brothercyst: June 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Last Night *

I've been told I talk in my sleep.

All my life.

But now I learned something new about myself.

It turns out I make ominous, Shining-esque hand motions, too.

*not about James Salter's excellent collection titled Last Night. I've been wanting to write about Salter and will, when I have time. I'm reading Salter every day now, stories from Dusk and Last Night as well as random passages from A Sport and a Pastime and Light Years.

Monday, June 26, 2006

It was Hogg by Samuel Delany until I threw it in the garbage

That's my answer to this question.


I'd been meaning to read it for a while and finally opened it last night and read the whole thing in three hours, then threw it down the trash chute. Not because I hated it - I didn't - but because I didn't like it enough to ever read it again, and I wouldn't want anyone who came to my room to randomly pick it up and start leafing through it.

Some guy said if I liked American Psycho I would like Hogg, but that guy had no idea what he was talking about.

I like the writing in American Psycho, not the violence. Hogg was mostly just fucking boring. At first it seemed to be serving up an interesting idea - that a lot of actions in the world result in suffering for someone, but indirectly (so you don't think about the agony of some African kid who the drug companies are testing your pharms on, for example), and if you had to look at serious suffering, well...I dunno, you'd be sick.

At first it seemed like Hogg and his crew of rapists-for-hire were intended to be the personification of that disconnect, the violence that travels from an unwitting actor to an unsuspecting subject. But then Delany just gives up on ideas and from then on, it's endless rape scenes, straight and gay, and a murder spree, etc.

Which didn't really do anything for me.

It made me think of
The Devil's Rejects, which is also about a "family" of criminals on a depraved rampage. But I really liked that movie. And not Hogg. So much is craft. It's problematic to compare a film to a book, of course, but one of these two has a sort of bizarre, irresistible energy, and the other is a dull thing, inert and tediously repugnant.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Fires is my novel which is coming out this winter.

Soon I will write more about it, more details.

I was very angry when i wrote it. Depressed.

It has a guy wandering around with a gunshot wound to the head. It has a kabuki mask and lots of animals morosely wandering in and out of the story. My dog killed another dog when I was a kid. It has a scene where pipes in the walls start crying, like whales.

excerpt from Midnight Picnic, the novella I am writing. it will be finished by winter... or spring

Click, then enlarge (by holding the cursor on the image until an "enlarge" square appears in the lower right).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

a sad, true story

in college i dated this girl.

a couple days into it, she touched that spot on my throat where the throat meets the chest, under the Adam's apple, the little hollow there, and said, "birthmark."

i said, "Really, I have a birthmark?"

She said, "It's light - it's not like a mole or anything - the skin is just darker in a patch. A birthmark."

i said, "I never really looked closely."

then I forgot about it.

Over the next couple months, every once in a while she would offhandedly touch that spot and say, "birthmark."

Then one day I remembered to look at it in the mirror. I rubbed it with soap and it washed off. It was just dirt.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I'm throwing away my old stories

I hate my old stories. Of the ones that are published only a few are good. The one coming out in the New York Tyrant this summer is good. The one that was published in Opium last year (or was it the year before?, last year) is good at all. Written to be published. Should not exist.

Of the very short ones, many suck. The one, "Nonfiction," that just appeared in elimae is good - I like that one. The one that was in alice blue is terrible. I feel bad about that. I wrote one that I really like and just sent it to them, maybe they will accept that and expunge the memory of the earlier one... I hate that one now.

This is the lesson of reading Salter: never write a single thing that I don't consciously think needs to be written.

must be thrown away.


Amusing asides
, however amusing they may be.

To the trash.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Alasdair Gray has a blog.

Maybe everyone knows about this already.
Lanark: A Life in Four Books is like no other book. He wrote two separate novels, a surrealist nightmare and a realist bildungsroman, split one in half, and stuck the other, in its entirety, in the middle.

First Crowley, now Gray. Or maybe the other way around. Next, Pynchon.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Alex interviewed me

My friend Alex R. interviewed me.

He does interviews in an unusual way. He asks questions, then removes the questions and constructs a sort of solid, coherent statement out of the interviewee's answers, then presents that to the interviewee to make sure it's faithful before posting.

Going to the opening of a Pollock show at the Guggenheim tonight. Then lying in bed. Where is the rain? I liked the rain.

new Zoetrope

The new issue of Zoetrope has four stories. (Well, five, but the fifth is "Tony Takitani," which I also got from Cloverfield Press, so I'm not counting that - I'm reading it later.)

There's one called "Nebraska" which I couldn't read. It may be a skillful story or it may not. I read a few random sentences and they seemed competently written, but I could not read all the story's sentences in order. I tried, but my eyes started drifting off the page, like magnets pressed against a magnet of the same polarity. I have no idea what this story was about.

Another story, by Chris Adrian (I think - the magazine is not in front of me as I type this), was called "Stab." It concerns a spate of animal murders in a suburban town and it is narrated by a little boy whose twin brother has died. Yeah. Hm. Okay. This didn't rouse much enthusiasm in me. Animals in stories. I like animals in stories. But. I find it hard to believe that a small child could kill a horse with a knife. And I didn't believe certain other things, either.

Then there's something called (I think) "Ava Wrestles the Alligator." Karen Russell is the author. I tried to remember where I'd heard her name before. And then I remembered that I saw her read this spring. With some woman who went to Yale and used to be a model and wrote a book called Model Student...which is about a student who is...a model! Karen Russell read something about a school for girls raised as werewolves or something. She was young. Her werewolf story was really good, I thought, although the person I went with shifted in his seat and made sighing noises during it. Well, fuck him.

I also read a story by her in the New Yorker, which I didn't think was good. The narrator was supposed to be eight but his voice was that of a grad student trying too hard. How did it get published there? My mother liked it, though. "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" is pretty good, although not the kind of good that crawls up your spine. The kind of good where you say, "Alligator farm...fat girl having sex with ghosts...interesting stuff...okay, next story."

Wait, no. I'm being too dismissive here. I'm in a bad mood. I should be more forgiving.

For a while I wondered if I was a misogynist and didn't know it, because I despised all the published fiction I was reading by my female peers, since the only things they seemed to know how to write about were perky co-eds who were...models! columnists! or...plankton! (But then I was relieved because I read Helen Oyeyemi's novel and was impressed.) So it is worth saying that Karen Russell is obviously talented and even when I don't like it, her fiction is interesting and intelligent.

The other story, by (I think) Nam Le, is called (I think) "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" from the Faulkner quote. I like this story the best. It is secretly what might be snidely called a "meta" story, although oddly enough you could also make a defensible argument that it is purely realist.

It's a story about how an "ethnic" writer (that is, any writer whose name is something like "Ling Zhao" or "Srini Ganesh" rather than, say, "Miles Teagarden" or "Colin Smithy") can coast by writing stories about parents immigrating or some shit like that.

The main character is also named Nam and is at the Iowa Writers Workshop (where I think Nam Le went, or is) when his foreign-born father comes to visit.

There's a great part where Nam and his friend are walking down a road and the friend is going on and on about Nam's workshop story about "Vietnamese boat people" and Nam notices some people with guns on a porch watching them. I don't feel like explaining.

Yeah, it takes place at the Iowa Writer's Workshop.

If I heard the story described, I would groan.

But it's good.


Also, although I hate Updike, here are some excellent rules he wrote for reviewing a book.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Spiderman 3 is shooting outside my apartment this second

I went outside about two hours ago to get a sandwich and Spiderman 3 is shooting a big crowd scene. None of the stars are there as far as I could tell, but Sam Raimi is. (This isn't unusual. Inside Man was shooting here when I moved in last summer, and it seems like every other weekend there is some commercial or TV show shooting on William or Wall Street or Exchange Place.)

Trying to get through the crowd to the deli, I ended up right in the middle of a scene. Everyone around me was a "background artist" - a paid extra. Most of the women were very pretty, and the men all had "colorful" faces - fat or strange or somehow distinctive. Sam Raimi got on a big chair with a megaphone and gave directions.

He said, "In this scene, two villains have teamed up and they are using this girl for bait to lure Spiderman here! She's hanging off that building up there! Except the building is really going to be a construction site, but we're pretending here - so just look at the building and pretend its a crane..." Then everyone had to gasp when the girl slipped or something. I said (in a normal voice, not yelling), "Look, it's Batman!"

Then another shot - Raimi said, "Now one of these guys, this monster, is going to GROW. First he's this tall...then this tall...then this tall [at this point the monster is apparently as big as a building] we need to establish an eyeline. Be scared!"

As an aside, what Spiderman villain can grow? The villains in this movie are Sandman and Venom. What does Sandman do...illusions? Venom doesn't grow.

Anyway, after I was in like five shots, this woman working for the production came over to me and said, "Who are you?"

I said, "Uh, nobody."

She said, "That's what it looks like. Get out of the shot."

Then I went and got a sandwich, which had a ton of bacon, avocado, and brie. Delicious.

Al Gore & strip club

I did two things on Thursday night.

First, I went to see Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Incidentally, the movie was directed by Davis Guggenheim, the son of Charles Guggenheim, who ran Guggenheim Productions and won some Academy Awards. I interned there when I was 16. Charles died a few years ago.

An Inconvenient Truth features Gore using his usual trickery - things like "reason" and "science" - to make a pest of himself by telling people they should change their lives to perpetuate the survival of the human race. Better just
to ignore him, folks. By the time Manhattan is half underwater, I probably won't even live here anymore.

Second, I went to a strip club. I had never been to one before, and this one, as strip clubs go, was very "upscale." A friend from college had somehow gotten free passes. EJ, who is a girl, went also. She seemed to be having more fun than anyone at first, but then a dirty alcoholic stripper tricked/pushed her into buying some incredibly expensive drinks that the stripper wanted. Then the stripper tore a button off my shirt and we left. Everyone else in the place seemed rich. One person was a midget.

So, in closing, I encourage everyone to go see An Inconvenient Truth.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

the list

Everybody wanted to see the books that only got a few votes (as opposed to the lumbering, mostly dull champions - Jesus' Son, Blood Meridian, and The Known World excepted) in that wretched New York Times poll. And so somebody is trying to dig them up. Even this sampling is a far more exciting list than the NYTBR's list of winners. (Roth, Roth, Roth. Morrison Roth. Updike Roth. Roth Roth. Philip Roth. Tony Morrison. Morrison Morrison Roth. Updike Updike. Morrison. Roth Roth Roth Roth. Redrum. Redrum. Redrum. RedRUM! RedRUM! RedRUM! Roth Roth Roth. Roth. Roth.)

Little, Big was on there. And Carpenter's Gothic. Cool.

And then there's this:

The Cider House Rules, by John Irving (nominated by: John Irving)"

Just incidentally, I feel active revulsion when I think of that Owen Meany book. Beyond insufferable.