Category Archives: Author Highlight

HOW TO MAKE A CANOE/KAYAK TRAILER

Physical.

Artist.

Hemingway strolls into wars and rides water buffalo. Not to mention marriage (s), a very taxing activity. Very. Agatha Christie takes long, long constitutionals, for weeks. Where is she? Books sell. Murder. Rolf Jacobsen sculpts pillowcases, and sometimes, well, he was wrong. I once preferred two pillows, now one is OK. I hate the short pour and also when politicians breathe out their eyeballs. Twain shoots small pistols at large, water rats (Coypu?), rats scurrying in canals like the shadows of a seesaw. But why? Elvis knows three types of karate, as does Elizabeth Bishop,

elvis 1who often forgot it was Sunday, liquor stores closed, so more than once drank cologne.

bishop 2William Stafford practices slight-of-hand magic, daily (we saw him working K’s wedding), as does Jimmy Chen and we all know Murakami likes to run and run and run, slowly. Sort of a shuffle. OK, a jog. He jogs, his mind swirling with tunnels and shopping cats.

In fact, this is a town of cats. When the sun starts to go down, many cats come trooping across the bridge—cats of all different kinds and colors. They are much larger than ordinary cats, but they are still cats. The young man is shocked by this sight. He rushes into the bell tower in the center of town and climbs to the top to hide. The cats go about their business, raising the shop shutters or seating themselves at their desks to start their day’s work. Soon, more cats come, crossing the bridge into town like the others. They enter the shops to buy things or go to the town hall to handle administrative matters or eat a meal at the hotel restaurant or drink beer at the tavern and sing lively cat songs. Because cats can see in the dark, they need almost no lights, but that particular night the glow of the full moon floods the town, enabling the young man to see every detail from his perch in the bell tower. When dawn approaches, the cats finish their work, close up the shops, and swarm back across the bridge.

I don’t like when people call runners joggers. Though running does jog the brain.

Curtis Smith with a running flash here.

Tennis star Andy Murray, on literature: “I don’t read, I haven’t read a book since the second Harry Potter.”

Thanks, Andy.

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Robert Frost likes to shake sadness from the fingers of ferns on the forest floor. Galway Kinnell sings, badly. Blake Butler walks on treadmills as he reads his yearly 120 + books. Jan Follain stuffs dead animal eye sockets with marbles. Tomas Transtromer has a cooler name than you and argues in one poem that writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain (the reticular activating system [RAS]) and so on/so on and there are a lot of tiny frogs climbing up the outside of my house, a lot of tiny, green frogs, not really sure why, but if I was Gary Snyder I’d insert the frogs into one of those Robin poems. The frog is a device of nostalgia, etc. Also the shack. I keep seeing Gary Snyder building a deck or walking on top my roof, not sure why, all back-lit by the moon. Tu Fu competitively eats cheeseburgers and TN Williams likes to swim. A few weeks ago, I perchanced a boat trailer:

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A TAXIDERMIST
—Jean Follain

A taxidermist is sitting
before the russet breasts
green and purple wings
of his song-birds
dreaming about his lover
with a body so different
yet so close sometimes
to the body of the birds
that it seemed to him
very strange
in its curves and its volumes
in its colors and its finery
and its shades…

16 foot, purchased off Craig’s List. Dude’s name was Larry. He was out front, installing a homemade outhouse on a pontoon boat. Welding. Clever.

Me: How fixed are you on your price? You take 400?

Larry: Well, I can’t give it away. I could do 425.

Larry shows me how to hook it up to car. Explains pins, chains, lights. Later:

Larry: You don’t have a plate. Take the back roads home. (Inferring to avoid police)

Larry: You can pinch your fingers off (this about hitch).

Larry: You know to take wide turns, right?

Larry: I can give you a way home you’ll see no one.

Larry: You ever driven a trailer?

Me: No.

Larry: Well, some people drive a trailer and they forget the trailer is back there. Don’t do that.

So I hit a curb or something but get home and start making the boat trailer into a canoe/kayak trailer.

HOW TO MAKE A CANOE/KAYAK TRAILER

1. Align the bumpers. Use a hammer or a minimum wage banana. Measure once, cut twice.

2. Give the bow tops solitude. Herd the sheep. Don’t feel bad: sheep enjoy being herded. Cup holders?

3. Feed the winch coffee. (No more than 12)

4. Buy some swim noodles from the lower 48 and smoke them. Punch them full of cloves and feel like you’re back in college.

5. Axles, springs, and U-bolts optional. A U bolt is a bolt in the shape of U. Wish life was more often that way.

6. Get two buckets and make it look like Alabama. Make it a Hank song.

7. Lick the extended tongue.

8. Add a beer cooler. Two? OK.

You are dung. I mean dun. I mean done.

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Well, afterwards go fishing:

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A glow interview with Kathy Fish about flash fiction.

She discusses why she writes flash.

3 Flash I admire today!

The Washingtaco became a lunch staple: a crisp one-dollar bill folded longwise and stuffed with quarters.

A.R. LaRoche discusses money here. I like the rising action, the turn, the conceptual nature, the logic, the cleverness, the way money is our bodies and our bodies money.

There is the voice of God in the bass reverb and the lyrics’ rising incantation.

Claire Rudy Foster and PUNK. I like the voice, the address–persona to auditor–the energy is glow, the energy, control of time, lots of waving and jumping and hands up like you just don’t care. It captures something.

Interview.

Below the hills a white egret will spin across the green marsh flats, bursting in my vision like a firework in the night; and I will be sure that the blue has never been so bright and low, the whole weight of the sky hanging just over our heads as if we are children beneath a parachute. My son tells me, “There is no present, Daddy.

Steven Church with what lyricism can do…such control, and an exquisite mix of image and reflection. The controlling fog metaphor feels very authentic. Life, the gray area between of what we know and do not know at all, what we have and wish for, what we understand and all the rest. Fog.

Church interview.

Pro tennis player, Stan Wawrinka: “I don’t like to read books.”

Thanks, Stan.

No glow to you.

And so on.

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Glow Flash Today: Ron Currie Jr.

The Captain by Ron Currie Jr. is an odd one, both large and small, compressed and expanding, as is the way with some flash.

The Captain, dressed in starched khaki shirt and pants, descends the stairs for his breakfast at 7:31 AM.

…it begins, and, for me, this set a light tone. I thought the text was going for farcical, almost Captain as Quixotic…I had this ridiculous vision of a man dressing up specifically for this ritual of breakfast.

(not so unlike some writers who work from home, yet still don a suit in the morning before sitting at their desks)

But then the tone shifts.

And the idea of ritual takes on a new meaning.

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Maria, his housekeeper, sets a plate of scrambled eggs and extra-crispy bacon at the head of the table. She pours his coffee. She says, Good morning, Captain. He nods, wishes her good morning. She wants to call him Admiral—that was, after all, the rank he was given upon his retirement—but she knows this would anger him. The Captain considers himself a Captain still.

The Captain is, as he sits eating his eggs, the only man in the United States Navy to ever have been court-martialed for losing his ship during wartime. His back is straight, shoulders squared. He is seventy years old.

Here, two things happen:

First, this isn’t a farce, unless we’re going assume cruelty by author, and we are not.  (To quote Currie Jr: With ‘The Captain’ I was aware, too, that I was dealing with real people, and I think that made me approach the thing more carefully.”) This is clearly based on an actual person now, Rear Admiral Charles Butler McVay III, the only commanding officer of a warship in the history of the U.S. Navy given a court-martial for negligence during wartime. Captain McVay–for those who care, and really you should care if you care about literature, or life–was, in my opinion (and many others), wrongly blamed after the sinking of his ship, the USS Indianapolis CA-35 (of the crew of 1,196 men, 879 men died–the worst disaster at sea during the entire war for the US Navy). But the ship was on a secret mission, so no rescue came until too late, no destroyers escorted it, McVay wasn’t given critical information, etc., etc and so on.

kamikaze-02

I could go on, but let’s make one thing clear: as a persona to base a flash on, this one has power and potential. Captain McVay is a cursed, almost mythological character.

I myself write a lot of Persona flash. It’s important who you pick–not every persona brings weight. This one does. Some writers sabotage their own persona flash immediately when they choose the historical figure (though I’d also argue ANY persona COULD be effective, with right technique).

Other writers never take the persona seriously. Currie does. He knows he’s dealing with something larger here, as in history. Even better, it’s a complicated and controversial history.

I guess I’m saying I read a great deal of persona poetry and flash. I think it definitely works best when the persona is conflicted. Really, a persona is not about the exterior events of whomever; it is about the internal reaction to the events. That’s really what is interesting, again, the literary aspects.

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Second, in the excerpt above, the techniques that will drive the flash are established. A distant, yet informative narrator, who gets in/gets out with information and then allows the flash to unspool.

Maria and The Captain drive the structure of the flash and contain it. They are two satellites that spin about each other, in orbit and in their rotations, energy pushing off one another. They are in a dance (I’ll mix metaphors if I like; it’s my blog), yet it’s a trance-like dance, again, a routine, but each person is a step away from breaking the practiced steps, you can feel it, with Maria’s constant tension, The Captain’s daily awareness of his burden. Both characters busy themselves–Maria scrubbing pots, the Captain planting shrubs–while their interiors roil. They make small, ordinary movements, and then the narrator gooses the accelerator by dropping in brief, precise exposition:

The Captain’s home is two hundred miles from the nearest ocean.

Years ago, before it was sunk, the Captain’s ship delivered the bomb that destroyed the city of Hiroshima.

(Now you know why the mission was secret.)

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It builds. It weaves–Maria, Captain, narrator–and builds. Rising action. This weaving is done well by the author, a light touch, no info-dump or front-loading or characters over-talking or any other clumsy technique. Here, it’s quick and effective. Unobtrusive.

I can’t tell you how many writers struggle with weaving in information into flash. It’s one glaring fail I see repeatedly in the genre. So I commend this author for showing how it’s done.

And the narrator stays out of the way. It provides what you need, but little more, no indulgence, no tricks (as Carver might put it). We are given the objectivity to watch it all unfold, and also this removed tone heightens tension. Counter-intuitively, in fiction a removal of narrator often works best with the most dramatic material (see Hemingway’s early war writings, etc.)

index

And then the ending turns, as we conclude on the man who sank the Captain’s ship, a food scene to structurally circle the opening, but then sleep not pacing, his doppelganger yet antithesis, tranquility to his anxiety, two men the same and very clearly a world apart…

It’s a technically compact flash and it carries theme. It’s not clinical in its tight form–it is actually human, and what appeared as farce turned on us, and becomes something more.

USSFranklinhit

The final technique I’d like to note is ambiguity. Near the ending, the narrative eye finds The Captain upstairs in his room with his service revolver. Downstairs, Maria cuts her self with a paring knife and screams!

There’s a moment.

Why did she scream?

So, we are downstairs with Maria when it happens. We are not even present in the scene. It’s pretty brilliant that way. We are over here, while the crux of everything is over there. We don’t even get the sound of the act–we get the scream…

Yet we know exactly

what happened.

The Kind of Girl by Kim Henderson

The Kind of Girl who writes flash fiction: Diane Williams, Lindsay Walker, Ana Maria Shua (South American queen of flash), Kim Chinquee (North American queen of flash), Lydia Davis, Mary Miller, Gay Degani, Amelia Gray, Meg Pokrass, Tania Hershman, Nicolle Elizabeth, Shellie Zacharia, Aubrey Hirsch, Sarah Rose Etter, Kathy Fish. Others.

They be glow like levitating Wednesdays.

Like transatlantic spirit bears.

Baudelaire: “Sois toujours poète, même en prose” [Always be a poet, even in prose.]

Baudelaire’s erratic personality was marked by moodiness, rebelliousness, and an intense religious tweaking of bass lures and Velveeta. 

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Writers know writer Velveeta by the as/like/association. Auden once said his face looked like a wedding cake left out in the rain. That makes me want to sleep him hard. Call me maybe? Henderson writes, “My father’s torso was like slipping into a hard boiled egg—the perfect cocoon.” Later: cottage cheese ceiling. Looking like charred, deflated marshmallows. A dandelion among rosy girls. They seem to fall out of the sky and twirl down like maple seedlings, these words. Respect.

Judge Deb Olin Unferth mentions tension. It’s odd, but it’s true: most good stories/vignettes/whatevers have tension. Of course just looking closely causes tension. Just paying attention, which costs.

[Aside: Deb Olin Unferth always seems cool, even when she occasionally dances with "The Man." Yet she maintains street cred. Might be her name, which reminds one of lilies, musk, art deco installations in urban libraries, and razor blades. Not sure...]

Symbolic compression.

It seems things are slipping away: tension. “Our ice cream melted…”

Things fall apart. No, the slip apart. Slide.

Kids see the adult world, fuzzy, can’t quite get it or want to. Adults see the kid world, fuzzy, can’t quite get it.

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Some of the book reminds me of this poem.

What I glow about flash collections is how they whale-pod to a thing. Mood or tone or just whatever, it builds and builds. They are separate but the same, like that Fleetwood Mac album

where everyone was sleeping behind the backs and fronts of each other and it happens and it just drives the music to a fragmented whole, like settle into duck-hunting graphs mapped with green (my fav color) arrows and Ys or an unforeseen breakdown, so I mean shards in a bowl.

deer

Above is my archery pal, Billy.

I think it’s very hard to write from a younger viewpoint. But here not so at all. They key is to write it clean, just state what happened. A memory that is told from the future, yet rendered so cleanly in the moment (past). It’s a tough thing many people try, but Henderson, she does it.

Here’s the line, the microcosm, the hot engine of this machine: “In class, we learned that humans didn’t see what we literally sensed, but rather what we thought we sensed.” Indeed.

Many of the structures are what I would call, spatially, filling a glass. Turn on tap, glass fills, and fills, more quickly, CUT. Turn off tap. Often the dénouement is deadly. The gear shifts so fast as to grind/screech and wake from the meditation. Started and startled. It’s a keen thing.

Best Seattle nachos? Just saying.

I NEED TO KNOW!

Some writers insist you follow. Example:

This line: “She is a preacher now, or an artist, I can’t remember which.”

Character not as emphasized. Situation might replace character (possibly opening the form to archetype, to fable?)

eggs leap

Or this: “We had an organ in the family room when I was twelve for some white trash reason…”

Or: “And there’s sex, which is free and makes people like each other.”

Two pages of the book are this amazing green.

I like an assured narrator. With command of history, mythology, and technique.

Childlike imagination runs through as a balance to lighten the elegiac journey.

chi1

There is no possible way to determine what is or what is not.

I don’t know. No, I do. Guess I’ll keep an eye. An eye out. I’d like to see more. I would.

Add Kim Henderson to list # 1 above. She belongs.

Less Than Zer000000000000000000000000

For Father’s Day I received a hammock. Here it is, down by the creek, a most glow location for a hammock, the water gurgling by as I sway, the leaves rustling, the calling of various birds, some animal thumping or digging or rolling about a bit in the weeds nearby (should I be worried?), the dappling–yes, dear poets, dappling–rays of light and shade and all those wonderful in-betweens shards/slivers/tongue/sizes and shapes of. I have a little green table for my beer and other necessities (a bowl of nachos, for example). I believe my hammock will act as elevator of the soul and a dragonfly of the mind. Also as a type of wine made of cotton. The key belief is there.

(Ancient Mayans invented the hammock, using fibrous bark from the Hamack tree.)

[[Actual Reader Comment: I was willing to overlook the dullness and amateurishness. But it just got duller and duller and duller.]]

Installing the hammock took a great while. I dug two unnecessary holes and one necessary hole. I had to purchase concrete twice. Using two different hammers, I hammered two giant nails into the tree, both unnecessary. At one point I was digging with a post-hole digger and my back suddenly went POW!! as if I was shot in the spine! Later, a candelabra of pain. Then a simmering lump of coal. That hurt for four days. I bought bolts, chain, chain attachments, some form of curly screw, 4 “S” hooks, most of this unnecessary. For a while I thought the hammock hung too low. This nibbled at my mind. At night, over dinner, during my daily aerobic training, my thoughts were, “Is my hammock hanging too low?” I adjusted the hammock and felt it was then too high. Is it too high? I’d stand and stare at the hammock for a long while. This cycle went on for many days, too low, too high, too low…just right? I hope now it’s just right. (Is that even possible?)

[Aside: I bet there are several hammock camps/cabals: those that like a big saggy C type of hang to their hammock and those who like a taut, thrumming more ___ type of hang. I bet some aficionados like their hammock to embrace their bodies in a giant ball, like a cocoon. Some like the buttocks to touch the earth while in hammock, while others like to swing free (like a memory) many feet above the soil. Cloth or synthetic? Spreader, Mayan, Jungle, Military, or Travel? I bet we got some hammock purists out there, some people with some really strong opinions. Some hammock freaks. Like uptight about hammocks, which is sort of against the very nature of the hammock.]

[[Actual Reader Comment: The text drifts much more than I recalled, and is deliciously paranoid. But there’s a pining at its core, an almost sentimentality that jumped out at me.]]

A hammock like this one is meant for reading or napping. As a rule, I do not nap, so let’s discuss reading. What was the first book I read in my new Reading Hammock? Well, purposefully, I’ve been reading a series of literature I call Books-U-Should-Have-Read-Already-Most-Likely-While-in-Your Twenties. For example, I just finished The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test. Why am I doing this? Because I’m curious. Because I think it’s my professional responsibility. I’m a fiction professor. I’m a writer of fiction. I should know these books. If you say Chekhov to me, I should be able to say, “Read him.” If you say Flannery O’Connor, “I should be able to say, “Read her.” Hell, same with Sinclair or Franzen or Moore (Lorrie) or Wright or Murakami (yes, even him) or Chopin or Carol Oates. Or even Vonnegut or Kerouac or Pirsig (Robert M.) or other Books-U-Should-Have-Read-Already-Most-Likely-While-in-Your Twenties authors. I tell my students all of the time, “Look, if you’re serious about writing fiction, you have to know these people. Not like them or dislike them or mimic them or distance yourself from them or respect them or disrespect them or any of that bullshit…but you MUST KNOW THEM!!”

Know

Them

It’s your responsibility, people. To at least know.

[Aside: While in the hammock I flipped the "off" button on a device labelled OFF, the mosquito repellant. It's like this weird clip-on fan that repels ( I guess?) mosquitoes. I got this sweet glow from turning off, OFF. OK, I'm a word dork.]

So. Here’s what I know–or think I know–about today’s Books-U-Should-Have-Read-Already-Most-Likely-While-in-Your Twenties: Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis.

[[Actual Reader Comment: There is some talent in places, but I cannot believe the blurbs on the back cover of the edition I read. If these reviewers really meant those words, I think they were as coked up as the characters this book.]]

[Factoid: Less than Zero was sold in 1985 to Simon & Schuster for five thousand dollars.]

[Factoid: Less than Zero named after this song:

]

[Factoid: Apparently, via Paris Review, one not so enthusiastic editor said, "If there's an audience for a novel about coke-snorting, cock-socking zombies, then by all means let's publish the damn thing."]

(Crazy thing is he meant zombie as figurative. These days, an actual zombie novel would sell like a taco with a shell made of fucking Doritos.)

STRUCTURE?

this is a drone in a state office in hawaii.

This book is one of those “nothing happens” books, you’ll hear some say. This is usually noted as a criticism. An eye-roll, especially if the book was written while the author was young (Ellis published Less than Zero at age 20). I would disagree. Plot does exist here. There are two types of plots, right? (Wrong!) Man leaves town, man enter towns. This is man enters town, Clay, back from the east and now to the west, Los Angeles. The structure is his arrival, the repetitive events of his life with LA friends (drugs, MTV watching, sex, put on repeat), a slight rising action as the events get nastier (though I’m sure these events appeared more extreme in 1985), and we end with his departure (a rejection of sorts by Clay to the LA life?), back east, back to school. Cyclical, you could say. Or framed. I mean you know he’s going back home as soon as the book begins with his arrival. (One move [of several: Clay refuses to use extremely hard drugs, Clay doesn't join in on a rape {he doesn't do anything to stop or report the rape, BTW}, etc.] that attempts to make him sympathetic as narrator. I stress attempts.)

People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city. Blair picks me up from LAX and mutters this under her breath as she drives up the onramp. She says, “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.” Though that sentence shouldn’t bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter. Not the fact that I’m eighteen and it’s December and the ride on the plane had been rough and the couple from Santa Barbara, who were sitting across from me in first class, had gotten pretty drunk. Not the mud that had splattered on the legs of my jeans, which felt kind of cold and loose, earlier that day at an airport in New Hampshire. Not the stain on the arm of the wrinkled, damp shirt I wear, a shirt which looked fresh and clean this morning. Not the tear on the neck of my gray argyle vest, which seems vaguely more eastern than before, especially next to Blair’s clean tight jeans and her pale-blue shirt. All of this seems irrelevant next to that one sentence. It seems easier to hear that people are afraid to merge than “I’m pretty sure Muriel is anorexic” or the singer on the radio crying out about magnetic waves. Nothing else seems to matter to me but those ten words. Not the warm winds, which seem to propel the car down the empty asphalt freeway, or the faded smell of marijuana which still faintly permeates Blaire’s car. All it comes down to is the fact that I’m a boy coming home for a month and meeting someone whom I haven’t seen for four months and people are afraid to merge.”

(I suppose you notice this opening reads very Catcher in the Rye, and that’s fair. I’m sure you’ll detect Great Gatsby here and on and on. Ellis studied literature and writing. It’s a first novel by a young writer. Nothing in this book is really original, or even that unexpected [especially not in 2012, where most of this material can be found daily on CNN], but that’s no reason to dismiss the entire text. First novels are a genre to themselves, and it’s interesting to see how each writer recognizes [and bends] the expectations.)

[[Actual Reader Comment: The novel is harder and less hopeful than the flawed film. It's a stunning read.]]

What else drives the text, plot-wise? Finding Julian. We need to find Julian, a strung out addict and friend-of-Clay’s who owes him a lot of money. Where is Julian? What’s he up to? How bad has he fallen? Etc.

here’s an image from a paris hilton video (which one?). in a few moments paris and her pals will be snorting the cocaine off his chest.

But let’s put these structural interests aside, and address this idea, the concept of “nothing happens.” You hear this about a lot of books, Tao Lin, for a very contemporary small press example, or certain French writers (Jean-Philippe Toussaint or Muriel Barbery or Raymond Queneau [I hope you've read the excellent Exercises in Style] come to mind among others), etc. But then you have to question what keeps you “hooked” into a book–is that plot? Or can all of the innumerable other things a book can do snatch you into turning its pages? Could you be hooked purely by aesthetics? Characters, tensions, objects, social situations, lyricism, satirical comment, on and on–what if these keep you reading? Is that plot? Visual artists realize narrative in a painting/sculpture/diorama/film/whatever-the-fuck can move a viewer (reader), but so can a lot of other, more abstract, more exciting (my 2.4 cents)  things…and then all these other things spring from that epiphany (see contemporary art).  PLOT! PLOT? That which drives you forward? I think so.

[[Actual Reader Comment: I think that this book has influenced a lot of contemporary fiction. I can see its fingerprints.]]

What does the author have to say about the structure of Less Than Zero?

And to the extent that there’s a plot, that’s my least favorite part of the book. In the first draft, which was much longer, the plot was less relevant. But in the course of being condensed, the plot took on more significance than I realized at the time. I look back at that book and think of the plot as having imposed itself on the material.

This interests me, in that Ellis seems to have had his “plot” emerge in revision. I think this happens a lot in writing, and it one of those magical–and weird–things about creating art. Sometimes threads just emerge during the creative act, especially in the revision of. These are pleasant surprises and make the act of writing somewhat mystical. A structure appears as if conjured. As if always there, but out of sight. (This might be one definition of spirituality, BTW) This is one reason writing a heavily pre-plotted piece of text much really be a sodden experience. To have the plot emerge as you work is fascinating. To see what will happen.

LANGUAGE:

There’s a lot of it that I wish was slightly more elegantly written.

Ellis

Some have attacked the prose of this book.They say Ellis ripped off some of Joan Didion’s L.A. writings, or they say the deadpan nature of the prose is too Raymond Chandler, etc.

[[Actual Reader Comment: This giant city is terribly claustrophobic and I hate Bret Easton Ellis for capturing it so perfectly.]]

[Aside: For a really great book on LA, why not try this one from Bukowski's muse, Fante.]

these are bath salts. you use them for bathing. recent bathers have burned their child’s hands for stealing their bible, have killed their neighbor’s pygmy goat and then joined it in the bedroom while dressed in bra and panties, have run from electricity, have knifed their house down since the walls were filled with 90 people, something.

I don’t get these attacks on the prose. Of course the prose resembles others. Ellis was 20! Also, The Didion thing is bullshit. Didion could write circles around the prose in Less That Zero. It’s not even close. And Chandler works figurative language in a very focused way, a different eye and rhythm (and certainly emphasis on simile) than Ellis ever attempts. Again, I think these observations are because Ellis was young and people get the idea he dashed this thing off. Wrong. The book was actually written and revised for years (Ellis says five). It was shaped with creative writing instructors and editors. And I think the language is attempting several things. Let me briefly discuss two different ways: tone and in brand naming.

The tone is one of white noise and repetition. Form=function. The sentences, mostly unremarkable as far as lyric nature, pile up and pile up, like day after day after day. In Clay’s world, one day is the next day: cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, nightclub, restaurant, hangover, empty conversation, empty sex–repeat. Over and over, Clay has no idea how long he’s been in LA. Over and over, these characters lose track of week, day, location. (Everyone gets lost while driving, but it doesn’t really matter. One place is good as another.)

‘Rip does three more lines. Rip throws his head back and shakes it and sniffs loudly. He then looks at me and wants to know what I was doing at the Cafe Casino in Westwood when he clearly remembers telling me to meet him at the Cafe Casino in Beverly Hills. I tell him that I’m pretty sure he said to meet at the Cafe Casino in Westwood. Rip says, ‘No, not quite,’ and then, ‘Anyway it doesn’t matter.’

You have to admire how Ellis knows his sentences must do the heavy lifting. A lot of and work. And. And And. And we did this and this happened and I said ______ and some girl said _____ and I smoked another cigarette. And, and, and–one thing leads to another, all connected by and, all in the same sentence, of the same worth (less than zero, basically) and then you wake up and do it all over again. And again.

[[Actual Reader Comment: The book was a quick read and I could barely put it down except at certain points where I had to clear my head and thank God for the normalcy that is my life and the life of my kids.]]

(BTW, there are odd, scattered moments where Ellis shifts into a more intensely poetic prose, usually when discussing the wildlife of LA, coyotes and lizards, or when writing about the sun and the torrential rain. [This is where he leans most Didion.] Things not human, basically, things outside the encircled, narcissistic concerns of these characters. It’s a juxtaposition of language that shows some control by the author and adds an extra charge to the text.)

this is clint eastwood’s daughter. she’s eating, burning, chainsawing a hundred thousand dollar alligator skin purse.

The brand identity thing is overdone. WE GET IT, already. Lives soaked in brand, lives immersed in commercialized identity, to the point where no one even sees it, recognizes it anymore. It just is.  The shoes and cars and clothing and sunglasses and music/music/music are these character’s sun and rain and plants and scenery…This is their world. But Ellis doesn’t stop. And again, in form=function, we, as readers, get suffocated by brands. There are points in the book you just want to stop reading, to like come up for air, to see something in your brain besides Mercedes, The Go-Gos, GQ magazine.

(Aside: And this is pre-Internet!! Jesus, look at us now. The Internet is the biggest fucking brand machine in the megaverse.)

THEME:

[[Actual Reader Comment: Not a long story but one that is chilling and demands that you read it consecutively because of the eerie rhythm of language it possesses.]]

[Aside: I drank a lot of Sprite Zero while reading Less Than Zero and this might have heightened all effects.]

I think this a great example of a “mirror” book. Or maybe a mural. Look, here’s a subculture in 1980s America. The book reminds me of television, a device that is filler between commercials. And what do we see? Here, here’s what you want and therefore are. I read almost everything as metaphorical. Drugs are all of the things we do–repeatedly–to move the heart and eye from one place to another place. What is a reality show? What is celebrity? What is a car, a billboard, a desert, a highway, boredom?

I come to a red light, tempted to go through it, then stop once I see a billboard sign that I don’t remember seeing and I look up at it. All it says is ‘Disappear Here’ and even though it’s probably an ad for some resort, it still freaks me out a little and I step on the gas really hard and the car screeches as I leave the light.

u recognize this, don’t you? It’s the kim kardashian sex tape. this image is right before the sex but right after the long while in the bathroom applying makeup.

Some “theme” moments are forced, primarily near the end, where things get too quickly compressed and the pace of the book fails. We quickly move from activities that only harm one person, the user–example drugs–into more ominous terrain. A graphic murder-porno film. A dead man’s body in an alley that these characters see as almost a prop, as something to view and laugh about. And then a gang rape scene (of a 12 year old) that reads as forced (as in too overt) and hastily presented.

(Not to be redundant, but in 2012 these scenes appear almost everyday. Porn? Insensitivity to human dignity? Must be a Tuesday.)

But these forced scenes are the exceptions. Many “theme” scenes I feel are nuanced and carefully written, with an exact eye and a precise sense of tone. One scene in particular, when Clay joins Julian and an out-of-town businessman [He's actually from Muncie, Indiana, I shit you not!] in a hotel room, is written with incredible craft and control.

In another scene, Clay goes home with a young woman he’s met in a nightclub. They have “sex,” but it’s an odd and alienated dance. They might as well be in 2 different rooms. It’s clinical, sad sex, and another example of skill by the author.

[[Actual Reader Comment: After reading this book, I felt hollowed-out and dead inside.]]

Mostly the book just asks you to view. Look here. Do you see any of yourself here? Do you see your world anywhere? I discuss this idea a lot to students (often writing students are a bit theme-eager): just show the thing. Get the narrator out of the way. Ellis has a 1st person narrator but oddly very little internal monologue. Mostly it’s just show. Here, see this. See this. See this. And this approach, to me, is why people like and greatly dislike the book. One popular approach–valid or possibly not–to this technique is to say I see nothing of myself. I couldn’t even finish the thing, etc. How could I? The people here are too disgusting. I don’t recognize them at all.

Well…OK.

Genre is a minimum security prison of knees

Timmy, timmy

Essay about blurbs.

Let’s be clear: blurbs are not a distinguished genre

*

Here are some funny poems at elimae. I have been collecting literature that responds to preexisting works. I will add these to my secret files. Well done, Alex Sheppard and Marshall Mallicoat.

Sierra Mist and Sprite

Some say the world will drink Sierra Mist,
Some say Sprite.
From what I’ve tasted of Sprite
I hold with those who favor Sierra Mist
But if it had to drink Sprite,
I think I know enough of pops
To say that for refreshment Sprite
Is also tops
And would be all right.

*

This David Shields on Colbert Report is pretty glow. I find this the type of video ripe for re-watching. For re-thinking about issues I am working in my writing and in my teaching. (Remember, the optimum professor model actually has your teaching interests and artistic as one. I use to scoff at this idea; I now embrace it. My recent flash fiction and structural inquiries are now saturating my teaching, and for the better.) I couldn’t get this damn video to embed and started researching why and suddenly I’m on all these pages with a bunch of computer wonks and I need to run, run, run today and go prep for class and so on, etc., so am not hanging out at computer wonky pages weird hats whatever black jeans to learn HTML code today. OK. I used to, I used to catch a buzz off solving computer riddles, and I was pretty good at that sort of thing, I could hunt and mind-press and reevaluate my click or clacks, but I can’t do it now. Why? TIME. Solving computer conundrums will spill broken necklace beads of Time–ping ping psssssssssssss–hours settling into the cracks of the floors of my day. Can’t do it.

[Computers are a jangling leash]

a 3 legged fox hops along the backyard and makes me think of spoonfuls of my life passing

Satire meets manifesto. I mean it’s a perfect video, in that Colbert is so intelligent in how he ‘plays’ the straight man and attacks the Shields book (and, really concepts of ‘writing’). Colbert plays the old school, the black and white, the “Isn’t it like you are breaking down my door and stealing my belongings when you ‘plagiarize'”? (Amazing how many quotation marks I have to employ to talk about the work of David Shields.) And Shields–who ‘wrote’ the book, lectures about these ideas, etc.–is sending Colbert’s softball questions and ‘concerns’ waaaayyyy out of the park.

[Who owns outer space?]

Have you ever read the essay where David Shields only uses Bumper Stickers? Is that online? Well, it is now. This should make you coffee your T-shirt, etc.

Life Stories by David Shields:

First things first.

You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever. I may grow old, but I’ll never grow up. Too fast to love, too young to die. Life’s a beach.

And yet can not the same yard in another time act as lovely fumes of fatherhood?

Not all men are fools; some are single. 100% Single. I’m not playing hard to get; I am hard to get. I love being exactly who I am.

Heaven doesn’t want me and Hell’s afraid I’ll take over. I’m the person your mother warned you about. Ex-girlfriend in trunk. Don’t laugh; your girlfriend might be in here.

Girls wanted, all positions, will train. Playgirl on board. Party girl on board. Sexy blonde on board. Not all dumbs are blonde. Never underestimate the power of redheads. Yes, I am a movie star. 2QT4U. A4NQT. No ugly chicks. No fat chicks. I may be fat, but you’re ugly and I can diet. Nobody is ugly after 2 a.m.

books can be lovely, can be light on a salt cube i suppose

Party on board. Mass confusion on board. I brake for bong water. Jerk off and smoke up. Elvis died for your sins. Screw guilt. I’m Elvis; kiss me.

Ten and a half inches on board. Built to last. You can’t take it with you, but I’ll let you hold it for a while.

Be kind to animals–kiss a rugby player. Ballroom dancers do it with rhythm. Railroaders love to couple up. Roofers are always on top. Pilots slip it in.

Love sucks and then you die. Gravity’s a lie; life sucks. Life’s a bitch; you marry one, then you die. Life’s a bitch and so am I. Beyond bitch.

Down on your knees, bitch. Sex is only dirty when you do it right. Liquor up front–poker in the rear. Smile; it’s the second-best thing you can do with your lips. I haven’t had sex for so long I forget who gets tied up. I’m looking for love but will settle for sex. Bad boys have bad toys. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me. Live fast; love hard; die with your mask on.

leaping too…

So many men, so little time. Expensive but worth it. If you’re rich, I’m single. Richer is better. Shopaholic on board. Born to shop. I’d rather be shopping at Nordstrom. Born to be pampered. A woman’s place is the mall. When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Consume and die. He who dies with the most toys wins. She who dies with the most jewels wins. Die, yuppie scum.

This vehicle not purchased with drug money. Hugs are better than drugs.

You are loved.

Expectant mother on board. Baby on board. Family on board. I love my kids. Precious cargo on board. Are we having fun yet? Baby on fire. No child in car. Grandchild in back.

running words

I fight poverty; I work. I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go. It sure makes the day long when you get to work on time. Money talks; mine only knows how to say goodbye. What do you mean I can’t pay off my Visa with my MasterCard?

How’s my driving? Call 1-800-545-8601. If this vehicle is being driven recklessly, please call 1-800-EAT-SHIT. Don’t drink and drive–you might hit a bump and spill your drink.

My other car is a horse. Thoroughbreds always get there first. Horse lovers are stable people. My other car is a boat. My other car is a Rolls-Royce. My Mercedes is in the shop today. Unemployed? Hungry? Eat your foreign car. My other car is a 747. My ex-wife’s car is a broom. I think my car has PMS. My other car is a piece of shit, too. Do not wash–this car is undergoing a scientific dirt test. Don’t laugh; it’s paid for. If this car were a horse, I’d have to shoot it. If I go any faster, I’ll burn out my hamsters. I may be slow, but I’m ahead of you. I also drive a Titleist. Pedal downhill.

the political season

Shit happens. I love your wife. Megashit happens. I’m single again. Wife and dog missing–reward for dog. The more people I meet, the more I like my cat. Nobody on board. Sober ‘n’ crazy. Do it sober. Drive smart; drive sober.

No more Mr. Nice Guy. Lost your cat? Try looking under my tires. I love my German shepherd. Never mind the dog–beware of owner. Don’t fence me in. Don’t tell me what kind of day to have. Don’t tailgate or I’ll flush. Eat shit and die. My kid beat up your honor student. Abort your inner child. I don’t care who you are, what you’re driving, who’s on board, who you love, where you’d rather be, or what you’d rather be doing.

Not so close–I hardly know you. Watch my rear end, not hers. You hit it–you buy it. Hands off. No radio. No Condo/No MBA/No BMW. You toucha my car–I breaka your face.  Protected by Smith & Wesson. Warning: This car is protected by a large sheet of cardboard.

I miss something concealed, the watery error of my hand and mind

LUV2HNT. Gun control is being able to hit your target. Hunters make better lovers: they go deeper into the bush–they shoot more often–and they eat what they shoot.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do own the whole damn road. Get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on. I don’t drive fast; I just fly low. If you don’t like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk. I’m polluting the atmosphere. Can’t do 55.

I may be growing old, but I refuse to grow up. Get even: Live long enough to become a problem to your kids. We’re out spending our children’s inheritance.

Life is pretty dry without a boat. I’d rather be sailing. A man’s place is on his boat. Everyone must believe in something; I believe I’ll go canoeing. Who cares!

Eat dessert first; life is uncertain. Why be normal?

stop trying so hard

Don’t follow me; I’m lost, too. Wherever you are, be there. No matter where you go, there you are. Bloom where you are planted.

Easy does it. Keep it simple, stupid. I’m 4 Clean Air. Go fly a kite. No matter–never mind. UFOs are real. Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most. I brake for unicorns.

Choose death.

Interesting in the video that Shields calls Colbert out as a persona. Naturally, Colbert knows this (though he does have a brief, flustered pause); it’s the core of his satire, yet Shields makes me think of WJFSHD, or WHAT JAMES FREY SHOULD HAVE DONE.

wwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

["This affair  is much ado about nothing," says EARLY Oprah.]

James Frey, in his public beat-down by Oprah–a situation that reminded me of some grotesque Roman affair, hissing and Christians thrown to lions, etc–should have said a lot of things (this might be a whole other post–already I feel my blood thrumming up), but certainly he should have said, “Oprah, you of the one name, OPRAH, YOU are creative nonfiction, YOU are a persona, YOU are a assembloir of narrative, YOU are a trickster, barker, ‘writer,” WRITER named HARPO.”

[Shields says he wasn't disappointed Frey was a liar. He was disappointed Frey wasn't a better liar.]

my next book cover

And a lot of other things. He could have confronted the complexity of the issue right there on Oprah, but he didn’t. Why? because he couldn’t. That wasn’t what he was there for. That wasn’t the story. Oprah doesn’t work in the genre of push-back. (That’s why she flip-flopped in days after defending Frey.) He was there to spill blood, and damn it, Oprah would have her blood. It was time for a Frey sandwich. Any other narrative would not have done at all, at all, at all.

["James Frey is here and I have to say it is difficult for me to talk to you because I feel really duped," says A FEW DAYS LATER Oprah.]

ha, ha, you feel this big now, punk.

Ahh memories…Today my classes read the essay “Assembloir: That Which is True of Others is True of Me,” by Ander Monson. They are reading this version, first published in The Collagist. My class probably doesn’t know it today, but Monson’s essay contain none of his own words. These sentences were appropriated from various memoirs. In The Collagist, Monson does not cite the sources. In this version, he cites every source. What is the difference? Well, we know there is one. Shields wanted to cite no sources, and his publisher insisted he do, attaching an appendix to Reality Hunger. Shields (as you can see in the video; Colbert of course takes a comedic turn with this notion) adds a dotted line to the appendix and wants the reader to excise the thing with a box cutter.

Interestingly–and I suppose predictably, since the quote “Genre is a minimum security prison” appears in the book–it seems Shields most likely subverted even this compromise. The appendix seems less than reliable, some citations are maybes and many omitted and we aren’t certain the quotations match at all, at all.

BTW, I like that quote. Genre might be a prison, in academia, in bizness aspects of writing, in limited minds, but its a minimum security prison: we can escape, if we try.

Monson says:

memories of glimmer of a glimmer

This assembloir is one of several that I wrote—or perhaps assembled, though I’m not always sure there’s a difference between the two—for the forthcoming book Vanishing Point (April 2010).

[though I’m not always sure there’s a difference between the two]

[though I’m not always sure there’s a difference between the two]

[though I’m not always sure there’s a difference between the two]

and:

With the help of Dolly Laninga, a writer I contracted to help out with this project, I read (or she and I read, or in some cases she read) something like 300 memoirs. Mainly we just looked for anything interesting that we could find.

And:

Those represented in this assembloir are things that are true of me, that tell my story. Really our stories are all not so different, though the particular events of our lives are.

Indeed.

Tomorrow, my students will write their own essay. But they are not allowed to use their owns words.

They are not allowed to use their own words.

allowed to use their own words.

own words.

words.

*

exactly

[The state owns the wildlife, the birds. But when they are in the air?]

Here is my system for wagering on horses over at Hobart.

My “system” (every gambler has a system) has nothing to do with the actual horses. And now you’re thinking, That doesn’t make any sense. Indeed. My system strives to avoid the making of sense. I rely on the dispassionate senselessness of numbers. Of luck, really.

*

Just bought three chapbooks by Tyler Gobble, THE NEWG, and Brian Oliu over at Tiny Hardcore Press. You should do the same.

*

My plan at AWP is to take $100 in cash to the book fair and spend only that. Does that sound legit? I want flash. I want hybrid. I want meta. I want stolen, appropriated structures. I want weird.

[I want Chicago nachos]

*

I switch perfumes all the time. If I’ve been wearing one perfume for three months, I force myself to give it up, even if I still feel like wearing it, so whenever I smell it again it will always remind me of those three months. I never go back to wearing it again; it becomes part of my permanent smell collection.

Warhol

*

Okemos by Avram Kline is lovely odd.

*

*

You should read this flash by Sarah Levine:

I jumped onto the kitchen chair and said, “Have you lost your mind? Are you threatening me over a fucking cheese slicer?” at which point D put down the knife and wept, having scared himself a little.

the fuck you looking at?

Stale Champagne by Tyler Gobble

Today I read a book of poetry on an iPad. It was a book titled Stale Champagne, by Tyler Gobble. I’ve met Tyler Gobble once, and maybe you think that is impossible, but it is in fact possible. Did you know we spend 6 minutes of every hour in the dark, just from blinking? He lives in Indiana. I often disc golf in Indiana and also teach writing at a school with a name similar to a large, round object used in a number of sporting events. A long while back, maybe two days or eight years in the yonder, this young man shows up at my door. Tall, healthy looking young lad, wiry strands of head-hair, bouncy step, muscle shirt, a basketball under one arm and a cardboard box under the other, all of that. (I noted the cardboard box had several red and blue wires dangling from a corner.) It was Tyler Gobble.

“Hey,” he said, “I’m Tyler Gobble. One of the most frightening experiences for a writer is to have a pet squirrel stray away unnoticed in public.”

I said, “I’m not following.”

The clouds were in the sky like coughed steel.

“Well,” he said, “I have invented an invention, an innovative, FCC approved radio-frequency alarm system that helps writers locate pet squirrels or other exotic pets in a mall, park, school, school event like a Halloween carnival, poetry reading, store, or just about anywhere. Would you like to purchase the device?”

I said, “I’m not sure a squirrel is an exotic pet.”

“It’s exotic to the squirrel,” Tyler Gobble said.

I scratched my  forehead. “OK.”

Tyler Gobble nodded to the box under his arm. “You want to purchase my invention? I do installment plans.”

“No,” I said. “I haven’t had a pet squirrel in years.”

“It’s for the arts,” he said. “I’m raising money for my own press.”

“Like a grape press, for wine? Now that glows.”

“No, no, a literary press. For words.”

“No thanks.”

“Your pet squirrel wears the receiver on a belt.”

“No thank you. I don’t even wear belts.”

“Or…or…or in the nylon waist pouch provided.”

(That’s crazy, sighed an acorn.)

“Nope. I do not have a squirrel. Have a good day.”

Tyler Gobble looked at me like I had a frozen turkey balanced on my elbow. “Listen, sir,” he said. “You carry the palm-size transmitter, OK? In the event that you and your squirrel are separated, the device I have invented gives you three options to help you find your pet: Locate, Search, and Alarm. The alarm is REALLY loud. Want to hear it? I mean it is LOUD.”

I said, “No, I do not. Do not set off that alarm.”

Crows were swooping all over the top of my house. Attacking an owl.

“This invention can be used indoors or out and has a range of up to 200 feet,” Tyler said, loudly, over the racket of cawing crows.

“Nope.”

“Well, OK,” Tyler Gobble said. “You sure you don’t want to hear the alarm? It’s at the decibel level of a small jet and that’s if you put your ear to the engine of the jet which I don’t suggest because people get sucked into jet engines more often than you might imagine.”

“Do not set off that alarm,” I said.

And then Tyler Gobble left. He bounced the basketball right up the road and away in the sunset melting like ____________.

But I digress. I just wanted to say I have met Tyler Gobble. Once.

Another first for me was to read a collection of poetry on an IPad, basically a big-ass smart phone. I thought:

1. Well, I can’t shoot this book. Sometimes I shoot at books:

Ok, I could shoot it, but launching arrows at an iPad just seems a bit too vodka. Anyway, destroying an iPad has been so done.

2. I am used to poetry coming in a book or chapbook form and smelling like paper, binding glue, lost shards of hope. This book smells like an iPad. An iPad smells like finger sweat and television and a conspiracy to distance people from people and them from themselves, then their selves spinning from, joining closer to sucker-punch, spinning out again from their other selves, a sort of painting of hummingbirds caught in a lightning storm only the lightning storm is the skin over your brain as it sits in the back of the cabinet and crumbles alongside the Pop Tarts and the plastic couplets you find at poetry keg parties or Salvation Army santa raves, etc. I was thinking what if I put my tiny carrots in a new running shoe box. My mind would think, Running shoes, while I munched on the carrots. Something like that. Synapses are bathtubs. Synapses are kites of despair caught in flowering knees. Also Oprah.

3. I did glow scrolling down with a flick of my index finger and seeing the brightly lit poetry flow. Tyler’s book is one of flow. It begins and pours forward, like a day cracking open, but not any day, but like every day when you are caught in certain frames of minds and certainly this book, this “stale champagne” if I might and I think I might since it’s the fucking title, is a capturing of frames of minds, these frames maybe traps or mirror edges but also then certainly an attempt at ordering something, or presenting it, or, hell, even maintain and/or controlling a thing, the way frames might function when working or when at work and I suppose a life is a frame, or trying to understand any life is a frame, or a refusal of the stony illusion of framing, and that’s all I have to say about frames, framers, framing, a damn shame, because I haven’t even mentioned the possible word play and connotations and Platonic allegories available to a mind open and willing to consider the term, frames.

A bottle is a frame. Or:

The thing about Stale Champagne is I think it’s sort of an elegy, or an urn, or an admirable unforced valley full of unforgiving ways turned to poetry (we call this a soul gulley) and the narrator keeps stirring the ashes (back to the urn now) with his finger and he’s looking down into the vortex, and, yes, he’s sad but also thinking, “That looks sort of beautiful, this vortex of ash.”

Oh misgivings, oh misgivings…the circular suction of.

And the vortex is universal. The Milky Way and the water down your sink drain and the tip of a conch shell and the finger print, your own flesh, they are mathematically the same in their measurements, distances, way; and so one thing is everything, and the ordinary is more than extraordinary, it’s metaphysical, it’s everything…in this frame of mind, the elegy, where the GONE thing is always PRESENT. It is a strangely wired force! It has overtaken the persona!

Stale champagne…

A better question is why’d you/

leave before I woke up?

or

I’m dusty eyed with my head in the circles

your drool made on the sofa.

And here, on the opening page, you get two consistencies of Stale Champagne. One, Gobble knows the enjambment. This book could provide a fine lesson on when to cut–or not to crisply cut–the line. Jagged is a good word. Sharp. Two, as I allude to above, this imagery is of a thing lost. A thing lost is often more powerful than the thing here. How so? The thing here is one dimensional, in substance and thought, here with us, while the thing gone is more acute, multidimensional, the thing itself (now elsewhere but still thrumming) and the memory (physical [drool, for example] and in the brain-clouds of our neurons) of the thing. And here the poetic eye–exact detail, fine attention, NOTICING the stains of life, reiteration–doesn’t help the griever at all. This crush of compression. It causes more acuity. The writer’s sensitivity to the word and the world makes the rent edges of the elegy even sharper (and deeper cutting).

Her sheets I can smell myself in.

or

Flowers on the sidewalk someone lost.

Stale Champagne is an album by a band. There are quotes from the album throughout these poems. So there’s a lot of allusion here, and, you know what, I don’t give a blar. Because I don’t know anything about music. I’m one of the very, very few writers I know who doesn’t know music. I’m OK with that. And I’m really OK with that here, in Stale Champagne, because the words leading to the line leading to this thing, this larger situation, work perfectly fine without any allusion. honestly, I believe that’s how it should be anyway.

You know what I like about this elegy (my term). It’s something a lot of writers fail to do when they are writing similar material (similar material being the leavings and echoes of we will have in our lives). There’s the pop in here, this jar and pop of energy, these “twitch-twists” (in the term of critic, Calvin Bedient), sometimes simply kinetic, sometimes maybe sexual or borderline violent, and it’s an energy that says to me, “I’ll get over this moment.” Time moves both ways, back and forward. To wit: this elegy avoids a wallowing.

swatted the/alarm into side one

or

The people and their boogie/bodies

or

I heard a word cascade/through my floor and ring in a strange bed

or

The man in apartment 38 pukes/over his balcony. And breaks his/arm jumping off to clean it up.

or the final words of the collection

…the years are furious.

Indeed. Indeed.

kardashian opossum strung and handy nachos, oh my

I recently ran a long race on my fucked up heel. I won the race. Leave me alone.

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The Broken Plate really needs you to submit!! Go now. You have until Oct 31.

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Juked! Another incredible Arlene Ang poem.

[she is my sister, as you know]

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Blink, shuffle, touch a mark on your left temple, go Teutonic, and pay attention to Rose Metal Press, flashers!

Our Fifth Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest submission period begins October 15 and ends December 1, 2010. Our 2010 judge will be Kim Chinquee. The winner will have his/her chapbook published in summer 2011, with an introduction by the contest judge. During the submission period, please email your 25–40 page double-spaced manuscript of short short stories under 1000 words to us here with a $10 reading fee via Paypal or check.

I can personally say (hint, hint–see that little EGGS book to the right side banner?) that Rose Metal will make you a booky-wooky that will glow like cotton undershirts of  Sunday butter on a chainsaw.

You can’t slay a dragon if you don’t shod-on your purple boots. String that bow! Don’t go falling slant in the town lights of Forgetville, USA. Huh? It means ENTER!

[i saw a hawk harass an owl yesterday. that's rude. blur-jays and brows harass owls, i can see that, but a hawk? i though they were sort of bros...]

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(photo from a major green light nacho blog)

We shall be cheering for the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Why? NACHOS.

No kidding, people actually went to Texas Rangers games to eat nachos. When nachos and a beverage or two were consumed, they usually left the game because what was on the field wasn’t usually worth watching by then.

Often, the lines to the concession stands to get the nachos were long.

“Doesn’t matter,” one friend, living in the Dallas area at the time, once told me during a night at Turnpike Stadium. “Thinking about those nachos is better than thinking about the game.”

Why are they so surprised people would go to a ballgame only for the nachos? I’d kiss little rainworm stones for hours just for one nacho chip, cheese, a sketchy jalapeno…

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It is Mean Week over at HTML GIANT. People are wriitng obituaries.

1. Dead: Publishing Genius and Anderbo.

2. Deceased: Elimae, WWATD, online lit mags in general.

3. Deader than disco: AWP.

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Who doesn’t love Charlie Sheen? You go, man. Jesus H. The candle has been burnt but he made a new candle out of dirty bras, beer bottle foil, and the time-release coatings he just split from his Oxycontin…my Lordie.

“It’s been a very eventful trip,” his ex-wife says. And me, I love understatement, yet another lost and human form of humor.

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I write a story about John McEnroe eating some cat-head biscuits and throwing Moon Pies over at BLIP. What is BLIP? Well, it used to be RICK MAGAZINE. Then it used to be the Mississippi Review or something.  I can’t follow all the barbed wire, hinder axletrees, or should I say threads….

[get them damned goats off the lawn!!]

What do I know?

Here is some about the controversy (?). This is summer 2010 link, so basically the Epipaleolithic period in blog world speak. You probably know all this already. So why don’t I shut the fuck up?

[snap that racket's neck, johnny-mac!!]

I read all the BLIP stories for this week. I was coffeed up and all sort of blur skin glow, all wavy rain synapse, all fifteen dollar refrigerators of glow (shard of me already planning lunch nachos), and I thought, I’ll read all the BLIP stories before I go run (hobble, fucking heel) and go to work and read some fiction drafts.

21% of the BLIP stories were blar rawlooking uniforms.

21% were OK feet (mine included)

42% were glow, at least ribbon in hair, at least rope-veined claw, maybe pink ribbon in blond hair glow.

16% were damn fine glow.

The best was “And One Blue Pussy” by Jennifer Pashley. Here is an excerpt:

He has a pony­tail that hangs halfway down his back. Blond and mostly straight. I don’t notice it until he walks away – because of the cap, because of his face. Like a mannequin’s face, carved out of wood or plas­ter, seam­less and smooth and all the same color, even the lips. Like you could pose his stiff arms in a polo, that his fin­gers would hold the shape of dainty point­ing, you could hang your keys on them, place them at his waist, or his col­lar, fanned out like the fin­gers on the baby Jesus in an old paint­ing. He walks away and I see the pony­tail, longer than mine, and way longer than Wendy’s. She cut her hair in her first trimester and now couldn’t make a pony­tail if she wanted to.

Not many of us go out. The bars in the hos­pi­tal neigh­bor­hood are col­lege bars, and it’s June. The one guy who goes with us won’t fully sit on the seat, and his wife texts him through his entire beer. He never puts the phone down and it keeps ping­ing, he keeps look­ing, he fum­bles through short mes­sages with his fat thumbs. Right after, he says he has to go. It leaves us in an empty place on a Mon­day night, with some piped in Grate­ful Dead, a lone bar­tender with a mess of dreads, a big belly and a salmon pink t-shirt.

I wait for him to make his own expla­na­tion. He says, Who wouldn’t want to date a red­head named Bridget?

I’ve dated a red­head named Brid­get, I say.

He says his friends set them up, and only told him that she was unpre­dictable, that he would love her, but that she would sur­prise him.

I also dated a red­head named Sam, I say.

Sam, he repeats, fishing.

Samuel, I say.

You’ve had boyfriends, he says, not a question.

Sure. I’ve had boyfriends. I’ve had twenty-five boyfriends, all named Sam, I say. Smirk. He orders another round.

What’s that from? he asks, like it’s a line from a movie. Behind him, the bar­tender wipes in a circle.

Andy Warhol, I say.

Andy Warhol had twenty-five boyfriends named Sam? he says.

They were cats, I say. Sugar Mag­no­lia comes on. It’s a book: Twenty-five cats named Sam. I cross my legs then under the table, and fin­ish the title for him, clos­ing my eyes when I say it. And one blue pussy.

He appears to work some­thing out of the side of his cheek with his tongue, which is pierced through with a round steel ball that clicks against his teeth. It goes pretty quick from there, talk­ing and not talk­ing, my foot on his foot under the table. His arm against mine above the table. Drink­ing, pay­ing, walk­ing to the car, the quick nego­ti­a­tion of who will drive and where, and when I ask him later, how many girl­friends he’s had, to at least try and even up the score of ques­tion ask­ing, he only says not enough.

Jesus, Sean, that excerpt was too long. This is a blog not a lit mag, Freak-O. OK, sorry. I got carried away. I like stories of random sex and Andy Warhol and tattered conversations, OK. And bars. And also there are nurses (remember, I am an RN) and what type of title is AND ONE BLUE PUSSY?

A glow title my friends.

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I’m not the only one who uses celebrities in their fiction. Just finished Celebrity Chekhov by Ben Greenman. Author takes Chekhov stories and brings them up to date, replacing the characters with celebrities: David Letterman, Paris Hilton, Michael Douglas, oh my.

[this opossum walked below me. it snuffled the air. it itched the air. i pulled out my iphone and took a photo and then i wrote a little flash fiction about a opossum, or notes of, so i guess the iphone has some practical use for writers...]

Some of the C Chekhov stories are trivial. Some are perfect mimics. Some are actually odd and fresh, the concept working, the pre-formed (in our minds) persona working in this new place. An example would be “The Darling,” starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and Keith Urban. Also effective were “A Trilogy” (The Jon Lovitz section is a comedic masterpiece) and “Terror.” The latter is about Michael Douglas, and possibly his current illness gives this story even more pathos, but I would point out and compliment a method Greenman ripped from Chekhov (obviously on purpose–the book is homage) and uses to startling effect: the juxtaposition of the natural world with our human concerns…

Douglas (who has quit acting to run coffee shops) gnashes and gnaws existential on life:

And do you understand life? Tell me: do you understand life better than the world beyond the grave?

I recognize that education and the conditions of life have imprisoned me in a narrow circle of falsity, that my whole life is nothing else than a daily effort to deceive myself and other people, and to avoid noticing it; and I am frightened at the thought that to the day of death I shall not escape from this falsity.

True dat, but then we get all of this delivered on a park bench, and this scene:

On the river, and here and there on the meadows, a mist was rising. High narrow coils of mist, thick and white as milk, were trailing over the river, hiding the reflection of the stars. Every minute they changed their form, and it seemed as some were embracing, others were bowing, others lifting their heads as though they were praying.

* Here is a long interview with Ben Greenman.

* Review of book here.

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Here is a photo of a deer walking past my deer stand a few days ago. I took its photo not its deer-burger.

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Here is a story about Kim Kardashian. Who the fuck is Kim Kardashian?

[EXCUSE ME--her sister eats nachos! Her sister eats nachos!!

]

“Joy”

It was twelve o’clock at night.

Kim Kardashian, with excited face and ruffled hair, flew into her family’s house and hurriedly ran through all the rooms. Her parents had already gone to bed. Her sisters were awake, trying on lingerie. Her stepbrother was looking at himself in the mirror.

“Where have you come from?” her sister Khloe cried in amazement. “What is the matter with you?”

“Oh, don’t ask! I never expected it; no, I never expected it! It’s positively incredible!”

Kim laughed and sank into an armchair, so overcome by happiness that she could not stand on her legs.

“It’s incredible! You can’t imagine! Look!”

Her other sister, Kourtney, threw a quilt round her and went in to fetch their stepbrother Brody. He came into the room, holding a hand mirror. Within a moment Kim’s parents were in the room as well.

“What’s the matter?” her mother said. “You don’t look like yourself!”

“It’s because I am so happy. The whole world knows me! The whole world! Until now only you knew that there was a girl called Kim Kardashian, and now the whole world knows it! Mama! Thank heavens!”

Kim jumped up, ran up and down all the rooms, and then sat down again.

“What has happened? Tell us sensibly!”

“You live like wild beasts, you don’t watch very much television and take no notice of what’s online, and there’s so much that is interesting there. If anything happens it’s all known at once, nothing is hidden! How happy I am! Oh, Lord! You know it’s only celebrated people whose names are published online, and now they have gone and published mine!”

“What do you mean? Where?”

Kim’s stepfather, Bruce Jenner, turned pale. Her mother crossed herself. Brody looked at her and then looked back into the hand mirror.

“Yes! My name has been published! Now all the world knows of me! Bookmark that page and print it out in memory! We will read it sometimes! Look!”

Kim went to the computer, tapped a series of keys, and then pointed to a paragraph on the screen.

“Read it!” she said to Bruce Jenner.

He put on his glasses.

“Read it!”

Kim’s mother crossed herself again. Bruce Jenner cleared his throat and began to read: “ ‘We will all be hearing more of Kim Kardashian soon . . .’ ”

“You see, you see! Go on!”

“ ‘. . . since an intimate video starring Kardashian and her ex-boyfriend has been confirmed . . .’ ”

“That’s me and Ray J . . . it’s all described exactly! Go on! Listen!”

“ ‘. . . and will be released later this month. The tape, which Vivid reportedly acquired for one million dollars, includes more than thirty minutes of explicit sexual activity . . .’ ”

“Go on! Read the rest!”

“ ‘It was filmed a few years ago, when Kardashian and her boyfriend, an R&B singer named Ray J . . .’ ”

“I told you. Ray J! But keep reading. There’s more about me.”

“ ‘Initially, Kardashian tried to block the release of the tape, but at length came to an agreement with the distribution company.’ ”

“That’s right. I’m being distributed. You have read it now? Good! So you see. It’s all over the Internet, which means it’s all over the world! Give it here!”

Kim closed the window and turned away from the computer.

“I have to go around the neighborhood and show this to a bunch of other people . . . the Gastineaus . . .the Hiltons . . . .Must run! Good-bye!”

Kim put on her hat and, joyful and triumphant, ran into the street.

*

Smokelong Q is named Smokelong because you can read a flash fiction in the amount of time it would take to smoke a cigarette. Now you know something. Want to know something else?

They have a 30 word flash contest in November. Sweet.

Gum those words, folks. Chew and spit.

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I vouch for VOUCHED.

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I am grading/eating nachos/drinking a beer/watching football. We call this a Sunday.

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Damn, M Sarki over at elimae. Pretty dern glow, sir. You made me wash out my slackwater for a moment there. I just about J-boned my flatness. I thought there was no way M Sarki would be publishing online.

I was wrong.

In my nude art work the model is most definitely my collaborator and there must be space and tolerance for absolute failure.

Amen, dude!

Oh I just used The Google and here he is at failbetter.

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Gritty Tony O’Neill interview at 3 am.

Watching people shoot up, smoke crack, all of that stuff – I find it hypnotic.

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This blog has too many long excerpts today. Well, arrest me! Seriously arrest me–I’m lonely. My days are a wrecked car hidden behind a cabin made of cheese.

[climb the steps! push open the door!]

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…and we are always doing depressing things together. Drinking champagne or going to visit the polar bears. Things not to do, but to have done.

Why yes, Liana Imam has one golden dust flash over at decomP. Thanks for the words, Liana.

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We actually didn’t arrest Susan Tepper. Susan Tepper was doing some Pop-Tart flattening stuff. They just had Susan Tepper leave the grocery store. Susan Tepper was throwing her body down on the produce. Susan Tepper was basically bruising all the produce and so that’s why they asked her, you know, to quit throwing herself around or leave the store. People don’t want produce all touched by somebody’s body.


I don’t know.

** blog update to Susan Tepper photo (please note scissors used in cutting pizza):