2008-02-27T16:37:38.704-05:00This picture was taken a couple of miles from my sister's house in my hometown of Memphis when the tornadoes hit a few weeks ago. She (and her family) were untouched but shaken. My mother was going to the mall that evening where a tornado annihilated a Sears (see below), but decided to stay home, thank goodness.It's odd seeing one's hometown hit like that. Growing up, there were endless tornado warnings and tornado watches and tornado cakes and whatever the hell the weathermen would say, but a tornado never, ever hit Memphis. It's enough to make you believe in global warming, or Satan.* * *I want to tell Neil Kramer of the otherwise fabulous Citizen of the Month blog that a certain post of a few days ago has pretty much come close to ruining my life.Thanks, Neil.Update: First it was Neil's blog. Then, this.* * *I'm not saying that the Oscars sucked, but when your best joke involves a Wii, you realize that mebee that those striking writers could have helped a little. Jon Stewart is my kinda dude: funny, Jewish, handsome-in-a-not-threatening way (just like me!). But fake news is more of his bag.I think a team of evil clowns should host instead.Dustin Hoffman: an evil clown, and he's Jewish!* * *A great post from our friend Voix. It links to a site for the British Bacon Council or some such group. My favorite headline from the site: "Regional Competition Winners for Britain's Best Birthday Banger."I could never win, of course, since I'm American.* * *There will be major changes to Bookfraud in the near future. Like a politician, all I can say is that we are evaluating all of our options at the present time, and will come to a decision when the time is right.One thing I will allow at this point in time is that I'm not quitting. Sorry to disappoint.* * *I voted for Barack Obama in the primaries. And once you go black...oh, never mind.* * *There was a story in the New York Times a few weeks back collecting the "Views of the Man in the Street" -- more like "Old Fucks Sitting in a Diner, Complaining." The reporter went to a small town in Tennessee and wrote about what these old fucks in a diner (and others) thought of the candidates.Generally, they had voted for Bush, but were disappointed in him. They didn't like McCain. Hillary Clinton was the devil. Some of the greatest animus was directed towards Obama -- one dude mentioned Obama's middle name ("Hussein") and how the senator was probably in some mosque right at that moment, on the phone with Osama bin-Lauden, trying to figure out how to attack America and forcably convert us to Islam, etc. OK, maybe it wasn't exactly like that, but you get the idea.And when I read this, all I could think was the following: "Now I know why I had to move the hell out of that goddamned state."* * *Once, I ran into Harold Ford Jr., a former Congressman from Memphis who lost in a bid for the Senate, in an airport bathroom. (No, no, not like Larry Craig.) It was crowded, we were standing next to each other at the urinals, and I said, "Congressman Ford, I wish I still lived in Memphis, so I could vote for you for senator."But, of course, I didn't mean it. The part about living in Memphis.He smiled and we shook hands, after we had washed them.* * *Nothing of consequence in this space.* * *Per usual.[...]
2008-02-22T13:05:32.387-05:00Since I’m sick of opining on insects, instead I offer a much more provocative subject. But first, a review and a shameless plug, not to mention some gratuitous name-dropping.I've just finished An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England, a novel that I highly recommend. It’s about a fellow who accidentally burns down the Emily Dickinson house, goes to the slammer for 10 years, and his misadventures after prison. (Which does not include his burning down writers’ homes. Though others may be involved.)I’ve been a fan of the author, Brock Clarke, for a few years now. He’s published three collections of short stories and a previous novel, all of them excellent. "Plowing the Secondaries“ is certainly one of the best unknown short stories ever written. (That I happen to know Brock, that he served as my adviser at a conference, and has actually read my novel and offered invaluable advice, really has nothing to do with my admiration of his work. Really. I mean this.)There is only a hint of eros in An Arsonist’s Guide, which is, despite the title, extremely funny. Most of the copulatin’ is off stage, which I appreciate, since it primarily involves old people who have drank copious amounts of Knickerbocker beer. Which, commercial message aside, brings me to what I want to write about: sex. Or not about sex.If there’s anything that can embarrass your typical spinner of tales, it’s a sex scene. I can think of several good ones that come to mind (“come to mind” -- get it? are you embarrassed yet?). Philip Roth is good at this, though most of the time his sex scenes are played for laughs. There’s Steve Almond, whose female ejaculation scene in a short story (and collection) called “My Life in Heavy Metal” is just one of several fresh takes on sex (yeah, I kinda know Steve, too, just a little. He’d recognize me and probably would say hi if I ran into him on the streets of Boston. But it wouldn’t go farther than that).Buy it, read it, but don't burn itI even asked Wife, a voracious reader if there ever was one, if she could think of any well-written, memorable sex scenes in literary fiction. She sat and thought about it a few minutes, but couldn't think of any.As for my writing, I shy away from writing about sex in direct proportion to the amount of time in my life that I have thought about sex. Translated: I never write about sex, and about 99 percent of my waking time has been spent thinking about it (certainly not doing it, save for my brief career in porn, which ended prematurely [“prematurely” -- get it?]).That’s because I’ve read so many awful sex scenes, in books, online, and especially in workshops. They fall into a few categories: there’s the Penthouse Forum fantasy scene; the Superintenseorgasm scene; the tender-lovey-dovey-sex-on-rose-petals scene; the clinical Sex Ed Insert-Penis-into-Vagina scene; and my favorite, the Unintentionally Hilarious Fuckmaster scene, in which the writer (usually a young male under 25) tells of his protagonist (who bears uncanny resemblance to the writer) bringing his swimsuit model conquest to new plateaus of ecstacy unmatched in the history of mankind. That the writer and protagonist resemble the president of the high school A/V club really doesn’t matter.SulliedAs for when I am compelled to write a scene resembling fornication or even making reference to it, I go for the crutch that always serves me when I am put into a position of extreme discomfort: I take the coward's way out and go for the jokes, and though Mr. Roth can play this expertly -- in one book, the protagonist masturbates on his mistress's grave -- with most writers, myself included, such attempts (at writing) turn out more leaden than a hippo dropped from a B-52 without a parachute (or more leaden than lame metaphors about hippos).If you were to ask me about films, I could name a dozen or so movies without thinking that have sex scenes that inform the reader, illuminate the plot, and show shadings of character. But fe[...]
2008-02-19T10:49:19.582-05:00It's Saturday night, and I'm in the bathroom of a hotel room, marooned.Wife has retreated to the hotel bar, a place where she assures me she will not drink so many gin and tonics that Baby will get plastered the next time he breast feeds.For his part, Baby is sleeping in a port-a-crib with the profile and feel of a prison cell: confined space, metal bars, and his very own prison bitch.That bitch would be me, relegated to the bathroom as the rest of our temporary home stews in darkness to allow my young son to sleep, a state of consciousness that, I might add, he shows no sign of attaining at 7:30 p.m., if his screaming at 232 decibels is a sign.And tomorrow, sweet Sunday, when I will go back to our place and mop every uncarpeted square inch of our home, so that I don't inadvertently lick up the residue in a few days when I really lose it and drop to my hands and knees,barking like a cocker spaniel in heat.Why, oh why do I subject myself to such indignities of the soul? Anybody who has glanced at this space in the last seven (!) months knows why: this afternoon, still suffering from a plague of bedbugs, Wife and I had the homestead sprayed with pesticides for the eighth time, a number that turned on its side becomes "infinity," which is beginning to seem like the amount of time it will take us to get rid of these beasties. The exterminator (the third different one), a voluble fellow who unfortunately stank of a Union Carbide plant, was flummoxed he had to make a return visit from two weeks ago."I goddamn soaked the place the last time," he said, thus confirming my suspicion that bed bugs will survive a nuclear armageddon.There is a positive to all of this, which is...is...aw, fuck it, there's nothing positive about all this except the fact I can appreciate what it feels like to be a refugee while still living in my own home. As a colleague of my college newspaper would say, "It sucks moosecock. It sucks total moosecock." Dancin' foolsSo I'm sitting in the bathroom, scribbling away on a hotel notepad with a hotel pen, like a jailed Eastern Bloc dissident writing on the back of his calves. Right now, as I am sitting on the (closed) toilet, my head leaning upon the sink, the only thought going through my mind is, "I wonder if drinking a combination of Bath & Body Works™ Aromatherapy Orange Ginger Energizing Voluminizing Conditioner plus Bath & Body Works™ Aromatherapy Orange Ginger Nourishing Body Lotion will finally put an end to this." As in, end to my life.No, the thing one learns from bed bugs is rather Zen: you can't blame anyone, you can't do much about it. You just have to accept it.Which is a good lesson as a writer, as the novel piles up more rejections than a high school nerd (i.e. me) does with asking out cheerleaders, there's nothing I can do about it.Well, I guess I can blame society. Or my do-nothing, invisible agent. Or the stupid editors who didn't understand the utter brilliance of my work or the editors who did but said, "This is awesome! But ultimately not for me."Society made me do itSuch is the hatin' right now that I'm going to have to write a novel about bed bugs to get this out of my system. In it, the protagonist surreptitiously begins production of DDT in his basement, At night, he breaks into homes, bags all the furniture, and sprays bug-infested areas with his illegal homemade pesticide, which kills all bed bugs in the universe. I'll call it "Boners for Terminix."[...]
2008-02-15T14:18:03.291-05:00As usual in every political campaign, my special interest is being ignored in the Race for the White House '08.In all the brouhaha over superdelegates and Super Tuesday, a voluntary health care plan versus a mandated one, coded racism and uncoded tears, campaign rallies that resemble rock concerts and Rush Limbaugh's head exploding, nobody has really broken down what the next president will mean for writers. Like me.In literary terms, the three remaining candidates all have major advantages than George W. Bush:--Clinton 2.0: has authored or co-authored several books, smart, organized, actually reads.--Barack Obama: has authored two books, incredibly articulate, handsome, actually reads.--McCain: authored or co-authored several books, white hair, no verbal filter, hot headed, hot wife, actually reads.It is a rite of passage that any person running for president will have to write a book, or hire someone to do it for them. Still, from a writer's perspective, any one of these candidates has a fine literary pedigree, So what if Hillary Clinton "wrote" Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets ; at least we know she loves animals and has enough imagination not to name her dog "Spot."And big deal that Barack Obama is the author of a cookbook. Yes, a cookbook for African-American men. OK, he only wrote the foreward, but still. Granted, I haven't actually read It Takes a Village (Clinton) or The Audacity of Hope (Obama) or I'm a Military Hero, But Why I Still Favor This Insane Iraqi War Is a Mystery Even to Me(McCain), so I can't accurately judge the quality of their work. It's plain, however, that the one thing that unites these politicians-authors is that they favor non-fiction.For those of this inclined towards those things fictitious -- novels, plays, political speeches -- it is an interesting thought experiment to imagine just who these candidates would be, if they did write novels and plays.Not only are these categories random, but indicative of nothing. Feel free to add your own.19TH CENTURY BRITISH NOVELISTClinton: George EliotObama: Charles DickensMcCain: Charlotte BrontePSYCHOTIC POET:Clinton: The women in the poetry program at my grad schoolObama: BaudelaireMcCain: Sylvia PlathDRUNK AND DRUNKER:Clinton: Dorthy ParkerObama: Charles BukowskiMcCain: Some knight in the 12th Century who came back from the Crusades, wrote about it, got plastered on mead, and choked on his own vomitMODERNIST:Clinton: T.S. EliotObama: James JoyceMcCain: Samuel Beckett, Kafka, Inonesco (you get the picture)FATALIST:Clinton: Theodore DreiserObama: Thomas HardyMcCain: The guy who wrote that book about the 'Nam!!!!!!!I'm a handsome writerPOLE-UP-THE-BUTT MORALIST/PLAYWRIGHT:Clinton: IbsenObama: G.B. ShawMcCain: That dude who wrote A Few Good MenLOST GENERATION:Clinton: Gertrude SteinObama: F. Scott FitzgeraldMcCain: Ernest Hemingway (and Hemingway, and Hemingway)BLOOMSBURY:Clinton: Virginia WoolfObama: E.M. ForsterMcCain: Bloomswhatthefuck?SHAKESPEARE CHARACTERClinton: Lady Macbeth (Ouch!)Obama: Prince Hal (Double Ouch!)McCain: Richard III (Triple Ouch!)EXISTENTIALIST:Clinton: SartreObama: CamusMcCain: KafkaIf only she had known...'60s AMERICAN POST-MODERNISTClinton: John BarthObama: Thomas PynchonMcCain: In the 60s I was serving my country while you were in diapers and smokin' weed in Hawaii, mister Obama!MODERN HACKS:Clinton: Tom ClancyObama: Jackie CollinsMcCain: The love child of Tom Clancy and Jackie CollinsOTHER PRESIDENT-AUTHOR:Clinton: Bill ClintonObama: JFKMcCain: Richard NixonABSURDIST:Clinton: Bill ClintonObama: Oprah WinfreyMcCain: McCainWell, the votes are in, but there are some dimpled chads. Feel free to submit your own ballots. I'll declare the winner in time for the next election.[...]
2008-02-11T16:37:42.975-05:00Children keep you young, but first they make you old. --Anon.
2008-01-18T23:20:57.216-05:00It is too easy to make fun of all things 1970s -- it's kind of like making fun of someone who is fat or unattractive and is altogether a form of self-loathing.However, in my search for public service announcements (or "PSAs," as us connoisseurs call them), I came upon the following tragic piece of video from the 1970s, a real PSA (or, perhaps, a sex-ed film) about teenage boys' favorite activity: There are so many things patently false about this scene that it makes me see the light for striking television and film writers: often denigrated, disowned, and under-appreciated, these paragons of verisimilitude would never have stood for the travesty above. I mean, Ricky isn't upset. His mother isn't upset. He doesn't reach for the closest sharp object and slash it across his throat.Ricky's mom counsels him that he needs to "control these feelings," which is tantamount to saying, "Don't be horny and don't masturbate," advice young men have ignored for as long as they have had penises.If you really wanted to keep teenage boys from doing what comes naturally, a professional writer -- like those on strike -- would pen the following:The scene: Ricky is lying in bed, hands under covers. His eyes are shut and his teeth are gritted.RICKY (moaning): Oh, Mrs. Tasty, Oh, yes, Mrs. Tasty. I want you Mrs. Tasty, I want to take you now, Mrs. Tasty...Outside, Ricky's mother hears something from her 13-year-old son's room. She turns the knob, but is surprised to see that it's locked.CLUELESS 70s MOM: Ricky, why are you saying your English teacher's name over and over? What's that about taking her someplace? What is going on in there? You never lock your door!RICKY: GO THE HELL AWAY!C7M: Well, I never!Seconds later, Ricky's mother returns with a key. She quickly opens the door and lets herself in.C7M: Now, listen here, Eric Miles Bonert, you never talk to your Mother like that...oh my goodness, what are you doing?RICKY: AAAAAAAAAAAH! GET THE HELL OUT NOW!!!!!!!C7M: Oh, you're masturbating!RICKY (hiding under covers): SHUT UP AND GET THE HELL OUT!!!!!C7M (thoughtfully): So that would explain why you go straight to your room for a "nap" every day after school! And all those yellow stains on your undershirts and your socks. I couldn't figure that out for the life of me! Do you want me to get you something to clean up with, so you won't ruin your clothes?RICKY: I HATE YOU! GO AWAY!C7M: Alright then, if you're going to be that way to me, fine. But I don't understand why you feel like you need to submit to your urges.Mother leaves. Dissolve to a long shot of her talking on the telephone.C7M: Really? Well, I had no idea that what was happening. That's good news. I'll be sure and tell him.Back in his room, Ricky is freaked out, and has masturbated six more times. His mother enters without knocking.RICKY: Go away. I told you never to come in here without my permission! I'm 13 already!C7M: Just listen here, Eric Miles. I really was ignorant about this -- I had no idea that you were going through such things. I'm just glad that you did it in the privacy of your own room. What you did is perfectly normal -- well, your father has a slightly different viewpoint--RICKY: You told Dad? I don't believe you did that!C7M: It's his right as a father to know, Ricky. He deserves to know. He'll have a long talk with you when he gets home.RICKY: What did he say? Did he say it's just a normal part of puberty and adolescence, that he did the same thing I did, like five times a day?C7M: No, I'm afraid he said "No son of mine is going to be a hairy-palmed pervert meat whacker! He's going to military school!" But that's just your Dad!RICKY: I'm going to kill myself.C7M: Now, I was afraid you'd be upset, so after I got off the phone with Dad, I called Mr. Cutler--RICKY: You told my guidance counselor?C7M: Only after Mrs. Tasty said I should talk to him. She sounded a little embarrassed that you were moaning her[...]
2008-01-09T17:35:22.192-05:00It’s more suicidal than bipolar Finnish sheep herders drunk on vodka and Kierkegaard! There’s less hope there than at an Ibsen festival! It’s feels bleaker than a conference of failed, embittered scribes who think Cormac McCarthy is optimistic and Dostoyevsky’s characters are the happiest folk in the universe!Are we talking about Romney campaign workers, Ohio State fans, or the celebrity-du-jour-meltdown (of which the latest suffer’s name is banned from this space)? No! We’re talking about the mind of the writer! Specifically, Bookfraud’s mind!There’s a lot of bizzare crap-ola going in this man’s brain -- but really, can you blame him? Take a plague of bed bugs going on six months, throw in depression that won’t quit, a literary agent harder to pin down than mercury and a baby who at 3 a.m. sounds like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier, and you’ve got all the makings of a full-throttle mental breakdown!To make matters worse, Bookfraud is writing about as often as a starving pit bull will ignore a raw T-bone, and what he does churn out is about as readable as Dan Brown in Sanskrit! And let me tell you, his brain is generating all of this mess -- the negative thinking, the emotional meltdowns, the sudden urges to lick the sidewalk.Bookfraud’s brain is not a pretty place to be these days, boys and girls, but I’m going to take you on a fully guided tour of the vast wasteland of his emotional state and the empty grottoes of his soul! Prepare for the most horrifying guided tour since Virgil led Dante through Hades!Let’s start at the lower brain, the veritable “reptilian” state of the brain that controls heartbeat, breathing, and involuntary teenage boners. Bookfraud’s medulla is in bad shape -- look at the Swiss-cheese like holes dotting its surface. It’s no wonder that he’s breathing like a 100-year-old stone accordion! And let’s hope that his blood pressure hasn’t skyrocketed to 500/1000!Abandon all hopeNow, the midbrain. The midbrain links motor functions, eye and auditory control, and the power train a 1968 Dodge Dart. Thus, when Bookfraud sees an attractive femalian, his eyes bug out, his hands shake, and he starts hearing voices in his head -- “Maybe you can do better, buddy! Maybe it’s a good time for a mid-life crisis after all, because there are so many hot 22-year-old blonde babes with enormous gazargons who want to sleep with you!”Speaking of which, let’s take a look at the hypothalamus, where sexual reproduction is regulated. You may want to hide your children’s eyes for this one. Wow! That’s ugly! It looks like it’s been unused for months -- cobwebs everywhere! It’s rotting from the core! I wouldn’t show that to a medical student unless I wanted him or her to quit school that very day.Next on the tour is the cerebellum. Motor functions are controlled here, and the pink, red, blue, orange, and black spots are why Bookfraud is constantly dropping things, breaking them, and turning into a 43-year-old ball of venomous bile that sets such a great example for his young son!But let’s get to main course -- the mass of grey matter you’re all familiar with, the cerebrum, which tastes great on toast, by the way, or in a taco. The cerebrum is broken up into four lobes, all of which have a different purpose. Let’s take a quick look at each in Bookfraud’s messed-up mind:The Frontal Lobe: associated with reasoning, parts of speech, and problem solving, this part of Bookfraud’s brain looks about as active as a dead squirrel on a stick! He can’t reason, plan, solve problems like “What’s 2 plus 2?” or speak a coherent sentence without pulling out, one by one, each hair in his nostril.The Parietal Lobe: regulates movement, orientation, recognition, perception of stimuli; notice the miniscule, translucent insects crawling all through this lobe. They’re bed bugs[...]
2008-01-04T10:26:24.292-05:00Before I decided not to publish it, I had written a blog entry indicative of a man bereft of ideas: The Year in Review. Granted, it reviewed subject matter such as Chris “Leave Britney Alone!” Crocker (see below) and Dog Poop Girl (see above), which not only are stupid pop culture footnotes to the real business of 2007 like greed, death and destruction, but have no bearing on the world of writing fiction, which, in a galaxy far, far away, this blog was once dedicated to addressing.I’ve written about four blog entries over the past four months (do the math), ostensibly because of the ongoing bed bug woes in my household. This ignores several inconvenient truths: one, I don’t fight bed bugs 24/7 (or 12/4, for that matter); and two, despite our bugs and Baby and stress and fights with Wife and lots of anguish, I still have time to play computer games or screw around online for trivial pursuits like Sudoku or important ones like porn.Whether this poor production stems from fear or laziness, I will not speculate, but I will admit something to which I am loath to disclose: at times, I can be terribly, terrifyingly lazy. (Which makes good fodder for a blog entry in January, 2008: I resolve this year not to be a fat, stupid slug).This is a deep-seated issue stemming from an abusive childhood. I probably read more than the average child, and was often stymied by certain verbiage in my books. When I would ask my father what a word meant -- alight, cogitate, affectation -- he always had the same damn answer: “Well, son, let’s ask a friend of mine -- Mr. Webster. He has this book called ‘the dictionary.’” My father, thus being doubly didactic, would force me to actually look up the word in the dictionary. If that wasn’t abuse, I don’t know what was.There were a couple of lessons to be learned here. My father not only wanted me to learn how to use the dictionary and expand my mind, but to learn to stop bugging the crap out of him to get definitions of stupid words. I got the latter but not the former, and it wasn’t until college that I could cogitate upon alighting an intellectual journey filled with affectation and pretension.But I left Britney aloneNow, of those who know me well, you’re probably a bit surprised. You’re saying, “Why, all these years, I thought Bookfraud was the hardest working man alive! He just put me to shame. And it turns out he goofs off more than George Bush!” Fear not, familiar fans and foes, fear not. There once was a time that I was the hardest workin’ man in no business. I had two jobs in college, and two jobs after college. When I got it down to one job, I came home every evening to write. I didn't have a car, television or other distraction. If I were 15 years younger, I'd probably be more known in this space for my logorreah than my paucity of output.But I’m 43, unpublished and unknown, and there are stretches in my life that I seriously contemplate not writing anything creative at all: no novel, no short stories, no blog, nada. For me to have considered this 15 years ago was unthinkable, like giving up breathing or sex.There are many, many writers who manage prodigious output, and it is during times such as now that I turn to them for inspiration. George Sand wrote dozens of plays, novels, articles and other assorted works. Issac Asimov wrote, like, 500 books. Current belle du jour Steve Almond seems to appear on every shelf and Web site. And then there’s Joyce.Sloth comes in many formsNot James Joyce, but Ms. Joyce Carol Oates, who has written and published more in one month than most scribes could hope for in a lifetime. To say she is a graphomaniac is like saying that Proust was a hypochondriac (or Britney is a bad mother) -- deny if you must, but the evidence is overwhelming.So, to review – I’m not writing much, my default position is sloth de[...]
2008-01-03T22:14:32.936-05:00(image) For all our viewers at home, I have an announcement. We have word from the pressbox -- it's official. Things have gotten ugly around here.
2007-11-02T16:36:49.448-04:00Long before the insects swarmed upon my life, tearing it apart, threatening my marriage, and temporarily removing my son from my life -- that is, in the days before I didn’t think about throwing myself in front of a bus -- a friend of Wife’s came out with a work of non-fiction that garnered some decent publicity.This was the friend’s fourth book: he’s had two short-story collections and another work of non-fiction published to date, and has been pretty durn successful, by my estimation. He’s sold a good number of volumes, and, unlike most of us, makes a living through writing.But not all is well in the land of Successful Writer: this writer’s latest book, according to his publisher, hasn’t moved enough copies before it was published. The publisher was worried before the book went on sale, or “pre-sales,” as she put it.One can ascribe this sorry state of events to the Internet, in which “pre-sales” are logged and displayed on Amazon.com. Perhaps it’s simply a reflection of the desperate straits in which publishers find themselves. Or one can say that Wife’s friend is simply the victim of a short-sighted, unimaginative sluggo marketer whose whole modus operandi is sales, sales, sales (or, her whole m.o. is simply holding on to her job).While I am tempted to launch venom at the sorry state of the publishing business, I will turn this entry into a rant about “pre-” and its growing use in the vernacular. (Because I feel like it.)Prevent pre-boarding“Pre-sales” sounds like something a business consultant devised after an afternoon of heavy drinking. Like that nefarious “pre-boarding” that you will hear at an airport gate, it incorrectly refers to the interregnum between an event “unofficially” happening and it actually happening. But you can’t sell something before you sell it, just as you can’t board a plane before you board it. It is all Zen, my child.There are legitimate uses for this overused, abused prefix "pre-". You can be a pre-law or pre-med major, since it's a time when you're not actually in law or medical school. You can make pre-game plans, do pre-interview preparation, or listen to the works of the late, great Jacqueline Du Pre.But perhaps those geniuses of "pre-" are on to something. We should extend “pre-sales” to other areas of life besides books. It could open up a whole new realm of stupid, idiotic business-like words.To wit:Pre-driven cars: No, not a “pre-owned” car, or, in the old fashioned, quaint way of putting it, a “used car.” Pre-driven cars have new car smell, fresh tires, and an engine block as clean as a hospital floor. That’s because nobody’s driven it yet! Get it?Pre-pre-owned clothes/furniture/CDs, etc.: “Pre-pre-owned” is the new “new.” “I want a new Armani suit, not some used suit I could find at the consignment store.” No, it’s “I want a pre-pre-owned Armani suit, not some pre-owned suit at the consignment store.” Get it? (The brilliance of this should be obvious by now).Pre-eaten Hot, Hot, HOT Apple Pies at McDonalds’: You get to eat your lip melting, tongue scalding, mouth burning hot apple pies, not only before anyone else, but before anyone has actually tried eating one, ruined his or her vocal chords, thrown the pie to the floor, and you’ve picked it up and feel your hand turn to mush from the 8,000 degrees radiating from the radioactive liquid magma filling.(This is what happens when you’re eight years old and bite into a Mickey D’s hot apple pie for the first time. You’re scarred for life.)Not buying itPre-Fucked Pornstars™: This sounded funny when I first thought of it. But I don’t know if I mean “virgins” or somebody who has already done the dirty deed that day.Offensive? Yeah. Will I trademark it? Yeah.Pre-seating: Li[...]
2007-10-19T11:09:38.662-04:00Editor's Note: this blog entry was written, like, a month ago. It might still be relevant to about six people in this world. If I were current, I would be writing about Raymond Carver, not writing about someone who wrote about Raymond Carver (see below).But then the bedbugs revolted against the exterminator's poison, I fell into a state approaching depression, and hid in a cave. The bedbugs are still in my home, but I've left the cave. Or at least have stuck my toe out.One of my all-time favorite literary takedowns was a full-bore, take-no-prisoners evisceration of Raymond Carver, once the resident patron saint of creative writing programs. The essay's point -- that Carver, through his unadorned and non-descriptive prose had ruined many an MFA student -- was crouched in harsh but convincing language.The writer of that essay was a fellow by the name of Melvin Jules Bukiet, and if the name isn't familiar, the reason is that Bukiet hasn't sold many books. He teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence, and, if my intelligence serves me correctly, he was correct in ascertaining that Mr. Carver's banal language had produced a mini-generation of writers whose ambition was as flat as the "Carveresque" prose they proffered for workshop.The reason I loved Bukiet's essay was that he was goring a sacred cow, and his venom had the ring of authenticity to it. I never understood why other writers loved Raymond Carver; reportedly, they saw in the late man the genius of hidden truth. What's not said, described, or done is more important than what is, according to his acolytes. His characters have a great secret to hide, or they have messed up relationships destroyed by booze and drugs. Or whatever.That essay was in the Village Voice literary supplement, and clocked in at about 750 words. Now, Bukiet has penned an essay of greater length, though his prey is bigger: Brooklyn (N.Y.) writers.Wonder thisHe didn't mean writers who live exclusively in the Borough of Kings (though most of them do), but the type of fiction being produced by Brooklyn's leading literary lights, such as Paul Auster, Johnathan Safron Foer, and Myla Goldberg. The gist of the essay was "Brooklyn Books of Wonder" had become a species onto itself: cute, wondrous novels that divine suffering as a learning experience, when in fact, suffering just results in…suffering.They often have juvenile protagonists and explicitly see the world through a child's eyes (Thus, the wonder, power, & glory). Bukiet makes it sound like a world of solipsistic, self-satisfied Brooklynites who are one part Derrida, one part Leo Buscaglia, and one part Wally Lamb. One would think that by just crossing the Brooklyn Bridge you'd wandered into Literary Wonder Oblivion. Knowing several of the species of Brooklyn Writer myself -- in geography if not temperament -- the essay was indeed provocative and had many salient points, but wasn't entirely convincing: a patina of personal disdain coats Bukiet's words of wisdom, as if Dave Eggers had committed the literary equivalent of diddling Bukiet's wife and was mocking the cuckold to boot. Bukiet sets himself up way too easily for charges of professional jealousy, as it seems Foer sells more books in three hours than Bukiet has in his lifetime (not to mention money, or Foer's $5 million Brooklyn brownstone, or his movie advances, or…never mind). I haven't read Bukiet's fiction, but though he sells few books, he is well-regarded. I did hear him read one of his stories, however, which involved a hotel, green shoes and a narrator obsessed with meeting perhaps the greatest of the great writers of English prose: Vladimir Nabokov.Nabokov was many things, but Mr. Happy Ending was not one of them, and his stories could be as depressing as his prose was brilliant. An[...]
2007-09-24T17:12:16.039-04:00A writer named Bookfraud lived a literary lifeNothing remotely maudlin or sappyHe had a beautiful boy and doting wifeBut he didn't know he was so happyThey took a trip in July to a place with treesWithout knowing the danger of pestsIt seemed as if their biggest nuisance was fleasBut they took home some uninvited guestsSoon they were bitten on legs, arms and backIt left everyone in a foul moodBedbugs had started their evil attackAnd were sucking their blood for foodAt first they worked hard, vowing to winBookfraud cleaned up every dayThey packed up their belongings in airtight binsThinking the bugs would soon be on their wayOh, Bookfraud bagged his mattress and stored his booksEverything was covered with tagsHe'd become so obsessed he hadn't noticed to lookThat his clothes and his life were in bagsBut when the bites kept pinching their fleshBookfraud's family was quickly distraughtEvery day the bedbugs would breed and refreshBookfraud could only exclaim, 'My God, what has He wrought?''I'm not writing, I'm not sleeping, my skin is a messIt's as if I'm made of plasterThere is no solution to this mighty distressMy life has devolved into disaster.'The road to insanity starts hereBookfraud vacuumed and cleaned two hours a nightBut didn't make any gainsHe had insomnia, aches, and migraines too bootHe was slowly going insanePest control came and sprayed with a stickThen Bookfraud was suddenly illin'The poison had made Bookfraud so sickHe had to take AmoxicillinThe exterminators came once, no twice, no thriceAs muscular as Barry Bonds a-juicin'But bedbugs are hardier and meaner than liceAnd just kept on reproducing(Every treatment, Bookfraud had to sleep aloneWife and Baby lodged at an innThe man of the house was stuck by the phoneDrinking Coke-Cola, Orangina and gin)In distress, Bookfraud tried to mendBut his efforts never left the stationHe tried writing, his 'best friend'(And no, his 'best friend' wasn't masturbation)He attempted to blog but nothing came outHis brain and body were spentToo angry to weep, too tired to shoutHis literary ambitions were bentHe stopped looking at blogs and commenting tooEvery moment was dread and remorseOn the Day of Atonement he was a bad JewBookfraud ate and drank like a horseHis novel lies fallow, his agent is gone Worse than any literary critic or thugBookfraud's too tired to consider if he's been wrongedHis life ruined by a bugTraitor to the causeHe doesn't read booksThe shelves have been stripped cleanHe's paranoid about funny looksThat brand him as stupid or obsceneTelevision and fried food became his siren callIt was all he felt like doingNow he's climbing the wallsFeeling sorry for himself and stewingSo he awaits the end of the ordealHis lesson as loud as the din:Though still a bedbug Happy MealHe realizes how happy he'd been.[...]
2007-09-14T09:59:41.469-04:00In the underappreciated (and under-watched) movie “Idiocracy,” set 500 years in the future, corporations rule the planet, overlording a feeble-minded populace that believes the corporate pabulum served on their TV screens, letter for letter. They suffer from garbage avalanches, watch the Masturbation Network (“Helping America with ‘baitin’ for 300 years!”) and a show called “Ow, My Balls!” Their crops do not grow because, instead of water, they are given Brawndo (“The Thirst Mutilator!”), a Gatorade-esque drink that has supplanted H2O. When the hero, who had been frozen since the 21st century, points out that crops need water to grow, the brainwashed populace says, repeating an ad slogan, “But Brawndo’s got what plants crave.”The future in “Idiocracy” does not, conspicuously, have books. People are too stupid to read.The Bookfraud household does not, conspicuously, have any books. We are smart enough to read, but am losing that ability in short order.Our books -- several hundred, if not more, I believe -- are sitting in climate controlled bliss, in a storage unit, where they will reside for the next 16 months while we await any and all life forms residing inside of them to die. In other words, goddamn bedbugs can get inside books, and the only way to make sure they are dead is to pack away one’s volumes for a year and change.This forced displacement has lowered my I.Q. a good 50 points. All the things that usually make me smarter -- such as wearing my spectacles, which makes me look like a college professor -- have done no good. In place of the written word, I have been filling my few free hours with the spoken word and the moving image. Unfortunately, this does not mean I have been watching the work of Fellini or Godard, but sophisticated television fare like “Friday Night Smackdown!”I’ve been reading newspapers and magazines, sure, and the occasional online essay. But nothing that resembles a narrative that lasts more than 10 pages, involves more than 10 characters, and has been published over 10 days ago. The intellectual and moral complexity of fiction makes you smarter, if you think about it. I mean, think about the intellectual and moral complexity of the novel you’re reading.Or, a brain without cellsIt’s not just the braininess I miss. I miss picking up a volume by Nabokov and randomly picking a page, only to land on a passage of exquisite, lyrical genius. I miss hunkering down on the couch with a heavy book and getting lost. I miss thumbing my way through “Absalom, Absalom!” and trying to figure out what just the hell happened to Thomas Sutpen.It’s not as if Wife and I hold a literary salon in the living room, or our lives are centered around the written word (though it’s close). But a life without books is incomplete. Like many writers, I was not the most popular fellow among my peers growing up, and I drew solace from books -- science fiction in particular, as the genre traffics in fantastical, engaging universes far removed that the miserable one I inhabited.Sad to admit, television and sports were the two other passions of my childhood, and if it is not a source of shame that I indulged what many young boys had as hobbies, it’s embarrassing that I couldn’t also say “violin,” “French,” or “something remotely creative.” While television and sports still compete for real estate in the land grab of my brain, it’s books that have sustained me. They help me to engage the world or retreat from it, whichever is necessary.I don’t want to point a moral compass here -- there’s nothing inherently good about books, just like there’s nothing inherently good about a thing being “natural.” I am remi[...]
2007-09-04T16:00:59.920-04:00By any objective measure, I have been having what specialists like to call "an extremely crappy month."
2007-08-27T21:40:01.736-04:00Dear Mike:Can I call you "Mike"? I've really never written a star athlete before, and I would hate to alienate you with forced familiarity. But "Michael" doesn't seem to fit, either, so let's just call you what you should be called, "Sick Fuck," as in "Sick Fuck Vick."Oh, today you apologized and asked for forgiveness for your "mistake," though I don't think your dog-fighting enterprise, "Bad Newz Kennels," was truly a mistake. The only mistakes you made were choosing the wrong accomplices, who gladly rolled on you when the going got tough, and that you weren't more discreet in setting up your matches. Those are mistakes. But what you did was a way of life (you ran the dogfighting ring for six years), and if you hadn't been caught, you'd still be torturing and executing animals for fun.This really is piling on after the whistle, I realize. You've been castigated and humiliated plenty of other places in the media and on the Internet, and you are looking at a year in the Big House — and I don't mean Michigan Stadium. Your career is in tatters and people are sending your jersey to the Atlanta Humane Society to line kennels and mop up after accidents. Sure, you have your defenders, many of whom you did not have to pay to do so. Those who say that at least you didn't kill somebody. Those who say that you're being persecuted because you're black. And those who say that you can do what you want with your dogs, as long as it doesn't hurt somebody.Of course, these defenses entail a moral universe far removed from anything mere mortals like myself inhabit. The implication is that just about anything short of physically hurting a human being shouldn't be criminal, which would be a great relief to our overtaxed criminal justice system, since they could then ignore about 90 percent of the things now illegal. I gotta hand it to, Mr. Sick Fuck. You've given the phrase "dog days of summer" new meaning — I mean, all I could come up with was some pathetic paragraphs on bedbugs for the past few weeks. But when I heard about your press conference earlier today, in which you asked for forgiveness and invoked Jesus, I knew what I had to do.Offer my services as a writer, of course.Though I am not a Christian, I do believe in some of Jesus Christ's teachings, such as "He who has not sinned, let him cast the first stone," embracing and helping society's outcasts, and giving a Swanson's Turkey TV dinner for the downtrodden on his birthday. Like Jesus offered forgiveness, you'd like some forgiveness from the public and (most importantly) the NFL, so you can go back to doing what you do best: being an exciting but mediocre football player. This is where Bookfraud can help.It's a simple matter of you being able to tell "your side of the story," and do it in a way that evokes sympathy rather than condescension. We can pen your autobiography, or write a screenplay of your ordeal. There are so many ways in which to do this.To wit:That Son of Sam thing happened to me. Instead of dogs telling me to kill people, other people told me to kill dogs.OrThose dogs were the same ones used in Abu Ghraib. They knew things that other dogs did not, and our national security depended on their betraying their secrets.WoofOrIt's been alleged that I electrocuted dogs. This is a flat out, mendacious lie. I just flipped a switch.OrWhat's the big deal? I simply provided the financing, the facilities, the opportunity, and the motives to commit a crime, but that doesn't mean I actually did it. Kind of like Halliburton and the war.OrHell, it's not like I killed someone.Several months ago, I made a similar plea to Brittney Spears when her career started hitting the skids[...]
2007-08-24T14:43:41.654-04:00I'm about to have a nervous breakdown, my head really hurts.
2007-08-06T22:24:24.225-04:00Perhaps I am paying for slamming "Harry Potter;" perhaps the Gods are punishing me for a more pedestrian infraction of the Writer's Rules. I don't know for sure, but it is certain that my home has bedbugs and if my life isn't a living hell, I can feel Hades' flames licking at my backside.In terms of annoyance, bedbugs are in a whole different league than roaches, ants, termites, fleas or even mosquitoes. They bite, drink your blood, and reproduce like otters. Once they get into your home, it requires drastic measures to rid them.Like, for instance, the following regimen, which Wife, Baby, and myself must follow for the next month:1. All clothing cleaned and put in plastic bags. Do not put back in drawers, or risk having a bug lodge in your underwear and then lodge somewhere much more unfortunate.2. Vacuum every square inch of apartment, including baseboards, floor cracks, ass cracks (see above), shoes, books. Yes, books are a great hiding place for these bugs. Pack your books, put them in storage, and say goodbye to them for 18 months.3. Treat all luggage and furniture with a chemical solution of 60 rubbing alcohol and 40 percent flesh-eating acid. Bag everything. I mean, everything.4. Move all furniture at least 12 inches from wall, and wait for exterminators to bomb the place.5. Once bombed, stay out of apartment for 48 hours. I intend to spend those 48 hours at a brothel.6. Once you return, vacuum every square inch of apartment, including baseboards, floor cracks, and shoes, every single day for a month.7. Spray chemical solution in baseboards every four days and pray that none of it makes contact with skin.8. Repeat exterminator treatment. Pray that all the bedbugs are dead. Pray, pray, pray.Wife and Baby are moving out of the apartment entirely for three weeks while yours truly serves as human bait — the exterminator wants me living in the apartment to draw out the bedbugs so they'll get to the poison.Meanwhile, every day is the same: come home from work, eat dinner, then vacuum, spray, and bag until bedtime. Vacuum, spray, bag. We've moved all our books out of our place (sob!) and are cleaning like mad.See the movie, live the lifeThe most surefire way to rid yourself of these pests is to throw away all your clothes and bedding (in plastic bags), buy new clothes, and move out for 18 months. You see, bedbugs can live over a year without food.In short, I am quickly losing my mind, and things are likely to worsen until mid-2015.And yet, against my nature, I'm trying to be positive. When I start to feel sorry for myself (about every five minutes), I try to count my blessings. I'm not a refugee, I'm not homeless, and I am in good health with a wife and son who I adore. My woes are about bugs and my lack of publishing credits. And I didn't suffer the same fate as Dan.Dan and I were co-workers back in the late 1980s. We weren't close friends but were on good terms, and I admired him quite a bit: Dan was extremely talented, outgoing, smart, funny, and a good guy overall. Someone that makes you feel at ease and goes out of his way to talk to you. It was my first job out of college, and Dan made me feel welcome. He was a real mench.Befitting his talent, two years after I started work Dan got a major promotion with out-of-town company, and moved to the East Coast with his fiancée, a research doctor who was gorgeous and sweet to boot.Soon, they were married, and a year or so later, Dan's wife was pregnant. In short, Dan had everything I wanted: a beautiful wife, a job I coveted, financial security, and a family on the way. He even had moved out of my cowpoke town, wher[...]
2007-07-28T12:32:08.904-04:00I had written 800 brilliant, scabrous words on the rise of Harry Potter — and how adults have co-opted the franchise — but I inadvertently erased them for reasons not worth elaborating upon. Such absentminded mistakes on my part are common these days, but that’s another story.In lieu of my Harry Hate, here’s a sampling of the chronic data stream uploading in my head, which I know readers are just dying to hear about.•In the “How the Fuck Haven’t I Read Everything This Person Has Written Yet?” Department, I’m reading Orhan Pamuk’s “My Name Is Red.” While the novel can be slow going, it is also absolutely brilliant. I don’t know how I’ve managed to avoid Mr. Pamuk until now (though I’m not exactly well-schooled in modern Turkish writers. Mediaeval ones, either). Pamuk is a genius, a word I don’t throw around lightly with writers, and even in translation, it’s obvious why this dude won the Nobel Prize. Read this, not “Harry Potter and the Sphincter of Fire.” (More on Harry later.)•The Chicago Cubs have decided that playing baseball was more fun than beating the snot out of each other, and have the best record in the majors since manager Lou Pinella’s head exploded in June. This is a bad thing. The Cubs are three games out of first place, and as a result, I am a stupid, love-struck teenager once more, following their every pitch and swing of the bat. They will ultimately break my heart, and yet I still watch them with blind affection. Call me stupid; call me a sports fan.•Media Mania Over Drug Addled, DUI Hollywood Hos! I just wanted to say that.•I am coming down with yet another cold. My throat feels like a morbidly obese union carpenter is using a power sander where my tonsils used to reside.•Baby won’t abide his crib, despite his parents’ unstilted efforts to get him to do otherwise. We’ll put him down, asleep, and in the time it takes the pee to hit the urinal (as I have been holding it in for about 73 minutes as I hold the little bugger), his cries echo through our home; first, flaccid and weak, then increasing in volume until The End of the World is nigh. My solution for this is just let Baby cry until he loses his voice, permanently. He’ll eventually fall asleep and we won’t ever have to hear his rotten screaming ever again.Wrigley: scene of the crime•The number of comments on my blog as ground into a number smaller than functioning brain cells in Dick Cheney’s diseased mind. There is a fair amount of blogrolling (you comment on my blog, I’ll comment on yours) in cyberspace, and as I struggle to keep up with others’ blogs, nobody visits here, unless you count the turds who want to know if a certain violinist is gay and you know who you are and if this is how you spend your time, asking if this man is gay, then you live an impoverished intellectual and spiritual life indeed. Learn how to drink or something.•I changed the layout, added polls, and some bizzare rating systemf at the bottom of each post, and one can see the overwhelming response. It would probably do me more good if, like, I actually wrote something more than once a fortnight.•Speaking of viewership, I have a friend who runs a terriffic baseball blog that gets several thousand page views a day. Yes, his blog gets more page views in a month than Bookfraud has in its two-plus-years of existence. He was kind enough to have linked my rant on the Cubs’ impending sale, and, viola! there were suddenly hundreds of hits to Bookfraud. Just about nobody commented, unfortunately, and few visitors have returned, b[...]
2007-07-18T18:59:01.622-04:00Yes, observant reader, I’ve changed the header and layout, and if I can decipher the HTML code for my template, I might actually make the page look half decent, in about six years.But enjoy the all-new photo of myself at rest, and take the poll!In the era before the Internet, PDAs, cell phones, and iPods, I bought a Filofax in one of my many futile attempts to “get organized.” The chunk of plastic and paper collected dust following my few attempts to actually use it. It was then that I’ve had my life’s major epiphany: in order to be organized, you have to be organized.I had hoped that the Filofax would magically transform the mess then known as my life. The Filofax would help me with appointments, phone numbers, birthdays, and the other assorted minutiae that make up the grist of living.It did not do much good, since I never entered my appointments and friends’ birthdays, while I barely consulted it for telephone numbers and addresses. In order for the Filofax to transform my life into a streamlined, efficient machine, I would have to do the things that would make my life into a streamlined, efficient machine – whether I owned a stupid $30 phonebook-calendar or not.Party timeSeveral electronic devices and computer calendars later, I still struggle to keep appointments, remember birthdays, and generally keep organized. My desk is a testament to mounds of paper needing to be filed. Unfinished and un-started projects litter the roadway of my literary endeavors. Things are so bad that when everything is “organized,” I grow suspicious, for it means that I have spent my time in cleaning up rather than actually doing the tasks for which being organized would make such a snap.Now, comes my worst nightmare.I have about eight writing projects somewhere between larval and butterfly. They range from the “novel” to short stories to a non-fiction book to a magazine piece on outsourcing. Some of these projects are smashingly good ideas, if I say so myself, while others are limper than month-old lettuce. But deciding which ones I should pursue has proven more difficult than a chick-lit heroine deciding between a pair of Jimmy Choos and Malono Blahniks (or the uber-dick-lit hero choosing between Honey Ryder and Pussy Galore). In the past, this would not have been an issue — I would have simply done all of them with various degrees of enthusiasm (and success). Things would have panned themselves out: I would drop one or two things completely, aggressively pursue one or two others, and hold the rest in limbo. Then, once I finished a story, I would try to get it published, contemplate suicide as the rejection notes piled up, then brush the dirt off my jacket and start anew.You know what I’m going to say next: since Baby arrived, I have no time to engage in such narcissistic dallying, though dally I do. This is an organizational crisis for me, as I can’t decide what I should pursue in the limited minutes allotted to me when I’m not changing Baby, burping Baby, bathing Baby, taking Baby off Wife’s hands, wiping Baby’s spit off my face, etc.Now, I know of Super Moms and Dads who manage to take care of their children’s (plural) basic needs, plus teach them Mandarin, cook vegan coc au vin, spend all their free time enriching their children’s lives, and then turn around and write 1,000 perfectly formed words a day. That is not going to be me. I am basically a zombie with about enough motivation to turn on the computer, and that’s it.Unaware of his surroundings, he was then hit by a busI take it tha[...]
2007-07-09T13:48:16.271-04:00I've just heard back from the editor of a literary journal, and she actually liked the book review I wrote for them. Unless the editor has been inhaling at a Phish concert or is less honest than the Bush Administration, this is all very good. It also is a great burden off my chest, more symbolic than physical.Because while I was flattered to be asked to write a book review, I was also terrified -- terrified that I wouldn't have anything to say, or what I turned in was about as profound as a Coors Light commercial.(It was also fortunate that the editor, after giving me the assignment, didn't wake up the next morning and say, "You know, I really want to read that Bookfraud to see what kind of writer he really is.")It's not that I lacked the discipline, talent, or intellectual bones to complete the assignment. It's not that I couldn't be bothered while Baby's diapers were soiled. Nor is it that I was scared I'd make a fool out of myself -- I've done that plenty of times already, and will have ample opportunity to humiliate my son by the mere fact of being myself.It's that I dreaded I won't have anything original to say.Kentucky Fried CriticI didn't have much trouble coming up with an angle for my review, but I feared it would come across as lightweight, or, much worse, banal. The book in question has gotten tons of publicity already, and I figured my thoughts would be as interesting as what adventures awaited me at my local KFC.I was asked in part because of my background, and the nature of the book I'm reviewing falls squarely into the territory (figuratively and literally) that I've written about in my fiction. And in working on the review, I noticed how much I actually drew upon my experience as a "novelist" to inform what I wrote. So, unlike real life, things actually went to plan. I have to credit the journal's editors, who only made two demands of my work: 1)keep it under 1,500 words; and 2) no plot summary. The former removed my wont for verbal logorrhea, while the latter removed my wont to be lazy.Not to imply that most book reviewers are lazy, but plot summary makes up about 87 percent of all the verbiage in The New York Times Book Review, for example. I used to think that TNYTBR (as us aficionados call it) was the pinnacle of American literary criticism -- the weekly magazine representing the most prominent voices in literature -- but now I know better.In TNYTBR, friends review friends' books, while enemies settle scores. People are incendiary to establish a reputation; others kiss ass to make contacts. It's not that there isn't objective and perceptive criticism in the Times, but you gotta take much of what's written there with a grain of salt (which is why, despite her many shortcomings, Michiko Kakutani sets such a high standard -- she doesn't do the literary crowd thing and doesn't befriend writers. Smart woman that way.)Living the (wet) dreamThere was no danger of a conflict of interest in the review I wrote, which was of a novel by a writer living high in the fiction stratosphere. No, yours truly has not crossed paths with this person, and, given my low status in the literary caste, it's more likely that I will become bosom buddies with your local Klan Grand Wizard than with this person. I guess this means that in some ways, being a loser is excellent. I've tried mightily to cultivate my loser-dom, so it's good to see my hard work pay off. Only in America, my son, only in America.[...]
2007-06-28T18:12:46.466-04:00Lo, for he shall not prove productive at the keyboard, so sayeth the Lord, for Bookfraud hath turned his back on his embrace of the Lord (of Writing) by incessant worship of the false gods of television and Sudoku, and it will be with a mighty hand that I shall deliver literary plagues upon his house. Bookfraud shall never publish, lo, for he hath been lazy under the guise of Baby taking up all his time.Go forth, ye Bookfraud, and face the woe that has befallen your wicked house. For thou shall reap what thou has sowed, and yea, let word of your sloth spread forth throughout the world, and you shall be marked with “666,” the Number of the Beast, which also happens to be the total number of words you have written in the past year.No, my Lord, forgive me, for I have seen the light. I have been saved. All because of Tina Brown.Brown is no savior, but she is an inspiration. For I have been despairing that I would never be productive again -- not that I would never write, but what emerged from my word processor would be unintelligible, unreadable slop. (Even worse than what I normally write.)It’s been a rough couple of months. I can blame Baby and the intermittent sleep he bestows upon me. I can blame diaper duty, burping duty, clean up the spit duty. I can blame my job and the commute. There’s a lot of stuff I can blame.There are some who might argue this would be no change, but having read reviews of Brown’s new “book,” I feel better. If Tina Brown can get her whaleturd of a book published, I have hope.Not that I’ve actually read Brown’s account of Princess Diana and her days in (and out of) Buckingham Palace. Not that I actually intend to buy it. Not that I intend to even pick it up at Borders and run to the bathroom to wash my hands.Tina Brown: Literary necrophiliacIt’s that I canceled The New Yorker and because of Diana — or, rather, Tina Brown and Diana.When the Princess of Wales was killed in a car accident, the last place I had expected her to appear was in The New Yorker, that bastion of sophistication, wit, and great writers and reporters. But there she was, a drawing of the unfortunate un-Royal on the cover. Inside, the accompanying story started (to the effect) “The last time I saw Diana, she was wearing a lime-green outfit with chiffon stuff...” Of course, the author was New Yorker editor and all-around starfucker Tina Brown.The same day I received that issue, I canceled my subscription.Brown had taken the helm of the creaky old magazine a few years earlier, and injected some life into it with celebrity reportage and other types of features that really had no business being in The New Yorker. She did some good things, no doubt, notably getting rid of the deadwood in the place who hadn’t written for (sometimes) decades, and no longer paying for pieces by the word, which would result in 30,000-word stories about pothole repair or canned tuna.But Brown generally ruined the magazine for me, and the Diana cover was the last straw. It wasn’t until David Remnick (he of the amazing access and pen) that I started reading it again.Now, a decade later, Brown has a book on Diana that has definite “buzz” but is about as appealing to me as eating ketchup-drenched olives. Angry (self-appointed) GodBut she has inspired me, lo, for I hath written my first blog entry in a fortnight, and it was good.It is quite stunning what will get a writer going. Anger and jealously are often near the top of the list -- su[...]
2007-06-15T21:48:17.645-04:00Little One is about to turn eight weeks old, and I'm still waiting for things to get easier.I'm awaiting the time when I can leave him unattended in his crib for more than five minutes; I await the time when his shrill cries last less than 30 minutes at a time. I await the time when I have enough energy to actually write.I knew that having a baby would entail vast amounts of time. What I wasn't counting on was how much of that time would be spent simply holding the bugger.Wait. I can't remember what I'm going to say next. Baby is gassy. Needs to be burped. Needs to throw up dinner on my new dress shirt.Oh, yes, now I remember. A baby is a helpless, insecure little person with a neediness that has no bottom (which sounds perilously close to the description of a writer). They need to be changed, fed, put to sleep, and held (if necessary) for hours on end, until that slight numbness grows into a pain that resembles a heated iron ingot implanted into the shoulder.Now it's time to writeThis is nothing new to any one of you who is a parent, and is probably creating some well-deserved laughter amongst you. "Bookfraud, you fool. Did you really think you would be able to be a parent, hold down a job, and write, blog, or otherwise express yourself save for the quiet sobbing (that you hide from Baby) at 2:26 a.m. when he wakes up yet again for reasons unbeknownst to anyone save for a God that may or may not exist?"Yes, dear reader, I did believe I could have it all: Baby, sleep, writing, a life. O fatal blow! O fatal ambition!My son is not yet two months old, and it feels as if I have spent more time cleaning up baby faeces than writing. (Guess what? I felt correctly!) I knew that Baby would wreck my sleep and suck up free hours. What I wasn't counting on was that it would suck up all of my free hours.Now, all this bitching and moaning has a point, though I'm having trouble with what it might be. Baby just woke up from his nap. He's crying louder than I did when the Cubs blew the 2003 playoffs.Yes, the blog. I was asked to write a book review, and while I accepted (it's always good to get your name in print, even if you don't know what you're talking about), it sucked away any and all time to write for blog or my own fiction, for that matter. I haven't read nor commented on just about any other blog, for that matter. Must be a pediatrician(In fact, I just learned that the most excellent blog of Miss Snark, she of the wicked pen and opinion, went dark. Like, a month ago.)OK. What was I saying. Baby was projectile crapping. Watch out, Wife, you'll step in Lake Shit, where previously resided a bedroom floor. Oh, what. Yes. Blog.Is it a blog if you only write twice a month, only to complain, and nobody sees it?Just asking.[...]
2007-06-04T15:58:17.278-04:00The television was blaring a program of no great import, and I had Baby slung across one shoulder, trying desperately to ameliorate his gaseous tears — rocking him, bouncing him, singing to him, promising him a Camaro.With my free hand, I changed the channel. A golf tournament appeared. And this made me think of Cho Seung-Hui.Remember him?I bet it took a second. He’s the nutjob who shot and killed 32 innocents at Virginia Tech, less than two months ago. But you won’t find much new stuff about him. Nor will you see anything about calls for gun control, a debate that lasted about 8 seconds after Cho’s last bullet was fired. But this is not a call for reflection or remembrance, as our cumulative memories have been wiped clean by Lindsay Lohan’s latest stint in rehab or A-Rod’s latest stint with his P-Rod.To be honest, I had forgotten about Cho, until I saw some boring white guy (except for Tiger Woods, golfers all look the same) hit a 7-iron from about 150 yards, the ball landing five feet from the cup. Naturally, this made me think of a horrific mass killing.You see, when I was in college, I wrote a poem in which the narrator kills someone with a golf ball.Workshop: obsessions on paradeThe poem’s narrator describes a a well-struck shot, done intentionally, as well as anonymous White Guy I had seen on television. In this poem, however, it was 5-iron, and instead of setting up a birdie putt, the ball lodged into the back of the victim’s skull. The narrator, you see, had gotten tired of all the anti-Semitic ranting the other fellow had been doing on the links. You might say it was a revenge fantasy, laid bare for the inspection of the first creative writing class I had ever taken. Revenge for all the slights I had ever received for being Jewish, slights real or imagined, verbal or physical. But the class was not horrified — most were amused, and the teacher thought it a clever poem, if not fully formed.Nobody thought I was going to stalk around campus with a golf club and Titleists, wreaking havoc. You probably remember Cho was an English major, and that some of his anger was manifest in two short plays he wrote for a creative writing class. If you haven’t read them, it’s pretty disturbing stuff. Cho’s teachers and fellow students were not blind to his demons, and in one class, the poet Nikki Giovanni had him removed from the class entirely. His writing pointed to a twisted mind, and he was referred to counseling, which obviously didn’t take.Now, of all the creative writing classes I have taken, from my undergraduate days through the splendid waste known as an M.F.A. program, I’ve met some strange fellows, male and female. Some were obsessed with sex (mostly men). Some were obsessed with unfaithful boyfriends (mostly women). Yet others wrote incessantly about angry protagonists in which violence often boiled under the surface (both men and women). Yet others were obsessed with sex, unfaithful boyfriends, and violence. If you are honest, one’s obsessions will be on parade.None of this particularly bothered me, but only if it wasn't repeated. My rule of thumb was if someone wrote a story about a disturbing subject and shared it with the class, the person was not disturbed unless a) the story sucked and b) he handed in another badly written story encompassing the same themes. Write a story about killing your parents, fine, but do it twice, and you’ve got[...]