The Doogie Howser Portion of the Evening

Doogie Howser was the first person I ever saw use a computer as a journal. Ricky from Silver Spoons was the first person I ever saw IMing with his crush.

Gains today: Quite a few words written. A few stories read.

I reread “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” for the first time in many, many years. I must have been very young the last time, because I don’t remember it being so short. I also read “A Day’s Wait,” which, I mean, isn’t very good. You have to really be into the code hero and all of that to delve into the scholarship, and I’m just not that interested. I’m too old for that side of Hemingway, at least right now. I also read “The Killers,” and have decided that “Fifty Grand” is much better. Though I do like the sparse description of the lunch counter.

I also learned that George Saunders was a young Objectivist, which reminds me very much of Andrew Sullivan’s explanation of his youthful Thatcherism. I can relate to both of these experiences. I got into Rand because of a girl. There were weird tracts in the Rand books at the public library, and that could probably make for a decent story. Not right now, though.

I did get some good words down and out. But they were divided between two stories, and none went toward the story I planned on adding to today. So I feel a little scattered, but that’s okay, because the ideas are really coming. Depending on who you listen to, control is a myth or a must. The more you sort of whittle down, the more you tend to know which claim is most helpful in the moment.

The Ursinus College Lantern, Fall, 1998

Earlier today, I shared a piece that I said was the first thing I had published in a print journal.

Later, I was working on a story partly set at a sort of proxy for my undergraduate alma mater.

When I came to campus in 1998, the website was in very basic html, and the college email ran on DOS (I think. It was text-based at any rate). 21 years later, there’s a fairly robust digital history of all kinds of things Ursinus.

I went down the rabbit hole.

Regarding the venue from this morning, what I should have said was it the first print journal run by people I didn’t know or go to school with to publish my creative work.

Of course, I hadn’t forgotten about the Lantern. Of course it was the first print journal to ever publish my creative work. (Alright, here again I’m wrong. In sixth grade, I was co-founder, co-editor, co-publisher, and staff writer for zine called ZAP! In middle school, we briefly considered relaunching as The Jolly Rancher, but it wasn’t meant to be.)

The Lantern piece, which you can find here, was written a few years before I got to Ursinus. I was about 16, broken-hearted, and listening to a shit-ton of Beck. That it was published alongside things written by 22-year-olds, and that it won the yearly prize for creative writing, has always meant a lot to me.

Post Horns, Everywhere, Unmuted

Today I finished The Crying of Lot 49. There are a few recent posts here about the themes of communication, miracle, and entropy, and of the imagery of the muted horn.

Also read today: “How to Hear a Stutter” by Adam Giannelli in the latest Kenyon Review. A few lines really stood out. I won’t say which ones, so as not to influence the way they might strike you.

 Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some short pieces from years ago, many of which where published at online journals that no longer exist. I have been thinking for a long time about the compromise of communication, the give and take we enter with the things we have to say and the truth of how and when we might be heard.

I saw a quote from George Saunders today from the Paris Review and I have questions:

“To write a decent story is such a huge and unlikely accomplishment that we shouldn’t care how long it takes. How much time would you be willing to spend to create something that lasts forever?”

What constitutes forever? There are probably hundreds of thousands of decent stories that will never be published. Are they immortal? There are tens of thousands of good stories that will never grace the pages of a print journal or a beautifully crafted electronic magazine. Tens of thousands of very good stories shuffle off to the same fate. Great ones, too. Kafka died with no reason to assume the apotheosis of his work.

In the main, though, Saunders is right. It can be hard to remember because we’re all mostly dealing with the local and specific.

I read this line in Lot 49 today, which seems to get right to the point:

The illustrations were woodcuts, executed with that crude haste to see the finished product that marks the amateur.

And so there you have it.

I Love You When You’re Pretty

This piece was published maybe 10 years ago at a venue that no longer exists. When I first started publishing short fiction, there were many new, experimental web journals. Many of them were very good. Many good ones still exist, but many are, as David Thomas might say, now ghost-towns.

This piece also appeared in the first edition of my chapbook, What Other People Heard When I Taught Myself to Speak. That manuscript is going through some new revisions with a second edition coming sometime in the spring.

I Love You When You’re Pretty

When you said hi, I didn’t see you in her fitted polka dots and your hair like a USO girl and your legs in heels. Everyone is beautiful in your grandma’s pictures but we dress with conscience now, buffing out your curves or the square cut of my shoulders with fair-trade cotton. What right do you have, anyway, in eye shadow and stockings, wearing lipstick I can only see close? What right do I have, now, to closeness, to feel like cigarettes won’t kill me and sex is not transaction? What right to be pretty? And to love you when you are?

Liam in London

But as a Mancunian whose teens were set to a soundtrack of Oasis, Liam could have come out and played Wonderwall on his iPhone and I’d still think he was the coolest man alive. 

That’s a great line from Stefan Kyriazis.

As a Pennsylvanian whose teens were set to the same three albums, I know what he means.

There’s no real American analogue to Oasis. By convention, I should have been listening to Nirvana for a few years already when Oasis got to American top 40. And, I mean, I was, because it was impossible not to. But I’ll just be honest. Nirvana always seemed too privileged.

Oasis was swaggering, life-affirming, sneeringly ironic but also really, truly earnest. Liam packed about a million miles into what he did with the simplest of things (namely, vowels). Show me another frontman who, standing still with his hands clasped behind his back, could electrify hundreds of thousands of people.