Robert Baumann is the editor of Mitzvah Chaps which (as of 9/28/08) has published Anne Boyer, Mike Hauser, and Chuck Stebelton. He co-curates An Actual Kansas, a reading series in Kansas.
What Tao Lin literature did you teach in your class and why did you choose those?I taught two poems from different books: "i am going to touch you very hard" (from this emotion was a little e-book [Bear Parade 2005]); "i will learn how to love a person and then i will teach you and then we will know" (from cognitive-behavioral therapy [Melville House 2008]. Based on this, one of my students choose to write a paper analyzing "i am about to express myself" (from you are a little bit happier than i am [Action Books 2006]).
I chose them because I liked them. When I read them for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and in some cases sixth times, I still liked them. When i read "i am going to touch you very hard" for the sixth time I liked it a little less but that was after I had already made photocopies for all of my students, so I still 'taught' it.
I told my students that the only thing valid they could say about the poem was whether they liked it or didn't like it. Hating it or loving it was not a valid reaction to the poem because they only read it once and they normally don't read literature. Then I told them just kidding and had them try to identify 'themes' in the poem. They noticed helicopters were a theme. Also, assholes, folding chairs, and vaguely asian hamsters.
What questions have students asked you?How old are you? Do you have a girlfriend? How long have you been teaching? Where did you buy those jeans? What's your favorite movie? Have you ever had sex? When is this due? Do we have to meet you individually because I'm afraid of you after reading these Tao Lin poems?
Tao, you ruined my 'shot' with co-eds.
What questions have either of your parents asked you in the last year?On Sunday my dad asked me: Are you living in that one place? (yes) How many people live there? (4) Are you happy? (with what?) What are you eating right now? (grilled tofu on a bun with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and pickles, and some kind of sea vegetable salad on the side) Are you happy? (did Alabama die in the hurricanes?).
Would you rather publish a 1000 page novel or three 350 page novels and why?Anyone who publishes a 1000-page novel in the next decade will be called 'the __________ David Foster Wallace', unless it is a shitty 1000-page novel. I would like to be called 'the __________ David Foster Wallace' but there is a chance my novel will be shitty. I would also like to be called 'the author of three 350-page novels'.
I think if I finished 3 novels of any length and they were all published I would feel pretty good.
As a publisher and not a writer, I would rather edit and publish a 1000-page novel because I think that it would be a 'big deal' and would have a better chance at being good because I would not publish it if it wasn't.
What is a scene or moment that you remember clearly from Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie?I remember clearly when Tao Lin said, "trade" and then repeatedly stabbed me with a massivley neutral facial expression and I fell down in my apartment. Tao Lin dropped the book in question on my chest and stood over me. "Victory," he said. I weakly motioned for him to take Anne Boyer's poetry collection The Romance of Happy Workers. Tao Lin said nothing. Then a mildly edudite brown recluse spider said, "you can't get hurt when someone stabs you with a facial expression," and bit my face. Some of my face flesh melted a little, which is why I am ugly.
I also remember when Charles cooked some sort of meat roast for Sam. I wished they were vegetarians, but I really liked that everyday Charles came home and thought about food, then bought food and made it at home or ate food at a restaurant. I want to read more literature with compelling characters eating food on a daily basis.
Also, Pete wanted Turtle Wax but first he wanted a Honda Civic. He got the Honda Civic then Charles got him the Turtle Wax. I should get a Turtle Wax tattoo. Would Ann Beattie marry me? I would like to type in the near future "Robert wanted to marry Ann Beattie but first he wanted a Turtle Wax tattoo. He got the Turtle Wax tattoo and then Ann Beattie got him a marriage to her."
I just remembered Deb Olin Unferth's story "Juan the Cellphone Salesman" and thought that story was part of Chilly Scenes of Winter because the part where the girl has to get picked up from Juan's apartment by her mother and sister reminds me of a combination of the waiter's apartment in Chilly Scenes and the part where Charles and Sam drop Betty off at her apartment. in all of these scenes there were cold, awkward, lonely drives, and apartments, and drunkenness. Both are good pieces of literary fiction. Thank you, Tao.