Saturday, January 30, 2010

empty out the parking meters

I didn't like the Alice books because I found them creepy and horribly unfunny in a nasty, plonking, Victorian way. Oh, here's Mr. Christmas Pudding On Legs, hohohoho, here's a Caterpillar Smoking A Pipe, hohohoho. When I was a kid the books created in me about the same revulsion as you get when, aged seven, you're invited to kiss your great-grandmother.

The above quote summarizes Terry Pratchett's feelings about Lewis Carroll. Hard to argue with him, but he's sniffed out the main reason I like Carroll. There's something sinister beneath all the quirky Victorian wordplay, and I really liked how he balanced that out. The Mad Hatter's tea party is goofy, but the Hatter is so chaotic (meaning alternately silly and deadly serious about his Rules) that I feel like he could snap and kick the table over at any moment. Which isn't a new observation or anything, but the first Alice book has a very malicious subtext throughout that I really like. It's amazing how well he balanced that with the frivolity of the narrative voice for so long.

So, uh, yeah. Take THAT, Terry Pratchett.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fiction - A letter to Poe, written on his birthday

To Mr. Poe's corpse,

My name is Toombs, and I have most urgent business with you. I do apologize, however, for the frankness of my salutation. Years of formal schooling have done me well, but not well enough to know the proper greeting for the deceased. My only hope is that you will sympathize, seeing as you were a frightfully awkward man in life and would thus understand my hesitance.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

we're excited about learning

So one of the books I got for my Experimental Forms class is The Age of Wire and String, a collection of appropriately weird short fiction by Ben Marcus. I jumped the gun by a few weeks by starting it, but my prof. said it was the roughest brainfuck on the syllabus (not his exact wording), and lord knows I can't resist THAT kind of challenge. And yes, it's weird. I like it so far, though.

Marcus also wrote something in Harper's as a response to Jonathan Franzen's nervous hand-wringing about what fame does to writers, and how fiction compares (and loses out) to other modes of entertainment. Marcus gives him a pretty sound drubbing overall, but this part of his response jumped out at me.

Franzen has argued that complex writing, as practiced by writers such as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett and their descendants, is being forced upon readers by powerful cultural institutions (this is me scanning the horizon for even the slightest evidence of this) and that this less approachable literature, or at least its esteemed reputation, is doing serious damage to the commercial prospects of the literary industry.

Uh, dude, been to college lately? I know he teaches at one, so he can't seriously deny that there are intellectual litmus tests in fiction, and that powerful cultural institutions DO force complex writing on a portion of the American readership, and insist that no one in said readership qualifies as a Literary Mind unless they like Joyce, or Marquez, or Burroughs, or Woolf, or whoever. Now, challenging a collegiate audience with the above authors is fine, welcome even, but there is often little room in that kind of academic environment for asking if their work is relevant or interesting, as well as experimental. "Who gives a shit?" is not an invalid response to work that's just weird for the sake of it. Marcus' larger point, that this attitude doesn't extend to readers beyond academia, stands up fine, but I feel that he ignored certain things to get there.

And I'm not saying that the question of "who gives a shit?" can't be answered in a fulfilling and enlightening way; that very process is often the thrust of higher education. I am saying that the question shouldn't automatically be barred from the discussion of experimental literature, and that haughty appeals to authority aren't a useful substitute for guiding people through bouts of overwrought intellectual masturbation (Tao Lin, Burroughs, this means you) to moments of clarity or insight.

Anyway, just an immediate reaction there. I'mma go get food.

posting from class

I'm posting from class right now. Sadly, I'm caught between learning and creating, which has sapped me of anything amusing or interesting to put here. Luckily for me, the Internet has tons of crazy crap on it, just BEGGING to replace my suffering wit.

This evil clown seems like a good enough start. Timely too, since I'm about to start editing last year's NaNoWriMo project, which is all about clowns. Not evil ones, granted. The novel takes place in a university for clowns and mimes, so it's more of a post-modern academic setting than anything else. But I just couldn't refuse this evil clown. Look at him. Don't you just want to tickle him under the chin? B'awww. Evil clown.

Anyway, I should be paying attention to my professor, so I'll end here. You'll be hearing more about my novel and other writing projects throughout the semester, I'm sure, and possibly afterwards.