“…I wish, my Dear Laurens, it m[ight] be in my power, by action rather than words, [to] convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that ‘till you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you.” –Alexander Hamilton to John Laurens, 1779.
Do you ever think about the feelings you have that you would never share? In my experience, what we’re comfortable saying to people – even the people we know best – is but the crust of the large, dense core of human emotion.
Take this example: I text my little sister every day. However, even though (or perhaps because) we speak so often, we’re not exactly pouring our hearts out.
We talk about our classes, or the latest episode of Game of Thrones, or ask each other for petty advice like what to wear or what to eat.
There’s no way for me to slip into the conversation that she’s grown into a beautiful, strong woman that I admire above all other women in my life (aside from our mother). Or that a sizable part of my subconscious worries about her constantly, and that the distance between us hurts my heart.
So these sentiments between us build up, with no outlet and few socially acceptable ways to admit it without being brushed off as sappy or overly romantic. (Already I’m looking forward to my siblings’ weddings, where I get a pedestal and an excuse to say any and every poetic thought that I’ve been saving for years.)
“You turn my life into something light, amazing, rainbowed – you put a glint of happiness on everything – always different: sometimes you can be smoky-pink, downy, sometimes dark, winged – and I don’t know when I love your eyes more – when they are open or shut.” –Vladimir Nabokov to his wife Véra, 1924.
Once upon a time, all communication was done by letter.
Of course, this was massively inconvenient; a lot of things used to be. But before it was possible to shoot a quick text, or even just to pick up a phone and settle in to a long-distance conversation, writing was the only way you could really communicate with someone. Imagine the stakes.
Not only would you have to have a knack for words and somewhat-decent penmanship (or someone to dictate to), but that relationship you were building would exist almost entirely outside of the realm of the real world.
Today, our Facebook and our Twitter and our email and our texting are so interwoven with our everyday lives that it can be hard to distinguish between the public and the private. But there’s something about letters that is so naturally intimate.
Letters let you wax romantic; they let you create a permissibly fantasized version of reality. You can indulge yourself in your own words, and lose yourself in those of your confidante. Once upon a time, if people were talented enough wordsmiths, they could fall in love with nothing but the sentiments in a letter.
Can this ever exist again?
One hundred years from now, there will be almost no physical first-hand evidence of the words of our contemporaries’ greatest writing.
There will be no collections of letters written in scrawling cursive from great authors and orators and poets to the ones they loved, displayed tenderly in museums and fawned over by literature students.
No one’s handwriting will be documented, studied, and treasured. What will we have instead, to record the great love stories and odysseys and revolutions of our time? Transcripts of iMessage exchanges? Screenshots of 140-character tweets?
That begs another question: Can there be a truly romantic exchange over social media? Texting? Have we lost something that was vital to our culture?
Perhaps this loss is why we have trouble connecting with our partners. It’s true that with our phones, we are always in touch with the ones we love in a way that is entirely unprecedented and, most of the time, a blessing.
But with each exchange, you’re only allowed so many words. And the more frequently you speak with someone, the less thought tends to go into each message.
Call it social convention, call it a sign of the fast-paced times. Does anyone really write poetry to their partners while their checking their phones during lunch? Ruminate on the depth of their feelings in the interim of social interaction?
There is no interim, because we are always connected. And therefore we are disconnected from something much deeper.
“By what right do you drink from my flagon of life? And when I put it to my lips – lo, they are yours and not mine. I feel that the Godhead is broken up like the bread at the Supper, and that we are the pieces. Hence this infinite fraternity of feeling.” –Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851.
But let’s say we decided to experiment and start writing letters again. First of all, what do you put in a letter when you can tell anyone, in any part of the globe, anything you want in the blink of an eye?
It would have to be something really personal, wouldn’t it? It would have to be the kind of thing that builds up inside you, something that you don’t just say offhandedly if you miss someone or if you’re feeling particularly lonely.
It would have to be your own musings; a part of yourself that you don’t usually reveal, the kind of sentiment you’d scorn to see someone else put in a giant Facebook post for all to see.
It would have to be something incredibly intimate – too intimate for an email or a text, but not urgent enough for a phone call. It would have to be something worth the wait.
If I told my sister how much I loved her in our daily conversations, she’d probably get a little bashful, change to subject, and wonder why I’m being so emotional.
But if I told her in a letter, it would be a different story.
I think that it’s because a letter isn’t just another way to connect with someone. It’s a whole class above that. It’s a different dimension of poetry and feeling that we simply can’t express in our day-to-day lives.
That’s why we should start writing letters again. It’s not just a forgotten form of communication. It’s a forgotten form of human expression.
I just finished Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey, and I love her frank, feminine words, tackling the hardest of subjects. The short poems paired with lots of white space and line drawings leave the reader fully impacted, I love the poems, and they really resonate with me. I have endless admiration for Kaur's work, and she serves as some great artistic inspiration.
I've actually had the privilege of Christopher Torockio as a professor, so when I learned he was releasing another book, I was pumped. Torockio's previous titles include 'Floating Holidays,' 'The Truth at Daybreak,' and 'Presence,' but he's also been published in a plethora of journals, including Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, The Iowa Review, The Antioch Review, Willow Springs, Colorado Review, New Orleans Review, and plenty more. Just after The Soul Hunters was released this spring, I attended a reading of the first chapter, and I knew it was gonna be great. According to Amazon:
Fiction. "THE SOUL HUNTERS is rich with character, incident, and humanity. This nuanced, multi-layered, and multi-generational novel is utterly engrossing, and all the characters, from the three brothers who have recently lost their father, the wives of these brothers, to the father himself (who we meet in flashback), are so movingly and skillfully drawn. There's also a lot of humor and mischief in these pages. What a damn fine novel Chris Torockio has given us."—Christine Sneed
Torockio's dark humor is evident, but sprinkled carefully through the novel, He moves us through a layered story well, and I found the novel not to lag or speed too quickly. We're lead through the plot masterfully, and in a way that makes us care. The depths and character differences between sons, and voices draws us in, and we feel as though we're privy to the inner-family-psychology that only provides more insight and interest.
Finally, I love the cover art. The knotted wood feels like a metaphor, and aesthetically, the clear open window and natural light are super appealing. It's a great novel, and I'd highly suggest picking up a copy. Also check out Torockio's other books, as his storytelling is always killer.
As you can probably tell from the past two book reviews, fall brings out the voracious reader in me, and I'm back with another review. Black Lawrence Press, a favorite, published Nominal Cases this year in March, and I've been hanging on to it since the summer waiting for a chance to read/write about it. I love reading more than I probably should, but being in school full time, and running Bruised Knuckles really fills my dance card. But enough excuses, we're here now!
According to Amazon:
Fiction. "Like his literary antecedents—John Barth and Jorge Luis Borges both haunt these pages—Thomas Cotsonas takes (and offers) great pleasure in the revelation that the central (though often occult) subject of fiction is always inevitably fictiveness itself. But clever and self-aware as these fictions are, they are also fully alive to the cathartic power of narrative, and the potential for a well-drawn character to show us something human, true, and surprising. NOMINAL CASES thrills both mind and heart—a rare delight."—Joel Brouwer
Nominal Cases is incredibly weird but also incredibly magnetic. The text is heady and smart, but still relatively accessible. Cotsonas draws frequently on a shared cultural knowledge, much like Billy Collins, but in much more heavily experimental way. The chapters are relatively individual short stories, but they compile into a fuller wholistic piece with over arching thematic significance. I think one of my favorite stories was 'The City's Father' but each of the stories stand on their own as individual works.
Nominal Cases won the 2014 St. Lawrence Book Award, and Cotsonas has been published in a multitude of journals ant lit magazines, including Web Conjunctions, 751 Magazine, Construction, Western Humanities Review, and even Ochreville.
Buy Nominal Cases here.
Danny Mullen is insane in all the right ways. His new book, Home, holds true to his distinctly, uniquely, fucked style, but showing growth in all the right areas. Mullen provides insight into the human condition through short stories about his antics after moving back home. You’re either going to love him (in which case, totally sign up for his newsletter- it’s just as funny) or leave three pages in totally revolted. According to Amazon:
Some college graduates go to market. Other college graduates stay home.
Mullen’s work is not for the faint of heart and is probably the exact opposite of what you’d expect as a recommendation from Bruised Knuckles, but he’s good. He’s really good. Mullen is able to effortlessly capture the disillusioned listlessness of hometown life. With the careful crafting of each character, Mullen draws readers in with killer dialogue and true to life interactions. Mullen is able to write the most incredibly bizarre situations with complete ease with a masterful use of language. In the least PC way he could possibly go about it, Mullen brings readers into his weird twisted world of vandalism, the eternal chase of girls, and loads more. Though Mullen’s content and storylines are borderline unbelievable (don’t worry there are proof pictures) I’m totally on board. He’s that good. Also, check out these reviews:
PRAISE FOR HOME:
Buy Mullen’s book here and leave a review. I gave it 5 stars.
I’d like to thank Danny for the copy of the book, but I maintain that all opinions are very much my own and I promise I’d tell him (and you guys) if I didn’t like it.
ALSO, all photos are from Robert Jennex and are not at all from us. don't fucking sue me Danny..
Adam J. Kurtz is one of the coolest humans around. Author of 1 Page AT A TIME, Kurtz already has a new interactive book out. Pick Me Up, according to Kurtz, ‘A Pep Talk For Now & Later.’ The book is a journal, not meant to be written in page by page, but more at random, allowing you to go back and reflect, as well as move forward and grow. Quotes on the backs of books are usually bullshit, but Tavi Gevinson, editor in chief of Rookie refers to Kurtz as their favorite therapist, and I have to agree. I’ve been in a a creative rut for a while, due to endless work, and I’ve held off on posting about Pick Me Up for a few weeks because I’ve actually been using the book. When I’m in need of creative direction, or fulfillment, or reassurance, or a pick me up, the book brings me into an introspective place, and I’m able to go from there. Pages like Emotional Bingo, Midnight Thoughts, and places to break down your emotional status allow you to unpack your mind and close the book in a better place than you opened it.
Pick Me Up encourages users to engage digitally as well- with the #pickmeupbook, but then again that’s to be expected from Kurtz, who is widely known online as @adamjk for illustrations, graphic design, and loads more. He’s collaborated with Urban Outfitters, Strand Bookstore, and the Brooklyn Public Library and his work has been in ArtReport, Cool Hunting, Design Sponge, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Time Out New York, AdWeek, Paper, and loads more. I know Bruised Knuckles has covered his work before, and he had some really interesting insight during the ‘Zara steals indie artists’ designs situation.’
Pick up a copy of Pick Me Up soon. I know sometimes books that claim to promote self-help feel like bullshit, but Pick Me Up is a good book and has really been helping me. I highly suggest you check it out. Stalk Kurtz here, or find him at @adamjk.
Also, check out some of these adorable goodies they sent over along with the book! The pin looks great on my backpack, and I love the pencil.
If you're looking for some poetry for the soul, I'd highly suggest Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. The poetry and illustrations feel organic and honest. Amazon says:
"Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.
I was suggested Milk and Honey as a textbook in self love, and I can honestly say, I learned a lot from the book. Photos below from Amazon, where you can buy the book. I would highly suggest Milk and Honey to anyone looking for good poetry, anyone healing, anyone learning self love, anyone.
PAPER Magazine recently interviewed Evan Collins, the founder of the Tumblr blog 'Institute for Y2K Aesthetics' to get to the bottom of what exactly the y2k aesthetic really is. Collins explains that metallic, future forward, techy, iridescent, glossy, amorphic designs are the markers of the aesthetic. Below is a gallery of some of my favorite y2k aesthetic images, all from Collins' blog.
“Bright, Infinite Future: A Generational Memoir on the Progressive Rise (Mark Green)” By Allison Pinski
Mark Green, a politician and author, recently spoke at my school. Prior to his talk, I had no knowledge about him or his politics. Green is most well-known for his campaign for mayor of New York City in 2001, and was projected to win just before the September 11 Twin Towers attacks. Although Green lost the election to Michael Bloomberg, he continued his track record as a progressive advocate.
Green has acted as a public advocate working in NYC, and has worked alongside politicians like 2000 presidential hopeful and activist Ralph Nader. Green has written and edited around 22 books, with his 23rd being released next month. The New York Post describes Green’s newest book, “Bright, Infinite Future: A Generational Memoir on the Progressive Rise,” as a tell-all that “takes a scorched-earth policy toward his fellow Democrats because Green says he now has nothing to lose.”
The book is expected to be released on May 3rd of this year. Below is a summary from Amazon;
“Blending the historical, biographical and political, the wide-ranging Bright, Infinite Future describes how the values of the '60s are creating a new progressive majority in '16. The multi-faceted Mark Green―bestselling author, public interest lawyer and elected official―is our guide through contemporary American politics as Nader launches the modern consumer movement; Clinton wins the 1992 New York primary and therefore the nomination; and Green loses the closest NYC mayoral election in a century to Bloomberg after 9/11 in a perfect storm of money, terrorism, and race.