Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Reading Front: Kafka, Proust, bad detective novels, New Yorker stories, and Our Beloved Tolstoy

So I’m plodding along with Proust’s second volume of In Search of Lost Time. At about the halfway point, there is this beautiful moment of insight (the entire reason for reading Proust to begin with) where the narrator (Proust himself of course) describes the love he has for his grandmother. It should be required reading for anyone with a heart. Here it is:

“I knew, when I was with my grandmother, that, however great the misery that there was in me, it would be received by her with a pity still more vast; that everything that was mine, my cares, my wishes, would be, in my grandmother, supported upon a desire to save and prolong my life stronger than was my own; and my thoughts were continued in her without having to undergo any deflection, since they passed from my mind into hers without change of atmosphere or of personality. And — like a man who tries to fasten his necktie in front of a glass and forgets that the end which he sees reflected is not on the side to which he  raises his hand, or like a dog that chases along the ground the dancing shadow of an insect in the air — misled by her appearance in the body as we are apt to be in this world where we have no direct perception of people’s souls, I threw myself into the arms of my grandmother and clung with my lips to her face as though I had access thus to that immense heart which she opened to me. And when I felt my mouth glued to her cheeks, to her brow, I drew from them something so beneficial, so nourishing that I lay in her arms as motionless as a babe.”

More reading lately has included a Lynne Tillman collection that left me vastly underwhelmed. It was called Someday This Will Be Funny.  I think it’s me. I’m flat out done with stories about relationships when all that’s depicted is the relationship. I'm done with the New Yorker stories. Those days of literature are over. Show me the relationship through an oddly colored lens or a broken mirror and then show me how that lens and mirror are really the people we’re talking about, something like that. Something original that goes beyond he said she said. Carver and the gang wrote that stuff out so fast even Updike was surprised.

On a better reading front I’m fully into the Kafka situation. I read The Trial a few years back and it seemed muddled to me at the time. I put good ol’ Franz aside after that for a bit. I read a biography of his that took me forty years to finish and left me entirely convinced that Franz Kafka was the absolute biggest wimp of all time. And a cry baby. And narcissistic beyond the limits of all imagination. But when I recently went back to his work I found it to be delicious. So beautifully strange and weary and perfect. I will say, however, that it’s nearly impossible to find any sort of collected works of his to buy. I’m just patching it all together the best I can.

That’s really the only points of possible interest with my reading lately. I abandoned a book called Double Wide by Leo somebodyorother. It was too much genre for me, and not in a snobbish kind of way. It was just too blueprint without enough uniqueness. And somehow it won what’s called the Silver Spur Award for best contemporary western. No idea how that would have happened.
Books I’m still working on and will be throughout the rest of the calendar year because I read slower than anyone you know:

Infinite Jest (much funnier than I thought it would be); Anna Karenina (Tolstoy is masterful above nearly everyone else); Within a Budding Grove (Proust vol. 2). 

Monday, April 2, 2018

On Pure Craft vs. Learned Craft

 "In this country, though, there is a tendency to regard any kind of writing—especially the writing of poetry—as a game of style. I have known many poets here who have written well—very fine stuff—with delicate moods and so on—but if you talk with them, the only thing they tell you is smutty stories or they speak of politics in the way that everybody does, so that really their writing turns out to be kind of sideshow. They had learned writing in the way that a man might learn to play chess or to play bridge. They were not really poets or writers at all. It was a trick they had learned, and they had learned it thoroughly. They had the whole thing at their finger ends. But most of them—except four or five, I should say—seemed to think of life as having nothing poetic or mysterious about it. They take things for granted. They know that when they have to write, then, well, they have to suddenly become rather sad or ironic."

—Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Brett Pribble and the gang are putting together a beautiful art object, the journal Ghost Parachute

I received my contributor copies of Ghost Parachute (a wonderful surprise in the mail yesterday). I somehow wasn't aware I'd get these. And the issue is beautiful. My story "Stress Cardiomyopathy" is included with some other really cool stories. Thanks Brett for doing what you do, buddy.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Reading Quotes - Kevin Wilson's TUNNELING TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and a bonus interview quote of Wilson

"We’d gotten down far enough to where we were touching earth that probably hadn’t felt the gaze of sunlight in hundreds of years. At one point, Amy took a big handful of dirt and held it close to her face, took deep breaths of it. “It smells like a museum,” she said, “like something from the past.”

- from the story "Tunneling to the Center of the Earth"


And for good measure, here's a good quote from Wilson about the short story form. It's taken from an interview Oxford American did with him, asking if he thought he'd write another collection of stories.

"Yeah. At the same time I'm writing the novel, I'm writing short stories. I love the form. I keep thinking maybe I'll become better at one or the other, but I think I'll just be imperfect at both because I love them both so much. And also there's just something about the weirdness of story—that quickness of it is just really wonderful. It feels much more like an incantation. Like a magic spell, in a way that the novel can't replicate. The novel is just too big and unwieldy to be entirely magical."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Interview and story included in the new issue of Cowboy Jamboree

Let's get this link in right off the top. Go here to read the story and interview.

Okay, now hear this: CJ editor Adam Van Winkle is a jewel. I mean a bright, shining jewel of a man. I've met only a handful of people who are as supportive and as much of a champion to other writers. It's rare for a writer and editor to put as much as Adam does into someone else's work, and it's beautiful.

Aside from from my interview and story, there's also a story and interview from Ben Drevlow, an A-1 writer and also the editor of BULL Men's Fiction.

Adam obviously gave a lot of love to the entire issue and you should go have a look and see the end result.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New review of PODUNK LORE @ Red Fez

Donna Snyder recently turned an attentive eye to my poetry chapbook Podunk Lore, along with William Graham's and Mat Gould's chaps in Lantern Lit Vol. 4 at Red Fez.

It is a really good review that actually revealed to me a larger picture that was already in focus to the head chief and Dog On A Chain Press editor extraordinaire Beasley Barrenton. In all truth, Beasely laid down some serious editing chops on both the content end and overall vision for this volume. 

And it's really cool that it appears at Red Fez. I've been trying to get a story in that fine publication since Methuselah was a pup. A good review is the next best thing. 

So go have a look and see what Ms. Snyder has to say. She says it wonderfully. 

The Reading Front: Kafka, Proust, bad detective novels, New Yorker stories, and Our Beloved Tolstoy

So I’m plodding along with Proust’s second volume of In Search of Lost Time . At about the halfway point, there is this beautiful moment...