brothercyst: February 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

the currents of dread

literary criticism as murder investigation

I read the recent New Yorker article about Krystian Bala. A man's corpse was found bound and tortured in a Polish river and the case was cold for three years, until a a detective realized the victim's cell phone had never been recovered; he learned that the cell phone had been sold on eBay days after the murder, and when he researched the seller, it turned out that that man, Krystian Bala, had recently published a book in which a character commits a cold-blooded murder. Polish detectives pored over Bala's novel, Amok, for clues relating to both the real-life murder and what they considered the author's possible homicidal proclivities. The situation became public and the police were mocked and excoriated in the press. But then it turned out that Bala's ex-wife had been involved with the man who was found in the river. Bala was convicted of murder.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

political contributions by writers

Click here to see what people identifying their occupation as "novelist" contributed to presidential/political campaigns. The search brings up some familiar names. (Jay McInerney--$2,300 to Giuliani, for example.) And prompts one to wonder--how does someone you've never heard of have the liquid cash to contribute $4,600 if his/her occupation is "novelist"? (And what about the "poets" who give thousands?) I imagine it's like when I say I'm a "writer" on my tax returns even though fiction writing accounts for only a paltry fraction of my income.

Also, Fundrace only reliably tracks contributions over $200. So the writers who don't have quite as much cash on hand will not show up. (For example, I gave $75 to Obama but searching "Antosca" doesn't yield any results.)

Here are other writers and writing-related people, some excellent, some less excellent, most of whom do not appear in the above search:

Jean Auel--$2,300 for Clinton.
Judy Blume-- $2,300 for Obama and $2,300 for Richardson.
Geraldine Brooks-- $2,300 for Obama.
Michael Chabon-- $4,600 for Obama.
Deepak Chopra-- $4,600 for Clinton.
Dennis Cooper (same one?)-- $4,600 for Obama and $2,300 for Clinton.
Nelson DeMille--$1,200 for Giuliani.
Dave Eggers--$2,300 for Obama.
Jonathan Safran Foer-- $1,108 for Obama.
Jonathan Franzen-- $500 for Obama.
John Grisham-- $4,600 for Clinton and $1,000 for Obama.
Sara Gruen--$258 for Obama.
Daniel Handler-- $2,300 for Obama.
John Hodgman--$250 for Obama.
Tabitha King--$2,000 for Chris Dodd.

Dean Koontz-- $4,600 to Mitt Romney and $2,300 to Fred Thompson.
Nicole Krauss-- $1000 for Obama.
Tim LaHaye-- $2,300 for Huckabee.
David Mamet-- $4,600 for Chris Dodd.
Terry McMillan-- $2,300 for Obama.
Claire Messud--$300 for Obama.
David Milch (of Deadwood)-- $2,300 for Obama.
(no Toni Morrison?)
Walter Mosley-- $4,600 for Clinton.
Gloria Naylor-- $2,700 for Obama.
Susan Orlean-- $2,300 for Clinton.
Sara Paretsky--$586 to Edwards, $250 to Obama, $250 to Clinton.

Marisha Pessl-- $450 for Clinton.
Bradley Pierson--$475 for Ron Paul.Richard Preston-- $2,300 for Obama.
Anne Rice-- $4,600 for Clinton.
Marilynne Robinson-- $1,000 for Obama.
Jane Smiley-- $500 for John Edwards.
Amy Tan-- $4,600 for Clinton.
Binky Urban (super agent)-- $2,000 for Obama.
Vendela Vida--$700 for Obama.
Ayelet Waldman-- $4,652 for Obama. (isn't that $52 over the limit?)
Jennifer Weiner--$500 for Clinton.
Connie Willis--$277 for Obama.

If you find ones I didn't think of, feel free to put them in the comments. [update--thanks to Ed Champion for finding a bunch more I just added.]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

from strangelets (+ airship)


I am like a zombie now, trudging around at work, carrying my laptop around, writing whenever I can. Things happen all around me. Today at my futuristic workplace they tested a small, intelligent airship that can deliver documents from our floor into the lobby below.

The airship hovers menacingly in an empty office:

The airship emerges:

The airship heads for the reception desk, clutching a piece of paper (beneath it):

The airship returns to its masters:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I've begun carrying my laptop with me everywhere as I try to revise multiple manuscripts, including that of Midnight Picnic, which I love but fear that most people are going to hate, and which I continue to carve down. Working in a short story but have not done anything to it since I left the woods; it's partly about being in the woods, anyway. And then Strangelets. Yesterday I had lunch with my agent, who is quitting the agency to go to Harvard Law; a little disconcerting for me but probably a net positive thing for the universe in general. And dinner with a writer who's excellent but who might not want me putting his name here. Then met with some friends from school to watch a CBS show, Welcome to the Captain, which stars one of our former classmates. Then Momofuku. Discussion of election; very civil. Sometimes I get carried away and harangue; here's a picture. Then home rather late, to find about eighteen cops standing outside my door. Which one of my roommates died? No, it was a neighbor, crying on the floor of the hallway. Also disconcerting. Decent dreams all night; I dreamed I had a flamethrower and some sort of shoulder-mounted weapon and was wondering through suburban sprawl/strip malls with a loose group of witty friends, torching and destroying the landscape, which is pretty similar to a section of Strangelets.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Anxious, overcommitted, not sleeping enough. Having intense dreams. Had intense dreams during the two weeks I spent in the woods. I wrote them all down in a dream log. ("journal" and "diary" sound lame.) Cut & pasted excerpts:

"1/24/08 (night)
I dreamed I was a character on the Sopranos. I got shot in the head so many times!"

"1/20/08 (night)
Had an Ed Gein dream [...] They were selling cheap, almost handmade-looking t-shirts (in various colors—pink, yellow, and blue—making fun of Ed Gein by saying things like “Hey Ed Gein Come Eat Me!” even though everybody knew he had skinned and killed some girls here recently. I bought one, stupidly, and started wandering around. The next thing I knew, Ed Gein was snuffling around behind me[...]"


Saw two concerts recently, Edan and Cat Power. Edan=amazing, one of the best concerts I can remember. Review. Cat Power=she was great, concert was marred by sound problems. Terrible feedback, fucked-up sound levels. Couldn't hear her voice over the assaultive guitar. Weird. The concert was at Terminal 5--never go there. Village Voice disses. More pictures here, plus pissed off comments.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Since I've been away for two weeks and didn't have time to volunteer before the New York primary, I wrote another Huffington Post piece about the race. The HP will be inundated by posts on the day before Super Tuesday, but maybe a few people will read it.

It is here.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

trailer; awp; return to NY; woods

Updating this post on Sunday. Went to an extraordinary concert last night, more on that later. As yet unable to bring myself to remove the beard I grew in the woods. Here it is earlier this week. Here it is now. I put those as links so you don't have to look at my face if you don't want to.


Scott Heim, who wrote Mysterious Skin, made a trailer for his new book, We Disappear. It comes out soon--I want to read it.


dead heats: gallup rasmussen cnn/zogby summary

for god's sake, vote obama


I went to AWP this morning in New York to hang out with Kelly and Ann of Boundoff. I enjoyed it quite a bit, despite being tired from last night. Many people/groups were there. Small Beer Press, Dzanc, n+1 (by which I'm increasingly impressed), McSweeneys, Melville House, Hobart, every major publisher, something called Buckbee, Ghost Road, every literary journal in the world.

And I got some playing cards that are Magic for Beginners-themed:


I waited at an airport yesterday from 1:30 to 9:00. Boarded the flight around 7 but it didn't take off for two hours. I was seated in the middle of the plane and at one point I got up to go to the bathroom, but when I reached the back of the plane it smelled awful, so I returned to my seat. The whole back of the plane smelled awful, and there was a group of wretched-looking Slavs seated back there. I was so worn down and out of it that the thought of this kept returning to me, making me laugh out loud, spontaneously, even though I knew it wasn't funny. Whenever anyone from the front of the plane went back and actually used the bathroom, they'd hurry out so quickly they'd forget to close the door, and you'd hear some piteous yet musical, almost tearful Eastern European voice cry, "Sir!? Please! Close de door!"


My last days at the house in the woods were good ones. On the morning I left, I woke up and the woods were covered in ice. Every branch, every twig.

I wrote a lot while I was there, especially at the beginning and the end. I hiked every day. And now I'm back. No more donkeys.