I’m reading with Charyl Strayed, Chelsea Cain, and Allen Cunningham tomorrow at 7:30 to 9 for the ACLU in Portland as part of a performance and talk about the importance of freedom of expression. We’ll be reading from banned books and talking about cencorship, book burning, hiding books, or marking books all GLBT related books as “adult content.”
Archive | September, 2009
When the sun rose on those mornings, I couldn’t see it. I knew it rose in the east, and I know the silhouettes of the mountains were in the east. I shuffled into line and could make out the other figures in the line of the bus on those mornings. We couldn’t see the stars and in that dim, ultraviolet light I still had coffee on my teeth and wish I’d brought it with me. The ground was the color of coffee with cream. Stray slips of paper flitted across the concrete. The streetlights hung orange in the light and around them the vibrating early morning light made me feel empty and kind of sad just to be in it. Even the jay, caught perfectly between two trees on the power line didn’t cheer me. Normally, I slept at this time of the day but those days were gone now or least until better times returned. Everyone lacked confidence in everything else. People used to smile when I was at the bus stop before. Maybe it was because it was summer. Now they didn’t look at one another. I didn’t sleep as I used to on the bus either. Instead, I gazed out the window at the shadows, the long asphalt roads empty of cars; there were too many people on the bus and stories had gone around about people falling asleep and waking to find their electronics had been lifted. I still had a handful of gadgets from the good times – my cell phone, an ebook reader, a functioning ipod. A lot of people could afford these things still or made ways to afford them, but a lot of us couldn’t either. It was if a film had been pulled over the world, and we could barely see through it. By the time I got off the bus, the sun had come up and filtered through the scrim of clouds, casting sharp shadows. The blue gravel was now white and black in the shadows each piece of rock cast off. I stopped under the cedar tree. I was always about fifteen minutes late. No one gave me flack about it though because being late was how everyone was anymore. If I were fired, I would find another job like this – they had to hire native born for this work. My manager was from Brazil. He wore a t-shirt and jeans. We wore uniforms so that they could easily see us coming down the hallways.
Two copies of Birkensnake arrived in the mail on Friday smelling faintly of hardware store cleaning solvent, fuzzy to the touch, and filled with great new stories by the likes of Blake Butler, Danielle Dutton, Caren Gussoff, and Evelyn Hampton. The magazine is a bit like huffing from a cone made out of sandpaper while hiding behind the dumpsters in the alley near your local Ace Hardware. You know, that familiar old time sensation. The issue also contains my story, “Knot.” You can find the text online for your reading pleasure, OR you can order the tactile, visual, and olfactory sensation (for $4) online or find it at a select bookstore. In Seattle this bookstore is: The Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe on South Lake Union.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First 10 pages of this book are okay .. and then the next first 150 are amazing. The book works on withheld mysteries which can often feel like a kind of trick, but the absence of any clue to the narrator’s story becomes creepy, vivid, and mind bending. The book degrades significantly when these mysteries are revealed. The writing uses the narrator’s stuffy self-conscience to both ironic and oddly self-revealing ends, but once things are shown the story becomes a knowable trope. The book’s connection to Vietnam and Iraq feel even more remote and unconvincing despite the compelling detail. I wonder if this is the problem of all puzzles, rebus, and stories that are essentially puzzle pieces being put together as a narrative? Twin Peaks had this same issue. As soon as Bob was explained, the show lost its compelling inner workings. As Lost winds up its seasons long narrative it becomes less and less compelling. I wondered in reading the last half of the book how satisfying it would be read a book where the withheld mystery was never actually revealed? (Five stars because I ended up reading this book in 2 sittings, and was on the edge of my seat in utter lit angst the firs time.)
New review for “Rediscovered Reading” at Fictionaut Blog, How I Came West and Why I Stayed by Alison Baker.
The idea of the tall tale is to make the listener believe what they are hearing and then at some point to break the frame and say something like “Gotcha.” Although I suppose in a masterly tall tale, the author or storyteller may never let you know. Although they have a lot in common with myths, tale tales I think have less to do with allegories and more to do with surface of the story and the confusion of reality.