Thursday, July 31, 2008


There was no sign that said you couldn’t walk on the grass.
Yet it felt like an intrusion.
She did not trample, but it felt like trampling. Tiny animal life screaming underfoot, the clouds for the afternoon torrential rains already brewing.

Lately, she had taken to carrying herself inside her mind, like she carried her characters. To be observed and weighed, perhaps to be loved, perchance to be killed. One more in her stable of spirits. She did not relish the scrutiny. (It made her understand a character’s inherent need for mutiny. Yet you could not grant them full control over their destiny. How can I love you, if you are not mine? How can I kill you, if you were not mine? If you will not be pinned down on the keys of the Underwood, how can I let you scurry away last minute, free, into the undergrowth?)

Would she hold up?

Was she the new arrival she would fall for, fast, as she was wont to do?

The sun stung her eyes.

It felt like an intrusion.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Excerpted from Table 1 from a report for the Congressional Research Service, written by Stephen Daggett, dated July 24, 2008.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


She had a dream about her baby.

He had grown into a boy.
He sang badly, but with a passion.
He wrote short stories, each ending with a small epiphany, not to describe his life but what he thought his life was lacking. He brushed at his face with hasty, abstracted nobility and knocked away not fingers but a large spider.
He turned to her.
I get it, he said.
A world is raging outside my windows.
We’re all done for.

No, she answered, cradling his head in her arm. (If she wasn’t careful, this could easily turn into a stranglehold.) Life is essentially endless. If we accept the scarcity of insight, we need to live on endlessly, my baby, do we not? (Oh, she was careful with that boy, she was.)

He handed her his latest piece.

Do you like my style?

Style does not matter, she said. Style is just avoiding your deficiencies. But for future reference, you might consider this: Parricidal stories are so parochial.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


A little while ago, sultry S. and I decided we needed a side project. Something of our own, you know, something for us, know what I’m saying? So we decided to do a romance novel. Romance being our strong suit and all.

First things first. My girl and I sat down and brainstormed on a nom de plume. We found the perfect name. Amanda Woodward.

Here’s some stuff Amanda wrote:
As always, the butler did it.
Butlers are carefully selected to be handsome, tall, and most of all discreet.
They disappear into the background, they blend with the décor. I can assure you, he blended well with mine.
It was the butler, then, who did it. Or rather: Who did me.
Shit like that. Wry stuff. Hemingway in black lace panties.* You get the idea.

Then it was brought to our attention that the name Amanda Woodward was already taken. It is the name of Heather Locklear’s character on the FOX soap Melrose Place. The one in micro skirts, remember? She who put the “bitch” in “business lunch”? How could we have forgotten?

Which proved disastrous to our venture for two reasons:
(a) By crypto-plagiarizing the name of a hero of daytime television pop culture, we clearly laid bare our ignorance concerning the audience we had in mind for Mandy’ writerly endeavors,
But also:
(b) In doing so (including laying bare our cluelessness) we demonstrated quite conclusively that Mandy Woodward was, indeed, the perfect nom de plume for our projected author.

And so we pulled the plug.

And that is how I ended up at Magnums Butlers: At Your Service!

*Love the way it shapes his junk!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


In case you were still wondering why the Democrats were so eager to pass the FISA amendment that grants amnesty/immunity to the telecoms.

As Max Liebermann said, in 1933, looking down from his Pariser Platz balcony upon the marching hordes:
Ich kann gar nicht so viel essen, wie ich kotzen möchte.

(Go google it.)

Or to cite a more contemporary source:

Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.

(Google that too. And while you're at it, for us Atlantans: Go google Man-Shaped Wreath.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Let's get completely self-referential here for a sec. Over at ConversationalReading, Scott Esposito (who is currently in the lead in the competition for most creative respelling of my last name) links to your humble servant's blog, including the following awfully sweet statement:

I find it amazing that a guy capable of writing this on his blog didn't get better publicity in the States.
Or, as I like to rephrase it:

If a writer chops down a tree in a forest to make paper for his novel and nobody hears about it, does that novel still exist?
Which, if one transposes oneself, purely theoretically of course, in the mindset of such an author:
If his novel might just as well not exist, isn't the writer better off to chop down a second tree and make sure to stand in its path when it falls?
To which this writer says:
Or at least let it squash his writing hand.
Such gloomy thoughts, my friends! And it's only Saturday!

If I ever meet Scott, he'll get a big hug, one-armed or not.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


UPDATE: I bow humbly and humbled to MBR and Fausto Maijistral -- see Comments #1 and #4. I let my original post stand below for purely historical reasons, then -- as if any further proof of my hotheadedness and literary illiteracy were necessary. Soon my shame will take over and it will be deleted. Historical sense doesn't last longer than a week in this country anyway, right? And here's to hoping that today's post (on a certain 'leaked' image from the ramp-up to the Dem convention, two entries up) will prove to be equally wrong -- the logos on that bag MUST be photoshopped, right? No? Please?


From the 'A note from the author's heirs' that opens the galleys of 2666, Roberto Bolaño's final novel:

Realizing that death would be near, Roberto left instructions for his novel 2666 to be published divided into five books corresponding to the five parts of the novel, specifying the order in which they should appear, at what intervals (one per year), and even the price to be negotiated with the publisher. [...] After his death respect for the literary value of the work [emphasis PV] [...] caused us [...] to reverse Roberto's decision and publish 2666 first in full, in a single volume [...]

In other words: You only
wrote this thing, so FUCK YOU and why should we respect your wishes?

I say: pox on Bolaño's moneygrubbing heirs and pox on his shithead publishers.

Art is free, the artist made his wishes more than clear, and all you care about is the quick buck.

See also: Nabokov's son and Nabokov.

There are of course bigger literary-heir fuck-yous to take care of -- George W. Bush and the Constitution, and Barack Obama and the Fourth Amendment, for starters -- but still: Kindly remind me to never publish with FSG. Or Anagrama.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Some days age, I was asked to do an 'interview' for a campaign the Flemish government is running under a title that roughly translates as 'Look over the fence'. They are renting space in one of the big-circulation newspapers for a series of ads that feature a Fleming living abroad and a 'foreigner' living in Belgium. (I added some scare quotes, because the first one in the series is a writer of Turkish origin who immigrated with his parents at age 3. Here in the States, we wouldn't consider such a person a foreigner. We might see her/him as different, but s/he'd be definitely American.)


I did this thing, it got boiled down to 1,668 characters, and then the journalist who was doing this asked me for 3 tips for people who want to make it in the States.

Here were my three tips:

1. Be good at what you do.
2. Make sure everyone else knows you are good at what you do.
3. Stay good at what you do.

(I was tempted to go a tad more Vonnegutian on their asses, but I'll save that for when an American outlet asks me the same question.)

This got mangled in the final piece. It was published as '3 tips'. For life, I suppose.

Which makes me realize that the three things needed to make it in America (and I firmly stand by those -- one day I'll make it here, oh yeah!, just by the power of my writerly competence and a big fat bullhorn), are not the ones you need (a) to make it in life, or -- or especially -- (b) to be a good, or even decent human being.

I am not in the mood today to draw conclusions.
But I do see a thought crowning there, and with a little push it will slither out and start screaming in my face. And then suck my nipples dry.