Keeping It Thug

I have a noir story called Walk Up in the new issue of Thuglit. This is one of my favorite stories I've ever written. Thuglit is a mag that's close to my heart. The magazine is edited by Todd Robinson, whose novel The Hard Bounce is well worth reading. The first piece of fiction I ever published, Hot Dog Money, appeared in Thuglit in 2008, so it's rad to see how my work had developed now that I'm six years deep.

By the way, Otto Penzler, one of the great New York City booksellers, recently wrote a very precise essay about the Noir genre for the Huffington Post.

Anyway, run and cop Issue 10 of Thuglit. It's available in print and kindle.



I have been in nonfiction mode lately! An essay I wrote about my old buddy, Newt Johnson, is up on Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. There weren't any obituaries for Newt when he died, so I wanted to write something. Sometimes it can feel strange to write book reviews—why am I writing about someone else's book instead of working on my own?—but it's important to discuss, and bring attention to, worthwhile books. I reviewed Cary Levine's art history book, Pay For Your Pleasures, for The Philadelphia Review of Books.

I also contributed a small piece about the rights of street vendors to Opportunities for a new New York, a report published by the Planners Network NYC chapter. Two of the report's editors, Sam Stein and Oksana Mironova, have each published interesting articles of their own recently.

This article my friend Tracy O'Neil wrote for Grantland about old-school skate boot manufacturing is pretty damn interesting, as well.

By the way, I gave in and joined Twitter. Follow me @bwnadler. Or don't follow me. Follow your heart.

Finally, I want to show you a monument I encountered in a cemetery in Virginia recently. If you know any Hebrew, this is kind of funny. Whether or not you know any Hebrew, this is tragic, and also kind of confusing:

hollywood cemetery monument - cropped

O gods of my youth!

I am mad excited to announce that a project I have been working on for a long time will be released in the near future by Microcosm Publishing. The title is Punk in NYC’s Lower East Side 1981-1991 . Microcosm is releasing it as the first installment in a series of zines about the history of punk scenes in different cities.The context makes sense; it is definitely a music fanzine. Specifically, it's a giant Reagan Youth fanzine. At the same time, it's a monograph about anarchism and inherited holocaust trauma. It's also an oral history about the Tompkins Square Riots, and a bunch of other things. Depending who I'm talking to, I call it a zine or a monograph. Like Townes said, "It's funny, about words." The cover will have some beautiful photos that a woman named Amie Hertzig took of the legendary Dave Insurgent. Basically, when the project comes out, you should buy it, and then you'll know what it is. You might learn something too. DI street scene

Other things I want to show you:

In addition to this nonfiction work, I have been writing a lot of poetry in the past year that is more personal, or more confessional, than a lot of the poetry I've published. I'm not sure how I feel about this. It might be time to go back to writing poems about historical mining techniques. For now, though, I have some recent poems on Shabby Doll House and Watershed Review.

A former student of mine, Hia Chakraborty, wrote a rad novel called Aurora's Ashes. I don't care what anyone says, teenagers are smarter now than they used to be.

I think this might still be  the finest short story I have ever read: My First Fee by Isaac Babel.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

Happy birthday to the whole fucking world! I spent most of the summer in the Huerfano Valley of Southern Colorado. I was holed up in an army tent, on an eighty-acre piece of land a couple of friends live on, just at the edge of the BLM land and the Wet Mountains. No internet, no telephone, just sun and rain and dogs and rocks and dirt and stuff.

My friend has a solar generator at his cabin, so assuming it was a sunny day, I could walk down and get a little juice for my laptop in the morning, then spend the afternoon writing at a wooden desk he'd built int he woods, under some the shade of trees. I got a good bit of reading and writing done.

Now, at the beginning of 5774, I'm back in New York City for the school year. I am teaching a bunch of writing classes at colleges in Harlem and The South Bronx.

I am also putting the finishing touches on forthcoming nonfiction project I am mad excited about. I'm going to hold back on releasing all the details for now, but it involves my favorite New York punk band of all time, Reagan Youth.

In the meantime, I had a little crime piece up on the Akashic Press site over the summer. Keeping it gangster.

A section from the comic project that Alyssa Berg and I have been slowing working on is featured on The Rumpus this week.

By the way, if anyone stumbled upon this site after reading something of mine online, and wanted to buy a copy of my first novel, you get one directly from me. Copies are starting to run low, and there won't be any more printed (the press folded), but I still have a bunch on hand. Send me an email at benjam.nadler at, and we'll figure out how you can send me ten bucks, and I can send you a book. I can even sign if you want.


I'm honored that my essay on the legendary Hassidic rabbi, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and his relationship to the writing of fiction, is featured alongside cyberpunk legend Rudy Rucker in the second issue of sci-fi mag Pravic. Don't get it twisted: Pravic is not some low-budget Asimov knockoff for fan boys. It is a punk, analytical assault on the genre, put together by some smart men who are disciples of Phillip K. Dick. Check out their manifesto.

The mag is on its third issue now. They have already been getting mad props, including from taste makers Boing Boing. Run cop that shit.

By the way, a recent piece from Pravic co-editor Nathaniel K. Miller (whom I have known since he was a musician and visual artist named Jacen Kemp) can be found on Keep This Bag Away From Children.



I'm excited to be included in this event that's going on all day, today. I'll be reading sometime between 5 and 6pm.


Popsickle is Brooklyn's literary arts festival. Now in its fourth year, the fest aims to unite Brooklyn's array of reading series and mags into one day-long literary megareading. It's happening this year at LaunchPad. Come for some of it, stay for all of it.

LaunchPad is located at 721 Franklin Avenue, near the 2, 3, 4, 5 and S trains.

PERFORMERS INCLUDE: Michael Robbins | Anthony Madrid | Paige Ackerson-Kiely | Dolan Morgan | Danniel Schoonebeek | Coriel Gaffney | Ben Nadler | Julia Guez | Rangi McNeil | Montana Ray | Jarrod Shanahan | Andy Gittlitz | Nicole Steinberg | Paul Simundich | Allyson Paty | Jacob Perkins | JD Scott | Christine Kanownik | Sasha Fletcher | Seth Oelbaum | Ana Božičević | Leigh Stein | Jennifer Tamayo | Ryan Strong | Hubert Vigilla | Carole Nicksin | Anna Moschovakis | Sarah V. Schweig | Elizabeth Zuba | Marisa Crawford & Becca Klaver & Lily Ladewig & Caolan Madden & Emily Skillings & Jennifer Tamayo | & more tba . . . .

PARTICIPATING SERIES INCLUDE: Bushwick Sweethearts | Hatchet Job | Renegade Reading Series | Fireside Follies | Moonshot | Vol. 1 Brooklyn | Highwaymen NYC | What's So Hot | Death Panel | WONDER | Stain of Poetry | Atlas | Bratty Poets

Popsickle 2013 is coordinated by Niina Pollari and JD Scott.

For more information, email them at

Keep This Bag Away From Liat

I am going to be editing the Keep This Bag Away From Children site for all of June. Then, in July, I am going to disappear into the mountains for a bit...

Anyway, I am kicking off the month with three wonderful poems from Liat Mayer. I pasted a sample below, but you can read them all here.  

More of Liat's poetry can be found in the forthcoming Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry.


Striking happiness. The stars

after midnight mid winter

saving everything. Stumbling

through ordinary brokenness

planes so low overhead

sometimes the earth is trembling.

Days where nothing matters

and then finally

days where nothing matters,

the clouds extending perfectly.

mimeograph machine

As I've mentioned before on here, Iron Diesel Press has closed its doors. Partly it's an issue of the press never really gaining traction. Partly it's an issue of the the whole project resting on one person's shoulders, which means it collapses when that person has crisis in their personal life. But mainly it is just an issue of DIY projects often have short lifespans. In any case, I wanted to reprint an essay here that originally appeared on Iron Diesel's (now-defunct) website, explaining why I published my first book with them in the first place. Two year later, I know a lot more about books and publishing, but I still stand behind the sentiments in this essay. 

By the way, if anyone wants to buy a copy of Harvitz, I still have some back stock (and will for a while), so you can buy a copy directly from me. I'll even sign it. Just drop me an email.

dead at 26, alive at 26

I have been thinking about d.a. levy all year long, because this is my twenty-sixth year, and d.a. levy died when he was twenty-six.

d.a. levy was a kid from Cleveland who, after getting kicked out of the Navy and coming back home in the early nineteen-sixties, decided to become a great writer and give Cleveland its own literary tradition. Levy soon became the center of a new and thriving underground poetry and arts scene, but his activities were not appreciated in the still McCarthyist Midwest of the mid-1960s.  The town fathers of Cleveland simply did not want a literary tradition. Throughout 1966 and 1967, levy was hounded by the Cleveland Police Department on charges of distributing “obscene” poetry.  In 1968, he killed himself with a gunshot to the head.

Ed Sanders (of  Fugs fame) said of levy:  "He was like Jeremiah.  He had the potential to be a great religious writer – a prophet."  The comparison to Jeremiah is appropriate.  Levy was someone who saw Babylon for what it is, and was persecuted greatly for speaking this vision.  Jeremiah was imprisoned not by the Babylonians, but by his fellow Hebrews (as detailed by J. Zornado on the Iron Diesel blog back in January).  By the same token, the primary evidence against levy in court was not given by a police officer, but by a kid from the scene who turned informant.

Sander’s qualifier of “potential” is also appropriate.  When someone takes their life at such a young age, you have to talk about them in those terms.  An early death is not a great achievement; it is a tragedy that precludes greater achievements.

That being said, levy did leave behind a very accomplished (if occasionally dated) body of work.  It hurts to think of the more developed works levy never gave us, but the many works he did leave us with deserve their due.  One of my favorite poems of his is sitting on a bench near TSQuare, which ends with the stanzas:

god i think yr sense of humor is sad & perhaps you are also feeling something like an outlaw

god i am wondering for how many years have the jews exiled you while they busied themselves with survival

This man was already a great religious writer.  He took on the role of the intermediary, though in an inverse manner to the Hebrew Prophets of ancient Israel: they explained God to the Jewish people; levy, a scruffy half-Jew from modern day Cleveland, explained the Jews to God.

The reason I’m writing about levy here, on the site of a small press, is not just because of what he did as a poet, but what he did as a publisher.  From 1963 to 1968, levy published dozens of books on his Renegade Press and 7 Flowers Press.  There were no were no outlets for levy and his friends to publish their work, so he created his own.  From 1967 to 1968, he also published The Buddhist 3rd Class Junk Oracle, which was Cleveland’s first underground newspaper, as well as a prophetic manifestation of the collaged punk zines that would come along ten years later.  Levy did these things because he believed in the work, because he believed in the vision, and because he was determined to unleash them on Cleveland (and the world) at any cost.  And the cost was great.

Publishing on a truly independent (renegade, to use levy’s term) press is still a frightening endeavor.  The fear now, though, is not that one will be persecuted as levy was, but rather that all your work will simply be ignored.  “Independent” can mean “alone.”  We live in our own times, and we face our own obstacles.  This is a more diffused type of fear, where there is no visible opponent.  In 1970, they shot anti-war protestors dead.  In 2003, they pretended we didn’t exist at all, broadcasting hundreds channels of entertainment, none showing any images of 300,000 folks protesting in the streets of New York.

But what can you do?  You can’t give up.  You protest because you have to. You write books because you have to.  Small presses publish books because they have to.  You live because you have to. The fact of the matter is we have a lot of good things going for us that small press folks in the 60s didn’t have.  For one thing, we have a longer and stronger history of independent publishing in America behind us now (a legacy which levy contributed to greatly).  For another, independent presses today have a lot better technology than mimeograph machines at their disposal.

I know that a lot of the statements made in the previous paragraph sound simple and obvious.  At the same time, I wish someone could have been there to say simple and obvious things to levy when he was alone in his apartment with his rifle to his head.  Like, “Hey, Darryl Allan, stay alive.  Don’t kill yourself.  Leave Cleveland if you have to.  Go write more poems.  You’ll write better poems.  Young folks will still be reading them in forty years.  They’ll write their own books too. You’ll make a great old man.  Twenty-six is too young to die.”

da levy was a renegade.  He fought for poetry. He was persecuted by goons and snitches.  He was twenty-six when he took his own life.  I am twenty-six now, but I don’t plan on dying any time soon.  My first book will be published by Iron Diesel Press later this year.  I don’t know that it’s as great as anything levy did, but I do know that I’ll be twenty-seven when it comes out.  May there be abundant peace from heaven.

flex your head

I've been getting a lot of great response to an review I recently published in the Philadelphia Review of Books about Hard Art, DC 1979, a book Akashic is putting out of Lucian Perkin's photographs of early DC hardcore bands, like Bad Brains, Teen Idles, and Trenchmouth.  The best email I have received, by far, though, was from Steve Metz, who was in an interracial DC band called the Mystery Dates, that played with Bad Brains.

Below is a basement practice shot of The Mystery Dates.


Velvet Park recap

We had a great Velvet Park reading at Three of Cups last night. Patricia Silva ( live tweeted some photos from the event. And yeah, I know I sound like an old man when I talk about twitter.


OG book thug Corey Eastwood, on the mic, teaching us about pain.

By the way, this essay of Corey's still knocks me dead.

ImageDandelion Fiction's smiling face as he plays that daxophone.

ImageDandelion Fiction's Candle Piece. A final benediction of the evening.

Update: VP has posted a bunch more photos of the event, by Katina Douveas, on their site.

Velvet Park Media Reading 5/15

I am excited to be curating the second installment of Velvet Park Media's monthly reading series. This reading will take place at Three of Cups in the East Village; 83 First Avenue @ Fifth Street, NYC. Reading begins at 7:30. Wednesday May 15th.

The theme of the reading is "Limits of Communication." This theme was inspired by a conversation I had with Patricia Silva at her recent solo show.

Readers will include Corey Eastwood, Josh Gardner, and Catherine Tung. There will also be a special appearance by Dandelion Fiction.

On another note, I have been spending a lot of time in the past couple weeks helping to edit the next print issue of Keep This Bag Away From Children. Look out for that in June; it's gonna be a doozy. KTBAFC was recently written up by the Bard student paper. When they quote "Nader," they don't mean "Ralph Nader," they mean me, Ben Nadler.

my novel could be your life

I got the (not un-expected) word that Iron Diesel Press is calling it a day. So it goes. Three years is a pretty good lifespan for a DIY venture. This means that Harvitz is going out of print, as of April. If you wanted to buy a copy, but never did, this is your chance. After it is out of print, I will still be selling back stock at readings for a while, but once those are gone, it's done.

It's a weird feeling, because I've spent the past fifteen months hawking my books (products, let's be honest), but now that the chapbook is sold out (a good thing! sold out the run!), and the novel is becoming unavailable, I have nothing left to hustle right now.  I feel good about what I put out, and I had a really fun year doing readings and meeting people.  And as a wise man named Joe Riippi told me when Harvitz came out, "Focus on what's still to come--be a writer writing, not a writer who wrote something, and you'll feel better about it all."

That being said, my girlfriend and I both lost our computers in a break-in last week, so I haven't been getting a whole lot of writing done.  It ain't my first time being robbed in my life, and I doubt it will be the last, but this means I've spent all week trying to salvage files and notes, rather than writing new stuff.

As a nice coda to the Harvitz Publication run, I have a new essay about the reading and writing of punk literature up on the Philadelphia Review of Books.

That essay discusses my youth in Philly a bit, in what I think is a more or less accurate manner. For a completely fabricated look at my life in Philly, check out PeterBD's story, "ben in philly."  I think my experience with PeterBD is a bit atypical, because I actually encountered him in person before I encountered him in email. Really nice guy.

I had a fun time reading at the first Bushwick Sweethearts event last weekend, and I had a fun time reading at the Keep This Bag Away From Children chapbook  event the other night. I probably should have have posted about those events before they happened...

OK. Keep the faith.

non phixion

I have been working with the kids at Keep This Bag Away From Children to start incorporating some more nonfiction into their site.  We kicked this off last week with my essay on sweet Sasha Berkman, and we are following it up this weekend with Tom Heymann's essay on football fans' perception of sexual abuse. If anyone is interested in writing an essay, get at me with a query. Basically, I am looking for short essays (1,000 to 2,000 words) that are engaged with the greater social realm in some way.


TMWWUTG at Human Relations

Last week's event at Human Relations was something special, if I do say so myself.  If you missed it, you can check out Paul McLean's animation, and Amelia Winger-Bearksin's sound piece  in the clip below.  In addition to their work, we had sound work from Blake Seidenshaw and Chris Moffett, visual art from Will Crofoot, and music from Catherine Tung (of Hilly Eye fame).  I read live, in the middle of all that action. [youtube]


ms. berg and i (also, zines)

One of the projects I am working on these days is a story book, with words by myself and images by the Seattle artist Alyssa Berg.  A rough draft of one of the images from the book can be found on her tumblr. I am mad excited about this project.  It won't be together for a while, but it will be worth the wait. We will most likely be self-publishing it as a zine, though I don't know exactly how that will look yet.

I always enjoy collaborating with visual artists, and man, Alyssa is one of the hardest working visual artists I know.

In the meantime, if anyone is going to the NY Art Book Fair at PS1 in Long Island City this weekend, both Alyssa and I will have older work available on the Visual Field Press table in the zine tent.

I can't tell you all what zines have meant to me, in my life. One of these days I will write a long essay about how the '90s zine movement influenced me as a kid, and how much magic can be instilled in these flimsy objects.  I'll talk about Repo Records, and Wooden Shoe Books. Fact Sheet Five, and sneaking into the teachers' copy room At Friends Central Middle School. I will try not to talk to much about how they relate to paper Russian Orthodox icons, and how  they don't relate to blogs. In any case, for the moment, I just want to say how excited I am that I get to spend Saturday in a tent full of zines.

By the way, the first issue of Pravic, a science fiction journal co-edited by old school zinester Nathaniel K. Miller, just dropped yesterday.  I can't wait to read it.

new chapbook out on KTBAFC Press

We launched the debut chapbook series of Keep This Bag Away From Children Press last night, at a super fun reading in Williamsburg.  I'm so honored to be included. The books in the series are:


Shadows by Austin Givens

Stare by Andrew Duncan Worthington

and my book: The Men Who Work Under The Ground  (which features a cover by Will Crofoot)