CCLaP’s The New York Stories: Kick Assedly Illustrated by Laura Szumowski

The Chicago Center for Literature & Photography (CCLaP) has been making the rounds of these internets for a good while recently and will continue to do so for a good while yet. Why? To sound the trumpet for their wonderfully conceived The New York Stories, a compendium of two previously published ebooks by longtime friend of Untoward, Ben Tanzer.

But forget all that.

I mean, sure, as I say we love Ben. But there’s also the pictures! The pictures are something we here at Untoward love. We enjoy looking at things. And Ben’s not responsible for those. Laura Szumowski is!

The cover is made of faux-suede and bound with external Coptic stitching. That’s right, COPTIC. But most important of all is the pictures, one of which, as you can see, graces the front cover.

Here, see it up much closer:

No! We can do even bigger than that! Bigger and more seeable here:

There. Now you can really SEE. This is upper New York state, much the same as the one that author Ben Tanzer grew up in. Or so I’m told. It’s also as rendered through the eyes Laura Szumowski, a native Chicagoan, who’s maybe never seen even pictures of New York! Or something similar to Kafka’s situation in relation to Amerika, a country he’d never in his lifetime visit. Except, of course, Kafka had no Ben Tanzer, and he stopped writing Amerika, an unfinished novel, some twelve years before he died. It’s entirely possible Szumowski has been to upper New York, certainly at the least seen pictures.  But that becomes a pretty considerable digression, so perhaps we’ll just move on.

Unless you wanted to keep talking about Kafka…no, no of course not.


Here’s a few members of the cast of one of the stories:

If you’re a betting person I’d go with a young Ben Tanzer being the one on the far left there. Even if it’s a known fact Tanzer is a diehard Deadhead and less interested in the psychedelic stylings of  Pink Floyd.

Though we could speculate all day about who in the above illustration is intended to be based on a young Ben Tanzer. I like to think they all are, in some way, a young Ben Tanzer. And do you know who allowed me to think these things? Laura Szumowski! So don’t fight it, speculate away. And there are almost certainly many other things to appreciate about this fantastic collaboration between two of Chicago’s best people, especially in terms of what they do really spectacularly well.

Go, go now!

AWP Karaoke Idol!

Yes, alongside too many awesome literary publications, Untoward will be putting our vocal splendor on display. In this event, we will be represented by resident intern-in-training Mason Todd Johnson Ochocinco. I’ll be there, too, though, cheering him on and hopefully being decidedly untoward in the process. It ought to be something to see, and even in the event we don’t win, people will know our name, because we’ll be asked to stop eventually and repeatedly. I should think so.

Anyway, it should be a great time and I encourage you to come on out. Some awesome celebrity judges in Amy Guth, Joe Meno and Patrick Somerville. I imagine tears will be shed. I’m hopeful.  It’ll be at The Beauty Bar at 1444 W. Chicago Ave, March 1st, 9pm start time. Be there or b squared.

Yes, Untoward Will Be Doing Some AWP Chicago Off-Site Shenanigans

Yes, yes, a thousand times! I’ve said it already, but I’d like to confirm here directly, mincing so few words, well, no, mincing a lot, per custom, my custom, but still, that we will definitely be hosting — in association with Love Symbol Press, Pangur Ban Party, and Let People Poems — a reading.

Anyway, location details and whatnot are available through Facebook, but the skinny is: when, March 2, 2012; where, 1824 S. Throop St. (there’ll be a sign); who, way too many to name here (see Facebook)

Now, here’s an overlarge banner (it also lists mostly who’ll be attending):

Letter From the Editor in the New Year 2012

Matt Rowan, An Editor of Years and Tears

I’m excited. I say excited and that I am excited often, but that’s because I am excited often! I see good things for Untoward in the New Year. Really. Really good things. I’d like to start off, though, by thanking heartily and thoroughly all of the past year’s contributors. I’d list you all by name but that becomes really difficult considering there was such a huge outpouring of interest and enthusiasm and just plain great work from so many. It’s not like the end of 2010, when we could about count our previous and forthcoming (great) contributors on one hand (see it for yourself)

Anyway, we’ll be kicking of 2012 on Untoward very soon, January 3rd soon. By then, we’ll have fiction by James Warner and Mark Jordan Manner posted for your enjoyment. I know I’ll enjoy it. Both sane and insane people alike should enjoy it. Only the worst misers the world has ever known won’t.

Have I said how excited I am for the new year?

It’s Finally Here: Untoward Day at the Beauty Bar

I’d go into a long and desparate appeal regarding your attending Untoward’s one-year anniversary, but that doesn’t seem like the RIGHT thing to do. I don’t want to “used car salesman” you over to the Beauty Bar tonight. All I can say is, with the readers we have lined up, this will be awesome.

I make no promises about my own entertainment value, but there’s enough here to insulate you from my potential inadequacy, including P. Fanatic and Untoward contributor / consultant, Mason T. Johnson. Things should be good, if not great, is what I’m saying. So come. The Beauty Bar is beautiful and they serve liquor.



Thanksgiving 2011: A Good Day to Announce Our Pushcart Nominees

Hey there, friends of Untoward and the rest,

We’ve felt pretty fortunate here in the last year to publish stuff we really like. Stuff we REALLY like. What does Artifice Magazine say about it? They say about their stuff “The things we like, we like more than we can stand.” Rather than go ahead and be “original” I’m gonna just piggyback on that sentiment, just in terms of the untoward things we editors at Untoward have enjoyed.

Like the Greek restaurateur who raises menu prices in order to increase monies made in tips for his wait staff,  I’m am really pleased to have had the opportunity to nominate several excellent pieces of fiction for the 2012 Pushcart Prize.

In complete seriousness, it has been too much fun working on Untoward this last year and I thank all of our contributors and readers and the rest for the great work and encouragement you’ve added to this endeavor. We could not do it without you, nor would we want to.

Without further ado, here are our nominees, with links to their pieces on Untoward:

A D Jameson – “5000 Units of Product” –

Thomas Mundt – “Two Capricorns” –

Perle Besserman – “The Party” –

Robert Rosenberg – “Used Crib” –

Alec Bryan – “Percival” –

Loren Sundlee – “Saints” –

Have the greatest Thanksgiving of your lives, folks! Eat a football, if the mood moves you to do so.

How Time is on Fire: Untoward’s Fiery First Year of Dynamite

Dear Everyone,

Wow, let me start off by clearly stating, W-O-W, wow-we. And let me next say, thanks, thanks to each and every contributor to Untoward. And every reader, too. All of you readers, contributors and contributor-readers, thanks for making this what it has been so far: a lot of fun to put together, among other things. I’d love to elaborate further on exactly what this has been so far (see especially “among other things”), but I think that belies the point somewhat. I don’t know what this has been, just that it has been fun. Well, ok, I have some idea of what this has been to me. What Untoward has been after a full year in operation to me. But if the “to me” in italics didn’t spell it out clearly enough, that’s only really my own impression, and I don’t want to color yours too much with that.

It’s more important that people are reading and, one way or another, reacting to the really great fiction we’ve been privileged to publish.

It’s furthermore important that people are enjoying the fire behind Untoward. I don’t exactly mean literal fire, but I’d like to. Which is to say, how can we harness fire for Untoward? Obviously you can’t get that into a computer, let alone the entirety of the Internet. And yet I dare to dream that one day we might, and that somehow this will help with what Untoward is. Deciding what Untoward is. It’s not altogether unlike that strangely askew Rubik’s Cube that illustrates our most recent Featured Fiction, John Thurgood’s “The Thing with the Clothes.” It’s not like that Rubik’s Cube, either, and yet I wish to dare to dream that it could.

What else is there to say? Just the following questions and answers, to sum up…

Goals for the future? 1.) Never define what this is. 2.) Harness fire for to put behind Untoward.


Fiery Matt

Dialogue Contest a la Bartleby Snopes

I want you to know, friends of Untoward, that Bartleby Snopes is hosting a pretty great dialogue fiction contest, which you too could be a part of.

Things to be aware of, first and foremost:

This contest is for fiction that is exclusively written in  dialogue and dialogue only. So enough with the detached third-person narrator / omniscent eye. We don’t need that here. Save it for your erudite submission to The New Yorker.

There’s the NOMINAL entry fee of ten dollars, but with said ten dollars you’re free to submit as many stories as you like till the end of the initial submitting period (though only one story at a time; Bartleby Snopes has a pretty excellent response time).

Everything else, and including what I’ve stated here, is outlined and / or pretty well explained on the Contests Page at Bartleby Snopes.  OH, OH, OH: Keep in mind all initial submissions MUST be received by September 12th. The current grand prize total is $380, which is a lot of shamoleyans.

I mention this contest also because not only will I be a guest judge, but more importantly Ben Loory (author of the awesome collection Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) will be guest judge for the final round.

So submit to this contest today!

Being Literary & Social in Chicago, P. Fanatics Reading Series and More!

There’s a lot of fun stuff this week to know about and to do. Technically, the culmination of the events of this week is an event that is happening next week, Sunday the 14th of August — not to blow your mind chronologically.

On that day, P. Fanatics Reading Series returns and Mason Johnson storms back to center stage like a dynamic hurricane wind that is also snarky and kind of a Poindexter (Take that former Reagan administration National Security Adviser John Poindexter!).

The theme of this P. Fanatics? A Circle Jerk! Figure that out! Circle jerks in all of their many and colorful forms will no doubt be on display with readings from prominent folks like the always 100% polite and tasteful Jacob Knabb (that is, assuming swarthy Harold Ray doesn’t accompany him, making a fool’s display of himself), The Lovely Ladies of The Sunday Night Sex Show, Robyn Pennacchia & Samantha Irby, Knee-Jerk Magazine’s Steve Tartaglione, P. Fanatic favorites Dan Shapiro & Ian Jones, and the brave Meghan Rock and Susie Swanton.

Show starts at 7:30 pm (more or less sharp) at Cole’s Bar (2338 N. Milwaukee) in Chicago. It should be a night of dynamic winds much as has been described already. Check out the official notification regarding P. Fanatics HERE.

But as the “and More” in the title of this post alludes, THERE IS MORE! (In reverse Chronological Order):

Friday, August 12th (doors open at 8pm and show starts at 9) might possibly be the last Ray’s Tap Reading (3047 N. Kimball Avenue) ever and of all time. If you can summon the will to power to go, you might earnestly and sincerely consider doing so. I, Matt Rowan, will be there, reading about an imaginary bird. That’s the theme conjured by Ray’s Tap host Chris Bower: imaginary birds. So if you like birds that are not to be found in the real world, say birds like the Semen Swallow, this is the reading for you. If you think you can handle more than one reading in three nights by Mason Johnson and / or Dan Shapiro, this is the place to be.

Click all this text to learn more about Ray’s on its Facebook event page.

Thursday, August 11th, Ipsento Reading Series (Start time, 7:00 pm sharp; place, The Ipsento Coffeehouse, 2035 N. Western). Prefer coffee to beer? Prefer experimental literature to experimental literature centering on circle jerks and / or imaginary birds? Then this might be the reading for you.

Join longtime friend of Untoward, A D Jameson, along with Colin Winnette and Ben Clark for a  little reading 2 blocks north of the Western Blue Line stop. See Ipsento Facebook event page HERE.

Wednesday Night, August 10th, start time 7pm: CCLaP (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography) 4 Book Release Party! BenTanzer will be there on account of the release of his book of essays, 99 Problems.

Mark R. Brand, Sally Weigel and Jason Fisk will be the other four authors in attendance, making up the group of 4 release party. It’s at the Beauty Bar (1444 W. Chicago). Plus there are several posts regarding its imminence on CLLaP’s blog, and here is one.

I myself am going to make every effort to be at all of these readings! So many readings! Can I do it? Only time will tell but even if I can’t you should give it a try. Because that’s the brave thing to do, being social and literary. I hope this has all been very illuminating.

How About It? P. Fanatics is Happening Again!

Welcome back, friends. I wanted to let you know: is it true that you haven’t been to any of the preceding P. Fanatics reading serieses (there have been 2 you have missed! 2!!). Huh? Well, good news! You can go tonight! You can listen to hilarious and good stories about nothing less than dads! That’s right, tonight’s theme is dads and all that good stuff that dads can do. So check it out. I’ll be checking it out. I’m excited. You should be, too.  Check it out at the venue which remains Moe’s Tavern on Milwaukee in Chicago, IL. See The Simpsons decoration done in parody (so as to avoid legal concerns). The date is tonight (May 23, 2011 AD).

Readers this time round will include: Alexis Thomas, Jessie Morrison, Matt Martin, Stevie Edwards, Nate Olison. Also, the indefatigable Chris Bower will be there, reading. And, as always, Dan Shapiro will stun you with his rapier willingness to say things that get host Mason Johnson in trouble with Moe’s regulars.

Require more information than that which I have already, in painstaking detail, adumbrated? Fine, go to Mason’s site then. He’ll tell you.