Order Great Tales for These Dumb Times!

Two Things About Rip Taylor’s Death

  1. I saw earlier this evening that Rip Taylor passed away, and I immediately wanted to be able to go to my RSS feed and find that Jack Pendarvis had maybe written something about this news on his blog (even though he rarely blogs about anything not related to the appearance of owls in books anymore). As of right now, he has not written about Rip Taylor’s death. Maybe he will later. Maybe he won’t ever. But I hope he will at some point, because I like reading things he writes, but I—someone who has read nearly every entry on his blog and most of his books and every single Musin’s & Thinkin’s column on the Believer website—even I have given up on Jack Pendarvis’s Moby Dick (being published on Popula).
  2. The headline for Taylor’s obit in the Times says, “Rip Taylor, Flamboyant Television Comedian and Actor, Dies at 84.” When I read this, my first thought was (because I already knew he was dead and had already said, “Aw, crap…” to an empty room): “Oh. I thought we stopped substituting the word ‘flamboyant’ for ‘gay,’ like, at least 20 years ago?”

2019 Nobel Prize: My Guess

Though she’s only got bookies’ odds of 10/1, I have a feeling Olga Tokarczuk is going to nab the prize this year.

I don’t even know why I think that, except that I saw her name on a list (a list that has Anne Carson’s odds at 4/1), and thought about a book of hers book that’s just been released in translation called Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. And. so.

I’ll follow up on Friday when the winner is announced.

Hahaha! I know, I know: who cares what I think?

(I really did laugh before I wrote “Hahaha!”)

Olga Tokarczuk

Nothing To It

There’s nothing to it. You just start writing. Type out or scribble down a few words, a phrase, an image. Set a timer. Write for an hour. See how many words you can get written in that time. Look them over. Throw them away. Forget all of it. Start again.

Train your brain to work for an hour. Add fifteen minutes to that hour. Try 90 minutes, two hours. Just keep building on that. Don’t stop writing. Keep going.

Tell yourself that every second of the time you’re working: “No one is ever going to read this.” And see how high your imagination can leap when you repeat that, use it like a mantra, as you write.0

Let your fingers slip down the scratchy length of the rope, and sooner or later you’ll be at the end of it. You won’t think you can hold on any longer. But you have to because beneath you is an abyss, an endless drop, a bottomless pit. A gaping maw into the belly of a giant who lives inside the eye of a fathomless God.

The Really Good Stuff

Catch everything out of the air into the net of your mind. Place every word in the correct order, arrange the dots and stripes of your perfect sentiment. Write all the beautiful phrases. Polish them, gaze at them in wonder. Congratulate yourself on your amazing powers of creation.

Know there is nothing wasted. Marvel at the sureness of your footing.

When you’re sure you’ve never written anything more perfect, trash it. Get rid of it. Make it leave. Don’t tell it goodbye, don’t linger in the doorway after you send it all away.

Then grab your net and start gathering more. Repeat the process until you’re sure there’s nothing left.

That’s when the really good stuff will come.

Franzen’s Rules

I didn’t think I could like him less as a writer, but he certainly helped me out with that.

The Script: Flipped

I literally wrote this entire blog post just so I could insert “flipped the script” into it somewhere.

The Adding Machine Post

Suffice to say, the Burroughs family of St. Louis had a lot of money. It was this money that afforded William Seward Burroughs II a spot at Harvard, from which he graduated in 1936, as well as the freedom to pursue writing and shooting up heroin and sex-seeking holidays in Tangier. This money, with what he made as reporter, also financed a fateful stint in Mexico City.

The Bloomsbury Memories Post

It’s a long story that doesn’t bear repeating here on my blog, but I dug out an old, OOOLLLLD piece of writing last week because I think I finally found the perfect person to share it with. So I took this collection of paper pages and retyped the whole thing into a Word document.

As I explained to the person who might appreciate it more than anyone else in my past or current life, this piece of writing is so old that I sent it to the New Yorker magazine via snail mail and received my rejection via snail mail on a slip of paper about the size of a toilet paper square. (The irony has always been lost on me until this very moment. Gah!)

Snail mail, though is a wonderful thing, even now. Because I would not even have the hard copy of “Bloomsbury Memories” if my Canadian friend (and fellow chat room wedding crasher) Sheriff Babey hadn’t sent me a large envelope full of print outs from 1999. I used to have the work on a floppy disk. But. Er.

Ugh. I’m so old.

To double-back on this post’s beginnings: I did not not want to send any unsolicited writing to a stranger, not even a stranger who might like it, not even a stranger who can neither reject it for a magazine (because I’m not submitting it to a magazine) nor retaliate by unfriending me on Facebook (because we aren’t Facebook friends).

So I decided to just post the piece on my website.

I’ve posted much, much dumber things. So.

Click this link to read “Bloomsbury Memories.”

The Bloomsbury gang posing for photos before an interview with Megyn Kelly on “Today.”

Sorry. I Gotta Go Blog.

Add to all that the fact that I just sent a message on FB to a friend of mine which said: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I feel like I’m inside a goddamn wiffle ball filled with jingle bells half the time.”

Liebke, meine Liebling!

Picture it: West Virginia. In your memory it is always bleak, always winter. Picture a town 15 miles from the nearest interstate exit, a town so insular and clannish that if you were not born inside a house (or on the marble floor of a bank lobby or on a pile of hay in a horse stable or on the filthy floor of a gas station bathroom) within the city limits you will be forever relegated to Outsider status.

Now. Imagine you are an Outsider, and you work but you are still poor. So poor that you often look at your cats lounging on the kitchen linoleum and think, You have no idea how close we are to being homeless. Enjoy your ignorance.

Also: you are lonely. So lonely, so lacking in any type of social network that your closest friends are your 70-year-old boss at the newspaper where you work, and a cattle farmer who also owns the town’s Western Auto franchise.

You are so lonely that to combat boredom you write a novel and teach yourself how to use Photoshop and Dreamweaver and learn how to make a website where you put up other things you’re bored and lonely enough to write.

You’re online a lot. Wait! Not a lot. All the time. Through some strange twist of not-quite-fate (but maybe something akin to it) you stumble upon a website called Astonishing Tales.

You know nothing and care even less than that about comic books, so you have no idea that this is also the name of a comic book series. You only know that the guy who writes the material on the Astonishing Tales website is breathtakingly funny.

And by breathtakingly, we mean he literally makes you laugh so hard and so violently that you frequently feel lightheaded and sometimes take a coughing fit that almost makes you fall on the floor.

You read pretty nearly every word on the Astonishing Tales website. You only skim the “Dawson’s Creek” recaps and don’t pay much attention to the comic book stuff because. I mean. Yeah.

Still. There are bits you go back and re-read on a regular basis because they always make you laugh. And life is no laughing matter for you and your cats most of the time. If a true nadir of your existence could be pinpointed, this period of time would be it.

But Dan Liebke’s Astonishing Tales is a beautiful, bright light when the end of the tunnel, you know, is so far away that you could lie down for days without fear of being run over by a train. And Dan Liebke likes some of the things you write, especially the Citizen Jim stories. He likes them so much that you put him in some of the stories, much to the chagrin of Citizen Jim’s character.

Fast forward a decade and a few years. For old times’ sake you go to look at Dan Liebke’s Astonishing Tales website, and the site is gone. Well, the site is still there but everything that made you laugh is no longer there to browse through.

So you buy Breakdancing with Hollywood, which makes you so happy because most of the funniest stuff from Liebke’s website is there! You cannot believe your luck! You cannot recommend this book more highly or to enough people!

You buy A Little Known Fact I Just Made Up, and then you’re really laughing like old times. But at new things. That’s the magic of Dan Liebke.

Before you decide to banish comments on your blog, Dan Liebke leaves the only real comment left by anyone: “Wait, what? You’re blogging again? This is great, even if it is an old person thing.”

Fast forward several months. You write a blog post lamenting your lack of Twitter followers, as well as your dearth of consequential Twitter followers, and not long after that you realize you have one new follower who turns out to be – wait for it! – DAN LIEBKE!

You black out. Your cat revives you from your case of the vapors just in time to go to work. You want to tell all the old ladies you’re paid to keep occupied and off the streets about your reconnection on Twitter with @danliebke, but you know they will want him to be a boyfriend you’ve never spoken of before but that’s not going to happen so you just keep your lips zipped.

Dan Liebke will be your sweet secret of the day. This feels much better than other secrets you have to keep from them, like being a socialist and a Democrat and a lesbian.

You come home from work and you write this blog post. You can’t believe how happy you are.

Nothing Weird Here

I didn’t even cry or anything, I just moved past the sad fact that I can’t sell a damned book NO MATTER WHAT and started writing a blog post.

Like a Little Girl

Remember that time I got to meet Senator Robert Byrd (before he went off the deep end into senility and helped put Alito on the Supreme Court) at the dedication of that jail in Gilmer County, WV?

And remember when Senator John D. Rockefeller IV sought me out in a reporters’ line-up so he could tell me that he liked an article I had written in the local paper about a broadband project spearheaded by some super-geeks at Carnegie Mellon University?

Neither one of those things was as exciting as logging in to my Twitter account and seeing that @jackpendarvis had “mentioned” me last week in a Tweet that recalled a Tweet from eight years ago which also mentioned me.


I had forgotten my initial excitement from 2010 (read: I was as giddy as a normal little girl would be in 1978 if, say, Andy Gibb came to her house) until I felt the same excitement bubble up in me today. (As giddy as I would have been in 1978 if, say, Kate Jackson had come to my house and said, “Call me when you’re 18.”) Because I have never missed a blog post by Jack Pendarvis since, like, 2007 maybe?

I’m sorry! Do you think I’m an idiot? Fair enough. Maybe I am.

Dang.

No.

Yes!

Oh, well. Why not?

Have I ever mentioned what a Twittiot I am? This is my word (probably not original: shut up!) for being a Twitter Idiot. I’m so bad at it. Instagram, too. All those hashtags and @-symbols and the never-ending. always-updating scroll on both platforms.

I was born in 1969. This is not the future I imagined. I just wanted hand-held video cameras to not cost $8,000 and hoped Game Theory would one day win a  Grammy.*

“WILL video cameras ever be affordable for the average Josephine?”

Anyway.

Because I’m bad at Twitter and Instagram, I have very few followers on either site. Nobody reads this blog, either. Also, I’m pretty sure most people who haven’t already hidden me on Facebook do after every Labor Day weekend is over. Because equating socialism with Stalin’s purges.

So I logged on to Twitter and noticed I had a new follower. I went to this new follower’s Twitter page. I clicked a blog link. After reading the post I got interested – in the book she wants to write (working title: This Is Your Brain on a Quest), and about the Patreon model she is trying to use to fund the writing of said book. (My friend Brian uses Patreon, but he hasn’t come out for or against it yet.)

I studied the tiers of patronage. A dollar per month (“Acquaintance”) seemed too wishy-washy, while $5 per month (“Friend”) was a little out of my budget right now. So I decided to donate $2.50 per month, and call my custom tier “Cool Bartender at Lame Party.”

That girl better write a GREAT BOOK with all this money I’m giving her, or I’m gonna tear Twitter UP!

*: Game Theory never did win a Grammy. Also, their lead singer died in 2013. DAMN it.