Thursday, April 11, 2013

Seven Devils in Your House

I am drafting this nearly two full days before I intend to post it, because I have to dismember a head of cauliflower for dinner and there is no vegetable I consider such an effing chore as cauliflower. Procrastination ahoy!

I have been reading Marianne Moore's poetry and Lorrie Moore's prose, along with a memoir by Pam Houston. I am surprised at how little I like Moore #1 and, by contrast, at how Moore #2's turns of phrase seemingly jump out from behind a door to be astonishing and brilliant in the midst of a somewhat ordinary tale. I want to devour all of what she has to offer. Houston's book was fine. It covered a lot of the same ground as the other two books of hers I read, which leads me to an interesting notion I appear to have learned about writing: it is possible to keep telling the same story over and over for an entire career without being laughed out of the room. I haven't finished thinking about this, but I'll blog about it when I do.

Yesterday I started a story based on a mother-son idea I've had for a while. The first 1,000 words came really slowly and unpleasantly, and I have the feeling it's going to be a good exercise in rewriting. As of yet I have no idea what its audience is, whether it'll turn out literary with genre elements or just unsaleable.

Lately, with no concrete story ideas, I've been thirsting to write about ghosts. I don't think it's just due to the Ghosts by Gaslight anthology I'm still inching through; the more I think about it, the more I realize that I like ghost stories above nearly all genres. Yet they're so unusual these days, and even more rarely are they genuinely spooky and well-told. (Gregory Maguire's Lost is a good one, FYI.) Also, like going around and around the same jogging track, I keep mentally returning to Florence + the Machine's Ceremonials, an album that is just packed with ghosts and ghost stories, whispered and half-understood. Since first listening to it, I've wished I could write a novel that somehow accompanies the album, the way House of Leaves and Poe's Haunted go together. I'm not Flo's sister, though, and I really haven't the foggiest idea what she had in mind when writing the songs on that album, so it's a pretty impossible notion. The songs are just so evocative, of dark hallways and fluttering dresses and the wind through chimes and things half-seen in mirrors. I want to evoke in words and story what's evoked in music there.

On Monday I wrote the initial draft of an essay about breasts. I don't know if it's any good, or if it'll evolve into being any good. I also went back to a short piece I wrote in the middle of March (which was, happily, better than I remembered) and gussied it up for publication. Several hundred words of miraculously speedy feedback later, my gussying was shown to be for naught, and I'm not sure whether to plow into more work on the piece again or let it sit for a little while longer to see what happens. I do think there's something there, but it was starting to read like gibberish after the third revision.

Similarly, in my day job, I seem to have lost the ability to determine when commas are used correctly in long sentences and when they aren't. I think it's because I edited a long piece written in very muddled English last week, the kind where by the end you sort of forget what syntax is supposed to be because you've seen so much of it that stinks. Since then I've been editing kind of stoned, not really sure what's firmly correct and what's just up to the Comma Gods to decide in the hereafter, man. Ultimately we're all just commas in the long, architecturally unsound sentence that is Life. You know? Like, little splicey commas, all of us. Wow, I'm hungry.

So I guess I better chop some cauliflower.  :(


Maria said...

I totally agree with you about the Moores. I am not a huge fan of Houston, I always get halfway through her books and become bored.

I just finished a brilliant book called "Y" by Marjorie Celona. It was amazing.

I don't write stories or even "pieces"...I just write ideas on napkins, check stubs, anything. They usually end up on my blog. I am curious about the piece on breasts, though. That sounds very interesting.....

Katharine Coldiron said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Maria! I loved the small piece I read of your blog, but now I'll have to add you to my list for sure.

I'm going to a workshop with Houston in July, so I felt the thing to do was to sample her. She's not the writer for me, but it's valuable to know where she's coming from. I think if I were more of an adventurer, I'd be more interested in her stuff.

I feel like I've heard of that Y book. I'll have to look into it more closely. Thanks for the rec. :)