What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing

Reading:

Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction, Charles Baxter

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

Blanco, Allen Wier

I’ve written a short (1200 words) essay about one of the pieces in the Baxter collection and sent it to a few places. I may run it here soon. One of the interesting things about Burning Down the House is that it was written 20 years ago the first essay, “Mistakes Were Made,” anticipates the narrative dysfunction gripping what’s left of the national discourse.

Hemingway is a re-read. I’m enjoying most of it. There are some things I cringe at, which forces me to ask question I probably wasn’t asking as a younger reader (and as a hunger human being).

I recently watched a talk by Allen Wier on YouTube and really liked it. I just started reading his first novel, Blanco. It was published in 1978. I’m only two chapters in, but the writing is tight and I’m excited to see where it goes.

Writing:

I have a second, very brief essay (650 words) out to a few markets. It’s about relationships, which, really, all fiction is.

I have a new short story (5000 words) out for editing, and a second new story sitting at about that length with probably 2000 words to go. It hasn’t stalled, but I have had to put it aside because the final piece of it is, for me, too emotional at the moment.

I’m revising a novel manuscript that I worked on during my MFA. Doing that brings lots of highs and a few lows. There are bursts of new creativity, and characters are doing things that surprise me. My subconscious is planting symbols and loose ends that are being addressed later, the narrative is coming together. I suppose the only thing I’m really afraid of in life (apart, of course, from things involving relationships) is that I won’t finish this project. Not because it’s hard (it is, and should be), but because of the chance that something stupid will stop me in the middle. So, I need to keep that crucible, imposed only by my own anxiety, in check.

I visited with a friend in the hospital this past week and we talked about the things we need to do be in good head space. When I find anxiety medicine working, I eventually forget to take it. He had a good solution: “set an alarm on your phone.” What I’m trying to say is that anxiety is not a great muse. The things I’m reading are helping with the way I’m thinking about narrative structure, and that, in itself, brings some anxiety. But on we go.

On we go.


Tonight’s Reading Plan: Lawrence and Lebowski

I’m reading Lawrence, Hemingway and Anderson.

Tonight, I will read a few chapters in the Sun Also Rises and perhaps a little more of St. Mawr. 

I’m also reading The Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance of Two Gentlemen of Lebowski.

You’re going to want to check that out.  Full disclosure:  I get a small percentage if you buy it through the link. 

I hadn’t heard of this work by Adam Bertocci until my wife bought me a copy as a surprise earlier this week.  The opening scene alone is worth the cover price.

Fourteen Pounds of Books and Gift Receipts

A few weeks ago, I order ordered books from Powell’s. 

When the box arrived on Monday, it weighed 14 pounds.

Saul Bellow, D.H. Lawrence, and Joseph Conrad top the list.  Some things I’ve read before but had not previously owned, and other things that will be new to me.

Reading as a writer, that is, reading to uncover craft, is a much more pleasurable thing to me than what we sometimes mean when we self-consciously say we’re reading for pleasure.

A side note: My used copy of Sons and Lovers has a gift receipt from a Barnes & Noble in Costa Mesa, California from December 19, 2004 inside the cover and a remnant bit of Christmas paper still Scotch-taped to the back.  It was processed into the Powell’s system last January.  Where else has it been?  How did the receipt and the wrapping paper stay connected to this edition for 14 years?  Did someone unwrap it, like it, keep it, and then get rid of it last year?  Or has it been in circulation longer?  The mind already reels, and we haven’t even made it to the Table of Contents or the Timeline of the World of D.H. Lawrence.

I don’t know if that’s of any help to you this Black Friday, but I do recommend buying books.







My Dog Can Read (Stanley Fish and Leo Strauss)

I’ve been writing and workshopping a story about a group of people living on a block of rowhomes and the glimpses they get of each other in passing. To the right you’ll find an excerpt.  Who wouldn’t want a dog like this?

Earlier this morning, I came home from a jaunt outside to find my own dog clearly wanting a walk.  It’s icy and raining here.  My coat and shoes were off.  Then I took a look at what he’d brought me immediately after sensing this thing might not go his way.  It was a typed of piece paper.  The final line of the page?

My dog is smarter than your dog.

I haven’t worked on that story in a while.  I couldn’t even tell you where the manuscript was if I needed to. I’ not saying (I’m just saying.)  He got the walk, of course.  He earned it.

Another of his literary adventures, here.

 

 

(Update: The excerpted piece is collected in What Other People Heard When I Taught Myself to Speak.)