“A Day Ruined” is a new, very short story posted at the end of 2016, inspired by a recent, dispiriting set of stamps from the Postal Service that sends the wrong message about pets and exotics.
Once you get beyond the dogs and cats/puppies and kittens, the pictured animals are less and less appropriate as companions. Many are routinely removed from their native habitats and shipped in poor conditions, only to be abandoned by irresponsible owners.
In any event, many people are concerned about issues of animal suffering, and the day-to-day life of people who care about such things, or who care about anything, is getting difficult in today’s America, where the loudest voices dominate current political discussions by venting their inner asshole. And all this noise covers up actions like the USDA’s, which recently pulled public information about animal abuse from its site.
Old and pulpy sci-fi often has some interesting ideas, but the words they used were often lacking in style and even coherence. Sometimes it is poor editing – a “where” for a “were” – but there are times when their words seem to be intentionally confusing.
Case in point: John Wyndham was correct that we are fucked as a species. The seas will rise, and plants will hunt us down. But I’ve read this sentence from his Out of the Deeps (the U.S. version of The Kraken Awakes) many times and I’m still in the dark:
“Almost every cartoonist discovered simultaneously why his favorite political butts had somehow never seemed quite human.” (pg. 106, Del Ray from 1977 edition)
The short story “The Crook of a Tree” is new to this site, although this piece was done a few years back and first made “publicly available” as part of the compilation “Stories from Austin: A Collection of Short Stories from the Austin Creative Fiction Writers Group.”
The SpinachChin.com site has also gone under a modest makeover, mainly to eliminate Flash in the interior page navigation.
I re-edited and posted the very short short story “Toy Lists” to start the new year. You might be asking, Why keep this story alive? Because it uses the word “frowsy.” That is simply a great word. It is the type of word you dream about.
And We Paid For This?!? is not, despite your deepest hopes, the name of a new self-deprecating alt band, with a pithy throwaway name that you grumble on your way out of the club … the opposite of Free Beer, which will forever be the urban legend for best band name ever…
No, “and we paid for this?!?” is what you might say after you buy your copy of “Stories from Austin: A Collection of Short Stories from the Austin Creative Fiction Writers Group,” which features over 20 short stories, including two originally posted on this site. Now you might be saying, “Didn’t we once get those for free?” To which I would say, “Yes … but now you have the honor of purchasing it alongside a set of clogs and the soundtrack to Back to the Future II…”
Many awesome passages percolate up from the thick tome that is Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives (Picador Edition).
“…[S]trange ideas would come to my head. Ideas that were like dead fish or fish on the verge of death at the bottom of the sea.” (pg. 498)
And the entry by Guillem Piña give great insight on the inner life of an aging – and not-so-successful – artist:
“In retrospect, the passage from one state to another takes on the harsh, brutal overtones of the sudden and irremediable, but of course it all happened much more slowly.” (pg. 499)
Something about the phrase “casual violence” really tugs at my backbone. I think because it seems to exist in that first, early stage of literary writing, a buzz phrase from embryonic Nabokovs who feel they are flirting with profundity. Perhaps they feel they are venturing “outside the box” when they say someone is imbued with an attitude of “casual violence.” Such as “…this man who carries in his limbs the promise of casual violence…” in the short story “Summer Boys,” by Ethan Rutherford (pg. 31, The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories).
Not to pick on Ethan, his was just the most readily available example. I probably have reams of my own story drafts tucked away that abuse this pseudo-significant phrase, as if it can decode the enigma that is humanity. So, in this year of 2014, let’s do what we can to divest our language of this overused, hackneyed, and now ultimately meaningless phrase.
Stephen Tobolowsky, in his new book The Dangerous Animals Club, has a great comment on drug use that really deconstructs our fascination with the practice – “[D]rugs create [an] … enticing arena where we can become addicted to the drama of our own bad choices” (pg. 129). He also performed the complete passage in the lit crawl as part of the Texas Book Festival.
Regarding motivations for drug use, there is escapism, and there is physical dependence. I would never discount these factors. But especially in youthful exuberance, there is an aspect of drug use that is like winding a top and letting spin just to see where it goes. It gives you an excuse to be a screw up. And to screw up. To test the boundaries of your own absurdity.
It takes a good writer to make a good paragraph about a cheese sandwich. And George V. Higgins does just that in The Friends of Eddie Coyle. The following awesome excerpt is from page 167 in my Picador 2010 edition:
“What the hell, you go in there and order a cheese sandwich, they got a whole stack of them, already made up, probably since last Wednesday, and they take out one of them goddamned things, big fat piece of orange cheese in it, and throw on some grease, they pretend it’s butter but I sure don’t believe that, and then they go and they fuse it all together with a hot press there. My stomach’s still trying to break that thing down into something I can live on, just like a big piece, two big pieces, of bathroom tile with some mastic in between. …”