Monday, July 25, 2011

43. Bookstock and } the Dire Literary Series.

Alone in a miniscule Vermont town, alone for days, wandering around in a French-cuff, white dress shirt, gray trousers, and black, leather boots, lost off a trail, I ended up at a post-and-rail fence, looped with barbed wire. There ahead was a field. Horses, all of them white, grazed. One turned to the noise I made when I stepped on the bottom rail of the fence to test its strength. Green plants dangled from the horse’s mouth. Looked more like seaweed than grass. We stared at each other.

With minimal damage to my clothes I managed to hop the fence. The horses mostly ignored me and I did my best not to look at them, as if they’d recognize me later when they were questioned by the rancher. I’d been out all night, and the sight of a road—a real, paved road, with route numbers on signs posted alongside—was a huge relief.

Just a few feet from the fence that closed the field to the road, I felt a sharp pain between my shoulder blades. Very briefly, the road ahead of me turned red, and flowed, and all over the banks of this blood river were pale white flowers, blooming, and the trees withered white, and the sky, white. Beside me stood a horse, but not a horse: from between its nostrils was erupted a horn, its tip bright red. It snuffled—I felt its wet breath on my cheek. I made for the fence and got over it, started up the road, and finally found my car.

This weekend I’ll be in Vermont again, but with family and clear goals to keep me from late night bacchanalia. I was invited to present at Bookstock, “a Green Mountain Festival of Words.” I’ll read from Color Plates, and talk a little about writing short fictions; I have it in mind to talk about Angela Denstad’s as-of-yet unfinished collection of shorts, maybe read one or two. I’m also on-call to workshop high school student writing.

If you’re in the neighborhood of “the beautiful village of Woodstock, Vermont” Friday and/or Saturday, July 29-30, come see, “Over thirty authors of national and local renown will speak, read from their work, offer interactive programs and mingle with the participating public.” There’ll be book vendors and music, too.

The following weekend I’ll go Cambridgeward, to read for Timothy Gager’s Dire Literary Series, August 5, 8pm. The evening begins with an open mic, which means I get to meet you, and then features, Anne Ipsen, Ray Charbonneau, me. Timothy asked me to participate after I read at Ron Goba’s. I hope it’ll snow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

42. "la Porte de l'Orient," } where I note things.

Dan T. Ghetu, the man enslaved by the beautiful and malevolent creature called Ex Occidente, has published The Master in Café Morphine: A Homage to Mikhail Bulgakov, the second in what appears to be a series of anthology tributes to European authors of the weird (the first is Cinnabar’s Gnosis: A Homage to Gustav Meyrink; the third will be This Hermetic Legislature: A Homage to Bruno Schulz). The Master in Café Morphine is under “real-time review” by D.F. Lewis at The Hawler, and my contribution has already been reviewed.

Tho I type “review” certain that it’s not the right word. Here’s a sample:

“…a Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Anton Chekhov incident that haunts the stiff pages of this book, one of which pages might be used to funnel or chase dreams of forgetfulness in powder form… the sharpest funnel of all being the one that can deliver dreams of forgetfulness melted or distilled from the Winter of our souls by directly penetrating the skin with such a page’s words made fluid.”

I do know what Lewis means, by the way, and from his review it’s obvious he’s insightful. Chekhov was very much in mind while I wrote. My story is called “The Country Doctor” a title taken from Kafka, but also Bulgakov’s A Country Doctor’s Notebook.

Lewis also reviewed Cinnabar’s Gnosis. My contribution, “Her Magnetic Field,” is a story I am very fond of, which introduces Theophile, his amoral sister Monica, and his friend Philip (who once did battle in outer space with “the stone that thinks”). Lewis wrote:

“Proustian selves by cassette tape. Proustian selves as flies. This brings back for me the days of cassettes, when I recorded not only music from the wireless but echoes of sonorous existence from blank tape to blank tape and back again as sounds mounted sounds like randy insectoids…”

Proust! Thank you Mr. Lewis.

…and Lewis reviewed Old Albert: An Epilogue, another Ex Occidente title (in the Passport Levant series), this written by my friend Brian J. Showers. I’ve yet to read all of this revised and expanded version of the story, but I accepted the original “Old Albert” for New Genre #7, so I know at its core is a stellar story (I sold the rights to “Old Albert” for an astronomical figure, which explains why I’m writing this post from a club in Ibiza, for those of you who wondered). The book itself, as is the case with all the Ex Occidente titles I’ve seen, is gorgeous.

Earlier this year I heard Lance Olsen talk about books and their future (or non-future, says the hideous structure that once was a Borders). He said something along these lines: in the face of the e-book, many publishers of print books are showing us what the book can do.

What can a book do? The physical book lends atmosphere to the text it carries. Even the crummiest paperback, pages loose and yellowed, can enhance a text (what better way to read hardboiled detective fiction or Burroughs?).

The stately elegance of a volume from Ex Occidente is exactly the right setting for the collections and novels they publish. If I were in Romania, Dan and I would right now be standing over a table, smoking horrible cigarettes and examining the pages of the novel I am making in my head at this moment, and considering which silk ribbon bookmark and which silver foil stamp will best suit the horror.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

41. The murky depths } of the frog pond.

At last back from Boston, where my ship wrecked in the middle of the frog pond shortly after I left Emerson College. There was nothing to do but sit below the fountain and watch dryads mock me from the trees. A little girl led me and my crew to the shore, only to transform us into carousel horses. As I went round and round there was time to contemplate Emerson's Pre-College Creative Writing Program, for which I was a guest speaker. Thirty high school juniors and seniors listened to me during the day's Coffehouse Hour. I was asked to "prepare a brief introduction that touches upon what you wish someone would've told your teenage self about writing… and read about ten minutes worth of an excerpt from a recent publication or something you are working on." I spent all morning thinking about what I wished people had told my teenage writer self, but my thots all rabbitholed back to the fact that people did tell me, gave me fine advice, a very little of which I followed. If I could tell my teenage writer self something it would be to take some of that advice more seriously. So I told them to watch less television, eat reasonable after-school snacks, read more and more widely, and to fold and put away their school clothes.

I also showed the students OUTLAND, read a new story called "Open Houses," and encouraged questions. I'm not sure what I would have asked if I were in their position, but at least one student was determined to go home to his mom and dad with proof positive that a writer can make a living so mom and dad please send me to college for creative writing and not dentistry. I was little help, since I am a dentist.

While I went round and round the carousel, Speculative Fiction Junkie posted a positive review of Shadows & Tall Trees #1, and editor Michael Kelly can now wear a “British Fantasy Awards Nominee” badge, if he so chooses (Murky Depths won last year for best magazine? Murky Depths is what’s wrong with horror magazines. And its victory illustrates how broken fantasy literary awards are). Whatever. I’m pleased to see S&TT get some attention.

Night fell on Boston. The children went home and the gates to the carousel were locked. All we could move were our eyes.