Yesterday in Bullet-Time
o Martha Stewart signed books in Time Warner Center's ground floor Williams-Sonoma, the line for which signing snaked out into the massive atrium. Upstairs in B_____'s there was a new edition of Forbes, I believe, on which Martha Stewart was quoted saying "I cannot be destroyed." Which makes one smile and want to try. o A real-life Michelin Man - a Stay-Puft Marshmallow figure made of too many marshmallows and without the sailor's dickie - waved at entrants to B______'s. He stood beside a rack of new Michelin 2006 Guides to NY-area restaurants. o An older man with whom I swapped stories about crossing the country by car - he was on his way to Florida - let slip, after we'd sort of bonded over eating habits on the road (I eat next to nothing, being so immobile, and he eats constantly), that he'd buried his wife on Wednesday. He needed to leave the city for a while. I instantly tear. 60 seconds later he thanked me for the audio book I helped him find and I lamely patted him twice on the left shoulder. I was unsteady on my feet for the next hour. Does this sound strange? It felt strange to me at the time, but doesn't feel strange now. Now he's somewhere in Virginia or Maryland, listening to David McCullough discuss the strategic importance of Concord and Lexington. o The band Animal Collective earned my instant devotion and advocacy. I listened to it on a whim, on the strength of one good review at AMG. After the first few seconds of listening to Track 1 "Did You See The Words" I was doubled over, laughing, with my eyes squeezed shut. I have heard a lot of music, and I do not have this reaction often. This music is very, very good. More to say about it, later.
Best. Halloween. Ever. (And some poetry ramble.)
I fucking love poetry. Wrote “Expiration” just now, which I’d feared would cover again territory recently covered in an untitled poem – all about the shelf life and transience of physical objects (cheap umbrellas for one, skin I think for two) – but it explores images I’ve been fascinated with for a while now but haven’t yet had the chance to use: Verizon workers here in the city may be seen bent to these gun-green metal boxes that contain what look like the complicated CPU brains of Sentinels (i.e. the giant robots from the X-Men universe). I can’t pretend to understand these wires and nodes completely, but as visual grist for the mill, it is hearty material indeed. Also it, the poem, uses a line substantially shorter than the one I typically use. This aspect of the poem works well, worked well in its composition. It reminds me of the momentum I think I was able to work up in the best sections of “The McDonald’s Poem.” Which needs some work, come to think. I haven’t touched that in a while. Busy working on Food Bed Gospel, in addition to new poetry all the time too. I think it, FBG, is in pretty good shape now. I’ve cut the weakest poems and made plans to overhaul the weaker poems, of which I think there are really only two. Possibly one. Contest readers, here it comes, my MS. Can I just say how fucking excellent yesterday was? Io wrote a multi-section poem;o way overshot my novel’s daily word quota;o cooked up a steak dinner at around lunchtime for consumption later;o sent off a job application;o reworked, with Brian, a store’s worth of monthly and weekly changeouts (a four-man job at least);o engaged in winning conversation after winning conversation with perfect strangers, getting that thrilled feeling in the chest each time—you know, that feeling of profound and genuine contact with a person with whom you’ve exchanged something honest of yourself and received in turn something honest, and honestly given, of them;o split a pitcher of McSorley’s w/ Brian at Rudy’s, a dive on 44th and 9th I think, with a truly eclectic cast of characters, esp. on Halloween;I mean, man, God, would that every day be so productive and full. One of the better days in recent memory. Nothing spectacular happened. But everything that did happen happened as though the base level of enjoyment and good-timery had been substantially raised.
Devil's Night, Hal Incandenza (characterization of), scrambled eggs & beer
Happy Halloween! Well, now that that’s out of the way—I tend not to mark that holiday these days with much more than a more intent than usual study of the characters who cross my path on subway and sidewalk. More absurdist directions have been occurring to me as viable directions in which I might take the novel: setting it in the fictional Northampton, for instance, which doesn’t actually exist but which discussions have been underway to create. I picture a scheming cabal of real-estate developers and moguls and Hamptons town board members not unlike the Republican Party meetings in favorite episodes of The Simpsons. Monty Burns on an immense throne of skulls and lit torches. Of course, going in this direction will inevitably swing me closer to territory covered by DFW in IJ, which, as previously blogged about, exerts a powerful influence on me whenever I think about fiction these days. Avoiding comparions to IJ and President Gentle’s O.N.A.N. / Subsidization scheming. What I need to remember of course—and any novelists reading this post will be smacking their crania in “Of course” kinds of gestures—is that these questions of character & plot boil down to remaining focused in a very private eye investigator kind of way on the motivations and inner lives of these characters. And while the utter primacy of characters is a claim I accept true, I also suspect and believe somewhat contradictorily that the plot, even an absurdist one, might be a necessary precondition for the full presentation and interrogation of a novel’s characters. Hal Incandenza, for instance, a if not the protagonist of IJ, wouldn’t be so intriguing if he didn’t have complexly described circumstances to contend with in re: the WhatABurger Invitational, his suicided-by-microwave father, and Quebecois insurgency, to name just 3 elements of the very knotty plot. [Later.] Overshot my quota of 1200 words or so without much realizing it. Most of today’s production, happily, pertains to what’s actually happening in the EECH Kiddie Clubbers’ misadventures; while there is an extended footnote anecdote about Martha Stewart and celebrities laid low, and a smaller footnote about the home life of one of the EECH staffers, most of the action is rooted in the light-footed present. While this, too, may be brow-moppingly obvious to longtime practioners of the art, and is to me as well in theory, it is in practice a very fresh and new realization to me in terms of how to actually do it. Phew, it’s warm in here today. I have a southern exposure, here in this room. By noontime there’s a healthy silver light lensing in the sunshine. A little black & tan takes the edge off this morning’s excellent coffee before work. I didn’t think coffee would be a wise thing this morning, considering my sore throat, but it turned out to be just what I needed. For those of you who are sick and don’t feel as though you can handle coffee—I’d always abandon it for tea—try coffee with two fingers of milk added. Or just up your percentage of creamer. You’ll get a weaker cup but it’ll go down more smoothly. Plus the caffeine will be more evenly distributed into your system—lower dosages, one might say—and the Shakes will be postponed. As for the beer, I first thought of it after having thought of scrambled eggs. If I had some whiskey, I'd have had that in honor of Hayden Carruth's "Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey" - something about that sounds so hearty and homespun that it just must figure in that man's gruffly & kind longevity. Sure enough, my little imitation meal treated me well.
I wonder what sorts of costumes I’ll see today, if any. Me, I’m going as Everyman. See if you can spot me, out in the city.