Friday, March 28, 2014

Talk to Villains - #fridayflash

I never expected to solve more crime as a reporter than as a bulletproof icon. Yet Simon Magus is responsible for more crime in this city and on the planet than any drug runner. He’s a CEO, the kind that builds skyscrapers named after himself, paid for by what his companies export into war zones. He hates me – one of me, for what I’ve been doing in those same parts of the world when I’m not pushing for a Pulitzer.

He invited me to a lunch on the top floor of one of his skyscrapers, witless that it'd been me who stopped a homicidal robot on its roof three days prior. Even with all the shattered glass, he had a breakfast table set up with Kopi Luwak and imported baguettes. Simon honestly wanted to talk to me about my criticisms of his company, at first to see if he could wow and bully me into retreating, but later about the veracity of my sources and how to keep shareholders happy while enacting reform.

All the while he peppered in attacks against my alter ego. He wanted to convince me what a danger he posed, taking responsibility away from normal people. As though he sells VX nerve gas to normal people. The surprising thing was that when I kept disagreeing, Simon grew more eager, like being stolid earned his respect.

I'll never forget. He said, "Cal, the world doesn't need him. It needs you."

That haunted me, and not just as I put on the tights and stopped his robots. Maybe that means he won.

The next day he bought my paper. We’d gone too deep into the red over the backfiring paywall, and without his money we’d have sunk. He said he’d bought it with the money he'd typically donate to PBS. He had me on the dais as he announced the takeover, and asked me to be the new editor in chief.

If this is a scheme, it’s Simon’s best. Not a single crate of weapons has ‘mysteriously gone missing’ off his cargo liners since our first breakfast together, which if you do the math, has saved more lives than I can at the speed of sound. I can’t help doing the math.

But if he expects me to run a puff piece Sunday, he’s got another thing coming.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bathroom Monologue: Revenge

Step 1: make two small cups of tea since your OCD friend stole your big mug.

Step 2: sip randomly from both cups.

Step 3: watch your OCD friend pay.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Closing in on The Master and Margarita - #NaNoReMo

I cannot call this book by its real title. At least twenty times in this month I've called it "The Master and The Margarita". Perhaps this is because I spent three years expecting it to be about a beverage. Perhaps I have an unhealthy fixation with parallel structure (regardless, we know I have one of those).

I'm closing in on finishing The Master and T... and Margarita, and it's a fascinating piece of work. It's rare that I find any novel with such disparate elements, but it has zany comedy, romance/redemption or high religious pathos. At different points it's reminded me of those cheesy 80's satires that shed their criticism for personal stories of discovery *and* the most profound Historical Fiction. It maintains both its Soviet-era anti-secularism and its Christ-era critical thought, though they come closer to converging, and the ending gets surreal in provocative ways.

Most provocative to me is how the novel challenges what is absurd and what is surreal (damn it, more parallel structure). Both words describe parts of the book, but neither is wholly applicable. Because the scene with the giant talking cat trying to steal candy bars is absurd - it's goofy, impossible, something that doesn't pretend to fit into how the author thinks the world works. But the scene with The Master, an author who went mad trying write a book about Pontius Pilate, having a vision of Pilate struggling to find rest after the execution of Christ, is surreal. The latter scene feels so intense, not fitting with our world and yet unaware of it. Here the absurd and the surreal split: the absurd being what can never be and doesn't care, and the surreal being what can't be and feels like it thinks it could be. Bulgakov's surrealism is disturbing for how convinced it feels it could barge in and upturn us if it wanted to, and brings me back to Borges and the better Kafka.

Which is to say: it's really quite something. I'm too happy to have kept this copy around all these years, and a little guilty for not getting to it sooner, just like Middlemarch last year. Like Middlemarch, there's nothing else quite like this. Other than being unique, there's nothing in common with Middlemarch. Woland would set all that town's nuances on fire.

When I've asked around if any other Russian novelists screw around to the degree Bulgakov did, I've only gotten the answer of Nikolai Gogol. Any recommendations from that canon are welcome. It keeps rewarding me for diving.

A full review of the book should be up on Goodreads (and maybe here) soon. How is your #NaNoReMo coming?
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