Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Name of the World and Slaughter House Five

I couldn't sleep last night(story of my life) so I decided to finish both books. I can't say which book I enjoyed reading more. They were both nearly the same: a man, his life, and how he deals with it. They were both short (under 200 pages), both authors pull serious literary weight, and both authors male.

Name of the World first then: Michael Reed has been floating through his life after his wife and daughter died four years ago. On the outside he puts one foot in front of the other and plays the part of College Professor, while on the inside his mind races with all kinds of thoughts about people places and things. He lives an internal life. When he's told that his contract is going to expire sooner rather than later, Michael starts to unravel and his insides start spilling out, he starts to engage his thoughts and fantasies and behaving unpredictably. Soon you get the idea that he never really got over the deaths of his wife and child, he never allowed himself to grieve. His obsession with a red haired wild child student (Siren perhaps)leads him to this conclusion. He starts seeing his daughter in this siren and is forced to acknowledge that he didn't interact with the outside world for fear of having to acknowledge that he was lost, that his loved ones were dead, and that he would have to keep on living.

I don't know how convinced I was by the psyche angle of the story or the internal journey the character makes. Even though the book is written in 3rd person and we know alot about the protagonist, we spend alot of time in his thoughts and with his judgements, we still don't know alot about him. So when he starts to lose it I don't really care. And the use of this Siren and the oddball cast of oddball professors who are drunks and surviving on the fringes of academia seems too easy. The supporting characters seem stock and stereotypical.

But, some of the more mundane details in the book are dead on. Reeds needs to make meaning and to be drawn to this pond were people skate in circles, where he's reminded of the passing of time when the snow covers everything or the summer sun reveals all. Reed's enjoyment of his rowdy neighbors who party all night is a symbol of hope. He loves thier energy and their fearlessness.

The beginning of the book has a lot of strong writing, but in the middle and end it seems to lose some energy. At times when the story failed the language picked up the slack and vice versa. The writing overall is the best feature of this book. The story is can be haunting at times and hopeful. Will I ever read this book again- no, will I read more Denis Johnson- yes!

Slaughter House 5: This was a fun book to read for many reasons. First, I like the way Billy Pilgrim travels through time and space but you don't feel like you're reading a sci fi novel. 2nd, I like the way Vonnegut tackles the story of Dresden (which he always wondered how best to tell)by not really talking about the bombing, and 3rd I like how the novel is short but packs a hell of a punch.

In the story we get to visit critical moments in Billy Pilgrim's life, along with Billy, as moves from one moment to the next. Kind of like Scrooge in a Christmas Carol. We are witness to his being thrown in a pool to sink or swim by his father. We witness his capture and survival of Dresden. We are with Billy on Tralfamadore as he lives in a zoo. Billy has become unstuck in time and is destined to review and preview his life.

I don't think Billy is unstuck in time, I think he becomes unstuck from life. I think he was damaged by the trauma of being nearly killed by his father and being nearly killed in a war and then being nearly killed in a plane crash. I think the plain crash leaves him with brain damage where he must live through memories and books and pass judgement once again on what those events mean to him.

But the book isn't about time travel or space, or aliens at all, or about Billy Pilgrim. This book is about the horrors of war, the realities of willfull and intentional killing, and the lasting affects on the psyches of those who participate in it. There are no winners.

I didn't notice the writing really, it fit the story well and it didn't get in the way of itself; it was clean and concise. The format of the book is unusual. I had to flip back after reading the first chapter to make sure I wasn't reading an introduction or interview with Vonnegut. Then I realized that this was how he was going to tell his untellable story. I really enjoyed the way Vonnegut kept inserting himself in the story, always in the shadows saying things like "that was me, I said that". Kilgore Trout is also Vonnegut in the story. I suspect Trout, the writer of hack novels who wanted to say things but didn't know how so he used sci fi to do it, was how Vonnegut felt pre- Slaughter House 5.

Definately read this one if you have a chance. I'm sorry it took me so long to finally getting around to reading it, but I'm glad I've read it now with the War in Iraq fresh in my conciousness.

What can you say about a massacre? And so it goes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Who are you... Really?

Just found this on Talia's site and I though it was great.

Go ahead, take the quiz.

This is me:

You're Anne of Green Gables!

by L.M. Montgomery

Bright, chipper, vivid, but with the emotional fortitude of cottage
cheese, you make quite an impression on everyone you meet. You're impulsive, rash,
honest, and probably don't have a great relationship with your parents. People hurt
your feelings constantly, but your brazen honestly doesn't exactly treat others with
kid gloves. Ultimately, though, you win the hearts and minds of everyone that matters.
You spell your name with an E and you want everyone to know about it.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

There's nothing like good fiction to leave you feeling refreshed, invigorated, and Zestfully clean. After flooding my insides with non-fiction (memoirs- The Tender Bar, The Sex Lives of Cannibals (super good), death- Spooks and Stiffs (same author both), godlessness- God is Not Great (this guy is so ANGRY), and other stuff (Kurt Vonnegut interviews), I slowly made my way back.

I almost fell off the wagon when I tried reading some pop-lit (Zig Zag- by a Spanish author), I thought OK, let's support my Latino brother, I dove right into the book. Good idea, physics and time travel and mysteries of nature, ok so far so good, then that whole the heroine is not only a moody genius, she is Sophia Loren/Salma Hayek/Marilyn Monroe and the men in her life are gorgeous assholes. I almost puked up my lunch. Luckily, a level headed coworker took the book from me and turned it back in.

Now the Good stuff:

This is what I'm reading now and it makes me happy.

Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- I'm totally digging this. I can appreciate his writing now after I've read his interviews. He was really scared by Dresden even if he doesn't say it outright, and if it wasn't for Dresden he would have be scarred by something else. Then he made this personal peace with his life that didn't make sense to anyone but himself. Much like Billy Pilgrim.

The Name of the World by Denis Johnson
- I'm about 15 pages in and his writing is so unobtrusive as to really let you into the story. He's doing this thing with the protagonist where the protagonist wants you to think he's this walking dead zombie but really he's absorbing so much of his surroundings, really engaging his senses, trying to make sense of his life, that this guy really isn't dead, just acting like it.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier- Cold Mountain the book, not movie, really drew in with its Odyssey-like adventure. I really enjoyed the language and the story. So I'm now about 1/4 of the way through Thirteen Moons and Frazier hasn't lost his touch. He has a really great talent for story telling. So far we have a boy who is orphaned an then sold to a merchant by his aunt and uncle and sent into the wilderness to manage a trading post. Along the way his horse is stolen, he meets the love of his life, and he befriends an Indian who is wise to the old ways, but unwise and unlucky when it comes to women. Really good writing so far.

And finally, I'm reading Last Orders by Graham Swift- This is a small story really- four men take a drive through England to spread the ashes of one of their buddies in the ocean. It's all dialogue and the tension between the men and the ashes of their friend, as they're confined to the small space of the car is stifling. You feel uncomfortable right along with them. The back story, as they become pensive, releases tiny secrets and almost secrets and things that should be thought but not said, and you realize that just because these characters live on the other side of the ocean, they're alot like you and me. I do have to admit, this one isn't so easy to read unless you're familiar with working class, pubster English. The challenge is part of the fun.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thank You Chad- You Fuzzy Headed Ninnymuggins

Chad reminded me of a story I'd written some time ago where I was trying to copy the stylings of Cormac McCarthy. I did some things well in the story (language, setting, verisimilitude) but the story was really lacking and the payoff did not match the build up. I had decided that when I came back to the story it would have to be longer.

I pulled the story out a couple of months ago because of Chad and I decided to submit it just the way it was. Because Duotrope has very cool search functions I found a site that dealt with the kind of story I'd written. I submitted there and needless to say. . .

Twisted Tongue has picked up "A Texas Story" for November 07. You'll be able to read it in PDF format or pay for a copy. Unfortunately, I won't be getting a free copy, but I really don't care, just happy to be published.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Movin on Up

Warning: You are reading a reworded post

I have accepted the position of Readmobile Manager for SJCPL. This means two things: mo money and mo responsibility. That's ok though, I am ready for both and can't wait to start. I'll be working with a population that is happy to see me and I'll get to tell stories and be goofy and have fun. It will also look good on my resume after I get my MLS.

If you see a big ol' bus with Garfield on the side, give a honk and I'll probably honk back.

And uh, no Neil, you can't hitch a ride.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

This is why I avoid bright ideas!!

A wise man once said. . .

"Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder"

Friday, August 10, 2007


I changed the color. . .again.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Do Over

I shined the place up a bit, added some furniture, and painted the walls. Hope you like.

Check out the new links to the right.

Wordsmith, the anagram function is fun to play with. Jesus Moya: Emu Ass Joy, Jays Mouse, Amuses Joy.

Also LivePlasma is fun. Put in your favorite band or singer and it maps out relevant similar artists.

Over and out.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

And because I just figured out how to do this

This is one of my favorite songs of all times and to see Los Lobos sing it with this Dutch band is too cool. I totally dig this because Anselma (the song) is a conjunto song (Bass/Guitarron, Bajo Sexto (12 string bass guitar), Accordion, and drums) and conjunto has its roots in, thanks to German settlers in Texas, in polka music. It's a crazy, raucus kind of music that I hated as a kid but I can't get enough off as an adult.

Anyway- Los Lobos and Rowwen Heze (who according to the internet plays TEX MEX and POLKA- Limewire here I come) tearing it up, wish I coulda been there.

A Thrilla in Manila

The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to. -F. Scott Fitzgerald

An instructor once told me that she skips over dream sequences in books and stories.

Damn, what if someone wants to pay me by the word !?!?!?

What I wouldn’t give at this sleepless point in time for the sandman to draw his fingers through my essence and stir up images buried deep under layers of brain matter and consciousness like so much debris in a muddy river.

God, I haven’t fished in a while.

(ODB is playing in a an endless loop- dedicated to all the pretty girls in world, and the ugly girls too, because to me you’re pretty anyway baby )


I want deep sleep. Canyon deep sleep. Bottom of the ocean, under tons of blue water, deep sleep. I don’t care what 1 a.m. looks like or 2 a.m. looks like- it’s all the same except the commercials are sexier. But not sexier like a Sunday morning lounging in p.j.’s with a cup of coffee and the paper and sticky cinnamon fingers and pouty lips and tussled hair over dreamy eyes.

Did I mention Gloria is out of town and my bed feels immense, from see to shining see. I need binocolors to find a pillow. It takes an eternity to get even close to a gray kind of vision and soon the alarm clock begins to strangle any dream that has wandered to close to my nose as it creeps into my ears with red digital fingers wrapped around my brain.

Take two Benny Drills. Straight to the noggin. That kind of sleep feels like the moment right after you puke and the acid is etching graffiti on you teeth. It’s cotton brain. It stops. No dreams, no rest, no fun.

(ODB is playing in an endless loop- hey dirtay, baby I gotch ya money, dontcha worray)

Let me drop from the precipice. Let me fly. I want to fly.

I erased the dream sequence from my story, Damnit.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Pix from trip to Travers

Gloria and I and some friend went to Traverse City this past weekend to take in the sites and drink some wine. Here are some pix:
The Crew: Me, Gloria, Jen, and Javier at Sleeping Bear Dunes
Here's the trusty Grey Gargoyle that got us there and back in one piece- regardless of Jen's driving

Some vineyards

What a view

Awww how cute! (Talking about myself of course)
At the End of the World

Guess what's in the box

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Check it out!

Just "published" today at Shine. . .The Journal!

Old Diego