A Digital Copy of Timber Vol. 5 Now Available

vol. 5 | 2015

Our most recent print issue dropped in April. We had a wonderful party in Denver to celebrate.

Vol. 5 has some great work by Shelly Weathers, Eric Baus, Patrick Culliton, Taira Anderson, Louis Staeble, Claire Hopple, Laird Hunt, Olivia Olson, Natalie Vestin, Brian Evenson, and many more.

Now we’ve uploaded it for your convenience. Grab the PDF of it (and our older issues) here for free!

Literary Round-Up (4.22-4.29)

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Baltimore, nonviolence, and compliance at The Atlantic.

Elisa Gabbert is starting an advice column for writers over at Electric Literature! That’s good because she’s really good at Twitter.

Also over at EL, Elysha Chang interviews Heidi Julavits about her strange new book, The Folded Clock.

Need something to read this summer? The L Magazine has fifty of them you.

Lit Hub made you some cut-out dolls of some BAMF women writers in honor of Kate Bolick’s new book Spinster. With multiple outfits!

(Kinda wishing this pup had an outfit. copyright Kate Bolick).

(Kinda wishing this pup had an outfit. copyright Kate Bolick).

FC2 author Gregory Howard is interviewed about his book Hospice.

Also, 3AM Magazine editor Tristan Foster “interviews” Australian writer Gerald Murnane.

James Yeh on the recent hub-bub of PEN’s recent award to Charlie Hebdo.

Largehearted Boy has a list of some tunes Ryan Chapman was listening to while he wrote Conversation Sparks.

“900 pages of distinctly non-literary masochism” is how one one-star Amazon review described Roberto Balano’s 2666. More over at Biblioklept.



It’s Built Into The Language: Elisa Gabbert on Experimental & Innovative Literature

The following survey was distributed by Timber Journal to contemporary authors asking them to investigate the labels “experimental” and “innovative” when they are applied to literature. The questions were composed by Héctor Ramírez. 

elisa-gabbert-ochre1) What are your thoughts on the label “experimental” with respect to literature, in a general sense? What does the phrase “experimental literature” even mean to you? Can it be adequately defined?

So much of literature is always already experimental; it’s built into the language (“novel” meaning new, “essay” meaning attempt). I suppose it means something that makes people uncomfortable. However, usually the kinds of writing that make people uncomfortable are not experimental in the sense of trying something new and untested; rather they’re the same kinds of writing that have always made people uncomfortable.

2) Do you find “experimental” useful as a category? If useful, is it more useful for writers, publishers, teachers, or readers (or equally useful across the board)?

I think it’s useful as a category when the quotation marks are intact – “experimental” generally refers to a set of works that follow their own conventions, so whether or not something is actually experimental, we can use that label, with air quotes, as short-hand, to mean that it’s a hybrid-genre work, typographically idiosyncratic, nonlinear, etc. etc. Writers and readers use this kind of short-hand among themselves all the time. Teachers should probably be more careful about providing context. When publishers do it, it’s obviously a marketing trick. See Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be hailed on the cover as a new kind of book.

3) Whatever “experimental” might mean, in the very least it’s probably safe to say that it attempts to describe a particular subset of writers who try to distinguish themselves from “popular” literature. But: is there also a mainstream sense of experimentalism with respect to literature, distinct from other forms of experimental literature? What does it mean to be a “trendy experimental” writer/artist?

Maybe at any given time there’s a kind of “experimental” writing that is particularly in vogue; right now metafiction is all the rage. I guess what that means is, if you happen to write metafiction, it’s a good moment in the market for you. Ditto lyric essay.

4) It seems to us that, when it is deployed, the term “experimental” changes depending on who is doing the experiment. Would you agree with that? If you disagree, is there a better way to understand the function of experimental literature? Or, if you do agree, in what ways does the “experiment” change based on the subject position of its author?

I’m not sure I understand the thrust of your question, but I will say that I think experimentalism is perceived to be largely the purview of white men. When women/POC employ the same forms it’s often received as “messy” or a failed experiment, a failure to follow the rules as set up by “great literature.” But perhaps the tide is turning. Citizen is a hybrid work that’s getting tons of attention right now.

5) Is there (or maybe, should there be) a significant difference between “innovative” and “experimental” with respect to labeling? If so, can you describe that difference?

I think both terms want to get at the same thing: formal innovation, a new way of receiving the old content. But the terms get overapplied because we have short memories. This is not to say that innovation isn’t possible. New technologies can lead to new innovations. I’m skeptical as to how innovative text on paper, at this point, can be.


Elisa Gabbert is the author of The Self Unstable (Black Ocean) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.