random things

I set a goal for myself to finish the first draft of a palimpsest before AWP, but I think I’m officially giving that up right now. I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because of a few trying personal matters and now, today, I feel simply exhausted and will fall farther behind where I need to be. To reach this goal before AWP, which I leave for in like ten days, I needed to keep a pretty high words per day level. Like, at least 6,000. I was doing pretty well, hitting 5k Monday, 10k Tuesday, and 7k Wednesday, but none yesterday and sitting at about 3k today puts me well short of where I’ll need to be unless I have a huge day tomorrow. And so I think I’m going to relax, let it come as it comes. Also, this first draft is coming out very rough in certain ways, so it’s no real issue to slow down a bit. I posted something the other day about the writing of this novel and I’ll copy it here:

Do you ever feel like what you’re writing is only a sketch of its final iteration? I’ve been getting that feeling a lot during this novel. In fact, it may be the driving force behind this first draft: to get all the sketches down so I can finally lay down the canvas and start painting. This novel is incredibly complex and gargantuan in size and scope, so it makes sense for the first draft to come out so shabbily, but I’ve never experienced writing like this. Where the first try is so rough. And that’s not to say bad, because I think what I’ve been doing is pretty solid, but it’s just not the way it needs to be. It’s good but it’s not right.

If you’ve read any of my posts in here, you know I’m writing a huge polyphonic novel consisting of 101 perspectives ranging from 1920s Berlin to 1940s Mexico to 1970s Japan to 2000s France with just about everywhere else in between. It’s a novel that takes place over 90 years and across six continents, told by 101 different characters. It’s about art, poetry, rebellion, revolution, sexuality, violence, history, economics, politics, dreams, hallucinations, drugs, war, expatriation, adoption, mental illness, criticism, literary theory, philosophy, religion, multiverse, evolution, terrorism, cultural identity, personal identity, travelling, gender, loneliness, feminism, apocalypse, and on and on. I’ve written 62 of the 101 perspectives and while some of them have come out mostly just right, many more feel like simple character sketches.

It’s almost like this whole first draft is a very detailed outline for the novel it will be. 101 narrators doesn’t mean 101 characters but more like 300 characters, all of them needing to be alive and unique, if only for the few sentences they appear. Also, these narrators, each voice needs to be its own. Distinct, but not necessarily so distinct, because people from the same regions speak similarly and people who are friends speak even more similarly, but still. I’m nearing 130k words and just pushed over 460 pages and so I’m guessing the first draft will be somewhere around 200k words and who knows how many pages, but this also means the final draft may be as much as 400k words, though that’s unlikely [I hope], but it will probably be around 300k words, since each perspective needs to be fleshed out by probably at least 500 words. And 500 words for 101 characters adds up pretty fast and some of the perspectives need to be completely rewritten and maybe doubled or tripled in size. It’s likely to be the first thing I write that expands on a second run through.

Because of the massiveness of this, it’ll probably take me at least the rest of the year to get it all right. But I also think it will be the last novel I write in this way. Polyphonic, I mean. Every novel but one has been narrated by more than one character [1: 26, 3: 3, 4: 13, 5: 3] and so I’ll hopefully be moving back towards more centralised and focused novels. Most of the novel[la]s I have planned [have had planned for a while] will revolve around one narrator or a third person perspective and I think that kind of writing will be kind to me.  Hopefully I can sneak a shorter one or two in this year between editing/rewriting this big stupid mess of a novel.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this. It’s just strange to be writing something so large. Already it’s longer than anything else I’ve written [1: 47k, 2: 40k, 3: 52k, 4: 63k, 5: 95k] and it’s possible it’ll be longer than all of my previous novels combined by the time it’s done, which is absurd.

I’m mostly just hoping my talent matches my ambition for this novel. Writing a brick sized novel is so different from writing a normal sized one. It’s about as different as a short story is from a novel because a gargantuan novel is more, I think, about creating a world and allowing the reader to inhabit it. If your novel is 600+ pages, that’s a book that will take a while to read, possibly even a few months for some people, and so you need to go about it in a different way. I mean, even a 300 page novel can be read in a single day, in a single sitting, but it’s unlikely most people read a 1,000 page novel over the course of a single week. And since I’ve never been big on reading huge novels, it’s that much stranger to be writing one. Funny, too, because this was the year I planned on reading a bunch of these huge novels I have the ones that could be used as a weapon. A part of me wishes I had started this novel a year from now when I had become more familiar with the way these novels are written, but, alas! Here I am amidst titans hoping to not be crushed beneath their heels!

But, yes, I guess what I mean to say is don’t write a very large book and certainly don’t imagine that writing a first draft of it within two months means anything beyond making your edit/rewrite almost hopelessly herculean a task.

But, really, 130k ain’t bad for six and a half weeks of work and 200k over eight weeks will be just silly if I can get there. But, as I said, all the work that comes after that will likely take me at least the following ten months of the year, if not more. Probably more because I actually need to do some serious research to make this novel really thrive. For example: what was life like in Mexico City from 1940-2010 or Kyoto from 1970-2010 or Berlin in the 1920s. I mean, I know, in general, what it was like, but generalising that often about that many places and historical events is just beyond sloppy, even for me, and I make everything up!

But, yes. Current thoughts on a palimpsest, my in progress novel.

Anycase, thought I’d just dump that here. Going to relax, watch a movie, maybe play some more Final Fantasy VI, and just let the novel come as it will.

Also, since I’ve been writing reviews around the internet, I’ve had some people reach out to me over the last couple months. Typically I’m pretty into whatever they’re willing to send me but I received an email yesterday from a man named Michael through some sort of server proxy thing that I can’t reply to. He didn’t leave his last name or any contact information so I’m not sure what to do about it. He mentioned that he’s visited this site, so I thought I’d post this here in hopes that he sees it. I’m down to read your novel, Michael, but you should email me at gmail or The Lit Pub or comment here or send me a message through facebook or goodreads or some such thing. As is, I don’t really know how to contact you.

Also also, I need to do some things about a novel I submitted. Figure out what’s wrong with the server thingymadoodad.

But, yes, weary. Going to just relax.

but if i keep writing reviews

I’ll never get anything else done. Actually, I owe three more that I need to get done soon. Anycase, two went up at Word Riot the other day. Also, finally got back into the novel. 5,000 words today. Meant to get 10,000 but this is a good start and I’ll probably get another thousand or two down tonight, hopefully, and make up the rest over the next couple days.

But, yes, the reviews.

Monogamy Songs by Gregory Sherl:

Gregory Sherl’s Monogamy Songs is a memoir masquerading as novel masquerading as collection of prosepoems or perhaps it is none of those things or perhaps all of them but in reverse. Perhaps it is the first mixtape in his soon to be announced rap career or a mixtape he made from the collected scribblings of a lonely and broken heart meant for friends or new lovers about former lovers. It is a constantly surprising and confounding read, so distinct, even from itself, that there is really no proper way to categorise what it does or what Sherl attempts to do here.

My Pet Serial Killer by Michael J Seidlinger:

I am not a fan of serial killer fiction or even, really, transgressive literature. I find that they tend to be done more for shock and the grotesque than for any larger purpose, be it critical or satirical or academic. And so, though I was excited for Seidlinger’s new novel, I had serious reservations, reservations that he quickly shattered by subverting all expectations and invigorating a topic I thought best left to documentarians and forensic psychologists.

And then a few new reviews of my novel Ash Cinema have gone up at goodreads:

DB Cox

I’ve already remarked on this book elsewhere, so I’m not going into the story proper.

Once upon a time, writers were described in terms of their “vision.” “Vision” implied overtones more of purpose and truth, than technique or style. A writer with “vision” could sometimes break through the noise of the crowd—someone who knew why he or she wrote a particular story. I believe Ash Cinema fits this description.

The prose in this book is as beautiful as anything I’ve ever read (including Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeard Angel” and “Of Time and the River”). I believe Mr. Rathke is destined to be someone special—what some would call a writer’s writer. So he probably can’t look forward to making a lot of money in the “real world.” But maybe he’ll have a passionate cult following.

Here’s to old Edward J.

Pete Anderson

Ash Cinema tangentially addresses the life of the fictional avant-garde filmmaker Sebastian Falke, from three very different perspectives: an old man who once collaborated on Falke’s films; a woman who was formerly the platonic lover (lover, that is, in everything but the physical sense) of a writer who was obsessed with finding Falke and his long-lost films; and the teenage girl who was Falke’s lover at the very end of his life. Though (tangentially) about Falke, the book is really about grief, longing and trying to bring lost loves back across decades through writing about them. The book is haunting, obsessive, mournful and yet somehow triumphant, and eloquently and passionately written. A thoroughly impressive debut novel from a very talented young writer.

So, yes, very kind things being said about my little novel. Go pick it up at KUBOA Press or for free right here.

Also, music:

a year in stories::seven

Almost forgot about this week’s story and I guess I’m not the happiest with this one. But maybe it’s good. I don’t know. I can never tell. Anyway. I feel I’m not doing so well at these right now. I was writing so effectively last month, getting thousands of words down every day, but I’ve only written these two short stories in February. Yeah, the novel’s slowed down because that’s what happens when I take time off.

Hopefully getting back into it this week. Maybe tomorrow.

Been playing way too much Final Fantasy VI, which is awesome for a lot of different reasons, maybe most importantly that they destroy the planet right in the middle of the game.

Blackhole Boy

 

When he opened his mouth I told him he looked too young to be galactic but the space collapsed anyway.

When I removed his shirt, kissed his chest, all that lied between me and neverness was that thin fabric called skin. Applying pressure, his chest concaved and in the hollow I longed to fill with me.

Blackhole heart, I said with ear against his chest, the fluttering emptiness of galaxies.

Never speaking, only touching, he was cold beside me and when inside I was filled with stardust. Tiny like a child but endlessly old, eternal, his eyes blacked out too nothing but to stare inside is to see the universal beginnings and ends.

He took my hand, closed my eyes, said to breathe in time but I didn’t understand but it didn’t matter because time’s all around anyway. When he spoke the air rippled over my flesh, through it, muted, and I imagined rain on puddles. Behind my eyelids, stars died: balloons full of seeds and from those seeds formed new stars, planets, gods, demons.

When I dreamt it was blackness covering the earth, erasing topography, geography.

When I dreamt the singularity everything revolves around pulled and folded the fabric of the universe into itself until there was nothing but the single point of reality.

Was this how it started, I said but he didn’t. Every time he opened his mouth the world around us shifted, collapsed, fluttered into him, into the eternity of nothing.

Was this how it ended, I said but he cried and his tears shined not like diamonds but like light.

If there is nothing within him then why light?

I fell in love with the blackhole boy but he left the world as soon as he came but left a letter for me to tell me why.

From then the sky writ in braille by his hands, I know.

From then I learnt to read signs in stars, in space.

Last night a meteor flew over Russia, killed a thousand people, sonicboomed into my heart, called to me.

And when I dream it’s not of blackness but blankness.

An asteroid approaches, the trajectory cataclysmic.

He comes for me and I’ll be here, waiting, openarmed, reading his words writ bright in the darkness of night. The stars shine from his hand, for me, telling me where and when and how.

I see it now, big enough to blot out the sun, eclipsing dawn.

And when there is nothing left of this world, I’ll be with you, blackhole boy.

And when there is nothing there will be us.

a year in stories::six

Been kneedeep in Breaking Bad but am almost caught up to present time. Burnt my whole weekend doing that which is kind of a waste but whatever. Anyrate, I’m going to get back to the madness there but here’s this week’s story. It reminds me probably too much of the kind of stories I used to write but I still like it.

Don’t

 

The storms up and crystals numbered millions fall. He sat staring at the window reflecting him and the room. Darkness beyond and he saw nothing past glass.

The clock revolved.

Used to be snow reminded me of connectivity, he said, Now. Now–he shook his head–I don’t know.

The light flickered. The walls creaked, pipes screeched, ground shifted.

From the sidetable he grabbed a knife, grazed the blade with his thumb. He did this again and again staring at his reflected self in the window.

Franny, he said lilting. Franny, again he called and an old tabby cat prowled into the room. He watched it in the window, its body skeletal and rickety, too old for grace and poise. It crept arthritic over hardwood and pressed against his legs. The purr vibrated against his skin and his hair stood on end.

Light in the room flickered. The walls creaked, pipes screeched, ground shifted.

Now snow reminds me of nothing, he said, taking Franny into his arms, onto his lap. The Tao, he said, River of Infinite Flux dumping always into the ocean where everything becomes everything. But snow–he ran a finger from the top of Franny’s forehead to the bottom of her spine–snow follows that same river of flux but ends in dirt and mud. It becomes nothing.

The clock revolved.

Running the knife edge over Franny’s fur, she purred, her large eyes blind, cataracts. Why do we love you, he said, You. Animals. Cats.

The light flickered. The walls creaked, pipes screeched, ground shifted.

The window showed him himself while snow piled outside, frosting the glass, his image, him and Franny, man and cat, distorted, fogged as a photograph, the edges burnt. Ageing against his reflection, years burying them beneath snow. The knife blunted against his thumb.

The clock revolved.

What does it mean, he said, For us to go on living so.

Franny pawed at the knife in his hand and he stabbed it into the table beside him. Franny started at the noise then stared at the knife, her movements mechanical, ancient.

The clock revolved.

You’re too old, Franny. Too old to keep living.

Franny stared at the knife then slowly turned to him and yawned. The light went out and through the glass he saw snow.

Ah yes–he nodded–it’s only snow.

And the snow fell and falls still but the man and the cat remain.

 

a year in stories::five

Superbowl Sunday so probably no one will see this today, but the story of the week is now here. The novel’s been in a simmer since I went to DC. I’ve written about 8,000 words since returning but I’m hoping to get the entire first draft finished before AWP, which means I need to step up my game. Looking at about another 100,000 words, at least. If I can get a solid 220,000 words down as a rough draft, that should leave me in good shape for draft two, which will likely be closer to 300,000.

I’ve a few reviews I want to write today so hopefully I’ll get that done soon, then back to the novel tomorrow.

Anyrate, a story about whatever you want it to be. Not really, but I’d rather not put a label on it right now.

Our Future in Your Name

You burnt all the books in hopes of future. You told us, made us believe in your words:

creation through destruction

You said to abolish the past or no future will be made. You threw out our language, our songs, dances, our ceremonies. You called the past a milestone hung round the neck of progress. Your words convinced us, changed us–that pretty mouth, all those words.

You made it a creed, one we bought into. The god is now the future, too long has society clung to the past, to the gods of yore. Too long have outdated moralities governed our lives, held back our future. The present is a monument to the past and the past is a mausoleum for our future.

You told us. You said it all. All those words were yours.

And we did it. With these hands and thousands like them we turned the past to ash in hopes of a future made diamond bright but you never told us how diamonds were made.

We gathered the past, the instruments of control, the shackles of memory, all our collected histories. We tore down the monuments, razed the churches, the parliament, the castles. We took it apart brick by brick and poem by poem till all that we were was gathered before all who we were in thousands of plazas in thousands of cities like this one. And you said it then those words we’ll never forget:

burn burn burn

And we did. With torches and bombs we obliterated all that we were and when the new children came you told us to mention nothing of where they came from, of where we came from.

The new children were not ours but they became ours and with that becoming came a new hope as you promised. You promised and delivered these children without pasts, born only for our glorious future.

And when they used our words they were now different. Words without legends or histories–words without context. They spoke in our language but made it something new, original, uncontrollable. The language that once was ours became infected by them, by theirs, and then it spread from person to person, from city to city, until the language that was once ours became foreign in our mouths and we spoke but no longer knew the meaning.

You told us the words were made pure and could be redefined and the new definitions would be hope and progress, and we believed you. We listened to you.

And the children who were now ours were really yours. All the children were yours and your seed infected every house of this new country evolving in your vision. A country with only a future, a country founded on a dream and a dream looking always forward. And when the children were yours they took us and we became theirs without knowing.

And when they took us they met our open arms, our kisses, our gentle loving words. And when they shackled us and rewrote us we did not cry for mercy but rejoiced in absolution.

It was you. Always you.

And when it was you at our doors, at every door, in every window, in every frame, on every channel, on every screen, we rejoiced and praised you for you were the future and the future was god and you were god.

You were god and we were your disciples. We made you god and you told us it was right even when you shackled us we believed you knew best. Even when you began the purge that followed the pyre we trusted and believed. Your children rounded us up, all of us, and told us how to take ourselves apart, how to become free, truly and finally free, from the past.

We took us apart, one by one, limb by organ by skin.

We did it all in your name. All for you.

And you told us you loved us and now everything would be better. A new dawn was coming.

But when the sun rose we looked around at those of us left, those battered and bruised, limbless and bleeding, languageless but speaking. We looked around and in the new dawn of the new day we discovered a future not worth living in but certainly not worth dying for. And when we asked if we could go back you laughed and laughed.

Your children then ate us, one at a time, before our eyes. And we saw that your children were not like us, were not human, but were great monstrous things wearing our skins and smells to hide amongst us. And when the children, your children, ate us you told us we go now to peace, and we thanked you again, for the honor of service.

And with none of us left and the world beneath your iron heel we shall pray to your flag and your vision, your visage, all done in our name.

We will remember you. Even after death.