“The Methane Fields”

My story “The Methane Fields” is in issue #23 of failbetter.com, which I’m pretty sure just went live yesterday.

The story is very short—730 words—but it touches on a great number of themes and subjects, both directly and obliquely: the horrors of war; the mournful complexities of governmental bureaucracy; the Peace Corps and the State Department; the question of how we perceive the “other” and the nature of realpolitik; the dark secrets of the global economy; and cow farts.

I wrote it when I was at the Ucross Foundation in April 2006. Ucross is surrounded by real, non-fictitious methane fields. Although it would be slightly more accurate, I believe, to say that the entire 22,000-acre ranch, of which the buildings that house the artists and writers and composers in residence take up only the tiniest little corner, has a whole crapload of coalbed methane running underneath it.

Coalbed methane is a huge political and environmental issue out in that neck of the woods—one that I know I don’t fully understand. Fortunately, at least with this piece of writing, and in terms of knowing what the hell I’m talking about, I am not in the business of factual accuracy, but rather in the business of making stuff up. I will leave the truth and politics of cow farts to others.

Readings May 18 and 19

Two upcoming events:

1) I will be reading with the great and daring fiction writer Joshua Harmon (his first book, Quinnehtukqut, is just out from Starcherone) on Friday, May 18, at 8:00pm. The reading is being hosted by Paragraph, and will take place in a health club on 14th Street.

2) The very next evening, Saturday, May 19, at 6:00pm, I will be reading with my stupendously brilliant wife at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor.

Please come!

Addendum: photographs from the Paragraph reading here.

Shomer Shabbos and the Spider Robots

I have a three-ring binder next to my desk that says “blogging to do” on it. It’s full of completely fascinating and/or useless and/or totally half-baked ideas (for example: how is it possible that “CamelCase” and “midcap,” although synonymous in the senses defined on the pages I’ve just linked to, never appear anywhere together? Is this a kind of etymological Ladyhawke?). And I worry that if Johnson was right with that business about blockheads and writing and money, then I’m in danger of slipping into a deep well of threefold blockheaditude here (by which I mean 1) not writing 2) occasional squibs 3) for free). And I worry that a sardonic Web site tag line (see above) has the potential to devolve from self-deprecation to self-fulfilling prophecy. But really, what’s left this space to the silence of the tumbleweeds and the night cries of the robot spiders for the last four weeks (Speaking of spider robots, that not-blogging apology compilation? Here. Via.) are the mundane and and humbling and time-consuming details of looking for a house to buy. (Hence the title, since I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about the things we do or don’t do because of other things we have to do or not do, and how we are transformed by those decisions; see also, perhaps, Emerson’s intercalated heavenly days.)

(Other recent preoccupations: Is it possible that we might someday actually directly vote for the President? That we might all stop beating the shit out of each other? That we might save the world? Or at least, in the attempt, make it more freaky beautiful?)

But: the upshot: we think we might have found a place. (Fingers crossed.) And so, with any luck, I can safely say: more soon.