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Things you need to know:
  • Some posts, or the links they contain, are NSFW. This is your only warning.
  • This blog serves the cause of my freedom of speech, not yours. I wield censorship like a 10 year-old boy who just found his father's handgun.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Writer Steven Barnes suggests that that you should read ten times as much as you write. Given that I should be writing every day and that I average about 2 pages (approximately 500 words) per day, and guestimating that the average short story is about 5,000 words, I've made it my business to read one piece of short fiction per day. (Non-fic doesn't count but I wonder if I should include comics.) Anyway, I've managed to do this every day for the past two weeks, religiously. What, you think I just buy all these books and never crack them open?

So, to put my money where my mouth is and make myself publically accountable, I'm modifying a page out of Nick Hornby's playbook and giving you Last Week's Reads:
  • Orson Scott Card, "In the Doghouse"
  • Gabriel García-Márquez, "Artificial Roses"
  • Alison Lurie, "The Highboy"
  • Swapna Kishore, "Reclaiming Lucy"
  • Kelly Link, "Stone Animals"
  • Harlan Ellison, "The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke"
  • Harlan Ellison, "Go Into the Light"
Three of these stories, "Doghouse," "The Highboy," and "Go Into the Light" had plots that I believed were predictable. Actually, they were in the sense that I was able to predict the general outcome of the plot. But these writers had to know I would, so they wrote in a such a way as to me care more about the journey than the destination. But, it's a tricky business, that. Knowing where the plot was going almost turned me off each time. This is where name recognition comes in handy, though. I mean, it's Card and Ellison, for pete's sake. I might not have liked the story by the time I got to the end, but I was confident it wouldn't suck in any case being who they were, so I stuck with them.

Lurie's story I liked least of the three, but I think that's partly because the collection it's from, WOMEN AND GHOSTS (at least the edition I have) is made to look like some sort of horror thing, but it isn't. It can't be, when some of the stories had previously appeared in VOGUE, REDBOOK, and HARPER'S BAZAAR. But even for what it was, "The Highboy" was IMO a good example of what Orson Scott Card calls "the millieu story" and it made clearer to me something about the sort of changes a protagonist in a story can go through--but that's a rant for another time.

I read "Reclaiming Lucy"--a very nice, straightforward short horror piece--because I keep running into the author's name as I pore through various online mags looking for new markets. The quality of her writing (at least the two or three stories I've read so far) seems to have a consistency that I'm trying to develop. I really need to go back through and put all of the links to her stories into del.icio.us.

Link's "Stone Animals" gave me my passage of the week (see below). She can be an acquired taste, I've heard, and I can see why (although I knew I loved her stuff the moment I first read STRANGER THINGS HAPPEN). Most of her stories have a plot, no doubt. It might not be completely understandable, and it resists examination from a "big picture" point of view, but it's there. But to examine a story for the plot misses the point of some of her stuff. Her writing is beautiful. Clever, but not for its own sake. It follows, to use Alice Sebold's term in her review, dream-logic. Like a dream, Link's words make perfect sense in the moment, as you read them.

Yes, I liked Link's story this week better than "Artificial Roses" by the original master of the ethereal story. That's not to say that García-Márquez didn't blow me away, as usual. The further I get into his COLLECTED STORIES (and this could be for 101 different reasons), the more I'm able to get his stories. Granted, I'm reading translations but if they're at all accurate, then I'd say his stories are as dream-like as Link's--except his dreams are more vivid. His stories are the dreams you have that make you swear you're 100% awake.

No explanation, no context. This is just the writing that stuck out to me this week.
She said, "If you don't like it, then I'll keep it. Look at you, look at those sleeves. You look like the emperor of Japan."

They had already colonized the bedroom, making it full of things that belonged to them.

-Kelly Link, "Stone Animals"
Next week: a whole new crop of stories, most likely some Jonathan Lethem and maybe some Doris Lessing.
Ganked from somewhere, partially in honor of the Very Short Stories--six-word pieces from some top sci-fi authors--that ran in WIRED, I give you the Two-Word Meme, where each of the questions below is answered with two words.

1. Explain what ended your last relationship? Partial meltdown.
2. When was the last time you shaved? Monday morning.
3. What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.? Soundly sleeping.
4. What were you doing 15 minutes ago? Starting this.
5. Are you any good at math? Sort of.
6. Your prom night? Which one?
7. Do you have any famous ancestors? Infamous, maybe.
8. Have you had to take a loan out for school? Of course.
9. Do you know the words to the song on your myspace profile? No song.
10. Last thing received in the mail? Action bills.
11. How many different beverages have you had today? Both caffeinated.
12. Do you ever leave messages on people's answering machine? On occasion.
13. Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to? Depeche Mode.
14. Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach? Hardly go.
15. What's the most painful dental procedure you've had? Some drillin'.
16. What is out your back door? The patio.
17. Any plans for Friday night? Staying quiet.
18. Do you like what the ocean does to your hair? Never cared.
19. Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns? One time.
20. Have you ever been to a planetarium? Long ago.
21. Do you re-use towels after you shower? Too often.
22. Some things you are excited about? Having written.
23. What is your favorite flavor of JELLO? NyQuil Green ;).
24. Describe your keychain(s)? Too heavy.
25. Where do you keep your change? My pocket.
26. When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people? Office party.
27. What kind of winter coat do you own? Gray wool.
28. What was the weather like on your graduation day? Don't remember.
29. Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed? Slightly ajar.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

No, I haven't decided to, yet. Haven't decided not to either, though I did swear it off last year. There are so many damn reasons not to, not the least of which is the need to write more stuff that'll sell.

I got this stuff (and these are just the fiction books) last week at the Tompkins Country Friends of the Library Book Sale (N.B. I couldn't include Alison Lurie's WOMEN AND GHOSTS in the layout, here). I still hadn't gone through the backlog of last spring's books.

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So, I've decided that the only way I'm going to get through them all is a pre-planned rotation. Don't forget that I've still got these in the mix as well (including HAUNTED: TALES OF THE GROTESQUE by Joyce Carol Oates).

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Okay, I'm cheating--two of the books up in that last set were new. But the point is, the plan is one story per day, which is completely doable, and actually has been for the past 7 days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

(Make one)

But at least I'm not contagious.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

(Make one)

Ah, the joys of working in university health care.
My Life: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  • Opening Credits: Chicago, "Aire"
  • Waking Up: Air, "Ce Matin La"
  • Average Day: Doobie Brothers, "Takin' It To the Streets"
  • Falling In Love: Helen Merril, "'S Wonderful"
  • Love Scene: Casandra Wilson, "Poet"
  • Death of a Loved One: Queen, "Who Wants to Live Forever"
  • Bad Love: Michael McDonald, "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)"
  • Sad Love: Doobie Brothers, "What a Fool Believes"
  • Break Up: Jimmy Ruffin, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"
  • Reunion: Chris Botti feat. Jonatha Brooke, "Forgiven"
  • Fight Scene: The Roots, "Thought@Work"
  • After the Fight: The Geto Boys, "Damn, It Feels Good To Be a Gangster"
  • Adultery: Squeeze, "Tempted"
  • Guilt: Chicago, "Sonny Think Twice"
  • Bad Day: Black Crowes, "Thorn in My Pride"
  • But Life's Okay: Sons of Champlin, "Misery Isn't Free"
  • Deep In Thought: Don Henley, "The Heart of the Matter"
  • Secret Love: Atlantic Starr, "Secret Lovers"
  • Party: Sheila E, "The Glamorous Life"
  • Dance Scene: Yvonne Elliman, "If I Can't Have You"
  • Crying Scene: Peter Cetera, "No Explanation"
  • Breakdown: Cousteau, "The Last Good Day of the Year"
  • Driving: Styx, "Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)"
  • Flashback: Night Ranger, "When You Close Your Eyes"
  • Regret: Flaming Lips, "Fight Test"
  • Long Night All Alone: Cat Stevens, "Wild World"
  • Death Scene: Eric Clapton, "Layla (piano exit)"
  • End Credits: Johnny Cash, "The Man Comes Around"
Well, sort of weekly. Look, stop...stop yelling at me. I'm ill, leave me alone!