brothercyst: April 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

LITERARY EVENTS HAVE TAKEN PLACE

Spent most of the weekend at the LA Times Festival of Books.  Saw a great panel called "Writing the Fantastic" with Victor LaValle, Lev Grossman, and Aimee Bender.  Also saw Bret Easton Ellis talk... man, that guy has a lot of tension and did not look happy to be onstage.  He generated a lot of uncomfortable laughter by being fairly testy with his interviewer, who was really kind of a bad interviewer.  Don't ask yes or no questions!  Jesus.  He did ask Ellis about his infamous death-of-J.D. Salinger tweet, and Ellis responded by putting on his sunglasses, folding his arms, and giving gnomic responses. Met Eric Shonkwiler, who I've known via email for some time -- good times. Saw a panel about sex writing, a panel about "writing the other" which for some reason I'd thought was going to be about slipstream but which turned out to be some tedium about the immigrant experience, and Nick McDonell interviewed by Joshuah Bearman, who was not actually Joshuah Bearman because Joshuah Bearman was late, so Nick's editor Jordan got onstage and was introduced as Bearman. Speaking of which, the new McSweeney's came out and they had a launch party Monday night at which Teddy Wayne and Nick McDonell read.  It was fun.  I hadn't been to a McSweeney's event before.  I actually had a great time that night.

I've been watching and rewatching lots of horror movies in the last few days.  All four Phantasm movies (although I've seen the first one many times, starting probably when I was nine or ten years old), Suspiria, and others.

Today was beautiful outside.  I went swimming and did some writing.  I am extremely concerned about the fact that my temporary plates expire tomorrow and the DMV has not given me the new ones I need.  So maybe the police will try and take my car again. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

BOOK FEST

Off to the L.A. Times Festival of Books.  Going to see Bret Easton Ellis, maybe James Ellroy (tickets were sold out), Lev Grossman, Victor LaValle, Aimee Bender, Nick McDonell.  Then to swim afterward, I guess.

What else happened this week?  I saw Kick-Ass twice because it was phenomenal.  Will probably see it again.  Now that I live right next to the Arclight it's hard to resist the temptation to go see movies all the time.

Monday, April 19, 2010

SEX STORY

New sex story on Spork Press: "White Apple."

A while back when they still published fiction, Nerve solicited a story from me.  I wrote "White Apple"--a story I remain proud of and have always intended to have published--in two afternoons and Nerve rejected it.  Not sexy enough.  So then I just wrote a straight up pornographic story, nowhere near as good, and they published it.  Paid for a flight to France.  Good times.

There was a third one, too.  Currently forthcoming elsewhere.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

SHIRLEY JACKSON NOMINATION / CAR SAGA

The nominations for the 2009 Shirley Jackson awards (for "outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic") were announced last week and Midnight Picnic is nominated for best novella of 2009.  ("Novel" is 40,000 words or over... Midnight Picnic is around 39,000 words.)  Also nominated but in the Novel category are the estimable Helen Oyeyemi, Victor LaValle (who blurbed Fires), and Brian Evenson

****

I've been back in L.A. about 36 hours.  Yesterday I dealt with the police, moved into my new studio, and met a TV writer/producer who's like an idol to me.  You wouldn't know his name offhand, but he wrote and executive-produced my favorite episode of my favorite TV show of all time.  Now he's making the show I'm most excited to see later this year--more on that eventually.

****

I finally got my car back from the police.  What a nightmare.  I got pulled over last Friday by a weird Russian (?) cop who looked like Ivan Drago with a mustache.  This was, unfortunately, the kind of cop who greets you not with "License and registration please" but with "What's wrong witchoo?"  Apparently I hadn't pulled over fast enough, but considering that I was barely even moving when he flashed his lights at me--I was sitting in caterpillar traffic on sunset, not doing anything--it wasn't possible to pull over instantaneously.  Anyway, this cop said he had pulled me over because I didn't have plates on my car.  Actually, I had dealer plates--and a temporary registration posted in the window--which is, of course, completely legal.  Then he ran the registration and found that it wasn't complete--obviously--and managed to find a typo on my temporary registration ("2010" looked like "2011"... "You gettna time machine and go into duh future to buy dis car?  Didjoo??"), and said that since the DMV is closed on Friday, he couldn't verify anything, so he had to tow my car.  So he did.  No citation, not ticket--this lumbering civil servant just stole my car.  Then, of course, I had to fly to New York a few hours later.  So they keep my car and charge by the day.  I dealt with several cops over the phone who told me completely different things ("Yeah, you can have one of your friends come pick up the car if you send them a copy of your license and written authorization to pick up the car," ... "No, I don't know who told you that, we can't release the car to anybody but you, in person, no matter what.  We're trying to protect you sir, from identity theft.  I don't know who I'm talking to right now on the phone, sir.  You could be a thief trying to impersonate you!"  The idiot who said that to me was truly the worst cop I interacted with during the whole experience.  I later met him in person... a sour, obstructive, fake-polite example of human crab lice.  I don't know his name--I suppose I was too annoyed to even look at his ID--but he was short and nasal and he had a perfectly hairless head that looked like a glazed brown gumball, or maybe the kind of shiny nut that would be particularly satisfying to crack.  Gumball Skull did everything he could to stop me from getting my car back, including pretending he didn't know and had never talked to other deputies I'd dealt with.)  At last, yesterday morning, I went into the station and it was like all the officers had been replaced by bizarro good cop versions of the other officers.  The guy at the desk was friendly, chatty, open.  A deputy who was polite, expeditious, and helpful looked at my documentation and quickly gave me a release--and, perhaps because he could see that the whole thing was ridiculous, waived the towing fee.  Then I went to the towing yard to get the car and the guy there gave me a couple days of storage free, saying the cop who took my car must've been in a bad mood or just mean because there seemed to be no reason for it to have been taken in the first place.  He was right... there was something wrong with that cop... I do appreciate the waiver and discount from the reasonable people involved... means I'm only out around $400 from the whole thing.  I like L.A. a lot and I'm happy to be here... too bad the worst people I've met have been cops.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

UNIVERSE'S TEST / PARIS REVIEW

This week continues to be a sort of surreal/funny nightmare.  The cops still have my car, back in L.A.  It's positively Kafka-esque. From my former high school teacher: Ahhh, ain't reality grand? You had, what I like to call, a reality moment!  It's when the "real" world butts into our lives--like, where the fuck did this cop come from anyway and why is he doing this?  I used to tell Mark that the cops can do whatever they want--legal or not--and the object is always to make money.  So it seems...

Remember, DON'T TALK.

On a more pleasing note, the Paris Review Revel was last night.  I got a Paris Review t-shirt.  Philip Roth talked about his life, which sounded like a series of miracles and affirmations.  Other folks spoke as well--Gourevitch, Stein (the new editor).  I drank quite a lot.  I was still thinking about my car much of the time but overall I had a lovely evening.  James Salter wasn't there.  I'm to be interviewed sooner or later for a documentary being made about him by Checkerboard Films and the wonderful Sandy Meehan.  I met one of my favorite screenwriter/directors.  I got home late and had a philly cheesesteak for breakfast this morning.

Monday, April 12, 2010

WANT TO HAVE

At that point most of the psilocybin subjects once again expressed more satisfaction with their lives and rated the experience as one of the five most meaningful events of their lives. 

Wow.  I would love... love... to be one of the patients in this study.  I've done hypnosis... I've done floatation... now I'd like to have this experience, please.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

FORTUNE COOKIE FORTUNES FROM THE LAST TWO MONTHS

"You will have a new love affair." (Late February)
Certainly one of the bolder fortunes I've ever received.  Imagine a happily married person receiving such a fortune.  Or a small child at a family dinner.  How interestingly awkward.  I like fortunes that go out on a limb like this. 

"Yourt dreams will be fulfilled." (Mid-March)
I find the typo ominous.

"You are always welcome at any gathering." (Tonight)
 Demonstrably false.

GET ME OUT OF HERE

Being in New York is just making me want to get out of New York.  I feel completely lethargic and depressed.  Maybe a longer separation would have made me nostalgic, but I just want to get away.  Everything feels like a cage, a box, a trap.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

RELATIVE

There is the mud and the vines that wrap around legs like bolas and a certain leaf that causes such anguish when brushed against, even through thick clothes, that several Ugandan soldiers had to be airlifted out of the jungle because they dug holes into their flesh by madly scratching themselves. 

I was pretty depressed today about being in New York again and having had an unfortunate encounter with a member of the West Hollywood Sheriff's Office on Friday that's going to cost me some money (to all those who warned me about L.A. cops: You were right)... but, never mind.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

LA ENCOUNTER

Got into the car this evening to go to Long Beach, had been asked to pick up a friend at the airport there.  Hadn't known Long Beach was so far away--she said airport and I just assumed LAX was in some place called Long Beach.  Anyway I hadn't slept in two days.  I felt perfectly awake when I got in the car, but at some point during the nearly two hour drive (I took an inadvisable route), I started having corner-of-the-eye hallucinations.  I saw a pile of clothes in the shape of a man in the passenger seat.  What's that doing there?... looked over and of course there was nothing.  Then I had a minor car accident.  Uh-oh, I thought... the other car drifted over to the side of the road, flashing its lights.  I pulled over behind it.  The car was a big American sedan but it was weirdly dented and I could see all kinds of garbage bags and hundreds of old newspapers inside.  Nice, a crazy person, I thought.  Maybe he or she won't care to exchange insurance informationBut will he or she try to harm me?  A large woman got out.  She was wearing a white muumuu/nightgown sort of thing and her hair was knotty and dredlocked, going in every direction.  She had grey whiskers.  I got out and said, "Are you okay??"  She said, "Am I okay?  Am I okay?"  She was indignant.  "OF COURSE I'm okay.  GOD PROTECTS ME."  I couldn't tell if any of the numerous dents in her car were a result of our collision, but she studied her car and pronounced it "fine," then asked me to look at it and say if I saw any damage.  "No," I said.  I didn't even look at my own car, I care so little about the thing that it literally didn't occur to me.  She got back in her car.  "Do you want my phone number or something?" I said.  "What are you gonna pay for?" she said.  "You see any damage?"  I said, "No."  She drove away.  I drove on.  I felt fine but wondered if adrenaline was masking pain.  Kept thinking of the stories you hear about people in accidents whose neck injuries don't flare up until months later.  Finally I got to Long Beach airport, which is no larger than a high school.  I made my friend drive on the trip back, and when she drove it only took half an hour.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

OH NO

My tongue turned white.  This seems ominous.

FEELS STRANGE

Of the last 46 hours, I've slept two.  The sun just came up.  It is so blue outside.  I'm going to the pool soon.  My hands look coppery and reptilian.  I may become obsessed with sunscreen.

WHAT I'M READING

Just finished Fidali's Way by George Mastras.  Really good--fairly harrowing first novel about a lawyer who sold all his possessions and went backpacking around Pakistan (as Mastras himself did--he's a Yale grad who just dropped/sold everything and went on adventures for a while... after he came back he wrote the novel and started screenwriting; now he writes for Breaking Bad, and he wrote pretty much all the best episodes of the show, including the one that aired this past Sunday)... as the novel starts, his companion is found with her throat slashed open, and he's tortured by the Pakistani police, who think he did it.  He escapes into the country with no ID or money and gets involved with the mujahedeen.  It's sprawling and ambitious, sometimes messy, but very cool.

Also just finished Unpublished Novel Manuscript by a close friend.  A first draft of a YA novel that I can't describe here, but it was excellent--fun, immersive, bizarre.  It'll be out within two years, I think, and I'll write more about it when I can.

Reread Koko by Peter Straub.  Nothing to say about this except that it's one of my formative novels.  Loved it as a middle schooler, still love it today.  Ugly, mad, sprawling, awesome.  In some ways it makes me feel the same way Brand New Cherry Flavor (one of the great Hollywood novels ever written) did back when I read it last year

I also, weirdly, reread Midnight Picnic.  I tend not to reread my own books because there's always so much I would do differently.  But enough time has passed since I wrote this that I can see it as a thing unto itself.  And I liked it.  If it were written by someone else and I'd never heard of it, I would like it; I would think, I haven't read that ghost story before.  This part should have been cut and that part should have been explored more, etc etc, but overall it made me feel calm and peaceful and uneasy and fatalistic and sad all at once.

TO READ:

I have a stack:
 
Within Normal Limits by Todd Grimson
Aloha by Mark Christensen
The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney by Christopher Higgs
Anna Karenina
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Another unpublished book by a friend
A TV script by a friend
The screenplay of Paul Thomas Anderson's next film

Sunday, April 04, 2010

GOD DAMN IT

There was just an earthquake.  6.9 in Baja, and felt all over L.A.   And I slept through it.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

LEATHERY

Perhaps I'm going to be one of those old tan guys with lizard skin, always sitting around shirtless, incurably brown, Italian-looking if not truly Italian.  I was just looking at my hands and realizing how different they look than they did two months ago.  They're the color of walnuts.  I spent early afternoon at the pool yesterday, writing poolside.  I continue to be a genius at living well for no money.  UCLA pool and Roosevelt Hotel pool play a part in this.  On Thursday I drove to Laguna Beach to have lunch with a writer who told me about his upcoming nonfiction book, which should have already come out but was held up in litigation.  I begged to read the uncensored version of the manuscript but he had promised his lawyers that it would never be shown to anyone else.  I also met his son, Matamatics, who was a lot of fun to hang out with.  On Thursday night I went to a taping of Two and Half Men, a show which I have never seen before.  My friend works on it.  One of the staff writers was standing behind us watching the monitor as a scene was shot.  We all watched as a series of cringe-inducing fart gags were performed.  The staff writer nudged my friend and said, "Four years of Yale for this, huh?"  Last night my friend Carole drove me to Malibu.  It was pretty but everything looked expensive.  I got home and tried to write a little.  This week has primarily been an effort to distract myself from a New York-based situation which is upsetting me.  I'm glad I'm not there, and I'm not looking forward to going back next week.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

STORIES & MONEY

Roxane Gay writes an appreciation of story & narrative.

Christopher Higgs writes a rebuttal.

(I'm in Roxane's camp here.)

She also writes a bit about the economics, wrt a fascinating exchange between Steve Almond and an editor/agent who asks him to contribute to an anthology but won't pay him.

Speaking of which, here's an agent's blog post from 2008 containing a breakdown of how a common advance is paid out.