I just submitted the first 10 chapters of my book to the publisher, and turns out I’m not at all comfortable with the concept of no longer being able to change anything. Who knew I felt this attached to editing myself.
I Haven't Spoken To Anyone in Three Days and Three Nights: A Debriefing
I shut myself in the apartment in Rockaway for three days to get through the final revisions of 10 chapters. Three entire days and nights with only my dog to talk to, which come to think of it is only different from a normal day by two or three hours.
Still, usually by the end of day two of self-imposed deadline seclusion, I start pining for the banalities of human interaction, for the 30 minutes of discussion with S. Jam Fitzgerald about where we might go out to eat before we get bored with our indecision and put in the same Seamless order as two nights earlier; complaining for half an hour before getting on the L train to visit a friend in Brooklyn, which happens with every friend I visit because all my friends live in Brooklyn; and a third social interaction that I can’t think of right now, but which I need because these things work better in threes.
On the day that the 5 Pointz graffiti building in Long Island City was getting whitewashed, Mic and her boyfriend’s daughter Maya headed over to watch history get erased. Once there, they discovered that a bunch of scraps of destroyed graffiti were there for the taking, and they took. Then they made me these earrings, which immediately became perhaps my most prized possession, behind my dog and my red velour pajama pants.
I was looking for Miguel the European when I stepped over the threshold of the bar Local 61 last night, turning from side to side with my whole body, the way very bundled up people must. In a mostly empty bar, you determine pretty quickly whether you’re the first one there, which I was. I headed for a bar stool.
Then I heard someone call my name, and turned my body again. “Sarah?” the voice said. “Yeah?” my own voice said. “Josh,” he said, and reached out his hand while I scoured my terrible memory for the key to how I might be expected to know this person. As I shook his hand, I ran out of split seconds; Josh began to comprehend my lack of comprehension. For another split second, it was awful. But as I searched his expectant face, his tepid eagerness sparked another idea in me.
S. Jam Fitzgerald and I used the last afternoon of his unemployment to mosey on over to the Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. Let me preface this by saying that I know so little about Yayoi Kusama that I just cut and pasted her name from the gallery’s website without processing it at all. Here I am pasting Yayoi Kusama’s name a third time, and if I closed my eyes and you asked me what artist’s work I saw today, I’d tell you, “Kama-something?”
The Scooter To the Boat to the Best Meal in the Dominican Republic
We’d rented one moped for the two of us, and I clung to both S. Jam Fitzgerald and the seat itself as he navigated the puddly dirt road. My thighs would be sore the next day from holding tight to the machine, but what did I care. We’d made it away from the resorts lining the sea, away from the restaurant proprietors shoving menus in front of us, away from manicured lawns that made me think of Hilton Head. We were now passing resorts in various states of abandoned half-construction, relics of a time when consensus held that there was no limit to the first world’s appetite for the Caribbean vacation. Those soon ceded to empty shoreline, bumpy and perfect, and we slowed to ask a man sitting under a tree if we were on the right path to La Boca Grill. Keep left, he told us.
You're from New York? OMG So Are We What Are the Chances (Hint: They're Pretty Good)
Yesterday we touched down in Cabarete in the Dominican Republic for a few days of celebration during the block of time between S. Jam Fitzgerald’s old job and his new (and frankly, incredibly awesome) one.
As much as I love flying to far flung places just to hang out with the couple from New York City that my boyfriend met in the water this morning, which is how our Tex-Mex lunch went down today, I’m beginning to take it on as my hard-fought destiny to find a food establishment here that wasn’t erected for blond, pasty tourists.
You could spend a month in Cabarete and have no idea what Dominican food looks like.
He felt that he had clambered up a few rungs, and his big fear was that I was clambering back down. As a tradesman—I run a construction crew—I had clearly fallen below the social class to which my father thought I should belong. He believed that the fine education he’d paid for should have led me to greater abstraction, but while it’s true that the farther you get from an actual product the better your chances for economic success, I and many of my classmates wanted more physical evidence of our efforts. I had friends who’d trained as historians, literary scholars, and philosophers who were now shoeing horses, wiring houses, and installing toilets. There’d been no suicides so far.
It opens with the narrator’s father in a suit, leaving us to wonder if the suit is a pathetic pose or a long-forgotten daily uniform, then tells a low-stakes yet riveting story of a father’s visit to his son. Only the end of this otherwise perfect story, too tidy in its psychological conclusions, bugged me.
But still, so worth the read, and worth searching out some other work from McGuane, who incidentally was married to Margot Kidder in the seventies.
Technology and the Mind, Technology and Literature
For all the complaining we do about how the Internet ruins our efforts to write, we mostly overlook the ways in which these same technologies have altered the content of writing itself. If our very thought processes have been altered by Google, it would follow that the literature coming out of those altered minds would be new and different, as well.
The deadline for the first 10 chapters of my book comes at the beginning of December, so I’m entering this month-long intensive maelstrom of reviewing everything endlessly, living with the thesaurus perpetually open on my laptop, engaging in spirited internal debates about the merits of the semicolon versus the period in very specific scenarios, and generally rewriting every single sentence out of thousands of them with the hopes of teasing the illusion of genius out of it.
Let’s say you watched The Bling Ring five months or so after it came out, after it was already available on DVD via Netflix. Let’s say you went into the movie with fairly high hopes, nestling into your sofa trying to fast forward through the previews. Let’s say you were in specific mood on this evening, but let’s also say that you’ve been in this mood consistently of late. Let’s say that recently you’ve been doing less of the thing that you always thought you wanted to do, to your surprised delight. Let’s say that right this minute you’re feeling like you’d be quite alright if you never published another article in your life. Let’s say that this is somehow connected to recent pervasive feelings of misanthropy, although you haven’t yet drawn the map of that connection. Let’s say you’ve been thinking a lot about celebrity and power and how it can make people act like insects.
When I interviewed Richard Price this summer, I learned that he hand-wrote every novel until Lush Life (he now works on a Macbook). I then asked how he managed to submit a typed manuscript to the publisher if he only had pen and paper at his disposal. His answer takes you straight back into a 1980s New York City that is still full of surprises:
I used to go to a typing service in Times Square, Studio Duplicating Service, and basically that’s where all the screenwriters would go, and their typists were sort of out-of-work actors for the most part, and they would go into their warrens and just type all night … I had a relationship with this one typist there, who was an actress, probably 25 years ago. Up until I started using a computer she typed everything, everything. She typed every screenplay, every novel, every journalistic piece I’ve ever done. She could read my handwriting, which was insane, and she never made a mistake, and I would just pay her and she’d do it, she’d be fast, and I’d turn in the manuscript that she typed up.
1) In Broad Channel, a group of high school students stood partway down the platform, whooping etc. a couple registers too loud to be ignored, as groups of high schoolers do. The train rolled into the station, bringing with it a sudden (but not unexpected) gust of wind, which pried a packet of stapled-together pages from a girl’s hands. As the train began to slow, the papers swooped up, curled down, then slipped perfectly between the train and the platform, as in some old magic movie in which an envelope floats through the letter slot in the door of a charming house.
2) At the Third Avenue station, a guy ran down the platform, the ominous two-tone beep already sounding to indicate the closing doors. Just as I was passing, he began to veer right, toward the still open door and as he did, his cell phone flew from his jacket pocket and onto the tracks, between two train cars. I offered a grimace to show my sympathy but kept on walking. He may have still made the train, and I gripped my own possessions.
I recently signed on as the editorial director of Strolby, not because I was in the market for a job or in fact had any time at all for it, but because the concept is so amazing: Strolby sells goods from the most unique and creative brick-and-mortar shops in Brooklyn. I love the concept for a couple of reasons: 1) It allows people all over the world to tap into all of the creativity coming out of Brooklyn today, and 2) It supports these amazing small shops and designers by opening them up to a wider audience.
It’s basically providing the benefits of mass consumption to the little indie efforts that make neighborhoods in Brooklyn and elsewhere special places, and in that way, I think it can help preserve these unique neighborhoods. If there’s any way for these small shops and designers to compete with the national retailers creeping in, this is it.
What I’m saying is, do some of your shopping on Strolby. The holidays are upon us and it’s a great way to get thoughtful, one-of-a-kind gifts that didn’t come from Amazon. The 10th Brooklyn shop will go live on the site this week, and we’ve got more in the hopper, so check back often!
There are all kinds of previously mysterious things that writing a book lets you in on. The nature of the book deal, for example: I always imagined that you got a book deal, went into the publishers’ offices, signed the papers, received a big advance check, and went out for champagne. In reality, you get the book deal, wait a month and a half for the contract to get hammered out, wait another month for the first installment of your advance to come in, and wonder when during this process you were supposed to have celebrated.
The hotel room above, room 214 in Prague’s Century Old Town Hotel, is the same room that contained Franz Kafka’s office at the Prague Accident Insurance Institute from 1908 until 1922. These are the very walls within which he endured the drudgery of corporate life and so disillusioned his imagination that The Metamorphasis and The Trial grew out of it. Sweet dreams!
I never subscribed to the idea of good taste: It’s a subjective concept promoted by fashion scribes to oppress the rest of us. Dressing age-inappropriately is, so they say, in poor taste, and it’s vulgar. This is exactly why I celebrate it.
Right on, Simon Doonan. There’s no reason everyone has to learn above all else to become boring as they move further into adult life.
Last night, the light turned and I let my dog bolt off the curb and across the street. At the opposite side, a man bent down to pet her, doing a kind of tchdoo tchdoo tchdoo sound that is common among people fawning over dogs. I let him, because I tend toward friendliness at weird times, and because I’m flattered when people love my dog.
What’s her name? he said.
Yacha. I explained the origin of the name, which is Mandarin, which interests no one ever, busy as they are in being disappointed in us for not naming her Penny or Dixie.
The Breaking Bad Finale: Or, How We Bridged Time and Space
Over the past two days, it became increasingly clear that not watching the Breaking Bad finale until next Sunday was an untenable position to be in for a gal whose work requires her to scour the Internet daily.
S. Jam Fitzgerald is in Tokyo for work. We’ve watched every episode of the series together up until now. I’d promised to not watch the last one until he came back. Just one day into that promise, after innocently going to the New York Times homepage only to be met with a mild spoiler, I told him I think I had to go back on it, which elicited a puppy-dog frown over Facetime, which made me feel like no, I can’t watch it until he gets back. Resolve restored.
If I Watch Breaking Bad, am I Cheating on my Boyfriend?
If you were me, and S. Jam Fitzgerald was in Asia, and you promised you wouldn’t watch the Breaking Bad finale without him, but you now feel as though all social media are live wires of unwanted spoilers, and he won’t be back until Friday, at which point you leave immediately for a wedding upstate, please tell me you would break your promise.
On the other hand, we have watched every single episode of this show together thus far, which lends the prospect of watching it alone an air of both incompleteness—part of the process of watching it involves digesting it with S. Jam Fitzgerald—and of betrayal.
But Breaking Bad is all about betrayal, so it’s almost appropriate?
This decision will define my week, and one day I’ll write carefully considered things on this blog again.
This post does not have an image because I’m afraid to Google Breaking Bad.
The Canals of Howard Beach, Plus a Resort that Burned to the Ground
I’ve been sick as an 18th century Parisian prostitute this week, which is my own fault, given that before whale watching for the better part of Sunday afternoon in bare feet on the cooling-quickly shores of the Atlantic, I spent two hours on our friend Jimmy’s boat in Jamaica Bay, in just a t-shirt and hoodie, sitting at the bow (that’s the front, yes?), letting water splash onto me every time we picked up speed.
Sunday afternoon, a man and a woman sat together on the beach in Rockaway in folding chairs they’d lugged out from home. The man put his cigar back in his mouth long enough to point excitedly out to the ocean. The woman, in response, put her binoculars to her eyes. This meant whales, one instinctively knew, and I, walking barefoot on the wet sand by the water, turned to see for myself.
During a serious Edith Wharton phase in my very early twenties, I read everything I could find of hers, sharing in her characters’ lack of connection with their surrounding culture. Lying in the tiny room of my shared house near the IU campus in Bloomington, I’d turn my back on the drunken yelps of nightly campus life in order to consider, amongst only myself, the ways in which I would forge ahead in some very interesting way as soon as I graduated.
The writing group has grown. No longer an oh-so-manageable three souls scribbling away under the stars in Greg’s backyard, today we number seven, so many that there’s a waiting list now for new members.
It means that only two of us now have apartments large enough to accommodate the group. It also means that not everyone sends their stories in to me in a timely manner. Seven people is a lot to track down, and I’m lazy. Thus, I present to you four stories, in the order in which they arrived in my inbox. (I put mine last because I didn’t have to send it to myself.)
And oh yeah, this time around we used first sentences from other literature as writing prompts, the sentence being required to appear somewhere in the story…
This Will Have To Serve as a Review of Anna Karenina (The Recent Movie)
Most critics hated the theater-within-a-film conceit, but I found it lovely and a ravishing framing device for a ravishing story, and the screenplay by Tom Stoppard mixed the perfect doses of cheekiness and gravity, and I loved it.
My First Music Store Since the Bush Administration
Two nights ago, on the walk home from a single fancy cocktail at Cienfuego in the East Village (my reward these days for successfully completing 10 straight hours of work), S. Jam Fitzgerald stopped in front of Kim’s Video and said, “Can we go in?”
Neither of us had entered a music store since George W. Bush was still president. It could have been his first term, in fact. Sadly, the last one for me was in all likelihood the Virgin Megastore in Union Square, where I used to stop off to listen to music during breaks in grad school.
Inside, fluorescent lighting and smudged concrete floors framed rows of CDs and LPs and DVDs. Handwritten signs announced new releases and used albums. We browsed for 10 minutes or so, in thrall to the stunning sense of having traveled back in time.
We wanted to buy something, but we no longer own the machinery necessary to make use of any of it.
(I could have so much more to say on this, but gave myself a strict 10 minutes to write this post, this blog being the first real casualty of the extensive workload I’ve taken on recently. I have more 10-minute posts planned for Before Midnight and stop-and-frisk and Edith Wharton and this new website I’m working for. They may be similarly lacking in detail and nuance, but will nonetheless be a quick read, every one of ‘em.)