Every once in a while, it occurs to me that I’ve been writing for a long while, over 36 years now, writing my novels and screenplays, short stories and articles, and I have yet to get it anywhere of import, nothing but meaningless articles published in community papers.
It has dawned on me that I might not be that good, that, as much as I pretend to deny my desire for vainglory, I crave it as much as the next. It may also be that my writing is bilgewater (my father’s expression), that I drivel on because I am on immature autopilot.
However, my extreme subjectivity understood, I don’t think so. I believe that I understand what’s in a character’s head, what moments mean something and what others do not, what this experiment of ours, humans that is, might or might not be, and that I can express that in words and phrases. My thoughts burn ahead. (Which might explain why I always get fired.)
Anyway, that’s the trickery inside that pushed me on here, ready to take on the big bloggers like Gala Darling and Heather Armstrong and say, well, you know, I might not know marketing and key words but I do know something about…uh, not so sure what that is, but, fucking hell, I have Zake’s Orchestral Studies Collectanae looping in my head, and that has to be worth something.
Given the scathing feedback from my (former) editor, it took me some time to get back at the first book of The Cx Trilogy, Anori. I’ve made it at last and begun the long toil. The current plan is to work on this concurrently with Fuck Pedagogy and see how their orbits might move the tides. Here are the opening pages at present. (Criticisms welcome!)
Dee held hard to the balcony railing as she looked down to Battery Park, all but empty now, neat rows of sandbags banked up against the grates alongside the Custom House, a single police car, its blue lights mute and slow, moving slowly away. They had stopped broadcasting the evacuation order hours ago. Zone A was closed.
The curtains lulled back as Dee slid the balcony door closed. There was a rocket ship on television. Great shards of curved ice calved off its sides, dissolving into a torrent of smoke and steam, as it slowly rose. The cameras cut to a distance perch across the valley, where the rocket could be seen rising from the barren landscape on a halo of brilliant white, a vibrating candle.
She went into the bathroom and turned off the faucet, Apollo lurching after her, his black-striped tail snaking over her shoulder, as he peered into the tub, now full of water. She grabbed at Apollo’s paw. “Want a bath?”
Apollo slid wildly on the tiles, slamming into the door frame as he bound into the living room. She didn’t know why she would even need the water. The storm had been too long hyped, like the one before, Irene. People had talked and tweeted, hoping for the disaster to get worse so they could make money pretending they cared. She watched the spectacle, the cameras now inside the capsule, giving a fish-eye view of the flight instruments, the oblong window to the pilot’s right and the blue-grey glow of her helmet at the bottom of the screen, the ubiquitous Infinity logo on everything. The vanishing rocket rose atop its teetering plume, transforming into a dot, the smoke, once thick, drifted into emptiness.
She changed the channel to the local news. This morning’s high tide was at 8:30 am. That tide surged over the walls into the city this morning, eleven hours ago. That tide has already been here. This tide is a full-moon high tide, just like Irene, only worse; it’s much worse. The weather guy was earnest, his sleeves rolled up, his square jaw pushed out for this soap opera apocalypse announcement. This is the one we have to watch. This one could be anywhere from 12 feet up to 14, 15, 16 feet. 16 feet! Think about that. In just 15 minutes. This is it. The surge is almost here.
“Hurry up.” She grabbed the cat’s leash and opened the door. “Before it’s too late.”
Apollo bolted ahead of her and turned tight circles until the elevator opened, and then pinned himself against Dee’s legs, his head against the silver wall until the doors opened and he could escape to the lobby.
“Apollo!” Hector, large against the glass doors at the front, bent down to Apollo. “My man.”
“Keeping the storm at bay?”
“You shouldn’t have taken the elevator.” He scratched Apollo vigorously down his side. ““They’re going to shut off the power, Miss Sinclair.”
“It’s 28 floors, Hector.”
“The eye of the storm just hit Atlantic City. That just happened.”
She leashed Apollo. “They keep talking about the tide.”
“You see the market. You see that?” He pointed out to the green awning that had flipped around on its moorings, its rusted metal ribs exposed, swelling in and out with the wind, a dying animal against the corner of the building. “You sure you should be going out?”
She thought about telling him how she wanted to see the wall of water coming down the narrows, the boats curled up into its majestic belly, the Verrazano Bridge hidden from view, the Statue of Liberty dwarfed in the shadow of the blue-black water as it rose higher and higher, even if she knew it wouldn’t really be like that. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”
He stretched his arm against the door, his jacket binding at his giant shoulders and pushed open the door. “Be careful, Miss Sinclair. Lady was killed by a tree today in Queens.”
They were driving from San Francisco down to Monterey, and Davis wasn’t feeling well. He had waxed immortal the night before, fueled by drink and Guided by Voices. It seemed to Davis that Ellen was driving badly, changing back and forth into the lane, bumping methodically over the strips of tars, just to worsen his nausea.
“You have to pull over.” He didn’t make it out of the car and pressed his The Club is Open T-shirt over his face so tight that the puke shot up inside his sunglasses.
She stared out the windshield, her arms crossed. “You’re disgusting.”
“Do you have a napkin or something?”
“Remember that we’re staying at Doris Day’s Bed & Breakfast tonight?” She rolled down her window.“I guess I should get another shirt.” He half expected her to drive away as he rummaged in the trunk.
She rolled down her window. “She might even be there, you know.”
But she wasn’t and he slept in the big bed with the window open and had a shower and a very good dinner after that.
Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Kneeis a book that you will never forget. The prose are terse and clear, the images startling, the narrative impossible to digest. It must be read.
“Father, your young men have devastated my country and killed my animals, the elk, the deer, the antelope, my buffalo. They do not kill them to eat them; they leave them to rot where they fall. Fathers, if I went into your country to kill your animals, what would you say? Should I not be wrong, and would you not make war on me?” (Red Cloud, Oglala leader)“It is cold and we have no blankets.The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are -perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” (Chief Joseph, Nex Perce Chief) “We tried to run, but they shot us like we were a buffalo. I know they are some good white people, but the soldiers must be mean to shoot children and women. Indian soldiers would not do that to white children.” (Louise Weasel Bear, Sioux)
Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890
If we are to have a chance of becoming anything, we must remind ourselves of who we are and where we have come from. Dee Brown’s book does exactly that.
Personally, I don’t understand tattoos. As much as I might be fascinated by Hannah Arendt at the moment, I think it would be a mistake to get a tattoo. The same is true for Kiribati.
It’s even true for Victoria’s Secret. All of that said, a tattoo can be good short form for an aspect of a character in fiction. It’s a device I am toying with at the moment in The Ark. One character is a video game addict. Another says little. And the last, ironically, overstates.
As a teenager, I happened upon a trashy novel called Tidal Wave, the only part of which I remember was a sex scene which went something like this: His fingers explored the tangle of her pubic hair. “Is this a search and destroy mission, captain?” “I don’t have to search for it and I sure don’t want to destroy it.” Over the years, I realized that writing about sex was almost always like this. Trite and ridiculous, it just shone a spotlight on the naked stuff – Oh my goodness! Look at that! – destroying the essence of what makes sex rapturous. Whatever the erotic opus – Miller’s Tropic of Cancer or Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being – the writing of the sexual self just fell short. The problem is that sex is about another self, a naked self, a self that the clothed self looks at in confusion. What the hell are you doing? Are you really going to do that? You’re completely naked! The clothed self tends to stare and judge, incapable of reflecting on the intimacies of the naked self with any sense or sophistication. And yet, it is there, in all of us, the fingers tightening, everything stretching out, the head tilting back, peering into the chasm, ready to fall. Perhaps it is Xaviera Hollander who came closest (haha) to writing of this sexual self in her Penthouse Magazine column only because she wrote about sex and nothing else.