Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
- big messy pile of documents into small neat stacks--done
- learned how to use the tech in my classroom--done
Monday, August 18, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I stop here to remind the world that I am a rabid fan of Poe's unity of effect and all it's repercussions (I can see "S" wincing), and I am religious concerning how a short story is read. Poe tells us that reading a short tale should be an uninterrupted experience. Students often interpret this as an instruction to the reader, but really it is the writer's responsibility to create an object that captures the reader and holds her for the duration--making discipline unnecessary.
--Gischler's prose is immediately riveting. I saw that when I printed the freebie and read the first line. So I saved it for a hostage situation. Waiting room at the doctor's office today. Fox TV blaring. Repulsive sick people. Perfection. I'm not sure one should read this story in any other setting. When the worms kick in the drama really starts to rock. I left the pages in a dog eared copy of Golf Digest.
Tana French's sequel to In the Woods is just out, but Chelsea Cain's Heartsick has already done the job for me. This book needs no promo from me so I'll just say that from a writing pov, I was intrigued that the big hot-sick scene actually happens at the end, and not two thirds of the way through which is the way so many pervy thrillers play out. What that means is that book actually has a cool ending. I never say that. Caveat: whole lotta pawwp psychology goin' on.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
You’ve already seen reviews that tell you what Anthony Neil Smith’s Yellow Medicine is like, so I’m going to focus on my own interests. I just finished this fast paced thriller, and yet the stuff in it—bad cops, terrorists in the heartland, and general all around punkliness—is not as interesting as its complicated narrator, Billy Lafitte. To put it bluntly, BL is full of shit for two thirds of the book, making a lot of claims about what kind of guy he is, trying to invent a belief system to rationalize his nearly equal capacity for love and violence. He’s so consistently full of shit that the characteristic becomes the crucial vulnerability through which his power is filtered—a feature that makes this book vibrate.
Then, on page 167, Billy does something truly horrifying, and does it with an efficiency that is so unsettling I would argue he is insane until the end of the book. His uncertainties and bluster coalesce over an unspeakable transgression, and from that point on he has “no filter,” as the character Drew, the object of his most tender feelings, puts it.
Three craft notes: 1) allowing Billy to tell his own story is a big, bold move. I’m still mulling that choice, because while he is a fascinating observer, he would also be fascinating to observe. 2) Smith gently manipulates chronology, using a bit of film rhetoric that pairs nicely with Billy’s habit of frequently referencing TV and movie models of behavior. 3) Short book, short chapters, wild mix of sentiment and blood. Yes, that’s how to do it.
oh, and I almost forgot--a perfect last paragraph.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Shane Jones wants me to give him about 10 bucks for his new Greying Ghost chapbook, which will have to come out of my donation to the Democratic Party of Virginia. Hope he’s happy about that. So if VA goes red again, blame Shane.
People I have terrorized in the past have been quietly promoting my stories, much to my pleasure and shame. Thanks Mike and Ryan. Sorry about those MWF schedules. I will strive to become a better person.
And finally, Barry-I'm-not-a-monk-Graham says he loves me, but he also says he loves this chick, so I'm not picking out china patterns yet.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Eager to read it, but there is a down side to reading fiction by any of the PWG alumni. I start talking like I just walked out of an episode of Deadwood, which is, as anyone can tell you, unbecoming of a layyy-deee.
Didn't manage to write a lot while we were away, and you can tell because I have a tan. For shame.
Friday, August 1, 2008
So, obedience. Blake Butler wants us to write more, read more, write about what we’ve read. More. Will do. This morning:
Barry Graham’s “Cats and Dogs; Like Rain” from Thieves Jargon. The story violates my ban against substituting animal vulnerability for human complexity, but I loved it anyway for three reasons. 1, the image of a dog eating scalloped potatoes from the trash, 2, the noisiest character has the most to hide (I fall for that trick every time), and 3, the larger idea that negligence is so incredibly violent.
“Smoke and Mirrors,” kindly sent to me by the author Paul Byall –this story placed first in the New South fiction contest. A really fine piece of work that doesn’t summarize well, but it describes that condition of investing too much in a hollow relationship. You know it’s gonna be sad, substantial, and possibly-but no guarantees-redemptive, but what keeps me reading is the voice-a narrator who is all “I’m in control for ninety percent of this journey.” This tale is a heartbreaker, complete with a Crystal and a Kevin and a kitchen table scene to make you howl.