Dear Cyborgs gets the Double Take treatment at Electric Lit

spoilers contained, should you believe in such, in these smart, honest (double) takes of DEAR CYBORGS. thank to Jw McCormack and Rosiė Clàrke.

here’s my favorite bit:

“I was certainly misled by the superhero element!”

& also:

“In a way, it’s the most lucid book I’ve read lately. All the books I’ve related to lately have basically brought up the question(s) — what are we doing here? What are we party to? What is desirable? What is apt, given that the correct socio-political view is the horrified, baffled, fearful, woke one?”

& also:

“I think to write a book about immigrant experience that isn’t about immigrant experience, about superheroes that skews their whole purpose, and about capitalism and resistance that doesn’t succumb to bright-eyed idealism or weary cynicism is quite an achievement.”

read the rest here.

Hua Hsu in The New Yorker





“I was a few pages from the end of Eugene Lim’s wondrous new novel, DEAR CYBORGS, when I flipped back to the beginning and started again… His writing is confident and tranquil; he has a knack for making everyday life seem strange—or, in the case of DEAR CYBORGS, for making revolution seem like the most natural thing possible. His writing is transfixing from page to page, filled with digressive meditations on small talk and social protest, superheroes, terrorism, the art world, and the status of being marginal… there’s an intoxicating, whimsical energy on every page.”

Read the rest here.

American classics that influenced Dear Cyborgs, mostly in pairs

loa logo

Library of America’s series of guest posts by contemporary American writers returns with the following contribution from Eugene Lim, whose novel Dear Cyborgs has just been published by FSG Originals.

In a concise 176 pages, Dear Cyborgs interweaves two narratives: one about two isolated Asian American boys in the Midwest who bond over a mutual love of comics, and the other about a group of disaffected superheroes pondering resistance strategies in the era of late capitalism.

Novelist Jonathan Lethem, who just edited the anthology Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z for Library of America, is already a vocal fan of the novel, telling The Chicago Review of Books that it “blew me away with its deceptively blithe mixture of cryptic humor, philosophical ingenuity, and genuine political yearning… . I hope it makes a splash out there in this overcrowded world.”

Below, Lim pulls the curtain back on the literary and extra–literary influences that went into his new book.

Read the list at the Library of America blog.

interview at The Chicago Review of Books


CRB logo

the headline might overstate things slightly. it wasn’t *constant* despair at any rate…

If you’re one of the millions of people who check the news every morning, you know citizens are joining marches and calling representatives daily. In the months since the election, we’ve seen the power of civil disobedience. And though these forms of dissent aren’t yet losing steam, they raise an interesting question: can these struggles continue in the face of capitalism?

Eugene Lim’s new novel Dear Cyborgs addresses this question as his characters meditate on art, political dissent, and purpose. In nestled narratives, the novel weaves a story of friendship that calls for a provocative conversation. If the novel is smart, the author is more so: Lim shared recently shared some of his thoughts on contemporary politics, the power of art, and a thorough reading list for those of us who want more after finishing Dear Cyborgs.

Read the interview here:

A conversation with Donald Breckenridge about our new books, volkswagens, emmanuel bove, and boris the bear…

Over at the FSG Work in Progress blog, Donald Breckenridge and I have a chat. Read the conversation here.



Cyborgs, comic book superheroes, protesters in the streets, disenfranchised artists, first-generation immigrants struggling to assimilate—all these outsiders, outcasts, and oddballs have more in common with each other than one might think, as Eugene Lim’s novel Dear Cyborgs beautifully illustrates. Blending Hollywood chase scenes with sharp cultural critiques, hard-boiled detective pulps with subversive philosophy, Dear Cyborgs is a playful and profound meditation on resisting oppression and alienation. Donald Breckenridge is the fiction editor of The Brooklyn Rail and author of And Then, a novel about desolation, regret, and a “father’s long decline into humiliation and death.” Here the two longtime friends talk about the foreign filmmakers and authors who have inspired them to embrace their own “outsider-ness” as “helplessly American” artists and citizens.


short fiction on The Organist podcast

I pledge allegiance to @Joe_Frank as do the radio wizards at @KCRWorganist. On their latest episode — which covers hypnosis, thich nhat hanh, alan watts, and david blaine — I do a PSA for our collective virtual reality (at 32:13). why not give the whole a listen?


How does music resemble food? How can sound work like medicine? To treat chronic digestive pain, producer Ross Simonini tried everything until visiting hypnotherapist Daniel Ryan, who uses only the sound of his voice through a technique shared by orators, monks, musicians, parents—and magician David Blaine.

We also learn about the psychoacoustics of lawn sprinklers with Susan Rogers, a sound engineer who’s recorded albums for David Byrne, Barenaked Ladies, Tricky, and, most famously, Prince’s albums Purple Rain and Sign o’ the Times. Rogers is one of the most legendary female sound engineers in an industry long dominated by men. These days, she’s also a professor at the Berklee School of Music, where she researches how our brains process sound.

Lastly, author Eugene Lim brings us speculative fiction on the interstellar connections between celebrity CEO Elon Musk and the Organist podcast itself.

Hypnosis segment produced by Ross Simonini.
Interview with Susan Rogers produced by Jenny Ament.

Ross Simonini
Andrew Leland

GERMINAL by émile zola


J’s on an intense Zola kick and this book was the one that started it. she said i had to read it. i went dragging my feet. a 500-page naturalist book from the 19th century seemed like it, um, was not going to be my bag. i imagined, semi-rightly, endless pages of description and plot not to mention a moribund philosophy and a long-ago decided politics. i slogged through the first half, which was better than i expected but still slow going.

and then something clicked. it wasn’t exactly needing to find out what happened next, it was a different kind of suspense…. it’s a spectacular biography of the mind of the mob, and with little piercing sketches of psychology. godlike in its handling of the landscape and the multiple minds of its society. like pedro costa in its use of natural light. and an honest, admirable, and relevant politics. (the title referenced finally on the last page, which seems countered by every page before it.)

it is said that sixty thousand marched at zola’s funeral. sixty. thousand.

and o god the horses of germinal. the horses of germinal are more awesome and terrible in their nightmares than the horses of nietzsche or tarr or tarkovsky.

two paragraphs, one from mid-way through and one from near the end, to give you a hint at its arc, as if you needed it. coal miners. won’t be but should be read by everyone who voted for trump and everyone who didn’t. we’re dying “miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” i didn’t want to read it but i’m shattered, glad, and changed now that i did.

It was a scarlet vision of the revolution that would inevitably carry them all away, on some blood-soaked fin de siècle evening. That was it, one night the people would rise up, cast caution aside, and run riot like this far and wide all over the countryside; and there would be rivers of bourgeois blood, their heads would be waved on pikes, their strong-boxes hacked open, and their gold poured all over the ground. The women would scream, and the men would look gaunt as wolves, their fangs drooling and gnashing. Yes, these same rags and the same thunder of clogs, the same terrifying pack of animals with dirty skins and foul breath, would sweep away the old world, as their barbarian hordes overflowed and surged through the land. There would be blazing fires, not a stone of the towns would be left standing, and they would become savages again, living out in the woods, once the poor had enjoyed their great orgy and garnered their harvest, sucked the women dry and sacked the cellars of the rich. There would be nothing left, not a sou of inherited wealth, not a line of legal entitlement, until the day when, perhaps, a new order might at last spring up from the earth. And that was the future out there, tearing down the road like some natural disaster, and buffeting their faces with its great hurricane wind.*

& from the last chapter:

‘You’re right, you’re better off leaving, if you can . . . And I’m glad I’ve seen you, because at least you’ll know I’ve got no axe to grind with you. There was a time I wanted to kill you, after all that butchery. But then you think it over, don’t you? You realize that in the end it’s not really anyone’s fault . . . No, it’s really not your fault, it’s everyone’s fault.’

Excerpt from Dear Cyborgs up at Vice.


DOOM RERUNS: Komagata Maru

Have you heard the story of how a racist country tried to keep out non-whites through hasty legislation, got rebuffed by the courts, but then passed a similar immigration ban that was successfully upheld? 

i came across this the other day, right around the time when news came out of SCROTUS’s 2nd try at an immigration ban. The Komagata Maru incident, 1914, Canada.

baba gurdit singh

After Canada and the United States stopped South Asian immigration, Punjabi and other South Asian activists concentrated on trying to reopen the door to Canada. They believed they had a more powerful argument in dealing with Canada than with the United States because, like India, Canada was a part of the British Empire. From the beginning, they were very persistent in supporting would-be-immigrants from India (including women and children), in fighting individual immigration cases in court, in lobbying officials in Ottawa, London and Delhi, and in publishing propaganda aimed both at white Canadian and South Asian audiences.

A moment of great encouragement came in November 1913 when a Canadian judge overruled an immigration department order for the deportation of 38 Punjabi Sikhs. These immigrants had come to Canada via Japan on a regularly scheduled Japanese passenger liner, the Panama Maru. Immigration officials had ordered them deported because they had not come by continuous journey from India and because they were not carrying the requisite amount of money. The judge found fault with the continuous journey regulation and also the regulation specifying a $200 requirement. He looked closely at the wording of these regulations and ruled them inconsistent with the wording of the Immigration Act and therefore invalid. He then allowed the passengers to land. It was this victory for the passengers in the Panama Maru case that encouraged the sailing of the Komagata Maru in the following April 1914.

Unfortunately, by April the legal situation had changed. The Canadian government had quickly rewritten its regulations to meet the objections it encountered in court. Although briefly invalidated, the continuous journey and $200 requirement regulations were back in force by January 1914, three months before the Komagata Maru left Hong Kong for Vancouver. The leadership of the Komagata Maru passengers might have been deterred from sailing after the reissue of these regulations. Instead, they convinced themselves that a Canadian court would rule in their favour.


gurdit singh with passengers

Section from Erika Lee’s The Making Of Asian America.

Other links:

BLIND SPOT by Harold Abramowitz

 godard poetry

“One thing I tried to do while writing Blind Spot was translate the text into an imaginary French, since I can’t actually speak French, as if the text were actually the voiceover to a French New Wave film.”
–Harold Abramowitz


though not quite with the immediately accessible vocabulary of a philip glass composition, harold abramowitz takes similar risk with a modular, repeating structure in his latest book BLIND SPOT. the result is a very very beautiful and meditative work, the experience of which i thought of as like watching the haunting and mesmerizing sway of tree branches in a summer wind… the thing that can be grating or even mockable about philip glass’s music is also what makes it elsewhere revolutionary, i.e. its foundation on modular phasings and accretions, which can verge on boring repetitiveness but which also on special occasion, after toying with dull sugariness, suddenly transcends to find deep emotion.

along with abramowitz’s artful use of repetitions, recursions and phasings, there is also throughout an elusiveness — a blind spot — which the reader seems to have a different vantage of than the protagonist and which houses some violence, trauma, or crime. the book begins with a section called HOTEL that tweaks the bygone europa tropes of hotel life as appearing in such disparate sourcetexts as thomas mann or norman lock or marie redonnet or wes anderson. a guest, perhaps an undercover agent of some kind, consorts with a general, has a bad car accident where he hits some form of beast, is on vacation. similarly the second section, FUNERAL, involves a cemetery, a missed rendezvous or two, an explosion… with a few elements like these, abramowitz builds a space full of both movement and stasis, one that is anguishingly incomplete and with a feeling of entrapment and yet also one that achieves a very sublime and melancholic beauty. BLIND SPOT takes a great risk and by it becomes an innovative and ravishingly elegant triumph.

Harold Abramowitz reading from Blind Spot

more info and an excerpt at CCM

find it at your local independent bookstore.


PS and utterly beside the point : PG’s Wichita Sutra Vortex


PPS just through arpeggio association that glass bit brought me to this. which then led me to this. so, like, um, yeah. the internet.

mark baumer 1983-2017

i barely knew him. but i loved him. probably many people feel this way. he was a seraph mash of andy kaufman, ray johnson, and tehching hsieh. what am i saying. he was entirely his own being. but like these, his mindful performances carefully studied empathy and mortality. his video diaries are fantastic! precisely raw, absurd documentaries of his compassionate durational art. watch his last entry, from his 100th day walking, in which he shouts YOUR IGNORANCE IS KILLING PEOPLE! then watch all the rest.


among other things, his walk was a fundraising effort for the environmental FANG collective. please consider donating.


an interview with mark baumer on steve roggenbuck’s plantliker podcast

Mark Baumer died. He was hit by a car and killed while walking along US 90, in Crestview, Florida. Mark was walking barefoot across the country to raise money for the FANG Collective, but also, I suspect, to both find solitude and meet people. Mark was an artist, not only through his poetry and videos, but in his life, and he was always searching for inspiration.

Mark was at the fringes of lots of labor, social justice and climate actions in Rhode Island, but occasionally he stepped up to take a more central role. His work always seemed to be based in a deep sense of compassion…

ji jang bosal ji jang bosal ji jang bosal


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two quick takes:

SUMMER OF HATE has the kind of honesty i like. one with a thin sheen of fiction and, on occasion, a thick glob of style (but this mostly subtle, a french exit or a tasteful gesture). mannered yet truthful. paced here with a good and slow buildup but not quite manipulatively suspenseful. an effective documentary-ish presentation re: class, race, and cultural capital… and, reading it in january 2017, the appalling realization the bush II years were a restrained preview and not the nadir. dug this book.


emo like duras is emo. grieving, brave, and deracinating, i found FISH IN EXILE unafraid to wear emotion on its sleeve. and yet sui generis; made with a charged, defamiliarized language… making the old (classic) story somehow all her own (the persephone retell a favorite bit), the book has a little of karapanou or lispector in its ability to poetically sear to the heart of the matter — but clears its own ground. loved it.


Two upcoming readings


I’ll be at Naropa on October 4th. I’ll be giving a talk at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University on October 4th at 2:30PM (and I believe the class is open to all). That evening, I’ll participate in a reading with Jeffery Pethybridge, Sara Veglahn & Gabrielle Lessans. Details about the reading here:

And I’ll be reading at Wesleyan University on November 30th at 8PM.

DOUBLE TEENAGE by joni murphy



loved this book. celine and julie are two narrative mirrors erupting out of a desert in new mexico. consistently smart. a work that through anecdote, analysis, and aphorism — along with elemental doses of despair and anger — exposes the systemic construction and confines of “girlhood,” arguably defined here as an integral, lower limit Tiqqun upper limit Bratmobile.

or, another way: the various acts of defining found to be inextricably tautological to the problem. this dilemma at the heart of the book. murphy in an interview says: “For a long time the manuscript was developing as a longer and longer narrative essay and a series of poems. Both tried to get at some central questions, namely: Why does girlhood feel like a trap?…”

published by the on fire Canadian small press bookthug : won’t you seek it out?

joni murphy interviewed by chris kraus

and with tobias carroll:

I needed to find a way of communicating that this story was not really about the two main characters, that fiction uses individuals to get people to care about society, but that can become a way of fetishizing the singular. I would never write a story from the point of view of a girl working in a maquiladora in Juarez, but neither would I want to just describe their bodies as things (as Bolaño did to devastating effect in 2666) because I related to them as beings, but at the same time I am not in their position.

So the end of this book, this different style, was my way of saying individuals matter, but we’re all embedded in systems and structures. They/ we belong to a world of connections in which we’re told these connections don’t exist. Only when a pattern is overwhelmingly horrific does it get recognized as a pattern.

I’ll be at the Queens Book Festival on August 7th.


QBF panel

I’ll be at the brand spanking new Queens Book Festival on Sunday, August 7th, at 5PM. The venue has moved and the fest is now at the Kaufman Astoria Studios. I’ll be speaking on a panel is called “The East is No Longer Far: The Power of Storytelling” and will be with authors Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,Gina Apostol, Hirsh Sawhney, and Mia Alvar. Register for free tickets here.


three spring 2016 readings


reading at unnameable memorial day 2016 reading for john madera 20160505 at berl's April 2016

from “Headfirst” by Ocean Vuong


night sky with exit

Don’t you know? A mother’s love

neglects pride

the way fire

neglects the cries

of what it burns.



mu xin

A terrific collection, which at times grazes the sentimental, but even then transforms it into bittersweet knowledge, THE EMPTY ROOM functions, in its selection of stories over decades, as a mediated autobiography of an extraordinary life. All “selected works” inevitably can be seen this way, but it seems purposefully done here (and Toming Jun Liu’s enlightening translator’s afterword even argues it can be read as a “linked bildungsroman”).

A well known writer and painter in China — this is his first collection in English — Mu Xin was born in 1927 and survived the Cultural Revolution, imprisonment, and exile. And this book, like Mu Xin himself, crosses from classical Chinese literature to western nouveau roman fragmentation and back again. In a way the book can also be seen as cousin to the fiction-essay hybrids of a Sebald or an Emil Cioran or a Paul Valéry or a Maggie Nelson (which themselves could be called, with only a little imagination, western reflections of sanwen or suibi/zuihitsu traditions)…

The stories span worlds, as makes sense of a collection written during exile (in Forest Hills, Queens). The first story “The Moment When Childhood Vanished” is almost a pre-modern fable about childhood with a sly allusion to Chao-chou’s Newborn Baby koan (case 80) in the Blue Cliff Record; while the title story is an imagistic love poem (but with images that could have been provided by David Lynch); “Notes from Underground” is a profound meditation on solitary confinement that recalls Mu Xin’s actual imprisonment; and “Fong Fong No. 4” depicts the horror and transformational power of the Cultural Revolution through a seemingly quotidian prism of the aging of a love affair’s participants…. In fact each story is in tone and technique quite different, yet a unifying voice and mind clearly is evident throughout this belyingly slim, sorrowful, and sublime triumph.

find it at your library.

mu xin2


THE SYMPATHIZER by Viet Thanh Nguyen



a book of books. it ends, after several transmutations (and before a coda of only a slightly lighter shade) with some dark dark evil. i liked it best when this historical novel with its characters unblessed with political correctness spotlit the hidden racism of the present. and the memorable, thinly veiled critique of APOCALYPSE NOW (the vietnam war movie that via good old american megalomania redacted from itself any speaking roles for vietnamese*). great terrifying opener. great terrifying closer. in between it moved swiftly and darkly through worlds.



an excerpt, on some american dark hearts:

By the movie’s last shot, of innocent Danny Boy sitting in the open doorway of a Huey helicopter ascending slowly into the clear blue heavens, weeping as he gazed over his war-ravaged homeland, destined for a country where women’s breasts produced not just milk but milkshakes — or so the GIs told him — I had to admit to the Auteur’s talent, the way one might admire the technical genius of a master gunsmith. He had hammered into existence a thing of beauty and horror, exhilarating for some and deadly for others, a creation whose purpose was destruction. As the credits began rolling, I felt touched by shame for having contributed to this dark work, but also pride in the contributions of my extras. Faced with ungraceful roles, they had comported themselves with as much grace as possible. There were the four veterans who played VC RAPIST #1, VC RAPIST #2, VC RAPIST #3, and VC RAPIST #4, as well as the others who had made their screen debuts as DESPERATE VILLAGER, DEAD GIRL, LAME BOY, CORRUPT OFFICER, PRETTY NURSE, BLIND BEGGAR, SAD REFUGEE, ANGRY CLERK, WEEPING WIDOW, IDEALISTIC STUDENT, GENTLE WHORE, and CRAZY GUY IN WHOREHOUSE.




PS in this interview, nguyen says,

One of the things that characterizes both Vietnamese and Asian American literature is that it’s often times not very angry. There’s not a lot of rage, at least not in the past few decades. And if there is anger or rage, it has to be directed at the ignorant: the Asian country of origin or Asian families or Asian patriarchs. While all that is important, I sensed a reluctance to be angry at American culture or at the United States for what it has done. That’s why, in the book, I adopt a much angrier tone towards American culture and the US.

this reminded me of an overlooked asian american novel that is angry, though it uses humor in a way not unlike paul beatty: yongsoo park’s BOY GENIUS.


(a side thought a few days after finishing the book… the happa’s multiracialness reads as contextually chameleon’ed/camouflaged. in The Sympathizer’s particular case, he reads most of the time, despite the book’s explicit attempts to foreground his “bastard” identity, as asian. this has less to do i think with any automatic othering by white characters (or by readers) but race operating (differently from gender) in prose. in this mediated form, racial identity performance, absent immediate markers, cannot effortlessly sustain its foregroundedness — and this is especially true of multiracial’s less rigid category.)

I’ll be reading on Thurs, May 5.


Fiction Stranger Than Fiction: Anelise Chen, Lisa Chen, John Haskell, Eugene Lim, and John Madera

Join us for a reading series spotlighting writers whose work “explodes” language, content, form, and structure. Following the readings, John Madera will lead a conversation with all the readers.

Date: Thursday, May 5, 2016
Time: 7:00pm-9:00pm
Venue: Threes Brewing
Address: 333 Douglass Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Anelise Chen earned her MFA in fiction at NYU. She is currently fiction editor at The Margins, a publication of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Born in Taipei and raised in Los Angeles, she lives in Manhattan’s Chinatown. She teaches at Columbia University. (

Lisa Chen was born in Taipei, Taiwan. She studied at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Iowa. She lives in Brooklyn and works as a freelance writer and editor. (

John Haskell is the author of a short-story collection, I Am Not Jackson Pollock (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), and the novelsAmerican Purgatorio (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005) and Out of My Skin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009). His stories and essays have appeared on the radio, in books, and in magazines. He’s taught writing and literature at Columbia University, Cal Arts, and the Leipzig University. He is the recipient of a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and lives in Brooklyn.(

Eugene Lim is the author of the novels Fog & Car and The Strangers. His writings have appeared in FenceThe Denver Quarterly,exploring FICTIONSThe Brooklyn RailJacket2The Coming EnvelopeEveryday GeniusDazed DigitalSleepingfishelimaeLittle Star, and elsewhere. He is founder and managing editor of Ellipsis Press, works as a librarian in a high school, and lives in Queens, NY. (

John Madera holds an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University. His work may be found in Conjunctions, the BelieverSonora Review, the Brooklyn Rail, the Collagist, DIAGRAM, the MillionsReview of Contemporary FictionRain Taxi: Review of Books, theQuarterly Conversation, and many other venues. He edits the forum Big Other. Madera also runs Rhizomatic: Publicity Services for Small Presses with Big Ideas. ( / /

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