Friday, December 11, 2009

Nostalgia for childhood foosball and news

Yes, foosball. I kid you not...

We had a table, growing up. I don't really know where it came from. It was always in our basement; it may still be there. It's someone else's basement now, but who knows? Perhaps old foosball tables return home to die. Perhaps they never leave us.

News: New story published on

I am very much digging the stories on Juked (and not just because they published me) and also very much digging electronic submissions. Juked accepted my story pretty quickly and it was up a couple days thereafter. I like instant gratification; I like things now and I don't care how. I blame Tim Burton for not making the new oompa-loompas scary enough.

I've finished a new story and am sending it out via Interwebs.

Other news: Jason Schwartzmann lies when he's says it's always summer in Alabama. Stop lying, Schwartzmann.

My sister may be on a famous talk show in Hollywood; it has nothing to do with Jason Schwartzmann or foosball. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2Fer: Realism, schmealism

This post dedicated to my one true follower in Reykjavík ; sorry to hear about your economy, but not sorry about McDonald's...

Perhaps, attending school for creative writing has ruined me for traditional narrative?

I'm currently reading a small press novel that I find incredibly boring. I'm not going to name the press -  it's a good one, or the author - he's heralded as a "genius" in the book blurb, not because of what I'm afraid it'll do to my fledgling writing career (ah...but I have you, my Icelandic minions), but because it's a matter of personal taste. The book is unrelentingly realistic and I am so bored bored bored. If I wanted to suffer the excrutiating boredom of life in a corporate office, I would go live it. If I wanted to follow the minutest thoughts of someone who's plodding through life, overcome by ennui, someone who's on the verge of an existential crisis because their life is so very boring and unfulfilling but they don't know it (the rub, of course), I would just go to the post office of my small Southern town and imagine what everyone in line is thinking...or trying not to think.

I've managed to sound both haughty and pedantic in the above paragraph. Forgive me. Next I'll be sending hate mail to unsuspecting editors and McDonald's corporate office in Bethesda just for fun (and for the citizens of Iceland who will be deprived of their Big Macs and environmental/ethical onslaught).

Fiction, for me, should be surprising. It should show me something new. It should give me something I need that I wasn't quite conscious of needing, not like the next Iphone or Kindle or something you're made to think you need, but more like when you step into a warm shower and the water hits your calves and feet and all of a sudden you realize your feet were cold but you hadn't even had acclimated yourself to cold feet. Fiction (and poetry, too) should make you realize you don't have to accept cold feet as a condition of living. These are my humble requirements, and the book I'm reading now just don't cut it.

I'm going to keep on reading, though, because I'm an idealist and an optimist way down deep - hell, I'll give the book a chance until the end. Plus, it's cheaper than boubon or Reyka in helping me fall asleep.

Yours in hoping the krona rebounds,

I'm not so good with titles...

& I wonder if the Postmodernists have ruined me for traditional narrative.

I've been working on a series of poems about this woman I call the PARIAH. Pariah's in all caps because she's appropriated the label but it still plays hell with her psyche. She wrestles with it daily. Anyway, I've got a PARIAH poem that I've entitled "The PARIAH fights the years, the suburbs, the nepotism, the networking and all the other crap of existence," which is a hell of a clunky mouthful and may be too telling to boot, but I just can't think of any other title...

(Today's word must be hell - in a Satrtrean sense, of course. Perhaps. How can I be so certain?)

I'm also working on my new novel; thanks to nanowrimo.

I've been carrying the idea for this novel around with me for months, but I haven't had the time to write it. That's what I've kept telling myself, although I think the bigger problem is this deeply ingrained fear of commitment I have. Plus, writing a novel is kind of like how I live my life sometimes, slogging through everyday minutiae and mundaneness to get to the sexy, exciting parts. I just want to write the sexy, exciting scenes; I hate backstory, I hate moving my character through time and space sometimes, I dislike linearity and having to be aware that everything has to make some kind of sense, which may be why I lean towards absurdism in my writing.

(I could illustrate this here by suddenly turning into a parrot, frothing and shouting Qui est la? But you'd have to have just read Wide Sargasso Sea & what does Rhys have to do with any of this, anyway?)

I may have set myself a difficult task as this new novel, because of its fantastical elements, does require some kind of linearity. Kind of like some of Murakami's novels (not Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World), set in "every day reality" but then there's a strange quirk, a slight tweaking of "reality," where what seemed to make sense is revealed as making no sense at all. My new novel's about the South and it's about what's going on in politics today (Glenn Beck and his rabid parrots, teabaggers (ha ha!), corporate takeover of the U.S. (see police response to G20 protestors vs. police response to teabaggers)), so maybe it's actually the opposite of Murakami - I begin with double strangeness and surreality to achieve some sense of reality. Maybe.

My tentative title for my novel in progress, may be terrible and it may be too telling. It may be both.

(The other word of the day could be parrot. But there won't be any parrots in my new novel. Possibly. Maybe.)

Yours without any parrot pix Yours,

P.S. I know parrots don't froth...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The man behind the MAN

This is a fable concerning a narrative dilemma:

I got a couple of agents to look at my novel manuscript when I was trying to go the agent route. One agent said of my novel (back in its Feme Sole incarnation) that the writing was good, but the story wasn't fresh enough for this economy.

Fresh enough? I hadn't come across any novel that had a mother who didn't want to be a mother who was traveling cross country to maybe give her 6 month old unnamed infant back. Plus, who wrote about the Bohemian Grove? Was it the robed procession in Chapter 25? Did she think I was trying to cash in on Dan Brown's success, even though I'd never read his books and I wasn't writing about Freemasons or the Vatican?

I'm trying to talk about America. I'm trying to, in the words of Anne Waldman, perform a "Whitmanic task" and "wak[e] the country up to itself." But, not in a pretentious or pedantic way.

If that's possible.

But, back to the dilemma. I decided I was trying too hard make my novel something it wasn't. I was trying to make it mainstream. In fact, in some of my query letters, I sold it on the "baby daddy" and love triangle angle, without making any mention of politics. So, how could I remedy this?

Interstital solution.

There was a character in the original version of Little pink babies who was not allowed to speak. This character provided a lot of motivation for the main characters but this "poor" character was not allowed to explain his motivation. In fact, he wasn't allowed to explain anything. So, I thought, let the man speak.

He is Sammy's uncle; he is the man behind the MAN.

Here's what he sounds like:

I am the uncle who narrates everything. I am the one who sets it all in motion. I know everything because I’m always watching. I am interstices; I am law; I am beyond Law.

I have put my nephew on the road. I have made him run from me to run to me. There are no binaries; there are no opposing sides. It may look like that to you, but you aren’t always watching. You don’t know the things I know. You don’t have my networks, my agency; you don’t have any agency at all.

I’m not the only one running things. We work together for the common good. We work together when it suits our purposes. We’re not schemers or a cabal. We meet in restaurants; we meet at houses; we meet in the open.

There is a reason for the electoral college. There is a reason for public education. The vision of our forefathers.

The girl and her baby are civilian casualties. Or collateral damage. Or just in my goddamn way.

Imagine me with a big cigar and a bigger map. Imagine me with a highball in my hand. Imagine me being fellated by a whore. Or two whores. Or three. Fuck. Imagine me as a soft-spoken man with steely eyes behind designer frames. Imagine me on my lodge patio at the Grove. Imagine me with Cheney and Rove. Imagine me eating barbecue with Clinton except I like things clean. Imagine me pushing so and so out a window. Imagine me as the voice behind Moloch. Imagine me as the conductor of an unseen orchestra.

You don’t know what I look like. You don’t know where I am. I could be in the Mercedes behind you. I could be in the town car. I could even be driving a microbus. But, I won’t chase you. I don’t need to. You’ll come to me; just like they all do. I’ll set you in motion; I’ll keep you moving. Moving forward, getting better, school then job then exercise to get rid of the midlife flab, moving to a new house, a new suburb, a new subdivision, the myth of progess; you’ll be so busy moving better faster richer you’ll never notice me and what I’m doing.

Have I scared you? I haven’t meant to. I just cut straight to the chase. I’m a man who goes out and gets what he wants. I have everything I want. Well, almost everything.

I’ve driven past you and you were driving home from work or you were a homeless puddle of stuff sleeping over a sidewalk vent or you were a child crossing against the light and I stopped. It didn’t matter to me what or who you were. I was in my black car with tinted windows or in my sky blue Porsche convertible circa 1960. I was either camouflaged or out in the open. I’ve never been a spy but the Porsche has always made me feel so goddamned dapper Avengers-style British, like I should carry an umbrella.

I don’t need one. If it rains, I have made it so I will never be that pile of stuff huddling on the sidewalk. I’ve been a responsible citizen who has made sure they’d never be a burden on the system. I love this country and never forget it.

-And this:

Interstice 8: Privilege

If that hotel is the scariest or creepiest thing Cass Wildes has ever seen in her life, she does not ever peel back the thin veneer of civilization or conformity to see what’s really going in the backyards, basements, alleys, bathrooms of small American towns. People fucking children or dogs or people watching children fuck dogs or watching dogs tearing each other to pieces or teenagers braining homeless or methheads clawing at their own skin. Satan worshippers fucking on altars, Jesus worshippers stringing up gays and Blacks. Serial killers circling the edges, waiting for one of the herd to fall behind.

Cass and her suburban-molded brain, her heart that bleeds bleeds bleeds could never comprehend any of this. That is why people like I exist; we keep her safe, we keep her innocence protected, intact.

Of course, too bad, she’s getting in the way of my plans.

And goddamned SA ----, he should have shown up at that hotel. He was supposed to bust into the room, threaten the baby, tie Cass up, abduct Sammy and bring him to me. I’m tired of waiting.

If I find out he’s in Afghanistan stirring shit up again for cheaper opium…

I’m not going to do anything. He entertains me, and he’s never fucked up any of my plans. He’s very useful, generally. & a great actor, SA ---- can pretend to be anyone, a private dick, a radio DJ, Julie Brown, a doctor, Bill Clinton, etc. Even if the man likes his opium.

It’s what gets him through all of the above; it’s what gets him through. Me, I like my Scotch and whores. It’s a cliché, I know, but it works oh so well.

- Okay, I lied. There's nothing fabulist about this. It's just my narrative about how I tried to make my narrative "fresher." Hopefully, I did make it fresher and didn't just add Rose's lime juice to the mix because the bar was out of real limes.
I hear a gin and tonic calling me...
- Ry

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I am no Dan Brown...

and I don't want to be. I haven't even read his thing about Da Vinci. But I was researching Kissinger for my novel, Little pink babies, (I was gonna have a Kissinger-inspired fellow/villain) and I stumbled across an online expose of Bohemian Grove. I think it was a article, but I can't seem to locate it anymore (hmmm...conspiracy?). Reading about this place, where rich, powerful men get together and dress in drag and act like frat boys and fly in hookers and drink and cavort like they're at a bacchanalia both intrigued and terrified me. It had to go in my novel. I mean, people like Nixon, Bush, Kissinger, etc. attend (or attended) this "celebration" every year.

Since Obama's become president, I've noticed there are a lot (and I mean A LOT) more sites dedicated to "uncovering" the Bohemian Grove. It's funny how a president who wants to bring about changes like universal healthcare has become, for some, this symbol of universal fear. One website's posted an editorial specifically addressing the Bohemian Grove as our (American) elite leaders and asking them to do something about Obama's quest for a "One-World Government." Most other sites link Obama to the Bohemian Grove and this "One-World Government." But, I digress...

Little pink babies started as a novel about gender roles in the U.S., particularly stereotypes surrounding women and motherhood. In fact, I first entitled it Feme Sole. It starts off with three people - Cass (the 26 year old mama), Sammy, (Cass's art-school room-mate who's secretly in love with Cass), and Chou (the as-yet unnamed baby), in a Honda Civic travelling from Milwaukee to Tempe; Cass's going to find Mark, her baby's daddy, to reunite with him or give the baby back, she doesn't know, Sammy's along for the ride as a lark, ostensibly, and Chou just has no choice. However, as I wrote the novel, I also started incorporating contemporary American politics (not that you can ever separate politics from gender, well, at least not yet). And, of course, Bohemian Grove, a no girls allowed club for the elitest of them all. Cass, Sammy, and Chou, after exchanging the Civic for the Challenger, picking up three extra passengers and losing one, and waking up outside the Real Worlds studio in the Mojave Desert (more on that later), are chased by Sammy's uncle's (a man worse than Kissinger ever appeared to be) agents into Bohemian Grove. Here's an excerpt:

Chapter 25
Bohemians galore

We parked and ran again. It seemed like this was what life was – the constant motion, the driving, the fleeing, something always chasing us. I was almost used to it by now.
Sammy dropped my hand and pointed to some undergrowth. “Let’s nap here.”
“I don’t know…”
“We haven’t slept. We’re in the middle of nowhere. They won’t find us.”
“I can’t stop.”
“Yes, you can.”
“How are we gonna find the car?”
“We’ll find it.”
“I can’t stop.”
“Try.” Sammy handed me Chou, then bent down by the bushes and lifted branches so we could crawl into the green, hidden space. I lay down with Chou in my arms. Sammy lay down next to us. I didn’t even think about bugs or whatever creeping over me as I slept. I just closed my eyes.
A baby was crying and I was in a small, dark place. I couldn’t move. I tried to open my eyes. I could feel my eyelids trying hard to open – my muscles contracting and stretching, pulling against something. It was like someone was holding them down with their fingers. I could barely breathe, there was a heavy weight on my chest and that baby wouldn’t stop crying. Now that baby was inhaling. Deeply. That baby was sucking up all the oxygen. I couldn’t breath; I couldn’t move. Someone was holding me captive, in sleep even, so the baby could steal all my air.
I was suffocating.
Was it Mark?
“Cass!” Someone was nudging my shoulder. The weight seemed to have lifted. I coughed and opened my eyelids. Sammy was hunched over me, holding Chou to his chest with one hand and the Maglight in the other. The Maglight was on and beaming right in my face. “Are you okay?”
I nodded and waved my hands at the light.
Sammy moved the beam to the ground. “You were hyperventilating, I think.”
I coughed again. “Do you blame me?”
Sammy kind of laughed. It was a sad, strange sound and reminded me the only real laughter we’d heard since – well, when? – since we left Amarillo really had been Chou’s random giggles. And who knew what was going on in that baby’s mind? Or any baby’s? They were all probably tripping from the newness, the colors, the sun, the moon, the wet, the dry, the rustle of leaves, the silence, the white noise of a Challenger doing ninety on the Interstate. Everything around them amused them. It had all been made for them. Even being chased two states to California was funny to Chou.
It wasn’t funny at all.
Sammy handed me Chou and crawled out of our temporary shelter. He held the branches aside and motioned for Chou. I was glad to give him the baby. I needed more time to shake off the nightmare. He kept the beam on the ground; it was hard to see among all the trees in the dark.
“We’re gonna have to go in.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Undercover…yeah, we’re gonna have to.”
I didn’t know what Sammy was talking about. Had he lost it like he’d been afraid he would in Amarillo? Was this trip just about making all our fears come true? I crawled out of the shelter, almost afraid to look at him – maybe there’d be a crazy glint in his eyes, some kind of sign. “I’ll carry Chou.” I grabbed the baby from Sammy.
“We’re gonna have to do it.”
“What? Do what?” I thought Sammy was about to hyperventilate now.
“Go in there.”
“Bohemian Grove.”
“We’re gonna have to stay off the main trails…” He didn’t say anything for a while and then he continued. “I wonder what time it is…I wonder…if it’s around…nine …something goes down…we could sneak in.” It was like he was talking to himself, staring down at the spot of light on the forest floor. It was so dark. I grabbed Chou closer just to make sure the baby was still in my arms. Or that this was real.
“There’s no women allowed. They don’t allow any women.”
“The Bohemians.”
I was alone in a woods with a baby and my best friend in the world. I was alone with a baby and a madman and surrounded in the dark by bohemians. All around, supposedly.
I didn’t even need to see a glint or a sign.
He still seemed to be staring at that one spot of light.
“I was just thinking.”
“Are you having…have you taken…”
“More pills?”
“No. Yeah. I don’t know. Bohemians?”
“A bunch of white men. My uncle’s…”
Was he just fucking with me? What was this about his uncle? Sammy’d never talked about an uncle; except that one time when he’d been drugged out of his mind in Amarillo. Had he just been setting me up for this weird scene in California? Did he have something to do with the two RVs chasing us? With the fake town in the desert? “Who are you, Sammy Colter? Samuel Franklin Colter?”
“Let’s just walk.” He grabbed the crook of my arm and we started trudging through the woods. I thought about shaking him off, but even though I had the keys to the car, he had the flashlight. I was afraid of walking around the woods near blind with my infant child. It was better to not be alone in the dark.
We got to the outskirts of the Bohemians or the white men or whatever because I could see glimpses of light through the woods. Sammy pulled me closer and whispered, “We have to stick to the shadows, anything that’ll cover us.”
I nodded just as Sammy switched the flashlight off. I wanted to know what was going on. And find someone to rescue me, more importantly.
“Hopefully they’re busy.”
I didn’t even ask who they were. I didn’t want to hear any more delusions coming out of the mouth of the man I’d lived with for over two years, the mouth of the man I’d almost kissed twice. Another close call – did I just attract crazy? I scurried through the bushes clutching Chou and waiting for any opportunity. We came to a well-lit and very wide trail. Probably the main thoroughfare for these Bohemian friends of Sammy’s uncle. Whatever. And maybe we weren’t being chased by two RVs either, maybe Sammy’d made it all up – he’d driven most of the time. But, I had seen them run out and I did see them driving over the dunes, eating up the sand we stirred up, it’d looked like. I was ready to announce myself to the next Bohemian or whoever walked down this lanterned path. I don’t know why I’d come to think that Sammy’s weirdness hid a very normal center. Maybe that’s what the road did to you. Maybe it was all perspective, circumstance, paranoia. Maybe because Pat and JJ, before they’d joined the bad guys or revealed their true selves or whatever, had seemed even weirder. But not MacEwan, my lost MacEwan… Sammy really was as weird as he’d always tried to be. This trip had whittled him down to his real self, his core, and it was pure crazy.
“We have to sneak across this path.”
Sammy still had my arm; I pulled it away. I was going to protest, say something about him going cuckoo, that the trees had pressed down on his brain or that the RVs had chased him over the brink, if they weren’t some mirage or friends of Sammy’s I didn’t know about, but then I heard a deep baritone singing. Loudly. Like the guy had a mike, like some opera was being broadcast to the trees and the wood nymphs and fauns and fairies and spirits and whatever else was out here all around us.
Sammy and I looked at each other. Chou started hiccupping. I was afraid the baby would start crying, that I’d have to make that horrible Hollywood decision to sacrifice the infant for the greater good. It was in some movie I’d seen a long time ago, maybe not that long ago, maybe I saw it with Sammy. The village, because something like war could never happen in a city, is hiding and the mother smothers her own baby to keep the rest of her people safe from enemy troops.
But, we weren’t in a war. We were in California.
And maybe I was making that movie up.
I’d just been chased across three states and now Bohemians were singing to the trees. That could do something to your memory.
Sammy nudged me. “It’s clear.”
We ran across the path and into the shadows. Did Sammy know where he was going, or was he following the music? It was getting even louder. All around us, the baritone wailed on. Omnipresent. Then the opera music ended and bagpipes started. I swear, bagpipes. Sammy pulled me and Chou under some bushes just in time it seemed; I watched two pair of khakied legs weave by. Drunkenly? They were attached to men carrying lawn chairs. I could make out hands gripping the chairs when I peered up through the bush branches.
Lawn chairs and bagpipes, oh my.
Why the fuck were there bagpipes playing and what the fuck was going on?
As soon as the men had passed, Sammy grabbed me and we ran forward, then sideways to another bush. We hit the dirt, Sammy and me on our stomachs and Chou like a tortoise on its back flailing arms and legs. I looked out through branches; we were above a large clearing full of men. Men sitting in lawn chairs and loungers and smoking cigars and drinking from bottles, from horns, passing them around, facing away from us, facing a pond or lagoon or something. There looked to be a hundred or more men.
Almost every one of them was white.
The bagpipes ended. More classical music played. Where was this forest orchestra? Mystery strings. Was there an orchestra pit somewhere in front of the men? And what were the men all waiting for, looking for?
The men started clapping. I couldn’t tell why, but there seemed to be more light across the pond all of a sudden. There was a clearing or a stage with a huge stone thing, like a giant box or owl or something. That’s what all the men, the audience, were looking at.
And then men in robes started swaying in from the right side of the clearing. Black and red hooded robes.
I hoped they were men and not something worse. We were in the middle of god knows what ceremony in the middle of god knows what forest – Sammy, the baby, and me, and who knew what kind of creatures were being stirred up. It was dark, anything was possible. I never believed in any of that shit really, yeah I’d had a couple Tarot readings and read my horoscope almost every day before this trip and had always wanted to do a past life regression, but c’mon. This was something else, something…I don’t know what. I’d never witnessed a procession of hooded figures carrying torches in the woods. I never thought anything like this ever happened anywhere, not even in California.
The people in robes walked to either side of the huge stone. One white-robed figure stepped forward and boomed, “The owl is in his leafy temple. Let all within the grove be reverent before him.”
I took hold of one of Chou’s hands and looked at Sammy; he grabbed the other hand. Hopefully the loudspeakered voice wouldn’t start a crying attack.
There was no way I could smother Chou. Not even to save Sammy. Not even to save myself.

There's more to the chapter, but that's all for now. Thanks for reading.


Monday, September 14, 2009

New poems

My new poems published here: Segue

Check out Michael Cirelli's T-Pain poems, too...cause I sd so.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What this blog's about

This blog is not a porn site. This blog is not about dieting or trying to find the right man or being accepted for who you are or any other chick lit motif circulating out there. This blog is not chick lit. This blog is about a writer surrounded by conformity and trying to write her way out of it. This blog is about stories. This blog is about being too narrative to be experimental and being too "literary" to be mainstream. This blog is dedicated to writers who feel they don't fit in to a system that valorizes crass marketing of art and talent. That's hokey, I know.

This blog is not a manifesto. It's about all kinds of culture shock.

It's about moving from a big city in the North to a small town in the South and seeing just how entrenched "traditional" gender and other social roles can be. It's about my trying to understand a town where RVs descend upon the campus every weekend for the game, where students rev their monster trucks at pre-game parties on my lawn, where on game day, I barricade myself in my house and write...This blog is not anti-football, though. This blog is about investigating the mass ornament, the mob mentality, the anti-individualism of the town I now find myself in.

I'll also be posting some of my work if you want to check out my stuff. Thanks for reading!