Among The Birds, One Flew Alone

Though silent the whisper could be visualized,
across the gray-blue sky a wrinkle of animated gliding,
soft as in the ending life of an aging wave,
an alone rendition of familiar avifauna, reflective of
circumstantial becoming, wings had an instance
towards cease.

Relegation regarding trailing defined new disposition.
Light amongst wind assisted with winged affirmation,
meaning eventual landing in the definition of assure
will eventually arrive, although what would ensue
was not in the category of the same explanation.

According to Darkness, Silence Dons a Halo

The spinning enjoyment of dusk’s communal culture,
whose language of content spreads its contagious calmness
through the winding metaphorical maze of
regard for existence, the triangular connection
of movements, spaced between etching fragrant
gifts toward a particular purpose of its own meaningful

As in the wonderful movements of monarch butterflies,
their orange wings with adorning black-white ornamental
displays of transferable sections of moving, circular light.
Antecedently to dawn’s open mouth, darkness in the safe
idiom hides below the highest halo, golden hanging light
not yet born before the pushing of the orange slant,
its genesis causes separation to shed myriad of variant
colors to escape into mesmerizing mannerisms.

My Soft Skull Recommendation: Branwell by Douglas A. Martin

Soft Skull Press is currently experiencing a financial crisis. As a result, they're offering their entire catalog at 40% off.

If you'd like to take advantage of this, may I recommend Branwell: A Novel of the Brontë Brother by Douglas A. Martin? Full disclosure: Martin was my writing teacher at the New School; in fact he's the best writing teacher I've ever had. Branwell is a lyrical and beautiful novel, biographical fiction done in a sparse, almost poetic style. It's a novel in the tradition of Marguerite Duras, gradually building character and mood out of striking images, unattributed interlocutors (which often seem to be within Branwell's head) and startling juxtapositions of sentences and words that speak volumes.

He would paint his sisters, all three of them, around this time.

For a time he struggled with this. Even at eighteen, he's not a good painter yet. He paints himself with a gun.

Now he wasn't to paint his sisters too ugly.

What would be the best way to arrange them all in a portrait. He paints them all with the eyes of rabbits, glazed over in a fear. He paints that there. He puts them almost in tears. He had begun to paint himself in there along with them, all arranged around him, and now he has just given up.

He's not going to be able to live up to their image of him.

They could all be seated around a table, or standing up.

He gives Charlotte the most firmly set mouth. He paints Emily with more sensuousness. He had himself initially standing up behind them, but he looked like the one thing that didn't belong. One could see how if he'd just remove himself, the painting might appear more balanced. He didn't fit with his sisters, where Emily has been placed in shadows, Anne resting her head on her shoulder, Charlotte lit with something like the sun.

A breeze in the portrait will touch only Emily.

The next time he paints her, he'll give Emily an even nicer dress.

One day Charlotte will have this painting to keep.

He's been removed, for the sake of making a better picture, and the composition overall is indeed better without him. That pillar there in the center instead will take his place. A cross divides the canvas into the scope of fields, how it must have been folded in on itself once to protect it when there was no frame.

Over time, the self he's tried to cover over in the painting of his sisters by the placement of the centered pillar, will come to light; as the oil paint slowly gains more transparency, the older and older it gets, his figure, a fourth, emerges between them, ever more visible beneath the pillar of separation painted down the middle, becoming him.

Criticism vs. Reviewing

Back in April, I recommended people read Cynthia Ozick's article "Literary Entrails" in the April edition of Harper's Magazine. In that article Ozick differentiates between "literary critcism" and "reviewing" as two distinct activities. Ozick is not alone in making this distinction; The Reading Experience, for instance, recently pointed out the frequent conflation of the two, calling reviewing a "genre of arts journalism." He even accuses the National Book Critics Circle of "deliberately (dishonestly?) blurring the lines between book reviews and criticism." Yet he doesn't quite give a definition of criticism, or tell us how, exactly, to recognize the one from the other. On our own website I once called New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani a "major critic" and had one of our readers comment "Kakutani is not a major critic -- Kakutani is a major reviewer. There's a big difference." At the time I thought this was a good point, but then the more I thought about it the more confused I became.

The Duck

This story was originally published in Writer Online, January 31, 2001

A light bulb salesman fell in love with a duck.

He followed the duck to Canada in his little red van, the light bulbs rattling and clicking in their cases.

Past trout, moose, and grizzly bears, and into the tundra, he drove the van, calling to his duck beloved, "Sarah, my darling, will you come to me, will you lay your small head against my knees?"

Driving, sleeping, he dreamt of the duck, of kissing her webbed feet, of laughing together by the lakeside, of holding a can of beer for her to drink from in the summer night.

The duck felt charmed but harassed, the duck felt pity: her name was not Sarah anyway, and she had another lover: the cold and resolute magnetic North Pole, female, indissoluble, old as earth.

The duck flew on, admiring the showy dress her lover put on, the Aurora Borealis.

The salesman drove his van onto an ice floe, took all his light bulbs out and connected them with wires to his car battery; and, floating in the Arctic sea, revving his engine, he competed with the Aurora Borealis, as long as his gas tank held out.

The Future of the Fantastic: Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists

After being thoroughly blown away by Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, it was with great anticipation that I picked up Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists, it's corollary across the aisles, as it were. And indeed, The New Wave Fabulists should be the more notable effort, since Feeling Very Strange pleas for SF's legitimacy from within the SF section of the bookstore itself, which strikes one as preaching to the choir, while Conjunctions places SF writers in the "Literary Fiction" category and tries to get the attention of those people not already reading it, people who might have never heard of Gene Wolfe or Neil Gaiman. This is the harder sell, and the work presented needs to be really compelling. Some of it is, but a distressing amount of it is not, is in fact not even particularly well written, especially compared to the stellar level of work presented in Feeling Very Strange.

Still Rising: On the Deathless Relevance of Earnest Hemingway

The possibility that becoming the most distinctive American prose writer of the twentieth century would have its considerable drawbacks probably did not occur to the twenty-seven-year-old author of The Sun Also Rises when it was published in 1926. Despite some powerful literary advocates, Hemingway's first two books had flopped; copies were not even available in Hemingway's hometown of Oak Park, Illinois. His third book—a cocky, strutting, elliptical novel about British and American expatriates behaving as badly as their times (and Hemingway's censors) allowed them—changed all that. As Lionel Trilling wrote only thirteen years after Sun's publication, Hemingway,"more than any writer of our time... has been under glass, watched, checked up on, predicted, suspected, warned." The book's much-heralded style, as liberating as a magic spell for its author, eventually became a kind of aesthetic stockade. By 1961 serial shock treatments at the Mayo Clinic had left the arch mage depressed,unable to write,needlessly lecturing his wife about her "expenses," and convinced that the FBI was reading his mail and wiretapping his phone. Hemingway's suicide of that year was not only an act of escape from the various furies, real and imagined, in steady pursuit of him; it was the explosive period to the only sentence he could bring himself to compose. For this reason any writer who has been compared to Hemingway feels a certain clammy shudder: as it turned out, not even Hemingway could survive the comparison.