Reading April 2

I’m reading in one week at Cheryl B.‘s Atomic [N.B. Link removed; no longer extant] series, at Lucky 13 in Park Slope!

Sunday, April 2, at 7:00pm! With David Webber and Francine Witte! 273 13th St. at 5th Ave., Brooklyn! Free!

Please come! This will be fun.

And look, my bio [N.B. Link removed; no longer extant] is up!

And did you see my bio for the Sunday Salon back in December? (Scroll about a third of the way down the page; there’s also a photograph of me reading from that night. Behind the stool I’m perched on is a Fender amplifier; I could be wrong, but to the left of what I think is a P.A. head on top of the amp appears to be a dancing monkey wearing a tambourine as a hat, a brown shawl draped over his shoulders, holding a blue football under his arm, squatting on top of a djembe, laughing, laughing. I certainly don’t remember a monkey being there, but, you know, I was very nervous.)

PS Almost forgot: I’ll be giving away copies of what I’ve been calling the EP version of my manuscript, Ladies’ Night at the Arctic Club and Other Stories, a.k.a. the limited edition bound galley I made of the thesis I handed in at NYU last spring. It’s pink! It’s free! It looks like this!:

PPS By “4-track demo EP version” I mean, like, metaphorically!

Dear Department of Homeland Security,

So I was recently looking at the usage statistics for my Web site, and I couldn’t help but notice that someone connecting to the Web via a server visited thirteen times in the month of February of this year, checking out a total of 101 pages. Wow! Thanks for stopping by! I am, of course, very curious as to how you ended up here in the first place. Were you the visitor who Googled “the design for marshmallow guns”? Or perhaps “ship stability”? “Truth in nonfiction,” maybe? Or my favorite, “don’t blame Cortázar”? However you got here, I’m so flattered that you stuck around for so long! Were you curious about my modest contributions to small literary journals? Were you admiring my photographs and drawings? Did your poking around have something to do with the security of the homeland? Or were you just bored at work? If the latter, believe me, I understand; the Web can be a very distracting place! (I mean, have you guys checked out Strongbad? Hilarious!) Speaking of homeland security, you know, maybe you can help me out with something—basically, I’m embarrassed to admit, I’ve never really fully understood what “homeland” means. I mean, are we just talking about the contiguous 48? Or Alaska and Hawai’i too? Do the territories get lumped into the “homeland”? How about embassies? I know, dumb question! It’s just I feel like I never heard the word before 2002, when your department was established in the first place. (You probably get this all the time, but it’s a bit creepy sounding, you know? Not quite as bad as that whole “Total Information Awareness” thing, but still!) Anyway, if there’s anything else I can help you with regarding literary fiction, please feel free to give me a call anytime. I’m sure you’ve got the number!

Scattered Notes on a Two-Day Trip

Sidewalk Siamese cat. Front yard aloe vera gone mad. The smell of red dirt on the warm breeze. Falling-down shacks, glass hotels. “I’ll buy you a drink.” “What’s your name?” “Sam.” “Sam, buy me a drink. Hell, buy me a drink right now.” “How old are you?” “Twenty-one!” The line on Congress Avenue for the new Robert Altman, the wide lanes up to the capitol building. The former lesbian bar. “That poem always sounds dirtier when I read it around alcohol.” “These are the last two poems in the book, so you know how it ends.” “We have water for marathoners when they come through.” “Apparently this water is reserved for someone, but I’m just gonna take it.” The hotel room’s cubicle-height divider. “We are very blessed that we live in an eclectic city.” “This stuff is in our blood now.” “America is a pretty weird place, in a way that is frankly infuriating to write about.” Taking a “read first, name later” approach. “I can’t be the only person who’s walked through the fiction section of the bookstore and said, ‘Oh my god, look at all this crap!'” “Just because we see differently doesn’t mean we should all stop looking.” A genre’s attempts to mask the fact of its own conventions. The work of world creation. The opening lines of Adam Bede. Girls love it when you give them anything pink. “It’s all completely organic. Like compost.” Moral hangovers. The avenues of pimping without shame. Driving without headlights, driving needing every light in town. The relative scales of ruination, the relative sizes of avatars. “I was born to write novellas. I was born in the wrong century.” Bookended entry and exit points. “His bio says he was on the New York Times bestseller list. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” The last waves of bats down by Town Lake. The brush of their wakes as they skim by overhead. “These are my words, and this is my mouth, so theoretically there shouldn’t be a problem.” “That was the lady in trouble. The formula of this is a guy in trouble meets a lady in trouble. And then? There’s trouble.” The search for better coffee on foot along the highway offramp. The reflection of the moon on the wing, the plane in a holding pattern, a flashlight tracing the riveted seam. “We’re at the airport, looking for a place to park the plane.”

Innocence and Nakedness

I confess, I didn’t discover the author’s note at the beginning of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life because I read the novel, but because Ethan Hawke’s novelist character talks about it in the opening scene of Before Sunset, when he’s fielding questions from journalists in a bookstore in Paris.

This note has been quoted in its entirety elsewhere on the Web; in fact, the novel in its entirety is available on the Web, just not for Americans (see, for example, this page of links on the Web site of the U. Penn. library—oh, Sonny Bono, I’m so confused; like, if I were to download the novel when I was in France, would I have to then delete it from my e-book reader before returning to the United States?).

Anyway, it felt worth quoting here in light of recent discussions on the nature of fiction and autobiography, and for the enjoyment of the three or four of you who stop by here regularly, perhaps especially for the two of you writing autobiographical novels about Clinton-era academic sex scandals and medieval Hungarian leg wrestling, respectively.


This is a first book, and in it the author has written of experience which is now far and lost, but which was once part of the fabric of his life. If any reader, therefore, should say that the book is “autobiographical” the writer has no answer for him: it seems to him that all serious work in fiction is autobiographical—that, for instance, a more autobiographical work than “Gulliver’s Travels” cannot easily be imagined.

This note, however, is addressed principally to those persons whom the writer may have known in the period covered by these pages. To these persons, he would say what he believes they understand already: that this book was written in innocence and nakedness of spirit, and that the writer’s main concern was to give fulness, life, and intensity to the actions and people in the book he was creating. Now that it is to be published, he would insist that this book is a fiction, and that he meditated no man’s portrait here.

But we are the sum of all the moments of our lives—all that is ours is in them: we cannot escape or conceal it. If the writer has used the clay of life to make his book, he has only used what all men must, what none can keep from using. Fiction is not fact, but fiction is fact selected and understood, fiction is fact arranged and charged with purpose. Dr. Johnson remarked that a man would turn over half a library to make a single book: in the same way, a novelist may turn over half the people in a town to make a single figure in his novel. This is not the whole method but the writer believes it illustrates the whole method in a book that is written from a middle distance and is without rancour or bitter intention.