Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The song "Beautiful Things" by Quasi brings me pure pleasure. I listen to it every day. In Oberlin, I would listen to it on headphones while I walked the dogs down leafy streets in the bright morning, through neighborhoods both ramshackle and grand. Here in the woods I wake up with the light and it is the first thing I want to put on. I bike down the sunny dirt road from the library to my studio and it goes through my head the whole time as I wind around potholes and the breeze lifts my hair, which is maybe the best way I can describe what this song feels like.

It's the rare song that is truly genuinely happy without sounding cartoonish or twee or saccharine. It's a cover of song by the 3-D's, and from Score!: 20 Years of Merge Records: THE COVERS--which came out last summer, technically, but I'm declaring it my anthem for summer 2010.

Quasi, "Beautiful Things"

Monday, June 14, 2010


I had this thing last night where I felt a little mopey and left the party at 9:30 to come back and ostensibly work. People were playing Scrabble and pool and ping-pong and lounging around the big old leather couches drinking wine, but I felt conversed-out and unsure. Maybe I said I was going to work just to justify going home. 

So I sat down at my desk and turned on the lamp and listlessly added and subtracted a sentence here and there, just to have done at least something before I went to bed to read. I was transcribing things from my notebook, and it felt like transcription. And stitching these pieces in there felt like labor: requisite transition, requisite image, requisite zoom-out shot of analytical prose.

I sighed and glanced at the clock. 10:22? I'd done more than I thought. That gave me a little puff of energy so I thought I'd just go ahead and do one more thing. The next time I remembered to check, it was 11:30 and I had three new pages.

Time is the thing I had been wrangling all day--well, in fact, the main thing I keep having to wrangle with, writing long-form for the first time. What is a novel but a massive undertaking in time measurement and management? And I didn't expect to find it at that hour, but my favorite thing in writing is exactly that feeling of losing time altogether. It's maybe one of the only actual unequivocably pleasurable parts of writing, being so present in the work that the world falls away.

Whereas when that happens on the internet, it's total despair. I tell you, life without the internet--here in my remote outpost, I only use it once or twice a day, at the library--is life with a totally different experience of time. The day seems so much longer, in the best way. If you're in a chronically wifi-ed environment, without the luxury of premillennial levels of disconnection, download MacFreedom and you'll see what I mean.

You know what else moves shockingly fast? A fox. 
The Magnetic Fields, "When the Open Road is Closing In"

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I wrote for six and a half hours yesterday. On ONE scene in chapter six. I wrote so hard I got mad. I got up from my desk at 5:15 to take a shower and spun around and walked right out of the bathroom and sat back down, I could not do anything until the damn scene was concluded.

By the time I collapsed into my seat at dinner I felt like a border collie that had been herding sheep all day. Exhausted from corralling all these wayward bleating misshapen things, ready to flop onto the floor panting and lie there for hours, also satisfied that I had at last fully done the work I feel wired to do.

A quote Wallace Stegner kept me going: Hard writing makes easy reading.
God let's hope.
By the end of the day, put me in a bucket, I'm done.
But that's still hours away. Half the chapter-six sheep are still out wandering, and the fence keeps moving. Back to work.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


...got seriously appended with some essential back story yesterday. Turns out it wasn't so finished after all. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I'm holed up in the woods writing and I won't say much more about that because a) I have to get back to it and b) you shouldn't talk too much about what you're writing or you won't want to write it. When people ask me what this novel is about, I have figured out the easiest thing to say is "people making bad decisions for good reasons," or "family." 

Generally I write exclusively to the epic sweeps and dulcet murmuring of Sigur Ros, though Amiina and Múm work for me too--the magic combo of Icelandic + verbally minimal/incomprehensible leads me right to that clearing in my tangled brain, ever since that very first listen of Ágætis Byrjun

But making soundtracks and theme songs for characters and stories is irresistible. A tool of both procrastination and characterization, equally fundamental parts of the process.

Today I restructured chapter two and here is its song.

Friday, June 4, 2010


The New Pornographers, Challengers
ME: They are the indie rock Muppets.

Vampire Weekend, Contra
COMPANION, with slight frown: This is a little bit too Lion King for me.