May’s First Saturday Post

Reading
Finished reading Witchita Stories by Troy James Weaver. It’s an excellent collection of vignettes. I recommend getting your hands on it. It’s distributed by Small Press Distribution, so it should be easy for your local indie bookstore to get a copy in for you. Or you can get it straight from the publisher.

I’m starting Weaver’s novella next, Visions, but more about Troy later.

Also finished Citizen by Claudia Rankine. That is a brilliant and painfully necessary piece of work. If someone hasn’t done it yet, I’m thinking I should build a list called “African Americans that Every White American Should Read.” Claudia Rankine, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Charles Johnson, Alexs D. Pate, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes . . . My list will grow and, since it’s my list these will be my rules: African American novelists and poets only – no non-fiction. Why? Because fiction has a more powerful pedagogical leaning than non-fiction. It more firmly engages the empathetic imagination.

Picked up John Ashbery’s Quick Question last month and I’m looking forward to that.

I’ve got a giant stack of to-be-read books . . . hell, it’s almost an entire five shelf bookcase. So maybe I’ll also start Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, or maybe I’ll finally get around to finishing The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, or Rut.

Watching
Although I’ve paid for the whole season, I’ve kind of lost interest in The Last Man on Earth.

If you’ve not seen the movie Dear White People, you should. It’s funny and pointed and very relevant to the larger, more real expressions of racial disharmony in America right now. Look, some people have a knee-jerk defensive reaction to real life displays of anger and frustration. They have a hard time staring into the abyss, so to speak. That’s why we have writers, and why the writers who can look

Listening
It’s been a slow month for new music too. I’ve been stuck on my playlist for the story Far Nineteen that I’m trying to finish.

Podcast News
Upcoming conversation with Troy James Weaver. That’ll be out in May. Troy is the author of Witchita Stories, and Visions. Both are out now.

Started the Laboratory as part of the Outrider Podcast with Stephen McClurg. It’s a lot of fun. We talk about a lot of things, and give ourselves a writing assignment each month. The first one was to do a cut-up inspired piece. Our listeners are welcome to play along and send us their completed exercises. We’ll share those in future episodes. So far, no one’s taken us up on the offer.

Gavin Pate and I have started up the Shoptalk series again while Laura Hawley is starting her married life, advancing her nursing career and trying to get some more pages written.

Writing & Submitting
This month I’m combining the two. Here’s why:

I began The Palace of Winds in – (fuck) – 2010, right about the time my father died. I thought I’d make it a trilogy. Kind of a career spanning thing. Three books rolling out whenever I finished them. The first, The Palace of Winds, the second called A Lost Thread, and the last one called Upon a Stranger Sea. These were, and still are, big idea stories (at least for me) – taking family mythology and marrying them to classic mythological stories (Jason & The Golden Fleece, The Minotaur, and the third Prometheus and Pandora) and then attempting to tie them all together in a arc that would follow Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey while disassembling it and reassembling it for a modern era. I’ve always had a hard time articulating the whole idea… but basically I want to try to make form and content match. A traditional mythic structure in the first book that begins to disintegrate and lose its meaning. A labyrinthian second book about dying, death, and inner demons that is trying to find meaning in a world gone meaningless. And, finally, a third book that reassembles meaning out of chaos.

Anyway, so, now, as I have struggled to find a foothold in the second book, I’ve done two things: 1) started a completely unrelated story (Far Nineteen), and 2) taken copious notes and made lots of ridiculous drawings and graphs to try to get a handle on the second book’s intended non-linear structure, that is, I want the story to be both maze-like and readable, but I don’t want it to read like stream of consciousness.

Maybe at this point I’ve over talked it.

Either way, I realized that the basic story I wanted to tell twisted into the form I wanted wasn’t going to be long enough for a stand alone book. That was when I realized, after five years (fuck) that I’ve got a 700 page book on my hands and I’ve only written the first 350 pages.

But I’m in the middle of another book. So, . . . fuck.

If you’ve ever read Michael Chabon’s book The Wonderboys, or seen the movie, then when I say I feel like Professor Grady Tripp, except without the previous fame. I’m trapped in an endless story. I wish I had more confidence in my short fiction, but the problem with my short fiction is that they all want to be long stories, novels or novellas.

Random Thoughts
As often as I move around external disk drives, have replaced internal drives, migrated computers, etc. I should have the whole moving the iTunes library thing figured out. Still wasted a morning with it today.

I’m going to be donating to, volunteering with, and possibly joining, the NAACP. Even white people are sick of white people’s bullshit. The main privilege of being white is the privilege to be oblivious to systemic, ingrained, racism because it doesn’t seem to effect white people. But it does. Every single distant riot in a black neighborhood that scares white people is nothing compared to the individual fear every black man has when a cop stops him for no real reason – And the so-called “reason” the cop is stopping that man is because our culture has a default setting where we (white people) believe that black equals guilty of something. And that’s wrong. It’s so fundamentally morally wrong that it makes me sad and angry and bitter. But what can I do? Sympathy itself doesn’t change anything. Expressions of sorrow don’t change the tenor of the debate. I think the best thing I can do, especially for someone like me, a white male, is to put my hands to work and to be of service.

I’ve been looking for a way to expand my editorial experience – especially in the literary, book publishing world, without taking a giant pay cut and possibly going into default on my student loans. It took me until I was nearly 40 to publish my first book, and to stumble backwards into a job that pays me just enough to live on my own. Anyone got any ideas?

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About jasonquinnmalott

I am the author of "The Evolution of Shadows" (Unbridled Books, 2009), host of The Outrider Podcast, and the one-time publisher and editor of the now defunct not-for-profit indy 'zine called The Project for a New Mythology. I have a BA in creative writing from Kansas State University and an MFA in writing and poetics from Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. View all posts by jasonquinnmalott

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