...and I don’t even know yet if the binding’s going to work, but that’s something that’ll show itself and get figured out soon enough, today in fact. The idea is that we’re doing a cover like we did at the beginning of it all except we’re using all the years of figuring stuff out to make the cover work like we meant it to but didn’t back then. It’s silkscreened, yes, that’s done (though the screens died before we finished printing, so we have to burn them again, but at least we got a couple hundred done in the first run, so that’s something), and it’s canvas, but a different kind. And the sewing’s the same, for the basic version (we’re doing three versions this time), the simple modified four-hole sidesewing.
I used to rail and scream here, but I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to write stories, sing songs, make books. So I do that now.
As always, this document is fluid. The copy you have in your hand, or are reading online, might not match, exactly, one someone else has. We don’t tell you when things change, they just do.
There’s also media made for this issue that doesn’t fit on a page, sounds we made, movies we made, things that’ll be elsewhere, things that’ll exist only one night, things that may never leave our house, but which exist nonetheless and which nonetheless are part of this complete issue. Those things, too, are fluid, and will grow (maybe) and change over time.
So you know, in case it’s not clear, the pieces on pages between things, those are the interstitial pieces that Amelia Gray wrote for us, for me, creating in some sense a narrative from the whole thing. Maybe not a coherent or comfortable narrative, but one that I can see regardless. I know what’s going on. I asked her to do it and she did, and then Sharon did the amazing illustrations, and to the both of them I’m so damn fucking grateful. I’m grateful to all the participants in this issue, this issue that’s kinda titled, though nowhere on the document, The Middles Of Things... and maybe that wants some small explanation.
A couple years ago, I think it’s a couple years ago now, I asked a small group of authors to write for me the middle of a novel. Not to give me the middle of something, but to create an entirely new thing, and to simply begin in the middle of the story, not knowing who or what or how we got there or anywhere, but to anyway act as though all those things are known and established. And to then not finish, but to write a while and then stop. Like walking into a theater, standing there a while and then moving on.
See, I don’t like explanations, and I don’t like resolution. Don’t believe in endings. So I’ve simply removed those things. This issue is for me, it’s what I want to see.
Some of the authors I invited to play with us I’ve worked with before, and you’ve seen here or on the online component of our thing, while others are new to us. Steven Tagle wrote to us a while back, said he loves what we do and if there’s anything that he can do to help to just let him know.
I said: Write the middle of a novel. He said okay. And then he did. His piece was problematic for me in that you can pretty much chop off any amount (within reason) off the front or the back and it still functions in a nonconfusing, nicely linear, comprehensible, self-contained kind of way. I got over it.
I wanted confusion, I wanted disorientation, I wanted to leave you unsatisfied, to make you fill in the gaps on either side (and honestly, to fail at it), to make you want those spaces filled.
Fortunato Salazar also came along, came to us and said hello and said Here’s something I wrote and I said: Holy crap, how about you write the middle of a novel? And he said okay, and he did.
Jana and James have been with us all along, and I keep publishing them and I keep asking for more, and I love working with them. James, more than anyone (other than me) understood exactly what I wanted, delivered first, delivered fast, and as always, gave me something that made me so damn happy to read.
I’m swearing much less here than I usually do. Sorry about that.
And then there’s me. I wrote the middle of a novel for this. That’s where it started. I was writing the middle of a novel, and I wanted to have Spork come back to you with a book full of the middles of things. This is the issue I wanted to make, and I wanted to be in it. This is where I want to be, where I want my writing to live, and so I put it here. I’ve been told many times that I’m deeply unkind to the reader. I know. I’m good with that. I think I’m singing. I think I’m dancing. I think I’m communicating something, and I think I’m communicating it well. I’m fine with you disagreeing with me. I love my characters and I love how they move through the world.
Each author in this issue is working toward completing the novel they began here, which is what I hoped would happen. I would like them all to land in homes bigger and richer than mine, but Spork maybe will publish some of them anyway.
God, I need a shower.
I said I don’t like explanations, but here I am explaining things. It’s okay, I meant I don’t like when stories explain everything. I can explain this book to you. Also, I hope you’re not reading this anyway. I’m conveying almost nothing, but there were a few details that were important, and I dealt with them above and over to the left there. Hopefully by now you feel you get what we were doing in this issue, and you’ve gone back to see how each story is tied to the other, and maybe you’re thinking about the utility of writing only the middle, wondering if that maybe isn’t sufficient unto itself, thinking that it really is okay to not know everything, to not question things and to simply let them be what they are, as you experience them, the shapes and forms and sounds they give and you’re really fine, really deeply okay with accepting it for what and as it is.
Oh, and you might have noticed we look different. We’ve changed our face. Faces. I have a copy of Camus’ The Stranger, the Heritage Press version. The square one with the yellow cover, and it’s one of the most beautiful books I own, and that book informed the initial structure and design of this issue. And then once I did that for a hundred or so copies, we changed to the structure and format we’ve been doing lately, a more readable line, a better shape for your hands, sensible placement on the page, the text mostly obeying the rules set down by hundreds and hundreds of years of development... also, all along we’ve been saying that we’re not interested in challenging the whole notion of what a book can be, or what a book is, and I’ve been learning about what forms function best, how the eyes track information on a page, what fonts work best where, what they do, what aspects are social, what aspects are more relevant on a written-language level, what kinds of things are most comfortable for people, people like us, and I’m good with listening to all that, to paying attention to what’s what and why and not arguing. So now, you might notice, Spork’s more like a book that you recognize as a book, as a book to read rather than as some kind of pretentious art object.
And yes, as always, as is traditional in this house, this section is a wholly unconsidered bit of spitting, filling space and trying to remember all the things I think are important to put down here... and I wonder if all the little inside jokes in the limited version are too obscure, if they’ll be noticed at all. I don’t need people to get them, but I would like people to kinda get tripped up by them, at least a little. Get a little annoyed, call us smug and self-important, too certain of our own cleverness, and to disagree wholeheartedly with us on that fact.
We look at the infinitude of journals out there and we wonder what actual purpose they serve. Maybe this we is I, and I think I’ve talked about this before, but still I’m thinking about it so I’m talking about it again. I look at them and I wonder what they do, what they’re for and I can come up with answers and then I’m not certain that they’re the right answers and then I wonder then what should we—what should I—do about it, considering my not buying the answers, especially since those answers apply equally to our own efforts. So this block of pages and text, this is an attempt to see if I can satisfy at least some of my misgivings about the whole thing. Not recontextualize or challenge or redefine, but simply make something I’m happy with, something I’m proud of, something that makes sense on a bookshelf (and that last is in both substance and structure), a thing that’s good, all on its own, a good thing. Or perhaps just an interesting thing. But hopefully a thing both good and interesting.
I’m going to bind these now.