My Writing

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Details are all there are." - Maezumi

Deirdre / her mom / house / downhill street / Frederick Avenue.

Porch / cracked wood / rocking chair / Deirdre painted purple rockets / black stars.

Kitchen / red table / vase / wild zinnias / plastic chili peppers dangling / back wall / winding staircase.

Basement called The Passion Pit. Made out / “Date with the Night” / Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Deirdre’s mom / shorthaired woman / pointy teeth. Leinie’s Honey Weiss / watching Six Feet Under.

Deirdre’s dad / started new family / didn’t see them anymore / Deirdre’s mom came out / lesbian.

Deirdre’s mom invited him / Deirdre’s high school graduation / he didn’t come. Daniel sat beside Deirdre’s mom / watched her cry / she said “Don’t tell her I cried.”

Visiting / break from college / four months before break-up. Deirdre’s mom asked Daniel / why / still with her daughter. “You seem like an interesting guy. Deirdre’s insipid.”

Met / John’s house / August 16 / 2003.

First time hanging out / Deirdre’s mom saw Daniel looking / plastic skeleton in the closet. “That’s where we put her last boyfriend.”

Second time hanging out / Daniel kissed Deirdre / Benny & Joon.

Third time hanging out / preparing / say goodbye. Daniel / decided / say “I love you.”

“I love you.”

Deirdre stuttered / her face flushed / blood / shifted her weight / bright green Chuck Taylors. She avoided Daniel’s eyes. Deirdre stopped shifting her weight / looked / the eyes / said “I think I love you too.”

Daniel thought / the word “think.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Coffee / Prose

Rather than write, I'd like to talk with you over coffee.

I associate coffee with pleasure.

I'd like to be a nice small paperback you read on a warm bench in August.



J.D. Salinger

I admire two things, primarily, about Salinger's prose: its understated gestures and its incorporation of spoken verbal styles. A third thing would be its precise images (add to that an effective, enhancing use of adjectives and verbs). A fourth would be its economy, its lack of waste, its exactitude.

The following short paragraph, from "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," consists primarily of action and illuminating detail, aided by some of those aforementioned effective, enhancing adjectives and verbs:

"The young man put on his robe, closed the lapels tight, and jammed his towel into his pocket. He picked up the slimy wet, cumbersome float and put it under his arm. He plodded alone through the soft, hot sand toward the hotel."

To isolate and repeat that last sentence, I love it:

"He plodded alone through the soft, hot sand toward the hotel."

I could go on and on about Salinger and why I like his prose and his fictionalizing, his characters, his dialogue, his sly set-ups and small quiet moments, but instead I'll just point at another type of prose he does, rambling, flamboyant but to me constantly engaging, a voice speaking to the reader (this voice, this time--in Seymour: An Introduction, which if you haven't read, I suggest it--the voice of an "ecstatically happy" writer):

"In this entre-nous spirit, then, old confidant, before we join the others, the grounded everywhere, including, I'm sure, the middle-aged hot-rodders who insist on zooming us to the moon, the Dharma Bums, the makers of cigarette filters for thinking men, the Beat and the Sloppy and the Petulant, the chosen cultists, all the lofty experts who know so well what we should or shouldn't do with our poor little sex organs, all the bearded, proud, unlettered young men and unskilled guitarists and Zen-killers and incorporated aesthetic Teddy boys who look down their thoroughly unenlightened noses at this splendid planet where (please don't shut me up) Kilroy, Christ, and Shakespeare all stopped--before we join these others, I privately say to you, old friend (unto you, really, I'm afraid), please accept from me this unpretentious bouquet of very early-blooming parentheses: (((())))."

Samuel Beckett

As I've said before, Beckett has the ability to make me want to underline his sentences. His prose seems beautiful, spare, and wry. His lines are sometimes compact and have the feel of one-liners ("Against the charitable gesture there is no defence, that I know of.") or mottoes ("Saying is inventing. Wrong, very rightly wrong.") The previous lines were from Molloy, one of my favorites.

Beckett also has this impressive ability of writing beautiful sentences that don't seem to be trying too hard. When I say trying too hard I think of prose where the author seems to be saying "here now, a beautiful sentence, the rich cavalcade of images soar and woo you, ah the fine poetry of this verbal confection, ah choppy kewl prose of the avant-garde, ah pageantry of English, ah incorrigible vocabulary of the effete aesthete, ah to see in this age a effervescence of words, you dear, benevolent sister, have witnessed it." Instead something like this, from Watt (which, by the way, is a fucking hilarious book and another of my favorites by Beckett):

"To be together again, after so long, who love the sunny wind, the windy sun, in the sun, in the wind, that is perhaps something, perhaps something."

Rainer Maria Rilke

Though most famous for his poetry, Rilke wrote a novel I love called The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. It is another of those what you could call Sad-Ass Bro Gets His Rumination On in Depressing City Novels. This a wonderful genre of novel, in my humble opinion, and includes such books as Hunger by Knut Hamsun, Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys, and Person by Sam Pink.

Rilke's sentences are often short. The longer ones seem to have this great rhythm to them, they swing nicely and speak precisely. They feel good to me.

"Here he stands up from his meditations and walks to his window; his high-ceilinged room is too close to him; he would like to see stars, if that is possible. He has no illusions about himself. He knows that this emotion fills him because among the young girls of the neighborhood there is one who matters to him. He has wishes (not for himself, no, but for her); for her sake he understands, during a passing hour of the night, the exigency of love. He promises himself not to tell her anything about it. It seems to him that the most he can do is to be alone and wakeful and for her sake to think how right that poetess had been: when she knew that sexual union means nothing but increased solitude; when she broke through the temporal aim of sex and reached its infinite purpose. When in the darkness of embracing she delved not for fulfillment but for greater longing."

Another thing I love about his prose in this book is that it includes sentences that make philosophical statements, and it doesn't suck ass when he does this, which is a danger with philosophical statements in novels, I have found. His sentences have passion.

Check this humdinger (keep in mind, this shit dropped in 1910):

"Is it possible that we know nothing about young girls, who are nevertheless living? Is it possible that we say 'women,' 'children,' 'boys,' not suspecting (despite all our culture, not suspecting) that these words have long since had no plural, but only countless singulars?

Yes, it is possible."

Virginia Woolf

I took a course on just Woolf in college and loved it. My favorites of the books I read by her are Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves. I think The Waves is my number one favorite. It consists primarily of alternating, interplaying monologues by a group of characters who grow up together in the book. The monologues comment on and imagine their collective and individual lives. To me it enacts most memorably the subjectivity, the personal emotion that is there within all of Virginia's beautiful lines.

"Each time the door opens I am interrupted. I am not yet twenty-one. I am to be broken. I am to be derided all my life. I am to be cast up and down among these men and women, with their twitching faces, with their lying tongues, like a cork on a rough sea. Like a ribbon of weed I am flung far every time the door opens. The wave breaks. I am the foam that sweeps and fills the uttermost rims of the rocks with whiteness; I am also a girl, here in this room."

Clarice Lispector

Clarice is an amazingly brilliant writer, in my opinion. I imagine she was one hell of a person.

From The Hour of the Star:

"She mused in silence and the thought came to her: since I am, the solution is to be. The cockerel I mentioned earlier heralded yet another day. It sang of weariness. Speaking of poultry, the girl sometimes ate a hard-boiled egg in a snack-bar. Her aunt had always insisted that eggs were bad for the liver. That being so, she obediently became ill and suffered pains on the left side opposite the liver. For the girl was most impressionable. She believed in everything that existed and in everything non-existent as well. But she didn't know how to embellish reality. For her, reality was too enormous to grasp. Besides, the word reality meant nothing to her. Nor to me, dear God."

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Death Section

Because I don’t think we have been morbid enough yet, I would like to write some more about death, specifically the many horrendous and/or bizarre methods of achieving death, to wit:

Standing in the way of an axe. And then getting fed to a wood chipper.

Self-inflicted gunshot to the temple.

Death by hemlock, as punishment for “corrupting the youth.”

Found wearing someone else’s clothing, lying dead on the streets of Baltimore after spending the previous night with “the jimjams,” or “jazz hands,” or “the staggers and jags,” or “the horrors,” that is, suffering from wicked wicked alcohol withdrawal, muttering the name “Reynolds” over and over again for some reason, then collapsing on the street, mumbling “Lord help my poor soul” before expiring.

From starvation, in a Viennese sanatorium, while suffering from “suicide headaches” and tuberculosis.

From pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess, after being confined to a cork-lined bedroom for 3 years.

In Bangkok, at the age of 53, electrocution by poorly grounded electric fan, while stepping out of the bathtub.

Hanging by a rope in a closet in Bangkok, following “accidental autoerotic asphyxiation.”

Accidentally slipping off a boat and drowning after “seven or eight” glasses of wine.

From peritonitis, on an ocean liner bound for Brazil, after swallowing a toothpick at a cocktail party.

Bleeding to death from a nosebleed on wedding night.

From pneumonia, while experimenting with freezing a chicken by stuffing it with snow.

Via smashing head on board while attempting a three-and-a-half reverse somersault in the tuck position at the World University Games.

From tuberculosis, while sipping champagne, with these last words: “I’m dying. It’s a long time since I drank champagne.”

“Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”


“Good-bye…why am I hemorrhaging?”

“Is it the Fourth?”

“Is it not meningitis?”

“Am I dying or is this my birthday?”


“How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”

“I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”

“Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you.”

“I am still alive!”

“Ay Jesus.”

“I am not the least afraid to die.”

“I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”

“Does nobody understand?”

Via jumping into the thousand-foot crater of a volcano on the island of Oshima.

Via disembowelment and decapitation as a protest of the Westernization of Japan.

Via sticking head in oven with gas on.

Some claim barbiturates, others claim via wrapping a plastic bag around head, following allegations of plagiarism and suffering from an irregular heartbeat; suicide note reads: “I am going to put myself to sleep now for a bit longer than usual. Call it Eternity.”

Burned to death at the stake, coals raked back to expose the body, then burned twice more, following sexual molestation while being held in prison, all this due to “heresy.”

Found dead in backseat of white Renault parked for 10 days on a quiet Paris street; overdose of barbiturates and alcohol, suicide note reading: “Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves”; this following a FBI-planted, fabricated newspaper item claiming pregnancy out-of-wedlock, planted by Hoover as revenge for voicing support for the NAACP and the Black Panthers, which allegedly led to premature labor and a stillborn child; also following a previous failed suicide attempt via jumping in front of a Metro train.

Bullet to the jaw while standing on the second-floor balcony of a motel in Memphis.

With the words, “Let’s cool it, brothers,” followed by 16 bullets.

A bullet in the back, a bullet in the head, while riding in a limousine in Texas.

Shot 3 times in a crowded kitchen at a hotel, with a .22-caliber revolver.

4 bullets to the back outside the Dakota, by a man clutching a copy of The Catcher in the Rye.

4 bullets, in a drive-by on the Vegas Strip.

4 bullets to the chest, while stopped at a red light in San Francisco.

Death by bullets and grenades, while walking unarmed with 8 brothers in South Vietnam.

Death by self-immolation, in protest.

Death by gas chamber.

Via a jump into the Gulf of Mexico, exclaiming, “Goodbye, everybody!” after having been beaten for sexual advances on a fellow male crew member.

Via an internal hemorrhage caused by cirrhosis, due to a lifetime of heavy drinking.

Via propofol, lorazepam, and midazolam, at the age of 50.

Via complications from cosmetic surgery.

From AIDS, at the age of 42.

From congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia, after the words “I’m going away tonight” and 3 long, quiet breaths.

From natural causes, at the age of 91, after having lived in seclusion for 57 years.

Death by hanging from a patio roof rafter, after years of suffering from severe depression, after suffering a relapse and undergoing electroconvulsive therapy, to no avail.


You know I listened to that song, “Human After All,” on the bus today.

Those life-affirming “robots.”

Human beings in costume, faces hidden. Standing on a pyramid. Crowds of thousands.

In order to establish a connection.

To create a memorable moment in time.

For no other reason.

In the summertime.

In Grant Park, Chicago.

I have been there, to Grant Park, for Lollapalooza.

I am writing now; spring is approaching.

I am writing outside at a café in Paris, with croissant and café au lait. I am writing at a hookah bar on the island of Marmara, the sea Propontis bathing me in soft wet breezes. I am writing at a table by my window over the street, my apartment in Lakeview. I am writing lying down in what were once cornfields on my grandpa’s farm in Rockford. The air is crisp and cool; the sun is shining.