Friday, April 1, 2011
DYING A LITTLE EACH DAY IS REALLY TIME-CONSUMING -- Justine Middleton
…I have two new poems, "Veteran" and, "Veteran's Reunion" up at Rusty Truck (for their special Vietnam Issue), a sad story, "The Truth About Leprechauns and Miracles," as well as a short story about a sweet-but-damaged homeless woman called, "Lady," up at 52/250 A Year of Flash.
I sort of love the character in "Lady." I feel like I know her and want to take care of her, make her soup, run her a hot bath and tell her it's all going to be okay, that's she's safe, that she's still a princess after all.
The poems and stories are also here, under "Words In Print."
...I need to tell you this. I need to confess. After reading Alissa Nutting's story collection, "Unclean Jobs For Women and Girls," I felt inept as a writer. I felt as if I'd had several teeth knocked out. I knew I'd gotten a few ribs broken, and my jaw felt sore and slack from either laughing, grinning, or going, WTF? How does somebody think up this stuff?
My side ached and my hair felt tingley--all the hairs on my body were brushing up against each other, actually--and then I sort of felt funny for that visceral reaction, thinking, Hey, it's only a book. These are only stories. Chillax.
But she's that good. The collection is a marasala stew of dark-meets funny-meets clever-meets quirky--meets freaking brilliant.
At several points while reading I also felt castrated. That wasn't a very pleasant sensation. No, not at all. Sort of like getting circumcized in slow motion. But I think that's the way she wanted a male reader to feel; our gender often deserving brutal payback.
She is, this Alissa Nutting person, quite spectacular. You should buy her book. You won't be sorry.
…I am in a confessional mood/state of mind. You have to understand that this is rare for me. By nature, I am shy and inhibited and slow to trust or confide. I am still a withdrawn twelve year old boy writing bad poetry by himself on the far back desk of the library at lunch hour. I don’t talk a lot. I'm a better listener than I am a talker.
So I am confessing for the here-and-now reader that I sometimes, maybe even often (too often--of course, hell.) praise a fellow writer's story when I shouldn't, when it's maybe not that strong, maybe even when it's not very good at all.
Why do such a thing? Good question. Well, usually, I think, Look, I've already taken the time to read this, so the easy part is reply, find something good to say. There's got to be something good. And almost always there is at least one bit that has merit.
But then I'll feel guilty about compromising my integrity with wanting to make the other person feel better. (My daughter once said to me, "Other people's happiness is your drug.")
Or else what might happen is I read a story and it's just sort of eh, but I'll see a whole slew of people who've commented, saying it's brilliant, and I'll think, Is this really brill and I've just not been able to discover why? Maybe it's me. Maybe I expect to much out of writing.
Maybe I'm the real problem.
Here are some short snippets from Alissa Nutting's collection:
"--She was trying on bizarre clothes--there was a shroud that looked fiercely spacelike yet medical, like a gown one might wear to get a pap smear on Mars.
--The secret to having sex with people who make disgusting sounds is to out-moan them. It gets them there quicker, too, which is half the battle.
--I know from experience that her tears aren't clear; they're a strange gray color like weird steam. I always figured they were mixing with her makeup until I realized she didn't wear any (not to be commercialized but she could use it. Pastel, bare minerals). Her face is kind of gray, too, because she never goes outside; she fear nature like it's a rapist or murderer. But despite not having sun damage, she got wrinkles before her time from watching constant news television and subconsciously reproducing Dan Rathers facial expressions.
--'No HARM? (On TV) You look like sex freaks to the entire world! You should see the faces you're making! They're not even attractive. I'm saying this objectively. You look carsick and blinded by headlights."
'It's not about how we look to other humans, Sis. Third eye. There's more to see than you think.'
'Ugh, it's on the TV right now.' There's a long silence; I can almost hear her eyes squinting. 'What the hell is that, a tattoo?'
I decline to answer, as Sister wouldn't understand. I recently had a bottle of wine tattooed on my mons.
--'Your boyfriend is a creep. Did you know he tried to hit on my at Thanksgiving. I was putting the cranberry sauce into Tupperware when I felt a stiffness on my leg and turned around. He was down on the floor like a crab rubbing his…his…extension near my ankles. His pants were that new kind of denim, the stretchy stuff. I could feel everything.
'He is a wonderful lover, Sis.'