Now that they finally had a kid, he feels unwanted.
(from Fiction Vol. 19, #1)
I haven’t been posting with much regularity recently. At first it was just work, then it was a bit of difficulty getting back into the swing.
Sometimes I choose a story, settle in and, ugh, it sucks. Too pretentious, clichéd, clumsy, annoying, dull. So I stop. I may then try another one. Or I might be turned off. Indeed a bad reading experience can ruin a perfectly good night. Make me want to clean my apartment.
Now, “She was Everything To Him” must have had something going for it because I read it, the whole thing. And it did: Interesting characters, interesting situations. It was sort of unabashed in its way.
Usually, I like to focus on the positive. But not tonight. The lightning is a harsh strobe on Philadelphia right now. The thunder is steady crunch and this story was so clunky and awkward and not believable that I was glad it was over when it was. Here are some things I have to say, enumerated. They may seem harsh, but the author certainly seems to have had enough success in her writing career to take a little unsolicited criticism from a reader. I do feel a little bad about it.
1. Typos can be intolerable. You must know your “your” from your “you’re” if you’re going to be writing things down for people to read. And don’t go hey look at this link, you have made a typo! Yeah. This is a blog. Typos are the pickle on the blog platter.
2. I wish everybody who sets his/her fiction in New York City would move. It can be done well, but. It’s boring. It’s snobby. It adds nothing. Hell’s Kitchen. Park Slope. Been to those places. Read this story. Nonplussed.
3. Here’s a sentence I disliked: “No, it was before that, when they first started to try for a baby, because she’d had two miscarriages before the conception of Frank.”
Here’s where you might gasp and say wait, this isn’t that kind of blog, and I say did you really gasp that’s so sweet, and also yeah, it’s not that kind of blog, not a journal, but please allow this lapse.
I’m not sleeping, not much. Maybe enough, though, as I am not falling apart. Three, four hours a night, that’s about it. Please remember this: Lack of sleep is not a contest. One is not to brag about such things.
The other night, in lieu of sleep, I watched, again, Jurassic Park 2, The Lost World. That’s the one where the T. Rex, all doped up from some kind of adrenaline shot, goes nuts and runs around San Diego. He shoulders a bus into a video store and eats a dog. My friend Brian went to San Diego recently, but his experience was quite different. Here’s a link to his site about biking.
When I’m not re-watching things I’ve watched too much already — thanks to my pal MJ’s extended lending of DVDs, I can now recite key speeches from News Radio seasons 1 & 2 (“Freedom of speech is my bread and butter but I’m also a big fan of a little thing called decency, the meat in the broadcasting sandwich”) — I’ve been finishing up an actual book. Reading a whole book. And it’s done. So where are we?
Possible outcomes of having read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
1. Whew. I read a book. And while, as somebody pointed out when I was a mere 22 pages from the finish line, it is not actually a novel, I still feel like I may be the kind of person who can read a novel, again, one day. So one effect is: I think I can read books again, assuming they are as thoughtful and engaging and fun as this one, or close, or not without their charms in other ways.
1.7 I have, in my lifetime, read many books. Why’d I ever stop?
2. I may want to read You Shall Know Our Velocity, also by Dave Eggers, sometime soon. I mean, it’s probably good. And it’s actual fiction, so that’s the next possible baby step. I bought it at the same time, on my pioneer outing to Bookhaven.
3. Or I could read that new George Saunders novella, because he too is an author who rules so hardcore.
3.2 No, Alice Munro has never written a novel or I’d be all up in that.
CORRECTION: Um, yes, Alice Munro has written a novel; Paula Bomer was kinda enough to drop me a line and disabuse me.
4. I wish to give somebody the nickname “Staggering Genius” because I crack myself up. Right now I’m leaning toward my friend Jesse, whom you may already know as the Bloody Knee Jerk (link here). Always room for more nicknames.
5. I could lend the book to somebody, as long as that person takes good care of it.
6. I could, in an unspoken retort, attempt defend the entire McSweeney’s aesthetic. You know the one I mean: This short story collection comes with a comb, that one is a box of individual stories, this novel has pages with holes where words were removed, here’s a couple pages of the letter e. You can call it too cute if you like. But I’ll think of this book’s second forward, the one upside down inside the back cover which says “Not everything that is truthful must fall within well-known formal parameters. The goal is to have fun and push forward, no?”
7. XXXX I XXXXXXXXX X XXXXX XXXXX XX McSweeney’s XXX XXXX XXXXXXXX XX. Which was fine, except XXXX XXXX XXXX XXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXX XXXX pretty much the exact same XXXX. XX XXX XXXXX, XXXXXX. (Secret.)