Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ruining My Reading

Writing a book is ruining the way I read books. My friend Nancy pointed out that this is likely due to me writing my own book and learning how the sausage is made, so to speak. No matter how pretty the package is or how spicy the flavor, I've been there, twisting inside the cold metal spires of the grinder, emerging a bloody cocoon. And though I still feel that there is merit in reading something, even if I don't enjoy it or even if it downright aggravates me, I'm noticing that I have less and less patience for seeing where a story is going. It gets to feeling like I've read that book before, even though I haven't. It definitely feels like everything's been done before.

I used to treat the novels I chose to read like marriages: I took vows to finish and pay attention, for better or worse, to see it all through disagreements and periods of neglect, all the way to the end. Then I realized that I'm turning 40 soon and time keeps creeping through the neighborhood. As I sit in my room tonight and type this, I can see, without exaggeration, five piles of books on my floor, about 15 high each, not including the library books I have checked out or the e-books that are on my various devices. Ain't nobody got time for that. Still, I should probably be a bit more understanding about familiar tropes and debut novels. We can't all morph as seamlessly as David Bowie, after all.

Apropos of nothing in particular, I just checked the word of the day today on Merriam Webster and it is this:


noun jair-uh-MYE-ud

: a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue

And I realized that people with the name Jeremiah have names with roots that mean complaint. What does your name mean? It means complaint. Isn't that horrible? I mean why would my parents name me that? I really just feel it is unfair of them....etc, etc until it all implodes into a vortex of meta.

Then I started thinking about similar names with strange roots and/or alternate meanings and how they became names and I think I came up with a good roster of things to name my children despite knowing their origins and/or alternate meaning.

P.J. O'Pootertoot

That last one is the actual name of an actual child that was a library patron at one of my friend's libraries. Someone named their child Suxxcexx. I don't have a closing thought here.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

King of the Komputers

I'm pretty stuck on one scene of my book. It is the kind of stuck that transcends continuing in any real way. What I'm hoping will happen is that I will put it aside and work on something else for a bit and when I come back, the path will be as clear as Crystal Pepsi. For now, here is an accurate dramatic recreation of myself in the creative process:

I need a spark. Or a release. Or a tightening. Or some WD-40. Or a tune up. Or a rub down. I don't know. This state of being is entirely familiar and utterly foreign, each and every time it happens for the first time ever.

At the moment, all the public use computers are down. When this happens, people become belligerent, listless, as though they have all just been handed a map without a single place to go of interest. Panic grows on the faces of small children at the prospect of having to figure out how to spend the afternoon hours until their parents come to get them from the library. I tried to introduce books to a few people; it was met with hostility. I just sound old and out of touch when I mention the ancient artifacts of printed words and the worlds within. Side note: what is confusing about an OUT OF ORDER sign? I ask because no one has believed their eyes. "What does OUT OF ORDER mean? Are all the computers not working? Which computer can I use?" Yes, John Q. Public, when I typed up the OUT OF ORDER sign, I really meant it was out of order for everyone except you. I just needed you to ask in the write sequence of words, in your politest tone and all would be revealed and you would have gained unlimited access to your Minecraft session and your Plenty of Fish account. For you alone are King of the Komputers.

I don't know why I'm surprised. I suppose we are born with an innate curiosity to question everything that makes sense and blindly follow everything that is utterly nonsensical. The result of this computer apocalypse has been a general calm settling lightly over the library like a suspicious mist. The conversations that pinprick the general quiet are all revolving around the computers not working. O modern life!

Basically I'm blogging today with no real purpose but to while away hours and appear too busy to explain for the umpteenth time what my beautifully succinct, poetic sign does in three words:



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Notes and Bird Poop

Awww, remember when I used to do travel blogs? The last time was in June of 2015, those halcyon days of Belgian, beery travel with me and Lauren taking that kind of trip most other people who travel undertake in their 20s. I do everything late. And I mean everything. Just when you give up on me, you'll receive my wedding invite. I mean, I'll be 75, but it could still happen. Don't you give up on me.

Aaaaanyway, I sat in the airport yesterday morning on my way to Boston for the Midwinter library conference when I decided to take "notes" in order to blog about this short trip doing what I do best: eavesdropping, collecting books and having awkward conversations in crowded places. I am always taking notes, unwritten ones because I notice everything. On those occasions when I decide to actually write these things down, it is pretty remarkable how quickly I'll forget what the fuck I was talking about in the notes, since I am allergic to being clear, even in notes to myself. Here's what I have in my phone's notes:

Lady in red
Bird poop
Heart in/on/above sleeve
Obnoxious flippant critiques not removed
Too hip to enjoy
Not enough cool for both the haircut and the pants
Writing is rewriting and writing again
I'm getting that vibe.

Now I remember the first two: in the airport, the terrible song "The Lady in Red" by Chris DeBurgh came on (along with a whole slew of easy listening tunes) and there was I in a red dress. No men ahsked me to dahnce, however. And all I could think about was the abomination that is that song. I mean no offense to anyone who likes that song, my hatred of it is irrational. But honestly, if you like that song, I recommend you listen to pretty much anything else. Like, a dying gerbil.

The bird poop referred to an actual bird that actually pooped in the hair of the woman seated directly next to me as we waited for the flight to board. She was freaked out and actually asked "Can you see bird poop in my hair???" The wayward bird inside the airport was what I can only assume was badass since he was badass enough to get into the airport terminal, and then badass enough to shit on humans when they least expected it. Always remember it is their world, we just imitate them by flying through their space with mini bags of peanuts and complaints.

I have less of an idea what the subsequent three notes mean. I'll use them, though, mayhaps in a story.

The last two were from the writer Andre Dubus III, who I had the utter pleasure of meeting this afternoon. He's the author of the National Book Award nominated "The House of Sand and Fog" which I have never read. I have actually never read any of his books but since hearing him speak and meeting him in person, I have made a plan to read everything he's written. He said so many things in his talk today that were exactly what I needed to hear about writing and revising and when he was signing books after his talk, he took time to talk to each and every person who approached him. When it was my turn one of the first things he said to me was, "Are you a writer? I'm getting that vibe." I, of course, became flustered and blurted out that I was writing a book and naturally he asked me what it was about and if I had a title and naturally I said "ADOYDOYDOYDOY"...I'm paraphrasing.

I have no other notes from today and, judging by the sheer epic post I just finished typing, it is probably a good thing. There is only so much excitement one person can take much less read about. You're WELCOME.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Three semi-related things:

I've spent some of the first few days of the year unsubscribing from various email marketing lists that I have, over the years and against all common sense, found myself at the mercy of and buried underneath. A wayward Internet article has alerted me to the fact that not only is email hoarding a thing, but I am an active participant in it. (The one plus side to that is that I have many, many hilarious email exchanges...and maybe a few fights with a particular ex...saved in my various email folders and when I'm feeling low or missing people I shouldn't be, I can reread those emails like they are chapters in an overwrought biography about a random weirdo with an affection for adverbs). I save almost every email and in the recent past that has included marketing emails. Anyway, the task of unsubscribing to these lists has proven to be tedious, annoying, and absurdly cold, faceless in that futuristic/modern way that dystopian novels and films tried to warn us about. To wit, I often get a spammy email indicating that I've been unsubscribed from a spammy mailing list! Do two spams make a right? There are often forms to fill out asking me to confirm my email address and often when I get to that unsubscribe page, it turns out "I've" signed up for multiple updates from multiple companies and I am now asked to choose which ones I want to drop, as though me taking the time and trouble to specifically ask to no longer receive updates from (not a real website I'm subscribed to...asking for a friend) leaves the door open to the possibility that I might want to keep getting the catalog for vibratorsRus. Just UNSUBSCRIBE ME. I don't want to give you any more information. I just want to save myself the 2 seconds every morning of the year it takes me to summarily delete your marketing crap. Have you no heart, robot marketer who I've named Chad? The process has become more cumbersome than ordering a bottle of water at Panera bread. Would you like bread or an apple with your water? Are you a member of our Bread Babies club? Do you envision yourself eventually becoming bread? What is your star sign? What is your name for the order? To stay or to go? Why do bad things happen to good people? JUST GIVE ME WATER.

At work today a woman came in to ask what happened to the book she requested because she's been waiting a long time for it. Upon investigation, I found no evidence that she had requested anything at all; there was no pending item on her card. I apologized in case it was our slip up and asked her if she wanted to submit the request again. She said yes and then didn't continue, but stared at me. I waited what I thought was the proper amount of time when someone is just staring at you for no discernible reason. I asked her what the book's title was and she responded with a glazed over look in her eyes as she said she didn't remember. And we stood for a moment, facing each other inside the impasse of information, unsure of what to say next. It was like I was inside a play by Sartre. Hell is wanting something enough to request it, then forgetting everything about it, left only with the knowledge that something is missing but you can't pinpoint what it is or how to get it.  O, library! You microcosm of humanity immemorial! Absurd, uncommunicative, humanity!

I need a vacation.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I am a cactus

I am known (to myself) for checking my Free Will horoscope from time to time if I'm feeling bored or listless or if I'm ever curious whether or not the stars and my birth date within the universe, under the moon and planet alignment in the 1970s has anything writ within it about the cute guy I'm interested in or whether or not I should make dinner plans. Spoiler alert: no, no it doesn't. Astrology holds about as much water with me as the magic eight ball when it comes to real world advice that I'd consider but Free Will astrology tends to be more philosophical than astrological and I'm nothing if not a philosophy groupie. Here's this week's:

Leo (July 23-August 22)

The silkworm grows fast. Once it hatches, it eats constantly for three weeks. By the time it spins its cocoon, it's 10,000 times heavier than it was in the beginning. On the other hand, a mature, 60-foot-tall saguaro cactus may take 30 years to fully grow a new side arm. It's in no hurry. From what I can tell, Leo, 2015 was more like a silkworm year for you, whereas 2016 will more closely resemble a saguaro. Keep in mind that while the saguaro phase is different from your silkworm time, it's just as important. 

This astrologer has no way of knowing whether or not 2016 will anything more than another forgettable year in the life of just one more Leo destined for obscurity. However, just as my hubris allows me to see the face in the moon, so too can I see a bit of relevance to myself in this (likely) automatically generated blurb.
I DO have trouble recognizing when things take time; I do want to make like the silkworm, but with two extra legs and be enveloped in that safe cocoon (after eating constantly). I want to arrive to the point where I can relax and assume my place once again as the observer, And the quicker that happens, the better I'll feel. Yet when I get there, I regret not enjoying the ride more. So maybe I'll let my side arm (side piece?)  grow organically.

Either that or this horoscope is telling me that I ate constantly in 2015 and now I look fat. Thanks a LOT, universe.

The third day of the year is drawing to a quiet close and I sit in my bedroom and stare at this computer screen, willing myself to return to a million projects. I've been staring for a few days at the same paragraph. It involves writing a brief biography and justification for why I should want my poetry in a particular literary journal. It has been requested by this journal of any submitter to make his/her writing stand out to the editor by writing about the writing which, if you've ever written anything before, is fucking hard. I am horrible at detailing my good points, preferring instead to let my self deprecation be charming to those who are charmed by that sort of thing (as I am) and ignored by those who aren't. By the way, it occurs to me that that is the reason I always fail at online dating. But that's a whole other, succinctly-summarized-rock-climbing-photo-accompanied-tale.

I contemplated going with: My name is Allison and writing is fucking hard. The only thing harder than writing is writing about my writing and I'd really rather you just read the poetry and decide from that instead of having to sell it to you. We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are.You see us as you want to see us...

But then I thought better of it because I'm not actually a neo maxi zoom dweebie getting duped into writing everyone's essay for them while simultaneously being the only one not getting laid. (Though I may as well be.) So instead, I sit and stare intently, seeing nothing and I do so until the siren song of the Internet calls me back, crashing into the rock of memes and Facebook and YouTube and ridiculous things I regularly do.

Speaking of which, bbiaf.