Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#280 Brin-Jonathan Butler: Boxing and Happiness

Brin-Jonathan Butler was born in Vancouver, the son of a Gypsy mom from Budapest and Dutch lawyer dad. He was a really happy kid until he was about 11 years old. That was when a group of kids tricked him into going to the woods to see a fight. He didn’t realize he was about to be beaten up and swarmed by a huge crowd of kids. He just remembers a lot of feet coming at him and a hailstorm of phlegm. That attack left him afraid to leave his house for 3 years. When he was 13, Brin started riding the school bus with one girl even though he lived a block from school. He was afraid to talk to her, but he watched her read her book everyday. That was about the only thing that kept him going for a few years. Later on, Brin wrote his first book about that bullying incident and the girl he stalked on the bus. A decade after he last saw the girl on the bus, she found him on Facebook and asked for a copy of the book. After reading it, she flew over from Europe and wanted to get married. That was weird. When Brin was 15, he caught a Mike Tyson interview on TV where he talked about being bullied growing up and the books he was reading in solitary confinement. The next day, Brin went two places he'd never been: a library and a boxing gym. He read about Tyson's life and how he'd been serially picked on for being a sensitive kid (and, 15 years later, Brin sat in Mike Tyson's living room thanking him for saving his life by introducing him to boxing and books). Brin’s first day in a boxing ring, he was knocked unconscious, but it was less scary than showing up to the gym in the first place so he went back. Boxing taught him that cowards and heroes feel the same, but act differently with those feelings. At 20, Brin became obsessed with Cuba, a place where books and boxing meant more than anywhere else. He trained under Olympic coaches in Cuba and boxed as an amateur light-heavyweight. For a couple of summers, he hustled speed chess in the park (Bobby Fischer was always a hero of his) before teaching boxing to support writing fiction and making films. Brin met his wife on Facebook and propositioned her the moment he saw her photo on a friend's page. She had on a furry ski hat and a strange in-between expression. He asked her to fly to Vancouver and when she didn't write back he called her in Manhattan and asked what time he was picking her up at the airport. They spoke for an hour and he called back the next day. 3 days later she flew over. In 2000, Brin visited Cuba and discovered a haunting and beautiful place. Brin has spent the last 11 years going back as often as he could and he knows less about it now than when he first visited. Right now, he’s directing a film about a Cuban boxer who left his home and family to shipwreck into the America Dream and working on a memoir about his time in Cuba. He’s happy and excited to find out what happens next in New York City.

[You can read about Brin’s meeting with Mike Tyson and other writings here, as well as more about his documentary at Hero, Traitor, Madness. You can find out about taking boxing lessons with Brin here.]
Comments (2)

You Must Use a Filter!

I have an interview with Deb Olin Unferth up at The Faster Times. We talk about Revolution, writing fiction versus writer memoir, earnestness, irony, running, and the necessity of using a filter.

More interviews @ The Faster Times: Gary Lutz, Blake Butler, Laura van den Berg, Brian Evenson, Robert Lopez, Dylan Landis, Padgett Powell, Sam Lipsyte, Dawn Raffel, Kevin Sampsell, Gina Frangello, Evan Lavender-Smith, Ken Sparling, Matt Bell, Ingrid Burrington, Andy Devine, and Jessica Anya Blau.

The Zoo Reading

I'm reading at an AWP off-site event at the ZOO -- Friday, February 4, 2pm. It's with Stephanie Barber & Matt Bell & Blake Butler & Amelia Gray & Alec Niedenthal & Alexis Orgera & Timothy Sanders & Deb Olin Unferth & Colin Winnette & Joseph Young. It's with Tigers and Polar Bears and Gorillas. Come see the animals. Come hear the stories.

Pear Noir!

I have a new piece called "Overdosing on Aspirin" from the new novel that I've been working on in the new Pear Noir!, #5, along with a bunch of other good folks: Caren Beilin, Rosebud Ben-Oni, B.J. Best, Crispin Best, Sarah Bridgins, Sean Burke, Jordan Castro, Kevin Catalano, Kim Chinquee, Heather Cox, Laura E. Davis, Stephanie Dickinson, Jacqueline Doyle, Corey Eastwood, Gabe Durham, Elizabeth Gonzalez, Sheila Heti, Katie Inlander, Peter Kispert, Peter Tieryas Liu, Steve McGouldrick, Jen Michalski, Kevin Moffett, M.V. Montgomery, Dolan Morgan, Jon Mueller, Matt Siegel, Zack Strait, J. Erin Sweeney, Abigail Templeton-Greene, Richard Thomas, and Jasmine Dreame Wagner. Many thanks to the good Daniel Casebeer.

A Realist Who Exaggerates a Little

I have an interview with Jessica Anya Blau up at The Faster Times. We talk about undercover cops, Christmas letters, using families for fiction, and Drinking Closer to Home, etc.

More interviews @ The Faster Times: Gary Lutz, Blake Butler, Laura van den Berg, Brian Evenson, Robert Lopez, Dylan Landis, Padgett Powell, Sam Lipsyte, Dawn Raffel, Kevin Sampsell, Gina Frangello, Evan Lavender-Smith, Ken Sparling, Matt Bell, Ingrid Burrington, and Andy Devine.

#226 Greg Santos: A Romantic and a Traditional Gentleman

Greg Santos was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1981. His birth parents were Cambodian, but he was adopted when he was 4 months old by his Spanish Mom and Portuguese Dad. Greg was an only child and had a happy childhood. His parents gave him so much love and support. The family lived on a cul-de-sac, had bonfires, ate s'mores, played hide-and-seek, and built snow forts. Greg traveled a lot with his parents when he was younger—Scotland, Egypt, Martinique, Spain, Portugal, England, France, Mexico, Italy, Greece—but he doesn’t remember as much about those places as he wishes. Also, Greg owned a pet rock, had Sea Monkeys, and an imaginary flea circus. As a teenager, after watching The X-Files, Greg wanted to be a paranormal investigator in the worst way. Once, Greg saw a UFO (he swears). After that, he started The Bureau for the Investigation of the Unexplained and made his hair look like David Duchovny's. When Greg was 16, his father died. That Halloween, Greg dressed up in white face paint and a black trench coat like The Crow. He went to school that way because he didn't know what else to do. He still misses his dad. Eventually, though, Greg found solace in art, music, poetry, and, especially, theater. The idea that he could be somebody else was comforting. In college, he majored in drama and minored in English. In college, Greg also met Maryn (he was sick at the time and she gave him tea). After that, they dated for 7 years. Greg is a romantic and a traditional gentleman (for instance, he makes an effort to wear shirts with collars). Greg loved acting, but, eventually, he realized that he didn't want to speak somebody else's words. So Greg went back to school for a second degree in creative writing, which is how he caught the poetry bug, which is what took him to The New School for his MFA. Poetry allows Greg to write down thoughts he wouldn’t say out loud and make them into art. Once, he took lessons on how to be a clown and a stuntman. Also, Greg collects wind-up toys, antique books, small erasers that look like things, and nearly anything to do with elephants. Greg knows the professional wrestling isn’t real, but he still watches it, which his wife doesn’t understand. That is, Greg and Maryn are married. She is brilliant and makes him laugh. She is a classical beauty and his best friend. Greg is the poetry editor of pax americana and works for the New Haven Reads Community Book Bank, which provides free books and free after school tutoring. It makes Greg happy that he gets to spread the gospel of poetry—writing, teaching, and editing. He loves his life and his Maryn.

[Update: Last summer, Greg Santos and his wife welcomed their first child, Rosemary, to the world. In the fall, they all moved to Paris, France, where Greg joined the editorial staff of the Paris-based literary journal, Upstairs at Duroc. The other great news is that Greg's debut poetry collection, The Emperor's Sofa, is now out from DC Books. You can also read his ebook, Thinking Things Through, which was published by Pangur Ban Party in 2009.]


The good Christopher Newgent did an awful interview with Andy Devine, which is how they do interviews at Vouched. So there's that. Also, Andy will be reading in the Vouched Presents reading series on January 15th with a killer lineup--Sean Lovelace, Aaron Burch, and Matt Bell. This announcement is brought to you as part of Being Andy Devine.


Joe Brainard on writing his great book, I Remember: "I am way, way up these days over a piece I'm writing ... I feel like I'm not really writing it but it is because of me that it is being written. I also feel that it is about everybody else as much as it is about me. And that pleases me. I mean, I feel like I am everybody. And it's a nice feeling." That's how I'm feeling these days. I hope you are too.

It Was a Good Year

Here is my year in words, by the numbers.

44 publications in magazines and anthologies.
20 interviews of other writers.
16 readings.
12 readings by my pseudonym, Andy Devine.
11 screenings of films.
10 interviews of me.
2 translations: Dear Everybody in Korean, How Much of Us There Was in Spanish.
1 documentary, 60 Writers/60 Places.
1 paperback, Dear Everybody.
1 book under a pseudonym, Andy Devine's Words.
Comments (5)

Andy Devine Does Teleportal

After reading in two places at once on November 14th (Champaign and NYC), Andy Devine needed a little recovery time, but Being Andy Devine, the national book tour for WORDS, just passed through Austin, Texas for the Teleportal Readings, which was part of the Indie Lit Roadshow. Many thanks to the wonderful Jess Sauer for organizing, and, as always, to brilliant Andy Devine for being Andy Devine. Here is Andy's reading from Teleportal, which had to be recorded in a van outside the venue because of legal reasons.

Andy Devine Does Teleportal... from Monofonus Press on Vimeo.


The National Indie Lit Roadshow

The Baltimore wing of the National Indie Lit Roadshow is an open house thingy that is sponsored by Monumental People and Publishing Genius and JMWW and probably some other book people. It's running at 24 East Mount Vernon Place between 11 and 8. There will be great book shopping, drinky drinks, cash money poker, and a couple reading samplers (at 2pm and 7pm). I'll be reading something brand new as part of the 2pm sampler and then running the poker game. Click on the flyer for bigger details.

Devine Remix

As I mentioned, below, Robert Kloss is doing a series of remixes at Necessary Fiction this month. Up today is the Andy Devine story, Plots, which is from WORDS, which Publishing Genius published earlier this year.
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