Friday, September 29, 2006

ruminations, and why good short fiction trumps all

Lately I've been busy. Too busy. A kind of busy I like, the kind of busy that far eclipses the not-busy boredom I was afflicted with regularly this summer. There's something to be said about boredom.... it's kind of a zen-state of procrastination, where things that need to get done do not get done because they are not pressing, undesirable, easily hidden. Funny that in those pockets of time where I now do not have something scheduled or planned or on the to-do list, I find myself crushingly bored. Things that need to be done come off as chores.

There's a glut of new TV shows out there that I'm trying my best to weed through. "Smith" is great, "Heroes" is good if maybe leaning toward stodgy. I have yet to see "Brothers and Sisters", but its soapy allure won't keep me far from it for too long. "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" might be better if it didn't come off as self-important, "Six Degrees" has a concept that ran out before the pilot episode was even finished, and "The Nine" (premiering next week) is uninteresting trash masquerading as nail-biting television. I wish some shows would stop with the bravado like the writers know what they're doing when it's clear they have a vague idea about what only one or two episodes in the future will be like. Poignant that ABC has scheduled the "The Nine" with "Lost" as its lead-in, when the two shows seem to share an obsession with information-deprivation (for all parties, including the writers).

So, with TV kind of an afterthought and/or casualty of me being too busy, I've been sifting my way through literature. I just read Haruki Murakami for the first time just a week or so ago.... my inital reaction to the novel I read is that I liked it (I still do), but I think it was most successful in the mood/tone department. He seems to be so wildly popular, yet the novel I read seemed to have some questionably gaping holes in the story that make me think that this guy has been given the carte-blanche publishing card just like Joyce Carol Oates has.

But what a comfort it is to melt into perfect short stories. she can film it posted recently about how finding really good short fiction is an experience worth waiting for. Of course, I feel her pain about wading through the slush piles from hell of really bad short story submissions for publication.... it's so so rare to find something that you want to stand up and scream about, so rare in fact that when you do find it, you do stand up and scream about it (or at least I do).

When I first heard about Lorrie Moore maybe four or five years ago, I had absolutely no idea who she was. But people gushed. They made her seem like she was the real deal. And then I sort of forgot about her.... her books weren't exactly littering bookstore shelves, nor were people always gushing about her work in my other classes. For the last year or two I've been keeping my eye out for her star-making book of short stories Birds of America and then finally found it at the Strand last month and felt like I had hit the lottery. And now I'm reading it, and it is amazing. The command of language is so clean and strong, but not minimalist or part of the minimalist craze of a lot of contemporary lit fiction. I haven't come across a story I have disliked, because everything hits true, everything rings all the right bells. Her fiction is very witty and amusing but isn't trying for laughs.... it's effortless and beautiful. It's the kind of fiction I want to bathe in, and a good road map (I think) for the kind of stuff I write. It's easy to lose myself in, it's easy to pine for.

Lorrie Moore tends to stick exclusively with short stories (her novels seem to be less-popular), so I'm probably going to be perusing bookstore shelves for her next book. Apparently Self-Help is a book of her short stories that are all written in the second person, a point of view that I love in writing perhaps because it is so dangerous and easily prone to failure.... but when it succeeds, the second person floors everything like a devastating shock wave, it can be that good. It irritates me that everyone and their mother associates second-person narrative with Jay McInerney (thanks to his dare-I-say-one-hit-wonder Bright Lights, Big City, a book I quite enjoy), like second person belongs to him or something. Feh.

More reporting to follow. I dream that one day I'll start writing really acrid-but-devastatingly-funny blog posts like they do on Defamer, my new favorite vacuous outlet to procrastinate on while at work.


Long_Division said...

I totally agree about BoA but I definitely think she's trying to be funny (and there's nothing wrong with that, in my book). I'm thinking specifically of the two pages of HA! in "Real Estate," among other gags. I think she's amazing.

is that so wrong? said...

I just read "Real Estate" for the second time and love it. I love them all, I think. The two pages of "Ha!", though? Tres Dave Eggers.

I need another book to stave off this obsession. Hello Amazon Marketplace....

J.J. Gittes said...

They killed off Tom Skeritt in the first ep of Brothers & Sisters. That's all I have to say about that.

Writeprocrastinator said...

Speaking of literature, you've been tagged.

I know your reluctance towards memes, but I thought that this was a subject that you might enjoy.