Department of Instastories

Picture # 32
She drove herself 45 miles south, 5 miles west, for no particular reason. Then she moved over into the passenger seat. She sat there for a while. What was she doing here? She watched a green pickup roar by, watched a crow pick at a little mass of feathers of dust at the edge of a field. She turned on the radio and landed on a throaty country singer, a woman with a hoist the beermug kind of voice, a wise cracking voice, sing I'm a git on the road gal. That's what she was doing here. The sun streamed in. Godrays fell into her lap. She moved back into the driver's seat, and drove them back, 5 miles to the east, 45 miles to the north.


On reading with a poet

I'm reading with the poet Iris Litt at the Woodstock Poetry Society (6/9, at 2). Aside from the question on regional writing (still avoiding that one), I get asked whether or not I identify at all with poets. The question is levied, sometimes, after I've read a shorter piece, and the reader/listener is forced to make the same leaps as she might in certain poems. The answer is kind of yes. The truth is that I love poets. For one thing, some are very good at adding that reverent "w" sound into the word poet or poetry: so it sounds like poe-wet, or poe-wet-tree. JJ Wilson does that as smoothly as she mentions another remarkable moment, her darlng, literary repartee that makes her guests all feel part of our own marvelous moment. The "w" gives the words a shamanistic, native-esque kind of resonance. Maybe it's from living in Tucson, where poetry filled the air, and listening to a poet like Joy Harjo, or Leslie Marmon Silko (and thar goes regionalism on its strawhatted way), and feeling, Now here is someone who really does know the importance of the dust, the bush, the laugh lines in the sky.

For another thing poets are sometimes experts at economy, and allowing their imagination only certain roads: like an exclusive gps system, and for another thing they often seem to be able to merge work life and poetry life very well. Even the grand edgy conundrums take 10 words, not 140, and that is a model for living in any ilk, at least to me. But I use the use "seem" because these kind of generalizations, of course, are really, really wrong. Poets seem better at sipping, not gulping whiskey (with a nod to Dylan Thomas,

who gulped so that others could sip). Poets seem better at small talk. Maybe poets are just more fun. Everything does not seem like a terribly ironic, disturbing, enervating situation; an occasion where a bad mood might trigger that golden first line of that remarkable story about chucking it all and going to work in a cannery and falling in love with the foreman.

Or maybe that slightly distracted manner some of us have is just the awareness that time is clutching at our sleeves to sit back down and get back to work. Because writing fiction takes a long time.

The way poets treat language may have to do with it: bending rules to make language swing, refuting morays of copy style for the urgencies of line music, rhythm, that mental beat, the mindset or the narrative or narrator. But many fiction writers do this anyway. Many--the ones I love.

We're not as far away from each other as you might think, I'll say next time.


Just got asked if I thought of myself as a regional writer.


Note to Harley

Harley, the lines you were looking for were from Why I Got Fired (p. 71 in the book or online at sporkpress):

Stopped mid-dip just staring out at the voice in the room. Stopped and let myself think. Amazed under the lights. Thinking, there it is. What I've been missing. My launchpad, my gatecard, my carkey, my doorbell. A reason to fight.


Russian Lover and Other Stories

That below, as well as in proximity, is the book cover. The book is out--very soon. It's collected short stories. They were collected, but that sounds as if they were tucked here and there in a tidy old house. They were more like rounded up, some just needing some grooming and a good meal, others a whole new way to go. Some are very short (Tremor), and others quite long (Russian Lover, the title story, written as a series of letters). For an interesting review of Tremor, see Dan Wickett's litblog, Emerging Writers Network.

I previewed the book with a reading and symposium in California to about 100 students and assorted devoted reader people at NorthLight Books, a great indie bookstore in the tradition of such institutions. To all my wonderful ginea pigs, smart as they come, thak you. Thank you Sonoma State, and Hutchins School, and Barbara Lesch McCaffry with no e. And marvelous JJ Wilson, the Virginia Woolf Scholar, who laughed at the jokes and later, had a dinner, and made the most astounding, intelligent salad. The greens seemed to want to bite back--but playfully. I have never seen my father, veteran of 2 wars, enjoy bean soup quite like that.

JJ, by the way is heavily involved in the Sitting Room, a remarkable center for reading and women writers. Worth a visit, and I'm due for one myself.

The cover of the book is a painting by Steve SAS Schwartz--the other half is on the back.
and the design is by Patricia Fabricant.

Both great talents and wonder to work with.

There are blurbs on the back: one by the great Sam Lipsyte, one by the indomitable Lydia Millet. Thanks to them. Beyond thanks. I have been compared (see the VerseChorusPress page) to writers like TC Boyle and Margaret Atwood. Someday everyone wants another writer to be compared to them, not the other way around. Or not. How I wound up in such amazing company is like pondering the great primordial blessing, the proverbial horse's mouth, like looking at the teeth of Blue Hors Matine. More on that, the wondermare, another. SAS has always used mare as in nightmare, one of the best shorthands I've ever heard. I retain my faith in people to concoct their own language. I remain a convert to the written word.