Friday, August 31, 2007
Nick's really got something with this novel of his. As always, we loved the distinctive and cool narrative voice. We asked for a rise in temperature at the beginning of the piece to bring it up to the fast burn of the last few pages. Other than that, we're looking forward to the adventure. His three mismatched heroes are about to head out into the night, and we are ready to be right there with them. Make it weird and nervous-making, Nick!
Ben brought up an interesting writing question. Nick's been working on this novel for more than ten years, I'm hitting year seven with mine. What keeps us coming back for more? I'll leave Nick to reprise his response.
My response is this: I read novels, so I know I would be writing novels (as opposed to short stories). Turns out it's harder than it looks. I've changed from third person to first person to third person omniscient to third person quasi omniscient. I started three or four subplots that will probably end up mostly in the trash (but will inform the characters that stay on stage). I tacked an old short story to the beginning of the novel (turns out I was writing about the same character but didn't know it at the time).
But it's not just the sheer amount of writing one has to do in order to find enough gems worth knitting together. I had to go back to Italy two more times. I had to read a few more Sommerset Maugham novels. And I had to fall in love, disastrously in love, a few more times.
I'm still not sure what the sum of all of this writing and experience will be, but I'm determined to finish this damn thing. I know it's probably going to deserve that garage treatment the Bridget mentioned--the book of who I was, the thing I needed to write before I knew where I was going.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
We all know the story...
Middle aged black woman with a sing-song middle-west accent picks up a book,
takes it with her to work,
says a few words,
gives a few copies to her studio audience,
and whammo, the author buys 4000 sq feet of porches
and the New York Times Best Seller List adds a new #1.
But here's a new twist that even Anne Sexton hadn't the foresight to Transform.
Two angry, underfed, skinny chicks bemoan their waistlines and their lives.
One's an ex-model who ate nothing but chili dogs and peanut M&M's.
The other an ex-modeling agent who ate nothing but double bacon burgers and beer.
They are sent by their angry ex-employers into the woods where they are forced to survive on nuts, berries and greens and realize, fuck! There's something to this foresting for food, and really now that we can stuff ourselves with carrots we are *so* much happier. So vowing to "change the world" they decide to...publish a book. One researches and the other pens witty phrases like: "Soda is from Satan" and "If you eat crap you are crap." They sell a few copies and go on with their berry picking lives. Jump forward to 2007.
A middle-aged white woman, with a sing-song British accent, picks up a book,
Placed decoratively on a table of designer jeans, while shopping, in Los Angeles.
She looks at the title, notices that it describes her to near perfection,
holds it near her gaunt face and smiles, cameras flash.
This is major.
She sets the book back on the table,
or gives it to her overweight personal assistant to put back on the table.
She doesn't even buy the book.
And yet in a week the book sells out on two continents.
It's reprinted at 200,000 copies and the ex-model and the ex-model agent get a three book deal (not to mention 4000 square feet of Porsches).
The first story I kind of get.
In fact, I secretly hope it will one day happen to me, but the second story? The one about the bitches and the berries...Now what the fuck is up with that?
As our resident Angelino I'm just asking, because in the past six weeks THREE of my seven suburban neighbors have got the posh spice bob, and again, I'm just saying, a bob that severe is no Jennifer Aniston shag. A bob that severe only looks good if you're one super skinny bitch.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
First up: an e-mail from Jenn Stroud, back when she was still Stroud and wrote e-mails from a "minnow.ME.Berkeley.EDU" address Dated Tuesday April 6, 1999 with the quote:
"Fredrick Exley's talking about an English professor and 'an observation he had made on Hemingway in Paris during the twenties. He said that while he and others tried to talk their novels out in sidewalk cafes, Hemingway was locked up in a room getting on with the business of his life, that although he did not know Hemingway, he knew of him, as all the young Americans in Paris did, and that Hemingway proved a constant provocation to them, like a furious clarion that books do not get written on the Montparnasse."
Exhibit Two: a note punched through with a whole, written on a "Bradbury Press" pad that says: "It's like I breathe the air first to see if it's okay for her."
Three: Yellow legal pad page, folded a gazillion times with the title: When Water Misbehaves.
Four, Five and Six: photos of me at a pay phone in Europe. Shouting. (pre cell phones); a photo of me in a leopard print hair scarf doing laundry in Barcelona; a photo of me at twelve, taken by my cousin and then developed in a high school photo lab, so it's grainy and lopsided and perfect.
Seven: a poem called "Character" by Taslima Nasrin
You're a girl
and you'd better not forget
that when you step over the threshold of your house
men will look askance at you.
When you keep walking down the lane
men will follow you and whistle.
When you cross the lane and step into the main road
men will revile you and call you a loose woman.
If you've got no character
you'll turn back,
and if not
you'll keep on going,
as you are going now.
In short, the closet at my moms house is clean and can be filled with clothes again. And my south shore garage is full of who I used to be. Which is good, to have her so near, again. But maybe is also why I should fly when visiting my mother.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Indeed, I have determined that it was her affection for housewares that put her in such a gummy situation--even moreso than her affinity for stylish but insipid men. Let this be a lesson to all of us who open our Pottery Barn catalogs before tearing into our Visa bills. Adultery goes hand in hand with the Montego Dining Collection on page 51, not to mention the iPhone, iPod, and digital camera on the front cover.
(By the way, does anyone know any stylish men looking for a date to a gala? I have a silk gown in the closet that's just dying for an airing out...)
But where was I--oh yes, Madame Bovary. A study of innocence and naivete. Both Charles and Emma have a brand of both; the interest comes in watching their paths diverge. I wonder if I want to possess the same blend of contempt and sympathy for my characters as Flaubert has for his. Living with it could be difficult. Even the purely innocent (Hippolyte and the blind man) are deformed on the outside for Flaubert. Indeed, it's Hippolyte's surgery that remains most vivid in my memory, emblematic as it is of the flawed ambitions of the book's main characters—Charles, Emma, and Homais. Flaubert also does an excellent job of having Hippolyte limp through the edge of certain scenes when his reader most needs a reminding. Too, I appreciated the short, staccato sentences that Flaubert employs when Emma is at her highest level of panic.
Then there is, of course, the ambiguity of whether Emma is, like all women, simply spoiled and foolish or whether Emma is drawn helplessly toward her fate by the cruel world ruled by the lustful men who have objectified her. I'm afraid I'm currently too cynical to take that one on with any fairness.
Can someone say something about the character of Justin? I was caught up too much in the last pages to understand his purpose.
And would someone else please blog? Anyone else reading anything? I know Nick is. Nick's always reading something.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I did not write this poem. It is on my favorite weird t-shirt.
Everyone else should celebrate by writing a poem. After all, if it is good, great. If it is bad, then you are simply celebrating the holiday.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
The crickets are going crazy and the wind has quieted. The sky is dark, thick, low. It's probably about 100 degrees outside. We're prepared, if needed, to go into our bathroom with pillows and, of course, the beer.
I agree with the dine well write well philosophy, Ben. Also: dine badly, write even better. Come to Lincoln, Nebraska and try to find a vegetable. The adventure is worth 100 lines of prose.
Tastee Inn & Out is a classic run-down drive in. The Tasty sandwich is a loose meat (cooked for hours) burger on a soft bun. The meat is rich and oniony, with a hint of mustard cooked into it. The sandwich would be nothing without the pickles. Onion chips are fried dark crisp. When you order, the counter gal pushes your order slip through a vaccuum tube back to the kitchen, and the trays rattle around on a conveyer belt when your food is ready. There's a keno machine in the corner, an out-of-order juke box, and formica-topped tables with red diner chairs. Tasty has seen better days--part of the ceiling is coming down and outside, car parts rust in the parking lot, under the old metal overhang, but mom said that it hasn't changed much. "The atrium is new," she says, pointing to an enclosed sunporch that has been slapped onto the side of the building. "New?" I ask? "Oh, you know, within the last thirty years or so," she says and we laugh. We've been looking forward to our Tasty since we arrived.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Hemmingway once said that we write better on an empty stomach. On the other hand, in “A Room of One’s Own” Virginia Woolf suggested something along the lines of “dine well, write well” (and the procurement of a rich aunt.) In “The World According to Garp” John Irving’s main character discovered that writing after he masturbated was not a good idea. I write well when my energy is high and I’m feeling good. And while depression destroys my writing, I know that many writers seem to do quite well with it.
What helps you guys write? When do you write well?
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
there's nothing going in here in la but SKIDOO.
my career interview with austin pendleton in my fave film magazine SHOCK CINEMA just hit the stand.
five bucks at cody's...wait. oh yeah. shit.
get it elsewhere. strike a blow against corporatist media.
nick, uh, er, mr. bookstoreman, why don't you carry SHOCK CINEMA?
So far my biggest complaint is that I'm reading an old mass market edition that I probably picked up from my sister, who probably had to read it in high school and anyway, the damn type bleeds right into the gutter and practically falls off the page and so the reading experience is so BAD that I'm actually thinking of ordering another copy from Books, Inc. (unfortunately, since I'm leaving for Nebraska tomorrow, I won't have time.)
So, yes, when reading a novel, the reading experience IS important. Take that, iPhone, and figure it out.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
I'm not being a hero for my writing, I just know when I'm about to dry up and crumple out of existence. This is the thing: writing is not, any longer, at least it better not be, some measure of my need to express myself. Expression is yucky. My ability to write things has to do with how much of me actually exists. Every month I pay a tithe to God, or 2,000 words of a 10,000 word document. If I'm not writing anything, the ten percent goes anyway and soon I get used up and I'm mister dry crisp (hi there). This month, for example, I'm up by about twenty pages. And since I wasn't writing for months before that, I am currently eighteen pages out of the whole, for those of you who feel like doing that math. I am eighteen pages. Unfornately it compounds, so next month is ten percent of eighteen, not twenty. ouch. And screenplays don't count for some reason. I tried working that in but got laughed out of the office.
This is a big fat thank you in disguise. Groop rocks. You really do. I can't express (ew) how much it means to me that a bunch of people actually get together to read my stuff and read each other's stuff and just have a good time and know that writing is a good thing and not a waste of time like Marin County. I exist when we hang out. I don't feel like I have to pay my tithe and I always sleep well when I go home.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Okay, so I’m going to save the sappy I love you all like homemade peach ice cream on the porch in July (but I do) and just get straight to the point of things…Potter.
Now, sadly, I wasn’t there to here the police in Alameda story: Shame on them, [I will be up north August 12-16 (fishing for invites? Yes.)] but having just returned from the tropics, I have a thing or two to say about Potter....The FIRST thing: is that 9 out of every ten readers were reading Potter (and no, sadly, the tenth was NOT reading Shawna Ryan's genius book as we all are, they were reading about Lindsay Lohen’s bracelet or Paris’ beaver) and what’s even more shocking was that probably, and perhaps I’m prone to hyperbole, but I was on a lot of aeroplanes, and beaches and sat and sipped poolside more than my usual and just maybe I’m right when I say every 7 out of 10 people were reading.
So here it is…nothing new…the old yah, but they’re reading / but Oh! What they’re reading debate and I’m not going to comment exactly, just toss it out there and let it dangle and sigh. Because they were all reading it. And not just the young and sunburned ones. The leathery old ones and the dolce-gabbana-clad pretty ones too. Really, with their Dior glasses and their Smart Water, they were turning pages of a book fatter then their waists—an orange one that clashed, at that—with their manicured nails and that’s it. That’s what I’m dropping onto groop. Discuss.
Or maybe really what I want to say is, and this is the SECOND thing that can be chalked up to my novel, now titled THIRST, being shopped for an endlessly LONG time, with toes crossed eating wood, only two rejections thus far and everyone else tossing out words like “adore” and “fantastic” and “on the fence” and the second thing I want to say is: why does it have to be the Meg Ryan character? I mean, love her hair, but aren’t we all ready for an Elizabeth Taylor? Or a Mia Farrow? Or a Joanne Woodward?
Don’t we all want to be cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun and games?