Two of my favorite writers have new interviews up on the interwebs today:
Two of my favorite writers have new interviews up on the interwebs today:
I just started reading Anne Carson less than a year ago. A friend told me about her and because I have some very odd gaps in my education and reading history I somehow had missed her completely.
Then. I read her. And more her. And all of her Greek dramatic translations. And her translations of Sappho. And now her translation of what is my favorite Greek tragedy, ANTIGONE. Her version: ANTIGONICK.
(And where have you been all my life Anne Carson? I could have used your words in the earlier times and places I traveled. But this is not about me.)
This is about how I would probably give up my left testicle, if I were a man, to meet this woman and talk for five minutes about life and philosophy and art. Hegel, or Beckett or Brecht (all of whom she brilliantly, wittily references in her ANTIGONICK.) Did I mention it was illustrated? Unbelievably, creepily, beautifully, perfectly illustrated by Bianca Stone on these opaque overlays? Did I mention I’d give a nut? Or I suppose, realistically, a liver? A kidney? Read more
Mike Meginnis, the guest editor at Necessary Fiction this month, was kind enough to publish a piece of mine there today. It’s a collage piece made up entirely of quotes from classic video games. Here’s a bit of it:
Welcome to your doom. It’s a secret to everybody. It’s a horrible night to have a curse.
What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.
Here is a map. Where do you wish to go? It’s dangerous to go on alone. Do not go south without a candle. Take this. If all else fails, use fire.
The full story is called “THE LONGEST CHEAT CODE: Man’s Permanent State of Existential Despair Explained Entirely Through Quotes from Video Games,” and you can read it here! See if you can recognize any/some/all of the quotes and their sources.
Big thank you to Randall Brown to publishing this small but I think somewhat poignant little thing. It’s called “And the World Was Crowded with Things that Meant Love.” Here’s a little bit of it:
Down the years they sent their strange missives. She sent maps made of clay, locks with no key, books with words cut out, fantastical animals and landscapes. He sent puzzle boxes, lacquered bangles engraved with kanji, bright yellow Dutch clogs. They sent maps of where they’d been and circled where they were going. And the world was crowded with things that meant love.
Good Sunday morning, everyone! I’ve got a new story just up in The Weekend Fiction section over at The Good Men Project (thank, Matt Salesses!) It’s a story about being lonely, being different, trying to make sense of the world through the only materials available to you: dreams and stories and hopes and myths. A new kind of fictional science. Here’s a bit of it:
You unwrap your cheese sandwiches slowly, eat them bite by bite, each bite chewed 11 times. 11 is your lucky number. Though you’ve never won anything in your life, you believe in luck completely. You carry a rabbit’s foot on your keychain, cross your toes inside your tennis shoes, wear red on prime number days. You blow on your eight-sided dice. You confuse luck with hope, of course, in the helpless way you have of getting anything that really matters wrong.
Enjoy! And happy rest-of-the-weekend.
Since I haven’t formally announced it here on the blog, I thought I’d better. The fabulous Chicago-based publisher, Curbside Splendor, will be publishing my debut short story collection! The collection, MAY WE SHED THESE HUMAN BODIES, will be out in September. (So soon, right?!!!)
I’m very excited, grateful, honored, and thrilled about this. Curbside is a great up-and-coming press and I’m joining terrific writers like Franki Elliot (Piano Rats) and Michael Czyzniejewski (Chicago Stories) at the press. As it gets closer to the big day, I’ll be announcing tour dates and stops as well. Can’t wait to see all your faces for real and sell you my book!
Slate has been running a great series of posts recently called Interview with my Bully. In it, writers like Steve Almond and Marie Myung-Ok Lee have tracked down their former bullies and interviewed them about why they did what they did. It’s riveting reading, and I’ve been toying with the idea of tracking down one of my former bullies and doing the same. In the age of Facebook, it doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult to find some of these people.
But in the end, I decided not to. I decided the series, although fascinating, has ended up being fairly depressing in its results. Because the majority of these former bullies seem to only vaguely remember their actions, or not remember them at all. Some of them didn’t even really remember who their former victims were. Some of these writers said that several of their former tormenters cheerfully and obliviously friended them on Facebook. Obviously most of these bullies grew up to be normal, happy, functioning individuals. Their bullying would seem to have had little effect on their psyches.
So basically, the takeaway would seem to be that while victims of bullying are emotionally and sometimes physically scarred, often for life, the bullies are doing just fine. They barely remember inflicting the torment. They feel ashamed or embarrassed when reminded, but that will quickly pass. In fact, the phone call or interview will probably make them feel a little better about themselves, since they’ve now apologized and redeemed themselves.
So can we learn anything from our past actions, from bullying or being bullied? It would seem in most cases, probably not. Or at least, nothing very positive or helpful.
I was bullied, mostly by a small group of boys but also by a few mean girls, throughout junior high. This was back when teachers and bus drivers and passersby would look the other way if a kid was getting picked on or shoved into a locker. I was definitely an easy target. I moved to a new school and didn’t know anybody. I had thick glasses and buck teeth and weird permed hair. I also, like many bullied kids, had a weirdly independent streak, a sort of nerdy individualism and self-assurance that I think rubbed people the wrong way for whatever reason. I only remained like that for a few years, before I went to high school and become a normal, happy, functional human being. (It also helped that I moved from a school full of cheerleaders and football to an arts-friendly school.) But. Those few years of being bullied – both physically and emotionally – hurt me deeply in ways I would still very much like to lose forever. If you could pull those memories out of my head, I don’t think I would really mind.
The bully who said I was ugly, who threw pencils at my head on the bus, who slammed me into lockers and called me loser, who arranged to have a cute boy ask me out and then collapse into giggles when I said yes, who pushed my food tray onto the floor so many times that they drove me to pretend I was the nurse’s assistant (I was fooling no one) so that I could eat lunch in her office and not in the hellish cafeteria? The bullies who told me I’d be better off dead? Those bullies probably don’t even remember me. I ran into some of them later and they clearly had no memory of picking on me, or if they did they didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. To them it wasn’t. Most seemed to think I was being too sensitive, and that it was kind of weird that I brought it up. That was years ago, and they might feel differently now, but I’m willing to bet not.
Here’s what I learned from being bullied. I learned that children’s cruelty is astoundingly casual. I learned that being mean comes naturally to a lot of people, and good people are often cowards who’ll never stand up for what’s right. I learned that you can’t trust adults to help you, that many adults kind of think bullying is good for a kid, or just part of growing up, or that they secretly or not-so-secretly feel kids deserve it for being fat or gay or ugly or small or smart or whatever. I learned that violence is often the only way to stop bullies. My own bullying mostly ended after I finally clocked one of my bullies in the head with my oboe case (yes, how nerdy is that) and knocked him out cold. I learned that bullies are often bullied themselves, just like abusers. I learned that words are just as painful as a punch, and can change the way you look in your own mirror – even when you’re all alone. Words stay with you. They matter. And I learned the most devastating lesson of all: that while your bully’s name is forever etched in your brain matter, they may not remember you even existed at all. To you it was so personal, and to them perhaps you were nothing more than a body with the right requirements in the right place at the right time. You were probably just a punching bag.
Are these good lessons? Are they uplifting? Do they help me in life? Of course not. So although I am now obviously a happy, well-adjusted adult, with a career and many friends and years of happiness ahead of and behind me, I still prefer to forgot those years entirely. There is nothing positive that can come, for me, out of dredging them back up again.
No, I prefer to forget the lessons I learned, and to try to feel less cynically toward my fellow human beings. I’m an optimist, and it’s hard for me to reconcile those years spent in such a dark place with the outlook I maintain all these years later. I almost never think about that time, and if I do it’s mostly with a laugh because I’m such an entirely different person now. But I do worry very much what will happen if I have a son or daughter that is bullied, years from now. I don’t know how I would react. I don’t know where that would take me, in my head. Hopefully not to that dark place again. But I prefer not to go there anytime soon, especially in a casual and easy conversation with my bullies.
That’s why I won’t be interviewing my bullies after all. There are some pieces of the past worth forgetting, and I think this might be one of them.