Fiction [1]


Joyce Marie knew all about life from books. She knew that the best thing to be in the world was a writer. She knew that the very best writers wrote from their own experience. And, if the paltry collection of pages she'd worked herself through was any true sampling of the billions and gazillions of pages out there, brimming over with every whole and astounding and incandescently real word and experience a person could hope to live, Joyce Marie knew one other thing: any writer, if she was worth any kind of thing at all, felt a lot.

That's why Joyce Marie, or J&M as she called herself inside her head (pronounced 'jam', with an 'ah' spun in the center), had worked out a system. She could find loads of things to write about and make herself into a great writer. All she had to do was feel everything, a lot, all the time, no matter what she was doing, and then put it down on the page. That way, she was guaranteed to have something gripping to say that mama and Lewis and Uncle Dake and Tee-bone and Sammy G. and Tuna and Lolli, and more than them, too, everyone would want to read, because it would be so chocked full of emotion, it couldn't help but be grand. J&M meant to be the grandest writer there ever was. 

Today was Saturday and so she was practicing. Her mother was asleep in the next room, or else just sitting or doing something in the next room, or maybe upstairs or in the garden, J&M wasn't really sure, the point was that in her imagination, her mother was in the next room, sleeping, and so J&M had to tiptoe ve-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-r-y-y slowly and intensely across the room. She lead with her big toes. On one foot, she had a robin's-blue sock, while the other was barefoot. The point was, whether or not her mother was in the next room, J&M had to make it across the length of the dining room, leading with her big toes, quiet as a titmouse or some other silly thing with a whispered name. If her mother woke up before she could get across the room, or if she knocked into anything, or in any way failed to cross the room in a spectacularly silent way, the jig was up. She'd have failed, and J&M was not about to fail today. She was concentrating very, Very VERY hard on her perfect sneak across the long, terribly long dining room, and concentrating with the greatest might she had on the task.

Oh, yeah, she thought. This is going to be a heck of a story.


You can guess what happened next, right?

J&M, caught up in her vision of the future, had lost track of the present. She knew, really knew, that the point of the thing was to concentrate and strain with all her might, and Joyce Marie the First, who actually was out for a bit in the garden putting down some garlic and peony bulbs, had not raised her daughter, our heroine J&M, to set out for a task and go halfway and call it done. No, J&M knew that her experience had to be a real trial, something close to torture in its intensity, to make a gripping story. She sighed, heavily, and let her shoulder bump, ever so lightly, into the teak sideboard. The china rattled and across the room Tuna, the cat, blearily raised his head from the sunny sill and, as though not quite pulled from the taffy of his dream, just as woozily laid it back down and was promptly asleep. J&M's harrowing creep across the dining room had already been sullied by her errant future-writing thoughts. She figured she'd might as well end the attempt with a bang, but she certainly hoped Tuna wouldn't be too upset later at the present upset she'd caused. 

To the far-off sounds of her mother's singing voice and burrowing trowel, J&M stalked back to the far side of the dining room, wiggled her toes, and channeled her enormous emotional range. 

From an earlier attempt I didn't quite get around to publishing


There is a line that divides lies from truth. We all walk on one side or the other. Every second of every day, we choose whether to pass from one side to the other. Whether it's a quick, darting step or a testing of the waters. In our hearts, we know on which side of the line we belong, and we fight that knowledge, or we succumb to it, or we make peace with it, or, if we never much concern ourselves with it,  we'll find ourselves clumsily, hand-over-the-eyes, bumbling into the paths of others, and not be invited over to many more parties. 

Some of us walk far into truth territory, deep in its hinterlands. Others wander closer to the line. Some of those walk surer knowing where the line is, being able to verify at all times that we're on the right side. Others look on the border as of a ripcord

Those of the hinterlands: They know that somewhere, far off, beyond the sheltering trees, there is a place of lies. Maybe they even walked it in their youth. Yet, at a certain point they decided that they wanted to choose what kind of country they walked through. But they're the sure type, and this story concerns the uncertain. It's about Billy.  

Catalog [1]

I'm particularly proud of one of today's entries. I've decided to share it here. 


Ralph Elison’s Richard Wright’s Blues

First Separate Printing, 1945

Ellison, Ralph. Richard Wright’s Blues ...1945. First separate printing of Ellison's seminal essay on Wright, catalyzed by the appearance of Wright’s Black Boy, which Wright had published as an autobiographical account of what it was like to grow up black in the South. Elison offers a powerful critique, likening Wright’s storytelling to a musician blowing the blues.  Elison felt the two were one because, like the musician, Wright had heeded the impulse “to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in [his] aching transcend [them]...[with] near-tragic, near-comic lyricism.” Both forms of expression, Elison argues, are lyrical chronicles of personal tragedy. Elison’s slow build and skillfully-woven metaphors slowly uncover the root of Wright’s work: that white society recognizes Negroes only as a group, that black society reinforces this, and woe befall that dark-skinned youth who seeks to stand as an individual. He -- Elison pronounces as Wright’s message -- shall find no sanctuary, no friend among his own or among others.  Elison claims that this realization fueled Wright’s righteous anger, that this work was a meeting of the American negro’s pre-individualism with Wright’s angry desire for individualism, and that no balm could be found to soothe this burning but that found in the self.

Image result for richard wright

The powerful depth of Elison’s analysis is matched in this particular copy by its mysterious origin. By most accounts, it should not exist. Not reported in any of the ordinary bibliographic references, not quite an offprint from the periodical, but instead a new setting of the text, this printing contains two clues as to its origin...[and] the Union Printer's slug in the corner of the rear wrapper, which includes the digits '52' to the right of the logo, possibly indicating the year of printing as 1952. If this printing was made in the year of the appearance of the essay, it would precede Wright’s most important work, Invisible Man, by over 6 years; if it was indeed printed in 1952, it may or may not precede the novel. In either case, this is a rare and bold work by one of the most important voices of African-American literature on the most consequential of topics: the societal forces keeping black Americans down. Stapled printed self wrappers. Slight rusting to staples, otherwise a fine copy. It is an uncommon and highly important link between America’s Black Boy and her Invisible Man.

Book Collecting [2]

The below post was written in response to a question I received from "Book Collecting [1]." It's been brought to my attention that this was a kind of trolling question. 

My first reaction was to withhold or delete the post, but I'm going to try and ignore the bad vibes and post it anyway. I like what I wrote and I want to see where it takes me.

I hope that everyone with an honest intent does indeed ask questions, if they have any.


In response to a comment from my last post, the book collecting continues. The question was: what is an example of a great literary work and its imitation? Here's what I have to say.


We'll focus on the filled space instead of the empty for the moment. The item I'm seeking to collect is Poetry, a Magazine of Verse, January 1913, Vol. I, No. 4, edited by Harriet Monroe. My interest is in a single poem therein. 

From an online edition of the poem in question, we can read this footnote: 
"NOTE: In a letter to the editor printed in the Times Literary Supplement (8 Dec. 1995, p. 14), Robert Ian Scott suggests that "the many similarities between this poem" and T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" "can hardly be coincidental." Scott notes that Eliot "had reasons to be reading" the Jan. 1913 issue of Poetry in which Cawein's poem appeared because it contained Pound's article on the poets then in London (though Eliot himself is not referred to in the article).

Next, have you heard of Modernism? This is the movement which is Eliot represents, a more revered and central figure of the era than any other. 

Modernism, according to our love and savior Wikipedia, is

a philosophical movement that...arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors...were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities...then the horror [of] World War I. Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional...becoming ill-fitted to [modern] tasks and...the...emerging, fully industrialized world. 

Another major Modernist player, Ezra Pound, popularized a saying that epitomized the era: ""Make it new!"

photograph of Ezra H Pound

It is, perhaps, also worth stating that:
A notable characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness and irony concerning literary and social traditions, which often led to experiments with form...[it] makes use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody.

What, then, could Elliot have meant in penning The Wasteland, a classic Modernist work? Was he presenting the world an idealized Modernist homage of an outdated prose, whittling the knotted bough of a dying age down, spinning it and pushing it, again, again, again, until the spark and blaze of a new movement spits to life? Was he crafting a delicate and defendable art?

Or was he straight-up stealing?

Eliot's opinion was a matter of public record. "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal." 

With our introduction complete, let's look at the poem of note in the Jan '13 edition. It's titled--hey look at that--

The Waste Land

Wait, but this poem came out in 1913. What was Eliot's poem called again? Oh yeah. 

The Waste Land

Only his came out in 1922. One year shy of a decade later. 

Image result for stop sign

But wait! You may be saying. Those two poems are wildly different! Eliot's is WAY longer, for starters. And...uh...


Ok, let's look at some differences. We'll do so as we examine the second part of this match, the Great Literary Classic that's in absentia (ie: too expensive to own).

In the next post: The Wastelands side by side, with a particular look at what brings us to this discussion: how imitation and flattery factor in. 




Yes, I ended with a preposition. Grammarians, take heed. That's now allowed.

Far out!