Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sittin' In: "Colony" by Samuel Snoek-Brown, as based on the song "Brave As a Noun" by Andrew Jackson Jihad

For better or worse, Sam's run here at the forefront of Our Band Could Be Your Lit is coming to a close. For his penultimate performance, he's turned in "Colony." He had a lot to say about his choices this month, so let me just spew some copypasta all over this . . .

"I was listening to the sound bites in the Metavari tune and heard a deep, dense story in there about the collapse of blue-collar America and the slow decay of formerly great American cities, but also about the possibilities those cities still hold and the great promise of the middle class.


Which is why it wasn't coming together—it was TOO rich, and I wasn't going to be able to write the story I wanted to write in under 1,000 words and/or under a week. Maybe I never will—it's too big. But damn, I wanted to.

Anyway, so I tried the other track (Ed. note: "Jane Doe" by Converge) but it just never grabbed me (that style of music never does, really), and by the time I got to AJJ I knew I'd better like it. I actually freaking loved it. Totally checking out more of their stuff.

Plus, it helped that I'd been reading that photo blog about pretentious hipster schmucks all week, so when I got to the line about art I knew where I wanted to go with it. In fact, the story I wound up writing was as much about this blog post as about the song, because—and I'm not making this up—I was listening to the track while scrolling through the blog and I saw this post in the first minute of the tune.

So anyway, that's what all that was about.

Here's why I didn't like the story: I liked it too much. Or rather, every time I worked on it or reread it, I thought it was too fucking clever. I still do. I actually really enjoy the gimmick of this thing, but looking at it from the inside, I can't help but wonder if it's cheap. But hey, as long as you dig it, and maybe one or two other people, then cool. "

I do dig it! So, yes, all cool.

With any luck, the stories for the book will be done this week. I said last week that I hoped to have finished off three stories over the course of the week, and I ended up getting four done: a 418 word story named "God As a Jigsaw" based on ".001%" by eyehategod, a 750 word story named "This Illusion" based on "Feel" by Big Star, and two as-of-now-untitled stories, one an 843 word hockey story (sort of) based on "Crowded in the Wings" by The Jayhawks and the other a 353 word piece of meta-fiction based on "The Beginning and the End" by ISIS. I've got three left, and then it's back to the weekly grind right here. But until then, here's more Sam.



The first one who turned up was some thick-chested guy in an open-collared shirt and khakis. He had a mustache black like the grip of a gun and an unmistakable aroma of cigarettes about him. I found him in the kitchen of the house I shared with my brother, my friend Jake, and my girlfriend. I went downstairs and there he was, sitting at our kitchen table, goddamn typewriter and everything, banging at the keys. Jake joked that he looked like Hemingway, but it wasn’t a fucking joke. This guy never said a word, just sat down there all goddamn morning typing away in the kitchen as if we weren’t even there. At least he made us all coffee.

Then Whitman showed up. He liked to sit in a wood deck chair and stare at the trees in the back, bleak in the late fall, the limbs creaking in the wind as gray and wiry as his beard. The Hemingway barely acknowledged him, but the Whitman sometimes sneaked a longing glance into the kitchen.

I thought someone was fucking with us, paying their buddies to put on thrift-store clothes and show up unannounced. My brother swore he knew nothing about it. I was a little annoyed because my girlfriend kept eying the Hemingway. He looked back at her infrequently, but enough.

Two days later, Gertrude Stein pushed through our front door. Squat, domineering, and, unlike the men, loud as hell. “The light in here is terrible the light is wan. The light is the light and needs to be lighter.” She pointed at a Vermeer print my girlfriend had hung over the couch, this big poster of a woman at a table in the sunlight. Stein pointed like she wanted to cut the thing, her finger sharp in the air. “You call this art?” she said.

I liked her immediately, but all of us were starting to freak out.

We had a meeting in the garage, where Jake discovered Kerouac sleeping in the back seat of his car, and we discussed what to do about all these writers. My brother looked over at Kerouac, sound asleep and smelling like fortified wine, and said, “I tried to kick some of them out, but Austen. She lit into me. It was so bad I got weak in the knees. I ain’t saying shit to anyone.” He ran a nervous hand through his hair. “And I am not pissing off Hemingway, man. You know what that guy is capable of?”

My girlfriend said, “I wouldn’t mind seeing you fight Hemingway.”

“Sell them,” someone said and we all yelped there in the garage. It wasn’t that we weren’t used to new voices by then, it was just rare that any of them talked to us. We crept around the back of Jake’s car and found Charles Dickens hunched on a milk crate, writing by candlelight on a stack of cardboard boxes. “Sorry,” he said. “Everywhere else was taken.”

He didn’t say much else, but we got the gist, and the other three loved the idea. So they put out ads, cleared furniture from the living room, roped off pathways like we lived in some royal manor. Come watch the authors at work, the ads said. Five dollars, and later fifteen dollars, a person. Jake moved his car out of the garage and set up tables, and sure enough, more authors came, men, women, men we’d never realized were women writing under a penname, people whose language we couldn’t speak. They rented a pavilion tent and set it up in the front yard, and more authors came.

I wanted to move out, but no one would let me. I even tried to break up with my girlfriend. She said, “What the hell is the matter with you? This is why we came here. We’ve finally got the company of writers and you just want to fucking run away.” I’m pretty sure she was sleeping with Hemingway by then.

They’d moved a bunch of the furniture into my room to clear more space for the writers and the tourists. The refrigerator was in there, the stove, both the washing machine and the dryer. A couple of hall tables. Even the other bedroom furniture. I had three beds to wake up in each morning and I couldn’t get out of any of them.

But today, I don’t know why, I’d had enough. The partying and drinking and vocalized philosophizing keep me up all night. I opened the window and started throwing out bedding, quilts floating like parachutes into the lawn, pillows sliding down the canvas slope of the pavilion tent. I disassembled each bed, even my own, and threw out all the pieces, and I tossed out all the artwork then leaned the mattresses against the wall. Out in the yard, Stein was eying the wrecked paintings then nodding approvingly up at my window. I threw my stereo at her, then I threw my brother’s television and all my girlfriend’s clothes. I shoved the appliances out into the hall and all afternoon I could hear my brother explaining, “Sorry folks, detour!” But I didn’t care. Fuck Hemingway.

I’ve cleared out everything and moved a mattress to cover the door. I had what I’d actually moved here for: an empty space, plenty of light, and a little quiet in which to write.



Andrew Jackson Jihad is the best band in hardcore. Or, at least that's what the shirt I bought from them says. Their instrumentation--upright bass and acoustic guitar--doesn't necessarily bring to mind Gorilla Biscuits, but punk and hardcore and rock roll have always existed as the audible result of a certain kind of attitude. By these criteria, Andrew Jackson Jihad may just be the best band in hardcore.

Samuel Snoek-Brown has never been in a band, but he did buy a bass at one time with hopes of being Bobby Dall or, you know, whoever. He also refused to sing some Danzig with my band one time, though I know he could pull off a pretty mean "Blood and Tears." More time to focus on his writing, I guess, which can be read at his blog, Beginner's Mind.

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Next week: Sam's last story, as he chooses between "Prince of the Rodeo" by Turbonegro, "Get Back" by Laibach, "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock?)" by Fu-Schnickens f/ Shaq.

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  1. I didn't expect to see them mentioned on this blog. Cool.

    I've seen them live a few times, over the years and even ended up on the same bill once (reading poetry between some crazy punk bands at a bar).

  2. I try to get the stuff I like out there as much as possible. It's great writing about songs other people suggest, but any chance I have to get my own tastes out there, I jump on.

    I got to see them once in Dubuque, Iowa and it was an excellent show. Super nice guys, and the songs are powerful as fuck.

    Lit/music live show are always a delightful mess. I opened up for Thrones one time reading a couple short stories. My band never even got a chance to do something like that!

  3. You just planned your own book-promo tour. Rock it!

  4. That's very cool, Ryan. Those Lit/Music messes usually provide the most vivid memories.

    In fact, that time I read poetry on the same bill with AJJ, we both had to follow a band, whose set concluded with a lactating bass player spraying the crowd with fresh breast milk straight from the source.

    Unfortunately, stuff like that doesn't often happen when I read in little bookshops or college conference rooms.