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Happy Bloom’s Day!

Just because I didn’t Like Ulysses, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the day on which the story takes place. In good irish fashion, the day should be celebrated with copious amounts of whiskey, or at the very least, Guennis.

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Vacation

My sister in law is coming to town for two weeks so until the end of the month I probably won’t be posting much. So the three of you who read this with any regularity will just have to wait until July. But I promiss a few surprises then.

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I just got back from my quest to find Father’s Day cards (Oh, how I hate the Halmark Company and their fake holidays!!! But that’s another story). I prefer to get the blank cards so I can write my own messages because, frankly the mass produced sentiments are either stupid, schmaltzy or both. But the only blank cards I could find today (and I went to three places) all had American flags on the cover. Which just proves what I’ve suspected for some time: patriotic flag waving is just a mask for vapid sentiment.

This message braught to you by your local chapter of the Snarky Pessamist’s Society. Support your local SPS. Or don’t. They won’t like you either way.

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The First Rule is, Buy Your Own Flowers…

I was talking about Mrs. Dalloway with my wife the other night, how, even though I love Virginia Wolff’s prose, the way she builds sentences and uses words, I didn’t like the book. I had thought about it for some time and came to the conclusion that it was because Mrs. Dalloway is a book written explicitly for women. Now normally I don’t buy into the gender warfare crap. I love the Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington and have read a few Agatha Christy stories that were really good. But I just didn’t get Mrs. Dalloway. I wanted something to happen. Anything. But it never did.

Elvira (El-vee-ta) said how she understood it because every other character in the book, no matter how trivial was centered around Clarisa Dalloway in such an intricate manner, that you didn’t need for anything to happen, that it was all about repression and how one women finds ways to act out through the lives of others and escape her own restrictions, even the ones that were self imposed.

This got me thinking. I realized that there was a men’s book that was a direct corollary to Mrs. Dalloway: Fight Club. Everyone in Chuck Palahniuk’s book is obsessed with Tyler Durden from Marla to the Narator. It’s only at the end that the Narrator realizes he is Tyler Durden and that he’s been trying to find a way out of his own repressed situations, some of which, like the ones with Marla, are self imposed. Of course in Fight Club, he reaizes this through acts of terrorism.

But that’s the difference between Mrs. Wolff and Mr. Palahniuk, between women and men: when men are frustrated and feel trapped by society, we beat the crap out of other frustrated men; women go buy flowers for a dinner party.

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Soul of an Old Poet

I met an Old Poet at the cemetery gates one day when I was just a boy. We walked and talked and I asked him if he was here to visit someone and he says to me, he says, “Son, I’m here to lay my old bones next to my wife who died here thirty years ago today.” And he goes on and tells me, “My soul’s heavy and I’m tired a caryin” it ’round this here old world. Good soul though, served me well and kept me out of some things and gotten me into others and it’s a shame to just give it up so…”

I say to him, “I’ll buy that old soul from you, so you’ll know it’ll be in a good place.” And I offered him a bottle of wine I’d brought with me to feed to my grandpa’s ghost. The Old Poet, he drank the whole thing down in one gulp and then corked the bottle and handed it to me and then lay down right there on his old woman’s grave and died.

I’ve still got the bottle. It’s at home on my windowsill, still corked. One day I’ll take that bottle down and pop the cork and listen to the Old Poet’s soul, swinging from the trees and laughing at the Moon.

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I know when I’m beat. I can admit that. I’m an adult, Iafter all. And it’s not an easy thing to admit. I pride myself on being well read, possesed by a bodacious capacity to understand and interpolate the intricacies of complex literature. But, I’ve been bested on this one. You might as well know it now and better to hear it from me then someone else:

Ulysses has kicked my ass.

I’ve attempted to read this book no less then six times in the last eight years and for the life of me, I simply cannot get past chapter three. I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that the damn thing is simply unreadable. And it’s not that I just don’t get James Joyce. I enjoyed Dubliners. Thought the author had real potential.

And the thing is I really want to like this book and not just because it’s the silver sword that seperates the true literati from the mere amatures. I don’t care about it’s reputation as the literary equivalent of the Holy Grail. No. Mostly I want to appreciate it because Robert Anton Wilson does. I’ve been reading Wilson for ten years and though I have yet to meet the man in person I feel that he has been a great teacher to me. And he loves Ulysses. His favorite book. But I can’t help but suspect that the Ulysses he reads and enjoys is not the Ulysses I have wrestled with for so long (I mean, yes I know it isn’t the same; that we all make a text different by what we bring to it, etc. but damn it, I’m beginning to think he aquired a copy of Ulysses from the Universe Next Door, where it was written by a James Joyce who wasn’t a pretentious twat given to lengthy bouts of mental masturbation).

Frankly, the book is just nonsense. And not the fun sort of Richard Brautigan nonsense. I’ve read In Watermelon Sugar a half a dozen times and I enjoy it every single time, all the way through. I don’t for a minute pretend to understand half of it. But I’m blown away by the Silent Black Sun on Fridays, the Green Ruins, the tigers teaching the nameless narator arithmatic while they eat his parents. This is cohernet nonsense. Not like Ulysses at all. That’s just gibberish peppered with Latin obscurities and Gaelic inside jokes.

If I were on a desert island with a copy of In Watermelon Sugar, Alice in Wonderland or even Gormenghast, I could enjoy it because I wouldn’t need anything else to enable me to enjoy it. Ulysses is not a Desert Island book; it requires a library full of dictionaries and anotated texts to make it even lucid, let alone enjoyable. I imagine that would take large quantaties of dubious drugs. And then it simply isn’t worth it.

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Started reading Gormenghast last night. Actually, I should say I started reading Titus Groan, first book in the Gormenghast trilogy. I tried reading it about a year ago but att he time I decided it was moving too slowly. I don’t mind intricate, fanciful books about weird people; I prefer them and in fact that’s what I like to write. But Gormenghast is so slooooooowwwwwwwww……. But I thought I’d give it another try, this time, just to enjoy Mervyn Peake’s prose and let the story wash over me. I think this is how you should read Gormenghast as it seems to be about place rather than time.

Normally I try to stear clear of such hefty books. I know, that sounds horrible but come on, if you can’t tell a story in 200 pages or less, it means you are eityher trying to say too much or don’t have anything to say and are just spinning out verbage (I’m looking at you, Stephen King!) If you’re saying too much, pair down the focus and save the excess for another book. If you aren’t saying anything, then go make Music Videos and stop killing trees.

The way I look at it, Fiction falls into two basic types: The Encyclopedic and the Evocative. The Encyclopedic books are just that; hugangous tomes over 400 pages long that give you the most miniscule details about the character’s– what brand of toothpaste they prefer and how when they were seven and they stole that apple from the neighbor’s orchard and blah blah blah. Some people like this sort of minute detail. These people are anal retentive and need to seek profeshional help.

The Evocative books are the ones that read like poetry. They have a lightness of touch to them that is similar to Haiku; the author displays a comand of language that allows him to speak volumes with just a few carefully chosen descriptives. These are the books I am constantly seeking to bothg read and write and thankfully, their are a lot of them, mostly by modern authors: Herman Hesse, Ray Bradberry, Paul Auster, Neil Gaiman (for the most part).

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that so many of the conventions of the novel are well known, so that author’s can now feel free to use shorthand when dealing with them. 200 years ago, people neaded to have everything explained but now, we’ve become comfortable with mystery and ambiguity and can fill in the blanks left by the author.

Also I think the popularity of film has helped with this. People are now comfortable with montage and jump cutting so that author’s can experiement with filmic techniques without feeling that they are betraying their craft or neccesarily speaking over the heads of their audience (Like a certain Mr. Joyce who liked to pepper his stories with Latin witicisms and Gaelic obscurities).

Or, maybe I’m just a child of the Media Age with a short attention span.

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I just read over at Aint It Cool News that Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) will be directing a film adaptation of The Master and Margarita. As if it isn’t cool enough that one of my all time favorite books will be made into a film, it will star Johnny Depp as Woland and Famke Jensen as Margarita. No word yet on who will be the Master. My vote is for Ian Holm but that’s just me. But, BUT, I’m giddy with the news!!!

To anyone who has never read the Master and Margarita, go to Amazon now (link above) and buy the book. You will not be disapointed.

the Devil comes to Moscow at the hight of Soviet Russia (circa 1938) acomponied by a couple of demons including Behemoth, a vodka drinking, chess playing cat who walks upright and talks. Since, according to Communist ideology, there is no God and no Devil, no one believes in him but that only makes it easier for the Devil to spread chaos, sending people to the mad house and ultimately, uniting two lovers forever. it’s a fable, a love story, a satire, all set within the framework of the Faust story. Bulgakov is a master writer and I can’t recomend this book enough.

This tiny review doesn’t really do th ebook justice. trust me though. it’s worth reading, several times.

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Is it possible to have too much time on your hands? I think it is. See, for the last three months or so, I’ve been working at my friend Shelly’s Gym, selling bananas and leotards to little girls. Not a bad job; heck, it’s a lot more fun then the four months I spent working at the Gap. Now there is a blackhole of fun.

“So, Keith what do you do?”

“I fold pants. Pants! I fold pants for a living!!! Ha, ha, ha!!!” (and then I run away laughing and try to fold the pants of people who are still in them).

OK, so it’s not that bad but you see my point. I don’t have much in the way of responasabilities at this job and I only work 12 hours a week. So I have plenty of free time to work on my writing. Too much time I’m beginning to think.

See, when I was writing The Tragic Circus, I was working 32 hours a week at Barnes & Noble (at least I was when I started writing the book). I had barely enough time to write then so when a free hour or two opened up I would sit down and madly pound on the keyboard. I had a sense of urgency. Soon, I would have to go to work or leave early so I could pick up cat food or pay a bill or something. I fit my writing into my schedule when I could so it was precious time.

Now I have nothing but time. I work 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. I can run errands and play on the internet and watch a movie and still have time to write before I go to work. The problem is, without the urgancy of having to fit the writing in to a free hour, I think of it as something I can do later. First I’ll check my e-mail, catch up on the news. Then drink heavily to ward off the depression that brings, then maybe take a nap. Before I know it, it’s 3:30 and time for me to leave for work and I’ve gotten diddly squat written.

But the good news is I’ll be starting Grad School here in late August so I’ll have less free time. Imagine all the writing I’ll get done then!