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.