from forgotten ages

I decided today to take apart and old novel, or will do so sometime soon. My second novel, Echoes. I like it a lot but it’s also terribly flawed and so I’ve always planned on doing nothing with it, but I randomly was thinking about it on my drive home today and think I could recontextualise it into something interesting. By using the imaginary writer I’ve been interviewing for a while, I’m going to make it a different kind of novel, sort of go all Pale Fire on it and see how that turns out. The novel, as is, is rather short, about 40,000 words, so I could probably add another 20,000 in criticism to it to make it this other thing, this cool and weird postmodern critique of myself and art as well as the adventure story it already is.

Also, figured out a way to frame my novel inspired by Justin Bieber, so I think that might be the next one I get to.

Been so exhausted since going back to work. It’s terrible. And so I didn’t get any writing of the novel yesterday and I’ve been to busy yet today but I’m starting right quick. Also, that’s coming together nicely in my head. I figured out a way for it to go, a direction in which to grow.

Chelsea and I have found a way to see each other soon, too.

So things go well, yes.

i suppose an update

goes here. Work on the novel goes slow because I seem always exhausted and also short of time so I can only get a few hours to actually work at a time, usually three to four hours a day, and I’ve been averaging around 2,000 words a day, which isn’t terrible, I guess, but it’s so unbearably slow, and it’s making what already began as a very strange novel into an ever stranger one, endlessly fragmented.

Anycase, all kinds of things me have been going online. Or, not really. Just three things, but that seems like a lot, especially since this is just since yesterday.

A review of Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air:

A revolutionary pirate dreams of equality and gathers the world’s intellectuals into a sprawling anarchic society poised to fight off the empires that live in such grandeur by destroying and subjugating the rest of the world, from China to South America. What began as an interesting voyage becomes a revolutionary war where dirigibles and atom bombs erupt, where Ronald Reagan is a brutish boy scout, where the Vladimir Lenin is a failed and despondent old man.

A review of Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath:

Jagannath will envelope you. It will breathe new and old life into you, transforming whatever was there before. These are stories of great power and beauty and terror, so do not take it lightly. While it can be read on the beach or couch or in bed, this is not a casual read. Tidbeck takes us on thirteen distinct journeys that do not so much bend reality as show you the uncanny worlds that lay hidden behind reality’s sheen.

The best books I read in 2012.

Oh, too, finally found Max Richter’s ballet Infra online.

I love how barebones this is–nothing but the stage, the music, and the bodies.

I’ve listened to this ballet, Infra, hundreds if not thousands of times and it wasn’t till now, seeing it performed, that I really feel I understand it. It’s opened up immensely and transformed in my head from something that was merely beautiful to this glory.

I never realised how much it was about control, how much it had to say about life in the 21st century, how concerned it is with alienation, and I cried three times in the half hour this takes to watch. It’s amazing and perfect, and Marianela Nunez is perfect, as she always is, as she had to be. I feel so much right now it’s hard to even put it in to words.

More essays and criticisms should be on their way as I write them. I have big plans and once I get the time to write them, I should be dumping them all over.

Anycase, I hate my job and so am looking for a new one. If you have a job or know of one that needs a human, let me know.

This has more tags than anything on my whole site.

a year in stories::one

2013 and I have no resolutions but I have begun something like a novel, I believe. I’m about 7,000 words in, taking my time, I suppose, since, if my usual output is to be measured and quantified, I should be twice as far as I am. But I’m enjoying it, this sort of reflective thing about me writing a novel that is also a novel about so many things already. But, too, I’ve decided to do this little exercise Ray Bradbury [I believe] recommended for those of us who wile away with words. Paraphrase from poor memory:

Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to fill a year with bad ones.

Yes, I’m more positive it was Bradbury who said that.

Anycase, the reason I mention it is because I’m going to do it, starting today. Or, I already did it today. So, for the year of 2013, I will, on average, write one story every week and post it here. I say on average because there will probably be weeks when I’m too busy to do such a thing but there will also be weeks when I finish two or three or whathaveyou. I’m posting them here, every Sunday, mostly for fun. I’m terrible at submitting stories anyway and since I’d just like to share them, I might as well share them here, where I hangout, anyway.

The stories that go here will be rather first draftish, and so they’ll suffer accordingly. I plan on posting them almost immediately after completion and so hopefully, as the year progresses, we can see some sort of forward momentum. I mean, hopefully I’m getting better, yes? I’d love to hear feedback, of course, which may also help me improve.

After their initial publication here, I’ll probably go back and make them each better and maybe try to even publish them elsewhere[?], but probably not.

Anycase, here’s the first story of the year:


Dear friends, colleagues, students, we have listened long to the men and women of this stage as they dissect the trouble with postwar Italian literature, how there has been no great Italian writer since Italy’s unification, and though it’s not what I planned, I feel I must say a few words of my dear friend Otto Bertolini.

Something happened to Bertolini after he died. For one thing, his output seriously dropped off and, for another, his writings became more and more enigmatic, his prose, not so much denser, but thicker. He no longer careful constructed people to life through situations and actions but more tangled them in a webs of contradictions and emotions.

For example, his latest novel, Fearful Symmetries, appears, at first read, to be the story of a woman who climbs a tree, with the bulk of the 714 page novel consisting of quite a lot of chatter, most of it bizarrely spiteful or sexualised. Contrast that with, perhaps, his most famous work, Baleful the Clown, about an autistic boy who draws the apocalypse to life, where the prose is shining in its muted quality. This is an apocalypse without the spectacle that draws crowds, but more a negative image of a world falling apart through the scribblings of a child who does not perceive reality as we do. The prose is almost like haiku stretched over 153 pages of elegantly crafted characters trying to hold back the end of humanity.

It should be no surprise that most of his fans were shocked by this change in direction. Most owed it to the traumatic experience of Death, but for those of us who have spent their lives following Bertolini’s career from infancy and through the grave, we can see the common elements, the way his style developed into this baraque tapestry of realities. For Fearful Symmetries, once read closely, perhaps on the second or third attempt, opens up a great deal, and these conflicting perspectives build a life so full and vibrant the reader’s heart breaks and remains broken for the final 600 pages, not because of the tragedy necessarily, but because of how beautiful this is. What we find in Fearful Symmetries is the life of a tree stretched over centuries, not the simple action of a woman climbing it for ten minutes. If his previous work, from the era of his career I’ll now refer to as The Living Years, uses negative space to depict life, then this era, The Postlife Years, is its opposite. While the 47 Living novels were short and terse and elegant, the Postlife novels sprawl on with monstrous tentacles, using all the space of vision allowed and creating a whole image with the million different hues and contours available to the human eye and mind.

Yes, it’s easy to dismiss my reading of Fearful Symmetry as simpering hero worship, for, I admit, the first reading was so disappointing and frustrating that I felt betrayed by his Death. Yes, me, betrayed by the Death of my dear friend, for how could he change so much over so little a time? Did I ever know him as a man? as an artist? Who is this man, now? What has changed him so?

These questions forced me to pick up his next novel, Allaround Pause, vagabond, and plough through those 1,111 pages of a pregnant woman who eventually gives birth to a dragon. A dragon! Of all things!

Ripping my hair out, gnashing my teeth–what has happened to my dear Bertolini?! Told from the perspective of 101 narrators speaking for eleven pages each about a pregnant woman they saw at various times of her pregnancy over the course of 101 years, Allaround Pause, vagabond was 101 knives stabbing into my heart and the memory of my dear friend, now beyond conversation and, therefore, reconciliation. What was I, or anyone else, meant to make of such a literary development?

To be honest, dear readers, it hurt me so deep I can barely express how I spent the following two years wallowing in drink and women and darkness until the release of his third Postlife novel, riverrun, which intrigued me out of my gloom and despair and regret for having devoted my life to a man who turned charlatan after he died because, if ever I knew Bertolini, I knew he despised Joyce and especially Finnegans Wake, yet, here, a clear allusion to the work.

I rushed out and got an early printing from the magazine, a completely white cover, thicker than Fearful Symmetry but not so thick as Allaround Pause, vagabond. What was found inside was nothing like what had come before, whether by him or any other writer. It may not even be especially useful to call it a novel, though it’s certainly not not a novel. There are no page numbers but I happen to know it’s 871 pages long and consists of 97,531 words. It is a massive riddle that defies summary for there are no characters, or at least none explicitly named, and there is no action, at least none that happens on the page, but a sequence of puzzles, some of them wordless, even–long stretches of blank pages riddled with punctuation marks or figures or dots dancing as motes of dust. If a novel can be described as pointillism, it may begin to help the reader understand what this novel–this thing–is.

I cannot describe that initial reading. I felt no emotions as I understand them, but there was this existential tugging at my bowels, forcing me to push on and on. Sometimes the reading would blur as I leapt through page after page only to hit a wall of text, this linguistic barrier that reflected itself over and over, as mirrors facing mirrors. This grand puzzle, this riverrun worked as a cycle but not as a circle. It behaved more like weather than it did like narrative, and that’s the only summary I believe works. Yes, it is weather. It is about condensation and precipitation and evaporation and wind and the sky and the sun.

So profound and confounding was the effect it had on me that I kept it with me, always in my bag, for several months. Whenever I had a break in the day, whether on tram or bus or at restaurant or coffeeshop, I would turn to any random page and begin the cycle once more, mesmerised.

It was then that I returned to Fearful Symmetry and Allaround Pause, vagabond only to find these novels transformed. I wrote letters to the editors of the magazines I had published my review in begging for a redaction, for a reconsideration, but, alas, there was no desire to open the graves, so to speak, for these Postlife novels, even still, are hated by the public, by scholars, by academics, and each new novel released is met more vehemently than the last, and the publisher even takes on abuse and attack. I alone stand with my old friend Bertolini and believe he has now reached the apex of his career with Glass/Water, his latest novel stretching to 3,209 pages. It is, perhaps, his most autobiographical novel, beginning at his own gestation, passing through his life, and covering his own decomposition, though, of course, this isn’t a memoir, but another puzzle, much greater than his previous eight Postlife novels, about a horse who longs to be the boy who longs to be a Marilyn Monroe.

In Glass/Water Bertolini has reached a level beyond all other writers, living or dead, in that he has not only recaptured the entirety of world literature, but he has transformed and distilled it into a drinking glass for all the public to easily swallow, if only they’re willing to take the first sip.

Calling it his magnum opus seems absurd at this point in his career, but it is certainly his farewell, and so is this mine from the world of criticism and academia. I have lived my life inventing the story of his stories but now, eighteen years dead, he has given me my reprieve, and I think I’m now ready to die, having championed him into this new millennium. Though I stand alone, I hope those readers who come next, you newest generation of artists and critics will look once more at the work of my dearest friend and know I’ve not wasted my life.

Thank you.

what about

Two more book reviews have been out for a few days/weeks, so I’ll post the links here.

JA Tyler’s Water:

J.A. Tyler’s Water is not a dream. It is two dreams. A dream of rain and a dream of fire. A prayer for land and a hunt for water. It is a dozen children gathered together, telling stories, finding worlds within one another, waiting for the rain to stop if only for a moment. It is a boy wandering the skies and lands, and a girl hiding from the herds of people who will take her apart for the dream she carries inside. It is the sound of silence, the music of the world, the chaos of rain and calamity of fire.

Berit Ellingsen’s Beneath the Liquid Skin:

Many short story collections suffer from monotony, where the stories all too similar, whether it be in content or tone or emotion, but this little book is one of the most fun reads I have recently encountered. It is a display for Ellingsen’s talent and imagination and yet it is so distinctly itself. These stories belong together for reasons I cannot really name, but if one were to be missing, it would be noticed. Where many writers explore the fantastic by revisiting myths or spinning tropes, it is almost as if Ellingsen herself came from somewhere else, some world beyond ours and carried back the stories of that distant place.