Just a merry little update. I updated my Evening's Land page, then realized I wanted to put note of it here...
Evening's Land: a young necromancer is targeted by a cult as she learns the truth about her ghostly beloved.
It's finally finished, it's a Southern Gothic to the tune of Anne Rice + Neil Gaiman. Its a fast & twisty 65,000 words, and yes, I'm looking for an agent!
So: dear friends, spies & angels,
Help a critter out! I'm giving myself breathing space for a few days but I begin querying next week (and am terrified.)
I've got my little list of possibles, but if you know any lit agents interested in representing a delicious gothic, please let me know. I'll bake you a cake and put you in my next book :)
insanely happy :)
One of my succulents has sprung a long, strange bloomlet.
I don't think you can see its tiny flowers in the photo, but they're lovely. They reminded me of a passage from Women and Men, by Francoise Giroud and Bernard Henri Levy-
'I've got Elsa Morante's novel Aracoeli with me. Listen to this: every creature on earth is offering itself...I exist, here I am, with this face, this body, this smell. From Napoleon to Lenin and Stalin, from the lowest whore in the street to... Greta Garbo to a stray dog, this is truly the sole and perpetual question every living thing is asking every other: Do you find me beautiful?"
We had a huge party on Sunday. A kiddie pool in the backyard, all day grilling. I made a cake; icing it reminded me of my visits between classes to this painting at the Spencer Art Museum in Lawrence, KS. I wonder if Thiebaud liked to bake?
Anyway: boozy merriment, a late night. Amidst the madness, a hurried conversation in our kitchen. A good friend told me the terrible secret about his father.
It was the key to my friend's own shadow self, the reason he has done one or ten terrible things. Now he has disowned his father.
But disowning the father is disowning a portion of one's self. Denying that it exists. Fracturing the psyche. This is why his left hand does not know what his right is doing.
Yesterday, thinking about this. Our parents' personalities figure so directly into our own. And their personalities are formed of their own parents. This, stretching all the way back to the beginning. Inherited patterns of behavior; inherited archetypes.
Embracing what you are is maybe the only way to grow the line. If you know what you are and embrace it, you have a better chance of a healthy relationship. Adding a healthy archetype to the line.
And then maybe your children can break the mold, if need be. Or else build something wonderful of it.
He knows this. A few weeks ago he said his mother told him he couldn't trust himself until he knew himself, knew the truth about himself.
I think it must be more difficult for extroverts to know themselves. They are too uncomfortable with solitude to learn who they really are- their selves when they are alone. If you exist only when you are with others, you aren't an individual.
We talk about taking a long walk in the woods.
Last night, editing late at King Dusko, I was trying to think of images to convey what happens between ink on the page and the magic in the mind.
I was editing a section with Ada and Patrick:
"She loved her father’s library. It had been packed and unpacked in several different incarnations around the country, and she saw it now with Patrick’s eyes. Tall ceilings, an entire wall nearly taken up with leaded glass windows. The room was scattered over with midcentury chairs and tables. An antique rug she’d crawled over as a baby slanted across its gleaming floorboards, and sway-bellied bookshelves framed the big chesterfield spanning the far wall. There was even a fireplace. She liked to lie facing the window when she read, with tides of light flowing over her in from through the trees. The room was an aquarium of dreams."
See, I still couldn't quite catch it, that bloom that happens when you read. I settled for setting.
So I've been a bit fixated on that moment readers live for, when you're suddenly and completely transported into another world. Its a moment that exists outside time. That moment of deep communion between your mind and another's.
The mind is an alchemist.
Reading is a kind of controlled dream state. The younger sister of Memory, and of course Proust describes that particular alchemy best:
"And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. And as in the game wherein the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper which until then are without character or form, but, the moment they become wet, stretch and twist and take on colour and distinctive shape, become flowers or houses or people, solid and recognizable, so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann's park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea."
You see that bit excerpted again and again, yet it never fails to make me shiver all over with happiness.
Speaking of minds: Jack Gilbert. I've been in love with his for years. He passed in November of 2012, but I keep turning over new gems about him. This from a wonderful interview with Cerise Press:
"One of your distinctive poetic traits is the declarative statement, even when such statements may not be true, such as “Ghosts are by their nature drawn to/the willows” from the poem “Becoming Regardless.” How does this technique add to your poems?
It was so natural. I really never thought about it."
The declarative statement...
When I was in college, once I got to hear Philip Glass speak. It was a strange occasion. A small group, a tiny room. Somehow KU had been able to keep the event very quiet. I guess he must have wanted it that way- he opened up immediately, and was an extraordinarily generous speaker. Sitting at the table, telling us all about his youth, his ambitions.
He said that when he was young he felt that "there was no place at the table, artistically," for what he wanted to do. So it occurred to him he ought to build his own table.
That struck a chord with me I have carried ever since.
I like to think of myself as a scrappy thing, happy to go my own way even if (especially if) its harder. I've been making my own table for what seems like a awfully long time.
I have imaginary mentors sitting at it.
Jack Gilbert, and his statements. Vladimir Nabokov. Denis Johnson. I'll tell you the rest some other time.
For now, one last note on mind. This from Osho, on not having expectations, what he calls a 'closed mind':
"Do not allow your mind to create a pattern. Then your wife will be new every day, your husband will be new every day. But do not allow the mind to create a pattern of expectations, do not allow the mind to move in the future. Then your master will be every day new, your friend will be every day new. And everything is new in the world except the mind. Mind is the only thing which is old. It is always old."
"Love is always here; there is no future to it. That is why love is so near to meditation. That is why death is also so near to meditation- because death is also always here and now, it can never happen in the future. Can you die in the future? Or how can you die in the past? The past has gone, it is no more, so you cannot die in it. The future has not yet come, so how can you die in it?
Death always occurs in the present. Death, love, meditation- they all occur in the present. So if you are afraid of death, you cannot love.
If you are afraid of love, you cannot meditate. If you are afraid of meditation, your life will be useless. Useless not in the sense of any purpose, but useless in the sense that you will never be able to feel any bliss in it.
It will be futile.... [love, meditation, death] if you can enter in one, you can enter in the remaining two."
Things Hollis Hammonds is Obsessed with:
1. Japanese Manga
2. Post Apocalyptic Narratives
3. Superhero Movies
4. Really Bad Action/Armageddon Films.
“I love seeing the explosions,” she says, leaning over the bar counter, peering around and smiling at me. Professor and chair of visual studies at St Edwards University in Austin, Texas: but with her black pageboy, smoke-colored glasses and clear gaze, Hollis Hammonds could be a character in one of her manga adventures.
A mad professor, an evil genius, doing what she can to reimagine the materialistic world.
In real life, Hammonds has 11 full-time faculty members, and “I don’t even know how many part-time members.” Although she teaches three classes a day and for a time also ran a gallery, she shows constantly. She’s had 10 solo shows all around the country just in the past two years. “I tend to be more productive in shorter blocks.”
We’re at Closed for Business on a steamy Sunday- on Mother’s Day, in fact, although as I write this, I realize I neglected to ask her if she has any children. (She doesn’t, although she does have a dog.)
“Can I get something really light and crisp?” she says. “I tend to like Chinese or Japanese beer.” The bartender amiably sets her up with a tulip of Hitachino. I order a Chocolate Rye Porter.
“I have a couple manifestations of the work,” she says. “Primarily, though, I draw. These piles, islands of objects.”
It started in April of 2011, when more than 200 tornadoes broke over the United States in a four day period. Watching coverage, Hammonds became interested in how “we, as viewers, are interested in the aftermath of both man-made and natural disasters.”
Also drawing on the aftermath of the house fire she experienced herself as a teenager, she began making charcoal sketches on white paper: “Dystopian, futuristic, kind of dark but seductive.”
“Destruction is seductive,” I say. “We’re drawn to what destroys us.” Chocolate rye, you’ll be the death of me.
So her work started as “documentation, homage. Of course, now I’ve turned it into this indulgent fascination with materialistic consumption. My father was born in the 1920s, my mother in the 1930s. So they hoarded everything. I mean, we had an entire room dedicated to plastic containers. They could not throw anything away.”
I’ve seen Hoarders. I asked if animal carcasses were ever found amidst the containers.
“That’s the defining line, isn’t it?” Hammonds said.
For the rest of the story, visit the Redux blog.
Mary was barefoot, her pale arms divided into moonlight, bars of shadow. There was a misplaced coffee mug in one cabinet, and when she took it out she saw it was filled with old coffee.
She poured it down the sink briskly. Embarrassed.
“Tobias. He forgets things-”
“It’s all right.” Roamery said.
She was putting things onto the counter. A bottle of red wine, prunes, spices.
“Prunes? I know I seem irregular, but this is … ”
“You shut up, be patient. Such a mouth on you! I know what I’m doing.”
He stood behind her, his arms around her as she poured wine into the sauce pan. Sugar, cinnamon, bringing it to a boil. She was laughing. “I know what I want.”
“I’m sure they will be delicious, your prunes. So wrinkly and so sweet.”
“Not wrinkly, see how beautiful?” Mary lifted one with her spoon. Black-violet, dripping with wine. He grabbed her hand, held the spoon to his lips.
“Outside! You’ll wake my daughter.”
“But what about my prunes?”
Mary swatted him out the door, following with the bottle. “It turns into this lovely caramel stuff; you drizzle it with the fruit over mascarpone.”
“I’m a lucky man.”
They sat on the porch swing, electrically aware of flesh touching, hot skin.
“Tonight, anyway.” She’d absently carried out the wooden spoon with them, and now she licked it, looking at him.
Roamery touched her lips. “I like the way you talk about food. This whole side of you.” Rocking companionably. He took the bottle from her, drank from it. “You’re different at home.”
“We’ve only ever met at your house, you know.”
“Have you had many lovers?”
“Since I’ve been married... ?” She swayed back and forth, and then grinned at him. “Three… what about you?”
“Mary…” He brushed her hair from her face. “What happens now, between us, exists for the moment. It doesn’t exist outside the moment. It’s only for you and me, only for now.”
“What if I want it to? This, you, what if I want it longer than a moment? What if I want it all the time?” Her dress between them was river and silm. “I want you all the time, to be surrounded in you...”
He scooped her legs up across his lap, listening.
“I know it’s selfish,” she whispered. “I know we can’t have everything…”
“Can’t we?” His hand rose, and her dress fell back. She was bare against his legs. The shape of her mouth on his, and her shape below, around his touch; a warmer kiss.
Mary wriggled, trying to reach his lap, and almost overturned the swing. She was laughing like
a girl. “Come here,” she said.
“I’m here.” The bottle rolling over the floor, spilling in the dark. The magnolias whispering. They were scrambling over the soft wood, his hand inside her, her mouth around him.
And Roamery’s mind climbed to Ada. The girl was crouched on the stairs, watching them through the window.
Casting into his mind: “Get out. Please. Get out, go away, stop this.” Impulse to cover her ears, her eyes, but she did neither, unable to look away.
“But you enjoy it. I can smell it, Ada, your wanting.”
The backs of her thighs itchy with sweat as she crouched, balancing on the balls of her feet. Strangely numb as she watched her mother with him, the strange man. The one Christopher had warned her about. It was him.
“Join us,” his voice said. Raspy, warm in her ear. “I know you want to. You’re like a bitch in heat, you can’t help yourself, can you?”
Where was Christopher now? Hiding somewhere, silent. He was weak, a coward; that was why he’d killed himself. “Fuck you,” she thought.
She came down the stairs.
Crashed open the porch door. Ripping silk, feet on the floorboards- Mary bolted off Roamery and leapt over the porch rails, taking off into the trees. Fast when she wanted to be; she’d shot away so quickly she could have been anything. Ada stood there, staring at him.
The man, aligning himself, dusting his pants off, he was in no hurry. Smoothing his beard, smiling at her, picking up his tuxedo jacket off the railing..."
from Evening's Land
“I’ve always painted with a lot of texture, but I didn’t start splatter painting until I moved here. This is my first studio that isn’t also a kitchen or a bedroom,” Dan Dickey says. We’re at the Tivoli, standing in his studio, where every wall is shielded with color-ribboned canvases. His grandfather’s mower hulks in the center of the room, swizzled with yellow, orange, purple, white and pale-blue.
“I brought it down from Virginia, but when it wouldn’t start, I decided to cover it in paint.” With a round, fox-colored beard, and his way of rooting himself where he stands, unflappably focused in flip flops and board shorts, hands firmly in his pockets, Dickey has the distilled presence of a disciplined man.
He shows me how he dips the blunt end of a brush into a paint can and uses it to make a controlled drip over the canvas.
“Sometimes I put a dab of paint here and here, you know, and then I roll the middle of the brush through it.” He indicated a wandering swath and then, looking at the long, paint-mottled brush in his hand, Dickey said, “I like this one. I think I might put it up on a long, narrow canvas, just all by itself. It has a pop.”
“Yeah, it does.” It’s warm, breezeless in the room, and I pluck at my shirt, absorbed in his paintings.
He smiled. “A lot of sweat goes into these. Pretty soon it’ll get too hot to work in here at all, but I usually paint a month on, a month off. So it’s all right.”
“What’s it like in the winter?”
“Well, it’s cold.” He shrugged, indifferent. “I like to work at night. This canvas, here? I got up to the crow’s nest up there, all whiskey drunk, and threw the paint down from there.” The result was thick, ridged tributaries like dried sediment.
I looked around at the other studios. White drapes swaying from rafters, ladders to nowhere, propped up against the walls. Large, industrial furniture slouched in the corners, rusting comfortably; the warehouse was full of coves where artists could work deeply, losing themselves in process.
“Yeah,” I said, “and in places like this, alone in it at night? You’re aware of space in a way you can’t be when there’s people in it...”
You can check out the rest of the article here.... meanwhile...
Half a million years ago, prehistoric men first began using these caves; as mankind advanced, he appropriated the caves for everything imaginable: wine-cellars, jails, torture dens, harems.
By the 1930s, when the cellars began to operate as both shelter and military hospital, the cave system could house as many as ten thousand people at once.
The caves were appropriated by the military during the Cold War, and afterwards briefly became a museum. It was cited as one of the underground wonders of the world, replete with wine fountains, wax statues and the long shadows of our shared past.
During black out tours, visitors were allowed explore the cave in the enveloping privacy of darkness, carrying only a single lantern to light their way. The caves were permanently closed in 2011, when a police raid flushed out Hungarians and travelers alike. No warning was given, and visitors believed they were under siege.
Permanent is a strong word for a system older than time. I'm sure there are those who still slip through its hallways even now. Quiet as ghosts...
And when the police and measurement have all gone, ghosts will wander there still.
I want to see it.
I just meant to look up labyrinths for a description in Evening's Land. You see what happens?? Oh well.
When Andrew and I backpacked through Ukraine, lovely new friends took us into Odessa's old limestone catacombs. We scrambled through, hunched over, for miles.
Poetry written with candles on the walls. Broken lanterns, vodka bottles. The smell of rain. Carved beds for the miners, discarded tools. We turned out our lights and lay in the dark, just breathing.
There is a density to silence underground, a sense of stopped time.
It was a womb of our forefathers' own making, burrowed back into mother Earth. And how wondrous.
P.Z. West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is a Library Journal Self-e Selection, winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
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