who the heck knows anything, anyway

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I've had a lot of time to introspect

There are a few things that have been taking up a lot of my brain-space lately; not the least of which are grad school applications but let's ignore that one, because it's about incessant in its pestering as the fly that seems to have teleported into your kitchen and keeps head-butting the closed window. Let's list, since I do love a good list, and then expound upon those that require expounding afterwards.

-Busy Monsters, the debut novel by William Giraldi
-short story revision
-the Occupy movement
-what makes a person "brave"?

1. To start with, we have the novel I finished reading last week (I know, I'm slow/preoccupied): Busy Monsters. I basically refuse to give a plot summary (I'd bung it up), but know that it's great. Giraldi has written a novel that made me laugh aloud at LEAST every other page without once sacrificing character, plot, or overall complexity in general. The intelligence of the work is subtle and astounding; every time you realize what's happening with the layers, and the asides, and the off-handed snark, (and, and, and!...) it's a little revelation. Plus, it's the sort of book you just rip through. It was my ideal vacation book: equivalent to most people's latest Dan Brown read, except it was legitimately good. Really difficult to describe, but I can't rave about it loudly enough. That being said, I probably wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Like anything funny, the audience is a bit slimmed based on individual sense of humor. It's dry and smart, with occasional bits of the vulgar. The main character/narrator, Charles Homar ("memoirist of mediocre fame"), is not always likable, but he is remarkably human in those particular moments. And his fiance is obsessed with giant squid!

It's just amazingly fantastic--which was a pleasant surprise, because I've grown to be unapologetically skeptical of contemporary writing in my old age. (Add to this: William Girladi is hella smart. I love reading interviews with this man. If you can get your hands on the interview in Poets & Writers magazine from a few months back, I highly suggest doing so.)

I'll just share the first sentence with you, and you can decide if it's maybe your thing (if you're still on the fence after, I'd say go for it. If the first sentence sounds hokey to you, I'd say: still go for it. But if it's an instant turn off--which it might be--then I probably wouldn't try to slog through it. Might get a bit uncomfortable):

"Stunned by love and some would say stupid from too much sex, I decided I had to drive down South to kill a man."

And it gets so much better from there.

2. Revision is not pleasant. People, this is why you hear successful authors talk about how editing is the "real work". It's particularly true when the story is too emotionally close to you and you'd rather throw it in a drawer, prompting it to acquire that nice, musky-drawer scent for a few years, than try to confront whatever issues you have with it. Unfortunately, I need it for grad school applications. I've only got two short stories (can't use excerpts) that combine to meet portfolio length requirements, and one of them is this stupid devil that I've hated looking at since I wrote it. Apparently, it's not bad (okay, Daniel even said he likes it), but I personally think I need distance from it. Sadly, distance shan't be afforded. Alas, earwax. (There's no real conclusion here. Only angst.)

3. I think the Occupy movement is incredibly important right now, no matter where it ends up leading. I'm not going to subject anyone to a political monologue here*, but I do recommend reading some of The Guardian's articles about it and taking a look at a few Twitter trending topics (#OccuptWallSt, #OWS, etc). I've found that many people I know are uninformed, due largely to the shoddy job of US news sources in covering the goings-on. The Guardian is a UK news source, and it would appear that one-step removal has kept them in the business of covering news and not making things up. Daniel will tell you that this whole thing has me incredibly fired up. I'm trying not to lose sleep over it, but that's becoming increasingly difficult.

4. Bravery. I'll struggle with this last one forever, I think. No need to dig deeper on it. I bet most people can relate to the feeling.

*If you're desperate for my opinion, this is how I described it to someone about a week ago:
"People are not asking for a collapse of capitalism, but for a close in the disparity gap. The distribution of wealth in this country--and globally--is absurd (ex: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth#In_the_United_States), as is political corruption. Just as it was once suggested that Church and State be separated, it should now be emphasized that Wealth and State be separated. Otherwise, (for example) voting the corrupt out of office will be impossible; in order to successfully run for office, you need millions of dollars (either your own, or from wealthy backers, thus perpetuating the cycle of favoring the wealthy). It has nothing to do with laziness and everything to do with equality. The problem is not that There Is A Middle Class, but that the middle class is dying--leaving a very small percent among the wealthy, and a growing population of the under-served working class."