The fine people at Longform Fiction are, evidently, fans of my story “Winter Montage, Hoboken Station.” It’s linked there now, along with work by fine writers like Jamie Quatro, Ben Tanzer, Laura van den Berg, and James Tiptree, Jr (!).
In the end, it wasn’t being mistaken for a Sasquatch that got me to quit drinking. Most people get that part wrong. Admittedly, if I’d known everything would go to shit that soon afterwards, I never would have taken off my shirt. But moshing on the rooftop had seemed like a genius idea, and it was a July in New York; I’m not particularly small, and anything I can do to minimize my own sweat is the best possible idea at that moment. And so I took off, a one-man circle pit, tracing my own circumference and never fearing dizziness or a stumble that might drop me to the sidewalk five stories below.
That’s from a new story of mine, titled “New Evidence of the Kings County Sasquatch,” that the fine people at The Fanzine have just published. I originally read it at at Storychord event at Housing Works. I’m hoping to do a bit more with this narrator — I have a couple of other stories in mind that will involve him.
I also like the idea of writing a character who, from this point on, won’t be drinking — an editor who turned an earlier story of mine down commented that my characters spent a lot of time in bars. I took that as a challenge, in the best way possible — or maybe not a challenge as much as someone pointing out a device I was using a little too frequently. We’ll see where this ends up, but if you notice future stories featuring an unnamed narrator with an aversion to booze and references to cryptids…
(This post’s title, for what it’s worth, is borrowed from Malcolm Ingram’s Drawing Flies, a film in which Jason Lee leads a group of unemployed Vancouver residents into the woods in search of Bigfoot.)
At Joyland, I have a new short story up, titled “An Old Songwriter’s Trick.” This is how it begins:
The week Owen left New York was one of sweltering humidity reaching down to enrapture us, swaddle us, leave us all reaching for insufficient comfort. We assumed Owen was alone in the task of loading a truck, of carting boxes and disassembled furniture down flights of stairs and into a double-parked van. It was a week of sweat-stained shirts, of dodging brownouts, of foregone conclusions about the city and about what constituted comfort demolished. Owen was leaving us, and few among us were sad to see him go.
Keen-eyed readers may notice that it shares a character with another story of mine, “Dulcimers Played, Strings Played.” That is not coincidence; essentially, this story originally began its life as a sort of prelude to something much longer I’d like to write. As part of it, I needed to explain how one particular character ended up in a particular place; from there, this story arose. The longer work is as yet unwritten (as a couple of my favorite novels from this year may have rendered the concept moot); we’ll see, I suppose.
(Also: immense thanks to Brian at Joyland for running the story.)
Thinking out loud a bit here. A couple of weeks ago, a story of mine called “The Clutch” turned up on Vol.1. It’s a weird story, and the story of how it came to exist is (possibly) relevant: I wrote it for a reading that was part of a genre-themed series. My night’s theme was horror, and thus a horror story is what came up.
Except…it’s not really a proper horror story. It nurtures a particular image and setting that, by story’s end, eventually become horrific, but — this is more in the realm of things that unsettle me than things that will necessarily terrify audiences worldwide. It’s an image that I’ve had in my head for years now: seven or eight years ago, there was a particularly hot summer, and I’d walk to the subway after long nights at work and pass these clumps of trash bags that were just left there to fester, and I’d wonder; I’d start to see things emerging from them, and then I’d creep myself out and get onto the subway and try really hard to avoid thinking of the things now lurking around my subconscious.
(There’s an old story of mine somewhere with a similar payoff; a sinister buildup to an impossible image. Maybe I’ll post it somewhere; might make for interesting reading…)
I have a weird relationship with realism. A lot of the fiction I’ve done lately has been pretty straightforward. And yet: a lot of the writing that I first did when I was ushering myself into the process of writing fiction was much more surreal. Weird fiction or “slipstream” or something similar. Some of that’s just due to my reading habits: my bookshelves have a fair amount of realist fiction on them, but there’s a fair share of science fiction and horror and magic realism in there as well. But I also find it interesting that, after detouring around the weird for a while, I seem to find myself drawn back to it — the last story I finished opens in a fairly realistic vein and then takes a detour into the…if not the impossible, at least the unlikely.
Or maybe it’s just that I’m reminded that one can tweak things like realism on the page; that a story that opens in one mode doesn’t necessarily have to stay in that same mode for the duration. (Dennis Cooper’s The Marbled Swarm, which I just finished, is something of a master class in this — just when you think you know where it’s going, the narrator pulls things to a stop and resets the terms under which you hear his story.)
If nothing else, that renewed attraction to all things weird might help explain where parts of my head were when I wrote some of the dialogue in this story….
A while ago, I took part in a day-long at-home writing session to benefit Dzanc Books. The story that began its life then — a riff on Brooklyn winters, isolation, and the notion of “fake jazz” — ended up becoming something called “An Apolitical Song.” And now the fine people at Metazen have chosen to publish it. Here’s an excerpt:
My current state: false starts and lyrics sitting half-written in notebooks. Seated at a table looking at fresh-made coffee. Watching steam ascend into late-morning light and thinking it looks like nothing more than smoke rising from a newly kindled fire. All I want to do is collapse around the phrase fake jazz, half-obsessed after a late-night remembrance of a long-ago late-night ramble about John Lurie. Thinking: I’m going to call this my fake fake jazz band, thinking that might blow minds, thinking that’ll leave holes in the world and realign things, wanting to see how people react, wanting to hear them run the combinations through their heads, wanting to see what their eyes do when they think. My fake fake jazz band.
You can read the rest here.
As I periodically mention here, I’ve been deeply involved as of late with Vol.1′s Sunday Story Series. As the name suggests, it’s a weekly piece, either fiction or nonfiction, that runs on Sunday mornings. And on January 30th, the story in question came from, well, me.
It’s called “Revolution Come and Gone.” (The title is a hat-tip to an early-90s compilation that I listened to more or less endlessly in my formative years.) It’s the opening of my novel-in-progress Reel, and it starts out something like this:
Timon met Marianne at a Black Halos show in Seattle. It wasn’t the colder season yet, but its arrival was obvious. Jackets and a few bold scarves could be seen on bodies on the streets surrounding the club. These were melancholy hours, a time to have impractical thoughts and ponder ways in and out on walks through the city.
You can read the whole thing here.
Unintended radio silence. Holed up; working on a short novel and something that might end up being a novella: essentially, the most functional parts of the novel you may remember me rambling about a bit around these parts a year or two ago.
It’s something of an object lesson, really: word counts of the short novel and the novella are not dissimilar, but one feels like a novel; the other feels like something else, something abbreviated and much more focused. Not necessarily truncated, though — though it may also take the addition of a more bitter aftertaste for that to function correctly. And it may not function at all. Evidently, the novel-length version did not. Unsure now whether the belief that this section can function on its own is borne of realism or of a hesitation to let go. But hey, worth a shot.
Featherproof has launched their TripleQuick application for the iPhone. Four sample stories — from Shane Jones, Lindsay Hunter, Paul Fattaruso, and Amelia Gray — can be read on Featherproof’s site.
Among the other contributors is, well, me. Writing at that length (the stories had a maximum length of 333 words) was one of the hardest things I’ve done; while the writing group of which I’m a member does a fair amount of flash-fiction work, it’s never been a style that I’ve been comfortable with. So getting a chance to take part in this was a challenge, and one I was glad to attempt — the result has a sort of density to it that surprised me.
Also, it was inspired by a fairly insane bit of industrial design that I see on occasion outside my preferred stop for coffee in Greenpoint. So, you know, there’s that.
Each give their best shot at telling a story about a vacation at Vol. 1 Brooklyn. There is a five dollar suggested donation to go to our friends at 826NYC, but you can donate more if you’d like.
@ Bar Matchless
557 Manhattan Ave.
Very quickly: the sites of Luca Dipierro and Michael Kimball, writers and collaborators on the in-progress film 60 Writers / 60 Places. Information aplenty on the kind of cross-disciplinary work that never fails to pique my interest. And the writers involved in the 60 Writers… project so far also look like an interesting bunch.
Closing out the readers at last week’s Vol. 1 at Matchless was John Wray, whose piece (an excerpt from a novel in progress) left me with theÂ inclination to track down everything he’s written. (Two novels, as it turns out, with a third forthcoming.) On Twitter , Wray is currently posting brief vignettes comprising a larger narrative about a character cut from his third novel. Via Matt Fraction comes the news that pulp novelist Charlie Huston is also posting a larger work incrementally on Twitter.
Both Wray’s and Huston’s stories-in-progress are definitely worth a read, and there’s something deeply interesting about Twitter as, essentially, the logical endpoint of the serialized narrative; the point at which every sentence (or cluster of sentences) needs to be memorable enough to keep the reader interested. Twitter as a specific medium is a concept that’s been in my head a lot lately, for reasons that may be more clear in a few hours…
The reading begins at 8 PM; it’ll be held at Matchless, 557 Manhattan Avenue, in scenic Brooklyn, NY. Reading will be:
Along with music from:
There’s also a Facebook page for the reading.
I have a contribution up as part of THE2NDHAND’s David Foster Wallace tribute. As of this writing, it’s the first one listed, and it begins like this:
Recent events had convinced Thing that a rethink of certain priorities was in order, that careful consideration would need to be applied before selecting his next assignment.
Up as part of the January issue of Word Riot is my short story “Twenty Minutes’ Road”. (Those of you who might be curious to hear me reading a section of it can do so here.) I don’t have as much to say here as I did about, say, “Western Bridges”, and I’m slightly baffled as to why — it’s a story about which I feel strongly, but not necessarily in ways I can quantify. And it’s got indoor soccer, color-field painting, and Oregonian cities — can’t really argue with that.