Southwestern Caveman Question Mark? or Trash Symbol?

Free Wi-Fi at the Phoenix airport. I’m one of those guys sitting on the floor near an outlet, working on my laptop. Except I don’t really look like one of those guys, because I’m unshaven and there’s underwear spilling out of my shoulder bag and I’m not wearing a purple short-sleeved polo shirt with a company logo on the breast. Two soldiers in desert camo just sauntered by, at ease but still walking in step with each other. I slept poorly last night so this “text” is going to be awful, not worth your time. Fortunately, it’s still worth my time, which is why I’m writing it. Unclear however why it still then needs to go on the internet, aside from the fact that the magnetic attraction that your potential attention asserts on the “language inside me” serves as a fine stimulus to draw it out. Of me. Otherwise I’m lazy and it’ll stay inside while I check my email again and again.

My friend met me at the airport in Albuquerque and told me he hadn’t eaten even though he’d had a layover in Phoenix because he was boycotting the entire state of Arizona. As I deplaned in Phoenix just now a douchey blonde guy looked through me, aggressively unsympathetic to my humanity, as far as I could tell, only because I wasn’t the brother in law he was waiting for. I felt like flipping twin birds at everyone within eyeshot and declaiming, clearly and loudly, “FUCK YOU, PHOENIX, AND EVERYTHING ELSE CONTAINED BY THE STATE OF ARIZONA, INCLUDING ME, AND ALL OF THIS PIZZA. BECAUSE OF YOUR IMMIGRATION POLICIES, I GUESS”

On the plane I read more of the New Yorker 20 under 40 issue. Yesterday, which seems like a long time ago, I wrote this about the Josh Ferris story:

(I’m on a sadness junket in Santa Fe.) I thought “Pilot,” Joshua Ferris’s story in the 20 under 40 issue of the New Yorker, was great. I haven’t read his first novel, which I know is written in first-person plural, but I was very impressed by the narrative control of this new story. It’s written in the “close third-person,” where the narrative voice is  contained entirely by one consciousness, except it’s communicated with a “he” or “she” instead of an “I.” Maybe a better term for “Pilot”‘s voice is “the clingy third person.”

Lawrence is a newly, shakily recovered alcoholic filmmaker who can’t believe he’s been invited to a fashionable Hollywood party, doesn’t want to go, but feels he must for the sake of the TV pilot he’s writing. He’s desperately insecure and spends most of the story neurotically trying to engage other people, to get the things he needs  without appearing so clingy. The story reads as if it were written in a more conventional third person — “He thought, ‘I should get out of here,'” e.g. — but then Lawrence’s voice, so strong and desperate and charming, has sort of crawled up inside the third person narrative and infected that voice with its self-obsession and neediness. The result is a pleasure to read. Ferris didn’t invent this technique, but he deploys it beautifully.

Who cares about my take on Joshua Ferris’s narrative control! I do(n’t)! Not sure if this is a journalistically responsible article. Phoenix Airport free Wi-Fi is barely functional. I’m entitled to one full meal for every delayed layover I have, regardless of the hour or Arizona’s immigration policy.

The Jonathan Safran Foer story irritated me even as I found parts of it familiar, smart, and…. “original.” I think it would be funny to write a novel that marketed itself as “vegetarian fiction.” I like the idea that Tao Lin writes “vegan fiction,” if if he doesn’t market it as such. Foer’s “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” is a vegetarian story. Not a lot of meat in it, but  plenty of complex carbohydrates and vegetable proteins. That’s a joke, insofar as I don’t know what it means and I’m saying it only because I like to.

I can’t help reading all of these 20 under 40 stories imagining their authors writing them at the behest of the New Yorker’s fiction editors. “Hey, Dinaw, submit a story to the 20 under 40 thing. You have a shot.” All fiction everywhere is “by definition” contrived, but these stories are maybe more contrived than usual. For that reason. Which doesn’t nec. make them bad. Solicited = contrived, unless the fiction writer responds to the solicitation with a piece of fiction they’d already written but not published, submitting something they wrote uncontrivedly. Which is impossible, because nothing is written uncontrivedly. But there are degrees. The Ferris story is contrived and great. I’m not as crazy about the Foer story. It’s my fault that I read it as a second-person half-fictional sexy love note to his wife, novelist Nicole Krauss, and it’s my lightweight brain alone that makes me read the “house” he refers to in the last paragraph as their dope brownstone in [specific part of Brooklyn TK]. My bad my bad

The Rivka Galchen story is great. It’s narrated by a woman who, like Galchen, has just published a well-received novel. Like the Ferris story, it features an unproduced television pilot. It’s also the first instance of an fictional, ekphrastic blog I can think of, there must be more: icantstandmywife.blogspot.com. (As of this writing, no one has yet reserved this blog. Which is surprising. Full disclosure: Phoenix Airport Wi-Fi has officially crapped out so I can’t check. I’d be surprised if Galchen didn’t reserve it herself. Update: PHX Wi-Fi never resolved, so I’m posting this from California, and of course someone, probably Galchen, reserved the URL. Goodnight)

I skipped the story called “What You Do Out Here, When You’re Alone.” Rant about this sort of declarative second-person short-story title TK, ad naus. Let me know if you read this story, by Philipp Meyer, and if you think I could’ve learned something about myself by reading it. If you think the horizons of my limited worldview would’ve been pushed out a hectare or two. If so, I’ll read it.

Yeah right!!!

More misc. notes on this New Yorker, June 14 & 21, 2010: The spread of illos of the writers (p. 90-1) is pointless and unappetizing. There are Q&As online, huh? That sounds good, but then What is the point of printing these straightforward, moody, photo-based line illos??? At least list the names of their favorite newspapers or where they went to elementary school or how many siblings they have alongside their portraits. The Chris Ware cover, on the other hand, and like the Steve Powers illos with the Shteyngart, are wonderful. Something has been beeping off to my left for a few minutes. (I’m sitting at gate A2. Come say hi!! This is a rebroadcast of a previous episode) Reading through  these stories I was occasionally  like, “this is awesome, but when I finally man up and decide to write fiction myself, my fiction is going to be all gnarly and unexpected and different and rad, and a drug-addict teenager in upstate new york is going to read it and decide that [oh my god, sorry, redacted]” but then I read the Gary Shteyngart story, and that thought bubble immediately dissolved, and I realized Ah, shit, this is it, he did it, damn, etc, I am mollified.


When I was a toddler I once witnessed a dancer hold a cocaine-encrusted cigar up to the sunbeams falling through the skylight. I saw it glitter before a background of exposed bricks and pipes.

Just kidding!!

I feel dumb not being more “open” on this blog, with an “about” paragraph floating in the upper-right with something to the effect of “Hello, my name is Quentin Levy. This is my personal website. I’m a freelance librarian living in a mouldy duplex in Pleasanton, Calif., with my girlfriend, Betty Richter, and Jean-Luc Pouncey, our pet ferret. I’m the author of Thesis Mountain, a young-adult novel about an anthropomorphized, learning-disabled copy of the Partisan Review accused of rape in a small Midwestern town. Purchase it on Amazon here.” But I won’t because I want to be able to make off-color “erotica” jokes that don’t reflect the views of anyone at all, including myself. And you can’t do that with your name attached to it…? Even if it’s fiction? Because then you get fired?

I wrote a short story — flash-fiction-style — called “Child Pornography,” which was “accepted” by the Fanzine! Then I freaked out that in ten years I would be applying for a job tutoring toddlers in Language Arts and the administrators would autogoogle me by looking at my hands (that’s how you google people in the future, just look at their hands) and my first hit would be this gem of my juvenalia, the short story “Child Pornography,” and I wouldn’t get the job, which is a volunteer position anyway, and my family would be devastated. So I asked the Fanzine to change the title to “Erotica Without Borders.” That didn’t work so I changed it to “Teen Sex.” They published it as “Teen Porn.” OK. Here is the URL for the story:

That’s all for now! I miss California, even though I’m sitting in a chair in California.

suburban caffeine death fantasy

RICO: Sucks that we’re not allowed to complain anymore.

PIMM: Me too.

RICO:  Just to confirm: we decided that blogging is funny and ‘grand’ but that to write a sustained performance destined for ‘print’, like a novel or a book-length unstageable play, you have to “rose at 5:30 a.m. to write and often stayed up past midnight, but rarely discussed the book at work”?

PIMM: Sounds good. Also don’t forget to “Finishing dinner with a reporter — at Ouest, naturally — …had a double espresso with a single sugar cube. It was past 10, but [have] things to do.”

RICO: What?

PIMM: And, finally, “some coffee would address that”

RICO: I haven’t had any coffee today. I had a Yorkshire Gold and couple rounds on a bag of green tea.

PIMM: Here’s your new plan. Follow Boswell’s Journals’ self-exhortations to the letter (e.g. when he says “Latin till breakfast, something till eleven, then dress and at twelve French, then walk and dine. Afternoon, journal, &c.”that is what you’ll do. No exceptions.

RICO: Do you like to work?

PIMM: On what?

RICO: I don’t know. Office work at the homeless shelter?

PIMM: Not really.

RICO: What if you were married to a woman who worked at a CSA, and you went home every night at a totally reasonable and guilt-free time — say, 6 p.m. — with no work to bring home with you and you and your wife cooked organic vegetables together? You’d read from Boswell’s journals, work on your autoerotic death poetry (with embedded animated GIFs for eventual iPad publication), head down to your “woodshop” to energetically/contemplatively work out on your Special Edition Twin Peaks themed marijuana vaporizer, then take some sort of abused/rescued Labrador Pitt Shepherd for a walk through a wind-tousled glade

PIMM: This all sounds great, obviously, but there’s no predicting, no creating that kind of life. I have the life I want already, for example, yet I’m still going into the office bathroom every two hours to smoosh my face against the mirror and cry and blow lines of my own weep-snot off the reflected image of my nose and so on

RICO: Really?

PIMM: “Yeah”

Trash Forest

There’s a T.C. Boyle story in the copy of Harper‘s in the office bathroom. Yep: this is one of those blog posts where the author writes about a short story he read serially over the course of a week of visits to the bathroom. It’s a genre on the Internet, you knew that. I haven’t even finished the story yet. It’s called “My Pain Is Worse Than Your Pain.” It’s still in the bathroom, so I don’t  have it in front of me for reference. I should wait to write this blog post until I’ve finished the story. I received two friendly acquaintance comments about this blog, positive ones, which means in this space I have to become angry and toddler-style and poo-poo all over the place in order to set it back to “Freedom of Expression” mode. If I let the happy friendly acquaintance comments make me too happy then I will get stuck permanently writing sentences like these: Gary sipped his fourth cup of coffee as he refreshed the browser window. “Sheila?!?!” he wondered. Then: “Where the Fuck is Kleist?!?!” Just kidding. Mouse over the brickette. Barbecue just kidding. Just kidding. I’ll write those sentences whether you like “me” (to) or not.  The climax of the Boyle story seems to come very close to the beginning. The story could’ve ended after two pages and I would’ve been satisfied. The story while about pain and suffering and humiliation generated a great deal of pleasure for me. There were times when I felt ecstatic reading it. I’m sorry if I’m forcing you to picture me reading Harper’s in my office bathroom. I work in a fun office where you can leave any books you want in the bathroom and no one comes up to your desk later saying, “The books in the bathroom, they make me sick to my stomach. It’s disgusting. Seeing them in there, warped from dirty water damage, forces me to imagine all of you guys individually sitting in there, chuckling over the Readings, shitting and pissing. This is a foul place.” Most of my coworkers have been made to cry at some point during their tenure. Is that true? Probably. We’re all eleven years old, and eleven-year-olds cry when they’re upset. It’s a high-pressure office, but sometimes we drink beers at our desks! I can make as many marijuana jokes as I want and I never get in trouble. A good cry, hey, it’s all part of the rich panoply, pageantry, tapestry, tapenade, papistry, I hate myself. This blog is fiction, all rights reserved, no part may be reproduced without express written permission of the author. © 2010 Goodjobbb. I don’t actually have a job, I’m not an editor of anything, despite what Google or the New York Times Paper Cuts Blogroll tells you, that was a joke, I live in Paris with my boyfriend, I am 23 years old, people often tell me I look like Selma Blair. I was surprised to see that the T.C. Boyle story went on for several more pages after the “climax.” The story is so good that its length becomes a boon. “I ordered a small pad thai to go but they gave me an entire huge lunch special what a BOON!” I read recently about this same phenomenon in Anna Karenina: the big narrative wad gets blown early, and then there are several hundred subsequent and inexplicably still-interesting pages. I read this in the introduction to Elif Batuman’s The Possessed, I think. Of course she put it much better. Nota Bene: after I finish the TC Boyle story I’m not going to come back “here” and “finish” this “blog post.” It’s already done. Writing is not rewriting any more. That ended in 1983, with the publication of Funny Fake Ekphrasis, the legendary collaborative experimental novel written by Thomas Berger and Nora Ephron. After my daughters matriculate at ‘Uni’ I’m not going to “come back here” and post photos of them in their caps and gowns. If you’d like to picture me writing (typing, really, this is hardly writing, Truman Capote on JD Kerouackinger, etc) (what) (nothing) (I hate “you”) (“fly fishing the stream of consciousness”) (MousePad SexDreams) (ScareQuotes Boat Rental, Inc) (I Am Going Blind) (FlyFishing For Cynpathy®) (“I’m Busy At Work, I Don’t Have Time To Be Typing All This™”) (Strunk & White Mix [DFA]), picture a terrified woman wearing a tunic pouring purified water into an large jar of Sun Tea.

Link to an Interesting Article About Twitter

SHOUTING INTERNET GUY: I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE LEAVES AND IT’S JUST ME IN THE OFFICE BLASTING STREAMING WEIRD INSTRUMENTAL HIP HOP AND MY TINY BOWL OF HONEY ROASTED CASHEWS RUNNETH OVER, WEARING A CRAZY WIG OF PAD THAI THAT FALLS INTO MY EYES, GCHATTING WITH MC PAUL BARMAN, GCHATTING with self-loathing people in New York who are not sad that JD Salinger is dead, who are not sad that Twitter wrongfully terminated a Jewish woman last night, who are not sad that a robotic cat raped a drawing of a mouse in plein air on 32nd St and Harrison in San Francisco that same night; these fuckers are unmoved by the outrageous story of all the caffeine in an unsteeped Earl Grey teabag deciding to GET HIGH USING A GRAVITY BONG, and then go back into the teabag, and then a toddler, only 3 years of old, ordered the tea from his Russian nanny, demanded tea, NANNY FETCH ME TEA, and so the Russian nanny dutifully steeped it, and served it, and the kid died, 86 years later, of natural causes. Nobody  is concerned that I’m not friends with Harmony Korine? That I have Dutch gentials with the brain of a Dane? That I sometimes dip articles from Harper’s into boiled water and watch them steep and then drink the tea while I read the leaves?

I’m glad Jessica Hopper was outraged by the new Vampire Weekend record. I think she’s a smart and funny writer. Martin Amis is, too, but that doesn’t mean JM Coetzee denies his readers the pleasure principle. I’m not fluent in Italian, French, German, or Swiss French. I’ve never brought a Swiss woman to climax. I’ve never denied the pleasure principle to JM Coetzee. He asks, and I tell. Every time. @moodygroovin is the darkest, dankest 140-character assassin on twitter. Every author who’s ever published a novel as a paperback original with FSG or Picador has at one point in print claimed that one needs to be a coffee-drinker in order to be a successful novelist, and each and every one of them is wrong. My fictional female alter ego, Beth Pails, drinks nothing but hot tea in greens and Grays and wrote a novel that Amis and Coetzee agreed could “only have been produced by the Internet and its attendant depravities.” It sold several, several copies. If I were a woman, I would have the body of a woman. Do you remember that time I paraphrased Steve Martin’s line from L.A. Story about how he would spend all day feeling himself up if he were a woman when we (you, the reader, and me, Bethany) were in seventh grade and Mrs. White was scandalized and I got in “pretty big” trouble?

One more paragraph: “I still like hip hop.” Of all your favorite living novelists under the age of 40, which do you think likes hip hop least? This is among the questions I’ll be asking tonight on a panel I’m moderating at the Garricks’ Library, 800 Valencia St, just kidding, 5:15 p.m. Appearing on the panel will be Cameron Stipené, Shellie Coup, and (I’m just kidding, 800 Valencia is the increasingly gourmet bodega on the corner) Lydia Brousserrie. $5 suggested donation. Enter through Rhea’s Deli.


Here’s what you do: quit your job and get an ethnicity change–can’t cost that much, right? How much does a sex change cost? Ethnicity change is probably more expensive but not too bad. I want you to be Indian, I think. Or Bangladeshi? I know those aren’t ethnicities. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is for you to move to Montreal and enroll at McGill University, the “Harvard of Canada.” Buy the Feelies’ Good Earth on vinyl.


I need you to major in a humanity. English is best. History is fine. NO SOCIAL SCIENCES. If you’re up to it, you can minor in a hard science. Read the Thoreau of Canada. I don’t know who that would be. Joy Williams is NOT CANADIAN

You’ll enroll as a freshman, even though you’re 31. Send your fiction to the campus literary magazines. Run 7 miles a day and wear corduroy pants. Hold hands with your girlfriend in McGill’s humanity buildings’ excellent hallways. Write an essay about Fassbinder. Eat snow with your girlfriend. Get drunk six or seven times a month. DO NOT ADOPT A DOG.

Do not stay in touch with anyone from your old life. Go camping as often as possible, mayhe more often. Sometimes I want to break up with all of my friends, and I feel that the best way to do this is to quit drinking and become vegan. DO NOT BUY A MOPED

Get an ironic gold tooth. Shave yr head. Publish a zine called Shame Faucet, $1 an issue, lots of drawings, comics, fiction, writing like this. Reviews of reviews of reviews of reviews. Write a poem called “Giardia.” Send it to the New Yorker with the following cover letter:

Dear Paul Muldoon, Poetry Editor of The New Yorker,

Enclosed, please find a copy of my new poem, called “Giardia.” I’m not sending it to you for publication. I’m not hoping you read it. It’s enclosed. Please do not read it. Do not throw it away; do not recycle it. Do not hand it, puzzled, to any of your assistants. Do not mention this letter to your friends or family. Do not subscribe to Vice. I’m just joking around, Paul!

Guru Nayak
Montreal, QC

RP Runner’s Daybook Dot Com

About Me

I’m a 29-year-old production manager for a monthly industry newsmagazine called Doarke Physicals that covers various non-academic “service-industry theory” communities in the Bay Area. I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal condition, when I was twenty-one years old. After my old boss committed suicide eight months ago, I’ve been allowed to blog at work. I currently have most of my central vision, but some days, like today, even my central vision feels wonky. At night my tunnel vision “comes alive”–that is, in low-light situations, my vision is heavily impaired. One of my main social-function mantras–the phrase I repeat over and over while navigating the twilit bars and bistros and sexy drug-alleys of our city–is straightforward, and searchingly utilitarian: I have severe night blindness. Naturally, and a little annoyingly, this phrase often begins a conversation, rather than heading it off, as I’d hoped. I wish the phrase I have severe night blindness operated more like a LifeCall bracelet: you see it, and you know what to do.

I wish more things operated like LifeCall bracelets.

About this Website

HarperCollins recently gave me an $80,000 advance for a book idea. It’s tentatively titled Food Diary: A Novel–the core of the book is a more or less straightforward and factual food diary, but almost right away the entries become festooned and adorned with digressions, “magical” realisms, mystical sex scenes, metaphorical depictions of graphic drug abuse, real-sounding zoological and other science terms, etc. My agent pitched it as “Susan Powter meets Gilbert Sorrentino–picking up her son, a pre-adolescent Mark Leyner, from daycare!”

So in the interest of promoting–and actually writing–my novel, I’ll be posting full menus of everything I eat every day here on the site. I’m also an avid long-distance runner, and the original—and continuing— purpose of this website is to serve as a resource for other blind or partially blind runners. I decided to start this site earlier today, in 1997, when I was out on an intended six-mile jog.

It was an “angry run”–these are runs where I set out in a terrible, desperate mood–moods which are only worsened by the (very contemporary) feeling  that my desperation and depression are entirely unearned, in light of the resources (material and otherwise) that are available to me, and unavailable to others (awesome mom, perfect salt cod brandade in a compostable container, 15-inch Powerbook). I often feel angry or upset when I think–as I do today–that I can notice my vision worsening. Feeling stressed out and behind at work (also true today) is another cause of an Anger Run. The idea is that usually, hopefully, by the time I trot sweatily back to my doorstep, some of that superficial narrative of displeasure and discomfort looping in my brain’s reel-to-reel player has been chopped and blended by the jog’s exertion, like a fucking chocolate-dipped frozen banana getting a few rude pulses in the food processor.

One of the salient features of Anger Runs is violent fantasy–jogging along, I’m visualizing friends, enemies, and strangers getting impaled or decapitated. (In truth, I most often imagine friends. It’s always me doing the wounding, with a diversity of swords, scissors, and knives.) I also do a lot of muttering–usually a whimpered, elongated “Fuck you” as I remember something embarassing I said or did, or something I have to do but have been putting off. I’m not proud to admit I also hiss the “c-word” to myself (Nota Bene: this is not as bad of a word in the UK).

I was about two and a half miles into the run (I recommend MapMyRun.com for calculating mileage), in the leafy and charming Duboce Triangle area, when I saw two unattractive women getting out of a car. Another feature of Retinitis Pigmentosa is that it becomes increasingly, degeneratively difficult to recognize faces at a distance. This also complicates the already fraught procedure of sexually appraising fellow pedestrians. Even with blinkered vision, the most obvious signifiers are still evident: She’s wearing leather boots and a miniskirt and has brown hair; She has a canvas totebag filled with British novels and her lips are enormous; and so on. But actual eye contact is impossible until you’re very close, and if it happens to be someone you know, you’re not going to realize it until it’s far too late.

I couldn’t really see the woman getting out of the car very clearly, but I could tell that she had none of the obvious hotness signifiers mentioned above. (Apologies to Kate Roiphe and all women everywhere for trying to write about the hotness of women. “Denise at 32 was still beautiful.” This woman was maybe 39. I will be muttering with shame over this paragraph on a future Anger Run.) Regardless, something about her interested me, and I found myself peering as I bounced by. As I’ve mentioned, the effect of Retinitis Pigmentosa is a gradually narrowing tunnel vision, which usually doesn’t effect me much during the day (yet), except for when things come whizzing out of my periphery. Or when things are only knee-high and don’t register in my field of vision. I slammed into one of those ridiculous and relatively rare knee-high abbreviated concrete columns that are designed, who knows, to prevent cars from driving onto the sidewalk? even though there’s a perfectly nice curb already in place for that purpose. I’m writing this in English, even though my native language is Croatian, I hope that’s OK. Now that a classical music composer has been elected president in Croatia, I think Nico Muhly should run for US Congress. In Delaware.

I crashed spectacularly to the ground. I fucked up my knee. I bled a little from my hand. I had “gnarly road rash” on my knee and leg. The woman I had been mysteriously peering at asked if I was OK. I said “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine” in a resigned tone of voice one might use sitting at one’s computer trying to come to terms with the fact that everything’s just been erased. I was in a lot of pain; at this very moment somewhere in the world people are being abused or tortured. I sat, dazed, on the ground for a moment, then pulled myself up and sat on the blasted, functionless knee-high column. A large double family walked by. A little kid looked back, concerned. When the pain became more manageable, I began limping home. A block later, an attentive, overweight hippie woman noticed my gnarly road rash and asked if I was OK. I gave her a resigned, computer-guy “Yeah.”

I walked for about a mile then jogged the rest of the way. Made lentils and brown rice and dabbed gingerly at my leg. Marinated and baked some tofu. Ate too much. Listened with horrible intensity to NPR’s Says You! Came into the office. Started this website to trade tips with other blind joggers. Sold my book to HarperCollins. Ate a Cornflakes-flavored RitterSport bar. Drank a mug of water.