Roadtrip Days 5-6

On the plane into Richmond, I sat next to a very nice lady who kindly chatted with me throughout the flight about the stories in the Reader’s Digest that she had with her and even quizzed me on the vocabulary in the “WordPower” section. She was a hoot, and she promised to pick up a copy of my book when she got to Charlottesville.

After landing, it was back to the highways to see my old bandmate Angela DiPaolo in Wake Forest, NC. Another old music friend, Crystal Dawn, is also living there. The three of us joined up with Angela’s friend Will to play some music at Gigi’s House Bistro. We played for about three hours, all sitting in on each others’ sets, whether we knew the songs or not. It was really almost too much fun. I crashed at Angela’s. By the time I remembered to take my camera out, everyone was in pajamas and refused to have their picture taken. So here is a picture of Angela’s cat, Lyric.

In the morning, Crystal (who also stayed over, as did her dog Lucy) made bacon, eggs, and biscuits. Then I shot some hoops with Angela’s three boys. Again, almost too much fun–especially since the goal was set low enough for me to dunk.

Finally, I had to hit the road again. I had about a 7.5 hour drive to Murfreesboro, TN to visit college friends Holly and Brian. I passed this Adam&Eve outlet store along the way, and if you know what Adam&Eve sells, you know why I think this is hilarious. Yes, those are lingerie mannequins in the window.

I got to Murfreesboro just in time for dinner. Brian made some really awesome Italian wedding soup and sweet tea (of course), which I consumed in copious amounts. Tomorrow is Memphis.

Roadtrip Days 2-4

On Day 2, I headed off to Charlottesville to meet up with Mark Rock, aka Peter Markush. I stopped in the exurbs between Baltimore and DC for the first of what will probably be many Chick-fil-a sandwiches consumed on this trip. I also took the first picture with my new camera. As you can see, I was not able to refrain from consuming the sandwich before taking a picture of it.

I found my way to Random Row Books, where I was set to perform with Mark Rock and a very good guitar/cello duo called Barling and Collins. It was cold and rainy out,  so the event was sparsely attended. Barling, Collins, and we all sat in with Mark Rock, and during my set, Mark Rock accompanied me on piano as I read “The Boy Who Cried Wolves” (which, incidentally, was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize).

That afternoon, I got bad news about Poly, so I decided to drive to Richmond early in the morning and catch a flight back to NYC. By the evening of Day 3, however, we got good news from Poly’s biopsy. The tumor doesn’t appear to be malignant, so the immediate threat is not as serious as we feared. She will probably be okay.

Day 4, I shared some bacon and eggs with Poly, did some dayjob work, ran some errands, and watched TV. That night I attended Jonathan Letham’s reading in at Book Court in Brooklyn. It was pretty good, but not as good as the Big Buford sandwich I had at Checkers on the way there. After the reading, I packed my things to prepare for an early flight back to Virginia to pick up where I left off.

New Work: The Boy Who Cried Wolves

The new issue of Fogged Clarity just came out, and it features a short story of mine called “The Boy Who Cried Wolves.”

This issue also features an interview with author Benjamin Percy, fiction by Harvey Havel, and a bunch of other multimedia coolness. This is one of the nicest looking literary/arts magaizines on the web, IMO, so please check it out.

Also, check out the highly pretentious “Statement of Intent” that I submitted to them along with the story (one of their requirements for submission).

One of the things I’ve been interested in exploring with my fiction is the way that a new story can be affected by a an old one that is already deeply imbedded in our consciousness. In this case, only the title is a play on words from a traditional fable, and the rest of the idea flowed from the slight change in the wording. But because of that small wordplay, the reader’s experience is colored through the association with the traditional story even though the two actual stories are actually quite different.

I Am a Literary Upstart

[repost from There Will Be Blog]

As a semifinalist in the L Magazine’s “Literary Upstart” contest, I was asked to read last night at the Slipper Room. There was a sizeable and enthusiastic audience and three other semifinalists reading. At the end, the four of us were critiqued by a panel of judges, American Idol style, and one reader moved on to the finals. That one reader was not me.

I wish I could tell you the names of the other readers or of the judges, but I don’t have that information easily accessible at the moment. Maybe I’ll update later to include that. In any case, the judges’ comments were mostly superficial, and they clearly had not understood one of the major points about my story–so I really couldn’t take the whole thing very seriously. So here for your enjoyment, is my performance from last night, which one of the judges said reminded him of a”city council meeting.”

I Am a Literary Upstart

As a semifinalist in the L Magazine’s “Literary Upstart” contest, I was asked to read last night at the Slipper Room. There was a sizeable and enthusiastic audience and three other semifinalists reading. At the end, the four of us were critiqued by a panel of judges, American Idol style, and one reader moved on to the finals. That one reader was not me.

I wish I could tell you the names of the other readers or of the judges, but I don’t have that information easily accessible at the moment. Maybe I’ll update later to include that. In any case, the judges’ comments were mostly superficial, and they clearly had not understood one of the major points about my story–so I really couldn’t take the whole thing very seriously.

So here for your enjoyment, is my performance from last night, which one of the judges said reminded him of a “city council meeting.”

The Last Dead Man

I was digging through some papers, looking for a particular piece of sheet music I thought I had. I couldn’t find it, but I found this poem that I wrote in 1994 after I saw a man get hit by a bus. The Latin quotation is from Ovid’s version of the Orpheus story, although I don’t know how I knew that in 1994. I wish I could find more of the poetry I wrote during that period, but I think this might be the only surviving relic, other than some things that eventually became song lyrics. I tended to not type them up or save them on my computer because I wasn’t submitting them anywhere, so they were just written by hand on loose leaf and then stuffed into random crevices and mostly lost.

The Last Dead Man

The last dead man I saw
Sang the strangest dirge

Between his moans:
Umbra subit terras.”

No wind to fight the heat,
I only wanted to know

If he was alright.
Umbra subit terras.”

It was in the paper the next week,
And I could see it again:

The wobbly, white bicycle
On the wrong side of the road

His wife left town afterward
With her sixteen cats

I grew interested in her
Tarot cards and her poverty

He’d had to make a phone call
About a job and scraped up change

He was eager
He was afraid

And when the sirens faded,
I had to tell the police and lawyers

What I had seen:
Umbra subit terras.”

And the bus drove away
With his blood on the fender

And the concrete too recorded
What I had seen

In bland reflection, a moaned melody:
I am suddenly an earthly ghost,

Slightly interested,
Slightly ashamed.

—M. David Hornbuckle
9/1/1994, revised 4/18/2008

What It Is to Be a Human Being

That’s what David Foster Wallace once said he wanted his writing to convey, and hey struggled to meet that impossible ambition throughout his all-too-brief career. I suspect that writers have struggled with it for as long as there have been writers, and Wallace probably came closer than anyone to acheiving just the right alchemical equation. I just finished reading the article about Wallace’s struggle in the latest issue of The New Yorker, and it made me once again sad, impassioned, jealous. I wondered if I had such a clear goal with my writing, or if Wallace just hit upon the words–as usual–that I wished I’d thought of.

Aside from that , what do I hope my own writing achieves? Is there a single, quotable element that ties it all together? I don’t know if I can answer that right now. I’m still reeling a bit from that article. What I think about a lot is escapism. Some people try to use literature as a form of escapism, but I prefer a literature that challenges you to stare into the gaping maw of each living moment because to me that IS what it is to be a human being. Perhaps that’s because I myself have an irrational fear of any given present moment, and I’m constantly fighting the urge to escape into the past or future. Facing and fighting that fear is what I do always, whether I’m being “a writer” or just getting through the day. I don’t know how much  my writing does that or conveys that or has anything to do with that, but I look at Wallace’s example, and I see possibility.

New Work: "The Year of Myself" in Kora Journal

Poet Zachary C. Bush started an online literary magazine earlier this year, Kora Journal. The focus is primarily on quality experimental poetry, prose poetry, and flash fiction. The second issue, which went online today, features my newest story, “The Year of Myself.” This issue also has new work from JA Tyler, Eric Beeny, Louis E. Bourgeois, and Howie Good–all of whom are excellent writers. Also, in case you missed it in an earlier post, you can see a video of me reading an early draft of “The Year of Myself” here.