The other day, one of my students asks me where oil comes from. I am helping him with an article about climate change and the oil industry that he was supposed to summarize for the previous week’s assignment. English is his third language and the one he struggles with the most, so we are sitting at his desk after dismissal going through his article line by line.

I’m surprised that he asks me that, where oil comes from, and then I’m ashamed at my own surprise. He has no reason to know the answer.

I could tell him that where I grew up, the drumbeats of the oil rigs were as familiar as the sound of my own heartbeat, or that my first school had an oil derrick next to the swing set, caged in with a barbed wire-topped fence and locked with heavy chains. READ MORE >

Random / 2 Comments
October 27th, 2016 / 1:34 pm

The Title

In so much art, I can smell the author’s desire for me to be more interested in how they and/or their characters interpret and inhabit boredom than actually doing something. Simple action. Anybody involved doing anything. I’m thinking here of The Stranger, The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño, The Immoralist. The strung along. The boredom of relative luxury. How this seems to at least temporarily obliterate any internal gyre of philosophy or gut thought that would lead to decisions being made and bodies being moved, followed then by trailing thought, fallen out words. Is there a novel out there concerned mostly with people moving and acting with little thought, but in which plot in its traditional patterns of building (attention, suspense, terror) does not build its usual cores but delves or unearths something deeper in its time: meaninglessness? Beckett, I guess, right? Of Molloy. And not yet just a list of actions but a trail of subsumed desire, of wiped want, or cleaned out intuition. Belief born without a tail. Who’s out there? And how are they speaking? And in that smell, be it a pleasant suprasense or the shit of deadening culture, you can either yes to it or no and walk away, close the book. Off the screen. Say hi to a realm of light and seeming chaos that somehow provides you wind.

But meaninglessness is tricky. Just as the word impossible is framed by a language that both codes it and decodes it simultaneously (it’s a combustive word; no wonder artists take it as such an engine), meaninglessness doesn’t truly touch through the black skein of a void, the void, void. We know it just gestures. (from Mark Leidner: poetry like the Midas of meaning; everything you reach for is dissolved in the spectacle of the gesture) So we’re left with a hologram of a projection of deeper sense or finality: we’re left just out of reach of the point of cataclysm, or at least where the earth can break through enough to swallow its container. It’s not geometrical at all, nor is it a sphere without a skin: in a way, culture in its progression, bacterial (maybe moreso than a viral way), keeps as its form the method by which we can get as close to a system of thought’s event horizon. A hollow zone where the force holding you in place is milliseconds away from its pull toward another place: lesser star, complete off.

I dreamed earlier today about writing I am paralyzed. In the near immediate wake of death. And how, seeming to me then in the open dream, that must necessarily precede a statement of numerical precision: how many times the page itself I had typed or tapped onto white had been deleted. And reformed, necessarily. All I’m thinking about now is how the Dionysian and the Apollonian were easy outs. It seems to me both of those frames of vision have a third hand somewhere: just out of frame, the marble grates against its mate. Touch.

Random / 8 Comments
February 2nd, 2012 / 2:51 am

How I Got Here

Becoming is weird. I have theories: how I got here, what lead me, what pushed me out of one interest and into the next. I don’t get too high on rethinking and visiting my quick past, which, if I had to guess, is a big reason why I’m happy most of the time. I’m not that interested in my past, not as reportage, not as history. But consider this an essay in its primordial meaning: an attempt at a history. That black space with the electricity below it right above, that’s it.

When I was little I frequently made stuff. Stories, goofs. I was really into drawing, and applied to one of those mail-order Drawing Schools (to prove my might I had to draw a weird turtle boy’s face and include some mom money). My mom and dad, ever the best ever, obliged and encouraged me. Always. Throughout this entire post, remember that thread of encouragement. I’ve never lacked it from those close to me. If I’m not lucky I’m not anything else. Art class in school fed me, kept me wanting. I remember getting into a shoving match in second grade — was the kid’s name Kurt? — over who had drawn the better Star Wars TIE fighter. I fake hyperventilated when the teacher came to break it up, feigning something bodily urgent, and was made to stand against a wall and breathe slow. Kurt got punished, maybe spanked. I don’t know. It was Texas.


Behind the Scenes / 12 Comments
March 4th, 2011 / 4:16 pm

“Nothing ever happens.”

This is the first installment of what I might call Litblogging Wis Frvr or something like that. Sort of an anthology-in-progress.

The Book: A Spiritual Instrument
by Stéphane Mallarmé

I am the author of a statement to which there have been varying reactions, including praise and blame, and which I shall make again in the present article. Briefly, it is this: all earthly existence must ultimately be contained in a book. READ MORE >

Excerpts & Film / 14 Comments
January 21st, 2011 / 7:34 pm

“Whose arm is this?”  She said, “That’s my mother’s arm.”  Again, typical, right?  And I said, “Well, if that’s your mother’s arm, where’s your mother?”  And she looks around, completely perplexed, and she said, “Well, she’s hiding under the table.”

– Errol Morris on anosognosia and much much more, in five parts. Starts here.

Against Dualism: Yes That Is A Joke: A Response.

Like Christopher, I tend to put off formal long form thinking for the most part; I like videogames and cheese. However, I feel kinda of maternal in this case, because I think it was this admittedly provocative prompt that got Roxane thinking and talking, and me thinking and talking, which lead to Chris’s rebuttal. So pardon me for this sensuous and likely embryonic blab. I’ll also adopt the third person here.
Craft Notes / 54 Comments
March 31st, 2010 / 9:08 pm

I. Fontana on Publicity

[This is a comment–regarding some recent posts here–that I. Fontana posted and also sent out to me & Ken, and we thought it was worth presenting on the main page for those who missed it.  I. Fontana knows whereof he speaks, and he’s one of my favorite “new” writers out there.  Love his short stories, which I’ve linked on HTMLGIANT before, and I know he’s got some other stuff in the works that I’m very, very excited to see published. –N.A.

Nick says it: I. Fontana says it. Presented with no further ado: –K.B.]

Superagent Nat Sobel said in an interview last summer that he chooses at most one in 500 unsolicited manuscripts to represent in a given year. Grove/Atlantic, HarperCollins etcetera — all the major New York publishing houses, in other words — explicitly announce that they will not read any manuscript which does not come from an established agent.

In the early 19th century, literature (and in particular the novel) evolved into a popular art form generally serialized each week in newspapers, which meant that in order to keep the particular novel being read, there had to be narrative pull, even cliffhangers — in general, plot. But this meant that the socalled “unwashed masses” now were exposed to such writing, so that writers no longer had to hang around court or otherwise suck up to aristocrats, publishing their books by subscriptions to the wealthy (which constriction obviously required that the wealthy find such books pleasing). Democracy means including the lowest common denominator as well as the connoisseur.


Behind the Scenes / 53 Comments
March 21st, 2010 / 6:34 pm

Do you write about sports? Punt something over to Stymie.