How Well the Place

Stairs inside a house leading upwards to a landing and a light above.

It has been some time (two years, I believe) since I’ve been able to publish any fiction. So I’m delighted to have a new short story in the wonderful JMWW journal. It’s flash fiction about love and memory, and it was rather tricky to write.

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Heading out

Your shins bear bruises and a few gory notches. Dents in the flesh from moments you cannot recall. If you played soccer or field hockey you could blame it on that and feel proud. You could also avoid the label “old fool.” But no. Fool through-and-through, you think, running water for a cold shower.

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With love, Sisyphus

A job is your time, your mind, your body, your will, your energy, your days spent away from those you love, away from where you want to be.

Yet it promises escape, a purpose, a thrill, a place to accomplish things together, camaraderie, success, an outlet, a steady income, a way to meet your responsibilities, a way to see yourself through hard times.

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Adding Paper to My Diet

“You’re nearing fifty and haven’t published a book,” one voice had been saying.

“But you’ve published plenty, lots of good stuff all over the world, and had fun doing it,” replied another. And it was forever correct on that point.

Yet something else was true: more and more of my published work was being lost, disappearing more by the day.

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Exploring the joy of rereading

Essays about the joys of rereading seem to be a perennial thing. Just search “joy of rereading” and you’ll see. I’ve read a few essays about this and they’re fine. But I’ve yet to find one that really gets into what I see as the juicy territory of how and why we reread.

So this is a first foray into the possible mechanics of the desire that drives us to return to particular books. Also, is there a small set of common reasons we do this? Or is it entirely personal and hidden, even from us as we keep doing it, a compulsion words can only approach without capturing? This first attempt will be expansive and general. Maybe I’ll write about some specific books later. For now, some more questions and a few awkward leaps toward some kind of answer.

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Gerald Murnane’s Exquisite Failures

I hope to have some new posts up soon. In the meantime, here’s an essay I wrote about Australian author Gerald Murnane. It appeared in Music & Literature No. 3 many years ago, but never made it online. Thanks for reading!

Gerald Murnane’s Exquisite Failures

I saw nothing absurd in what I was doing—sitting at the heart of the scene I had dreamed of fifteen years before and yet dreaming further of another scene that would lead me at last into the real world. I had the pleasant suspicion that I was about to complete a neat pattern I had often admired as a subject of fiction. I might have been about to demonstrate that at the heart of every scene assumed to be real was at least one character imagining further scenes that would be closer still to reality. —Gerald Murnane

Gerald Murnane’s Landscape with Landscape comprises six interlinked narratives that echo one another, evoking a sort of chorus or book of possible lives about an anonymous, would-be writer.

The collection’s title is one we might expect to find on a gallery wall beside a symbolic realist painting. It might spur us to imagine a layered representation of a panoramic scene, complete in one sense yet with any given image partially concealing several others. Murnane’s choice to title this book as if it were a landscape painting is no gimmick: its six narrators are writers in the suburbs of Melbourne who are all obsessed with an abstract notion they call “landscape”—a metonym for a certain purpose in their lives, a far-off yet “peculiarly real” place inside each writer—and who have a common desire to hold such a place in their minds. Protecting the meaning of this private landscape and its purity as an idea secretly alive within them, in order to capture some or another part of it in their fiction, is the narrators’ shared tragicomic vocation.

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Tadpoles of the internet, unite

At times I feel utterly ravenous online, with this belief that today I can defeat it all, beat back the internet’s power over me if I can find the perfect content each day to soothe my soul. But there’s so much out there and so little of what I really desire, in between all we’re forced to view, that stays with me.

Feeling overwhelmed and frantic about the internet is also a bit like prayer, or how I used to imagine prayer might work. Neurons firing within my gray matter produce a signal? Out there some kind of interstellar transit occurs. Riding the ripple of a gravitational wave toward the God-system with other prayers. Sort of waved through the gates by the angels after dodging demons and asteroids to reach another dimension that’s not a dimension, sideways across time into time outside of time, like the “Other” category of my phone’s daily report of my screen time.  

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