Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From the Second-in-Command COW Officer

Attention: The Book Sale/Bake Sale is going on right now! Colson 130. You can find great books, scrumptious baked good, and free coffee all in an 800 square foot room. What a deal.

I am continuing what Heather Frese started last week--ie. musings from us MFAers. First, I want to give a shout out to Charity Gingerich, whose essay “Of the Meadow”, was recently accepted for publication in Ruminate. Nice work, Charity! I also want to give a shout to all the Tenant professors who graciously agree to conduct independent studies. My two studies, led by Mary Ann and Katy Ryan, have been invaluable. Go give your independent study prof a hug, or better yet buy them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. They don’t get paid for this folks.

Now for the art over which I’ve recently obsessed:

-David Simon's The Wire: This Baltimore-based TV drama should be required viewing for every aspiring novelist. I tried to convince myself the characters weren’t real people by watching actors’ interviews. It didn’t work; I still keep thinking about them when falling asleep.

-Veronica by Mary Gaitskill: The minute I finished this book I immediately typed out paragraphs so I could study Gaitskill’s writing. Yes, it’s that good. I especially love the precise and innovative way she describes characters’ physical movements and emotions.

-Andrew Wyeth’s painting, esp. his Helga series: An occasional bright color among earthy tones. Use of light and shadow to illuminate his subjects. His own descriptions of his painting.

While in an independent study on ekphrasis, I wrote flash-fictional vignettes based on photographs in Robert Frank’s The Americans. I included a vignette below. You can find the "Bar--Las Vegas, Nevada" photograph, and other Frank photographs, here.

Bar—Las Vegas, Nevada

A man gazes at a list of song selections on a jukebox. It’s early morning, and light from large round windows form three spotlight-like circles across the white floor. The man stands between torn tiles and cement on which the jukebox sits. The light is harsh on his eyes. He’s had a long night—an average night around here. He’s kept his shirt tucked in, remnants of gel hold down his very black hair. Except for face, revealing his too many beers, and his slouching, he could be ready for another night on the town. Having mused too long over his final gambles, he hasn’t thought left to pick a song. He wants something more upbeat than the last selection--”Earth Angel”, something to wake him so he head north, home. His wife will have breakfast waiting—pancakes and eggs, good crispy bacon, not like the floppy stuff around here. She doesn’t complain. One of the lucky ones, he never loses. He never wins much, either but he always breaks even. “How does he do it?” Women on the reservation ask his wife. “Good luck,” she says and grins. “Only Indians would call breaking even good luck.” All the women laugh. “I call it good luck when my drunken man collapses on the couch and not the front steps,” another woman says. And they all laugh again. The song titles finally focus in the man’s eyes. Afraid they’ll merge again, he hastily chooses, “Rock Around the Clock.” He turns his body away from the noise, the tune grating on his nerves rather than waking him. A thin white man slides off a bar stool, whoops, and, standing in one of the rings of light, moves his body to the song’s rhythm. The light’s glare doesn’t hurt the man’s eyes as much now, or maybe he’s used to it. He rubs his pupils with his fists and spits on a palm and rubs the spit against his shoes to polish them. No matter how he’s feeling or how much money he’s got, it’s important to him to look good. Listlessly his eyes search the bar for his friend in whose car he road down. He knows he’ll have to hitchhike. No big deal, he thinks. Done it dozens of times. Resisting the urge to sit back down, he completes his hardest task of that day: pushing himself out the double doors and into the very bright morning.

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