Posts Categorized: writing


The new temp didn’t seem very bright. Just something about him. He’d taught English in Korea and now he was home: he would always talk about that, or anime. The two ran together in the minds of the permanent staff.

He said the culture was different, it wasn’t easy to live that way. He would just get tired. At the first he loved being strange. He could say what he wanted. But now he would rather be home where things made sense, and relax.

Let that be a lesson

Two children, one of them in a red cap, it might have been a girl, were kicking a beach ball up in the air, back and forth. It would go up quickly, weaving side to side like an inflatable buoy against the mottled blue backdrop of the sky. It would complete the curve, drifting down slowly.

They ran up and down on either side of a green asphalt tennis court with a saggy, torn net. For all the attention they paid one another, they might have been side by side or miles apart – they were watching the ball. The surface showed a map of the world in bright, unhealthy color. The surface was divided into twelve longitudinally, like long cantaloupe slices. The sea was pointillist blue.

An early fall afternoon

From an elevation in the sandpit you commanded the playground. There was a train of boys running after a train of girls. It was shapes and activity. One girl seemed to stand still in the center of it. She held her eyes tight closed. He raised a sliver of bark above his head. It was his sword of justice.

He fell upon the group shouting, holding his weapon, he flew down from the hill with air rushing past his scalp. He felt glee and power as he chased. Older boys shouted after him, he felt the sun. He was a good runner. With a sudden burst of speed he caught up with and tackled a boy. He heard cheers. The wind was rushing past and he was strong.

The lodger’s money

Trying something a little different here: write a story keep it at exactly 250 words. We’ll see how it goes. Just trying to keep things simple for now.

The mother and her daughter were sitting at the small table by the window in the otherwise empty kitchen. The lodger came in and sat down. The mother angrily pulled closed the curtain that looked out on the road. She turned to her daughter: did she have anything so say for herself? The daughter continued to stare at the lodger. She sat curving her spine, contrary to her recent, conscious habit. Her mother repeated the question. She bent further forward, her head tilted back and her broad chin elevated. She kept her small teeth tight together. The silence acted as a goad on him, and he jerked forward in his chair.

Some reconsiderations

Well, that’s frustrating. I was going to write a post about the Kalevala poetic meter and illustrate its rules with samples of traditional songs performed by the Finnish folk group Värttinä, but I’ve just spent a couple hours looking, and I can’t seem to find a single stanza of theirs that doesn’t violate at least one of its rules. It must be said that the rules of the meter are really complicated, and in general, Värttinä’s songs do appear similar – accentual trochaic tetrameter, longer words tending towards the end of the line, no splitting four-syllable words across the caesura, end the line with a short vowel – until you look in detail. If you enjoy poetic meters, you can read about it here.

But that’s the truth about inspection and consideration. You go in with an idea of what you’ll find, it looks like what it looks like from a distance, and sometimes your idea is changed, and sometimes you have to drop your idea entirely; it looks different from close up. I thought of even writing a post illustrating the rules of the meter by Värttinä’s songs’ departures from it. But that seems inappropriate or even ungrateful, and happily, there are other things to talk about. I was thinking last night about a novelist, I haven’t read too many of her books, and haven’t re-read any of the ones I have read, but she’s made a distinct impression on me, and there is a certain fundamental pattern that persists unchanged from book to book. I said: she is like a Dostoevsky or a Shakespeare crossed with a choreographer.

New habits bear easy

I have started up a couple new habits recently. It makes me have to do things a little more deliberately, because I am still having to choose to do them instead of doing them automatically. But it’s important to keep changing habits, or at least it has become habitual, to me. There is something about a habit that shapes the time it is found in, or that flows through it. And old habits which I resurrect seem to bring with them a little bit of the former time, like a flavor of the atmosphere that you didn’t necessarily feel at the time. Like when you are away from home long enough that you notice how it smells on your return.

It’s an accidental time capsule, like a picture of the pile of library books I had out at one time, or an old recipie file, there’s an atmosphere that comes with that. The ghost of a life that you used to live, ghosts being distortions in the air. I remember the carpet that I fell asleep on one night up late working on a short story I was writing, I was in the habit of walking every evening twenty minutes to work on it and not leave until I had met a certain word goal. I think I was seventeen, I was working late, I thought I would lie down and take a rest, and when I woke up I had a spotted red area on my cheek, but the carpet I was on had waves on it. I remember that result seemed unlikely. It’s a whiff of the past in the present. The feeling was alienating and it remains a little strange.

Sketch of character

If I’m going to write I’d better do it. (It’s easier to steer a moving ship.) I might make a series: people I have known. Character sketches. I’ve never liked the idea of writing about people. It seems somehow disrespectful. People are large, and mostly invisible. How can I claim to know them well enough to represent them? They could always come back at me and deny my representation: I’m not like that at all.

Performance anxiety

It’s always best to begin with questionable etymology, no matter what the subject. (See, Heidegger did teach me something after all.) Wikipedia says (today) that the word sin ultimately comes from the Proto-Indo-European *es-, to be. Provocative!

Tristes Tropiques

Blogs collect unfulfilled projects. (It’s a form of internet lint.) Why should this one be different? One more thing I plan to use this site for, another thing I get to avoid doing in avoiding coming here, I won’t notice it. So let’s announce it: We, Mfc and I, plan to read Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques, a couple chapters a week, for the next however long, and blog an exchange about it.


Shortly before I moved across town at the beginning of December, I sent a letter to my new address, as a welcome home. But I didn’t include my apartment number (it had slipped my mind). I sent it a couple days too early, there was no one by that name at that address. So it was sent back. But by that time, I had changed my address at the post office: so it was forwarded on. But it had already been sent back from the new address once. So it was sent back again, and went into postal limbo, from whence it emerged only last week; but I had forgotten about it by then. So it was a little time capsule.