Holland swings trapeze,
blowing out five candles with
the greatest of ease.
Holland swings trapeze,
The Love Song of Monkey is a very good and very short novel. Simply put, the story begins with an AIDS patient who seeks out alternative treatment at the behest of his wife. The treatment itself slightly resembles science fiction after the style of Vonnegut. From there, the story really takes a surreal turn as the patient begins his long, meditative recovery with Venus as his guide. I think I’ll leave it at that; you really should read it as it’s only 149 quick pages. Here’s a sample:
“What is medicine? Honestly? A witch doctor, he waves his feather duster over your head. He works at the spirit level. In fact, he works at the placebo level, which is powerful and works extremely well. This is a psychological level of intervention. So far so good. But medicine progresses. A battle surgeon. You break a bone, he sets it. You get a spear to the side, he binds the wound together. This is a mechanical interventiion. The body as tubes and struts. Excellent. If the spear doesn’t go in too far, you are okay. But the march of progress continues. The next level that medicine reaches? In the nineteenth century, microscopic germs. Kill them, soap them, sterilize them. In the early twentieth century, douse them in antibiotics. But do antibiotics work? There we go deeper. There we reach the molecular level. You see, don’t you, that the medicine of the twentieth century was obsessed with molecular intervention? Fix the break at the level of enzymes, of proteins, even DNA …”
Through Google I’ve learned that Graziano is a research scientist at Princeton, studying neuroscience and “body sense” – with monkeys, naturally. This has everything to do with why this is science fiction in the very best sense of the word. And I have to say it: Thanks, doc.
A mildly explicit snippet from New York Magazine’s rather more explicit profile of The Box, a NYC nightclub notorious for its sex shows put on for the benefit of the well-heeled:
“When Hammerstein opened The Box in February 2007, it was a conscious attempt to introduce something different to New York nightlife—and for him, a departure from the world of theater. The grandson of the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, he had spent a handful of years in New York trying to make it as a theater director, with unsatisfying results. ‘All my friends who I would go out at night with and drink with, they had no interest in seeing plays,’ he says. ‘It wasn’t in their vocabulary. It was very frustrating to think that you could dedicate your life to an art form that no one gave a shit about.’”
The poor guy. Thank goodness he found a solution.
After reading all the latest news and opinion over the weekend, it’s pretty obvious that nobody has any idea what the hell is really happening these days. In fact, the safest bet seems to be that those who think they know what is going on and either talk or write as if they do are the ones to steer clear of.
Well, there’s always the movies. Here’s one from the days when everything seemed a lot more clear.
Brian’s life is bussed
headlights shining in the dark
stainless steel and rust
So we’re going out of town for Thanksgiving. And bringing the dog along is not an option. I get online and do a search for kennels in the local area. A link appears with information about X Kennels, and includes the Internet-era phenomenon of customer reviews.
LowLife13 rates X Kennels 4 out 5 stars and submits the following review:
I’ve been using X Kennels scince the late 90′s I have brought breeds of animals that other facilitys won’t board Pits and Rotwillers. My dogs have been treated with care they had a very large run a bed and or crate was provided heat lamps also provided. I was asked for shot verification one of my dogs is under meds they were givin to daily I had brought bedding that was changed. I’ve been Very happy the customer service was great I was alowed some afterhour pick ups.
Williams2929 gives X Kennels only a single star and says:
THIS PLACE IS DISGUSTING !!
X Kennels is disgusting. The place smells so terrible! They have dogs wet on the concrete floor, the only place available. They have no idea what my dogs name is, how long he will be there or his health problems. They injured him by forcing him to stay in a very small area. My dog came home so stinky & dirty it was just terrible. I cried when I first saw his condition, he had sat in his own waste & was dirty all over. We would never go back to x kennels. I think the dogs are left alone all the time & the place was feeezing cold. My sweet lab was sick for a long time with big vet bills. Very sad to run a business like that, well, they don’t have a very good business at all!!
So whom should I believe, LowLife13 or Williams2929? Hmm…. moving right along then.
Theology professor and part-time humorous blogger Ironic Catholic is serving as spiritual director to any and all comers during the month of November over at NaPraGoMo, and doing a fine fine job of it. I signed up for this along with NaNoWriMo and I’ve failed just about equally miserably at both enterprises, the whole works crumbling like a house of cards the minute I got a little head cold. (I also stopped walking the dog, who has begun to dig up the back yard in frustration.) Anyway, here is one of the meditations that nailed me when I went back and read it a week after the fact:
This is crucial: as long as we pray only when and how we want to, our life of prayer is bound to be unreal. It will run in fits and starts. The slightest upset–even a toothache–will be enough to destroy the whole edifice of our prayer-life.
“You must strip your prayers,” the novice-master told me. You must simplify, deintellectualise. Put yourself in front of Jesus as a poor man: not with any big ideas, but with living faith. Remain motionless in an act of love before the Father. Don’t try to reach God with your understanding; that is impossible. Reach him in love; that is possible.
The struggle is not easy, because nature will try to get back her own, get her dose of enjoyment; but union with Christ Crucified is something quite different.
After some hours–or some days–of this exercise, the body relaxes. As the will refuses to let it have its own way it gives up the struggle. It becomes passive. The senses go to sleep. Or rather, as St. John of the Cross says, the night of senses is beginning. Then prayer becomes something serious, even if it is painful and dry. So serious that one can no longer do without it. The soul begins to share the redemptive work of Jesus.
Kneeling down on the sand before the simple monstrance which contained Jesus, I used to think of the evils of the world: hate, violence, depravity, impurity, egoism, betrayal, idolatry. Around me the cave had become as large as the world, and inwardly I contemplated Jesus oppressed under the weight of so much wickedness.
Is not the Host in its own form like bread crushed, pounded, baked? And does it not contain the Man of Sorrows, Christ the Victim, the Lamb slain for our sins?
Letters From The Desert
Except maybe for this: it’s remarkable to see a comedienne tackling abortion, and somewhere, E. Michael Jones is smiling.*
And then there was this, via Gawker:
“Assuming she was bloated, Sarah didn’t notice she was pregnant until about 8 months into the ordeal. She begged her doctor to abort the baby by writing ‘Please?’ on a piece of paper, but in the end she was forced to create a new life. At the end of the episode, Sarah gives birth to a stop-animation thing.”
*For the record, I think Jones overreaches in his essay on Alien as contraceptive nightmare, but he does make some, even many astute observations. It certainly isn’t ridiculous to wonder if the man who painted this (H.R. Giger, who famously designed the Alien) doesn’t have some issues with condoms/babies:
Since Korrektiv seems to be catching its breath and Henri is awol, Quin is grading papers, and I’m stuck in a chronic-sinusitis-tinged facebook-frittering funk, I’ll throw this out. I signed up for NaNoWriMo (as well as NaPraGoMo, as you may recall) and so I get these great little pep-talk emails from famous writers encouraging me to finish my novel, which is stuck on page 2. The latest one, from Janet Fitch, is pasted in below, and I think it’s pretty good advice.
It’s happening. You’re writing a blue streak. You’re piling up the pages. You’re roaring through this novel like a forest fire. Then suddenly you hit the immovable obstacle. WHAM. Ow. You’re flat as a piece of typing paper, your mind as blank. Panic!
Whether you’re taking a month or a year, this is always the question. What happens next?
Fiction is all about decisions. Let me give you a personal example. Working on White Oleander, I kept hitting this wall, about chapter 8. It was all going great, all the wheels in motion, and then WHAM. I just couldn’t decide what to do next. I’d try this, try that, but each time I’d get stuck. The character would put her toe in and pull it out again. No, not that. Should I just bag it? Write a different book? Go to law school? Watch reruns of Hogan’s Heroes? I was absolutely blocked at the crossroads.
Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. I explained I was afraid that if I chose route 6, then I would be eliminating all the other possible routes. What if route 15 was better? Or 3 1/2 ? So I hedged. I couldn’t commit. I was stuck. And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, “I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all.”
So you have these options, but which one to go for? When in doubt, make trouble for your character. Don’t let her stand on the edge of the pool, dipping her toe. Come up behind her and give her a good hard shove. That’s my advice to you now. Make trouble for your character. In life we try to avoid trouble. We chew on our choices endlessly. We go to shri nks, we talk to our friends. In fiction, this is deadly. Protagonists need to screw up, act impulsively, have enemies, get into TROUBLE.
The difficulty is that we create protagonists we love. And we love them like our children. We want to protect them from harm, keep them safe, make sure they won’t get hurt, or not so bad. Maybe a skinned knee. Certainly not a car wreck. But the essence of fiction writing is creating a character you love and, frankly, torturing him. You are both sadist and savior. Find the thing he loves most and take it away from him. Find the thing he fears and shove him shoulder deep into it. Find the person who is absolutely worst for him and have him delivered into that character’s hands. Having him make a choice which is absolutely wrong.
You’ll find the story will take on an energy of its own, like a wound-up spring, and then you’ll just have to follow it, like a fox hunt, over hill, over dale.
Janet Fitch is the author of the Oprah Book Club selection White Oleander and more recently, Paint It Black. She regularly blogs about writing on MySpace.