Aug 132012


This is a hoot, a little light music on a summer’s day. Jonah is going to university in the fall; it is the hour of remembering; my mind keeps harking back to the wonderful times we’ve had over the past eighteen years. I was listening to his music the other night and rediscovered this gem, what we always used to call, simply, “The French Song.” He wrote it as a class assignment for 9th Grade French. His teacher was speechless. Jonah composed the music. He recorded the percussion tracks and background synth on an Electribe, then played the lead synth on a MicroKORG (Electribes and MicroKORGs are synthesizers made by Korg), and loaded both onto his computer. Jacob, the family linguist, co-wrote the lyrics and provided the French grammar and vocabulary expertise. The violet ox was a class meme. Jonah sang the words, but Jacob assisted with the deeper, spoken parts. The whole thing has a European lilt and a lovely irony and it lifts my heart. It came out of nowhere.


Mar 012011

This is “Math Rock,” Jonah Glover’s music video entry for the Saratoga Springs High School Math Contest. Jonah wrote the words and recorded the music with his friend Sam Hagen. The music is a cover of “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha.


Oct 272010




Entries close midnight Sunday, November 21.


The First Annual Numéro Cinq Rondeau Writing Contest opens for entries November 1 (midnight tonight as of this writing). The rondeau is a slightly intricate little form (see preamble and definitions below). You should not attempt to write one under the influence of intoxicants or while using a cell phone (unless you are writing it on your cell phone). Also do not attempt to operate heavy machinery while composing your rondeau. Don’t shy away from trying a rondeau just because you consider yourself a rhyme & rhythm-challenged prose-writer. Fiction and nonfiction writers always need a dash of form in their lives, something to make them sit up straight (or just to jar the gears loose). As with all the NC contests, there is a method behind the madness. Beyond the discipline of form, we discover the freedom of aesthetic space. Every contest is a teaching moment, a formal lesson, and a moment of unleashing (paradoxical as that seems). Also, if you look at our previous contests, you will see that they are fun. Submit entries by typing them into the comment box beneath this post.

Continue reading »

Sep 232010

The judges, as usual, fell for all the entries and had a terrible time deciding amongst them, all from friends, former students and fellow inmates. (This makes judging NC contests an extremely debilitating sport.) It’s a sad thing to force distinctions when everyone has entered the fray with such zeal and enthusiasm. All entries did what they were meant to do: tell a story in terse, stern prose. They all had élan. Many played with the idea of being in or outside a box (or a bottle, or a literal box). Jonah wrote his as an acrostic, an ancient form much used in the Bible, a different sort of box. There was a huge battle over Anna Maria’s actual box entry. But it was decided to include it here as a sixth finalist simply because making art out of the conventions (rules) of art is a legitimate artistic form. It wouldn’t be fair just to give her the prize for best Off The Page entry (though the judges are doing that, too).

The judges admired Vivian Dorsel’s entry for its use of literary allusion (the fairy tale) and for putting the heroine in the box. They admired Rich Farrell’s entry for its loopy adventure and romance, for the word “cavitate” and for that ending (the whole thing reminded the judges of their favourite movie Joe vs. the Volcano). Julie and Christopher put their novel in a bottle with, well, Noel Coward and wrote a pseudo-Edwardian romp with redemption at the end. Shelagh put her character in a metaphorical box and made him think of poetry. And Jonah wrote the acrostic. All this is wonderful.

Of those left behind, the judges want to mention Court Merrigan, who entered twice and wrote a lovely little thing about plague and love, and Cheryl Wilder for the old man in the closet asking for the toilet paper and her surprise ending.

But the competition was exceedingly fierce and the judges love you all.

See the finalists here!

Aug 242010

Jacob, the contrarian, during the EPE (Photo by Jonah Glover)




[Augusto] Monterroso is perhaps most famous for his short story “The Dinosaur,” which is said to be literature’s shortest story. It reads in full:

When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.

In an 1996 interview with Ilan Stavans for the Massachusetts Review, Monterroso recalled some early reviews of “The Dinosaur”: “I still have the very first reviews of the book: critics hated it. Since that point on I began hearing complaints to the effect that it isn’t a short-story. My answer is: true, it isn’t a short story, it’s actually a novel.”

Brevity was, to say the least, an important concept for Monterroso. His essay “Fecundity” is included in The Oxford Book of Latin American Essays. It reads in full:

Today I feel well, like a Balzac; I am finishing this line.

—from Tom McCartan’s Crib notes on “What Bolaño Read”

The Contest

Okay, the long-awaited next Numéro Cinq literary contest, The First Annual Numéro Cinq Novel-in-a-Box/Memoir-in-a-Box Contest. The rules are pretty simple this time. You have to write an entire (don’t cut corners) novel or a memoir (personal narrative) consisting of 9 (a mystic number) chapters and each chapter can be no more than 5 lines long. (By lines, I mean the number of lines that appear on the comment box on the blog.) Fewer lines if you can. Try to remember what a novel is like: at least a couple of characters or more (usually), a conflict, development through a series of dramatic actions, etc. Alternatively, try to remember what a memoir looks like: a first person narrator (and a couple of other people or more), a thematically continuous narrative line often based on a conflict and or theme, development through a series of dramatic moments or incidents, etc. Indicate on your entry whether it is fiction or non-fiction (there will be separate prizes). (Note that in the Monterroso story quoted above there ARE two characters, the guy and the dinosaur.)

The contest is open to any living, sentient being in the universe. It is not limited to people who are already on the blog or VCFA students or former students. Everyone is welcome, and also welcome to join in other conversations or suggest topics.

Entries will be accepted between September 1 and September 15, 2010 (midnight), and should be written in English (Gary) and attached as comments to this post (the usual practice at NC).

Remember the values we hold dear here at Numéro Cinq: WIT & ARROGANCE. Remember Gordon Lish’s phrase ATTACK SENTENCES!

P.S. Anyone who mentions the insidious phrase “flash fiction” will have his or her comment deleted from the blog. I mean this! Delete it from your minds. This is not a flash fiction contest.


Apr 242010


Herewith the first ever (annual) Numéro Cinq villanelle writing contest. I am announcing it early so that you can work on your entries. Entries will be accepted between May 1 and May 15. Entries, as with the aphorism contest, should be posted as comments on this page. Entries are open to anyone in the world, but only if they are written in  English, French, Latin, or classical Greek (the only languages anyone can speak in this house). As with the aphorism contest, I encourage you to familiarize yourselves with the form. See the craft and technique page for help. Roughly speaking, we’re talking about a 19-line poem written in tercets (except for the last stanza which has four lines). The first and last line of the first stanza become the last lines of the following stanzas and also turn into a couplet at the end of the last stanza. These are fun to write and can actually turn out surprisingly well if you arm yourselves with strong refrain lines (think: panache, drama, obsession, schizophrenia). You need not be a poet to enter. And it’s always a good thing for prose writers to extend themselves; it makes their prose more interesting. One lesson to be drawn from writing a poem like this is the way form drives content instead of the other way around.

Continue reading »

Mar 152010


Submissions March 15-31, 2010

Submit by commenting on this post

Submissions must be no more than 150 words in length

Do not enter a submission unless you have figured out what an aphorism is first

Wit and arrogance appreciated

Contest open to everyone including employees of Numéro Cinq, their significant others, children, and small pets

First Prize — Instant Worldwide (e)Publication w/ commentary

Plus honours & laurels

Jan 182010

I am still reading Adorno’s essay on Spengler.

Jonah and I went to see The Book of Eli Saturday night and then last night, pursuing our quest for the roots of dystopian movie-making, we rented Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome. The Mad Max movie was infinitely superior–wittily baroque and light at the ending with great 80s music (sounded like Maurice Jarre). The weirdly touching ironies of the “tell” are parodic, human and funny (the girl framing each cave drawing with sticks tied together at the end of a pole). Both movies have the same plot: stranger wandering through dried up, post-apocalyptic landscape comes to a town run by evil-doers and adventures happen. Both strangers are really good at fighting. But The Book of Eli is a violent pseudo-Christian strangeness. It reveals the paranoia, selfishness and self-righteousness behind some (not all) recent threads of Christian discourse (surprising to a Canadian who grew up in a country where Christian-based political parties fired the push for universal medical care in the 1950s). Denzel, intent on his mission (to save the book), can’t stop to help a woman being raped and murdered by a bunch of motorcycle thugs. Whereas Mel as Mad Max gets into trouble repeatedly for showing pity and forgetting to save his own skin. There are no children in The Book of Eli, but Mad Max is surrounded by innocence. (Both movies make young women look great in animal hides and rags.)

I’m not sure what this has to do with Adorno except that in my head I keep thinking about how he tells us the culture industry has rolled over for the unnameable powers of repression contained in our late stage capitalist so-called democracy, pouring out infotainment, reality tv and comforting or distracting folk tales which lull our pulverized synapses. All the modern dystopian, end-of-the-world movies have happy endings, often sneakily Christian (remember the “arks” that save the world at the end of John Cusack’s latest).

Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome doesn’t escape unscathed by Christian symbolism. The cave painting of Captain Walker is Christ on the cross. What does this mean? The Bible is a paradigm of a novel with a happy ending? The Biblical message has turned inexplicably dark between the 1980s and 2010?