Archive | January, 2008

The End of Auto-Stadler, The Begining of Promise Not to Tell

A note from Matthew Stadler:

If it interests you, I have closed “Matthew Stadler’s Personal Weblog” with a short piece discussing that experiment: www.urbanhonking.com/matthewstadler

Meanwhile, another site I put up continues indefinitely… www.promisenottotell.com

If you weren’t familiar with Matthew Stadler’s blog, he had it written by random people at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Stadler paid 10 bucks for someone to write something based on his sketch. The results were interesting and at first promised to be varied. Gradually they assumed an oddly consistent tone; even more odd considering they were written by random people from around the planet. I once tried to take part, but Matthew works very late into the evening, and I fell asleep before he posted his premise and by the time I woke the global nature of the web had answered Matthew’s call and already there was something on the blog.

Matthew writes in his statement, “The End:” The web is a kind of communal insane person who never stops muttering to himself.

I can somewhat hear the sense in this, but simultaneously I don’t agree with it. The web is no more a person than a city is a person. I think when a person tries to understand any organization or community as if they were a person, it cannot help but appear as an insane person because the metaphor does not hold when applied to the monologue or interior life of the organization. It isn’t a monologue that you are hearing, but a conversation. It isn’t talking to itself. Rather its members are talking.

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Gringos and Other Stories by Michael Rumaker

Gringos and Other Stories by Michael RumakerThe dialogue in Michael Rumaker’s first collection of stories, Gringos and Other Stories, published in 1966 by Grove Press hasn’t aged well. It hasn’t aged well not because it isn’t well written or doesn’t carry the story forward but I think it hasn’t aged well because dialogue doesn’t age well unless it is stylized in the way Raymond Chandler’s dialogue is hard-boiled or Hemingway’s dialogue is kind of burnished and unreal and probably seemed unreal from the moment people first picked up a new copy of The Sun Also Rises. In “Exit 3” a beyond-drunk Marine says, “Don’t ‘buddy; me. I ain’t no goddamned solider. I’ll show you who the hell I am.” The dialogue reads the way things read in the “Wild One,” deliberately rough, and because it is deliberate, kind of false. And so the dialogue has aged like fake leather seats or plastic.

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Poet Willie Smith on YouTube

Willie Smith has a great collection of poems on YouTube. Hopefully there will be regular updates.

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How to Write the Plot to a Story or Novel

At the risk of seeming completely simplistic, I’m posting a schematic for making a plot. I find this about as useful as knowing that a sentence has a subject / verb / complement. It’s helpful, but plenty of writers do not know a subject from a complement. But knowing can help write sentences as far as that kind of thing goes. I have a couple of these proscriptive things that I’m going to post over the next couple of weeks.

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Przewalki’s Horse by Eckhard Gerdes

Przewalksi's Horse by Eckhard Gerdes

Przewalski’s Horses are the last species of wild, rather than feral, horses. Mustangs come from escaped domestic horses. The Przewalski’s Horse is named for a nineteenth Russian general and naturalist who went on a quest to find the horse. Przewalski’s Horse, the recent novel by Eckhard Gerdes, is about a working class writer, a bar fly a postal worker maned Keith Fine in the midwest, who drops of his life and goes on a quest to rediscover his former writing life in Chicago.

Gerdes has written published six novels since 1986 and professes an interest in the occurrence of chance, the random divergence in plot. This novel, however, is mostly conventional in structure and tone. Keith wants to return to his former life. He drinks a lot. He had trouble. For example, he writes, “I really tried to be a good husband and a good father. After a while, though, it got harder to pretend that everything was okay. I had a large inner-world dying to get out. And now it’s coming. It’s been held back for so long. Now it’s coming out in streams of freedom.”

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Note about Shoot the Buffalo at Present Tense / past imperfect

Shoot the Buffalo, Matt Briggs’ latest novel, is my kind of fiction. A coming of age story set in the dark woods of the Pacific Northwest, it features some of the saddest, yet most oddly compelling characters I’ve read in a long while. [Full entry at Present Tense.]

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My Virtual Wife

My Virtual Wife by Matt Briggs

In 1995, my wife and I registered for our first internet service account. We shared the e-mail address that came with the account. Our only point of reference for an address was our postbox. We shared our mail box. We also shared our phone number, and answering machine, the only other point of reference. There was a certain amount of security in that we had only a single point of contact so we could send ourselves e-mail with the confidence that the other person would see it. We could keep on each other’s virtual lives. Even the phrase virtual live seemed high flown, theoretical even, thirteen years ago.

Within the year we had both moved our own Web-based e-mail accounts because the addresses would outlast our internet service providers. The old address had the name of the ISP, Earthlink, in it. The old address required a client to access. The old address was my wife’s initials and last name and seemed cryptic and in it’s lack of relation seemed to provide a collective secrete handle.

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Alarm by Mike Daily, A Novel

Alarm Mike DailyIn Alarm, Mick O’Grady is a young man who is struggling in a way familiar to anyone who has grown up working class or lower middle-class. His family, his parents, a context of where he came from, is absent. There is no one to co-sign for an apartment or cover tuition. O’Grady lived in another city before he moved to Los Angeles. His mother is maybe back wherever he came from, somewhere else that is not where he is at in the beginning of the novel. O’Grady is dirt poor. At one time he was less poor, at least wealthy enough that he has a library of books and CDs to sell when his money runs out. He sells his Sonic Youth CDs to buy vegan patties not because he is vegan but because vegan patties are cheaper than meat patties. Books and music and vegan patties are interchangeable to O’Grady; they are objects required for his sustenance.

O’Grady lives in a crummy apartment. The books opens with a sequence of brutally crummy jobs. He gets a job unloading bags of cement from a truck. Everyone at the warehouse unloads cement from the truck by hand for some inexplicable reason. My first job involved similar rituals, the warehouse work was less about performing something of use than merely doing what I was told. O’Grady unloads cement. He gets a job for several days putting together pens. When he gets enough money for food he buys some food, and he also buys a CD.

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Fluid/Exchange Blog Best Books Read in 2007

abbytrysagain's photo of Tae Won Yu's design and Shoot the Buffalo
This photo is from Abby in Portland at Abbytriesagain or Flickr. Steve Hall at Fluid/Exchange has listed my book Shoot the Buffalo in the best books he read this year. He also listed other books such as William Allegrezza and Ray Bianchi”s The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century. Thanks!

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