brothercyst: December 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009

OCEAN STORM

Today is kind of cloudy, which is rare, but I went in the ocean.  The waves were very big.  It was just me and some surfers.  It started rain while was in the water.  A storm coming over the palm trees and the rain rushing onto me while I was in the ocean was really cool.

NEW YEAR'S EVE

It's raining a bit. The internet is working. All has been calm.

I wrote about Teatro Grottesco in a post on HTMLGIANT.

Since I've been in the Dominican Republic I've read Outliers, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Other, and The MagiciansI've hardly gone to the beach at all.  I'm mostly eating and writing.  It's lovely.

Friday, December 25, 2009

CHRISTMAS MORNING

I am here, safe, tired. Incredibly, the wireless down the road from the house is working and even quite strong now. I spent Christmas day reading like this:



Now the sun is starting to set, and I'm going to read a little more and write until I fall asleep.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 BRIEFLY CONSIDERED

So I'm about to leave New York, and the United States, in less than 24 hours.  When I come back, it'll be a new decade.  What happened during the last one?  At the end of 1999, I was in high school, with braces, and skeletally scrawny.  Almost exactly ten years ago, my high school teacher was driving me, my best friend, and my girlfriend to New York (from Maryland) so we could go see Paul Thomas Anderson's brand new movie Magnolia, which was only playing in New York & L.A.  I had just gotten into college, I was sixteen, and I wanted to be a movie director.  What happened with all that?  I'm still friends with my high school teacher--I dedicated my first book to him.  I haven't spoken to the girlfriend or the best friend since 2000, because they started dating each other after I went to college.  In the years between 2000 and 2009--fuck it, this is too unsettling, I can't do it.  Let me just look at 2009.  The writing-related stuff.  What happened?  A lot, actually.
  • The year started out fucking brilliantly.  The whole country was in a recession and out of nowhere I got a grant I wasn't expecting.  
  • Midnight Picnic came out, thanks to Word Riot stepping in after Impetus folded.  
  • Hollywood didn't buy the TV pilot that my writing partner and I wrote, although we did fly out there a couple times to meet with some talented people who wanted to make it... but ultimately couldn't get funding.  Still, that was a cool experience.
  • In late January it became clear that a lot of people at my day job, me included, were living on borrowed time.  
  • I wrote a novel during the first half of the year.  It's pretty much finished, and I love it.  Uncharacteristically enough, it's a YA novel.  Writing it was one of the more fun/creatively fulfilling periods of sustained writing in my life.  But I haven't sold it yet... which is the most annoying/dispiriting part of 2009.
  • I went to Morocco.
  • We wrote another TV pilot, a comedy, just to see if we could.  We could.
  • After six months of waiting, I finally got laid off from my day job.  I was glad to go, although obviously the disappearance of a safety net causes anxiety.  But because of the grant from earlier in the year, which I'd just put in the bank, I didn't have to worry about finding another job right that instant.
  • It rained for the entirety of June, which depressed and disoriented me.
  • I went to Readercon
  • I went to the Dominican Republic.  ASB came to visit for the last five days.  Those two weeks in the DR, as a whole, were probably the most blissed-out/enjoyable two weeks of my life.  
  • I shaved my head.
  • We worked intensively on a feature film script.  In the current draft, I think it's both excellent and outlandishly unhinged--so much so that I think we need to do another draft to make it less insane.
  • During summer and fall, I worked on another novel.  This one isn't finished.  A first draft is, but I need to do a lot more work on it. 
There's probably some important stuff I forgot.  I guess I should be thinking about what I want to do in 2010, though.  I don't want to let another three or four years pass before I publish another novel.  I've been up all night.  I'm going to sleep.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

UH

Louisiana, where I was born, is ranked #1 for happiness out of all the states in the country.

New York, where I live now, is ranked last.

ANOTHER YEAR END LIST

Nick Antosca's Best [Books] of 2009.  (Sort of)

Monday, December 21, 2009

IT'S GOOD TO WAKE UP EARLY

What a productive morning I have had!  I woke at 4, wrote some, imported pictures from my camera, began reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (which is clearly a "well-written" book, but is told in an obnoxiously "sassy" voice that is off-putting, at least in the first few pages, even though the story seems entertaining/funny so far and the asides are interesting... at the very least it's good to read given my current interest in the Dominican Republic), went to the DMV and got my driver's license renewed, went swimming, got new glasses (with a gift certificate that was about to expire, so I had to use it... they will be back-up glasses), and sent a bunch of emails.

Good job, self.  Now the pressure is on not to waste the rest of the day.  Or, God forbid, fall asleep.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

GROSS

This is what it looks like outside right now:


So I can't wait to go to the Dominican Republic and/or L.A.

Right now, I'm staying indoors.  I ventured outside to buy tomatoes and garlic because I wanted to make an omelet, and my face pretty much froze off.

The fire department went to ASB's house because the carbon monoxide alarm went off.  Now they're not allowed to use the heat anymore.  This happened tonight, while the blizzard is going on.  Amazing.

I finished reading Teatro GrottescoMore on that later.  It was amazing.  I bought The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which I hear is good.  Soon to read.  Also bought Koko and Ghost Story to re-read when I get a chance.  Koko was one of my favorite novels as a kid.  I just read Straub's A Dark Matter and liked it.

This is a fun article.  Those kids will be very popular at Yale.

So I saw Avatar the other night.  So worth seeing.  I hardly even know what I thought of the movie.  I was completely immersed in the landscape.  Sit close to the screen.  (And see it in 3D obviously.)

THIS IS NICE

I never learned how to take compliments as a child, but I will say that I'm flattered/surprised/pleased to just now see Midnight Picnic on a couple best of year lists by Tobias Carroll and Matt DeBenedictis.  Thank you for reading...

Today is so cold.  I went swimming in the afternoon.  The Y on 14th St. costs $90 a month, which seems exorbitant.  I might consider quitting and joining another place that has a pool and charges only ~$700 a year, which as a lump sum is obviously brutal, but amortized it's a much better deal.  The only issue is that the pool is outdoors.  It's apparently heated, so I could swim on days when it's literally freezing outside like today... but would that be actually physically dangerous for me to do?

I saw Avatar last night.  So blue!  Very immersive.  I'm going to see it again, with IMAX etc.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

COMPRESSED DAY

Posted my current Best Movies of the Decade list at HTMLGiant.

Dunno wtf is wrong with me today. I woke up at 1:30. Watched The Constant Gardener last night. Did some reading, some thinking... preparing for Dominican Republic departure next week. Tonight I have to run some errands then go to a focus group where I'll be paid $100 to give opinions for 2 hours. Easy money, I like it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LAPTOP GETS BULLET HOLES

This is an amazing blog post. I'd be having a heart attack if airport security shot my laptop.

Here's a Haaretz story about it.

BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR


I just finished reading a novel that now ranks among my all-time favorites. Until a few weeks ago I'd literally never heard its title or the name of its author who, as far as I can tell, has only three published novels to his name, one from the '80s and two from the mid-'90s (I haven't read the others, but am going to). The novel is Brand New Cherry Flavor by Todd Grimson. (Maybe the only thing I actually didn't like about the novel is its title, which has no referent in the book and seems totally arbitrary/self-conscious. Believe me, given the content of the novel itself, there are about five million titles that would have been better. For example, Tomorrowland. Or Auteur Theory. Or Zombies in Hollywood. I don't know.)

Extremely condensed and summarized, the novel concerns an aspiring actress/director named Lisa who wants to get a job as an assistant to a famous director, so she sleeps with a studio executive. When he wriggles out of the implied deal, she tries to get revenge with the help of a voodoo priest who lives in East L.A. It would be foolish to say anything more, except that I stayed up all night two nights in a row reading the novel (alternating with writing--otherwise I would have finished it in a night, I think), which is richer and more engrossing than any summary can suggest. The satire of ambition and sexual politics is funny, smart, accurate-feeling. There are a million characters. It gets dizzying. Not much can turn my stomach, but the scenes of horror here really are revolting, bizarre. The voodoo priest, with his shrunken heads and his calm celebrity homicides, is fucking awesome. The narrative got so labyrinthine, what with trips to Brazil and mind-birthed art films, that by the end I was flipping back and forth to make sure I'd followed threads (biggest wait, what?: So was it a coincidence that the wife helped him track down the couch upholstered with the skin of the white jaguar sometime well before Lisa hired Boro? And then after her husband ended up in pieces nailed to the wall, she started working with him, wearing the costume? Was she, then, complicit in Lou's downfall?) and how they were involved with each other, what crimes they were responsible for.

The dizzying feeling was the same one I get near the end of Ellroy's totemic L.A. Quartet books, especially L.A. Confidential, and Grimson must have read those (Ellroy blurbed him, after all) and been influenced, I would think. But Grimson's novel is way more surreal. It employs a certain degree of "dream logic" and, obviously, elements of the supernatural in a way that Ellroy has never tried, and I think would not want to try. I think, actually, that Grimson's novel comes closer than any novel I've ever read to capturing the real rhythm/experience of a dream or nightmare. Strange, implausible, unexpected things happen--but within the structure of the experience, they make sense, and there is a genuine feeling of non-arbitrary cause-and-effect. So you feel that Grimson has done his work as a writer and is not cheating by using "dream logic" as an excuse to just write whatever the hell he wants and go off on tangents--you feel that he's actually done harder work than a writer would be who was obeying more traditional laws of narrative.

The ending, also, has that dream logic feel. It just gets to a certain point and stops. Certain things aren't wrapped up, although a lot are. It ends very abruptly.

I can only describe Brand New Cherry Flavor as a near-perfect book for a very particular type of reader, those who love the work of the following artists:

David Lynch
James Ellroy
Clive Barker
Bret Easton Ellis

It's truly what an unholy combination of work by those people would look like. I mean, almost exactly. Imagine what that book/movie would be, and that's Brand New Cherry Flavor.

Monday, December 14, 2009

MINDY JONES

I love this woman's interview... this is amazing. I laughed so hard I just choked on a piece of food. [Edit: Also, stealing is bad. And so, obviously, is drunk driving. But that's an amazing clip.]

DIE, MTA

Unreal. I mean, considering how they could've gone a long way toward solving the problem with the congestion pricing proposal that got killed in 2008.

OLD DAYS

I just found this old picture on my hard drive:



That's me and Ned Vizzini in 2003, outside Don Hills. I must have been a junior in college then, and Ned had just graduated or was about to graduate... we'd probably known each other for less than a year. How he got the black eye is a story I'll leave untold right now (who knows if I even remember it correctly). I look very smug in this picture, I think... something about my mouth. And Ned looks like my ne'er-do-well Brooklyn bruiser cousin. Italians!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

6 AM BABBLE

It feels good to be up late right now. My heart's beating very quickly--I just did a lot of push-ups. I drank a lot of soda tonight, staying up. I'm writing a story... not an epic big exciting project, just a regular short story, an experiment, to see if I can turn a dream I recently had into a real story with a traditional narrative (without twisting the dream to make it conform, I mean... of course one can do that... I mean just lightly placing the traditional narrative template over top of the dream and trying to produce something that feels true to the dream).

Read the first five stories in Teatro Grottesco. Holy shit, this book is good! Great stories: "The Clown Puppet," "The Town Manager," "Purity"... also maybe "The Red Tower," which really grew on me. I wasn't loving it at first (although I was admiring it) and then something he did at the very end made me suddenly have a whole new perspective on the story.

It's been a long time since I've read a collection of stories that made me sit up and take notice like this.

More on it later, presumably.

Fed-up/anxious about my "career." I've got two more novels finished finished... I feel good about both of them. Like when I stop and think about them, I'm really proud that I wrote them, and I think if I read them, I'd be enthusiastic. But man, I don't know, I've always been a fuck-up when it comes to the business side of this thing we do. Now that I'm really & truly an unemployed writer without family backup money or really any particularly fallback plan, I better learn to not be a fuck-up in that regard.

Today I was completely, completely unproductive until 11 pm at night. I did buy a ticket to see Avatar Thursday night at midnight. I know, I know... huge blue catgoats and so forth. But I bet it'll be worth seeing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

COLD MAD MORNING

Oh my god... I just woke up from a dream that I can't entirely remember but I know it contained:

1) scenes of driving horribly, flipping over an SUV and so forth (clearly prompted by anxiety about doing a lot of driving in the near future);
2) the appearance of a woman I used to be obsessed with (clearly prompted by a recent conversation with ASB about this woman);
3) a scene of urinating copious quantities of blood (prompted by ????)

It's 24 degrees outside in New York right now. The wind chill is 7. I'm really glad I'm not going to work today.

Posted on HTMLGiant about writers who are or could be murderers. Contains picture of Patricia Highsmith that makes me want to date her, even though she was a lesbian.

Last night I finished writing a book review for this book. I liked it. First time I've written a book review in some time, I believe. They're harder to write than movie reviews (because, well, you have to read the book, which takes longer than seeing a movie, and because it seems like more care needs to go into it, somehow, and you as a reviewer are vulnerable in a different way since you're working in the same medium--prose--that was used to create the piece of art you're critiquing), but in some ways also easier (because you have the work right in front of you and you can quote from it--and should, extensively--to bolster your points and give the reader a sense of the book).

Lying beside me in bed right now is Teatro Grottesco. I hope to read some of it today, although I've got some other stuff to do (like writing). I read the Polanski article (link is abstract only) in the New Yorker last night... fascinating reading. The part about his autobiography describing how he recovered from the Tate murders by having sex with lots of European schoolgirls is pretty bizarre.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

CHEAP JACKET

This morning I got a leather jacket at Beacon's Closet in Brooklyn. It's right next to ASB's place so I go there every week or so. It was $27 but I paid $12 because of an old voucher I had. It's obviously worth a lot more than that. What a pleasant place. Because they have only a small section for men's clothes, almost no men shop there, so it's easy to find good stuff (presumably women have it a bit harder since (a) the place is always filled with fashionable hipster girls who, I assume, can be trusted to grab the most interesting stuff right away and (b) the place is staffed by fashionable hipster girls, so the very best stuff for women probably never even makes it out for sale). I saw a winter coat there for $30 that probably cost $500 originally. It was too big for me. Then I came home. I posted on HTMLGiant about writing on the subway more recently. It was disgusting outside this morning. My anticipation for a warmer climate is almost a physical ache.

I finished reading a book today and now I have to write a review for it. I liked the book. I feel listless. I got hypnotized on Monday and it was really interesting. I'll write about it soon.

Also, I wasted most of the day.

Monday, December 07, 2009

WINTRY MIX

Okay, I will definitely take the Tolstoy and the Ligotti to the DR. Still deciding about the others.

That was some nasty stuff coming out of the sky yesterday. Today was prettier. But this whole weekend was a madness. I'm finally in bed with my laptop. The weekend was a strong fail on my part since I didn't do a lot of stuff I intended to do.

I'm considering taking a road trip after January. What better time, right? I don't have a day job, I've never seen a lot of the country, and it just got fucking cold as fuck and probably won't get better until March. Also, I need to learn how to drive.

Saw Up in the Air. Kind of a stoner movie, really. Like Jackie Brown in the sense that you just hang out with the characters for a while rather than follow the plot. Aside from an execrable, disgustingly patronizing/dishonest scene involving J.K. Simmons, and a couple bad moments with the always-unpleasant Danny McBride, the movie is really good. It's funny, Clooney does his usual thing, Farmiga is good, Anna Kendrick has a few surprises... yeah, it's good. The audience really liked it. I thought the ending was perfect--just right.

Friday, December 04, 2009

WHAT SHOULD I READ ON VACATION

I'm going to the Dominican Republic again soon. I have a stack of books beside my bed that I haven't read yet but want to read ASAP. I am trying to decide which ones to bring.

In addition to the ones I noted recently (The Other, Under the Dome, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Far North), there are:

Teatro Grottesco
Anna Karenina
Shadow Country
The Unconsoled
Wanderer

I won't be there for long enough to read all of them, especially if I intend to get writing done. So I must choose carefully.

*****

In the meantime, there is a lot of stuff to be done. The last 48 hours galloped away somehow. I went swimming.