Friday, February 8, 2013

Odds 'n Ends

Before Nemo really kicks in and we (hopefully don't) lose power, here's a quick update on some things I'm working on:

CURRENTLY WRITING: I'm planning to enter a short story competition with an upcoming March 1 deadline. The competition asks writers to submit stories inspired by specific paintings from a Maine artist. It was a good exercise scrolling through the paintings, waiting for the seed of inspiration to sprout. What I came up with is quite short in length (about 2,000 words under the 5,000 word limit), but I really wanted it to be a snapshot of an intense moment in time. I sent it off to my writing group, for  critique this Wednesday. I don't want to jinx myself by posting it here, but depending on how things shake out, this piece may make a blog appearance in the future.

Donald Ray Pollack. I just started Knockemstiff.
Oh, the joy of finishing a book and deciding which one to start next! Back in October/November, I had a birthday coupon for Longfellow Books. I went in looking for Growing Up Dead in Texas by Stephen Graham Jones. They didn't have it, but through some back-and-forth with the bookstore guy, he recommened Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock. It's always interesting to get recommendations, particularly if someone suggests something because it reminds them of your own work or personality. In this case, I think it was just something that the bookstore guy had recently read and loved. Either way, Knockemstiff has been un-opened on my nightstand for much too long, and I'm excited to dig in.

JUST FINISHED READING: Is anyone sick of listening to me talk about David Foster Wallace yet If so, you'll be happy to know I finally finished A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I've always had a borderline obsessive tendency to write down quotes, and what better place to collect them than on the blogosphere? It was a little surreal going back to the pages I'd folded down, kind of like opening a mystery box, not sure what I would find. Trying to remember what drew me to those sentences in particular, especially since I did most of my reading right before bed, with my mind in a strange and lucid, dream-state. So, without further ado, below are some DFW quotes from A Supposedly Fun Thing...

"...the very most important artistic communications took place at a level that not only wasn't intellectual but wasn't even fully conscious, that the unconscious's true medium wasn't verbal but imagistic..."

This thought was offered in relation to Lynch's Blue Velvet. What I like about it is the verbal and imagistic implications. In writing, I think the primary goal is to create effective images, though the medium itself requires use of words, which is a kind of verbal device.

"Lynch's movies are not about monsters (i.e. people whose intrinsic natures are evil) but about hauntings, about evil as environment, possibility, force."

"Darkness is in everything, all the time - not 'lurking below' or 'lying in wait' or 'hovering on the horizon': evil is here, right now. And so are Light, love, redemption (since these phenomena are also, in Lynch's work, forces and spirits), etc."

It's interesting to wonder if there are forces that cause a person (real or imagined) to commit certain acts. I saw a news segment over the summer that linked heat to violence. When temperatures skyrocket to their hottest, crime rates also surge. It makes a good backdrop for a story. How environment can weigh on a character, push them into acting in a way that's more aligned with the ever-present darkness or light.

"Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I'm starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life's sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path...But since it's my own choices that'll lock me in, it seems unavoidable - if I want  to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them." 

This really reminded me of a part in The Bell Jar, where Esther is imagining all the things she could do with her life, options spreading out and blooming like a fig tree. It has a similarly claustrophobic feel to it. Decisions start to close life around her, and she further wonders if the figs she imagines were ever actually available to her at all.