Babel Books, Silver Cliffs, and Me
Less than a year ago, a scrawny, hairy misanthrope opened a bookstore on Blossom St. in the dreary, dusty city of Silver Cliffs. His ambition, pummeled and spat on by reality, economics, and the petty pretty ambitions of those shiny monsters around him, dictated that it be the greatest bookstore history has ever known and that it be the house of a counter-cultural movement, a literary revival built from the muck and dirt of this forgotten cultural oasis way out on the edge of America. Of course, this man is a fool, building windmills only to call them giants, attack them, then flee in terror. The bookstore, Babel Books, cannot be the best bookstore in history because it cannot be a bookstore known by history. Silver Cliffs is a forgotten city, a ghost town not because it is uninhabited, but because it is inhabited by demons and spirits pretending to be normal, ugly suburban Americans. Thus, this quixotic, some same misogynistic, some say narcissistic, some say talentless man paces and stutters inside of his little palace of failure, a maze of musty books in a dilapidated half-Victorian half-mad building, cracks in the ceiling, windows that won't open during the hot summers and won't close when the critters start to crawl in at night, and he dreams up a beautiful world in which everyone knows who Caleb Sterling is, who Carol R. Sugar is, who Israel Farmer is, and of course, who he is, S.W. Green, poet-laureate of Nowhere, USA.
S.W. Green was born on leap year day in 1980. He is a young wicked child and his gleeful, anarchic immaturity lives and thrives inside of that two store cockeyed hovel he calls a bookstore. In his gray, sinister eyes, the place is more than a bookstore though. The official name is Babel Books and Publishing Inc. though the business is not incorporated and he has, as of writing this, only published three books. The first was a reprint of his 2008 zine Allusions Allusive, a 74 page naval-gazing rant about not getting laid. There is no difference between the cheap, photocopied 2008 version and the cheap, photocopied 2009 version except that, somewhere in small print toward the back, it says "Published by Babel Books and Publishing Inc." The second is a little-read novella by a little-read author from a little red town; he shares my name, birthday, biography, and shoe size but I take no responsibility for any of his actions. That novella, Mundane Objects, originally self-published in 2005, now exists as a pristine, 89 page booklet of thin stapled paper and a crinkled, black cardboard cover. Good luck finding these artifacts. Search the dump. Look in the sewers.
The last "book" published by Mr. Green is an anthology of the best Silver Cliffsian authors, put together by my good friend Bryan Edenfield. Mr. Edenfield, regarded as a traitor to some who live in Silver Cliffs and not regarded at all by everyone else, designed and edited this beautiful little literary sampler titled 22 Opening Paragraphs. Consisting of 22 opening paragraphs (no, really) by a variety of different authors (including me!), the book attempts to give its audience a tantalizing glimpse of what is offered by both Silver Cliffs as a cultural entity and Babel Books as a capitalist enterprise. In its pages you will find the stunning opener to Bridget Loom's gender-bending semi-classic, The Atlas of Pleasure, the ho-hum beginning to Anna Selvney's middlebrow masterpiece, Automatic Perversions, the moderately moving start to Jacob Walter's Smoke Skool, and the whimsically tepid first words of Lee Field's sprawling novel, Tourism in Babylon. Of course, you will find none of that here.
What you will find, dear reader, is the Internet version of 22 Opening Paragraphs, cleverly titled 9 Opening Paragraphs. Also edited by Mr. Edenfield, this little electronic anthology offers us nine new examples of the wondrous, fabulous, splendid, and amazing work that came out of Silver Cliffs in the last few decades. Edenfield, as he did with the original book, takes liberties. Does the anthology actually represent the literary movement that now exists in Silver Cliffs? Below you will find work by Caleb Sterling, who was born in Silver Cliffs but now lives fancy and famous in Hollywood. Certainly you will find the disturbed words of Jacob Walter, but you will find Mr. Walter himself no where; he slit his wrists in 2007 and authorities cremated his body. Bryan Edenfield is in the anthology, obviously, but he was not born in Silver Cliffs, does not live here, and has only visited a few times. Famed (sort of) genre writer, Israel Farmer, similarly, only spent a few years in Silver Cliffs, but the place left an "important scar on his subconscious," as journalist Miles Cimerman once stated. Oh, Mr. Cimerman's in the anthology as well, though he was born in Oregon and lives in Northern California and Washington. Odd. But I'm in there too, and I live in SC. So does Mr. Green, and Ms. Selevny, and Mr. Leviathan. Enjoy their work. They are not traitors. But that, ladies and gentlemen, is not all. Free with admission, we've thrown in two (in)complete pieces by some brilliant up-and-coming authors (ha!) from Silver Cliffs. From Manuel Darwin, member of the Wordless Dictionary Society, armchair historian, and former employee at the Main Street Card and Comic Shoppe, we present to you an excerpt from The Dictionary of Coincidences, Volume I, soon to be published by Babel Books (if Mr. Green can get his self-absorbed head out of his soul-sucking ass). The Dictionary of Coincidences series is part of a larger, unnameable, unknowable project that the Wordless Dictionary Society has been toiling away at since the mid-19th century. Darwin's work upsets the very foundations of human knowledge, twisting and subverting the meaning of words until the fabric of our reality begins to unravel. His neologisms, subtle puns, and paradoxical couplings short circuit rationality and re-contextualize the supposedly sensible and mundane world, turning it into the frighting and alien landscape that it deserves to be. Make no mistake, the excerpt presented below does none of those things, but somewhere, perhaps, Darwin has written something that does, and he should be commended for that.
And now, I know, you ask yourself, "What's the point of all of this? Why do I care? What's the occasion?" On January 26, 2010, Mr. Edenfield hosts a soiree in Seattle (of all God forsaken places) titled "The Imaginary History of Silver Cliffs." I'll be there as well, lending my literary presence to the disreputable proceedings. Here is what I want you to do: If you live in Seattle, cancel your plans for the evening of the 26th. At around 6:30 PM, go to Richard Hugo House, a literary community center and performance venue, take a look around, find a seat, drink a few drinks (there will be booze!), and prepare to be dazzled. If you do not live in Seattle, buy a plane ticket right now, book a hotel, and follow the above advice. If your budget, apathy, or idiocy prevents you from doing this, than you are missing out on the first important cultural event of the 21st century (though it may end up on YouTube in March or April) and will regret it for the rest of your life. This show is only my third performance in the Emerald City and the first two were complete disasters, so I hope to make amends and some new friends. The show will also feature a traveling exhibit from Silver Cliffs' Museum of Detritus, an amazing gallery of discarded art, eccentric garbage, and those tender, mundane objects that secretly design our lives, the buttons, cereal boxes, speeding tickets, and torn socks that compose our ethereal, divine bodies. Additionally, a few other people will be reading but they don't matter. Save the date: Aden Bell at Richard Hugo House on January 26, 2010. Be there!
But enough about me; let us return to our good friend, Mr. S.W. Green. What is his mad plan? Is Babel Books an attempt to annihilate the mainstream publishing industry? To become apart of it? To replace it? Babel Books carries the widest selection of Silver Cliffs based authors, most published by small presses located in other parts of the country. The academic and cultural establishment has yet to recognize the literary and artistic importance of the authors presented to us in 22 Opening Paragraphs and its web-sequel, 9 Opening Paragraphs. Green's mission is thus a noble one; here in a sprawling, ugly, unassuming city along the California/Arizona border, a long literary history has continually produced vibrant and original writings in all manner of styles and genres. No one notices. Silver Cliffs has its own early 20th century art movement, similar to that of the Futurists and the Dadaist, and no one notices. Silver Cliffs has its movie stars and auteurs, its artists and architects, its pranksters and intellectuals, its revolutionaries and visionaries. No one notices. Lillian Gray, Titus Loom, Isadore Damascus, these should be household names. But if they were, would we care about them? If the metropolitan literati knew of Anna Selevny, she would be nothing but another author, occasionally popping up on radio talk shows, her works occasionally appearing on the best seller list (towards the bottom). If the cultural elite knew of Carol R. Sugar, her books would be turned into bland movies, dumbed down, glossed over. If Bridget Loom entered the fray of everyday American culture, hipsters might flock to her, call her "hot," and read her books on the bus. Is this what we want? Is this Mr. Green's goal? Can't we Silver Cliffsians keep our history to ourselves so that the rest of you don't water it down and ruin it? Apparently, we can't. Now, reluctantly, we emerge from our hiding place way out there in the desert. If the authors of Silver Cliffs lose some of their allure because they stop being obscure, so be it. Obscurity be damned. Some of us need to eat.
There isn't a lot of information out there concerning Silver Cliffs or the authors mentioned here. Milo Cadence, a terrible writer with a terribly informative blog, provides us with a brief glimpse into the lives of those who live in that secret city. Mr. Edenfield's show will be a another source of information. Write This has now become a third source. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries or concerns. I thank you for your time, dear reader.
Goodnight, and see you in Seattle on January 26.