News and ReviewsWriting, publishing, and website updates, reviews, comments, upheavals, and life-shattering events
Thanks to a fortuitous blend of hard work, determination, luck, and stupidity, the little website I launched in 2001 has become one of the most extensive, widely read, and frequently updated author sites in the world. Especially heartening is the number of visitors who arrive more or less by accident, and who then return on a regular basis � some to pick up where they left off, and others, no doubt, to shake their heads in wonder. I don�t blame them. Over the years the site has grown dramatically, and now includes entire books, reams of notes, reviews, poems, recipes, a forum, drawings, and more. It is the work of a madman, to be sure � a madman who is deeply thankful for each and every visitor who passes his way, and for the opportunity to be heard.
I can only begin to thank here the many kind people who, through their kindness and good grace, have sent gifts my way. These include books, drawings, paintings, portraits, poem scrolls, signed limited editions, cards, and sundry handmade items. But these fine people, these fellow writers, artists, readers, and friends from around the globe, have not gone unrecognized. Upon arrival, each of their gifts has been noted on my blog, in posts gathered under the label Recently Received. When you have time, I hope you will scroll through them. There are many fine surprises.
At this time, I would also like to mention the rare online appearance of a favorite early story of mine, which was first published in Barbaric Yawp, and then included in my chapbook, Among the Living. That story is �Today the World.� Through the good offices of editor Jim Lopez at Antique Children, this piece is being shared and archived in the 9.13.10 cyber-edition of that mischievous publication. Jim also included four of my drawings in the section devoted to illustrations.
Trent Aitken-Smith, a writer, editor, and publisher based in York, has also seen fit to share a recent blog piece of mine, a Notebook entry called �To Set Sail and Bleed the Lamb,� in his new online publication, UniqueScene. In addition, he penned a nice biographical piece introducing me and my work to the readers of Fringe, another online magazine.
To everyone � Trent, Jim, and all of the amazing people who have welcomed me into the circle of their artistic and daily lives � thank you.
A beautiful glossy edition of my artwork, Primitive: Selected Drawings in Pixel, Pencil & Pen, was published in July 2010 through Blurb:
The third volume in my Author�s Press Series, a complete 444-page print edition of my daily journal, One Hand Clapping, is now available. Information and ordering links can be found on the Main Page and in this entry of my blog.
I�m pleased to announce the release of my new chapbook,
Well, as the old saying goes, there are friends, and there are friends. If you would like to join either category, or both, I hope you will visit my new Facebook page and, if you have an account, consider making a friendship request. As I said in this entry of my blog, �My modest goal is to meet everyone in the world � at least those like-minded souls with computers. Of course, this won�t keep me off the sidewalks, away from the racetracks, out of the bars and alleys, or any of the other time-honored meeting places � except, perhaps, barbershops....�
�That Which Is Left Unsaid�
A silent sequence of drawings
The second volume in my Author�s Press Series, a complete print edition of my short story collection, No Time to Cut My Hair, is now available. The book contains a new preface. Information and ordering links can be found at the bottom of the Main Page and in this entry of my blog.
Here�s a link to Penny Thoughts and Photographs � the new �open-ended, potentially embarrassing project� I mentioned in my previous note. The only other link for the moment is on the Main Page, in the lower left-hand corner. We�ll see where this leads....
Now that the dust has settled after our move and the completion of Songs and Letters, I�ve made a couple of major publication decisions. The first was simple: I�ll be starting another of my open-ended, potentially embarrassing online projects soon. The second, while simple in concept, will take a lot more work, or at least work of a different kind: I�ve decided to put together an Author�s Press Series of relatively inexpensive, uniformly designed paperbacks that explore different themes and facets of my writing. The titles that have suggested themselves thus far will likely occupy a foot or more of shelf space.
July 24, 2009: Much to my surprise, I finished Songs and Letters today. More than once after completing an entry during the past year or so, I thought, This would be a perfect place for the book to end. Then I wrote another entry, and another, and another.... This morning, however, as always without the slightest inkling of what would happen, I sat down and wrote what I immediately recognized as the book�s closing entry and afterword. And so, after 716 pages � I have no idea yet how many more this will amount to in printed book form � I must accept the fact that I am no longer needed by this particular work. And, wouldn�t you know it, typical of such moments, even while I was putting on the finishing touches, two or three new book ideas suggested themselves. They might have just come to me, or they might have been waiting for months to catch my attention. It will be interesting to see if they evaporate or demand that I follow through.
Speaking of moving, we will be in Internet limbo from July 12 to July 16, 2009, while we make what for our family amounts to an historic move to my mother�s house. Assuming I survive the ordeal, personal correspondence and other site activity will resume shortly thereafter. In the meantime, my thanks, as always, for visiting.
It took three years, but we�ve finally posted a new author photo on the Main Page. In the process, we�ve also moved the columns around: the first column is now the third; the second is now the first; and the third is now the second. The information is all the same, however � a great comfort in these tumultuous times. The sepia shot was taken by my son, Vahan, on Father�s Day, June 21, 2009.
My reviews of two new books, Deaf American Poetry, an anthology spanning more than two centuries edited by John Lee Clark, and The Art of Exile, a wonderful first book of poems by William Archila, can be found in my blog here and here.
To see pictures of my deplorable working conditions and for a short review of Sitting Pretty Magazine, another intriguing publication edited by Paul A. Toth, go to this entry of Recently Banned Literature.
As soon as I stumbled onto novelist Paul A. Toth�s new publication, Hit and Run Magazine, I thought of all sorts of things I could send him. I love his concept:
As an illustration of how my mind works, or doesn�t, late last night in bed I woke up with the idea of starting a new blog in which I would publish Songs and Letters one entry at a time from the very beginning, along with copious notes on each. I told myself that one of my goals would be to arrive at a definitive edition, which I would then publish in book form. Along the way, I was bound to find certain entries weak, or in need of an adjustment here and there. Then it occurred to me, as I lay there feverish and writhing, that this project would amount to reliving and rewriting the entire book. Presently, there are over 700 entries, and some of the entries contain numerous entries of their own � certain mini-journals or pages of haiku, for instance, or my Annotated Proverbs of Hell, in which I annotate each of William Blake�s Proverbs of Hell with a demented poem of my own. And then I thought, �But that means I�d be annotating my annotations!� Now, thank goodness, in the light of day, I think I might have been dreaming. On the other hand, maybe it is a good idea. Gad, what a life I live....
Due to a server relocation scheduled for December 10, 2008, this site will be down for several hours. The author, book, and archive images in the left column of Recently Banned Literature will also be missing during that time.
Poet Vassilis Zambaras has finished three beautiful Greek translations of poems from Another Song I Know. The first, �Thin Ice,� is posted in my blog, here. The second, �Seeds,� is posted here. The third, �Love,� is posted here.
Samvel Mkrtchian�s Armenian translations of fourteen poems from Winter Poems and Another Song I Know are included in the current issue (January-June 2008) of Artasahmanyan Grakanutyun (World Literature in Armenian), published in Yerevan, Armenia. For a look at the cover and a list of other writers translated for the issue, go here.
To further complicate matters, I�ve just added a new poetry page. Poems, Slightly Used is a growing collection of work first published in my blog. The page is conveniently linked to all of the poetry pages in Collected Poems.
Thanks very much to Paul L. Martin for recommending and linking to my San Joaquin Valley remembrance, A Map of My Heart. The piece first appeared in the Winter 2001 issue of Ararat; it has also been published three times in Armenian translation, and reprinted twice in English. This is the second time it has found its way into the high school classroom.
My thanks to poet Carol Rumens for linking to my recently completed page, Robert Burns: A Glossary of Scottish Terms, in her October 13, 2008, �Poem of the Week� blog entry for The Guardian. The featured poem is �To a Louse� by Robert Burns.
Over the years, I�ve preserved a number of dreams, some as poems, some in prose form, and others somewhere in between. Examples are scattered throughout my Notebook and Songs and Letters. While this continues, I�ve also begun sending my dreams to Lynn Behrendt, which she is kindly publishing in her blog, Annandale Dream Gazette. The Gazette is an interesting place, with an intriguing premise. My dreams are collected here.
Paul L. Martin has posted a very thoughtful review of Another Song I Know and Winter Poems in his excellent blog, The Teacher�s View, a site I heartily recommend. A voracious reader and fine writer, Martin�s �insights and observations from the high school classroom on literature, culture, and the life of the mind� clearly show why his students are so lucky to work with him and pass through his influence. I appreciate his review.
He Flies through the Air with the Greatest of Ease:
To celebrate my 100th blog post, here�s a selection of recent entries (some with very nice photos) that might catch your interest:
My thanks to Molly Martin for her kind reviews of Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, and to Magdalena Ball for posting them on her ever-expanding website, The Compulsive Reader. The site contains reviews, interviews, literary news, and criticism.
To see a classy presentation of �A Lesson to Remember,� a short story of mine published in the May 24, 2008, Arts & Culture section of the Armenian Reporter, click on the image in this blog entry.
A high school student just sent me a paper she wrote for her college writing class. Titled �Beauty Still Exists in the World,� the author focuses on the similarities in my poem, The World I Know, and my story, I Feel Like I�m Falling, and shows how the pieces are united through imagery despite their difference in subject matter. Very nice � and soon to be filed in my papers.
I can�t resist mentioning that my drawing of Richard Brautigan (see my summary of In Watermelon Sugar) has turned up in a blog published in the Farsi language, in connection with his novel, Dreaming of Babylon. The archived page is here.
I owe Chris Christensen, an old friend of mine from high school, special thanks for sending me the link to �Celebrating William Saroyan,� a presentation in honor of the author�s centennial by the Fresno Bee, which I�ve added to my Highly Recommended page. Since Willie was my grandmother�s cousin � her mother Parantsem and Willie�s mother Takoohi were sisters � hearing his voice again after all these years is truly an emotional experience. In it I hear the voices of my father and all his crazy relatives, especially his dear uncle, the poet/painter Archie Minasian, whose short poem, �Farewell to Willie,� I�ve included in my blog. How I miss them all.
The complete text and my reading of �Walking Home,� a poem by eighth-grade student Marianne Azakian, is included in the Second Anniversary Blast of the Armenian Poetry Project. Background notes can be found in this entry of Recently Banned Literature.
It will be a pleasure to chart the progress of The Modern Story, a new online literary magazine launched in April 2008. Editor-in-Chief Morten Jensen, who kindly and perhaps foolishly asked me to contribute, says the magazine �was created out of a deep passion for literature,� and �aims to extend beyond simply publishing fiction and poetry by keeping up with the contemporary literary world.� Jensen, who hails from Denmark and currently studies in the U.S., plans to present traditional and experimental work along with essays, features, and reviews. New writing will be posted as soon as it�s available.
Wouldn�t you know it. Fifteen days and twenty entries into Recently Banned Literature, and the blog is already more than just a place to find out about this site�s most recent updates. Included so far are poems and snippets of poems, excerpts, quotes, definitions, and links to other sites that I�ve come across along the way. I�ve even posted an archival portrait from 1982, which you�ll find under the blog archive.
Finally, six years, a thousand pages, and countless updates later, I�ve launched �Recently Banned Literature� � a handy blog where visitors can read about this site�s latest additions and find out exactly where they are. The first two entries are mercifully short. Now let�s see if I can keep it that way.
Returning to the audio realm, I�m pleased to direct visitors once again to the Armenian Poetry Project and my very own vocal rendition of �I Can Imagine,� a poem of mine which, until now, has been quietly tucked away in my Songs and Letters. My thanks to Project curator Lola Koundakjian.
The first major book publication of one of my drawings will take place with the August 2008 centennial release of He Flies through the Air with the Greatest of Ease, a 700-page William Saroyan reader edited by William E. Justice for Heyday Books. The Berkeley-based publisher specializes in the culture and history of California and the West, and boasts an impressive, worthwhile catalog.
While I certainly don�t expect to win, it�s nice to know that �Dawn,� a poem of mine that appeared in the September 2007 issue of Barbaric Yawp, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Actually, this is my second Pushcart nomination. The first was back in 2001, for an odd little story called �Voices,� also published in the Yawp. I didn�t win then, either. In fact, I probably shouldn�t have brought this up. But maybe this will be of interest to a bleary-eyed biographer someday, or a depressed college student. Either way � it�s now part of the record.
I�m still rubbing my eyes over this one. You have my profound thanks, Mr. Loar.
For some time now, I�ve been enjoying poet Lory Bedikian�s monthly column, �Poetry Matters,� in the weekly English-language newspaper, Armenian Reporter. In the space of a couple of magazine-sized pages, she always manages to get right to the heart of her poetic subjects, and does so with a kind of alert, modest reverence not generally found in mainstream reviewing media. That�s why I was so delighted when, not long after my books Winter Poems and Another Song I Know were released, she wrote saying she was interested in reviewing both titles. The result can be viewed by downloading the pdf of the Reporter�s Arts & Culture section, available here, and here, and then �turning� to Page 23.
A quick note of thanks to poet/musician Russ Allison Loar for posting one of my poems from Songs and Letters, �Love Letter to the Universe,� in one of his many blogs. And now, here�s a nice one he sent me:
Hmmm . . . what have we here? The introduction to a paper on Laurence Sterne�s Tristram Shandy as a forerunner to hypertext linkng includes a reference and link to my poem, �Reading Tristram Shandy.� A fascinating project, indeed. Take a look. And remember, digressions are the sunshine of reading.
It�s a pleasure to note that my review of Richard Brautigan�s short impressionistic novel, In Watermelon Sugar, has been added to the Richard Brautigan Archives, an extensive wiki-based site founded, organized, and maintained by Birgit Ferran in Barcelona, Spain. Be sure to bookmark the site. The Archives contain a wealth of material on the author known for such classic works as Trout Fishing in America, The Abortion, and So the Wind Won�t Blow It All Away.
When you hear Lola Koundakjian�s beautiful new reading and interpretation of my poem, �The Fall of the Ten Thousand,� you�ll see why I�m so proud that this tiny excerpt from Songs and Letters has been preserved in Lola�s Armenian Poetry Project. The text and a link to the reading are also available on the entry�s archived page.
North Country Public Radio in upstate New York was the setting recently of a thoroughly enjoyable discussion between �Open Studio� host Dale Hobson and John Berbrich, my esteemed literary cohort and editor of Barbaric Yawp. The engaging eight-minute session begins and ends with John reading from his fine chapbook of poems, Balancing Act. You can download the interview from the archived page.
I�ve just started contributing to a new community blog launched by my publisher, Cosmopsis Books. Written by Cosmopsis authors and contributors to Cosmopsis Quarterly, the entries will focus on literature and reflect a variety of styles, perspectives, and ideas. The pieces will also be labeled according to author�s name and subject matter. And so, without further ado, I give you The William Michaelian File.
As if I haven�t said enough already, I ramble about my influences, work habits, personal philosophy, and more in an eleven-page interview that appears in the Fall 2007 issue of Cosmopsis Quarterly. The piece is also available on the publisher�s website. The magazine features new work by nineteen writers and poets. Subscriptions and single copies are easily obtained.
A special thanks to Dr. Manjit Handa for including my 2001 Barbaric Yawp interview in the August 2007 issue of her magazine, Healing Matrix. I�m pleased that our joyful literary blather can be part of such a positve discourse, in which poets, scientists, rationalists, spiritualists, skeptics, and believers all have their say.
Lola Koundakjian�s kind invitation to participate in the weekly audio portion of her Armenian Poetry Project has led to the release of my first-ever home studio recording. You can listen to the results by visiting the archived page here. A text version of the poem and a brief written introduction are included.
According to my publisher, every order placed so far for my new poetry collections has been for both books. Wow! Thank you, one and all. I hope you�re as pleased with these volumes as I am. Also, since the books are now in stock, new orders will be shipped within twenty-four hours. How�s that for service?
When it rains, it pours: my thanks to Lara Gularte, editor of the online literary magazine Convergence, for publishing three of my poems in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue. Convergence is a nice discovery. Be sure to visit the archive when you�re there.
I�ve always been grateful for the warm reception given the poetry on this site. Now, what began several years ago with a single entry � and continues to this day through the hundreds of poems in my Collected Poems and Songs and Letters � has blossomed into the simultaneous publication of two beautiful paperback editions by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. For full details and ordering information, please visit my new page, Cosmopsis Print Editions.During an idle moment about a month ago, I got to wondering just how many pages this website contains. I knew there were a lot, but the answer, 813, was still a bit of a surprise. So I thought, since it�s not every day one stumbles on a website with that many pages, why don�t I start keeping track at the bottom of the Main Page? Now, after adding a new page just a few minutes ago to Songs and Letters, the total stands at 832. But I�m already wondering: what will I do to celebrate when the site reaches 1,000? Knowing me, I�ll probably add a new page to commemorate the event.
It�s an honor to have work included in the first issue of Cosmopsis Quarterly, a new literary journal just launched in San Francisco. The tastefully designed first number also announces the birth of Cosmopsis Books, an independent publisher with ambitious plans. The 100-page perfect-bound magazine contains fiction and poetry by seventeen authors from around the country. It�s available at the historic City Lights bookstore in North Beach and other locations around the city. Copies can also be purchased online directly from the publisher.
Congratulations to Bonnie C. Marshall on the release of her new book, The Flower of Paradise and Other Armenian Tales. In a stroke of good fortune, Dr. Marshall chanced upon my website when she was searching for a photographer. I suggested she visit my brother�s website, Road to Armenia, and browse his photo gallery, which contains hundreds of shots he has taken across Armenia during the past few years. The result is a beautiful glossy section that includes twenty-four color reproductions of very high quality. Dr. Marshall�s text features her down-to-earth translations of numerous Armenian folktales, myths and legends, fairy tales, and more. Her book also includes a recipe section, glossary, bibliography, and a list of recommended readings. She even surprised me by listing the main URL of my own food section, Let�s Eat. The Flower of Paradise is part of the World Folklore Series published by Libraries Unlimited. Too attractive to leave on the shelf, it is a durable hardcover that is suitable for all ages. Copies can be purchased at Amazon.com and directly from the publisher, or ordered at any bookstore.
If there were an open-minded editor award, my vote would go to John Berbrich, the hard-working, positive-thinking editor of the small press quarterly, Barbaric Yawp. For proof, look no further than the cover of the March 2007 issue, which sports a rather strange drawing of mine that might have been called �The Death of Surrealism� or something similar. Ever gracious and efficient, Mr. Berbrich has promised to forward all complaints, legal and otherwise. The issue also contains a couple of my very short poems. Those who contribute four dollars to his Home for Outraged Artists will receive a copy of the magazine. Send payment and sympathy cards to 3700 County Route 24, Russell NY 13684.
It�s hard to believe, but today marks the second anniversary of my current work-in-progress, Songs and Letters. When a friend and fellow writer asked me recently how much longer the book might run, I told him frankly that I still have no idea, and that for all I know, someday there might even be a �death bed� edition. For the record, there are now 421 entries in 12 volumes � roughly 105,000 words in all. Quite a few have been published elsewhere, in print and online, and several are forthcoming. To the editors of those publications, and to readers everywhere, I extend my thanks. My goal, of course, is to have the entire work published in book form. In fact, at present, that�s just about my only incentive to finish the darned thing. So the question still remains: will I finish the book, or will it finish me?
I�m pleased to announce the online publication of two of my poems in Barnwood magazine, edited by Tom Koontz, a professor emeritus of Ball State University. The poetry collection in Barnwood spans several years, and is well organized and presented in quick-loading pages. Also available are several books published by Barnwood Press.
My thanks to Lola Koundakjian for including several of my poems in her Armenian Poetry Project. Founded in May 2006 in New York, this worthwhile endeavor provides free audio and RSS text feeds of work by Armenian poets from the late nineteenth century to the present. The site includes work in English and Armenian, as well as many translations.
Attention, investors: At the current euro-to-dollar conversion rate,
I just read Alan King�s poetry chapbook, Transfer. King lives and writes in the Washington, D.C. area. His collection contains twenty-two gutsy street-level poems, and his youthful energy is apparent throughout. The poems are physical � the smell of fast food and bus exhaust hangs in the air, mouths are beguiling orchids, and the crowd on a dance floor is a sensuous �black body marmalade.� In King�s urban drama, the players are eager, lonely, cagey, or blind. Most want something without quite knowing what it is, and are afraid they�ll find it, lose it, or love it to death. My bottom-line opinion: Transfer is not great, but it is real. One thing I am fairly sure of � if he is still writing five years from now, the images in King�s poems will have sharpened, and his voice will be more specifically and unmistakably his own. Readers can learn more about Alan King and purchase Transfer by visiting his page here.
At the moment, there are 302 entries in Songs and Letters. Well into its second year, the book contains nine volumes so far. The good news is, I don�t know whether I�m closer to the beginning or the end. But I do know I still love to write. Writing is a challenge. It�s like hanging, and wondering which end of the rope will kill you � the one around your neck, or the one tied to the tree � when you know good and well the answer is both. Then, suddenly, someone cuts you down: the Muse has granted you a reprieve.
Readers of Armenian and collectors of world literature are invited to purchase my first book of stories and poems translated into Armenian. The new paperback, Hin Lezun (The Old Language), was published in Yerevan, Armenia, and is a compilation of work printed in various Armenian literary papers and magazines, along with several new selections. To read more about the book and order copies, please visit my new Armenian Translations page.
It�s meaningless, of course, but I can�t resist mentioning that a review copy of my novel, A Listening Thing, is currently available on Amazon for $268.72. This is a new record, and beats out the previous high of $102.00. My advice to investors is to buy now, then sell when the price reaches $500.00. My advice � ha! That�s a good one.
A new story of mine, �The Village in Our Blood,� has just been published online at RainTiger, a popular creative arts website based in New York. The story appears along with a short biography in the October 2005 edition of the site�s Spotlight Artist series. RainTiger also features sections devoted to poetry and the visual arts, as well as several other regular columns and departments. At the end of October, �The Village in Our Blood� will be available in the RainTiger archives.
A seldom-mentioned facet of this crazy website is the primitive artwork that �graces� so many of its pages. I spend very little time on these � usually no more than thirty seconds. And yet, over the years, they have attracted the attention of a number of visitors, who have linked them to their own pages. Just today, in fact, someone in a busy French-language forum latched onto the drawing that accompanies my review of Dostovesky�s novel, The Adolescent. And a couple of days ago, a blogger brightened her page with one of my drawings from Songs and Letters. A few weeks before that, someone searching for an image on Google ended up on one of my poetry pages. He liked the drawing and poem enough to add a link to the page on his blog. So in a way, these little guys with their bulging eyes, big noses, and droopy mustaches have come to act as goodwill ambassadors. Isn�t that nice?
It�s a shame I had to decline my invitation to attend the First Conference of Foreign Language Armenian Writers scheduled for the second week of October 2005 in Yerevan, Armenia. The event, organized by the Writers� Union of Armenia, would have been a great opportunity to meet with fellow writers and lunatics from around the world. I have long been a proponent of the conference�s main purpose, which is to �create proper conditions for mutual relations and collaboration of famous foreign language Armenian writers living abroad and native Armenian writers and readers.� I am also interested in the Union�s expanded definition of the word �famous,� and would have loved to pursue the subject during the liquored-up hours following the sessions. But, alas, this is not to be. For the time being, professional and personal matters require my presence here in Salem. Here�s hoping I�m still famous when the next conference rolls around.
There are now eighty entries in my hard-to-classify but strangely cohesive work in progress, Songs and Letters. So far, the work contains poems, stories, and reminiscences, as well as pieces inspired by daily life, books, paintings, photographs, and dreams. Some of the songs and letters really are songs and letters, while others are a rhythmic poem-prose hybrid that seems to have grown naturally out of the thoughts tangled in my brain. And, though each piece of the puzzle stands solidly on its own, I am pleased to report that the book is also working as a unified, progressive, and very readable whole. We�ll see how long my luck holds out. A month? A year? A lifetime? Ohhh . . .
I keep forgetting to mention that our so-called literary forum is still roaring along at full speed, and that each new page is crazier than the one before. Books, authors, philosophies, ideas, excerpts, jokes, links, imagined lives and characters, enthusiastic contributions by erudite readers who speak once and then disappear, wild nights of debauchery in Tokyo bars � it�s all here. Jump in if you dare.
Several months ago, my loving bride was kind enough to give me Mark Twain�s Letters from the Earth � Uncensored Writings. The book is quite a treat. I�ll be writing more about it as we go along. For now, readers are invited to visit my new page about the book�s highly effective and controversial title piece.
My thanks to poet and editor Grish Davtian for publishing another of my poems, �Monastery of Psalms,� online at The Literary Groong. This coincides roughly with the appearance of six more poems in the Fall 2004 issue of Ararat, nicely presented on two facing pages. Single copies of that issue (a little late due to the passing of editor Leo Hamalian) are available for $7.00 from Ararat, 55 East 59th Street, New York, NY 10022-1112. (Note: �Monastery of Psalms� also appeared in Bnagir, an online magazine in Armenian and English.)
According to the indispensible desk calendar provided by one of my many friendly neighborhood insurance agents, I�ve been working on Songs and Letters now for over a month. The good news is, some visitors have been printing and collecting the entries as we go along. Considering the price of paper these days, that is a compliment indeed. Thank you. It makes me feel good to know there are homemade copies in circulation. I have only one request: please put my name on them. That way, if they are left behind at a bus stop, coffee shop, or train station, the people who find them will know who to blame.
Someday, when my recently completed journal, One Hand Clapping, sees print, the book will make one heck of a literary doorstop. Its 250,000 words and two volumes prove how dangerous a writer can be, even at an average output of 342 words a day � dangerous to the world, and dangerous to himself. To say the past two years have been an adventure wouldn�t do justice to the twists and turns I encountered along the way. This includes other writing I did, family responsibilities, and the general difficulty that arises from being who I am. And yet I can honestly say that I felt eager to write every day, and never once resented the task I had set myself. The fact is, I still feel eager. That�s why I have decided to start work on yet another book. I am calling it Songs and Letters. To find out why, and to see where this ambitious project will lead click here.
As proven by my story, Aram�s Funeral, not all funerals are serious affairs. Depending on who has died and who is in attendance, some are downright comical. Years ago, my father�s Uncle Archie used to tell us about how he had acted as pall bearer three times in a single week. The funerals were all for Armenians, all in the same town, and were attended by many of the same people. Even some of the pall bearers were the same. By the time the third funeral rolled around, Archie, a great storyteller and jokester, couldn�t keep a straight face. Riding behind the hearse on the way to the cemetery, he had the other pall bearers roaring with laughter. Upon their arrival, they were barely able to perform their duties. For me, this adds spice to the news that an Armenian translation of �Aram�s Funeral� was just published in Armenia. It appeared in a journal I have mentioned before, called Artasamanyan Grakanutyun. The translator, Samvel Mkrtchian, did a great job capturing the humor and spirit of the story. I do wish Uncle Archie had lived long enough to read it, but, alas, he attended his own funeral back in 1985. I miss him.
I always feel lucky when something I write transcends the drab confines of this site and finds another home in print or cyberspace. �The Nut and the Fisherman,� a recent journal entry that turned out to be a fable, is one such instance. While the fable will forever be a part of One Hand Clapping and have its own place and meaning there, its separate publication at Soul Food Caf� gives it life in a different dimension. Seen in that new light, it might even help determine which I am � the nut, or the fisherman.
Now for a couple of random acknowledgements: Hello, Moofgirl! Thanks for posting my story, I Know I�m Not Alone, in installments on your blog. I�m glad you liked it, and I�m glad you like my drawings. . . . And thank you, Mr. Cogbill, for providing a link to my page about Dostoevsky�s novel, The Adolescent, on your class assignment page. I hope it proves useful. If not, the drawing should be worth a few laughs. Good luck to both of you.
As regular readers of my Collected Poems already know, two of my most recent efforts, �The More We Are Looking For� and �I Hear the Earth,� were published in the Alluvial Mine section at Heather Blakey�s acclaimed Soul Food Caf�. To that list we can add Heather�s colorful presentation of Word Fever, my new story about a miner who tries to weigh words in order to discover their meaning.
After two glorious years, my daily journal, One Hand Clapping, will come to an end. You can read about my decision here. The new title page contains links to each month�s journal page. No other changes have been made. In other news, I�m pleased to announce that a poem of mine, �Diaspora,� was published recently in the literary section of the Groong Armenian News Network. The Literary Groong is edited by poet Grish Davtian.
A long overdue link to my �hidden section� of Collected Poems has been added to the standard list of links throughout the site. Monthly updates continue. A link to the current month�s poem is still available on the Main Page.
As those who have read Thomas Wolfe�s Look Homeward, Angel know, the author�s hometown, Asheville, North Carolina, figures prominently in his life and prose. It is no surprise that the town and boarding house where he lived are still popular tourist attractions. But it is a surprise to learn that the folks who operate the Pines Cottages in Asheville have added my link about the novel to their itinerary page. If visiting my page and reading Wolfe�s book convinces anyone to have a literary look around town, I would be pleased indeed.
It�s hard to believe twenty-two weeks have passed since I started posting the stories in my second online collection, Early Short Stories. After twenty-two faithful Monday morning updates, it�s even harder to believe that no one asked me to stop. But stop is what I have decided to do. There are more stories I could bring out of the vault, but a little voice in my head tells me this is enough for now. I should say one of the little voices. The others are busy arguing as usual. Come to think of it, that�s how the stories came about in the first place. Some things never change.
The new picture of me on the Main Page should be more than enough to convince anyone that the writing life exacts a toll on those who embrace it. If I were to give the photo a title, it would probably be �Mama, don�t let your babies grow up to be writers.� Of course, I can�t blame writing alone. Ignorance has played a part in my downfall. Hmm. Maybe that explains why I�m not smiling.
A few weeks ago, I posted an excerpt from a review of A Listening Thing that is available at The Compulsive Reader, a literary and book review site based in Australia. While the excerpt is followed by a link to the site, I neglected to mention the review here. For those who might have missed it, this link will take you directly to the full review.
Plenty of good cheer and a leg of lamb help kick off the third page of our forum, which continues to mine the depths of all things literary and beyond. New visitors can catch up by reading the first and second pages, or they can jump right in.
There is nothing quite like waking up in the morning to find that one of your favorite pieces and several of your poems have been published on one of the World Wide Web�s classiest writing sites. Since that is what happened today, allow me to direct your attention once again to the labyrinthine halls of Heather Blakey�s Soul Food Caf�, where you will find a new page that features my San Joaquin Valley and family remembrance, A Map of My Heart. The page also contains a short piece written especially for Soul Food called �The One True Art,� and a link to a separate poetry page. My thanks to Heather for her kindness and consideration, and for the thoughtful treatment of my work.
Readers in the United Kingdom can now draw straws to see who gets the three copies of A Listening Thing that popped up recently on Amazon�s UK site. The books are offered by three different sellers, and all ship from the United States. Prices start at �62.95.
Visitors interested in Mark Twain�s Life on the Mississippi can learn more about the book on this page in Favorite Books & Authors. For your added enjoyment, I labored for nearly a minute and a half over a portrait of the great author. You�ll see � it almost looks like him.
Thanks to Heather Blakey of Soul Food Caf�, a story from my 2002 collection, No Time to Cut My Hair, has put down cyber roots in Australia. Visitors are invited to see the beautiful presentation of
Well, it finally happened. I was so busy with correspondence and other work on the site that I actually forgot to upload the November 17, 2004, entry of One Hand Clapping. I uploaded several other things, and I thought I had uploaded the entry as well, and I even thought I had checked afterwards to be sure, but, there you are, you see where thinking gets me. On the bright side, I heard from several faithful readers who wondered, perhaps a bit too cheerfully, if I was dead. Not to disappoint anyone, I am still quite alive, and still writing.
Those who haven�t visited our wildly entertaining forum lately might have some catching up to do. And since the page was getting a bit long, we added a second page. For the sake of continuity, we are still adding new messages to the bottom of the page, rather than the top. This makes it easier for new visitors to read the entire conversation from beginning to end, and to jump in once they get there.
If $33.00 seems like too much to pay for a generic copy of
Awhile back, I mentioned that some stories of mine had appeared in Artasamanyan Grakanutyun, a journal featuring Armenian translations of world literature. But
There is more activity surrounding my novel, A Listening Thing. While it might be premature to declare the resilient little book an underground classic, I�m pleased to report that it has been selling as a collectible item at prices ranging from a little over $18.00 to almost $33.00. For private booksellers to gamble on a limited edition of sturdy perfect-bound galleys makes sense, especially since I have stated that the text is the official error-free version that was going to be published when Crooked Fate stepped in. In fact, I expect the price to go even higher, and, as the supply tightens and demand increases, that another publisher will want to release a full-fledged edition. In the book�s favor is its defiant humor and continued relevance in terms of what so many people are suffering these days emotionally and financially. I think this is what makes A Listening Thing impossible to kill.
In keeping with my mission to overwhelm visitors with content, I am adding a new collection of stories to the site. Early Short Stories will contain some of my favorite published and unpublished stories from 1996, 1997, and 1998. This will enable visitors to compare my older work with my more recent efforts, and thereby chart my steady decline. The stories will be added one at a time on a weekly basis until I run out of stories, get tired of adding them, regain my sanity, or enough people beg me to stop.
Recently on our fabulously entertaining and erudite forum page, writer-editor John Berbrich suggested I read John Steinbeck�s Cannery Row. I did, and was not disappointed. It is truly a fine novel, and well worth your time if you haven�t read it. Further persuasion can be found in Favorite Books & Authors.
Another �used� copy of my novel, A Listening Thing, has turned up on amazon.com. Apparently my stock is rising in the world, because this one is priced at $32.98. If this continues, Knopf and Random House will want a piece of the action. In fact, here�s a telegram from them now: Dear Mr. Michaelian: We hereby offer you $32.98 for your novel,
It has been some time since I�ve mentioned the addition of one of my poems to the website, though I have been adding them at the rate of one per month for the last year and a half. With the addition yesterday of Reading Tristram Shandy, the poetry section now contains eighteen poems. At present, the �New Poem� link on the main page provides the only access to the poetry section. Each poem is assigned its own page, and each of these pages contains links to all the other poems. To simplify matters, and to make it possible for more people to suffer through my poems, I will probably add a poetry link to the standard list of links on the site�s other pages �one of these days.� Until then, my thanks to the many visitors who have been reading the poems, and following the links from one poem to the next in this �hidden section.�
The Grapes of Wrath is a truly amazing and humbling piece of literature. For what it�s worth, I have posted my impressions.
Thanks to our youngest son, a seventeen-year-old who loves to read, I have finally read John Steinbeck�s Of Mice and Men. He read the book in his English class recently, and also just finished The Grapes of Wrath, which he said is absolutely great. When I confessed that I�d read neither, he was shocked, appalled, embarrassed, and ashamed. And so I immediately promised to remedy the situation. I started with Of Mice and Men and finished it in one day. It is a beautiful story, set in the farm country around Salinas, California, in the 1930s. In it Steinbeck places the sorrow of the world gently in your lap, where it looks up at you with ancient eyes, hoping you will feel and understand its burden. The characters want what everyone wants: a place to call their own, and freedom from poverty and petty tyrants. The story of George and Lennie, friends bound together by misfortune and a deeply felt sense of responsibility for each other, is tremendously sad. It also contains a brave and lonely humor, which Steinbeck uses to further highlight their predicament and help the reader recognize as his own. If you haven�t read it yet, Of Mice and Men is well worth your time. And now, on to The Grapes of Wrath . . .
Depending on their disposition, fans of Henrik Ibsen will find my new summary of Peer Gynt interesting, amusing, boring, or lousy. My hope, though, is that readers new to Ibsen will want to read this dramatic poem themselves and see what they�ve been missing. Meanwhile, I�ve been doing my best lately to chip away at this appalling ignorance of mine. Before Peer Gynt, I read Hemingway�s A Farewell to Arms, and now I am reading Mrs. Warren�s Profession, a play by George Bernard Shaw. I am also taking a stab at the essays of Montaigne. It will be interesting to see if this assortment makes any difference. Even if it does, it will probably be years before anyone will be able to tell.
Visitors are invited to read my impressions of Thomas Wolfe�s novel, Look Homeward, Angel. This book left me physically and emotionally exhausted, yet inspired, in a way that only a great piece of literature can. A couple of nice excerpts are included.
My thanks to the very nice person who posted one of my stories (after kindly asking my permission) on a forum at shaggynow.com, and to the forum members who have responded with their kind words. Such is the wonder of the Internet, that something of mine would find its way onto the website of a Reggae artist. Best wishes to everyone there.
I will probably live to regret this, but I have allowed myself to begin the second year of my daily journal, One Hand Clapping. Of course, it has long been known that I am a glutton for punishment. But Volume 2? Isn�t that going just a bit too far?
For those who might have missed it, a new page featuring my observations on Boris Pasternak�s novel, Doctor Zhivago, was added to the site awhile back. More recently, another page was devoted to a new translation of The Adolescent, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Also, thanks to my son�s voracious appetite for reading, our legendary Webmaster�s Reading List has been updated several times since it was first added to Favorite Books & Authors.
Three short stories, a memoir, and several of my odd drawings were included in the first issue of Artasamanyan Grakanutyun, a new journal in Armenia that publishes Armenian translations of writers from around the world. The four pieces were translated by Samvel Mkrtchian, a Yerevan writer and translator who also serves as the magazine�s Editor-in-Chief. The cover can be viewed by clicking on the thumbnail image at right. More information can be found in the �World Literature� entry on the Highly Recommended page.
New and returning visitors are encouraged to visit the site�s latest addition, Flippantly Answered Questions. This friendly guide offers short, useful descriptions of the site�s sixteen main departments and the dozens of pages they contain, as well as update information. My own version of the ubiquitous �FAQ� list is included.
I was delighted to discover that my Useless Information page was recognized by a blogger recently as a prime example of why the Internet is the jumbled up mess that it is. According to a January 29, 2004, entry by �phaeTon,� the introduction of blogging has made it easy to put �what ever junk you have floating in your head� onto the Internet � the previously quoted phrase being a link to Useless Information. I agree completely. Of course, Useless Information isn�t really a blog. The closest thing on this site to a blog is my journal, One Hand Clapping, which includes no interesting or relevant links and ignores blogging�s basic rule of presenting the most recent entry at the top of the page. I have thought about taking the blog approach, but each time I look into it I end up reading other blogs, some of which are so incredibly bad, they�re good. I�ve yet to find one, though, that is so incredibly good that it�s bad. Maybe that gives us all something to shoot for.
Don�t bother clicking on the Amazon link in the last entry, because the book has already sold. Two copies are still available on half.com, however. One is listed for only $9.45 � not bad for a collector�s item.
Anyone interested in seeing what I look like as of January 2004 can find out by clicking on the adjacent thumbnail image. My rapid rate of decay will no doubt be shocking to some. All I can say is, it�s been a rough couple of years. Of course, looking as I do, you also have to wonder about the future.
I find it extremely interesting that two copies of my novel,
After several days of furious activity, I am pleased to announce that my novel is now available in its first complete online edition. I hope you enjoy A Listening Thing. If you do � and even if you don�t � you are invited to say so. I�ve provided an e-mail link on the title page and at the end of each chapter, and will post your comments on a separate page. I will also reply where appropriate, and offer further �insight� should the need arise. Of course, if no one bothers to say anything, I will be crushed � and then I will go on writing. In the meantime, thank you for visiting, and happy reading.
Creative Arts Book Company, Creative Arts Books, or just plain Creative Arts � whatever you call them, the fact remains the same: the publisher, Donald S. Ellis, has lied to me once again. After I was given the usual e-mail run-around, I learned yesterday (November 25, 2003) from Donald S. Ellis himself that the books weren�t shipped on the 24th or 25th as he said they would be (see publication updates, below). Not only that, they weren�t even printed. And, judging by his message, it looks like they aren�t going to be. At least that�s how I interpreted his rather strange offer to send me the print-ready computer disc, which he said he would be happy to do. So I guess this means I am welcome to pay several thousand dollars to have the book printed � that is, after I�ve paid someone to remove the Creative Arts Book Company name and logo from the cover, and to have their name removed from the title and copyright pages as publisher and replaced with my own. Doesn�t that sound like fun? Doesn�t that sound like a good deal? Never mind the marketing part and the distribution part. And so I added up all the lies and additional gray hairs and did the only thing left that makes any sense: I offered to settle with Creative Arts Book Company out of court, named a ridiculously low figure, and told Donald S. Ellis I needed to hear from him, yes or no, by the end of the day. I received no response. So much, I guess, for Donald S. Ellis and Creative Arts Book Company. In the end, they have taken two and a half years to not publish my book, after saying it would take fourteen to eighteen months. Along the way, I was patient and polite, and I gave them the benefit of every doubt. Then, one by one, the lies became clear and continued to mount. All of this is fully documented, otherwise I wouldn�t be saying it. Donald S. Ellis knows this. He also knows that his reputation and future ability to attract authors will suffer drastically as a result. This is what he deserves, because he has brought it upon himself. Meanwhile, I will do what I said I was going to do. In the near future, I will present my novel, A Listening Thing, in its entirety here on the website. I will stand behind my book and the important story it tells, even though, for the time being, it remains in electronic form. Because I still believe A Listening Thing will appear in print someday. Further, I believe it will eventually be recognized as at least a modest contribution to literature. Of course, I might be dead when all this happens. If that�s the case, then so be it. But in the meantime, at least I will have told the truth.
Note: I have since learned through the publishing grapevine that a large number of authors and their books have suffered similarly at the hands of Donald S. Ellis and Creative Arts Book Company. It is not a pretty picture. The lies I was told appear to be part of a pattern that has been going on for some time. This includes non-payment of royalties and a lack of timely accounting statements; missed publication dates; the absence of marketing support; and misrepresentation in the number of copies printed and book quality. So in a sense, I am fortunate that my book wasn�t released. At least I am free to carry on, and readers won�t be stuck with a shoddy product.
Publication Update, November 13, 2003 � I am pleased to report that Creative Arts Book Company publisher Donald S. Ellis did indeed contact me today by e-mail. He said the copies of my novel, A Listening Thing, �will ship on the 24th or 25th.� He didn�t say which month or which year, but I am going to go out on a limb and assume he meant November 2003. In any case, we shall soon find out. He did say he hoped visitors following this chronicle of our difficulties �will try to understand how difficult small business is in general and the book business in particular since 9/11 and after.� Of course, visitors are painfully aware of the current economy. And those already familiar with the site know that I am not exactly Mr. Moneybags myself. Basically, I am just a hopelessly impractical person who writes novels, stories, and poems, because it is much easier than pretending to be something I�m not. And so I replied that while I haven�t enjoyed exposing our problems to the world, it could have been avoided entirely if he had been more forthcoming. I also reminded him that I have said some very nice things on the site about Creative Arts Book Company in the past. And one of them bears repeating: they have published a lot of neat books. What Mr. Ellis needs to remember, though, is that without us writers, he wouldn�t have a leg to stand on. If we are truly in this together, as he claimed during the early days of our business relationship, ignoring my e-mails and not doing what he says he�s going to do aren�t very good ways of showing it. And the question remains, what if I had said nothing, and continued being patient? Would A Listening Thing have ever seen the light of day? It�s impossible to know for sure, but I have my doubts. As it is, we will still have to wait and see.
Publication Update, November 11, 2003 � The Creative Arts Book Company saga continues. As it turns out, I was right to doubt the publisher�s promise to deliver books during the first week of November. The week passed in silence. I wrote to Donald S. Ellis and three of his employees on Friday morning, November 7, asking if the books had arrived. By the time Monday rolled around, I still hadn�t heard from anyone, so I wrote again and reminded him of his legal obligation. He replied later that afternoon with a short letter filled with half-baked excuses, and made no reference whatsoever to the copies of A Listening Thing that were to have arrived during the preceding week. Then he thanked me for my �understanding.� I wrote and told him that it was obvious he had only been stalling for time when he said the books would be in, and that he should do whatever it takes to publish my novel immediately, even if it meant him borrowing money or getting a job. He replied this afternoon. The first thing he said was, �You�re right.� Then he said he also thought he could get some financing by the end of the week and have books �five or six days after that,� and that he would let me know by e-mail on Thursday exactly when the books would be shipped. He also said he knows I�m not holding my breath. And he�s right. What he might not know or realize, however, is how much this entire affair bores me, and how much time I have wasted as a result of his actions. Still, if the book does come out as he says, then we will all be able to put this nonsense behind us and let the poor novel speak for itself. One thing is certain: A Listening Thing will leave a far better taste in your mouth than this pathetic story.
Publication Update, October 21, 2003 � Well, here we go again. I know what you�re thinking. My novel, A Listening Thing, was supposed to be out in September. That�s what I thought, too. And that�s what I was told by my editor, Josh Vallee, at Creative Arts Book Company back in May. To be more precise, he told me the book would be out on September 15. He said that because that�s what the publisher himself, Donald S. Ellis, told him. But now it appears that Mr. Ellis had no real intention of releasing the book on September 15 after all. I say this because, after a flurry of e-mails at the end of September in which I asked when the book was coming out (most of which were ignored), Mr. Ellis finally wrote to me on September 30 and said he was sending the book to the printer that day, and that copies should be available �in about three weeks,� but that he was �pushing to have it sooner.� He also said he should know the exact publication date by October 6, and that he would call me at that time. He didn�t call. He didn�t write. No one from Creative Arts did. And so, after yet another flurry of e-mails (most of which were ignored), I finally received an e-mail from his assistant on October 20 saying that �Mr. Ellis asked that I write to let you know that A Listening Thing should be in from the printer sometime in the first week of November.� Why Mr. Ellis didn�t bother telling me this sooner (I�ve been requesting this information since October 8) is anyone�s guess. So, there you have it. The book was originally supposed to be out last fall. Then it was supposed to be out this spring. Then it was supposed to be out in September. Now it�s supposed to be out the first week of November. Who knows? This time, maybe it will really happen. Under the circumstances, though, I�m not holding my breath. But I do know this: if Mr. Ellis and Creative Arts Book Company don�t come through as promised, I will publish A Listening Thing in its entirety, and at no charge to readers, here on the website. To me, making good on my word is far more important than making money. For far too long, I have said in these pages that A Listening Thing is coming out � sometime. And so it will, even if I have to publish it here myself. In the meantime, I apologize to everyone who has tried unsuccessfully to order the book. Whether you eventually read it here or in book form, it is my sincere belief that it will have been worth the wait. I also apologize for subjecting you to this rather boring soap opera. As regular visitors know and new visitors will discover with a minimum of exploration, this is not what this website is for, or about. I only wish it hadn�t been necessary.
The Webmaster�s Reading List continues to grow. For updates on Vahan�s reading activity, click here.My daily journal, One Hand Clapping, has been divided into smaller sections. For quicker access, each month has been given its own page, and on each page links to the other months are provided.
A French translation of my poem, Friends, has been added to the site. My thanks to Louise Kiffer-Sarian for her work, and for publishing the translation online.
The long wait is almost over. My novel, A Listening Thing, will be released by Creative Arts Book Company in September. You can order the book now at your favorite bookstore, or through a wide variety of online outlets, including amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and Powell�s Books. You won�t receive the book until September, but by ordering early you can be part of the glorious stampede that makes A Listening Thing soar right to the top of the bestseller list. Or, to put it another way, my mother can buy only so many copies. She needs your help if the novel is to make literary history.
Getting back to the subject of literature, we�ve added a new Webmaster�s Reading List to the Favorite Books and Authors page. The list shows the impressive number of titles my son, Vahan, has devoured in the last couple of years.
After an exciting week of technological torment (I�ll spare you the gory details), there has been a slight change in our website address. Our new URL is www.williammichaelian.com. Please save this in your favorites. If you have any of our e-mail addresses stored in your address book, please note that these have changed also, and will follow the new format, i.e., [email protected], and so on.
Another addition to the Favorite Books & Authors page focuses on the classic 1970 Dover edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a wonderful poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge illustrated by Gustave Dor�.
Thanks to a fascinating used book I brought home recently, my Favorite Books & Authors page now includes a little information on Scottish short story writers. A brief summary of The Giant Book of Scottish Short Stories can be found near the bottom of the page.
So we can all be in a position tomorrow to know what I was thinking and doing today, I�ve started keeping an online daily journal. To find out what�s on my mind, go to One Hand Clapping.Recently on the forum page, I mentioned that I had unearthed an old paperback edition of Stephen Crane�s The Red Badge of Courage (1895). I just finished it, along with Chasing C�zanne (Knopf, 1997), a novel by Peter Mayle. The Red Badge of Courage is a short novel set during the American Civil War. Facing battle for the first time, a newly enlisted Union soldier named Henry is overcome with fear and runs. A few hours later, when he rejoins his regiment, he is relieved to learn that no one knows where he has been, and quickly makes up a story about how he was separated from the regiment during battle. The rest of the novel deals primarily with Henry�s thoughts as he tries to justify what he has done and come to grips with what is happening around him. In successive battles, he distinguishes himself by carrying the regiment�s flag. In the process, he gains valuable perspective and a small degree of self-knowledge. But the end of the story is really only the beginning. There are many battles to come, and no way of knowing whether or not Henry will survive. Stephen Crane was twenty-four when this book was published. The Red Badge of Courage is far from a perfect piece of writing, but one can�t help but appreciate the author�s eagerness to take on such a gritty subject. His descriptions of fallen soldiers are moving, and the smoke and roar of battle is vividly realized. It is definitely worthwhile reading. . . . In contrast, Peter Mayle�s Chasing C�zanne is a fast-paced, sarcastic novel that makes pleasant reading after a hard day�s work. While it seems unlikely that the book will be remembered a hundred or even twenty years from now, this takes nothing away from the author�s ability to entertain. And it�s obvious that this is his main concern. No deep questions are asked or answered. In a nutshell, a freelance magazine photographer named Andr� stumbles onto an art-forging operation run by an egotistical runt named Holtz and Camilla, the high-profile vegetarian editor of DQ, the decorating magazine Andr� flies around the world doing work for. The trouble begins in Paris, follows him home to New York, and then back again to Paris, where he nearly gets killed several times, along with his beautiful new girlfriend and a cagey, good-natured art dealer who has agreed to help Andr� sniff out the truth (hoping to profit, of course) about one of C�zanne�s paintings, which has been whisked away from the home of a wealthy French family in a plumber�s van and copied by a brilliant, earthy Dutchman named Franzen. The painting and the copy are each worth thirty million dollars � enough money to make a lot of people very nervous and very dangerous. From the beginning, though, there is never any doubt that Andr� will survive and get the girl, and that the bad guys will be frustrated. But it doesn�t matter. The descriptions of French food alone are enough to keep one reading, as well as the interesting habits of people with too much money and too much time on their hands.
I�d like to take a moment to thank Margaret Stephens and Bob Rossi for publishing four of my poems in the January/February 2003 issue of their newsletter, Northwest Ethnic Voice. The poems included were �Diaspora,� �Struggle,� �Home Service,� and �Armenian Music.� Northwest Ethnic Voice, �a progressive review of multi-ethnic music, food, and culture,� is published in Salem, Oregon. Subscriptions are $10.00 per year. For more information, write to the editors at P.O. Box 2766, Salem, OR 97308, or visit their website at www.geocities.com/tikhos/index.
This poetry thing is getting to be a habit. In keeping with our recently established monthly tradition, another poem, Revelation, has been added to the site. Links to previous poems can be found on the new page.
The old saying that talk never settled anything takes on added meaning in our new Conversation page. The fun begins with my December 2002 interview of Barbaric Yawp editor John Berbrich, then continues with an all-new literary forum. Participation in the forum is easy. Or, if you prefer to sit back and privately mock the proceedings, that�s fine too. You�re welcome either way.
While shamelessly searching for my name in Google Groups recently, I came across a most interesting item. In a group called alt.religion.kibology, a person using the screen name �Pugg� had this to say:
Every now (and then), when I�m bored and/or at work, I�ll type nonsense words into Google to see if anyone else out there has ever used my nonsense word on a web page. Today�s word, �pezzle,� led me to this rather unusual short story:
Well, thank you, Pugg. Despite the social-political commentary it contains, above all, the story was meant to be fun. For the record, though, the Martian word pezzle is not a nonsense word. Pezzle means �head.� The same goes for flondula, a standard form of conveyance, and crizzle and zoop, two terms of measurement. I�ll concede, though, that the words seem like nonsense words. But so do most other words, especially after shouting them several dozen times while under the influence of Zozz ale.
Thanks to a very encouraging response, we�ve added another poem to the site. I hope you enjoy Monastery of Psalms. A link to the poem can also be found near the top of the main page. Another link to the previous poem, A Larger Life, is included on the new poetry page.
Awhile back, I mentioned that a short story of mine, �Old Bedros,� had been translated into Armenian and was due to appear in Aghpyur, a monthly children�s magazine in Yerevan, Armenia. The other day, my brother and his wife brought copies of the issue with them from Armenia. I thanked them and said, �Gee, you didn�t have to come all this way to bring these. You could have mailed them.� Then I saw their pile of luggage and remembered they had also come for a visit. The magazine is beautiful. It is full of colorful drawings by and for kids, as well as poems, letters, and stories. �Old Bedros� is printed on a bright-yellow background, and is complemented by a beautiful drawing by the magazine�s art editor, Hovnan Garabedyan, to whom I offer my sincere thanks. To have a look, click on the accompanying thumbnail image. My thanks also go to Aghpyur�s editor-in-chief, Tadevos Tonoyan, and Samvel Mkrtchian, who translated the story.
When I think of all the intriguing words in my trusty old dictionary, I wonder why I don�t use more of them. Well, I know why. I can never come up with a sentence where I need a word like �recrementitious� or �murlmewes.� But that doesn�t make the book any less fun to read. In fact, more than once, I�ve thought that if I were allowed to own only one book in life, I would choose my dictionary. That�s why I decided to include it in Favorite Books & Authors. To find out more about my old friend and the many wonderful words and definitions it contains, go to Webster�s �New� International Dictionary.
For visitors who have read about William Saroyan in my new page about writers and books and would like to know a little more about this particular author, we�ve added a page called More Saroyan. A link can also be found at the end of the Saroyan section in Favorite Books & Authors. I�ll be adding to both sections as we go along.
To further complicate matters, we�ve added another page to the site. Favorite Books & Authors is a new section in which I go on and on about the books I�ve read and the writers I like best. To get the ball rolling, I�ve started with William Saroyan, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Kahlil Gibran. But there are a great many books and authors to go, so check often for updates.
Over the last few years, I�ve had quite a few poems published in small magazines � not a great number, by any stretch, but enough to know that there are folks out there who, if they don�t share my poetic outlook on life, at least recognize its possible validity. Unfortunately, I have never systematically pursued publication of my poetry, relying instead on a hit-and-miss method of submitting work that many dedicated poets would find disgusting. The fact is, I have read about industrious poets who have garnered hundreds, and in some cases, thousands, of publishing credits, amassed over years of relentlessly battering the editors of poetry magazines, most of which are run on a shoestring by poets who are similarly dedicated. I marvel at this. I think it�s great, and I think the world is a better place because of it, even though the average person on the street is unaware that such a thing is going on. I look at it this way: imagine the world without trees; a world without poems would be just as bleak. I also think that modern society would be doing itself a big favor if it embraced poetry instead of the crass commercialism being shoved down our throats by a corporate culture that sees people as numbers and puts profit above all else. People need poetry far more than they need a new car, a new kind of deodorant, or a new way to alter their naturally beautiful appearance. Humankind will learn nothing by using these so-called products, except how to feel more insecure, spend more money, and dig itself deeper into debt. Reading a good poem, on the other hand, is a quiet experience that restores our dignity by making us look at ourselves and the world around us. The same can be said for writing a poem. To me, there is something holy in scratching out a few lines on a blank piece of paper. For the moment, at least, the nonsense swirling around me subsides. The world stops. It is an experience akin to watching a child at play, or a spider weaving its web, or a hummingbird sipping nectar from a flower. In each case, the result is silence and wonder. With this in mind, I have decided to offer one of my poems, A Larger Life, here on the website. I invite you to read the poem and to let me know what you think.
It�s official: I survived my ninety-day writing adventure. If you�ve fallen behind on your reading or are new to the site, there is a grand total of seventy stories available for your reading pleasure, plus a Preface that explains what I�ve been up to and why. At the bottom of the Title Page, you will also find a batch of interesting statistics. (If you would like to read the original �No Time to Cut My Hair� project announcement, click here.) Now, a few thanks are in order. First I would like to thank my son, Vahan, for sticking by me these last three months and seeing to it that the stories were added as soon as they were finished, and were properly linked to each other so visitors could read them in order without having to go back to the title page. Without his help, this project could never have been done. So, if you�re looking for someone to blame, he�s your man. Next, I would like to thank those of you who have taken the time to send me your comments. I truly appreciate it. Also, many of you have told your friends and family about the stories, and about the website in general. For this I am grateful. In return, I will continue to do my best to make your time, and theirs, worthwhile. Finally, my dear wife, Denise, should definitely receive some kind of award � not only for her patience, but for her willingness to stand by me while I make a fool of myself. It hasn�t been easy for her, I know. Then again, that�s the price she pays for not listening to her mother years ago.
Speaking of short stories, it�s hard to believe I�m already two-thirds of the way through my ninety-day writing adventure. Where has the time gone? More to the point, where is the aspirin? If somebody told me I was going to write forty-three stories in sixty days, and that after doing so I would still have a solid month of writing ahead of me, I would have said, Huh? Of course, that�s what I say all the time anyway. The point being, when I started this project I had no idea what I was doing, and I still don�t. Oh, well. In the meantime, I�m having a lot of fun. I hope you are, too. If nothing else, we�ve all gained some insight, I think, into what makes me tick, and, thanks to a few of the stories, into what ticks me off. I�m fascinated, thus far, by the overall picture that�s forming. Each day brings its own influence. The stories reflect the news, household events, memories, dreams, the weather, and, above all, my mood. They also show that I am not always in full possession of my faculties. But, what the heck? You knew that already. Certainly, no one in his right mind would have begun such a project in the first place. As for the month to come, like the stories themselves, we�ll just have to wait and see what happens.
I�ve been so busy writing stories lately (No Time to Cut My Hair) that I haven�t had time to mention the recent and/or upcoming publication of several of my poems and stories. In the April 2002 issue of The Synergyst, a quarterly poetry magazine published by John and Nancy Berbrich of Barbaric Yawp fame, I have a poem called �Forty Days, Forty Nights,� which was written about a rock we used to have on the farm. Actually, it�s about a lot more than a rock. If you�d like to find out how much more, send $3.00 to BoneWorld Publishing at 3700 County Rt. 24, Russell, NY 13684. Even if you�re disappointed in the poem, there are a lot of others in the thirty-page publication that you�re sure to enjoy. And speaking of The Synergyst, the current issue (August 2002) features three more of my offerings. �A Larger Life� and �Friends� are poems; �Of Poets and Other Things� is a short essay/remembrance having to do with a poetry class I sat in on years ago, the destructive effect its teacher was having on his students, and the indomitable poetic spirit of one class member in particular. This issue is also $3.00. In my opinion, the August 2002 issue is one of John and Nancy�s best. John�s introduction and parting thoughts alone make it worth far more than the measly three bones they charge for a copy. Moving right along, in the coming weeks (or months, I�m not really sure), six of my poems will be published in Ararat. Three of those poems were recently translated into Armenian and will appear in Armenia by and by. In the short story realm, a translation of �Old Bedros,� a story about a hermit living out his final days, is scheduled to appear sometime this fall in Aghpyur, a children�s magazine published in Yerevan. And a couple of weeks ago I learned that The Rockford Review, a literary tri-quarterly (I�ve always wondered about that term) published in Illinois by the Rockford Writers� Guild, will be including a story of mine called �The Dry, Hot Earth� in its October 2002 issue. Single copies of the Review are $6.00. Send your payment to Rockford Writers� Guild, 7721 Venus St., Loves Park, IL 61111.
Well, the challenge is on. Since August 1, I have been feverishly writing new stories and adding them to the site. To read the results so far and to check on my progress, click on No Time to Cut My Hair. This will take you to the title page, where you will find individual links for the Preface and each story, along with its post date and word count. (If you�re new to the site, or if you missed the link to the project announcement at the top of each page, click here.) Also, my thanks to those of you who have been reading the stories and sending comments. Who knows? With enough encouragement, I might even survive this insane project.
During the past few days, I�ve been reading over some new Armenian translations of one of my short stories and three of my poems, which are being readied for publication in Armenia. I�m pleased with the way they turned out. Samvel Mkrtchian, the Yerevan writer who did the translations, seems to have a good understanding of what�s going on in my head. (Maybe I should feel sorry for him.) Had I written the pieces in Armenian myself, I feel the result would have been the same, or very nearly the same, as his. I understand, of course, that it is impossible for a translator not to influence the final outcome. A word or phrase cannot mean exactly the same thing to everyone. The fact is, even when we read something written in our so-called Mother Tongue, we give it our own translation. This is why literature inevitably takes on a life of its own, and why it can mean so many different things to so many different people. If it didn�t, it wouldn�t be literature. It would be something else: cement, perhaps, or bird seed, or a can of beans.
Now that william-michaelian.com has been indexed by all the major search engines, the site receives visitors daily from around the globe. In fact, courtesy of Google, these pages have been translated into several other languages, rendering my poor English into even poorer Chinese, French, Basque, German, and Spanish, thereby confusing a multitude of new friends and potential enemies. I must say, I enjoy making a fool of myself on such a large scale. The Internet is a strangely appealing universe, a non-place the magnitude of which I am only beginning to appreciate and understand. It is not unlike the space between my ears � the potential is staggering, the results unclear. I am comfortable with this arrangement � perhaps a little too comfortable. It could be that I am becoming, little by little, a cyber-figment of my own imagination, and that someday, someone with an evil sense of humor will pull the plug and I will disappear.For quite some time, I�ve thought it would be nice to offer a summarized version of the links and recommendations that appear on the site. Finally, I�ve done something about it. To see the list, which contains some newly added links, go to �Highly Recommended.� In the future, when I rave about something, I�ll also update the list. This should make your life easier, while further complicating mine � a happy arrangement if there ever was one.
Translation Department: I was pleased to learn a few days ago that two of my poems were included in the February 2002 issue of Aghpyur, a magazine for children edited by Tatevos Tonoyan in Yerevan, Armenia. Sponsored by the Armenian government, Aghpyur recently celebrated its seventy-fifth year of publication. The magazine features the work of children of all ages, who contribute poetry, short stories, drawings, and commentary, presented in a colorful format. Work suitable for children written by adults is also included.
I just finished reading a new chapbook of poems by Maine writer, Nancy Henry. Anything Can Happen is a lovely, quiet collection of thirty-five poems divided into three sections. Each section title echoes a line from one of the poems that follow, and also tells the reader something about the perspective and mood of that section. Ms. Henry�s voice, though quiet, is not humorless. And while she is obviously a sympathetic observer of the human condition, she also holds people accountable for their actions, her own included. She is very good at seeing life from a wide variety of viewpoints, and at distilling what she sees into a few telling lines. Most important, she has not lost her sense of wonder, which, when it comes to poetry, is an element as basic as fire and as necessary as water. Of course, the same can be said for life and the way we live it � a key point aptly addressed by this collection. I won�t say that I liked all of the poems in Anything Can Happen. I liked most of them. And most invite re-reading. A few even require it. But this is not a bad thing, and the reader is rewarded for the effort. Anything Can Happen was released in January 2002 by MuscleHead Press. Its thirty-one pages are graced by an inviting color cover done by artist Tracy Cox. The chapbook is $3.00. Send payment to MuscleHead Press, 3700 County Rt. 24, Russell, NY 13684.
In the few weeks since this site was launched, we have had hundreds of visits. Most have originated in the U.S. There have also been visitors from Spain, Sweden, China, Austria, Canada, Turkmenistan, Armenia, New Zealand, and the Russian Federation. I know people in only four of these �foreign� countries. Thanks to the Internet, however, this appears to be a temporary condition. While most major search engines have yet to pick up on our existence, a recent search conducted at Search.com revealed that the site has been indexed by Thunderstone, which silently patrols the cyber-universe in a noble attempt to catalog what�s �out there.� (Sounds like Star Trek.) Well, we�re out there. In fact, quite frequently, my wife tells me we�re so far out that she wonders if we�ll ever make it back. I wish I had something positive to tell her. Over the years, I�ve presented her with so many lame, sugar-coated �maybes� that she�s, well, skeptical. But now that the site is taking off, she�s looking at me differently. Maybe you know that look. It�s a look that says, �Where am I going to put you, anyway?�
Post-Publication Detail: An old friend of mine, who in spite of my poor influence grew up to be a capable, dedicated teacher of English and high school journalism, let me know recently that he made effective use of a couple of my offerings in his beginning journalism class. Both pieces were published in Ararat Quarterly, and translated and published in Armenia. One, �When the World Softly Dies,� is fiction; the other, �A Map of My Heart,� is the recollection I mentioned earlier (see below). My thanks to Dave Menendian for his thoughtfulness and effort, and for not pointing out this author�s many limitations.
While awaiting the arrival of A Listening Thing, I�ve been keeping busy on other projects. In fact, I�ve just finished my second novel. The Smiling Eyes of Children is the story of a once-famous writer who pushes himself to exhaustion while he stages a comeback, copes with his mother�s death, and tries to mend fences with his estranged older brother. Based on a runaway interview conducted by an idealistic young journalist, the novel sheds light on the dark corners of the mind while exploring the creative process, marriage, death, politics, religion, patriotism, war, and the often painful dynamics of family relationships.
On the nonfiction front, Ararat, the magazine mentioned in the biographical note on the main page, published a piece of mine that I�m very proud of. Part reminiscence and part essay, �A Map of My Heart� gives a good idea of what life was like for Armenian farmers making their way in California�s San Joaquin Valley during the early part of the twentieth century. Following the narrow country roads in the area where I grew up, it explores the meaning of home � both in a personal sense, and within the context of an uprooted people living in a new culture. Back issues are available for $7.00. Send a check with your request for the Winter 2001 issue to Ararat, 55 East 59th St., New York NY 10022-1112. For international orders, first contact [email protected] and ask for the price.
Speaking of maps, an Armenian translation of �A Map of My Heart� appeared recently in Grakan Tert, a bi-weekly literary newspaper published by the Writers� Union of Armenia. The piece was translated by Samvel Mkrtchian, a writer and translator who lives in Yerevan.
Poetry, anyone? Barbaric Yawp, a pleasantly audacious Small Press quarterly, has included two of my efforts in its December 2001 issue. You can learn more about Barbaric Yawp by clicking on �Highly Recommended.� To order copies, send $4.00 for each to the editor, John Berbrich, at 3700 County Rt. 24, Russell NY 13684. Be sure to tell him �Willie� sent you.
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
80 pages. Paper.
Signed copies available
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
Songs and Letters
Early Short Stories
Cosmopsis Print Editions
Favorite Books & Authors
Flippantly Answered Questions
E-mail & Parting Thoughts