June 15: got up an hour earlier hoping to be able to work an hour longer but met myself halfway.
Finished redrafting the hard section end of first chapter about Frank. Was able to take out some words. Not sure if any will find their way back into later pages. Hoping that words I have will solve problems in the second chapter.
June 11: back to NC. Listening to 1984 audiobook.
June 12: rest. second season of handmaids tale a) hard to have competing simultaneous dystopias b) season 1 was a beautiful adaptation; season two becomes mediocre tv series. tragic to watch the writing get bad, the series structure just lamely copy early orange is the new black, the voiceovers lose their specificity and sound more like stupider tv shows instead of like season 1 (having presumably used up Atwood’s words that made them awesome before, now they merely “tell” what was just shown or what the writers are afraid wasn’t shown when the joy of the atwood sililoqueys was that they made more complex what we saw), the writing get generic and wordy, the plotting get super heteronormative to the point of overtaking the queer people’s stories with heteronormativity not to mention simplifying June’s character and motivations via over-explication that turns out to be boring (that’s why go minimalism if you’re not much of a thinker, duh)– over-reliance on the coolness of your soundtrack to do your emotional work– repeating the dynamics of hope and hopelessness that created the pace of season one so beautifully but are now known territory so it’s just boring and to be bored with this content is pretty much the root of what others are calling (for different reasons– not my reasons for sure) ‘misery porn’ though I was calling it ‘atrocity porn’ and then googled to see what kind of ‘porn’ other people were calling it. Anyhow I was down with the first couple of episodes, ready to see how the handmaid would operate from Canada, thinking through kinds of freedoms, try to organize, try to sneak back in to help people, try to reconcile truly multiple simultaneous loves/lovers etc. but as soon as she got captured and sent back to the house the show tanked. Every episode increasingly overdetermined retrodding with no new ideas about anything.
June 13: worked on ch1; the sequence that established the em/frank dynamic– not done but stuck [afternoon spent dealing with tech stuff for duke plus my phone acting weird in NC]
June 14: reorganized the myth in ch 3 to try to work on idea of origin and narrative containers; put in space breaks to try to unify form across chapters until a I overtly deviate in the middle-book. if the form of the book that comes from the madmen story has that very basic sandwich (ick) shape. also started dotting ch 1 with more time-placement. still looking for ways to lift out chunks to move (I’d hope) to ch. 2 to balance out their sizes. Or, honestly, maybe at some point I give up on the even chapters and do something else I can feel good about. [afternoon need to finish grading, turn in grades, catch up on email– ]
speculative fiction about a society in which there are no contests of any kind.
here’s another one, how to make some money learning something new. offer a class people pay for in a thing you want to learn — you are not an expert but you are “expert adjacent” and you learn together. like for me it would be a class where we all learn to make radio documentary/audio/podcasty pieces– I have never done it but I know a lot about storytelling and I have listening experience… I guess I’d need a TA who could learn tech.
Actually, those ideas are not that good. So, yes, totally free.
I can not even access content until certain aspects of form are resolved. With genre some of those considerations are in place and as a fiction writer I was always not taking for granted a lot of what most workshops did. It takes a long time for me to find form as an aspect of engaging content, the initial content, which changes or gets specific as form takes form. So it often feels like I can’t really think about characters except as placeholders, or meaning/implication in any significant way until I have a lot of other decisions made. Characters have to arise and resolve from the writing by feel perhaps more than any other element. It’s almost the opposite (not reverse I don’t think but my bad logic stutters here) of “character is action” but with the same result.
I watched the first season with fascination during a time a few years ago when I was spending days in a mental hospital visiting someone I love. Recently, I watched most of the rest of it– well, I watched some and read some summaries when I started getting weirded out by what I was seeing. I imagined writing the story of homeland: a tv show that runs for five seasons rooting for the cia and killing off its brown cast members. It gets embarrassed when set designers call it racist in Arabic graffiti they can’t read and attempts to change the politics of its story in response b/c embarrassment is the most powerful force in tv America. ie Even when its topics are mental illness and terrorism, it’s embarrassment that ends up mattering to the people who make the story.
About novel and the underglaze of reference and the theoretical. An ongoing uneasiness and sometimes terror of not knowing and not understanding and being uninterested in or incapable of understanding in the ways that variously exist or are performed by scholars in my life since college and in the culture of the department I’ve worked in for 14 years. It is related to the way I’ve always felt one foot in and out of mainstream literary when opposed to so called avant- grade traditions (it’s so nice to have it so publicly pointed out how exclusively white-male that tradition has been described as and how false that is and like slap on the forehead no wonder I was always not really feeling wholly part of either– one was so straight and aesthetically choked and one was filled with boys I thought I should want to date but just couldn’t actually bear and then within each, this or that book I could love, this or that tidbit of a life story I could connect to in a direct way, and therefore claiming as my ground indirect connections to everything and that forming my aesthetic and probably my politics too) but over time those categories feel increasingly blessedly irrelevant to a visible chunk of culture— other in-betweenies. But simultaneously as I see a potential home for me among writers I see it less in my job and worry about its role in my work. I am not sure how swank hotel maps these concerns but I know it does and I don’t know if that makes it a better or worse book than it could be. My job is my way to have money and such a large part of my way to have interactions with people. What does that do over time?
for editorial comments.
since a good meeting last week it feels like I rewrote the hell out of the first chapter– which I think I first wrote in 2010? And rewrote 2-3 times per year ever since?– this time in concentrating on a methodical, what I hope reads like pulsing progression forward through the front-story with very clear dips into the past, very clear past-pushing-into present. I also was able to pull out a lot of the passages that have always felt were merely “explain-y” and trying too hard and filled with details I was never that into that I am now hoping were actually distracting. My plan is next to move on to the Frank chapter and take it OUT of his perspective, and continue focussing on a kind of “river with eddys” image of time instead of the conceptual knot or bow I’ve been after.
could I ever write something like poems (but not poems) for/to television sincerity by which I mean the kind that can only be produced within or b/c of the layers of banality and scriptednesses– I saw in your eyes that there was weight in your shoulders…
but more than malaprop, and uninterested in irony for itself, and what– ok– more bachelor– what it does to a person who is born into and then cultivates a generic tv body/physical form– and then learns or adopts the character and language over a lifetime of earnest ambition–
thinking fairly regularly about this peculiar, formative, and possibly ruinous reading habit I developed as a child of skipping names and dates. Can you believe it? Something in my brain rejected the abstract at such a basic level that I just didn’t or couldn’t feel like I was comprehending my reading unless I ignored those elements– which I think just took a lot of brainpower for me. I have very clear memories of skimming them– casting them aside as I went through a sentence in fonts I can easily picture. Memorize, was the feeling– I did not want to interrupt my reading to memorize. Names and dates do get in, cumulatively, but do not get in unless embodied or repeated– ie get in iteratively–or as an effect of being central or core enough to the whole reading experience that I /understand/ a name or a specific time marker. I have basically no cognition of names and dates as containers of meaning, and find the very notion of, or sense of anticipation of the effort of retaining them mildly but distinctly physically repulsive.
I can’t tell if I’m sad or my shoulder just hurts. Sent ms to agent to send to editor to see. Don’t know how I feel about the book vs how the book is to/for me, so don’t understand how this feels, to show it to the people I have in the industry with these confused feelings.