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December '04  

news: Hobart #4 available now; 2004 Pushcart nominations

Guest Edited by...
by Ryan Boudinot

Plane Crash Stories
by Stephen Elliott

by Stephany Aulenback

EP No. 5
by Calvin Liu

by Lee Klein

Evenfall and the Residents Return from the Casino
by Matthew Simmons

   Guest Edited by...

         Ryan Boudinot

What is a "guest editor," anyway? Does such a position hold any actual influence over the contents of a literary journal the caliber of Hobart? I still don't know, but will say this—editor Aaron Burch was kind enough to put my name on the cover in exchange for reviewing and soliciting submissions and artwork. In the spirit of liner notes from a Criterion Collection DVD, here's the story of how Hobart #4 came together.

My sister-in-law and her husband, aka "The Chad and Emily Beard Johnson Estate," happened to own a fantastic work of art by Marcel Dzama. I had become aware of Dzama's work through the usual channels, seeing his creepy and happy drawings on covers of various publications. The piece owned by Em and Chad just happens to be my all-time favorite of his works. With some guidance from Seattle's Greg Kucera gallery, I was able to gain permission to use the artwork in question as the cover of the issue. Fantastic. I think it looks sharp.

I then approached Aimee Bender, whose work I have loved since her debut short story collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, and asked if she wanted to write something based on the Dzama piece. She graciously agreed, providing the conceptual book-ends of the issue, the two-part story "Crew."

I knew I wanted some other artwork in the issue so I turned to a local (Seattle again) artist named Heidi Barack. One evening a couple years ago my wife and I ordered a pizza from a local (Georgetown) pizzeria then called Stella's (now called Stellar). When we walked in to pick up our pie, we found the joint vibrantly decorated with Ms. Barack's animal paintings. When we saw the one of Audrey Weinerdog, we burst out laughing, and decided on the spot that we had to own it. It now hangs in our living room above the bed where our real-life weinerdog Maxine sleeps. So that's a roundabout way of saying I loved the idea of having Heidi's jovial menagerie sprinkled among stories about such things as genital depilation.

I turned to some old friends for stories for the issue, and they delivered in a big way. Rick Moody, Lee Klein, Matthew Simmons, David Ryan, Michael Rosovsky, Jaime Clarke, Elizabeth Ellen, and Chandler Dean all answered the call. In a strange coincidence, Rick and Matthew submitted three stories each, all of which are included in the issue. The astute and witty Stephen Elliott has been very kind to me in recent months, and lent our pages his smart "Plane Crash Stories."

I liked Ray Vukcevich's book Meet Me in the Moon Room so much that I asked him for a story. He obliged, contributing the issue's sole story starring a parrot.

There's something about Iceland that has always fascinated me, to the point where its landscape appears in my dreams every couple months. I'm obsessed with the place, and have slowly started to learn Icelandic so that I can read the sagas in the language in which they were written. Iceland is kind and civil with its artists, and a number of organizations are set up to accommodate their needs. One, the Icelandic Writers Union, was kind enough to pass along my request for submissions to two writers, Sjon and Gyrdir Eliasson.* If you've ever listened to a Bjork album, you've heard Sjon's work—he's one of her chief lyrical collaborators. I found that I shared a kinship with Eliasson, as we both are ardent fans of the often-overlooked American writer Richard Brautigan. Gyrdir has translated a number of Brautigan's books into Icelandic, and with the help of Edda Publishing's Valgerdur Bennediktsdottir, sent me a bunch of signed copies. So cool.

The most rewarding part of guest-editing this issue of Hobart was reviewing submissions from writers with whom I was not yet familiar. Brian Ames sent me a pitch-perfect story of rural Northwest noir. Stories by Maile Chapman, Tiff Holland, Tao Lin, and Robert Lopez appeared suddenly in my inbox and grabbed my attention as distinctive and new. I also got killer material from Stephany Aulenback, David Barringer, Joel Kassay, Marisa Matarazo, Ellen Meister, and Calvin Liu, whose stories all made my day and made me start to realize Hobart #4 was shaping up to be the premier literary venture of the 21st century. Or something like that.

Awhile ago one of my stories appeared in issue #12 of McSweeney's, in a section of stories written in 20 or fewer minutes. I tapped a few of the other writers who contributed to that project and asked if they had any more 20-minute stories, you know, lying around. Both Laird Hunt and J. Robert Lennon generously lent their pieces.

When I agreed to work on Hobart #4 I worked for an online education company in the Seattle suburbs and was a dad-to-be. On my son's due date I lost my job and entered a blissful, anxiety-flavored four month period where Hobart and writing a novel were my sole intellectual demands—far easier demands, I should say, than learning to become a father. After all the submissions came together I found gainful employment again, at, where I now work as an editor on the DVD team. One of the perks of the job is that I get free DVDs. One afternoon a DVD landed on my desk called Girls on Trampolines. The back-cover copy included the somewhat enigmatic warning "Contains footage of cute—but topless—girls" (italics mine). I slipped the DVD into the envelope containing the corrected proof of Hobart #4 and sent the package to Aaron. Strangely, I received but a single four-word response regarding the bonus DVD from Aaron, a "Thanks for the DVD." I have yet to hear whether he has viewed the DVD, and whether it can be ascertained that cuteness and toplessness are characteristics that compliment or cancel each other out.

Thanks Aaron, contributors, and most of all the readers of Hobart #4.
Ryan Boudinot

*Please note that simply by using the American English alphabet to spell these two writers' names I have misspelled them. Aaron and I went back and forth a bunch of times on how best to include Icelandic characters in Icelandic words, including Sjon's and Gyrdir's names. The finished issue resolves this.

Ryan Boudinot’s work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Black Book, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003, Monkeybicycle, Bullfight Review, Post Road, and The Future Dictionary of America. He would like to credit Aimee Bender for introducing him to Aaron Burch, Editor of Hobart.