Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"using it to our own ends, mocking our own superstition"

Reading Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto while waiting for the elevator, making an already fragmented narrative even more fragmented.

Telling a barista that I like her tank top, her turning to show me skin beneath the lace back.

Learning how sound works will not make you appreciate music more, unless maybe if you're a musician.

The return of warm weather bringing back how people smell, the odor of boys reminding me of crowded hallways in high school.

Seeing couples everywhere because it's fucking spring, with their hands on each others' bare arms, the way they lean into each other.

Finding similar sentences in my pieces and realizing that I return to certain images again and again (including bare arms for whatever reason).

A line from a physics powerpoint presentation: "Interested in modes of percussion instruments? See, e.g., Rossing Ch. 13." I am not interested. I will never be interested. A diagram of the vocal system that looks like a diagram of a vagina in a medical textbook.


Monday, April 25, 2011

"She'd get real exercised. Start in with the discount calls."

I am on page 235 of 310 of White Noise. I have no idea why it's taking me so long to read this book. I like it, a lot. I'm a fast reader. I guess at least part of the reason is that the copy I have is pretty big, and I like carrying smaller books with me during the day because they fit in my bag easier. But still, I've been reading this book forever.

I think the longest it's ever taken me to read a book is The Grapes of Wrath. I read it in my sophomore year of high school. It took me something like six weeks. And not like with White Noise, where I've been reading all of these other things in the meantime. I read nothing but that book for more than a month. And, like White Noise, it didn't take me a long time because I didn't like it. I don't read books I don't like. My dad will finish a book even if he thinks it's bad, but I tend to toss a book aside even if I get bored for too long. There's just too much to read. Anyway, I loved The Grapes of Wrath. It turned me into a Steinbeck junkie for a while. In contrast, I read East of Eden in three days when my parents and I drove to Vermont to visit Bennington College the summer before my senior year. I've been meaning to reread it for a while now because that shit changed my life, but it's a project. One of those books you have to plan  to read, like Les Miserables or Infinite Jest. (For the record, I read Les Miserables but skipped all the shit about furniture and battle formations, but I have yet to get more than twenty pages in to IJ.)

I don't know why I'm even writing about this. I had a final at 10 AM, and I have a pizza party with my workshop at noon. Until then, I'm on campus with nothing to do. I'm pretty sure that's the whole point of blogging.

I'm going home on Friday, and I'm not excited about having to once again rely on my local library. I've gotten used to Carnegie and its (comparatively) vast web of resources. Those people will basically find me anything I ask for. My library at home is in a really nice building, and it's actually one of the best libraries in my area, but still.

I just looked up Dennis Cooper in my local library's catalog. His name isn't even there. White Noise is in the system, but my library doesn't have a copy. Ditto for Infinite Jest. Bitches have already ordered The Pale King, though, so good for them. And I bet they have about seventeen copies of Freedom. (I just checked. My library has nine copies. There are twenty in the system. Damn, Franzen.)

I shouldn't be saying bad things about my local library. I really do love it. It's the library I grew up with. It's probably a lot better than most suburban libraries in the state. I'm there at least three days a week when I'm home.

I finished all of my writing for the semester. Now that I'm finished with this morning's exam, I only have my physics exam on Friday. I'm taking physics and the sound of music, which is basically the lowest level physics class this school offers, and I'm taking it pass/fail. I'm honestly in danger of not passing. I've never gotten below a B in a class before, and I might fail physics for idiots. Welcome to my life. I hate science so hard.

My second fiction revision was/is a mess. I don't even want to think about it right now. It's difficult because the revision process necessitated by college course schedules does not make sense with my normal writing process. I did what I could. The big issue right now is that, because the story has expanded, it's no longer a complete draft (I have to stay in the same page limit for obvious reasons). So my revision is pretty much three separate scenes from my larger narrative. There's no beginning, no end, and no connection between the scenes. But at least they're better than they were before, I hope.

I'm bringing soda to the workshop pizza party. I only drink diet soda because my dad is diabetic, and I've gotten into the habit (it's all we ever have in the house, it's easier if we all order diet at restaurants in case the drinks get mixed up). I know that I can't bring diet soda to this gathering. But now I'm stuck on what kind of soda to bring. I'm ridiculously un-picky when it comes to soda. Other people have type and brand preferences, I don't really care. So there's the whole Coke/Pepsi issue, and then do I get something else, like a clear soda to balance out the dark ones? These are the fucking things I think about. No one's probably going to drink the goddamn soda anyway.

I wrote my public writing paper on criticisms of the MFA program system. It rapidly turned into me quoting Sal and Katie Coyle in every paragraph. I can't help that they're smarter and more articulate than I am, and they give good interviews. I hope they don't mind/never find out that I basically got them to do my work for me. (For the record: they weren't criticizing the program system. They were responding to common criticisms of it.)

I'm waiting for my parents to deposit a check that got mailed to my home address, and until they do that I'm functionally broke. This is very frustrating because there are many books I want to buy. Also shoes. All of my shoes are falling apart, and it rains constantly in this fucking city. It's unpleasant. I haven't bought books in so long. When I'm at home I usually buy books at Salvation Army for a quarter. That's where I got my copy of The Corrections when I was fourteen and entered the downward spiral of trying to figure out why anyone liked that book in the first place. But I also got a lot of my "classic" books there because, I guess, people either buy them, spend years not reading them, and then finally get rid of them when they clean out their attics; or kids have to read them for summer assignments and then get rid of them as soon as they're done with the report. But anyway, I got my copies of Jane Eyre, The Grapes of Wrath, Madame Bovary, The Picture of Dorian Gray, most of my Shakespeare, and countless others there. I also found my copies of Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and The Devil Wears Prada there, which is all the chick-lit I'll ever need. I also use SalVal to build up my Stephen King paperback collection. Basically, Salvation Army is wonderful for buying very cheap books, and I have wandered very far away from the original purpose of this paragraph.

Okay, I've occupied myself long enough. Time to go buy soda and then proceed to the pizza party. Then later this afternoon I get to go to a late lunch/early dinner thing with some professors and the other TAs from the film department. Everybody's giving me free food today. And that's how it should be.

One last thing: my best friend from elementary school got engaged this past weekend. Engaged! What the fuck is up with that?

Oh holy zombie Jesus, I am the worst blogger ever. Even I don't want to read this. Sorry.


Friday, April 22, 2011

"She says this in a voice that I would like to punch."

I got Normally Special yesterday. I had two hours between my fiction workshop and my night class, so I read it. And then I read most of it again. And then I read "The Mill Pond" and "An Unsteady Place" a third time.

Most of xTx's pieces (in the book and online, from what I've read) are very, very short. For whatever reason, probably because I like the situations she creates, I'm drawn more to her "longer" pieces, particularly in Normally Special. When I made my list of the stories that drew me in the most, I came up with "Standoff," "The Mill Pond," "Exactly Raisins," and "An Unsteady Place." Out of the those, only "Exactly Raisins" is one of the really short ones.

In my notes for this book I have the phrase some kind of rollercoaster mindfuck, which is an inadequate but sort of interesting description of my reading experience. There is something unsettling about the stories as a whole, and that definitely works to the book's advantage. I'm glad that I had time to read it in one sitting because I felt pulled from one story to the next.

In Noah Cicero's interview with xTx on HTMLGiant, she says, "I am a slow writer and I like to get every sentence and every word ‘right’ before moving on to the next sentence. I can spend my entire lunch hour on a paragraph. It’s frustrating." I understand feeling frustrated about that kind of process, but I think that it is very apparent in Normally Special that extreme care was taken with every sentence. As I've stated numerous times, these are very short pieces, and every word counts. Nearly every sentence in Normally Special is what I call "live wire writing." Writing that makes you feel a physical, buzzing tension when you read it.

Here are some lines I wrote down while I was reading. I forgot to write down the page numbers, and I don't have the book with me.

From "The Mill Pond":

"We drank Kool-Aid out of jelly jars that were always dirty, but I never said anything."

Okay, I thought, I wrote this down, but I guess it was too long. In my notes I just have the whole paragraph about eating the Suzy Q. This is good, I guess, because now I haven't ruined it for you if you haven't read the story yet. I think it's the best part. All I really want in life at this point is to write a story like "The Mill Pond."

From "Exactly Raisins":

"All I can hear are grunts. They are the ugliest sounds I ever heard."

From "An Unsteady Place":

"Downstairs, I don't tell Frank how brackish seawater trickled from their mouths when I tried to kiss them good night."

I liked this book a lot, I hope I've made that clear. As I said in the last post, I also like xTx's blog, which I think I forgot to link to.

Now for even more about Dennis Cooper:

Out of all the Dennis Cooper I've read so far, I think I'm most disgusted by the spitting scene I just read in Frisk.

Seriously, I had a physical reaction in the middle of the Cathedral common room. I made a face. I think I gagged a little. Dennis Cooper describes a lot of disgusting, fucked up shit in his books, but something about the way he describes this just got to me. Here's the passage:

"He starts coughing and snorting up stuff from the dark recesses of his throat and nose. He emits grayish goo in a long, unbroken, lumpy thead. Then he wipes his lips. I swallow noisily. 'Thanks.'" Frisk p. 69.

I can't even. I feel a little bit sick just reading it over again.

Also from my notes:

What I'm getting out of Dennis Cooper thankfully goes beyond how to describe violent gay sex in explicit detail (though I think I'd have a better shot at it now than before). He does crazy, crazy things with structure and POV. Awesome crazy. The POV in Frisk is some kind of first person omniscient. I've never read anything like it before. There's a first person narrator, but in telling the story he talks about the actions and thoughts of other characters that he couldn't possibly see/know.  Add to that the fact that there's a section in the middle that's an imagined, fictional account written by the protagonist, and things are pretty convulted and interesting. The best part about it, though, is that it makes perfect sense with the character and the concepts being explored in the story. Mind blown.

I'm trying to think if I have anything else to write about. I had my last class of junior year today. I'm going to a pizza party with my fiction workshop on Monday. I'll be back home in a week, and I'll be staying there for the summer unless I get this grant that I applied for. That's about it. I started writing a story about a kid who hits another kid with a baseball bat and cracks his skull, which I shouldn't be doing because I still have a twenty-ish page revision to finish.

"there is a difference between being disenthralled and being disillusioned" -Louis Menand


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"I want to write like a river."

I like xTx's blog a lot. I'm reading it instead of doing my revisions.

Suck it, last week of classes. I don't even care.

I'm kidding. I do care. I finished my shorter revision last night, but this second one's going to be a bitch. 

It's all good, though, because I get two writing-class pizza parties this semester, and you can't beat that. My instructors are better than your instructors.

So I'm on my third book by Dennis Cooper. More twisted gay sex. I think I'll have to take a break after Frisk, which I started today, and read Little Women or something just to get my innocence back.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thanks to Sal, #ShitGoblins is now a hashtag.

How often do you think Dennis Cooper gets emails that are just like, Dude, what the fuck? 

I mean, I'm enjoying the hell out of his books, I'm just saying.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 14, 1865: Booth shoots Lincoln.

Things I Read

In the last few days I’ve read Vanishing Point by David Markson and We Are Never As Beautiful As We Are Now by Adam Gallari. Here are things I think about them:

So I liked Vanishing Point a lot, especially as a book that I could carry around with me during the day and read in small increments, which was facilitated by all of the really short, separate paragraphs. It took me a long time to really latch on to the “narrative,” if you can even call it that, running through the book, but the ending sealed it for me. That ending, damn. Freaked me out in a good way. I was surprised that I liked the book as much as I did because I often have trouble with fiction that strays too far from traditional narrative. I’m able to recognize and admire the merit of it if deserving, but when it comes to personal taste, I usually want to be told a story. If I can’t find the story, I tend to get frustrated. But that’s about me, not the writer. But, in any case, I will definitely read more by Markson. Vanishing Point was the only book of his they had at the library when I checked, but I’m sure that I can order the others in from another branch.

We Are Never As Beautiful As We Are Now is a long-ass title. Also, the stories in it are mostly about baseball. I know almost nothing about baseball, which made it a little difficult for me at times to identify with (or, on a few occasions, fully understand) what was going on. Aside from the baseball disconnect, though, I liked the stories a lot. I liked the thread running through the book of young men who realize how precarious their current position in life is. It was interesting to read a book so completely rooted in the masculine perspective, especially because I don’t do that too often. My two favorite stories were “Negative Space” and “Go Piss On Jane” (neither of which have much to do with baseball, which might have affected my decision). Also, Adam Gallari is really young, born in 1984. Whenever I read good books by people near my age, I feel both excitement and pressure. It’s a strange combination.

So that’s what I’ve been reading. Other than that, I’ve just been revising. And revising. And revising. I have portfolios for both autobiography and advanced fiction due in the next two weeks. The fiction one especially is fucking with me. Editing my stories, at least on the large scale, is not my strong point in the process. I get overwhelmed easily. I had my second workshop on Tuesday, and while I was really pleased with the feedback, I feel like there’s so much to do with this story that I just can’t handle it. Also, I think it’s going to be long. Really long. Which further confuses me. I would just like to add that in Sal’s absence my workshop was run by the wonderful Katie Coyle, who is a Pitt grad student and all around nice person. She gave me some insanely helpful feedback (and some much-needed encouragement) on my story. She also let me interview her for my public writing final project, which is another indication of how nice she is.

I’ll hopefully finish White Noise this weekend.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Something that occurred to me:

I was on the phone with my father the other day, and we were talking about the piece I'm writing for my autobiography class. It's a "fictional autobiography" though I use that term loosely, and it's about Centralia, a town near where my grandparents live. There's a mine fire in Centralia that's been burning since 1962 and caused the nearly complete evacuation of the town starting in the early 80's. So my dad and I talked about Centralia for a while, and then he asked if he could read the piece when it was finished.

This is the first time (that I can remember, anyway) that my dad has asked to read a piece of my writing. As a matter of fact, this may be the first time he's read a piece of my writing since I was in middle school. It's not because of a lack of encouragement or interest or anything. Both of my parents have been incredibly encouraging and supportive of me as a writer. My dad is paying my tuition to get a degree in writing. I've just never really volunteered to share my work. My mom has asked a few times, and the answer is always no, which mostly just has to do with me knowing my mother and her reactions to things. But my dad has never asked me, until now.

I won't lie, it was a little proud moment for me. And I'm glad he asked about a piece that I'm not worried about sharing. The main reason I don't share most of my writing with my parents is because it would just be... awkward. Supermega awkward.

The point of all this, though, is that I'm really glad that my dad cares about what I'm writing and wants to read it. That's a big thing for me.

In other news, I read the beginning of Sarah Rose Etter's Tongue Party, which won Caketrain's 2010 chapbook contest. It's pretty fabulous so far. Her chapbook and the runner-up, Short Dark Oracles by Sara Levine, are available for pre-order now. Must get my finances in order and do some pre-ordering. It's sad that I actually have to check my financial situation before I spend $12. Very sad.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Miscellany or Stuff from My Notebook

I have nothing to really guide this post. I haven't been doing many exciting things lately. Lydia Davis is going to give a reading on campus tomorrow, but I don't think I can go because I have night class. My daily writing has been mostly devoted to this monster draft of a thing on Centralia for Jeff Oaks's autobiography class. I need to start working on something else outside of classwork instead of just messing around. Of course, I have end-of-semester fiction revisions to be working on, so there's that. I hate revising things for class. I hate revising things in general, but I'm trying to get used to it. It's not that I think my work doesn't need revision. It's usually that I think my work needs SO MUCH revision, and I get a headache just thinking about it. I do not cope well.

So in the absence of anything else to talk about, here's some stuff from my notebook the last few days:

Research topics for autobiography:
-Central Pennsylvania in the late 60's and then the mid 80's
-Staten Island child abductions
-abandoned amusement parks
-child abductions in Central PA at that time?
-Vietnam, obvs. (Yes I actually wrote obvs in my notebook. I am terrible.)

Friends don't let friends respond to bad reviews. (I'm pretty sure this is from HTMLGiant. A lot of the stuff from my notebook is from HTMLGiant because it's how I pass time at work. I'm at work right now actually. There's not a lot for me to do here.)

What did I do? I made him hurt me. I pushed him, his nice churchboy crisp white shirt gentle hands not afraid to cry mindset. I threw up on the tiny white and gray tiles in my kitchen.

White Teeth:
"and of course Ophelia herself, who was to be found in the kernel of this nuthouse, curled up in a fetal ball on the sofa, making lowing sounds into a bottle of Bailey's."

I'm tired and I feel bad for not doing the dishes and I want somebody to find me interesting and I want to go to bed.

White Noise:
"'All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots. Political plots, terrorist plots, lovers' plots, narrative plots, plots that are part of children's games. We edge nearer death every time we plot. It is like a contract that we all must sign, the plotters as well as those who are the target of the plot.' Is that true? Why did I say it? What does it mean?"

"It was horrible - horrible. Like a chicken." -from the original Alien script


The Mountain Goats "No Children"
Matt & Kim "Good Ol' Fahsioned Nightmare"

Blog post: Why I need a Kindle

I wish I could have met David Foster Wallace even though I don't love his writing. I don't really know what it is. I guess he just has a nice face.

Blog post: WTF James Patterson, how are you the world's best-selling author? Oh yeah, you don't actually write your books anymore.

"If I'm working with a co-writer, they'll usually write the first draft. And then I'll write subsequent drafts." -James Patterson 

"'This is absolutely incredible, Hays. Dazzling, inspiring,' Lizbeth gushed, her gorgeous eyes shining with excitement. 'We really do run the world, don't we?'" -from Toys by James Patterson.

So that's what goes on in my notebook. I know you're all so captivated. There's some actual writing too, I promise.

I'm thinking of checking out those books by Amanda Hocking because her story is ridiculously interesting. Though I do think that paranormal romance is the worst thing to happen to the YA genre since... ever.

One last note: today the receptionist who works in the office where I'm employed as a student worker asked if I was eating. She then proceeded to say that if I need any help getting food, she would help me out. People officially think I'm so poor that I can't afford food.

Which is only half-true.