Spent a couple hours we'll never get back watching Extremely Pretty People on screen the other day. They kissed, got PG-13-naked, consumed gobs of yummy material goods, and inexplicably bit their knuckles until it all turned out okay in the end.

The movie in question was The Holiday, with Mr. Jude Law, Ms. Cameron Diaz, and someday-Dame Kate Winslet. Also crazy Jack Black...who if you believe
the folks at Slate -- and we do -- jumped the shark with High Fidelity.

It. Was. Awful. True paint-by-numbers crap. Worst of all, it wasn't even well-done paint-by-numbers crap. In fact, for the last thirty minutes of it, we could do nothing but try to think of a worse movie. We're sure there is one, but...(Even the infamous Ishtar had a trainwreck sort of virtue.) Afterwards, our lamentations were swept aside as snobbery by our companions. "You just don't like that kind of movie." Which deteriorated into us trying to list all the fluffy movies that we do, in fact, love. Or that are at least fine by us...

Jerry Maguire. Singles. Roxanne. About a Boy.

Even Meet the Parents was fine. That one TomHanks+MegRyan movie they kept trotting out under different titles, that was fine too. Hell, Bridget Jones's Diary -- a be-all-end-all chick-flick paragon if there ever was one -- made it past our "fine" threshold. Likewise, we'll gladly shell out eight bucks to watch some Sandra Bullock schtick, and lots of times Jennifer Anniston is funnier than she's given credit for (though we didn't see the Vince Vaughn thing and therefore have no opinion).

So here's why we're bothering you with the parsing of valid versus vapid...

Thinking about all this has led us to an aha-moment regarding aesthetics in general: We love lo-brow.

Love it. Can't get enough of it. Napoleon Dynamite is genius. Where have you gone, Beavis and Butthead? In fact, we think there's far too little really excellent lo-brow stuff out there. And we wonder if maybe that dearth says as much about the shaky state of Western culture as any cockamamie war or corporate scam.

Case in point: Even Shakespeare loved fart jokes and happy endings. Kicker being this: Lo-brow -- or at least that which does not aspire to "High Art" -- is still and always governed by the same criteria as any other narrative endeavor. Probably moreso.

Is it observant? Is it carefully constructed? Does it have the intangibles: Voice, Perspective, Insight, Chemistry, whatever it is you want to call it? Or does it think it can con us into accepting mediocrity based on the subtle discrimination of low expectations (and Jude Law's dreamy baby-blues)?

It strikes us that two of the stories in RMR2 are just exactly what we're talking about here. [How's that for a
subtly capitalist segue?] That is, lo-brow that is spot-on and absolutely necessary. "What About the Bridesmaids' Dresses?" by Elizabeth May and Mark Tarallo's "Don Quixote of New Jersey" are both funny, clever, observant, and o-so-utterly contemporary. One's about an angsty telemarketer, the other references something called "pump fat" (that part of the foot which sometimes bulges out of a too-small pair of pumps). But the sentences are good too. There's clearly an artist -- and, no, we don't mean artiste -- pulling the strings back there.

The value of "lo-brow" (at least as we're defining it) is not so much that it entertains us -- a paper clip and a rubber band can do that. It's that it plumbs the shallow depths of our time and place -- right here, right now -- to tap into a lode of shared consciousness. (And, okay, touche: that's a fairly hi-brow aim. But the so-called developed world is a pretty damned esoteric place, when you finally get down to brass tacks. Mall culture is a helluva lot closer to an Ingmar Bergman flick, for example, than it is to, say, subsistence farming.)

In short, movies, novels, stories, stand-up comedy, or anything else that's funny-cuz-it's-true is fine -- more than fine -- as long as it's funny and as long as it's true. Way easier said than done. Just ask Kate Winslet.

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Don't know about you, but we're ready to call it an annum. Or something. Stay tuned to this space in early ought-seven. We're going to have new features: interviews (!), letters to the editor (!) and announcements (!). It's gonna be good times had by all!

Here's a teaser:

We know who our chapbook judge is...but you don't!

You'll just have to check back next year to find out who it is--and to read a fabulous, witty, provocative, meaty...eww, strike that...try again: So-resonant-it's-almost-painful-(but-in-a-good-way) interview with her. Or him. (Thought you tripped us up, didn't ya? Ah, but we haven't had that much
nog, Ebenezer!) Needless to say, you won't want to miss it. Until then, have fun, be safe, and keep on sending your fine words to RMRsubmissions@gmail.com!

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● poems
● fictions
● nonfictions
● chapbooks

ander monson ● bruce smith ● joan connor ● jim daniels ● katherine soniat ● charles jensen ● lou suarez ● rane arroyo ● tony crunk ● janet mccann ● john pursley iii ● emily rapp ● kelli russell agodon ● diane glancy ● josh russell ● mark neely ● chris forhan ● alison pelegrin ● kat meads ● angela balcita ● kristine somerville ● elizabeth rees ● you?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!.....

our aesthetic? catholic, small c.

send to RMR ● 1800 eighth avenue north ● birmingham, alabama 35203...OR...send an attachment to RMRsubmissions@gmail.com!

be sure to include the title and the genre in the subject line, such as: "Moby Dick (fiction)"; "Five Poems"; "The Wasteland (chapbook)"; etc. if you want to be extra safe, send the text of your manuscript in the body of the e-mail as well.

We're reading for RMR3 from now through April 2007!

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...proof positive that all the ultrasound and arthroscopic equipment in the world sometimes pales in comparison to a good ol' fashioned 41.7-inch human arm? (That's 3 1/2, uh, feet to you and me...)

Who says the Chinese don't read Shel Silverstein? (That is where they got the idea right? That one Shel Silverstein book, where the really tall guy with long arms pulls some plastic out of the stomachs of two dolphins? Or are we thinking of Roald Dahl? Jacques Cousteau? Steve Zissou? Somebody, anyway. We're almost positive we didn't make it up...)

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...(that's Edna St. Vincent Malaysia, to you [Thank you! We're here all week!!])...this just in from the fine folks at Tupelo Press:

Stop by the
Indie Scene Cafe in Kuala Lumpur's scenic Picolo Galleria, where Mong Lan will read some poems this Sunday, Dec. 17. It's free!*...

* [Editor's Note: Airfare and accommodations not included.]

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We are still here.

The media empire that is RMR continues its inexorable pursuit of total market dominence. Today, central Alabama. Tomorrow the world!

Lots going on in the last two months:

RMR2 is back from the printer and ready for purchase! New work from Joan Connor, Rane Arroyo, Diane Glancy, Jim Daniels, Janet McCann, and lots of others, "emerging and established," as the saying goes.

Just send us a check or money order for $6 to RMR/ASFA Foundation, 1800 8th Ave N, Bham, AL 35203. Or better yet, buy us right here on-line (see above and to the right)!

Poet Jim Murphy has agreed to come aboard as Poetry Co-Editor, joining the inimitable Mary Kaiser. This stokes us.

Last but not least, we've completed a deal with absnth.com to produce a stand-alone limited edition version of our chapbook each year! That means you can get
Lou Suarez's On U.S. 6 to Providence (see above left) all by its lonesome for just $4. Buy it here on-line today! Here's a little teaser...titular, no less!

On U.S. 6 to Providence

Today I am lonely. It is not
the loneliness of a city without a river,
the waters on which the new ducks
enter, stay, then leave, on which
boys skip rocks and into which
girls wade knee-deep. Nor is it
the loneliness of the Confederate soldier,
so statuesque in the town square.
The pigeons at least flock to him
or splotch his head and shoes with white
that becomes black and hardens in sun.
And it is surely not the loneliness
of the bare tree in a field. No, not like that,
and not the tire in a roadside ditch,
not the fire escape
behind a school, the school itself.

I have never studied loneliness,
do not know how it resembles, say, love
or glory, nor how it differs from solitude, thirst.
I know this much: each has its own
rhythms that, when played together, make
a syncopated music I hear
in a part of my brain not meant for hearing.
I hear it in human breathing, hear it
in the truck driver's voice and hunch,
the bed wetter's, the asthmatic's....

Want the rest of the poem--and sixteen others as contemplative and wise? Buy it here! Now!

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...well, Angela Balcita, but so do we, so it's all, like, one big happy love triangle! (Heck, throw Elysian Fields Quarterly in there, and we've got a rhombus! Or wait...would that be a pentagon?)

Anyhoo, check out this month's
Utne for a reprint of the creative nonfiction piece formerly known as "You, Too, Can Be Americano" -- now simply "The Americano Dream" -- which first appeared in RMR1.

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You know you do. If not you, who? If not now, when? Dammit, ask not what your country can do for you...

And when you finally decide to take the plunge, talk to Russell at

RMR is pleased to announce that absnth, inc., will be at the reins of the Quark Xpress (or whatever the heck program they use these days) for issue 2. Couldn't be in better hands, as Russell and the crew also handle the award-winning PMS: Poem-Memoir-Story.

Check 'em out.

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Are you aware of this Gerard Jones fellow? He's the one with the twigs in his hair and locusts and honey on his breath. If you're an editor, publisher, movie producer, or a Nazi, then by golly you're not the boss of him!

Like lots of rabble rousers -- Mark Cuban, Sinead O'Connor, Martin Sheen -- he's not wrong. Not all the time, anyway. And, at any rate, he's got the basic gist, even if the tone's a little skewed.

It's the skew that interests us, though. Mr. Jones is clearly a smart man, smart enough to know that his strategies--incendiary e-mail carpet bombs aimed at establishment media operatives and a 4.57 MB website that's wall-to-wall with vitriol--are only going to yield a certain kind of attention.

At a sporting event, we pay attention to a streaker because he or she bears it all to dart through the melee knowing what will happen soon enough. A gang tackle. A collective wince from the crowd--we can only imagine where the bruises will show up later. And then it's game on again and we all go back to wishing we were principally involved in the action.

The streaker knows he's not a player. The streaker isn't trying to play, even if he grabs the ball and runs with it for a while. The streaker is anti-player, anti-rules, anti-game. The streaker's time in the sun is, by definition, fleeting. It's not posterity or a spot on the team he wants. It's disruption.

But then again, perhaps the rest of us writers and marginalized media types need a kamikaze. Maybe we can catch just enough of Gerard Jones's madness to require excellence -- even transcendence -- from what we read and write.

Just as long as we don't pretend that, given the chance, we wouldn't take our place in between the white lines of the establishment-media's playing field, and tap our toe impatiently as the cops wrangle away some inconvenient nutjob so we can get on with our fun.

So here's a hypothetical:

Would Gerard Jones trade his website and his persona for a seven-figure, multi-book deal?

Better question:

Would that be the equivalent of selling his heart and soul? Or would it just be a case of insult-comic marketeering that -- however improbably -- panned out?

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Nick Hornby?

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Check out writehabit.org. Lots of good stuff--publication opportunities, trolling agents, ideas for writing, and on-line workshops. Plus Angela Fountas, who runs the site, is good peeps. Check out how she fills her days: right-brain version here, left-brain version here. She's a great example of what one writer can do within a community. Who needs all the bureaucracy and blah-blah of university affiliation? Get out there and do something, in the real world.

Not that there's anything wrong with university affiliation. Just that there's more than one way to be a working writer in the world.

Here's to more writers just like Angela...

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We're "unapologetically, if subtly, political"!

We're a "tender pinata"!

(That's good, right?!)

Read the review
in toto [scroll down], cuz baby we ain't in Kansas anymore! In the words of the collective prophet, ZZ Top, we're nationwide!

So quit your elbowing -- there's plenty of Pez candy and trinkets for everybody...

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Annie Proulx, for Brokeback Mountain!

No, no. We kid.



Jones told us he was drawn to On U.S. 6 to Providence not just for its intelligence, humor, and confidence, but for its emotional risk as well. Those are meat-and-potatoes attributes, that's for sure, and we're confident readers won't push away from the table hungry after sitting down to sample what Suarez has to offer in these poems.

Thanks to those who submitted -- more than double the volume of last year's contest! -- and we sincerely hope you'll try us again. Lots that was very, very publishable in this batch.

Encouraging and daunting at the same time -- so much good work, so few good venues.

But we're fighting the good fight and we encourage you to join us!



Most important: Write! Read! Think!

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His dark hair was longish and mussed, and his t-shirt was black. He was handsome in the way that many young men these days are trying to be: that is to say, scruffy, slightly off-kilter, shabby-chic. Like dozens of other editors and assorted hangers-on in the Austin Convention Center last week, the young man in question was hawking a literary magazine -- one he and his compatriots are looking to revive in a fresh new image. Asked just what kind of work he thought would do the trick, the E-word jumped off his lips.


In the end, what other word could he have used? To not use it would have been an affront to his milieu. After all, it isn't just us AWPeons who are scrambling for edges and ledges to toe. It's everywhere: cheerleaders pierce their tummies,
grandmas get tattoos, politicians cap their boyz in the face. Rumor has it, they just made a movie where pretty men do a bunch of making out. With each other.

But we here at RMR can't help but feel a little deja vu all over again. For a while we couldn't figure out what the Ubiquity of 'Edgy' reminded us of and then it hit us: It's just like in countless writing classrooms, creative or otherwise, when students try to describe what they like or don't like about a piece of writing.

"It 'flows,'" they say, often with great self-assurance, as if it is the kind of empirical statement that cannot possibly be assailed. 2 + 2 = 'Flow.' And 'flow' is good.

But, alas, 'flow' is a word that, in the context of writing, doesn't mean anything in particular. Oh, it approximates meaning (we know, we know: that's all language ever does, blah, blah, blah). 'Flow' sort of means that 1) the poem or story proceeds in a linear -- oft narrative -- fashion, 2) the language is rhythmical, 3) the reader lost herself in the story or poem's occasion, 4) the reader did not have to stop reading to think about a word or phrase or concept, whether or not the writer intended it, 5) all of the above, 6) two or more, but not all, of the above, or 7) something else entirely.

Isn't that what 'edgy' is these days, especially in the context of the literary magazine's project? A word that means a lot of things to a lot of people, and therefore means exactly nothing to no one? Besides, aren't all literary magazines, stationed as we are on the Tatooine of contemporary culture (could be worse -- at least they gave us
not one but two suns!), on the edge of something by default? Solvency? Sanity? Irrelevancy?

We raise the point not to throw a wet blanket on the many, many editors represented at AWP-Austin (not least ours truly at table #628) who want to publish work that gets a rise out of somebody -- anybody. Good. May the Force be with us. But we have to remember our audience. It's small. It consists largely of writers, many of whom are odd by birth, instinct, and experience. Put simply, it's always been daggone hard to get much of a rise out of us.

Couple that with the kinds of sugar-spike rises that make the developed world go round -- TV shows where people eat bugs and spleens; housing bubbles; big, fat Starbucks venti Sumatras -- and 'the edge' just ain't where it used to be. More than not these days, it's right smack dab in the middle of the road.

So here's our two cents:

If everybody's doing it -- whether 'it' is gender-bending, genre-bending, or just bending whichever way the wind blows -- then 'edgy' isn't edgy enough. We have to ask for more. More important, we have to know what it is we're asking for.

Shock and decadence (in all its forms) are easy. 'Original' is overrated. At RMR we're going to keep asking for 'interesting,' 'intelligent,' with a healthy measure of plain-old 'observant.' That's plenty enough to upset most applecarts anyway.

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We here at RMR simply can't help ourselves: we have to jump into the salacious, uh, Frey-fray. Please forgive us in advance.

You see, what's so daggone compelling about the whole snafu--check out
The Smoking Gun's damning expose if, by some chance, you've been hiding under a rock for these last few weeks and don't know what the heck we're talking about--is the core question of authenticity and how little of it there is in the contemporary world of ideas.

(Whoa--we just read the last part of that sentence aloud and, man, does it sound harsh. We'll leave it for now.)

Let's also leave Frey for a while--he can use the time to gather up the million little pieces of his career--and first consider Ms. Winfrey. What she has to sell is not so much authenticity but its sexy first cousin once removed, intimacy. In a culture that's increasingly spread out, exurban, "red" or "blue" and factionalized, that's a hot commodity, indeed. So it's not surprising that, as Letterman likes to say, Oprah's got all the money. She does not sell information or entertainment or even herself. She sells the notion that she is a dear friend we can count on, especially if we're women aged 34-65.

There is also a vaguely creepy subset of intimacy: vicariousness. Oprah sells us that too. She is smart, she is from humble beginnings, she and/or her boyfriend seems to grapple with some degree of commitment phobia, and her figure has fluctuated more than Robert DeNiro's on the set of Raging Bull. She's also rich, powerful, and enormously popular. In short, Oprah is us and not us all at once; she is our friend with normal foibles who has somehow risen to lord over the ubiquitous entertainment industry. Best of all, she's done all the hard work so we don't have to! All we have to do is tune in every afternoon to see who's jumping on her couch or blinking at her sheepishly.

Which leads us back to Frey: Isn't some of the ferocious backlash against him rooted in that same sandy ground? People feel betrayed: social workers and recovering addicts alike have passed around his book as if it is a new millenium panacea for all manner of self-abuse. We trusted him. We thought he was one of those special and audacious few who had "done it so we didn't have to"--and, after living to tell about it, he'd brought back Wisdom and Insight from the brink of annihilation. Like all great heroes and seekers.

Alas, more like a dime-a-dozen, fratboy ne'er-do-well, Frey was mostly just cooking up his smack in a silver spoon. Should we have expected anything else, though? After all, he as much as tells us that his biggest problem is and always has been an inability to hold himself accountable to the truth. Is it really such a shock that his memoir is chock full of fudging, fabrication, and outright lies?

But many readers are mad at him anyway because that kind of problem sounds way, way, way too much like one of our own. And, damn it, if he's that much like us, then he shouldn't have a bunch of fancy houses and famous friends and movie deals. Get your pitchforks and torches: Let's sue the hell out of him! (We at RMR can't help but be reminded of Steve Martin's classic movie, The Jerk, where after a similar sort of ruination, Martin's character, Navin, has to refund the outraged consumers he's [unwittingly] duped--one $1.09-check at a time.)

We say let Frey keep his money. We say let's have him as our faux J.D. Salinger. Of course, it's particularly fitting that our "Salinger" drops off the scene not because of a genius-confirming eccentricity but because, in a classic close-the-barn-door-after-the-cow's-long-gone maneuver, his agent dropped him and he's presumably radioactive as a writer. At least for a while. What better emblem for the state of present-day commercial publishing than a filthy rich and famous--okay, infamous--man who must rest on the laurels of a life and work built out of smoke and mirrors?

So who gets the blame?

Maybe Power Editor Nan Talese, who took the bullet for the rest of her there-but-for-the-grace-of-Oprah Big Publishing colleagues by absorbing Winfrey's TV tongue lashing (check out
The Slate for a discussion of just when Nan really knew what she knew).

Maybe it's the big O herself, who--despite her mea culpa redux--should be seen for what she is: a businesswoman whose chief commodity is her ability to create her own sort of fiction, the idea that she is her audience's primary champion.

But we think it's a little more diffuse than all that. We think there's plenty of blame that falls on us as readers and consumers of contemporary culture. Shame on us for buying--hook, line, and $14.95-sinker--what in hindsight now seems like so much blaringly obvious braggadocio.

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