April 30, 2006

Dogmatika II

There’s an interview with me up on the Dogmatika site. Susan really outdid herself. Check it out.

April 28, 2006

Night Train

My last story got rejected by Night Train. Damn them. A form letter too. Last time they wrote me a nice note. I thought this story might even have a chance. My story: "Camera Shy"--a title I stole from myself. It’s the title of the first novel I wrote. The main character, Sally Cooper, is the same name as the character in the novel. Those are the only similarities. Night Train was my first choice but also a longshot.

April 27, 2006

My War


I like this. The Flaming Lips were due to not make one of the best records ever. It sort of feels like a B-side from Yoshimi, that they still had some energy left over, so they went and started noodling in the studio. Some beautiful songs, especially "The Sound of Failure." It’s not as demanding of your time as Yoshimi or The Soft Bulletin, but sometimes it’s nice to not be demanded.

I feel the same way about this record:


I listened to it five times in a row yesterday. Other records of his like The Shape of Jazz to Come or This is Our Music are great but I can only take them in small doses. Piercing, it reaches a part of your soul that you don’t always want reached. Tomorrow… is a bit more straight. Might be because Shelly Manne is on drums.

I’ve also been listening to this:


I know it’s not a popular opinion but I’m going to go out on a limb and say: Jimi Hendrix was a good guitar player.

I once went to a folk show in Boston. A drippy hippie got up on stage with her acoustic guitar and said, "People don’t talk about it much, but Bob Dylan is a really good lyricist." She then launched into "Blowin’ in the Wind."

I am full of opinions these days. Take two weeks off the blog and my opinions come back haywire.

April 26, 2006



Another not so good review. Part of me feels I shouldn’t do this. Bad Karma, especially now that my book is sitting in the hands of reviewers. Another part of me thinks it’s bad opportunism. I should write a glowing review and forward it to the author, maybe she could help me. Another part of me thinks why bother writing a bad review: it’s not like she’s selling hundreds of thousands of books, she needs the help just like any writer, I’m sure she’s a nice person whose heart is in the right place. Most of me just wants to write what I think.

I found out about his book because the editor, Mad Max Perkins, who wrote the blog Book Angst 101, posted about its release. It was interesting to me that the book was a noir book. I figured he’d be editing hyper-literary books that had nothing to do with me. The book’s about a former junkie who’s hired to find a young junkie in the streets of fifties New York. Sounds up my alley.

Started liking it at first. It was refreshing to read a hard-boiled female narrator. Part of the reason I wrote Shirley Shave was because I wasn’t reading a lot of fiction with female protagonists that had any kind of hard edge--sort of an Underground Woman. The female writers I like are harsher: Katherine Dunn, Joy Williams. This is going to sound like sexism: a lot of female writers are unwilling to be ugly. Another way of saying that is they don’t go to a place that interests me. So it was interesting to read a female character with a male voice. Her name’s Josephine and people call her Joe. If you picked this up in the middle it would take a while before you figured out it was a female narrator.

Which is actually sort of a problem. I’m contradicting myself. The problem is that the narrative doesn’t stray at all from noir prose of the past. I kept wondering when the book would go in some new direction, but it doesn’t, it feels from start to finish like a pulp book from the fifties. Except not as weird as Jim Thompson. It never paints outside the lines. I think she feels she’s being daring because it’s a female narrator and she’s a recovering junkie--but neither of these are that unique in pulp literature. It also gives it a sense of history to be looking back on the NY streets. But it’s not quite The Alienist or Luc Sante either. I think the book might be for people who have never read a crime novel so it seems like an amazing window into a world. It is cool that the book is marketed as "fiction" and not "crime," that it’s not being pigeonholed.

This review only comes from 23% jealousy. I’ll admit, I was reading wondering why this book is getting the full mainstream press treatment when I’m not. But I also wanted to like it, and I started to, until I found the book never wavered from its formula. And it’s not just about me, there’s a slew of other crime novels being written. It could have a home on a place like Soho Crime. I don’t know why this one got picked up and others didn’t. But then, publishing doesn’t make any sense.

George Saunders


I’ve been seeing George Saunders mentioned a lot recently. I've never read him. I went out and got what they had at the library. I couldn’t finish it. Just not my sense of humor.

If a writer’s compared to Thomas Pynchon I’m pretty much guaranteed not to like it. I couldn’t get through Vineland either. I just don’t think a name like Zoyd Wheeler is funny, and I’m supposed to.

Here’s a line: "Carol was in love with Cal, an Inner Hornerite who resembled a gigantic belt buckle with a blue dot affixed to it, if a gigantic belt buckle with a blue dot affixed to it had been stapled to a tuna fish can."

On the back it says the book’s a mixture of Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut. To some people out there, that’s the perfect combination. Not me.

I’m not done yet. I want to find his stories.

April 25, 2006

Wrecking Crew


I love books about heroin abuse, I love books about the down-and-out periphery of Hollywood, I love baseball. There’s basically no way I wasn’t going to like this book.

In how many books can you read this:

When I looked down, I saw that my fingers were raw and bloody. They looked the same way years before, when I played drums in the well-known punk band Bad Religion. Back then, the pain seemed well earned, a bloody testament to youthful fury I had used to propel the loud minimalist beats. Now I just felt stupid for not having worn batting gloves.

Myspace works. I found out about this book from the Myspace page. Otherwise, I might notta. Because I’m out of it. Loved this book. Made me appreciate L.A. a lot more, which I needed.

It’s weird that one review of my novel has been reviewed as having "compassion." Mostly because I don’t feel much compassion for Hollywood in any form. Or at least not when I was writing the book. This book is eye-opening about all those people trying to struggle to get by in Hollywood. One guy says, it’s better to be an old has-been than an old wanna-be. Most people don’t ever get the chance to say that. This book really does have compassion for those cast aside by this city.

I used to think there was no lower form of life than someone who acted in commercials or sitcoms. Like a lot of people, having a kid has changed my sense of integrity. If you’re working, then good. You go to an audition with hundreds of other people--how can it not be flattering if you land the role, whatever it is. If you’re also doing decent stuff as well as paying work, then good too. I guess I take issue with people who’s dream is to end up on a sitcom. But still, hard to fault them. They’re making a living. Better than waiting tables, better than the much more degrading shit the world can throw at you.

This doesn’t change my perception of there being too much emphasis put on celebrity. It fucks up the world. We wouldn’t have George Bush as President if people didn’t worship at the alter of celebrity. He had the appearance of a strong President--the brush clearing, Mission Accomplished, Texas drawl, ALL fake, like a H’wood action hero. It’s backfiring now because style can only take you so far, but Hollywood worship is tied into this country electing a lying dimwit for President. It also doesn’t make it any less weird that Tom Cruise conveniently had his kid right before his next movie is released. It seems timed: the birth of his child with a movie release. As if they waited to release the news. If that’s not a case of fucked-up psychopathology, I don’t know what is.

I’m getting very far off the subject of the book, Wrecking Crew, but these are some of the things I thought about while reading. This book’s as much about struggling to make it in Hollywood as it is about baseball. It’s the best punk rock baseball memoir you’ll ever read. Makes you proud to be a misfit. Really meaningful to read about people trying to overcome the crap in their lives and not being cynical about a game like baseball.

By the way the Mets are 12-7. A rougher road recently, but things are looking a lot better. Life has sucked for them and their fans these last few years. Depressing really. They finally don’t make you want to kill yourself. There's confidence that they can actually win. A note to Vertical Insanity, who’s less optimistic.

April 24, 2006


Back. I could have written something here in the last two weeks. It can take all of five minutes to write a blog entry, but I wanted to see what it felt like to not be tethered to it. The answer: it’s more boring.

I could have written about that guy who killed his ten-year-old neighbor. Old news now that it’s a week past. If you didn’t see it, he had a blogspot blog. I read through it and it kept me up at night. He was obviously a creep but he was also strikingly normal. He links Tony Pierce, McSweeney’s on his sidebar, says that The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson is one of his favorite books--stuff you have to dig for. This was someone you could possibly know.

It was a profoundly disturbing experience reading his blog. Part of me had a car accident curiosity about what he wrote. The writer part of me read the thing like it’s a weird kind of fiction. I’ve written books before in which murderous psychopaths go around writing their manifesto. Reading his blog made me feel irresponsible about glorifying a psychopath. Made me look back at my archives and the fiction I’ve written and see all the signals that I’m a deranged lunatic in the making. The whole thing’s just baffling and terrible.

Moving on. Had an interesting weekend. Went to the going away party for Dan Fante. A scene from his play was read, he read a story. Sounds a lot cooler than it was. The vibe there was weirdly uptight. Or maybe that’s just me. Not drunk and renegade as you might expect or hope, it was as staid and austere as a reading in a bookstore. I also got insulted by a couple people at the party and it left me with a bad taste. For some reason, people want to compare me to embarrassing celebrities.

Last night went to the screening of the short directed by the guy who just optioned Oscar Caliber Gun.


After the ego-battle of the night before it was good to hang out there with people who dig the book. I liked his short too. I didn’t know what to expect. If you have a million dollars to give him to make the movie, just shoot me an email.

For some reason, this fairly uninteresting post is getting a huge amount of traffic. Someone please let me know why.

April 11, 2006


Thanks go to Dogmatika for the very kind review. Key thing:

North of Sunset would make a fast-paced, successful movie, but don't be fooled in thinking that Baum's work is a pumped up script, it's most definitely not. The narrative is a taut as a drum and the dialogue effortless, making North of Sunset a page-turner and an example of an effective piece of storytelling that should be envied.

That site again, which you should all link to and visit daily is:


Susan of Dogmatika is Jesus. She advocates poor and meek people such as myself. OK, that’s taking it too far. She’s Mother Theresa.

I’m out of commission for the next two weeks blogwise. Convenient, considering the last two posts which are going to stay up for a while. My daughter’s out of daycare for two full weeks for Passover break. We need a new daycare center, but those are the places in our neighborhood. Strange timing, last week I got two jobs, one which should be pretty steady employment. I’ve been looking for a job for six months and when I get one I’m very pressed for time. When it rains it pours, always the case. Mostly, this is very good news. Feels great to be working again. To be getting paid for work. But the blog’s going to have to be on hold for the time being. For the next couple of weeks I have three jobs.

April 9, 2006


Many thanks go to the Blogskewer and his review of Ash Tree.

He has a couple of stories online. One at Exquisite Corpse and one at Jack Magazine.

He’s also got a blog called Begging for Salt which he’s calling a spontaneous novel, ala Kerouac’s unfolding piece of paper for On the Road, but written as it happens. This is what blogs are good for. This is why I love blogs: meeting up with people like Mark Weber.

Great stuff all around.

April 7, 2006



A great thing about putting out my own book is that it has gotten me in contact with other writers, people who run book sites, and the like. I contacted Frank at his Myspace page because I found him on Lulu and it looked like his book came from the same place. We agreed to send signed copies of our books to each other.

He’s on a crusade to get taken seriously by publishers: self-publishing the book and then trying to get word of mouth to spread. It should happen. Used to be that publishers took on writers who looked promising. Now it’s about marketing the one book and if that book doesn’t sell the writer is fucked for a very long time. In the old days, Frank Daniels would have been taken seriously right off. He’s obviously the real thing who has a lot of writing in his future. The book reads like it was screaming to be written.

The book’s even more amazing considering what he’s been through, came from. He’s a memoirist/novelist who’s got a quote from James Frey on the cover, but it says "a novel" under the title, as it should. His stepdad’s a lot like Dwight from Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life. Seems weird to compare two memoirs/real lives but that’s what struck me. The book stuck with me like Wolff’s. This is a pretty densely packed 270 pages but it reads quickly. Every image is vivid and effortless.

Why are these people who live totally fucked up lives able to write entire books? I guess because they do everything large and hard and that’s what it takes to write a novel. This is not the zombie story of Tony O’Neill’s Digging the Vein. Even if they go through some of the same stuff, Tony was alone, just him and the drugs. Frank Daniels is with friends and girlfriends and family, it’s a collective thing. This is about an entire life.

Kerouac, Miller, Bukowski, the big three are all autobiographical writers. They’re not just selling their novels, they're selling their lives, and there’s something enduring about that. You get a picture of the time in a much different way than a purely fictional novel. It’s the autobiographical writers who have become the underground Gods. The people who lived as hard as they wrote, or wrote as hard as they lived. N. Frank Daniels is another one and should be around for a while.

Check out N. Frank Daniels’ book site, his blog, make him a Myspace friend. Spread the word.

April 6, 2006

Stag 2

I neglected to do Kabuki’s last tag so here’s another one.


Four jobs you have had in your life:

1. Dishwasher
2. Pasta Maker, same place as the dishwasher. I was promoted.
3. Phone Poller
4. Standardized test grader

Four movies you would watch over and over:

1. Taxi Driver
2. Blade Runner
3. The Man with Two Brains
4. The Shawshank Redemption II: Trapped in Paradise

Four places you have lived:

1. Portland, OR
2. Minneapolis, MN
3. New York, NY
4. Paris, France

Four Places you would live:

1. New York City
2. Paris
3. London
4. Los Angeles

Four TV shows you love to watch:

1. Law & Order
2. The Simpsons
3. …
4. …

Four places you have been on vacation:

1. As a kid, London, Paris, and Kenya in one trip
2. Since then, Laguna Beach, CA

Four web sites you visit most often:

1. Ash Tree
2. The blog that shall not be linked.
3. Myspace, lately.
4. Your blog

Four favorite foods:

1. Burrito
2. Teriyaki Chicken
3. Sushi
4. Burrito

Four places you would rather be right now:

1. Rich
2. Dead, but the good kind of afterlife dead
3. A new apartment with an office.
4. On a Plain

I tag anyone who feels like doing this.


I’ve been tagged by Okay Kabuki about what kind of grooming products I use. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this one because I don’t remember. I don’t want to have to go into the bathroom. I use whatever’s there. For shampoo I use some kind of Trader Joe’s organic fertilizer something. Don’t know what kind of soap because the name’s worn off. Listerine. I like Listerine. Either I’ve got bad breath or my wife’s got a strangely acute sense of smell. Both. Pure aloe for moisturizer sometimes. I’m not so great about grooming. I need a haircut. I do try to use cruelty-free products. S. has a bevy of products that burn bunny rabbits’ eyes. She’s a sociopath.

April 5, 2006


Had two job interviews today. Went well. Just found out that I got one that should be a pretty interesting freelance gig. Looking up things. Things looking up.

Cantara Christopher wrote the first real review of North of Sunset as a comment on the Grumpy Old Bookman post. It deserves its own link.

Here are the best parts:

North of Sunset is an engrossing novel--and it is a novel, not a souped-up film treatment with literary pretentions…Every character he does portray is true, deep and vivid, particularly the women (astonishing for a writer Henry's age)--crucial to a book that uses a diversity of character portraits to build suspense. His style is invisible, yet precise and satisfying to the senses and intellect. There is a plot, probably the most over-used one in screendom, the serial killer with the quirky MO--although, in Henry's hands, this plot is dealt with free of sensationalism. Instead, it reveals the zeitgeist of Los Angeles with the understanding, even compassion, of a native son. It is the least cynical book about Hollywood I've ever read…

I get the feeling that Henry's attempting to stretch beyond Raymond Chandler, that he's going for Flaubert. I think in North of Sunset he succeeds. And he does it in only 270 pages, and one hell of a last line.

Turns out I wrote a non-cynical book for high-brows. Damn!

April 4, 2006

Haircut and Other Stories

Yesterday I spent the day sending out the new story and/or a novel excerpt, but mostly the story, to litmags:

Land Grant, Paris Review, Zoetrope, Night Train, Open City, Fence, Tin House, A Public Space, NYer, Swink, Eclectica, Watchword, Drunken Boat, Barrelhouse, Storyglossia, Failbetter

Some others waiting in the wings if none of those places are takers. Thanks to Rebecca at Writing Blind for telling me about some places I hadn’t heard of. All that and only five were actual hardcopy submissions. All hail the online submission process. Some of the submissions are pointless, like the NYer, but it’s free so what can it hurt. I like this story. It’s more together than what I’ve written recently. Better than My Cherry. Though there’s a very wide line between what I like and other people like. I think this one should find a home.

Also yesterday, like every day, I applied for jobs. A number of jobs come up each day, but in a city of 12 million people, and 10 million of them are writers, there are a lot of applicants for each job. It’s hard. Or, to quote The Who: It’s very, very, very, very hard.


This past weekend my parents were out of town so we housesat for them. They’ve got a lot of cable so we watched some bad TV. We were going around the dial and I was feeling like a Christian. Every channel had some fucked-up sexual innuendo that I could imagine scaring the shit out of some reasonably repressed parents. It made me feel old. We switched to a show called Wonder Showzen, which I’d never heard of. In the ten minutes we watched there were jokes about child molestation and starving kids in Africa, showing actual pictures of starving children. It’s funny, see, because it’s pushing the envelope.

Not finding stuff like this funny doesn’t make me out of touch or uptight, I hope. Older people have been complaining forever that kids’ culture is out of bounds. I don’t think Elvis’ gyrating hips are that big of a problem, but making fun of starving children? I don’t know. It’s like making Holocaust jokes, it just shouldn’t happen. And it’s not a sign of liberation that people can finally laugh at it. One argument says, laughter is a way people cope with horror, blah blah. Not if the humor turns the mind to stupid jello. It’s not progress, it’s regress. But that’s the same thing people said about the Beatles haircuts.

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