Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best Fiction/Poetry of the Year Extravaganza!!!

So, as promised merely yesterday (see how on the ball I am) here is the list of fiction/poetry books that most impressed me this year. Turns out that there was some pretty great stuff put out this year; who would've thought 2010 would be such an exciting year for readers besides the whole e-reader phenomenon (maybe we should face the music, though, and just call it the Kindle/iPad phenomenon)? And so well anyway, all these books, of course, are highly recommended, so give your eyeballs some exercise and check one out.


3. Nox, Anne Carson, New Directions Publishing, Apr 27, 2010. This is sort of difficult to call poetry, or anything besides really beautiful. It may arguably not even be a book. It comes in a box and is printed on an accordioned strip of paper. It's made up of quotes, letters, photos, historical data, and jottings relating and dedicated to the author's late, globe-trotting brother. It's an elegy, and the work of a survivor, as Carson puts it; "It is when you are asking about something that you realize that you yourself have survived it, and so you must carry it..."

2. Winter's Journey, Stephen Dobyns, Copper Canyon Press, July 1 2010. Dobyns is an old favorite of mine---in fact, it may be argued that he inspired my attempted literary career---and Winter's Journey is his first work in a long time. And it's different: the pieces are more like political essays than poetry (does it say something about me or about poetry that my favorite books of the subject have so far been rather unlike most poetry?) though Dobyns is as wordy and playful as ever. I'd give you a quote if I had the book on me, but I lent it to my sister, so there. Just suffice it to say that Dobyns has some of the most intelligent things to say about American politics that I've read recently, and the poem in which he fantasizes about being a rhino is pure gold.

1. Human Chain, Seamus Heaney, FSG, Sept 14 2010. Before I get into Heaney's new book I would like to recognize the Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry published by the Harvard Press this year: it's great. Huge and full of everything. Heaney is, obviously, represented in the 1000-plus-page volume, which I didn't put on here because I want to focus on individuals rather than anthologies. Anyway, Human Chain has garnered quite a stir in the literary world, being the work of such a master, and this always makes me happy. Perhaps what I like about it is the accessibility, which is a terribly unsexy thing to say, but. Heaney writes about lost friends, remembers days past, reflects on simple daily occurrences, such as refilling a pen or taking joy in the sound of a gust of wind. I applaud the work of recent American poets-- like the Dickmans--  who really aspire to simplify poetry and take it away from the austerity of academia, but all you have to do is look at the Irish for a lesson of how to make poetry an everyman's passion.


5. Horns, Joe Hill, William Morrow, Feb 16 2010. Joe Hill's work makes me so happy, what can I say? Everything from his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, to his short stories and especially his absolutely great comic series, Locke & Key. Maybe it's just that there's finally a guy who's not Stephen King (yes, I know) who understands what makes horror work, or just his lovable personality (read his blog, follow his twitter,) or that he's actually getting attention while being a genre-writer. Horns is a horror/romance/surrealist romp that is unnerving and often very funny at the same time. One of my other favorite things about Hill is that he's not afraid to be absolutely surreal, and yet talented enough to not let this get in the way of the story. Not that any of this should be your concern. Just buy Horns and enjoy the hell out of it, pun intended and all.

4. The Unnamed, Joshua Ferris, Back Bay Books, Jan 18 2010. I didn't originally think that I would put this book on here because, frankly, most of it kind of sucked. Or rather, the first third of it. Or thereabouts. The third of it from around page 5 to wherever the third ends. The point being, I didn't really start enjoying this book up until around just before the halfway mark. And then, it was only intermittently great and beautiful. So I returned it to the library, glad that I hadn't wasted a twenty on it. But then something happened. I kept thinking about it. It haunted me. The efficient prose that occasionally dipped into poetry was some of it; the man can describe a scene and capture a mood like a motherfucker. But it was also the story: a man is plagued by a disease that makes him walk. Compulsively. Come hell or high-water or marital stress or job-loss. The problems come in the execution, I think. Ferris doesn't lead the reader into the story as smoothly as he could have; we just aren't interested at the beginning. The really haunting thing about the story, I think, is the ideas it represents. Insurmountable problems, compulsion, addiction, the strength of loved ones. This is what makes the novel great: it talks about something important.

3. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen, FSG, Aug 31 2010. You saw this coming, no? For a while I was going to make some sort of statement (I imagined, as if anyone cares what I think) by not including this book on here. But I must. I'm compelled. If this book was terribly written, if the characters were stale, if the dialogue stilted or unrealistic, Franzen would still deserve credit for having the courage to tackle such enormous issues. I mean, this book is about everything. But of course, this book is incredibly well-written, and the opposite of everything else I hypothesized up there. I know, everyone who isn't Jodi Picoult or Jennifer Weiner absolutely raves about this book. Even Oprah. Hell, even n + 1 loved it, and n + 1 doesn't like anything. But I honestly believe that it deserves every bit of praise it gets. Yes, it is the most important novel of the decade, which is to say the century. So I'm not really going to say anything else about it because it's all been said already. (N + 1's symposium on Freedom is great.) Now, you may understandably be thinking how can you say Freedom is the most important book of the decade but not the best book of the year?! My answer is, the last person who tried to quantify me, I ate his liver with a nice Chianti.

2. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, David Mitchell, Random House, June 29, 2010. Okay, so. Imagine Mitchell proposing this book to his publisher: "An' so, there's this Dutch bloke in the year 1799, yeah? [for Mitchell is British, and they all talk like that] And he goes to Japan. And then, goings-on ensue!" Because that is pretty accurate. And most publishers I think wouldn't touch it with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. But then they read it. And they were blown away. Then they published it. It was a huge success, because the perhaps initially reluctant readers were blown away. Much like myself. Wow. What an amazing, unusual, and utterly beautiful novel. It's a hard book to talk about, because it covers a lot of territory, and isn't necessarily about anything especially. It is partly about devotion to a cause, be it love, God, country, money. Freedom. So, what's great about this novel? I think it has something to do with the fact that Mitchell couldn't write a bad sentence if he was drunk, high, and had to type with his toes. He does everything right, even the stuff they say you shouldn't do, like write dialogue in accents. But he writes the accents (working-class Dutch islanders talk like pirates!) and it's great. His imagination is limitless; he writes it all like he was there. This is historical fiction, and he writes it effortlessly and fearlessly. This is a beautiful, stand-alone work of art. A work of pure devotion to literature, and that's why I enjoyed it more than Freedom. 

1. A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, Knopf, June 8 2010. This one's going to be harder to write about than de Zoet, even. Read the jacket sleeve; it doesn't have a clue what it's talking about, it's pointless blathering. Basically, this novel is constructed of separate stories, told from different perspectives and formats (PowerPoint!) set in different time periods about related characters. Here's what it amounts to: people are lovable fuck-ups. The world is lovably indifferent. Things are always getting better and always getting worse. I'm not being glib, here. I love this book. The writing is terrific. Egan captures every voice perfectly. It's just a joy to read her. The book, despite a motley cast a characters, is sort of about hope, and this is a good thing. It ends on a hopeful note. A really hopeful note, as opposed to Freedom's slightly sappy hopeful note. (I keep feeling the need to justify placing Freedom at third; I need to stop that.) But, great book. Great read. Read it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

15 Dec 2010

With the last of my finals turned in, six-pack of Guinness cooling in the fridge, Mumford & Sons (perpetually) in the CD player, I should be feeling pretty great right now. Except I'm feeling kind of angsty, and I know what it's all about. I need to start writing again, and the angst is my conscience's way of making this apparent.

So here's some writing assignments, straight from my conscience to my shriveled creativity department:

New blog coming up about the better of the publishing industry's output for the year.
Blog about this ri-fucking-diculuosly good album by Mumford, et al.
Perhaps an explanation of why I'm endlessly stalling on my other blog, if there is one.
A story before the beginning of next semester.

But for now, conscience, I just want to unwind. So go away.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Another book you should read.

This time it's Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. 

This novel---composed of a series of stand-alone stories related by character and interior depth---can and has been described as post-postmodern, something that came from decades of ultra-self-conscious text and literary stunt pilotry. Whereas postmodern fiction is mostly concerned with esoteric reference and characters as stand-ins for concepts and themes, Egan's novel revels in character, and offers a chance to relate to a strange cast of characters. It's readable, but doesn't neglect readers who demand a certain depth and intelligence from their fiction.

If the novel draws anything from postmodernism, it's a disregard for conventional structure. The stories all have an individual strength; they are rife with their own themes and symbols, and yet, they come together to make a powerful statement about aging, interaction with other people, and, surprisingly, subtly, love. There's a heartfelt humanism that permeates through each tale, as different as they all may be. The stories are written in first, second, and third person. Each works incredibly well, against all odds, even (especially, maybe) the story that's written as a power-point presentation. (Actually, that's what other reviewers call it. In the story, it's a teenage girl's "graphic journal," from a near-future that values visual content over verbal. As the narrator [director?] quotes school-endorsed slogans such as "Add a graphic, increase your traffic," and "A word-wall is a long haul.")

Sometimes the stories are absolutely heart-breaking, as in "Out of Body," about a disillusioned young man who drowns in a garbage-strewn river, and the final story, which takes place in 2020, and shows a world of ultra-connectivity, instant-access art, and pure hope. How beautiful and rare.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Couple books I'd like to write about:

Firstly, Benjamin Percy's The Wilding. Percy's the author of a couple books of short stories (The Language of Elk and Refresh, Refresh,) many of which deal with issues of what it means to be a man, what it means to be a boy growing into a man, what it means to be a man during a disastrous, fiendishly well-plotted, soul-baring hunting trip in central Oregon. Or so I've heard. I haven't read them all.

I'm certainly going to make that change after reading The Wilding, Percy's first novel, released by Graywolf Press late last month. I picked up the book after reading a smallish blurb about it in Esquire and, sort of shamefully, I was mostly just drawn to the cool cover. But hey, I've discovered some great books that way and this time was no exception.

The novel has received much comparison to good ol' Deliverance, which I'm not qualified to build upon simply because I've never read it. I just know the reference, in which one character hums the infamous banjo line from the film version, is hilarious and rather obvious. I dig it.

The book takes place in central Oregon (surprise) and deals with manhood (ditto.) The essential details how Justin Caves, a schoolteacher, and his son Graham go on a hunting trip with Justin's ur-manly father, Paul, before the wilderness is destroyed to make way for a shiny capitalism-symbolizing resort. The trip turns deadly as the hunters are stalked in the night by. . .something. There's a nifty and creepy side story involving Justin's disillusioned, unsatisfied wife, as well.

Okay, so. The main story line is certainly nothing to go googly-eyed over, and it follows through fairly predictably, but the writing is absolutely superb. Percy writes like a more energetic, literary Stephen King and he keeps your ears perked for what may be hiding in the shadows. Certainly a good nighttime alone-in-the-house book. I hear Percy just signed a book deal to put out a werewolf novel, and this makes me very happy, as he handles an extremely similar theme with expert wordsmithery with The Wilding.

Now for Book no.2: Kizuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. This book was published originally in 2005 and received tremendous acclaim; I'm ashamed of not having read it til this past week, when the movie edition of the novel was released.

This novel is gorgeous and heart-breaking. It burns through your mind like a slow ache. As you read the last paragraph, I defy you to not cry, or at least get that closing-throat feeling.

I'll give away the plot, as it's something most readers have encountered a dozen times before, probably in grade school: It takes place in a re-imagined late-'90's Britain, in which clones are raised as organ donors for transplants. Like The Wilding, the power comes not from the banal plot but from the immaculate writing and the loving handling of the themes.

The novel is told from the perspective of clone Kathy, a 31-year-old "carer," or someone who comforts the donor clones between donations, before they, too, begin donations. She tells the story of her and her friends' live prior to donating: they were raised in a privileged environment at Hailsham, a school for clone children. Eventually they graduate and get to experience the outside world somewhat, before becoming donors. It is within these moments the Ishiguro's perfect pacing and gentle narration really grabs for you heartstrings. The novel deals with love, death, innocence, and the loss thereof. It deals with all these things beautifully and tragically.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

29 Sept 10

Just finished another couple paragraphs of the latest Hector, though tonight's not a great one for writing. I'm feeling a bit depressed and zonked, for some reason. I'll stop promising that it'll be finished anytime soon, it's just ending up being pretty long. I just got to the action and it's already got twice the word count of the first one. I don't know how the humor is. We'll see.

Humor writing has got to be one of the most difficult things in the world. Humor itself is so fickle; a joke I'll tell will sound brilliant til I start deconstructing a few minutes later, then it just strikes me as puerile. Obviously, Hector aims for the puerile, so I'm not too concerned there, the humor is easy and fun. But I get to wondering if I'm a one-trick pony, or that I'll become one, or that there's no trick at all; I'm just a jackass. I'm certainly not a funny person by nature. It worries me a lot, which is odd because I've never had intentions of writing humorous material. It just happens.

Well, that's all I got. Told ya, I'm rather dead-eyed tonight. Ta.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sept 1st

I awoke this morning to the glorious sound of utter downpour. I forget how blessed the first September storm feels. I don't have a ton to share, except that school is taking up an obscene amount of my time, What the Hell is slowly coming along (it'll be a long one,) and "All Alone in An Empty House," by Lost in the Trees feels like a perfect song to me. Also, I may be going to see Band of Horses in KC next month. Nifty, eh?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lodi, it's been awhile.

What a Summer; break-up, classes, assignments, new Arcade Fire, classes, no writing, getting back together, classes, Yann Martel, insane, dying, murderous sixty-pound Straight Talk customers. Classes. Possibility of Pell grant for classes, but we'll see.

Started a blog on Tumblr, which isn't that great, so I'll probably stick to good ol' Blogger. Or probably both, rather. New What the Hell, Hector coming up, soon, I promise.

Right now I'm at the end of week 2 of my three-week between semester break, watching the Simpsons on DVD, as is my habit during any sort of break, and am currently covered in mysterious insect bites that itch like a mother. Who, during pregnancy, can sometimes itch a lot, I heard somewhere. The bites are leaking some piss-colored liquid, and I wish they would go away.

That's all I got. Have things to do. Out.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Conflict resolution

Here I am, the last day of my week-long vacation, and I'm writing a blog. I've been here before; the thought of returning to the incredible malaise and undirected angst associated with my job after I've been away for a little bit puts me in the frame of mind to simply emote. I look back and see the void left by everything I wanted to accomplish but didn't, I look to the future and see only dread, and withdrawals from my newly acquired video game addiction. Summer classes that are going to take up so much of my reading/moping time. Seriously, I'm gonna be either in class or at work all the time. Balls.


Here's what has happened on my vacation: Saturday was a day full of reading and hope for the rest of the vacation coupled with relationship-associated angst. I don't remember it a lot, except that I finished Lipsky's DFW thing. A girl named Jessica Pettengill was killed in a car accident Sunday morning. Though I never really "officially" met her, I knew of her somewhat through her family and mine; the Wheaton part of my family. I had also helped her with something at Wal-Mart about a week before the accident. Her death has kind of cast this pall over the past week. I think about it a lot. When I went to Joplin a couple days ago it was hard to drive in all that traffic. Traffic stresses me anyway, and I've always had some anxieties associated with driving, which I'll go into another time, but here's the point: this dread associated with this 17-year-old girl's death has nearly put my car-related anxieties over the edge. I make stupid decisions while driving. I pulled out in front of someone at a light, changed lanes without looking. It's an awareness issue, essentially. There's a new block in my perception while driving.

It's somewhat disconcerting.

So let's talk about something else. Stuff I wrote, like I said I would. Did I write something everyday? I didn't keep tabs like crazy, but I think so. I wrote poetry, snippets of songs. Mostly I worked on a single story that isn't quite done yet. It's at about 6-7 pages and is probably going to finally run at least twice that. I may post it, I'm not sure.

Songs. I've never written a full song. I need to, though. I can definitely see it happen.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Roaring seaward, and I go.

I seek out encouragement everywhere. I crave it: I'm mostly Irish by blood, a heritage renowned for producing literary talent; Geoffrey Chaucer was my great great great great great great grandpa, or something; I get good grades in English class, I grub for them, get weird, possibly disingenuous notes returned graded papers; I'm a Scorpio, just like Kurt Vonnegut, Zadie Smith, and Colson Whitehead. This can't be coincidence.

Occasionally I even write.

(I just started a . . .what? A sister blog, maybe? To this one? It's called What the hell, Hector? and it strives toward overbearing, outrageous entertainment. Much fun, new story coming this week.)

Who was it that said good literature is the product of a conflicted heart? Faulkner, I think it was.

Maybe I can find faith in that, as I've been rather conflicted lately.

So. I am on vacation. On each day of this week-long vacation I will complete some literary act. Or maybe the week will be one long literary act. Maybe it'll be performance art. Maybe I'll post blogs as I go; maybe I'll post them as one big blogsplat at the end of the week. I haven't decided yet.

Here's what I've read this past week: John Dies at the End, David Wong. Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann. Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, David Lipsky.

All good in their own ways. LtGWS especially, is heart-rending.

I realize that this blog is pretty much directionless; I'll work on that in the future.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Maybe I should've just numbered my posts from the beginning: they'd be easier to name.

New phone today, old one went apeshit. Some sort of divine miracle that I was eligible to upgrade very early. But. . . I learned things about myself that I sort of wish I could unlearn, in the quasi-panic brought on by that briefest interuption of cell-service. I'm not that person, I've always thought, in fact, I'm a venerable mountain man, sociality-wise. All self-delusion.

Brittany's Grandpa had a stroke today. Everyone include him in your prayers, please. He's a very good person. He is, at last notice, recovering. Recently learned stroke statistics echo in my mind, unbidden. Something like 20% of stroke victims are more or less invalid for the rest of their lives, and a much larger chunk are never. . . quite normal. By which I mean, the same. I hope she doesn't read this, but I don't think she reads my blog. I don't blame her. Prayers. Pray.

To my two loyal followers ;) sorry for the silence. It's been a busy, stressful time in my life. I've been writing some, but too little to bring me any satisfaction. But too little to make me crash, too, at least. Something I've noticed: When I write something good, I'm so fuelled and uplifted by the experience that I'm more or less on walking on air for the rest of the day, but the day after? I feel ashamed. Ashamed of not writing constantly. Of maybe letting too little of myself go. Maybe of pride. Proud of a short micro-story that's somewhat poetic but the only thing you've written in a month and the only thing you'll write for a month? Silly. Then when I lay down at night to go to sleep, in those in-between moments after sleep has teased me and now finally holds up the covers to her bed a veil is lifted and I see myself miserable, poor, and still working at fucking Wal-Mart in five years. I need this to be an addiction. I need to let myself go in it.

The few times that I've done it right: the synergy of hard work, greasy creative process, and blank paper filling up with me. It's a drug I can't get high on quite enough to get addicted to. Maybe I need to up the dose.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Farm Boy Zed

Is the name of the comic that I'm collaborating on with my sister. I just finished the script and turned it over to Jerika for actual drawing. Pretty exciting. Think Jhonen Vasquez's stuff; only a little less humor (though there's still some,) and a little more horror. I have no problem wearing my influences on my sleeve. It's all fun and games anyway. I'm wondering how hard it would be to publish electronically? Set up a free site (since we're not really planning on making any kind of profit anyway) and it can be viewed in full color.

I do like the way a physical comic book smells though. We shall see.

Monday, April 5, 2010

David Foster Wallace...

...wrote Broom of the System when he was younger than me. This is disconcerting.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Music, Spring, etc.

Finally, consecutive days of sweet, rejuvinative Spring weather. It's getting hard to want to go to class, it's getting markedly more difficult to even contemplate going to work (ugh, saying the mere name of that association strikes fear and loathing into my heart) and music seems to fill my ears everywhere. My dad is playing his home-made banjo, a gentle, soothing sound drifting through the house even if I don't like bluegrass and even if my dad hasn't mastered the thing yet. I've rediscovered hardcore and heavy metal (major Mastodon jags, and I'm looking into the Dillinger Escape Plan's new one right now) and feel of the sweet air pushing through the open windows never fails to remind me of Manchester Orchestra's Mean Everything to Nothing. So I've given that a couple whirls.
Spring. The season of lost and found. The season of the cruellest month. The season of Green. Of plans. Of hope, maybe. The hope and the planning are the things that brings the music out, I think. Or maybe it's not that the music was ever gone, but that it means something different in Spring than it does in other seasons. It serves mainly to keep you warm and unalone in Winter. In Summer, it's (unfortunately, sacriligiously) a mere soundtrack. In Autumn, let's see, what poetic yet sort of true thing can I say here...In Autumn, music keeps some fire alive. It keeps you moving so you don't slip into hibernation. But in Spring... That's the season when you discover songs that mean something to you and always will. Maybe it's a part of the rebirth. I wonder if the pagan's pulled out the instruments more in Spring, to chase away the emotional havok wreaked by Winter.
Who's to say? All that is meaningless, except music. Music is life.
So what's new with me? Started a comic (again) with my sister illustrating. A zine is in the EARLY, early stages of planning. Restarting my alt-history story, which has been playing hard-to-get with my mind since I started on it months ago. I think I've been using the wrong perspective all along. We'll see how it works out. Enjoy your music.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sunn O)))

I'm not a metal fan by any stretch of the imagination; too lugubrious, even for me, too much association w/ local meth-heads, etc. I can hold a vague appreciation for the instrumental abilities of the practitioners, and I have some nostalgia for the days of my early teens, before I discovered punk rock and the Pixies, when I actually did listen to Godsmack, Metallica, and Tool on a regular basis. But aside from that, I usually forget that the genre exists.
Except. . .some reason I bought a Sunn O))) album on Amazon. (I think I'd read that John Wray, a favorite writer of mine, listened to them or something.) And I can't fucking stop listening to it. They sound like an H.P. Lovecraft story. Like something huge coming up from underneath. I feel an unusual sense of anticipation when I hit PLAY, something I don't even feel when I put in Grizzly Bear or Radiohead. It's. . . exciting. Not that those other bands aren't exciting. Both are filled with ur-talented musicians who write insanely great, original music. But, as original as it is, one grows to expect it, to intuit the next move, like a that of a friend with whom you've played chess for years and years.
I guess it's just time to change it up a bit. Sunn O))) will never be my favorite band (still Radiohead, I'm afraid,) but they'll always be the sip of something hard I keep hidden in my desk drawer.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Butterfield, Mo

Let's say, as a description exercise, I describe the town in which I live, Butterfield, Mo., to all of you adoring readers. It's a physical microcosm of Cassville, centered on a bow-shaped offshoot of HWY 37, with administrative faculties (i.e., "city hall,") located in the northern bit. Actually, geography-wise, that's about all it has in common with greater C-ville. You could start walking through it from any side and be on the other side in about 20 mins. Politics overwhelmingly conservative. Across from my house is the sewage treatment plant, which is the source of much managerial pride and scoffing at any questions of pragmatism thereof, as well as the town's (village's, hamlet's, insignificant outpost's,) exorbitant water-billing. There's a baptist church smackdab in the middle of the town's anatomy that is probably the nicest building within metro B-field. (A swanky McMansion lies on the outskirts of town, there since before "McMansion" would've been used to describe it.) Outside of the church is a small basketball court on which white and hispanic children can often be seen playing. Venerable melting pot, despite oft-overheard rascist complaints of elder white-folk. (Bit o' trivia: according to rumor, a black man spotted in the town of Cassville after midnight can be legally lynched. It's a law that's apparently still on the books. Liberal mecca, this place.) I've been to this court late at night, and the air was still and cool and tickled every bit of my lungs. I've walked every bit of this town. I wrote an essay on this that got me a B in Eng 101. The most notable features of the town? Maybe the railroad that splits the town in two. I've written stories on that, too. Maybe the bridge that goes over the tracks on the "southside." It's a covered bridge. With beams the color of a river and riverbed. There's a plaque posted to one of the beams that I can never quite read when I drive by, and always forget on the few occasions that I walk to the bridge. Maybe it would explain why such an expensive bridge was built on such a minor road. There's a small wedge shaped park that is the subject of many a photo by me and my sister Jerika. Once we lay on the two picnic tables in the park and hollered Ray Bradbury stories at each other through the wind. Many plans made there, few fruitful ones. But late, the streetlight there is an orange teepe of illumination spotted with moths and when you sit inside it you can see all the ghosts of your childhood pass before your eyes and cast you a dismissive wave that reminds you that it'll all be over before you know it.

I can't seem to let it go. Writing I mean.

So what makes me so drawn to writing---as a career, as a past-time, as release---anyway? Was I born to do it? (Though if that was the case, shouldn't it be, like, way easier?) Does it appeal to some aspect of my nature? (I do like being shut up in my room, away from everybody and the world, quite alot.) Maybe it's storytelling that's in my blood, or maybe just record keeping.
I did enjoy making up scary stories to tell my siblings and cousins when I was pretty young, in keeping w/ my very early love of all things horror/dark fantasy related. The first books I encountered as a burgeoning reader? Goosebumps, baby, as well as the Time-Life Books Enchanted World series. (Anyone remember these gorgeously illustrated texts? Ye gods, imagine what effect those pictures had on the four-year-old mind. They were delicious.)
These were stories. Had something akin to morals in 'em. I ate them up. Made up my own. I can't remember ever trying to write any of my own down, just telling them in clubhouses and on Sundays down by the creek by my Grandparents' place, when my cousins and I would tromp out to explore after the family feast. I relished the moment, the climax of whatever D-movie-grade monsterfest I'd come up with, when my beloved cousins visibly squirmed and told me I was one sick customer.
So yeah, the storytelling part has always been there it seems. This is a proud tradition, and I'm proud to be drawn to it.
The exact moment I knew I wanted to write though, that came a lot later. It was simple. My family went to some cheap pizza place, and it happened to have a gorgeous west view. You could look down on the town, the factories (urban/industrial settings always put me in a creative mood. Another story,) and above it all, the sun was setting. It was, well, toxic-looking. But beautiful. Like the sun was burning out, and we were all just sitting at the bar. I felt like I had to write it down. In such a way as to make even someone who'd never seen a town or sunset feel exactly as what I was feeling just looking at it.
It took a while, to get it just right. It took the form of poetry, flash-fiction, longer fiction. I even dreamed about stories in which I could incorporate this scene. I finally wrote a good one down, though I'll be damned if I can find it anywhere now. But it was such a special experience, the act of creation. The failure and experimentation. Finally getting it right. Beautiful.

Friday, February 19, 2010


You wanna know what I miss about summer? In the dead of winter? Here's what I miss about summer:

Having your window cracked open just a little bit, because you're suffering hot in your bed because your parents don't believe in air-conditioning and the little lazy, indicisive puffs of air that creak through that window-space are absolute Heaven. You can't sleep out of anticipation of the next of those little heaven-breezes and the sweet, sweet sensual smell of green that it'll sneak in with it. Eventually a train will go by (a wonderful thing to happen in all seasons, but especially summer,) and the dogs of town will howl and bark in agreement and you'll envy those dogs more than just a little because, well, they're free and they own summertime.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Old things,

While digging through all those blog posts I found these poems/story-things I wrote when I was still a teenager...They're not half bad for a kid I think.

The Plague is coming
Writer; front porch, sunset, the house faces east, so he's in shadow.
The tree behind the house casts a shadow, an oddly shaped one that
looks like crooked spokes without a wheel. Leaves and a dog play in and around
the shadows. (death is not the end)

Doctor; ah yes, don't doctors know how to do it? they don't fuck it up..
You put the barrel in your mouth, deep, suck it like you love it..
You taste it and it gags you, but how nice the cold and the solidity,
comfortable, even. The Plague is coming. Doctors don't fuck this up..

Salesman; be a talkshow host, because here you already got the desk
an' everything. All the glory of turning nothing into sumthin everyones
just gotta have, you are a god, the end there will be only
salesmen, so you'll have all the best stories, you know, you'll tell them
in a bar in heaven, god'll be there and boy will he look sheepish when
you tell 'im of all the many red ways the women and children died. See
the way the sunset looks through the window behind you, nah, don't turn,
you've never cared for aesthetics anyway, man...

Nurse; Oh baby, you'll see the white lights and candy fights over in there.
Kids like the place, are drawn to it. And after the evening shift, so are you.
Standing,watching. Spindley little brats. You know that a person died at this
intersection. Hanged himself from the traffic light.
An elderly couple drove through the minute he let himself swing. The tips
of his sneakers just scraped the top of their car. They didn't notice. The Plague
means nothing to the old.

High School Football Player;practicing on a desolate, washed out field, but nah,
this ain't practicing, this is the real deal, like those nights when you and daddy
threw that pockmarked foam football back and forth. It's almost night now,
and it's times like this when you almost understand what death is. It's moving
fast now...

Dog;where you are alone, there is no home. It takes more than one soul to
fill that shell, and even dogs have souls. There are hells and hells here, but
heavens are a bit more precious, more elite. No, you don't have to be good
or accept anyone into your heart, that's impossible anyway. All good dogs go
to heaven, though, and heaven is for dogs...

The boy was not to be engaged, tonight. As his punishment for deeds rendered the ghosts kept him in here, his grandfather's library, until their party ended. He could just hear it over the storm, the party, i mean. It was a dead thing to the boy, really, he just wanted to go so as to not be lonely for a change. Since the death of his siblings that past fall he had become ever more despondant, and this was beginning to annoy him, yet he tried to reach for something, something brighter and vivider, and was denied. He didn't wonder if it was himself doing the denying, as there was no other explanation, he just knew. This wasn't the first time things like this've happened.
But that is all beside the point, which was that there was a large bay window on the eastern wall of that liquid-black room, that in front of that window was a red velvet divan, that the boy sat on his knees, backwards on the seat, his knees sinking and sliding deeper into the cushions, facing the window, that the storm that night was glorious, the kind of thing that make you believe in gods, the old greek kind, the kind of glorious that only exists for men who believe in war, that there was lightning that lit the night as bright as midday, but no, because the sun never seared this whitely, for the sun was warm, that the sea was revealed in this light as an unrealisticly vast roiling darkling membrane of something that showed itself only to very small boys in liquid-black rooms as they sit staring out an eastern-facing bay window. That this sea, this beast was unknown to the ghosties in the next room, poor ol' ghosties never get to the end of stories, because they know what happens, too bad for them. Live as long as you can maties cuz in death there is only boredom and costume parties.

mean ol' buzzards...
Sam is in his dream town, a place scattered with buildings that meant something to him when he was younger, will when he's older, maybe. When he comes here he's always crouching next to the streetlight next to the house he grew up in, and he seems to have been studying the dust and various motes of something swirling in the spare drafts pushing the air. He is never able/never has enough time to figure out what, if any, significance this has. Buzzards circle, broken white-colored people congregate in sequences that mime the buzzards' lazy drifting. There is no traffic on these streets. When Sam stands up to do anything, he is dragged around by powers beyond his will, then he realizes that the buzzards are dragging him, are, in fact, dragging all of them, the strange broken white-colored people, as if they were all on puppet stings. Where are they being dragged? Why, to the cliffs of course. Where else would a buzzard drag someone? To the cliffs in their hungrily lazy aggresion. Sam wonders how the birds have acquired this power. With half-lidded eyes, Sam scans the peoples' features as they pass by him, nearly colliding, in fact, on several occasions. It is an amusing passtime, is all.
I'm not much one for dwelling in the past (who am I kidding? I love doing that) but here's an old post that I find interesting still. In thinking about where I was when I wrote this (on my currently mostly ignored myspace site) all I can say was, wow, what simpler, hectic times. I do wish I could go back and tell myself "get your act together, man," but that would be a hurtful insult to a person who was trying so desparately to get his act together.

Spooky Ol' Highway 18 July 2007

Just some thoughts:...
Last evening my sister and i went a-strollin' through the merry ol' town of Butterfield, pop. 394, according to one sign, and 200 and some according to another, and as we walked home from the local fuelling concern/convenience store I began musing aloud about the seemingly inherent spookiness possessed by highways. If you miss what I'm saying, I mean take a walk down a fairly quiet highway at twilight and see if you don't start feeling it, kind of like...well, like I said to Jerika, it's similar to the creepiness of hotel rooms, a place where countless people before you have passed through. And you don't know anything about these people, what they think, what they've done, what they did earlier the day that they stayed...highways, or any kind of well-traversed trail or path carved by human beings, have a similar nature, i think. By the shear number of the people that use them they become stained or marked with the quotidianness of the commute, yadda, yadda, yadda. Thus imbuing said road with...not something as melodramatic as a consciousness or soul, but maybe with a mood...I mean how many of those countless,commuting, faceless people are bad? How many are crazy? How many are murderers, child molesters? How many are on their way at that moment with nefarious intent in their destination?
Jerika pointed out that roads are a daily feature in many peoples' lives, and that when people die, (some of them on the road itself), roads are just as likely as houses to become haunts for souls compelled to stay at places familiar to them in life...if you believe that type of thing...Is this the core idea behind the spookiness of roads? A road isn't a place, really, it's a transitional phase or system, a means to many ends, but not really an end itself. Something like Death, with a capital D? w/r/t that idea, get this; one of the more chilling scenes in Joe Hill's novel Heart-Shaped Box is when the protoganist Jude gets a midnight phone call from his assistant Danny, who says calling from a payphone on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere...he's suddenly realized the nature of his whereabouts and tells Jude that he killed himself a few hours ago and that this road in the dark, this is dead. The moment is very poignant, to me anyway, because it seems not only plausible, but true. Or valid, at least. Death as a road. It makes more sense than eternal paradise or eternal damnation merited by the mundane actions of one's life...
Well anyway, hope you enjoyed my ramblings, or at least understood them. Comment me if you have any ideas or anything you wanna add.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What indecision?

I finished Zadie Smith's perfect essay on David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and just last night I read Wellington's Frostbite: A Werewolf Tale. (I think I may have mentioned starting that one.) Before that? Shteygart. Today I ordered a (used, these are frugal times) copy of Whitehead's Sag Harbor. And Joe Hill's Horns is the literary event of the year, for me, I'm thinking. What does any of this signify?
Am I a reader of wide taste? Does this mean easy, or even no, taste? What does this say about me as a potential writer? (I say potential because, though I feel I have it in me to write, do I really? What does potential even mean?) Will I feel bored/unsatisfied writing literary fiction? Will I feel like a hack writing horror? Is there any way to even begin combining the two without seeming like an utter shit? Is it moral, in the Wallacian sense, to even contemplate doing it? I guess the first thing to do this to come up with some use, some allegory for horror fiction. And then some reason for wanting to tie it into a more intellectually demanding form of writing, aside from "formal stunt-pilotry." After all, isn't that what I would be trying to achieve? A look-ma-no-hands literary ease?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Templeton, English 102. Storm of Century coming.

I feel the desire to write something decent, after being forced to rush a business letter in class today. Pushed the deadline, working with three other people. Barely made it. All of Templeton's stuff is in-class projects. I always feel so dirty afterward, like a house-broken dog that is forced to crap all over the floor. "I can do better than this," I say, sadly, disgustedly, shaking my head.
Nonetheless, it is a little fun. Being in the computer lab, rushing towards a deadline, winter storm imminant, working with my friends. I just don't feel much sense of accomplishment, is all.
Other news, reading two fantastic books, Grann's The Lost City of Z, and Steyngart's Absurdistan. I got Canaan's Tongue, by Wray, and Frostbite, by Wellington, lined up. I'm ready for some genre fiction, man!

That's all I got, really. Need to make plans. Need to write. Am writing a little, still, but my in-class writings totally shouldn't count as anything productive.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Current project

My newest story is an alt-history type thing about a group of Muslims attempting to establish a research colony in tenth-century Greenland. I want to inject mystical, mythological elements along w/ serious scientific scrutiny thereof. So far it' About three pages in and I'm feeling like a hack. I'll call it a first draft and try to keep my head up for the rewrites. I'm proud of myself, though, for thus far keeping solid on my resolution. I may publish a bit of the story on here when I'm done wid it. But until then, it's chili time!

Monday, January 4, 2010


After dealing with some rather inferior blog sites for the last couple weeks, I've finally arrived here. We'll see how it works out. This blog is intended to serve mainly as a place to exercise my writing skills (which are dubious at best,) in accordance with my latest NY's resolution. Said resolution being to write for at least an hour each day. (Note bien, would be critics, not all of my daily writings will be blog posts; rather few of them will, I'm thinking.)

While I'm here I would also like to network with other writers, and maybe even pick the brains of a few who do their thing professionally for advice and such. Hopefully there still exist such creatures...

Anyway. About me. The riveting part? There is none. I'm a community college student in a small town in southwest Missouri. I have no major, except hopefully journalism, at a later time.


It's snowy here, if anyone's interested in the weather in SW Mo. This has kept children out of school on what was supposed to be the first day of the semester. And there was much rejoicing, believe you me.

For myself, when I haven't been playing chauffeur for my little sister, I've been really into Naomi Klein's No Logo. Finally, yes, I know. I'm about halfway through, and I would highly recommend it. It's so refreshing to see what may be considered a screed by some to be so well and thoroughly researched.

So that's my intro. I'll try to post fairly often. Various meditations, as well as perhaps some pieces from my fiction exercises (mostly from Brian Kiteley's excellent 3 A.M Epiphany, a book all struggling writers should look into.)