Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Die Hard Vs. No Country for Old Men

On a good day:
Die Hard is an awesome movie.
No Country for Old Men is a profoundly well-made movie.

On a bad day:
Die Hard is an awesome movie.
No Country for Old Men can go fuck it self.

When a relative has just died:
No Country for Old Men just seems like a bad idea.
I wish these mourners would get out of my house so I could watch Die Hard.

In an academic setting:
No Country for Old Men is the stripe of movie that’s safe to say I like.
Die Hard is the stripe of movie that, if a professor insults, I’ll immediately hate him.

No Country for Old Men is based on a book it seems like no one has read.
Die Hard is based on a book it seems like no one has read.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Tempest in a Teapot

Crying for Sugar, he secures his string to the top of the pot and dives in after her. Tides boil against slick porcelain shores. His body is dashed up against every one, but not a single beach supports him. All are stark and sleek, causing him to slide back into the froth. He plunges into the waters, reaching to the very depths of the ocean, his calls for her swallowed soundless. Though breathless, he dives and surfaces over and over, dabbing to the very scorching depths. No matter where he gropes, he cannot find her white form.

He pauses for a moment, allowing his bloated body to bob in the tide. His very essence perspires out through his pores and runs down into the waters, darkening them. Then light spills from overhead. His hideous rival has emerged: The Spoon. It dives more sharply than he can dream, gleefully stirring laps and turning up an even greater undertow. He rides the undertow, praying to find her.

But she cannot be found. Not in this tempest. She has dissipated, as though a ghost now doomed to haunt and sweeten this damnable sea. He knows their fate even before Spoon is cast aside, and their world is turned upside down. They pour forth into a cup. His string sticks to its lip, but he knows there is no escape, nor does he have the heart without Sugar. All he can do is weep and steep.

Eight Lines I Cut From The Novel

A few months ago T.S. Bazelli recommended I compile and share the darlings I cut from my novel. For decades heartless nimrods have recommended authors "kill your darlings." Blogging gives us a little leeway, though, in sending them off to a farm where there are lots of other quotes and space to run and play all day. Below I present to you nine things I regret axing from my current manuscript.

1. Our narrator, on scenery:
“His cell cast dark around him. He sat on the cot,
trouser cuffs rolled up as though dangling his feet in a pond.
It was a nice day in Zhanjee’s imagination.”

2. Our architect, on a place you can't understand:
“The astral plane is ideal. An ideal plane.
A natal plane is more the idea of a plane. An idea plane.
Very stripped down.”

3. Our hero, on deception:
"What's the point of lying if it doesn't make my life better?"

4. A succubus, on humans:
“My sister fancies you. She’s the youngest and
doesn’t understand yet that what looks
like personality is just flavoring.”

5. Humans on the succubae:
“They’re not whores.
Whores do good work for good money.”

6. Our narrator, again, on opportunity:
“The monsters didn’t pay him attention,
and he appreciated that.
It gave him time to worry without being seen as worrying.”

7. Our hero, again, on nightmarish beasts:
“Were there barking blue chickens in general population,
or is that food?”

8. Unknown, delivering the hardest of the cut lines, because you could argue it's the central theme of the whole book:
“Living up to my lies has made me a better person.”

There are my eight darlings, lying on the chopping block. I don't have the heart to admit the full chapters and subplots that were axed along the way - yet, anyway. Please feel free to share some of your own murdered darlings in the Comments.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romances I Actually Like

In celebration of Valentine's Day, and in retaliation for having to read Pride & Prejudice, I've meditated upon those fictional couples I actually like. There have been a lot of questions as to what romances get me. Smut or formulaic romances seldom do, but I'm not made of stone.

Adam & Eve from Mark Twain’s
The Diaries of Adam and Eve

In unusual move for Twain, what began as a rampant satire (in this case of Biblical literalism) matured into a complex and vital relationship. I often joke about how Adam’s first record of Eve is, “I wish it would stop talking.” But just as memorable is his pathos upon losing her late in life. It is one of the funniest examples of the now-tired Men Vs. Women humor.

Nor was Twain the first to harness the couple’s potential; my favorite part of Milton’s Paradise Lost is Adam deciding to eat the forbidden fruit because eternity without Eve isn’t worth it, and he would rather suffer damnation.

Rose & Bernard from Lost
Give me the choice and I’ll always sit next to the older couple. Lovers in their sixities have a dramatically greater chance of knowing each other’s hang-ups, griefs and defenses. Couples in their tweens, in fiction and non-fiction, have the wearisome habit of not getting their shit together. Lost features a couple who actually met later in life, who already know how love can fail and intimacy can hurt, and who connect in a little more reserved, but regardless more mature way. I will take the fallout from Bernard’s marriage proposal over any RomCom model-turned-star bending the knee. They have faith in each other’s absence, can see through each other’s immediate anxieties, and have the necessary perspective to endure and help each other. Even when they go into typical romantic conflict (every couple in TV has to), their resolutions are adorable.
Joker & Harley Quinn
It is one of the most dysfunctional romances ever created, and is my unabashed favorite. It is not just an abusive relationship: this vibrant woman is in love with the worst person alive. You could expect nothing other than for him to be awful; he’s murdered hundreds just to mess with a billionaire dressed as a bat. I have a huge soft spot for unconditional love, and this is the most extreme case of testing whether unconditional love can and should last – and it does so with unnerving cheer. That Quinn is so assertive in all other matters, willing to deck police officers and superheroes for questioning her man, is a good wrinkle. A better one is how Joker responds when she turns on him, like the time she almost shot his head off.

Carl & Ellie from Up
The second cartoon pair on the list is also the most affecting short I’ve ever seen. Up’s six-minute silent film approach displayed a mastery over film that few directors with casts of living actors possess. It also displayed the tropes of life: of desires postponed, intimate knowledge of another, and the inevitable loss of age. As someone who has not cried at a movie since he was 13, I give this the greatest accolade I can: it almost choked me up.

Mickey & Mallory from Natural Born Killers

There is no warehouse large enough to contain all the movies in which one lover “needs” another. It is in this one where the stakes most validate that need. They may be the only ones who can bring each other any peace in a world that otherwise seems to harm them, and they’re both so damaged they can’t reason their way to constructive lives. If the film reflected reality more I might reject it, but as the notion of two such damaged people, they draw utter sympathy and I actually root for them to carve their way through America. Typing this reminds me that I’ve yet to watch Bonnie & Clyde. That’s probably happening soon.

Medullina Camilla and Claudius
from Robert Graves’s I, Claudius

I’m sharing this last one to deliberately embarrass myself. Camilla has a bit role in the novel, appearing a little simpleminded, but uncommonly sweet to the disability-riddled Claudius. The pretty girl who was seemingly too good for this cripple reminded me a lot of my girlfriend at the time. I remember being excited to tell my girlfriend about her, and even a little excited for the fight after I would sideways call her simpleminded. Unfortunately I kept reading, and a few pages later Camilla was assassinated. By the time she got home, I didn’t want to talk about the book anymore. It’s good, though.

So there you go: six romances I actually endorse. Have any recommendations for me?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Thank You, Lita

Thank you for having a hoarse voice. It’s a little husky, only faintly raspy, like at one distant day you were a heavy smoker. I know you never were. And thank you for raising that voice, and for the way it makes men prickle. Other men. It just makes me think of Peppermint Patty.

Thank you for having legs that are simply too long. I don’t even like legs; mine have never been any good to me. That you never know what to do with them when we go to sleep is a source of constant comfort. Also, constant knees to the groin. I will not thank you for those.

Thank you for loving to clean. I like a tidy space, but I’ve never met someone who paid that much attention to a single window pane. You make me get out of my chair, even when my spine is acting up, to play my part in the fight against grime. And thank you for pandering, and for knowing, and for leaning on my shoulders until I sit back down. We both know when I have to stop, but you’re the only one who does something about it.

Thank you for dragging my bad knee to the dance hall. Thank you for the placating words in your dolorous tone. Thank you for looking at the only man in the dance hall who’s taller than you like you’re ten years old and he’s a milkshake. Thank you for taking my permission to dance with him for the rest of the night while I sit with a pack of ice, doodling elevator shoes on my napkin.

Thank you for knowing about all the big Horror movies before I do, and for checking the midnight screenings, and for driving, and sometimes for paying, and when I need it, sometimes for letting me pay. Thank you most of all for digging little pink crescents into my forearm midnight premiere after midnight premiere. It’s a small price to pay to defend you against haunted houses.

Those fingernails. Thank you for unconsciously picking at your cuticles, punishing them for being uneven, and getting so frustrated while simultaneously glassy-eyed and unaware. And when I put my hands over yours, thank you for stopping. Thank you for letting me stop you. I wish it wasn’t a part of me, but I’m eternally grateful that you let me know I’m not alone in all my little imperfections.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Modern World Besieged

Imagine J.D. Salinger getting turned down because he’s uncomfortable doing promotion.

Imagine Mary Shelly getting rejected from agent after agent because Frankenstein is too unlike what’s on the market.

Imagine Virginia and Leonard Woolf creating their own e-pub platform to support their nutty books.

Imagine The Great Gatsby getting buried in the Kindle Rankings shuffle, leaving Fitzgerald to drink off the disappointment. The book bloggers seemed enthusiastic, so why didn’t it take off?

Imagine Arthur Miller having to settle for whatever actors he could find on Craigslist.

Imagine a web forum as robust as the Oulipo.

Imagine if Maxwell Perkins blogged. Imagine if his publisher ordered him to blog, to tweet and run Facebook, even if he needed the hours to work with Wolfe at the blackboard.

Imagine Roald Dahl targeted for writing YA that’s too dark and depressing.

Imagine the Library of Alexandria with a cloud drive. It’s another world, ugly and gorgeous.
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