September 3, 2012
At long last, episode one of CCLaP’s latest anthology The Podcast Dreadful is ready for your listening pleasure, right here.
August 28, 2012
Gentle readers take cover, “The Sharpened Spears of the Huaorani!” will be heard in stereophonic sound starting Monday, September 3, 2012, right here.
n afterthought to our most recent post: the Committee has learned of a beaver-like Canadian woodland creature whose own sobriquet is derived from the animal so called, is highly valued for the appearance if its hair, its line of cosmetics, and, who is apparently, also a budding memoirist.
Congratulations, fans of the written word! “He’s going to tell all in his very own book.” Yet what all could there be to tell for a semi-aquatic rodent not long in the tooth? For how many times can “LOL” possibly fit within a manuscript advertised at a forest-clearing 240 pages — even with open-handed pagination and font size — without becoming tedious to even the most fervent votaries? Perhaps there are 239 nice, blank pages to be filled-in at the consumer’s leisure.
The Committee has little doubt that our own ghostwritten version of the beaver tale does not stray far from the lodge.
I was born on a Tuesday, three weeks ago; I gnawed-out repeatedly the word
‘baby,’ leaving a colony of young girls all atwitter in its echo; now, at four
weeks, I’ve been forced to launch my own colored fingernail varnish, as I’m burdened by thoughts my meteoric vocal career has disintegrated in the mesosphere.
Hardcover Price $21.99
Amazon Supersaver price $11.87
The recycling mills quake for the pulp, as the beaver quakes for aspen wood.
September 29, 2010
e at the Society – and certainly our readership – stood and cheered upon learning of the following commercial intercourse: a publishing contract has been extended to a certain incomparable and inimitable artist (or in the plain – nay – Seussian words of the trade publications: Snooki sells a book). When the thick and, no doubt, illuminated tome appears on the center shelves of the ever-rarer local bookseller, we at the Society are certain to pant after the elegant and peaceful writings of her expert quill, as the heart panteth for lemon blossoms.
Her words shall fall upon our ears with a peculiar yet indescribable charm, like the gentle wave-driven sands as they grate against and polish the refuse of the previous morning’s bacchanalia into sea glass and oblong, reservoir-tipped balloons for the children to scavange; or the soft, innocent, and well-meaning kisses of a feral canine that has – immediately precedent – successfully orally expressed its posterior scent glands.
Learn and remember, gentle reader, the name Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi. Where once it seemed impossible to conceive of how the so-called Titans could be surpassed, equaled, even approached in the celestial literary stadion; today, the Society has every confidence that the industry’s Jovian gravitational pull toward ethereal fiction for the minor celebrity will eclipse the once decided superiority of all previous generations. To paraphrase another Italian of transcendent mental superiority, Vizzini:
Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce? . . . Morons!
Fear not! Their heiress presumptive hath arrived.
Never has there been a more apt moment to give requiem – by parting quotation – to those that came before, for when the population collectively skims this newly-pressed Polizzi-rature, indubitably, it will – in one motion – cast aside and forget the deformed prose dwarfs of the last century:
. . . if our civilization were to sober up for a couple of days it’d die of remorse on the third.
– Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
Yet let us speak not of talent; for it is a quality which fades as quickly as the delicate, raw sienna coating of simulated exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Indeed, talent protrudes as the hirsute, superfluous papilla on the chest of America: a thing of no utility, and one from which the eyes are invariably averted.
Two hundred years of democracy, peace, and artistic freedom – limited only by voracious mercantilism – and what did it produce? The Untold Delights of Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited.
(The Society is acutely aware that much of its own writing is not immediately ready for the great wide world, and so we continue the difficult work of honing that skill to a keen edge.)
Thus Time brings all things, one by one, to sight
And Skill evolves them into perfect light
And thus too the Society proposes a toast: To this Pyrrhic victory for brick-and-mortar publishing! Whose integrity of purpose is yet more transparent and respected the higher it ascends the ladder scaled by the likes of those visionary generators of the summer reality television.
September 16, 2010
A Special Editorial Comment
f the many items holding great import for us at the Society, none is greater than the health of our readership. The subject is exciting a great deal of interest, especially with the editors. For no country in the world consumes so much sweetness as our own, in proportion to its population. It has, furthermore, come to the attention of the Committee that the legal persons who have force-fed the United States high fructose corn syrup for the last forty years would like to giggle their way into an adorable new name: corn sugar.
How suaviloquenti. How plush, cuddly, and harmless. He he, ha ha: that is the sound of HFCS-55‘s viscous tittering as it coats your gulliver, dissolved in your favorite bi-carbonated soda en route to its final destination.
While its proprietors and paid spokespersons may insist that high fructose corn syrup is ‘natural,’ and that ‘it’s made from corn,‘ do not be misled, gentle reader. The word natural is used most often used to mislead potential consumers, as it is virtually meaningless. Corn – or maize, for our British cousins – does however, have many useful applications. In addition to Fritos and the efficient production of human belly fat, plastics and gasoline can also be manipulated from corn.
Here is a simple test: squeeze a piece of sugar cane (squeeze really, really hard), and the resulting cane juice is sweet, and when evaporated, is sugar with a little bit of molasses; squeeze a piece of genetically altered corn (squeeze as hard as you like), and the resulting corn juice is starchy, for corn is merely the starting point for corn syrup, requiring several chemical industrial steps to turn it into your favorite sweetener. (The editors are aware they did not mention the enzyme conversion treatment process, nor the other steps. Nor do the editors mention that we know exactly what you are up to, crystalline fructose).
There is no doubt that corn syrup is plentiful, and is available at minimal cost because of massive farm subsidies — $73.8 billion from 1995 – 2009 — held in place by corn lobbyists. Yet this has resulted in an entire generation of once fit and sporty Americans becoming thickly infused with corn syrup. Our fine, fleshy race loads up on enough in beverage alone to meet an entire day’s energy needs — then piles on the rest of the valued meal.
High fructose corn syrup converts to fat more willingly than cane sugar, and increases the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol. Our collective fondness for hamburgers and sodas makes enjoying a well-balanced meal very nearly unheard of in corn-fed America. Certainly corn on the cob is delicious, yet HCFC gives the reader an accumulation of fat under the integuments or in the abdomen, or in both situations, to such an amount as to embarrass the several voluntary functions.
Our cows eat corn, to their antibioticized detriment. The same corn that factory farmers feed to fatten their cows is heaped – unseen – upon the people. It is no surprise we slump in our swivel chairs so abundantly.
This next comment may provoke ire, but it should be stated, nonetheless. These are grand and interwoven issues, so far as the experience of the editors is concerned, so please indulge the following: The obesity problem in the United States is an indirect result of the Cuban Embargo. (Now calm down or we’ll never get through this.)
Prior to the Embargo, the U.S. purchased a good deal of sugar from Cuba. Indeed, the United States imported the bulk of the Cuban sugar crop. And so their economy became almost entirely based around sugar. Though economically speaking, one does not want all one’s eggs in one basket. The precarious predicament prompted Jean-Paul Sartre to question: ‘eez eet better to build on sugar than on sand?‘
President Eisenhower stopped importing Cuban sugar, and – because of this – Cuba’s annual production of several million pounds soon piled up at the docks. Out of necessity, our estranged Cuban brothers turned to the Soviets — the only nation large enough to take on the whole lot, and about the only country not beholden to the United States at the time. As retaliation, Eisenhower threw up the Embargo.
Missile crisis and whatnot aside, in the meantime, the United States continued the Embargo, and shifted its reliance from cane sugar to sugar beets and corn syrups — products producible within the non-Caribbean homeland.
At this point, every product formerly containing cane sugar switched gradually over to a sweetener entirely made from corn syrup. Practically everything: the great majority of your canned fruits, condiments, sodas, breads, ice creams, and other processed foods — whether that food needed sweetening or not. The populace was not meant to notice. Eat fresh, indeed, Subway.
With its Embargo, the United States forced the Cubans to move their main export to the Soviet Union, made them no more than a Soviet dependent, and unknowingly doomed the United States to a future of corpulence and heart disease. Even Castro has discredited the Communist system as an economic ideology, yet the United States has continued its obtuse embargo and its obese revolution.
Have a little faith in the capitalist system: rather than isolating Cuba, the inhibitions should have been worn down with a little Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Look how capitalism took down the U.S.S.R., changed China, and brought the HFCS-eating world to the brink of financial collapse. Greed, in any form, is unfortunate.
Fat equals happy — the lotus for the masses. And the happy are far less likely to exercise their First Amendment and whatnot when proudly carrying to term our collective cheeseburger-baby bellies, fed in situ by anything labeled “ultimate.” Such an epithet is a plain and sly warning from the caring souls at Applebee’s: this is the last in a progression of morbidly unhealthy meals you will eat, for tomorrow you’ll die.
Perhaps not all this chest pain resulted from the small act of switching the United States from Cuban cane sugar to high fructose corn syrup. This is simply a hypothesis on its way to theory — tested and proven on our population for the last forty years. If you like, call it corn sugar. Better still, call it Castro’s Revenge — just as Montezuma has taken credit for traveler’s diarrhea, Fidel can take pride in making your Gap trousers so uncomfortable that what was once a size 36 now measures out at 39 inches. No one noticed that one either.
Frog, water, soup.
. . . Et quasi musaeo dulci contingere melle
September 2, 2010
We at the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge have had many a manuscript, spat upon, torn to tiny bits, and cast into Cloaca Maxima with such sweet-penned form letter excerpts as: We are sorry to report that we won’t be able to use any of your work at this time but hope you keep in touch with us in the future — as a reader as well as a writer; Thanks for sending us your work, but it’s not right for [our publication]; and We regret that we are unable to use the enclosed material. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider it.
Please allow our good friend Æsop to add his timeless wisdom, as
translated by George Fyler Townsend.
The Oak and the Reeds
A very large oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a ﬆream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: “I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these ﬆrong winds.”
They replied, “You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are deﬆroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape.”
Moral: Stoop to conquer.
In this age of increased brevity, to the layman, there is a great temptation to dismiss the storytelling value of a novel, or a complex television drama, such as LOST. That narratively, its depths appear too deep; mythologically, its widths, too wide. While one may make the inference that the laity seems, increasingly, to prefer the likes of the nonliterary – and indeed, the ab-literary –, such superficial observation should by no means discourage those with sufficient ambition from practicing and promoting a common bond with all arts. The literary legacy of this generation must not be distilled to page-upon-page, ad infinitum, of laughs out loud. Yet such avoidance requires the encouragement of the artist.
We live our lives as though a page of lined paper. We travel through life collecting thoughts – each recorded upon its own line, parallel to all others, upon which other things are recorded. Our lives stay within the lines with impeccable penmanship. These thoughts would remain upon their own line – indefinitely –, if it were not for certain events in life that shake the page: allowing those lines to come close enough to contact another line. In this way grand ideas are formed. These events may have nothing to do with the thoughts that briefly kiss as their lines continue on toward infinity. The event may be: a word, a book, or a punch to the face: but a sharp mental jarring is necessary to intertwine the lines of code.
The artist requires this sharp mental jarring. Then the great problem becomes the lack of literary punch, or perhaps the courage to throw such a figurative punch toward the artist in violation of the Marquess of Queensbury rules.
Perhaps it would be just as sensible to offer the following wisdom (as uttered by the great Werner Herzog):
Mut müss du haben, und nicht feige Sein.
You must have courage, and not be a coward.
This entreaty is paramount: Stand tall, gentle writer. Take courage, either to throw, or accept the full force of the blow. Continue to create at length; it is for you to return literature to the position of strength. By force! do not allow the electronic chirps of snipe and woodcock to overwhelm the song of the honey-tongued Muse.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
–The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
April 7, 2010
Sally Weigel is a writer of peculiar ability and she has set out to obtain a literary reputation – to build the immortal part of herself. For reasons too fortunate to admit, she sat across the table – metaphorically— for an interview regarding her novella Too Young to Fall Asleep (CCLaP Publishing, 2009). This is stop number eight of CCLaP‘s revolutionary, two-week Asleep book tour (and so, gentle reader, you may believe you are well acquainted with this talented writer), yet Ms. Weigel has still new facts and pleasing discoveries to disperse.With her work now laid before the public eye, we believe, Sally Weigel has reached the age of promise.
Jason R Riley: As oversimplified as this may sound, to be a writer you must put words on the page. Yet for many – and often enough, I include myself among the many – the simple act of sitting in the writing chair is the hardest thing to do. Do you ever find your motivation ebbs to the point where the words don’t flow? What tricks do you use to get your words on the page? Do you need any particular environment to write? Or definite hours of the day?
Sally Weigel: I am most productive early in the morning and late at night so I end up doing most all of my work then, preferably at times when everyone around me is sleeping. I think solitude is really conducive to the writing process so I need to be stuck in my room with no noise and no one around. And you are right, if you are serious about writing, there are times when I need to force myself to be creative when I am in fact, feeling lazy and unmotivated. I usually push myself at these times and just say, “Sally, all you need to do is write one sentence. Then another. Then another.” Soon, I will start formulating paragraphs of writing without even trying.
JRR: Too Young to Fall Asleep was a very different piece when you pitched it to Jason Pettus at CCLaP. How would you say having the added pressure of adapting a shorter work into a novella influenced your writing? Why don’t we see more novella’s? Or are they out there, but disguised as novels using fourteen-point font, blank pages between chapters, and creative pagination (like, say, On Chesil Beach)?
SW: I don’t think there was too much pressure turning my short story into a longer piece. I think what is a lot more challenging as a writer is to shorten your writing. When I start a short story and begin to introduce new characters with their back stories and their story lines, I realize I can easily turn the story into a novella. And I think this is the case with most writers. I think short stories and novels are much harder to write than novellas.
That being said, I do not dislike the novella form at all. I just think there isn’t much of a market for it. People nowadays are used to novels. They rarely even pick up books of short stories. I have no doubt novellas are being written. It’s just that less and less people are reading, and the people that are reading are reading novels.
JRR: There are certain expectations a reader has of a war story. You’ve written a war story that contains very little description of the war, just over a page. In a way, it captures the average US citizen’s half-a-world-away exposure to this war – where unlike WWII, physical participation in this war was optional. Yet Too Young to Fall Asleep is no less a war story. There isn’t the usual combat, or translation work, or the soldier asking what can I do next that will keep me alive? The events happen so fast that we don’t see Catherine making these decisions, but we see her asking a related set of questions regarding her post-army life. And the way you handled it really focuses the story on the psychological issue of why she made her decision to join the Army. How did you come to the brave and – probably – difficult decision to make Catherine’s choice, and not the combat, the event of the novella?
SW: I’m flattered by the question, although I have to admit, this decision was done out of sheer fear rather than bravery. I wrote this story when I was 17 and had never attempted and succeeded in writing a longer work. Knowing that I was still at a place where I needed to hone my skill, I decided to deal with Catherine’s psyche rather than combat in a foreign land. Even though I made this decision, I didn’t think I was hindering the story at all. I actually have grown to love the unique plot of this war story. Although most soldiers I am sure find themselves with much alone time on duty to reflect, there is so much being dealt with in making the decision and then dealing with this life-altering service after the fact. I like to think that Catherine’s story tells an important yet relatively untouched part of the story of the Iraq War.
JRR: Lately I’ve given much consideration to the honesty in writing – that one’s best writing is also their most honest writing. Let’s call it an ability to figuratively stand on a chair naked before your peers, and to stand there without fear. That to find the truth, you must embrace the freedom to use everything that has happened to you. How free do you feel when writing? Have you ever held back because a character is – on some level – based on someone you know, and so there’s a concern they might recognize something of themselves and become upset?
SW: I never had to deal with this before Too Young to Fall Asleep because most of my writing was not really based on real life and in the end, it was unpublished. I wrote knowing that I would most likely be the only one reading it. But in writing the novella, both of these pretexts were gone. I was dealing with characters that many people around me would see real life inspirations in them. Also, the prospect of publishing was in the back of my mind, so I knew that if I wrote a sex scene, my mother would read it. That being said, I only held back my apprehensions, rather than holding back my writing. I am such an advocate for art, that I am willing to sacrifice my feelings and my fears if the writing is bettered because of it. I think a writer needs to think of it like this. If my writing can resonate and invoke emotion in another, then I am willing to take slack that the writing may be inspired by someone real.
JRR: You allow much of Catherine’s emotional state to flow through her quill. Do you keep a journal? Do you allow yourself to pluck little bits out of that for your fiction?
SW: I actually don’t keep a journal. I have a couple journals that are just filled with other writer’s words, such as quotes and articles that have really resonated with me. Still, this does inspire a lot of fiction. Although I am a writer, I am a reader first. Every bit of writing I keep in my journal inspires words of my own.
JRR: How well do you need to know a character for a short story or a novella? Should the writer know whether Catherine’s second favorite band is blur or Coldplay, even when that detail will never make it onto the page?
SW: I have seen character sheets online, where a writer can map out obscure details of a character so they can familiarize themselves with their invented characters and make them appear more real on the page. However, I don’t find that necessary. Most of one’s character comes out through interactions with other people, not little details. And if the detail is not helping the story at all, then it shouldn’t take up the writer’s time. So I wouldn’t encourage completely mapping out a character.
Although if the writer subconsciously gives the characters details that never make it into the story, that’s fine. This will most likely happen, as I found that by the end of Too Young to Fall Asleep, I believed that Catherine, Jeffrey, Vince etc. truly exist and thought about them without intending to.
JRR: On a somewhat related note: I have a friend who wrote a wonderful novel, which I’m certain you’ve not read, as it was published in Ireland (Ailbhe Keogan’s Molly and the Cyclops) – but, in it, publishing houses employ actors to work a phone bank and portray characters from the novel. If you could have a chat with an actor portraying anyone in Too Young to Fall Asleep, who would it be, and what might you say to them?
[Personally, I think I’d chat with Jeffrey. He was clearly overmatched for the task of being the anti-recruiter, doing it, Catherine suspects, simply to get out of a physics exam. His inability to perform, or to come up with compelling reasons against joining may have tipped Catherine in that direction. I wonder what sort of responsibility he felt for her injury.]
SW: What an interesting point you bring up! I do agree that getting into Jeffrey’s psyche would be quite interesting. Although, I did feel a huge pull toward Vince in the story. If I do say so, I found him to be a very lovable antagonist. I suppose if I could talk to him, I would want to drink whiskey with him and chat about Neil Young.
JRR: I asked this of Ben Tanzer regarding CCLaP’s first publication Repetition Patterns, but as you are slightly younger than Ben and me, you probably have an interesting perspective and answer. The publishing world seems to be undergoing a slow transition to the digital age – with amazon, Apple, and brick and mortar publishers arguing over the price and format of electronic literature. As a writer whose major work debut was first published in a digital format, are you still attached to the printed word in paper form, or do you see the (Radiohead) model you and CCLaP have used with as the future of publishing? Is digital versus print relevant to you and those writers yet to debut?
SW: I am kind of a contradiction in regards to my thoughts on electronic publishing. I am very much attached to the printed word in paper form but I am not against the digital format. I’ve mentioned this in other interviews but the best way to put it, is that as a reader, I will never choose to read something on the screen. I like the smell of a book. I like the tangibility of it. I am obsessed with book covers and decorating my room with shelves full of novels. As a writer, though, I have nothing against electronic publishing. If I can learn anything from the music industry, it’s that publishing would be making a grave mistake if they denied readers the electronic market that they are demanding. Instead, I am more than willing to utilize the new form and work with the change to get more eyes to read my writing.
JRR:Any final words of wisdom for the writers out there among us, preferably that one thing we’ve all been searching for, yet you’ve already discovered?
SW: It’s funny because I still feel like an aspiring writer myself so I don’t know how much I can really advise others. Instead, the only bit of wisdom I can think of actually comes from Conan O’Brien. A couple weeks ago, I watched his last episode of “The Tonight Show” where he said something that just really resonated with me. He more or less said that if you are kind and hard working, you can achieve anything you want. I agree. In my opinion, kindness and work ethic are the keys to success.
March 25, 2010
Apart from a sharpened mind, the writer’s most fundamental tools are the pen and paper, or, perhaps in this modern age, the difference engine. Though with the ubiquitous availability of inexpensive and ready-filled pens, one seldom considers what might happen should one need to create one’s own ink. Yet this very thought came to the editor this afternoon while wondering the streets of this arboreally gifted village. Upon directing eyes skyward and into the branches of a young oak, a series of peculiar protuberances reminded the editor of that (very nearly lost) art of ink fabrication, and its source: the oak gall.
The Oak Gall is formed as explained in Dr. Johnathan Pereira’s Elements of Materia Medica (4th Ed., 1855):
On the sides and at the ends of the branches and shoots of this tree, the female [insect] makes a puncture and deposits her egg. The irritation produced by the insect’s bite or sting gives rise to an influx of the juices of the plant to the wounded part, and an excrescence is soon formed, within which the larva is developed, and which is termed a gall, or nutgall.
It so happens that apart from nurturing the particular larva within the rich, but tannic sap — a gall is from 20 to 40 percent tannin, dependent on the tree — the gall maintains other useful properties, not the least of which is the production of a cheap and excellent black ink.
We subjoin a formula for good ink which we might have employed some years ago, had we not found the BIC Round Stic so effectual:—
Ingredients: 4 oz. of bruised Aleppo galls, 2 oz. of gum-arabic, 1½ grain green copperas,1½ oz. of alum, 2 oz. of salt.
Mode: Under the supervision of an alchemist, and wearing a pair of protective rose-colored spectacles, put the above ingredients into a stone bottle, and pour upon them one quart of soft water at boiling heat; shake the bottle well and frequently. It is a good plan to cork the bottle and hang it at the back of a door which is frequently opened and shut. At the end of three weeks strain off the ink and bottle it, with a tablespoonful of brandy. Pour on the ingredients another pint of boiling soft water, which may remain in the bottle till needed, and then be strained off for use. This ink flows freely, and retains its blackness.
The ink should be used to draft your next great work, as its exposure to air deepens the color and artistry of your words.
Editor’s Note: Gum Senegal may be substituted for Gum Arabic; while Iron(II) sulfate may be substituted for green copperas; reckless lab hijinks, however, may not be substituted for common sense. Safety first.