These Villains Creep

These villains creep - Deep Ellum, Texas

These villains creep – Deep Ellum, Texas

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”
― Anaïs Nin

In this brave new world, this best of all possible worlds, I take the Internet to be the entire of all existence. I think that a reflection of everything is in the internet, somewhere. Obviously, I will never be able to prove myself wrong – but sometimes I can’t find what I’m looking for.

For example, I photographed this sticker stuck in Deep Ellum. It says, “These Villains Creep – TVC.” But I can’t find what this means.

The closest possibility that I could find is that it is a subversive ad for a local print shop – TVC One. But that doesn’t feel right.

Oh well, thank goodness for small mysteries.

Oled By Tion

“It’s been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home — only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Denton, Texas (click to enlarge)

Denton, Texas
(click to enlarge)

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Twenty One – The Library of Babel

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twenty one – The Library of Babel, by xxxxx

Read it online here:

The Library of Babel

Imagine, if you will, an infinite library. Well, not exactly infinite – because there is a finite number of letters in each book and the library has been demonstrated to not contain duplicates – therefore there is a finite (though very large) possible number of books. Instead of infinite then, it is endless… you will never reach the edge.

Let it suffice now for me to repeat the classic dictum: The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible.

The galleries are hexagonal, with five shelves each along four walls. There are hallways leading away, these halls contain tiny restrooms and closets where the visitor can sleep standing up. There are vast ventilation shafts that give a good idea of the infinite… I mean endless nature of the library.

Well, you don’t really have to imagine this place, this library, this world, because it is described in detail in today’s plotless story – The Library of Babel. Borges’ works are intellectual and fantastic – yet somehow I find them mysteriously emotional and affecting. It’s a lot of work for a short short story – but it’s worth the effort.

At least I think so.

The methodical task of writing distracts me from the present state of men. The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into phantoms. I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves before books and kiss their pages in a barbarous manner, but they do not know how to decipher a single letter. Epidemics, heretical conflicts, peregrinations which inevitably degenerate into banditry, have decimated the population. I believe I have mentioned suicides, more and more frequent with the years. Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Twelve – Town of Cats

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twelve – Town of Cats, by Haruki Murakami

Read it online here:

Town of Cats

As I go through the stories this year I notice that almost all of them are by some of my favorite writers – people that I have read before. Today is no exception – I’ve been a fan of Haruki Murakami for years. Well, I guess there’s nothing wrong with revisiting what I know is genius – and I have a few more – but I need to work harder to find some new stuff.

Murakami is known for his surreal style and very odd plots. This story is an exception – it’s a prosaic tale of a son visiting his elderly father in a care home. The surreal aspect is supplied by a story within a story – about a mysterious city occupied only by nocturnal cats.

This tale is interwoven into the story of the man and his son. Their relationship has been strained… well, forever. The son is on a quest to find a solution to the mystery of his past, what has happened to him, and where he is really from.

He finds less than he expected and more than he hoped.

Tengo folded his hands in his lap and looked straight into his father’s face. This man is no empty shell, he thought. He is a flesh-and-blood human being with a narrow, stubborn soul, surviving in fits and starts on this patch of land by the sea. He has no choice but to coexist with the vacuum that is slowly spreading inside him. Eventually, that vacuum will swallow up whatever memories are left. It is only a matter of time.

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 28 – The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twemtu eight – The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis, by Karen Russell
Read it online here:

The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis

I have written about a movie I saw once, in the theater… Limbo, directed by John Sayles. An excellent film, and one you have to see – but I have a warning. At the end, most of the (few) people in the theater stood up and screamed at the screen. They were furious at the ending of the movie. I chuckled a bit – there is no other way the movie could end… and there is that title, what do they expect?

Today’s story The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis, shares one characteristic with Limbo. It sets up a mystery – and then sort of refuses to solve it. It’s frustrating if you are used to popular pleasing paint-by-number fiction, but there is really no other way for it to tell its story.

It’s a long-form short story, bordering on a novella. It needs this space to set up the characters of four urban bullies – a gang of thugs that, seen from their own points of view, aren’t as awful as they seem to everybody else. Though inside their own heads… at least the narrator, they are beginning to suspect that their place in the universe isn’t as inevitable or necessary as they had convinced themselves.

Then a mysterious scarecrow shows up tied to a tree in their own private universe, a wooded spot inside a run-down park in their urban wasteland of Anthem, New Jersey. Something about the scarecrow looks familiar… and when they figure that out a series of discoveries, unveilings, and violent reactions pull the four down a frightening path to… something.

Really good, worth the work to read.

Enjoy.

The central acres of Friendship Park were filled with pines and spruce and squirrels that chittered some charming bullshit at you, up on their hind legs begging for a handout. They lived in the trash cans and had the wide-eyed, innocent look and threadbare fur of child junkies. Had they wised up, our squirrels might have mugged us and used our wallets to buy train tickets to the national park an hour north of Anthem’s depressed downtown.

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 9 – A Jury of Her Peers

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day Nine – A Jury of Her Peers, by Susan Glaspell

Read it online here:

A Jury of Her Peers

A Jury of Her Peers was adapted by Susan Glaspell from her play Trifles. The story was loosely based on the murder of John Hossack, which Glaspell covered when she was a journalist. In the factual case, a farmer was killed with an axe while he slept. His wife, Margaret, was convicted of the crime, but the case was overturned and the retrial ended in a hung jury.

The short story is considered an early example of feminist literature. In it, the attitudes and abilities of the two women are contrasted with the men involved in the investigation of the murder. The men rush around, speculating about what might have happened and tease the women about their attention to trivial facts such as how the wife of the murdered man is making her quilt.

However, it is the women that discover the clue that reveals the truth of the murder. What they deduce from the clue and what they decide to do with it is the crux of the story and what makes it resonate.

Mrs. Hale had not moved. “If there had been years and years of–nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful–still–after the bird was still.”

It was as if something within her not herself had spoken, and it found in Mrs. Peters something she did not know as herself.

“I know what stillness is,” she said, in a queer, monotonous voice. “When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died–after he was two years old–and me with no other then–”

Mrs. Hale stirred.

“How soon do you suppose they’ll be through looking for the evidence?”

“I know what stillness is,” repeated Mrs. Peters, in just that same way. Then she too pulled back. “The law has got to punish crime, Mrs. Hale,” she said in her tight little way.

“I wish you’d seen Minnie Foster,” was the answer, “when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons, and stood up there in the choir and sang.”

The picture of that girl, the fact that she had lived neighbor to that girl for twenty years, and had let her die for lack of life, was suddenly more than she could bear.

“Oh, I wish I’d come over here once in a while!” she cried. “That was a crime! Who’s going to punish that?”

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 2 – On the Gull’s Road

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

For the second entry in this month’s list of short stories, on this second day of June, I give you a classic chestnut by Willa Cather, On the Gull’s Road.

Read the story online here:
On the Gull’s Road

I know people that read a lot of Cather. I haven’t read that much.

I always think of her as a Nebraska writer (though I know she lived most of her life in New York) and primarily as a chronicler of life on the plains.

This story couldn’t be further from that. It’s a story of doomed young love on a ship leaving Italy.

One thing that jumps out is her wonderful ability to describe life on a ship. I’ve been on cruises – and the whole deal is so much different that what a sea voyage from Italy in that time must have been – but I recognize the scene and the unique unfettered feel that riding the waves leaves behind.

The sun had disappeared over the high ridge behind the city, and the stone pines stood black and flat against the fires of the afterglow. The lilac haze that hung over the long, lazy slopes of Vesuvius warmed with golden light, and films of blue vapor began to float down toward Baiae. The sky, the sea, and the city between them turned a shimmering violet, fading grayer as the lights began to glow like luminous pearls along the water-front, — the necklace of an irreclaimable queen. Behind me I heard a low exclamation; a slight, stifled sound, but it seemed the perfect vocalization of that weariness with which we at last let go of beauty, after we have held it until the senses are darkened. When I turned to her again, she seemed to have fallen asleep.

Of course, the oddest thing about the story is the ambiguous sex of the narrator – who falls in love with the doomed, married Mrs. Ebbling. Reading it, I assumed the narrator was a man (…anticipating a consular appointment…) but on careful examination it seems that this little fact is deliberately blurred. The narrator’s name is never mentioned and is never referred to by any pronoun that would give their sex away.

This ambiguity adds a layer of unreal mystery to the love between the two young people. It reinforces the melancholy, the feeling of loss, of regret, and of nostalgia that permeates the story.

There is a lot more here than a simple shipboard infatuation.

“Don’t say that. When I leave you day after tomorrow, I shall have given you all my life. I can’t tell you how, but it is true. There is something in each of us that does not belong to the family or to society, not even to ourselves. Sometimes it is given in marriage, and sometimes it is given in love, but oftener it is never given at all. We have nothing to do with giving or withholding it. It is a wild thing that sings in us once and flies away and never comes back, and mine has flown to you. When one loves like that, it is enough, somehow. The other things can go if they must. That is why I can live without you, and die without you.”