Note the similarities (and, as importantly, the differences) between the openings to Lorrie Moore’s “How to Be An Other Woman” (from Self-Help, 1985) and Junot Diaz’s “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” (from Drown, 1996), a story that seems to this reader to be written in homage, ten years later, to Moore’s story. Both stories are from debut collections, both collections introduce voicey masters to the world, both masters continue to write deeply idiosyncratic work subsequently, but usually not in second person:
From Lorrie Moore’s “How to Be an Other Woman” READ MORE >
For Thursday (9/10) we read “My Dog is a Little Obese” by Ellen Kennedy, “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl or Halfie” by Junot Diaz, and “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell. The theme was DIRECT ADDRESS and INSTRUCTION. As on Tuesday, we spent most of the time on the fiction piece. I think this is because fiction feels “easier” to talk about than poetry, like you’re not going to screw up the technical terms or something. And I think that having a teacher who is primarily a fiction writer contributes to this atmosphere, so I’m going to work harder in the future to check myself. But I think there’s a second reason as well, which is that a relatively straight prose narrative like the Diaz story (or Hemingway last week) yields itself to a kind of knee-jerk cultural studies reading, where the text is really just a pre-text for the themes and politics it evinces or brings to light. Especially with a piece like this one by Diaz, where the narrator is giving “you” instructions on how to re-arrange your apartment so you don’t look as poor as you are, and then impress the various girls you might have invited over, with particular race-based instructions for each one. I hate this way of reading.
A GUEST TRANSMISSION from the great GIANCARLO DITRAPANO of NEW YORK TYRANT:
Hello, great minds of HTML. Blake has been kind enough to let me put up this post. Thanks, Blake.
Now here’s the post:
The New York Tyrant made a new website and re-opened submissions. We wanted to try something new. The deal is this: We only accept regular mail submissions now, but if you insist on sending electronically, please test the waters with the THREE BEST SENTENCES from your story. If we like it, you will be asked to email the rest of it to us for consideration. If not, back to the drawing board. So the writing/submitting world kind of has a gamble. In all honesty, I wanted to taper off the amount of electronic submissions, but not lose a potentially great story written by a writer that is perhaps too lazy to make it to the post office. Say you have a complete story in hand. Is it fair to reject the story after reading just a couple of sentences? Is it perhaps MORE fair to reject it if ALL you have is three sentences? Could this perhaps benefit the writer, by making them find the best three sentences of their work? Will this make them concentrate more on the sentences they compose, just in case they are planning on submitting to NYTYRANT’s weird new submissions policy? Should I feel bad about the environment because I am accepting only regular mail submissions? Does this perhaps SAVE the trees by rejecting writers electronically and keeping them from printing one out to send in the mail? Am I concentrating too much on “sentences” rather than narrative? Is this stepping away from “short fiction” and stepping towards something…else? Is it possible that many bad sentences can, in concert, make a beautiful story? What, after all, is the big deal with great sentences?
Some examples of what we have received so far. Would you tell the writer to “send more” or ask them to resist? (I have left the authors names off.) (Yes, some aren’t even three sentences. Writers never follow the rules. Bravi, writers!)
Writer A sent this:
It is impossible for you to understand anything else about my disposition unless you can understand just how emotional a thing as simple as drapery can make me; how on days when the sky is filthy with grey clouds I find myself sitting in that very room, anxiously struggling to solve the dilemma of whether I should wait for the light or seek my shelter. I could cry for hours on a day like that, I swear.
Writer B sent this:
Ironically, sunny warm Florida in North America to a cold rainy mountain city in Latin America. There are worse things than rain. Thinking you’ll be alone forever is one of them.
Writer C sent this:
The name of my agency came to me when I saw the movie I Am Legend with a hottie named Stella who kept saying I reminded her of Will Smith, although he’s a whole lot balder, has much bigger ears and a darker complexion. So I had it painted on my office windows facing Cabrini Playground here on Barracks Street in the Lower French Quarter — I Am Adventure. Catchy, right?
Thank you for your thoughts! Sorry for such a long post. Hope it isn’t too boring.
P.S. Two parts: Who is the guy from Rome Review blowing to get an interview with Junot Diaz and pieces from Heti and Means without even having one damn issue out yet?? And B, who do I call to offer the same service, only longer and better and with more slobber?
November 18th, 2008 / 12:50 pm