My very close friend Andrew Leland has started blogging for the Oakland Museum of California. He only has three posts up; he has been very shy about it. The link is here. I was with him when he saw that the most recent post had gone up, and he was like, “This reads like a college newspaper column. I hate myself.”
“Andrew,” I told him. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s great.”
“Really?” He said. So self-obsessed, so delicate. “Thanks.”
The blog isn’t bad. He’s trying. He also told me he recently tried writing fiction, because a young lion who edits a young lionesian quarterly asked him to submit something. “Writing fiction is excruciating,” he reports. “I spent a week forcing myself to write 750 words a day. Then I went two months without thinking about it. I returned to the document I had created, and my wonderful girlfriend had to pry the screwdriver out of my hands before I plunged it into my eye sockets.” Writing nonfiction isn’t much easier, he added, but then when it’s done, he feels happy.
Last Saturday, Andrew and I were hanging out at his apartment in San Francisco. I had my tape recorder, and we thought it would be fun to record our conversation. Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I transcribed it.
ME: That’s not why dogs are neutered, Andrew. [Laughter]
ANDREW: Just kidding.
ME: I adore your shoes!!
AL: I love you. I wish I could smoke pot
just kidding, that’s not a real transcript. Tonight is the Oakland Standard’s launch party — officially selected by Good Jobbbbbbbbbbbb: The Online Journal of Success as the number-one Friday Night social calendar PICK for Friday, February 4. The Tammy-Rae MacArthur Genius Kutundu-Wajahat Mother Novella Carpenter’s Gothic part starts at 8, then Turf Fienz at I wanna say 9, then Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding DJ (seriously, literally) at whenever everything else is over. It’s free, it’ll go till 1, one is advised to “come through.” One block from Lake Merritt BART. Alcohol, bikes, leggings. At least three generations of Americans, dancing.
I went on a Facebook and Twitter hiatus because I felt like I was just whipping around too much in an unconscious toilet-flushing motion. It coincided with finally getting internet at home. Something on the internet will remind me of someone I know so I slap it on their wall. A violent scrap of megabanal language emerges out of something I misread at work, and so I tweet the fuck out of it. Then I wait to see if anyone responds to these empty, flaily gestures. At least here on the blog there’s still some obligation to construct something with a little more… integrity? The self-loathing bleeds through more cleanly. Fffft
Still haven’t read either of the colossal and megafun-looking and much-commented-upon recent Elif Batuman essays: LRB/McGurl/MFAs and NYT Magazine/Kafka. Ben Jones posted a Kathy Grayson–style blog post. I am in a transitional period of my life, self-imposed. There is a weird and bitter ex-marital drama that I’m pretty sure is real unfolding in the comments section of an old blog post. I don’t know either of the parties involved.
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.
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.
Just bought a $1 used copy of Rogue Male on the Internet based on a one-sentence zero-argument recommendation from a respected reader-colleague-friend (“Read Rogue Male!”). Found out after I placed the order (shipping from Texas cost three times as much as the book) that it was reissued in 2007 by NYRB Classics. I have had this experience before: buying or reading a book and then feeling quintuple-vindicated in my purchase/effort/enjoyment when I find out it’s received the peacock-feather-in-the-face blessings of being brought back into print by Sir Edwin Frank. ¶ I’m pointlessly quitting coffee again; yet another Day Three over here. Feeling it. ¶ Was on a vacation that merged into a camping trip followed by a jocular family emergency punctuated by a quick change of mailing address. I moved in with my girlfriend. This is a major life step. There are two arc-less stories from the past week—one about a 6 a.m. manual-transmission driving lesson, one about my dog’s violent past—that I want to tell but can’t, on the off-chance that the owner of the car I learned on, or my new landlord, watch this space for updates in my life. Hi, fellas. I’m sorry. ¶ The tube connecting my mind and the world that contains my mind has narrowed because I’ve denied it coffee. ¶ The camping trip was great but microecos precluded any attempt to “blog” it here by alerting me to the fact that our camping trip was already blogged—hard—circa 1860:
We had intended to observe Sunday, as we did not the last one, but both my companions wanted to come down to a warmer level and my rheumatism advised the same thing, so we came over the summit and on about twenty miles. The summit is about 10,300 feet; there is snow in banks for some distance, then we sink into a canyon on one of the upper branches of the Stanislaus River and follow down that. We leave the volcanic region and get into one of granite. The canyon rises in steep hills on both sides, two or three thousand feet above the river. We camped at an altitude of about six thousand feet, where it is warm and pleasant. Today, although Monday, we are having our “Sunday,” and are spending the day in washing our clothes, writing, etc. [William H. Brewer via microecos]
I’m sorry I haven’t been posting photos of my new apartment or any of the several spectacular bowel movements I’ve had these last few days. Also been meaning to post photos of my cereal bowl with wet spoon once I’ve drained it of all milk and Golden Flax Crunch; figure you guys would also want to see a few shots of my dog’s spayed genitals and maybe etc etc. ¶ I think I’ll be out of the woods regarding caffeine withdrawal by Saturday. Love, “Quilty”
Sometimes I find myself mentally making epigrammatic observations about the little Nicholson Bakery pleasure-giving tabsthat hang off of the good, everyday white nodules of contemporary life.Then, profound web-based solipsist that I am, I think, I’ll write a short, epigrammatic observation about this mental/contemporary phenomenon on my blog. Then I remember the presence of Magic Molly and I stop, because I know she’s taking care of it—she’s got it covered.
“Don’t be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.”—Geoff Dyer in the Guardian. (via Juliet.)Is this a crazily brilliant pun on the word “sentence”? I think so. E.g. to emulate or too-slavishly worship Nabokov—on the sentence level of your prose, emulating those rich, sentencey sentences—is to give a prison sentence to your writing?
Just found out this week that a Real Dude and a Mountain toSound found out about this website, which totally fucking sprayed me in the face with self-consciousness such that now I have to lay another chilling-effected QuiltJammer over the (wh)ole enterprise for a few months until things cool down.
Countdown to infinity:
Open letter to Ian Parker:
Can you write a 10,000-word-or-so essay about comedy in Zimbabwe, focusing on the sitcom Paraffin?
(Also, did you know about MyZimTube??)
Las Cruces, NM
Has anyone written about all those paintings of girls reading? Or even the subset of those paintings that are titled “Girl Reading”? I could use another couple hours of sleep today
let’s make “maudlin” a verb: I was just maudlin’ round the taqueria, waiting for 11:33 a.m. to roll around so I could order a non-breakfast burrito in ‘good faith’
I had a dream last night that my “boss” was telling me that he tried to read Being and Nothingness and hated it because of all of the inscrutable phenomenology jargon, and I was like, “Dude, sir, you should check out Being and Time! It’s even worse!!!” We “bonded” about how difficult it is to read Continental philosophy. AND THEN I WOKE UP