“And if he needs me to, I’ll gladly sleep with your brother until he’s 21!”
I’ve just unpacked the face when life begins
The first decision I have to make is bits or brawn, as they say. For me, that one’s a no-brainer. I decide right away I don’t want to go digital. I guess you could say I’m a traditional sort of guy in that respect. Plus, once I’d made up my mind to build, Parm gave me a copy of this book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, and it really got me thinking. I don’t want to just download a life. I want to build my man from the guts out, really get my hands bloody.
April 7, 2017
Measured against the goals I had set for it and its own rules of engagement, the poem could only be merited a radical success.
Back home in the furniture-free apartment I lay down on my inflatable mattress, fired up my laptop, and wrote a poem called “The Shitfucker Vulture.”
March 29, 2017
On Ottessa Moshfegh
Reading Homesick for Another World isn’t unlike the experience of walking through a Diane Arbus retrospective. In Susan Sontag’s words, Arbus’s work “chooses oddity, chases it, names it, elects it, frames it, develops it, titles it.”
March 24, 2017
Mikhail’s manuscript was about stories, before the manuscript itself disappeared. At what point, he wonders, smoking, does writing become real?
21. Now I’m here, alone, envisioning Mikhail. I type and my words fill the white screen, paragraphs accumulating like storm clouds. Command-S and they’re saved, cached inside somewhere, in a space so small it’s virtually virtual. Amazing how we’ve gone from stone to parchment to paper to essentially nothing at all, as if we’ve almost managed to reproduce the very substance of thought itself, its fundamental nothingness, its lightness. Something not really existing, but not not existing either. Something tangible as smoke.
January 6, 2017
We had a different attitude back then. Decency, friendship, family. Now—fuck—everybody’s fallen into the money trap.
Back then you would say, it’s raining, the roof is leaking over here, and the union would send a couple boys over with a wheelbarrow and a bit of tarpaper or a tarp. Problem solved, and you can keep on living there. See if anyone gives a shit now. You could sleep on the streets for all they care. These days? The union? Fuck. Some fucking union it is these days. Now they’ve got the union name but no substance.
A memo on the ruins
By the time the twentieth century was yielding to the twenty-first, the worry had been replaced by one strangely analogous: Was a rational agent ever really free to choose a course of action that failed to maximize his economic self-interest? It was to politics that people generally went for an answer, in those years. The philosophers were, as I say, then preoccupied by the problem of the hypothetically powerful computer.
Look, I was tortured. They say I snitched on a comrade who later died by soldiers’ bullets. I didn’t snitch.
My sister grabbed a sheet, tripped on it, ran out of the room naked. I stepped back, mouth open.
September 16, 2016
I know how to build and if it was lost it is not really lost, it is going back better, just fabulous.
These are almost all very small little bombs, and even the ones that are a little more serious, even those, ours are much, much bigger, so people can understand that we are in control of the situation, and we are going to have a very, very successful number of days.
“Oh, he died, I think.”
Tristan held on to the bench with both hands as they jerked into reverse and pulled away from the dock. Treble Island had come and gone. The boat hit the waves harder without the weight of the other passengers, and he felt each wave as a blow to the stomach. From his stomach a bad feeling rose into his chest and spread across the tops of his shoulders like big hands pressing him down. He was soaring and drowning, or he was crying, that was it.
July 1, 2016
Every story has someone that needs to be expunged.
Just where do you think you’re going, the owl said from its perch right above me.
June 29, 2016
Does this appeal to you? I can have 1,429 pages on your desk by noon.
Hello. You look like someone who appreciates a good idea. It’s about? Well, it’s about life, really, and death, too.
June 3, 2016
It is always better to say you’re doing something rather than nothing.
“Your life may fall apart around you while you’re putting on the act of radiating positivity, but you will not realize it for some time.”
The save-our-street strategy
At least we’re not learning about Helen Keller anymore. Sometimes I write invisible letters on Kira’s hand in Integrated Studies. T-H-I-S (flat palm) S-U-C-K-S. We’re not making fun of Helen Keller, just using her techniques to get by. We have our own handicaps. Boys who crack Helen Keller jokes ignore our collective lack of breast. They’re probably from Longview.
The healer is here
The water wasn’t too cold. I drained the cup and went over to the girl. Pulling the saltwater bucket toward me, I dipped and rinsed both hands before I arranged her head next to the man’s. How many times had he arranged them just this way, I thought, the head of a predator along its prey. Then I started on her with the loam. I went over each of her eyes before filling up her mouth. Then Wezile handed me a fresh blade, and I placed the disk on her chest. Her skin was soft, and it didn’t take much to peel a piece off.
March 23, 2016
“It started as a normal novel about fathers and sons, one of those, so I always knew I wanted to write about fathers and sons. And I thought I could do it in a realist way, tracking a father and a son through a relationship or whatever, and I was completely unable to do that. There were two or three years where essentially, everyday, I would start from scratch. I liked the starting out, I liked having a father and a son in some weird situation, and then I would sort of try to maneuver them in a realist way, and it would fall apart and collapse. After a couple of years of this and feeling crazy, probably under the influence of some other books that had somewhat similar forms, I realized I could just sort of take each of the beginnings and turn them into their own mini story and have the relationship kind of come out of the way the stories interacted with each other.”
February 12, 2016
"What happens when you grow old? Will your individualism save you?"
He began to wonder if there was something to Ayub’s notion that the pain was partly mental, seeing how it had jumped after the diagnosis from the doctor. At home, on his bed, enclosed by a life-size poster of Tendulkar on one side and of Michael Jackson on the other—old posters from the age of fourteen he had never taken down or replaced—he began to read the book Ayub had given him, The Religion of Pain.
If the objection was that porn was tasteless, profane, distorting, or exploitative, then porn was just really honest TV.
November 6, 2015
The baseball wives know it’s best if you call ahead, tell the people that take care of things you are coming, give them a week to make things spick-and-span. They have services for this, not just for the baseball wives but for all the wealthy part-time residents of Scottsdale. Advance crews with Windex and Lysol and rubber gloves and an endless supply of garbage bags. Doesn’t matter how clean the wives left their homes when they were there last, they will be dirty, the autumn sandstorms, those funny-sounding haboobs getting grit everywhere, even under the lips of the rubber-sealed, triple-paned windows.
September 10, 2015
Joining us on this episode of the n+1 podcast is Christine Smallwood, who reads from her short story “Hand Jobs” originally published in issue 22 of n+1, then she stays for a short conversation on writing the story.
“I just read about the Holocaust. Why am I picturing this fern? What is the matter with me?”
July 24, 2015
“It’s a lovely city,” the woman said.
He smelled the brackish water and the sharp sting of diesel coming at him in the wind off the bay. It was the first Tuesday in July, a week after his father died, and the city was crowded with tourists and locals off of work for summer vacation. The sun was out and the day was warm.
July 17, 2015
Forget about the future, the past is what’s great.
My car is white and great. My husband has a vehicle too—green. We wear our seat belts when we drive and turn the steering wheels.
This was definitely not what Ken wanted.
The palm reader, when she arrived, moved in a way that suggested she was not in too much of a hurry to arrive in the future. She was like some piece of human clutter purchased to give the room more character. Ceramic roses were clipped to her earlobes and beneath her black crocheted dress her breasts strained to get away from each other. On her left hand was a diamond the size of a Brussels sprout. She was between 40 and 65 years old. I was the guest of honor and I got to go first. She led me away from the drinks and the stereo and the cheese to the corner under the skylight, and sat me on an egg-shaped orange chair. The palm reader sat herself on a low wooden bench, a Shaker pew that had been bought at auction.