Friday, October 29, 2010

Inferno: Does not computer

I'm going to keep pushing my zine because at the moment it seems it's just my literary peeps who have checked it out, and partly because they had to.

Anyway, I recently finished reading Inferno. Dante's Inferno. Part one of the divine comedy, which I'm sure you've heard of at some point in your life. Not bad for something written around 700 years ago. Something like that. Now, I think it'd be cool to write reviews for books, music, movies, that sort of thing because I think people don't really know how to do it well.

I felt kind of hypocritical reading Inferno because for a book so well known as a 'classic', I really hated it so, and I couldn't exactly figure out how it sustained its status for so long. However, I feel compelled to define 'why' I hate this book so, and I think I've got it all figured out.

For starters, it is translated from Italian. I recently read 'If On a Winter's Night a Traveller' by Italo Calvino, which is also an Italian translation, but that book, on the other hand, was brilliant. The translation is a problem because Inferno is an epic poem written in the 14th century, and not a postmodern novel written in the '80s. In the popular penguine copy I read, the original Italian was written on the left pages and the translations on the right. I could see skimming down that the Italian side rhymed, where, understandably, the English side did not. If you can read Italian, by all means, give the book a chance, I don't know, it may be infinitely better in its original language.

Now, I don't know whether this is limited to the popular penguin edition, or whether all translations into English bare this fault, but the wording is painful to get through. No one speaks like that, no one writes like that, it just doesn't follow any logical grammatical progression (which I should point out, is pretty basic stuff for a classic). So it could well be that the person that translated the text was some form of poetic babboon, but if there's large chunks of dialogue where you don't know who is saying what, then you have a bit of a problem.

My copy of the book also comes with an extensive introduction and an extensive chunk of notes at the end. I don't really fancy going through all of that to make sense of the jumbled catastrophe that is Dante's descent into Hell. Really, if you take away the introduction, the Italian version of the poem and the notes, you have a 150 page book padded out to over 500 pages. Fuck that.

And while I must admit, there were a few short bursts of decent imagery, it just wasn't enough to maintain the interest of my 21st century brain. Which brings me to my final point. I think the book is terrible (note: "I think") because I'm reading it in the wrong century. I am most certain that the book gained popularity in the 14th century was because it was the sort of thing people enjoyed reading back then. But not now. It's a classic because it was a defining and cutting edge piece of literature for its time, as is pretty much most classics. Which is why I think that people may often be disappointed by the classics. Yeah, they were brilliant for their time, and some may still be brilliant today, but some just can't keep up with our radically changing tastes and fall limp. Still remembered, but not enjoyed as they once were. Sorry Dante, I was born 700 years too late to enjoy your divine comedy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An all-consuming black hole

If you haven't already, please download my zine 'Splinters'. I'd really appreciate it. And thanks to those who have already downloaded it and read through it, and even exchanged a few words with me about it.

Right now, it seems there's an endless black hole of a 'to-do' list hovering over me at the moment:

Tomorrow I'm performing in the WA heats of the Australian poetry slam, link here.

At uni I have a 20 minute stage play to write (which is coming along fantastically, I must admit, of the 4-5 pages I have written), 2 essays and 2 other little reflection/report things.

After that I'll get right onto wrapping my head around writing a 20 minute film script to eventually produce with a friend.

And of course, the start of next week is the start of November is the start of NaNoWriMo, in which I'll be trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

So that's what I'm busy with at the moment. But it should be a lot better in about two week's time where my goals list will be about half the size. I would, however, like to focus in on a couple of things on that list.

NaNoWriMo, there's always 1001 things I can say about it. But I take sympathy on you and will try to keep things brief. This year I'm going postmodern lit fic. Takes place over two weeks, with one chapter for each day (reality) and night (dream) of my protagonist/anti-hero's tragic little life. So it's basically a chapter a day, which I'll probably write in Stream-of-consciousness to make it easier to slip into the 'anything goes' mindset of NaNoWriMo, but also to really sink into the character and be strange/postmodern.

I'm doing a couple of things to warm up, to get ready for NaNoWriMo this year. I've started doing a flash-a-day thing, where I'll basically write a flash fiction piece, usually a sentence or two that hints towards something that needs context to mean something. That's something I'll be looking to maintain over November and beyond. And the other thing I'm doing is typing up Fight Club into my computer. I figure, taking the time to write the words up will give me time to absorb what they're doing, and how it's all set up. I don't know yet if I'll just do a chapter or two and move on to another book or something, but I'm thinking, come November, I might use it to warm my fingers up before I start working on my own novel.

And another thing I'd like to talk about is the books I've read recently. I've been meaning to talk about them, but just never got around to it. You can see on the side there, a list of "currently reading" and "recently read" books. Strangely enough, those lists correspond to books I am currently reading and books I have recently read, respectively.

"Haunted" - by Chuck Palahniuk
Where to start this one is to say that it's not for the faint-hearted. If you get grossed out easily, you probably won't see the appeal in this book. I, for one, loved it. It's dark, it's brutal, it's cringingly funny, I found that while I was reading it I was thinking, 'is this guy for real'? It's a strange and uncomfortable journey, and while there is some doubt whether it's just some elaborate hoax put out by Palahniuk purely to revolt his readers, there is an interesting theme that underlies the narrative, and that is how people transform at the prospect of fame.

The novel (I guess you could call it a novel) consists of a series of short stories and poems brought together by an overarching narrative. Basically, a group of people respond to an ad regarding a writer's retreat. They find themselves locked in an abandoned theatre and the situation turns into a sort of reality tv type scenario, where the writers turn against each other in search of the story that will bring them more fame and glory than the person before them. I highly recommend it if you're not easily grossed out or offended.

"Wild Surmise" by Dorothy Porter
I read this, as I did 'The Monkey's Mask' within a very short time frame. It's the second verse novel of hers that I've read, and it follows a scientist (a biological astrologist? something like that) as she searches for signs of life on Jupiter's moon, Europa. Of course, that's juxtaposed with her domestic life, and the sexual conflicts with her partner and her lesbian colleagues. It's a good read, and she really is a master of metaphor, but I felt that it didn't quite have the edge that 'The Monkey's Mask' did.

"Fahrenheit 451" - by Ray Bradbury
It took me a long while to get into this book, especially considering how short it is. And I'm not sure if I finished it so quickly because I was truly fascinated by it or whether I just wanted to reach the end. It's a dystopian novel about book burning, and the censorship of ideas. The content was really good, but I can't help but feel that the execution was lacking something. It wasn't as richly involving as I'd have liked, it was very narrowly focused on the main character and it ended quite abrubtly. It's a good dystopian novel, I feel I should really get on to reading 1984 and Brave New World so that I've got more to compare it to. At the moment I can only really compare it to 'A Clockwork Orange', which I have to say, there really is no competition. A good book? Yes, definitely. But it's certainly no masterpiece.

"If on a Winter's Night A Traveller" - Italo Calvino
I was really excited to read this book. It didn't take me too long to read this one, and, like with 'Fahrenheit 451' I finished it in much of a fluster. However, I finished this one so fast because I was compelled to read on, I was fascinated by this book.

It's told in the second person, which, I know, will immediately put some people off. However, Calvino has tackled it from a really fascinating perspective, and as the book progresses the "I" character who is posing as the author distinguishes the "you" as a character known as "the Reader", as opposed to the "you" that is actually reading the book. As such, he plays around with the narrative style, and calls to question a number of writing techniques he uses throughout the novel. It's a very clever story, and it's very playful in the way it goes about telling the story. I'd imagine even if you're not a fan of the second person point of view, you'd be able to see the charm Calvino's invested into the character.

The narrative itself follows the Reader as he tries to read the book 'If on a Winter's Night A Traveller', only to find a printing error, which leads him on to the rest of the book. So it's made up of 12 chapters referring to the character trying to find his books, and 10 chapters of the starts of the books he finds but can not finish. It's very clever and very entertaining, and sometimes utterly perplexing, but if you like reading books that make you think then it's most definitely worth the read.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Splinters: Now available

Yep, right at this moment, I'm uploading 'Splinters' in e-zine format. It's 28 pages long, as opposed to the 32 pages of the printed copy that is my assessment. The main thing that's missing is a second person stream-of-consciousness piece which I can't technically 'publish' because it's in the Wet Ink short story competition, and would otherwisebe breaching the terms and conditions of that competition.

And the upload is done! You can download the e-zine here, and enjoy its literary goodness. It was a lot of fun to make, and now that I'm done with it, a few possibilities remain:

Should I try to reproduce the zine physically also? To sell?

Should I make another issue? If so, I doubt it would be anything like the original, simply because I was spending hour after hour, day after day messing about with shit trying to pull it together. It was quite exhausting, to be quite honest. I'd like to imagine that further issues would be more organised, less 'experimental', and probably as a result, less aesthetically pleasing.

And with that, I was wondering, should I go on to make another issue, should I keep it just to my own work, or possibly include writing/artwork of friends? That's if they'd be interested, of course.

But at the moment, I've just got the one issue, done, the .pdf available to you. And I'd really love it if you'd care enough to download it, give it a read, and maybe even let me know what you think. And while it's been exhausting, it's also been a lot of fun. And it's good to have something to show for my work, good for my confidence, really, heading into NaNoWriMo, with a ton of assignments and other assorted projects in the works.

I suppose I should probably also mention the sort of things you'll find in this zine. Mostly, it's poetry and prose poetry, some flash fiction, a bit of amateur DIY art, and the first part to the verse novel I started writing a while ago. It's a bit of a literary mixed bag, hopefully there's at least one thing in there you'll enjoy.

So yeah, zine, download, enjoy.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser...



I. Don't. Know.
I just don't know what the fuck I'm doing. I've done a lot of work on my zine over the past few days. I've been messing around with the artistic appearance of the zine, turning some of the pieces into visual poetry. I've got four poems and four flash fiction/prose poems all up eight pages. It's about 1,300 words in, and I've got 3,000 words to play with. I'm thinking of putting the prologue of my verse novel-in-progress in the zine as well, which is nine poems and about another 800 words. But the more I scan images into my computer, the stranger it gets. It started off with a picture of a tree drawn with coffee and cordial and the printer ink alignment page that I accidentally left in the scanner. Then a tomato-sauce fingerpainting of the colour of mars. My main piece (which I'll leave out of the pdf because of pending publication issues, if/when it's rejected I'll put it back in) is just columns of the story cut out and stapled back together, although I've broken it up with other micro stories stealing parts of the pages. Then I wrote a poem backwards on my hand, scanned that and reversed it, scanned my jumper, inverted it and wrote a collage poem I pulled from my IKEA catalogue (the poem's called "IKEA catalogue". And then I scanned in the random doodles off my pencil case and put that on the cover.

So really. Honestly. I don't know where this zine is going to end up, what it'll look like when it's done, my guess is as good as anyone else's. But yeah, I'll have a few more poems, a few more flash fic pieces in the mix, and I don't know, should I put the prologue to my verse novel in there too?

Whatever, I'm having a blast just messing around with whatever I can get my hands on.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First page of my zine

I've mentioned a few times before on here about 'Splinters', the zine I'm creating for my experimental writing class. I've basically got a whole bunch of poetry, prose poetry and flash fiction that I'm going to compile into a zine.

Well, the idea is to bring it all together in a way that not only reads in an interesting way, but also looks interesting from an artistic perspective. Right now I'm just messing around with it, trying to find what will work and what won't. I've got my first page done, and I thought I'd post it up here to see what you guys think. If it works out right, you should be able to click on the image and see it at its full size. Here I've got two poems, 'Poem of Ten Lines by Ten Syllables' and 'Porcelain Doll'. I drew the tree on paper with coffee and green cordial then scanned it into the computer. The lines and stuff on Porcelain Doll were just the scanner's colour alignment test page I forgot to take out of the scanner the last time I changed the printer cartridge, so I just messed about with basic colours and effects and stuff.

So yeah, just having some fun with it, trying to be quirky and interesting.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Comarama: NaNoWriMo 2010

It's getting towards that time of year again, my second turn at NaNoWriMo. In the months approaching, I've had quite a lot of ideas buzzing through my head, and at one point I decided to work through bits and pieces of all of them. And then I developed a few ideas for one piece more than the others, and I think I've whittled it down to the one novel I'm going to write over November: Comarama.

In the grand plotting and scheming of things, there is a lot of progress to be made, especially since I want this story to triumph over last year's very basic novel. And considering my JulNoWriMo attempt was just a free for all, make it up as I go along sort of thing, and that it just sort of fizzled out, the plan is to come prepared for something a little more intricate than a stock-standard hero's journey.

Basically, Comarama is a story of two alternating plotlines. The "night" plot which occurs in the narrator's dream world when he's asleep, and the "day" plot which occurs when he's awake. Simple enough. So the concept with the dream aspect of the story is that he's gradually learning that he's tuning in to the bizarre and surreal dream world of a child in a coma. Meanwhile in the real world he's looking for a sense of purpose. The story starts when he takes a two week holiday to get away from his work, his family and his friends. He tells everyone he's heading east, but while he's looking to escape, he's not going to find what he's looking for in another city. He parks his car at the airport and catches a taxi to a hotel in the city, where he hopes he'll find some perspective viewing his hometown as a stranger, a tourist. What makes this place so frustrating? So difficult?

I don't know yet, but I've got until the end of October to really flesh my ideas out before I start writing. At least now, I feel there's some sort of drive in the two plot lines, and clear indicators that somewhere down the path they will intersect. I expect these next few months to be quite interesting.

Friday, October 8, 2010


This is the poem I performed at the Cottonmouth open mic on October 7:


Ladies and gentlemen, do not be alarmed,
but airborne dust particles are killing your children.
They're killing your brothers and sisters,
your mothers, your fathers,
killing your family pets.

Do not be alarmed, but the invisible dirt monster is the black plague of our time.
All the AIDS, the cancer, the influenza pandemics throughout history,
they are nothing to the dust mites in your carpet.
The bacteria that manifests on your doorknobs.
The germs that spread on your money, passed from hand to hand
like coughing cultural cancer directly into your wallet.

Ladies and gentlemen,
the great dirty germ plague is the nine eleven of twenty ten.
This war on bacteria is a war for all that is good and pure and sacred.
And it is as they say, cleanliness is next to godliness.

So we fight this war,
we are the soldiers, we are the warriors of this great OCD war.
We spend forever washing our hands of dirt and disease.
And we fight for our future, for our children,
for our children's children,
and our stories will be told for generations to come.

And we take our buckets and mops in arms,
our rubber gloves, our germ-proof armour.
And everything is a filter on a filter on a filter,
and dynamite Johnny is manning the control board,
waiting for the ok from HQ to fire the hydrogen peroxide bomb.

The invisible flying particle monsters,
they don't stand a chance against our diligent scouring of the earth.
Against our toxic cleaners that obliterate everything in their path.

Ladies and gentlemen, do not be alarmed,
but this is not a war without casualties.
Dust and dirt is breeding in your public toilets.
Germs are hiding in your clothes, in your hair.

Do not be alarmed, but the bacteria is everywhere.
Under a black light, this world is one massive pathogenic swamp.

We are host.
They are master.

And you can wash your hands before and after everything you do.
Wash your hands. Rinse and repeat.
Because washing your hands brings you momentary cleanliness
brings you momentary godliness.

And after you kiss your children goodnight, take a steaming hot bath to kill their diseases.
You don't want to catch the cooties, the collywobbles, the snot-goblins.
And you keep the anti-bacterial hand wash under your desk at work
because you don't want to catch the Monday-itis that's currently going around.
You hide behind a filter on a filter on a filter,
and you wash your hands and wash your hands and wash your hands,
and you scrub your hands to the bone.

And tonight, ladies and gentlemen,
I stand before you as a mad man with a death wish above my head that reads:
“I do not live in fear of these germs.
I want to keep the common cold common,”
do not be alarmed, when I cough and sneeze, but instead, celebrate my immune system
that has sacrificed so much for me to be here tonight,

but these airborne particles, these dust mites in your carpet,
that are killing your children, and your children's children,
these are the nine eleven of twenty ten.
And tonight, I stand before you as a dying man at the gallows, waiting to be hanged,
waiting for the executioner to pull the lever
and wash his hands,
and walk away.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First time for everything: Performance poetry

Ok, so tomorrow night I'm going down to Cottonmouth to try my hand at performance poetry. I haven't done performance anything for about three years. Not since Country Week in year twelve, speech and monologue. I used to hang out with the drama/music crowd a bit at school, but I was never all that flamboyant or self-confident.

So I guess I'm doing this open mic thing for a number of reasons. I'm definitely not doing it to launch a career in spoken word poetry, that's for sure. The way I see it, I'm getting out there, having my work seen and heard, rather than in the occasional uni magazine, which people may or may not just skim right over. I wrote a poem for Cottonmouth three days ago, I think. And I rewrote it two days ago. And rewrote it again last night. I'll probably iron it over a few more times before tomorrow night just to make sure it's all running smooth.

From what I've heard there's going to be a number of familiar faces from my experimental writing class there, so that should hopefully ease the nerves somewhat. And it's definitely helping me to actually go through with it. I think the more people that know what I'm doing, the easier it is for me to come to terms with getting on stage and doing it. I'm still shitting myself at the thought of it, but I think it's normal for me. I just need to do it. And the more people I know who are there tomorrow night, the better. So come on down to the Rosemount hotel tomorrow night, $5 entry, and watch me take to the stage for the first time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The finer things club

I imagine a lot of authors start out with about a bazillion ideas for their books. Maybe a bazillion and one. And the process from there I imagine is somewhat like gold panning. Sifting through countless grains of muddy earth for the little nuggets of ideas that will move people through the bookstores.

I feel like where I'm at right now is at the beginning, wondering where to start looking to find my nuggets. And I feel like I've been grabbing handfuls of dirt and sifting through them that way, maybe finding something, maybe finding nothing. And each handful is all over the place. One over here, one over there, and each little nugget is a story, an idea. But I think that perhaps, for the scale I'd like to go for, that my scope is too narrow, that I'm starting small and then packing up and moving to a different location and trying my luck there. I need to broaden my horizons and really open up my ideas, to bring them together, to let them work to my advantage.

This all comes with practice and refinery. Efficiency. Gradually working outwards. I start with a couple of handfuls of dirt and sift. I work outwards, more, sifting dirt for nuggets of gold, I start with a small handfuls of ideas, and gather a few more, but nothing remotely close to a bazillion.

Or maybe, as a young writer, with lots of experience still to gather, I'm dwarfed by the many success stories out there, how these people must work so hard on one thing for so long until it appears so refined and effortless and genuine, 24 carat gold bullion.

I have ideas, I don't think that's a problem at all, but I think the real trick, the real illusion comes in putting those ideas into motion.

On an unrelated note: On my frequent passing across the internet, I've noticed two titles that have recently come into print that I am looking forward to getting my mitts onto. The first being "Dreadnought", the second novel in Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century steampunk series. The first novel, Boneshaker, was simply amazing. I had to order it in, and while I hope Dreadnought will be more easily accessible, I'll order this one in too if I have to. The second is Scott Westerfeld's "Behemoth". Sequel to Leviathan. It's another steampunk title, set around the first world war, and while I found Leviathan to be less captivating than Boneshaker, it's more of a book you read for fun, for entertainment. I guess I'd say the Leviathan series is to Steampunk as Harry Potter is to fantasy. Sort of. Whereas the Clockwork Century is set in an adult's world, dealing with more mature issues than you'd expect from reading the blurb of the books. It's got me sort of back into the excitement of steampunk, if not as much as last year, but I'll probably have a few more words to say when I read the books, but after my last year's NaNoWriMo steampunk novel, I doubt I'll try anything like it again for quite a while.