Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Viral Marketing by Bill Chance

“A Paradox, the doughnut hole. Empty space, once, but now they’ve learned to market even that. A minus quantity; nothing, rendered edible. I wondered if they might be used-metaphorically, of course-to demonstrate the existence of God. Does naming a sphere of nothingness transmute it into being?”
― Margaret Atwood, Der blinde Mörder

 

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth,
Fort Worth, Texas


 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#76) Three fourths there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Viral Marketing

Penba Norbu was brought to the United States to work for the VBP corporation in their nucleic-neuro-interface division. The full name was the Viral Book Publishing Group, and had actually used the “G” on their name once, but VBPG was deemed too long and tongue-tying by an extensive series of focus groups so the final letter was dropped. This, along with a thousand other facts, were adsorbed by Penba during his new employee orientation. A year earlier this would have taken days of tedious power-point presentations and a hundred pounds of loose-leaf notebooks emblazoned with the VBP logo. Penba knew he would not have remembered one-hundredth of it.

Now, though, orientation took less than a half-hour. A nurse with a suspiciously short skirt on her uniform that exposed the very top of her stockings as she pulled the dose out of a locking case, checked the number on the vial against Penba’s badge, and then used a plastic pipet to place a single drop of thick orange liquid onto a sugar cube.

“Open, wide.”

And Penba, sitting on a tall stool, obeyed. The nurse shoved the sugar cube under his tongue then placed a hand under his jaw, forcing his mouth closed and holding it until his throat gulped. While she held his head securely and close to her body Penba wondered why so many buttons of the nurse’s uniform were undone, exposing a hint of burgandy lace.

“A month ago I would made you drop your pants and bend over that stool. I’d have given you a big old shot right in your left ass cheek. Those were the good old days.” The nurse let out a small sigh them asked Penba to open his mouth again. Still firmly holding the back of his head she stuck her finger under his tongue and probed it roughly around.

“OK, you’ve swallowed, please sign the training roster. Include your employee ID number and the date and time please.”

She shoved a clipboard into his hand and after a scribble to get the pen working he filled in the bottom line.

“Please proceed to the restroom. You will soon feel some digestive discomfort and then experience a slight fever for twenty four hours as the virus runs its course. Please report to your workstation at seven AM tomorrow morning to begin.”

Penba slid off the stool and wavered a little. He could feel a strong grumbling in his stomach already. It quickly began spreading downward, into his gut. This was a fast acting virus indeed. He started stumbling forward, moving toward the restroom as quickly as he cold.

“Next!” the nurse yelled in Penba’s ear as she looked at the clot of new employees waiting in a cluster of folding chairs.

There was only one unisex restoom and Penba walked down the long line of stalls looking for an unoccupied one. The room smelled horribly and he could hear groans, sighs, and obscene liquid noises coming from behind each closed door. He reached the end of the line and there were no unoccupied stalls. Penba was beginning to have to clench and was getting worried when a door opened and a middle aged woman scurried out and began looking around. Penba pointed to a handwritten sign taped to the wall that said, “Sinks in the next room down the hall,” and quickly slid into her stall before somebody else came in.

He fiddled with the lock, trying to get it to hold, before he gave up, sat down and wedged it with one foot. As he sat, waves of nausea washed over his body, alternating with flashes of heat and cold chills. He sweated profusely until his shirt was drenched. Penba had always been a very private, proper person and tried his best to be quiet, clenching his teeth and jaw, but finally gave up and let out a shout of discomfort to join in the symphony of groans that filled the restroom.

With each wave of sickness that the fast-acting virus forced through his reeling system, Penba found his head filling with new-found memories. These were very clear and strong, like they were events that had happened this morning, but he could not place where these memories had actually come from. They were, of course, the result of the book virus he had been infected with, and were memories that he would never forget.

Short Story Of the Day – An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“The old endless chain of love, tolerance, indifference, aversion and disgust”
― Samuel Beckett

Spring Creek, Garland, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#53) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex

Paul came out of the second hand store looking around for his car and stumbled over a woman sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk.

“Hey watch where you’re going!” she looked up at Paul.

She was very thin with stringy blondish hair wearing a ragged pair of jeans and a yellow t-shirt. Her dirty feet had worn leather sandals. Paul noticed the book she was reading – a garish orange cover and the title, “An Absolute Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex.”

“I stole this book you know,” she said. She stood up quickly in a smooth sort of unfolding motion, like she had raised herself off of sitting cross-legged on concrete many many times before.

“Yeah, stole it from this store here, they can see me sittin’ here reading it but they won’t say anything.”

“Paperback books are only a quarter,” was all Paul could think of to say.

“That’s not the point… hey, dude, where did you get that scar?”

“Paul’s my name, it’s from a knifefight.”

“Looks pretty fresh, you know, still sort of purplish,” she stepped forward and brazenly ran her fingers across Paul’s face, carefully tracing the line of the cut across his temple, cheek and jaw.

“Sally,” she finally said.

“Hey,” Sally continued, ” you got any beer or anything? I am sure thirsty.”

“Well,” Paul hesitated, his mind was suddenly cloudy and he felt like he was being pulled forward by a violent wind – or maybe pushed across a rough broken ground by forces unseen, a rushing storm or maybe even a tilting of the earth itself.

“Well, nothing… we could go buy something,” Paul said.

“You got a car?”

“Right here,” he said. They were standing right in front of his Chrysler.

“Great, let’s rock,” she said, “Hey, mind if we bring along a friend of mine, he’s a blast.”

Sally grabbed Paul’s forearm and pulled him around the corner of the thrift store. They fought their way through the random piles of old boxes and discarded merchandise that littered the lot, hidden from the street and parking lot by a sun-grayed wooden fence. The flotsam and jetsam of the thrift trade ended up here – the material too broken or filthy to even have worth in the lowest level of the civilized marketplace.

“Beaumont! Beaumont!” Sally yelled as the worked their way around the back of the thrift store and began pushing against the mat of tall thick dead dried weeds that divided the commercial strip from some rusty trash-strewn railroad tracks beyond. After a dozen cries and fifty feet of walking one particularly thick spherical leafless bush began trembling, then shaking as a shape began separating itself from the dead bush. The shape crawled a few feet and then stood up.

It was a tall man, skinny in the same way as Sally, topped with a greying beard and shock of matted dark hair spewing from underneath a plastic farm-implement cap worn backwards. The eyes between the beard and cap were live, blue, and darting. The man wore all denim, old jeans tucking into ragged cowboy boots, and a denim jacket with yellow lettering, “Big Bambu” and a green marijuana leaf over one pocket.

“Hey Beau, this is Sam, he’s got some cash and a car – wants to go get something to drink.”

“Well, then sir, I’m greatly pleased to meet you,” said Beau, ” his beard almost seemed to crack as it moved stiffly aside to adapt to a growing smile underneath, “an answer to our prayers.”

Beau pulled a plastic shopping bag stuffed full of shadowy items out from under the weedy bush and the three walked back around to Paul’s car.

“That’s quite a knife scar you’ve got there,”Beau said, “Looks awful fresh. Be sure and keep that sucker clean, wash it every day, or it’ll get swole up and never heal right – leave a nasty scar forever. Look at mine, here.”

Beau pulled the neck of his jacket aside and showed Paul an ugly puckered wound that slashed from Beau’s ear down across his neck until it disappeared under the jacket. Paul could see Beau wore no shirt under the denim jacket.

They piled into Paul’s car, Sally in front next to him and Beau stretched out in the back.

There was a shabby liquor store at the end of the block.

“How much cash you got on ya,” asked Sally.

“It looks like they take credit cards,” Paul said, pointing to a decal on the door, “I’ll use that.”

“Even better,” said Sally.

They bought a case of beer, some plastic bottles of vodka, a couple boxes of wine, and three giant bags of Funyuns.

Sally directed Paul out of the neighborhood maze and onto the frontage road of the interstate highway.

“Should I get onto the freeway?”

“No, stay here on the side road.”

“Here, pull in back here,” Sally indicated a dirt branch that led to a hidden spot behind an overgrown tangle – a bit of forgotten landscaping gone wild.

“This is our place,” said Sally, expectant, with a little bit of what sounded like pride leaking out with the words,”It’s pretty comfortable, the bridge keeps the rain out, and nobody, I mean nobody ever comes down here.”

It turned out to be a long day, a longer night, and an even longer morning, because morning always comes. The sun always comes up and it reaches everywhere, even into a pile of smoky, filthy rags under an interstate bridge.

Paul woke up naked and crusted with dried vomit. He remembered nothing from after he walked into the camp. His brain felt like it was swollen to twice its usual size and still stuck in the same head. The pressure felt like it would separate his skull along some jagged line, exploding his brain in sweet relief. Every nerve in his body was firing and the light pouring in from the end of the bridge was toxic.

His elbows and knees were scraped bloody and his tongue felt torn on the underside, like it had been half pulled out. He scrabbled around for his clothes, keys, and wallet and found nothing except a filthy pair of green shorts and an old jacket, a nasty stain coursed across the front.

He put those on and slid down the concrete slope back to his car. He wasn’t really surprised when he found the Chrysler missing.

Paul sat and cried for over an hour. He could not figure out how to get home. He considered hitchhiking but couldn’t imagine anyone stopping for a horrible apparition like himself.

Then Paul realized that the creek at the bottom of the interchange was the same system that coursed through his apartment complex. There were a couple branches but he thought he could follow the way, make the correct turns. He limped down into the stale slow-flowing water, the mud feeling good on his feet, but stinging his wounded knees and elbows. He noted the direction the water was flowing, turned into it and began trudging upstream.

It took him most of the day and his feet were cut and bloody from broken glass hidden in the mud at the bottom. He was seen only by a few children from the shelter of an organized pea-gravelled playground, telling their daycare sitters about the “funny man” that went running by.

Paul reached his door, dug the spare key out of the flowerpot… and was home. The hot shower wasn’t enough to get the smell out of his hair, his skin – the night had diffused through his whole body and was oozing out his pores.

He ate some aspirin, drank some apple juice, and burrowed naked into the deepest corner of his bed. There he tossed and turned and tried to fall asleep until that day slowly melted into dreams and nightmares and a stink he alone could smell and could never seem to completely wash out.

Short Story Of the Day – At the Library (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
Jorge Luis Borges

Recycled Books
Denton, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#52) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


At the Library

I can find excitement anywhere. Even the library.

The library… the thrill of finding that asshole sleeping at a table – two books in front of him; a string of drool from his lips past his chin staining the front of his shirt. He was really asleep, deep asleep, dead to the world.

I had a big hardback picture book of erotic Greek Sculptures – I love the curves, the roundness of the bodies, the unabashedness of the sexuality – the perfection of the human form. It was a big flat book with a plastic cover.

The book in my hand, I started low, swinging it from my waist out and up over my head holding it tightly cupped on edge like a Greek discus thrower. At the top of the swing I lifted my whole body up… onto my tiptoes… yet never leaving the ground, maintaining control, sliding my hand into the center of the book so when I brought it down, fast and hard, yet controlled, perfectly flat, in a parallel plane with the Formica top of the library table. I was able to put the full weight of my body behind the book, moving it with a terrible acceleration.

It hit the table flat hard and fast and the plastic cover of the book and the Formica tabletop left nowhere for the air to go except compressed and out sideways. Right in front of Sleeping Beauty.  It made a terrific boom, a thunderclap, and since this was a library after all… well, everybody on the whole floor practically shat themselves.

Especially sleeping beauty. He snapped up and awake, scared and confused. The momentum of his head yanking off the table threw his whole body back and his chair tilted a bit, the front two legs coming an inch or two off the floor. I thought that might happen so I was ready.

It didn’t take much of a kick, really… more like a little push with my shoe on his chest. He was looking right in my eyes, still in shock from the book boom, when my loafer made contact. He tumbled over backwards, easy, like it was the most natural thing in the world, like the chair was designed for that. He hit the ground hard, though, with a boom that was not nearly as loud as my book but so much more satisfying – because there was flesh and bone involved, flesh and bone and muscle out of position, out of balance, and gravity and steel, and hard industrial type institutional floors and everything out of whack and finding a new equilibrium really quickly.

And it must have hurt bad. He let out a “woof” before his head snapped back, spittle left over from his nap shooting out when the back of his head bounced off the floor with a sickening crunch… it sounded like a bunch of things; some hard, some soft – broke in there.

He didn’t get up, or move or change his expression. I walked out quickly; before the librarians, security guards, folks with books, folks with laptops, could get their mouths closed and figure out what the hell to do. I hit the stairs, hit the front door, and was gone.

Who says the library is boring.

Borne

“Once, it was different. Once, people had homes and parents and went to schools. Cities existed within countries and those countries had leaders. Travel could be for adventure or recreation, not survival. But by the time I was grown up, the wider context was a sick joke. Incredible, how a slip could become a freefall and a freefall could become a hell where we lived on as ghosts in a haunted world.”
Jeff VanderMeer, Borne

Chihuly Glass (click to enlarge)

 

I have now read all the Borne series of books and stories by Jeff VanderMeer, pretty much – as far as I know… but the thing is I read them out of order. And I think that was a good thing.

   First of all was the newest Borne book – The Dead Astronauts, which I read on behest of the Wild Detectives Book Club (back in the day when you would actually go to a book club). The book was incredibly weird – so difficult to read that I thought that would be the end of the Borne Dystopia for me.

    But before I finished The Dead Astronauts I stumbled across and online short story/novela written about the same world – quite a bit earlier as it turns out – The Situation. This detailed a very strange world but told the story in a familiar way – the destruction of everything told as a story of corporate back-stabbing. I really enjoyed The Situation and that led me to check out The Strange Bird from the library and devour that short novel. It too told a strange tale but was written in a familiar style – that of a quest or journey. It was set in the same world and had a few characters in common with the other two works – enough to continue to increase my interest.

    So, I bought a copy of the central novel in the series Borne – and finished it late last night. It was really good, a crackerjack of a novel. The most complete of the books, it explains a lot of what what mysterious and curious in the others… explains some, maybe not a lot, really, … and definitely not everything.

    At the book club discussion of The Dead Astronauts someone describe Borne as a love story.  And it is the typical girl finds odd plant in fur of giant bear, girl falls in love with plant, plant turns out not to be a plant but a ruthless killer, girl loses plant/killer, and finally girl discovers her love is something else entirely type of story. Yeah, it is a love story.

    Having read it last it was inevitable that I would read it trying to ferret out the connections with the other works. The three Dead Astronauts from their own epynomous novel made an appearance in Borne but they didn’t do much probably because they were dead. The story of The Strange Bird and Borne are dovetailed – the identical tale told from two different points of view and in very different styles – the same characters populate both.

   The Situation is a prequel to all the others. It contains the origin of the Giant Bear, Mord, along with other clues. In Borne, it is strongly hinted that Wick is the narrator of The Situation but I wasn’t absolutely sure. In researching this, I came across a graphic version of The Situation  from Tor books – where Wick is named explicitly. Now I wonder if Scarskirt is the Magician from Borne and The Strange Bird. She is described as someone who “stared at reflective surfaces all day” which is a connection. I don’t know – but it’s fun to speculate. At any rate, click that link and look at the drawings – they are very good.

  So now I’m done with Borne and I can get back to reading Zola. Except… now I’m thinking about VanderMeer’s Annihilation (I liked the movie) and the rest of its Southern Reach trilogy. We’ll see. So many books, so little time.

    By the way, I’ve been reading rumors that AMC has optioned Borne for a miniseries. Wow, I have no idea how this goes onto the screen. It would be like a science fiction version of Game of Thrones… except on acid.

Short Story (novella) of the day, The Situation by Jeff VanderMeer

My Manager was extremely thin, made of plastic,with paper covering the plastic. They had always hoped, I thought, that one day her heart would start, but her heart remained a dry leaf that drifted in her ribcage,animated to lift and fall only by her breathing. Some-times, when my Manager was angry, she would become so hot that the paper covering her would ignite, and the plastic beneath would begin to melt.

—-Jeff VanderMeer, The Situation

Art Deco mural from Fair Park in Dallas

 

The Situation, by Jeff VanderMeer

from Wired Magazine

About a year ago I started going to book club meetings at The Wild Detectives – a bookstore in Bishop Arts that features beer and coffee… a great place. Even though I don’t have much in common with the other readers and it’s really tough to get across town after work, I like to go. Actually, now that I think about it, the fact I don’t have much in common with the other readers is the best thing about going.

The book we will discuss the first Monday in February is The Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer. I’m cranking through the book and haven’t made up my mind yet. It’s very imaginative and well written but exceedingly weird. I like weird – but only if, at the end, there’s a point… some emotional connection. I’m not a big fan of weird for weird’s sake. I have a feeling that I will be a Jeff VanderMeer fan at the end.

I think that’s a good thing. It’s always good to find a new author isn’t it? Even though I have a ways to go on my Zola reading project and enough other books to… well, to fill up my rapidly declining lineup of years left.

Looking at other Jeff VanderMeer works there’s the Southern Reach Trilogy (I’ve seen the interesting movie Annihilation which was adapted from the first book in the trilogy) and I think those books will get added. Also there is the Borne novel which is set in the same insane world as The Dead Astronauts. That’s four more books to read. So little time, so many books.

As I was looking around for info (The Dead Astronauts is difficult enough I’m not worried about spoilers) on The Dead Astronauts and the Borne world I discovered an online short novella called The Situation. It is billed as a proto-Borne story – set in a preliminary version of that universe (are we reading about the origin of the giant bear named Mord?). So I sat down and read it.

And liked it. It is a sort-of comedy about the difficulty of surviving sane inside an evil bureaucracy. Quite a harrowing story. And well-worth the time and effort.

Shit. That means I’ll eventually have to read all those books. So many books, so little time.

The Sin of Father Mouret

“Albine now yielded to him, and Serge possessed her.
And the whole garden was engulfed together with the couple in one last cry of love’s passion. The tree-trunks bent as under a powerful wind. The blades of grass emitted sobs of intoxication. The flowers, fainting, lips half-open, breathed out their souls. The sky itself, aflame with the setting of the great star, held its clouds motionless, faint with love, whence superhuman rapture fell. And it was the victory of all the wild creatures, all plants and all things natural, which willed the entry of these two children into the eternity of life.”
Émile Zola, La Faute de l’abbé Mouret
Film of Sins of Father Mouret

Book Cover, Sin of Father Mouret

I am now a good chunk into Emile Zola’s twenty volume Rougon Macquat series of novels. Attacking this pile of books in the recommended reading order:

  • La Fortune des Rougon (1871) (The Fortune of the Rougons)
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876) (His Excellency Eugene Rougon/ His Excellency)
  • La Curée (1871-2) (The Kill)
  • L’Argent (1891) (Money)
  • Le Rêve (1888) (The Dream)
  • La Conquête de Plassans (1874) (The Conquest of Plassans/A Priest in the House)
  • Pot-Bouille (1882) (Pot Luck/Restless House/Piping Hot)
  • Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) (The Ladies’ Paradise/Shop Girls of Paris/Ladies’ Delight)
  • La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret (1875) (The Sin of Father Mouret/Abbe Mouret’s Transgression)
  • Une Page d’amour (1878) (A Lesson in Love/A Love Episode/A Page of Love/A Love Affair)
  • Le Ventre de Paris (1873) (The Belly of Paris/The Fat and the Thin/Savage Paris/The Markets of Paris)
  • La Joie de Vivre (1884) (The Joys of Living/Joy of Life/How Jolly Life Is/Zest for Life)
  • L’Assommoir (1877) (The Dram Shop/The Gin Palace/Drink/Drunkard)
  • L’Œuvre (1886) (The Masterpiece/A Masterpiece/His Masterpiece)
  • La Bête Humaine (1890) (The Beast in the Man/The Human Beast/The Monomaniac)
  • Germinal (1885)
  • Nana (1880)
  • La Terre (1887) (The Earth/The Soil)
  • La Débâcle (1892) (The Downfall/The Smash-up/The Debacle)
  • Le Docteur Pascal (1893) (Doctor Pascal)

The next one up was The Sin of Father Mouret (among other titles).

It was only a couple days ago that I wrote about The Ladies’ Paradise – but in actually, in the real world, I’m finishing up three books ahead – my episode has put my writing behind my reading.

One interesting thing about the Rougon Macquat novels is that even though they are about the same family (if very disparate branches of said tree) in France during the same period of time – the books are often very different from each other. The Sin of Father Mouret is particularly unique.

It is divided into three distinct sections. The first is a fairly dry (though interesting) depiction of a devout priest in a poverty-stricken rural area – hanging on by pure faith in a run-down threadbare church surrounded by a population with less than perfect spiritual lives. Eventually the stress (plus the inherited family madness that runs through all the books) causes him to crack and suffer a complete mental breakdown. He has complete amnesia and is placed in the care of a wild, almost feral, young girl that has the run of an old garden – a giant park run wild with ancient plants gone to seed. This place, Le Paradou is described in intricate detail – a place of unbelievable fecundity in the midst of a barren landscape – set off by a high stone wall. Comparisons with the Garden of Eden are obvious, along with the ideas of the knowledge of good and evil and of original sin.

Eventually, a glimpse through a gap in the stone wall brings Father Mouret’s memories back and he is faced with the choice of returning to his church or remaining in the garden.

The language and description of the couple’s life in Le Paradou is luscious, flamboyant, and prolonged. The contrast between life within the walls and without is so great it almost reads as being unreal. I took it that way – reading in as more of an allegory than as actual fact – and that made the book more enjoyable, in my opinion.

It is an interesting read. I have never soldiered through any book like it. A significant change of pace in the string of twenty books.

 

It’s On

“SEAL, I have a problem,” I say to him. “I didn’t bring any extra underwear.” “So what?” “I can’t run without underwear.” “Nah, bro, you can’t run without legs. It’s on.”
Jesse Itzler, Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

The Block, Richardson, Texas

 

The other day I was surfing the interwebs and came across – I don’t remember how – the story of some rich dude that hired a lunatic Navy Seal to live with him for a month and help him train.

I know it sounds silly and contrived – but the guy kept saying things like “stuck in a rut”, “drifting on autopilot” and “doing the exact thing day after day”- despite being a billionaire. That resonated with me (well, except for the billionaire part). So, throwing caution to the wind, I spent six bucks on the Kindle book. I usually read (at least) two books at once – one fiction (finishing up The Conquest of Plassans) and one non-fiction – so I started Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.

Not sure if I can recommend the book unequivocally – but it is interesting and an entertaining read. I went for a nice bike ride in my hood and stopped for coffee and a quick read.

The first chapter has an interesting idea. The SEAL wants the guy to do a hundred pull-ups at the gym. The author is in really good shape, but is a distance runner without a lot of upper-body strength. He can do, say 15 or so.

The SEAL says, “Wait forty-five seconds and try it again.” So the guy does and does six. The SEAL has him wait another forty-five. He can do one, barely. At this point the guy is ready to go home.

“Nope,” the SEAL says, we’re not leaving until you do a hundred. After a minute of rest, the guy can do one. Over and over again. Until he hit a hundred. I guess it only took a bit over an hour or so.

I am fascinated by that concept. Not in terms of pull-ups – but on goals in general. Say, I will ride my bike fifty miles today – even if I have to stop and rest ten times. Or, I will write two thousand words, even if I have to stop and think twenty times.

It would require some time… but it’s an interesting concept.

My folding bike at The Block, Richardson, Texas

Go From Dream To Dream

“You go from dream to dream inside me. You have passage to my last shabby corner, and there, among the debris, you’ve found life. I’m no longer sure which of all the words, images, dreams or ghosts are ‘yours’ and which are ‘mine.’ It’s past sorting out. We’re both being someone new now, someone incredible….”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Gravity’s Rainbow, marked for reading goals (one marker per week)

So I sat down with my Penguin Paperback edition of Gravity’s Rainbow and put in little tabs for each week’s worth of reading for the Wild Detectives Reading Challenge that I’m doing now. My bookmark is an old Ten Cordoba Note that I laminated.

 

Beer and Batuman

“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo, and I realized for the first time that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, rooted for Dumbo, against Dumbo’s tormentors. Invariably they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to his enemies. But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.”
― Elif Batuman, The Idiot

The Idiot, by Elif Batuman

Oblique Strategy: You are an engineer

In my struggle to live life outwardly, I spotted an event on Facebook that looked interesting. There was going to be a Book Club discussion at The Wild Detectives in Bishop Arts. I love that place – named after a Roberto Bolaño novel – it has a carefully curated collection of books, coffee and beer. What else do you need? On the weekends, they turn the wifi off – so people will be forced to talk to each other.

What could be better than to meet in a place like that and talk about a book?

The selected tome was The Idiot by Elif Batuman. The book is a bildungsroman about a ninteen-year-old woman attending her first year at Harvard.

I only had a little over a week before the meeting so I set up a spreadsheet with the number of pages per day I had to read. I have a terrible confession to make. I had a nice heavy hardback copy and the Kindle version. I never picked up the physical book. The new Paperwhite is simply too good.

I’m sorry.

The book was very interesting. Terribly well-written, it was unique in that the protagonist, Selin, was the most passive main character I have ever read in a novel. She drifts along, only slightly buffeted by life. Reading about her, I had the image of a person sliding down a featureless sheet of ice, silently observing the scenery go by (in very great and subtle detail).

So my feelings on the novel were mixed. It was interesting in that this woman’s life in her freshman year was incredibly different than mine (in a bildungsroman you can’t help but compare the protagonists experiences to your own) – for example: sex, drugs, and rock and roll make no significant appearance in her life at all.

One interesting aspect of the novel is that it takes place at the very beginning of the internet age: Selin is confused at first by this email thing – until she embraces it and has the most significant relationship with a slow email conversation with someone she met in Russian class.

The Wild Detectives is way across town from my ‘hood and I fought through the traffic after work, arriving early enough for a preliminary beer (Texas Ale Project‘s Fire Ant Funeral – if you are interested).

I really enjoyed the discussion. We started talking about the cover (I never even noticed there was a rock on the cover). Talking about the email, someone brought up that it was like letter writing in the time of classic Russian Novels (like Dostoevsky’s own version of The Idiot) people would write letters to each other, the distance and time separating the two adding a surreal aspect to a relationship.

A very nice way to wile away an evening.

The next novel we will discuss is The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet. I bought a hardback copy at the bookstore – I’ll avoid temptation and not buy the Kindle version. We won’t meet until January, so I won’t need a spreadsheet to egg on the pages.

Book With Wings

“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
― Ray Bradbury

(click to enlarge) Book With Wings Anselm Kiefer Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

(click to enlarge)
Book With Wings
Anselm Kiefer
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth