My upcoming book of short short stories, Shake Away These Constant Days, originated as a project called Our Band Could Be Your Lit, in which I wrote a story under 1000 words every week. To generate this much content, I based the stories on songs suggested my musicians and writers from around the world. The original idea was 100 songs, 100 stories: find the creative common ground between two mediums and cultivating the virtue found therein.
Until September 25th, I'll be doing a blog post a day about the stories in the book. After that, it's all up to you.
(Check out "The King" in JDP's gracious preview of Shake Away These Constant Days.)
Exclusive to SATCD. Aside from a few archaic, illogical outliers—Rollie Fingers in baseball, Jay Novacek in football, Manute Bol in basketball—I’m wholly uninterested in sports. My sense of competition is the sort that leads to either rage-induced yelling or obnoxious gloating. I am, occasionally, the worst person ever.
Laterally, I’m a wrestling fan, too. Boxing appeals to me because it’s one-on-one and people get hit in the face. I don’t remember how “The King” came to be boxing story. I probably just figured it was about time to do one. Hemingway always wrote some great boxing stories and Rick Bass, too, has a killer story called "The Legend of Pig-eye" that I went back and reread a couple times. Plus, it gave me a chance to crack open that book on the history of Jewish boxers that I bought for a dollar.
I think I ended up with a Mexican coach because I just wanted a chance to call someone an asshole in Spanish. I remembering being stuck at one point and turning the "puppet on a string" line of the song into a section where the narrator is literally a puppet on a string, with Montoya pulling his arms all over the place as he boxed. (Whenever I got stuck on a story when writing from a song, I took the figurative literally and the literal figuratively and it almost always worked.)
I ran into a problem when I found out that Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott—the real hero of the intelligent working class—is a bit more vague than someone like, say, Bruce Springsteen. (Sorry, Jersey Devil Press. The guy can go fuck himself.) Even though that's probably why I like Springsteen less, who always seems to be trying too hard and whose coolness often comes across as manufactured, it didn't make writing a story based on Thin Lizzy lyrics any easier.
I didn't have a title in mind until I wrote the end. In the song, Phil has a little spoken word outro that fades with the song. "Elvis is dead. The king of rock & roll is dead." It didn't occur to me until writing this that song may have been about Elvis trying to break free from his songwriters and management, so I just wound the story down with a random non-sequitur flashback and hope that it tied everything together. If nothing else, at least I got to call someone an asshole in Spanish.
Sports stories, in general, appeal to me because there's a winner and a loser, the exact reason competing in sports doesn't appeal to me. I had considered making the fight at the climax—if it happened, mind you—a scene instead of just something mentioned, but decided against it. We don't know who wins or loses, and it doesn't matter, because life, as the narrator finds out, is about more than boxing. Life, however, is exactly like boxing: you are singular, you are the fist and the mind and the world.
Tomorrow: A story named "Plots" that is based on the song "Transatlantic Foe" by At the Drive-In. Suggested by writer/musician Philip Chavez.
SATCD on Goodreads
Pre-order the book so they don't just sit in my car once they're printed.