I Sing for the Things

Sunday morning and it looks a bit overcast out there. I have a lot to do today–writing, reading, cleaning–and I slept deeply and well–so much so that I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, it felt soooo comfortable under the covers. Scooter’s anguished demands for breakfast finally got me out of that marvelous cocoon of sheets and blankets, and now I am enjoying a cup of coffee and wondering how bad the weather will be today. We had lots of thunderstorms rolling through last evening, and overall, it wasn’t a terribly bad day yesterday, if not as productive.

I did spend some time with John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind (which I also hope to do today), and then headed out to Metairie for my eye appointment. I go to the Target in Clearview Mall, just off the corner of Clearview Parkway and Veterans Boulevard. After my new glasses were ordered, I shopped a bit–found some aromatherapy oils I needed, got a new Brita water-filter pitcher, and a few other things, including a copy of Casey McQuiston’s Red White and Royal Blue.On my way home I hit the drive-thru at Atomic Burger (expensive, but I do love their burgers), and came home to do some more things around the house. I finished watching The IPCRESS File, which was very twisty and surprising and incredibly well done (I’ve never read the Len Deighton novel on which it was based, but the original film of this, which starred Michael Caine, was clearly the basis for the Austin Powers movies, only played for real); I thought one of its primary strengths was showing that even allies spy on each other and steal talent, as well as how beautifully yet casually it indicted the British class system as well as its ingrained misogyny. I also watched the Fall River documentary (didn’t finish, Paul came home and I was on the final episode) about the supposed “Satanic cult ritual murders” that took place there in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s; my primary takeaway and memory of living through those peculiar “Satanic panics” that seemed to be everywhere in that decade was people really think Satan is real and exists? I thought we were more rational a nation than that….which was one of the first steps on my journey to seeing my country, society and culture as it actually was rather than the mythology I was taught in elementary school and other levels of public education as a child.

Even when I was a child being taught the Bible was literal history I knew better than to believe it was literally true. It was quite an eye-opening shock and jolt that people not only believed the Bible was literal truth, but they also believed in Satan (Elaine Pagels’ The Origin of Satan should seriously be taught in high school) as an actual being working to undermine humanity and lure us into sin. It was quite a shock, and only the first of many to come as I began reeducating myself on everything.

And yes, I am bitter that I was miseducated, and that I had to waste so much of my adulthood reeducating myself.

But I do love to learn; it’s one of the many reasons I love to read so much. I am always reading something non-fiction at the same time as I am reading fiction (although the non-fiction often takes longer for me to get through). I have been reading Robert Caro’s massive The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York for over a year now; it’s long and I am finally past the half-way point–but it’s an absolutely terrifying look at how power can be amassed and how it corrupts even those who go into public service with the purest and brightest of motives; and how that accumulation of power turns personality flaws in individuals into horrific public policy that causes more damage than good in the long run. I think after I finally finish this epic biography and study of public works in New York for most of the previous century, I may dive into some true crime to cleanse my palate and prepare me for another non-fiction tome. I of course read The Borgias while I was in Kentucky on my last trip, and I also have The Medicis to read as well as other history, but I think I want to read about true crimes for a bit once the palate has been cleansed. I have Sarah Weinman’s marvelous collection of true crime reporting on hand, as well as her recent Scoundrel, which cries to me from the TBR pile; there are several other true crime books I have on hand as well that are always fun to read for insight into my fellow (depraved) citizens and why they do the things they do (part of the reason I really was enjoying Fall River was due to getting some insight into why people turn out the way they do when they go bad), and there’s some other interesting histories I have on hand that i would like to read, too.

Someday I will have enough time to read as I would like.

My to-do list for today and this week is quite ambitious. The heat and humidity have been serious drawbacks to my energy levels and my ability to get things done (I just got the power bill and recoiled in horror), but I need to adapt and adapt quickly else the entire summer will have passed and suddenly it’s fall and I have only a few months to work on the Scotty book. (I did work on it a bit yesterday; I had some really good ideas to jot down, and I do think I am beginning to get a grasp on the story and what it’s going to be.) I want to work on the secret project I wanted to have finished by the end of the month (so not happening) and I also have to work on some short stories I want to submit and get out there. I’ve been feeling defeated lately, primarily I think by the heat (since my sleep has been really good for the most part since I got back from Kentucky, fingers crossed this will continue), and I need to get beyond that. Yes, the world is a dumpster fire raging out of control, but all I can control is me and how I react and I can feel the need for control building inside my head….so I imagine at some point relatively soon I am going to stop watching the fire blazing and work on the things I can control, while still being aware of the fire and doing whatever small things I can to pitch in to keep the blaze as under control as I am capable.

It’s getting gloomier as I type, so I am going to bring this to a close, make another cup of coffee, and retire to my easy chair for some more The Savage Kind. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Missing You

Sunday morning, and after a glorious night’s sleep I am wide awake this morning and pretty ready to give the day my best shot. The Lost Apartment needs to be cleaned, as always, and I am wanting to do some writing/editing today as well. I am going to go to the gym later today–it is my experience that going earlier wears me out, despite the endorphin high, with the end result I often don’t get any writing done. I want to work on revising and polishing a story to get it out of my hair–early submission, since the deadline is a long way’s off–and the same with another. I also want to get that Chanse story–the first one–revised and sent off somewhere as well; and in addition to all that revising I want to work on the Italy story.

My work, as it were, is cut out for me today, is it not? I’ll also probably finish watching season 2 of Versailles as well this evening.

Yesterday I got my contacts ordered and did some shopping at Target, which was lovely. I also went car shopping with a friend; he needed a ride and I took him out there. I merely sat there and read short stories from Sue Grafton’s Kinsey and Me; I finished all the Kinsey short stories yesterday, and read some others as well. I was, frankly, worn out by the time I got home but managed to finish the laundry somehow, despite being so tired; I also watched several episodes of Versailles before finally retiring for the evening once the laundry was finished. Paul moves into the hotel this Wednesday; tomorrow morning I am touring the FBI offices in New Orleans with the local Sisters in Crime chapter, and then Tuesday is my usual long day. Then of course the festivals kick into gear, and the rest of the week/weekend is utter and complete madness.

There’s also some filing needing to be done, as always. I’ve also renamed both the Italy story and the Chanse story–the Chanse title, “Glory Days”, only worked if it were his high school reunion, which I dropped from the story–and I think the new title of the Italy story is better.

Here are two of the short stories I read yesterday”

First up is “Trapped! A Mystery in One Act” by Ben H. Winters, from Manhattan Mayhem, edited by Mary Higgins Clark.

Setting

Studio L, an unremarkable rehearsal studio in a warren of unremarkable rehearsal studios, collectively known as the Meyers-Pittman Studio Complex, located on the sixteenth floor of a tall nondescript building in Chelsea, a couple blocks south and one long avenue over from Port Authority. The walls are mirrored; the floor is marked with tape; tables and chairs are clustered to represent the location of furniture on the real set.

Downstage right is a props table, laden with all manner of weaponry. The play in rehearsal is the Broadway thriller “Deathtrap” by Ira Levin, and the table displays the full range of weaponry called for in that show, viz., “a collection of guns, handcuffs, maces, broadswords, and battle-axes.”

This is an incredibly interesting twist on the short story; it’s actually a short story written in play form, and it’s also an homage to the classic thrilled play Deathtrap by Ira Levin. The play was an enormous hit on Broadway, and featured the wonderful Marian Seldes in a supporting role; she set a record for most consecutive performances by one actor in this play. Ira Levin is also one of my favorite writers. Deathtrap was made into a film; not as successfully as the play, alas; the film starred Michael Caine, a young post-Superman Christopher Reeve, and Dyan Cannon. What makes this story/play so clever is it’s a play on Deathtrap; which is a play about a play which basically tells the same story of the play–and this is a play about a murder during a production of a play about a play; complete with the requisite twists and so forth. Winters is an Edgar-winning author (for The Last Policeman), and one of my favorite novels of the last few years, Underground Airlines. if you’re not familiar with Winters, you should make yourself so. I loved this; clever clever clever.

It also reminded me of a crime short story I wanted to write about the production of a play. *makes note*

Next up is  “Fat” by Raymond Carver, from the collection Will You Please Be Quiet Please?

I am sitting over coffee and cigarets at my friend Rita’s and I am telling her about it.

Here is what I tell her.

It is late of a slow Wednesday when Herb seats the fat man at my station.

This fat man is the fattest person I have ever seen, though he is neat-appearing and well dressed enough. Everything about him is big. But it is the fingers I remember best. When I stop at the table near his to see the old couple, I first notice the fingers. They look three times the size of a normal person’s fingers–long, thick, creamy fingers.

When I talked about Barry Hannah several weeks ago, I mentioned that the other writer my professor in my second attempt at taking Creative Writing wanted us to read, whose glory we should bask in, was Raymond Carver. The only texts for the course were Airships by Barry Hannah and Will You Please Be Quiet Please? by Carver. We read two stories before starting on our short stories; I was unimpressed with both writers. Several years ago I decided to repurchase the collections and try them again (I’ll talk about Hannah another time) thinking that perhaps now, as a more mature adult and reader, I might appreciate them more. It wasn’t the case with Hannah, and it certainly isn’t the case with Carver, either.

I am not sure what the point of this story is; waitress waits on a large gentleman, everyone else on staff is mean and cruel about him whereas she is fascinated in him in some way; it’s rather oblique in its meaning, and in its ending; when she says she feels like her life has changed in some way, why? Why did this man have such an effect on her? It isn’t clear and maybe that’s the intent; is it the recognition of the casual cruelty of her co-workers and her boyfriend? Why is she so fascinated by this customer and how much he eats?

It’s a very small story, and rather intimate; I like the way Carver does his writing and tells his story, yet I fail to see the genius here in the actual story itself. I learn nothing about the waitress, not do we learn anything, really, about her customer other than he is polite, well put together, and enormous. Is it about the waitress seeing, and disliking, the casual cruelty of her co-workers and her lover, seeing them in a different way in their inability to see her customer as anything other than enormously fat, that his size somehow strips him of his humanity? Is that what Carver’s intent is, to be so vague and uninvolved with the story that it’s left to our interpretation? I honestly don’t know, and what’s more, I don’t care. I don’t care about this waitress. I don’t care about her friends. The authorial distance just doesn’t work for me. I’ll keep reading his stories, though–I read “Neighbors” for the class, and I remember it fondly–although it didn’t drive me to read more of Carver’s work.

I suppose this is why I am not a literary writer, and could never be one; my purpose is writing a story is to not only to tell the story but to make the reader understand the characters, get to know them, and hopefully empathize with them; to make, in the case of anything I write, to make the inexplicable explicable. I don’t get that from either Carver or Hannah, to be honest. Ah, well.

And now, back to spice-mining.

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