Go Forth (Vol. 24)

Go Forth is a series curated by Nicolle Elizabeth that offers a look into the publishing industry and contemporary small-press literature. See more of the series.

Elizabeth Mikesch’s book of stories, Niceties, is out from Calamari Press. The stories in Niceties push the boundaries of language and dissonance in a way that’s uncommon and rarely seen in fiction, which is only one of the reasons this book is so great. Also, Niceties has received favorable words from Noy Holland, Gary Lutz, Peter Markus, and Blake Butler. Her other work has appeared in places such as Unsaid and The Literarian. I met Elizabeth in Seattle at AWP when we signed books together. The first night I met her, at Whiskey Bar on Second, I mentioned something about reading an article in Harper’s or the New Yorker or somewhere, and before I could finish she looked at me and said, “Fuck articles.” From there we hit it off.

—Brandon Hobson

Brandon Hobson: Can you tell me how your book came to be published by Derek White at Calamari?

Elizabeth Mikesch: Derek White is the best. He is his own dialect. I sent him saturated e-mails anxiously awaiting to hear if he’d be into reading what I had. I had eaten nothing but squid for five years. People would say “O, you’re showing.” When I found out he was going to publish the work, I had diner cheese fries, stayed up until 6am. I woke up late and blew an interview to be a barista.

BH: Niceties doesn’t seem to follow a traditional structure. I like the strangeness of Niceties.

EM: Niceties is hard to know, which I get. Plots are for dying in. The book took becoming a special type of sociopathy for sound to write it among many a home bug infestation, psychic pica, and the internet in general. Yet the heart still can swell.

BH: You’re like me, but more social. Interviews are weird, yeah?

EM: Interviews make me not talk like my life self. I go into the Niceties voice, but let’s stay with that. I wish that it were like 1978, and you had to talk to me on a beigeish phone with a curly fry cord and jot, and I had not to go out and wait for the call because otherwise the interview wouldn’t happen that night, and if I had to pee or something, I’d have to say, “Hold on. I’m going to have to put the phone down.”

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Episode Eleven: Another Planet

Clyde Casey was a street performer in the 1980s who would often perform in the parking lot of L.A.’s Wallenboyd, the experimental theater space where John Cusak, Tim Robbins, and many others got their start. One night the theater’s security guard didn’t show up, so they asked Casey if he could keep an eye on their patrons’ cars before and during the plays. He agreed, but only if he could stay in character—festooned with toys and musical instruments and homemade chrome-painted sculpture, he metamorphosed himself into a surrealist crime fighter, keeping Skid Row safe using only the powers of art: that night, Clyde Casey became The Avant Guardian.

But this is only where Casey’s story begins: he soon commandeered an abandoned gas station  across the street from the Wallenboyd and converted it into a remarkable unprecedented (and unrepeated) project called Another Planet, a place beloved and fondly remembered by the hundreds of homeless men and women who frequented it, along with high-ranking city officials, movie stars, and artists.

For over twenty years, no one in L.A. knew what happened to Casey. Producer David Weinberg finally tracked him down, and the Organist is thrilled to present his incredible story on our season-two premiere.