I can't get enough of old psych-rock and heavy blues shit lately. As a bonus, it's always fun to fuck with Opeth fans by telling them I like Blackwater Park only to later reveal that I meant the German band and not that stupid album with the quiet parts that don't make sense next to the loud parts.
Writing-wise, I've made some progress on both the leg-work for the book and the writing-work for the chapbook. The first story for the chapbook--I mentioned it last week in a sideways way as "he's just wrecking cars with his buddies as of now"--is done. It's called "Jalapeno Summer" and it's a bit shy of a thousand words. It'll be a great story to kick off a collection with and it's a nice lead in to the next story, which starts off with the line, "My least favorite stripper was obsessed with past life regression." Thanks to my friend Joan LaRosa for texting me a picture of her holding two dozen VIP passes for Club Silk in Milwaukee and getting me hooked on strippers again. Also, I get a stupid number of ideas and interesting things to add to a story just by listening to WTF with Marc Maron.
When I said that I've made some progress on the leg-work for the book, I actually meant Mike Sweeney has made progress on the leg-work for the book. We had a pool of about 70 stories to chose from and less than half of them were going to be in the book. I told Mike the ones I liked, the ones I liked but needed work, and the ones I thought kind of sucked. He read all 70 of the stories--most of them for the second or third time, this time with a collection in mind--and sent me back a tentative table of contents and title that looks something like this:
This Is How Long a Second Lasts: 30 Stories
Back and to the Left
Look At How Fast I Can Go Nowhere At All
Wide Right Game
When There Is No Road
It's Been Far Too Long Since You Woke Up In Someone Else's Shoes
Monsters: A Series of Non-Chronological Vignettes
The Sounds of the Earth Precede Us
God as a Jigsaw
Follow the Water
What Burns Never Returns
Let’s Go Shoot Her While She’s Crying
Jests At Scars
Where Is Your H?
B Sharp, C Flat
Things That Are Glacial, Things That Are Gone
About a third of these are new stories that haven't appeared in the original Our Band Could Be Your Lit project, and most of those have never appeared anywhere before. This is definitely tentative, but I like the moves. Opening with "Back and to the Left" threw me a bit, but I can see it working, this sort of odd step into not an alternate universe, but an absurd one. The faux-time travel in "Sergei Avdeyev" solidifies that. It twists into the odd apocalyptic stories in the middle and then launches back into my standard storytelling before ending with "Glacial," my big abstract story that was half in response to the way I think kids write these days that ended up sounding pretty much exactly like how I write anyways. I wouldn't have thought of any of this myself, but I can see it now. Mike gets definite props for giving my work some vision, which it more than I can say for myself.
I'm not sold on the title, but that too is tentative. Mike's against the idea of making up a title specifically for the collection--my suggestion of I Scratched Your Name Behind the Jukebox was shot down for sounding too much like a title someone made up for a book, which I can't deny--and he really wants the title to come from the collection, either in the form of a story title or a line. We're leaning toward It's Been Far Too Long Since You Woke Up In Someone Else's Shoes which he's not sure of because of the length (and I'm not sure of because even though it's a literal thing with the shoes and the waking in the story, it sounds a little "my mom has this on a magnet on the fridge" as a stand-alone). Jests At Scars was brought up, but it's a line from Shakespeare and I totally can't pull that off. When There Is No Road was a possibility, too, but I've got a story/collection in the works called The Road Become What You Leave. (Stolen from the name of a documentary on Magnolia Electric Co. Which reminds me, I need to e-mail and get permission to do that.) I'm kind of at a loss for ideas.
Whatever. I'm working on it.
I'm glad I got to start reading some more, too, now that shipping out CDs has slowed down. Sara Levine's Short Dark Oracles just rocked my goddamn world. I ordered the six-pack from Caketrain for $32 (shipped!) and this is the winner. I did not like the MFA Mad Lib style of Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake by Heidi Lynn Staples or Cure All by Kim Parko. I think Ben Mirov's Ghost Machine is interesting enough and it's fun to try to interpret it, but in the end I thought it was several hundred beautiful sentences that didn't do anything. The Weather Stations by Ryan Call was solid and inventive, which is what I'll also say about Tongue Party by Sarah Rose Etter, except Etter's book is fucking creepy.
But Short Dark Oracles. Man. There's a lot of dialogue, which really adds a cinematic quality, but there are still enough moments that can only happen in a short story that make me truly believe that the book is operating on it's most pure level, that it aspires to be nothing but literature. There aren't any gimmicks or tricks here. The turns aren't twists, and when it gets to the point where the story rounds the corner, it actually rounds it. No need to twirl. It's enough to get there, and Levine took me there.
In short, I'm glad I found another talented writer to resent for all of their skill and success.
UNLESS YOU DONATE TO THE KICKSTARTER FOR MY BOOK AND THE OTHER BOOKS IN THE JERSEY DEVIL PRESS 2012 COLLECTION. THEN YOU'RE COOL AS FUCK, DUDE.
Okay. Be a real person.