Brandon, John.  (2010).  Citrus county.  San Fransisco: McSweeney’s Rectangulars.

Gordimer, Nadine.  (1982).  Six feet of country. NY: Penguin Books.

Hartwell, David G., ed.  (1989).  The world treasury of science fiction. NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Haug, Frigga.  (1992).  Beyond female masochism. London: Verso Books.

McQuade, Donald and Christine McQuade.  (2006).  Seeing and writing 3.  NY: Bedford/St. Martins.

McSherry, Jr., Frank D., Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenburg, eds.  (1991).  Great American ghost stories. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press.

I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.  My reading has taken a hit.  I think it’s because I have strayed from the ground I enjoy.  Exploring is great, but there’s a reason why some of the explored territory is so poorly travelled.  Palahniuk did become tiresome, but I think I am ready to return.  Chabon never became tiresome.  Instead he became established.  I am ready to return to the safety of popular opinion.  Chabon’s popularity is no marketing ploy, unlike The Last – sooooo effing bad – Airbender, his stories are just legitimately good.  In any case, I am disappointed with my June readings and to keep things going I will return to established safe ground.  It is July, and I am clamoring for fireworks.  It is, after all, July.

Too funny, if only because it is so true…

When Mr. Hibma pulled into the lot, he saw a fleet of cars adorned with Citrus Middle School parking stickers.  He stepped around a bush and peeked in a window.  Librarians.  They’d bunched the tables together.  Assistants.  Even volunteers.  There were maybe nine of them, sipping determinedly at pink wine.  Mr. Hibma knew when he was beat.  He leaned against his car, face upturned toward the sky, racking his brain for something else to do, some other way to salvage the night.  (121)

It’s an okay book.  It’s about two disaffected youths and one of their teachers, Mr. Hibma, who identifies with them.  What’s with this new trend of literature capturing the weirdoes and their weird ways and acting as if they are all special and different just because they don’t behave normally.  It smacks of melodrama, the writer proclaiming her yawp so others see how special she is.  I’m just as guilty as the next person (ok, more than the average person) but why do we as a culture now buy into this stuff?  I still like heroes and the average guy acting like a fool in the face of danger.

Brandon, John.  (2010).  Citrus County.  San Francisco: McSweeney’s Rectangulars.

I am no longer sure ‘Distractions’ is appropriate.  The summer gig is under way and that is the main distraction from my writing.  But it’s not superfluous like a distraction is.  It’s just a higher priority for the time being.

A lot of processing is done on the computer, so I have spent a lot of time on Netflix streaming The Office.  Why don’t more TV vendors do this?  It will end up on the Net eventually, but if on Netflix or on Hulu then, at least, they make some money off of it.  Here’s the better test.  The shows that I do follow, that are available for me to view for free, even though Netflix is a sunk cost, are harder for me to find on the free non-compensating sites.  Plus, the HBO shows could probably fetch higher premiums from Netflix because havign those shows stream might attract members.

It’s always comforting to find a well known author speak to my overriding sense of theory: there is too much focus, often unacknowledged, on the mind and not enough on the body/mind organism.  Here’s Paul Auster talking about the organism:

Writing is physical for me.  I always have the sense that the words are coming out of my body, not just my mind….Not only do you write books physically, but you read books physically as well.  There’s something about the rhythms of language that correspond to the rhythms of our own bodies.  An attentive reader is finding meanings in the book that can’t be articulated, finding them in his or her body. (2007, 27)

How very Massumi of Auster.

Alexander Star, the editor of Lingua Franca, has a piece about the state of fiction.  It’s mainly a review of literature, which concludes by aping the famous Jonathan Franzen essay.  Not impressive, but it is a good read if you are interested in a survey of the debate.  A debate that has apparently been put to rest since 1996.  Yawn.

A short diddy by a high school friend at The Second Pass about Glenn Beck’s new novel.  It includes links to more robust … hilarity.

Auster, Paul.  (2007).  Jonathan Lethem talks to Paul Auster.  In V. Vida, ed.  (2007).  The Believer book of writers talking to writers (25-42).  NY: Believer Books.

The Father Brown stories by G.K.
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“…was a man who read his Bible.  That was the matter with him.  When will people understand that it is useless for a man to read his Bible unless he also reads everybody else’s Bible?  A printer reads a Bible for misprints.  A Mormon reads his Bible, and finds polygamy; a Christian Scientist reads his, and finds we have no arms and legs.  St. Clare was an old Anglo-Indian Protestant soldier….  Of course, he found in the Old Testament anything that he wanted – lust, tyranny, treason.  Oh, I dare say he was honest as you will call it.  But what is the good of a man being honest in his worship of dishonesty?”

From “The Sign of the Broken Sword”

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Odysseus and the Sirens by John William Waterhouse
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The last piece from the Szereto collection about revenge was Szereto’s own piece and I was having none of it.  However I am glad to report that I enjoyed the latest story.  Rosie Jackson‘s “Echo” has some issues: a silly take on American male identity fed in part by her Rush Limbaugh-like treatment of feminism and a ham-fisted reference to Echo and Narcissus.

The nutshell version of the story is a normally loud and proud woman falls in love with an American writer.  She then serves as his Echo, repeating what he says as brilliance and this allows him to be successful.  She grows tired and stops parroting him and instead begins to mutate his ramblings into transgressive axioms and his success and life then collapse.

What redeems the story from the eye-rolling inducements are these very transgressions.  The first instance:

‘I got the deal, honey,; he grinned.  ‘You’ll be so proud of me.  The world’s my oyster.’

‘Oysters in honey,’ I fumbled.  ‘Deal the pride.  Get the me.’ (137).

En-couraged by his obliviousness, the protagonist pushes further:

‘Something’s not right here.  I need to get back to my previous vein.’

‘Vain,’ I pointed out.

‘I’m running out of time here babe.  Maybe you could put together my invoices?’

‘Maybe you could put my voice in.’ (137)

It’s a short read and only the 10th in the anthology.  There are 17 total, but so far this particular story is my second favorite.  The ending, however, should have been given a final edit.  The story contains a reference to a Narcissus flower but the ending is over the top in its relation to the same flower, as though the reader needs the additional lecture to understand the allusion.

Jackson should have taken her cue from THE classic ancient text about not needing to say everything.  Note the discussion about the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey.  The Sirens sing a song and Homer tells us about the legend and what happens.  Homer even has Odysseus listen to the song, but never once does Homer tell us what they sing.

Todorov tells us that they sing, “we sing.”  So the Siren song is self-referential and as sailors escape the Sirens are then forced to hurl themselves off the cliffs because the song is death itself.  Consequently there is no song for Homer to recount (58-9).  Pucci’s account, however, places the absence as an act of humility.  If Homer were to include the sublime verse of the Sirens’ song then Homer would, in effect, be calling his own verse more sublime .  It seems obvious why Homer would want to avoid this interpretation.

Salecl, however, has a superior account which envelopes both Pucci’s and Todorov’s positions:

…the Siren’s song is the point in the narrative that has to remain unspoken for the narrative to gain consistency.  It is a point of self-referentiality that a story has to omit in order to attain the status of a story. (61)

“Echo” can end the way it does, but Jackson should have omitted the final Narcissus reference because that reference turns “Echo” from a story about a relationship informed by the Echo and Narcissus myth into an example of the myth.  And a bad example at that because the analogic is too easily disrupted.

Jackson, Rosie.  (2007).  Echo.  In Mitzi Szereto, ed.  Getting even: Revenge stories (133-39).  London: Serpent’s Tail.

Pucci, Pietro.  (1987.)  Odysseus Polutropos: Intertextual readings in the Odyssey and the Iliad. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Calecl, Renata.  (1998).  (per)versions of love and hate.  London: Verso Books.

Todorov, Tzvetan.  (1977).  The poetics of prose. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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Saint Wolfgang and the Devil by Michael Pacher).
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To-day’s short story was short.  Shorter than the author had anticipated.  Mitzi Szereto’s “Hell is where the heart is” only earned my attention for almost 3 of its 34 pages.  A couple of things: 1.  The jokes are not funny.  She tries too hard, similar to Nate‘s stand up comedy.  2.  In the almost 3 pages she launches into tangents that are supposed to be funny, but then makes the cardinal errors, “Ah, but I digress…” and “Oh, there I go, digressing again.”  It’s very third grade.  3.  It is a take on the Faustian bargain, but form what I can tell does not offer anything new to the genre.  And it is a deal with the devil to seek revenge on a guy for an emotional breakup.  I am not interested in reading about someone so pathetic that she wants to deal with the devil for emotional revenge.  4.  This is really the cardinal error.  This volume is from a publishing hosue I have never before heard of and I am unfamiliar with many of the writers yet I am willing to take a risk.  But, the editor of the volume is Mitzi Szereto.  I have dropped classes just because the professor is the author of the textbook, and sometimes those people are ‘experts’.  When planning my publishing house I think about doing this very thing but I refuse because I find it so droll.

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Cover of "Ulysses"
Cover of Ulysses

I have often thought of publishing stuff in hard-copy.  Friend’s works.  Stuff I like.  I think the place where I should begin is a collection of my favorite short stories.  There is, of course, a copyright issue to deal with since some of my favorites are not yet public domain.  In any case, here is my current list and I am always willing to hear suggestions for additions if I ever did this.

Anton Chekhov.  “The Witch” and “The Lady with the Dog.”

William T. Vollmann.  “Epitaph for Jaguar” and “The Handcuff Manual.”

? Duffy (I forget the first name).  “Payment in Kind.”

A small list for now, but I just read another one that would definitely make the list: Donald Barthelme’s “Alice”. (60 Stories. 68-75.  1981.  NY: Penguin Books.)  It is written oddly, almost a stream of consciousness style, but more accurate than Ulysses or any other attempt I have crossed.  Maybe I just find it accurate because I should be on ADHD medication.  Here is the openeing paragraph for clarification of what I mean:

twirling around on my piano stool my head begins to swim my head begins to swim twirling around on my piano stool a dizzy spell eventuates twirling around on my piano stool I begin to feel dizzy twirling around on my piano stool (68)

Barthelme’s style here does a good job of relating the dizzyness, but the rest of the story is also written like this.  I wonder then how unique the dizzy sensation is.  Does the narrator always feel like he is twirling on a piano stool?  While I think I have that feeling more than most, at least since being hit by the car, I can tell that it accelerates at times.

Here is one of the slower paragraphs to help demonstrate the haze riddled world of the narrator:

I maintain an air of serenity which is spurious I manage this by limping my limp artful creation not an abject limp (Quasimodo) but a proud limp (Byron) I move slowly solemnly through the world of miming a stiff leg this enables me to endure the gaze of strangers the hatred of pediatricians (69)

During high school I had a friend whose father walked with a pronounced limp.  The father was born in Ireland and I think something had happened to him there and he was unable to seek adequate medical attention for it.  The interesting part, though, was my friend’s younger brother who adopted the same limp without having had an injury.

Sometimes when I have been sitting for a while and I then stand and walk, as I am about to do here in my favorite coffee shop in Uptown, what a gorgeous day it is BTW!, I have a stiff leg and I walk with a limp.  I love that limp though. I imagine people see me and think that I earned it in some glorious spectacle.  In any case, Bartheleme’s story turns on a feeling, Byron’s pride, to which I can immediately relate and have never before shared with another writer.  Therin lies some of Barthelme’s magic: his keen eye.  I would recommend this book for anyone wanting to read some great short pieces of fiction.

I will leave you with a joke Ursa‘s cousin told me the other day:

A man in the area was walking and sees the neighborhood mentally ill man with a rabbit.  The man is crying and emotionally wrought because the rabbit is ill.  The original man thinks the rabbit is fine but knowing the character takes him to the neighborhood vet, where they ar eboth well known.  The vet talks to them and understands that all he needs to do is look the rabbit over and diagnose it as alright and the guy will be happy and content.  They are shown into an exam room and the vet leaves, saying he will return shortly.

The two men and the rabbit are in the exam room and a labrador retreiver runs into the room.  The men stiffen with anxiety, but the rabbit is fine and the lab just sniffs around some.  A woman enters, apologizes and retrieves the lab, exiting for the lobby.  The door remains open.

A black cat then runs into the room and also sniffs around.  Neither the cat nor the rabbit react as the men do.  Again the owner comes into the room, apologizes and leaves with the cat.

A few minutes later the vet returns and declares that the rabbit is fine.  he then hands a bill for $500 to the first man.  “Doc, I thought you’s just look him over and …you know,” the man says in hushed tones hoping to not give away the show to the mentally ill man.

The vet replies, “yes, but I have to charge you for the cat scan and the lab report.”

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