Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A valient effort.

I tried to get the blogaday up and running again this month. You probably noticed. I did get thirty entries, but that was with five tonight, so I definitely fell behind. I published the last one as officially a part of today, but really right now it's tomorrow. The blog functions in Pacific time and I've never changed that. So noting that I got 26 in on the month and got the other four up on the blog soon after midnight. I'm happy with myself. It's an accomplishment. Will see if I can keep up a weekly/bi-weekly presence here. That way each entry will be better written. And also I might make smaller little note posts. Night folks. My eyes are so tired.

12:23AM 7/01/10

The Role of the Blog

I think the title can finally speak for one of these.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Twisting a famous sentence"

Currently in zombie mode, all written out for the night. This post is about why we fanfict, even though it obviously strays and doesn't really answer the question at hand. The title is a chop-up of a Don DeLillo quote which is in full in the post.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lows' Prose and Worse Verse

"Lows'" being the possessive of bad times. This one is crazy. Actually, the rest of them from this month are crazy, if they all weren't already. Not much else to get to. Let's let this part end here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"See if you can spot this one." (3)

Another piece of fan fiction. This one is tirelessly self-reflexive. A part of the final run, with five posts in one night to finish thirty only a few minutes into July. I offer this because it'll be the reason that this is a bit weird, a bit too complex or not really complex, but confusing. My mind was already fried when I started writing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The price of the stereo depends on the stereo type.

Still in the punning mood. Not sure what this one is about. This is the long haul at the moment, seeing if I can get a lot of posts in while it's still June. I'm doomed to fail, but I've got nothing better to do. My writing style at the moment is a lot of fun to work with. It's been a productive month: moving the fiction back to the end was quite helpful, because it allowed me to do a lot of writing in the length that I want (~1000 words) and then adapt that to fiction. Plus it was fan fiction so it was all kinda new. But I'm wasting time here. This is the introductory bit saying au revoir.

"See if you can spot this one." (2)

This turned out quite well. Amazing fun to write, but maybe not so good to read, because you won't know who anyone is or any of the references I'm drawing. Finally finished listening to Imperial Bedrooms tonight so maybe it'll make sense then that there's a few throws to Bret Easton Ellis. (Maybe it already made sense, since his name has been everywhere on this blog for-like-totally-ever.) I'll give away the main stolen stuff at the end. Another influence is Bright Lights, Big City which is written, like this sketch, in the second person. As always there is a piece of boring meta in the middle of this, so just yawn over it, please.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Vampires?

This is an idea I'll return to and expand later. Basically somewhat of an explanation for why I've written forty poems to make up a story about vampires and am also planning on writing at least two short stories dealing with the mythical peeps. I'm not all too proud of this first edition of the article, but it's a skeleton to work from and I've written it, as in it has been written, is finished, so that's something to be proud of. Deadline writing is an important task to learn, as professors will remind you; since I'm already behind and still will be after this, it's a small prize to win but I've churned out another, sitting here typing, my hands on the keyboard, a machine talking to a machine.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"See if you can spot this one." (1)

The quote that Eric Clapton gives before playing "Layla" on the live album, Unplugged. This is an old idea I've been floating around in my head. A number of fan fictions, possibly all in the same universe, but not hitting you over the head with that. The joke then being the reader needing to figure out who the story was about. I've got the idea for two more of these on the blog, but this one will be by far the easiest to figure out. At least I think so, but they aren't written yet, so who knows? Anyway, hope it's fun. I've never really seriously written strict fan fiction, so this was interesting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To infinity and beyond--

Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story, metafiction, Borges, a single reference each to DeLillo and Gaiman, another to Stephen King, and some other words there as well. If you feel like it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The American(?) Poet

Bit on politics, poetry, the politics of poetry, language and such. Not much more to say on it, *sigh*.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Land gauge.

A stupid pun of a title like a poem in my book called "Fascist Nation," which is playing off the word fascination. It might be apparent that this'll be a post on language, along with translations and a semi-focus on Jorge Luis Borges. Listened to the June Poetry issue's podcast today and Claire Cavanagh speaking on the publication of Anna Kamienska's notebooks recollects my view of recording thoughts here or on Facebook or in text messages, what have you. It's for yourself, but you think others might be interested--for Kamienska she showed people her notes and they reacted positively, for me it's more of a feeling along the lines that you can't keep your ideas to yourself, that writing in a dark room with no one in hearing distance might be a productive technique, but is also somehow snobby and not to be supported. without further ado...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Still swimming in that same pool...

Bit more of the same. Think it's dressed pretty nicely. Well, what else can I give you here? This is the end of the specific focus of BEE, if that makes you happy. I've fallen behind in posting lately, but it has potentially made later posts stronger than they would've been, because more information has come to light. That makes me happy. You? Well, I'm sure that I definitely have no idea about that, my dear sir or madam, but I try...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Uh, yeah...

This is just a filler post. You'll know that if you read it. But I put some ideas in it. And anyway, I think I mention it is so while writing it. As long as it captures something, however ugly and un-brilliantly it might do so, then it was worth it. It's a Monday when I'm actually writing this, although it's dated otherwise, and since it's mad, it gets that tag. I've gotta sleep. Night, folks. (6/21/10, 11:34PM)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You and me and "you" and "me," but not "you and me."

Bret's in here as a tangent. This is about Borges, him, but most of all me, and what I wrote in my journal going on like four years ago now. Bit of a small post before the jump here, so I'll just point the finger to Say Hi, who I've been soundtracking this blog entry and the past hour?-ish to by way of the stand-by youtube. Another one-man band, so it elicits the issue of pronoun, they?, he? I'll go with "they." They make better music than I make blog posts, but go ahead and read this one if you wish, it's one of the better ones, until the end where I have no idea what I'm doing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Rabbit Hole

Still BEE, but not so much Imperial Bedrooms. Just another exploration of what I'd call the main theme of this month of blog entries: fictive layering, but with a special flavor because this isn't just the story-within-the-story, but the real within the story and the fake within the reality. I go on about three examples of such from Easton Ellis's fiction.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why We Write

Part Two of BEE week. I'm blushing, I know, my fan-side is showing. At least I'm not as much of a backer of Bret Easton Ellis as Jonathon Keats, and that guy is a genius. Anyway, here we go, in this post I'm making connections between the real world, Lunar Park, and the new Imperial Bedrooms, hope it's fun.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Royal Set-up for Imperial Bedrooms

This is BEE week, because I've been thinking so much about Bret Easton Ellis, since Imperial Bedrooms is the first of his books I've had to wait on from him. So there's a lot of thought and it gets compounded by the book itself. Bret is a polarizing figure. He happens to be my favorite writer. I'm going to write about him favorably. So welcome to the writer as the fan. This station is playing a particular sort of music for the holiday season. Listen if you like. Otherwise wait it out. Otherwise, cheers.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reading Poetry

This is like me writing about music, which I'll do one day, first in a short story called "Recollecting Patrick Bateman," and eventually in a collection called Secondary. It's me on poetry. Jack Gilbert. A book I came across by chance and I decided to buy, because it caught my fancy. But I discuss that in the post proper. Just wanted to get it out there first: I'm no good at this.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Writing Poetry

On a Youtube video for an early demo of  "Everything In Its Right Place," our presenter comments that they kinda lose it at the end but it's still awesome. I don't do so well here, but I'm just apologizing beforehand. "I can never lose it"? Maybe so, but maybe not. Welcome back to the blogging, rather than the slitting of a story up into bits. Continue on at your own peril.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Pen and Paper" or From "Found" (5/5)

Written, as has been stated, before 4/5. Glad to be done with the sections of "Found" for the blog, because they were troublesome. But writing is always fun or it doesn't get done. At least for me, that seems to hold true most of the time. You have to wait it out. I did and it worked. We'll see if I can make up for days lost. The ideas are there; this is almost the reverse of February, where I ran out of ideas quickly, but was never in danger of falling far behind on poems. I wrote this on the way to visit family in Orlando, with my dad driving. It's a roadtrip segment. It was great to write because it was going again, the story was flowing. Sometimes the way to do that is to break the chronology. And that's about all of your time I should take up. I'll casually disappear and you can enter the world of what some have called the illeist narrator, although I won't admit it yet.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Tricks of the Trade" or From "Found" (4/5)

Long time, no see. I'm late as hell. I was stuck on the fiction; I have tons of ideas for blog entrys but I painted myself in a hole by putting up that "5" for the the total number of cuts. Still, there are plenty of different ways to get the mind flowing. You stop, you start a few times. Eventually you find it. This scene was actually written after what will amount to tomorrow's post. Both were done long-hand. I think I found it, finally (Pardon the pun on the title.), and I'm moderately proud of what I've written. This scene is basically a dialogue. You'll see. Think everything's pretty self-explanatory except for some references that I figure you can look up, since you're reading this on a computer. Maybe it'll take a while to see who's speaking. But I'm jawing too much. It also has title-headers, because I bloody well felt like it. Click on if you wish.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

From "Found" (3/5)

This might be distinctly segmented; I wrote the first part a few days back and finished it now, with "Blinded By the Lights" from The Streets on repeat, my mind going off perhaps a bit too much: it might get a bit too crazy there at the end or for the last five hundred words which would constitute more than just the end, I guess. Not all that much else to say at the moment.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Translation is the closest reading one can do of a poem."

Read this in an interview of Charles Simic. Actually scanned it. This is not a blogaday entry, but rather the sort of thing that I would love to use my blog for more often than I do--basically it gets eaten up in Facebook notes these days--it's basically an idea.

Simic is, of course, a translator. I say "of course" because the quote makes it obvious. So he's speaking literally. I've only scanned the interview, but this jumped out at me. I can take it and apply it figuratively, because there is a sort of translation going on when you read a poem, or rather when you read anything. Easton Ellis talking about film as the medium that forces itself upon you. The written word doesn't do that. I'm not linguist or brain specialist or what have you, so I won't pretend to be able to pick into the ways that language sets off thoughts and what reading actually means inside our heads.

I just thought that "translation" could fit well as a metaphor to what we all do when we see art. And here I'm speaking more cosmopolitanly than Ellis, because I think you can steer films into corners in your own mind, as well as anything else. It doesn't even really have to be art, because this is basically the same process as the one that I use, anyway, to create art. You're translating what you are taking in into your own personal language.

The idea I've been having for a while now for a story about an old author who's now translating his old novels into his wife's language--I want to be able to capture the above as part of its theme. Maybe I can't, because it isn't even horribly well stated above, but what the "Smitten"/"Found" stories have taught me is that I can write prose that is pretty ugly but that I can still be somewhat proud of. Poetry is completely different.

From "Found" (2/5)

I read a few books recently that would mock the way you write--introducing an upcoming event in the narrative, the authors would then skip over such and simply move on to the next idea. One of these was, I think, Girlfriend in a Coma; it actually upsets me that I can't remember the others. Now I'm not sure I'm going to emulate that model in the story I'm writing, but the excerpt for today does that, it skips over a time period that, as a reader, you'd expect me to have talked about. And maybe I will, but this here is, in a way, another form of the story, and here I am skipping around. That said, I'll scram...

Monday, June 7, 2010

From "Found" (1/5)

I'm cheating here, catching two birds with one stone, or rather possibly ten birds with five stones. The next few days will have entries plucked from the short story/novel chapter that I am currently writing called "Found." Today's bit focuses on Eddie and is the introduction scene for him in the story. Also, I'm tearing this unedited out of Word, so it might not read perfectly. If I get around to look through it on blogger then I might make the changes, but they are probably only going to happen in the Word file. Just a disclaimer. And now, I'll give it over to the omniscient narrator...

Sunday, June 6, 2010


It’s a neologism of sorts, but really just a bad pronunciation, that has grown, to me, to mean taking an old work and injecting it into a new one. It’s not quite cannibalizing as Raymond Chandler put it, so I’ve grown to make it into something completely new. Wait, stay with me here for a moment, I’m simply sharing a thought and it doesn’t have to mean anything, because I’m framing another concept.

In Life is Elsewhere, as I detailed yesterday, there are many snippets from various poems written by the main character, Jaromil. Reading the novel, I am led to see these as perhaps sections from Kundera’s own poems. Before settling in as a novelist, Kundera was a poet, amongst other things, and Life is Elsewhere makes that readily apparent, because it is such a condemnation of the poet that it would be completely farcical if not for the fact that Kundera likely saw himself as a poet at one point and is, in fact, lampooning himself.

I feel like this is the kind of novel that any poet should read and be able to fight against it or should give up his or her chosen art—it’s a romantic view of poetry, but it links the art with immaturity, with youth, to the extent that with the working title, The Lyrical Age, Kundera is referring to youth—what’s so enlightening is that there are beautiful definitions of what a poem is, what poetry should do, and all of it lies in the usual uncertainty of Kundera’s work. What I mean to say is that reading this book as a poet is like picking through history as a socialist, where you have to look at the various failures and the characters you disagree with and you have to have a sort of inner monologue about what you think your purpose as a poet is. I had similar fun with an article from Fidel Castro that we read in my Latin American seminar last semester; someone who is claiming to be supporting an idea that you support, this is the transitive property, and this person should be your friend. So reading becomes a game of dramatic irony; as I’ve said before bending art to my worldview has become a pastime, so you simply know more about the world (or your personal view of the world) than the author of whatever you are reading. Maybe you could try it, or maybe everyone already does it? I don’t know, I’m simply sharing it because it’s like tons of fun.

Ha-ha, that said, let me get back to the point—if I were able to create history, I would have the snippets of poems in Life is Elsewhere be clipped directly from Kundera’s poems written in youth. It would be fictive layering, of a different kind, since the reality would be injected into the fiction. This would not be without its precedents in my knowledge, meaning that my imaginings over the origins of these poems are not entirely original.

They come, in part, to what I’ve read that Grant Morrison did with a character in The Invisibles, a comic-book series so crazy that I’ve yet to make myself pick it up. The Gideon Stargrave stories in this series, Morrison states, “are direct quotes from the Michael Moorcock-inspired short stories [he] wrote obsessively when [he] was 17,” which presents us with an interesting comparison. However, the layers on this story do perhaps run deeper, as Moorcock sees the stories as pure plagiarism.

Is Morrison then simply claiming to have quoted stories he wrote as a teen in order to somehow bring up cryptomnesia as a defense for plagiarism? The answer to this question is unknowable and ultimately not all together interesting. No matter what Grant Morrison did, what is of interest is what he said he did, so in this case words are louder than actions. Why exactly would Morrison take stuff he had written as a kid and put it into what he’s writing later on?

Well, we’re getting back to the question of getting better as a writer, then, aren’t we? In a currently abandoned novel I created the character of Philip Forger without much thought to his actual name. Now, looking back on it, I realized that Philip would obviously specialize in forgery, the aptronym forming on its own as a moment of revelation. This suddenly presented an answer to an issue that had been bothering me—what do I make of the novel that I wrote during National Novel Writing Month a year and a half ago? Do I trash it or gut it or simply edit it?

I came to the realization that I could effectively not do anything and still have the book exist. It’s like what Stephen King does to Insomnia in the Dark Tower series. Dark Tower is essentially the culmination of all of King’s writing: it presents a multiverse of all his stories and also ended up impacting many of his books that he wrote to allude to this series. For Insomnia, King ran up against a corner, because he basically reached a plot hole. He was finishing the Dark Tower seven-book series, but the ending wasn’t meshing with the novel he’d written earlier. So he simply writes it off, has a character say that he was interpreting the universe wrong, so the book was messed up.

It’s not a fulfilling or fair answer, but it does the trick, surprisingly enough. Sometimes the easiest way out is the best. So I got to thinking that I should look for the easiest way out for myself and I determined that I could take the book I had already written, already put the hours into, if you will, and I could inject it into the fictional world by way of Philip Forger. He wrote the book and all of the simple slip-ups with the universe I’ve been created, all of the stories that can’t quite make sense now, they are explained away because the book is a forgery. It’s the work of not the writer who escapes into the fiction but of the fictional character who pulls out just far enough to see the world for what it is, but only temporarily. Like Deadpool or Agent Smith.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rain Out

Forgive the metaphor, but I do have a moderate excuse for my lateness—this post was originally meant, in my mind, for yesterday. Seeing Get Him to the Greek last night was an effective rain-out to the baseball game that was this entry. So now, here we are, in the middle of a day and night doubleheader. Or rather a night and night doubleheader, because I’ve slacked off a bit this Sunday. Or a night and day one, as I’m not sure if I’ll get through both of these topics before midnight.

That said, let’s get right into it. I think it’s somewhat beneficial to write these two posts back to back, because I’ve got somewhat linking ideas, sort of an expanding theory, if you will. I’ll let you in on a little secret, the original thought that I had for yesterday’s post got canned, because I envisioned it earlier in the week and then the day came and I couldn’t get myself to write it. That’s the problem with plans: you get ahead of yourself; you get to thinking that sure, you can do that when the time comes, even though you can’t see yourself doing this activity at this exact moment, and obviously that fact doesn’t change, just because time has moved on. But whatever, enough of my cry-baby antics, and onward to our double feature.

Now, not to poke fun, but my digression has given me a slight bit of a transition to a letter to the editor from the June issue of Poetry, which states the following:

“I notice that you are publishing, in cahoots with the authors, lengthy explications of their poems. I have a suggestion: why publish the poems at all? Just print the explications and your readers can imagine the poems for themselves. Thus you would greatly stimulate their poetic imaginations and spare them reading the actual work.”

This was in response to the April issue, which apparently included the cited “explications” which so bother our letter writer. I feel as though I am completely right in assuming that the letter was written to mock the idea of poets explaining themselves, so I’m going to apologize now for the possibility that that might not be the case—it would make it a very interesting letter indeed, were this not to be the case.

The facetiousness of poetry is due to the sort of mindset that lies behind the close-mouthed poet; this character has been mocked as far back as Socrates, who claimed that he met with the poets and found that they did not know why they wrote what they wrote and they knew no more than he did (in fact he thought he knew more than them, because he was aware of what he did not know). I’m not a Platonist, but I do see some truth to the words that he gives Socrates here, because there are certainly parts of the creative process that you aren’t sure about, that seem to force themselves upon you. I write from the voice in my head, basically typing down what I speak to myself, never putting enough thought behind each individual word or turn of phrase, so sure, there are certain bits that I can’t explain.

But to pretend that an explanation is not beneficial is to be stuck-up about an art. Poetry seemed to be having some fun in picking the letters to the editor that they would publish, making sure to grab a somewhat fair number of dissenters to their decision of combining new poems with self-commentary on those poems. I, at first, had little respect for the people who wrote in against the commentary because of a comment from Neil Gaiman regarding his short story collection, Fragile Things, which ended up including poems, along the lines that the poems weren’t going to make the book cost more, so you could simply have skipped over them if you wanted to. The problem with this, I will say, is that Poetry is a monthly magazine that (from the first two issues I’ve received anyway) ranges from sixty to ninety-ish pages, so I guess you are entitled to comment on what you want to see taking up that place.

However, this letter is trying to be funny, I think, and in doing so it really just bothers me in a way, when it suggests secretive authors who are somehow “in cahoots” with the magazine to create “lengthy” companion pieces to their verse. In a time where any Stephen King review from someone who didn’t like the book says that the man is money-hungry (although he often ends up giving away his profits from writing these days to various charities), and in a world so dependent on currency, I find this comment essentially insulting. You write because you want to write and writing about what you’ve written, well, this is a good thing as well, because it can allow you to figure yourself out a bit. It’s good to know what you’re talking about and when you are a writer, the best way to learn, at times, is by writing. Therefore I’d say that you can’t just say that since these poets were no doubt paid for their commentaries, they are somehow selling out or something along those lines. In fact, they might have been enthused to write down their thoughts more for what benefit it could do them than the money itself. But I’m speaking for other people and paying too much attention to a somewhat clever joke, so I’ll move on.

The other thought that came to my mind when I read this letter was that someone like Borges would support this idea entirely. He would create a concept of a poem that would be impossible and then he would write a commentary on it. Instead of not printing the poems, which is, if the writer of the letter was being serious, a stupid idea, it would be interesting to create the “explications” without ever creating the poems. The concept would parallel The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a picture book that calls for its readers to write stories to go along with each of its images.

Any irony in the letter soon became overshadowed by this thought, in my mind, even before I got back to reading Life is Elsewhere, Milan Kundera’s second novel. This book is ironically, in a way, a sort of “explication” presented without the original poem. The protagonist, Jaromil, is a poet and at times Kundera treats us to parts of his poetry, but at other times he simply explains them or he commentates on single lines cut from long pieces of work. And it’s a great book, quite enthralling, if far from perfect. So, that writer of that letter, well, maybe he would’ve been on to something, if he’d been writing letters like this back in the late sixties, while Kundera was composing the novel.

It’s all so very interesting, the idea of fictive layers, a “non-fiction” piece written on a “work of art” that has the misfortune (or not) of simply not existing. I just think it’s a lot of fun to contemplate. I’ve got ideas for a bit of it in my own literary future, but let’s not dig into future projects that may never see the light of day at the moment, so I’ll sign off for now (or not, as I will be writing another entry in the next hour, but allow the poetic license, please).

See you soon…

Friday, June 4, 2010

Psst! Over here...

So here we are again at the end of another work week. And with an irregular sleep schedule like mine, Friday’s have the nice alliterative pairing with another word, “fatigue.” It shouldn’t surprise you, then, to find a bit of a random thought dumping of a post centered on sleep. The unpredictable injection into that formulaic piece is, of course, death. Or not “of course,” I’ve been thinking about this post for so long, that I’m afraid I might be jumping ahead of myself already.

My lack of musical knowledge is something I’m probably always going to have to live with and that’s something of which I’ve grown to deal, because I did make a decision at some point in my life (not that I can recall the specific instant), to not pursue music of any sort. I don’t feel like I could’ve been a master musician—or a musician at all—but that I could at least understand it. Maybe read it as well. That might have been a different life to live. But whatever, enough about this. I offer this as just another annoying autobiographical pause, because I mean to explain why I analyze songs and albums fundamentally through their lyrics. We all have different ways of thinking about our favorite tunes, I would say, but it’s not something we really come across too much, because we leave it to reviewers to set a certain way of talking about music.

And maybe that’s not true; it was a simple slight that just slipped into my head, so I electronically jotted it down. The thought contained in those words could perhaps be expanded to say that I think it would be great if we got more writing from the common public on music, poetry, books, etc. I want people out there raising questions and postulating answers to the utmost extent—aiming for the impossible goal of asking every question you ever could about everything, which is obviously something that could only be reached if we stopped creating more things that expanded everything—because that’s what the internet is for. So I’ve written in a story about how a writer-character wants to write an article about what “Hotel California” means to him, but doesn’t end up doing it, similar in a way to the recent Warren Ellis tweet: “Things I’ll never have time to write: 10,000 words on the relationship between Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ & Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love.’” I think I would enjoy reading that, but of course I find myself not having enough time to read as much of Ellis’s various running columns, as I should, so I can’t complain.

The point is that I don’t want to have to go to a book club to talk about a book and maybe I don’t want to dig through forums which generally seem to amount to people saying “liked it,” “didn’t it,” “this scene was cool.” But I guess I’m getting both off-track and stuck up, so I’ll pull it in a little—this is not that big of a fish, I’m just no expert out here in the waters; what I’ve learned is that I enjoy casting a lot more than the rest of this gig, but once you’ve got a bite, well you have to do something about it.

By now you are perhaps wondering what this has to do with sleep and death, and, kind reader, I am getting there. Quite quickly at this point, because in this very sentence I will present the case of the 2004 Modest Mouse album Good News for People Who Love Bad News. The various threads of this work present an interesting portrayal of the “sleep/death” line that I’ve been considering lately, not the least as I drearily picked through files at my summer job, my productivity level unfortunately dropping as the week drove on and the drowsiness mounted. (The previous sentence is hopefully not entirely true; I like to think that I keep a fairly regular activity level at work. I followed it out, because it is actually one of the fears that pops up into my head when I have about an hour or so left in the day.)

My abnormally large amount of introductory thoughts (which is quite the feat, considering that I generally do drone on and on before getting to the small, pitiful point) is due in part to the lack of strong evidence for my ideas in this post, but also due to the fact that I’m simply working with a small thought here and one I wanted to dress up to make it larger. About a third of the way into the aforementioned Modest Mouse album, we are treated with a creepy little 13 second rattle of a song—coincidentally the same length as the opening to Radiohead’s “The Bends”—where it is I would assume Isaac Brock who says to us “I’m already digging, I hope you’re dead,” which repeats once.

It is here that we are treated with the classic Poe scenario—the uncertain death which could potentially lead to premature burial (both the name of a Poe story as well as an important plot element to many, including “The Fall of the House of Usher”). This recurs with force and in a much more sinister way in the late track “Satin in a Coffin” which includes the refrain “Are you dead or are you sleepin’?” Apologies, dear readers, who thought I might be making an original point, but I’ve stolen this one directly from the lyrics book. Here, our premature burial situation becomes even more evident—taken in this light, and somewhat out of the context of both the song and the album, I will admit—the response of “God, I sure hope you are dead,” becomes somewhat understandable. We don’t want to be digging graves for living people now, do we? (An aside to this being that I once wanted to write a story about just and send it to a horror magazine to get the first rejection slip, but I never did. I’m so often a failure as a writer.)

This interesting connection between both songs broke into something more for me, when I listened to “Bukowski,” probably my favorite on the album, on a further time through the soundscape. In it, our singer/speaker, if you will, is reflecting on the boredom of listening to someone “talk, talk, talk in circles” (not quite the exact quote; and another thing, he wouldn’t like me much, would he?), and asks “when you get to the point, make sure I’m still awake, okay?”

And I thought, wow, sitting there being bored to death by this speaker, you could fall asleep and be seen as if you were dead (which is ironic, considering the hyperbole). We need to make sure that this person is still awake, because on this album, sleep ends up being death.

See that final conclusion? It didn’t pack much punch, now did it? But then again, it was an odd thing, having already conceived of these connections (but not completely of this blog post), to be watching the Larry King interview with Lady Gaga the other night (which I know I’ve already mentioned this week), and to see the question posed to her, “Why are you so fascinated with death at 24?” She answered that it haunts her dreams (though probably not with that exact cliché), and I thought that there was a connection there. Sleep being something we can explain scientifically, but death being something that many people would say transcends science and even dreams in a way. All these things were somehow worthy of noting to myself and in what better way than in a location that I can access from an internet connection anywhere.

It’s just too bad that I’ve bogged down that simple thought to be remembered in this long post. And consider the oddity that was me finding in Girlfriend in a Coma, a Douglas Coupland book that I read last semester, while leafing through it today, before writing this post, a chapter entitled “If it Sleeps It’s Alive.” If this were a story, I might have broken out in chills at that moment, like Bret Easton Ellis when he rereads his own books (and experiences revelations! How funny)in Lunar Park, but it wasn’t so I simply thought it was a cool coincidence.

And I’m just about quits now, but before I go let me get down an idea that came to me while writing this: What if something like Wikipedia ended up linking you, in the future, to various pages of people reflecting how they were affected and how they saw a certain piece of art or an event, and this continued in a sort of file system, so that you could easily search inside a work of art, interpreting not only specific lines in Ulysses or The Catcher in the Rye, but as a public, everything of which we are fans.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Losing it...

“I can never lose it,” sputters the inhuman voice that makes up with that one line all of the lyrics to Brand New’s untitled track on The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, “I can never lose it.” And with that thought we are off on another train of thought. Remember my way of taking things out of context and creating a background of my own?

So what can we never lose? I made the connection here between the odd sort of optimism that one gets with the Flobots’ Fight with Tools, specifically a line in the song “We Are Winning” (see the half-full glass?) that states “resistance is victory/defeat is not an option,” the kind of lines that bring to mind one hand clapping. But Fight with Tools is a great album, the sort that I leave in my car stereo for weeks on end, even though the same compact disc player keeps spitting it back out almost every time I drive somewhere, telling me to check the CD. So what can we never lose? In this case, success, apparently. But what is success?

The Flobots’ sort of “we are the insurgency” talk is the kind that I totally support and praise, because we aren’t living in anything that you can even squint at and pretend you are looking at a utopia. I’ve begun to say in my mind that I’m not proud to be an American, because I didn’t do anything to be an American, I was born into it. And what I mean to say is that I’m happy to be in the position I’m in, but you don’t come by pride from doing nothing. And on top of that, I fully applaud the themes of America, but not the way that it has upheld those themes and values throughout time (and I’m not referring to every American value here…).

The problem with all of this rambling is that it amounts to nothing. I don’t mean to mock the band’s intentions (actually a whole lot of bands’ intentions, a whole lot of artists’ intentions), but what do we actually amount to in this line of work? It’s like whatever the percentage of bloggers who consider themselves “journalists,” which I can only grow immune to by exaggerating my awfulness. Vonnegut would agree with this sort of questioning. He lived through the answer: the quote, as I find it on Wikipedia, is:

“During the Vietnam War, every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high.”

That’s a block-quote, above, in this Word file where I’m composing this piece, but I’m doubting that’ll transition to the blog, which is why I’m noting it here. I know that it should be indented a half-inch or something like that. I mean, I’ve been to college, even if I’m not through with it yet.

Following that digression, let’s get back to the point; Father Kurt here plays the exact opposite artistic field to the above noted optimism. And this is what you expect from perhaps the most well-known and (I would say) one of the most talented Pessimists, with a capital “P,” because that’s what he was more than an artist, really. I mean to say that I don’t know if he viewed himself as an artist. I mean to say that I don’t know what I mean to say.

[It’s probably apparent, by this time, that I return to the same set of characters frequently, which it’s maybe a good idea to apologize for. You’re probably going to have to get used to Vonnegut’s name. Bret Easton Ellis’s in a few days, if I follow the schedule I have set for myself. King, Kundera (maybe, because I’m reading Life is Elsewhere), Borges (because I’m reading Aleph and Other Stories and am still stunned by Ficciones), maybe some more names. I’m not displaying my knowledge of a select few. This is simply a way of mine, limited by “knowledge” of a select few.]

So Kurt, right, let’s get back to him. In A Man without a Country—which I think I’ve already recently alluded to (shame, shame)—he talks about how you shouldn’t pursue a career in the arts. You should create art for your own good. And reading this, I was thrown off a bit, like you will be by Vonnegut: is he joking? (A question that he makes light of where else but in AMwaC) Maybe I’m right, then, in saying something about Vonnegut’s view of himself as an “artist.” Should I say “artiste” or would I be making light of someone?

And how many stations do we plan to have on this train of thought? How many stops do I still have left? You may wish to take note of the fact that the conductor is not in full control of this vehicle, it is moving, as humbly as can be said, on its own. I’m running with as little physical exertion as I can here or rather, a King-ism, I’m unearthing an artifact.

But that boring little pause, this train has taken a twist on the tracks; I do have a point here, so I’ll muscle it back. I’ve presented two sides to a coin when it comes to the artist’s presence in the world and how it affects our future (as well as what our future will be like, regardless of art). The position of the American poet in politics is set away for further discussion, a sequel of sorts to be presented when the present writer is more awake and more willing to create a response to an article by David Biespiel in the May issue of Poetry. Right now I’m working with a coin, as I’ve said, I’m simply flipping and watching it twist in the air.

Upton Sinclair is parodied relentlessly in Chris Bachelder’s U.S.! as a writer who maybe Stephen King would say couldn’t “write worth a darn,” but he’s also presented as this social activist who has the gumption to fight for his cause over any number of lifetimes (you’re going to have to read the book to understand that one). And one of the questions you ask yourself as an artist is what you are trying to do, what you want to be able to create, and leave behind. Not saying that anything I’m making will outlive me in any real sense (although with the internet some of my writing will physically be around after I’m gone, I’m sure), I’m stating the sort of questions that delve into that big stopper of the interview: Where do you get your ideas? Not where, in this case, but Why? and Why do you choose specific ideas to follow through on?

So what do you call whatever it is that I’ve been talking about here? The subject, well, when it comes to the subject, I hope “I can never lose it.” I hope that’s true. This auteur sometimes fears the opposite. You find yourself and then you have to find how you are going to express that person. I think I’m stuck between those steps at the moment.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Leaving them scratching their heads...

It was called the “Magic Bullet,” a name that would actually be coined during the World Series, by some would say “a disgruntled” Jose Canseco, who had obviously wished to see his team play in the Fall Classic, and with good reason, for Oakland appeared to without a doubt be a better team than Boston. The Athletics had in fact won fifteen more games than the Red Sox; Minnesota running behind Oakland had a better record than the BoSox and you had to give up the fact, no matter how much of a New Englander you were, that the Sox had benefited from being in the worse division in ’88.

Of course for Boston the talk of magic being on their side was ironic; dark, dark humor, and Canseco was slammed by many for attempting to upstage the games still to be played. This was a team that knew magic and knew it well, in the form of a seventy-year-old curse that had recently struck again. Just the mention of Buckner in an article still had the same sting in the hearts of most fans; the ball moved through the legs by none other than the Babe’s ghost simply forbidding Billy from getting down to make the play. These were not fans who took to being called lucky particularly well.

And yet the name stuck, simply because the play was horrible and unbelievable, a mix that on a much smaller scale did in fact echo the Kennedy assassination. The 1988 ALCS started as was expected, with an early Canseco home run and some dominating pitching. Things wouldn’t become extraordinary until the bottom of the seventh inning when Dave Stewart pitched a ball to Jim Rice that came back rocketing off the bat. Rice would later say that he felt as if someone else was swinging the bat for him—perhaps a rationalization for all the pain he caused, perhaps not, stranger things have been accepted in the world of sports.

So this ball is absolutely scorched, comes off and Canseco is running up on it immediately, fearing it’ll get by McGwire, which it does, but it the worst way possible: it takes a bad hop and goes straight into his left foot and Mark goes down for the count, further damaging his leg on the fall. And the sparks aren’t over, as this ball keeps going. Rice pauses as he’s rounding first and the ball is scooting out to Canseco, but he has to play the game and it looks like the worst has been done. Of course, as we know, it hasn’t; the ball takes yet another bad hop and flies up on Canseco with speed it probably shouldn’t mathematically have.

José watches as the ball comes up to his face. He would later explain that somehow what he saw was a ball that was speeding up in the air, one that there was no way he could put a glove on, or even get out of the way of. The instantaneous velocity, he would say, appeared to have doubled, from the time he saw it scooting out past McGwire.

Canseco is not an overly reliable source here, though, as he has admitted, and as you most surely know, that ball smacked him so hard in the face that he fell down cold, scaring everyone on the field more than even McGwire’s topple. And with that, we had the “Magic Bullet,” which put out the Bash Brothers for the next two games. Canseco would attempt to come into game four of the series, but he was not the same man for that game.

Boston, able to pull off the win in Game One, a long blistering fourteen inning game, then gathered some steam. McGwire with some broken bones was clearly unheard from, Canseco came back to get a hit in the aforementioned game, but was basically nonexistent as well. And hence the Red Sox got called lucky forcing their way back to the World Series through a sweep of the big bad Athletics. A team that didn’t win ninety games in the regular season.

And if you are a fan of eighties baseball, a simple pop culture historian, or maybe even a physicist, you can tell that the story above isn’t what happened in 1988. In fact, the A’s, as they style their name, I hate the apostrophe myself, swept the Sox, went to the Series and lost to the Dodgers in five games. I was simply writing up an idea that I have for a story called “Stealing Home.” Vonnegut does a bit of this in A Man without a Country, but he isn’t talking about something he’s going to write, but rather something he’s failing to write. The book was called If God Were Alive Today and it would have had aliens from Mars who took over the old racial humor, in that they pee gasoline; Vonnegut jokingly says that they “only eat homeless men, women, and children of all colors,” which he’s saying is a good thing to make light of that viewpoint. It’s a very Vonnegut thing to do.

Of course Kurt, like always, he’s making jokes. I’m not, so perhaps I should place the context of my little attempted trick of history above in the light of a more accurate similarity. You find this in Stephen King’s Blockade Billy (or “Blockade Billy,” if you wish). Here, in this story/novella, King creates a team called the New Jersey Titans, and has them playing 1950s baseball. He’s twisting and tweaking the history of the major leagues. I read the beginning of this book and got a bit of a chill, because I already had my idea for my own changes to history in my story and found the King, the man who’s sold more books than anyone else, doing something along the same lines. That was enough to make the story fun for me.

From here on, if you know Red Sox history before 2004, you’ll probably be able to guess I somehow have them dropping the World Series in “Stealing Home.” And if you have a moderate knowledge of the game, you can probably figure out how I would have that happening. But what I’ve written here is backstory, even the World Series of 1988 as I’ve imagined it, even this is just the background for the story. It takes place in 1998ish, maybe later than that. Which is why I thought I could give you the tale above, which I might as well source to a journalist in my fictional universe: if it was good thank Paul Kuberg; if bad then always blame me. And sorry for boring you, if I have done that again.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reflections on "Found"

A noteworthy feature of many a Milan Kundera novel is the presence of the author himself sitting back and telling us this story. The novel proper of The Unbearable Lightness of Being begins with the line [this quote is from the Michael Henry Heim translation that I read] “I have been thinking about Tomas for many years,” and I remember thinking a few things when I read this. Further on in the novel, I would think that I’d much rather that the name Tomáš had been left with at least the accent, if not the other thing on the ess that I can’t name. That’s a particular-to-me, I know, and it applies mainly to the accent, just an example of my eccentricities. But immediately I considered the character of Tomas, how Milan presents him here as almost an old friend, but not quite so, simply someone that Milan has considered for some time now as he has brought out this story.

Vonnegut did this in Breakfast of Champions, but Kundera is known for it, which is what makes The Joke a special book. Here we see the writer paying his dues—his first novel is a multi-narrator deal, where Milan is completely absent. This was quite the interesting read, as I coupled it with Laughable Loves, Kundera’s short story collection which made its way here first as a part of Philip Roth’s Writers from the Other Europe. That’s the edition I have, a slipcase compilation of four books from the series that I picked up cheaply for the Kundera book. What we find in Laughable Loves is a sort of transition period. The collection (at least in the order in which it’s placed in the book I have) begins with some standard narrative voice and a few first person stories. What is very interesting is that the speaker of the fiction begins to appear toward the end of the book in the Dr. Havel stories and very much in the closing story, “Edward and God,” as I think the proper name was spelled in my edition (Wikipedia has it written “Eduard and God”). For a writer who has tried a similar style and watched it fail (in an early draft of a story called “On Relations” which I’m currently looking for opinions on, if you’d be interested in reading it, let me know, now with the bump done), this was great fun.

The reason I give you this perhaps boring exposition is to set an image: Milan Kundera as an artist who first gives us an accepted type of writing—that of the multiple narrators, a form that could perhaps be linked to the epistolary novel which is around five hundred years old, I’d say—so that he can transition into the writer of the metafiction for which he has become known. Although you can go back through history and declare books such as One Thousand and One Nights or Don Quixote as metafiction, this is really a genre that formed in the mid-late twentieth century. In The Joke, Kundera is putting in his dues, before he transitions into his more unique style. This image links with Borges, who wrote for a very long time before he transitioned into fiction. His essay-like style in many of his stories harkens back to all the non-fiction he had already written. In much the same way, we find Kundera’s themes simply moving from his characters’ mouths (in The Joke), to his own, albeit often placed in the story by way of a characteristic of a character.

This mumbo jumbo is especially interesting to me at the moment because I’m writing a story currently that I plan to entitle “Found,” so being able to find these writers finding themselves (or at least read about such) is almost doing my homework. As Ron Silliman notes on his blog about Redburn, “Melville teaching himself to write is the much more fascinating tale here,” and I’m not trying to say that The Joke is a torture of a book that is only academically notable (I thought it was a solid novel). I’m just quoting an idea that I found somewhat similar to my own.

So you teach yourself how to write by writing, which makes sense, and it isn’t so much that you write horrible stuff at the beginning, but just less skilled works. I mean, this captures almost perfectly the way I feel when I look back at the novel I wrote in November of 2008. It’s not worse than what I write now. And that’s not to say it is good, but like Father Kurt did in Palm Sunday, it’s not bad when I “compare myself with myself.” And I don’t know what to do with it, in actuality, should I mend it or simply rewrite? Another problem being that the plot doesn’t mesh perfectly with the universe I’m creating with my writings. Plot-holes have a way of working themselves out through revelation, but should I even be wasting time thinking about this book that I wrote? During the times that I don’t reread sections from it, I’m completely okay with letting it go (Letting Go is a Philip Roth novel, by the way, a bit of full circle going on here), but then I do take a look at it, and really I tied up three or four different storylines in that book, all of which I want to write official final drafts for at some point. So it’s difficult going.

This is one reason that I sit here and I make note of various changes in the writings of acclaimed authors. Little twitches that I’ve noticed in my observations of their works. And often not even that I’ve noticed but rather that someone else has noticed and I’ve simply passed on. (One of the reasons that I infrequently blog is because I feel that I’m simply link-dumping or passing on information that you can get elsewhere and often better said elsewhere.) By bringing up these models of mine, these inspirations and influences, I can avoid considering my own writing situations.

Think about it this way: I’ve already said that you learn through writing. This here is me writing about, well, not about that much. But I’m writing and that’s the point. I’ve been stuck in “Found” for the last few days, but I think I have an idea now, and I held on it and I wrote this as a bit of a warm-up. The problem is that I’m going to go to sleep tonight instead of writing (an Aaron McMullan song lyric “don’t stay up all night writing now”) and this is not going to function as the stretching exercise before the game. But that said, it’ll at least give me more practice at typing without looking at the keys.

You know, one of the problems with “finding yourself” is simply cultural hegemony, the chains of not only the dominating cultures of the world, but even the various cultures and groups of which you consider yourself to belong. Kundera wrote a book that would be accepted as such because, well, I’d say because he wanted to write. This done, he broke rules. And sometimes you never break the rules and you never really find anything other than what is very much a larger-than-life image: that of a combination of views that aren’t exactly your own, but those of the various people (including yourself) that make up any number of clubs.

While watching Iron Man 2 last Sunday, I had a little fun with the story of the work, simply bending the various themes to my will. Expressing in my head, by way of the various plot pieces, the things that I believe in. And it felt, heh, it felt damn good. Like I knew who I was and no one could tell me otherwise. (Another full circle idea: Kundera claims to write without a message and to write leaving a lot up to the reader’s imagination. I would expect, then, that he would support what I was doing, imagining various messages that Iron Man 2 could be somehow construed as to trying to get across to its audience, messages that I agreed with very much, that were in fact, my own ideas tacked onto this film, like some less mean-spirited Justin Hammer.)

So to put this meandering, uncertain tract to bed, I’ll simply say that what I think we need to do is continue to create a globalization that expands options, that does not restrict, allowing people to decide who they are and not feel that because they define themselves in a certain way (i.e. politically, sexually, religiously, ethnically…etc.). We need self-definition and we need a limit on the limits of every defined term. Lady Gaga was on Larry King tonight talking about expanding boundaries. They do need to be pushed and the people that can do so, whether or not they need to first pay their dues as Kundera did, well, I thought these people were worthy enough of a blog post.

If you’ve gotten to here, I’d like to think that you agree.