Beanball by Ron Carlson

12 10 2008

Last night I read Beanball by Ron Carlson. It was issue number 99/100 of One Story Magazine. The story struck me in several ways. It was beautifully written and full of characters with remorse about their pasts and guarded hope for the future. It was about the eternal hope that goes along with baseball. It was also about human greed.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I felt the story was going along fine until it got about 75% through. It seemed that the plot took a fantastical direction that wasn’t needed. A simple, straight forward ending would have been stronger, truer to the characters and world created in this story. I seem to remember from workshops in college that being simple and straight forward is the way to go. I just felt this story fell flat in it’s complicated and crisscrossing plot. In the end it was all to neat and tidy.


The Lie

29 07 2008

While catching up on my New Yorkers, I read T. Coraghessan Boyle’s story The Lie. On the surface it feels like a story about a lazy guy that doesn’t want to go to work in the morning. But then we discover his lie and the story becomes fun and uncomfortable at the same time. This is one of those rare works of short fiction that take you to another place, mess with your head, and then stick with you for a few days. It’s worth the time to read.

Richard Ford: Leaving for Kenosha

1 07 2008

In my never-ending quest to catch up on my backlog of New Yorker magazines, I’m finding that the fiction is standing out. Today on my flight I read a Richard Ford story: Leaving For Kenosha. I’ve tried to read Richard Ford in the past with mixed results. It’s surprised me because I like a number of his contemporaries and friends with similar tastes have liked him. This story, however, was great.

It’s the story of a father and his young daughter, strained by a divorce he figures is somehow his fault. He drives his daughter to the dentist and then to visit a school friend who is moving from New Orleans to Wisconsin because her father has been transferred. At first I wondered if the backdrop of New Orleans was slightly forced, but then I realized it fits in well with the main character’s life. What was once there is gone and the rebuilding is slow and confusing. His marriage, his relationship with his daughter, where he wanted to be at this point in his life all seem to be beyond his control.

The opening line hit me and it just kept on going for me.  Despite upheaval, life goes on. 

It was the anniversary of the disaster.  Walter Hobbes was on his way uptown to pick up his daughter, Louise, at Trinity.  She had the dentist at four.

Quiet Week

22 06 2008

Once I finished the The Corrections it’s been a pretty quiet week. I tried to plow through a bit of my pile of old New Yorkers and basically picked over articles and stories. Nothing too exciting. So here goes nothing:

In short-fiction, I did read a few things. Like I said, I’m chipping away at a pile of New Yorkers and a few One-Story issues. I also started The Boat by Nam Le (so far it’s fantastic).

In not-so-short fiction, Shannon tells you to go read The Hobbit.

In music, Guns ‘N Roses’ long awaited album was leaked for like 13 minutes this week on the interwebs. I write a little about it over here.

  • Also, I keep meaning to link over to Plain or Pan? a really great music website from a Scot with a huge collection of stuff.

In television, the AVClub interviews Billy West of Futurama and Ren & Stimpy fame. I, however, was introduced to him via the Howard Stern show where he did such imitations as Marge Schott and The Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley.

In links, the following sub-finds…

  • I found Wordspy a site that introduces you to newly coined phrases.
  • In art, I found a site this week that gives you cheap options for art. It’s called 20×200 and gives you the option of buying a $20, $200, or $2,000 version of the same piece. My problem is that I think some of the pictures from my vacation are better and I can’t figure out how to sell them here!
  • Not so much art as photography, I did try a very cool site affiliated with Flickr this week. It’s called MOO and enables you to make postcards, notecards, mini-cards, etc. from your own pics stored on Flickr. I’ll let you know what I think when I get the first pics back.

I’m behind on comics and don’t have anything to report this week. Hopefully I’ll attack the pile this week and have something to report back on.  Hope all are having a good summer.

Catching Up

16 03 2008

I’ve been behind on blogging lately as my wife was in her ninth month of pregnancy and then had the baby a week ago.  As a result, my reading and viewing habits have been lazy lazy lazy.  Here’s a taste of what I’ve been consuming…

Starbuck’s, yes the coffee company has put out a great CD of music handpicked by Bob Dylan. Find it here. It’s a nice listen of blues, bluegrass, country, reggae, etc. I was surprised at how much I liked it.

Let’s not forget comics. It’s been a big few weeks for comics (and I’m still behind). First, I want to AGAIN mention my love affair with Captain America. Every issue gets better, James as the new Cap is fantastic, the writing is entertaining, and the art is wonderful. I’m curious to see how the entire Sharon Carter thing plays out. I’m also interested to see the new Cap start meeting other members of the Marvel Universe. The one question I have is, what’s going to be up with Steve Rogers during this whole secret invasion thing? While I don’t believe he would have sided with Tony Stark during the Civil War, would he have found a better way to resolve the conflict? Is he a Skrull? I guess we’ll see…

The other book I’ve been enjoying is Fantastic Four. Two issues into Mark Millar’s story arc, I’m enjoying the conflict that is being set up. I suspect that the new creative team is going to bring us along on big adventures and can’t wait.

And finally (in terms of comics) is the Hulk books. The Incredible Herc has been fun and Hulk Red has been interesting too. I suspect that we’re not too far off from the Hulk coming back in style. I like the subtle touches such as Clay Quartermain being around. I just wish he was a little more like the character from 10 or so years ago when he, Rick Jones, and the Hulk were on the road.

In terms of books, I just finished Generation X by Douglas Coupland. Boy, he was ahead of his time when he wrote that book in 1991. Reading it today I feel better. I’m not as weird as I thought I was…

Current reading includes Gentlemen of the Roadby Michael Chabon, The Last Defenders, Northlanders, and some New Yorkers and National Geographic Travellers. I’ve also got a CD wish list that I plan on cycling through. I’ll let you know if I hear anything good.

Raymond Carver

20 01 2008

As with most of my reading I’m catching up on issues of The New Yorker. In the Christmas/New Year’s issue (aka the Winter Fiction Issue) there is an interesting collection of pieces about the short fiction author Raymond Carver.

I read some of his work in the short fiction classes I took as an undergraduate. Bob Olmstead (the Writer in Residence at the time) told us a few stories about his first classes with Carver at Syracuse University. The encouragement to keep writing, but never really seeing him that semester. Those stories along with his writing stick with me now, nearly 15 years later.

The New Yorker articles discuss the role of Carver’s editor Gordon Lish in helping him craft his stories and collections, cutting down nearly 40% in some cases. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the workings of how fiction ends up on your plate so to speak. Even better, they include a number of letter from Carver discussing the edits. What comes out of it gives the reader a glimpse of who the author was and the discipline he poured into his work. Writing, writing, writing until every bit of him was tied into it.

Read the full article here
Read the letters here

Most interesting read the story Beginners here. What’s very cool about this is that the New Yorker has put the original up against the edits in the same document. One thing I took away from those fiction workshops was that a good editor could do more than clean up your mistakes, they could add punch. They had distance that the author doesn’t have and can see things in a new light.

When I read the original and the edits on the same page I find myself drawn to the newer version, the collaboration. Why? It brings us from being told to being shown. It leaves less said and more to my imagination. Through omission, we get so much more about the characters. The empty spaces in our own lives fill in the empty spaces in theirs. The tension that Carver writes into his last section of the story is punched home in two or three sentences by the editor.

Carver’s widow, Tess Gallagher is pushing to have some of the stories re-released as Carver had originally written. I think it would be more interesting to see the original and the edit side-by-side. Let’s see how they endure.

One-Story: #95 Balloon Night

19 01 2008

I’m a little behind on my One-Story reading. Last night I read #95 Balloon Night by Tom Barbash. It’s a nice story about what someone goes through when they’re left by their other and still push through when faced with a large social situation. It’s a great story, one of the better ones I’ve read through One-Story.

On a side note, while I was reading the story I thought about the Seinfeld episode where they go to Tim Whatley’s to watch them start the parade. I thought it was funny that he mentioned that as well in his interview with the magazine.