Making It Up, Writing It Down
"Perhaps living in a society where realism is the reigning literary form renders that society powerless against its own absurdity." -Fernando A. Flores
What is a short story? It’s a question that we address each week in the writer’s workshop that I’m part of at American Short Fiction in east Austin. I like how Elena Ferrante (who is not in the workshop) describes a story:
Stories give shape to experience, sometimes by accommodating traditional literary forms, sometimes by turning them upside down, sometimes by reorganizing them. Stories draw people into their web, and engage them by putting them to work, body and soul, so that they can transform the black thread of writing into the people, ideas, feelings, actions, cities, worlds, humanity, life.
The Mark on the Wall
I recently read “The Mark on the Wall,” a short story by Virginia Woolf, from her 1921 collection, Monday or Tuesday. It’s a story with a narrow subject but expansive takes on big topics. For instance, her narrator asks:
And what is knowledge? What are our learned men save the descendants of witches and hermits who crouched in caves and in woods brewing herbs, interrogating shrew-mice and writing down the language of the stars?
Takeaway: the story is not always about what you think it’s about.
An inventive writer needs the smallest opening to begin and from there, almost anything can happen on the page. Woolf’s story is about a woman having tea and noticing a mark on the wall, which begins her mental journey, and like one’s mind, the narrative jumps all over the place. She even speculates on the stuff that novels of the future will be made of:
As we face each other in omnibuses and underground railways we are looking into the mirror that accounts for the vagueness, the gleam of glassiness, in our eyes. And the novelists in future will realize more and more the importance of these reflections, for of course there is not one reflection but an almost infinite number; those are the depths they will explore, those the phantoms they will pursue, leaving the description of reality more and more out of their stories, taking a knowledge of it for granted, as the Greeks did and Shakespeare perhaps—but these generalizations are very worthless.
It’s interesting to consider Woolf’s call to action, but now that it is 101 years later, I don’t think we can take much for granted, particularly our descriptions of reality.
Erection Election Rejection
Paul Pelosi, 82, is recovering from an attack that occurred inside his home in San Francisco. Turns out the hammer-wielding violator is a MAGA drone sent to kill Pelosi’s wife, the Speaker of the House.
Given that Speaker Pelosi was also a target of the Maggots on January 6th, I do wonder about her responses (public and private) to the violence directed at her, her colleagues, and her family. Madame Speaker is extremely powerful. Powerful enough to do major damage to the GOP. Powerful enough to lead the entire Democratic Party in the takedown of this dangerous criminal enterprise.
Guilty white men and enemies of freedom can go to jail
Faux news propagandists can be shut down
Supreme Court justices can be impeached
Those who want another civil war can be met in the streets by The National Guard
The rule of law can be the law of the land again
Politicians continually ask us to vote (and to give them money). Fine. Done! Now, who among them will do what it takes to put this ugly and illegal insurrection down?
Last Sunday, in its second season, Austin FC played for the Western Conference title. They lost the match but won the hearts and minds of soccer fans (like me).
Facebook is hemorrhaging market value and struggling to maintain its position among the Top 10 apps. Yet Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, paid $44B for the social network. Megaphones sure are expensive today.
Did you know that AI systems are fueled by millions of underpaid workers around the world, performing repetitive tasks under precarious labor conditions?
In September, existing home sales dropped 24% — the eighth straight monthly decline, marking it the longest slide since 2007.
I enjoyed this new on-camera interview with Arundhati Roy, author of the novels The God of Small Things and The Minister of Utmost Happiness.
See my “Books to Buy” wishlist on Bookshop.org.
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