August 12, 2014
End of summer, 1986. That was the September that I became an angel and went to Alabama. It had been a miserable summer, hot, full of vapid small town people I’d known my entire life. There was no escaping the sameness of it all, except to get a job, save money and leave. I’d found the most boring job possible for a teenager, working at the only movie theatre in town selling old candy at the concession stand. My middle-aged boss was adept at torturing his ragtag staff of adolescent girls, standing too close as we counted every single box of candy and penny at closing. Since I had dyslexia, this took hours, and he used this opportunity to occasionally put his hand on my inner thigh. Summer passed, sticky and in slow motion, and moved into September, which didn’t feel much different.
August 11, 2014
So your new book Wet Reckless is broken into four parts. Can you explain what they are?
They are based pretty loosely on places I’ve lived. These are not really all the places I’ve ever lived and they are not really chronological but somehow it works to tell my story. The book is described as poetic memoir.
Went to jail today to get a rap sheet
through metal detectors and elevators out of a ’60s police show
found the right room down a long marbled hall
of plexiglass windows
people shuttling in and out of doors with numbers on them.
i have a special drawer where i hide my drugs
closer to the terrible
and inside me is an entourage of
frantic flowers waiting to be gazed at
I’ve been in a marriage that didn’t work and now I’m in a marriage that works. I love love. It’s a great way to live in the world. But after spending two years writing a novel about love (and seventeen years living in love), I think that most of us dive into relationships with some kind of blind faith. We think: Ours will work. Ours will be different. There is no rule book. We make it all up as we go along.
“I need to see the Mediterranean,” Olivia said.
The road from Marseille had taken them through a long claustrophobic tunnel and then into the sprawl of developments on the edge of the city. Boxy cement structures that housed apartments sprouted at the top of every hill. The roads were crowded, the drivers aggressive.
Something kept clicking in the rental car, a persistent, irritating sound that put Olivia on edge. She and Brody had tried to identify the source—a seat belt, the radio, an unlatched glove compartment—but nothing seemed connected to the noise. They drowned it out with bad French rock and roll.
There is no clear path around the Park District. I’m one of sixty-four second graders led across busy Wolf Road in Burr Ridge, a small suburb dense with green and white ash trees. It’s 1993. Cars idle as we dawdle through the crosswalk.
I’m in the middle of the line, my last name centered in the alphabet, but I wish I could fall back. I wish I could hide in the chapter book stacks at the library or chisel out my linoleum block print in the art room. As a new kid at Pleasantdale, I don’t like gym class, where I’m reminded of my lack of friends every time we form teams. I also don’t like this walk, which means we’re running the mile.
I’m not the worst-looking girl. But I’m close: chubby plus homely. I have round cheeks. A pudgy stomach. Legs like tree trunks rather than twigs. My hair is a brown mushroom, and every girl at my new school seems smaller and blonder than the last. Even my front teeth came in too large for my mouth. Sometimes I wish I could just be fat—really fat—so I wouldn’t be stuck in the middle.
August 02, 2014
There is a railroad. There is coming
until near the end, then arrival.
Near the end everything is built to move
away. May it return.
There is a whole heap of earth to cut across
for me to come to you
to dig into, to burn and to turn
to steam, to coal, and to iron.
So you think that because you went to China twenty years ago you have license to write fiction about China?
I don’t know what right I have, but that’s what I did.
This is the second installment of my column, CNF 500. The column will deal with topics related to anything and everything creative nonfiction, and will be 500 words. As essays editor of The Nervous Breakdown, I’m always ready to consider essay submissions of any length for publication. Please email essays to ekleinman at thenervousbreakdown dot com.
Facebook is a bitch.
I never figured out how to post status updates and links to specific people. When I publish an essay somewhere, I usually just email friends and family I know would be interested, if they can tolerate the topic. For example, I love my cousins in Arizona, but would they really want to know about how I got my cherry fisted as a young dyke in Seattle? Probably not.
Someone had hung an enormous red banner across the back of the newsroom that read “Farewell and Long Life, Li Pai!” The man of the hour had positioned himself at a metal folding table directly beneath it. Young reporters came with his memoirs open to the title page, then solemnly presented letters of recommendation they had written for themselves. Li Pai signed them all. Ning had spent the morning watching from his cubicle as they filed by, so worshipful, so eager to drink from the font of the great one’s knowledge. The whole damn thing turned his stomach. Had anyone asked, Ning had no quarrel with him: Li Pai was a treasure. But Ning wasn’t one for celebrations.
Life’s cheap here in the Inland Empire.
John Berryman once said: It is time to see the frontiers as they are, Fiction, but a fiction meaning blood… Do you agree?
He killed Butch Cassidy with a metaphor, didn’t he? I guess he would know then.
When the wood grew scarce, Roland directed Matt to a rotted poplar and Matt felled it while Roland watched. The work was the kind Matt favored, muscle and bone, and if you did it properly, you shook thinking altogether and considered only the next blow. When the tree creaked and finally dropped, showering the yard with bark and limbs, he limbed it and cut the trunk into rounds then put diesel to branches and boughs and perched on a fence rail to watch the wood catch and light. The tree burned into the twilight, and Roland sat next to him, content, too, to watch it. Matt was cold and part of him hankered for another chore, but a bigger part was satisfied to sit and gaze at the coals that had started to glisten.