Friday, October 16, 2009


It's nearly midnight on Friday and I'm home working hard. I briefly considered leaving my apartment but I felt like I would probably experience acute self-loathing if I accomplished nothing tonight. There are periods when productivity seems effortless (I feel like I had such a period this spring, a spectacular one, and another one briefly when I was in the DR) and other times when it's a brutal slog, a legless journey through a reeking swamp. Now is one of those times. I've done relatively nothing this past six weeks. It's not literally true--I wrote several chapters of something, and I wrote a bunch of reviews for the NYFF, and did some revisions on something else. But it's a rough time, creatively. I wonder... I know other writers read this blog... when your mind isn't cooperating with alacrity, do you persevere ("If I leave my writing for a day, it leaves me for three") or do you chill out for a bit ("I don't force it; it comes when it wants to come")? I persevere, but it's out of anxiety as much as principle.


I read Scott McClanahan's Stories the other day. I don't know him, but he sent it to me. It's really good. I had a similar reaction to it that I had to the manuscript of Noah Cicero's Burning Babies back when. Thought it seemed sloppy at first, then got very very into it, and read the whole thing in a sitting, basically. It has a number of wonderful stories. They seem to run roughly chronologically backward in the main character's life. They are surreal and macabre and mundane. He and his friends hit a deer and try to put it out of its misery by running over it again and again, but it won't die. A man becomes obsessed with a homeless man who harassed him and keeps running into the man and fighting with him. (The end of that story is particularly great.) A boy's father becomes irate about a possum that keeps going through the garbage. The voice of the narrator is sad, selfish, empathetic, sincere, bitter, and somehow consistent. The only thing I didn't like about the stories is that in many cases, the last two or three sentences go a little too far, suddenly becoming "literary" in a way that the stories and the voice don't naturally lend themselves to. Other than that, however, they are great. I haven't read anything about this collection, published by Six Gallery, anywhere else (although I don't read as many literary blogs as I should, so for all I know it's already big on the indie lit circuit), but it's very much worth dropping a couple bucks on.


I saw three movies in the theater in the last 24 hours. An American Werewolf in London at Lincoln Center with John Landis speaking was the first. I've seen it a couple times before, but man, what a fucking great movie. Perfect, perfect balance of humor and horror. And Landis wrote it when he was eighteen. He seems like an awesome guy.

Today I saw Zombieland, which I liked way more than I expected to. The infamous cameo was underwhelming after all I've heard about it, but still funny. What made the movie excellent was the very tight (although sometimes too hip/clever) script and the funny, committed performances by Jesse Eisenberg (who seems like a much, much better version of Michael Cera), Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, and the hot, weird-looking Emma Stone. And many good lines. "Do you want to feel how hard I can punch?" "Someone's in danger of getting hair brushed over her ear!"

Then I saw Where the Wild Things Are, which I've been excited to see for a very long time now. The artistry that went into it is admirable, as are the intentions, but I was bored and frustrated. God, this movie feels like a chore. It lacks any sense of anarchy (pretty important for any adaption of the book) or whimsy or fun. I loved the first thirty seconds, up until right after the title flashes. Then we get some vague shit about Max's life and how his mom has a tough job and a boyfriend and life is hard. Trite. Then it's off to Wild Thing land and the trouble really starts. The Wild Things are some boring motherfuckers. There's one good joke that involves two owls, but the sense of wild fun and anything-can-happen invention that made Being John Malkovich such a miraculous experience is absent from this movie. The Wild Things mutter and mope and bicker and pout and it goes on forever. What a trudge.


Little Miss Nomad said...

Yeah, I felt like it was a little too restrained--like the "wildness" was tongue-in-cheek or psychological or something. It was a creative choice, I guess.

Jon Cann said...

I really can't do justice to your question in the space of a blog comment (didn't you invite me for a drink a while back?), but briefly: I usually let it come when it would in college, but I tend to try and push forward these days. I'm not at all convinced this approach is better, and I think it's partially a consequence of having to fight the mental noise of work and other adult-life responsibilities, but the difference is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Little Miss Nomad said...

The sheer volume of time wasted on finding out what other writers do could be used in just doing your own thing. The most successful and talented and interesting writers work in entirely different fashions, so I feel like there's really nothing to be learned.

N A said...

True. Fortunately, other than posing the question on my blog, I haven't spent any time finding out what other writers do.

I wish I required much less sleep. No sleep at all, actually.

Jon, yeah, let's get a drink sometime. I'm a little frantic right now, but in a couple weeks I should be done this project and freer. Also, I stop by my old employer occasionally--I'll say hi if I come by during regular hours.

pb said...

Dave Eggers' excerpt from his Max book in the New Yorker was atrocious.

pr wrote about mcclanahan for the giant...I'd be interested in what you thought of that review.

Bezalel said...

Totally agree with you about Wild Things - while it was often visually stunning, I was so disappointed with the plot. Especially because it was one of the movies I was most excited about this year...