Best of the Net Nomination

September 30, 2014 § 1 Comment

It is an honor, as well as a surprise, to receive a nomination by the editors of Pithead Chapel for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net Anthology for my story “Baby Elephant Walk,” published back in May.

Thanks to editor Keith Rebec and fiction editor Ashley Strosnider.

Just the Type

September 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

At GrubStreet, Cam Terwilliger nails a problem I have only recently taken up in my own writing:

However, working too closely with what you have can create pitfalls as well. When we feel obligated to work on what’s already there we often become paralyzingly fixated on the sunk cost we have in the current text. When you have the draft in front of you, staring you in the face, you keep trying to find the way to make the scenes you have into scenes that work. This can be very distracting. And—more troublingly—it keeps you from envisioning radically different (but better) possibilities. What matters most during revision often isn’t what you have on the page. What matters is what should be on the page.

Terwilliger recommends retyping the story line by line to open up new possibilities for narrative, rather than shoehorn things into the framework that is already there. To this end I have been doing more writing away from the computer, in a Moleskine or on napkins, enough ingredients to bring back something new to the soup that wasn’t there before. It not only gives me more freedom to play around, but it makes me more excited to go back to the manuscript when I know I have something interesting to bring with me.

It’s Always the Drummer

September 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

At The Believer, Rick Moody has an interview with author David Ryan, who has just published his first collection of stories, titled Animals in Motion.

Ryan looked familiar to me, and soon I realized that he was the same Dave Ryan who had drummed for the Lemonheads back in the early 1990s. The Lemonheads headlined the first 18-plus concert I ever attended, in 1993 at the now-defunct Avalon nightclub in Boston.

In addition, the Center for Fiction will host a live interview between Moody and Ryan on Wednesday, September 17 at 7:00 PM.

From the description, Ryan’s stories take on a surreal bent:

A giant elk is trapped inside the yard of a family of teenaged boys while their tyrannical father gradually shrinks to the size of a doll. A World War II veteran living at a Laurel Canyon ranch in the late ‘60s faces the threat of changing times and a disturbing, soon to be famous, cult at the next ranch over. A former Olympic contender, after an injury leaves him with a glass eye, takes work as a security guard at the mansion of a ruthless CEO. A child who discovers the scene of a bizarre and unexplained crash in Roswell, New Mexico, fashions the rest of his life through the lens of what he found there. . . .

Where Hipsters Came From

September 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

We drove home to western Massachusetts from Portland, Maine, taking Route 495 south past Lowell. The sign welcoming you to the city tells you it is the birthplace of Jack Kerouac and James McNeill Whistler (but not Bette Davis, also born there).

A few places around the internet are celebrating the 57th anniversary of the publication of On the Road. I’m not sure what the significance of that number is, but a few writers, including John Hendrickson at Esquire, point to the emergence of the Beat aesthetic spawned by the book as the point of origin for what we now lazily and infuriatingly call hipsterdom. Only Hendrickson wisely doesn’t use the word hipster. He writes:

We still drape ourselves in denim and chambray. We still wear tweed sport coats and throw billowy plaid scarves around our necks. We still go to bars in chinos and relaxed cotton oxfords. We still own wayfarers and corduroys and dark rimmed glasses and cocked back beanies and boxy sweaters and bold, thick, plaid shirts that feel better than almost anything else on any given evening.

Was there ever a time when young people seeking to emit confidence didn’t corner the market in relaxed, effortless style?

Hendrickson’s post include a number of photographs of Kerouac and his gussied-up Beat peers. What he doesn’t mention, though, is that the Beats not only found their writing inspiration in the rhythm and culture of 1940s jazz, but that’s where they picked up a lot of their style choices as well:

Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and friends spent much of their time in New York clubs such as the Red Drum, Minton’s, the Open Door and other hangouts, shooting the breeze and digging the music. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis rapidly became what Allen Ginsberg dubbed “Secret Heroes” to this group of aesthetes.

It’s no coincidence that hipster originally referred to one who embraced jazz culture. Cab Calloway defined that and a related term, hep cat, as “a guy who knows all the answers, understands jive.” Perhaps it is the “knowing all the answers” part, and the smugness that seems to cling to the word, that has made hipster re-emerge as a rather empty term of derision for cocky urban white kids who don’t know the first thing about jazz.

On Top of Fudge Mountain

September 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

In the centre of the room there was an actual mountain, a colossal jagged mountain as high as a five-storey building, and the whole thing was made of pale-brown, creamy, vanilla fudge. All the way up the sides of the mountain, hundreds of men were working away with picks and drills, hacking great hunks of fudge out of the mountainside; and some of them, those that were high up in dangerous places, were roped together for safety.

As the huge hunks of fudge were pried loose, they went tumbling and bouncing down the mountain, and when they reached the bottom they were picked up by cranes with grab-buckets, and the cranes dumped the fudge into open waggons – into an endless moving line of waggons (rather like smallish railway waggons) which carried the stuff away to the far end of the room and then through a hole in the wall.

“It’s all fudge!” Mr Wonka said grandly.

The Guardian unearths an unpublished chapter from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Some early differences: apparently there were originally more than five children touring the factory, and instead of Grandpa Joe, Charlie is accompanied by his mother.

Where Am I?

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