Ice Friday: Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby”

The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the washstand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination: they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.

Safe on the Island

I’ll write a book where people scavenge and socialize far from home and then, in the later hours, scurry back to their island. It’s going to be called Safe on the Island.

How Writing is like Block Puzzle Jewel

When I begin the story, I think of everything neat and square, a perfect progression from the corner, building up, clear and strong. I come to consider a character or a moment further on and must get that down and then another further along. I might even drift toward the end. And it becomes a messy, multi-colored thing with jagged, hanging bits and far too many gaps. I go back to the start to find what I thought was strong and clear is not, those bits not like I remembered, but lonely and spare, and try to flesh those out, sticking them together, patching and editing, hanging them loose, and watch the occasional magic flash. And hold to that wondrous feeling too long, having made something from nothing, in no hurry to address the problems that await…until I realize the trap and begin anew.

Ice Friday: Raymond Carver’s “At Least”

I want to get up early one more morning,

before sunrise. Before the birds, even.

I want to throw cold water on my face

and be at my work table

when the sky lightens and smoke                          

begins to rise from the chimneys

of the other houses.

I want to see the waves break

on this rocky beach, not just hear them

break as I did all night in my sleep.                                    

I want to see again the ships

that pass through the Strait from every

seafaring country in the world—

old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,

and the swift new cargo vessels                              

painted every color under the sun

that cut the water as they pass.

I want to keep an eye out for them.

And for the little boat that plies

the water between the ships                                   

and the pilot station near the lighthouse.

I want to see them take a man off the ship

and put another up on board.

I want to spend the day watching this happen

and reach my own conclusions.                               

I hate to seem greedy—I have so much

to be thankful for already.

But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.

And go to my place with some coffee and wait.

Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.  

Being Smart Isn’t Intellligent

We bald apes have always struggled with existence. Being aware that we are finite has made us depressed and self-serving. Ironically, it is this pattern of selfishness that has put us on the brink of self-extermination – consuming, hoarding, discarding – dragging every other earthly creature with us.In other words, as much as we want to blame Trump, Brexit and NASCAR, it’s each of us, every individual, who is to blame for this slide into the mediocre abyss where moronic agendas prosper. Indeed, as fervently as we might proclaim intelligence, the sad truth is we’re merely smart, if that. Clever enough to assess, post and download, we don’t know how to think about the purpose of any of it. To paraphrase, Ben Jonson’s Volpone, rarely do we allow our “conscience get in the way of our wit.” Further, as Cixin Liu posits in The Three-Body Problem: The relationship between humanity and evil (stupidity) is similar to the relationship between the ocean and an iceberg floating on its surface -both the ocean and the iceberg made of the same material. That the iceberg seems separate is only because it is in a different form.

Rather than intelligence, what we should look at, like it or not, is how good we are at being stupid. As sad as it is, that seems the naked truth.

Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie”

Like Micheal Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, critics have attacked and mocked the excessive ways of Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie. Rather than focus on the film – the imagery, characterizations and experimental structure – they honed in on the sensational stories of orgies and cocaine consumption because that’s what sells. The truth is, while Hopper’s film may be flawed, it is seminal – directionless, faded and disturbing. Under the tutelage of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, Hopper constructed an experimental narrative – including a title card flashing missing scene as if we are watching a rush – continually reminding the viewer of what this is – just a film.While it’s not earth-shattering genius, neither was Easy Rider nor even Midnight Cowboy or Apocalypse Now for that matter, but it’s genuine and a far cry from the processed images of today, all seemingly rendered from a rendering of a rendering. Personal and real, The Last Movie itself will be rendered soon enough. “Love is everywhere.”

Waking Through Six Layers

I was naked, of course, and late for class, when I was passed by a running figure, a boy who had died years before, and then another, his friend, someone I thought was still alive. I woke myself up and walked down a steep stone-lined avenue, searching for his friends, and then woke myself up from that. I was in bed and asked my wife for the phone. She gave me a calculator. I woke myself up from that and explained my anxiety to her about whether the other boy, Nick, might be dead. I was moving too slowly and woke myself up again, now exhausted and confused about where I was. The phone was working and the search engine. But I was still asleep and woke myself up again. I waited a long time before finding out. There was no news.