on a social media mini-break until June 19th… Enjoy the realtime magic in your life!
Personally, I come from a longish line of failures. My dad was a failure. A terrible one. So was my mom. My mom’s mom didn’t make it as a ballerina and taught dancing and French instead. My paternal grandfather’s parents failed at farming so badly that they died in Norway, and my grandfather came out to Seattle as a penniless orphan.
That all sounds awful, doesn’t it? But my relatives were actually really cool people who were smart and talented and good at alot of things. Well, good at a few things. My grandmother was a great teacher and she was one heck of an accordion player. My mom could edit the bejeesus out of any sort of writing. And my dad believed in business ideas and in innovation, and he talked about the future of cable in the early 60′s.
My family were — and the alive ones currently are — quite weird. From what I can see, weirdness is great, and protects you in certain ways. Even though you never can fit in, you will always find something in the world to interest you. My family did and does. I do.
Which is why I feel a deep fondness and respect for the kooky characters of Wes Anderson’s films. Rushmore reminds me of how weird private school was for both me in my day and my adult progeny, when they spent some time in private-school land (of course public school is weird too). It also reminds me that are are rewards to be had in the field of education even if you are a terrible student — which both of us were at certain points. I don’t know why but Royal Tenenbaum always reminds me of my father — big on promises, and long on disappointment — and yet a remarkably vibrant and funny person (when you didn’t want to kill him).
And Moonrise Kingdom reminds me of me and my husband. My husband is brilliant, nerdy, and nuttily brave. Not athletic but very resourceful. And me…. well… I’m just angry and perpetually carrying a suitcase filled with books. Yup. That’s me.
None of these people “amount” to anything. Thank God we don’t have to. We just have to live and try to find our quirky way through life.
Here’s wishing you a week filled with weird amazing wonderful things. Things that give you hope. Things that give you pleasure. Or things that just interest you. That’s good enough.
I tend to resist all things Austrian because of a terrible set of experiences my husband L and I had in Vienna many years ago. As a result, I don’t like Austrian food, and I don’t like Austrian music. Hitler was Austrian, and that worries me. Although, Arthur Schnitzler was Austrian, and of course so was Freud. And I LIKE them. Alot.
But still, Austria gives me the shivers. Peter Handke (who is one weird writer dude) said he couldn’t bear to live in Austria any more. Elfriede Jelinek doesn’t have much that’s good to say about it either.
So, um yeah.
I put off going to see Stefan Sagmeister’s MOCA exhibition The Happy Show, and went and saw the other German artists in Los Angeles instead: Urs Fischer (Swiss), and Hans Richter (German) at MOCA Grand/Geffen and LACMA respectively.
But today I realized I had to stop avoiding, so I went to the Sagmeister’s The Happy Show. And there were parts of it I just loved.
I loved that the exhibit challenged the difference between words and pictures, and between art and information. I loved that the exhibition followed me — even into the bathroom, where words were painted inside the stall and were printed backwards on the bathroom door, so I could only read them in the mirror.
I loved a video of an older woman (older than me) sitting nude with words written on her. I loved that I took a card from a vending machine, and that card asked me to unzip the fly of my pants as I saw the exhibit. I complied, and felt very nervous the whole time I was there. But also sort of proud of myself for doing it.
I thought about the fact that the walls are covered with what Sabine Doran has called “dangerous yellow” — the color that signals racial difference and scariness. And I thought about how those happiness dots proliferate in the US and Australia but are pretty scarce in Africa, according to one of the “fun charts.”
I thought about the fact that Sagmeister, and Fischer, and Richter were and are extremely privileged white men with access to institutes, and scholarships, and impressive collaborative possiblities and nice offices and teaching jobs. And materials for their work. And people who support their doing it.
And of course, I’m white too, so I have access to those things also.
The facility of the Sagmeister solution — that we can choose to be happy — makes me nervous.
I look at my students at UCR, and I look at the homeless guy who asked me and L for money on Friday night and I think that alot of these people would love to have access to meditation sessions, and trips to Bali. And I think they would really like enough money to pay the rent.
Perhaps the point is that we have to fix ourselves first.
Sometimes the journey really is what matters, and the seemingly mundane trajectory is the most magical journey of all….
Here is a link to my first blog for Inlandia and the Riverside Press Enterprise. Thanks to my fellow travellers…
Dear friends of the unreal –
Sometimes reality bites. This has been a hard month for us over at Magically Real HQ, culminating in an auto collision, that has left us scared but safe. Thank goodness at these times for family, friends and strangers. Family members — biological and choice-ical — who send cards, show up on the doorstep, or just let us know they are there and tell funny stories about television and offer to bring us ice water. Thank goodness for friends who — amazingly– appear on the road when you’ve had a major collision, because they happened to be passing by. The artist Adam Berg was that person, crossing the wreckage to ask if we needed help. Then there are the strangers who saw the car wreck from a bus stop, and who came over to get a license plate number and get a trapped driver out of his side of the car. Who in a very real way bore witness. And an LA cop who was efficient and kind. It happens.
Because sometimes it’s reality that is magic. Not a magic that overcomes all that is bad. That would be something else. No, this is more like a small version of the Force. Let’s call it a force. A force for good.
I believe that it is our duty as writers to serve a force for good. I am honored to share this nonfiction piece, about a journey towards a small degree of good forcefulness. I dedicate this piece to my babysitter, Miss Spicer. I never knew her first name. But she listened to my stories and she liked my first poem. She got the ball rolling. May her memory continue to be a blessing to all who knew her.
Once upon a time there was nonfiction.
Here’s the beginning of a piece of mine from the Bacopa Literary Review, 2013 issue.
Check out Bacopa 13, featuring the amazing work of Gina Warren, Samantha Updegrave, Bruce Holland Rogers, Carolyne Wright and many more!
and here’s to all mothers of invention….
once upon a time we all needed help. a friend needed help because she didn’t have a website of her own and I needed help because I had a sick spouse in the hospital and didn’t have anything new to post.
so thank goodness for friends. friends who write, and friends who are writers who help other writers. together we form a little network of friendiousity which is fiendishly fantastic, and — in this case — feminine…
FeLicia Elam IS THE NEXT BIG THING (with thanks to Ashia Lane for greasing the wheels of cooperation)
1. What is your working title/title of your book?
I’m torn between Daredevil Dreams and Other Stories and Moonshine Daiquiris and Other Stories. To me, both are cool sounding titles.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The stories all come from different places. “Garden Lessons” was based on a dream I had, “Loretta Shine” and “The Game” were class assignments from a short story writing class I took at The Attic when I first moved to Portland. “Daredevil Dreams” came from was a writing exercise I assigned to a critique group I was in when I lived in Memphis. The rest are loosely based on personal experiences. I suppose I grab my stories from either tricking myself through assignments or the creative process called “life”.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Interesting you should ask that. Two stories from this collection have been selected by the New Short Fiction Series to be performed on stage by television actors on October 13. The actors haven’t been chosen so I have to say, whomever Sally Shore, the director of the NSFS picks.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Stories based in the modern South about people who try to live outside of the status quo some succeed and others succumb.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’d rather have an agency or rather a publisher for the book.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote the first story in the collection in 2000 and the last story included was written in 2007. So I have to say about 7 years.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I hesitate to do that as I don’t know who to compare my work to. I’m a rural/urban Southern, who is constantly living between worlds (the black/white world, religious/non-religious, North/South [I have more relatives in Michigan than in my home, Tennessee]). It’s really hard to find another writer who is forced to straddle those particular worlds.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’m one of those writers who has had a series of low-paying jobs. I’ve worked in daycare, cleaned houses, waited tables and worked in warehouses, all while possessing a bachelors’ degree. My inspiration comes from the workplaces and social situations I’ve been in. I’m from a very religious community-of-origin, so that influences my work also.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I write stories of people who don’t really have a voice: Rural and urban, working class African-Americans who are living in a South that’s changing demographically but not socially. They are people who have to fight battles that others have won and still struggling against entrenched racism.
Once upon a time there was a woman who loved German. First she had been a girl who loved French and she remained that person for all her life. But when she got older she got interested in those big words that you can only make in German like Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung (speed limit), and Kaufhaus (store).
So she started learning German.
She read tiny little books about famous artists: Mozart, Dürer, and Beethoven. She loved reading about Mozart’s strict dad, and Dürer going to Italy.
But then she read about a writer she didn’t like. There was something about him that made her kind of mad.
This started with all the fuss about him.
Have you read Faust?
Have you read the Sufferings of Young Werther?
Have you read Egmont?
Have you read the poetry?
Have you read the autobiography?
Have you seen his desk in Frankfurt?
Have you been to the house where he had sex with woman a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, and k? What about the house where he had sex with woman q,r,s,t,u, and v?
Did you know he met Napoleon?
Did you know he was a scientist?
Do you know this quote or that quote or this quote or that quote?
The author the woman didn’t like, was – of course — Goethe. The woman sat in class after class, where people would lift their eyes heavenward and intone Goethe’s name like it was a kind of gooey chocolate sundae to be savored as it melted.
Then you had to bury the sundae dish in a fancy coffing, and erect a huge monument over it.
The woman got into the habit of not liking Goethe. He was overrated, possibly a spy for his government, and he was – she found out – truly horrible to writers he didn’t like. Like Kleist, whose career he pretty much stymied.
Then there was the matter of Goethe’s best friend, Schiller. The woman read the correspondence between the two, and it was clear that Schiller – himself a brilliant poet and dramatist – didn’t really like Goethe either, but forced himself to be nice to him, so as to survive in a literary environment virtually controlled by the great G-Man.
There are, in fact, a lot of literary and artistic huge successes to hate. Andy Warhol sounds like he was pretty much a jerk. And how nice do you think Heminway was?
But in the end, there is only so much that can be gained by not liking a writer or artist.
Just the other day, the woman taught a poetry workshop to people who just came because they were interested, and – on a whim – she showed them an excerpt from Goethe’s early novel, the Sufferings of Young Werther. “I’m alone with Goethe,” someone wrote, and a poem came out. “I feel at ease with this,” said someone else.
“Wow,” said someone else. “He’s so cool. How do you say his name?”
And in this way, the woman was obliged to reconsider her opinion. She could see that Goethe – who lived, after all many many years ago – still spoke to people, and spoke to artists.
So, she decided she would stop disliking Goethe. He was too important to discount, too helpful to other writers to ignore.
But she still liked Schiller and Kleist better.
One upon a time there were two brothers.
No, not Jacob and Esau. And for heaven’s sake not Abel and Cain!
And no, not the Wachowski Brothers.
No. These were two brothers living in late 18th Century Germany (well, not Germany yet, more like the remnants of the Holy Roman Empire).
No, not the Brothers Grimm.
The guys I am telling about are the Schlegel Brothers. August Wilhelm and Friedrich Karl. Super-smart, intellectual, translators of Shakespeare. Cool guys interested in supporting all kinds of artists. Guys who dreamt of literary art being really big and really important and really generous and really expansive.
Here’s what Friedrich Schlegel says about romantic poetry:
Romantic poetry is a progressive universal poetry. Its destiny is not merely to reunite all of the different genres and to put poetry in touch with philosophy and rhetoric. Romantic poetry wants to and should combine and fuse poetry and prose, genius and criticism, art poetry and nature poetry. It should make poetry lively and sociable, and make life and society poetic. It should poeticize wit and fill all of art’s forms with sound material of every kind to form the human soul, to animate it with flights of humor. Romantic poetry embraces everything that is purely poetic, from the greatest art systems, which contain within them still more systems, all the way down to the sigh, the kiss that a poeticizing child breathes out in an artless song.. . . . It alone is able to become a mirror of the entire surrounding world, an image of their age in the same manner as an epic. . . .Romantic poetry is to the arts what wit is to philosophy and what society, company, friendship, and love are in life. Other kinds of poetry are finished and can now be fully analyzed. The Romantic form of poetry is still in the process of becoming.Indeed, that is its true essence, that it is always in the process of becoming and can never be completed. It cannot be exhausted by any theory. . .
For, in a certain sense, all poetry is or should be Romantic. (Athenaeum Fragment, 1798 — read entire fragment here)
Poetry at large has been in action all this month thanks to NAPOWRIMO, national poetry writing month. Participants write a poem a day for 30 days.
Sometimes it’s been hard to write a poem a day. But maybe it’s not so hard, if we think about poetry the way the Schlegels do. If we think about it as protean.
We are living in a literary time of an awful lot of categories. Commercial, literary, CYA, erotic, humor, self-help, memoir, essay, biography, autobiography, true crime, mystery, suspense, thriller, romance, horror….. and on and on and on.
And then there’s all the new stuff: videogames, and hypertext, and youtube, and all the weird hybrid type thingies that people are making. Real and virtual. Big and small.
But maybe it’s all one big THING. And maybe that big thing is or ought to be called poetry.
I don’t know. I’m just wondering.
And wondering about this gives me hope. I’m not quite sure why.
Here’s wishing you a week of universal progressive poetry. Whatever the heck that means.
Whatever the heck it might mean.
Once upon a time there was nothing to say.
Whatever there was to say had been said earlier. Words had been crafted and tweaked and sent out all over the place.
It had been a busy day.
So nothing put its feet up, and had a cup of tea.
Nothing had 3 cookies. Nope. No words came. So, nothing figured it would call something next Sunday, and see if something could get in touch with anything and they could speak together and cough up some language and that language would become a story.
Wishing you all a great week, and some silence to chew on, when you need it.