Monthly Archives: January 2011

a treadmill balloon and Andy Devine and other meaningful objects

The National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for their 2011 awards. My man Ander Monson rocks it with Vanishing Point.

Woot! Woot!

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Readings can be dark or light. Cavern or cascade of whitewater. Tight walls. Drippy walls. Angles or smoosh. Smells of linseed oil, smells of urine. Cleavage or ankle bones. Skinny eyeglasses, striped hipster caps. Three minutes. Hair like an encasing dress. Mostly young. Much more older. Really long hair. Walls. Buzz cuts and beards. Bright. Aphotic.

Once at a reading I felt a fat fist in my throat. Like a toad.

Once I washed ashore wet as a clam’s ass.

Once I felt primary, sovereign, but it might have been the dank porter.

But I digress…

Andy Devine is reading in a bright art gallery.Wait, this photo isn’t bright. Let me rip one from Vouched. Ok, here we go:

As usual Andy insulted the audience and the other readers and insinuated we–Matt Bell, Aaron Burch, myself–were simply warming up for Andy’s majesty. Andy said his book was better than moving water, or watching the French Open while having sex, etc. He cackled several times, not a laugh, a cackle. I had an urge to punch Andy Devine. I curled my fingers into a health farm of a fist. I thought, “I will go rustic on your forehead!” This is the same man who recently bragged:

Also, once a year, for a few days, the city of Kingman celebrates Andy Devine Days and Andy Devine Avenue in Flagstaff is named after me.

Then Andy read. His words were like the sun asking the moon out on a date to the symphony and with a handful of Lorcet and golden half-light honey mead and later the sun and the moon make out in a tricked-out car in an alleyway made of circus. Andy put all of us in our place. We were warming up for Andy Devine. I felt waves of nausea. My writing life was a tragic joke, a wet napkin of nothingness, a fraud. In an odd way, I had to thank Andy Devine. He silenced me. I went home and deleted over 400 drafts of various flash fictions. I held a wet towel to the back of my sweating neck. I then opened a Word document and started anew. I wrote the word the. I slept for two days. I drove back out to Indianapolis to watch Aaron Burch eat nachos.

Now that is a happy man. Why? Nachos. I keep trying to tell you folks…

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Parker Tettleton with a mesmerizing flash over at elimae.

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The lift activator on my treadmill exploded. This is the second time. Fuck. Me. The first time mechanical dude wanted $110 to fix the lift activator. I paid him, sure, I had to–I needed hill training; I was about to run the Boston Marathon. But I watched him and took mental notes. So this time I replaced the lift activator all by myself. I had this surge of Wow I can fix things. It felt good.I felt less guilty about the generational putrescence of any actual skill. Like my grandfather could build a car out of an ear of corn and some baling wire. My dad could flip the stop lamp switch bracket and pour diet Pepsi into the radiator to cool it down. Me? I pay someone $35 to change my oil. But I did fix the treadmill. I repaired the treadmill. The treadmill, ready for the running, sir. Yes, yes, yes. I then ran MIXED INTERVALS like a fucking roller coaster goat.

Ive started to like the words “Mixed Intervals,” not sure why. Mixed intervals. Mixed. Intervals.

I went all:

6:00 mile pace X 3 minutes/6:00 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:56 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:56 mile pace mile X 3 minutes/Ran a 5:52 mile/5:49 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:49 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:45 mile pace X 3 minutes/5:45 mile pace X 7 minutes.

The last part was tough. I was grinding. I had to turn The Smiths on, and I rarely run to music. Since The Smiths are the only music I like, I had to go to them for extra verve, for a little thrusty-jump!

CROOOOONNNNEEERRRRRRRR…

It worked.

Can I just say I am tiring of everything breaking? My treadmill. Then this middle light of three lights in my dining room. It keeps going dark, like every other day. And I lost an earring last Tuesday. It just fell off my ear I guess. And then my .50 caliber muzzle-loader was recalled.

Knight Rifles has received a small number of reports from the field of Revolution muzzleloading rifles accidentally discharging as the user closed the action.

Exsqueeze me? You mean my rifle might just fire? That’s slightly deadly, sir. That’s slightly fatal, young lady. Whoops, I just fired off a .50 caliber weapon. Well, look at thar! Dern. So I have to send the rifle action away for repair. They are supposed to send me a box and pay for the mailing and whatever. We’ll see.

So I tire of this, all this breakage and loss. Everyone knows why. The tendency to degrade. The universal force. Entropy. As in: WE ARE ALL FALLING APART. I feel it as every day passes, it, shimmering in the air, and so do you. Fucking physics. What can you do?

I don’t know.

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Peter Davis is reading in a dark bar. Peter read funny poems about Tina. I heard a girl next to me say, “Wait until Jared reads. Jared is loud.” Jared Sexton read. He was LOUD. He read a fabulous story about a man with a girlfriend and the girlfriend keeps mouthing off drunk in public and so the man has to get into various fistfights. He loves his girlfriend sober but is maybe frightened of what will happen when she drinks. It’s an interesting situation. Other readers on this evening were melancholy. In fact, I distinctly heard two melancholy sonnets. One reader I couldn’t hear too well. I think he said something about a monkey. Could have been money. Could have been Vivi, like a poem about a girl named Vivi? I don’t know:  the sound waves got caught in the mushy walls. Or maybe fell into the square pit of the bartender’s boxing ring. I noticed the bartender was overwhelmed and pouring very heavy drinks. She might have been an inexperienced bartender. The drinks were heavy. I drank a vodka and tonic. And then a tonic and vodka. They are not the same.

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MEANINGFUL OBJECTS

Flash needs meaningful objects. What? Exactly. The cut-glass tumbler. The bowl. The red shoe. The big gob of phlegm. The blackberry. Creamy tops of glowing lantern in the night. The river rock. The paring knife. The cat. The canoe. The nipple. The paper plate. The solitary bean. The Turbo Dogs. The mockingbird.

They must connote, as in echo off the page. They exist to argue for their existence. You have to give the reader an opportunity.

Little Things by Raymond Carver. A domestic fight. Move to the kitchen (for all the obvious reasons–one of the finest places to have a fictional fight is in the kitchen). And:

Let go of him, he said.

Get away, get away! she cried.

The baby was red-faced and screaming. In the scuffle they knocked down a flowerpot that hung behind the stove.

What of that flowerpot? Doesn’t matter. You gave us an object. Now our minds will grapple for reverberations.

–flowers as already metaphorical. We don’t need pointy PhD hats for that. Flowers are not given/received due to  a sudden spike of interest in botany right around birthdays, first dates, and Valentine’s day.

–I just like the crash of the pot on the floor.

–He gave her that flower, man!

–Their love once grew like a flower and now it’s…

groannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

–Yeh, I’m with her, me too, and the dirt all bird-footed out, the way we can’t put it all back together.

–I don’t get how you hang a flowerpot. That’s some phony shit.

–I need to go to the bathroom.

–I think the pot is supposed to point us back to a better time for this couple. I mean it’s in the kitchen and its clearly not utilitarian. It’s not a spatula. It’s a flower.

–The pot is a manifestation of—

OK, OK, let’s move on. You’re all wrong and all right. Carver gave us a chance, is what I’m saying. We are all gods of our stories. Didn’t have to be a flowerpot. You could all place something else behind that stove. But give us a chance, folks. Give us an object.

Kathy Fish is one of my favorite flash fiction writers. Often she will use objects as a way to characterize. Watch now. You could form someone wary, yet open to experience, hard, but with an underlying sentimentality, a person who—

Or you could just dump out their backpack:

I empty my backpack onto my bunk: euros and condoms, a photo of my dog, digestive biscuits, a can of mace, and a bottle of spring water with a picture of a cow on it.

Objects, objects, objects. Sometimes they make me happy as a little stove.

Check out the opening of this recent flash (Go read it all–it is glow) by Mike Meginnis, over at JMWW:

This body can’t stop throwing up. Cheeto dust and Gatorade. Power bars. Granola. Macaroni. Cheddar. Grains of rice. Frito Lays. Taco Bell. Refried beans. Paper bag. Bendy straw. Fishing line. Dog food. Dog sick. Dog fur. Powerade. Lettuce leaves. Carrot peel. Orange peel. Jelly Belly jellybeans. Gummi worms. Taffy. Chewing gum. Fingernails. Cocacola. Cocacola. Cocacola.

In the toilet, on its rim, on the floor, in the grout. Pooling in this body’s shaking hands.

See? Things, people, things. Let me end this little constitutional with one of my favorite flashes and uses of objects, Four Hard Facts About Water, by Damian Dressick:

After your two-year-old daughter trips and falls unseen into the neighbor’s in-ground pool while you are in their summer house trying to find steak sauce…

Steak sauce. That’s why you weren’t there when your two-year old entered the pool. Steak sauce. Could Damian Dressick make a philosophical argument concerning the oft banality of human mortality? The very absurdity of how we enter, leave, die? How grief confounds even the most…Yes, yes, he could. Or he could give us a meaningful object.

See?

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My favorite type of writing is the smashing together of the natural world (glow) and the artificial world, the world of media vomit, neon sign, advert (blar). What a touch, what a touch by Fausto Barrionuevo over at deComp:

BARN OWL

Pigeon coops, roach motels, mouse traps,
veiled by the billboards back-bending lamps,
veering out like tree snakes.
Hushed yellows on the backs of mosquitoes
by the Barn owl, steady on the scaffold.
Her shadow flying on tropical winds
above her bold profile.
A cold breath flows from her cracked beak,
thrusting seas running like waterfalls
through her cavernous lids.
Under the painted orange sky, a slogan in the sand:
All buffets open till midnight.
Rain drops snap onto granite
as clouds, black as pavement, roll by.
A herd of deer dashes across the interstate,
antlers charging into dark forest.

The Big-Ass Suck-Ass Slaw-Cheek Dutch Oven Lid Over the Sky we Call Winter

Wow check out the nachos. Over there by her bed. In the blood red bowl. I wonder if she has hot sauce. The thing with hot sauce is sometimes they just rely on being HOT, with little sensitivity to flavor. And then sometimes they are FLAVORFUL but not very hot. This causes vexation and melancholic feelings.

As a rule, when eating Thai food or Indian or even when just at some wing place (I don’t eat chicken, period, but do dip fries) I always try to order the HOTTEST or SPICIEST the place has, the NUKE or BLEED-ASS or DEVIL’S GONADS or whatever crazy name they give the sauce. Usually, it’s not that hot. I mean it’s hot, but it doesn’t make my head unhinge or make me want to sing a ghost song or get religion or anything. So then I feel melancholy.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve left hot sauce experiences and just walked around the parking lot feeling sad and basically dead. I remember once I found a five dollar bill in a parking lot so that was better. But I mean I want my hot sauce to make me feel alive. In my mouth/brain/stomach. So it’s depressing. I mean it gets metaphorical after a point. These series of dropped expectations. They become our very days.

But we still have disc golf, I guess. Once this goddamn snow thaws.

Flash Fiction Chronicle announces an upcoming flash contest, the String-of-Ten flash fiction contest.

I like FFC but I hate writing prompts. I think they are absolute bullshit. Weak. Victorian even. Hey, here’s a writing prompt: Get your fucking ass out of bed and write.

I do like that there is no entry fee.

Here’s a prompt: Imagine you are a crop-duster shack.

Here’s a prompt: Stop watching your neighbors.

Also, at FFC, Aubrey Hirsch argues for plot in flash fiction. She feels this is what separates the prose poem from the flash fiction. I don’t know. I wish she had defined what she means by plot.

She does say, “I need to see something important shift in the course of the story.”

Ok, well a lot of prose poems shift. I wonder if Aubrey is saying she just needs something to happen. Like a conflict. Or possibly a stirring of a theme? Is she arguing for intent? Prose poems often have all of the above.

What if we don’t separate the prose poem and the flash fiction? What will happen?

Her ponderings reminds me a little bit of Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer.” Moore’s story is NOT about how to become a writer, but it is about plot. The protagonist takes a CW workshop and everyone–including her instructor–comments that she has no sense of plot. That’s her problem–she doesn’t do plots. And this is a bad thing. Pretty much a deal-ender, as far as the workshop is concerned.

BUT, read a bit more closely, or view the protagonist a bit closer, I mean to say. Her father is cheating on her mother. Her brother has returned from the Vietnam war without his leg. Her own personal relationships are a dismal series of nothings. Her life has no PLOT. There is no tidy narrative, linear or otherwise. And now Moore’s story has left character and situation and has become a conversation on the short story form. What story structure represents our daily lives? Is it plot?

Our need for plot possibly because we want to feel we have a narrative, our lives? Some arch? Or, even better, some theme. Would suck if we had no theme, right? Well, I’m going to have language in my life. I’m not sure on the structure part. I push against structure sometimes. And I sure don’t know about theme…

Speaking of this PANK by Hirsch is rather glow here:

“Your dream may not be that far off,” he tells me. “Studies have shown that the human brain makes no interesting distinctions between the past and the present.  If someone looks at a hot dog, or remembers looking at the hot dog, the same parts of their brain light up.”

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Stymie Magazine Pushcarted me nod-ways and then they interviewed me. I say:

They are sort of embarrassing, an award for writing. But then again I am a professor of creative writing, and, in a practical sense, in a very real sense, my university adores rankings and awards. They like to see these things, and I’d like to be tenured. So.

As an artist, what does it mean? I hope nothing. I hope I smile and say “that’s cool” and can contain a moment of thanks and then get right back to writing. Woody Allen has never seen a film he’s made—that’s the correct idea, yes?

These bastards made Greek nachos. I feel angry today, just at myself naturally. It’s very, very hard to escape your own mediocrity. This is what I’ve found. So I guess you’re not a bastard just because you want to get all cute with nachos. Maybe.

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JMWW Best of 2010 anthology! Yipee 4 me. When I appear in anything with Ken Sparling, I am happy.

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At PANK Hannah Miet does a good job wishing it would be.

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I am reading Thomas Bernhard, the Austrian author. Specifically Wittgenstein’s Nephew, a sort of novel and memoir. This is, of course, HTML Giant‘s fault. I read all the posts over there and end up buying books when I already have too many damn books to read.

It’s like when students try to give me graphic novels. Why do they try to give me graphic novels? I don’t know. But I can’t read them, OK? I’m sorry.

Bernhard impresses me with his absolute confidence. The voice is immediately one you follow and believe. It reminds me a bit of Sebald. The book begins and you are off on the tale, told plainly and clearly and confidently, with declarations all over:

Like all other doctors, those who treated Paul continually entrenched themselves behind Latin terms, which in due course they built up into an insuperable and impenetrable fortification between themselves and the patient, as their predecessors had done for centuries, solely in order to conceal their incompetence and cloak their charlatanry.

Paul never saw beneath the surface; he never saw the whole picture as I did.

A healthy person, if he is honest, wants nothing to do with the sick.

Opinions clearly stated, as if fact. It interests me. So much writing is mushy, or meanders, or rarely states things simply and in such a declarative fashion. It made me admire Thomas Bernhard. And it made me frightened of him. Especially when he says things like:

Most of the minds we associate with are housed in heads that have little more to offer than overgrown potatoes, stuck on top of whining and tastelessly clad bodies eking out a pathetic existence that does not even merit our pity.

Here Bernhard seems to view most of us humans as insects, trifling insects, and I could certainly see him being all for crushing us. There is an undercurrent here that unsettles. I also find great humor, black humor, in this writing, even in this description. But, for me, it is a frightening laugh.

Vouched interviews me. I say:

Connected? Let me tell you something. I have several mistresses and with all of them I have to enter the house through a dog door, a dirty, swinging, hair-sticking, rubber door. On my knees. Every single one of these pitiful women looks as if they came out of the depths of Russia, with their kerchiefs and wide skirts and round faces, with their pale, flabby breasts and foul breaths of paskha and kulich. But I don’t get to stay for dinner. I mean The Man doesn’t even know my address. I am about as connected as a dandelion seed.

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If we didn’t sin, we’d kill ourselves.

William H. Gass

Last weekend I was deep, deep in a swamp with my uncle. We were deer hunting. And I had this oddest, most pure, most comfortable feeling being in this swamp, and a sort of love for my uncle. The odd thing was we were in this giant swamp of trees and standing water and ice-rimmed black pools and mossy things and owl sounds and dead logs and just this very real place so far removed from a lot of stressors in my life and we were together, my uncle and I, though not really together at all–several hundred yards from each other and totally hid away from one another–but somehow together, like in this vast swamp, and like in this endeavor of hunting, and like breathing this cold air and feeling the cold upon us and just being away from most everything out there. There was a mist and very windy, the trees swaying, and spitting sleet a bit and this was so deep in a swamp you didn’t even see litter or anything stupidly human. It was wonderful, really. And so hard to capture. A giant red-headed woodpecker pounded on this hollow bare-limbed tree. Something shrieked out there! Who knows what? (though my Uncle had seen three bobcats recently). Scuttling low clouds. The wind, the wind. I think if you spent enough time in a deep swamp, especially the way I did, about 35 feet up a tree and swaying in the wind, well I think you would go crazy. But I also think you would go crazy if you never went into the swamp at all.

I am sick of the weary folds of my face.

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Holy shit. Sometimes I am late in getting things. Like Nicolle Elizabeth (her blog). How have I been missing her writing? Well, once I found it, I found it. And you should find it.

She has four stories at wigleaf. They show her range, I feel. Here is the opening flash:

Telegram
Nicolle Elizabeth

::sorry I missed your call:: was sprayed by a skunk:: crawling around the backyard, looking for something I’d lost::

This anderbo story if pretty damn glow.

She does elimae. I really like the structural pop here, the junk and shard.

She also does a lot of reviewing and etc. but I don’t really give a damn about that. I like her fiction. It’s all over the WEB, too. Just use THE GOOGLE. It will be worth your surf, folks.

When Sarah Carson was born she was freaking awesome.

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Yo. Every image in this post is Robin Jonsson

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