Red Lemonade is a publishing platform for a particular niche of literary fiction. Writers and readers can collaborate creatively in an online writing workshopwith an online editorial tools for comments and suggestions. In addition, the processes, influences, similar reading material and intellectual and artistic influences can be explored. It's a platform for multiple authors to develop stories that is focused on a particular type of writing. We also have an online presence for promoting your writing. We are a niche indie press with strong relationships with printers, distributors and the publishing community at large. Building on the intersections and interactions of many writers creates an online culture that can be made available to a larger audience through social media and the publishing tools available on the site ( this blog post for example, or posting comments in Red Threads). The particular type of content (see all Blown Up #4) creates a distinct literary culture that is hyper-focused and collective allowing for a united front and specific style in a world of ubiqutious content.
ACTION PLAN : continue to foster interaction with the Cohort submissions, provide a more focused and mission aligned social media offering provide copy and editing and structural editorial comment, assist members with the uploading of manuscripts A great way to get a sense of our literary style is to read our published works as well. In addition, I am actively involved with developing content and marketing plans for our June 19th publication of Happy Talk by Richard Melo, which is a wonderful piece of Alternative Literature and is a fine representation of the creative goals and vision of Red Lemonade. I assisted with both Hybrid Beasts and Ancillary Probes, but Happy Talk was commented on and 'bubbled up' on the site based on members of the community. It is truly a Red Lemonade book and I am excited to increase awareness of the Red Lemonade online community and Mr. Melo's work, you can read it here for free.
In addition, I will orchestrate a monthly newsletter, be available for editorial review and assist any writer who is interested in posting to this blog. Red Lemonade seeks readers and writers to share with us works of literature, literary journals or online writing which is in the vein of Alternative Literature. Please contact me at brian AT redlemona.de with questions,suggestions and ideas. My personal journey has been explored in the last few posts, but Red Lemoande is at its lemon-heart core an online community of multiple people focused on a particular type of reading and writing. Come along, it is all about you and yours, your interactions, your relationships, your comprehension of the world, and your stories.
The current writing initiative demonstrates a ‘bite-size’ or more narrowly focused expression of the overall mission statement of Red Lemonade
1. Stories about individual(s) that encountering or interacting with a small group.
2. The group has its own standards and codes of conduct
3. These standards are conveyed by and imbedded the language and actions of the group.
4. The interaction of the individual and the group is the key context of the story.
If we embiggen this to the greater gurgle and swirl :
1. Stories about individuals encountering or interaction with a society at large
2. The society has its own economic, political, and cultural standards and codes of conduct.
3. These standards are conveyed by and imbedded the language and actions of the group.
4. The interaction of the individual and the society is vital context of the story.
And here, in an effort to make clearer, the waters become bloodied and muddied, IMA trying to stay on point, really I ams. One of the core notions of Red Lemonade is to turn the tapestry around (it’s all a vast tapestry, wink wink) and see the jumble of threads, to take a tour of the sausage factory and then bite hard into the red meat (topped with a lil' lemon juice). So, in an effort of full disclosure, they left the keys for me to lock up, and instead a grabbed a generator and some go-juice and hooked it up to the servers. In short, while I am trying to be objective and open as possible with this clarification, it none the less it the expurged understanding of the ball of wax from my own self, YMMV, as they say over at the Blue.
The dark secret of the Men in Tweed inside that black box is all the Great Novels We Never Saw and 2, there deep prejudices, likes, reading history and sociopyschological make-up. Indeed, we go deep into the niches, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Alternative Literature, my skewed understanding of the Whole Gig. In short, as I am the hermit in the cave here, with this unique little platform to broadcast reader-writers and writer-readers: I’ve blown myself up, for your perusal. I have seen it in the sky and my sons have held it in their hands. Do you believe? :http://redlmnd.tumblr.com/post/35946797121 Red Lemonade community website and editorial platform is for multiple authors, it’s a tool for orchestrators to connect with a distinct niche of readers and writers under this rubric, this banner, this ship's flag/jolly roger.
There is a keen focus on language, be it dialog, comprehension or mental frames.Memory, consciousness, the visceral and the cerebral, are important, with the writer showing a deep empathy for individual human beings.
The hegemonic forces of the society are on display and are shown to deeply influence the words and actions of the characters and structure the context of the story. In particular, political economy and the machinations of cultural elites and how individuals engage them.
The engagement of the story and characters with the artifacts of such societies be they governmental forces, a creative object, an uncertain mystery, or new technology.
There is an underlying feeling of a ‘situation report’ or on-the-ground reality testing. This is invoked by the writer with a keen focus on language: word choice, story structure and straightforward word-play.
Given the strong focus on word choice and language there is often humor. This can result in the similar type of reactions created by extended puns, well-crafted jokes or the feeling of being ‘in on the joke’ as the special relationships between the characters and the situation are revealed internally.
The work exhibits existential hints or philosophical frissons, certain throwness, contingency, ambiguity, uncertainty and/or the emotional results of such within the context of deep human relationships. Allusions and associations with philosophers, social theorist and cultural critics are common, almost expected.
This can often give the uncanny impression of a ‘parallel world’ or the outer reflection of our current circumstances and inner Impressions clouded by the ongoing rush of content that undermines our personal context, personal and social narratives.
By all appearances the story is standard and forthright: there is no grand textual manipulation, genre can color or flavor the story, but the story stands outside any genre. It appears as a simple story, the ‘gimmick’ is the direct confrontation or assault on the reader’s current social awareness and personality.
The story in attempt to ‘blow up’ the reader’s expectations, conceptions and social comprehension often highlights ambiguity, uncertainty, epistemological question and a doubt-based relationship to one’s core relationship to objective reality.
The reader has a distinct understanding of reading a constructed text. The ‘means of production’, story-making, novel writing, word selection, world-building are on display in an appreciative manner. Think Brecht’s obvious use of lighting and placards. Since disrupting the reader’s assumptions about their current predicament is a stated goal of Alternative Literature, no effort, or less effort is made to conceal the effects imposed by the text on the reading consciousness.
Finally, and to circle back, there is an element of thrownness and contingeny, the mental flick created when one explores the possible connections within a time-travel story. Or that frisson when understands choosing X or Y or wanting to be a better swimmer, but is also willing to accept the vitriolic screams of strangers.
Wether short stories, novellas or long-form literary fiction, these are the parameters to unfurl the sails, sail new textual seas, build worlds and set them afloat in the minds of readers. And we find ourselves back at the ship of books, with the jungle and the rivers facing us, write it down, squeeze out the juice of that yellow-skinned heart, sharpen the spikes of the mind, and tease out the gap between the two in an effort to create the third eye-soul. The boat is the past, the text and words you clinged to that are wrapped around your solid heart and encrusted mind. Let us march forward under a single banner with a clear focus; yeehaw it’s the grinding fun of putting theory into practice, there are too many extremist with dark hearts and too much pablum swirling around us, the gurgle requires some kicks. Sharpen the swords and march through the muck and the mud. The Big Boat is filled with books they want you need to read; the war never stopped, the extremist only serve their ends, the Empire never ended, the encrusted tales they’ve told you are all around, as we discuss the fifty shades of grey within our dark cubicles, and bought the latest electronic gadget to paint the Suburban walls ( with appropriate content marketing phrases, brand ideologies, and stories designed to get you asking all the wrong questions).The Motherland has abandoned us, Fatherland never understood- courage: time to march into the sweaty beast-filled jungle; grab your pen and your paper, a lemon, some spikes, and the stories inside your soul: dig that niche: let’s blow that ship up.
-Brian McFarland, Orchestrator
Tomorrow: You, the Community and an Action Plan
Richard Nash bravely proclaimed 500,000 indie presses. I have a Google Drive spreadsheet that I add to everyday that includes communities with publishing 'wings' and independent presses that are driven and guided by a particular type of writing and way of seeing. Red Lemonade is such a press, it's not meant to have 5,000 members, let's face it, alternative literature has a peculiar uniqueness and has the distinction of being one of those things that responds and morphs to the ever-flowing engagement of culture, politics, economics and living breathing people lemon-skinned and spikey hearts, readers and writers all of us. Let's start again from within the gyre looking out and try to be as steadfast and eagle-eyed as hawks (heh) by digging into the exact center focusing mainly on actual writing, and build out from there.
In this regard, an offhand comment by Richard Nash ' Cursor could provide a site dedicated to trout fishing provides a good example. A community of writers dedicated to the art of fly fishing could upload, discuss, provide editorial comment, build a publishing community and select stories with resonate within the community. These could range from a father telling the story of teaching his son to tie flies, to emulators of Jack London, to retirees telling their best catch stories, to aspiring MFA graduates focusing on nature writing. A hunter-writer revealing his near-fatal experience with black bear is not judged on the compelling aspects of his story, but firstly on the mission statement of the site.
Technology solves the problem and optimizes different solutions. If the accounting office is losing account folders, misapplying payments and bleeding revenue and profit, bring in a PC with accounting management- don't optimize the current staffing to better effect the old processes. New solutions and opportunities manifest themselves .In this way, this Red Lemonade site allows for any reader or writer to engage in publishing activities more akin to the type described by Richard Nash in his VQR article.
Open up the process with a specific tool, in the 1980s this was Aldus, and today we see the rise of online editing and book communities, like this site. This allow for more ready access to not only the overlooked writing be experienced along with editing and selection, it allows for the first two levels of simple copy editing and structural analysis and lowers the prestige of the gatekeepers ( it acknowledges the power of the barbarians/ flips the pyramid over). The value of binding this technologically facilitated process with a specific niche type of publishing or literary mission statement is the amelioration of the black and white distinction between the slush pile and the guy in the tweed jacket behind a close door who has been brought artefacts from myriad assistants. Selection can be facilitated by the underlying purpose and motivation of the press itself. This is not to discount compelling narrative or artistry; it is only to elevate the other benefits that one gets from the interactive and imaginative act of reading and the joys of suffering the distinct ordering, time management and mental, emotional and spiritual effort involved in the creation of stories. At its core more open ended web-based publishing sites remove the ' dagger in the heart' rejection letter for a more broad-based discussion. Such a discussion can begin not specifically with the craft-based analysis of the content -- but begin more democratically with the separation based on context.
My personal experience with online software communities and liberal arts academia, tempered with my personal experience and mental outlook that leaves me a bit left of center fosters my desire to be part of Red Lemonade. I appreciate the SaSS aspect as well as alternativeness of it. By default and by the nature of my chosen hobbies, I find myself intimately involved (the spikey heart logo is in fact my own design).
I am not particularly great at a few things; I am moderately gifted, as is in Humanties Generalist in alot (heh) of things. Richard Nash's VQR article, while being a fascinating analysis of the opportunities facing the publishing industry today is also infused and breathes a key conception and heartfelt understanding he has for people. It takes a direct form in the ' flipped pyramid and open access of the technology this site provides ( and others could provide) and it starts with the readers and the writers, indeed it starts with the muck, shit, piss and blood of the common folk, the gurgle and swirl of our human lives. It invites everyone not to destroy flesh, murder innocents and rein terror on each other, but demands caustic, redemptive violence to the heart and soul, to remember the imagination existent in each and every living human being - but especially the reader-writers and writer-readers :)
And so, within the technological space and personal vision of Mr. Nash, I am unqualified to declare myself: Editor-in-Chief or to lay claim to any type of prestige, unique skills or capacity for selection or Luck +2. I do see myself as containing the three qualities he outlines for being an ' Orchestrator'. As per this postings (being a definition of terms) I am moderately gifted in online software, content strategy, social media, reading and writing. I also am typing this at 12:33 on a spring afternoon, which is a special kind of hustling' reserved for the mad ones. I can orchestrate and manage the alternative literature offerings and assist with delving into and conveying works using software and my mental tools. The coalescing of my first foray into such a venture is the Cohort Collection which you are invited to read more about and submit your work too. And so, my first attempts at such an endeavor where outlined in COHORT. Admittedly theme based with a narrowing focus, which is essentially a compressed, tinier version of my personal understanding of Alternative Literature based on my experiences of interacting with the publishing world via twitter, phone and email conversations with writers, my discussions with Richard Nash, and my own personal readings and prejudices. At its core COHORT is about how one person interacts and understandings the internal rules and language of a specific group of people: it’s a slicked down version of what the Red Lemonade community is about. See following post #5.
It’s happened before- it keeps happening- but the screaming comes after the rockets arrive, that’s when the sorting begins, the marching orders arrive, the typewriter agents get enlisted .It’s the age of the post-explosion, ubiquitous content splattered all over. So much content, we have to learn to suss out the knotting-into. The trick here, we shall see, will be, in part, to get the sitrep early, to go to ground; you will need a specific type of pen with that particular brand of paper, keep the old corona parts around near your writing desks. There is no alternative. Amid the rubble, the negations, we’ve all learned the hard way where to start: at the solution: so here it is, dear readers, dear writers: the elevator pitch:
A segmented market demands niches. Publishers must enhance the reader-writer relationship with more openness and interaction. Discrete and focused communities inherently propagate writing and content which many times result in produce for sale: specifically books. Begin there: build a distinct community with a specific point of view and provide its members the tools to communicate, easy access to writing. Further, and most importantly: the ability to interact with the text members. create.
And 2: a clear statement of purpose which will be provided in the following post in an effort to provide as much clarity as possible. A definition at the center of your core mission statement for Red Lemonade/ Alternative Literature- And this will be made available in an upcoming post.
For centuries golden-tongue orators have called citizens to various forms of war reciting the deep cultural need, the underlying concreteness of meaning, and the value of becoming one of the barbarians. All well and good, these golden-throated seers and visionaries, clothed in robes on the marbled senate floor, atop a gallant steed or on the temple steps, calling to arms young soldiers to fight the aggression for the cause, with visions of higher ground drive many of the stories that bring down empires and build up nation. Of course, all that talk is going to end up at one final telemetry: of men and women soldiering through muck and blood pushing new-fangled contraptions to change the tide, destroy the dams, write the new stories, the alternative literature amid all the shattered silicon and steel. Kudos to Richard for speaking to power and then, you know, laying his ass on the line and heading to the front lines ( online software in one hand, banner in another), it's hard for electrons to change state and many do not even bother to leap into this next orbit. But with such symmetry are the deep elements created: maybe (always the maybe). Nash got on digital soap-boxes around the country to talk about his vision for Cursor. Think of Cursor as a deck of playing cards. Nash was describing the artistry and value of the deck as a whole. The overall message, driven mainly by a search of funding, was how the entire deck of individual cards could create exciting games and magic tricks. In order to show the value of the entire deck, he laid out the Jack of Hearts based on what he knew. The initial release was understood to be a playing deck of cards for multiple uses, but it's just a single card. One that could work well with others, but with a distinct branding and power of its own. Mr. Nash's VQR essay elicits a call-to-arms for the essentialness of these type of relationship
I touched briefly on the contingency of how I was thrown into this Red Lemonade situation. My combined wandering through the humanities and software companies and liberal tendencies made me particularly vulnerable to the lure of Nash's call for fresh recruits. In my previous post I reviewed the steps along that journey: and many were the learnings. Much great work was created by many amazing writers and creative people, questions and comments filled the Red Threads. Community members directly interacted with each other using the shared commenting tool which is the secret sauce of the online community. As carnival-barker I promoted the site in order to bring attention to it and shuffle people in the door. I hoped to guide the process by instigating communication, posts, and personal exploration based essays that were infused with themes that were relevant to the Red Lemonade mission statement. My thinking was that many people under one tent would generate enough gurgle and swirl to auto-generate a community. Many of the core goals of the online community were achieved: writing and reading were taking place at many levels, the discussions, the submissions, theme-based essays were read, two intriguing online books were published and the interactive tools of the website were used over and over by everyone to comment/make suggestions and critic other's work. Interns and volunteers assisted with many of the mundane tasks associated with publishing. All things have a natural tendency to un-coalesce after the completion of specific tasks. After the Hybrid Beast publication, much of the tension/expectation was released from the groups and many of the writers shuffled off to life-work and other opportunities. The content produced succeeding on many levels and was distinctly compelling - a hive mind pushing into the sharing of stories and into the realm of literary fiction. There were certainly a big tent of conversation and activity: but did it meet the above nichey criteria? Was the community of a single focus? No it did not. I should not blame myself, but I do, so let's explore the problem in search of a fix down the angry streets.
Essentially, I put the cart before the horse and miscalculated the efficacy of multiple people gelling into a focused whole. The center could not hold because there was no center. With hundreds of people posting multiple stories, some of which were more akin to the purpose, it was easy to get lost within the storm and be encouraged by the content that touched upon meanings. I was too busy keeping the conversation going and in many ways created a literary magazine centered on certain ideas, concepts and writing. The abstraction was turned flesh by the creation of actual content and documents: many arrows hit the target but few hit the bull's eye. Interesting tweets create like-minded twitter followers, but not writers willing to share their work based on a straight-forward perception of the type of publication the press creates. Lack of time certainly played a part, and there was much NAILING OF PUDDING TO THE WALL. Good/bad and success/failure are not really the dichotomies being expressed here- there were many unique successes to the site: and listen: the value of the interactions and content aggregation and functionality of the editorial tools were certainly shown to be effective and capable of providing a platform for fostering a community driven by a specific type of content, it was a glorious almost, a city-siege that very nearly took the capitol, but since there was so much conversations, so many soldiers and so many battle plans, there was never the creation of a stable community to percolate a diamond-sharp type of vision.
1. Too much focus on abstraction, themes, ideas, and discussions that were relevant but were driven by the conception of alternative literature, not the literature itself (close but no cigar)
2. No cash, resources, Drupal experts, funding, time, energy.
3. Failure to keep, maintain and hold a hard-grasp on the creation of text and the act of writing and the editing and reviewing of that work and similar work
And to be honest, I can honestly say I am a reader and maybe a bit of a writer, but -well, first stepping into the shoes of Richard Nash for whatever reason is never easy, 2 I was a complete noob, and 3 it seemed best left to self-indentified writers-- and it was and it should be, but there was little or no content-focused direction that was not driven by good/bad analysis but by a sorting process based on the underlying purposes of the community. Look, if you want to start an organic, vegan anarchistic community in the woods somewhere and people start showing up with hamburgers and ipods, you just gotta bar the gate. That's pretty obvious, but what do you do about the socialist vegetarians? Or the vegans who don't mind veggies and fruits from non-certified organic farms, where is the wheat and where is the chaff? Big tough questions and situations that would be difficult for anyone to handle, but listen, here's the thing, through the sound and the fury certain channels need to be toned down and some of the bass line needs to be brought up, one might as well find out.
There was a bookstore you and he used to spend hours in, near your home in Suburban Texas, called ' the boat’, because it literally had a small boat in the middle of it: the sides were made of bookshelves with a firm wood bow and a rudder on the back side. And it smelled like an ocean of wood pulp and sweet glue. Mike and you would schedule entire Saturdays there, to spend what little cash we could scrabble together from the dry luxury of our carpet cleaning telemarketing jobs. Listen: here's the thing: Mike built a Dream Machine and even had an Orgone Accelerator, even his own Orgone Box. Initially connecting over our deep love-hate of Boston, we soon began that immersive bonding and soul-melding that comes out of that simple physical (sea foamy) reality of handing books to one another. In all that paper were narratives to feed the conversation, the construction of the Third Mind. You know that realm; it's outside your genders, your goals, friendship even; with the folks that you never really saw yourself with when growing up; that communicates with phrases that start with ' how about in this chapter’, or astutely bringing in a good character line, or descending/ascending into the myriad labyrinths that one book or one author opens unto you. Soon, you are eating a Naked Lunch while discussing The Process all under a Sheltering Sky. Maybe you're deep connection with paranoia and V-2 rockets is not completely reciprocated, but that's not a bug: it's a feature - it's the part of that 3rd eye- Jedi Mind-Meld that reminds you of your part of the fictional world built between helps identify your personal text within the words: the language virus that has effected you both. And there is no turning back once you have touched it together, you and your first book-buddy. You might as well have slipped into a time machine, had a heart-searing love affair full of 9 inch-spikes, turned your heart yellow or taken the blue ecstasy, cause what you were- what you were supposed to become has been all fucked up ( stupid books you die now!)- the damned part of you, your preterite soul has been awakened and the pegs of your square self no longer fits into the round holes, you’ve been blown to shit by books, wonderful, wonderful books. You were fools, it was the ship of books.
And years later, when you come back to that place: Mike calls and needs assistance with his exegesis about WSB. You did not talk for 10 years and in that time he's connected all the dots all the sly references and transformed Denton Welches and all the science-fiction GOTS and he's written, jiminy crickets a TOME. Sure, you're gonna help out, you're gonna get back into that Third Space. Even though you have the hatred of it, for it left you somewhat cast adrift, more human but a far from happy commuter, a slightly bent and divorced cog in corporatemediamilitarized world, worse for wear: but with that Tolstoyian Vision and Dream, that maybe just one or two of your knick-knacks and a few of the books on the shelf- they are yours and your peer-group, your cohort don't understand that shit, they think your gay and something is Wrong with you, so you take all the meds and all the soma, but still, still it burns.
So fuck it, the wife leaves and you've got nothing left to lose after you lost everything.And you and Mike decide ( just like all your musicians friends who dug their own tunnels of escape from Suburban, Arizona, Suburban, South Carolina, Suburban, Colorado, Suburban Frikking Everywhere) let's start a BAND man. Except it's not a band, it's a small press, so you can lasso the monster and edit together all those connections of that book of his and keep that small ember which you assign your humanness. It all goes south of course, as such commitments do. But in the midst of it you say, hey, let's call Richard Nash ( cause he's posted on his blog he's consulting in order to fund his humanity, to spread the word of the book, to bring cursors to your own very special laptop of the heart). And you do. And he talks of mists and lasers and gurgles an swirls and connecting all those three-eyed beast book-connected beast into discrete communities that are gonna be a part of a vast network. And yea, it’s all contingent, it's all thrown, but your secret identity and your software-as-a platform mind and your overly indebted (completely useless what are you mad) HUMANITES degree's for Christ sake, are all woven together. Sometimes, despite the warnings, you gotta cross the streams to stop the marshmallow men.
Your new wife finds you. She gets past your sour lemon-heart and tiptoes through the shrikes, the bloody spikes, some of which you've impaled even yourself on. She whispers to you: you will have to go slowly. You will have to learn everything over again. She holds your hand and guides your through the bright lights in the big city. Recalibrate the thirds, she is a book made flesh. Get on the site, make some comments and feel that text-based connection once again, but this time with lots of folks, multiple triples of synchopation. Write some post, do some interviews, tweet the shit out of stuff (you can take a look here on my Red Lemonade profile). You decide to use that marketing experience ( your fault back plan for all those English Psych and American History degrees) As you delve deeper into the Rabbit Warren, solicit essays on all that stuff that still obsesses you- you bad robot you : love, crime, consciousness, identity, the creative act) and reap and ride the whirlwind. More essays on identity, cause you can piece together your puzzle with the puzzle of other reader-writers. You are not in Suburban, Kansas anymore: bring in a guest editor and roll out the Hybrid Beast ( link) grab some of the folks from the community and share with them our recent publication and share those experiences ( Sovereignties press books link). You're not really doing it right and you spend far too much time tweeting, but it’s giving you the lay of the land, the feel of those other connected minds out there. Writer-readers (and tweeters) who are still in love with all the Joyce and Kafka and Yeats and are pushing it out new ventures of all types of literary fiction; carrying around an octopus in a globe. Feelin cocky, feeling warm with this group, this community, this colony on the unexplored territory, you set-up a submission request of your own called COHORT and wait for the submissions to roll-in –
Little happens, the bots come, the spammers and shut down your newsletter. As a young apprentice into these dark arts, the subtleties of the endeavor elude you, still there is some fascinating and inspiring work posted. Your planned newsletter never goes out, your editorial comments are not much appreciated and you’re not meeting your telephone quota, so you pull back. You had a good run, you tried once again to start that James Taylor/New Synth Wave/Husker Du/DuranDuran indie post-funk band that was gonna be about the songs man, the music would be rocking, the beats hard, but the lyrics were going to MEAN Something. It's all too much, the Third Mind fades and you start to spend more time watching TV, reviewing the budgets and decide to head back to church. The community has rolled out some good work and you were part of that. Might stick around for until the end of the year and help promote the new book, Richard Melo's Happy Talk, cause god dammit, it reminds you of being in The Boat with your long-lost friend Mike and sitting in front of the dream machine. That time, on the road, when you to melted into the bedsheets after looking into the necro-mirror. You saw your soul split nine times ( but you were really just staring into a lightbulb, oh you, always thinking about the text of your life too much, the world is to0 much with you, or vice versa) Dust off the knick-knacks and cancel your trip back to the Helsinki station, mind the gap, Ira- it’s a chasm, you are either on the bus or off the bus and this bus is further out than you can grasp, ( more useless wisdoms from useless cohorts you learned about in God Damn books, damn them for damning you..There were no explosions, the cordite was all wet and you did not understand the formulas, take the books from the bookshelf and box them up again... it’s all blown up.
And then- frikkin Richard Nash writes an essay for VQR and reminds us All to put away our e-readers and worry more about blowing shit up (to see the power of what he is talking about: see above) and he speaks of orchestrators- and that is you- a little bit, a wee bit, laddy- you're jack-of-all traded, Humanities Generalist bullshit, does have a bit of a point and you indeed have been doing it and learning...and...you wonder- what if instead of heading back and waiting for the next break out- you doubled down? What if you believed all the lies those books were telling you? What if you did not go back to Church, but back to the Red Lemon orchard? What if instead of getting back in the ship you marched forward? Why quit when you can double down? What if you did what you were supposed to do after doing what you did to know what you were doing? What if you tried to orchestrate from the center? What- in corparatese- what would be your Next Action ?
BMc :Let’s see: Canterbury Tales, Six Characters in Search of Author, the Justice League, the Smurfs, Mystery Team, Buffy and the Scooby Crew, the Firefly crew….it’s difficult to create a list of fiction dealing with multiple characters, it’s even hard to follow for the reader, the desire to have just one consciousness revealing the tale, less fragmentation……comment?
RM :I remember as a kid seeing an episode of Scooby Doo where the villain is Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein monster -- three for the price of one -- & it sounded too good to be true. I mean, with the three villains, it has to be three times as good, right? No, it’s awful. The Scooby writers didn’t take the time for all the villains to reveal themselves in an engaging way. The same was true in those Batman movies in the 90s. Too many villains for anything to develop & the movies suffer. They don’t have to. Keeping with the film theme, I think Magnolia & Short Cuts are amazing films that work wonders with sprawling casts of characters, not to mention Grand Hotel & practically everything by Robert Altman. In terms of novels, more than 50 named characters drive Catch-22, and One-Hundred Years of Solitude not only has a bounty of characters, they often have the same name. As a reader and writer, I prefer the works with the big, chaotic casts rather than the more individualized exploration of a limited point of view.
It’s a very American idea, the celebration of the individual, giving praise or blame to single people when just about everything we do is a group effort. It seems to me a truer and far more engaging representation of the world to write fiction driven by a group mind.
BMc: There is certainly a sense that our main hero is absent: Where is Culprit Clutch? “absent as always” I am thinking of Slothrop here being broken down into character parts, then a pig costume, then finally a sighting on the back of an album cover, “A Friend”…
RM : That’s funny, I never thought about Slothrop when I was coming up with the idea of Culprit Clutch, but I can see the comparisons. But then, I defer to Mr. Pynchon, because Gravity’s Rainbow is one of the best books I’ve read.
It might just be my sense of humor, to proclaim a character like Culprit Clutch the protagonist and leader of group & then have him rarely show up. The idea to pursue this kind of humor comes originally from Stanley Fish’s analysis of Milton, but even more so, the films of Robert Altman are my inspiration. Altman is a subversive when it comes to genre. If he’s going to make a western, the hero is going to be a coward. No two ways about it. Altman tends to build up his audience’s expectations of the movie they are going to see & then take it in another direction. I’d like to think my work has a similar subversiveness. The opening scene of my novel sets up a nurse drama. It’s a secluded American nursing school in Haiti & a rumor starts that a dark stranger, Culprit Clutch, is paying a visit. Logically, it sounds like the fox is about to visit the hen house with lots of sex, jealousy, and broken hearts -- what you’d expect in a torrid nurse drama. What unfolds in my novel is quite different. The eventual sex scene is anything but gratuitous and just strange enough to make David Lynch blush. The point I’m making here is that as a writer you can choose to work within the norms and conventions of fiction writing and reinforce them or you can take everything that’s been established and tear it down. My tendency is the latter. Not everyone will get what I do, but for me, it would feel disingenuous to do it any other way.
BMc : And yet, we return to Clutch with a vengeance….but, Like Wile E. Coyote he is always in motion….his tale is the tale of a race, he is Speed Racer…as a child cartoons where special, you could maybe sneak some in before school or on the rare weekday off….in the morning Channel 11 ran the Three Stooges, Battle of the Planes, Banana Splits, and Speed Racer…and one thing that always got me was the tale of Racer X….***
RM : That’s fantastic that you caught that. Culprit Clutch is always in motion, and in a very cartoonish, in a Coyote and Roadrunner type of way. There’s a suggestion in the car race chapter of my book that when you always move so fast, the body and spirit don’t always arrive at the same time, which is how I feel all the time.
RM : Jacket resembles a tattooed face. Album includes 22 minute loop of Disney’s ‘Small World.’ Aliens playing it backward get Dark Side of the Moon.]
BMc : I am 15-16, the whitest suburb of America, everyone drives a bitchin' Camaro (http://bit.ly/eHjBOU), my father builds houses, if I straighten up an fly straight, some day I can become middle management, and a nice mortgage, go to the big Methodist church on Sundays…and I find myself reading Tom Robbins, and they….they steal the body of Jesus….and it’s funny…..and one gets the creeping feeling that one’s self is not in Kansas anymore…that a bitchin Camaro ain’t gonna solve one’s problems. Please respond and don’t be afraid to mention Mr. Robbins’ wordplay and its influence upon your writer-self.
RM: I think about that 15-16 year old kid all the time. The publishing industry likes to think of books as product, while readers are the ones who know what books really are: an experience. As a kid, I skipped reading young adult literature and went straight from Hardy Boys and Captain America comics to The World According to Garp, Lolita, Native Son, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, among others. The experience of reading these books profoundly affected me. Add rock ‘n’ roll to the mix, and you have a recipe for a happy teenage disaster. When I think of my ambition as a writer, I’m not out to get rich and famous (although a steady income from my writing would be awesome) as much as I’d like to give readers something to do, with the hope they do something fantastic with it.
Good ol’ Tom Robbins, I love the guy. I didn’t start reading him until I was almost done writing my first novel, Jokerman 8, and there were some deep similarities, I think, from having similar source material and outlooks, but like with that other Tom -- Pynchon -- I defer to Mr. Robbins and his extraordinary work. I came to Tom Robbins too late for him to influence my style but reading him late in the game gave me a sense of how humor, aphorisms, and digressions could work, not to mention kick-ass woman characters. There are remarkably few novels written in real time that depict the 60s youth movement in its full bloom, and I think Another Roadside Attraction might be the very best. There was a really pissy review of Jokerman 8 that just happened to compare my novel to Tom Robbins’ work. It didn’t matter to me a bit that the reviewer didn’t like my book; getting compared to TR made me feel lighter than air.]
BMc :I am even younger, its 100 degrees in the shade, 26 days in a row, the cement is white and hot, and something is going to fall from the sky, Skylab is burning up and coming to space right into my house. I am going to die from fiery debris from space that will crash right into my very house.
RM : Gotta be careful of debris falling from the sky. Spooky rabbits tend to show up afterward.]
Note: A question that involved Jimmy Carter’s sighting of a swamp rabbit has been removed. Mr. Melo’s reference in this answer is all that remains.
BMc : Hassan I Sabbah :Nothing is true everything is permitted. Vollmann: Everything is true nothing is permitted. Have you read this? VOLLMANN INTERVIEW. I like his dedication to his crafts and also imagining what the sex workers were thinking and if they still every now and then, like when having a smoke and a cup of coffee these many years on, think of him…..
[NOTES: My answer to this one is really cranky. It might not be the best way to open the interview or even include at all. Vollmann just ain’t my cup of tea. Then again, neither is Dave Matthews nor the Wachowski brothers. I like just about everything else.]
A flipside to the question would be to ask if the police officer James Frey hit with his car still thinks of him. Of course, James Frey and William Vollmann are very different, and Vollmann doesn’t fake the stuff in his books. At the same time, each time I read a Vollmann interview, it’s all about creating an aura of someone who lives hard and writes hard. It’s always about prostitutes, war zones, how he spends every waking hour writing, and writes long books at a remarkable velocity. The craft he reveals is in his ability to self-aggrandize. People know less about his actual writing than the aura he’s created. While his background and proclivities are not a fiction, they have the same type of appeal as fiction. So to answer the question as whether the sex workers still think of him, I imagine that if so, they think of the bad-ass writer who goes deep into war zones and writes super-long books.
All that said, I do admire Vollmann’s ability to turn the spotlight on himself. I’m the opposite. I like to talk about everything but myself. I think that’s true in my work. I’m in there, it’s just I’m hiding behind the potted palm plant on the veranda. I’m trying to get better about making myself show up.
BMc: Venerical chimerical. Does a one-liner like this just pop out as you are writing along? Does it appear weeks before in the shower or maybe while decorating a birthday cake for the kids? Do you scribble it down in the car in a note pad on the way to work? Do you draw a big area in the section of the manuscript and write: PUT FUNNY WORD PLAY THING HERE. Does the idea come out to you and then you make an exhaustive list of possible funny sex-terms to use…let us in to the secret, mystical, albeit ordinarily process driving the writing Melo-mind, please.
RM : I wish I knew where lines come from. My novel includes a couple silly songs, and one includes the line, ‘Arabian knights dance sheik to sheik.’ That’s the best line I’ve ever written. It was just some night I was sitting there trying to write a Cole Porter parody and the line just jumped onto the page. I wish I could do that all the time.
My writing process is strange in that I spend very little time writing yet produce. All day, I think about what I’m writing, and it’s always on my mind as I fall asleep at night. Last night, I fell asleep wondering how to put together a scene depicting a ship full of youthful Scientologists who stumble upon a diver team exploring what they believe to be sunken Atlantis. When I do find time alone with a notebook and pen, I put everything down quickly.
Each book is different. In writing my 1950s novel, I would up late at night watching bad movies from the 30s, 40s & 50s and writing down snips of dialogue in notebooks and then adapting what I could into my own dialogue. Bad movies are great because the actors tend to talk the way people talk rather than sounding like the product of a screenwriter’s grammar. An occasional gin & tonic can turn a bad movie into Citizen Kane. In one old movie, a character spoke the line, ‘My lips just won’t stay on.’ I wrote that down and added a response of my own: ‘They stay on me just fine.’ I steal a phrase here and there, create a new context for it, and then riff away.
BMc : Method acting is still acting. Where is Brando? And when, you catch the movie on late night and that wet white t-shirt makes you question your own desires, what is it to feel that pain, that Stella-pain? To be outside the story so, so away from streetcars, but hear that moan and think about the time your found those letters, heard that whisper, stumbled into a restaurant five minutes too soon…..
RM: Ah, The Method. Even though Stanislavski wrote books to instruct young actors, I think writers can get a lot out of his method, as so much of his method is focused on the experience of the audience. Method acting is really about turning a fiction into something so real that the audience loses itself completely. The Method relies on naturalism or realism, and in my own writing, I have an awkward relationship with realism. I think readers today get inundated with realism in the form or memoirs and novels that someone worked very hard to make resemble memoirs. Of course, there’s the other extreme with highly imaginary work like Harry Potter. I like to think of realism as an anchor for my writing’s more flighty elements. My writing focuses on the tension between the plausible and the implausible, the real and the ridiculous. That’s the neighborhood where I live.
BMc: Pascal’s Wager – search web for quote about siding with the most might/all the gold http://www.greatplay.net/essays/why-not-to-take-pascals-wager
Let’s turn the tables! Read the above link and ask ME a question.
RM : So Pascal’s Wager presents a compelling and logical argument on why a person should believe in God, and this link presents a number of equally compelling and logical counter-arguments. It’s all written in matter-of-fact, and rhetorical prose. Fiction, on the other hand, has remarkable capacity for turning black and white into at the very least grey if not the full range of Pantone colors. Fiction is able to make arguments you can never make in straight prose. Fiction is able to take an argument and make it into something else completely. What type of approach could a fiction writer take to Pascal’s Wager?]
BMc (respose) I always felt a sense of comfort with The Wager. As if, when/if I end up in prison it will help with my Colson-like conversion. To hear it described as basically ‘might-makes-right’ really took the wind out of me. Is there no solid ground? Stories and writers that explore that space intrigue me. A fiction writer places obstacles in the path of the characters, but I like it when the obstacles are all murky and uncertain like this. Pulp Fiction is in many ways about miracles and redemption. I mean the bullet holes in the wall are clearly right behind them both…and the unbeliever dies …on a toilet no less…
BMc: I wrote this to myself -in the margins- while reading HT, ‘SKIPPING’, it’s just a word to describe the feeling, the lightness of the interactions, but later one of the character says ‘ caresses’ and that works too, some sort of combo word there to describe the feeling..perimeters of language, but many odd subjects, great notions, little ditties are addressed, like a clothesline of unmentionables, many are light, but some are dark, I mean its nuke war here, zombi spirits, sexual misadventures, at one point, for all of us- THE MORGUE IS FULL OF CORPSES- are those darker currents those un-named things are they behind the curtain, i.e. does the wordplay, our wordplay simply distract us from the “maintenance pipes” and the dark camel at the end of our journey or are those items simply beads on a string, elements no greater or larger or smaller than the others ……
RM :Thank you for seeing that. I really enjoy exploring the spaces between dark and light & I’m glad that stands out for you in the book. You sent me the link to a music video that does this very well. It shows the followers of Jim Jones in the days before the mass Jonestown suicide to the song “Go Outside,” by Cults. Everyone is light and smiling. ( http://bit.ly/ozA1TTy) My novel briefly introduces some of the early followers of Jim Jones, but this video captures it better than I do. Skip reading my novel, & watch the video. Or watch the video & the read my novel. Or read my novel & then watch the video. Just whatever you do, don’t skip watching the video.
BMc: This spear is not a pipe: your thoughts?
RM: I’ll answer your question with another question: Is a harpoon out of water still a harpoon?
BMc: It’s Midnight in the Garden of Evil - our well cultured, man about town, snivelly art dealer is hard as nails, but still finds time to bring dimes to a graveyard in the Lowcountry, Carlos Castenda ties the mouth of a lizard shut while the other roams the Landscape….let’s take as given the existence of Spirits in a nether world behind the veil, are they all of one nature, that is do the spirits exist as one and simply express themselves within a cultural context or do individual spirits exist per geographic area, the lines of the world, existent, and we the curious simply stumble upon them?
RM: At the risk of making an answer that sounds like a cop out, I like both ideas and don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I’ve experienced strange things here and there and never know whether something really happened or if it was just my eyes and brain playing tricks. Though I have to admit, I am far less interested in what I might witness myself than what other people witness and what they do with it later, how they talk about it with other people.
Slightly off the spirit topic, I recently discovered something from the 70s called Spaceship Moon Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaceship_Moon_Theory). It’s the idea that moon is hollow and was once used as a spaceship (a Noah’s ark type thing) that transported the first humans to earth. Proponents, like Don Wilson, have gathered scientific evidence to support the theory. From the moment I heard about it, I’ve been obsessed. Not because I think it might be true. I’m not curious for evidence either way. What draws me to Spaceship Moon Theory are people like Don Wilson, who believe in it, as well as the people who try to contact Don Wilson to give him evidence that they say the government doesn’t want him to have. I love the language they use in expressing their theories. From a fiction writer’s point of view, believers are interesting. They are hopeful and steadfast yet vulnerable because it can always be shown that what they believe in is a hoax. Nonbelievers are also interesting, because they always think they’re right but can never prove themselves all the way.
In my writing, I often borrow the tenet from magical realism that the fantastic is most possible in marginalized parts of the world. There’s this mixed up and delicious logic to the idea that in places where you don’t have camera phones and CNN, the kids ride around on magic carpets.
Discuss zombi vs zombie
[That’s been a point of contention with the novel. In the source materials I was reading, I found that certain words related to Haiti didn’t have standardized spellings until recently. The idea with the book was to create something that seems like a musty old mass market paperback, and with that in mind, I used a few old-fashioned spellings. Like zombi, creyol, and voudoun. I actually like spelling zombi without the e at the end as it helps differentiate what I’m doing with my dreamlike passage that lasts for the blink of an eye with the zombies popularized in the George Romero movement. I’m hearing from readers that the spellings are distracting and look like typos, so I’m considering updating the spellings, but then who knows?
BJMc : [RM recently tweeted about the show] How great was The Prisoner? I wonder if … Oh crap ! It's a big round white globe-balloonball come to retrieve me!!!
RM : As a kid, I was terrified of that white ball chasing the Prisoner along the beach. Anytime I was at a beach, I kept looking over my shoulder just in case!
I've been thinking lately about how my style has evolved into something so simple, especially in the new book I'm writing. It's pretty much all dialogue and atmosphere. (In their infinite wisdom, MFA programs instruct students to focus on plot and characters, and as a result, so many young writers end up sounding just like each other.) I also like coming up with off-beat names for a characters as a way of keeping the fiction unreal.
BMc: “ Every impulse tells her to run.” (HIT, page ?) Good lord man this is a cliché. I, the innocent reader groan…. but there is no bad aftertaste, indeed it seems to fit perfectly, makes sense. You’ve been accused of the crime of cliché-written writing! What, before the court passes sentence, [Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition (link) is your defense?
RM : It might be a cliche but not on the level of “You go girl” or “Ca-ching” or “You da man.” My defense is what I like as a reader are not the books that zero in on perfection but rather the books with notable flaws. The flaws are what you can talk about later. Sure, some flaws are simply mistakes that should be fixed, and I will stay up all night to make sure a manuscript is typo free, but a novel should embrace its chaos, trip head over heels for its chaos.
You begin to realize that the business of literature is the business of making culture, not just the business of manufacturing a bound book. - Richard Nash
This then, this site and these words, this request for your time and energy is the protoplasm the early gurlges of a specific brand of literature and the attempts to build a culture around it.
Alternative Literature has a visceral approach to language, a seering empathy while cracking open the economic constriction and entrenched political forces which wrap around us. It seeks to emit the early detection signal and over exposure warnings from the the rumbllings of the ground, the crowd. It requires writers to tell stories *
And with the writers, we need people to tease out the hidden connections, sort through the combinations and bring forth all the associated material that revolves around a story, a novel, a book.
Ok. It requires people to do low-level, but fairly intellectual tasks, to not only assist with the marketing and promotion of a particular book, but add their voice to swirl, help translate the gurgle to the widening crowd.
Red Lemonade is currently seeking interns and volunteers to assist with the culture of the book, and specifically the culture of our particular niche of literary fiction, alternative literature.
We are currently actively reading stories from a variety of presses and journals seeking out literature which cuts deep into the vein - of the heart and of the state.
We are also are currently in the process of sending out Advanced Reader Copies of Richard Melo's Happy Talk and there are several opportunities in this area for anyone interested in book promotion.
The odd thing about culture is is must be promoted forwards but can only be understood backwards. If you have an idea for expanding and growing Red Lemonade, let us know, the fruit is ripe and ready for picking. We welcome all varities of interns, volunteers of anyone's valuable time and assistance.
contact me email@example.com
Often I don't begin with an idea but with an increasing awareness that something is unbalancing me, some...thing in my small world is getting to me. The piece begins as a suspension of thought and a deliberate focus on an almost formless image, a state of apprehension. And then I start jotting. I write with a split mind, almost: one half still maintaining the image, the other being prompted and translating from it.
No. Not from a split mind: a tense, held-together body, one that imitates or physially replicates the split and tension in my mind, that holds the passage open between the dark and the words, the apprehension and the translation, the simultaneous comprehension and the ordering into serial sound; it’s a process parallel to stand-up improv, in some respects – a delicious apprehension of where I’m going, making it up as I go along to get there.
That’s when it’s good, and the piece is short, and I can believe in the benevolence of things. That wasn’t quite the mood of TLAOTW – but that mood was of that ilk.
In fact I rarely begin from an idea; I begin from emotion; TLAOTW began as laughter and exasperation and furtive anger. The characters in TLAOTW were people I grew up around, the women of school, home, family, parish, women overheard on the tram.
I stole the idea of the carriage/tram/enclosed journey from Patrick White, specifically from the Prologue to A Fringe of Leaves. Seeing White’s language and vision and technique (Joycean, Flaubertian, Tolstoyan) applied to “the dreary, dun-coloured” lives that seemed to lie around us, was astonishing.
But coming to understand that I could use my own mundane experience, un-Whitish, unwritten, unepic, trivial, from an utterly ignored edge of the world, to make a piece of fiction that my contemporaries would recognize as being about us – where we lived, how we lived, what we were – was a revelation.
That I could use this piece of fiction as a container for the things I’d seen and felt and wanted to say, was an even greater revelation.
Those revelations were probably a small part of the reason the story was too long. I kept thinking of things I could add; I tried to stuff too much in.
But the secret undertow was that, even though I had understood that it was possible to do this, that it was possible for me to do this, I doubted that I could truly do it. At school I had always been marked down for writing essays that were too short, or were shorter than the demanded length. So my intuitive sense of the right length for some perception had been weakened, and so, in this story, right when I should have stopped adding, I didn’t. I was dimly aware of that while I was writing it, and after, but I didn’t have the confidence to cut it, or the clear-sightedness to know where it should have been cut.
And so I kept returning to the other-state of tension, beginning again, doubling back, making it longer.
The piece needed a new reader, whose reactions would be immediate and uncontaminated by second-guessing, to pinpoint the spots where the cuts needed go.
Working from very unformed and unformulated states and intuitions has untoward consequences. I have no conceptual framework to justify myself (even to myself) with; I can often be persuaded that what I’m doing isn’t worth doing, or that what I’m seeing is wrong, that the way I’m going about writing is wrong, that my judgement is fatally off. It leaves me, sometimes, needing careful reading and very precise editing.
If I rotate the word “cohort” in my head many times, it doesn’t necessarily lose its meaning as some words do; it has an aftertaste. Cohort becomes a sort of sneaky verb. I start to think about what’s tying any group together, and it usually comes down to some sort of need in the individual and how it ping pongs against the other members’ need.
Maslowe’s hierarchy gives us many needs to consider. But still, the needs of the members of a cohort may not always be in the open. I think of secret societies, of hidden agendas. As in secret societies, agendas fascinate us all the more when we are cut off from them.
With American Dyno Kibbles, the aspect of the story I was most interested to explore was the feeling of separation from the group that Chucker feels when he’s awake, discovering he has missed out on something big. As in science, sometimes to understand a dynamic, you must study the absence of it. Exclusion can change an equation too.
One need driving cohorts may indeed be an ego yearning for validation. Chucker was once the big gun of his militia before blacking out, his militia moving onward with its revolution. Despite the revolution being successful, this man does not feel the gleam of achievement. A third string sportsman, no matter how much he feels himself a good sport, cheering on the team, there is a lingering distance between him and the others. Those on the field or the court or the rink are doing all the work, he knows. And in some, this may make them try all the harder, so that others may pay attention.
Chucker in his murky awakening thinks he must one-up his fellows. Perhaps they weren’t thorough; there may be more out there, a counter revolution perhaps, even it is one guy.
We tend to glorify the American Revolution. Our founding fathers are like demigods. Yet with such big personalities, it may not have been all good-guy-bonding and fighting evil empire. Stories are not told of those little moments where they may have felt inferior, that they're not doing enough. A nuclear arms race of accomplishment may be what inflates the give and take and growth of a group.
In a man’s mouth there are, if he’s lucky, 28-32 teeth. When chewing, some of the teeth may be called upon to nip apart a bit. In the course of a meal, depending on the trajectory played out by a mashing tongue, some teeth may not do very much work at all. As the bit is digested, it’s gone from sight, down in the belly. Some teeth may feel their reward, if it’s a crunchy food, it may self clean the tooth. The stomach may also churn up acid that fizzes the enamel off of some of the teeth. If a tooth goes bad, gets infected, the roots of others may be at risk. If teeth had consciousness, and perhaps they do, they may not feel their act of eating and subsequent health a perfectly fair democracy. I use this as an example, since the workings of a man’s mouth, the dynamics between his incisors, is something we rarely consider.
But this piece isn’t just about pulling weight. There’s the element of digestion. A group can experience the benefits of sleeping on an idea, letting something cool off so that they really may come together on a challenge. Not all members must give every task their all. A healthy group maintains longevity, consistency, which necessitates that performers are rotated, and that some rest. Perhaps Chucker’s haste in the end is because he’s still not done digesting those kibbles, and his new situation. If he had let things sink in, he may have realized he could make himself useful in other aspects than being the finest mercenary. But digestion can happen at its own unsettling pace. He may have never even digested properly why they were preparing themselves to be able soldiers.
The idea of ego has caused me some reflection as well in working on a piece for Cohort. Anyone creating something is at risk of tending toward the pride of ownership. But in backing away from such an urge, or attempting to, and really attempting to share a work, and listen to an audience as much as they may be listening to me, digesting feedback and reactions, so that a story may evolve. So that what I’m trying to reflect on as a writer may complement what one may be reflecting on as a reader. No wonder ancient mythologies are ascribed to a whole people. And a mouth is not singled out into which teeth are the most important players.
I like how the absence of men is never addressed, a missing cohort. Where are the men? Was there absence by design?
The men are mostly off at the war, which Rose and Mona are ignoring. And being encouraged to ignore.
Discuss the loudspeakers. Is this science-fiction? What would you say to the suggestion of more loudspeaker interruptions? Why is the 2nd loudspeaker about temperatures and volcanoes?
There is a science-fictional element to this. Not hard science fiction; it’s more like absurdity rendered as SF.
I don’t want the announcements to interrupt the trip. They are where the characters (& the reader have been going) to the end of what turns out to be the last afternoon of the war. That loudspeakers in the main street would have been one of the first constructions in a state of war makes sense to me. (There are elements here of stories of World War 2, memories of Enid Blyton graphic stories for Very Young Children, an early movie version of 1984 – all sorts of apocalyptic scenarios & stylized bits of this and that, mixed and cherry-picked from.)
The 2nd loudspeaker : Because if the sky is falling (announcement 1) the ground will also open up. Haven’t you found this to be so?
Several of my comments on the Red Lemonade site, deal with specific choice of words and repetitive phrasing. Talk a little bit about how a writer responds to a reader who engages your story in this manner.
It depends. Sometimes I’m irritated because I have usually been very careful about what I have done, and have probably put more thought into that particular word-choice than the reader has. Sometimes I find my naturally dreadful typing has reproduced itself despite my best effort to apply reproductive restrictions. (You think evolution isn’t the natural tendency of things? Consider the humble typo.) Sometimes the reader is very exact about what he/she is having trouble with, and why, and I can see the problem, and change the text – anything from a single word to (oh no!) a complete restructure. Sometimes as soon as someone even begins to point in the general direction of a boo-boo I see it and scream, How could I have done that?
Mona and Rose and Marguerrite, Irene, Maureen and Giselle, so many women with so much going on. The disparity and variety of names is jarring.
The fact that this isn’t an introduction to a novel actually intensifies your point. This is a short story. The reader should at least know where heesh is, or know that being kept in the dark is a deliberate strategy on the writer’s part, which will pay off in some form of… enjoyment / delight.
But most importantly, it becomes difficult to form an emotional attachment or bond with them. The women are not fleshed out. Perhaps reducing the number of characters would bridge this?
Part of the difficulty is that the story isn't about its plot - it's about a mindset. Rose and Mona and their cohorts do state and re-state the obvious, reiterate what has already been suggested, do almost feel something, kind of see something else, reduce the bloody/body to the inanimate, in order not to have to do direct battle with the limits on their lives and circumstances.
The herky-jerkiness of the piece - Rose's and Mona's internal dialogues - embodies their mindset: nothing can be followed to its logical conclusion; there. All thoughts must be reined in before they leap the fence, as it were.
The corollary of all this careful control is to ignore the uttermost catastrophe in order to maintain efficacy in one tiny sphere. In the cases of Rose and Mona and their cohort (sociologically speaking), that sphere is the family, managing their children – particularly their daughters – into acceptable lives. Rose and Mona are both faced, actually, with Mrs. Bennett’s problem.
Reducing the number of characters by itself won’t achieve what needs to be done. We need this many characters, with their surrounding situations, to get the sense of a cohort of female function(s) in those very marital circs.
The story does need trimming. However, it has to be trimmed exceedingly carefully if it's to retain its life and gentle humor. In terms of trimming I will look at the section you mention, just before the first loudspeaker announcement.In terms of clarifying, I think the section about dinner in the hills with Maureen and her family can smoothed into the narrative with a very small amount of explanation.
Another aspect of my comments dealt with becoming disengaged and losing interest in the story. Specifically, the extended Rose and Mona section before the loudspeaker announcements "drifts", perhaps this section could be shortened?
I have a feeling you are right about this. The story does go slack. Not much is being added, & at some length. There is a second spot where the slack can be eliminated, and I think that will help a lot.
The variety, disquiet and multiplicity of the women characters tinges my interest to continue reading a little. From a larger perspective— what is the point of the story? Would you want to introduce a larger cast of characters to hint at the broadness of the tale or is it better to lock in the reader with more fervent and simplistic style?
This was & is a short story with some structural problems.
The closure is that Marguerite did not seem to have what it took to be married. The story illustrates what it took to be married — i.e., at the end the sky is literally falling, the ground is opening up, and Mona is still only determined to find a way to manage her daughter.
I took the idea of the tram-ride from the prologue to a White novel. But as I said earlier, that was all I took from the White book, and I didn't even realize I'd done that until after I'd finished the story.
There are also touches of Monty Python & Edna Everidge in these characters — or, rather, these are somewhat similar characters to some of those who Eric Idle & Barry Humphries satirized. My reasons are slightly different from theirs, less sheerly jeering, more understanding, and, ultimately, more genuinely accusatory, with more real basis. (Despite the relative gentleness of the story.)
I like how Mona touches on the various ongoing life of the city, but it rambles on a bit and does not seem attached to the earlier part. I want some sense of completeness or at least interaction with the piece as a whole.
Will trim.It’s a question of alluding to the history of the city/war without having to elucidate it – firstly, because this is a short story, a gentle satire, and the backdrop is a tissue of lies, and, secondly, because the focus of the story is the way Rose & Mona and their cohorts think.
Maybe Mona and Rose need to be flushed out more as characters?
This is gentle satire. The form and concept require them to be types. You don't need an emotional attachment to them. You just need to recognize them, smile at them being captured on paper, and then pass on.
Would you be willing to transform this opening chapter into a more cohesive and close-looped short story? And deepen the interconnections with the multiple women characters to expose more of the alliances and group-think?
Will trim. I understand your frustration, but the story is a bubble, a souffle – it can only take so much heavy structural re-adjustment. The tone will move – and what was good will disappear altogether.
I wonder if the sections "that wander off" only just need to be tightened up?
One went to fat camp; the other to liposuction.
I think 'it feels like an intro to a novel' is my way of expressing the lack of connection I feel for the characters....you artistic argument for the expressionistic/consciousness flow of it I get..... I wonder if my sense of unconnectedness to it is purely a male thing ( I am perhaps too focused on clear-cut and rational explorations..?)
No. That reaction to that degree points to problems in the text. I suspect trimming / tightening / editing will fix the piece and allay that reaction, but the only way to find if that is true is to trim the piece and see if it works better then.
It’s hard to say until you can react to a second draft. The ideal reader in ideal circustmstances comes to a text with no expectation, competely open… But no one has the time or money for that, which is why convers and blurbs are what they are. So: if trimming the piece doesn’t remove the unclarity of its tone & take, then we might have to add one of those awful, well, subtitles you supposed they were, though Ralph always said perfection didn’t need them.
Expose the cohort more.
I suspect this is one of those cases where trimming will do what lengthening won’t. It’s odd how deceptive these problems can be. The 2 main reasons something doesn’t work are that the something is too short, or that it isn’t long enough. Often what seems to be wrong is the opposite of what is really wrong. (And sometimes the thing is just misconceived altogether. I put those away as fast as I can, and let the filing cabinet rumble shut.)
In the end I left most of the last section alone: Marguerite in the cake-shop needs her own story – she is also part of the cohort in the sense that she was expected to join, but didn’t (i.e. she never married). She is the third character who gets more than implied characterization, and that seems to me the minimum number for a cohort. And besides, the war is ending, and we need a cinemascope closeup of the show.