WRITING & SUBMITTING
My submission routine has taken a beating lately. I’ve been preoccupied with a few other things. Namely James Joyce and Ulysses, but there have been a few other distractions. I have, however, been slowly plugging away on a new project, and I’m nearing the “100 page threshold.” It’s little more than an arbitrary barrier I maintain based on something Bobbie Louise Hawkins once said, which was, basically, if you get to page 100 then you know you’ve got something so you might as well finish it.
I’ve been thinking about doing another revision to my novel Far Nineteen. The longer it sits, the more I begin to feel I’ve missed something, thematically. It’s a book about race, but it’s not that kind of book about race – or, at least, I don’t think so. There are certain types of books about race that white people seem to write: first, the obviously racist book about race (think The Turner Diaries). Another type is the white savior book about race, and its less feel good version “The white man’s burden.” Then there’s the rather simplistic racists are bad type of book, which is mostly about white guilt, and protestations that “not all white people are racists.” I wanted to set out to write a story that would tackle the idea of white privilege and how, even in liberal, equality minded white people who want to do the right thing, their very privilege is often a barrier to true empathy and understanding – primarily that white people do have an “out” and that they can disengage or withdraw from the struggle for equality and justice (and still believe themselves part of the struggle) in a way that those under the heel of oppression never can. The longer the book sits, and the more I read (everything from tweets and posts from African American writers and “Twitter celebs” to magazine articles in The Crisis (I’ve yet to fully tackle the recent assortment of books I’ve acquired by African American writers like bell hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Ibram X. Kendi, and James Baldwin).
White people don’t wrestle enough with the notion of white privilege, so Far Nineteen has been my effort to do exactly that – and the longer it sits, the more I begin to feel I have more to do with it. So, maybe once I break the 100 page threshold in the new project, I’ll set it aside and go through Far Nineteen again.
In the meantime, I need to get back to sending out The Palace of Winds. I pumped out the first draft back in 2010, and have since lost count of the rewrites and revisions. It’s at nearly 125,000 words (380 pages typed), which for a while I thought was large, but really, it’s not. With my rather spare style it’s a fast read.
The podcast is on a bit of an accidental hiatus. Stephen has had a minor home tragedy involving water and a collapsed ceiling. So, once that gets resolved we’ll be back on schedule for our monthly conversations. We’ll be going back to an older format.
Getting ready to record the penultimate episode of the Ulysses series with Delia. Once those are in the can, I’ll edit them and get them ready to release on or around Bloomsday.
After I finish recording with Delia, I’ll start a new project with a pair of writers. know, Todd R. and Paul F. that will discuss crime and noir fiction. I hope to have that series ready in the fall.
In the meantime, I’m going to start filling the dead space with some short one-offs. Since I’ve been reading Ulysses and will start in on crime fiction, I don’t know that I’ll be able to rope in any author conversations for a while, but we’ll see.
Ok, so, I broke down and finally watched Game of Thrones. It was good. I liked it. But what’s the big fucking deal? Gratuitous tits and swords? Let’s discuss the notion of gratuitous tits: these are tits that appear for no discernible reason. Was it necessary for random Dothraki extras to have one boob hanging out while simply standing in a crowd? Melisandre’s dress came off so frequently and pointlessly I thought it was a wardrobe malfunction and the first director’s response was “well, that happened, guess we’ll use it,” and after that the all the other episode directors didn’t realize it was a wardrobe malfunction and just threw it a disrobing scene out of some prurient fascination with the actress. When I was younger, I would have been thrilled at the abundant display of naked women, but now, considering my own maturity and the general rise in awareness of Hollywood’s deep, misogynistic and sexual exploitation and abuse of women in particular, from the aggressively manipulative Harvey Weinstein and the rapes attributed to various actors to the somewhat more mild stories of Joss Whedon’s infidelity and the gray, complex and muddy story of Aziz Ansari, every time an actress takes off her clothes I can’t help but wonder if she was pressured to do it, if she felt that to refuse she would risk losing the job, an income, future opportunities.
The fact that there are naked men in GOT, that men have experienced similar stories of sexual assault and exploitation in Hollywood, does little to lessen my concern. Terry Crews and Brendan Frasier are to be applauded for their courage in coming forward with their stories of being exploited, especially since doing so not only comes with the standard, shame, victim blaming and disbelief that women endure, but with laughter and, oddly enough, a diminishment in their “masculine prestige,” which in a patriarchal society is the very thing that often enables the masculine entitlement that leads to a man committing sexual assault. Patriarchy sets up a man to feel he must assert his masculinity through sexual conquest, and, sometimes, that involves the apparent humiliation of another man’s patriarchal masculinity.
Anyway, I’m off the topic of things watched, and the gratuitous tit shot.
A new friend sat me down to watch Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. She hasn’t had the chance yet to show me the other two, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, but I’m sure we’ll get to them. I was quite impressed with the first one. I sometimes forget how much I like Ethan Hawke.
I feel like I’m entering that phase of life where I’m finally starting to see the uselessness of complaining, and of being perpetually grumpy. Not that it won’t still happen, but rather that I hope not to make it a center piece of my personality. Quiet endurance is a bit more important. If I make a choice to do something, go some where, order something, and it isn’t up to my expectations, or it fails in some way (too loud, too crowded, too cold, too hot, too slow, too fast – too whatever), I have a choice: further make it uncomfortable and awkward by complaining or pitching a fit (something I’ve been very good about doing in the past), or I can take a deep breath, let it roll away, and find a less destructive, more tolerant way to cope. It’s not that I’m adopting the “why can’t you be sunny all the time” philosophy that some of the geriatric critics of my general pessimistic bitterness have pushed (old teachers, ex-girlfriend’s grandparents), but the truth is, I’m tired of pushing people away by my general prickliness and anger.
I have in my head this model of behavior in the world that I hope to embrace. Let’s call it active passivity – sure it’s an oxymoron, but it’s founded on this idea of “sung (here, here),” which was a concept I first encountered while learning tai chi. The world, other people, don’t care about my comfort, or someone else’s. The world, other people, care about their own comfort. I care about my comfort, and, I think, part of that care for my comfort is transforming from “why isn’t this they way I wanted it to be” to simply not getting bent out of shape about disappointing things I can’t control, i.e. other people’s noise, poor service, etc. To be sung is to be rooted, solidly, and yet still flexible. Water is sung. Cats exhibit sung. When the world encroaches on our comfort zone, we can be rigid, complain, fuss, or we can be sung and flow through or around the encroachment. But remember, hitting water with enough force will shatter the object and the water will remain. A cat has claws for a reason. I’m trying not to be concrete or stone. I’m trying not to have my claws out all the time.