Thursday, April 07, 2011
Today was the first day I've been unemployed since the six months after I graduated from college in '84. After waking up very early in a rage that made it impossible for me to get back to sleep, the rest of the day improved dramatically. I got some things done. I talked to some people on the phone about legal matters. I posted my resume on a job search site and applied for a non-publishing job in Bayonne (a non-publishing job seems very appealing to me at this point; getting away from some of the pretentious and condescending types the publishing industry tends to attract would be a breath of fresh air, I think). I also applied for unemployment for the first time in my life and felt absolutely no shame in doing so. Overall, it wasn't such a bad day.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
J. G. Ballard
I've been reading short story collections lately. I read The Stories of John Cheever and then Donald Barthelme's Sixty Stories. These two books have literally been sitting on my shelves for thirty years. Well, was it worth the wait? The Cheever contains some great stories ("Goodbye, My Brother," "The Enormous Radio," "The Swimmer," and my favorite, "The Music Teacher"), but when you read them in total as I did the similar themes tend to blur together. I also got the sense (and I may be completely wrong here) that Cheever knew The New Yorker audience and wrote stories with middle-class themes that he knew would resonate with that particular audience. His stories just didn't feel as heartfelt as, say, the stories of Richard Yates that cover similar territory. There's only so much urban/suburban angst and adultery a person can take, so I had to lighten things up pronto which is why I turned to Donald Barthelme. I had never read anything by him before but he was supposed to be funny and witty. I soon learned that what went for funny and witty in the 70s isn't quite holding up today. Of the sixty stories, only one honestly made me chuckle: "The Death of Edward Lear." The rest were sometimes clever, but more often silly or silly bordering on completely meaningless. He was like a more uptight Richard Brautigan, but with less laughs. After these two reading experiences, I needed to return to more familiar territory. J. G. Ballard is one of my favorite writers, but I had never read any of his short stories. With the arrival of The Complete Short Stories of J. G. Ballard after his recent death, I felt like it was time to remedy that situation. I thought I'd start off slow with The Terminal Beach collection, which I had acquired a while ago, mainly because it didn't weigh 10 pounds. Almost immediately I was asking myself why I had deprived myself of such pleasure all of these years. The second story, "The Drowned Giant," is already one of my favorite stories of all time. And in "The Reptile Enclosure" there was this wonderful description of a day at the beach: "Without doubt, he reflected, homo sapiens en masse presented a more unsavoury spectacle than almost any other species of animal. A corral of horses or steers conveyed an impression of powerful nervous grace, but this mass of articulated albino flesh sprawled on the beach resembled the diseased anatomical fantasy of a surrealist painter." Ah, it doesn't get much better than that!
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The New Thing
My new thing is racing to get my pants on before I drop dead suddenly so that I'll escape the ridicule of the police or any other stranger who happens to discover my body. Dying alone is one thing, dying alone with your pants around your ankles is something else. I have even considered wearing bathing trunks in the shower for similar reasons.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Why did it take me so long to discover this writer? I read newspapers and magazines (but not Newsweek) and book reviews and yet it was only recently that I've ever seen his name mentioned (and now I can't even recall where that was). After reading his first novel, Jernigan, I knew that I would have to read everything he's written (another novel, Preston Falls, and a short story collection, The Wonders of the Invisible World). I recommend reading them in that order because there are little inside jokes that travel from one book to the next. Jernigan has been described as having the voice of a grown-up Holden Caulfield but that's just lazy writing. Peter Jernigan is much funnier than Salinger's character. So pick up Jernigan and give this criminally-neglected writer a shot. I think you'll be happy you did. I haven't had this much fun discovering a writer since I found Charles Portis.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
A Prayer for a Stroke
Found myself praying for someone to have a stroke today (take it easy, not a fatal one, just enough to incapacitate this person so that she couldn't continue her hateful ways). Is that wrong? And if so, why does it feel so right (Luther Ingram?)? This was my prayer: "Dear Jesus, if you do me this solid and fell this wretch with a mild stroke, I will be your number one fan and lifelong supporter. Thank you, sir" (a nice touch I thought considering He probably doesn't get a lot of those). I've got my fingers crossed! Is that wrong (again with the Luther Ingram allusion!)
Thursday, September 30, 2010
More Franzen fallout
Friday, August 20, 2010
A curious connection
I saw her again at my high school reunion as I had seen her at the two previous reunions. For over twenty years I've held a private grudge against her for firing my brother shortly before he died in a car accident on the way to his new job. She accused him of stealing with absolutely no proof. My brother wasn't a thief. I've wanted to confront her about this, get in her face and let her know how wrong she was all those years ago, but I've always restrained myself. I don't blame her for my brother's death, but obviously her poor judgment set in motion the events that led to his death. And I'm sure she's aware of this. When I ended up behind her while on line at the bar and said hello, she barely responded. That's when I knew she was aware of our curious connection. At that point, nothing else needed to be said.