So I was talking to my Mom a few minutes ago about writing. She's a good poet. We were talking a little bit about writer's block and ways around it and she suggested that I write about events in my life. I said, "Well, my memory's pretty shitty. I don't remember a lot of 'em."
She said, "That's not true. I was thinking about that time- you were at summer camp, or some kind of camp- and you stuck that toilet plunger on your ass."
Yeah, great, ma. I want to let the world know all about the time I stuck a toilet plunger to my bare ass when I was ten.
She also suggested that I write about the time I was eleven and going bike riding. I had my head in the clouds, as per usual, and I wasn't watching where I was riding. Instead of watching the sidewalk, I was staring at the sky or something, enjoying the wind on my face as I rode down this hill. I didn't see the barricade until I was flipping over the goddamn thing. Landed on my hands, broke both my wrists. I stood up, my wrists sticking out at improbable angles from the rest of my arms, and wandered to the nearest house, where I pounded on the door with my elbows, gave them my phone number, and passed out on their kitchen floor.
Goddamn. Didn't I do anything when I was a kid that was cool?
Today in my Philosophy Through Film class, we watched the latter half of The Matrix and my professors blathered about it for a while. They kept asking these dopey dopey questions, and I couldn't figure out if they were being deliberately obtuse or not. It was like this:
Professor: So, the people in the pods have the spike in their brains. The matrix is a computer program that relays electrical impulses to the brain-spikes. Then the people's brains- the people are having these hallucinatory experiences. And their brains somehow interact, they fire more electrical impulses which instantaneously affect the matrix as well as the other people who are close to them within the matrix.
Student: Yeah, that's right.
Professor: And the people in the pods- they're somehow thinking that they're acting within the matrix, and their thinking happens in the matrix, and other people in the matrix experience it too.
Professor: But the people are in the pods. They're not actually moving. They just think they're moving. In the matrix, they're moving. And their movement within the matrix impugns on the other people in the matrix's hallucinatory experience.
Student: Yes. Yes, goddammit, yes.
Professor: And somehow, the brain-spikes relay the electrical impulses within the brains of the pod-people through the matrix.
Student: Oh dear sweet Jesus, kill me now.
Professor: And then the matrix relays the electrical impulses from the brain-spikes to the brain-spikes of the other people, and somehow they interpret it the same way as the people whose brain-spikes sent the electrical impulses initially. Within the shared hallucinatory experience provided by the matrix.
Student: I'm going to fucking drive a screwdriver into my eye now.
Anyway. I got the camera for filming this weekend. I hope it goes well. I really want to start editing this thing next week. Pray for me, that I get all the shots I need done this weekend
So I was diddling around tonight, tinkering with the future website for the spiff-ass Colleen Coover comic book Small Favors, which I am designing(the website, not the spiff-ass comic book).
Then I get this e-mail. It's from McSweeney's. It's a rejection letter for a piece I sent them last October or something. The odd thing about it is that I received a rejection letter for this selfsame piece last December.
And I can't really translate this second rejection letter. It kind of sounds like this reader read it, liked it, and gave it to someone else to read. So maybe it's like a "Hi, yeah, this is McSweeney's, and maybe we want it after all" thing, or maybe it's like a "Hi, this is McSweeney's, and we like this but we're all full up and so I'm going to give this to some of my pals at the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly." Or maybe it's like a "Let's send those dopes some more encouraging things and then laugh about it while we drink our expensive wine."
I don't like to think about that last one.
And the piece, "Haute Cuisine," was really the last piece that I really polished until it shone. This was last summer, I did this. And then I sent it off and I haven't really written anything since, I've been all worked up and haven't been able to get the ink flowing. Although, goddamn, if that fucking thing gets published...
I mean, just the fact that someone's showing renewed interest in it...
Maybe I'll be able to start writing good things again.
I finally got off my ass and finished the Heavy Drinker's Guide to Iowa City. I'm quite proud. Tell me what you think
So I'm taking this class called "Philosophy Through Film." Today, we watched select scenes from Total Recall. I shit you not. We've been discussing Descartes and his "Brain in a Vat" ideas. Descartes cast doubt on the idea that anything can be known, and extended his ideas to the fact that we have physical existence. He hypothesized that we could merely be brains in vats undergoing an intense hallucinatory experience.
I never would have thought that it could be possible to discuss Descartes with one of Arnold Schwartzenegger's shittier movies as debate material. But it's true. I swear to God. Or... the protector of my vat. Whichever happens to be the case.
I guess that's it. Most of my creative energy today was spent on The Heavy Drinker's Guide To Iowa City, which I'm very proud of.
So today my Fiction Writing teacher was giving us all these weird little tips and tricks. "If you need an adverb, you're probably using the wrong verb." He said, "You only need three dialogue tags: said, whispered, asked." Now, I've read rather stricter versions of these rules before. People will talk about cutting out extraneous abverbs on the second draft, or only using "said" instead of other tags, which admittedly I can be fond of, especially "howled" and "screamed." It made me curious why he'd allow "whispered." I suspect it was because a short story he'd handed out to the class by one of his favorite authors used "whispered" extensively.
Regardless of any real or imagined silliness, I've got to come up with 10-20 pages of decent short story to be workshopped in the next couple of weeks. I'm pretty concerned, because it feels like I've been writer's blocked forever. I mean, sure, I hammered out that "Momma" thing, but that's not exactly fine art. I have a few characters that I might like to work with, but no story ideas. I haven't had any story ideas for a long, long time.
Wish me luck, you bastards.
I read this piece in Atlantic Monthly that Barb gave to me called "A Reader's Manifesto," by B. R. Myers, about the nature of contemporary fiction. It was pretty derisive, criticising Cormac McCarthy and Proulx, Auster and DeLillo. I actually agreed with most of it. I thought she was a little off base with Auster- she was quoting his earlier works, which weren't that good, and his later works, which haven't been that good. She was taking these long and rambling excerpts totally out of context and dismissing them. For the most part, I agree with her. There aren't very many good contemporary literary authors. A few from the McSweeney's set, like David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Lethem. I like Paul Auster's middle works, Mr. Vertigo and Moon Palace specifically. I love Stephen Dobyns. But these guys are few and far between, and most of the people who ride the spotlight aren't very good. Is there a spot for me? Not yet.
Well. I've got to get to bed. I've rambled on for long enough.
So, this is my very first post in what will hopefully be a long long line of high-quality almost-daily posts by yours truly, aimed at informing my public about... things.
So it's the middle of summer. I'm working, I'm taking two classes, and I'm reading a lot. I just got done reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and found it thoroughly enjoyable.
One of the classes I'm taking is a Fiction Writing class. One of our little in-class exercises turned into an actual premise for a short story that I find interesting. I've been working on it, a little, and then I hammered it out today because my friend Adam wants something of mine to publish in his swank-ass 'zine, American Porn.
Here's the thing. It's called Momma.
Let me know what you think.
I finally got an MP3 of Bright Eyes' new song Waste of Paint from the Steve Lamacq BBC sessions. It's gorgeous. I can't wait for the new record.
I think I'm going to film some more stuff for The Rise and Fall of Betty Blow-Up this weekend. I'll let you know how things go. That is all.