Welcome Back, Hello

Hello. How are you?

I don’t know if you remember me. I can’t blame you if you don’t. It’s been too long.

Occasionally the world will make demands of you which preclude more enjoyable activities. For me this world manifested itself in two albatrosses of significantly different importance: College (of Higher Importance and Not Altogether Unenjoyable) and Work (of Little Importance and Tedious-To-Boot). Both, to my resigned chagrin, have prevented my daily maintenance of The Daily Coma.

Again — my highest apologies.

 

It’s the nights which are the longest.

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7 or 8 Things I Know About Her

First Criticism

Two years old, and her mother takes her downtown for the day. As she rode the subway back from the museum a man sitting across the aisle looked down to meet her glance. She smiled at him. He turned away.

The Animal Presence

The neighborhood was notorious for harboring a score of feral cats. Naturally she wanted to take them in and make them all her own. Naturally her father disagreed. This did little to stop her from feeding a deep-orange tabby table-scraps every night at eight-thirty. This arrangement continued for another year until the cloudy Tuesday when the tabby didn’t come. She was sad, but more than that she was taken aback at her understanding of the whole situation.

Self-Criticism

–Somehow, I feel like, whenever I walk into a room, everybody becomes hyperaware of my being there, and they whisper about me, and what I might be wearing, and just other stuff like that. I can’t tell if this is a paranoia or a narcissism. Or both.

Fantasies

Once on television she watched (her father watched) as Boise State defeated Oklahoma in a grave blow to reality. At the end of a game a player ran off the field and came up to a cheerleader and knelt down and a year later they were married. Her hope then became not to marry the Varsity Captain but to be loved in such a public way that love could never again be doubted.

Listening

–Just because you’re so smart doesn’t mean you know more than I do.

This was her mother, aggressive, tense, who left the argument shortly after, leaving her to wonder what would lead someone to say that.

The Trees

Whenever she found herself alone she traveled to the expanse of trees in the west side of the city. There she’d cleared out a patch where she could read White Teeth and ask questions of her mother’s comments on modern music.

The Great-Aunt

Her grandmother proposed that they all go visit her sister in Roswell for the weekend. She had no opposition (not that she could have) until they arrived and she saw for the first time in two years a withered, chair-bound creature, buried in tubes, who everybody kept calling Rosemary. The sight reminded her of the tape a friend had brought during a sleepover some years ago and stayed forgotten until its avatar sat mute in the living room. She said the required pleasantries and spent as much time as possible in the upstairs bathroom.

aw jeez

aw jeez

aw jeez aw jeez

the internet people are gon’ be real cheezed

no posts no content not even a sneeze

aw jeez

more than a month

aw jeez

i’m gon’ have ta do somethin’ real quick here

occupied time is wasted time

i think

or do i

aw jeez

this isn’t great

Kate Chopin and Her Substandard Friends

My first and last experience with Kate Chopin was in the late first half of my junior year. We were assigned the slim volume of her The Awakening to read over winter break. Having no knowledge of Chopin and fewer expectations for her novella, I set to the task, finishing in two days.

I loathed it.

At the time, it was the worst book I’d ever read. Bar none. (The title now belongs to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a position which I will defend to this day.)  I didn’t have enough unkind works for it, nor any recommendations for friends outside “Just don’t.” It felt nice to have something to hate.

I’ve thought on The Awakening lately, and I’ve come to a startling realization — I don’t remember why I hated it. There was something on the main character making bad decisions, and something else about prose, but I honestly cannot recall why it was a bad book. I’ve hated it just to have something to hate.

If I can’t fully remember the reasons why I despised The Awakening, then I cannot continue to hate it. At some point I’ll revisit the novella. I’m going to takes notes on The Awakening — a surprising first. I fully expect the work to be better than I remember, and hope to be surprised by some genius on Chopin’s part.

This probably doesn’t pertain to you. Cheers.

I’m Not a Fan

“A man devoted to his ideals alone is a caterpillar caught in its cocoon.”

– Maurice Lapin, Manifesto of the Nth Generation

There are many things I dislike. It comes with the territory of having strong opinions. Some people say I dislike too many things, and that I should reconsider some of my deeper-held views. These people are probably wrong.

That being said, one cannot dislike a thing without reason — that’s disingenuous and inauthentic. I’m going to lay out the dislikes which come first — last — — first — in my thinkings, and reason out why they are disliked. Again, I do not intend these opinions to be the omega of criticism on the subject, nor is it an assault on the tastes of those who enjoy these works, as opinion is often mistaken for. They are my thoughts, straight and true, presented to be mended, improved, and made whole.

So. Let’s begin.

  • Fantasy / Science Fiction

I’ll preface this criticism with the fact that I am an ardent fan of Doctor Who, a touchstone of the Sci-fi television genre. The general whimsy of the series, the character of the Doctor, the philosophy it espouses — they all draw the viewer in, and wrap them comfortably in Gallifreyan thread. That being said, Doctor Who proves an exception to the standard. I find no enjoyment in novelistic works of sci-fi or fantasy. Both genres rely heavily on world-building in order for the reader to understand the plot. The author must explain the particular scenario to the reader so that the plot may continue afterward — this is simply not good writing. Such a wide swath of world is condensed into a single book that the essence of a novel is lost in the details. A Mrs. Dalloway or a V. will give you minimal explanation (if that) as to what’s going on, but they slowly elaborate through the novel’s progression. This is what makes a great novel great — they will not hold the hands of their audience. This is not to imply that hand-holding is inherent in sci-fi and fantasy, but it is often used as a crutch to support the world around the characters. These genres will put the concepts before the people when it should be vice versa. I won’t deny the ambition inherent in fantasy and sci-fi works. I remember enjoying Ender’s Game during freshman year of high school, and a name by the man of Gene Wolfe keeps bubbling to the surface as a reportedly quality writer. I hope one day to be surprised, but here I wait.

  • John Green and Young Adult books

Now, I might get some flack for this, but I’m gonna go ahead and say it: I like reading books. I’ll give you a moment to climb back in your chair.

There. Calm? Good. As someone who reads, I’m all too familiar with the phenomenon of Young Adult fiction. YA has become the most advertised, if not to say the most popular, genre in modern reading, spearheaded by John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Reading YA is not a crime in itself, as the genre doesn’t claim to be making deep artistic incursions — but only reading YA is deplorable. It is, by no standard, good. This is YA’s nature — a light, shallow form that younger people can pick up quickly, and perhaps facilitate an initial love of reading. Yet I keep finding people of my age defending YA as anything more than that, and better suited to their lifestyles than “that hard stuff.” I’ve had someone tell me that Stars was the most accurate depiction of a relationship with cancer she’d ever seen. Maybe it was for her, but a book made for younger audiences inherently cannot express deeper themes than mature literature (if you’re on a cancer kick, I’d recommend Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther’s account of his son’s death at the hands of brain cancer, and, though you’ll have to read the whole novel to get the context, the final chapter of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is well worth your time). Perhaps this large support for YA is a case of squeaky wheels getting oil. Those who devote their beings to the cause of YA will make their case loudly, and across ample channels. A simple work can be spread by a simple message. Part of its appeal comes from a loose concept of wanting kids to read, or as it’s often phrased, “at least they’re reading something,” a veiled excuse to stop paying attention. Kids who are getting into reading aren’t familiar with the best books out there, those that best describe man and his subtle tendencies. I’m not advocating we throw Infinite Jest-shape bricks at people, but surely we can move beyond YA into more mature, and thus more rewarding, works.

For further debate on the subject, I recommend this excellent article from The New Yorker.

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/henry-james-great-ya-debate

  • Upstream Color

Upstream Color is a 2013 film written and directed by Shane Carruth, most notable for his 2004 time-machine film Primer. I haven’t seen Primer, so I’ll reserve judgment on Carruth’s total output, and focus solely on UC.

The dialogue is sparse to the film’s detriment, the camera works tries to emulate Malick without the vision or aesthetic beauty, and the plot — which I won’t spoil here — is a romance disguised as a pseudo-philosophical inquiry. Again, UC seems to be more about the concept rather than the people, though it does make a genuine appeal to their shared misfortune and humanity. The film feels as though it’s trying its best to be “modern,” in the sense that it spends the better part of two hours doing nothing in particular. The point of UC, as I saw it, was to illustrate how people come together through a traumatic connection, but the way UC conveyed the idea was unnecessarily convoluted. I know other people highly enjoy the film, but it just doesn’t appeal to me.

  • Not Liking The Catcher in the Rye

As with Upstream Color, this is more of a sticking point among friends. Disdain for Holden Caulfield is a phenomenon highly prevalent in our new generation, much like political apathy, or a successful Chris Pratt. The readers I’ve talked with have, on a startling scale, renounced Catcher and its protagonist as preachy, poorly-written drivel best suited for angsty freshman. This denotes a fundamental misunderstanding of the text, of Salinger as an artist, and of other individuals’ ability to cope with tragedy. Holden has lost his younger brother to a brutal struggle with pneumonia (a fact that many detractors gloss over), he’s trying to find some semblance of purpose only to be constantly rebutted by an uncaring world, he wants so desperately to be an adult, but can’t find authentic adults to look up to, and he knows that he is one of those phonies in life, hiding his shame under cynicism and disdain for other people. Catcher is an existential novel, a term which here means “a novel about apathetic whining.” Get over yourself, try and forget all the whining about Holden’s “whining,” and revel in one of the 20th century’s greatest writers.

Do these opinions make me better than you? No. My reading of Pynchon fills that demand. But they are my opinions, and just that.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Dancing, Dancing

I’ve never liked defining a single work in any mode as the best “of all time.” The assignment rejects colossal swaths of various canons, only leaving a small bush from which to pick cherries. I’m thinking specifically of literature, as Shakespeare looms large over the Western Canon, but the concept applies to other modes as well — film, drama, poetry, television, and art all find their respective unquestionable touchstones. Lending the Greatest of All Time title to, for example, Shakespeare, implies that the remainder of everything else is all downhill. Imagine a teacher telling you as a young child, “Listen, kid, I hope you enjoyed Macbeth, ’cause you ain’t never gonna see anything else as good as that.” You’d never read again, and why would you? The best is already behind you.

This isn’t to say that some works deserve the consideration more than others – what was accomplished in Ulysses, in terms of prose, may well never be accomplished again. Certainly the study of literature and the humanities as a whole is centered around some works being more important than others. But can’t we set aside the achievements of works over others AND reserve the possibility of them being overcome? A literature professor I know once told me, “For a novel to be considered great, it must advance the novel as an art form.” We cannot have advance if we continue to regard the past in an ultimately higher regard than anything else which may come after. It is this rejection of the present, of contemporary fiction and its wide potential, that I disliked about the GOAT status.

I’ve never liked it, that is, until I finished Blood Meridian.

My God. My god. There has yet to be a novel of sheer power that I have experienced like the blood-caked majesty of Blood Meridian. My previous contender was Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, but this… this is startling. I’ve never shuddered at a book before, nor have I ever recoiled at violence contained solely within a fictional text. Cormac McCarthy earns his spot in the American Canon with this work, and makes a strong case for his spot among the greats.

A quick summary, for the uninitiated: A young, unnamed kid makes his way through Texas and Mexico during the early 1850s, joining a group of Indian scalpers led by a man named Glanton and another named Judge Holden. Told through Biblical prose — I’m talking King James Biblical — Blood Meridian is at once nihilistic, sweeping, grand, and deep in the heart of the mind. As is typical with McCarthy, the characters, though integral, aren’t the most important factor — it is the setting, the philosophies, and the actions of said characters (as opposed to their responses in the world; we find the group to take their own initiative rather than wait for opportunity) which drive the plot forward and upward.

It wasn’t until Blood Meridian that I understood why one would be willing to make the “GOAT” claim – there are some works so powerful, so overwhelming in their mastery of language and characters, that it becomes difficult to imagine any other works being so accomplished. As it stands now, Blood Meridian is the best book I’ve ever read – but I will not call it the best book I will ever read. There’s so much literature I have yet to experience, and I wont gyp myself of the opportunity to be amazed once again. In the past, I found myself struggling to reconcile the quality of a new work with the idea of another. If I had always thought one work to be the greatest (or my favorite – the two not always being the same), I would worry that the new work was going to supersede it, and find the basest reasons for the new work not being as good as the original. I still find myself in this trap, mostly with television, but the problem is being slowly resolved. With further exposure to good works comes a more meaningful understanding of the world and its places and its people — a task not limited to a single volume of thought.

How to Become a Successful Writer (in Six Steps Guaranteed!)

In the Year of our Lord twentyfifteen, it is undeniable that reading has been relegated to quick electronic flashes of text and browsing shampoo bottles in the restroom. As such, it’s become difficult for young, plucky upstarts to enter the literature business (or, as we call it, the litness) and maintain a sense of strained integrity. Luckily for you, I have just now, under the influence of severe overconfidence and lackluster output, determined a course which can propel any run-of-the-mill street urchin into pseudo-popularity.

Take notes.

First, you must move to New York. Not all writers from New York are good, but all good writers are from New York. The city itself constitutes 20% of a given writer’s overall ability. Even mentioning the city by itself is shown to raise artistic ingenuity by ten points.

Second, you must only write free verse poetry. Artistic restraint is for squares, and it doesn’t poll well among the youth.

Third, your free verse poetry must only be read aloud in coffee houses, as oral tradition is the purest form of poetry. Note that your reading of free verse poetry in the coffee house doesn’t have to be planned, merely heard, and perhaps recorded on a vertically oriented iPhone.

Step Three is repeated ad nauseum until Step Four occurs: a popular underground blog declares you the voice of your generation. At this point, you will attract a new audience comprised solely of people who utterly despise your work. Blogs will rise calling for the head of a new voice attempting to subvert their thoughts on art. /lit/ will mutter among themselves that you’re not Thomas Hardy, and that your intentionally listless, apathetic tone is both more enjoyable and less important that Taipei.

This Hate Resonance Chamber will build until Vintage completes Step Five, publishing A collection of confessions i made to my cat in the fall. The book will receive overwhelming commendations from The Daily Beast, the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the Evening Standard, Slate, your grandmother, Vice, Complex, Village Voice, Bookforum, Buzzfeed, The Week, Salon, Maisonneuve, and other venues, despite no one claiming to have ever read it.

Step Six will see you never publish another work, and continue to comment on all new literature regardless of whose attention you have. Your literary reputation firmly secured by a single volume of varying importance, you will be free to lock yourself in your New York apartment – remember, you live in New York – and do nothing but fuel rumors of a magnum opus in the works until the day you die at age twenty-eight.

I’m not kidding.