Greetings to you, faithful and patient readers!
I’m excited to share the good news that I have a new essay on Eudora Welty up over at The Bangalore Review. It’s an in-depth look at Welty’s amazing short story “Music From Spain.” Give it a peek. Many thanks to them and their editorial staff for including me in the May issue. Enjoy!
I’m delighted–hell, I’m downright plucky–to have a story in the September issue of Fogged Clarity. If you’re playing along at home, you’ll remember that earlier in the summer the fine folks at FC published my short story “Who Has Time for Stars?” and I’m pleased to say they recently accepted my story “If You’re Listening to This,” which is now up at FC as we speak. So hop on over there and read it. I’ll make it easy on you. Click here.
It’s an honor to be included in what looks like to be another dynamite issue and I’m grateful to their executive editor Benjamin Evans for including me.
Today, I begin what I hope will be the final stage in the editing and re-writing of my novel in progress Returning. That is, until I decide I need to, or am asked to, re-write it again.
The summer has seen far more massive structural and character changes to the book than I would have anticipated. I’m about to re-read the whole thing to see how those changes hold up. I’m predicting that, for the most part, they will. The last time I wrote you, I was editing God and atheism out of the novel and from Chick Myers’s character arc. Turns out I found an ever so small way to include them after all. After I re-wrote the third set, I re-wrote the fourth, and yes, the fifth. The novel begins and ends in the same place and mostly the same way as it has all along, but the roads travelled have been re-directed and filled in with fresh blacktop, and shiny new places to eat.
If you count research and prep time, I’ve been laboring on Returning for over three years and in all that time and all the many hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written and deleted, nobody’s seen a word of it but me. This is a thrilling and scary proposition. When you write a book, you build a protective bubble around yourself and the book so you can keep it, and you, sane and safe during the writing; however, you build this bubble knowing that in the end, you’ll have to pop it and let in all the air that’s been amassing outside.
That moment is coming for me, and for Returning. Soon I’ll begin digging through my desk drawer, looking for my sharpest pin.
As ever, I’m grateful for your friendship and support and will keep you posted.
Best to Martha and the girls,
I have a new short story that’s part of the May/June issue of Fogged Clarity. FC is great and I’m thrilled to be included. They publish fiction, poetry, reviews, and music! I’m listening to “Mountain Sounds,” the album in the new issue, right now and it’s fantastic. I want to also give some love to my dear friends Kara, Stephanie, and Angela who looked at early drafts of this story and helped nudge it along.
Have a peek at the story. Think you’ll like it. http://foggedclarity.com/2013/05/who-has-time-for-stars/
That’s all for today friends.
I have to vent for a minute about the sudden (or so it seems to me) availability to pre-order forthcoming whatever. Books, music, movies. You can buy anything in advance these days. Let’s say you do some searching to see what’s new out there. Whatever purveyor you’ve searched (iTunes, Amazon, etc…) will tell you not only what is available, but they’ll show you what’s not available, or what you can pre-order. And sometimes they won’t even delineate between the two in any obvious way. This annoys me. Now, I like knowing what will be available, this gives me something to look forward to, but do I need to know six months in advance? And it begs the question, why would you buy something that you can’t even have? I’m a Coldplay fan and I remember that for months before their new album Mylo Xyloto came out, it dominated the iTunes charts. Was far outselling the bestselling available album of the moment. This is weird to me. I mean, there’s no limited supply. They’re not going to run out of downloads, are they? Not to mention, if you’re enough of a Coldplay fan to even consider pre-ordering, you’re not going to forget that they have an album coming out, so why not just buy it when you can actually listen to it?
A couple months ago I was looking at Michael Chabon titles on Amazon because I’m a loser and its what I do for fun and my eyes popped out of their sockets when I saw the colorful icon for his new novel Telegraph Avenue. Breathless, wetting myself (not really), I clicked on the icon, which gave no indication that this title might not be available for purchase right his very second, then waited to click “Buy Now” only to find out that “this title is available for pre-order and will be released on September 11, 2012.” And this was a couple months ago, which means they were advertising this book for pre-order six months before it comes out. What the hell? Why do I need to know this far in advance? Why torture me? It’s not like they’re offering me the first five chapters for pre-ordering or something, so there’s basically zero incentive. Occasionally with album pre-orders, you get the single ahead of time or the album will automatically download when it’s finally available, so that’s pretty cool I guess. Or not. We’re already the most advanced buying culture the world has ever seen, and now we don’t just buy what we want, we buy what we are going to want as well. And it works. If pre-orders didn’t get people to buy more, Amazon and iTunes wouldn’t offer so many of them. It’s fairly simple. It’s like, want better TV shows? Stop watching shitty ones. Want a less gossipy culture? Stop reading Yahoo OMG and TMZ.
It’s like those tantalizing previews for the juicy looking upcoming blockbuster, a preview for which just started and you now can’t wait to see, only at the end of the preview you find out that its release date is a year and a half away. So far away that you could be dead by the time it hits theaters. When this happens, I don’t feel excited. I feel deflated. I feel like Ralphie from A Christmas Story. You know the part, when he finally solves the Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring mystery and he’s so stoked, only that instead of finding out a worthwhile secret to justify his time and effort and live up to the anticipation, it’s just a reminder to drink his stupid Ovaltine.
His response? Say it with me…
Son of a bitch.
A couple of excellent writers I know, Alan Stewart Carl and Lyz Wyckoff, have short stories up this month at The Collagist. They’re short, digestible nuggets of fabulous fiction for you to feed your brain with. Enjoy.
I met both Alan and Liz at last summer’s Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. How I wish I was headed back to the mountain this summer.
Good news. My friend Ron Dionne’s novel Sad Jingo is finally available as an ebook from Delabarre publishing. Ron and I met at the NY Pitch and Shop a few years ago and since I first heard the premise for Sad Jingo, I’ve been dying to get my hands on it. The wait is over and I’m loving the book so far. It’s edgy and dark and full of suspense. You can buy yourself a copy and read more about the book here. Sad Jingo took a rather circuitous and somewhat nontraditional route to publication and in the coming weeks, I’m hoping to get Ron to join us for some guest posts about his experiences in publishing and how he eventually brought his novel to readers. So be on the lookout. For now, treat yourself to a new book!
It’s funny you should mention that Agassi autobiography (Open). Who knew it was going to be such a fantastic book? The truth is that it was an inspiration to me, but not in the way you might have expected. Agassi’s story is in many ways a sad one. His father hijacked his life, molded him like a lump of resistant clay. As a result, Agassi hated tennis, even as he stormed up the rankings and found out that he was enormously gifted at this thing that had been chosen for him to do. That’s compelling because it’s so unexpected. But no matter the depth of Agassi’s pathos, and we do feel for the man, but still, for Agassi, it all worked out. He became the best in the world. Excelled to historic proportions at this thing he’d been forced to do. He eventually became rich and famous. And a sex symbol and an unwilling fashion icon. Not to mention he was married to Brooke Shields! And that’s not the half of it. He’s currently married to Steffi Graf, with whom he has children. My point being that once you realize that Agassi’s hatred of tennis and the entire rebellious tenor of his book’s POV comes from a position of enormous power and privilege, you can only feel so bad for the guy. Sorry, but people with wealth and fame and beautiful wives can only be afforded so much empathy.
What I wondered while reading was this: what if you took Agassi’s life up until the point when he was a top junior prospect, a comer generating buzz, but then instead of burning up the rankings and becoming the greatest returner of serve that ever lived, instead of becoming the best in the world, instead of becoming a legend, you became a has been? In other words, what if Agassi had never become Agassi? What would that have done to his perception of the game? Of himself? Of his father? All those emotions invested in the small and narrow pursuit–they wouldn’t just wither up and die; they’d have to go somewhere.
That’s part of the spark that led me to Christopher Downy-Parks, the main character in Returning. Would love to play this out more, but I have to run. Be in touch.
Best to Martha and the girls. Would love to hear back from you soon.
Thanks for asking about how things are going with Returning. In truth, the novel I’m writing perplexes me, but I remain vigilant, trusting the bright gem of my initial vision and my commitment to listen to my characters. I started this novel last summer with the idea that I’d write a novel about a tennis prodigy who didn’t pan out and later accepted a role on a reality television series called Almost that took big-time failures from all over the sporting world and had them compete for a chance at $100,000 and a book contract (and bragging rights). And it is about that. But it’s also about atheism. This is another glare from the original gem. Before I wrote a word, when I was in the reading and thinking stage (this lasted a year, when I was allowing the idea to germinate and flower) I’d been very taken with two stories. One being Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open and the other the story of the late Christopher Hitchens’s battle with cancer and how he’d leveraged his atheism against the cruel randomness of dying slowly of a disease that simply came your way just because. Somehow I knew these ingredients would end up in the Returning pot together, I just wasn’t sure how. They came together in the characters of Christopher Downy-Parks and Chick Myers, who as I mentioned in my last letter, are the erstwhile protagonists of Returning. Chick has battled cancer while also coming to terms with the fact that he doesn’t believe in God. Former tennis prodigy and colossal bust Chris has gotten himself embroiled in the strange world of reality television celebrity culture and, blinded by fame, and the irresistible glow of the adulation his tennis failures had always denied him, can’t find a way to say “no” when a team of investors wants to adapt his life into a Broadway musical. At the point where I’m currently at in the writing, the musical has just debuted. In the novel’s five “Set” structure (couldn’t resist; it’s like an epic match, this book), the musical, entitled Indian Boy (Narrowly Misses Conquering the World) and its creation and aftermath is the Fourth Set.
Unfortunately, I need to cut this short. More later. Best to Martha and the girls.
I have a flash fiction piece in the new issue of Word Riot (http://www.wordriot.org/archives/3353) entitled “On Knowing What I’m Doing.” Many thanks to Kevin O’ Cuinn and Jackie Corley for featuring me along with so many great writers this month. Special bonus is that you can read or listen to me read the piece. Though it’s only a minute and a half, I’ll consider this my first audio book.