more reviewery

Got back from DC, from a wonderful weekend, from the lovely Chelsea and am now here, in the cold north. DC is a strange city with the worst metro in the world. No one seems to live there and all the buildings are gigantic. Monuments to tyranny and oppression framed as beauty and democracy.

Anyrate, two recommendations went up at The Lit Pub recently.

Town of Shadows by Lindsay Stern:

It’s a peculiar book, relying on more than sentences and stories to give you the life it holds within. Full of odd math problems and experimental notations and lists and poetry and definitions that seem all wrong, Stern disorients the reader by dropping us in the middle of this town where nothing is quite what it seems to be, where absurdity and magic are just a skipped breath away.

Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things by Richard Calder:

In his Dead trilogy (Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things), Richard Calder creates a cataclysmic future where the difference between nature, technology, reality, time, life, death, and imagination all swirl and blend together, becoming more and more indistinct as the narrative unravels at a dizzying pace only to somehow come back together as something both magnificent and visceral.

The kinetic language will sweep you up until you’re reeling from the poetic. The first novel contained in the trilogy is certainly the most straightforward, if one can even use that word here. It’s fitting that it’s printed as a trilogy because the second two novels are so inextricably bound that to read one and not the other is to dive in an orphic nightmare and leave drowning.

Also, this short film is just magic.

a year in stories::four

I leave in a few hours for Washington DC to see the beautiful Chelsea for a long weekend. Unfortunately, there appears to be some troubling weather over there, but hopefully it won’t delay my flight or anything like that. It’s my first visit to the capital so I’m pretty excited, but mostly I wouldn’t care if we spent the whole weekend without seeing any sights. The best part is always being together, no matter where we are.

Anyrate, posting this now, my weekly story, because I probably won’t be able to on Sunday, when I usually do, so, without further explanation, here’s this week’s story:

Dear Edward

Curiously, the day poor Edward’s head fell off was the day he fell in love. Such is the way of fate, yes? One moment dear Edward, sitting and laughing, the next, picking his head up off the floor. You see, it simply tumbled off as if shaken loose, teetering on his neck for a moment and then it fell right off.

Of course what happened first was a lot of screaming, shock and surprise mixed with, well, disgust, I don’t mind telling you. The worst of it was poor Edward could no longer talk and when he attempted such all that happened was a wheezing whistle came from his neck, which didn’t bleed but was decidedly an open orifice. Poor Edward could see, hear, chew, but, alas, his head being disconnected made talking impossible and, of course, eating became much different. I don’t mind telling you that I helped him eat.

We weren’t sure if solids would work right since he thought it was too gross to spit into his hand and shove it down his throat when he finished chewing, so I made soup and when it cooled I spooned it into the top of his neck. It was similar to pouring it down a drain but a drain that sucked and wheezed. We discovered we needed to be careful with how much or how little we fed poor Edward now that his brain couldn’t tell him when he was full.

But this story’s about love, not how he learnt to eat.

His head fell off in the morning and he was pretty depressed by the afternoon so I decided it might be a fun thing to go out and about, see what was happening in the world.

It had, well, interesting results.

At first he simply walked with his head in his hands, which caused both curious and terrified looks. I thought it might be unsanitary for him to walk around with an open hole where his neck went so I recommended he hold his head where it was meant to go and walk like that. He gave me a look as if to say that it’d feel awkward to walk that way so I told him it’s awkward to walk without a head at all. Reluctantly, he put his head where it went.

It turned out he could drink beer this way, so long as he held his head tight to his neck.

It was at the bar that he saw her. I didn’t think much of her but I could tell poor Edward had fallen madly. Short burgundy hair, bangs falling over a wide face with an impish nose. Thin shoulders but wide hips and thick legs, but her dress fit her well, hiding her figure. What I mean to say is she was a bit fat but poor Edward didn’t see that or didn’t care. He couldn’t speak so it’s hard to say what it was, perhaps her eyes–poor Edward liked poetics like that–or something in her face that caused poor Edward’s heart to double pump at the sight of her.

Go buy her a drink then, I said but poor Edward’s face flushed–which was anatomically curious, considering he couldn’t even eat–and he had the look of a man who was both shaken to his core and one who wanted to punch me in the nose. He waved one hand around, gesturing to his neck as if to say, Go to hell, James.

I shrugged and order us two more pints.

It’s strange drinking with someone who’s ostensibly mute, especially when it’s poor Edward who used to carry conversation, not only when it was only the two of us, but always, no matter who was around. Poor Edward was a talked and took great joy in talking so it hurt me deep down and got me all depressed to see him first fall in love with a chubby girl at a bar and then not be able to say anything to her and then, worst of all, not to say anything to me.

But, I supposed, that’s what made us best friends, and I went over to the chubby girl, bought her a drink, and said my friend thought she was the prettiest girl at the bar. She looked over at poor Edward and thought I was lying. See, poor Edward’s rather handsome, despite his low taste in women, so it always throw a lady when he’s attracted to them. They always assume it’s some kind of trick being played and poor Edward’s endgame is to throw them over for a more attractive friend or whathaveyou. But, see, poor Edward’s a decent guy, just his eyes are maybe broken or his visual cortex is bad at analysing data. In any case, the chubby girl, whose name was Natalia, which is how I’ll now refer to her, followed me back to the booth where poor Edward sat mortified, the blush so deep I saw it from across the bar.

Poor Edward was swimming and it was up to me to do the talking so I quickly explained poor Edward had become a mute, which threw her and I think she smelt trickery pretty pungently at that point so I took out a pen and grabbed the back of the menu, which was blank and paper, and told her to give my boy a chance. She wrote something and passed it to poor Edward who did the same. I told them I’d let them alone so they needn’t feel spied on and took a seat at the bar.

They sat there for the rest of the night, all their drinks on me, which was a terrible idea, incidentally. Natalia could down a drink and she downed several expensive ones. Being a dishwasher isn’t the worst job for a man my age to have but the pay’s not meant for sharing, if you get me. It was worth it, though, for my best friend. He needed a pick me up and I figured it was the least I could do, though I also didn’t expect them to drink so much. I watched from a safe distance and drank sparingly once I caught on to how they were drinking.

At bar close they were still talking and outside she said she’d text him tomorrow and wished us both a good night.

Poor Edward, I had never seen him so happy. I asked him if he told her about his peculiar cranial arrangement. He shrugged as if to say, Not yet but it doesn’t matter either.

He was happy. Really and truly.

Over the next couple weeks I gather they were almost constantly texting or together and when they got married the following year dear Edward held his head at his side, proud and delighted.

updated

Love that so so so much.

So I bought the site and whatever. Updated the publications page which was missing, like, ten reviews, and then another website that used to have four of my stories on it disappeared so that’s cool, I guess. Anyrate, I should maybe just collect it all somewhere, the stories. I’ve thought about maybe doing a short story collection. Maybe. I’d just put it on kindle and make it easy like that. I’ve thought about collecting these weekly stories I’m doing this year and doing the same thing.

Might be a good idea, maybe.

Anyrate, what else? The novel’s coming along. 45/100 perspectives in first draft form, 95,000 words written. Estimating the first draft to be around 250,000 and the final draft being nearer to 300,000. The word document is already 340 pages so I’m guessing it’ll be a solid 1,000 by the time this is all said and done, which is an absolute nightmare in terms of editing and selling. Really, though, not worrying about trying to find it a home. I imagine it’ll be homeless for a long, long time.

forgot some things

Yeah, so I thought I’d link them now.

The Best Books of 2012 went up at Manarchy a while ago. It’s one of the most liked articles on the site! But, yes, it’s a few lists compiling my favorite books I read over last year, and since I read over 100, it’s a list that matters. I guess. Or something.

My review of The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss also went up at Word Riot a few weeks ago, or maybe only last week. I don’t know. Seems like a long time ago.

Also, I bought my website now. Not really sure why but I guess it makes me more official. Need to update my publications page too. All kinds of broken links in there that need to be fixed.

Anycase, Washington DC in three days, so I can be with my lady love.

Also also, novel’s coming along. Hit the 90k mark a few minutes ago. Want to reach 100k before I leave for the long weekend.

Wish me luck.

Picture!

Seriously, obsessed.

Christ on the cross as it’s illustrated.
I’m body soft and disintegrated.
I’m in this self half-illuminated.
I’m on the call but it’s distant and faded.

I myself I’m the robber denied.
I chased all I lost down to spiraling silence.
I’m on your side it’s just so hard to see you.
I’m on the side of the ghost and the needle.

It’s the choice in my hand,
the suicide or the slaughtered lamb.
When it’s so full of tricks,
I’ll be toasting the gold lights of life.

The trail is cold and hard,
the course of the light of the child.
A slow messenger,
I’m in charge of the coal and the fire.

White noise calling on a sudden deluge.
I’m chased out of breath trying to come back to you.
I’m in arrest of the subtle hues.
Oh, I’m in this self-sick solitude.

The sky’s fallen soft to the silence renewed.
I erased all the tops from the tall city view.
I’m in the flesh of the hungering few.
Oh, I’m on the call trying to get back to you.

It’s the choice in my hand,
the suicide or the slaughtered lamb.
When it’s so full of tricks,
I’ll be toasting the gold lights of life.
The trail is cold and hard,
the course of the light of the child.
A slow messenger,
I’m in charge of the coal and the fire.

These are weekends I love, when I can live in a sustained dream without distraction. Since Saturday, I’ve written 30,000 words on this monstrous novel I accidentally found myself in. Feels so good to have the time to be this productive, when I can spend all day inside the words, translating the visions and the dream to miles of text.

Not sure it could’ve happened without discovering this band, EXITMUSIC. I’ve listened to their album and EP already hundreds of times and I just can’t stop.

Still no end in sight for this novel as I approach the 100,000 mark, which is a mark I’ve never reached before. I thought that would be near the midway or 2/3rds mark earlier this week, but it’s looking like it may still only be the beginning.

Also, note to self and everyone: never write a novel with 101 narrators.

a year in stories::three

And so another story, the third for the year. I almost forgot because I’m kneedeep in the novel. Hoping to get between seven and ten thousand words today to go with yesterday’s eleven thousand. It’s coming together beautifully. I love weekends like this. When I have nothing but time and can dream out loud and live in the sustained reality of the novel and just write, translating the visions into words.

Anyrate, a short story about literature and a picture unrelated.

A Haunting

 

There was a little girl, one just like you, as it so happens. She wandered far from home where she found a shore and by the shore she discovered a house. Being a girl like the girl she was, she walked from the watery shore of that great sea to the little house colored only white from outside. The grass was high as her shoulders and it swayed in the gentle autumnal breeze. The girl ran her fingers through the high blades watching her feet shadowed by her head in sunlight. The house appeared like any other house from the outside except for the doorway which lacked a door. Hello, she said and peeked her head in, Is anyone here? Through the windows numbered five and the doorway came sunlight and with the sun’s light she saw the nothingness inside. No carpet or furniture, no lights or paintings, no outlets or chandeliers, no stairway–only walls and on the walls colored white was paint.

She stepped back into the grass and followed the closing trail she made through the high grass. With each step the noises of life became louder. Insects chirping, birds singing, waves lapping, she closed her eyes, the sounds all around and now inside, the caress of wind on skin, the heat of sunlight spotting the inside of her eyelids with red luminosity. Walking back to the shore she looked back at the house and the house looked at her. Her steps quickened and she did not turn around again till her feet were underwater buried in sand. The cool water clinging to her skin, the slow slide of sand on her toes, the soft break of shallow waves. Off in the distance was the line called horizon where the ocean met the sky to copulate and form the world which began always at the furthest point of sight and stretched to the you who watches it.

When the sun began to descend it fell over the house casting it in haloed light with its shadow spread to her lying on the shore. Clouds rolled in from the horizon colored purple in great puffing castles atop mountains of condensed water. She returned to the house and the sounds of life began again to lower as if life muted the longer she stayed in the house’s shade but the sun descended and blackness blotted so she crept into the house and slept beside the door in the deep silence of that house. The air hot and still, she kept her head against the wood and tried to listen to the bones of the earth shift but there was nothing.

A whispering woke her but she did not move. The sun had not yet risen but the sky took on form and shape though the blanket of cloud was thick and grey. The whispering fell away and she fell away into sleep.

Sunlight in eyes peering through clouds woke her and all was silent, still. Rolling over, she blinked to wakefulness and when she saw she saw the white walls were now covered in ink colored black. Frowning she sat up and turned to the nearest wall. On the wall were words in calligraphy and these words formed sentences and paragraphs and as she read the words became a story but not the whole story, only a small section. She pulled away from the words and walked the perimeter of the house trailing her fingers against the words finding their ink dried. She looked for the beginning of the story for a long time but could not so she left the house and returned to the shore.

Feet underwater in sand with the sounds of life returned she did not watch nature around her but only stared down at her rippled reflection in the water swallowing her ankles. She turned back to the house and a whispered hush silenced all around her for a moment and disappeared, giving back the swell of sounds of life to her ears.

In the grass she measured the boundary of the house, where the world began to quiet and marked its perimeter with sticks, then noted where she no longer heard anything beyond the house and this was marked at the doorway.

She entered the house again and walked around staring at the words written in beautiful hand. As her eyes wandered the walls they struck upon its beginning and the words tore her sight along the sentences that wrapped round the house and craning her neck. When the sun fell over the horizon again she had read all the words on the walls that made a story and when the words to be read were all gone the whispers returned.

Who’s there, she said but the whispers stopped. I can hear you, she said, turning this way and that. She looked out the window and saw the world lit by stars and moon but it was not the same sky. What have you done to the world, she said but still the house was silent.

Shouting against the walls and pounding her fists against them, she fell asleep from exhaustion and woke to the walls covered again in ink but the words were not the same but the whispers were. Again she read the words and they once more took her all daylight. When the words were gone and the light was gone the whispers returned but this time she listened.

She listened to a different story to the ones she had read as she stared out the window at the stars in the sky that was not the same sky. As the whispers whispered on the sky continued to change until the whispering ceased and the sun returned but the sky was yet another sky but in the new light the walls were again blank.

As she followed the shoreline that was no longer the same she stared at her feet repeating the words whispered and the words read until the world she once knew and the one she walked through now began to melt together and she lifted her eyes once more and walked against the other wind.

and then what?

And then I bought a ticket to go visit my lady love in DC in ten days. It’s going to be a glorious time of unfiltered awesome.

She makes me the happiest boy in all the land. Happier than I can remember being. Better than I remember being and it feels so beautiful and strange to be planning a future beyond tomorrow with her, beyond a thousand thousand tomorrows.

But the novel I’m writing is sort of a headache. 101 narrators and the final narrator’s tale is told in 1,001 sections and so the lowest estimate I have for it is about 150,000 words, but it’s looking more like 300,000 words at this rate. Every individual section is a bit longer than anticipated and because of the rushed nature of them–because I rarely have time to sit down and get it all down properly [working in between shifts and other responsibilities, cramming 5,000 words in just a handful of hours] I already know I’m going to have to expand just about every section, also because I learn more about the novel as I write it so what came first is sort of incomplete or incorrect–but it’s also one of the most exciting projects I think I’ve ever worked on. It may take me a month or two to get a first draft finished, which is crazy long for me. And then it’ll likely take several months for me to get it finalised.

So, yes, an accidental novel becomes a nightmare I want to live in for hours and days.

And I’m excited for the future in my real life. Waiting till March to find out if I get into Graduate school isn’t really ideal, but I don’t anticipate getting rejected everywhere. At least I hope I don’t. That’d force me to make some abrupt life changes.

Anyrate.

a year in stories::two

So here’s story number two, written just now with only one hand because I burnt my thumb and index finger super bad about two hours ago.

 

Affection

 

The horns sprouted and his eyes fell out and he saw.

He kept his eyes closed and ran his hands over his skull feeling the aberrations, two two inch bony horns sticking out just below his hairline with two smaller horns beneath those, centered between his eyebrows and hairline.

He saw with his hands and his ears and his feet but rumors spread that he saw with his horns the way insects see but what he saw was not what we saw.

Ghosts, they said, He is a seer of the past and the future, a window to the otherworld, to the dead, to the gods and angels, to heaven and hell, their voices rose and the proclamations were taken as truth, He will show us the way and the light.

And so they came from nearby to see the boy who caused his mother to cry. They came and they saw that he was only just five, a tiny boy who could not cry and spoke softly, his timid voice trilling along the waves of wind,

Who is it, mother?

Don’t worry, heart.

His mother beat them back and demanded they stay away and they called her harlot or worse and blamed the child’s affliction on his fatherless upbringing.

But he has a father, she said to their backs, He’s just dead is all.

The boy sat by the riverbed and listened to the fish swim and the water surge. Dipping his toes to feel the rush and understand that sense and sound were hands held tight. He dug his fingers into the soft sand and listened to them drop against his barelegs or groped through the mud and squeezed it between his fingers to trace the history of the soil.

The villagers left him alone but discussed him behind closed doors, about his communion with the spirits for they had seen him sitting along beside the river staring at the sun though sun he could not see so surely it was the gods above calling to him through a window metaphysical and there were others who saw him from a distance talking to no one with his hands covering his ears and still others watched him as once he took buckets full of water to make a great deal of mud which he then covered himself in and surely this was more than only the peculiarities of the blind and the horned but something deep as souls and heavy as hearts.

The mother did not mind but devoted herself to her son, to teach him how to live in a land of sight and not feel lost. She taught him to see with his hands and feet and ears, to trust what he felt more than what he heard and to trust sound when there was nothing to feel. She taught him to weave and to sew, to dig and plant, even to cook. She taught him to memorise and they practised several times a day until the house he lived in lived inside his head so clearly that he saw it clearer than she and then they expanded his knowledge to the surrounding nature from river to forest and even through them. Then the village where his touches remade the world lost to his sight and with each sound and touch he built the village again new until its architecture lived in him and he spent his night dreaming them again and his days walking their paths and enjoying their sights and sounds and life.

When he was ten his mother’s health began to fade and he spent long hours in her arms where he listened to her heart and lungs and the coursing of blood through her, the constriction and stretch of muscles and fibers, the juices of the intestines and the way they wriggled, the archaeology of skin and the geometries of the limbs and back.

He began to massage her and in the act he discovered his mother. Not only her body, but its history. Where she came from, who she had been, and even where she would go.

He saw her Death but did not tell her. He saw her life but said nothing.

He learnt of his father and the man he was, the ways he loved his mother, the delicate intricacies to his touch and the harmonies her reactions made. A kind man, a foolish man, but one who loved his mother till he was lost. She carried this weight in her neck and eyes, in the soles of her feet and fingertips. There was a thick black growth in the center which he attributed to his dead father and he knew it was taking her too.

From his mother’s skin and lungs and throat he learnt of himself, the agony he caused and the ways she loved him, how she never hardened against him, how every day her heart broke, how the villagers feared yet almost worshipped him, how her dreams were of his brown eyes growing back but, oddly, his horns remained, for it wasn’t his strangeness that hurt her so but his affliction.

She died quietly and he buried her without ceremony for no one came.

He ventured back into the village several weeks later all dressed in black, his face serene, his steps and movement’s measured. When he reached the center of the market he spoke in a loud voice

I see and will show you your lives.

and then he turned and walked home and waited.

And the people talked and when they talked the rumors became truths and the truths turned them from what they were doing to the small cottage at the edge of the forest where the no eyed seer, yet a child, lived alone with all the spirits to guide him, for how else could he walk to town alone and blind? how else could he survive without his mother or father?

The horned boy without eyes saw the history of the village expand before his eyes with each new person he touched. Massaging away their pain and speaking to them of the life they led and the ravages it had on their body, he showed them the route their life would lead them, and when they asked how he knew, he told them only that he saw it.

And so the boy lived by telling them their lives and they called this prophecy and a gift and they brought him food and clothes and he told them he required nothing but that they listen but in his head he created a new reality of the collected memories of their bodies and still they brought him daughters to love and newborns to bless and they came from further away and spent weeks to find him and he told them all that he saw inside them which was all that they were and some left cursing but the villagers rebuked and beat them away and referred to him as their angel and guide and his cottage as the home of the sky and sun for only in darkness lives light and once he asked for ink and with the ink he began to draw and as he drew the world around him changed. Filling scroll after scroll of papyrus with figures and visions of a reality so twisted and broken that it resembled all their lives and each scroll was but a portion of a tapestry he spent five years drawing in bold black strokes and when he finished they called it hell but he called it them:

This is your lives

but also those of the past

this is our village

and it is me.

And they feared him and they called him a demon and a devil and he told them to see with more than eyes and they told him to burn to burn to burn and so they stole his inky masterpiece and as the night fell on that village in his sixteenth year he found himself strapped to wood and seeing the heat of his life drift away into the sky.