Tao Lin

8430331964_d17994fbab 2 Common Good Books and Paper Darts teamed up to host Tao Lin, author of the divisive and gloriously covered Taipei (as well as cult-faves Richard Yates, Eeeee Eee Eeee, and You Are a Little Bit Happier Than I Am, as well as a few others) to the Paper Darts Pop Up last Wednesday, June 26, 2013.  Tao Lin is heralded among many for his active online persona (which happens to be a subject of his new novel, though the book isn’t fully autobiographical–merely about a novelist with an active online persona). For all of his many admirers, however, his new book seems to have achieved that odd and bittersweet career milestone of widespread yet often negative critical attention, at least in traditional media outlets like the LA Times, NPR, and even the Millions. Continue reading

Paper Darts Pop-Up: The Secret Sauce of Book Marketing

Tuesday the 18th of June marked the first time I made it to an event at the Paper Darts Pop-Up storefront installation, which seems absurd given how many events they’ve already produced.  The space on south Nicollet, a project of SooVAC that provides storefront exposure to arts organizations for a limited time (in Paper Darts’ case, six weeks), has already hosted art exhibitions, a YourthLEAD/Young Nonprofit Professionals Network campaign that traded professional headshots for work clothes donations, and the Paper Darts Issue 5 release party featuring Sweetpea, Joe Midthun, Carl Atiya Swanson, Jami Jerome, and Justin Schuetz. Continue reading

Third Thursday: Art & Lit with Paper Darts

At Paper Darts‘s Volume 4 launch party last October, short-story writer Peter Bognanni made a comment prior to his reading. He said something like, “A few years ago, this literary community was in need of a serious kick in the ass. Paper Darts has been that kick in the ass, and they deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done to rejuvenate this scene.” Continue reading

Year in Review: 2012

What a year for literary events in the Twin Cities. The recent news that TWO resident Twin Citizens received National Book Awards only caps off what has been, all around, a fantastic year for literature. We saw new releases by big-selling fan favorites Junot Diaz, Michael Chabon, and Zadie Smith (all of whom graced our berg at one point or another), new local literary endeavors like Revolver and Thirty Two Magazine launch inaugural issues, new bookstores breaking ground (er… bookshelves?) in SubText and Moon Shadow Books, plus the grand re-opening of Common Good Books in its new and current location, as well as countless local and touring literary artists broadening minds and inspiring pens with readings on any given night this year. Continue reading

Revolver’s “Oblivions” Launch Party

One thing I’ve noticed about the literary scene in Minneapolis is this tendency to constantly place itself in relation to other artistic hubs, mostly New York. So often people seem to need to proclaim that we are also hip, that this is a place where creative ventures can take flight, and that the work being done in this snowy tundra is important, too. Revolver is, of course, further evidence that those concerns are false insecurities. The literati are still buzzing about their September launch at Uppercut Boxing Gym, which drew a crowd of 600 (!). They have received glowing praise from the writing community at-large, and—most importantly—the work they have published online has been excellent. Continue reading

Amber Sparks, John Jodzio, & BJ Hollars

Give me one of these and I will burn it.

Around the corner from a place I used to live was a nickel arcade.  When my friends and I couldn’t think of anything better to do, we’d gather up our five-cent pieces and station ourselves at the skee-ball, pouring wooden spheres down the ramp and racking up little tickets we could later trade for cheap, disposable prizes.  Our prize of choice was the small, immobile, green plastic army man. Not so we could model elaborate battle scenes on our kitchen table (we were in our late teens by this point, maybe our early twenties: the patience for such tedious imagination had passed). But because at some point, through traditional teenage means, we discovered that a green army man will burn.  And when he does, tiny globs of flaming plastic will drop to the ground with a preternatural, bubbling “zzzzzzzap!” sound that, even after burning through an hour’s worth of skee-ball tickets, doesn’t cease to fascinate.

This phenomenon came to mind last night at Magers & Quinn Booksellers as a few young, up-and-coming writers read pieces in their genre of choice: flash fiction.  Amber Sparks came home to Minnesota from Washington DC to celebrate the release of her new collection May We Shed These Human Bodies, a beautifully designed paperback from Chicago’s Curbside Splendor.  Local hero John Jodzio read a couple from the Paper Darts-produced Get In if You Want to Live, and opening the evening, BJ Hollars read a brief, new-journalistic essay about his parents’ unhappy parrot.  Each writer displayed extreme wit and a solid handle on narrative craft, replete with sudden and bristling turns of phrase, plot lines popping and fizzing with energy.  If flash fiction makes a sound, I think “zzzzzzzzap!” isn’t far off.

The reading took place on a Tuesday (September 25, 2012, to be exact), in the quiet, tucked-away poetry corner of the book store, and only a handful of people were in attendance (twenty, tops).  I couldn’t help noticing the difference between this evening’s reading, with all its sparkling, short-lived ebullience, and the slow, textured, symphonic compositions that an auditorium-packing Michael Chabon created last friday.  (I’m not saying the sparse crowd was a direct result of the genre–let’s see how things look when John Jodzio wins a Pulitzer.) But I do feel that genre informs the equation: “zzzzzzzap!” is perfect for an otherwise slow Tuesday evening, but as more and more magazines focus on, publish, and proliferate flash fiction, as it becomes more and more writers’ genre-of-choice, I can’t help but feel a little bit like the literary world is filling itself with smoke and melted plastic for the sake of a three-second sound.


Were you There? Have something to add, or a different take on this event?  Chime in on the comments below, or send us an email at LitSeen.Mpls@gmail.com! Be sure to check the schedule to the left and the Twin Cities Literary Calendar and be at the next LitSeen attended event. See you around!

Revolver Launch Party

The newest arts and cultural magazine to hit the Twin Cities lived up to its reputation for “rowdy reading” on Saturday, September 8, 2012. Revolver held its launch party at an unorthodox venue, Uppercut Boxing Gym in Northeast Minneapolis, with an equally unorthodox main event: boxing matches between four hip litsters.

Unorthodox, unschmorthodox. Uppercut was the right call for the evening. It would have been easy for a crowd of 300 people to seem small given the gym’s high ceilings and open space, but rumor has it the place reached capacity at 600 party-goers. From when I arrived around 10PM until I left at midnight, the party did seem perfectly plump with readers ready for a good time and a good fight. I slipped past the Polaroid booth, but caught glimpses of a bunch of the exposures and coordinating stories strung across the tables scattered throughout the space. Sadly, I only heard the tail end of the first match between the Architect of Destruction aka Chris Baker and The Polish Hammer aka Tony D’Aloia, but I was definitely there for the fight between The Killswitch aka Courtney Algeo and Bo Bo The Mutilator aka Sarah Moeding.

Now this wasn’t fake fighting or dance fighting, but train-for-it-at-Uppercut fighting. At one point, I said, “This is so weird,” and then continued to smile and cheer for @IceCrmSocialite aka The Killswitch, who did indeed kill it (without hurting anyone). It was probably the signs and shouts of the Paper Darts ladies that pushed her to glory. The reigning champ of the second half of the literary boxing match joined us later on the dance floor to bust a move to beats spun by DJ Shannon Blowtorch. It was like a middle school, high school, and college dance party all rolled into one, and there was definitely some sweating by the time the lights came up.

Bin Wine Bar kept the spirits flowing all night–we might be art hounds, but we can also be booze hounds, and Chef Shack provided the grub. I didn’t get the chance to snack at all, but people seemed pretty satisfied all around. There were also mirrors to dance in front of and ladies painted with words from the magazine’s first issue, but the best part of the evening was that more than the “usual suspects” came out to celebrate. Multiple attendees, many of whom are regulars on the TC literary circuit commented that they didn’t know most of the people there. This party accomplished what many launches, readings, panels, discussions, and shows fall just short of: literally bringing arts communities together.

Remember, Revolver is the online only (as of right now) baby of founding editors Alexander Helmke, Ben Barnhart, Esther Porter, Luke Finsaas, Marcus Anthony Downs, Ross Nervig, and Thorwal Esbensen. Read up–there’s great stuff from Alex Lemon and Laird Hunt among many others, and then check out photos from the launch on its Facebook page.


Were you There? Have something to add, or a different take on this event?  Chime in on the comments below, or send us an email at LitSeen.Mpls@gmail.com! Be sure to check the schedule to the right and the Twin Cities Literary Calendar and be at the next LitSeen attended event. See you around!