“There was a deuce of a row,” said Maule. Then Mr Spooner, who read his “Bell’s Life” and “Field” very religiously, and who never missed an article in “Bayley’s”, proceeded to give them an account of everything that had taken place in the Runnymede Hunt. It mattered but little that he was wrong in all his details. Narrations always are.
–Anthony Trollope, The Duke’s Children (1880)
[Fat said,] “That’s what he deserves: a Great Judge exactly like himself.”
“That’s not a bad theological idea,” I said. “You find yourself facing yourself.”
–Philip K. Dick, VALIS
As many of you already know, the elimae archives for 2005-2012 are now housed as cooprenner.com. (At the moment, they are still at elimae.com as well.) But a new distillation is available as well: “Author’s Choice” allows authors that Kim, Brandon and I published to select their favorites from their work at elimae. Have a look.
“Herr Dr Feld now brought a new magazine into existence. It was richly endowed and appeared irregularly, not because it lacked money but, rather, because its publisher and creator considered irregularity a quintessential characteristic of refinement.”
Perlefter, Joseph Roth
I’m about 2/3 through Perlefter, and it’s kind of reading more like notes for a novel than a novel itself. But there is some clever writing in it, and some funny stuff. How about this?:
“…and as a result one saw that she had a high, pale, arched mathematical brow and small, pretty earlobes whose delicacy was lost in consideration of this significant forehead. Every young man grew afraid of this head.”
“After [Fredy] had definitely decided on the female sex he slept with one of the servant girls and earned himself his first sexually transmitted disease, of which he was quite proud and of which the entire family knew but about which nobody spoke.”
But seriously, try The Radetzky March, Right and Left, or The Silent Prophet, for your introduction to Roth. Silent... is a novel inspired by Trotsky, was written before his murder, and includes an already chilling fictional version of Stalin. Right… deals with two brothers divided by the advent of the Nazis, likewise written while things were still unfolding.
On the other side of the ledger, I have been trying to read Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, but at not quite halfway, I have given up. It’s so much a novel of ideas, of the discussion of ideas, that I just don’t see any reason to continue. I hate theory and abstraction.
This is the story of a snake, a bear, and a little girl. Three great friends living together on the forested slopes beneath a mountain. There is a glade within the forest. Evergreens surround the meadow-grass, fireweed, and bee balm. The mountain’s snowcap is visible on clear days. Warmed by the sun, the three friends lay in a lazy pile near a broad, flat boulder. The bear licks the bottoms of the girl’s bare feet. The coiled snake dozes on the boulder. Summer is over but the days remain pleasant.
I’ve just begun Roth’s Perlefter, a novel he abandoned several years before he died (a state I see as categorically different from a novel unfinished because of death…) So I can’t say if I will like it or not, but I already love this from the (apparently) unfinished first chapter: “Professor Tobias was the only man in our town with a top hat. As he had holes in his pockets he needed to wear such a hat. On his head he comfortably hid an inkwell and a feather. This had the disadvantage that he could not offer greetings to anyone.”
If you’re new to Roth, go for Rebellion or Hotel Savoy for early work with an absurdist bent, or Right and Left or Radetzky March for the later realism.
In its current form, television offers artists exponentially more time to develop a narrative. Over the course of multiple seasons, TV makers are painting compelling characters and weaving their storylines in significantly more layered and complex ways than filmmakers could ever hope to. And talented people are jumping on the train.
Indeed, if the literary equivalent of film is the short story, the literary equivalent of television series is the novel, and both filmmakers and their audiences are starting to realize it.
(via Neon Tommy)
Cosmological coincidence: The ratio of the strength of the electric force to that of the gravitational force between two charged particles is very close to the ratio of the size of the Universe to the size of an electron. First noted by Paul Dirac.
[DIRAC and HEISENBERG are wallowing in a springtime meadow.]
HEISENBERG: [Gazes skyward in a distracted fashion. Lifts one arm and slowly undulates hand.] Hey, did you ever think that maybe the ratio of the strength of the electric force to, like, that of the gravitational force between two charged particles is . . . very close to the ratio of the size of the Universe to the size of an electron? Dude?
DIRAC: [Pauses before replying.] Yeah, man. I noted it.
With David Bowie’s “Star Man”. Et cetera. 2007.
“Yeah! Me, too!”
Please do me this one favor and watch all of this and you’ll be glad that you did.
Monsters! I’m David Bowie!
He walked down to the sea, the lake, the river, whatever it was. The water flowed sideways and away from him. So many years of dwelling within earshot of water and yet he didn’t know if it tasted of salt.
Often he had seen the other side, it being at times mountainous, or a twinkling cityscape, or the severed edge of absolute horizon. Most days shrouded the view and made him doubt the span and depth of his own vision. Low clouds above an ocean, or ancient trees sheltering a forest stream? The mind plays tricks if you let it; he accepted that and took it into consideration.
Christmas letter from Lloyd and Joy Shank:
We don’t want to alarm any of you right at Christmas but we opted for holidays in the bunker this year. It won’t be long and a one-burner camp stove will be the best present anybody ever got. We prayed on it but what’s what is what the plan says is what’s on the way. Hold on Joy’s gone jumpy again. Okay. So we bought a dozen FEMA trailers for near nothing and buried them all in a circle. They are all connected so you can run laps in here, which will help when the boys get sports going again after the End.
You remember that big hail storm in June? It was our faith-based auto dent repair business that got us the money for our retreat. Anyway we figure money will be no good pretty soon, but ammo’ll get you a lot of whatever’s left. We got a thousand boxes of 12 gauge shells and enough .223 and 9 mil to make a drug lord shit biscuits.
Joy keeps wanting me to buy more needles. I say Damn, how many needles—but she does her fingers that way all up around her face, so I drive over to that sewing store and get all they have again.
We caught Donnie and Bobbie and Nubby trying to sneak in a dog and a girl and a set of leather sheets. I don’t know—you have to have some flexibility if you want to get through world destruction. Joy is worried that without their phones they will hallucinate voices, so we got them each a MP3 Bible. That and the 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzles ought to keep them busy. One’s a nativity scene and the other is a scene with Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds.
Speaking of drugs I got Joy a 5-gallon paint can full of her bi-polar medicine. Don’t want to run short of that! Also, don’t worry about us and food—we have one room with half a dozen freezers in it, all full of brisket. We are still on county electric, but when that gets snuffed we have a nice generator we got new at Big Lots for $299. I plan to use some duck tape and plastic to convert one of the bathrooms we don’t use into a smoker.
So the boys have plenty to do, and Missy, Lizzy, Krissy, and Aprilday can help keep the place neat. The girls are really growing now that we are underground.
I guess God works in ways he hasn’t thought much about. If we are all still here next year, well, we will still be ready. We don’t want anybody to suffer, but sometimes that’s the price you people have to pay to make the little bits come together like letter cereal making sense in your bowl.
So don’t forget to lock up and turn everything off, and we will see you when everybody falls in for roll call in the New day.
Duck! (ha ha) Love Lloyd, Joy, Donnie, Bobbie, Nubby, Missy, Lizzy, Krissy, Aprilday, Tyrone, Wanita, and Ching-may.
Perfectly preserved specimens from an epoch when the Driftless Region was the bed of a vast sea.
Mary lived in a garage apartment behind a two story house with a porch swing. She had a mattress on the floor in the corner of the room, and two windows on each wall looked onto the yard — where children’s bikes were thrown — and back to a field that sloped down to a stream where trees grew up along it so, at night, they looked like a wall, stretching as far as could be seen, and high and blocking the sun as it rose in the morning.
There was a pool table in the room at the top of the stairs that had been the family room for the people in the house, but since they rented to Mary, no one, the children or their friends, were allowed up there.
“Charles,” she said. “Get out of here.”
But I leaned against the doorjamb and smiled at her.
There’s a hole in the side of the hill birds fly out of. I like to go out there, into the field, and stand where the land rises into the hill, and watch as the birds fly back and forth.
I saw his mother getting out of her car. She kept fretting with her clothes. The baby was strapped to its seat, tightly. He kind of laughed then burped as I slid my hands beneath him. He laughed once, then lay quietly. I held him tightly against me.
I could feel him breathing. He yawned, then closed his eyes, as I set him, stomach down, onto the couch. His back was warm against my hand. I settled into the chair and watched him, and the sun rose and shone through the window.
He slept on the couch and I watched him wake up. I thought of a name for him, though I never called him by it, and I held him on the porch in the evening, before I set him down to sleep, and repeated it.
On afternoons, when he could walk, I took his hand and walked with him into the field toward the hill. We watched the birds. We listened as they flew into the sky or followed as they entered with their wings pressed tightly against them.
I heated water on the stove and watched steam rise as I poured cooler water into it. Then I lifted him and set him, feet first, into the tub. I passed a cloth across his back. I held his head in one hand, and poured water over his hair with the other. The beads caught on his lashes, and he blinked, and they rolled down his cheeks as he laughed.
One morning, he reached up and pulled at my shirt. When I looked down, he folded his hands beneath his arms, then pressed them against his body. They called and sang their songs for us. They dove and fell into the shadow of the hill. He jumped once, then stood quietly.
When I woke, the couch was empty. The door was open, and a wind came through the room, pushing against my hair. I could see the hill in the distance. As I got closer, the birds were singing, and I saw him standing there, arms outstretched, and what I had imagined as the birds calling to each other, was him singing and the birds answering, and coming to him from the hill.
I called out to him, but my voice was lost in it, and he didn’t hear me.
Wild Cakes certainly lives up to its name with this sweet take on spaghetti and meatballs made with buttercream pasta, strawberry jam pasta sauce, Ferrero Rocher meatballs and shaved white chocolate parmesan.
This kind of play always gets me excited. It’s easier for me to remember opening lines I like, though, because the ones I don’t like don’t stay with me. But there’s no denying that dislikes shape us too. Writing an opening sentence in a fiction is like walking up to a stranger on the street and saying excuse me…. In real encounters like this, all of human nature waits in that moment of turning to look at the person. We have secret lists of near-future possibilities waiting: panhandler? thief? long-lost friend? detective….? And we start considering the list before we actually even see the person. I like opening sentences that don’t let me feel comfortable about my list or my impulse to apply it. I like opening lines that say — something interesting is already happening. This power only comes when everything down to punctuation and single word choice is significantly managed.
Here’s a favorite opening sentence:
My car is a Kia.
I drive to IKEA.
I had Chick-fil-A for lunch.
I’m afraid this link will not be what I’m wanting past midnight today. The word of the day for November 19 is “knavery” and they use a quote from Gordon Lish to show usage! (Thanks to my friend Susan for letting me know about this.)
Yes, I took the brunt of it but not because there was a ballot on it but because I know knavery when I see knavery. Plus underhandedness and mischief.
– Gordon Lish, Collected Fictions
EDIT: The link has been edited to point to the relevant day forever.
There are at least fifty things about her you cannot stand. Maybe a thousand:
She is soft and smells nice. Talks on the phone all day. Makes your favorite meals without being asked. Throws your Maxim magazines on the floor when she’s angry with you. Is sad when an animal gets hurt. Loses your car keys. Asks your opinion and listens to your response as if it matters. There’s more.
I could use a nice big dresser.
They always say breathe, and I think what the fuck are you talking about? The inside of a box is as important as the handle of a mop.
Tussel kept the pedal to the floor, pushing through resistance. The dusky, snow-blown scenery in his frost-glazed periphery, rushing and slowing as gusting wind pushed against him. Tussel’s car the beleaguered transport toward a what he could not yet name a why for.