On March 6, I’ll be moderating a panel on writing and cultural exchange programs, specifically focused on Sozopol Fiction Seminars and Bulgaria, with Kelly Luce (Pull Me Under, FSG), Christopher Castellani (Leading Men, Viking), and Eireane Nealand at AWP in San Antonio. On March 5th on Los Angeles at a conference on eco-criticism sponsored by INCS (Interdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies), I’ll be presenting a paper on Amitav Ghosh’s Petrofiction and The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Our discussion at AWP will center on our experiences in Bulgaria through Sozopol Seminar created by the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation.
Ben Bush is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a 2017-2018 Fulbright Fellow to Bulgaria, and a Dornsife Fellow at the University of Southern California creative writing PhD program.
His fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review (PDF), The Literary Review (PDF), Yeti, (excerpt), The Fanzine, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and The Dogs (an exhibit catalog including writing by Dennis Cooper, Dodie Bellamy, and Kevin Killian.) His non-fiction and interviews have appeared in Salon, Bookforum, The Believer, Flavorwire, Los Angeles Review of Books, Poets & Writers, San Francisco Chronicle, Alternet, Bitch, and Conversations with William T. Vollmann (University of Mississippi Press).
He has received fellowships and scholarships from the Truman Capote Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, Wesleyan Writers Conference, Kimmel Harding Nelson, Key West Literary Seminars, Sozopol Fiction Seminars, and Poets & Writers / the New York State Council on the Arts. He was a finalist for the 2019-2020 Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowship. He has served as managing editor for McSweeney’s podcast the Organist and the website the Fanzine, and ran the Hoyt Commission reading series in New York City. He has taught creative writing in Morocco, Bulgaria, and at the University of Iowa.
An interview I did with Louis Chude-Sokei has become a lushly produced episode of The Organist (from McSweeney’s / The Believer / KCRW). Per The Organist: “The Nigerian-Jamaican- American writer Louis Chude-Sokei on black cyborgs, black blackface, and the intersections of race, technology, and robotics.”
“A lot of the kinds of questions asked about artificial intelligence and robots: Can they think? Are they just mimics? Are they capable of original thought? Do they have souls? Can they have souls? These are the same questions that were asked about negro slaves.”
I just returned from my time in Bulgaria as a Sozopol Fiction Fellow. Along with author Angel Igov, I co-moderated a panel discussion “For the Editing: With Love and Fear” featuring the legendary Barbara Epler, head editor at New Directions; Anna Kelly, commissioning editor at HarperCollins (UK); Anne Meadows, commissioning editor at Granta and Portobello Books (UK); author Georgi Gospodinov; and Manol Peykov, editor at Janet 45, a Bulgarian literary publisher of beautifully designed books in the McSweeney’s mold.
With seminars held in a cliffside art gallery on the Black Sea and two days of readings and panel discussions inside a 24-hour bookstore in the Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, this was really one of the best run events I’ve ever attended. I was impressed by the kindness of our hosts, the talent of the Bulgarian writers, and the sense of community the program fostered. I particularly enjoyed a bilingual reading in Bulgarian and English in which fellows got to hear their work translated and read aloud by their peers. It was a genuine honor to be a part of all of this. Photos by, I think, Anthony Georgieff. To learn more visit the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation (EKF).
I wrote a piece for Salon about “The GOP’s mind-blowing gun-control hypocrisy: Americans have the right to bear arms — except at our debates!” It was interesting to talk to Republican party organizers and Tea Party advocates. Also, the specifics of bringing guns to the debates revealed plenty of other oddness.
I interviewed Camden Joy / Tom Adelman for Bookforum about narcocorridos, writing in persona, and rock managers beating people with sacks of quarters.
I interviewed T. Geronimo Johnson for Los Angeles Review of Books. In his novel Welcome to Braggsville, UC Berkeley students’ protest of a Civil War Reenactment leads to an accidental lynching. It’s a novel that’s funnier, weirder, and more multi-vocal than plot synopsis suggests. In our conversation, he discussed how the novel’s use of citation reflected the dissociative aspects of being black in academia.
I did a pair of interviews with Joshua Cohen about his novel Book of Numbers. For Los Angeles Review of Books we talked about computer code, puns, the “enkitschment” of the Holocaust, and his novel’s often uncomfortable engagement with race. At The Rumpus, I spoke with him about his job translating product copy for porn CD-ROMs while living in Eastern Europe. For Flavorwire, I wrote a listicle: Book of Numbers explained, if not through animated GIFs, at least adjacent to them.
I wrote a pair of super short intros for McSweeney’s The Believer’s The Organist podcast (affiliated with LA’s public radio station KCRW) One is about a series prospective business texts that leads an episode in which whole chapters of Tao Lin’s novel Taipei are rapped. The other is about binaural recording and Arthur Rimbaud which begins an episode about director Mike Mills’ documentary on the children of Silicon Valley.
I interviewed National Book Award winner and Unabomber suspect William Vollmann for Bookforum about his new book Last Stories and Other Stories.