Sunday, May 29, 2005

But please, don't lose that lovin' feelin'. Whoa, that lovin' feelin'.

So due to some sort of technical difficulties (1) I've been unable to post to the blog for the last week. So, if you've been wondering where I've been since, uh, Tuesday, May 17, I've been over in the corner crying because I've had so many important things to say to you kind people, and no way to say them. But, I seem to have fixed the glitch, and things seem to be back in order. I hope.

I apologize to the few people (2) who may have been eagerly checking the web site every five minutes looking for my follow-up post on Never Let Me Go. The post is there now. Or if you just need the capsule summary: Never Let Me Go is a very good book and you should definitely read it soon. Unless you happen to be my friend Chris, then you have to read Cloud Atlas first, because you've owned a copy for many months now, but have been busy reading Ulysses, and are greatly admired by me. Or unless you happen to be my girlfriend, in which case, read it or don't at your leisure, because I'd hate to seem like the kind of literary elitist who goes around bossing his girlfriend about. Or, unless you're someone who doesn't enjoy breathtaking experiences, in which case, you probably aren't reading this blog, because an informal survey of TDaOC readers suggests that readers of this site come for the fun and stay to have their breath taken away. You be Kelly McGillis and I'll be your Tom Cruise.

As for all those important things I've had to say to you kind people over the last week and a half--uhm, I forgot what they all were. But it's cool. I'll come up with more important stuff I have to tell you kind people, because that's what I like to do: say important stuff.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Plus he started his blog only three days before I started mine, and that's got to be worth something, right?

After you've read some of Tod Goldberg's blog posts (even going so far as to laugh out loud on occasion), you'll probably wonder if his books are worth reading, too.

Living Dead Girl, so long as you don't mind stories that make you say things like "Wow, that's messed up" or "Oh gosh, that's, uh, messed up," is worth reading.

(Incidentally, I think this is the first time I've read a book solely because I'd been reading the writer's blog. I'd like to think this will boost some kind of personal karma for myself, someday. Mostly I suspect it just means I got to read a cool book.)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is a very good novel

When I first saw the poster for Requiem for a Dream I knew I wanted to see the movie. There was a dynamic to that poster that wouldn't let go of me once it got inside of me: the two images, split across the middle, the extreme close up of the eye up top, the pier pushing out into clear blue sky underneath. Claustrophobia and agoraphobia, uneasily distinguishable, forcibly connected.

So when I saw the movie--having by that time read a synopsis, which made the movie sound horribly drab--I went with a girl I was dating at the time. We were weird together and didn't last long. But we saw that movie together. We survived that movie together. When the movie ended, we both felt the same way; in need of contact, some humanity, something reassuring. I leaned my head onto her shoulder, she placed her hand on the side of my face. Like that, we watched the credits. We were sad and overwhelmed. It was a very good movie.

Sometime later I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The opening two chapters are the bluntest yet best (to my knowledge) literary equivalent to the dynamic of that poster. All, closed in, bursting open. Cancer in a living room and frisbees arcing across clear California skies. Escape never felt so overwhelming.

And it's that same dynamic I can feel working its way through Never Let Me Go. But where those opening chapters of Eggers's book reveled in their bluntness, Kazuo Ishiguro's novel works with a nearly imperceptible subtlety. It's easy to read the book, to feel the intimacy of your relationship with the characters developing from page to page, the normalcy of their story, the closeness that envelops their lives. It's that photo of the eye, if the camera was slowly drifting back, with the frame expanding second by second, but never showing much more than what's there, in front of you: people, and their lives. Everything is delicately yet finely focused, and its almost possible to forget the existence of the frame that limits what you see. But the frame is there, and it's holding out the open airiness of existence, the questions and ideas that crowd and crowd and crowd inward and yet never manage to fill all the available space. This quiet division amplifies the story's impact and makes for an awesome novel.

None of that, though, is what I'll remember when I think of this book, years from now.

What I'll remember is this: that when I finished reading the book, I felt a familiar desire. A desire for a shoulder to lean on. A desire for comfort. A desire to not be alone.

The need to be reassured.

Ignore the reviews and read this novel. Or, don't ignore the reviews. But read this novel. And tell me if I'm wrong.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Overwrought? I'm not even warmed up yet

I'm reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go right now. I'm about halfway through it--though that's not quite the book I want to talk about right now, and yet, it's the point of this post. I'll have more to say when I finish it, which, in a perfect world, one in which I didn't have to wake up far too early tomorrow, would be tonight.

The book I want to talk about is one I must have read about ten years ago. That book was not The Remains of the Day.

Through more than half of high school I worked for a local library, shelving books. It was the perfect job for me. I liked books. (Still do.) I very much, for whatever strange, deeply rooted psychologically disturbed reason, took to shelving them. Reading titles, alphabetizing; placing books on shelves, fronting and shifting. Putting everything in order. Keeping everything neat. It was a delightful way to make money.

It was also a delightful way to come across many books I'd probably have read had I had more time. As is, I can't remember how many I actually did read, but the one that sticks out today is one I liked hardly at all: The Unconsoled. It caught my attention because it was a slightly short yet squat book; I was in that phase of loving big books. Big books mean important books, see. Big books mean good books.

Plus, this book had a fascinating premise. Fascinating at the time. It had something to do with a classical musician (or was it a conductor?) who was caught up in a strange state of amnesia; he wasn't supposed to know who he was, where he was, why he was there, outside of it dealing with the music. (If I'm wrong on this, blame time.) The book, in my hand, sturdy and solid, promised me entrance into a dream; a world of ethereal thought and surreal mental firings. The book, I knew, would be weird, and as much as I liked fat books, I also loved weird books, and to have a fat book and a weird book be, in this case, the same book...well, checking it out was pretty obvious.

And I read it. And I got angry with it. I'm not sure why, now. It didn't do very much, I think I thought. Now I think maybe it wasn't doing much I was able to pick up on, yet? The narrator (or, main character) never dealt with the fact that he had no idea who he was, that he had obvious roles to fill with no clue how to fill them--he never once got scared of his existence. I found it all less surreal than agitating. Annoying. Bad.

And yet, convinced it would get better, I forced myself to read the whole thing. It would be a long time before I'd hit the point when I'd feel like it was safe to give up on a book if I wasn't enjoying it halfway through. I remember sitting at my kitchen table, pushing myself from page to page, convinced if I just kept going, this character would snap to attention, notice he's living in a dream, and freak out. I was waiting, searching, yearning for the freak out. The only freak out to come was my own. I finished the book. I regretted having read it. And, a little bit later, I moved off to college and underwent the transformative freak-out period that awaited me there. (Grew my hair out, gave up on my ambitions of becoming a highly-paid engineer. The usual.)

Several years, some inferior jobs, and a couple haircuts later, I found myself sick to death of the Internet--my long-time constant companion--and all the crap on it and started wondering if maybe there were people using it for things I was interested in. Like, reading books. And writing stories. Sure enough, about two seconds worth of Googling later, I'd been introduced to the lovely and exciting world of the "lit blog".

Oddly enough, one of the first things I found there was a link to a Kazuo Ishiguro interview or article. Seemed he had a new book coming out. I couldn't hold my old grudge against him--I mean, it wasn't his fault his book fell into the hands of some idiot kid who was looking for something in a book of his he'd never set out to do. And yet, a little reading on my part later, finding out that there were other people who saw The Unconsoled as a sort of low-point (or at least as a faltering step) in his oeuvre was...well, consoling is probably too easy a word, but there you have it. Besides, he did write The Remains of the Day, which was, it seemed, a very important book. And he had this new book coming out, apparently. But mostly me reading about where he was, who he was, what he wrote, it felt a little bit like checking in on an old friend. One you were never close to, but you did have that bonding experience once, a long time ago. So what if it involved cussing and eyestrain.

It took me reading a few more reviews of his new novel, Never Let Me Go, for a few things to set in. One--this promised to be a very strange book. Two--this was a book that, despite the old times, I had to read.

So now here I am, feeling like I've re-lived the last nine years in miniature. I forced myself through a book I didn't much care for (A Changed Man--though I don't think I'd have described my experience with The Unconsoled, at the time, so tamely as one "I didn't much care for"). I dropped the next book I picked up about halfway through because my eyes kept drifting off the page and finding more interesting things to look at in the carpet. My hair's probably grown a little bit in that time. My car almost exploded, and that made me kind of freak out for a few days. Then everything turned out fine. And now I sit, ten years/a few weeks later, and I'm back where I started.

Except, not quite.

This time, I'm loving every word of this book.

And that's where I'll cut myself off until I finish the book--laws of averages and bodies in motion staying in motion not withstanding, the whole thing could go to hell before the time's up. I don't feel it's going to though. But I'll stop here before I have to start knocking on wood with every sentence.

All that said, and if you've stuck with me this far, I've got a warning to offer up. Never Let Me Go hinges on a twist. Though not so much a twist as a slowly revealed fact. You could sum up the fact of this book in one sentence. To reduce this book to that sentence is to rob it of its ... I don't want to reduce this book.

So I'll offer up this word of advice. If, you, patient TD&OC reader, are somehow turned on to this book by this post and my (hopefully soon to come) follow-up alone--if, say, you haven't read any reviews of the book yet, and you think you might like to pick the book up, give it a shot, see what my buzz is about--then, please, don't read any reviews. Because the reviews are happy to spoil the fact of the book for you. And while my enjoyment of the book hasn't been reduced by that foreknowledge, as far as I can tell, I can only guess what certain facts of the book would do to a reader who doesn't see them coming. I suspect there would be surprise, and shock, and sadness, and confusion; I suspect in the end, you who reads the book and likes it, and me who reads the book and likes it, we'll still end up at about the same place. But there's something to not knowing where the journey will take you that, well, that's not something I'm ready to take from you.

Spoiling the book a little bit was necessary for me to take an interest in it; if, all things holding up for the last half of course, I can spark your interest in it without spoiling the book a bit, I'd be a happy book pusher.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Also, something The Insult made me realize: irony and paranoia are, if not the same thing, at least very close siblings.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

With a title like that, it's got to be a Japanese horror movie remade for American audiences...right?

Based on the pretty strong recommendations of Maud Newton, I read The Insult by Rupert Thomson this weekend. (The astute TD&OC fan will note that I've had prior success with a Maud Newton recommendation in A.L. Kennedy's Paradise.) Being a slow reader, the kind of person who can be easily distracted from the pages in front of me by sudden motions or the mere existence of atmosphere in the room around me, the fact that I read the entire book in a two-day span (okay, fine: minus the first fifty pages or so, which I'd read sometime earlier this week) is a pretty good indication to me that I liked it. A lot.

Now, the fun thing about this book, is that it gives rise to really interesting conversation material. The other night (after I'd read the first several pages and before I read the rest of the book) my girlfriend played that song A Perfect Circle (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong) did, the one about the nurse. It's a really strange song.

"I'm reading a novel right now," I said, "that had a strange scene with a nurse in it."

My girlfriend, and my friend Chris, who are both used to me talking, looked at me. Taking this as encouragement to continue, I said, "Yeah, it was weird. There's this guy who gets shot. And he goes blind. But he can see at night. And so his nurse comes in and strips in front of him. But she doesn't know he can see at night. And then he gets off on it. And the nurse smiles at him. And..."

The expressions on my girlfriend's face and Chris's face were changing, though I couldn't quite say how. "It, uh, it was really cool, though," I said. "I mean, it makes sense in context...I mean, it made me want to stay up all night, reading the book, you know?"

And then other things happened. The point here being: if you read this book, you'll get to say weird things, just like me, and who wouldn't want to say weird things just like I do, all the time? Granted I usually don't need a stunningly bizarre literary mystery thriller semisurreal noir Kafkaesque black comedy WTF genre novel written in evocative yet simply-played prose to prompt me to do so, but sometimes I get lazy and like to let something else inspire me to say stuff about, you know, nurses.

See, this isn't a normal book. It's not a book you exactly classify. And it's not necessarily a book you exactly read, either; it's more a book that you let wash through you, that you ride it out enjoying the view all the time wondering where the hell you're going. At times it can seem slow. And I can almost guarantee that when you start to feel like things are about to go too slow, you're just about to hit a wall, and smash through it, and when you wipe the blood from your face and can open your eyes again, you'll find out that the direction on the far side of the rubble is a new one. You're going somewhere else even as you're covered the in the dust of everything you've gone through so far. The book anticipates you, see; every time I think we're about to fall into a trap of the book's own creation, the book trips the wire with a long pole and guides you around it, towards other dangers.

It's all so very oddly compelling. Maud Newton said it more succinctly: "Rupert Thomson writes nightmares." Then there's The Grumpy Old Bookman's take on the book: "I found his work to be curiously unsettling. It made me nervous." I guess if you're looking for a short and to the point quote from me on this book, you can use this: "I've read The Insult. And now I want to read the rest of his books." Has a nice ring to it, no?

And as long as I'm still in my linking-like-mad mood

The LitBlog Co-Op has posted their first Read This! selection. Here's the post recommending the book and here's a post about some of the fun stuff that's going to be happening soon. (And in keeping with my previous post, those are both linked to from my "suggested reading" page.)

It will be interesting to see what happens next and to see how much of a dent this sort of thing will put into the sales-figures and reading-figures. IE, now that that hype's built up to a suggested book, will people--lots of people--read that book? Will that book gain an increased following outside of the lit-blog-o-sphere? I know I plan to read the book, since I promised myself I'd read whatever book they suggested (with some exceptions too not worth going into here), and, you know, if I dig it, I'll tell other people to read it. IE, how much will this first big push turn into extended word-of-mouth marketing? Etc etc. Time will tell. I shall remain optimistic. As a child of the electro-age and as a writer-hopeful, it's exactly the sort of thing I'd love to see work (both in and of itself, and also work for me someday). Because if I've learned anything in my net readings of late, it's that things as they are right now aren't necessarily working as well as we'd all like them to, right now, and it's good to see new things being tried.

Another short delicious post about nothing in particular

If I may draw your attention to the sidebar, down there somewhere in the sections of links to other sites, there's some links to certain tags under my account. The fifth one, "suggested reading", I figure warrants some explanation: the links you'll find on that page aren't about books I necessarily suggest you read. They're about books that someone is suggesting someone read. Or more specifically, they're links to pages that suggest books for reading, said descriptions or books having caught my eye, and leading me, personally, to be curious about the books described; ie, if there's a literal to be read pile--the stack of purchased but unread books or queued library books on my coffee table, for example--then the books described in the pages linked off that page constitute a slightly more metaphysical sort of to be read pile. IE, had I but time and more time, I'd likely read everything linked there, or at least give them a fair shot. And then a few of them would likely make their ways through my mental filters to receive posts here of the "Oh Em Gee! Read this!" category. Plus maybe when books do reach that status, that tag will help me remember who to give credit for when credit is due for book recommendations.

If that all makes sense. Mostly I just wanted to say that the tag name is sort of a misnomer, or at least potentially slightly mis-leading. And that you can use that tag and the links it presents to maybe find stuff you might want to read, if you're looking for a good random sampling of what other people think is worth reading. It's in no way meant to be comprehensive. Had I my way, all of us here on the web would start tagging stuff to via that tag, and then maybe there'd be something like comprehensiveness. Of course then it would also be overwhelming, seeing all the books people out there are recommending all the time, the knowledge that there's no way anybody can stay on top of that sort of thing being depressing and possibly causing people to stop reading altogether. That would suck.

The other four links right now are fed into the links page but I think, unless there's some kind of huge outcry against it, I'm going to just trash that page and suggest that, if you've become reliant on the information presented therein, you just go straight to the source pages. Those all have RSS feeds, too, incidentally, so if you just need to immediately know what articles and essays about books I'd like to read if I had 987987 hours each day to read, you can add the RSS feeds to your RSS eaters and we can all be happy as clams.

Also, I'm doing a little community service right here for you. Lakewood, my Cleveland 'burb, is really surreal, if you check the layer just beneath the surface. The police blotter presents that layer. I add the link to the police blotter web page each week, usually on Thursday evenings, so if you subscribe to that particular RSS feed, well, you'll get the link to that page, and, yeah. Rock on. I'm a big fan of the blotter. I'd love to see other tags devoted to other cities' blotters, if they're on the web. News you need and all.

And in conclusion, if you have no idea what any of this means: this right here is a fantastic primer on what is and why it rocks your socks off. I've probably hyped it before but I'll hype it again., like tabbed browsing, has fundamentally changed the ways in which I interact with the Internet and the information it contains. I imagine there's other ways to achieve what has done for me personally, but I care not to consider them, because I'm lazy like that. Think of as being your own sort of personal Internet file drawer, except its one in which you can just kind of toss things in somewhat haphazardly, and still have a decent to great shot of finding particular bits of information again later, and quickly. Plus then due to its social nature you can offer up the information to anybody else who might care to see what's grabbed your eye. Recently. Or ever. Nevermind the fact that I'm not using it even half as effectively as I probably could or should. Of course, many people probably don't use the Internet as much as I do, as often as I do, and probably don't require this level of interacting-with-the-Internet service, and I think maybe I envy those people. Maybe.

Friday, May 13, 2005

And in yet more happenings otherwheres

Gwenda Bond of Shaken & Stirred (one of them there really good lit-blogs) recently posted to the LitBlog Co-op looking for people to post a "memorable experience of the act of reading ... what you were reading, when, why it was perfect at that particular time". I went ahead and replied...and replied...and replied...and when I looked at what I'd submitted I figured I probably should have just posted it here, instead of taking up so much room over there, but, hey. So if you scroll down that page a bit and look for the long comment, yeah, that's me. Feel free to print out the TD&OC title and smoke picture and hold them up to your screen and pretend it's super-fresh content over here. Or go share your own reading story--that would probably be a better use of your time.

Also, I've got to recommend to ye Clevelanders and ye fans of libraries everywhere to get on over to Really Bad Cleveland Accent where Christine Borne's been knocking blog-posts out of the park left and right lately. Of specific note, her take on race issues in Cleveland and her explanation of why libraries are cool, cooler than we ever give them credit for. (Consider this post, in relation to that last link, to be my electronic paper airplane. I'm sure, somewhere in the radio waves and higher frequencies, this post is floating past the Terminal Tower,

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

In case of emergency, click links

So you say you've worked yourself all up into a fine tizzy because Thumb Drives and Oven Clocks is updated too infrequently? You've got those certain minutes a day you've set aside to read the new posts and it depresses you immensely when there isn't anything new to read? You haven't been receiving your recommended daily dosage of Advanced Footnote Technology? You're thinking of giving up on this little blog and looking elsewhere for fulfillment?

Hey man--that's cool. Let me show you the door. Two doors, actually. I hope you'll consider not locking them behind you, though; I'll likely start updating more frequently again sometime soon and you might like that; though if you do walk through those doors and leave your keys on the counter on your way out, I won't blame you. I know I suck. Or at least, I suck in comparison. If there were no other blogs on the internet...well, I'd still suck, but that's cool.

One Child Left Behind

Brandon Rogers loves Journey, but despite his claims, that doesn't quite sum it up. He writes the blog I would write if, a, I didn't suck, and b, if I was him instead of me. I've laughed out loud multiple times reading his entries, which never fails to cause people at nearby coffee shop tables to quickly relocate away from the crazy man, which means I'm doing a good job of being a counter-cultural iconoclast, or something. His blog is one of those blogs I'd like to go back to the beginning of and read all the way through, except I fear that might be creepy, and I don't want to have my name associated with the creation of the Blog Restraining Order Act of 2005. Also, like me, he sometimes talks to himself on his blog, but he does it in a good way that doesn't make you want to get away from the crazy guy.

Run Jen Run

I think Brandon Rogers hadn't updated for a day or something and I totally flipped out and I started clicking random links from his blogroll and wound up on Jenny Amadeo's site. She's from Chicago, and I've been to Chicago, and I liked the city, so it seems logical I'd like Jen's blog. She writes about jug bands, lawsuits over the near consumption of one's own index finger, and accepting (or not) food-items from strangers. She tells stories, she tells them very well, and she does her part to topple the Starbucks empire.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I'm even too confused to come up with a good title for this post

A Changed Man, a novel by Francine Prose, bothered me.

First I have to admit, I knew it was going to bother me from the get go. I couldn't get into the style of the novel's language. It wasn't that the style was ever bad, rather, that it never sang, for me. I was trying to separate style from content for much of the time I spent reading the book. That's not really the best way to read a book, because ultimately the style affects the way we read the story. I mean, it is the way we read the story. And, stylistically, here, the novel felt like thin paint: color, sure, but no real depth.

What made this problem for me a bit more difficult was that the third person narrator remained basically the same, no matter which character's perspective was being presented. Sure, the words changed, but the mode of the language itself never seemed to do so. Like the narrator picked up specific key words appropriate to the individual characters' perspectives, but wasn't entirely sure how to use them, to develop the voice around them that would make for convincing transitions and compelling voice.

The fact that, about a small chunk of pages prior to the halfway point, I took a quick look at some of the reviews for the book didn't much help matters for me, either. Even glancing down the blurbs that Metacritic extracted from the reviews is enough to see a common notion: that the book is satire, that it's supposed to be wickedly, darkly humorous. The fact that I was nearly halfway through the book and I hadn't laughed once had me wondering if everyone else had it wrong, or if I just wasn't getting it. I spent the rest of the book looking for humor where I probably wouldn't have found it before. And though I guess I saw it, maybe was able to pick it out of the lineup, I couldn't help but hang on to my perhaps naive notion that this book wasn't meant to be satire, but essentially realist.

There's a few reviews out there that, I think, make me feel less bad about not finding the book funny, and also, in retrospect, also point my way out of this morass of negatives and towards the positives. Take, for instance:
The novel has been touted as a biting satirical work of fiction; "mercilessly funny" and a "brilliant new comic novel" say the critics, but as far as I can see, the comedy just barely bubbles beneath the surface. It's an interesting story, and that's about it.

- PopMatters Book Review
Francine Prose is often referred to as a satirist, but that label is more an artifact of our age than an accurate description of her work. Prose's new novel, "A Changed Man," features a quasi-reformed neo-Nazi as its protagonist, more or less, along with a rich and self-absorbed Holocaust survivor who runs a global do-gooder organization called World Brotherhood Watch, a multitasking 40-ish soccer mom who's barely holding her life together, and a handsomely tailored African-American talk-show host who's part Oprah and part Phil Donahue. Throw in the sexy Latina New York Times reporter, the Holocaust survivor's Viennese-aristocrat wife and the mouthy teenager who shocks his school by writing a paper suggesting that Hitler might have been gay, and yeah, it does sound like we're in the realm of larger-than-life Tom Wolfe pastiche.

The thing is, we're not. Does any of that sound even slightly implausible? If "A Changed Man" is satire, then so are lots of other things, including "Anna Karenina," "Middlemarch" and "Our Mutual Friend." I'm not suggesting that this novel is playing quite in that league, but I am suggesting that Prose is striving for the same kind of large-scale social portraiture, and that her desire to capture contemporary Americans, with all their internal contradictions, solipsism and general screwed-upness, is guided more by the spirit of compassion than by that of mockery.

- Salon
What I'm getting at here, is that, despite everything negative about the book I've tossed out here, I was still intrigued and compelled to finish the novel, to find out what happens to the characters. In fact, I actually kind of cared for them, even if I was alternately unconvinced and unintrigued by them. ("...more by the spirit of compassion than by that of mockery.") I wanted to know how things were going to work out, which often drove me to wish the novel would get to the working-out part a little bit quicker ("Unfortunately, as the novel progresses, one can’t help feeling that the ride would have been twice as enjoyable, and infinitely more bracing, if it had been half as long." - L.A. Weekly). When there is a rather climactic moment near the end of the book, I actually felt bad. (I think I literally said, "Aw, no, why'd you have to do that?" out loud, and I wasn't talking to the author--I was talking to the character in question.)

So, when I say that the book bothered me, it wasn't a question of content, or ideas, or anything like that; it was probably more the act of reading the book, of being torn in multiple directions at once--wanting to put it down so that the language style would stop having the chance to infect my own writing, wanting to keep reading through to the end because the characters weren't so bad and almost kind of likeable. Not to mention the sudden revelation mid-way through that I might be reading the book different from everyone else, or, perhaps, even, wrongly altogether. All things added up, I just feel weird about the whole thing.

Like I've said a billion times already, I'm no pro book reviewer, I'm just some guy who reads stuff and tries not to diss on stuff without good cause. In general, I'm as much interested in giving you, faithful reader, a picture of me reading the book as I am in giving you a picture of the book itself. In this case, though, maybe the experience of the experience became a bit too much for my usual taste. I really could go on for much longer, but then I'll just get incoherent, which, of course, I usually am anyways, so, you know, right-o, move along.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

76 brief views of Cleveland: #7-8


You want to do what, now? You trippin? No, seriously: are you high on acid? You aren't. Hell, I think I heard of someone who did that once. Nearly cost 'em a bumper. And their life. I'm pretty sure they were high at the time. Now you're here sober as a baby lookin' for advice on how to do it yourself. Well, yeah, I'll tell you what I know, but you ain't gonna like it. Here's what I can tell you: don't even think about it. People dream about pullin' it off all the time, but nobody actually ever does. Oh, sure sure, I know what you're going to say, you've heard the stories, people sayin' and people talkin', but...

Let me ask you: do you love your car? You love your car, yeah, well, here's some advice: stop it. Don't love your car. People get weird when romance comes into play. You love your car, that means you want to treat it right, be nice to it, oil changes and no crazy stunts. Listen: stop loving your car. Because to do what you think you're going to do means giving your car up. This is nothing less than full surrender, one you're going to be committing the moment you hit the end of the entrance ramp curve at what, 20, 30 miles an hour? You can never take that ramp fast enough. Stop loving your fellow man, too. Stop loving everything. Forget love. You've got to be a real hard-headed bastard if you're going to make it. An ounce of love will get you a pound of killed.

And once you're free of love you're free to start over: love the insanity of your task, love the road beneath your wheels, love the fact that you're going to be crossing three lanes of high-speed rush-hour traffic without once looking in front of you. No, I mean it: you look in front of you, you're dead. Your neck's going to be twisted the whole time you're merging, and don't think it won't. You're going to be parallel parking your car between cars less than a car's distance apart when you're all going to be doing upwards of 65 miles an hour. If you're even able to get up that fast in the first place. And that's just for merging off the ramp!

You say you're not scared. Well let me tell you, to get to I-480 east, off Grayton Road, during rush hour traffic? It is to know the cold motion of fear.

Now give up love.

Now love the madness.


It's the end of a ribbon unfurling at the end of a night, the twist of the exit. The shoreway bridges lifted you up and the road brought you back down, the wind's been slapping at your car and the lake's been smacking at the shore. Then you're almost there, the Lake Ave exit carrying you away from Edgewater. You're slowing down, and then you're straight-away, and then you'll feel it, the road twisting beneath you. Keep your car to the center and you'll feel the left side dip out from under you before the right tilts you back up, the calmest tenth of a mile you'll drive all night, the one you slip right off of as you turn back to the left, back towards the surface streets. You're almost home now. You've known the romance of the drive.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Well, this is interesting

Seems I'm now working on two stories simultaneously.

I guess it's not a horrible thing. I guess maybe this means I'll be spending the next two months working on both stories? Unless I go way overboard on the productivity front, and wind up finishing both this month. This certainly isn't something I'm planning on doing, but if it does happen, uhm, no time off for good behavior, I'll just have to keep plugging away at a new story next month.

It's also probably appropriate. Though also potentially dangerous. Since these stories, this year's worth of stories, are supposed to all be neatly stand-alone and yet still intertwined--connected in ways the reader shouldn't realize is likely to happen until the entire collection has been read, or at least until after the specifically connected stories have been read--it could be specifically productive and illuminating in this case to write the stories at the same time, so that they could literally be commenting simultaneously on each other and themselves, rather than my feared feeling that the stories kind of pile up on each other as you go through them. This story gives you something then the next gives you what the last story didn't and does it more honestly. And so on. Rather than that maybe the two stories are more subtly and directly connected than that. Or. Or something. I'll quit while I'm ahead, here, and get back to the story. Stories. Whatever.

Also, it's not a, not a story ring, though, I'm seeing concerns and ideas and, dare I say with a slightly bad taste in my mouth, themes, that kind of loop through everything, maybe bringing more of a unity to the theoretical collection than I might otherwise directly intend. Or, or, or something, I was quitting while I was ahead, wasn't I?

In other news I'm some five-eighths through A Changed Man by Francine Prose and I've got lots of things to say about it most of which I probably won't because by the time I'm done with the book I think I'll mostly be happy to be done with it and on to one of the other books that are starting to pile up on my newly-clean library card's head. Suffice it to say: I'm not entirely convinced I like the book, though I'm not completely certain where that is a) my fault b) the book's fault or c) the critics' fault.

"Interconfuselled" seems to be the word of the day here at TDAOC World Headquarters.