Monday, March 15, 2010

Ides of March

This year I did not dress up in a wedding dress and go barhopping. I took photos, trying to figure out how to illustrate certain novel segments, i.e. the sinister "Monica Barrett" character. . .

From the top of Bernal Hill today and yesterday, the city was all polished quartz and shining corridors. The breezes tasted good. I didn't have my camera.

But today was dreadful despite the "fine weather." No moon tonight. People out gathering in weird places, in large numbers, in dark outfits. The air tastes of sawdust and charcoal shavings. Everyone acts like I used to act and might still be acting. A strange loop? Am I stuck?

I've been reading dark and uncanny authors again, like Thomas Ligotti and Brian Evenson: initial impressions: the former I think has profoundly unsettling ideas that are executed somewhat hastily while the latter creates subtle, but unnerving miniatures that are executed with subdued perfectiveness.

I like the off-the-charts weirdness of Ligotti almost more than Evenson, but I think Evenson might be more of a writer's model. I think his sentences are slightly more exquisite. These are early impressions only and subject to change. I'm eager to find more weird fiction written by women. Shirley Jackson I'm getting back into. And I heard Kelly Link is good to.

Briefly: some of my writing on The Rumpus has gotten a little more exposure.

For instance, a rather rambling ode to the Poetic got the attention of The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan.

And some people are weighing in, despite initial confusion, on where they were during certain blackouts (i.e. power failures), especially the Santa Cruz blackout.

And lastly, because I'm now becoming more an active volunteer member, I did a celebratory write-up on Artist's Television Access, the experimental film art space in San Francisco: A.TA. for short.

Now back to figuring out what voice to use in the novel.

Monday, March 8, 2010

March Hail

This March day brought hail stones and insomnia and constant chatter about the weather which no longer feels like small talk but real talk that is about impending disaster. I learned first names finally and felt hands warm in my own.

All these earthquakes, the people say. A man with booze breath looking for puzzle books for his son. It was early and he was drunk. Later I found a stamped out cigarette by the kid's section. It smelled harshly even before I reached to clean it up.

And they ponder, are you east coast, or are you west coast. Have you known or have you not known? West coasters know nothing about weather. Real weather. I met someone from Olympia, Washington today and she had tattooed knuckles and pennies on her bracelet and the ardent desire for a part-time job. She had done indie publishing and micro print making. She was hectic and enthusiastic for every little thing. Have I not become that, I wondered silently.

My insomnia made me slow to explain but it was also bad dreams that made me slow. The kinds with private deaths in them, told by old flames, over unseen countries.

She said she wanted thunder and lightning, a dance-step of upset airs to keep her on her toes. Would we deliver, she asked. I wasn't sure, I didn't know. I covered up not knowing by hammering with my price gun at a stack of books.

People from other cities are excited to be here, I declared. And I would be too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fragments From A Dark Night

I don't know what's been in the water these last six months but I feel contaminated by ill omens. I feel like I've been stuffed with graveyard well water. I'm not sick at all and presumably healthy, despite my nerves but life has a way of veiling itself in the most alienating of unrealities.

Which is funny because, when not busy with the dogged errands of living I myself deal in unreality, in fiction, in the poetic, the vague, suggestive and liminal, in the linguistic pyrotechnics of a feverish imagination which is my solely defining function. I believe in the power of its uselessness. I'm old enough to call it my only sustained faith. Yet I know that I am reverent of other functions too: sleeping, eating, loving and taking care of the bills and my loved ones, sometimes in the same hurried breath.

But the ravens are thick in the trees, familiars of a season that adheres to no timetable.

Based on my friend's experiences I don't think I'm alone. On the surface life couldn't be better and this colorful, teeming city I've called home for many years now is as loud and vibrant as ever.

What amazed me the other night were the ramshackle markets in the bad part of the Mission where the Chinese checkout women speak to their male underlings in an exhilarating mix of Mandarin, English and Spanish. I feel cursed for not needing to achieve that kind of necessity. It was musical and necessary. I guess I'm tired of what I want and more interested in what I need, insofar as said needs are directly piped into the needs of a burgeoning, liberated culture. A culture I create in my own fictional unrealities, that I idealize through words, thus cursing its potential to ever be real .

I'm afraid of our serfdom to the Internet. Our allegiance to the virtual, the instantaneous, the layered. I see beauty everywhere but it ceases often to serve a purpose. The ugliness, when I see it, is more utilitarian, forward-thinking and radical. The walls of my cheap temple quake.

We will, with the persistence of hypertrophied data, forsake the material that is the bones and enzymes of culture. I don't kowtow to words like civilization because there are plenty of those in existence where real life has been replaced by brute survival. No, a people is defined by what they express, what costume they wear when they go into battle. A people is also defined by their sufferings yes but more the songs they make in the midst of such.

I have now cultivated what an idealism of necessity might look like. I pay it lip service. I sign up for the classes and get the necessary books. The tools look good on my mantle. In keeping with my nature, I dream big dreams about it. We will all garden and have easy access to salads at a moment's notice. We will speak a pidgin of mixed dialects. Our art will be made and shown spontaneously without concern for money or advancement. The good guys will be the ones who, vigilante style, go and arrest the crooked bankers, the insurance company CEO's, the military mercenaries, the corporate whores, the sexists, the would-be rapists and the earth-cursing fundamentalists of any creed or currency.

What gives me hope is the pure noise of children in the playground, of cats roaming the streets at night. Of forgotten books revealed. Of accidental feasts entered into. Of schoolchildren taking to the street, as they did today, to protest their impoverished educational opportunities.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The feeling you get

The feeling you get from wanting to flesh out hundreds of pages of words until they make a certain amount of sense to you is of turning your back, forcefully, sensually and in some cases regretfully on what living is, which is hearts and mistakes, cavities and unmade beds. When you turn the aforementioned into words, you tend to perfect them with more lavish imperfections, or tone them down with more subtle parsings. Sometimes I mistake it all for adolescence but that's when Big Brother Super Ego has the upper hand.

Nothing quite brings you round to the glorious irrationality of your decision to play with words than reading the letters of writers.

In this case the letters of one of my favorite living writers, Samuel R. Delany, appropriately called 1984, the year the bulk of them were written and a deliberate homage to Orwell's timeless dystopia. Just got it in the mail today from a small bookseller somewhere out there in the bookseller cyberspace.

Published by the unusual small press Voyant Publications that apparently has a website only in Chinese. Flipped through only a few of the letters but it was humbling to read sentences along the lines of, although I shamelessly paraphrase and even, to some degree, invent: "Today I wrote for fifteen hours, drank coffee, went out walking looking for fun and then came back and wrote this letter around dawn. . .meanwhile the tax man is hounding me and all I have to eat is week-old chow mein I filched from the downstairs neighbor. . ."