Monday, November 27, 2006

The (almost) End of the Semester Run-Down

Number of classes until I'm done, done, done: 11

Number of days until we leave for Spain: 15

Number of loads of laundry I'll need to do before we go: umm, 42?

Number of weeks completed for next semesters' syllabi: 3 (for one class) and 4 (for another)

Number of book contests I sent my book(s) to: 3

Number I've won: 0 (to be fair, only one is "over")

Number of poetry month poems I turned into short shorts for my book: 2

Number of Christmas presents purchased: 7

Number for Middlebrow and Son: 0

Number of students I'll be SO glad to see the last for many reasons, not the least of which are in-class use of hand-held devices and the fear he could go postal: 1

Number of books I'm looking forward to reading on the plane: 2 (can I finish two on the plane?)

What I'll miss most about Christmas in the States: my family, and cookies

What I'm most looking forward to doing in Spain: seeing friends, drinking wine with friends, sharing tapas with friends, everything?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pre-Thanksgiving Miscellany

  1. Recent five-year old communiques: Son wrote a note to a school friend, a girl, and Middlebrow didn't look at it before Son put it in her cubby. When I asked him what it said, he claimed he couldn't remember. Then later he said, "It said for and look and body." After that he told me it said, "Look into your body." Middlebrow overheard this and raised his eyebrows. I was given the task of intercepting this risque kindergarten note. Middlebrow told Son, "you have to be careful of what you write." At son's school they do Kid Spell which is OC speak for "stop asking me and figure it out yourself." I asked Son to take the note back so I could look at it. It said (and I quote): Lk for yr life. Lk to yr life. I'm not sure, but I think Son may be the next Dali Lama.
  2. My favorite new song: Richard Thompson doing "Oops I Did It Again." His version of Squeeze's "Tempted" is a close second. (Thanks High Touch Mega Store)
  3. Favorite night before Thanksgiving activity: Baking the pumpkins to make into pie tomorrow. According to my sister, Erin Alice, this is "way too Martha."
  4. Okay, my real favorite night before Thanksgiving activity: drinking wine.
  5. My favorite Thanksgiving activity: Drinking wine. And the obligatory football game in the backyard. This year Dr. Write and Donna take on Middlebrow and Son. It's obvious we will win. Girls kick a**!
  6. My favorite internet activity: watching videos of racist rants on YouTube. And the drunk college professor. That one's good too. And Craig Ferguson. What did we do before YouTube? Oh yeah. Work.
  7. My favorite day before Thanksgiving in-class activity: Giving extra credit to students just for showing up. I should go back to showing "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving."
  8. My favorite night before Thanksgiving meal: Popcorn and toast. (actually, soup. This year, from a can.)
  9. My favorite day after Thanksgiving meal: Mexican.
  10. My favorite day after Thanksgiving activity: buying nothing. I already got (most of) my Christmas shopping done.

Monday, November 13, 2006

This One's for Suzi

Because it is Monday night and because Studio 60 is over, and won't be on again for another week (damn the tv schedule!), and because I still have grading to do, I decided to post one of the sections of my new story? essay? titled (for now) "You Find Yourself in a Situation." As I said this one's for Suzi (yes, the same Suzi of "the sun, the moon, and Suzi's butt" for those of you who are paying attention).

You are sitting cross-legged in a Denny’s, tied up like a pretzel in the corner booth. You don’t know why. You don’t know why you are sitting cross-legged, but you are in Denny’s because you and your best friend decided to leave your town around 10:28 pm on a Friday and drive the approximately five hours (more like four and change the way she was driving) to her town, where her parents are not expecting you until morning. What to do? You start at a Denny’s right off the highway. The bars have just closed, or are closing, and the place is beginning to get busy. You and your friend empty your pockets and your wallets and your backpacks and count the change you have dumped onto the table. The question is, can you afford dessert? You cannot. You can afford the two omelets and two cups of coffee you have already consumed. When the waitress comes around again, you nod, yes, you will take more coffee. Refills are free. You begin to look into each other’s eyes with the goal of deciding how much longer you can sit in this booth and drink free refills before the waitress tires of you and asks you to leave. Just then a drunk cowboy staggers over to your table. Just a detail here, but it’s southern Idaho. This might not be the only drunk cowboy in the joint, but he’s the only one standing in front of your table. Or wobbling. The waitress sets your check on the edge of the table, eyes him and asks, almost reluctantly, if he wants anything. Give me a steak! he yells. And burn it! You are somehow charmed by this character, recognizing as you do, that he is drunk and paying attention to you. Why are you sitting like that? he exclaims, as the waitress flees. Are you a yogi? This is the eighties. Yogi is not a term you hear much in your day-to-day life. No, you say. It’s just comfortable. He eyes you suspiciously as if he recognizes the liberal, yoga loving hippie you are about to become. He grabs your check off the edge of the table. I’m going to get this! He begins waving the check around and swaying from side to side. Tell everyone that folks from Kuna are nice, he says. If you ever meet anyone, tell them that you met a cowboy and he bought you dinner.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Poem for Tuesday

I was trying to find a poem with some hope for this election Tuesday. Here's one I found from the files of Poetry Month.

Not a Love Poem

There is no time for love poems now:
our house fills with dirty socks, small
metal trucks roll underfoot, and all
the dishes are crusted with dried food. How
did we get here? But here we are, together,
what luck, forlorn on this Tuesday night.
In the laundry room, the glaring light
reveals, too soon, that yes, I am her,
the woman you married, no longer sexy,
sorting the blues from the whites, pouring
bleach and soap. Let’s face it: we’re boring.
Instead of romance, we’ll have rest. He
might wake up, our son, no longer small.
But wait, this is a love poem, after all.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Geneology of Influence

For reasons that may remain murky, I was thinking recently about how my aesthetic was shaped. Why, for example, do I love the marriage plot, mystery novels and experimental fiction? Why do I love lack of closure in short fiction and despise it in movies? Why do I love fiction that pretends to be non-fiction or that quotes from non-existent non-fictional books?

This musing sent me back to Whittenberger, summer 1985. For two weeks, I lived in the dorms at College of Idaho, went to writing and literature classes, left campus illegally with my friend Suzi, went to the Idaho Shakespeare festival, fell in love for the first time (there will be no more references to that), and basically hung out with those who would become English major nerds in college.

The reason I think back to that experience is that during that summer I read both "The Metamorphosis" and "Lost in the Funhouse" for the first time. For some reason, my friends and I were also reading from Buddhist texts. So lines like "For whom is the funhouse fun?" mix with "Three things are not long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." Of course, I would write notes to my friends during class that said things like "Three things are not long hidden: the sun, the moon, and Suzi's butt." And when we discussed "The Metamorphosis" my posse and I would say, often and with feeling, "Monstrous vermin? How poetic!"

And, somehow, in conjunction with those thoughts I was revisiting the Frog and Toad books. I think these were the texts that had a huge influence on me when I began writing. Remember, for example, the story about The List? Toad makes a list and then proceeds to work his way down the list. But when he loses the list he is immobilized and can't do anything. He can't chase after the list because it is not on the list. Finally he remembers that Go To Sleep was on the list and so he writes it in the sand, crosses it out, and goes to sleep. Is that not post-modern? Does it not, in some way, represent the Post-modern Condition? Our lives mediated by language and text. It's probably no surprise, as well, that the first novel I read was Charlotte's Web. It also focuses on textuality, language, character. All the things I love.

Also in high school, same summer, I read Jane Austen for the first time, Pride and Prejudice. And I had just read Waiting for Godot in my English class, and then I saw a production of it during Whittenberger. I also read Catch-22 that year, and still remember the paper I wrote about the prostitutes. My senior year I read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. All these texts were influential.

So my aesthetic (if I can call it that) is a strange mixture of plot and no-plot, closure and openness. I think this leads me to feel split, often. From my dissertation I now have two story collections. One, more traditional, is called When I Say Idaho. The stories in this collection have some plot, characters, closure. The other, more experimental, has gone through several name changes: In the House, The Infinite Cages. Lately I'm favoring Dioramas of the Domestic Landscape. The stories in this collection have little to no plot. They are not chronological. Some have no logic. One is "Knives in the Kitchen." It's about knives. One is "The Shopping Habits of My Neighbors." It's about shopping. They are thematically linked, but often they are episodic and more about ideas than about narrative arc.

I'm thinking of writing an essay about my aesthetic development. But I'm not sure how I'd decide to address my scizophrenic nature. So often, I think, we are asked to choose sides. But what if I don't want to choose sides? Can't I like both?

My favorite intersection is that of "Lost in the Funhouse" and Buddism. I'm definitely going to have to turn that into a story.