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New Study Shows Something Surprising About Those Who Read . . .


A new study conducted at Harvard found that those who incorporate reading, specifically fiction, into their daily routines are better equipped to deal with the harsh weight of reality than those who do not, given their keen capacity for escapism and ability to suspend disbelief. A cross-section of over 1000 people self-identifying as “well-read” were surveyed, including scientists conducting the study.

According to the survey, vocations among the test group included everything from criminal defense lawyers, surgeons, hospice workers, adjunct professors and veteran soldiers to ice pirates, wizards-in-training, super spies, rogue cyborgs, fairy princesses and sexy centaurs.

“Science fiction is my entire universe. It’s the only way I know how to take a vacation from this broken body,” one man in a wheelchair said, before unzipping his skinsuit to reveal he was actually a giant floating brain with mechanized antennae from the third moon of Ygarth.

Another test subject attributed her ability to face the loneliness of a loveless marriage to her vast collection of romance novels before slowly, seductively unbuttoning her blouse to reveal an ample, milky-white bosom.

The young especially benefit – those for whom the trials of life can be especially traumatizing – the study also found, citing one subject: an orphan who had been abandoned by his parents once upon a time in a strip mall far away until he discovered the library, slayed a dragon, and lived happily ever after.

“If it wasn’t for books I’d be bored as hell and honestly probably even a little insane,” an auto mechanic with a proclivity for old pulp detective stories said, slipping a dime into the jukebox and downing his last shot before noticing a mysterious pair of initials on the inside of a matchbox and catching a dame with a fresh knife in her back in his arms.

Dr. Solomon Dirth, who headed up the study, concluded “it’s important to have an outlet – and books are an excellent way for people to escape the misery and horror of banal modern existence.” Dr. Dirth, who holds three PhDs and serves as Distinguished Professor, confessed he is a fan of the horror genre. “I teach all day and spend a lot of time in this very intellectual headspace so it’s nice to have an escape,” he said, wresting a machete from his briefcase just in time to chop off a zombie’s head before sharpening a stake and sprinkling holy water outside his office before nightfall.




A dating service for people who would rather skip to the end. Users swipe right to match with a promising romantic partner they will never actually meet only to receive a customized breakup letter authored by a stranger the next morning.

Users are allotted one syllable a day to share their universe-shattering philosophies regarding the radness of cookie butter from Trader Joe’s with fellow users & celebrities trying to sell them something. Additional syllables may be purchased for 50 cents each.

Needy egos compete daily in a digital Thunderdome, earning clicks by posting the most artful humblebrag, picture of the baby with the biggest head, most nonsensical meme, or best emo song lyric/most vague, veiled post of the day.

Patriotic cellphone app designed to send all your personal information directly to the CIA & FBI in one convenient shot.

A social media app for acid droppers that lets users create & share less than 1-millisecond long looped videos barely discernable to the human eye.

A repository for anonymous racists, misogynists & men’s rights advocates, Obama blamers, & automated robots selling designer sunglasses to go ass-wild in the comments sections of music videos that have nothing to do with their self-hate laden tirades.

Social community for indecent assholes who can’t contain themselves to freely post spoilers of popular television shows without prefacing with ‘spoiler alert’.

Ad & job posting community reserved for only guys named Greg.

Social community for cats to post adorable pictures of their owners dressed in tragically ill-fitting cat clothes.

A market for drone-delivered gourmet hams.

Forever eLone
Users wander a vast, barren virtual landscape as infinitely more flattering-looking avatars occasionally encountering another avatar & engaging in a limited conversation consisting of one of two phrase choices: “I’m lonely” or “Me too”.

Constructive Criticism from Jack Torrance’s MFA Workshop


“I found Jack to be a very strong and magnetic character. His transformation into a dull boy was really convincing and powerful for me.”


“I like how the writer uses repetition to tell the story as opposed to…you know…using a story to tell the story. That’s refreshing.”


“Of course it has a plot: All work. No Play. Jack is a dull boy. Look, I’ll Freytag it dude.”


“Preston, I think your proposal of cutting the novel by ninety-nine pages and just making it a one-sentence flash piece is hugely prescriptive. That’s clearly not the writer’s vision.”


“I usually don’t like experimental novels but this one really hooked me. But I also just really enjoy varieties of patterns.”


“My favorite thing about this piece is how original it is. I actually dropped my copy and the staple fell out, so I just sort of slapped the pages back together and I couldn’t really tell a difference. I don’t even know what that means, but how the writer accomplished that effect blows my mind.”


“Is dull really the right word though? What if you used ‘bromidic’ instead?”


“Obviously it’s an anti-novel. Its refusal to adhere to our narrative expectations is exactly what makes it a masterpiece. I mean, it’s clearly unreadable and I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually read past the first page…but I think that’s what makes it so brave.”


“Most of all I just really admire the writer’s discipline. I mean, that’s a shitload of typing. Tedious typing too. Like, who even uses typewriters anymore?”


“I love the way it plays with form and white space. I think we need more novels that care about how words on the page look as opposed to what they read. Because meaning can be really overrated.”


“I’m just gonna throw this out there: what the fuck is wrong with you people?”

Dear TriQuarterly editor,

I was excited to submit a story for your kind consideration but I was recently unable. I want to clarify this has nothing to do with your system but is in fact due to me only having ten fingers, not nearly enough to press the appropriate keys on my keyboard to make the electronic transaction happen. My intent was to give you the opportunity to publish my story. I realize this cover letter isn’t as clear as I hoped it would be. My dog just ingested 20 shurikens and pooped out a prickly moonbeard. I apologize if this has caused any confusion.




A Modest Proposal for Quelling the Rising Scourge of Feminist Upstarts and the Harmonious Restoration of Societal Equilibrium


It is there in plain sight for all to see: “All men are created equal”—nowhere does it mention the ones who shall go unnamed here. (Let us for simplicity’s sake call them They Who Shall Not Be Named But They All Have Vaginas and Of Late They’ve Been Creating Quite a Fuss.) I fear if we continue down this treacherous shore, the great ship of democracy shall be overturned by the brazen waves of femininity, sunk with the weight of its own unchecked sass! Therefore, I, haver of a penis and being a true patriot, have come up with a reasonable list of compromises, six elegant solutions to quash this silly movement and return this once great society to its former state of grace and masculine glory, the way God intended when He wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Herein I propose…

COMPROMISE 1: Weekend Respite

Weekends – that is, Friday, beginning 6:00 pm through Sunday ending at 12 am – They Who Shall Not Be Named would have full ownership of their bodies to do with them what they will. That’s fifty-four hours of generous respite, sufficient time to get out of their system and exorcise any ridiculous notions of autonomy over their own physiology. During this time, they would be permitted to resist all unwelcome sexual advances, go unshorn, dress in whatever provocative manner they deem fit, purge all lesbian perversions, and exercise their reproductive powers in any unseemly, godless fashion. Monday, all rights would revert back to men, naturally.

COMPROMISE 2: Gladiatorial Resolution

Any member of They Who Shall Not Be Named may opt to take part in an annual Thunderdome-esque tournament in which they would wear skimpy outfits and battle their fellow defiants brandishing petite, pink swords in an arena riddled with phallic monuments, in the end one grand victor being granted status as an honorary man, that is, full rights and a bronzed penis trophy to be worn at all times. Not only would this give the soft ones exercise, but it would be a healthy psychological outlet for their unfounded neurotic rage and serve as just plain old good spectacle for the ruling class.

COMPROMISE 3: Military “Service” & Foreign Debt Relief

Throughout the year They Who Shall Not Be Named would retain full rights to their bodies, except in the months of March, June, and November, during which time they would be sent overseas, on loan as property of the US government to serve as entertainment for the armed forces, or as repayment to those foreign countries to whom we owe a financial debt. Not only would this stimulate our economy and help offset the national deficit, it would also boost military morale and permit They Who Shall Not Be Named a free exotic vacation. A win-win, really.

COMPROMISE 4: Adopt-a-Vagina

This program would work just like the adopt-a-highway program, except in this case underprivileged men – lonely or socially awkward or decrepit with age – would be gifted volunteer vaginas to care for and train as their own. The attached bodies and brains would, of course, be included but negligible for all intents and purposes. Volunteers would be decided by a mandatory state lottery.

COMPROMISE 5: Werewolf House Arrest

They Who Shall Not Be Named would retain all rights to their bodies except in those times of menstruation, during which they would be treated as any common werewolf during a full moon: bound and shackled in a safe environment until their irrational state passes, until they no longer pose a threat to national security or the common public.

COMPROMISE 6: Spin-to-Win

An enterprising solution, the Spin-to-Win initiative would offer They Who Shall Not Be Named the opportunity to gamble for additional rights, receiving one spin in exchange for one year of passive and faithful servitude without whinging or whining. Possible pay-outs to include: Reproductive Rights! Equal Pay! Rape Immunity! and more.

The Top Five Most Rejected Pieces in My Submittable Queue


If there’s one thing Facebook has taught us, it’s how to constantly edit ourselves. To show a limited public the best of us, the infinitely cool(er) version of ourselves. To post only those pictures with optimal lighting, only the good side of our face, with nothing incriminating in the background because we carefully framed the shot to begin with.

This is a natural skill for writers, who make a living (or don’t make a living but at least live) by making up personas and telling interesting lies.

We’re pros at prose but we’re also pros at putting on a show. The good thing about our line of work is, for the most part, we can hide our rejections. The stuff we’re proud of gets published (or doesn’t) and no one ever sees the stuff that gets rejected a billion times, except editors maybe. And who gives a shit about them? I mean, I do, but most of them are writers too so they’re “in the club”– they know rejection is the name of the game, and they have a sea of their own. No point in playing proud around them.

Last weekend I was wading through my Submittable account, sorting through the ‘Denied’ queue, which is several pages long, and I thought, What the hell. I’d like to share some of the things that got rejected numerous times and then, finally…never found a home. Ever.

These are incredibly flawed pieces, and I totally understand why they were rejected. But they also represent different points in my writing development, and they’re still things I wrote. Little pieces of me. I have a soft spot for rejects and outliers, so I wanted to give them a stage. Plus, I think you can learn a lot from your old work, especially your old shitty work. Hopefully I can glean a lesson or two from these as I post them.

So, here are my top five rejected pieces, starting with the most recent and ending with the very first piece that ever got rejected.


“The Dear Bullshit _____, Poems”

[These are tonally all over the fucking place and far too cutesy, and just…not very good poems. But some nights you write something and it’s so late and you’re so drunk on candy and words and sleep that you somehow manage to convince yourself, “Wow, is this good? I can’t even tell. I better submit it tonight so I don’t chicken out in the morning.” And of course you wake up in the morning and see that what you wrote isn’t very good, but you think, “Fuck it.” And that’s pretty much the story of these poems.]

(Don’t think I haven’t seen the way you twirl your stupid tails
when the morning sets the fields aflame
there is a joy in the world
that makes me shit
but, like, on the inside)

(Love is an oubliette
from which is born
the desire to be happy
stuck in a fucking oubliette)

(Watch for falling particles
they’ll put your ion out, kid!)

(Only mud sings. Only bombs tell truth
Even the swans are breaking their necks tonight in the lot behind the church
sick of the lake’s cruel reflections
I have studied their incessant cracking between the slow breaths of beasts
God’s wet cough through the chattering teeth of clocks
counted the chimes that tap out our misery with the indifference of angels
rolling dice in heaven over which dogs will eat tonight and which dogs
will learn to lie down forever, begging the light’s indecent tease

Show me something truer than meat!
Show me what’s sharper than a knife singing!
the mouth worth kissing more than a bullet!
the skull that isn’t painted like a clown!
the heart with wings that hasn’t been gored by gravity!
or the easy way out: the rope to yank to conjure curtainfall
Just teach me to ascend beyond tonight
O beyond the depths, the depths
this long indifferent deep
so blueblue it’s black
It’s true: you can die from loneliness)

WHAT DOES THIS TEACH ME: At least wait until morning to submit, to reappraise the quality of what you wrote the night before. Clarity is golden, and that little act will save you and some unlucky editor a buttload of time and energy.


“Subtle Distinctions in US Law”

[This is the first protest poem I ever wrote, and the language isn’t very interesting but I liked the conceit. And there was real rage behind it. I was pissed off about a certain event, and the only way I could get it out of my system was to write about it.]


^That’s how it looks on the page. The text on the left reads:

“You have the right to remain white. Anything you say technically can be used against you in a court of law, but probably won’t. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense. You have the right to self-defense if you find yourself in a situation in which you fear for your life – even if you provoked that situation to begin with – no matter how paranoid or unbalanced you are. You have the right to the benefit of a doubt concerning your character. You have the right to wear a hoodie any time of the day. You have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Text on the right:

“You have the right to remain black. Everything you are will be used against you in a court of law, public opinion, depiction in the media, and pretty much every facet of society for the rest of your life. You have the right to speak to an attorney and to have that attorney present during the reading of your guilty verdict. You have the right to fear…in fact, it’s pretty much obligatory – any time you find yourself in a room full of white people, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. Finally, if walking down the street minding your own business one rainy night you make the irrevocable mistake of wearing a hoodie, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever you have the right to remain silent.”

WHAT DOES THIS TEACH ME: Like I said, the language is incredibly bland and it’s a little <a lot, let’s be real> too…obvious? But it served a purpose, and I liked the concept. Which goes to show: a good concept doesn’t = good execution.


“The Self Love Song of Yeezy Prufrock”

[Geez. This one is just silly, y’all.]







WHAT DOES THIS TEACH ME: I mean, I don’t think there’s anything this can teach me, and I definitely don’t think there’s anything it can teach you. If anything, it’s one of those things we’ll just have to unlearn/unsee together.


“Burgeoning Economies of Self-Worth Following the Advent of Social Technology”

[This was the first ‘concept piece’ I ever wrote, and it’s pretty minimalist. Ready for it? Are you sure? OK: here it is…]

FACEBOOK-LIKE_2676878b(<–Click 500 times to see poem)

That’s it.


It’s over.

WHAT DOES THIS TEACH ME: That I actually submitted that to places (I think I actually sent it to Poetry, as in Poetry Magazine, because it must’ve seemed like a good April Fools at the time) can only mean three things: 1) No  2) You’re never as clever as you think you are 3) Gimmicks, for the most part, are camouflage: in most cases, they disguise the fact that you don’t have a substantial piece of sincere art to offer, and you’d rather fuck around with cleverness. There’s always an exception to this rule (and every rule), of course, but gimmicks REALLY have to WORK for a piece to earn the right to employ it, and this one just didn’t.


“What the Gypsy Told Me About Our Dead Mother”

[As I mentioned above, this one is the very first piece that ever got rejected. It represents my first attempt to write a poem. It’s pretty atrocious. But it’s also written (poorly) with full artistic sincerity.]

Wind yourself like you once did
the spring ballerina in the pine box
your late mother’s nightstand
where she kept fake pearls
spit shined secrets many splendid
bobby pins to keep her hair from tumbling
like the tree trunk that splinters silence
every winter greeting frozen ponds with
death weight, keep your grace tall as
bronze weathervanes shaped like roosters
equally stubborn show talons kick dirt
brandish beak flaunt feathers let nothing
lash you not wind not rain not man not pain
remember why we bleed we bleed to learn
how to heal fear to be brave die to be saved
know it’s ok to doubt just don’t let it become the cloud
that bundles you up like a blanket keeps the sun
from finding you smiling melting crows in corners
of your memory don’t get too low always lust for
life swim through seas take it from me short is the
countdown until the thimble-headed dancer twirls
one last time before collapsing from exhaustion
never lose the music that slays shadows keep those birds
inside you warm, in fall coats worn, count your bedtime
stars to lose count all those bedtime scars & know I will
never be far remember there is no distance in love
but most of all most of all don’t forget to dance

WHAT DOES THIS TEACH ME: Lots of problems up in here, but I feel like at this point I could salvage it if I really wanted to, fix the lines up, fix the rhythm and line breaks and change out a lot of damn words and make it less corny and really improve upon it…but I won’t. I’d rather it remain as a relic, a symbol of my starting point as an artist, shamelessly imperfect. And that’s what it teaches me: we all have to start somewhere, and accept that maybe everything we write will remain flawed, and maybe 85% of what we produce will never find a home, but that doesn’t make it work wasted. Everything is practice, and every little rejection matters just as much (if not more) than every acceptance.

So we should write on and not pity the pieces that don’t find easy homes. The little orphans that pile up at the end of our Submittable queue. Their sacrifice is noble, and I have to believe there’s a heaven just for them, and in that heaven they find acceptance, finally.

Sometimes late at night, I read Netflix’s descriptions of movies and pretend they’re really weird, obscure, shitty fortune cookie fortunes…

“Train the body, the mind…there’s still no accounting for the heart of a killer. It’s gonna be a dirty fight.”

“To stand up against skinless giants who devour humans for pleasure, it takes a strong mind—and a lot of rage.”

“After a humiliating public beat-down, a hotheaded teen finds his fists and his feet. But mostly, he finds himself.”

“Double-crossed and left for dead, a master thief seeks justice. The kind that comes from the barrel of a gun.”

“With feds AND gangsters chasing you, the opportunity that arises might not be the one you’re chasing.”

“A barbaric sea captain on the path to hell seeks redemption in a monastery. But the devil must always have his due.”

“A Nazi-summoned demon-turned-U.S. patriot with a soft spot for kittens. Meet America’s greatest secret weapon.”

“After miraculously landing a crippled plane, a hard-drinking pilot is under suspicion. Can one good deed undo the rest?”

“The face of evil was supposed to have been eradicated in World War II. No one thought to check the moon.”

“This tough trucker wants a quick bite in the big city. He’ll get served a Chinese buffet of evil magic.”

“After studying murder for a book, paranoia is setting in. Of course, he’s only paranoid if no one’s after him.”

“Three 30-something doofuses find a way to not stink at sports. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”

“The Apocalypse is over. Now the Antichrist wants to marry your girlfriend. Things are about to get biblical…”

“A found-mouthed ad man refuses to die…until he leaves some choice man-tips behind for his unborn son.”

“The American West is a sight to behold. Especially if you’re on, like, a LOT of drugs. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

“Nobody’s good enough for Dad’s little girl. Especially a guy who earns his keep writing songs about urine.”

“The best way to understand someone is to walk in his shoes. His feet are going to get pretty sore.”

“You may ask yourself: How did I get here? Hey, we’ve all been there.”

“In a time when people’s beliefs are changing, a rejected goddess leaves the community that no longer wants her.”

“In beautiful Rome, a man with lighting fists will do battle with a human tank. That tank’s name is Chuck Norris.”

And last but certainly not least…

“A cheeseburger. If you really think about it, there are worse reasons to have sex with somebody.”


Top Ten Worst Presidents (by sheer virtue of their name without any foreknowledge of their person or presidency)

(Alternately, this list could’ve been called the Ten Whitest Men in the History of Old Dead White Men)

Film : Star Wars : Jabba the Hutt
President: Benjamin Harrison
Years in Office: 1889–93
The Case Against Him: I’ve never heard of this guy. I’m pretty sure he was digitally added into history by George Lucas.

Zachary Taylor Thomas
President: Zachary Taylor
Years in Office: 1849–50
The Case Against Him: I was fine with this one until I realized he wasn’t the guy from Home Improvement.

President: Chester Arthur
Years in Office: 1881–85
The Case Against Him: Classic case of two first names.

Polka King Home Alone 1990
President: James K. Polk
Years in Office: 1845–49
The Case Against Him: I am assuming this guy invented Polka music.

zoolander done
President: William Henry Harrison
Years in Office: 1841
The Case Against Him: Who?

President: Grover Cleveland
Years in Office: 1885–89
The Case Against Him: This person strikes me as someone who got into office on the coolness of their name only to spend the next four years building model ships-in-bottles and ordering steaks sent to the white house “medium raw” with a top hat full of brandy.

President: Rutherford B. Hayes
Years in Office: 1877–81
The Case Against Him: Rutherford sounds like a guy who has a large collection of dolls and spends his nights doing donuts in the oval office on a wooden Segway.

President: William Howard Taft
Years in Office: 1909–13
The Case Against Him: I just don’t trust this one. Taft is dangerously close to taffy and I once choked on a large gob of banana Laffy Taffy at the state fair.

President: Martin Van Buren
Years in Office: 1837–41
The Case Against Him: This guy just sounds like the ultimate dickhole. Plus, I saw a scary wax figure of him at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! once and it instantly inspired a heart attack in my butthole.

President: Millard Fillmore
Years in Office: 1850–53
The Case Against Him: His name is Millard Fillmore.