Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bad memory

Having a bad memory while writing just makes every piece into a one man exquisite corpse which...isn't that most desirable?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Most importants

1994-1995 In first or second grade I read this book called 'The Game' by Monica Hughes. It may have been the first full book I read, at least was certainly one of the first few. I only remember it vaguely but it sounds like dystopian cyberpunk, but intelligent. It seems to have had a lasting impact on me.

Madeline L'engle was also pretty big for me, and I must have read her around this time.

I don't recall reading much in third or fourth  or fifth grade. And if I did it did not stick with me much.

In sixth grade I read 1984 which scared the shit out of me. I read it again two years later, then again two years after that. It was my favorite book for a long, long time.

At some point in, I think, middle school I read the first two 'His Dark Materials' Books (amber spyglass had not come out yet, and really liked those.

Around 8th grade I got really into the discworld books, read between 10 and 12 of them over maybe a year. I also got into the Battletech books around that time and read the Clan trilogy.

Ninth grade I read part of catch-22 but didn't really get it. I was proud because I did not finish it but wrote a report on it for class and got and A.

Tenth grade I got into punk and mostly listened to albums instead of reading.

Eleventh grade I don't think I read much either.

Twelfth grade I read a bunch of vonnegut, bradbury and hesse especially during lunch. I had friends then but just liked being in the library better which in hindsight is sort of funny. I also read Portraits which I though was cool and a certain amount of philosophy lite for this class I took.

The next year I didn't go to school or do anything I just sat aorund my mom's house but I started to read a lot. I got into Wordsworth, Montaigne, Proust. I basically picked up the craziest books I could find down at this thrift store and read them little by little. There was some other stuff too.

My freshman year I read House of Leaves and really liked that, and read a lot of other stuff that was sort of cool but that I didn't like all that much (Feed, 9 Stories)

The next year I read Ulysses and found Borges who I was not super into but learned to really like later on. Also read 'Chinese Letter' and 'Invention of Morel' which were pretty killer.

Read 'Fuck-up' and 'Perks of being a wallflower' two of my least favorite books of all time then read 'Infinite Jest'. Later in the year I got super into school and started reading a little less.

The next year I was still really busy with school but read 'Sometimes a great notion' and especially 'Shoplifting from American Apparel' which was pretty big for me at the time. Preordered and read 'Pale King'

The next year I read a lot of graphic novels (The Invisibles, Some other stuff from that guy, started that huge Aardvark graphic novel but didn't find it that interesting) read Neuromancer. Then read a lot of science stuff, the really came back (for some reason) with this book by Sam Mcpheeters which I thought was gonna be amazing but which was only so-so. Then I read 'Cows' and found Blake Butlers blog where I started reading Sam Pink found out about alt-lit.

Later that year, after I graduated, I read 'The Late Works of Margaret Kroftis' 'The Recognitions' 'Chromos' Sean Kilpatick, 'Godel Escher Bach', Raymond Carver, Steve Roggenbuck, and a bunch of other stuff that I can't remember.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What 1000 abortions feels like (Taiga boards and reminiscence)

            In the weight of the ice lay taiga boards. Across the bluing sky lay the taiga boards. With too large, inflated hands I had to search for the taiga boards. Underneath the bluing sky the taiga boards lay

There they were. There I was. Taiga boards, taiga boards. Dripping with the sap mixture, dripping with pine sap and bone ash and metal shavings which worm their way into my skin when I touch them.
            The father’s rotting teeth wobbled in their hasty moors. Docked into the flash of his mouth and wobbling about in the turning tide of his mouth. I could feel the breath on my leather mask. It was not yet light out, the turning branches left scrapes of dark on the sky. Each rustle of air left cuts on my cheeks.

There they were, there it was. The taiga boards.
The father and the son, set out in the middle of the forest. The son’s leather mask chafed his face and the father’s teeth rattled in the moorings. Dacks of flesh where the yellow sat.

There was the son and the father and the things between them. A crippled cabin far set into the woods. His teeth were red from chewing betel, spit on the floor the floor too was a wash of blood. The son’s hands were large, a leather mask warped over his face, the catgut seams sticking out.

I have no one to blame but myself for this lack of entropy, this lack of energy.

The snow sat and sat on the house and over the house and in the crooks between the branches. Bent over the stove the son heated a wire which he used to burn off the growths on his legs. They came up in the bend beneath his knees. He would spend an hour every morning burning off the growths before he went out to gather the taiga boards. He would wait until the father would get up and out of bed and scream at him from across the room. He was always waking up drunk and smelling like the dust that gathered and burned on top of the stove after a good electrical storm. The son would always wish the father’s kerosene tank would get hit by one of the bolts. It was metal and high enough. It would set alight and pour down on the father’s bed and burn him to dust like the dust that gathered on the stove and burned. When the father would stop yelling, only then would the son go out to gather the boards. He would load up the cart.

An open mouth. Teeth tethered like rusting ships to a rotting dock. The voice and the stench from the hole were one and the same, the smell of those rotting teeth and the sounds it created just two modal expressions of the same idea. Days of this, from when the sun rose late to when the father had drunk enough pine liquor to settle himself into the molding pile of blankets by the fire. There was no weather, just sheet after falling sheet of ice which lay over the permafrost. Pine needles buried under crusts of blackened snow and under that were the precious taiga boards. When he ran out of money for the pine liquor the father sent the son out to collect the taiga boards, strapping a harness to the boy and a sled to the harness. The boy would go out - his body-sheet sticking on snags and the few rocks which were exposed – and dig the taiga boards out with his bare hands. It was not infrequently that patches of frost bitten flesh would blossom on his fingers and palms. These would start blue, then purple, then black and green, then a wriggling white as the maggots lived on it. When the maggots left - turning into the bottle flies which lived out in the stable on the horse’s asses - there would be little white pits where the living flesh formed a barrier. Soon enough the boy’s hands were cratered all around, a new kind of flesh which did not turn blue, or black, a new kind of flesh which was like a pitted stone and was good for pulling up the taiga boards.
 The boards had been buried in the snow. When the son would come back to their shack and the father had woken from his alcohol sleep the father would tell stories about the taiga boards and where they came from. Every story was different.
Once he told this story: The taiga boards were from the floors of the killing camps they had here during the true reign, fifteen or twenty years ago.
Another time he told this story: The taiga boards are from a walkway they were building to the far north, a way to move goods up to a religious station.
He told other stories too.
The son would wipe his leather mask down with mink oil before going out into the taiga to keep the leather from freezing to his face. The board would strap to his shoulders. The straps were bull’s leather and froze into separate triangles.

I want to write another novel. I want to start another novel right now. I want my days to be filled by this other world where things are as complete (no, more complete) then the things in this world. I want to build this house and live in it but it is like I have lost my tools. Like the only materials I have to build this house with are mud and shit. I sty to stack this as well as I can but it all just falls into itself and my hands are cold and wet and don’t work, will not build, won’t do what I tell them. I want to have something to point to every day and say ‘look! This is what I have done, this is a small piece of me which is now in the world. I’m not the kind of person that sits around and watched conspiracy videos on youtube all day. I’m the kind of person that is productive and writes novels har-ta-tar! and I can’t. I’m not doing this right now I’m just doing the youtube part which, honestly is pretty depressing. And It’s like I want to get over it, I will try anything to make it past this awkward point but I’m not sure where to start. I’m getting good sleep, eating well, eating good food, drinking coffee and I get about two hundred words and it just dies, or I get distracted by doing somehting else.

The darkness. There was only darkness really for all I could remember. The mask bit against my face when I went out into the taiga. Out in the taiga were the taiga boards. They were what we wanted more than anything, we wanted the taiga boards so we could make the lying down machines. I would gather the taiga boards after the father had fallen asleep. He would wake as the sun dawned its sliver of red light, those few precious moments before it settled back down under the horizon, he would wake in a start and start yelling immediately, screaming at the branches and the taiga boards. Screaming at the only thing which held us together here, the taiga boards. I think they could hear, the taiga boards, they could hear how we hated them. They knew we hated them, but that we needed them. These boards. ‘How did they know?’ You might ask, ‘Being Boards how could they know?

I sit down. I stare at the computer. I try to type something. I get up. I check the rice. I chat with my girlfriend. I watch a video. I search for someone I had a class with once or twice during college. I look at their photos, I look at their siblings I get up. I stretch my back. I walk around. I look out the window. I sit down. I try to type. I feel like shit. I can’t type. There is a block in my head. I look at the word count. Less than a thousand words. I start a new paragraph. It is different from the previous paragraph but about the same thing. I think back to what I was writing earlier this year. It feel like a different person. I chat with my girlfriend. I get up. I check the rice. I turn off the light. I sit down. I look up a video called ‘Strange creature in victorian sewer’. I get distracted. Twenty minutes go by. I get up. I make some food. I sit down. I look into where ‘Power Rangers’ came from. I watch the original Japanese series. Another ten minutes goes by. I look at the clock. It is almost four o’clock. I have done almost nothing today. I try to write. Nothing comes out. No. That’s wrong. Something comes out but it is awful. I want to throw it away. The music stops. I go to Pandora and click the ‘I’m still listening’ button. I think about going for a walk. I don’t want to leave because if I’m out walking then I am not working, not writing, which is bad. Half an hour goes by, I have written nothing. I think back on how if I had gone for a half hour walk I would have written just the same amount (zero words) but would have gotten out of the house for a little and might have some ideas for stuff to write. I look at more facebook profiles. I look at the two people who liked a review I wrote. They look like generic white people. I feel a little bad about calling them generic white people. I’m a generic white person. No, I’m Jewish, so I’m not totally white. Right? I think about ‘Darkness Visible’ Styron’s novella about going sober and getting depression. I remember how happy I felt when I read it. I read it the second day I lived in a house called the ‘Toy House’ in college. That second day I was in the house all alone, horribly hungover and surrounded by books. It was a few weeks before school started and none of my friends were around. I found darkness visible, read it more or less in one sitting, in one chair. I’m pretty sure the day started out sunny, and the sun had set by the time I finished. I don’t know why but reading that book filled me with this pleasure I have had only a hand full of times in my life. It was this totally free, unencumbered pleasure with no single source. There sort of pleasure used to happen to me about once a year but I have not felt it in a while. After I finished reading the book I lay on the floor and listened to ’22 Jazz funk greats’ while wearing headphones. The house was so quiet. I turned all the lights off and there was just this steady light from outside. Listening to that album all alone really freaked me out. After the album ended I went upstairs to sleep. I left the lights on because I was still freaked out by the album, but also I was probably just anxious from the last bits of the hangover (you know that hangover anxiety?) Then next morning I felt more or less normal, I think. I can’t remember that well though.

What if I can never write again though? What if that was my one novel, I wrote it, did the best I could, but for its sheer naivety it is simply unpublishable. And then that was it? I just have no more? Like what if I will never be able to link ideas like I did with BA? What if my mind will just degrade further and and further and I just never come up with anything as interesting as that (scary still is how uninteresting BA must seem to others, where all these little connections which were all inside my head are never demonstrated in the novel and so there is this whole chunk which is missing? What if that is the case? What if I am one of these people that just pops out the one and tries for years and years to recreate it and just never does? Just had that one little flash of creativity and then burned it out? What happens then? What do I do?

I just…writing just does not sound that exciting right now. As terrible as it sounds, but that is just the way I feel. Like those people at the end of marathons who want to finish, god they want to finish so bad, but everything within them is revolting against it, is just saying ‘NO! NO MORE! We are done and you have to deal with it’ That is how I feel. I want to be productive but each time I start it just fizzles out, is not enjoyable. How could it be that short? I hardly got nine months in. I got like three or four pieces published and then it’s like the noise coming out of a balloon and the balloon just sort of sputtering away and falling into a puddle of rain water. 

Unable to write

It thought I had it. I thought I was going to be a writer for good. It was January and I had this motivation like I never had for anything before. I treated writing like it was my job: woke up in the morning and just went (and I went pretty hard). I was banging out two thousand words a day, six days a week, for almost three months. I knew where it was all going, I just had to fill in the gaps but really the gaps just filled themselves. I can hardly remember it now, the whole time is sort of a blank, punctuated by a few memories of writing. It just seemed normal to do what I was doing. Maybe it was those years of pent up energy, those years of hyper logical thinking that school forced out of me. That spot the school forced me into where creativity was a foreign and untouchable entity. Not to rag on school, that was just where I was at. So maybe then that was the initial torrent of pent up ideas, like the wave that pours from a backed up drain, a wall of water which had built up from years of a slow trickle. But after the first wave? The trickle continues as before, a drip every few seconds but nothing as massive as the initial torrent. Is that where I am at?
Since I submitted Basic Analysis to presses two weeks ago writing has been such a struggle. I've been trying a lot of different things but it is just not coming. I can hardly write this.

Normally this might not be a problem. If I had a job, or was volunteering, or was smuggling drugs over the border from Myanmar to China I would have somewhere for my mind to go, some amount of experience gained, some money to show. But I don't: I set myself up in this place (not physical place but 'situation') where I am fully 'dedicating' myself to writing, so if I am not able to write I am doing NOTHING. This keeps popping into my head the phrase "i am a nonentity" like I am not interacting with the world at all. Even when I was just sitting here and writing five hours a day and still not interacting with the world I felt like I was interacting with the world. I guess to state this another way: my physical solitude is not an issue/not that bad/a good thing if i have the feeling that there is no existential/intellectual/creative solitude. I think the worst part of this all is that I may have to get a job soon which in it self is not so bad, the bad part will be 'finding out what job i can/should/would be able to do. All my lab ties are cut off, so this area where I have all this specialized knowledge is essentially out of the question. I could get some service job or seasonal work but that is perhaps the most horrifying thing (but really I would do it, it is more that I don't want to go out and find the job but if it came to me I work go every day and work hard and eat it up for 3-5 months then get that crushing ennui and get distracted all the time and either quit or get fired or hopefully (hopefully) have the job end and get laid off et c.) Really I just sort of wish someone would just provide me with a job, like in the old days, where you would always just do whatever your family had done since the Ganga had receded, the job your last name specified you do.

That was the reason working on Basic Analysis was so good (well one reason): I knew exactly where it had to be and I knew I had to do it then. It was sort of like I was being told what to do, or where it had to go, and I was just following instructions. Things just fell into place and I barely had to think about how or where each point was going to line up. Granted the writing isn't great but the process was a wave that swept me up. This was the best part. I would just start writing, not know where I was going, and then boom there I was 1000 or 2000 words later and the novel was slightly larger, and breathing a bit more.

I lay in bed for 2 hours this morning. Something I never do unless I am with my girlfriend. I kept telling myself I had to get out of bed and start writing but nothing happened. I just lay there for two hours. Usually it will be 7:05 and I will say "Get out of bed, you need to get writing" and I get just the right amount of anxiety and there it is, but this time I kept telling myself I had to get up and... nothing. Every fifteen minutes for two hours. It was terrible. I'd just think 'what am I even going to write?' and then I'd think 'nothing' and I'd just nod off again for a minute. It makes me think back to the last time I had nothing 'official' to do and I would just sleep in till 11 every day. That was the worst winter of my life.

And maybe the wort part of this is that I'm just complaining right now but not doing anything to solve the problem. Like I could be writing a story right now but I just don't know how to write a story. It just feels like that. I just have never written a story before and all the stories I have written are not mine, like I can't edit them.

I'm reading 'A Naked Singularity' right now. De La Pava is a pretty interesting writer. The novel keeps falling from side to side, from the poles of really smart, good post-modern writing to a pretty cheesy crime thriller. His writing style can get really awkward with these poorly constructed sentences and mass-market (that's how I think of it, all snappy, like reading the script from gilmore girls where it seems like the writer is making everyone try to sound smart, except - at least in my experience - the smartest people don't generally have some snappy comeback to everything, in fact they generally speak slowly or not at all) It's like high-genre but if the 'high' and the 'genre' were separate parts of the book. Or like as if it was the same story but every other page was written 'high' and the rest was written in standard genre 'genre'. Anyways one of the good things about not being able to write is that I have been reading a lot, like I started 'ANS' on friday or thursday and I'm already on page 450 which is pretty quick for me. Apparently his second novel was not that successful, though it would be interesting to see. Honestly I thought naked singularity was going to be more difficult, but most parts are pretty straightforward (either that or I am just missing all the difficult parts).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I've been in the Trees Before

I've been in the trees before
their arms a pallid amber sickness

from across the valley
they seem like one mass

I'm not easily fooled though
I've been in their arms before

here the dirt tastes
just like a cow bell

I tasted it on a dare

it tastes like blood
but it isn't

it's either dirt
or a cow's bell

Monday, October 14, 2013

I was there (and it was stupid)

I vividly remember being nine or ten and watching the WTO riots live on TV. What exactly was going on was beyond me but it was obviously something big. I grew up on Mercer Island, just across the lake from Seattle and I could look over the lake at the light over Seattle - it looked the same as always - and then there on the evening news (how many days was it? it seemed to go on for weeks,) there was all this action, this violence and motion. The whole thing had a very rebels vs. empire taste to it, the demonstrators all colorful, arms locked, signs hoisted; the riot police anonymous behind their black masks, kicking, firing tear canisters. There were the ominous clouds of smoke, the huddled groups of crying women having water poured into their eyes. It all seemed very romantic and weighty and played nicely to that remnant childhood feeling of a definite good/evil split, that clean morality even adults hold some hope for.

 For a long time after WTO I held these very romantic notions of riots. There were a few years where I really hoped to be a part of one, to be out there on the streets fighting this battle between good and evil. Kicking a cop. I got a gas mask in high school from a thrift store partially hoping to one day to wear it as society fell and the US became one giant drawn out street battle.

As I saw more riots, on TV and youtube I came view them more as avoidable glitches in the movement of societal progress. Riots were exciting but rarely seemed to create much more than a few broken bones and shattered windows. Aimless property destruction became less romantic as I factored in the people that had to clean all the shit up afterwards. This was during the rise of the black bloc movement/group/whatever and I became friends with a few people who really believed in the truth of spreading anarchy in the form of fucking up a Nike or Starbucks.

The idea too, or the argument, that these actions which were purely destructive could somehow make a difference, or change the world for the better seemed so completely backwards, so insanely wrongheaded that I found arguing with people who were for rioting for riots sake nearly impossible.

I followed the occupy movement from a distance when they happened (was that only last year?). This, I felt, was one of the first times in recent memory where people were getting together for a good cause. Granter the occupy cause was a little vague at times, but it was forwarding something that was good. The videos of the riot cops coming in and fencing people up with those nets enraged me, and the famous video of the cop at UC Davis pepper spraying the peaceful, seated students enraged me to no end. After a few years of being utterly appalled at the idea of mass demonstration there seemed to be something in it again, the romanticism, the unbalanced morality, the possibility of change.

It came out of no where then, my first riot. I cringe a little calling it that; the word 'riot' seems to lend the event some sort of legitimacy. Let's not call it a riot: in my mind riots move. Back and forth or straight forward a riot has motion, physical and ideological. This was a disruption, a drunken group looking for a fight. All the loud assholes outside of a bar, the dudes that yell at you out of their car window all grouped up in one place. I was up in the town where I had gone to college visiting my girlfriend for the weekend. We were at a quiet gathering down at the bottom of a long street that leads, more or less, up to the school, about a mile away from campus. We had been in the back yard around a sad little fire of beer boxes and newspaper, talking, eating. The night was pretty quiet though every few minutes there was this chanting or yelling, apparently coming from down town. I figured it was a football game or concert. People around the fire kept mentioning a block party 'Is it still going on?', 'I heard it got broken up?', 'We were just there.') Over the course of five minutes we saw two or three cop cars - lights on, sirens quiet - speed past the house and up to campus. My girlfriend and I went out onto the front lawn and, looking up the street, saw a mass of flashing lights blocking off the street. We decided to go see what was going on and walked up the street. As we got closer people became more frequent, moving to or away from the mess, a few just watching. There were easily eight cop cars blocking off the road, though they never stopped us or asked us to turn around. Up on the ledge of a small hill, overlooking an intersection about half a mile from campus, there were about two hundred people, young, (student aged, though perhaps not students) gathered, facing the police and cheering. Bottles were arcing up and crashing in front of the cars. Already glass was strewn about and shimmering on the entire space in front of the police cars. We watched for a moment, a little amused but mostly wondering at what could possible incite something so ridiculous and out of place.

Anyways, here I am standing in front of this angry, drunken, idiotic crowd, filled with the gospel of moderation. The cops were quietly pulling out their riot gear, one guy lining up with a paintball gun aside a car. I was angry at the people throwing bottles, but also at the cops for amping up the crowd with their lights and gear and simple presence. It seemed reasonable enough to me that if I went into the crowd and called people out one by one, pointing at them and saying 'Go home' I might have some effect. The adrenaline got me and I went over and into the crowd. I was kind of drunk, I'll admit it, but more than anything I think I was driven by an article I had been reading earlier in the day by Douglas Hofstadter. This was from 'metamagical themas' the collection of his mathematical games in Scientific American from the early 80's. In his penultimate column Hofstadter put forward a lottery which went as follows: each person may send in a postcard with a number on it representing the number of entries they wish to have. A '1' gets you one chance of winning a '700' get you 700 chances of winning. The prize was $1,000,000 dollars though the winner only received that amount divided by the number of entries. He reported over two thousand entries, many of them '1's though quite a few of them insanely large numbers. Naturally, due to the large number and magnitude of the entries, the amount of the prize was so vanishingly small that it essentially equaled zero. Hofstadter used this as a way to demonstrate the tragedy of the commons in a very elegant way, showing here that most people assume that they are special, unique, that they can take more than others because others will act moderately, rationally, and provide a cushion for that one person. Of course many, if not most, people assume that they are the special individual. This drive toward selfishness is placed as the single most importance cause of the decline in natural resources. The article ended in a very depressing way with Hofstadter lamenting humanity, the environment and resigning his position at SA.

My pleas were mostly ignored, though when I brought up the tear gas two or three people seemed to take it to heart and left pretty quickly. I went out of the crowd and back to my girlfriend who was (rightfully) pissed that I went into the crowd.

A little afterwards (the cops remained stoic the whole time, invisible almost as they remained in the cruisers) a few guys tore a stop sign out of the ground and hoisted it into the air. They paraded it around for a little while then threw it in front of the cop cars. Up to that point the destructive potential of the crowd was fairly minimal. They had bottles but nothing harder: no bricks, broken concrete or gas bombs. The sign represented the first item which could do some damage. Before anyone had a chance to put it through a window, or bend it beyond use I went over, grabbed it and pulled it into the grass, out of the immediate view of the crowd. Almost as soon as I made it over some guys ripped another sign up. I didn't wait this time and just pulled it out of their hands. It was surprisingly easy. There were a few of them, three or four maybe, but they did not put up much of a fight. If anything i think it proved they weren't really that serious about the whole thing. I put the stop signs in a little pile and stood by them.

A few people came over and told me how it was good to move the signs. While I appreciated this I sort of wished that more people were doing something to break up the riot. There was this sizable group of people watching, talking about how stupid it was and that they wanted the riot to be over, but they did nothing to stop it. So really there were these two different levels of mob mentality: the one group that thought it was okay if they threw a bottle at the cops, ignoring the fact that everyone else was doing this, everyone else was being as destructive as they were, and the other side, those watching who felt pissed off but did not want to step in and interfere, did not feel comfortable telling off the crowd individually.

The crowd began to move up to the cops cars little by little. There were girls twerking in front of (and apparently 'on', though I missed this) the cop car and guys flipping them off. All of a sudden the cop cars split to either side of the road and let through this little armored vehicle. Afterwards I heard it was called a 'bearcat'. There was a big bang then a series of pops which might have been concussion grenades or the cops firing those little paintballs filled with CS powder. The rioting crowd was covered in smoke and the people in the watching crowd moved away. We just walked, it was obviously time to go but it never felt too dangerous to me. About a block away a lot of people ran past us. I distinctly remember hearing a girl scream 'Why is everyone running!?' as if people running was the scariest part.

We heard concussion grenades going off every now and then for another twenty minutes or so, though we walked out of the range of hearing pretty soon after.

The whole thing seemed very confusing. I don't remember exactly when we learned how it all started but there had been a fairly large block party (about a block away from the riot) which had been broken up by the cops and moved out to the park. People had heard and gathered, presumably some of them not even at the original party.

Afterwards the picture started to form through the news. We read about it the next morning on the huffington post which was a shocking amount of coverage for what seemed like such a silly event (there was an Iranian article too but it was short and they misspelled the word 'four' among others). The mostly reliable reports showed that no one got hurt and the cops arrested three, maybe four people, none of whom were students. The whole thing seemed to vastly out of place. I had heard of student riots before but these I associated with football school, with frats, and couches burning on the streets at huge party schools. It sort of killed any of that residual romanticism I had for mass demonstrations. It was, without a doubt, the single stupidest thing I have seen in my life. There was no thought, no action, no meaning. Just all the worst things humanity has to offer: mindless destruction, the group mentality, selfishness, ignoring all evidence against the wrong position, self-righteousness.

There has been some banter back and forth of what the riot represents. There were the initial proclamations of novel moral decay and 'the kids these days' and then of course the crowd of people pointing out that mindless student riots like this have occurred before. But one has to wonder why now? Why in the peaceful city of Bellingham? (the chief of police of 31 years says he has never seen anything like this) Why midway through the quarter? Is there a way to keep things like this from happening, or break them without hurting people? Granted the cops did a great job here, but the pepper ball guns they were using have been responsible for two deaths, simply by accident.

At one point, when I was going through the crowd I told some guy to go home he said,
'No, we are fighting for a cause'
This really surprised me, as if perhaps there was some deeper cause to the group that I was not aware of,
'What cause?'
'To party' he said, straight faced (well his eyes were wandering).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

those old submission blues

Been submitting my novel to presses. Sent out to another contest today. Already $55 dollars in the hole. Feels like gambling, but I lose more money, or something. Gathered a bunch of presses from the 'about' section of &NOW2 award anthology. Most are poetry/multimedia et c. so it was not very fruitful.

Feel this tearing conundrum where, you know how on the submissions page they will say 'please read our books to find out what we publish' or something like that? And there are a number of presses that publish stuff that I like (Dalkey archive, two dollar radio, tyrant) but all the presses that I like, that I admire that I (this is going to sound weird, but I believe it) feel a sort of aesthetic resonance in, are all relatively elite. And the ones seem to have even the slightest chance of publishing me are pretty small, relatively basic, mundane (whatever the opposite of elite is I guess) but do not publish books i have yet come into contact with. Many of the presses I like are closed to unsolicited subs. too so I have to go scour the internet for all these other presses (I guess the 'shotgun' approach seems like the only way though I may be wring here...) but I don't have the time (or the motivation really) to read all the books form all these small presses. It's so selfish, and yet I feel this driving motivation to do it. Like blowing dandelion fluff into a volcano, like trying to spread my creative seed (gross) into this giant, uncaring, incinerating maw. And I know I just need to write more, and I've been getting published little by little...and still.

Feel pretty hopeless at this point, finding it hard to write more. And this is not just from the presses but in general. Last week wrote something like 3000 words total, just a silly story about 'lying down machines'. Feel like there will come a point where I will meet a bunch of people writing a lot like I do. Not sure if this will be a good thing or a bad thing. Good for connections, feedback, publishing; bad for competition, self-esteem, in-fighting (I guess?).

Guess I'm just super lucky that I do not have to have a job now, nor in the near future. Can write as much as I want, when I want et c. Figure that the pressure of having a job will make me write more efficiently. Hearing about there people who have thrown away three, five, ten novels before they published their first piece make me worried. Just not sure how many novels I have in me, whether I can sustain the energy I had earlier this year for the amount of time it will take me to do this.

Funny, talking with b., who has been doing art for 4-5 years, sells pieces for ~$100 each and was able to quit his job to do art full time, and was complaining about all these other people being more successful than he is. He seems really successful (and talented) to me. I guess it's all a cycle, or a spiral maybe like the less successful always looking up at those who are a little more successful and feel jealous/envious.

Feel like I sent BA out just to get feedback or to get my name into some heads, don't really expect it to get published, but then will have these little flashes of like Dalkey Archive being like 'yeah we loved it we'll take it' and getting prematurely, hopelessly optimistic. 'Optimism as disease', like rushdie said. Hate to quote him but it seems a propos. Expectations are awful, try to squash them as much as possible. Also feel like I may have exhausted my current publishing contacts (few and generous as they are). Sort of weasled my way into these people's views, shoved a piece on them then had them move it forward. Wish I could get a piece put through by someone I have never met I guess, would make me feel much better about my writing (for some reason)

Wanted to submit to jaded ibis and they asked for an aesthetic statement. Put one together but it felt thin, like they would have looked and laughed. Everything else about the press seemed admirable and interesting though. Over my head maybe, need to develop a BA app.

Have been focusing (sort of) with the interaction with that writer. Feels very narcissistic. Want to focus on letting criticism et c. (negative criticism, not critique or positive criticism) roll off my back. Don't want to be one of htose shitty people who wallows in other criticisms.

There are two things that I think would be cool and interesting for literature:

1. A subscription based database similar to 'web of science' where all literary journals and magazines are cataloged and each store is indexed with year, author, location and a number of qualifiers like length  topic style etc. then authors, genres and styles are connected so that you can find similar writers to those you like. Sort of like a pandora for short stories or poetry. There is already the search function I guess but the connections (especially for personal, academic and institutional connection) might add a lot, allow someone new to literature to find a lot of good stuff pretty quickly.

2. A fully funded institution that was sort of like an invitation only MFA program: nominations made by whoever where entry level writers who seemed dedicated to the craft in the long term but either did not have the means to get further education/immersion in a full writing environment or something like that could just write for a few year (or do research or whatever). I guess the crux here would be invitation only, which sounds elitist and to a certain degree it would have to be, but it would allow this no pressure environment and lot of writing. or something. Maybe it would devolve into a nepotistic circle jerk, probably would.

About every month or so I'll wake up to some guy screaming outside my window. It will be the middle of the night and I'll listen for twenty, thirty minutes as every minute or so there is just this little scream. Different thing, they get garbled through the window. Sometimes it will stop for a few minutes then come back. That's all.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This was Funny

So I am a part of this workshop - very nice, mostly twenty somethings, decent feedback et c.. We are coming toward the end of a seasonal 'session' and there have been speakers coming in the last two weeks. Last week was this irritating suit who titled himself a literary 'advisor, coach' et c. trying to shill his writing advice book. He thought indie publishing was what people called self-publishing these days and said some thing to the effect of 'i don't really read internet journals' so my ears had these involuntary spasms and shut out pretty much everything else he said during the session. This week a guy who writes 'YA, fantasy and urban fiction' came in. I was wary at first but he seemed genuine and had good experience. He too grouped up the publishing industry into 'traditional publishing' and self-publishing and spent a significant amount of time talking about agents, how he got one and how useful they are. He mentioned at one point that getting your book through a publisher (presumably Henry Holt, which is who is carrying his most recent YA horror mystery) includes a portion where the publisher runs the book past "...walmart, barnes and nobles and large retailers."

Later I brought up this split that he had mentioned (and had been mentioned last week), between self-publishing and big six publishing and just ignoring all the small presses in the middle. He asked me what I wrote, but I had a hard time summing it up in one sentence. I said 'literary, with fantastical elements social criticism and experimental language' because I don't write genre and he (not knowing anything else about my novel, or how I write) ran with description and made a series of sweeping judgements about how my range was very narrow and how I would probably not sell many books. I told him I already had this expectation from the get go and was not too worried about it. I then, at some point, mentioned how 'thinking about selling my book in WalMart made me nauseous'.  He flew immediately into a tiny rage and told me that 'I should wish to one day sell my book at WalMart!' and that 'The people who shop at Walmart are not bad!' and I should 'not live in a little ivory tower'. I am not exaggerating when I say there was foam at his mouth. There was not a lot, but it was foam, and it was at his mouth. I placated him but it was a strange experience, like something in a movie. Dystopian almost, being scolded for not liking Walmart enough. He also brought up that since indie publishers only publish a few books a year one's chances at getting published were very small. This of course was after describing how there were hundreds of small presses, his arms spread wide apparently necessary to hold all those small, small presses. "Unless", he slipped in, "you happen to know someone there". Indicating the slimy nepotism I'm sure he thinks rules these places. (In case this isn't clear: the way I figure it one's chances may be small at each individual press, but by submitting to 10/20/50/100 small presses the chances should be about equivalent to trying to get something weird into one of the very restrictive big houses)  He did have nice things to say about small presses: you get time with your editor, they are prompt, they are communities.

In the end he was a kind guy with a lot of experience writing and publishing. Twenty five years under his belt (though apparently the first ten, two novel's worth, he doesn't even count). He was like some other writers I have met, small press writers mostly: he had a certain amount of success, but was envious of his more successful colleagues; he provided the lessons he had learned and assumed they would apply to all other writers; he started his career modestly, worked hard to get where he was and has carved out a small but comfortable place for himself. I guess this is the attitude mass market writers have toward small presses: that they are these plentiful, tiny, narrow minded bugs which scutter about out of sight, doing these tiny things (like publishing silly writers who 'value developing a unique voice over content') that are outside the wide scope of mass market publishing.

Wouldn't it be cool?

You know how there are a few movies, like really violent fucked up movies, that were so realistic that the producers or directors or whatever were arrested and only let free when they brought out the actress that was supposedly killed and recreated the effects for them? Like I think there was a Japanese movie like that in the 80's. What if you did that for a book, where it seemed so realistic that they arrested the author on suspicion of a crime but then they were like, 'dude, fiction. I'm just THAT GOOD.' Has anyone done that? Can anyone still do that?