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Friday, July 27, 2012

A Waterfall


Stands on shifting sands
The scales held in her hands
The wind it just whips her away
And fills up her brigantine sails

She'll carry on through it all
She's a waterfall
She'll carry on through it all

She's a waterfall

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sacri-ledge

Have you?

That's not a rhetorical question; it's very very very serious. Or at least it's meant to be.

Maybe it ain't.

So, I'm going to just come and say it: I don't really like short stories all that much. I don't really like writing them or reading them*.  This post isn't meant to knock short stories, far from it. When in the hands of the right writer a short story can deliver a jolt to the system so potent that it makes novels, the longer in the tooth older cousin of the short story, look like a boring ole' windbag. I think my distaste for the short story stems primarily from the fact that I don't write them very well. No, no, don't worry, you don't have to flatter me, I know I'm not a good short story writer and I'm OK with it. For some reason, it is an art that eludes me. After writing lots and lots of them and finding very few I'm even OK with, I think it might be time to accept that this might be a part of the writing gig that just isn't my thing.

I have to admit this is a bit of a relief because it basically frees me of the nagging guilt I've been feeling for years about not being as well read or as published or as super cool awesome as my short story writing contemporaries. It's impossible to stay away from the internet. It's impossible not to be jealous even when you know you shouldn't be. Why be jealous of someone else's success, especially when they're awesome and totally deserve every bit of attention they get? It's silly, no? Still, the internet and the rapid-fire publication schedules of so much of the internet indie writing scene can make a novel writer feel downright lazy, not to mention paranoid as hell that he's going nowhere extraordinarily fast.

The thing is, writing novels and writing short stories is a lot like sprinting and long distance running: it takes a special person to be really good at both of them. There certainly are people who are good at both (Stephen King, Nabokov) but not many. Some writers just take a little longer to develop their ideas, and hopefully the exploration is well worth the extra effort and time. I come back often to this quote from Roberto Bolano in 2666, when at one point two characters are chatting and one of them says that he prefers the minor works of the great masters, like Bartleby over Moby Dick. This astounds the other one, Amalfitano, and he thinks to himself, “What a sad paradox. Now even bookish types are afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters. They want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.”

I love this quote. It makes me happy, makes me feel like writing books is something worth doing. It's not that short stories are not an art form in and of themselves, or that they are less than novels, it's just that I'm not sure they push the author quite as much as the sustained intensity of writing a novel. Maybe they do and maybe that's why I'm no good at writing short stories. Maybe I don't try hard enough. Maybe I don't feel it enough. It's certainly possible; I'm far from a writing guru. But, I can tell you nothing has pushed me harder than writing my novels, especially this last one. I, as Bolano writes, struggled with myself and pulled out my sticky, angry demons into the light and I examined them and threw them in the book and I spent most nights agonizing over whether it was right or whether I was doing something wrong. More than anything I've ever done, this book felt like something I had to do. Like if I didn't I would always feel incomplete, or empty, or close to bursting.

I've never felt that way about a short story. So, I'll stick to novels. I'll stick to the struggle. I think I could be good at it. Maybe not, but the struggle is worth it. Right? Right?


*There are, of course, obvious exceptions to the rule: xTx, Roxane Gay, Matt Bell, Stephen King, DFW. But really I just tolerate short stories from these writers because I like reading the words they put on a page so much. They are more exceptions that prove the rule kinda things than something that invalidates the post.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

xTx Bringing Home the Gold

The illustrious xTx has been shortlisted for the storySouth Million Writers Award and the vote is open to the public, sooooo get to voting people! The story is called "The Mill Pond" and you can read it here. It's incredible. Vote and then vote again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Helplessness Blues


I was raised up believin'
I was somehow unique
like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
unique in each way you can see

But now after some thinkin'
I'd say I'd rather be
a functioning cog in some great machinery
serving something beyond me

But I don't, I don't know what
that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

Monday, July 23, 2012

Woodstock, NY

Follow up to the previous post of...about...two and a half months ago, it appears that there may, in fact, have been an internet snafu that has lead to the aforementioned agent blackout. It could, of course, still be all of the nightmare-inducing stuff like hating the manuscript, laughing with colleagues, etc., but it seems much more likely that she just never got the darn thing. I've re-sent it, soooooo, keep your fingers crossed.

I finished The City and the City by China Mieville the other day and it blew me the hell away. It was like the best of Crichton mixed with The Da Vinci Code only without all the crappy parts, and then mixed even more with sociopolitical overtones. I was describing it to a work bro the other day thinking he totally wouldn't understand it, but he nodded and he said, "You know, that book sounds awesome. It reminds me of when I would go to certain neighborhoods in the Bronx and all the Mexicans and the Jews and Italians had their own stores and churches and houses and everyone was there in the same place and yet none of them had anything to do with any of them. Like they were in the same place, but not." So there you have it, heady sci-fi that even the work bros can get behind. Read the thing if you get the chance.

Did you remember to get your mom a birthday card?

I went to Woodstock, NY a couple of weeks ago and the place was the most incredible place ever. It was as though all those hippies who turned on and dropped out formed a commune and then rather than falling apart and collapsing under the weight of its own dysfunction and drug abuse the commune had actually succeeded and thrived and then it was forty years later and all the hippies had kids who were succeeding and thriving too. It was beautiful. I went to a wedding in a backyard by a pond and the reception was under a tent just like in the 7th Harry Potter book and after several brews I kept waiting for Deatheaters to appear and break the whole thing up. They didn't, and the party just kept going on and on until it was just too much loveliness for me to keep inside. I sang a song by the firelight to all my new friends because my wife and my friends made me do it. I hadn't sang the song in about five years. I was terrified. Singing is a part of me that has calcified and I was the tin man and it took a lot of Dorothy's grease to get my joints working. People listened to me though and they clapped afterwards and that made me want to cry.

Have you picked up your dry cleaning?

I haven't. It's waiting there. It's alone. But after long enough, it'll make friends. And in the end it'll probably be happier there than on my back, working, unappreciated, wrinkling and furrowing and sucking up the things my body lets go of.

I hope everyone in the world reads my book. I hope it makes them happy and I hope that makes them love me. Just little bit.