Just in case you weren't aware, here it is all spelt out for you: Ander Monson is, in fact, the hardest working man in show business. 300+ shows a year. A growing media presence on all the habitable continents. (Stay tuned for an exciting announcement in the very near future regarding Antarctica!) Rabid, cult-like followings germinating out in concentric circles from all the world's major cities...

In all seriousness, the man is and always has been pretty dadgum large-and-in-charge. A phenom, if you will, in the truest sense of the word. A graduate of Knox College (a school that happens to be one of the best-kept secrets in the world of writing academe, by the way), Iowa State, and the University of Alabama, Monson is the author of two books: a novel, Other Electricities, Sarabande Books, 2005, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award; and a poetry collection, Vacationland, Tupelo Press, 2005. Neck Deep, a collection of "weirdo essays," won the Graywolf Press 2006 Nonfiction Prize and will be released TODAY! He edits the online magazine DIAGRAM as well as its comrade-in-arms, New Michigan Press. His individual stories, poems, and essays have been published damn-near everywhere, including (happily for us) the inaugural issue of RMR. To wit, a sampling from RMR1, by way of Vacationland...


The coroner’s best guess as to time of death
is sometime in the earliness
before the light has staked its claim
with hammer-blows and threats of ice
useless, spilled like perfume across roads.

As for cause, you know it’s notoriously
iffy — in this case it is safe to say death
by drowning or by impact of the body
against the windshield, against the radio dial
which left its mark, and then the drowning after,
or death due to after-prom excitement — the occasion
marked by streamers in the rafters
and the crowning of the school’s best
heads and shoulders with a tin-foil
wrapped, fake-bejeweled band.

Death due to lack of the right date
who might have taken the right route
to the after party, who might not have swerved
to miss the fish — the enigmatic trout
frozen in the middle of the lane,
body like a beacon
warning of the impending season’s
weakness, of after-graduation life
in bars and doldrum rum and cokes in glasses.

Death due to lack of escapist training,
no Houdini present, no Tupac, Elvis
surviving death at least in myth
and continuing to release
themselves in beats & language
to critical suspicion.

Death due to loneliness
and books checked out too long ago
from the Public Library
and not returned on time,
death due to accruing, reoccurring fines
that continued to mount like banks of snow
until she returned them on prom night

until I went to check them out again
to have her signature—some vestige
of her neck/her mind/her hands.



RMR: TRUE or FALSE: James Frey is the spawn of Satan. Discuss.

AM: False. Though I don't think we should give him credit for all the ensuing and in its way enjoyable fiction.

RMR: You are large and contain multitudes. Parsed out by project, your enormous productivity -- scads of journal pubs, three books and counting, DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press, etc, etc -- is truly mind-boggling. ("How does he have time?" one wonders.) All well before you hit the big 4-0, no less. Taking a step back from it, I think there might be a more holistic -- and even more impressive, really -- way to look at it: That is, it seems to me that being Ander Monson is more process than product. Would it be a mistake, then, to look at your oeuvre as one continually evolving and expanding "document" -- an inclusive and holistic pastiche that reflects a singular artistic life as it develops in real time? A career arc more akin to Whitman's or Sandburg's than, say, Robert Frost's?

AM: Interesting. There’s a kind of kinship between the work, a point of common departure for the diaspora, and a shared mythology being created that includes the idea of author, and "author", and text (and hopefully even expands the idea of the "book"; see also Neck Deep and the website extension of it). One of the pieces in Neck Deep, the big index, was originally housed in Other Electricities, though it has found its new home as nonfiction, and in a way that's what it always was. It's really not all that interesting being a writer who simply produces product. Not that I'd disclaim any individual book, or the book as a technology that we as a culture really enjoy -- it offers a whole lot of advantages and that's the medium I work in, mostly. But it's also limiting (as genre is in its way -- it provides a sort of pressure which can be responded to in a number of ways). And I am more interested, finally in creation, not exhaustion. Though that sounds totally pompous.

RMR: Ten Either/Or’s. (Explain or not.)

BALL OR DISC? Disc. See also: [this right here].
TIGER OR JACK? Jack. Though Tiger can compete on Xbox.
PAGEMAKER OR QUARK? InDesign. But not Quark. Definitely not Quark, though it's always had the better name.
JEN OR ANGELINA? Who are these people?
POL POT OR MANUEL NORIEGA? I do not understand your modern ways.
CIA OR FBI? I’ve only met the FBI so am not qualified to decide.
SKITTLES OR M&Ms? Skittles blow.

RMR: You are poet-king for a day. Make a to-do list.

AM: Play Katamari Damacy for a while. Roll things into a large ball. Crunch it down and throw it in the sky, which makes people smarter.

RMR: Michigan's Upper Peninsula is...

AM: A place that I'm not even sure still exists. Is it there at all? Look at it on google earth and it's all blurred out. That's suspicious. Who's actually from there? Who goes there? Who makes it their home? And do they read? See also Tom Bissell. See also Catie Rosemurgy. See also Beth Roberts, and Jonathan Johnson. Did I tell you I killed Hemingway? Most people don't know that. I had to cut his heart out. I'm serious. I read about it on the Internet and it made me feel so good.

No comments: