Pink Moon

April is almost over and its pink moon gone. The Indians called the moon pink after the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox. There was supposedly a pink moon on the 15th of this month. I didn’t see it only because my family and I were in the middle of moving into our new home in the middle of the woods.

I love our new place. Love it! It’s the currant in the bun. It’s the perfect place for us; fits us like a glove. To be finally in a place that is spacious and almost built to our sensibilities is like grapes between the toes of the wine maker. And as an added bonus, we are looking after 29 hens and a rooster, who continues to crow our good fortune. And there are eggs in every nook and cranny.

One of my all-time favourite short stories is “The Distance of the Moon” by Calvino. The magnetic pull of the moon. The major transitions in life. The attraction to what is new. The repulsion for what is hackneyed, worn out, spent.

It’s time to let the happiness in.

Change is easy when you’ve been living off the dust of nostalgia and boredom. But transitions can be tricky cause there are metaphors collecting in the unconscious. For all the tumultuous anguish and joy of change, a person must find his or her own metaphors to make sense of it all. The public metaphor has no place for things undergone by the self.

And so a new chapter has begun in a new house.

Kingsley Amis once wrote. “Whisky is my favourite tipple, though I recommend never giving it to a Welshman as it’s wasted on someone with an IQ of less than 80.”

If Amis wasn’t dead, I’d write to him pretending to be the whiskey bottle he’d abused and I’d complain about his loose lips slapping on my imperfect rim, his grubby nicotine-stained fingers squeezing my glass sides, his pudgy, sweaty face secreting all over my label. And I’d threaten to tell all about the night he drank me dry, guzzled me down to nothing more than a stale odor, and how he locked the door to his study, covered his typewriter, shoved the full ashtray aside, and kissed his copy of Lucky Jim.

“I do not judge myself or others. That is far too common for a tired aesthete.” Cyril Solipsist

Artifice is all we have. Take life at its face value? Boorish. You do that and all you have is the mundane, spending and getting, fucking and dying. Artifice is what’s given us art. It’s what’s given us life. Without it, we’d still be gnawing bones, afraid of what we don’t know, hoarding fruit and nuts, shagging in dead furs, and waiting for the pantheon of gods to wipe us out.

Time for some Nick Drake.


Absolute Beginner

The rain it raineth every day in Maine! And someone on my street is getting a well drilled. Why not just set out a few buckets?

Had we but world enough, and time…. Actually, I do have enough time on my side and I have been doing some light reading: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Calvino’s Cosmicomics, Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, Swamplandia, Simmons’ The Terror, Saunders’ CivilWarLand,Donald Barthelme’s short stories, and Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad.

My job search is still a work in progress. I have applied to everything from a post at the Republican Journal to a freelance copy editor job at HBO to working as a faucet in the kitchen sink.

“This is one moment,/ But I know that another/ Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.” TS Eliot

I’ve also been applying for a teaching gig, but, get behind the fool if it isn’t almost impossible to break into this line of work without a bruiser or simony. I don’t have enough teaching experience, and won’t get any if nobody takes a chance on me, Abba-style, and adjunct positions are now the new feudal economy. It bites the biscuit. And I have an MFA but I can’t teach high school English!? I feel like an English aristocrat with a big manor and not money to buy himself a fucking brolly. I sometimes think Jude the Obscure and I would have a lot to talk about in the pursuit of happiness. But, then, I’ve never done things according to civilized conduct.

“I’m all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily….”

I feel mildly like what’s his name, you know, Caedmon, that herdsman in Whitby around AD 680 who rushes back to his cows instead of singing at the feast.

Where’s a Gilles de Rais when you need one?

And between me and my shadow, the writing world can sometimes, well, loose its romantic ideal and give way to routine. And everywhere I look now all I see are writers loaded down with degrees and accomplishments and happy, professional smiles. What the hell happened to writers who are exiles, outsiders, runaways, castaways? Did I fall asleep like Rip Van Winkle while somebody pinched my idea of a writer? As someone with an MFA, whatever happened to writers whose imaginations detonated life? Or writers who didn’t come out of the binding fully formed without a blemish, without a writerly deformity or failing? Am I not reading enough? Am I living too much a sheltered life in my cosmos while the incandescent form around me? Is my individual path as a writer merely atoms scattered in curved space? And when they kick down my front door, how am I going to come, with my hands on my head or on the trigger of my gun?

“My life had stood – a loaded gun.” Dickinson

“Life was beautiful in those days.” Calvino

I know, I should Twitter about my frustrations and get a jolly following of custard pies.

Instead, I’m listening to the 80s Scottish band Lowlife. Damn if the lead singer doesn’t have a voice like a fallen angel walking Dante’s dark wood. And I’m lounging with Pigbag, post-punk English band with fusion running in their musical veins.

New Year Revelations

I’m always the last person in my household to recognize the bleedin’ obvious. Just ask my wife and the two cats who prowl around me, stubbornly trying to get my attention to empty their full litter box.

I also apply one of Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing fiction to real life: the one about using the time of a stranger in such a way that he or she won’t feel the time was wasted.

Which brings me around nicely to the New Year. I don’t make end-of-year resolutions. I much prefer to make them as I go along. Resolutions are not time-limited (or space limited, for that matter), they are organic bits of the self that should be expressed the moment they kick like a newborn baby.

Which brings me nicely to babes. I have a new one in my house. It’s fantastic — even with the sleep-depravation and my coveted time to myself snapped apart like a pair of Gemini twins at birth.

My new daughter is my bachgen bach, my periwinkle, my Little My.

I love being a father; it’s like finding that man hidden in the mirror, the elusive, stubborn man who thinks responsibility is something that happens to others but does in fact happen to us all, whenever it is we need to love, which should be every day.

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” Kurt Vonnegut

Listening To

Belle & Sebastian’s Write About Love. This is a fantastic album, full of glittering ballads and cerebral pop music that must be listened to in slippers.

Sting’s If On A Winter’s Night… Damn fine album of traditional songs from Great Britain that include carols and lullabies. It’s the best thing he’s done since Synchronicity. And perfect this time of the year. Plus the title’s a lovely nod to Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler.

Currently Reading

Henry Miller On Writing.  Miller is a dynamo, a naked wild man screaming “Yes” as the herd rears its nihilistic doomsaying heads until they like everything else is released into the same carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle. Reading Miller is like getting a transfusion of souls!

Corpuscular In Suspension

I’m influenced by the kind of fiction that likes to play with multiple realities. Some people might call it escapism, and it is if you consider weird fiction, sci-fi, speculative, fantasy, magical realism as a way to escape the weight of the factual world, the unbearable heaviness of the Newtonian world that threatens to clog our every pore. (Plus these books help me escape myself — which is the biggest fiction around.)

What I’m after in fiction is a way to figure out what’s reality, what the hell is this stuff that we exist in. And I think genre fiction works get to the heart of this matter a lot better than literary fiction.

What really bothers me about realist fiction is that it’s the go-to place for social and political reality, which is literary bollocks, since sci-fi, weird fiction, speculative, and fantasy, the genres, all do this just as well. And the other thing about realist writers is that they just sneer their literary chops at imagination, experiment, playfulness, or some kind of personal search for meaning in fiction. In other words: genre work.

There are so many writers who can mix fantastic and factual and still be literary, writers like Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Michael Chabon, Paul Auster, David Mitchell, Graham Joyce, David Benioff, Peter Carey, Tom Robbins, Cormac McCarthy, etc, etc, etc.

And fiction should be able to encompass everything, anyway, the unbearable lightness of being as well as the heavy Newtonian material world, but encompass it with a balance that satisfies as well as being solid.

And what is real realism anyway? The world is made of nothing at all, it’s all quantum physics, of empty space and points of light, the perfect building blocks for fantastical tales. What is the concrete world? Isn’t it only a part of our minds, a bit of the space-time reality, so why should it dictate our every fictional atom?

The Lost Voice of Wales

And that would be Caradog Prichard. One Moonlit Night is a fantastic incantatory tale. I only wish I could have read it in Welsh — but my Welsh only goes as far as saying “mae cath yneistedd ar y mat.”

Pritchard’s dark storytelling is as good as Patrick Suskind and his hallucinatory language as good as Master Calvino.

The story is set in rural Wales during WWI and is narrated from a child’s POV who is grappling with his self and the madness that is taking over his mother. It’s brutal and funny, haunting and sensuous, and reads more like a fugitive collection of episodes than a tightly-bound novel with a clear ending — the ending is more of an unsettling fox’s cry than the plaintive note of a blackbird.

The writing is so vivid and the texture of the mother’s mental breakdown creeps up and builds in the narrative with a dizzying cadence along with the growing concerns of the son. And the tension between the mother’s loss of consciousness and the son’s mad scrabble to be aware of his mother’s losing battle is beautifully rendered by Pritchard. As Pritchard increases his poetical voice, it’s as if he’s trying to escape the madness himself, only he’s drawing a reader further in, guiding them, like Virgil, into the book’s inferno of passion and loss and the rural ecstasy of a long dead idyllic Wales.

And Pritchard certainly lives up to this: “A writer more concerned with oddities in language and aberrant states of consciousness than with creating naturalistic scenes and plausible dialogue.”

Axiom for the month: Life should be enjoyed while you have it, not slaved away until it’s gone.