Does anyone else find it funny when restaurants or chefs or whoever describes a dish as containing “balsamic”? Balsamic what? Balsamic is an adjective, people. It needs to modify something.
It’s like saying, “I had a very nice.” A very nice what?
Okay, so my last post hypothesized that the Gaslight Anthem song “The Spirit of Jazz” referenced the Chestnutt short story, “The Wife of His Youth.”
A little out there, right? A little too English-majory for my own good, right?
Yesterday, I was in my professor’s office for a moment. She specializes in “late 19th- and 20th-century cultural representations of women’s work in the U.S. and the Caribbean.” This includes New Orleans, obviously. While in her office, I glanced at her bookshelf and saw this book: The Mysteries of New Orleans.
If you remember the lyrics to Gaslight’s “The Queen of Lower Chelsea,” it references “the mysteries of New Orleans” as follows:
Did you grow up lonesome and one of a kind?
Were your records all you had to pass the time?
Or maybe you were taken by the mysteries of New Orlenans?
Or the uptight, rowdy girls of Lower Chelsea?
Of course, I’d just thought it was a nifty phrase at the time. But now I’m thinking Brian Fallon and my professor have a few things in common.
These guys get better with every new thing I find out about them. I had no idea a survey course of American literature would help me find my favorite band’s literary allusions. Gaslight Anthem, I salute you.
I don’t know about you, but I’m putting The Mysteries of New Orleans on my reading list.
This seems like a really random pairing at first, I grant you. But hear me out. If there are any Gaslight Anthem superfans in the ether, please weigh in on this one!
Was I good to you, the wife of my youth?
Not another soul could love you like my rotten bones do
So I will wait on the edges in between
These New York streets
Where you and I will meet
Is there any evidence that this relates to the short story “The Wife of My Youth” by Charles W. Chestnutt? This is a heartbreaking story originally published in Atlantic Monthly in July of 1898. I don’t want to give away any of the details of what happens in the story, because reading it for the first time is a pretty magical experience. The phrasing of the story’s title is so similar to the Gaslight lyric, but then again, it could just be a coincidence.
As far as I know, Gaslight’s lyrics are usually personal for Brian Fallon (lead singer/songwriter), but he’s done a lot of literary references before (Estella, Great Expectations, Marley, etc.). If you’ve read the story, it’s easy to see how these lyrics do reflect the story, albeit loosely.
What do you guys think?
(If you haven’t read this story, you can view it here—it’s spectacular. Have Kleenex ready.)
WHERE IS MY MAIL?
I submitted my permanent forwarding order on December freakin’ 14th. It’s February 7th, and I haven’t received any forwarded mail. It has been almost TWO MONTHS, people.
The Pony Express could have gotten my things here faster, considering I moved about 20 miles away.
Somehow, I am underemployed and broke and people who work for the postal service make 60 grand a year and retire with pensions.
The world is an unfair place, my friends.
I received my first rejection letter today for a memoir piece. I haven’t decided how I feel about this.
I’ve only written two memoirs. This was the second—it was actually the final assignment for my memoir class last semester. My adviser said he would be surprised if it *didn’t* get published. I guess I get to surprise him now!
To be fair, this was a simultaneous submission. The piece still has a chance at several other journals. It doesn’t hurt quite as much as the fiction rejections, which is both good and bad. Let’s take a moment to analyze this.
The good: I don’t really consider myself a memoir writer. I liked writing the piece, and I think it turned out well, but I don’t think it’s my future. I can deal with this rejection.
The bad: My adviser really liked the piece. A lot. Does this mean he’s not a good judge of what lit mags are looking for? Is the piece totally off-base? Did I do a bad thing by sending it to other prestigious journals?
The overanalytic: I submitted the piece about two weeks ago. That means this was pretty much an instant rejection. They must not have liked it at all. That sucks. That really sucks.
The take-away: Keep moving. Keep submitting. Do not get bogged down in negativity. The year is a blank slate. There are so many more opportunities for success and new projects!
So, my last semester of grad school, and I’m taking one last lit class: Postmodern Lit. Postmodern Lit is SO NOT MY FIELD. But I’m taking it to stretch myself and see what I can learn as a writer. So far, here’s what that means:
Nothing has to make sense. Instead of freewriting and then turning your musings into a carefully orchestrated plot, stick with the freewrite and make it as aimless and repetitive as possible. That means something.
Gravity’s Rainbow, I’m talking to you.
If any of you out there enjoy or understand postmodern lit, please explain Gravity’s Rainbow to me. So far, I’m guessing it’s a 750-page poem disguised as a novel.
All I can think about is this Mother Goose & Grimm comic strip I read when I was little. There was a duck sitting at a school desk, writing a book report. ”Book Report: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens,” he wrote. “First, a word about the beginning and the ending.” Last frame: ”They are much too far apart.”
Okay, so I have a few things to say about this.
Thing the first: Why wasn’t this better?
Thing the second: Why did they underuse the dude from Lost?
Thing the third: Why isn’t the main female character more freaked out by the whole dudes-went-missing-in-1963-and-are-now-walking-around-like-nothing-has-happened-isn’t-this-worth-a-bit-more-of-a-freak-out? I don’t know. I think if someone told me this was happening, and then I saw it with my own eyes, I’d be a little more freaked out. Calling the NSA or something. Not keeping it a secret and acting life a life coach to the professor guy who can’t handle blood and guts. Are the undead so easy to accept? Really?
I accepted my own challenge and spent all of Friday night submitting the stories and memoir pieces I finished last semester.
This means two things:
(1) I have no life, but am strangely proud of that fact; and
(2) This year is off to a good start, even if all fifteen of those submissions come back with rejection letters.
It’s a good feeling to put things out there with your name on them. Nothing good can happen unless I submit, so this is the first step in making amazing things happen this year. I read somewhere that the average short story gets rejected between 12 and 15 times, so even if everything I sent out comes back with nothing, I’m still closer to finding the right home for each story.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Lace up those running shoes!
Have you ever been in a car, turned the key off, and noticed that the engine was STILL RUNNING?
Freaky. It’s really freaky.
I finished my warp-speed story yesterday (19 pages in 2 days), and now I’m thinking about revision. All the elements are in place, but I need to sharpen a few images and verbs. (For those aspiring writers out there, it’s always a good idea to sharpen your images and verbs. And get rid of adverbs. And simplify or remove dialogue tags. The list could go on forever…)
Here’s the question. How long should you wait before returning to a finished story to revise it? Can you mess up a good thing by going back to it too soon? How much of the mental dust needs to settle before you go whacking words, images, or even scenes?
Then it hit me. Maybe revising a story is like buying a gun. You need a mandatory waiting period. Just to make sure you’re serious. To let the heat of the moment pass. To solidify what you want out of the story before you go destroying the beautiful impulses that came out on the page.
So here’s what I’m thinking. You should always wait 48 hours before revising. I don’t think I can wait the mandatory 10 days the state of California requires before the gun shop can give you a gun, but a healthy 24-72 hour period will never steer you wrong.