Saturday, December 30, 2006

Festival of Flash

Please visit the Authorstore site if you want to read a prize-winning piece of flash fiction by Rebecca Jane and other fine flash fiction writers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Due to a writing
deadline for the
my puppy blog
suffers temporary absence
of its master and playmate.

Good blog!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Write Surprising Juxtapositions

Last Thursday, The Poetry Society of America hosted a reading for the 2006 National Chapbook Fellows and New York Chapbook Fellows.

Timothy Donnelly, an editor for the Boston Review, introduced Jessica Fjeld, author of On animate life: its profligacy, organ meats, etc. In his introduction, Donnelly mentioned a strategy Fjeld used in composing one of her poems. She chose random lines from the Patriot Act and from The Book of Mormon, played with the language there and voila!

In his introduction, Timothy Donnelly also read one of his own poems for which he used lines lifted from the 9/11 Comission Report.

When I first heard of this strategy for composing poems, I must admit my first thought was "What a cop out." Lifting lines from here and there is no way to compose, is no way to honor the mood swings of Our Lady of the Writing Craft. But then, I had a change of heart when I heard how queer and delightful their poems sounded when they read.

So, of course, being the easily engaged and inspired writer that I am, I had to try such a method for myself. Below you will find what came of that effort.


Reading The Analects of Confucius While Listening to 50 Cent

Boy my hoes are clean, just like my guns
And I keep them in three-year mourning, just like my funds
I keep all my big bills, give my Nine Thoughts the ones.

The Master schooled me: Gentlemen like virtue; little men like partiality.
Gentlemen like justice; little men likes mercy.
You got Pimp potential. Start selling leek in the yard.

They can snatch these braids out and put my hair in a sovereign state, word
Those who act with a view to their own personal advantage will bust
A u-turn going straight to the block.

In word, the gentleman thinks of being loyal leave with your blood
on my mink in the drop Six Guiliani and Pataki can’t stop
this since ’86 my whole clique withdrew and studied the rituals.

Confucius said, don’t burn bridges my friend
Imagine the G-Dub close and yo ass gotta swim
Phoenix does not come; River puts forth no sign of the new world order.

Gentlemen wait in line to hear the master spit
“If my virtue don’t sell, I’ma rob and steal.”
The Worthy are ‘bout to stick Slick Rick for all that old school shit.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Novelist Puts the FUN in Fundamentalism

If Riva Djinn doesn't read Mohja Kahf's book immediately, her colleagues are going to force her to step down as the president and Lead Spokeswoman of the Scribble Bitch Book Club. She's trying to convince the group that she must read Adios Muchachos just one more time before she wraps up in her lavender head scarf and moves on with life. She's making everyone anxious with this Boudoir Noir kick she's on. Now, is that fair?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Does MFA v. JD Mean Literary v. Genre?

Last night, Time Warner, HBO, and Fordham Law School welcomed Scott Turow in conversation with public intellectual Thane Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum asked Turow why he hasn’t quit his day job now that he is a best-selling author. Rosenbaum’s question suggests this idea: if one is able to stay home, write, and live the isolated novelist’s life, why would such a person want to continue to practice law?

Turow’s answer was a simple: “If it aint broke…”

Turow has always been able to balance his dedication to law with his dedication to writing. In fact, a reason he went to law school in the first place was because he couldn’t turn off his imagination. His approach? Write anywhere. Keep an exacting schedule.

Turow’s optimism and faith in the rule of law set him apart from other authors who have written about lawyer characters or legal settings, among them Dickens, Kafka, and Dostoyevsky. Rosenbaum pointed out that unlike those authors who render more critical depictions of the legal profession, Turow regards the law as a noble institution. Turow added that the lawyers whom he knows to be happiest are the ones who stay in touch with a vision that the institution of law advances a more just society.

During the Q: & A: session afterward—“Q: and A:” is not quite the appropriate name for that portion of the program as audience members (similar to the ones who show up at PEN World Voices events) insist on making comments rather than asking questions—an admiring reader commented that Turow deserves a Nobel Prize for his sensitivity depicting the human drama. Turow was flattered and graciously turned the comment into a question (as a skilled trial lawyer can). He said, implicit in her comment was the question whether Turow feels comfortable being regarded as a genre writer rather than a literary writer. He responded to that issue saying that he is lucky to sell so many copies of his books and that in fact he has received respect from those writers regarded as more literary.

One issue raised during the conversation was Rosenbaum’s curiosity about how the toxic adversarial dimension of practicing law had not crushed Turow’s creative mind.

Well, we live in such adversarial times that the dimension of the legal profession that is adversarial does in fact reveal itself in the literary institution:

Literary Writer v. Genre Writer

If one is at that time in her life when she must face the choice MFA v. JD, she ought to embrace either path with enthusiasm and a clear understanding that there is no path devoid of adversarial toxins. The secret to avoiding those? Joie de vivre and singing in the shower.

Either way, it is a damn good thing Mister Turow never turned off his imagination.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Boudoir Noir

This is not your conventional book review. Here, you will find a book recommended within a piece of flash fiction. And here’s a disclaimer, no one has paid this author, or given this author any freebies. She’s just giving a good book a quirky plug.

This story is entitled “Bedtime Stories for Women Who Smoke Cigars”

This past weekend, Riva Djinn paid a visit to the Independent and Small Press Book Fair at 20 West 44th Street. She is quite familiar with this landmark building that houses the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesman. As a matter of fact, Riva Djinn used to teach English Composition for the K. Gibbs School in this very building. The school has long since moved to 40th Street, and Riva had to quit that job after a scandalous encounter of the stink-bomb ilk, not to mention the times she urged the students to petition for curriculum reform. Boy, is she glad those days are long enough over that she can smirk and shrug them off and deny she ever lived through them. Abandoning her participation in the socialist revolution is a bit harder to sweep under the rug, but that’s another story. Returning to the present, Riva spends an entire Saturday in this building’s charming library, wandering from this table to that, chatting, and picking up business cards, free buttons, magnets, catalogues, etc. Enough loot so that, later, in The Ladies, she has to ask the attendant, “Do I have too much propaganda on my puss?” No? So Riva picks up another button and another card, while all along she is vowing to herself not to pick up any men if she can’t pick up any women.

The only weakness Riva allows herself to give into is her habit to impulse-buy all books printed by independent and small presses. She can’t help herself. On principle: she just MUST buy books that have never been shoved down her throat by overbearing marketing schemes. But then what was with all the buttons and magnets, etc. at this event? She wondered.

By listening to her own Reader’s Intuition, Riva finds and buys a book entitled Adios Muchachos, written by Daniel Chavarría, translated by Carlos Lopez, and published by Akashic Books, 2001; 245 pages.

The cover features an image of Alicia—the daughter of a Cuban foreign-service man—on her bicycle. Alicia’s tennis shorts, unbuttoned! Alicia’s ass, un-retreating. Alicia’s lips & eyes, uncanny!

In her bedroom, Riva studies the cover art over and over until it urges her to light a cigar, get between the sheets and begin reading. Riva soon discovers that Alicia is as smart as she is sexy. Below are a couple sentences that entice Riva instantly:

“When Alicia decided to become a bicycle hooker, her mother agreed to sell a ring that had been in the family for five generations. She got $350 for it, and for $280 they bought an English mountain-bike, one with wide tires and lots of speeds, on which Alicia launched her hunt for moneyed foreigners.”

Adios Muchachos is set in Havana, Cuba during the Special Period. This picaresque novel is full of plenty of scenes featuring Alica’s ample ass up, up, up on that bicycle seat. But we also see Alicia excel at her studies with an Italian professor who is thrilled by Alicia’s quick fluency in Dante’s language. The narrative flows as smoothly as Alicia’s plans of seduction. We follow Alicia’s adventures; we receive salsa lessons that loosen the tightest of foreign butts. Meanwhile, Victor King, a European millionaire, promises to boost the Cuban nautical tourism industry by overseeing a project to root out buried treasure left by sunken Spanish galleons from the 16th Century. While Alicia plants patriotic kisses, sweetly commenting on the terrible effects of the U.S. embargo and the fall of the Soviet Union, King’s plans spawn an absorbing mystery that contain plenty of well-drawn sex and bloody murder scenes. This is noir extraordinaire! The narrative pace turns and picks up when Alicia breaks one of her cardinal rules: never sleep away from home.

Riva was told that Chavarría’s novel won the prestigious Edward Award. Riva thinks, awe hell, it should have also won the Pulitzer, the Nobel, and the Man Booker. Then she thinks, hey do they give a prize called the Man Hooker; if so, this novel certainly sweeps that honor.

If Riva Djinn ever puts down this book, it will be between her thighs.

When Riva reads to the end, she fires up another cigar, turns back to the first page, and starts reading all over again. Adios Muchachos is a great way for Riva to pass her time before the messenger boy arrives again to replenish her supply of the smuggled goods.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Riva Djinn exited the 2 train,
swinging her messenger sack,
whistling an old Tom Waits tune.

She climbed the stairs,
chose not to pull her usual ankle twist hoax,
and made her way toward the turnstile just beneath 42nd Street.

For whatever reason, it so happened, there were crowds
gathered at every possible exit,
except for the one turnstile to the far right.

Riva decided to make her way through there,
but was stopped by a frazzled lady who was about to swipe
her metro card to enter.

Lady: I was here first. I'm coming through. Back off!
Riva: But the proper etiquette is to let a person OUT first.
Lady: I already let a bunch of people out. Move!
Riva: Be fair, then. You let all them go. Why not me?
Lady: Move!
Riva: (laughing) Oh, come on. Ha! That's the way we do it around here:
we let people OUT first.
You're reminding me of that old song
Queen sang with that hostage-situation dialogue:
"Let him go!...We will not!...Let him go!...We will not!" You remember that ditty?

The lady didn't laugh or move or sing along with Riva. She just locked her jaw and decided to show how stubborn she was going to be about this. She decided to lean over and block the exit.

Rive: My name's Riva.
Lady: I'm Peggy. Let me through.
Riva: Nice to meet you, Peggy.

Riva keeps singing and laughing, but Peggy is not interested in making friends.

Peggy: Really, back off.

Now she was getting sincerely mean.

Riva: Oh, all right. If you insist.

Riva backs out, ever-so-slowly.

Peggy: Sigh. (Rolls her eyes.)

Riva: Next time we meet, Peggy. You let me through first. Okay. Next time!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Strawberry Fields for Sean Bell

You were sitting in Strawberry Fields last weekend when you read
the New York Times article about the tragic shooting of Sean Bell.

Have you forgotten the massive amount of damage one bullet does,
let alone 50?

And it's not just one life that is destroyed.

Bullets take out entire families, communities,
artists, friends, lovers, ideals, hopes, possibilities.

take an eternal moment, next time you feel like pulling any trigger--
think of all the damage that bullet will do.

It's not powerful or strong to use a gun.
Guns are cop outs, tools for fools and cowards.
How can any sane citizen feel she is protected by a police force full of cowards?

Wouldn't it be nice to exercise some real democratic pull
and see if you could actually get that Second Amendment
repealed; and while you're at it,
reform that military police force?

You bow your head for Sean Bell,
for John Lennon,
for Amadou Bailo Diallo,
and for all the kids in Iraq.

...for liberty and justice
for all.

So, history repeats itself, does it?
Does it do any good to remember, memorialize,
build shrines like Strawberry Fields?
You wish to start talking about some real action
that would stop all this forever before another 9/11
and Iraq war roll around. Stop this forever.

Strawberry Fields...

Can you


Real Men,
the ones with the
biggest Cocks,
You can quiet the Energy
that pulls
any trigger.
Or else
Such Men can find
a more graceful
to kill each other
because the Gun
is not worthy of
human dignity.