darby Larson, Irritant, Blue Square Press, 2013.

Darby Larson @ Twitter

'There are two books I’ve read only ever in bed somewhere on the cusp of sleep and waking drunk in the logic of their sentences, those being Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Darby Larson’s Irritant has turned into the third. It is a puzzle machine of engrossing order, deceptively simple in how it wakes and slips and snakes itself with mesmerizing syntax inside a single 624-page 1-paragraph-shaped monolith of colors and suns and prayers. The result is a relentless, terrifying spell, or book of spells, or library of books of spells, or worse, a multi-mega-leveled text-world the likes from which I or my ability to sleep may never find an exit.' Blake Butler

'When Ben Spivey, editor of Blue Square Press (an imprint of Mud Luscious Press), sent me the galleys of Irritant by Darby Larson, I wasn’t expecting the form to be quite what it was. What it is: a 600+ page paragraph––sort of. One immediately looks at the text and thinks, “This is Steinian,” or, “This is going to be difficult to get through.” Due to length, the book is daunting. But once you get started with it, it becomes easier to read, and, as Blake Butler recently noted, its “intentionality” is what propels it along. Irritant doesn’t so much have a cast of characters (though there are figures that appear) as much as it has an impulse––not without intention, mind you, which makes it work––in the form of the “irr,” short for “irritant,” I’m assuming. And what this “irr” does is move through a cartography of the imagination. Guy Davenport would have loved this! I thought. It’s a geography, and not without its twists and turns that make it move steadily, though with vectors and (again) intention, toward a commonality of thought that one can find, oddly enough, universal. Because of the intricacy of the images that Larson employs, the book is universal in scope, I think. Here’s a little bit more, using quotes where appropriate, to give you a sense of what I mean:
The irritant appeared in back of the truck and the rest is the moon on the back of the sun. The mirrored blue ate smoothly. Okay! Is that okay said something extra exasperatedly. The irr crawling on its elbowthumbs in front of this porch gave the porch of the water a yawn. The artichoke and the mirrored man awake next to the covered water slept for something extra. The man felt like sighing. So the trampled uterus slept while the irritant gave the slept uterus an artichoke for its cough? The man wore the heart of the irritant and there was little left in it.
'So much is packed into a length that approximates about half a “traditional” paragraph, but is embedded, of course, within Larson’s story. It’s a sexual scene, of course, replete with innuendo and birthing––almost. The irritant is (and continues to morph in and out of these roles) both man and woman, and also, oddly, child. Is the irritant a creative urge? One could aptly guess so. Does the irritant spend itself, giving and wasting its powers, as the Bard of Avon would have advised against? Yes, possibly. There are many ways to read the impulsive irr’s intentions throughout the text, and it’s just barely propelled enough along to give us a hint of what’s to come, but not so pressed forward (forcefully) that the text doesn’t leave room for surprises. I think it’s entirely possible to read Larson’s narrative as a story about creation and destruction, echoing (slightly) the old refrain of both capital and Hindu mythology: “create––sustain––destroy.” We recognize our own impulses, and hence receive (if that is indeed possible) the mirror that helps us see through these urges.' -- Laura Carter

 Writing a ‘very long book’ is the literary version of hitting the ‘Max Bet’ button on a slot machine. Where a smaller work may receive a little praise or a little criticism, a larger work of the same caliber will elicit responses amplified simply by the effort the reader had to put into its consumption. Larger works also seem to drum up a certain amount of pre-reading excitement and the attendant derision by those who will inevitably deem the work pretentious, scholarly, or inaccessible simply due to the book’s greater girth. Big books also tend to be difficult to encapsulate well without resorting to pretty idiosyncratic and abstract metaphors. Having placed these invisible elephants in the room squarely on the table, or whatever, one should simply note that Irritant fulfills most of these usual ‘large book’ expectations so you’ll just have to bear with me, take a grain of salt and ideally just read the thing yourself and form your own opinions.        
The most accurate way I have found to convey the contents of Irritant is that Darby Larson has taken twenty to thirty broad ‘memes’ (this term used here not in the sense of a ‘dumb internet joke’ but as the more rigorous and primordial ‘building block of thought’) such as ‘man’ or ‘balloon or ‘irritant’ (each word with its attendant connections, archetypes, and various other mental baggage). Larson then gathered together a number of sentence structures such as ‘So in something of X lived the Y while the Z Z’d in front of the A’. Larson then places the memes into the sentence structures in varying combinations (I didn’t keep track but it seems like Larson at least approached exhausting all of the possible permutations). Of the many, many sentences Larson constructs a few of them have an illusion of meaning, others come off as dreamy or surreal, and many are gibberish. Larson takes a handful of sentences that he keeps static and repeats these at various intervals to provide a sort of slow rhythm to the work. Other sentences pop up once and are never seen again. One gets the feeling of cycles within cycles, variously scaled orbits of repetition which alter and repeat within themselves. The memes themselves rotate in and out of use very slowly. This combination of repetition and glacial, understated change felt reminiscent of the general structure in Steve Reich’s pieces.
It may not be surprising that all classical elements of character, plot or thematic cohesion are absent except for those which may be superimposed by the reader. This is surely an intentional move on Larson’s part. The primary enjoyment of Irritant then lays in watching the unusual ways Larson cuts up the English language and the impossible connections that form between words. I found Larson’s word play here to be lacking in innovation and too steeped in repetition to be innately interesting. Irritant follows a clever concept but for sheer enjoyment I felt it falls under its own weight and delivers only in rare bits, leaving most of the work a jumbled bog of language. I can, however, easily imagine that those who are excited by works which revel exclusively in playing with language—hardcore word nerds and fans of Cake Train, Blake Butler or Gertrude Stein—will no doubt find Irritant an inexhaustible and invigorating work.
The experience of reading Irritant (and I think in many ways the work could function better as a verb than a noun, as in ‘I think tomorrow I’m just gonna Irritant’) felt to me like climbing a mountain: the giddy, nervous approach, the initial rush of discovery, the resignation to a long and difficult journey, one foot ahead of the other, the discovery that the peak is beautiful but more or less identical to all other points of the trail, then a look back from the ground at the journey in awe and exhaustion. As in mountain climbing, no one is going to give you a medal for finishing Irritant, most people will not care that you did, and a few who know may be confused as to why you did it. All you will have left after finishing is the sense of satisfaction at the knowledge that you have explored a place of mind that very few others will ever reach. There will no doubt be groups of Irritant megafans who will be able to endlessly discuss the experience.
With the work itself over six hundred pages (a previous iteration pushed 900) I think most readers will get the gist of the novel, and have their fill, before reaching the very end. Regardless, in and of itself, Irritant should function as a satisfying conceptual Objet d’art. - Sam Moss

Storytelling is often a process of elimination. It becomes an author’s responsibility to peel away her characters’ wide range of experiences (enormous amounts of sensory input, psychological demands, remembrances, and so on) leaving on the page only one thin current of narrative. To some extent the inherent linearity of reading—we can only read one word at a time, more or less—mimics human consciousness by calling our immediate attention away from the millions of other sensory details we’re also collecting while we read and directs it instead to each word, one after the other.
The Danish theorist Tor Nørretranders calls that excluded experiential input exformation. In The User Illusion, he writes: “Exformation is perpendicular to information. Exformation is what is rejected en route, before expression. Exformation is about the mental work we do in order to make what we want to say sayable. Exformation is the discarded information, everything we do not actually say but have in our heads when or before we say anything at all.” By revealing one small part of a character’s experiences, fiction has traditionally attended to information.
Then there’s Darby Larson’s debut novel Irritant. It’s a book that opens the reading experience to a polyphonic array of simultaneous voices and sensations: to our experiential exformation both in the text—or is that texture?—and to the physical world around us while we read. Like Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s novels, Irritant takes the shape one long, breathless, rambling paragraph, but that’s pretty much where the comparison ends. There’s no plot that can summarized here for you here; instead, the narration draws from what seems like both conscious and preconscious experiences. There’s no clear setting but, instead, a sense of geography, a void or space that the irritant—the irr—and other recurring objects move through. Our role as readers is to try to follow along. Some of the objects that arise and organize themselves in different combinations are “clay” and “turq” and “man” and “woman” and “flowerpot” and “sandbag.”
For example: “The man crawled on his elbowthumbs away the blue and the woman stirred and the irr irrd the flowerpot in the front and lay and laughed. And the sandbagged sun and the woken moon washed and clapped for the yawning man standing on the porch holding an envelope.”
You won’t find characters in the typical sense nor any of the other literary devices we’ve come to expect from a book. Instead, we get words. Lots of them, in combinations that no one has ever used before. The repetition and reordering of the same elements resembles a Minimalist composition. Irritant reminds me of the joke:
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Philip Glass
Instead of relying merely on that one thin thread of conscious action we see in most fiction, Irritant embraces a multitude of experiences all at once. The sentences and sensations just keep pulling into the reader’s attention and then rolling past. It can be as mesmerizing as watching a really long train go by. It’s a book that has taken David Byrne’s postmodernist manifesto Stop Making Sense to heart:
The woman laughed and laughed and nothing was funny so the one who went away took the one who went away and another went south toward the porch. In the piano and the chair and in the flowerpot of it the sandbagged feathers feathered the naked balloon and the weather felt kissed.
I’ve heard it said that a work of art is only called “experimental” if the experiment fails, so I won’t use this term here, but I do get a lovely sense of playfulness here and a willingness on Larson’s part to try new things. The immense pleasure of reading this book comes in a different way. It comes from feeling your brain attend to new processes and from making us more aware of our own exformation.
Larson has effectively opened up the field of possibility for how characterization can work. What makes a novel like Irritant so exciting—not that there are many novels like Irritant—is it widens the range of narrative possibility to include both information and exformation. The effect is absurd and maddening and intoxicating. The book doesn’t make sense in any traditional ways, and that’s entirely the point here. Or one of them. - 

Tickled Pink (for Darby Larson)

Mel Bosworth reads 'Reflexive' by Darby Larson

Darby Larson, The Iguana Complex, Mud Luscious Press, 2011. 

“Darby Larson’s names and singalongs scatter over the whitewash the way we’re sometimes thinking too hard to hold the mugs we’re fondest of. This is a text that fades and shirks and gabs. It shudders like the needle that won’t land. Opt to be a Freeman, and let Larson parse your dreams for subthoughts.” –Mike Young

“Friends and colleagues who have heard me raving about this book have, of course, asked me if they should read it too—and to them I say emphatically: yes!” –Pank

“Each sentence is a leviathan moving through the pages’ white water, both reptilian and mammalian, each letter a scale on its back as it submerges and resurfaces for oxygen.” –Eric Beeny

Darby Larson’s first book of fiction, The Iguana Complex, is a phenomenally (pheromonomenally*) turbulent and dizzying odyssey into the mechanics of language and its structure. Larson’s techniques are those of the mad scientist manipulating and revitalizing the genetic code of a syntactical/linguistic pretense we’re all too familiar with.

The Iguana Complex is perhaps less about plot or meaning than about their susceptibility to misinterpretation when expressed through the medium of written language. Larson suggests that we sacrifice language to its own limitations by using it to construct plot to reflect everything we can’t express through language.

So, Larson playfully puns:

Freeman rises. Cassandra winks at him if he sees which he doesn’t see which he might have. Orderless. Odorless. (6)
She would sea the ocean. (36)
*He coins several new terms, inventing new portmanteaus (like the one I coined in the opening of this review, based on Larson’s frequent references to pheromones):
[P]arallelosensically (5)

Musizoologically (24)

Considecidity (32)

Piccazzle (35)
And erects phrasal palindromes:
Roaring the open door opens the roaring[.] (1)
This is not to say The Iguana Complex has no plot. The two protagonists are Freeman and Cassandra. Their story blooms from sentences swarming with disjointed logic, dislocated bones of the narrative’s skeleton. It later unfolds into a story book Cassandra has found called Cat and Mouse, which reads like a more traditional allegory about animals. Cassandra’s story then becomes the story of what she reads, as all our lives are in so many ways shaped by the literature to which we are exposed.

Larson’s style is musical—he types as if playing the piano. He makes frequent references to such classical composers as Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, as if conjuring the linguistic resources needed to compose a work of music you can’t hear unless you use your own voice to articulate its melody. As music, the text constantly changes key, as if the score is in a constant state of flux, being simultaneously improvised and revised. Here, an unspoken pun: Larson the conductor, of carefully choreographed chaos (composition) and premeditated impulse (electricity).

As with much of Larson’s work (see: “Phone by Darby Larson”), his text often disappears into the white of the page and reappears, hiding so much of what he is attempting to communicate. (I have not quoted any such passages here, as I don't feel I can accurately depict them.) In this way, the text adopts the properties of a pulsar.

No, that’s silly. Not a pulsar. Smaller, quantum. Atoms, smashed in a particle accelerator, generating new particles that faze into and out of existence in a fraction of a second. No, each sentence is a leviathan moving through the pages’ white water, both reptilian and mammalian, each letter a scale on its back as it submerges and resurfaces for oxygen.

Though scientific and mathematical principles revolve in tight orbit around the story’s nucleus, it’s maybe much more fundamental: A matter of consciousness. The text mirrors the perpetual shifting of thought, of consciousness fading into and out of itself. It seems to question what happens to consciousness after death. The text also mirrors our perception of knowledge, catalogues and diagrams our desire to know everything. Larson reminds us how impossible this may be:

“May I ask, Cat, what is the purpose of your quest?” Dave asked.

“To know, of course.”

“But why? What is the use of knowing?”

“I don’t know. The answer is another thing to eventually know.”


“Aren’t some things better off not knowing?” Dave asked.

“I can’t imagine.”

“Exactly my point. One can’t imagine everything. One can’t anticipate whether a bit of knowledge will be helpful or harmful. Suppose during your search for knowledge, you discover that your life, that all life, is meaningless?”

“Then I would be happy for knowing and sad for what I know.”


“Are you saying there are things I may never know?” [Cat asks his mathematics teacher, a giraffe named Mr. Sharpie.]

“No, I am saying there are things which you will most definitely never know.” (34-40)
The disappearing sentences I've failed to quote reveal our fear of revealing too much, our desire for privacy despite how it isolates us. There will always be such questions, missing parts of a whole we can’t seem to distance ourselves from to gain the leverage of perspective. These absences reveal our secrets, everything we’re afraid to admit—even to ourselves.

Larson also frequently (and sarcastically) calls attention to the artifice of fiction:

Freeman and this new character, the grasshopper, are friends or soon to be. (17)

And is this the ocean in eight? A setting is Freeman fell in it. A character is Freeman in it. An ocean is character setting place. (20)
As well as the artifice of grammar and punctuation:
It’s a question. See the mark? (24)
Such examinations of language and its purpose seek both to avoid and reflect (disappear and reappear) what language hopes to convey while being used (as if language itself is a form of consciousness), how all who speak, who believe they have something to say, something they can hide behind, so often manipulate language for their own purposes. Larson reveals this, ironically, through language, a language I've tried utilizing to describe and contain my understanding of everything I haven't said. ericbeeny.blogspot.com/

Your Narrator and the Mermaid by Darby Larson
The mermaid sitting in my tree was drenched.(1)
I didn't ask her where she had been,(2) why she was here,(3) why she was dripping,(4) sitting in my tree,(5) looking curiously at me.(6)
I climbed the tree(7) and sat next to her. We looked at things(8) together from the branch where we were sitting.
And it wasn't long until the gravity of Earth reversed.(9) And the mermaid and me and my tree and my house fell into the air.(10)
I had hung on to my tree which was floating on the sea, the sea that flowed high above the surface of the world like a river, like a ring.
I sat on my branch looking curiously down at the water, at the mermaid, at a hundred mermaids.(11)

Darby Larson: Sh.

"Room uh happy pie," Tink uhs. "Chair so solo," Flit plies. "Flier rain fly ump," Tink fews. "Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh," bear skin rug says to Flit. "Kio cry," kios Flit. "Kio Flit," fluts Tink. "Happy sap draping murble bulb," Flit nuks. "Campy calm four blunks," rugs Tink. "Mulch mulch mulch," mulches Flit. "Smells like a happy pie in this room, a pie with berries of a sort," spider in the corner says to bear skin rug. "Soft fos so fto," Tink oses. "Ket yer blankets blunk," Flit roses. "Sill win dows pie haps," roses Tink. "Spinner for the corder," Flit falls. "Skinner and sum rugs," jules Tink. "So solo chair sung and and," andlyands Flit. "That chair appears soft and useful," bear skin rug says to spider in the corner. "Come calm gum go," Tink flits. "Shappy shap throats with happy me," Flit tinks. "Browner," keyes Tink. "Murchy mulk in back your jars of you," Flit softlies. "Tst tst tst tst tst tst. Tst tst," circles Tink. "Can you believe the rain melting down the window?" spider in the corner asks bear skin rug. "Closeted close my clubs and clor color closal," Flit opens. "Hook ook! Ook!" looks Tink. "Hreak ckreak and murky solo chair in hear me," creaks Flit. "Mufs on rain and me you creak us," Tink qualms. "Wonce fain ralls and me and you Tink us," Flit kets. "Enough crying. Sh. Enough sh crying sh. Sh sh sh. Enough crying sh. Sh. Shenough cryingsh. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Eno sh ugh crying. Sh. Enough cry sh ing. C sh r sh y sh i sh n sh g crying crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough screaming. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough crawling. Sh. Enough crying. Sh sh sh sh sh sh. Enough enough crying crying sh sh. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh. Enough," bear skin rug says to Flit. "Shtopsh shcrawlingsh!" Tink kinks. "Sh. Lanky blunk here uwrapped and rain rain rain," Flit confs. "Cry cry," irms Tink. "Halm clappy chair me crawl soft wrop," urks Flit. "Happy gie closed and," Tink guhs. "Brown chair cher," Flit plinks. "Flit is happy enough it seems. Does it seem to you? Here are some questions? Are we answering you?" spider in the corner asks bear skin rug. "Cry cry flier cry rain fly creak ump," Tink lookilews. "Kiosker lump it cry some gummy sub," skers Flit. "Kay ef," flubs Tink. "Drippy sap lappy room," Flit cunks. "Clam calm clam calm calm clam," culs Tink. "Much much," fetches Flit. "Toes fossy fossy fto," Tink blows. "Kiln yer kets tunk," Flit knows. "Shrilly dows does you you you," does Tink. "?" bear skin rug asks spider in the corner. "Spider lake and rug for it," Flit fills. "Bare bear ber ser cher nr r," ehs Tink. "Pie," happilies Flit. "Come calm shay a frin," Tink films. "Lap happy happily hap shop," Flit throws. "Brown room sill win," eyes Tink. "Blankets should calm this. I believe this room will seem sparklier when the windowsill lets in enough light for Tink and Flit to romp as they ought, and for me to remain cornered and for you, bear skin rug, to remain murky and like a blanket dropped on the floor," spider in the corner says to bear skin rug. "Opesed closen jars open chars chers," Flit lies. "The windowsill should blanket a calm room for us," bear skin rug says to spider in the corner. "Plt thlp fltp plth flth thlth. Thst," cls Tink. "I am toe counting these Tinks and Flits of ours. Ten each, five per," spider in the corner says to bear skin rug. "Reseted loose why flubs and color pleath," Flit pens. "Will they seem to you chair-sit-on-able soon and off my soft though murky backside for a time?" bear skin rug asks spider in the corner. "Look lOok loOk looK," Tink blinks. "Share cher char chair shit sit," wits Flit. "Enough crying. Sh. Enough crying. Sh," bear skin rug says to Flit. "Ruf blenkut photo phold it," Tink thinks. "A browner, calmer, creakier room next time, could we find a lesser one next time rug?" spider in the corner asks bear skin rug. "And me and you Tink us," Flit touches. "And me and you and me and you and I and Tink and Flit and you and us," Tink feels. "And you and us and me and us and you and you you you you Tink Tink Tink Tink Ti," nks Flit. "U," us Tink. "F," s Fl. "iTin," k T.

Darby LarsonDaisies

walks down a paved road. He stops at an intersection. He looks left, right. He chooses a direction. He continues walking. It begins to rain. A flower grows from his breast pocket. He looks at the flower. A daisy. He picks it from his pocket and throws it to the side of the road. He continues walking. Another daisy grows from his breast pocket. He picks it and throws it. Another daisy grows. He takes his shirt off and throws it to the side of the road. The rain stops. He continues to walk in the direction he chose. A daisy grows from the rear pocket of his jeans. He reaches around, picks the daisy and throws it to the side of the road. Another daisy grows. He takes off his pants, throws them. A daisy grows from his shoes. He kicks off his shoes. A daisy grows from his mouth. He closes it. Daisies grow from his ears, his nostrils. It begins to rain again. He sits on the side of the road, lays back and looks at the sky and the rain coming at him. He sinks into the ground until all that's above ground are daisies. The rain stops. Daisies grow around where he sunk. A chain of daisies grow in the direction he chose. The chain of daisies stop at an intersection. It begins to rain again. The daisies choose a direction and grow toward it. A finger grows from one of the daisies yellow centers. Another finger grows. Another. All the daisies have fingers growing from them. The fingers grow until they are hands. The chain of daisies continue to grow in the direction they chose. The hands grow until they are arms attached to shoulders attached to bodies. It begins to rain. On the paved road, the bodies walk in the direction the chain of

DARBY LARSON: Digestable Moose Kidney Sculpture Garden

A boney face may take my exquisite lick like gutter saviors saving, savoring days saddening happier blooming radial tires for toilet seats and off we eat toward tea green seas when our guitar strings need shinglier sugar coaster rings and here's a necklace for your faceless lady, and when I'm seventier let's drinklier sanguidlierly scrump period. A mix run through a run through a mix and lift paper clipped cunt spunky kitten powder baked boney face taking out its outfits missing pippy. Digestable moose kidney sculpture. Knocking nothing but bona fide moose lodging paw served with jingoistic chicken fingeristic ticks, soon, malpracticing misdemeanors disheveled hangularly placed within distances of similar instances of disimilar similes. How can you say ett. Spring water summertime poem summertime spring water summertime poem for our four fungus omnibuses. How can you say eat my boney face moose marathoning pippy lock down shut. Blunt shuck the chuck nunnery. Up. Jaded eco bottle smash to the good luck gunnery jump. Dynamic. Wok when struck in duck pat cat jab. Digestable moose kidney sculpture, part seven. My sharp exquisitely mixed lick stained grounded rabbit focus may miss your tender jelly lip stained boney nose, my canned toe from the americannery, bless you. Where's the something's weather boots besides ancienting Frank Blasterman's squid fresh slaw and ketchup, Frank's boney finger says how much in the typewriter cannonball, the television incision, the paperweight hopscotch jelly date? Period. Tuner downtown, turn down the pope faux pas, sleek, before we're heads in a sewer kilt with parsley. Frimagine Frat Fumage. The jungle grunt staked to the pylon means the rainbow ghosts are high on bylines regarding brandy lines sharing gauntlet boxes under autumn  moms. Don't point that atom bomb at the apple parlor our cougar mother gave dixie dad a bad wake-up shut-up under cup Vienna meal lacerating a first base save. Punch. Or unch eal ave eal and the walrus comes a crumblin down to the hell of your neighbor, Earl, eal ave eal unch. Jumping Judy on Jeopardy: What is part eighty; digestable moose kidney sculpture garden, the one we'll make love in, the one we'll rump mumps on, the ones we'll light Haiti on fire for to appease our ignition syndromes. Renunciate. Reorganize the fiberglass bones of his face then trace our lines to shine and juxtapose infinity with it until streams from your eyes are strung strong, long, and right. Pass me a knife. The sink while you're at it. North. Flip South. Flip North. South. Jest eh jecket fer yer cells. Mirror West. East. Mirror East. Six dark and lucently sixes high pick up pick up, ground's on just even through meatened walls colored brown and tangerine babies exquisilick tambourine tantrums in valley-maiden Spain. Take your pants off, let me get a look at your gorgeous grammar. Later, huddle for a win in the vegan insidious crop of & or % or OR for kidney bean submarines in summer under tongues, stutter, stutter, got ahead and suture this clock, stutter, shut from its one thousand eight hundred four parts, digestable etc. The bones of the grammaphone have a youness no one is hating you for. One million four hundred thirty-four thousand seven hundred eighteen. Cloudy. How may our owls howl hungrily appropriating stereominimal anti-notions absobliminally flutely? Yesterday? Just run the other way but turn around first, see the stone, run at the water, see the trees, head toward the desert on the kidney planet of androtesticulodrema. There's a joke heading toward you, duck. Tell me to tell the phone to stop sounding hurt, to stop when its ripe, to eat when its hungry or not or when something's in front of it, or when the hen wakes up, when the young one runs a lung off, when the starter motor's juiced, when the pen in your head's dead. Debah sevah Farah sevah Jurah sevah. Digest my moose kidneyish skull, part tulip. And run the other way. And there goes your boney face facing honey lipped Q-tips facing killer bishoped sex goddess garbage tartar controlled, packed and shipped. Uh. Exfamatory story: Nickel dives in dressed and sent to them so said them with weapons and twinkies, so much for the seven dresdens, the hend. Part one of digestable moose kidney sculpture jargon: so they's right and yeah I say so's here's when what? for like right on. Sew a pear a punk taught a vixen eight oaked paint to get a bear a truck tire, hate, yolk, faint. What was this that said and went higher? There was always this question that what was this that said. What is this that was said and made to hang from deceased rat skulls, their boney faces with traces of semen eating marrow. Address. Ah, the schedule's shot like a grape tacked to a target, shot by a sling with a lost tooth from the head of the baby Adrian. Sew a pear a punk taught a vixen eight pears pulled taught and necklaced. Sew a pear a punk taught a vixen eight nickel dives in dressed and sent. Nickel dives in dressed and sent when the starter motor's juiced, sliced, winched. Hatred, but what if I said I love you and gave you an exploding kitten. Then the bakery would stay open till Tuesday for us. Now there's a love story in these words forever. Where's my machete? Where's my oar, I've got to steer my friend's ship before we drift hipsterishly into the llama sauna a kidney beats heartly on the floor of. Finally we arrive: Digestable llama kidney sculpture, part circle part square. Frimply Frimagine Frit: Do you, Bitch, take Bastard to be yours to punch in the gut? I do. Let's moon this honey and wax the backs of these camels to surf. D. Use the vorce. On with it, with it, on, it with on, it on it. Your pop got licked up. Your rook got bishoped. The compact disc you swallowed is shit. Intra. And now the smoke detector's been smithereened by the staccatoed fricasee she'll serve to the funeral-goers going home and channeling Charles, handsome Charles, see his bust in the corner made of the boney faces of moose skulls, so don't start a fire, there's nothing to detect it, take this peppermint pill for your ignition wishing, this herbal principle for your smoking fundamental amplifier. Dance. Here's a check, check, death sentence: The subject killed the predicate. Greeters gents and magmaphants, step up left of the cleft toward the sword stuck in the giant shrimp scampi. Here's a tree and here's a snail and here's the squirrel-ka-bob and here's the tree again and the snail and the squirrel-ka-bob again and here's, oh, a new tree with condescending leaves and a heart made of tea leaf seeds, trash compacted and cookie-cuttered. All here in the hard-on of Sidney's digestable bone scultpure garden of groping, Frank strollering Adrian around Muriel's naked clown pose. Walk by and she'll ask for an empty post-it note she'll crumble and eat and weather-talk the day away, fall in love, out of, in, out, iut with you, so be ready. D. M. K. S., part F, insert notch of part LL into hole of part UR. She tripped and fell up the stairs where her hair was braided by Brandy waiting in the attic for all the falling up braidy girls until the attic's full and they're falling out of windows onto the yardless driveway, bouncing from car to car to work to colate the magistrate's blind date's tax returns. Back to sleeping dream: Sister? Someone? What's this ghost skull floating in the fridge for? Don't kiss me, I'm rhetorical. Why's dad dressed like a pirate again? Back to reality: Why's dad dressed like a baby pirate grandma's pushing in a baby carriage made of tin? Is Shawna still in the sauna with the surfable camel? We need her out here to lay on the stones and undulate the clown car, tell her. Can we all please move toward the garden and get organized, stand in a circle, in a semispherical meteor shape, next to the kidney, Sidney spit out your gum somewhere other than the bed of tulips. Now everyone, big smiles, cheese. That one's going to outer space like my poor dead husband Jeffrey's ashes I ate half of before spitting the rest at the sky. Can you tell me why the wine is raining onto our curvy bodies instead of into the blood of our curvy thighs? Can you whine us why the raining bodies curve into the blood of our lady's eyes? Can you hope less and read on? Can it miss us by kissing us gently like a fly lands on a flake on the land of our stray rabbits passing frenzily by and chanting? The sun's what's up. During my clever thing I'm cleverly going to do that thing I do with pickles, where I die and slice the pick and suck the juice and come to life, clever. Here's what Frank looks like, a picture I drew, let me describe: chainsaw boney face in formaldehyde. Remember: Part two: Digestable moose kidney sculpture visits the Louvre: bonjour je suis la sculpture de rein d'élan et je fais mal horriblement comme les souris étant envoyées dans la gravité. Part ninety-eight: Digestable moose kidney sculpture returns to the garden, trips over Muriel's poses and into roses. Ala. Ogo. Epe. Take the soup and walk away, no one will miss it cept the waiter who shit in it. Ogo. Save me a high C. Ah. What the. The. What in the. Pour it quick. Part beetle part walrus. Part it quick. Sweaty. Here is earth. A table saw upon it. And we said it suits us. And then there was light and we said here is light, ah. And the land happened under. The donkey walked by. It's the way the world was made, not a bang but a sigh. Ah. An extriation. Did you notice the woman riding the donkey? Her name was unpronouncable. Did you notice the gift I gave was wrapped in lace and velvet ribbon? Did you notice the donkey kissing the moose, the woman kissing the lizard? What did you do with the bucket of text I gave you? It was a gift. Pour it all onto the cobblestone path and let the ants take it. This is making sense. What's a pound of hen for in the den's buckle drawer by the fire I started? Where's the siren at? Nevermind. Go to the farm, buy a pig, bring it back, ask it how, while so much war is won and worn smartly, will we ever get back to the farm by the chart the general shouted his directions toward and Ronny captured in type though he's blind and faithless like a wingless plane, a tongueless tribute, a bloodless bank? Answer: Part gangrene, part visually impedimental, part temperately clusterjunked. And here we come to the swing of the thing, swinging and thinking, how did the digestable moose kidney sculpture acquire that hat? It's what you've been thinking. I'll tell you finally. The hat was a gift, something I picked up in Haiti. Take a picture of the owl on it, sit on its boney face before Ronny fires the cannon and we're all back inside our exhaustion and slipper time for final pajama wine pillow pouring next to Frank and Unpronouncable coitusing noisily in the bed above and others and just lay back, no, I'll lay back, I'll try, the thing in the light has meaning, we'll find it tomorrow maybe, or if the squirrel jumps its small ship and into my friend's, we could continue the rowing together, toward what it might mean for the two of us, while above, planets twinkle and drinkle their oxygenated oil. See the kidney in the window, part three: kiss me. 

Mr. and Mrs. Jingles by Darby Larson

Having entered the
grocery store engaged
to be married, they left
as husband and wife. A
greeter threw confetti
as they passed by. In
the parking lot, they kissed.
The kitten in Morya's purse
purred. She took it out and
placed it against her face:
"Hello?" "." "Who?" "." "I
think you have the wrong
number." She put the kitten
back in her purse. "Who was
it?" Donny asked. "Wrong
number. They wanted 'Mr.
Jingles.'" "That's me. I'm Mr.
Jingles. We are Mr. and Mrs.
Jingles." "I forgot. This is so
difficult!" "Who was it? What
did they want?" "She didn't
say." "Oh, it might have been
my wife. I hope nothing has
happened to her." "But I am
your wife. And nothing has
happened to me. No need to
worry." The kitten purred again
but she didn't answer it. "Prob-
ably my husband," she said,
"He worries."  

Lake by Darby Larson

The thing with lights for eyes answers yes to my question of whether snakes live in lakes. They do, the thing says, yes. And I see the thing is being sarcastic. Snakes, it says, live in lakes, at the bottoms of lakes, at the soggy bottoms of great lakes, snakes make stakes. The thing with lights for eyes says nothing for a moment and looks into the lake we both look at from the tops of rocks. I see where it looks, beams of light on the green water. Eels, I say.
Later we camp in a tiny tent, parallel sleeping bags, head to toe, toe to head. The thing turns out the lights, shuts its eyes.
I dream I am a fish caught in the mouth of a bear. It is a quick dream. I wake quickly. The whole dream was I was a fish caught in the mouth of a bear.
The lights are bright in my eyes. The thing's face is over mine. It is telling me about the snakes. It is furiously telling me about the snakes.
The gills on our necks are flapping. We are on the bottom of the lake. We are in the tent that is now staked to the bottom of the lake. The tent crawled to the bottom of the lake while we slept in it. Or the lake moved on top of us.
The thing holds a snake in between its eyes and my eyes and all I see is a blurry silhouette of it. A snake! A snake! the thing, says. I say, sure, okay. No, it's an eel, the thing says. I say, sure, okay. There is a time for sarcasm and there is a time for sleep, I say.
Lights above us, faint. Giant lights. A roped ladder dives through the water and the thing with lights for eyes grabs hold and is taken to the surface. Maybe it is a helicopter, I think. Maybe it is its mother.
I take in a lungful through my gills and rest on the bottom. A few eels slither above my head and I smile at the thing's sarcasm.

I am a fish caught in the mouth of a bear. I am torn apart and consumed by the bear. A piece of my skin is left near the edge of the lake and in the morning, a dragonfly lands on it, attracted to its shiny reflection.

Oxen Cry by Darby Larson

The strange thing about the world Ox lived in was that every year on a particular day, everyone would cry for an unpredictable length of time, for an unpredictable reason. Scientists couldn't explain it. It was deemed Crying Day.

It was a day of sadness. It was a day of happiness. It was a day of anger. And jealousy. And love. And forgiveness.

* * *

Ox was a large man. Bones packed in muscle packed in skin. Everyone called him Ox, on account of him being so Ox-like.

He mowed wealthy lawns around the city. Every night he sat on a leather sofa with a glass of bourbon under his palm, gripped with splayed fingertips. He took long walks at night down by the stream that ran near his house, puffing a cigar and listening to the amphibians.

On Crying Day, everyone wondered when and why they would cry, including Ox. "What could possibly make me cry?" Ox asked himself. Other people asked themselves the same thing.

Many people finished their crying episodes early in the day. Such as babies. Mothers everywhere held and rocked their babies and said, "Let out your Crying Day cry, little bumblebee."

After each resident of the city cried, they felt relieved. A woman who had just lost her son in a car accident four months ago found an old picture of him in the basement flying a kite outside in a rainstorm. She held the picture and blotted her eyes. Then she sat back and felt relieved. "So that was my Crying Day cry," she said.  And it happened like that all over the city.

* * *

Ox's lawn-mowing route on Crying Day consisted of three residents. The first was old Mrs. Beatrice out on highway 68.

"Hello Mrs. Beatrice!" Ox shouted as he drove his dirty pick-up into her driveway. She was standing on the porch. "Lovely day!"

Mrs. Beatrice looked at the sky and paused a moment. "I suppose."

"Suppose? Just look at that beautiful sky! The air is perfect. Not a floating ball of pollen for miles."

"Yes, Ox. It is a nice day today. Would you care for anything before you get started?"

"No ma'am. I'll just clip this yard and be on my way."

"Okay son, you have a nice day."

"Same to you, ma'am."

While Ox lifted is lawnmower from his truck, he watched Mrs. Beatrice stop in the doorframe of her house and stand there. She put a hand on the doorframe and leaned against it, her back toward the outside. Then she went in and closed the door.

"Poor Mrs. Beatrice," said Ox, "Poor little bumblebee."

* * *

His next client that day was Mr. Parker. An ex-NFL star. He liked to play with big engines. Cars and trucks and tractors. He loved Fords and hated Chevys.

"You know Ox, I'm going to be dead one of these days," said Mr. Parker.

"I suppose we all will be, sir."

"Suppose? You know something I don't, Ox?"

"No, sir."

"Know what I want them to do when I'm gone, Ox?"

"What's that, sir?"

"I want them to take my ashes and pour them slowly into the fuel tank of old Sally in the garage. And somebody'll start her up and I'll make my way through the filter and into the injectors. And then I'll be combusted by those pistons. I mean, I'll really feel those fucking pistons, man. Those pistons I machined with my own hands. And then I'll be blown into the manifold and out the exhaust. That's the way I'm going."

After a silence, Ox resumed getting his mower ready.

"You have a good day, there, Ox," Mr. Parker said. He walked back to his porch and sat in his rocking chair.

Ox finished half the lawn, turned off his motor, and wiped sweat from his eyebrows. Just then, an old custom Ford truck with fire painted around the fender came roaring by on the road, louder and faster than a jet. Ox watched Mr. Parker lift his glasses and rub his eyes.

* * *

Suzanne's was a magnificent lawn. A landscaping job beyond the likes Ox could fathom. His job was to just mow and yank occasional weeds. Other landscapers came weekly to polish the fountains and give exotic flowers strange combinations of food and fertilizer.

Strikingly beautiful at 24, Suzanne married rich. Her husband died of prostate cancer when she was 29, and now at 34 she was hungry for something else.

Ox usually tried to get the lawn done without her noticing. On Crying Day, his third and final mowing, he had almost gotten away with it. After he finished, while he was packing everything up, she came out of the house with two opened bottles of German imported beer, wearing nothing.

"Well hi there, Suza… Now Suzanne, you know darn well you ought to be wearing clothes outside."

"Well, come on inside and help me pick something out."

"Suzanne, I've really gotta get going. You go on inside and put some clothes on now. Geez."

"I'm going to stay out here until you say you'll come inside."


Ox followed her, trying desperately not to watch her perfect figure sway with her strut. Inside, she closed the door and jumped on him, crushing him against the wall. Beer bottles exploded on the marble floor. He held her buttocks and felt its firmness. A warm-blooded urge swam through his veins. He fought it and forced it cold again. He threw her on the couch, opened the door, and left. Walking quickly back to his truck, he heard her scream from inside the house.

* * *

That night, sitting on his leather sofa, glass of bourbon, cigar burning, he wondered what he would cry about.  He could feel it coming, even though he couldn't understand it. Like death.

He got up and walked outside. He made his way along the fence and down to the southern edge of his property where the stream ran. A vast portion of the stream was his property, as well as the surrounding forest and wildlife. He took the path he always took. He found the boulder he sometimes sits on when there's a full moon out. The view of the stream from there is relaxing in the way the moonlight hits the array of trees. He once fell asleep on that rock and woke up with a frog on his hand.

It was a new moon on Crying Night. The air was quieter and darker than he could remember it being in a long time. But he sat down anyway, determined to get it over with.

"What?" he asked himself. He looked at his watch. 11:48 p.m. "When's it going to happen?" He couldn't imagine anything. Nothing had occurred today to make him extremely happy or sad or angry or anything. "What!?" he shouted at the absent moon. "Do it already!"

His mind was blank. He kept his eyes closed for ten minutes. He meditated and nearly fell asleep.

Seconds before midnight, Ox suddenly leapt high off the boulder and landed hard on jagged rocks in the shallow stream. He dropped to his knees and ducked his face under the water. Submerged, cold water stinging his face, he called for his mother.    

Phone by Darby Larson 

Thirty years ago.
           Eight years ago, Phone by Darby Larson. A boy. A man. A girl. A man gets married. Years later, again.
            Two days ago, Phone by Darby Larson. The moon. The boy walks outside. The man who built the phone sleeps. The man who works in a Nacho Crisp factory drives to work. Rocky Balboa takes a shower. Tomorrow, once again.
            Yesterday, Phone by Darby Larson. The boy sits in his apartment. The phone rings. It's a wrong number. The man who built the phone calls the phone booth outside his house. Again, today.
           Phone by Darby Larson. The girl has a snail in her hair and the boy loves it. The phone might be ringing. The ringing phone is answered by the boy. It's a wrong number so the boy hangs up. The man who built the phone sleeps alone and never calls anyone. The girl who dialed the wrong number is drunk in a phone booth. The man who works in a Nacho Crisp factory is one of the truly happily married people on Earth. He comes home to his wife every night smelling like nacho cheese. The boy works in a snail factory and has developed an affectation for girls with snails in their hair. The phone might be ringing. It's probably a wrong number. The phone is white. The man who built the phone is proud of it though he never calls anyone. The boy meets Rocky in a bar and Rocky asks him if he's seen Edward Scissorhands and the boy says no, leave me alone and Rocky says, Yo Adrian, because she just walked in. The boy goes outside and lies down next to the girl in the middle of the road. They watch the moon move across the sky. The girl asks the boy why he is a bastard. The boy gives her ten rings and says, Wear these. The boy gives the girl a hairclip with a snail on it and says, Wear this. The girl wears everything the boy wants him to. The girl gets up and walks to the nearest phone booth. The girl is drunk. The boy lies in the middle of the road alone and answers his cell phone but it's a wrong number. Rocky and Adrian walk out of the bar and down the road, arm in arm. The moon spins around the world. The boy's cell phone might be ringing again. He isn't sure. The man gets home late from work smelling like nacho cheese and finds his wife sitting on the couch waiting for him. The boy falls asleep in the middle of the road. The girl gets a hold of her sister and says hello. Rocky and Adrian arrive at the apartment and make love. The man makes nacho cheese love with his wife on the couch. The man who built the phone looks out his window at the boy and girl in the middle of the road. The boy answers his cell phone and it's the girl's sister asking where in the world is he, and the boy says, Where are you? and the girl's sister hangs up. And the girl in the phone booth hangs up. And the boy hangs up. And Rocky smokes a cigarette. And the man sleeps and dreams of nacho cheese, of Edward Scissorhands, of making love and exercising. The phone might be ringing again. Rocky and Adrian fall asleep together. Tomorrow, Rocky will fight Apollo. Tomorrow, the phone will ring. Tomorrow, the man will kiss his wife in the morning and drive to the Nacho Crisp factory. Tomorrow, the man who built the phone will call the phone booth. The drunk girl walks back to the boy in the road and lays down next to him. They fall asleep together. Tomorrow, they will fall asleep together again. The phone, tomorrow.
           Phone by Darby Larson. The girl has a snail in her hair. The phone might be ringing. The ringing phone is answered by the boy again. It's a wrong number so the boy hangs up. The girl. The man who built the phone sleeps. The girl who dialed the wrong number. The man. The girl. The boy works in a snail factory. The phone might be ringing. Rocky in a bar, Yo. The boy goes. They watch the moon. The boy. The boy. The girl. The girl. The girl. The boy. Rocky. The man. The girl. The boy. The boy. Tomorrow again.
           Phone by Darby Larson. The girl. The phone. Wrong number. The man. The man. Rocky. The girl. The boy. Two days later, again.
            Phone by Darby Larson. The boy. The girl. Again, two weeks later.             Phone by Darby Larson. Eight years later.
            Thirty years later.

Interview: Darby Larson

Darby Larson's story "Phone by Darby Larson" appears in the April 2010 issue of the Collagist. His fiction has been published in New York Tyrant, Caketrain, and elsewhere. He is the editor of ABJECTIVE.

Can you talk about the inspiration for “Phone by Darby Larson”? What was on your mind while you were writing this story?

Sure! The guts came from a stream of conscious riff I did about a year ago, so I wasn't really conscious of where the characters came from or why I originally thought they should be doing what they were doing. Then, months later, I was binging nostalgically on music I used to like twenty years ago and found a song by Public Enemy called "Can't Truss It." There's a beautiful moment in this song just before the 3 minute mark where the rap interrupts itself with "Once again…" and then the rap starts over again from the beginning. The idea of a song happening again within the song itself, indefinitely, became meaningful to me, along with the idea of continuity in fiction, or having no beginning and no end, which I had explored in a previous piece called Daisies that was published by Everyday Genius. When I applied these things to that old riff, the themes seemed to multiply.

I’ll just go ahead and grossly generalize: For a lot of fiction writers, form isn’t the important part. Section breaks matter and the last line of a paragraph matters, but I personally tend to think of form in fiction as a way to get the reader to understand, well, how to understand—what to emphasize, what to earmark. But this is a piece that’s meant for paper (or the screen, as it were), and it almost literalizes the idea of how to emphasize: the gradiented text puts us sharply in the present, pales into the past, ever more fuzzily predicts the future. Do you think this story only works fully when viewed? How does it change for you when it’s read aloud?

I come from the camp of writers (perhaps a small camp ☺) who prefer fiction and poetry to live in text as opposed to in the air, so I never write with the idea of 'how would I read this aloud' in mind. I thought a little about how I might read this piece aloud since I know The Collagist has published audio recordings of some of the stories they publish, and I was dreading whether they were going to ask me. The beginning and ending could maybe be whispered at increasing, then decreasing decibel levels, and you might be able to retain the value the text has, but I would have a hard time evaluating whether it was working or not.

This title! All these people! Trying to access each other. This story feels so charmingly tragic to me; I can almost imagine it serving as inter-titles in a silent film. It’s something about all the wrong numbers and the nervousness about picking up and how they’re all apart from one another and don’t have to be. Can you just talk about this a little, about communication and telephones and why they sometimes seem so sad and hard?

Yes, I like that you mention a silent film, that feels right, the texture of it. And even the sense of watching a silent film and not being able to hear the characters but so wanting to, that there is this disconnected relationship between film-maker and viewer due to lack of technology.

I think one of the themes of this piece is that there are various means of communication out there via technology, like cell phones and the internet and texting, and even writing the story itself was a means of me, the author, communicating with a reader. And that for every channel we choose to communicate through, there is a different sort of opacity that comes with it that ultimatly skews the communication.

From one of yr blog entries, late January 2010: “seriously i think im at a point in my submitting fiction where it absolutely does not bother me to get rejections. i just kind of think, well they werent the right place or the piece was submitted where it shouldnt have been and its no skin.” You run an online journal yourself; do you think your editorial duties have an effect on the way you think of your own writing?

Ack! I recently pulled that blog down and its ghost is already back to haunt me ☺.

I think what you're saying is true, being an editor, especially for a journal that has such a specialized aesthetic, makes me think more about the submission process w/r/t my own work. There's a sense out there that to get published, you just have to write well enough. That there is a universal level of 'well enough' that gets you in. If you take any piece of fiction you have and revise it enough and work and work, it will eventually reach a mark of quality and be publishable anywhere, and then, oh my god, multiple publishers will be bidding for it! As an editor, I don't have a concrete definition of what's good enough, only what fits. I pass on really incredible pieces of fiction and poetry all the time because it's so often just not what I'm looking for. And editors say this all the time in form rejections, that it wasn't a fit, but these days I take that as a compliment.

What other writing projects are you currently working on?

I have a novella that might be finished, though I can't stop tinkering with it. I'm seeking a home for it but not too aggressively at this point.

Are there any upcoming releases you’re excited about?

I'm halfway through The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney by Christopher Higgs. It's an incredible piece of work, which I think also plays with similar themes on communication. Also excited to learn recently that Ofelia Hunt will have a novel out this year by Magic Helicopter Press. Anything Caketrain publishes. Also really interested to read Blake Butler's novel from Harper Perenniel next year.                                            

On “Phone by Darby Larson,” with digression

Phone by Darby Larson,” by Darby Larson, in the current issue of The Collagist, is one of the most refreshingly original pieces I’ve read in a while. The fading sequence of gray fonts mirrored at both beginning and end make the words, or ‘tips’ of the story, receed along an arc into visual space, as if the story itself were a giant sphere — a circular notion aptly mirrored in the jumpy, overlapping, entropic, and ultimately symmetrical narrative. Here, Larson (also per Abjective’s editorial fancies) is not just interested in telling stories, but writing them. In my mind, the two are different: the former merely a transcript of what one might say aloud to a spectator, the latter being actively aware, pensive even, of its ‘wordness’s’ function, capacity, limitation, and artifice. Oral history is fine, but I prefer writing that is seen, upon which, in this case, the structure looks like an almost palindrome, with wonderful tiny placed errors.

Larson’s short punctuated sentences act as a bridge between Zachary German’s and J.A. Tyler’s, both of whom represent extreme end-points of this tendency, for vastly different reasons. German’s is most ‘ironic’ and sophisticated, perhaps at once commentary and complicity regarding the new age (can’t believe I just said “new age”) of ADD-ridden fickle and/or disengaged beings; yet, there’s a detachment so extreme, to a point of linguistic excavation, one wonders if German is actually a monk in hipster disguise. Tyler’s compulsive ‘reminder’ few-word sentences (you’ll find them in a majority of his work) seem to point back to Beckett, in its conceit of cerebral abridgement, a kind of earnest bravery of words. Larson seems closer to Tyler in this regard, but with the self-awareness and cautious cynicism of German. As for his residency at HTMLGIANT’s comment section, he does seem a little too available, so it’s a good thing this isn’t dating.
Then there’s the Rocky mashup with borrowed “Yo Adrian” sound bite, all delicately balanced with another movie Edward Scissorhands — an unlikely pair, unless one considers that both are Jesus figures (most protagonists in mainstream film are). This intentional prism of authorship and narrative leads into the eponymous play of the title, the meta-author poking its head out. The impulse is to believe, simply, that Larson is somewhere inside this murky autobiographical story, whether he’s the boy or the man, or both. But I think that “Phone by Darby Larson” (not the title but the phrase) is meant to act as a gentle reminder — no matter how old the story is in the future — that this is being written, the present tense of the writing’s inception forever active and never in the past. Our timeline is simple, Larson is here, present; his writing, a present.

Interview: Darby Larson 

10.    You are a sturdy man. How does that affect your writing?
Thank you I think. I’m taking “sturdy” to mean like level-headed or rational or maybe even relativistic, because I’m really out of shape physically. I think it helps but also hinders me (it’s relative!), see answer to #4 above. It’s not healthy to be so level-headed because it leaves little room for heart.
14.    “Stop using words” is a pretty heavy thing to write on the page. Yet you write those words in The Iguana Complex. Discuss.
Well, the amount of revision and editing I did to The Iguana Complex is pretty unreal. The original version was literally three times as long and a lot more explanatory. It got so complex that it was caving in on itself, and I guess you can think of “stop using words” as me telling myself to do that. Something I really love about how TIC turned out, at least when I read it now, is that it feels like there is more happening than what is being told with words. In the end, I don’t really care what it is exactly that’s there, nor do I expect a reader to, but whatever it is I want it to be there.
1.    Iguanas can see very well, yet usually remain unseen. The term complex is a complicated pun. I mean to say: Will you discuss the title?
Sure. There is a lot packed in to the title, actually, and I’ve never tried to put down in words exactly what my thoughts are on what it means, so this may be long and annoyingly textbookish. The title refers to a quasi-psychological complex, partly an inversion of the Cassandra Complex [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(Cassandra_metaphor)], partly a kind of complex I made up that has to do with how a person receives information and/or being on the wings of Jung’s introversion/extroversion scale. In the book, there are two conflicting complexes, the Elephant Complex (which manifests as an opera onstage) and the Iguana Complex (which manifests as a dream inside Freeman’s mind). The former receives information externally (clairvoyance), and the latter develops information internally, or intuitively (comatose). Iguana and Elephant are nods partly to Jung’s I vs. E, and partly chosen because elephants have very large ears, the better to hear things that come at them externally, and iguanas have a third eye that they don’t see out of so much as sense things. And Complex is also a tip toward how ridiculously complex this all actually is, complexity for complexity’s sake, which is how I tend to think I guess. Is that saying too much? I fear it might be.
“It beguttons the buttoning of alarms or the on of the radio.”
“Three front knocks to the rocker of the door, three more.”
“They file, the crowd, out of our theater seats whistling like a bird‐caller army in their cars, near their dinners, at their desserts, within dreams, out from deserts, under oceans, sleepwalking‐whistling to kitchens preparing two egg in the morning salad sandwiches.”
2.    Small presses are the advocate of the sentence. What do you think about the individual sentence, or even word?
Well, I think it depends on the work being written. The Iguana Complex takes place completely inside a dream and I felt I needed to convey that atmosphere in some way. But I don’t think every story needs to be word poetry, I guess, and I suppose some shouldn’t be. In general I do adore word level goings-on more than what-is going on, and marvel at writers like Gary Lutz and Beckett who can manipulate them so well. Every sentence I write I’m always reading again four or five times for the sound of it more than whether or not it makes sense. And this is what blows me away reading Lutz or Beckett is they are able to retain meaning and still come at you in a completely different way. I think this all comes out of having the sense that you’ve read every story out there and now, since you’ve already read the story you are reading, you’d rather the story do something different this time, like sing instead of just talk.
I am eternally grateful for the openness that small presses like Mud Luscious and Publishing Genius (and so many others…) have, not just in terms of word/sentence conscious works, but just anything. The small press world is an advocate of more than the sentence. It advocates experimentation in general. There is a sense that you can veer as far away as you want from mainstream fiction and still see a work published. It should be seen as an opportunity for writers to try new things and grow.
3.    Who inspires you, and you cannot name a writer.
Haha. Beethoven? Even if I could name a writer, I’m taking many more cues from the music world than literature these days. Music is already doing really well that which I am often trying to do, which is highlight style over content. Content in music is allowed to be more atmospheric and open to interpretation, which I prefer.
4.    Rachmaninoff once complained, “The new kind of music seems to create not from the heart but from the head.” Where on that spectrum is your writing, head to heart?
I don’t know. I want to think it’s somewhere near the middle, but maybe tipped slightly to the head side? What do you think? It’s probably more on the head side than I’d like it to be honestly. I think my writing comes off as more heady to people than hearty. It’s something I should work on.
5.    Is there a town you really don’t want to die in?
Nah. There are towns I really don’t want to live in though. Like Baghdad. I don’t understand the question, actually. Absent the inability to regret anything after you die, it doesn’t really matter. You can’t pre-regret where you might die.
6.    Are there too many or too few literary magazines in the world?
There are probably just about the right number. Whatever number of them there are is the number there ought to be. There should be a balance of few enough to encourage quality and increase value of a publication credit, but also enough that writers who need validation to feel like it’s worth continuing to occasionally get that validation. In the end, the market will determine which literary magazine has value and which one doesn’t. In the meantime, there should be no limit on the number that are allowed to exist.
8.    The Iguana Complex is musical. Almost a natural music, like the notes dandelion seeds play as they ride the wind, etc. This isn’t a question, but an observation.
This is, yes, a flattering observation. Thank you.
7.    Is word-of-mouth about a book a type of pheromone? How does this relate to the idea behind your publisher, Nephew? What do you think of this idea?
It’s interesting to think of word-of-mouth as a type of pheromone. I think successful word-of-mouth moves more like a virus that grows into space, while scent moves more like a cloud that dilutes into space.
The Nephew idea has been fascinating and fun to be a part of. It’s awesome that J.A. Tyler and folks at Mud Luscious thought it up. I feel like I’m pretty novice at this whole game though. I’ve been writing and publishing things for a long time, but this is really the first time I’ve ever had to think of my writing as a product that needs to sell. To be totally honest, it’s not a mindframe I’m comfortable with but it’s what you have to do. I like that the Nephew imprint encourages word-of-mouth though, it gives everyone who buys a copy a little incentive to pass the word around.
9.    What causes you despair?
The fear of not having a job. Bukowski had the same fear. Thankfully I have a job that is stable and I enjoy doing it, but if I really go to that point of what would I do if I was laid off, it’s pretty scary, especially now that I’m mid-thirties and the idea of interviewing for a job would be terrifying. I’m a horrible interviewee in person. I think this whole thing has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been employed by institutions pretty consistently since I was 16.
11.    Do you carry a notebook with you to put these things in? Or keep a diary?
Nope. I am horrible at the physical act of writing, of holding a writing utensil and pushing it around on paper. I loathe any time I am forced to do this. My brain is completely wired to a keyboard now. Although my wife and I have recently joined the 21st Century and bought iPhones and I have started using the Notes thingie on there, and I’m surprised that I am actually like keeping notes on ideas for things there now, so there’s that.
12.    In much of your writing I have read, you break down forms, shuffle scaffoldings, fade in and out, move things about visually on the page. Is that important? How words look and talk to one another, as in close/distance one another on the visual page?
Yes. Very. I have always been interested in the intersection between art and literature, and I feel part of that intersection exists at the text itself. I am always very conscious of how a page of text looks, whether it is a long dense paragraph or a Cummings poem. In “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers, the section I remember the most, after having read it like eight years ago or something, was this point at which there is a really long paragraph that suddenly stopped and was proceeded by a few pages of very short, like staccato dialogue. It was such a jarring thing to see these two textual atmospheres juxtaposed on the page like that. Another weird thing is I’ve been trying to read a book on the iPhone with the Kindle app for the first time and it’s bothering me to not be able to see a whole paragraph at once, or to not get a sense of how the full pages of text look. It forces me to only care about what the tiny window of text I see is saying.
I am also conscious of this when choosing work for Abjective, the journal I edit. I love to see text used in ways other than just to say something.
13.    Have you any superstitions about writing?
Nah. I’m not a superstitious person. I am the least superstitious person in the world, probably.

Darby Larson: Sack of Oranges

Quirt, so it starts, whimpered at and standing under the crystal chandelier in the foyer while Mister Vin at the table considered slightly the kingdom of pillows and of embrangling the dog and of the obviously happy Quirt at the table next to himself, Mister Vin. We'll start with the pillows. Quirt said this. "We'll start with the pillows." And the dog. "Blah blah," said Mister Vin at this. Obviously healthy, and the crystal chandelier chandeliered the room. Pjilkm performed flips in the voluble kingdom and the dog rested on the table or under it. "Okay." Pjilkm said okay. The dog was obviously happy on the table or under it. Quirt was healthy and whimpered so. The dog aimed its whimpers at Mister Vin so Mister Vin took his fantastic and embrangling strangling fingers elsewhere, to the backyard possibly. Mister Vin—such a voluble, obviously happy, healthy specimen—whimpered at and embrangled the dog on the table. And Quirt. There went the kingdom and the dog with it. Out with the voluble dishes, in the backyard, where Mister Vin vanished to, or maybe Pjilkm? Voluble and disguisably capable. The dog was obviously happy with all this. The kingdom nodded with the audience satisfactorily. Quirt, Pjilkm, Mister Vin and the dog all rested on the giant pillow in the kingdom of voluble whimpers. The dog back flipped. Quirt front flipped, rested, walked. And Pjilkm, obviously happy, showed it. So Quirt, quite cold, quite cold. While the healthy Mister Vin sat on the pillow brought in from the backyard where Pjilkm practiced his back flips. The dog in the kingdom of embrangling cowpokes rested on the table and Quirt gave Pjilkm a hug and felt warm after, physically and figuratively. Beneath the crystal chandelier, the dog rested and waited for the voluble thing to swing. So the dog whimpered, "Quite cold." And the healthy Mister Vin flipped in the foyer. The crystal kingdom and the healthy dog felt the voluble Quirtness of everything and headed to the basement of the kingdom of embrangling Quirty. Quite cold. Who ever heard of a dog in the kingdom of whimpering pillows? Mister Vin and others had. Quietly as could be and as could be seen from the kitchen, far from the chandelier crystaling the foyer, in the foyer sat Quirt. "All of the air is quite cold in this kingdom," whimpered Mister Vin and no one heard him but the dog who whimpered back. Quirt felt this was all quite cold and whimpered so. Mister Vin, always healthy and voluble, rested on the pillow and tried to organized thoughts which had been earlier so embrangled beneath the crystal chandelier in the foyer with the dog barking barking. All while the dog, barking barking, and the rest of the quite cold but healthy family felt voluble and like a sack of oranges under the sun. This whole time Pjilkm had been in the bathroom fetching soap. "How utterly voluble," embrangled the dog, so "Who lettruy ublvoue," uttered the voluble dog, so. And the quite cold air Mister Vin had been remarking upon flew into his ear. The sack of oranges in the kitchen felt the sun from an aimed at ray of sunray from the crystal chandelier, beneath which, the air of the foyer felt quite cold, quite utterly voluble, Mister Vin felt. And the dog wouldn't stop whimpering and Quirt, quite healthy and voluble, rested on the table, embrangling ideas and wrangling the flipping around acrobat of his dream. Later, the dog and the rest rested in the kingdom of the crystal chandelier, then woke and poked their noses around and found Mister Vin finally, asleep in the backyard. The sack of oranges had become quite cold and Mister Vin whimpered so. Pjilkm rested. All of this in the kingdom of the sack of oranges and the oranges bumbling around in there. "All this voluble, embrangling," thought Pjilkm at Quirt and Quirt replied whimperingly, "The dog was a mistake." In that moment or suddenly proceeding it, the crystal chandelier crashed down crashing the crashed-at ground of the foyer with itself.
And now the growl from the foyer and the dog and its lungs and throat. Mister Vin in the backyard came inside to the not-backyard and uttered a whimpering gasp sighly. Pjilkm ran out of the bathroom and into the hallway and then into the kitchen to run sink water on his on-fire hand. Quirt considered everything happenstancely standing from the roof of the kingdom happeningly, then later lounging on a pillow, scratching a new dog growling growling. The sack of oranges in the kitchen did nothing with themselves. Mister Vin felt quite cold and voluble about everything. The dog whimpered and Pjilkm took the hint from the dog. "The dog was a mistake," Quirt wouldn't stop saying. The rest of the rest of them ate in the kitchen that evening and the next day the dog growled and Quirt woke and Mister Vin didn't. Pjilkm, still healthy, ran into the foyer to practice his back flips onto crystal shards. The neglected sack of oranges in the kitchen remembered their neglection, then aimed their thought rays at Quirt and Quirt said, "Oh, the oranges." Mister Vin, quite healthy still, took a rest and told Quirt to jump. All this in the kingdom of embrangling. Now there was light from the window and all about the kingdom like a nail gun driving it into crevices. Quirt and Pjilkm and the sack of oranges ate each other and pondered the embranglement of recent events and Quirt decided that none of it ever happened and Pjilkm decided that none of it had either. Where was Mister Vin? Out dancing. The dog rested and growled growled in the kitchen so Quirt threw an orange at his head. The healthy weather producing light from the window rested as it penetrated the kingdom with its light and its voluble kingdom of light. Mister Vin coughed and Quirt heard it come from the backyard. Quite cold and voluble, Mister Vin sat in the backyard and embrangled his thoughts into new ones, then erased them, then added more, then pinned them to the floor. The dog, the light from the window, all added up as one and one is two often adds up similarly. The dog back flipped and Pjilkm clapped. "This is certainly a memorable morning," thought Mister Vin, then erased the thought, then thought this: "The light from the window, is it voluble enough for the rest of us, for the growling dog, the embrangling though healthy Pjilkm, the quite cold Quirt, and the miserable sack of oranges?" Ftyd stood in the foyer holding a new sack of oranges and growled back at the dog growling growling at him first. And the healthy, though quite cold air was all about them and passed into and out of the lungs of Quirt and Mister Vin and the dog also. Dogs breathe also. "The kingdom, the light from the window, everything," thought Ftyd as he stood and watched time happen in the foyer of the kingdom of voluble dogs. Mister Vin back flipped from his seat and felt quite cold, quite voluble and decided to take a rest in the kitchen, on the floor. Quirt stepped over Mister Vin and growled at Ftyd who rested in the foyer, on the floor, amongst shards of a previously crashed crystal chandelier plus particles of light from the window. Then the light from the window flipped volubly over the dog and Mister Vin embrangled himself on the floor with a growl and a nod. Quirt, who'd been quite cold, though healthy, rested using the sack of oranges as a pillow. Ftyd heard about this and felt quite cold as a result. So the light from the window embrangled the kingdom and the kingdom said, "Quite." And the kingdom felt quite cold about it. The dog flipped over the sack of oranges and Ftyd clapped and woke Mister Vin who resumed embrangling his thoughts on the matter of the quite cold sack of oranges and the impressionable Quirt in the foyer singing a forking tuning folk. Mister Vin and Quirt, quite taken, quite impressionable, quite cold to say in the least. So Ftyd took up to embrangling the dog against the growling sack of oranges beneath the light from the window and before it left healthily, skipping down the streetwise. This kingdom for a dog and Ftyd on its back for once. Mister Vin witnessed this list of embrangles under the light from the window in the kingdom of Ftyd and felt that all was good and well with it, although certainly quite cold. "Enough," Quirt blurted and the impressionable Mister Vin in the backyard complied and the dog flipped onto the sack of oranges and growled at the light from the window and the waves it made off of the crystal and rested on the lens of its eye. Therefore, nothing was left over and taken as impressionable for the young Ftyd and his neglected sack of oranges. Another was Mister Vin at the door, healthy and studious at the door. He spoke thusly, "Two more and where's the dog?" And at once they gravitated to the backyard and greeted Mister Vin and his victuals, quite cold and impressionable, quite like a sack of oranges and a growling growling dog to boot. In the backyard where the light from the window came from before coming from a sun. Ftyd and Quirt ran and growled at the face of the dog who's mouth and vocals growled back and spoke between themselves a conversation involving resting and flipping and feeling healthy and other embranglements. A healthy dog and a light from a window and Ftyd and Mister Vin at it again. Quirt, quite cold and quiet near the fence flipped onto it and walked along it physically and figuratively. Resting, the dog flipped into a dream and woke from it instantly, complaining about his good health and bitey bark while the sack of oranges in the kitchen felt neglected and impressionable. In the backyard, Mister Vin and Ftyd and Quirt felt quite cold and quite something else unfingerputonable. Mister Vin imagined a new dog, then there was one, and Quirt decided to embrangle his pants so he did and threw them over the fence for the perhaps pantsless neighbors. "Bark bark," Quirt replied and the new dog eyed him quite impressionably. Suppose Quirt and Ftyd and Mister Vin and the dog wrapped themselves into the same blanket and hibernated for a minute, and then that happened also. Mister Vin yawned and considered what day it was. Quirt continued to rest and the dog felt the light from the window upon the hair in his ear, and the dog wept because of this. Ftyd considered the weeping dog and laughed. Then the healthy and vibrantly impressionable Mister Vin flipped the sack of oranges over his shoulder and decided to leave forever. "I'm staying right here forever," he told the dog whisperingly, then sat on the sack of oranges and plotted his next move. Quirt, healthy and quite cold, and the backyard was full of all of them. The light from the window fell upon the backyard and the backyard spit it back out and into Mister Vin's eye and the dog bark barked. And Ftyd, remember Ftyd and the sack of oranges? They fell asleep, one under the other, and the sounds of resting could be heard by the neighbors and backyard dogs of the street. The impressionable light from the window held its impression through the window and onto the piano. The rest rested and growled into their dreams. Quirt continued to hibernate and the dog hibernated in Quirt's hibernation dream and back flipped into the backyard from the window again. The healthy, the quite cold and impressionable Mister Vin impressed upon the growling neighbor that Quirt and Ftyd were only temporary and the elaborate scheme to hold the particles of light from the window on his tongue would evidently be thwarted by younger adversaries. Okay, so the dog laughed and hiccupped twice at this, and the sack of oranges in the kitchen, still neglected, but growing older and unfirmer as time went on as indicated by the shadow of the piano from the light from the window. Quirt in the backyard looked to the sky and considered his impression of heaven and how it impressed so heavily upon his impression. The elaborate back flip the new dog performed made the old dog bark bark and finally everyone rested finally. And everyone hibernated for the evening and grew themselves awake in the morning and ready for another one. The ever healthy Mister Vin finally came inside leaving Ftyd and Quirt to hibernate in the quite cold air and frisky morning water. He lifted the sack of oranges and set them down again. And that was the end of Mister Vin. Hibernating in the backyard still were Quirt, Breop, Ftyd and two dogs, or one dog and two ticks on him. Seven growling ticks lived and died in the last minute regrettably. Breop, quite impressionable, felt the quite coldness and how it impressed its cold upon him and the elaborate manner it went about doing so. And the dog now, flipping and flipping, back flipping and landing on the chair like a sack of oranges landing on the sand. The light from the window elaborated the scene and its furniture to the audience. Ftyd felt quite cold and told Breop so, and Quirt said, "I'm hibernating, okay." And the growling growling of the dog's throat bellowed in the evening and hung around until midnight, then rode away on the waves of the light from the window. Meanwhile, everything felt quite cold and contemporary. Quite impressionable and elaborate were the sack of backyard oranges. Quite cold and impressionable were Breop and Ftyd and Quirt and the dog and the new dog and the first dog flipping around each other elaborately, then hibernating beneath the light from the window once. Okay, there's Quirt and that's that, okay. Breop said, "Let's go." So the currently flipping Quirt flipped impressionably at the light from the window from the house inside of the earth and on top of it. Quite cold, the dining dog and the impressionable landscape Ftyd considered growlingly. The sack of oranges, remember them? Oh god, the flippity doorway and the elaborate growling coming from behind it and or somewhere near and behind it or somewhere near it only, or in front of it. Breop, let's say, was hibernating in the backyard when the denouement occurred. Ftyd and Quirt were having lunch in the foyer after the dog swept the shards under the doorway to the backyard. And then the denouement occurred. Quite cold, and the dog wrapped in a blanket rolled into the kitchen and bumped into the sack of oranges on the floor while the denouement occurred. Then the light from the window. The house! Here in this house where the light from the window and outside of it shining while the denouement occurred in the basement and the house of elaborate impressionisms was quite cold, certainly it seemed to be quite, until later that afternoon and beyond perhaps. "The basement," said Quirt. "Investigate it," said Breop. So Ftyd shouldered the sack of oranges, leashed the dog and investigated the elaborate basement structure. The house burped and Breop felt quite cold while investigating the light from the window and the dust that smoked through its particle waveries. In the backyard, a mouse ran and ran, flipped, investigated a rock and ran back to its house beneath the fence and into a neighbor's house and basement finally. In our house and basement, Ftyd tripped and fell, then woke in the basement a month later and the light from the window was unseeable unfortunately, but Quirt investigated the light thoroughly and concluded that light is made of elaborate growls and of birds that hibernate in the backyards of houses.
Here was a healthy afterward. Breop refused and Ftyd agreed finally refusing, after having risen from the basement like a ghost. And Quirt continued to house him in the impressionable room meant for hibernating. And Breop discovered her vagina and became a woman. "Woman?" thought Quirt whose penis something happened to then. Ftyd sat on the couch impressionable and famished and ready to start over again. Our investigation of the trees in the backyard, the ones where Quirt wished he had returned to, had been successful. Good for him or her. So Breop tore off her clothes and said, "Look! Woman!" and Ftyd and Quirt chewed on quite cold and buttery oranges. Quite cold, the light from the window and all its misery shouted at Breop who wept and ran away. The backyard, so full of oranges and other hibernating characters deep in dream investigations. Say the light from the window was buttery. Say Quirt and Ftyd read newspapers and fell into hibernations. Say the sack of oranges shined on by the light from the window of the house felt buttery and the house and its roof felt quite cold under the scorching sun ironily. And Breop in front of the house screaming screaming. The elaborate growl from the mailman as he walked by explanatorily. Quite coldly came Breop back into the house calmly and ready for a shower. So Quirt smiled a growl and Ftyd growled a cold and impressionable growl at the light from the window finally. Impressionably, the impressionable Breop ran out of soap somehow and Quirt left to investigate the hibernation of Ftyd in the foyer again, under the light from the window again, from the house again. The house and the quite cold and buttery light coming from the window made the house feel like a used sack of oranges growing older and less ready to eat if anyone ever would. Breop found soap in the bedroom dripping on the floor bruised by the light from the window all night and Chak lay in bed hibernating already, holding the sack of oranges like a pillow, quite cold. Chak felt impressionable and she said as much. "I feel impressionable." Ftyd lived in the backyard then and for about a month hibernated amongst the investigative and impressionable ants. Chak felt impressionable, very much so, so Breop held her in bed and the sack of oranges hanging above them was shined on by moonlight from the window from the house that glovely held them. The buttery light from the window from the backyard was quite cold and Ftyd snored at the moon elaboratedly and buttery and much like a sack of oranges. Consider the sack of oranges unsacking themselves and walking around like little round persons investigating the world along with the elaborate growls of its inhabitants. Chak felt Breop's buttery arms around her and smilingly returned her squeezing of her while Ftyd growled in his sleep at the elaborate plot to find the impressionable ants eating oranges and eventually hibernating in them as round sunly houses lumped sackly together.

The Collagist interview: Darby Larson

Issue 20 featured Darby Larson's Sack of Oranges, a curious, imaginative, and very funny tale featuring such characters as "Quirt, Breop, Ftyd and two dogs, or one dog and two ticks on him." Larson is the author of The Iguana Complex, and has been published or is forthcoming in New York Tyrant, No Colony, Caketrain, Eyeshot, and others. 
“Quirt” would kill in Scrabble. Are you a fan of the game? I long had a problem with it as I felt it emphasized quantity (points) over quality (words), but perhaps my tastes are shifting.

My wife and I used to play Scrabble occasionally, but I never liked it too much. I admire those who can play it well though. There is something about it being dependent on my vocabulary that gets in the way of strategy for me. Or I have a problem using my vocabulary as like usable pieces in a game situation, like I want to be able to see all of my usable pieces at once and I can't conceptualize my entire vocabulary in one box. Words are wired for writing and speaking. Chess is really more my game. Although I've been playing Words with Friends on iPhone lately and have been enjoying it. But WwF is different than Scrabble because there is no penalty for trying any ridiculous high scoring thing that may or may not be word like Quirt, and doing it over and over until something works. So it allows you to play with a more strategic mindframe, probably closer to the way real pro Scrabblers play, but without worrying about how big your vocabulary arsenal is.

“Sack of Oranges” knocks words together in new ways, in a style akin to the prose of Gertrude Stein. Was she a major influence?

I think the influence I pull from other word knockers like Stein has maybe more to do with giving me a sort of confidence that prose can function this way or in other word knocking ways. Which is to say I don't feel like I am channeling Stein or Beckett or any other writer during my throes, or if I am it's subconscious. Stein/Beckett/etc. are only consciously influential to me in that I am aware of what they have done and that what they have done is something that is done, and this informs my decision of what to do, and that what I decide to do should not be done until I do it.

Who are your heros, literary or otherwise?

Stein/Beckett/Lish/Gass/etc. I don't know. Samuel Adams.

In an earlier interview, you mentioned that “Music is already doing really well that which I am often trying to do, which is highlight style over content.” Could you discuss that a bit further? Where’s the line between style and content?

That quote is out of context a little. I meant that to highlight (and "highlight" may be the wrong word here, I mean to say something more like "be more conscious of") style over content can allow a writer to diffuse content into something cloudier, less obvious, more interpretive, and for myself more preferable. And that I feel like this is closer to how the writing of music works since music doesn't have to say anything in particular. It can just say a mood. When I read Sack of Oranges now, I don't feel that what it is saying as a narrative is nearly as interesting or meaningful as how it is being said, in the same way I will often not care about the lyrics of a song if I enjoy the melody enough.

There is only a line between style and content in the mind of the writer while writing, and this informs their work. A writer chooses with each individual word choice and sentence structure to write styleless or styleful prose. But once it's written, style and content become simultaneously incomparable and inseparable.

How much of your work do you read aloud to yourself, as you write?

I whisper every sentence I write as I'm writing it. Then probably like ten more times before moving on to the next sentence. I will often find myself out of breath if I have been writing for too long.

What does a story owe a reader, if anything?

Something slightly more than nothing.

What are you reading these days?

Right now I am back-and-forthing between Suttree by Cormac McCarthy, The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, and The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. I am pleased with all three so far.

Darby Larson: Pulse

The man suffered along with the hospital with something to read and a stroke. And the slow pulse of the sun washed the hospital in the morning. Eventually the doctor washed the fluids from his arms and the nurse suffered something to read with him. So the man and his daughter had something to read. His daughter. His daughter suffered inside the ready walls of the hospital, washed of its fluids, and the nurse had a stroke. So the man’s stroke washed his pulse and his daughter had something to read. His daughter felt great. The man felt slow and ready and reached for something to read. The man suffered a stroke and washed the hospital windows in the morning. The pulse of the morning kept time with his daughter and the doctor had something to read. The doctor suffered and washed the ready to wash hospital. The ready walls of the room had something to read. The nurse gave her fluids to the doctor and the hospital suffered a stroke. So the hospital washed its walls in the morning and his daughter checked her watch for the time and pulse of it. When the man suffered a stroke, the doctor felt great for it, and the nurse washed the man and the hospital felt okay about it. Here we have the fluids of his daughter in her veins. Here we have the great pulse of the sun in the morning and the day providing breakfast. And the doctor felt great for it. The hospital suffered when the fluids washed its windows. And his daughter came and watched the clock with the man and the man felt great and the slow pulse of the stroke washed away. The doctor had a stroke and felt great for it. The man and his pulse felt great and the nurse fetched her fluids. And the doctor felt there was something extraordinary in the pulse of the sun, but otherwise felt normal. And the stroke suffered a stroke. And the nurse suffered while washing the man’s hands while his daughter watched her watch and the window and her watch again. The doctor, later, came by and explained the pulse and everyone felt great for it. His daughter felt she needed more fluids so she went to find some. The nurse fell asleep for a moment in the chair next to the man’s bed while the man sat back and felt the ready linen on his body. And the nurse. And the doctor felt something extraordinary in the man and expressed his thoughts eloquently to his daughter and the nurse. The nurse woke and watched the doctor and felt extraordinary. The man felt great while his daughter suffered for him. His daughter washed her hands under the pulse of the water from the pump. His daughter pumped the water until she felt extraordinary. Her hands felt clear. The man’s mind felt clear and the doctor expressed his concerns. The nurse fetched the man’s fluids and checked his pulse and everything was great. The man felt the hospital walls and his daughter checked her watch and suffered the pulse of the hospital around her. The nurse felt extraordinary and the doctor felt great for it. The man’s mind cleared up and he took a nap and the nurse felt this was extraordinary. The doctor’s idea was clear. His daughter considered taking a nap but left to get some lunch instead. The doctor watched his watch and ate lunch and washed the windows and felt great overall. Extraordinary. The fluids had been checked and the pulse had been clear. When the man suffered another stroke, he felt great about it and the doctor explained to his daughter about his pulse and about how great he felt. The man, his daughter, and the nurse all suffered and poured their fluids into something extraordinary. The nurse suffered extraordinarily after lunch. His daughter checked her watch. The man suffered another stroke and the hospital poured its fluids into him. The man felt great and told his daughter so. His daughter suffered and poured her pulse into her head to consider some things. The nurse checked the man’s fluids. The man’s fluids were clear and extraordinary. The nurse felt the clarity of the windows and felt great. The man felt great. His daughter felt great and checked her watch and the hospital suffered an extraordinary stroke. Fluids poured into the nurse’s pulse and she felt great for it. His daughter felt extraordinary. Later, the man suffered a stroke and the nurse felt it was extraordinary. So the pulse of the hospital sounded extraordinary and his daughter felt great for it. Later, his daughter watched the bicycle out the window.
The man suffered so his daughter checked his fluids. His daughter’s pulse felt extraordinary. The great thing about the man’s pulse was how clear it was. So his daughter poured her pulse into her fluids and felt great. The man felt great. The bicycle suffered outside and his daughter checked her watch. The pulse of the sun was directly over them and the man poured his fluids into his arm and felt great. His daughter sat and relaxed and suffered minor back pain. The bicycle outside looked extraordinary next to a tree and his daughter kept an eye on it. The man felt everything was great and that his pulse had suffered another stroke. His daughter felt great and the man continued to feel clear and strong about it. More water and more fluids and more pulses, extraordinary. The bicycle his daughter watched felt clear and his daughter suffered and checked her watch as to whether she was late. So the bicycle suffered. His daughter poured the man’s fluids onto the bed and the bed felt extraordinary. His daughter felt great for it. The bicycle felt great while the clear and extraordinary fluids flowed beneath it. Again, the water, his daughter’s watch. Everything poured and suffered beneath it and his daughter felt great. Clearly, the bicycle. The pulse of the sun went halfway into the hospital and poured its fluids onto his daughter. His daughter checked her watch and felt great. The pulse of the great sun was extraordinary and his daughter noticed. His daughter rode the bicycle and felt great about it and how it felt to her. His daughter thought and pedaled and felt great. The woman selling art felt extraordinary, felt the pulse of the sun pouring down. So the bicycle and the water she watched, and the fluids from the bottle, the great, clear pulse; extraordinary. The woman selling art watched his daughter pedal toward her and felt extraordinary. So the pulse of the clear water felt great in her veins and her daughter felt clear and the woman selling art said something similar. The bicycle and its pedaled pedals felt great and the woman selling art noticed it. The art the woman sold felt extraordinary and nothing else. His daughter pedaled and looked up at the mountain that covered the sun and the fluids pouring from it, the pulse it pedaled. Enough with the extraordinarily clear sky and the meat the woman selling art chewed away at. His daughter felt great about it. And the woman selling art, as his daughter pedaled by, thought so. His daughter pedaled harder because she was late. It was getting late and the pulse of the sun was gone now. And the extraordinary pulse from the fluids and the poured out water was what the woman selling art watched. And his daughter was late as the bicycle hurried. His daughter thought, okay, this is enough already. She was already later than she’d ever feared she’d be. The bicycle felt it was getting late so it pedaled his daughter faster. The water poured and pedaled. His daughter checked her watch. She was late. She was late. The woman selling art thought it was getting late and considered packing it up, then thought otherwise. The pulse, the watch, the water, pouring, pedaling. His daughter felt it was getting late and it was. His daughter checked her watch. Late. So much for this water. So much for this pulse, pulse. His daughter checked her tires and they felt late, but the pulse had been extraordinary, but late and for the most part, over with. The woman selling art on the street watched the beginning of the moon and felt it was getting late. The bicycle pedaled or poured itself out and his daughter pedaled the bicycle faster due to she was late and would seemingly never get there on time. The water she drank and the watch she checked, extraordinary. Here is the extraordinary woman selling art packing it up finally. Okay. His daughter pedaled and the tires thanked her for it. The tires and the bicycle of them felt extraordinary, faster, with poured on water and a pulse clear, but late still. Then the bicycle said to the tires, Is this the end? His daughter pedaled and pedaled and poured water on the tires and the bicycle thanked her for it. Her heart and the bicycle of her tires felt extraordinary. It was getting late and her heart let her know it. His daughter’s heart and the water she poured on it pedaled extraordinarily down the street. The woman selling art sold no more art, she had packed it in and left the corner empty and clear. The tires pedaled the heart from his daughter and the water she felt in her veins felt it was getting late and told her so. His daughter pedaled and poured. Pedaled and poured. She checked her watch and continued to pedal even though it was very late and she’d never make it. But the moon was extraordinary so she concentrated on it, but her heart concentrated on the tires and the bicycle pedaled and pedaled but they never got there.


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