There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda… . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning… .
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave… .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
Hunter S. Thompson
Did you know you can nominate anything for the Pulitzer just by paying 50 bucks(entry fee)? I’m going to do that so I can put that on my resume. Hopefully my bosses don’t catch on, and instead are like “Holy Crap! Lets give this guy money!”
Aaron Goldfarb is a pretty smart writer and I’ll admit he was the guy who first brought this to my attention.
E-books are changing the way people read books. I’m not talking about form factor, I’m talking about content. Here’s three thoughts:
1) E-books have to be cheap because people don’t like paying a lot of money for something they don’t physically own
2) But more importantly they have to be cheap because books are becoming disposable. You aren’t competing for a person’s dollar. You’re competing for their time.
And these leads to:
3) Short stories are going to make a comeback. Huge novels aren’t going to die away, but a lot of people do their reading on their commute or on breaks. They need “get in, get out” fixes. Books aren’t just competing with other books. They’re competing with blogs, facebook comments, tumblr posts etc. Lean sharp stories will get people.
Aaron Goldfarb, who has his own short story collection, notes that short stories don’t sell super well. I think this is a problem of marketing. People like short stories but the genre has been mired in 4 decades of academia writing about suburban families talking about ennui, anomie and other words that sound like what a cute mouse would use as a catchphrase in a French children’s film.
Just a thought:
I think my perfect writing nook would have to have several things. First of all, It would need to be small, and minimalistic. Like closet small. Barely big enough to sit in, but minimal so that it wouldn’t feel claustrophobic. Everything would need to be in reach from one spot pretty much.The desk itself needs to be HUGE, like art desk huge, and flat and simple. No books. In the writing nook, I write. Getting distracted by reading is too easy.
Secondly, natural lighting, like a huge window that looks outside on a non-distracting view. Something simple, not a street or something like that, unless it was second story and you wouldn’t have people passing your view all the time. At night, there would have to be good lighting, so Christmas lights, and those lights that are at the same color temp as sunshine. Got beat back seasonal depression in the dark etc.
Thirdly, a huge surround sound system would be awesome. Something that could just drown me in noise would be a huge help. It’s not just music, but also sound, white noise, rain loops etc. Nothing better than having all your sense of hearing overtaken by a tidal wave of audio.
Fourthly, a water cooler. I’m not much for drinking anything other than water (and maybe absinthe or rum), so an easy access water cooler would be good.Possible someway of getting sweet iced tea too. I drink it. I drink it like it’s drugs.
Another nice thing would be just some kind of basic constant air freshener. Like a plug in or something. Yeah, that’s a small thing, but having a good scent around me really puts me in a good mood. Actually a candle here would be really nice since the flame is a feel good kind of thing. I’m partial to more masculine scents, like pine, and cinnamon. Not a fan of many flowers, except maybe rose, if it’s mixed with something spicy.
This is sort of a maybe. It could be a bad thing but having some kind of non-intrusive company would be good. A sleeping kitten perhaps. Someone who doesn’t talk, and doesn’t bark and doesn’t do much other than sit and be warm.No pooping in the nook though.
Lastly, in addition to being mostly bare, the desk would also need to be both a standing, and sitting desk. I like to stand when I work. Hemingway did himself. I find it gives me more energy, and helps with circulation. For sitting, the chair would need to be a straight back, sturdy wood chair. Too soft a chair, and I end up turning into a puddle. No motivation.
From the I09 article “I wrote 100 terrible short stories that I’m glad you’ll never read”
By the third or fourth travel mug of nuclear-grade depth-charged Mountaineer Blend, the ideas were flowing, and I was cranking out story after demented story. I was going for a sort of gonzo sensibility, Don Webb meets Kathy Acker meets J.G. Ballard, with a large dose of Iain M. Banks. And with enough java in my bloodstream, I felt as though my mania could pass for genius. There was nothing more exhilerating than the thrill of just getting words on a page, especially if those words were wrapped around the weirdest ideas my mind could dream up.
An apocalypse that only obese people survive? Gold! A space princess foils an assassination attempt via exploding cactus gentalia? Best idea ever. A spaceship’s faster-than-light drive runs on human guilt, and the ship becomes stranded because one crewmember is incapable of feeling guilty? Why not?! Vomit-eating sewer monsters are bombarding women with subliminal messages to make them bulimic? Storytelling greatness. Sylvia Plath’s poetry is secretly about aliens who have been living among us and plotting to take over? Absolutely! Oh, and then there was my “lesbian dung beetle family values” story, which is kind of hard to sum up in a sentence
This has been my life for the past year. In ten days I’ll be done. The author has a lot of great stuff to say. Keep writing.
Travelling salesmen are dead. It’s a hokey American archetype that is as dead as a hobo. However, my job is just that. I don’t sell vacuum cleaners, or whatever. I sell drugs. I go to clinic to clinic selling my companies brand of anti-depressants. My job is to secure their loyal prescriptive services. It’s not a bad job. I don’t really care.
A six hour drive to get to the next major metropolitan area. I make my rounds to the west coast yearly, and there’s always a stretch of desert that just goes on, with not a doctor’s office in sight. One time, I passed through a town with two houses, one tree, and not a scrub brush for miles. It had a population of 9, and next to the houses was an ambulance on cinder blocks, I’m guessing in case they got sick. By the time I pull into the fluorescent white outskirts, I can already smell the smoke and I’m ready to collapse. I barley look at the guy at the front desk. I fumble with the key and collapse fully dressed on the motel bed.
Get up, and I’ve first got to talk to our area product supervisor. I’m taking the train. The traffic isn’t worth it. The station is almost empty, as the morning rush is currently over except for the poor souls locked on the last stretch of human pile ups. I get on an empty car and sit down to look over my agenda.
A stop. A passenger enters next to me. A few stops later, he gets off, and I glance up. His face looks… really familiar. I can’t quite place him. Brown short hair, grey eyes, a dimple in his chin and a little red on his face where he’s shaved.
Where have I seen him before? I see thousands of people a year. Maybe millions. I’m just going from place to place. It’s been 15 years now, and the cycle blurs together. Everybody just starts blurring together. They all look the same. I’ve seen him somewhere.
I get off the train, and I begin walking through the terminal. A few people pass me. My face is buried in my agenda book. Reading the directions. I’m deep in concentration, then I’m shocked out of, walked around a corner, nearly ran into someone. A flash of gray eyes, but I keep walking. Grey eyes. Hmmm, weird. Grey eyes.
Next to the subway exit there’s a man begging for change. I don’t look. I don’t want to see him. Not my problem right? How am I supposed to deal with this right? I can’t help him. I feel like it’s not really helping him, its just gnawing away at some other larger issue. A flicker of guilt and I look out of the corner of my eye. Brown hair. Grey eyes. I’ve seen him before.
The man on the train. The guy behind the hotel reception! They all look the same. A silly thought. No, just keep walking, and then I’m out on the street. I look around, and see a thousand faces, all the same. Brown hair, grey eyes. It’s a city of strangers, a pile of ants and everyone’s the same.
Okay. Okay this is weird. I edge over to a public restroom and slip inside. I stand at a urinal, nervously swallowing, trying not to look around as a body snatcher walks behind me. I take a few deep breathes. I go over the sink, splash water on my face, and then look up at the mirror.
I see myself. Brown hair. Grey eyes.
Trapped. I feel trapped, and I can’t make the choice.
So instead I just sit on the computer and surf the internet. My hand runs on automatic. An empty buzzing fades into my chest, like a hive of bees. I’m agitated but I don’t want to move. My mind keeps telling me that I must be overheating, that this room is too hot, but my fingers feel cold and I put on a coat. The buzzing sensation wraps around me, and overwhelms my brain, which is like gridlock on a cold day trying to melt its way out of my skull. My hands fold to my side. I think about the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Don’t want to go. Waiting to go. Can’t go. Trapped between future and present and a whole lot of past. The buzzing hums in my chest, this nervous agitation pumps in my body like poison. It’s empty, colorless, with no taste, or smell. Just a rough texture against the back of my neck. I’m not even mad enough to grind my teeth. My molars hover each other, locked in stasis. I’d rather be slack jaw asleep or gritting my teeth in anger, or anything, a direction please. Instead I fold my hands again.
A choice. I have to make some choice. I will make the choice. I’ll do it, but let me click on something else first. Let’s just tick off one more thought, before we talk about that one.
The buzzing constricts around my head, and there is no thought. Just being, stuck in this body, buried alive inside myself. I’m trapped inside this head, and I can’t get out.
I woke up, on the day that I died, with a grin on my face.
There I lay in my bed and my closed eyes looking up at the ceiling. My eyes had an unconscious thousand mile stare. That’s when they burst to life.
My eyelids flash open and a smile crawls across my face. Today was the day I was going to die. I sprang from my bed, my feet splashed across the ground with thuds like hailstones on a tin roof. I raced out the door, my feet trailing a tangled bedsheet. I hopped down the hallway, patted the dog on the head, tumbled down the stairs, two at a time, landing with a crash at the bottom. Planted. Landed. 10.0 score from the judges. Took those last 5 stairs in a bound.
I slam into the bar peninsula where breakfast sits. Golden scrambled eggs steam with light oily cheese. I enjoy every bite. I hug my Mom, tell her how much I love her. I spend a few minutes in conversation with my dad. I ask him one important thing that I’ve always wanted to know. He tells me how he makes his scrambled eggs. I give him a hug. I kiss my mom. I explode out the door.
Do you wonder how I die? It comes at the end. Hold on a second.
I run through the streets. I dart across the street, a car rushed behind me. I can feel the wind of it on the back of my neck. I think about kites and beaches I once knew. I mull old thoughts over as my legs pump. I can feel it like lightening in my veins. My head pumps and I can feel my lungs stretched like spiderwebs in a storm. Fresh, new, swift. The sweat runs down my hot face, and it smells like salt.
I arrive at the park, and sit down with my girlfriend. Tragic young love right? A dying young lover sits under a tree. I stay there for the rest of the day until the suns goes down.
I walk here home in the blue haze and then make my way back to my own home. I see an old friend on his porch. We talk late into the night. The moths flick around the cold blue light. When four in the morning comes around, we part ways and I finally find myself rolling into bed. That’s the end, and I go to sleep.
Prompt: “I woke up, on the day that I died, with a grin on my face.”
Six months after becoming homeless, I feel more than a lifetime away from the way things used to be. I was, you could say, homeless by choice. By that I mean I ran away, which is the kind of things kid’s books always fantasize about, but kids never do. I mean, it’s the thing we want to do, but never have the courage to do.
Maybe you want to know if it was abuse or neglect that made me run away. Or maybe a neurotic upbringing with a doctor and a lawyer for parents. Maybe it was nothing at all. Whatever it is, I died that night, that I packed all my things in my old Ford F100 pickup truck and drove out of our gravel driveway into the night.
The dead bring baggage and my past lives in the back of my mind, like a coke bottle fading in the back of the pickup truck. When I was a kid, I would always make a sandwich and put it in a bag with a book. After I read Robinson Crusoe I also packed a pocket knife I had found on the side of the road, smelling like asphalt and hot engine oil. Then I would run off down the dirt road that lead from my house to the main highway. I wouldn’t get far before I heard barking. I was afraid of dogs. I usually ran back within 45 minutes, and ate my sandwich on the steps waiting for the sun to go down.
What held me? What baggage did I keep? I had always thought, accepted as fact, that my life was my life and there was no real changing it. But I could, and I did when I left that night. There is always a choice for me. I don’t like all the outcomes but my shackles are mental, not real.
You don’t think you can run away. You don’t think you can make it. You can.
Prompt: Some old memories.