alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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Snapshot

It’s a gorgeous day.
I’ll be in my windowless office for the next 5 hours, but I got 20 minutes of driving here, and I’m thankful.

I started writing again this morning. It’s a good feeling.
It’s also a mixed feeling: hope, excitement, and fear are the main parts.
This time I’m going to try to remember to enjoy it more. More fun, less duty.

If you’re supposed to be writing, I hope you are.

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Do you know this story?

I was reading John Mutford’s Short Story Monday post over at The Book Mine Set, and because he was reading Graham Greene, it reminded me of a short story I read and really really liked, except I can’t remember what it was called or where I would find it.

It was by Graham Greene (who is awesome, awesome, AWESOME) and it was in a collection of ghost stories I got out of the library in Virginia. A guy is in a movie theater and someone is sitting beside him, and really that’s all I can remember but it was sooo good. And good and creepy.

Does this mean anything to anyone? Please help.


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A Nomad of the Night, by Rupert Holmes

Edgar Allan Poe, 1848, Library of Congress

Edgar Allan Poe, 1848, Library of Congress

This is the story that caused me to add On A Raven’s Wing to my already overburdened bookshelf. I read a Rupert Holmes novel once before. It was Swing. It had a CD bound into the back cover, with music the author had composed and which was supposed to contain clues to the mystery. This automatically made me think it must be a bad book. (One song was called ‘Beef Lo Mein’; this made it 1% better.)

I was interested in the setting – murder at the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition- and went bravely ahead. Pretty good mystery. So….”A Nomad in the Night.”

Set in 1969, young filmmaker Andris Riga bangs on the door of his hero, schlock horror impresario Canaan Twill, armed with the eighty-one minutes of badly-dubbed grainy footage that is his NYU master’s thesis, A Nomad in the Night, a film that he ‘privately referred to as a Catcher in the Rye in which Holden Caulfield is searching for truth while also drinking other people’s blood.’ This may be the best sentence in the story. That’s kind of genius.

Other sentences aren’t so blessed. The first paragraph contains the following clause: “The long-limbed chestnut-maned graduate student…”. Whoa, nelly.  It doesn’t matter to the story what the guy looks like. It’s graceless, and it’s not even necessary.

The neat angle is that young Riga has been a quick study of how other filmmakers have ridden Poe’s coattails to decent box office by splashing his presence on their posters and advertising, no matter how tenuous the connection to the actual film. Before visiting Twill, a Poe fan and collector of Poe-abilia, Riga invents a heretofore undiscovered Poe story entitled ‘A Nomand of the Night’, and adds Poe’s name to the opening titles.

Twill listens to Riga’s spiel, and when Riga produces a torn corner of the supposed ‘Nomad’, Twill not only believes Riga’s faux-Poe story, he believes him a little too well, with — what did you expect?–Poe-ish consequences.

I didn’t like the very end, the final shiver. I thought it was a cheap shot. I don’t want to give anything away, but I think in a lot of ways, my offense is summed up in this article about Battlestar Galactica. To be fair, no one claims Holmes’s story is feminist, but my complaint is still the same. Maybe even a little of this. Oh. Did I give it away? 😦 Bad me.


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What do these 3 books have in common?

common

For starters, they all have covers that I am embarrassed that anyone would see me walking around with. Maybe not the Raven so much, but that loopy red yarn ‘love’ that echoes the nauseating ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ and the wholesome mother (in nurturing Earth Tones) embracing her cretinous kid (also in a The-Kids-At-School-May-Spit-At-Me-But-At-Least-My-Mommy-Loves-Me palette of contemporary greige).

But what they really have in common is a great big FAIL that only I can see. At home I have this bookshelf. Okay, maybe two bookshelves. And that pile on top of the recycling. At my library, you can check books out indefinitely, so I’ve had some of these books 2 or 3 years. I promised myself that I would start reading them, and I’ve been pretty good about it. But I also promised myself that I would not, would NOT, check out a single other book from the Lenient Library until I had read and returned every last one. Guess where these 3 books came from?

These are (probably) not good books. I would never pay money for these books. But I was meeting someone at the library today and was 10 minutes early. So I maybe just kind of sort of wandered to have a look at the ‘New Arrivals’ section, and half a sentence browsed here and a page turned there and why not take them home. It’s hard to have shopper’s remorse about things that are free.  I console myself that 2 of them are short story collections, so I can read one story from each, feel virtuous (hello Try Something New mini-challenge), and return them with a clear conscience.


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Fat, by Raymond Carver

I read this story because Robb insisted. He thinks Carver is good. I think Carver has the sheen of cool around him so much that he’s gone a little greasy. The last time we had this discussion about 6 months ago, I dragged out one of my undergrad anthologies and started reading the one about the blind man (‘Cathedral’). I didn’t finish it. But now I’m all resolved, what with mini-challenges and all. I got specific. I said, What story? And he said, Fat.

I got ‘Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?” out of the library on Saturday morning, and finished my current novel Saturday afternoon, which meant I didn’t have any more excuses. I was thinking maybe I would read it over Sunday morning pancakes or something, and I cracked the cover to see exactly how much I was in for, and….six pages. That didn’t seem so bad. Even I can handle that.

So now I’ve got Reason #1 to read short stories. It’s called ‘Fast-Track To a Sense of Accomplishment & Triumph.’ In no time at all, I had finished what I set out to do. And you know what, Robb? You were right. I did like this one.

Since the story was so short I hesitate to do a normal summary. What could I say without giving it all away? A list instead, I think:

–There is a waitress.
–There is a fat man.
–The fat man would like the Special, but we may have a dish of vanilla ice cream as well. With just a drop of chocolate syrup, if you please.

The story is so compact that anything else I could say would either be wrong, or give something away. It is so tight, and so seemingly matter-of-fact that certain lines ring and ring with significance. The bit I liked best of all, was the last 3 lines, mostly because I wouldn’t have thought to put them there. Because I didn’t expect to find them there. The story had already closed, and those 3 lines opened. Suggested a whole different story had taken place before I joined the story on the page.

I was so reconciled by this point, that I even read the next story in the collection, ‘Neighbors.’ It was seriously weirder. And I kept wondering what would happen to the Kitty.


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My Book Cover

City of Shadows, 1992-1994

City of Shadows, 1992-1994, by Alexey Titarenko

A popular game with, well, pretty much everyone I’ve ever known, is “When I Have A Band It’s Gonna Be Called____.” Fill-in anything from “Dog Turd Minefield” to “Kung Pao Chicken.”

This is my pathetic writer’s version. When I have a book, this is going to be the cover. I love this so much it makes me want to write a book just so it can deserve the cover. My other book cover (the good thing about books is that you can have more than one, it just makes you cooler) is going to be something custom by Irina who did the header for this blog. What is it about Russian art? Why is it so good?