There I was in the opulent, spacious lobby of Harrison Hall at Purdue University on a Sunday afternoon in July, a chest high stack of soggy pizza boxes on the floor next to me, the room swarming with young boys ages 10 to 13 here for a week of basketball camp. In that week, they stayed in the dorms, bussed back and forth to Mackey Arena for drills and scrimmages, and ate dorm food morning, noon and night except for Sunday evenings when they were expected to get their own dinner, though since they were not allowed to wander, four West Lafayette area pizza places including the one I worked for were invited to set up and sell our food.Continue reading –>
Santa Fe Cab
I’m parked on the edge of the city, right where it turns to scrub brush and red sand hills stretching 25 miles to the Jemez Mountains, a landscape crossed with dozens of dry river beds and a series of Anasazi canyons, my eyes closed, seat back, Patsy Cline on tape lulling me to a sweet sleep and a voice I don’t recognize blares over the radio, a new guy no doubt, yelling into his mic asking for a location for, can it be, he wants to know where the ski basin is?
“See that big mountain at the edge of town? The one with snow on top?” says Davy, the dispatcher, playing it as cool as he can. The owners had a talk with him recently, told him he had to rein it in a little. Continue Reading –>
About My Bad, One Story
Isn’t this weird, she says, my wife says. Isn’t this strange, bizarre, unsettling being back here after all these years, and I say, no, this is your high school. Mine was nothing like this small-town split-level thing of bricks and no windows, nothing at all, but she says, no, no, the experience. I’m talking about the experience; sitting out here smoking a joint in the parking lot, you with a big hard-on, and I say, well, I wouldn’t call it big exactly.
Life is Full of Brain Dead Fools and Emotional Cripples and Then You Die
Stunt Casting and Narrative Gimmickry in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts
From the frankly beautiful opening shot of helicopters in staggered formation low over the city of Los Angeles, the agents of a man-made disaster (med-fly spraying) to the natural disaster earthquake (conveniently located at the end of the film), Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), adapted from nine Raymond Carver short stories (plus one poem and one wholly invented storyline), is a convoluted jumble of stunt casting, gimmick connections between storylines, disinterested adaptation of the source material, casual misanthropy and misogyny, along with some startling moments of genuine originality. Continue Reading –>
The Trick of Reading the Right Thing While Writing
A few weeks into writing my first novel, I began to have second thoughts about the book I’d chosen to read while writing. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s 1,000-plus-page novel, was starting to produce unforeseen consequences. Neck problems for one, from carrying it on the subway. And more seriously, Wallace’s run-on style and repeated footnoting was producing page-long sentences and parentheses (within parentheses (within parentheses)). I’d picked the book in the hope it would provoke the kind of literary ambition my own work sometimes lacked. And I liked it – I was 700 pages in and cruising. Continue Reading –>
Finding A Stronger Ending
How a writer’s rigorous rethinking of his story solved a stubborn problem
Writing the first draft of “My Bad,” a short story of mine about a marriage in crisis, was as free and easy as any story first draft I’ve ever written. I was done in under a month. At that time, I couldn’t have known that I was about to face a year of torturous revision before I found an ending that worked. Continue Reading –>