Saturday, January 19, 2013

I can more than tolerate this world

So I read Scott McClanahan's story Hernia Dog the other day and then I read it again feeling like some kind of big lonely baby because I was crying a little and my wife was sleeping in the next room and I didn't want her to know how crazy I am sometimes in the morning when she's still asleep and my son is in school and I have the house all to myself, and I'm sitting there on the couch sobbing away about this hernia dog and the whole idea of childhood ending, and my wife is thinking what the hell is WRONG with that person, and Scott McClanahan is laughing somewhere in West Virginia, and then I ran into the next room and wrote my fucking ass off like I haven't written in quite some time. That felt good. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I turned on Facebook and wrote "I wrote my fucking ass off today" and some people liked it. I liked it too. I remembered I am a writer. I am a person who writes things. Stories and such. The occasional book. So I went right ahead and wrote my fucking ass off the next morning too even though I had a little bit of a hangover because I went for a walk the night before and bumped into someone (why else would I go for a walk in that direction) and one thing led to another and I always think, well, at least I'm practicing my Spanish which is more than the rest of these fuckers can say, but I burned my weakass hangover away with my furious thoughts and I knew I was in the clear and probably having some sort of manic episode, but not really. I'm not lazy but I'm lazy about having manic episodes, praise be to god, and the older I get the less I feel like indulging in my own crappy neurosis. You know? And then the next day I went to this party on the eleventh floor and I saw the city I've been living in for six years, I saw it for the first time, and it was way more beautiful than I ever knew. From up there it revealed its beauty to me. It lifted its dress right up over its head. I saw my neighborhood with the mountains way off behind it and the clouds on the mountains and the sun glinting off the cable cars and the people in the cable car cabins taking pictures as they passed over my orange neighborhood, taking pictures to show God knows who God knows where, and I thought, This is not so bad. I can more than tolerate this world. And then the next day I wrote a filthy, lovely, hunkering, slobbering, giggling beauty of an e-book with Bobby Parker whose real books you should buy if you haven't already because they will make you want to walk around your city naked, swinging a bag of forks over your head and screaming about how beautiful the busses are in the rain. They have that power in them. They have it somewhere. You will see the beauty in the dirty moments. And if you don't see it it will see you, and you will know it someday. So we wrote a weird book in five and a half hours and he called it Throwing Ham at Fire Engines and it's as funny as somebody falling down the stairs and then getting into an argument about refrigerators like they didn't just fall down the stairs. It's obscene and frightening and quite offensive but also very sweet like your grandmother when she got drunk that time. I don't know. It's on Lulu for free. And then I wrote my fucking ass off some more because that's what I'm going to do with my time from now on. That and ride my bike.

Friday, May 11, 2012

a very long walk

Again I have this urge to get out of my chair, go downstairs and set out on a long walk. A very long walk. The kind of walk you need your passport for. How long would it take to get from here to Sligo? From here to Albania on my own legs? How many pairs of shoes would I wear out? How many steps would I take? A million? How many would I take if I weren't going anywhere but just wandering around my neighborhood? Might as well go somewhere. Line all those steps up in one direction. There's a tattered old map of the world hanging on the wall in front of me, its corners punched through with holes from thumbtacking it to a thousand other walls over the years. It has countries on it that don't even exist anymore. Or never really existed. I could walk from here to the tip of India through some of those non-existent countries. I could ride my bike to the end of the Kamchatka Peninsula. According to the map anyway. I might get hit by a car, might not. Might get robbed or kidnapped, might not. I'd certainly get rained on. I'd definitely wish I'd never left home. I'd wish I were back home getting drunk on the corner with everybody else. But who knows what would happen? I know what's going to happen here, though. Pretty much anyway.
     Maybe I'll just walk to Salamanca. Maybe I'll just walk down to the corner and back.
     I read Thoreau's The Maine Woods last week. It didn't make me restless. I read it because I was already restless and can't go anywhere. Not yet. So I went to the Maine woods for a while. In 1846, 1853 and 1857. I'd never read it before though I've had it for around 15 years. I bought it in Seattle back when I was reading people like Edward Abbey and Robinson Jeffers. It was good. It felt good to read it. Thoreau can come off as corny and pointlessly combative, especially when he goes all hyperbolic and starts comparing tiny things to infinite things, or the local to the exotic - the exotic always coming off as so boring as to be not even worth consideration - but his thoughts and his writing in this book are clear. There's a cleanness and a clearness that I like. An attempt at honesty. His sense of humor is sort of annoying - but, hey, at least he's got one! He's got a mean streak, too, and it makes his jokes sound like he thinks you're stupid. He knows things you don't because you're too busy to stop and think. You're too busy working! I don't mind that though. He's probably right. You probably are stupid. I know I am. I think I was expecting to read the first 20 or so pages and get bored and forget about it forever, but I read it straight through. Wrote in the margins. And when was the last time I felt like writing in one of my own books? I usually only do that with library books. So I was surprised to find how much I liked it - The Maine Woods. Better than Walden - from what I remember of that strange book. I guess I'll have to read it again now. Walden, I mean. Ah hell. But first I'm going to read Walking. After that I'll probably be so crazed up for adventure I'll end up unemployed and divorced.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Oh Ukranian Landlord!

So it's been a hell of a long time since I was around this way - or not really if you consider geological time or even the amount of time it takes to write a novel or stand in line at the supermarket around the corner from my house, the one with all those anxious people in it. I've been busy getting stories rejected and writing new stories for people to reject. I can't even keep track of it anymore. It's like it's speeding up in the direction of some sort of critical mass event. The ultimate rejection, the one where I just say fuck it and walk downstairs without a stitch of clothing on and sit on a park bench doing the crossword puzzle in Spanish, which is way beyond my capability with the language. I'd probably have to ask the wino on the other end of the bench for help, or at least a bit of advice, guidance, but it would almost certainly turn out that he's from a place like Kiev or Baku. Probably some other writer. Just what I'd need. Some other writer, another reject. At least Unstuck said something like "We all really enjoyed this one, so send us another." Then there was that time Electric Literature said something like, "If you could just change the ending on this a little we might like to publish it." Change the ending? Is that even possible? And who was it who said, "I burst out laughing 5 or 6 times but I'm afraid this piece isn't for us." Even quoted my story to me in the rejection letter. I don't know who that was. Could have been anybody. I'm sure he's a nice person and his mother misses him. And what about that time McSweeney's said they kind of wanted to publish that story I wrote at my kitchen table in my pajamas one rainy morning in Ireland long before I was a father to a small child? Just needed to think about it for a while. Mull it over a little. Whatever McSweeney's! I will never darken your doorstep again. It's cold out there and nobody ever answers the damn door anyway.
     You know what's even worse than getting a story rejected? I mean, shit, I get stories rejected all the time. I'm so used to it I sometimes just reject the story myself. I think, Why bother opening that email? You already know what it's going to say. Just put the X in the little book. The X that means agony. Cut out the middle part. Save yourself the trouble of actually reading the form letter five or six times wondering what could possibly have gone wrong. But what's worse than rejection is acceptance and then a kind of post-acceptance rejection. This has happened a few times over the years. A thoroughly bewildering experience. WE LOVE THIS AND WANT TO PUBLISH IT. Wonderful! Perfect! I commend you. You are wise to recognize the truth of my genius. So few have! Then the story enters some sort of limbo. It never appears. You can't get in touch with it. It won't return phone calls. Never writes home. Eventually the line is disconnected. And where the hell did it go? What happened? This happened to the second story I ever had accepted. Years ago. So long ago I barely remember it myself. It was at 3AM. Yes! I thought. 3AM wants to publish my story! There was no mistake. But they never did. Which sucked. My second story! I thought I might have to get on a plane or something. But that story later found its way into The Flash, a little anthology of short fiction filled with stories from writers I love. That was nice. I wrote that story - by the way - on the porch of the White House hostel in Sligo, Ireland. It needed good company.
     So one or two of my stories are apparently in that limbo now. Going to parties with other stories. Doing God knows what. I'm not sure what to do about it. It's embarrassing writing to people who don't write you back. And then there are the novels. What to do with them?
     Yesterday I told this story in class about an old landlord I used to have in Seattle. There was no reason for me to tell the story. It just came out. I think it might hold a key - or at least offer me some insight into myself. I had this landlord from Odessa. My girlfriend and I rented an apartment in his basement. Then she got tired of me and moved out. So there I was, alone in this Ukranian guy's basement. How did these things happen? It was raining all the time. It was probably a sad time in my life but my memories from then are mostly good ones. I could hear my landlord moving around and hammering and banging things on the other side of the bedroom wall. He listened to this Russian folk music that drove me crazy. Same songs over and over. They sounded exactly the way you imagine. Then one day a sledehammer came through the wall of my bedroom. A new doorway. My landlord came through it and said, "Now one bedroom apartment is two bedroom apartment. You pay more money." And you know what? I did. I just didn't feel like arguing with the guy. I knew it was pointless. And I really didn't feel like looking for a new place to live. I just gave him my money. He left me alone. But the music didn't stop. The same songs over and over. This was in 1999. In that year I was obsessed with Colombia, and I was trying to write this long essay about it. Plan Colombia, the FARC, whole villages getting strangled on basketball courts in the jungle, etc. I didn't really know what I was talking about. My landlord was on the other side of my wall again, banging and hammering while I tried to write about these atrocities. I thought, No, no, that's not possible. But it was! The hammer came through the wall again. "Two bedroom apartment is now three bedroom apartment. You pay more." I could see this was never going to end. It would just go on and on. He was astonished at how ungrateful I was. Really taken aback. All the work he'd done for me! He had a mouth full of metal teeth. I didn't move out that time either. I just left the country for no reason. No job abroad, no contacts. Left all my things in the apartment - I mean everything I owned - with some friends of mine who moved in. When they moved out they gave all my stuff to my ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Now it's like I was never there. But there's a gold tooth in that guy's head with my name on it. And 13 years later I'm still gone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall 2011 FRiGG

The new issue of FRiGG is out. I read most of the stories in it this morning and then went back this afternoon and read one or two of them again. I love Karen Britten's story "The Miracle." I know I love a story when I get jealous while reading it. I end up thinking, why the hell didn't I write this myself? Then I slap myself across the face once or twice as a kind of warning not to let these things slip by me anymore. "The Miracle" is serious and strange and very, very funny. It's even got a kind of horror element to it. That's right, I said horror. And have you ever tried to write a serious, funny story with a horror element to it? Not easy! Serious/funny? You've gotta be fast, nimble and maybe a little bit weird. Hell, even being just plain slightly amusing in writing is almost impossible and yet she's funny in the most surprising ways here. And she managed to keep shanking me with perfect sharp sentences I couldn't see coming. I'd quote them, but I don't want to ruin the surprises if you haven't read the story. Which I strongly advise you to do right now - or after you finish reading this. It's got that perfect brand of weirdness - something fresh, something different going on. Even the names of the characters surprised me. They just seemed right. Couldn't have been anything else. Absolutely non-arbitrary. I also really liked Vallie Lynn Watson's Veronica stories. I could see myself reading a full-length book of them someday - that is, if such a thing were to come into existence somehow. If I were an editor - which I am way too selfish and lazy to even think about being - I'd get in touch with her with a few questions at hand. There's plenty of other good stuff in this issue of FRiGG, as well as my own story Cobarde, the inclusion of which I am grateful for. Always nice to be included. In there with the other kids. I hope it gets some laughs out of somebody somewhere - or at least freaks somebody out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Flann O'Brien

Flann O'Brien would have been a hundred years old yesterday if he hadn't died in 1966 on (as every biographical note I've ever read about him mentions, as if it were relevent) April fools day. Flann O'Brien was one of those writers who totally astounded me the first time I read him. What the fuck was going on here? Who the...? It just didn't make any sense how someone could write like that. The sentences were all so weirdly balanced, yet perfect. "Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing..." What? Who starts a novel like that. This was 15 years ago for me.

And, as you know, he wrote a funny novel about black hell, with men in it who are slowly turning into bicycles. Or something like that. Why not, right? Everyone was doing it at the time. It's been a while since I read The Third Policeman all the way through. I pick it up and read a few pages at random now and again. Maybe I'll read it again this weekend. Or maybe not. What if I hate it? That would be strange. I'll get back to you. Happy birthday?

Here's an article by a guy who's even more enthusiastic than I am.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sententia #3

Sententia #3 is on its way. The first two chapters of my novel Zero are in there - as I've mentioned. Haven't seen it yet, but I'm pretty excited. I love Zero. And I can't say the same about my other novels, both finished and unfinished. Maybe some human being out there will read those first two chapters and think they're an absolute fucking marvel and want to publish the whole book! That's probably what'll happen. I'm ready for it. For now, however, Sententia #3. There are also novel excerpts from Nick Bredie, Hosho McCreesh, Nora Jean Lang, Samuel Snoek-Brown, Michael Hickins, Abeer Hoque, and Fred Skolnik.

Here's the link, if you want to buy it: Sententia # 3, your life could depend on it someday.

I'm reading Barry Gifford's Sailor and Lula novels - a new writer for me. I think Tony O'Neill wrote something about him a while ago, wondering why he wasn't more well known, and for some reason that compelled me to go out and find his books and read them. Maybe I want to be someone who reads books most people don't know about. I don't know. But I always read those articles in places like The Guardian about neglected masterpieces of the 20th century. I don't usually bother to read the books though. I neglect them. I guess Tony O'Neill must be more persuasive than The Guardian. Anyway, I like what I've read so far. I'd say Gifford ripped me off, but he wrote those books 20 years ago while I was playing bass in punk bands I don't even remember the names of half the time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

how are you?

I've been doing a lot of swimming lately. And eating. But I haven't been writing. That seems to be my summertime affliction.

I taught my son how to dive yesterday. What the hell else would I be doing? The sun was shining, there was a swimming pool. Bad weather is conducive to getting shit onto the page. When it gets dark at 5, and it's raining, I sit in my chair. I fear for things. I write.

Sententia 3 is coming out soon. The first 2 and a half chapters of my novel Zero are in there. The idea is that somebody'll read them and want to publish the whole book. If that doesn't happen I might get a little pissed off. It's a good book. I read the last page the other day and cried. I don't remember what the weather was like when I wrote it, but I doubt I wanted to go outside that day.

(I've been reading Georges Simenon books. The ones without detectives. They're pretty damn good.)

Hope you're doing well.