I don't have shit going on to promote of my own, so here's a few rad things other folks have going on.
Matt Burnside has a continuation of his sage writing advice up at [PANK]. This is "11 More Inflexible Rules For Upstart Writers." The title is either misleading or I actually (sadly) know less than I thought I did, because I'm learning things, too, from reading this. Matt's fucking funny on top of being a super appreciative weirdo, on top of being incredibly smart, on top of being an exciting, solid writer. Some guys have it all. I bet he's got a dick like a Pringles can, too.
Anyways, here's my favorite of this newest batch of inflexible rules:
RULE: Fight the urge every day to be cynical
It’s easy to be cynical, but better to keep your sense of humor/humanity through it all. There are days I wake up and want to beat up a phone booth, but if I can stand back long enough to realize how bad it really isn’t, I can find it in my heart to forgive that phone booth. Cynicism is a virus from hell. It may feel good to blast the world for all its bullshit, but where does that get you, really, in the end? It gets you beating up phone booths, and they hardly deserve it. Negativity has never and will never be sexy. Not only that, cynicism has a way of digging its nasty nails into your work. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We certainly need that in literature, and I’ve written a lot of cynical stuff, but of late I’ve found it’s much harder and rewarding to write something more earnest because the stakes are higher. Work that approaches the heart of things without all the venom and razors – like walking through a minefield where the slightest misstep could result in sentimentality – is more risky than writing something extremely dark and nihilistic and full of fucks and death and postmodern lines like: LANGUAGE WON’T SAVE US, which I’ve literally written in my work maybe five times now. Because the thing is, language will save us. I think as a writer you’ve got to believe that, even as you suspect how foolish it may be.
Read the rest right here at [PANK].
And speaking of [PANK], they've got a cool holiday deal going on where you can a bunch of stuff for like $50 shipped. I think it's three print issues, a shirt, a book, a sticker, and a button. You'll save a little over $20 and all that stuff should be pretty rad. Myfanwy Collins (Hey, anyone reading this: What the fuck is with that name? I don't want to e-mail her and ask because I'm sure she's been getting shit about that name forever. Can a third party explain this to me? Welsh? Is it Welsh?) wrote the book, called I Am Holding Your Hand. I bet it rules, because Randall Brown said it does and he rules. Simple math. And the shirt's got a typewriter, so, you know. Whatever.
Buy all the things right here.
Chloe Caldwell of Legs Get Led Astray fame and general fucking awesomeness has a new eBook over at Thought Catlog. It's called "The New Age Camp" and I can't read it because I don't have a Kindle. I'm working on getting a PDF or whatever guys like me who still do stupid shit like listen to music on Windows Media Player need to read non-Kindle eBooks. But you should buy it and read it if you can. When has Chloe ever let you down? (I mean that as it pertains to the realm of literature. If she owes you money or puked on your rug or something, I'll apologize right now on behalf of her.)
Buy Coco's eBook right here at Thought Catalog.
(EDIT: If you don't have Kindle, download Cloud Reader and you're all set. Not sure if they have it in a fancy alpine white iPhone color, but use your imagination.) (Dickhead.)
Steven Gillis has a new short story collection out called The Law of Strings and it's worth reading, worth obsessing over. My full review for Heavy Feather Review went up Monday. Read this opening section to his story "The Society for the Protection of Animals."
Uniss had a plan. The situation was dire. No one refuted this, though we knew at first only what Uniss told us.
In her cage, on the floor of our apartment, Uniss did her best to turn. She said it was important to feel as they did, to better understand. I questioned the necessity, wondered, “If we’re supposed to be sympathetic, shouldn’t we be motivated more by instinct?”
Uniss told me to “Think about what you’re saying. How can you understand what you haven’t experienced?”
I could have argued the point, said many things were intuitive, like hunger and love and the want to survive, that understanding them was overkill, but I knew what Uniss would say. She had a way of moving inside her cage, naked and on all fours, up on her toes and fingers, her spine arched as she had learned to do, leaving room so when invited I could scoot flat on my back and lay beneath her, staring directly at whatever she chose to offer.
Wasn't that wonderful? Of course it was. Order the book from Atticus Books right here.
The only story I've got floating around right now is a 1300 word story called "Go Says No" about old men and pinball and being 27 years old. I didn't realize the title was so similar to Monster Magnet's (not that great) album God Says No, but I'm not too worried about it. It can get rejected on its own merits instead of having an ill-conceived title.
I felt good after I wrote it, but I'm worried about the same shit I'm always worried about, namely how many fucking times do I need to write about being lonely and innocent in the Midwest? I realize that lots of writers I like wrote the same thing over and over again: Carver, Updike, Bukowski, Dubus, Ford, Munro (to some extent). I also realize that reading an entire collection by them is often an endurance test comparable to waterboarding.
I don't know about the other ones, but I've read Bukowski's early letters--the ones before he hit it big with Post Office--and he was definitely aware of the ground he was treading, if not worried about wearing it thin. I seem to recall him lamenting over writing another racetrack story or writing in a frenzy to create a dozen or so drunk love poems. Still, he was writing them, and aside from a few journeys into noir, that's all he wrote.
Should I give a shit? Is this sort of deep, unavoidable rumination on a theme a bad thing? It becomes taxing on the reader after awhile, and definitely on the writer, but even if the ratio of good-to-bad ends up looking like shit, the hyper-focus might be its own end. Not Look closely, but look forever.
It's possible that my Midwest is Richard Hugo's Montana, Grace Paley's New York City, Flannery O'Connor's dark south. And I'm fine with that.
I started working on the pro wrestling chapbook I've been threatening to write. The first story, "A Comprehensive List of the Least Worst Way To Do Everything," is done. Here's the first section:
I watch my dead brother’s wrestling matches and try to count the number of times he gets hurt for real. In one, a wispy tattooed man named Slash Blast hits him with a monitor from the commentary desk. In the rematch, he hits him with the commentary desk.
I’ve got one of his boots on either side of the television. Maybe there’s a heart attack resting in my chest, too.
I know that only so much of anything is true, but I get lost watching the matches. Rodney knew how to honestly tackle delusion from both sides and I just can’t do it.
Until a lump forms between the top of his trapezius and his Adam’s apple, I really am convinced that nothing is wrong when a hulking Japanese man uses the side of an open hand to knife-edge him a dozen times in the neck.
The thing I'm going to have a hard time with is not boring that wrestling fans--as if any of them will end up reading it anyways--and not going over the head of the non-wrestling fans. (Who also won't read it.) The other stories are "Waiting For Andre" (about how the tangential trivia of Samuel Beckett giving Andre the Giant rides to school severely alters the relationship of a young couple) and "The Road Becomes What You Leave" (about a "loser leaves town" match with more at stake than the results of the match itself). The former will be shorter and the latter will be longer, but either way I'm hoping to have at least two more stories in the collection.
I'm going to go eat ice cream. In honor of the rad date I had Monday with a charming redhead, here's my revised Top Five Fictional Redheads list.
1) Jessica Rabbit
2) Jean Grey
3) April O'Neil
4) The girl on the cover of Candy O
5) The Little Mermaid