Digging deeper….

It’s late. I was out with a couple of old high school buddies. But I am determined to get a post in tonight before bed.

So the question was: Beyond physical attraction what do I look for in a potential date?

Well, on eHarmony there is a section in the About Me tab entitled The Last Book I Read and Enjoyed: If I like your pics (and again let emphasize that I’m not looking for super model 10 good looks, just something that attracts me — eyes, hair, smile, etc. Could be anything, but something) I will usually go straight to this spot. I am a big reader. I love books. And so it is only natural that I would want to be with someone who also likes to read. Perhaps not to the degree that I do, but to some degree. However, I do have particular likes and dislikes. Not everything published and placed between a cover is worthy in my opinion.

Some examples of reading habits that do little if anything for me and my likely responses to them:

1) I don’t like to read — you’re pretty much done

2)Why read when you can live life — not likely

3) I only read for work — boring

4) I only read magazines, like People and Cosmo. — nah, probably not going to happen.

5) Strictly romances — ugh

6) James Patterson, Dan Brown or Daniel Steel — you’re done

7) The Secret — you’re done

8) Spirituality and/or pop psych — not doing much for me

On the other hand if you are you standard mystery, thriller, popular fiction reader that’s okay. I mean, I’m not getting an instant boner, but my dicks’ not turtling up either, so….

If you like serious non-fiction books about science, history, math, politics, biography, or other assorted subjects I am listening.

If you dig a variety of fiction, from b-list and literary novels to more bestseller list titles, I’m getting a woody now.

If you say you dig literary short stories and novels, classics and contemporary, I’ve got a raging hard-on. BOING!

I also look at movie interests. As I put in the caption of my profile pic, if you can name the that this quotes comes from you have my undivided attention: “News said its raining in New York.”

I guess initially I’m looking for shared interests, because I think that this is important. It is a good base building block. Of course, one needs to go even deeper to look for points of connection, while a the same time looking for red flags.  You have to read into the details, infer from them, read between the lines, and other cliches.

For example: Any profile littered with too many cliches, such as “I love living life to the fullest every day” is a red flag for me. I take it as a sign of a lack of creativity, you know. I mean, what does that even mean anyway? Taken literally it is bullshit. Really, you’re living life to the fullest each morning as you brush your teeth and take a crap, shower, dress, eat breakfast and head off to your job. Wow! You wild woman you! It’s just lazy. And shows an unwillingness, or worse an inability to delve deep enough into yourself and come up with something genuine.

One of my biggest gripes about dating sites is the lack of authenticity in the profiles. It’s as if everyone (or most everyone anyway) is afraid to say anything really interesting or unique for fear of chasing away any potential dates or perhaps even offending someone. And that might indicate someone who is simply afraid of being alone, and I don’t want to be with anyone who is looking for someone because they are afraid of being alone. I don’t want just anyone. I want someone special.

Anyhoo…. you want to know a big, big turn on, something that will really gets my attention, beyond physical attraction and shared interests?

Well, guess you’ll just have to come back for the next installment to find out. Nanny nanny boo boo.

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Stay Awake: stories

I haven’t written anything in awhile.  I had planned to write about my new job, working in an office that is an interesting mix of Gen X and Millennials, with a few Boomers thrown for good (or not…) measure, but that hasn’t really happened, now has it.

Yesterday, though, on my way home from work, I had to stop at the bookstore — Barnes and Noble because there are no more Borders (B-o-o H-o-o) — to by a copy of “Stay Awake,” a new collection of short stories by Dan Chaon.

I have been waiting for this book to come out ever since I first learned of it’s existence, which was some time ago, although how long exactly I can’t quite recall. No matter. It is here.

I have been following Mr. Chaon since his very first collection of short stories, “Fitting Ends,” was published in 1995 by Triquarterly Books.

I  was still a graduated student in the MFA program at Western Michigan University, hoping to be a writer of short stories myself some day. I must have come across this book at John Rollins bookstore in Portage, MI, right up Westnedge from Kalamazoo, where WMU is located. That was a great independent bookstore. But I’m not sure it exists anymore. A google search does not turn it up. <sigh>

Anyhoo…. I recall being so taken by the stories in “Fitting Ends” that I wrote to the publisher in hopes of contacting the author, Mr. Chaon. This was before it was so easy to track someone down via the internet. To my surprise, the publisher passed on my letter to Dan and he eventually wrote to me. For a time we exchanged letters and emails, which was a fresh technology at the time. Eventually, though, the correspondences ended and life moved on.

I remember I was in the Borders on Woodward in Birmingham, I’m pretty sure, when, scanning the shelves for something to read, I came across Dan’s second collection of short stories, “Among the Missing.”

I remember sitting and reading it but ultimately not buying, perhaps because it was in hardcover and I was a new father and concerned about money and therefore didn’t feel right about dropping that kind of cash on a book (huh, if only my ex had felt the same sense of fiscal responsibility when it came to her hair or clothes). But later I did buy it in paperback.

A few years later, not long after I started my job at the Baldwin Public Library, one of the hot fiction books at the time was Dan Chaon’s first novel, “You Remind Me of Me.”

I spent my early lunch hours absorbed in this exceptional novel.

And of course I was super duper excited when, years later, still working at the library, I saw that Dan’s new novel, “Await You Reply,” was to be released. I counted down the days until the book was available. And immediately devoured it once it was. Of course, because I was the main copy cataloger at the library I was the first one to get my hot little hands on this novel. I had the first hold.

In fact, I believe I wrote a blog spot about it.  Ah, yes. Here it is. In it I identify Dan Chaon as a GenX write, a label he agreed with, you’ll see in his reply to my post. Of course, I was tickled that he’d managed to find my meager little post on my meager little blog.

I remember being exceptionally fascinated with the premise of this novel, at least in part because it was about characters who “just walk away” from their life. I made a comparison to the movie “Grosse Pointe Blank” because it deals with the same sort of thing with John Cusack’s character, who had walked away from his life abruptly one day. I can’t help wondering now if that interested me so much because at the time I secretly wanted to walk away from the life I was living — the oppressively soul-crushing marriage to a narcissist part NOT the being the father to the sweetest little girl in the world part.

Anyhoo…. this brings us back to Mr. Chaon’s new collection of short stories, “Stay Awake,” which, after reading the first two stories, I am sure is going to be exceptional from beginning to end, and which is going to be on of my favored collections for years to come, if not eternity. Well, my eternity anyway. I wonder. What will my daughter do with all my books when I am gone? Will she just donate them? Toss them? Keep perhaps a few? I should probably discuss this matter with her at some point. But probably I should concentrate on getting her through middle school and adolescence and all of that first, hug.

These stories, so far, are hard stories. Harsh. In fact, there almost seem like horror stories in a way. Very grim. Unsettling. But I love them for that very quality. Unlike the  reviewer on amazon who didn’t like the collection because people suffer in it, because it troubled him. This is an attitude, frankly, that I don’t get. What do people want? Short stories are not TV shows; they are not meant to make you feel good so that you’ll be in a receptive mood for whatever advertising comes between portions of the show. But…everyone is entitled to his/her opinion….for good or ill.

What really struck me about the first two stories in the collection  — The Bees and Patrick Lane, Flabbergasted — was how for each main character there is this confusion between what is really happening and what is just a trick of the mind or perhaps a dream or even something else, something unexplainable, and how these worlds, real and imagined and otherwise, mash and mix together. It’s the kind of thing that I like to experiment with in my own writing from time to time, particularly in a longer piece (novella length) that I have been working on.

Having said all that, perhaps far too much at this point, I am eager to get back to the book now.

Voldemort vs Darth Vader: a new generational debate

After seeing the final installment in the Harry Potter series this past weekend with my daughter a discussion was sparked. I asked my daughter who she thought was more evil — Darth Vader or Voldemort. Upon reflection she said Voldemort, reasoning that it was because it took seven movies to kill Voldemort and only six to kill Darth Vader. Furthermore Darth Vader wasn’t even Darth Vader and therefore not even evil until the end of episode 3. So really, according to my daughter, it took like 3.5 movies to kill Darth Vader. Plus, Darth Vader redeems himself in the end, at the end of Return of the Jedi, when he saves Luke by tossing the Emperor’s evil ass over the rail and into…whatever that was.

A pretty good argument, I thought.

I didn’t argue against it, although I suppose I could have said that fact that Darth Vader was once Luke’s and Leia’s father made his intentions all the more evil, since he was trying to recruit his children to the dark side. I mean, come on, what kind of dad does that? But, in the end, he didn’t. He redeemed himself. So, I suppose that’s not much of an argument.

Speaking of redemption one of my favorite things about the final Harry Potter movie was the Snape story line, how he turns out to be a redeemable character in the end,  who played a very dangerous duplicitous role with Voldemort all in the name of saving Harry in the end. And why? Because Snape loved Harry’s mother Lilly so much, that he was dedicated to her to the end. I knew there was something about Snape’s storyline that I liked. Of course, I suppose I would have known that had I read the books but I never finished the series. I only read the first three.

My ex-wife and I used to read them aloud in bed together when she was pregnant. She kept reading them on her own while I stopped. I suppose I could always pick them up again if I find that I don’t have anything else to read. I could read them along with Addy. She’s just started the first one. She and I could read them together.

 

 

I haven’t posted in awhile

Why?

Well, turns out that getting divorced has proven to be more difficult than I could have ever imagined. It’s sapped me of my of a lot of my enthusiasm. Not all. But most. And the longer I went without posting the harder it was to sit down and do it. I don’t know.

So is this my come back? I have not a fucking clue. May be that I’m just super bored tonight and needed something to break the tedium, to occupy myself while I sit here alone in my half-empty one-bedroom apartment. Or, maybe I’m finally emerging from my hibernation or whatever you want to call it, and I’ll be blasting out posts pretty regularly from now on. Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

There’s something about this time of year, just as it’s getting cold and the first snowfall of the year occurs. It reminds me of my more optimistic days, when I was a student at Eastern, sitting in my dorm, reading a paperback, and still firm in my belief that I would be a writer some day, a real writer, a novelist or short story writer, the Hemingway of my generation.

I guess that’s why I recently picked up my copy of “Bright Lights, Big City” read it again. It was the book that really made me want to be a writer. It was my permission book, the one that showed me that I could write about the experiences that I thought were relevant because they were my experiences.

It’s funny, you know. Bright Lights isn’t a very thick  novel. It’s not very complex either. But each time I read it — and I’ve read it a number of times, so many that I’ve lost count — I seem to find something new in it, see it in a different way. When I first read it it was the partying and bar-hopping and drug use that really struck me, because it reflected experience that I was familiar with. I graduated in 1986 and spent my early twenties in the late 80s. But this time it was the character’s heartbreak that really impressed me, that I connected with. I never really understood it before. But I do now. I really understand it. Unfortunately…

And like the last line of the novel reads, I, like the narrator, feel as if I need to learn everything all over again.

The Financial Lives of The Poets…

…is a title that I wished I’d thought of.

It’s a novel by Jess Walter, which I picked up based solely on the title. Not always the best way to select a book, but it worked out this time.

Story is about Matt Prior, a business reporter who ditches his job to start a web site devoted to poetry about finances — money-lit, as he calls it. Of course, the idea bombs. Matt runs back to his old job only to get laid off soon after with very little in way of severance. In addition, he’s got a massive balloon payment due very soon on his house and he suspects that his wife is cheating on him with an old boyfriend.

So what does Matt do?  He tries to become a drug dealer — just until he can back on track —  using his last 9 grand to buy pot. Yeah, sounds like a fool-proof plan, doesn’t it.

This book is at turns funny and gut-wrenching. I always cringe when I’m reading about a character who is fucking up but can’t seem to stop himself. I want to stop reading, look away, but I just can’t.

I like how Walter captures a sense of financial panic as Matt digs himself deeper and deeper into a whole.The crazy things people will do when it comes to money, eh.

I’m not often immediately intrigued by books about people’s money problems. I mean, who the hell wants to read about that. But something about this book was different. I wanted to read it. Maybe I’m just getting older and my concerns are different. Or maybe Walter is the kind of writer that writes in such a way that I’d follow him just about anywhere.

I plan to follow him into his other books, like The Zero, a National Book Award finalist, which I hope to read some time soon.

Because the main character, Matt, is age 46, I thought of this as GenX Lit, but there’s a cop who refers to Matt as a Boomer. I suppose the point is arguable, and ultimately beside the point.

Coupland cleans house

Check out this blog post about Douglas Coupland donating his papers to the University of British Columbia.

Among the more interesting items to me is the first draft of Coupland’s breakout novel, “Generation X,” and a manuscript for an unpublished novel entitled “1991” but which was later retitled “The Day the Muzak Died,” which I thinks is much more interesting. Oh yeah, also a Generation X comic strip.

I am sure that Coupland’s papers will be one of the more eccentric and interesting collections that exist.

Less Than Zero sequel

Brett Easton Ellis’ follow up to Less Than Zero is due to be released June 15th. It’s titled Imperial Bedrooms.

I would never have thought of Ellis as a sequel kind of guy but he has moved from NYC back to LA and is working to produce films now, several of which are based on his novels. Perhaps he’s caught the sequel bug from Hollywood.

If so, one wonders if perhaps there is a follow up to American Pyscho kicking around in Ellis’ imagination.

And is there the possibility of a movie sequel as well? To American Psycho as well as Less Than Zero (i.e. a movie of Imperial Bedrooms,duh).

In any case, I plan to nab me a copy of Imperial Bedrooms, the day it comes out, if possible. I’ve read everything else the dude’s written, so I’m not going to stop now. Besides I’m curious to see what Clay, Blair,  Julian, Rip and the gang are up to in their 40s.

Stay tuned for my stunningly  insightful review…if I get around to it that is.

two books

I am constantly reading. Mostly fiction. But just about anything that captures my interest. It’s almost as if I can’t not read, you know. I go from finishing one book to immediately starting another. Often I’ll be in the  midst of more than one book at a time, and I’ll jump back and forth from one book to another to another to…. until I get really hooked into just one. I liked to focus on just one book at at time. However, sometimes I won’t be able to choose. It’s usually between two, sometimes three  but usually no more than that. And I can never be sure what books it will be. Could be one I’ve never read or even heard of before or one that I’ve been meaning to read for some time or one that I’d started previously but never finished or one that I’ve already read, perhaps even more than once.

That is the situation I find myself in now. I’m toggling back and forth between a book that I’ve read before and one that I’ve been meaning to read for some times.

The book that I’ve read before is Stephen King’s The Stand.

I’ve actually read two and a half times. The first time was I believe the summer of 89, the summer just before I left to go away to college at Eastern Michigan University. I remember loving it, not being able to put it down. And ever since I’ve had a thing for post-apocalyptic fiction. The second time I read it was when it re-released in it’s unedited form. The original paperback edition that I read (pictured above) was just over 800 pages. The re-issue was something like 1,200 pages. Also it was supposedly updated for timeliness. The 1/2 time I read it was a few years ago when I tried picking it up again but it did not hold my interest all the way through. Not sure why. This time, though, which was just this past week, I’m hooked into again, although not exactly like I was the first time I read it,which was just for the thrill of it. Now, I think maybe this could be King’s most significant novel. Maybe it don’t quality as a great American novel, but I think it can be said to be a significant American novel. Or maybe with global warming and the fear of an impending apocalypse of some sort it seems timely again. In any case, it has the rare quality of being a big book that does not read like a big book. It clips right along and nothing feels extraneous. I’m digging it once again, and don’t see any reason why I won’t read it through to the end this time.

Something I never would have admitted in my younger days was how much of an influence Stephen King has been on me and my writing generally, and the Stand specifically. I considered him too “popular” to be taken seriously. But I’ve since changed my mind. Rereading King I can see how he’s influenced the way I right, especially the pop culture and Americana references. I used to try to quell my impulse to put pop culture into my writing after it was pointed out in a workshop I was in that my pop culture references might not be a good thing. Writing workshops can do more harm than good. Anyway, I’ve long since put that behind me. Often King himself is a pop culture reference in my writing, and The Stand speficially. A piece I’m finishing a draft of now references The Stand, along with Ray Bradbury and Cormac McCarthy and The Road.

The other book that I’m reading it Nevermind Nirvana, by Mark Lindquist.

This is a book thatI’ve been wanting to read for some time. I remember coming across it in the bookstore. I noticed it because of course the cover looked like the Nirvana album cover. Not sure why I didn’t buy a copy at at the time. Actually, I think I may have not only been off the the whole GenX thing at the time but I was purposely shunning it, sort of rolling my eyes at it as it were. But some time ago I cam across a used copy and put it on the shelf with the other books that I intend to read some day.

Reading it now it really strikes a chord; there’s an idea I have for a story, perhaps even a novel, that is very GenX. But not about young 20-somethingers bar hopping and getting laid and doing drugs in the 80s blah blah blah. I tried that one and it never really came together. The one I’m thinking of is about GenX at 40-something, or at least about one GenXer at the age of 42, who suddenly find himself unemployed, living his parents and divorced. Sound familiar? Gee. I wonder where I got that idea from. But who knows if it’ll ever get written. None of my other novel ideas have….

In the mean time, I can’t seem to focus on just one of these two book. So I may end up reading them in parallel until I finish at least one of them.

In any case, I’m going to get back to reading now.

GenX’s midlife crisis in books and movies

JenX67 linked to this NY Times article titled — GenX Has a Midlife Crisis.

It’s actually a review of the new novel by Sam Lypsite, The Ask.  But it also references the Ben Stiller movie, Greenberg, and the John Cusack movie Hot Tub Time Machine.

I’ve read The Ask (well, most of  it; for some reason I couldn’t seem to finish it, not sure why,  I love Lypsite’s stuff) and seen Greenberg. I’ve yet to see Hot Tub but from what I’ve read/heard, like The Ask and Greenberg, there will be much for me to relate to.  How could I not? I’m 42 ,in the midst of divorce, and living with the rents…again. I got mid-life crisis coming out my ass, man!

As does Milo, the protagonist of The Ask:

Milo is in his early 40s, or so one surmises from his pop-cultural references and from the fact that the author, Sam Lipsyte, was born in 1968. He’s not a kid anymore: he’s a man of a certain age. And “The Ask” is, at least so far, the definitive literary treatment of a hugely important social phenomenon. Mr. Lipsyte, through the shambling, highly articulate and pathetic persona of Milo Burke, has announced the onset of the Generation X midlife crisis.

I feel as if I could insert my name for Milo’s and it would make complete sense. I was born in 67.

The articles references to Greenberg and Hot Tub are in comparison to The  Big Chill, the Boomers mid-life crisis movie, one which I can never decide if I like really because it can be so fucking irritating. The author states that Hot Tub is — not a better movie necessarily, but rather preferable.

The raunchy riffs and lowbrow gags of “Hot Tub” are vastly preferable to the navel-gazing sanctimony of “The Big Chill,” at least for my taste. But my taste may be suspect in this matter, since, give or take a few details, “Hot Tub Time Machine” is the story of my life.

No doubt that author’s going to hear about it for that one. Note the apologetic tone in which he presents his case, qualifying his preference, obviously anticipating the Boomer outrage at such a ludicrous notion.

The article makes a good point when it states: “How can a generation whose cultural trademark is a refusal to grow up have a midlife crisis?”

I can’t help feeling that I’ve plagued myself with this….GenX (male mainly I think) syndrome of refusing in many respects to grow up. Although I don’t believe it is an epidemic. I know too many people my age that are mature and responsible. I’m just not really one of them. I’ve always gone kicking and screaming into adulthood, I admit it. Why? Because from where I was sitting it just didn’t look all that great to me.

Th article goes on to point out that of course this midlife crisis thing is nothing new, it’s just that different generations went about it in different ways.

Members of the Greatest Generation and the one that came right after — the “Mad Men” guys, their wives and secretaries — settled down young into a world where the parameters of career and domesticity seemed fixed, and then proceeded, by the force of their own restlessness, to blow it all up.

This pattern repeated itself in the next decades, yielding variations on a story everyone seems to know. At a certain point, Dad buys a sports car, or starts a rock band, or has an affair or walks out on Mom or quits the law firm to make goat cheese. When this kind of thing happens to Mom, it’s not a crisis but an awakening. In any case, the driving impulse is to shake off the straitjacket of adulthood and find some way to feel young again.

And then goes on to ask the ironic (that’s right I used the word) question: “But what if you never gave up adolescence in the first place?”

How does a midlife crisis work exactly then? Well, that’s precisely what the characters in The Ask, Greenberg, and Hot Tub are portraying.

They all seem stuck in an earlier phase of life, which wasn’t so great to begin with: Milo’s dorm room bull sessions and sexual escapades; Roger’s rock ’n’ roll dreams; that crazy time at the ski lodge with snow, cocaine, sex and spandex as far as the eye could see.

And the resulting revelation is fairly brutal, as illustrated in The Ask:

“If I were the protagonist of a book or a movie,” Milo says to his onetime boss, “it would be hard to like me, to identify with me, to like me, right?” The response is devastating: “I would never read a book like that, Milo, and I can’t think of anyone who would. There’s no reason for it.”

It’s an assessment that is difficult to argue with when you consider the following:

A lot of people seem to feel that way about “Greenberg,” which has done modest business and inspired a great deal of ambivalence among audiences. “Funny People” was a big flop, and “Hot Tub Time Machine” has not done nearly as well as “The Hangover,” which offers up coarse humor and male immaturity without the slightest attempt at historical perspective. Since its publication in March, “The Ask” has sold around 7,000 copies. Disappointing? Of course. Our generation wouldn’t have it any other way.

Which I guess means I should got ahead and scrap my idea of my own GenX midlife crisis novel. Because who wants to read the crap, anyway. But  you know, just because most people don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. That’s like saying if you’re not popular in high school, you’re nobody…

Think about it….

….no you won’t.