Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Failure of the Day: 107

In case you missed it a few entries back, “the year’s Monday” is how I think of January, and this January didn’t much disappoint. Work was stressful and demanding, I was consistently hungrier than I have been in the year since I changed my eating habits, which made me a little grumpy, and there was plenty of insomnia for good measure. The first 3 weeks of 2007 were no picnic.

The clouds parted on the 20th, though, the day after the first of what will be another long string of major and majorly expensive dental procedures. Apparently nitrous oxide is out of fashion among dentists, and in its stead they offer—they insist on really—valium. 10mg a half hour before the appointment, followed by a day and a half on vicodin. Now don’t get carried away; they gave me an Rx for 10 tablets of each in July and I’m not through them all yet, so I’m not exactly headed for Betty Ford, but that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy them mightily when my fucked up mouth requires that I take them.

And on the 20th, my fucked up mouth required that I take one just before going to see David Lynch read from his very pretty and terrifically trite book on, of all things, transcendental meditation at some random San Jose mall’s Barnes and Noble. DL didn’t have anything remotely interesting to say but it was nice watching him say it. He’s completely mild and yet the air of weirdness around him is almost visible. Maybe it was just that he is a chain smoker and those 45 smoke-free minutes in the store were clearly unpleasant for him. Chris got a book and I stood with him while he got it signed, and so spent an enjoyable five seconds doing a poor job of imagining the little white-haired man having sex with Isabella Rossellini.

And a mere five days later I was listening to a distressingly pink Martin Amis read to me without moving his lips even a millimeter. During the Q&A I asked him whether he writes his prose and his plot in separate passes, and he said he did, which pleased me, because I sort of do too. I also noted again that he is an optical illusion: he actually looks larger the farther away from him you are. He brushed past me once after a reading and I had no trouble seeing the bald spot on the top of his head, and I am 5’3”. Behind a podium though, he is at least 5’7”.

January’s about done now. During my last bout of insomnia I solved the final narrative problem of draft 3 of my novel and I’ll likely finish it this spring. How about that. We built a bridge to Tuesday.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Failure of the Day: Doompa De Do

I finished The Road on Monday morning, and the thing just absolutely disassembled me. The ending surprised me but it was not unwelcome, and the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. McCarthy is too good a writer to make the post-apocalypse into a contest of terribleness one-upsmanship. You got the pain you signed up for and no more, which to me felt like a gesture of respect toward the reader.

Still though, after finishing it, I was fucked-up the whole rest of the day. Chris, wiping my tears from his drenched collarbone, suggests that my next book be a romp. As it happens, my next book is a post-apocalyptic story set in a children’s hospital, but it’s from McSweeneys, so I don’t expect much beyond cleverness and good packaging.

My real treat though is that next week my beloved Martin Amis will read to me from his new book, finally out in the U.S., at what is as near as I can figure the only decent bookstore on the entire peninsula. Conveniently located one block from a Caltrain station, bless their hearts. Lucky Menlo Park, one of only five cities on MA’s wee book tour.

I liked House of Meetings just fine; for a book set in an Arctic Circle gulag it was surprisingly easy going, though that might be because I only read the sentences and not so much the story. Or it might be because the book is kind of not-so-good, at least according pretty much every single review. Whatever. Sentences = pretty!

I will be very fancy getting my U.K. first edition besignatured in my precious moment with the wee Orange, Cube-Headed One, but all I really want to know from him is whether he managed to finally quit smoking. My money’s on Yes—why else would a guy who writes the bitterest, most elegant and acidic prose in the world suddenly turn to describing a life of extreme deprivation and misery? When I quit, spending a few hundred pages in Stalin’s frozen pigpen might have seemed about right to me, too.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Failure of the Day: The Three Stigmata of Eldridge Plush

Just before new years, we made our trifecta of old stuff replacement.

Chris bought our former bed early in the 90s. It was a good bed but its time had come. I began doing research into the arcane world of mattresses and discovered that it is nothing less than a scam on par with scientology. Identical mattresses are sold under different names in different stores to make direct price comparison impossible. They tell you that firm mattresses are better for you and then charge you more for “pillow toppers” to make your firm mattress feel softer. They tell you that mattresses are “engineered” to work with box springs but can’t explain exactly how or what that means. It’s absurd.

We also wanted a headboard because they’re pretty (me) and they keep the wall from becoming discolored from the pillows (Chris). After earning my mattress studies degree, I concluded that our best bet was a platform bed because they cost less than a box spring but serve the same mattress support function and include the nice looking headboard and footboard.

The best advice I read online about mattress shopping was to ignore everything the salesperson tells you and buy the one in your price range that feels the best. We went to three stores, and true to mattress logic, the store with “Discounter” in the name was the most expensive—by a lot. In the end, the moment I lay down on the Simmons BeautyRest Eldridge Plush, I knew it was the mattress for me. A platform bed from Ikea completed the picture, and both were delivered last Saturday.

Chris assembled everything lickety split and by Saturday night we were tucked in and happy, which was lucky because I’d just begun reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and it truly is as grim and compelling as all the reviews say. The main characters spend every moment of the book being vividly uncomfortable and terrified and just shy of freezing to actual death, which I was and am only too pleased to respond to by scooting down deeper under the covers, surrounded on all sides by relentless softness and warmth and comfort. So that's my 2007 so far: the coziest post apocalypse ever!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Failure of the Day: Fnord


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Failure of the Day: Eschatology Taxonomy

I've seen many many Web pages. This is the best one. Don't miss the comments, either, especially the one from Your Obedient Serpent.

See also this, and this. Via.

I celebrated the new year by buying a 2 person, 3-day disaster emergency survival kit. But there's already two of us so when the world ends don't come asking to borrow our solar flashlight radio or dust masks, 'cause we need them!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Failure of the Day: The Year’s Monday

Sorry… whose idea was it to begin this whole long ordeal we call “a new year” by drinking vodka tonic after vodka tonic* and wandering the streets of North Beach, and then waking up with Holiday Inn sheets plastered somehow to the roof of my mouth? Oh, right. Mine.

The Patton Oswalt/Dana Gould NYE midnight show did not disappoint.** Aside from his being one of the sharpest writers around, what I like best about Dana Gould is that he has followed a personal trajectory that I deeply relate to, going from seriously damaged emotional fuckwit to someone who has at last begun to get his psychological shit together. His closing bit about what would have happened if he had spent his life giving angry anonymous blowjobs just to spite a homophobic comment his father once made about his decision to move to San Francisco was both hilarious, and, I thought, very powerful.***

And then commenced all the aforementioned wandering, notable only for our complete failure to find a bar to go into—in North Beach, on New Years Eve—and for the fact that literally every person we passed on the sidewalk was stumbling drunk. Chris, who drank more than I’d ever seen him drink and yet appeared suspiciously sober, very sweetly announced each and every curb we approached. I told him that even in the worst of times, I never tripped over a curb—it was really the flat sidewalk that gave me the most trouble.****

We were tucked neatly in bed by 2, and other than a brief, unfortunate incident involving a motherfucking asshole cocksucker who pulled the fire alarm and the entire hotel being evacuated at 4am, it was a spectacular NYE.

*That’s no exaggeration: I had two entire cocktails on NYE, tying a personal best.
**Not counting the horrible host, who didn’t so much tell jokes as describe them, and the opening act, who more or less just reprised my old phone sex operator script, but without the friendliness.
***Have I even begun to do this bit justice? Not even close.
**** In the end, he declined to announce every square of sidewalk, but I believe he considered it.