I’m pretty proud of this blog I did for Lunch Ticket at Antioch, where I’m getting my MFA. By far the most response I’ve ever gotten from a piece of writing on my Facebook. I’d stopped writing about faith issues a while ago as to not be pigeon-holed as a “Christian” writer but I think this shows how many people out there are in such a grey area of faith no one ever seems to talk about much.
Check it here if you’d like.
New blog up. Proud to be a part of Lunch Ticket and Antioch University Los Angeles MFA to be able to explore new ideas and get such great feedback from fellow peers on a topic I might normally attempt solo. I couldn’t have done this piece without them. Also shout out to Lidia Yuknavitch and Micah Bournes.
Here is another blog I did for my MFA programs lit journal, Lunch Ticket. Read it at your leisure or on your phone on the bus or on your computer at work while pretending to work. It’s about The Wire, writing, perspective, and how I’m mad I still don’t have a book published.
Hey Friends, (all three of you who ever look at this site)
If you want, read along with me as I parse my way through MFA program reading multiple books a month. I already have to write these annotations (metadata, comments, review, diagnostics) so may as well share some of my favorites. It’ll be like an online book club.
Most of the time, but not all, it will be a look at craft. How the writer accomplishes what they are doing on the page.
First up: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Behind the Beautiful Forever’s is the first book by Katherine Boo, surprisingly. However, Boo’s work as an investigative journalist for the helped develop her highly detailed work as a writer and she’s written for both the Washington Post and The New Yorker covering themes of social justice. In other articles she’s explored the intellectually disabled, poverty, welfare, and marriage.
You could perhaps call Forever’s “Micro-focused.” This is both the main strength of the book and perhaps it’s main criticism. It touches briefly on the state of India’s economy, caste system, globalization, etc., but for the most part the book is a highly detailed account of a small group of people in a slum across from the Mumbai airport—a family of Muslim garbage pickers, a one-legged woman, a woman “mob” boss of the village with political aspirations (basically a smart woman who runs the village through bribes and money while also working with the local government and law enforcement), her educated daughter, and some tragic young men who do anything they can to make some money. It’s been hailed as the best book on India in twenty-five years.
What is remarkable is Boo’s attention to detail and the countless hours she spent researching and living with a particular group of people. We really go deep into characters lives which is often sorely missing in narrative nonfiction reporting on poverty. As Boo says in an interview with Guernica Magazine Boo:
“When I pick a story, I’m very much aware of the larger issues that it’s illuminating. But one of the things that I, as a writer, feel strongly about is that nobody is representative. That’s just narrative nonsense. People may be part of a larger story or structure or institution, but they’re still people. Making them representative loses sight of that. Which is why a lot of writing about low-income people makes them into saints, perfect in their suffering.”
This is the strength of Boo’s work. The nuance and delicacy and realness she doesn’t shy away from when detailing the lives of the people she’s chosen to follow. They’re complex humans, each with their own sense of morals, character, perspective, aspirations, and so on.
Boo’s book also sheds light on some of the broken and misleading truths with regards to NGO’s and nonprofits. There’s one scene in which the local leader of the village, pays people to come to the unveiling of a new well built by a NGO, so they can put on quite a show to the rich Americans and hopefully get some more money. The money and well were obtained, of course, through bribes and local corruption, as is the norm in India and many other developing countries.
However, while the book is a stunning and complex portrait of people living in poverty, many readers could be frustrated with Boo’s failure to bring in hardly any outside social commentary or, “So what?” factor. It’s a terrific portrayal of Mumbai slums and a look inside the thoughts and lives of people who live in them, but Forever’s leaves a bit of an empty feeling, which is perhaps Boo’s intent.
And by friends I mean the two people who read this blog. I don’t know why I even keep this around, online presence I guess? Though Twitter is probably better. I’ve decided I’m done “blogging,” but still want a website to some degree to share writings so I guess I’ll continue.
Anyways, I have exciting news. Next Saturday I will be releasing a chapbook. What is a chapbook? Well, it’s a short collection of writings (usually inexpensively produced and refers to poetry). Somewhere between a zine and a full on self-published book. It’s like a mix-tape. Like what Drake was going to put out but somehow became a #1 hits album.
As a writer I wanted to produce something you could hold in your hands and not just read online, scrolling down on your phone. I didn’t want to self-publish an entire book per se but I wanted to get something, anything, out there. So, voila. This should hold over my desire to create for a brief minute while I get an actually publishable book in place.
Thank you for reading. I will be doing an awesome release party next Saturday, May 2nd at The Rose Establishment with further readings by Jason Dickerson and music by The Circulars and Bat Manors.
If you are one of those Kindle people or out of state you can get an early release here:
I think that’s all. Here’s a picture of my dog and run we did up City Creek Canyon the other day.
Also below: an excerpt.
Okay love you bye,
Nostalgia had a tendency to ruin his life. He’d get caught up in thinking that this certain time or that certain time in his life was better than it probably, in all reality, was. He’d think about some moment in his childhood—the warm mug of hot chocolate after a day of sledding, the smoke of woodstoves in October from the year’s first cold day. The lips of the first girl he kissed, lips softer than satin. He’d think about these moments of his childhood and he’d think that it was better. Better or simpler in some way.
Or he’d think about college. The girls he dated. The afternoons spent snowboarding with friends when there was nothing to do afterwards but watch snowboard movies and eat pizza. Or he’d think about other eras. How much nicer it would be to be living as a cowboy or an Indian. A pirate or Viking. To live in a world without cars that sped everything up and computers that always tempted you with nude women. There were times when he would think he was not born for the era he lived in. That God messed up somehow and should have placed him in an earlier time. A time where you could shit in the woods and it wasn’t called camping. We’re too selfish now, he thought. Too easily overcome by the petty dissonance of modernity.
But he knew all this nostalgia got him nowhere. It was escapism. After all, he did not have many fond memories of elementary school. Or middle school, or high school, for that matter. He was confused and insecure the entire time. Riddled with pimples in the mirror and boners in math class. There was all the independence in college, which he now looked at with fondness, when in reality it was pure loneliness. He probably prayed late at night for a wife and kids to take him out of his misery. And now he prayed for just the opposite. He even had nostalgia for the future, if there was such a thing. Thinking of how much better things would be in the future. When he was in shape and famous and throwing dollar bills around like he was 2 Chainz. It was the present that sucked. The present had no rearview mirror. No distance. It was right there. No blurry future. No whitewashed past. No narrative structure. It just stared you in the face like a cold January day.
It was sort of like that saying, “The grass is always greener.” Whoever came up with that little phrase was a fucking genius. I wonder, did it happen as it sounds? As in two people (neighbors probably) leaning over each other’s fences and talking to one another. Did one say to the other, “Hey, how’d you get your grass so green? I wish mine was as green as yours!” And did the other say something like, “You’re kidding me! Your grass is way greener than mine!” (and really meaning it, too). Until one of them (the wiser one) said something like, “Welp, I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.” Or, did the saying come about from shepherds? Maybe watering their sheep one day and looking over at the other side of the stream to think, “Hey! The grass over there seems greener.” And so they move their entire herd over across the river only to realize that the grass on this side is, in fact, not greener. And then they look back across to where they came from and think “Never mind, the grass on the side we were on is way greener.” And so on and so forth until someone finally said, “The grass is always greener.”
Who knows. Regardless, trying to find green grass ruined him. He ended up in the looney bin one day, no joke. Always going on about how much better things were in the 1400s. And one day, whilst talking to another patient inside the loony bin, a patient who wished he was normal and on the outside and in the real world, he said to the patient that very thing, “I guess the grass is always greener.” And he laughed so hard he pissed himself.