Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Blog

Dearest readers (all three of you),

I started a tumblr. The URL is as follows: I'll let the first post explain why. Please redirect your interwebs and bookmark accordingly.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Year's Resolution

I'm bad at resolutions. I usually forget them or ignore them. This year I'm trying something slightly different. I'm going to try harder at something I'm already trying to do: this year I want to publish at least three short stories.

I was originally thinking two, which seems like a realistic goal (maybe), but I thought hell, why not push myself a bit. I've spent the break revising many of the short stories I've written over the last year into drafts I'm happy with. I've got four good short stories to send around (I started submitting yesterday), with two more coming up, as soon as I polish up the most recent drafts. That's six stories. By the end of the year, I want half of them to be in print or online journals. Now it's public, so you all get to hold me to this and harass me to submit.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Books I've Read: December

2666 by Roberto Bolano. See previous post. Man, what a tome.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. This is the first Atwood I've read, and I enjoyed it. It's literary fiction and science fiction in equal measures, and tells the story of one of the last surviving human beings as he remembers the events leading up to the biologically-engineered apocalypse. It's also a fun satire of corporate responsibility, technology, and what happens when we think we're above human failings. There are a few points where Atwood gets carried away with the satire and derails the story for a few pages to make a point about Starbucks or video games or whatever is on her mind, but generally this was excellent, and I recommend it. There's a sequel too, called The Year of the Flood, that I want to check out at some point.

Straight Man by Richard Russo. A novel set in an English department. It's pretty slapsticky, very witty, and always funny, and it manages to make riveting, hilarious reading out of personnel hiring committees and budget cuts. This is my second Russo novel (I've also read Empire Falls), and it's by far my favorite. Highly recommended!

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. This much-loved sci-fi novel was published in 1956, and in some ways it shows it. For example, it opens with a long expository prologue that explains the history of the world and some of the ideas at play, something not many sci-fi writers would try nowadays. The pacing has a distinctly retro feel--some parts feel like Bester was really taking his time, others feel like he had a deadline and needed to get the job done. Some of the perspective shifts and how they're accomplished/developed feel a little amateurish by today's standards. In other ways, the novel feels very modern. Nothing ages faster than sci-fi (try reading some early William Gibson now that it's 2011), but The Stars My Destination feels timeless. It's action, comic-booky science, and depiction of scary corporate interests feel like they could have come from the '70s or '90s or 2000s just as easily as the '50s. And the main character! Damn! Gully Foyle is a great anti-hero, one of the most fascinating characters I've seen in a sci-fi novel. He's violent, stupid, uneducated, and a murder and rapist, and Bester does some really interesting things with him by the end of the novel. Did I mention that the book is full of intrigue and action? At times it feels like a science-fiction version of a good James Bond movie. I'm very glad I read this one--it was really interesting.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. More classic genre fiction. I own an anthology of old pulp detective stories and I'd read stuff by Mickey Spillane and Dashiell Hammett and not really liked it much, so I was leery of The Big Sleep. And then I read the first paragraph:
It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
BOOM! The language throughout The Big Sleep is similarly amazing, and it elevates what would be an exciting but rather conventional detective story into literature. People are starting to reevaluate Chandler and accept him as one of the great American stylists and I can see why. Gorgeous writing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'm Still a Bad Blogger

But I'm home! And, two nights ago, I finished 2666, which Jeff and Selena gave me to read before I left for New Hampshire in the summer, and which I have been reading for four freaking months.

Now, of course, I have school, I have student papers, I have writing to do, but still. Four months? For one book? Ah, but what a book--it's almost a thousand pages, many of which have no paragraph breaks. Sentences will run on for pages, it's often experimental and surreal, cast of thousands, etc. Plot summary is futile.

I'm not sure if I can recommend 2666. While it was a damn good book, in the time I took to read it I could have read at least four or five other damn good books, without the pressure of a punishing 900-page slog. It's super-dark, confusing, often very disturbing (I had creepy 2666-infected dreams at least twice), and not at all rewarding in a plotty sense. But oh man, the language, the images, the dozens of fantastic dream sequences... If you're really into Latin American lit, or you're looking for a summer project and you've already read Proust and Infinite Jest and you're moving onto the next behemoth, give it a shot. Just don't try to do it during grad school.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


It's been two months since I've blogged. Ashley is blogging every day. Josh is blogging again (and helping his wife in labor as I write this! Woo hoo!). I have blogger's guilt. I blame Chelsea for not needling me into doing it. For shame, Chelsea.

Actually, I blame school. School is not exciting to write (or, I'm assuming read) about. I've got student papers, I read short stories, I eke in some writing when I can. I've actually been frustrated with how little writing I'm getting done--students take up a lot of time, and I'm trying to force myself to find a balance between the TAship that's paying for me to be here and the thing I'm actually supposed to be doing while I'm here, but it's hard.

I've been writing recently because I have a story coming due in workshop. I was trying to write this historical piece about an American soldier who goes traveling after World War I and ends up in India and has to shoot a tiger, but I think I may have found my "faking it" limit. I can write a story about hunting. I can write a story set in 1918. I think I can write a story set in India. But I can't do all three at once. Too many levels of abstraction, too much research to do. I wrote like fifteen pages, did a ton of research, read half of Man-eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett (a British colonel who spent thirty years tracking and shooting man-eating tigers and leopards in central India; super-interesting), then I threw it away and started writing something else. The new story is coming very easily.

In other news, I'm going down to Boston for a northwest brew festival on Monday! Boundary Bay! Deschutes! Issaquah and Lompoc! I'm really stoked. I also have my plane tickets home. December 14th, kids. I'll see you then, and I'll try to be a better blogger.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What I Would Have Written About

I would have written about arriving in Massachusetts and being confronted by awful New England traffic and clueless Masshole drivers. I would have written about getting lost in a warren of unmarked state highways less than two hours from home. I would have written about the long and hellish move from Dunn's Bridge Lane to my new place on Central Avenue, and my neighbors who I thought at first were meth-heads, but now I'm pretty sure were just really wasted when I met them, and I would have written about the cigarette ash in my windowsills and the slanting floors and the fact that I didn't have power for the first four days I lived here.

I would have written about building a shelf and tacking up panelboard so I could write notes to myself in dry-erase pens on my walls while I'm working on my fiction. I would have written about decorating my apartment with pages and covers from vintage science fiction pulps (an arts and crafts project! Me!). I would have written about seeing my New Hampshire friends again, and orientation for English 401, and the horrifying heat wave that swept New England, followed by the very disappointing hurricane, and visiting Scarlet and Carl in Boston, and the insane Scottish guy who yelled at us for "keeping the black man down."

I would have written about these things but I no longer have as much time as I did this summer, and, as you can see from the list, I've been busy. I'll try to do better, and you can just imagine those seven or eight awesome blog entries that I would have written. Back to writing now!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Road Trip 2010 Day 3: God made dirt and dirt will bust your ass

I rolled up to a toll booth in Illinois blasting Old Dirty Bastard's "Baby I Got Your Money" and as soon as the toll booth lady asked me for the $1.25, the chorus, where Kelis sings "Hey, say hey, baby I got your money, dontcha worry" kicked in. She didn't seem to notice.