Writerly resolutions: May status

I continue to make progress on the novel,Progress on the novel—steady increase through the first half of the month, then a complete 1st draft, and the rest of the month I've been reading what I have for the 2nd draft rewrite with the first draft of chapter 26 done. It’s a big chapter—28 pages—so reading what I have in preparation for the second draft rewrite is taking a while and I keep making changes as I do my research (this is probably the best-documented historical event in the novel so there’s a wealth of material to use).

The rewrite of the short story is progressing, albeit more slowly than I would like still. The rewrite draft is revealing things I didn’t know before which is a good problem to have. I did miss my writers’ group deadline with the rewrite (maybe this month?) so I pulled another story out of my backlog and have a big rewrite to do on that one too.

The “publication soon” happened. And there’s another acceptance in the mean time. I love my writing group. They’re an outstanding bunch of readers with great insights into my work and its deficiencies.

Dewey Decimal Project: 892.1 GIL Þ

For a long time, I had managed to confuse in my mind GCover of Gilgameshilgamesh and Beowulf, most likely because of the earliness of the two narratives. I did puzzle about how I had managed to miss the flood story in Beowulf, not realizing my mistake. But then, I have a long history of this sort of confusion: as a child I had thought that Hogan’s Heroes and MASH were the same show and couldn’t understand why sometimes they were trying to escape. And after nearly two years, my wife pointed out that the Director of Curriculum and Director of Administration at my kids’ school are two different people.

But I’m older and (a little) wiser now so I know that Gilgamesh and Beowulf are different works and I hadn’t read the former, so when I got to the 890s, which encompasses the literatures of anywhere that doesn’t use the languages of Western Europe, I decided to pick up this book. 

Reader, I was amazed. It’s a gripping story, one which feels almost modern in its concerns. Certainly, there are parts that feel fable-like, but overall it’s a fascinating read and its interest extends beyond its presentation of a version of the flood myth which predates the Hebrew Bible. I’m surprised that no one has made a film of the story. It would make a good movie.

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Dewey Decimal Project: 882 EUR Iphigeneia at Aulis

Greek literature gets its own decade in the Cover of Iphigeneia at Aulis800s and I decided to pull this one off the shelf since (a) I’ve heard the title before (thanks to an assortment of operas whose titles I’ve heard even if I’ve never seen/heard any of them) and (2) it was reasonably short.

Many of the classic Greek stories are familiar even if we’ve not read the source material. I read Oedipus Rex a few months before I read this play and although I’d not read the Sophocles before, I still knew the outline of the story well thanks to its being deeply ingrained in the culture. On the other hand I’d managed somehow to not know this story which is part of the broader narrative of the Trojan war. The story is a dark tale, a tragedy in the classical Greek sense of the word, and Merwin’s translation makes it all the more powerful. I can see why it was a popular source for so many operas.

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“Saint Anthony in West Hollywood”: The Story Behind the Story

My newest story, “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” is up now at The Rappahannock Review.

I began with a vague notion of a saint in the modern world, or perhaps someone who was delusional and just thought he was the saint, leaving the trStatue of Saint Anthony holding the Christ Childuth purposefully indeterminate. I had no idea which saint or where. Then little by little, things came to me. Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, and West Hollywood, which gave me some idea of the other protagonist of the story.

I have a bizarre fondness for second person, partly because my first published story was in second person, and partly because for this piece, it’s planned as part of a collection where the POV has a subtle coding to something about the story and “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” fits into neither category. Just as well, I think that the second person fits it nicely.

There’s an interview with me (my first ever) accompanying the story.

Thanks to those with whom I’ve workshopped this story, Aaron Frankel, Paul Gee, Diane Gilette, Davy McNell, Laura Nelson, Gwen Tolios and Matt Zakosek. The first draft of this was begun at a writer’s retreat hosted by Sister Julia Walsh where, for the first time, I read in public an unpublished excerpt of my work, in this case, the opening scene of this story.

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Writerly resolutions: April status

I continue to make decent progress on the novel. graph of progress on the novel for april, steady progress with a big leap in the last week of the month till perfect on my goal of working on the novel every day. I’ve cracked the 85,000 word mark on the novel and chapter 26 is currently at 6,800 words and counting. I think my guess that it will hit 10,000 words is not too far off.

Thanks to looking at the footnotes on the Exodus 1947, I found Aviva Halamish’s The Exodus Affair, which was exactly the book I needed for research on chapter 26. 

I got to an end on the short story. at about 8,100 words so now it’s time to do a complete rewrite on what I have. I have a better idea of the aboutness of the piece so it should go a little faster and with luck I’ll have a version I can workshop in time for my next turn at writers’ group.

There will be a publication update soon. 

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Dewey Decimal Project: 871 VIR The Eclogues of Virgil

And now I’m moving on from Spanish/Portuguese to Latin in the literature part of the Dewey Decimal System. (As an aside, it’s interesting to note the cultural biases implicit in Dewey. the 800s—literature—follow a similar structure to the 400s—language—with a decade each for German, French, Italian, Spanish/Portuguese, Latin and Greek with all other languages crammed into a single decade and only a single left of the decimal category to hold, for example, all the Indo-European and Celtic languages of Europe. That a whole decade is dedicated Cover of Eclogues of Virgil translated by David Ferry o Latin seems nearly indefensible in the context of modern culture.

But I’m an odd bird. As an undergraduate, I studied Latin and Greek (the latter not very successfully and the former arguably not so successfully either). I was once upon a time able to stumble through Cicero and Ovid in Latin and I’ve made some tentative efforts at reclaiming my Latin including as part of this project (I’m also slowly working through St Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin). 

I’ve managed to have not read Virgil other than a handful of excerpts here and there, and I have an unread copy of a translation of The Aeneid on my to-read shelves. The Eclogues are something that I’d read absolutely none of so I grabbed this off the shelf to read. 

I have to confess that laziness led me to largely ignore the Latin side of this bilingual edition. I did look occasionally at the Latin, but mostly I focused on reading the English side. It was a delightful excursion during the waning days of the pre-Covid era and while I have only a handful of vague memories from that reading, I do recall finding it an interesting read and I think that should I manage to beef up my Latin in what remains of my life, I may return to The Eclogues to read it in Latin without an English text to crib from.

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Dewey Decimal Project: 863 VAR A Writer’s Reality

After Eco, I decidedCover of Mario Vargas Llosa's A Writer's Reality that I would definitely give a similar book by Mario Vargas Llosa a shot. Vargas Llosa is probably the most important influence in the novel I’m working on right now and it’s always interesting to see what a writer has to say about their craft. This book is based on a series of lectures Vargas Llosa gave at Syracuse University. After speaking about other writers, most of what Vargas Llosa talked about was his own fiction, which he does with great insight and understanding.

I’ve only read one of Vargas Llosa’s novels—La Fiesta del Chivo—which he wrote after these lectures, but I found myself very much interested in reading his early fiction even more than I had been from reading the one novel that I had read.

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As of today I’m as immune as I’m going to get to Covid. Now what?

So it’s now two weeks since my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine so I’m fully immune apparently. Not that it keeps me from feeling anxious at the grocery store when other customers crowd me or I have to watch people pull their mask down to inspect the salad (🤷🏻‍♂️). I could start attending mass in person, but I feel like the last twelve months have exposed a large fraction of my co-religionists as people who value outward signs of faith over actually taking care of other people so it doesn’t have a strong appeal to me since I’d almost certainly be surrounded by pharisees. I feel like the biggest damage of the last twelve months has been seeing how many people would rather worship Mammon than the God of life and wondering how I can rebuild a normal life in the face of that.

Dewey Decimal Project: 853 ECO Confessions of a Young Novelist

If I weren’t already a fan of Eco’s Cover of Confessions of a Young Novelistwriting, I would pick this up for the ironic title alone—Eco was 48 when he published his first novel The Name of the Rose, and 79 when he published this slender volume.

Eco playfully explores the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction and gives some insight into his own creative process without fully opening the kimono. Overall a delightful little book.

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Dewey Decimal Project: 843 KRI Powers of horror : an essay on abjection

The 840s put me in French literature, Cover of Powers of HorrorI spotted Kristeva’s name on the spine and, having read Desire in Language during my MFA, I decided I’d read this. I’d forgotten that I hated Desire in Language, finding her writing incoherent and her uncritical acceptance of Freudian theory laughable. I also had read another Kristeva book along the way on this project, her biography of Hannah Arendt which I liked enough to have forgotten my distaste for her writing in Desire in Language

My feeling here was that it was more of what I disliked about Desire in Language and less what I liked about Hannah Arendt. I think the biggest issue is just that I’m too turned off by Freud and Lacan to be able to appreciate Kristeva.

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