My Year of Short Stories: Dec 1. Symposium: 3 columns on how different mediums of art use repetition. The Believer Magazine, Oct/Nov 2017

Today I read 3 columns from The Believer that focus on the way different art forms/mediums use repetition.

First was poetry, specifically the newest Martin Corless-Smith collection, Bitter Green. The writer, Stephanie Burt, explores the trodden path Corless-Smith visits in this collection with odes to Keats, Camus, and others. The repetition is not only in the specific poems Corless-Smith includes in this collection but in the subject matter in which they tackle. Burt constantly posits that the collection is comparing Corless-Smith’s own work to the aforementioned great authors of yesteryear and so his contemporyness is small and undeserving, which, both Keats and Camus struggled with as well.

The next column was about Hardcore as a musical genre, rather the antithetical lovechild to punk rock. The writer of the column, Sam Lefebvre delves into the social conservativism of the genre by breaking apart the EP Though Shall Not Kill by the band Antidote. The album itself, he claims, rehashes all the tropes of Hardcore bands. In fact, there is nothing new about this EP at all, and even many of the lyrics are repeated again, and again throughout the songs. Instead of being labeled as contrived, this EP has been lauded as a pure, raw form of the art. And like the heyday of the genre Antidote bemoans the changing of society, the diversification of the United States from a white and predominantly Christian society to a melting pot of many cultures and religions. It is a genre stuck in the idea that there ever was “good old days,” and the scene itself applauds those that perpetuate the idea.

The last column, written by Keegan Cook Finberg, is a look at the 11-hour filibuster senator Wendy Davis, of Texas, pulls in 2013 to protest a bill that would limit (further) abortion and close many abortion clinics. Senator Davis took that time to read the testimony of women who were dismissed because House Committee Chairman Byron Cooks deemed the testimony “repetitive.” As if to say, “Oh, jeez, this all these women have the same issue. They want healthcare services since there are so many I rather not hear them.” Of course, Byron Cooks never saw this as healthcare, and even if he did he likely wouldn’t be moved to change his mind on the matter. But Senator Davis made Cook listen to all the written testimonies, which is precisely why abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood is an invaluable institution in this country. To further explore the repetitive nature of this filibuster, Finberg informs us that the whole filibuster transcript has been collected into a book, Let Her Speak. While it may seem strange to compile such a transcript, Finberg reasons that it is the repetition of such arguments that see this issue sway government to do one thing or the other. If not for Senator Davis and her use of repetition, things may have turned out much differently.

My Year of Short Stories: August 14th-16th

My Year of Short Stories is an ongoing challenge I’ve set myself. My goal is to read 365 short stories from the day after I turned 30 (August 14th, 2017) to the day after I turn 31 (August 14th, 2018). This is a short entry. I’ll have a more extensive list of stories next week, but here are my entries fro August 14th-16th.

August 14th, 2017, Nesters by Siobhan Carroll, originally published in Children of Lovecraft, edited by Ellen Datlow, Reprinted in The Best Horror of The Year Volume Nine, edited by Ellen Datlow.

Blurb: A young girl’s father is asked by government men to investigate the town over which has experienced a strange anomaly. The father never comes back. The young girl goes in search of her father only to find a horror waiting in the abandoned town.

Opinion: A rather cheesy and cliche story of a monster devouring a town. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as lame if the monster hadn’t been revealed so vividly.

August 15th, 2017, The Oestridae by Robert Levy, originally published in Black Static Magazine, reprinted in The Best Horror of The Year Volume Nine, edited by Ellen Datlow.

Blurb: A brother and sister are abandoned by their mother only to have her estranged sister, their Aunt Lydie arrive out of the blue. It is clear, quickly that Aunt Lydie isn’t what she seems and it’s up to the narrator to save his sister from a sinister fate.

Opinion: I liked that the story hinged on the darkness within rather than a monster without. Still, I thought the themes didn’t really add up to create real or interesting characters. Even by the end, I felt pretty indifferent to the characters’ plights.

August 16th, 2017, The Nyctalops Trilogy: (one) The Chemist by Thomas Ligotti, published in Songs of A Dead Dreamer & Grimscribe, Penguin Classics.

Blurb: A chemist seduces a call-girl and drugs her with a sinister substance.

Opinion: This story rocks. It’s told as just one side of the conversations the chemist has with everyone around him. It’s filled with Thomas Ligotti’s signature nihilism, and while most nihilists might view everything as disconnected and hopeless, Ligotti sees the hopelessness in our interdependence of one another, and the dreams we create about each other. The end is a shocker that feels earned as well!

On Competition In The Arts

I have a friend who’s a glassblower, and I’ve always been amazed how solitary glassblowers are at times. Of course, to blow the coolest, craziest stuff, you need a team, but many glassblowers have cliques and secrets of the craft that they don’t necessarily want getting out for others to use.

The way I’ve come to understand it, as an outsider to the glassblowing culture is this: If a buyer buys a piece of glass from someone else, it eats into your business because that buyer now has less to spend on your work.

Needless to say this creates a cutthroat mentality that spawns envy and lies. There’s a lot of shit talking in the glassblowing community of Seattle–or so I’ve seen. People dislike each other for a lot of reasons, but most are trivial. But it does seem strange and contradictory to me for all these artists to be fighting each other rather than helping each other.

In the writing community (that I’m a part of) things couldn’t be more different. The success of a friend, if he/she publishes a book or gets an agent is also my success, because I’m part of the community. I support them, go to readings, I’ll read their material and give them honest feedback. I’ll read their book. How does this benefit me in my own writing? Well, when I publish, get an agent, or give a reading–hopefully that community will be there for me as well. However, I understand that not everyone has a community like this. Not all writers have the support. And some see the success of others as a detriment to their own success. Their own success becomes a tool which they can hold above others who are not so accomplished.

Today, a famous writer, one who has written a couple books and is very popular, tweeted out that they could be seen on CSpan that very instant. The authors I follow on Twitter are the ones I respect and admire, and I commonly try to strike up conversations with them–which I’m sometimes successful at. So, jokingly, I tweeted that, “I hear [CSpan] is real popular with the cool kids these days.” It was a joke, in my opinion directed at CSpan more than the writer. I hoped to exchange some banter about the viewership, maybe even have a laugh about the experience of watching yourself on TV. But instead, I got a defensive response. “Shrug. What channel are you on?” This struck me as an exceedingly arrogant response (and my blogging about it now, may be even more arrogant, but I’m not sure). Instead of a chance to speak and have a laugh with someone who has read the books this author has written, this author used the success they have achieved as an instrument to hold themselves up while pushing another writer, someone who admires them, down. I don’t dwell on such things often, but this instance reminded me so much of the glassblowing community in Seattle.

The problem with this defensive reactionary response is that it pits artists against each other, when they should be working together. I understand that my comment could have been seen as a slight, but I ask myself: what kind of famous, successful author uses fame as a tool to make other’s feel bad about their relatively early career? What good does this do for them, but reassure themselves that they are important? This is a lot of judgement to put on this tiny interaction, but it’s one that is prominent within the literary world, and anyone who has watched interviews of Jonathan Franzen* knows what I’m talking about.

(He is not the writer mentioned in this piece. He thinks Twitter is the most base form of writing and that nobody who uses Twitter can be a good writer: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/07/jonathan-franzen-calls-twitter-irresponsible)