Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl

Announcing Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, a brand new work of web-based computer-generated digital literature created especially for “Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature,” curated by Dene Grigar & Kathi Inman Berens. The exhibition will be held in conjunction with the MLA 2013 Convention in Boston, 3-5 January 2013, but the website – containing links to 30 new born digital works and a plethora of resources pertaining to born digital literature – is online now: Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature

J. R. Carpenter || Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl [detail]

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, persons, places or texts is entirely intentional. Details from many a high sea story have been netted by this net-worked work. The combinatorial powers of computer-generated narrative conflate and confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative accounts of sea voyages into the unknown North undertaken over the past 2340 years. At the furthest edge of this assemblage floats the fantastical classical island of Ultima Thule and the strange phenomenon known to the Romans as sea lung. The main characters are sprung from Edward Leer’s Victorian nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat. A lazy and somewhat laconic owl and a girl most serious, most adventurous, most determined, have set sail toward this strange sea in a boat of pea-, bottle-, lima-bean- or similar shade of green. The cartographic collage they voyage through collects the particularities of a number of fluid floating places – as described or imagined in sources as diverse as Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries and the children’s poem Wynken, Blynken and Nod – and reacontextualizes them in an obviously awkward assemblage of discontinuous surfaces pitted with points of departure, escape routes, lines of flight.

For more information on the source texts, maps, and codes pillaged for this work, please see Notes on Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl.

In(ter)ventions – A Note on the Agenda

In case I haven’t mentioned this already, I am really, really, really excited about In(ter)ventions — Literary Practice At The Edge: A Gathering happening at The Banff Centre February 18, 2010 – February 21, 2010. I had the good fortune to be involved in the planning of this event. In December 2008, Steven Ross Smith – Director of Literary Arts at The Banff Centre – invited Marjorie Perloff, Lance Olsen, Fred Wah and me to Banff for a three-day think tank on bringing new practices to the the Literary Arts program. The incredible diversity of practice, knowledge and experience at that table was both humbling and exhilarating. It has been wonderful watching the many names, works, issues and ideas from a vast array of literary practices we discussed coalesce into the dreamboat agenda we have today.

The best part of this agenda is, now we get to go enact it – live in real time in Banff. On Friday, February 19, 2PM, I’m on a panel on Digital Effects – Digital Literary Creation & Dissemination with Stephanie Strickland and Chris Funkhouser moderated by Nick Montfort. Later, at 8PM that evening, I’m doing a reading/performance with Lance Olsen and Erin Moure. Then, on Saturday February 20, at 3:30PM, I’m presenting a screening of digital literature co-curated with Ram Devineni. For the rest of In(ter)ventions I’ll be litstening, watching and reading with rapt attention, catching up with friends and generally resisting the urge to ask everyone for their autographs.

The full In(ter)ventions agenda (pdf):

. . . . .

In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice At The Edge

In(ter)ventions — Literary Practice At The Edge: A Gathering is a conference unlike any held previously in Canada. Over the course of four days, thirty six forward-thinking literary artists will create a context for the demonstration and discussion of cutting-edge literary practice. In a mixture of panels, papers, readings, performances, and more, participants will explore digital literature, interactivity, collaboration, cross-disciplinary work, formal innovation, “uncreative” writing, new modes of dissemination, and literary pedagogy.

Within the rapidly changing landscape of literary practice and dissemination, technology has rocketed forward, putting more power into the hands of writers and other artists. New literary modes have appeared and continue to develop, and the ability to share information rapidly across disciplines has resulted in exciting and challenging cross-pollination. In(ter)ventions will explore the edges of literature, where technology, innovation, and literary practice meet.

This conference is open to writers, new media artists, students, critics, educators, and others who want to contribute to, or listen in on, the conversation taking place with regards to innovative modes of literature. Participants will come away from this cutting-edge conference with a better understanding of the future of literary practice and inspiration to further explore emerging trends in the discipline.

In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice At The Edge: A Gathering
The Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta, Canada
February 18, 2010 – February 21, 2010

Director: Steven Ross Smith
Presenters: Charles Bernstein, Jen Bervin, Christian Bök, J.R. Carpenter, Maria Damon, Ram Devineni, Craig Dworkin, Al Filreis, Christopher Funkhouser, Kenneth Goldsmith, D. Kimm, Larissa Lai, Daphne Marlatt, Nick Montfort, Erin Moure, Lance Olsen, Stephen Osborne, Marjorie Perloff, Kate Pullinger, Stephanie Strickland, Steve Tomasula, Fred Wah

Further information || Agenda (PDF)
. . . . .

Reading List 2009

2009 was a year of reading interrupted. It started with an eviction notice. An amazing number of books can accumulate in 11 years. My bookcases and I had a long talk and we decided that a few hundred of our friends would have to go. Many were sold, many more were given away. The rest fit into 32 boxes. Finding a home for those boxes was hell. Two weeks after finally signing a lease on a new apartment, my marriage ended suddenly. As a reader, I didn’t see it coming. There was no foreshadowing or anything. As a writer, I would have done things differently.

My books moved without me. My suitcases and I spent the summer living out of other people’s bookshelves. It turns out that a friend close enough to put you up in a time of need can also be counted on to have a book collection close enough to your own to make you and your suitcases feel at home without a home. It turns out there are lots of books in the world. We merely move amongst them. Friends, on the other hand, are one-of-a-kind and impossible to replace.

My books and their cases are now housed in a storage locker in Montreal. I miss them very much. Especially the ones written by friends. There are many friends’ book in this photo of one of my Saint-Urbain Street bookcases before its dismantling:

On the up side, my suitcases and I are now ensconced in an 18th century Palladian country house situated on a promontory in a bend in the River Dart in South Devon. We’re catching up on our England reading. I am glad I saved Wuthering Heights until after visiting a moor, even though it’s set on a different moor than the one I went too, and Waterland until after visiting Somerset, even though it’s set on the Fens. Next up, Dart, by my new neighbour Alice Oswald, about my new neighbour The River Dart.

Here, in reverse chronological order, are the books I read in 2009:

  • Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading
  • Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
  • Graham Swift, Waterland
  • Sutherland and Nicolson, Wetland: Life in the Somerset Levels
  • Jerome Fletcher, Alfreda Abbot’s Lost Voice
  • Charles Bernstein, Dark City
  • Nicolas Evans, The Divide
  • Clarice Lispector, Soulstorm
  • Philippe Soupault, Last Nights in Paris
  • Stacey May Fowles, Fear of Fighting
  • Lisa Moore, Degrees of Nakedness
  • Medlar Lucan & Durian Grey, The Decadent Traveler
  • Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses
  • Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head
  • Roddy Doyle, Paula Spenser
  • Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
  • Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet
  • Jerome Fletcher, Degringolade
  • Kate Pullinger, The Mistress of Nothing
  • Edna O’Brein, The Country Girls
  • Deborah Eisenberg, Twilight of the SUperheroes
  • Steven Ross Smith, Lures
  • Anne Simpson, Quick
  • Elizabeth Bishop, The Collected Prose
  • William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
  • Oana Avasilichioaei, Feria: a poempark
  • Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology
  • Agota Kristof, The Notebook, The Proof, and The Third Lie
  • Nigel Peake, Maps: Fields, Paths, Forests, Blocks, Places and Surroundings
  • John Berger, About Looking
  • Francis A. Yates, The Art of Memory
  • William Gibson, Spook Country
  • Mary-Ann Ray, Seven Partly Underground Rooms and Buildings for Water, Ice and Midgets
  • Jerome Fletcher, Escape from the Temple of Laughter
  • Mark Haddon, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • William Gaddis, Carpenter’s Gothic
  • David Gutterson, East of the Mountains
  • A.S. Byatt, Little Black Book of Stories
  • Shirley Jackson, The Lottery
  • Merce Rodoreda, The Time of the Doves
  • Gary Lutz, Stories in the Worst Way
  • Daniel Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
  • Akira Mizuta Lippit, Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife
  • Andrew Hood, Pardon Our Monsters
  • Arjun Basu, Squishy
  • Jacob Wren, Families Are Formed Through Copulation
  • Chandra Mayor, All the Pretty Girls
  • Harold Hoefle, The Mountain Clinic
  • Beryl Bainbridge, Another Part of the World
  • Lydia Davis, The End of the Story
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
  • Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
  • Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo
  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
  • Italo Calvino, Why Read The Classics?
  • Alejo Carpentier, The Chase
  • Nell Freudenberger, Lucky Girls
  • Irene Gammel, Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada and Everyday Modernity

. . . . .

12 or 20 questions with J.R. Carpenter

On June 18, Rob McLennan posted in interview with me as part of the second series of “12 or 20 questions,” interviews with Canadian and American (etcetera) poets, fiction and non-fiction writers, as a follow-up to the original series that ran from September 2007 to June 2008. The second series includes interviews (so far) with Jason Dewinetz, Matthew Tierney, Sandra Ridley, Jacob McArthur Mooney, Carrie Olivia Adams, Dayle Furlong, Antanas Sileika, Sharon Harris, Ken McGoogan, Daniel Allen Cox, J.R. Carpenter, Anita Dolman, Ray Hsu, Karen Houle, Susan Olding, Jeanette Lynes, Asher Ghaffar and Zachariah Wells.

Interviews are still forthcoming with Peter Norman, Eric Baus, Betsy Struthers, Graham Foust, Steven Mayoff, Mike Spry, Kevin Killian, Charles Bernstein, Forrest Gander, Chris Ewart, Andrew Faulkner, Mary Pinkoski, Rebecca Rosenblum, Arielle Greenberg, Peter Richardson, Eva Moran, Ken Sparling, ross priddle, Michelle Berry, Stephen Henighan, Annabel Lyon, and plenty of others.

The series as a whole, with links to individual interviews (to be updated every day or three over the next six months or so), lives here: 12 or 20 Questions

The interview with me lives here: 12 or 20 questions with J.R. Carpenter
. . . . .

Reading List 2008

I got a massive amount of writing done in 2008. That made it made it a strange year for reading. Early on in the year I appear to have had a ghosts and devils fixation. What was I thinking, reading Will Self, How the Dead Live and Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita back to back?

Between January and May I read and re-read a lot of chapters, articles and essays related to the texts I was working with in the Tributaries & Text-Fed Streams electronic literature project. Many books were harmed in the making of that work, some are pictured here, but few of those fragmentary readings are represented in the list below.

I had a great but short lived burst of short story reading in the spring while I was writing the postcard stories for the in absentia electronic literature project, but once that piece was launched I had to focus on finishing writing my first novel, Words the Dog Knows. It was a cold, wet summer, which was fine as I barely left my apartment. To get through the long days of writing toward impossibly short deadlines I soon realized that I couldn’t read anything even remotely resembling anything I would ever write. So it was a summer of long post-colonial novels written by American women.

I thought I’d get back to my regular reading habits once Words the Dog Knows went to the printer, but despite a brief window were I got to catch up on a few books written by friends, most of my fall reading was muddled by travel. Between book tours, conferences, lectures and meetings I was on the road non-stop from mid-October to mid-November. All I can say is, Gulliver’s Travels makes great sense on trains and airplanes.

My New Year’s reading resolution: to read Don Quixote in it’s entirety. Toward this end I have booked a one week vacation on a Cuban beach. The things I do for literature!

Here, from last to first, are books read in 2008:

  • Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
  • Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
  • Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
  • Salman Rushdie, ed., Best American Short Stories 2008
  • Jonathan Lenthem, Girl in a Landscape
  • Marguerite Duras, Moderato Cantabile
  • Paul D. Miller, Rhythm Science
  • Mariko & Jillian Tamaki, Skim
  • Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time
  • Emily Holton, Dear Canada Council / Our Starland
  • Liane Keightly, Seven Openings of the head
  • Jacques Derrida, Paper Machine
  • N. Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines
  • Joe Brainard, I Remember
  • Harold Brodkey, Stories in an Almost Classical Mode
  • Cynthia Ozick, Trust
  • Maya Merrick, The Hole Show
  • Kate Pullinger, A Little Stranger
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • Leni Zumas, Farewell Navigator
  • Jason Camlot, The Debaucher
  • Keri Hulme, The Bone People
  • Ha Jin, Waiting
  • Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses
  • Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
  • Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost
  • Claire Messud, The Hunters
  • Joy Williams, State of Grace
  • Julie Doucet, 365 Days
  • Barry Hannah, Geronimo Rex
  • Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
  • Steven Heighton, The Shadow Boxer
  • Michael Crummey, Flesh and Blood
  • Kerstin Ekman, Blackwater
  • Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
  • G. V. Desani, All About H. Hatterr
  • Michale Hoeullebecq, The Elementary Particles
  • Rick Moody, Demonology
  • Goethe, Faust
  • Christopher Funkhouser, Prehistoric Digital Poetry
  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  • Jeff Parker, The Back of the Line
  • Etgar Keret, Missing Kissinger
  • Raymond Carver, Short Cuts
  • Lorrie Moore, Like Life
  • Maurice Blanchot, Death Sentence
  • Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Eva Figes, Light
  • Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems 1927-1979
  • Maureen Adams, Shaggy Muses
  • Mary Robison, Why Did I Ever
  • Valerie Joy Kalynchuk, All Day Breakfast
  • Lawrence Weschler, Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonders
  • Flan O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds
  • Rilke, Duino Elegies & The Sonnets to Orpheus
  • Anya Ulinich, Petropolis
  • David McGimpsey, Sitcom
  • Jeff Parker, Ovenman
  • Will Self, How the Dead Live
  • Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
  • Mark Amerika, META/DATA

  • . . . . .

    Words the Dog Knows

    Words the Dog Knows, J. R. Carpenter
    conundrum press (Montreal)
    October 2008
    5×7 inches, 168 pages
    $15 CDN / US

    Words the Dog Knows is now available in many fine bookstores including some of my favorites: Pages, in Toronto, and the Drawn & Quarterly store on Bernard Street in Montreal. The best place to order the book online is from the conundrum press website.

    Words the Dog Knows isn’t a story about a dog. It’s a story because of a dog.

    Words the Dog Knows Launch Events:

    NYC – Thursday October 23, KGB Bar
    85 East 4th Street, 7-9 pm
    with readings by Karen Russell, Nora Maynard and Corey Frost
    more info

    Montreal – Friday November 7, Sky Blue Door
    5403 B Saint-Laurent, 7-11 pm
    also launching: J. R. Carpenter, in absentia
    in association with Dare-Dare

    Montreal – Sunday November 9, Blizzarts
    3956A Saint-Laurent, 8 pm
    with Harold Hoefle and Katia Grubisic.

    Toronto – Monday November 17, This Is Not A Reading Series
    Gladstone Ballroom, 1214 Queen Street West, 7:30 pm
    also launching: Emily Holton, OUR STARLAND/DEAR CANADA COUNCIL
    more info
    . . . . .

    Words the Dog Knows is at the printer

    At long last my first novel, Words the Dog Knows, is finished. Written, edited, copy edited, laid out, illustrated, proof read, proof read again and sent to the printer. All in just under 10 months! Word on the street is Words will be back from the printer sometime late September / early October. Launch event details are listed below.

    Words the Dog Knows is published by conundrum press (Montreal). Here’s what the catalog had to say about it:

    J. R. Carpenter’s long-awaited first novel Words the Dog Knows follows the crisscrossing paths of a quirky cast of characters through the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. Simone couldn’t wait to get out of rural Nova Scotia. In Montreal she buries her head in books about far off places. Her best friend Julie gets her a job in the corporate world. Traveling for business cures Simone of her restlessness. One summer Julie’s dog Mingus introduces Simone to Theo. They move in together. Theo is a man of few words. Until he and Simone get a dog, that is. They set about training Isaac the Wonder Dog to: sit, come, stay. Meanwhile, he has fifty girlfriends to keep track of and a master plan for the rearrangement of every stick in every alleyway in Mile End. He introduces Theo and Simone to their neighbours. He trains them to see the jumbled intimacy of Mile End’s back alleyways with the immediacy of a dog’s-eye-view.

    Carpenter writes with humour and directness, melding the emotional precision of her award-winning short fiction with the narrative ingenuity of her pioneering works in electronic literature. The result is a fresh and accessible first novel written and illustrated in the vernacular of the neighbourhood. Cooking smells, noisy neighbours and laundry lines criss-cross the alleyway one sentence at a time.

    Words the Dog Knows isn’t a story about a dog. It’s a story because of a dog. Walking with their dog though the same back alleyways day after day, Theo and Simone come to see their neighbourhood – and each other – in a whole new way.

    Launch events:

    NYC – Thursday October 23, KGB Bar
    85 East 4th Street, 7-9 pm
    with readings by Karen Russell, Nora Maynard and Corey Frost
    more info

    Montreal – Friday November 7, Sky Blue Door
    5403 B Saint-Laurent, 7-11 pm
    also launching: J. R. Carpenter, in absentia
    in association with Dare-Dare

    Montreal – Sunday November 9, The Green Room
    5386 St Laurent, with Harold Hoefle and Katia Grubisic.

    Toronto – Monday November 17, This Is Not A Reading Series
    Gladstone Ballroom, 1214 Queen Street West, 7:30 pm
    also launching: Emily Holton, OUR STARLAND/DEAR CANADA COUNCIL
    more info
    . . . . .

    Words the Dog Knows – Reading at The Yellow Door

    This has been the most indoor summer ever, but boy has it been productive. I’ve written a novel. I’m as surprised as you are! It’s called, Words the Dog Knows. It’s not really about the dog. It’s because of the dog. Because of the dog the characters come to see their neighbourhood – and each other – in a whole new way.

    It’s almost, almost, almost, but not quite finished, but I’ll be reading excerpts from it anyway at The Yellow Door later this week. Once the book is actually printed, there will launches in Montreal, New York and Toronto. Information about those events will be posted soon. Meantime, here’s the Yellow Door info:

    The Yellow Door
    3625 Aylmer, Montreal (between Pine & Prince Arthur) Tel: 514-398-6243

    Thursday, August 28, 2008
    Doors open 7:00 pm Reading 7:30 pm At the door $5

    J.R. Carpenter is a two-time winner of CBC/QWF Quebec Short Story Competition. Her novel, Words the Dog Knows, is forthcoming from Conundrum Press, fall 2008.

    Hugh Hazelton is a poet and translator. His third book of poems, Antimatter, was published with CD by Broken Jaw Press in 2003.

    Liam Durcan is a Montreal writer whose novel, Garcia’s Heart, was published in 2007 by McClelland & Stewart.

    Rita Donovan Author of six novels & one non-fiction. Her novels have won several awards, among them: CAA/Chapters Award for Fiction, Landed.

    Saleema Nawaz’s fiction has been published in Prairie Fire, Grain, & PRISM. Mother Superior (Freehand Books, 2008) is her first short story collection.

    Ken Kalman is a poet, playwright, and novelist. Among his publications are a novel, Jesus Loves Me, a play, Defenceless, and Poetry of the Jews.

    Laura Golden is author of a poetry book, Laura’s Garden, 1978-2007. Artist, Reiki master, art therapist. From Now On, and Loneliness (Baico Publishing).

    Tony Robinson-Smith is author of Back in 6 Years (Goose Lane Editions, 2008): In his first book, adventurer Tony circles the planet by land and sea.

    Milton Dawes was one of the seven drummers who started the Tam-Tam drumming on the mountain.

    . . . . .

    Excerpts from a Timetable of Noteable Arrivals in Rome

    1786 – Goethe rushes to arrive in Rome in time for All Saint’s Day. He anticipates conspicuous general feasting, but finds none. Wherever he walks he comes upon familiar objects in an unfamiliar world. Everything is just as he imagined it would be; yet everything is new.

    2002 – I fly into Fiumicino two-hundred-and-twenty years to the day after Goethe rode through the Porta del Popolo. It’s raining. All Saint’s Day is a holiday. Most shops are closed. But the Supermarcato stays open. I have rented an apartment. I have a kitchen. A heavy brass key unlocks a massive green door. I walk out into Rome.

    “The bronze statues by the city gates show their right hands worn thin by the touch of travellers who have greeted them in passing.”
    LUCRETIUS, The Nature of the Universe – Book I

    . . . . .