Writing & Submitting:
Fired off a submission to a small press, and that’s been the only activity for a while as I struggle with my confidence in the manuscript, and as a writer.
I’ve started another revision of Far Nineteen, the book inspired by the Tulsa Race Riot and the city’s buried Plymouth Belvedere.
Work has paused on the new project, and things are slow and, as with all rough drafts, it’s—well—rough. A lot of my time is spent on what, for me, amounts to research. Time is always a consideration when it comes to this. In a way, I’m jealous of those writers who have the time and, more importantly, the resources to do a lot of detailed research into things that, in the final draft seem kind of insignificant. A lot of my artistic decisions arise out of a need to work fast, in small chunks, and around gaps in knowledge and so my research is often limited to what I can accomplish on the cheap, online, and at the library. I don’t have the money to travel and spend months plodding about foreign cities to get a feel for how life “actually” feels there. I suppose that’s why my fiction often feels unmoored from place in the way that other writers aren’t. My fiction is deeply internal. I’m kind of jealous of how some of my favorite writers can get that deep sense of place along with that deep sense of people. I feel like my work is crippled by my socio-economic limitations, and the fact that place often seems interchangeable to me: Dodge City, Wichita, Manhattan (KS), Oklahoma City, Tulsa, El Paso, Juarez, Boulder, Denver, Chicago, Kansas City, New York—it’s all just scenery and weather. I sometimes think that for “place” to be a thing certain writers really concern themselves with, even those who are immigrants to the country where they write, there has to be some place where they feel they belong, or once belonged—a place to yearn for. I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere, even the places where I spent a decade or more. I suspect this is one of the biggest weaknesses in my fiction.
I’ve discussed a non-fiction project with some friends, and I’ve begun work that here and there. It’s built on a long essay that, for years already, I’ve been tweaking and revising. It made a brief appearance on the old Project for A New Mythology site as a free e-book. That went away and I’m expanding it, refocusing it, and doing some more reading and research to support my arguments. It’s kind of an aesthetic manifesto, and I’m seriously considering going the self-publishing route for it. If I had more than the one novel published by a traditional press, I’d probably be able to find a traditional publisher for it since it falls into that category where you might find Ben Lerner’s tract “The Hatred of Poetry,” but since I’m a one-book-schmo, I’m sure no press would care. I think the idea is sound since I do encounter a lot of people appearing to think along the same lines. It’s just none of them are synthesizing the material as fully as I think they should.
I plan on organizing a kind of peer review and editorial review among my literary friends so they can challenge it and make sure it’s sound. If I’m finally going to break down and self-publish something – even if it more or less amounts to a chapbook manifesto, I’d better do it right.
The first ever live event episode of The Outrider Podcast is available (link). I paired up with my friend Shawn Craver and his band The Ezras for a small performance. It’s kind of a proof of concept show, and Shawn and I plan on organizing a few more of these featuring Wichita area writers and musicians. I’ve got some people already on the list for reading and I need to reach out to some more musical acts.
It took a little longer to get this show posted than I’d hoped, but I’m not troubled by it. I’ve been working with an actual audio editor and producer and we’re still working out our system. I’m immensely happy with the final product, and excited to see what new things I can try with Heather Eden’s help.
The Bad Business Series should start dropping sometime in October, so look for that. This series is a six part discussion of crime and detective fiction. My co-hosts for this series are a couple of crusty old writer friends, Todd Robins and Paul Fecteau.
After the Bad Business series, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Maybe the book and movie thing with Julianne. Certainly another live show.
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (read)
A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics by Donald Richie (reading)
The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall (reading)
The Altar of the Only World by Sharanya Manivannan (reading)
Secure Your Own Mask by Shaindel Beers (reading).
Now that I’ve finished up the crime podcast series, I’m back on my personal reading schedule. I’ve already knocked out Michael Ondaatje’s new book that’s been sitting on my shelf since its release date. Most books, for me, are a one-and-done thing. I’m not a big re-reader, and I don’t consider it a knock against a book’s quality to read it only once. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson is a fantastic book, and it’s a book that is pivotal in my literary biography, but I’ve only read it once. Ondaatje, along with John Berger and Jack Kerouac, are the only writers—so far—who’ve written books that I’ve read more than once (Ondaatje leads the way, with Coming Through Slaughter, In The Skin of a Lion, and The English Patient all being read several times. Berger has two: To the Wedding and Ways of Seeing, and Kerouac has Big Sur).
Warlight is excellent, and I took particular joy in recognizing certain recurring motifs from earlier books. I almost expected to see a small cameo by the thief, Carravagio, the way I did in Divisadero since this was treading in similar World War II territory. Instead it was simply some echoes that reminded me of the Carravagio’s assorted high wire acts like the prison roof painting scene and the falling nun scene in Lion, or the wire walking in English Patient. I’m always enamored with the language in Ondaatje’s stories and how it manages to reveal the humanity of a situation and a character. I generally fail at writing reviews of Ondaatje’s books because descending into me writing about all the things I wish I did better in my own writing and no one really wants to read that.
Saw A Simple Favor with Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in September. I had no idea what I was walking into with this movie. It was something that Julianne suggested we see, so we went. It was quite the surprise. Finally sat down to watch John Wick with Julianne. It was fun, but like most of these types of movies, action, comic-books, gun-fu, etc. I’m getting a bit tired of them. Maybe it because it feels like our day-to-day world is already too hyper-saturated with people wielding guns in our faces.
I’ve been leaving this out for some reason. I usually write to music, look to it for inspiration—all the usual stuff. Mostly I’ve had my playlist for the new project in heavy rotation. It leads off with a collaboration between Olafur Arnalds and Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir (from Of Monsters and Men) titled Particles.
In the recent purchase department, I picked up the 2001 release Things We Lost In The Fire, by Low, and Shawn Craver’s 2017 EP When the Sun Shines (Shawn’s band The Ezras can be heard on the Outrider Live show on the podcast).
Other recent pick-ups include an EP by Wichita based Carrie Nation and The Speakeasy called “Gnosis” and By the Grace of God’s album Three Steps to a Better Democracy (my grad school acquaintance Duncan Barlow is one of the founding members and you can hear our conversation from back in December 2017 on the podcast).
I need to get back to listening to KEXP’s Song of the day podcast. My jones for new music is kicking in. Whenever I feel like I’m having a bit of a FOMO moment with music, I have to remind myself that, like books, there’s no expiration date on music.
Most of September was spent keeping tabs on the Supreme Court nomination drama, and the complicated, dangerous repercussions of putting someone so unqualified and partisan on the bench. I feel like the fate of our country is teetering on the brink of a fast and immediate slide into totalitarianism—all because a bunch of entitled old white men, their racist proteges, and subservient women are scared of other people gaining the kind of social, economic, and political power the old white men have. By the time this gets posted, Kavanaugh may already have been confirmed, and our country will be on the precipice of collapse.
Although I am not a politically or economically powerful white man, I’m still a white man. I’m still a beneficiary of white male privilege. I’m not followed around department stores by security personnel. I don’t run the risk of dying while getting my automobile registration out of the glovebox during a traffic stop. I don’t have to thread my keys between my fingers to protect myself while walking across a parking lot in the dark to my car. I don’t have to fear a verbal or physical assault for refusing to accept a date. Rich old white women aren’t trying to pass laws attempting to control what I can and cannot do with my penis.
There was an essay I read a while back by Jennifer Wright titled Why Conservative Women are OK with Harassment. The opening sentence got my attention: “You hear a great deal about feminists being man haters. However, it appears that conservative women have a lower opinion of men than most liberals would ever dream of.”
The essay goes on to point out that the general opinion of most conservative women seems to be that all high school boys attempt rape and that it’s fine or at least something that shouldn’t be counted as a black mark against their character. It’s a view that says males are by their nature sexually violent and aggressive and it’s the woman’s responsibility, from a position of diminished power, to control them or tolerate them if they can’t be controlled. That view of males is appalling.
Wright explains it this way: “If the way you [a woman] have worth amidst a group is to exist in relation to a man, then one way you can ensure that you are well liked by men is to set your expectations of male behavior so low they’re essentially non-existent.”
It’s appeasement, pure and simple. Conservative women believe men can’t or won’t change, are incapable of NOT behaving badly, so, to keep the peace, conservative women will allow men to get away with—quite literally in some cases—murder. The Tumblr When Women Refuse is a litany of women being beaten, raped, and murdered for not giving men what the men want. This appeasement tactic, this tolerance of bad behavior in the hope that by letting men have whatever they want when they want it (a woman’s body, a supreme court seat) will keep women “safe” or “protected” or “liked and loved” is borne out of that assumption that all men are violent animals, and that it’s an exception—a pleasant surprise—when or if they behave well, so best give them whatever they want so they don’t hurt you.
But what happens if you give even a nice guy everything he wants when he wants it? Well, the first time you tell him no he may just get angry and take it . . . Yeah, no wonder conservative women have a lower opinion of men and agree with the idea that it’s the victim’s fault. They’ve bought into a socio-political system that says everything is about personal responsibility, until a man rapes a woman. In that case these male bastions of personal responsibility are absolved of any responsibility because the desire any woman inspires a man is too great for him to resist.
As a man, I’m not ok with being thought of as a barely contained animal. It’s degrading and humiliating. It suggests that it’s somehow an innate and uncontrollable fact that men will do something horrendous, and that it’s impossible for them to change, to become better men. Personally, I expect better behavior from myself, and I expect better behavior from the men around me. If men can’t control themselves around women, then perhaps they shouldn’t be viewed as the epitome of humanity and given the socio-economic powers that patriarchy bestows on them.
Because Feminist women aren’t keen on appeasing men, they’ve actually encountered men who can, in fact, keep their hands to themselves, who gracefully take no for an answer, and who, quite simply, see women as individuals worthy of respect and as people who are not subservient nor defined by their relationship to a man.
We’re in for a rocky decade after this confirmation, especially those in marginalized communities hated and distrusted by conservatives. Women, LGBTQI, African American, Indigenous peoples, Latino and Hispanic communities, Asian Americans, non-christians, the poor of all groups, and even the disabled. If you’re not a wealthy straight white American male, there’s at least some aspect of your personhood that is at jeopardy. Whether it’s the right to control your sex life and how and when you become a mother, who you can love and have at your hospital bedside when you’re sick and in pain—and whether you can afford to be in that hospital bed at all—it’s all being swept up into this attempt by scared, old, hateful white men who want everyone not like them to live on the knife edge of their flighty, selfish, inconsistent sense of generosity. They want a new feudalism with them at the top and everyone who’s not a white male underneath them, bowing, scraping, and cowering in fear of offending them.
The first step to fighting back, quite simply, is a rule I’ve been following for years: vote with the Democratic black ladies and, when available, vote FOR the Democratic black lady. Once our society allows black women the same access and privilege as white men then there will be a truly equal and free society. If you’re a liberal white man and you’ve found ways to convince yourself and other to NOT vote for minority women in your districts, you’re doing a disservice to the cause of progress.
Want to know who’s in congress now? Here’s a list. Be wary of minority GOP women, you never know when they’ll act like Susan Collins.
You can find out more about your various representatives here at Open States.