August 23, 2008

Shameless Revisionism: Unfinished Fiction #2

At last, the moment you've all been waiting for: the Summer of Shameless Revisionism is coming to an end. Oh yes, what with the final Olympic weekend and the first week of school (in some places) and the horror of the Padres' 2008 season and the apparent rise of Delaware from political oblivion, it's time to shut down this silliness once and for all. Or at least until next summer, when I hopefully won't still be writing a book.

Anyway, speaking of fiction, that's what we've got again this week, except in ever-diminishing quantity and quality. See, I explained last week that this stuff was basically just my warm-ups (over...six years?) for the actual attempt at a novel. Well, that and an ego-balm after the unceremonious rejection from graduate-level writing programs. Wait, that's not right—the band was the ego-balm. Hmmm, this isn't getting any more insightful, and at midnight we're not going to see any new lucid episodes of genius, so let's leave the weepy shit for the end and just jump into the work, for the final time. As always, click on a post's title to see the whole shebang.

Beyond Mere Chemical Enhancement (Jul. 8, 2003)
The last installment of my untitled 2003 fiction project, "Enhancement" follows these three pieces into a festering den of adolescent iniquity, and...oh hell, no it doesn't. It's a clumsy attempt at Bret Easton Ellis, and I obviously hadn't realized how to fall back on the gonzo impulse when all else failed. But whatever. It is what it is:

The bedroom door opens and Jake comes back followed by the two people who just showed up outside: the mop-haired quiet one from the Civic last night and another guy with a shaved head who shuffles along with terrible posture. They shiver a bit as they join us all in the crowded room, and Jake ducks in the closet to get the little pipe and baggie he’s hidden inside a drawer. Voices murmur and laugh in the low light and I can hear two people making out on the other side of the room. Jake emerges again and steps over the long, powerful legs of the two girl volleyball players and winks at them, but they just glare back at him in annoyed acknowledgement. He shrugs to himself and turns around back to his guests.
You Were Always My Favorite Maniac (Aug. 22, 2003)
So since the Ellis-isms were obviously getting me nowhere, I tried a different tack. "Maniac" combines three different emails I'd sent to three separate women within a few weeks (yes, I save the "sent mail" folder), and as a crude mash-up it doesn't suck as much on re-read as I assumed it would. Of course, the one-sidedness is a major detriment, but what are you gonna do? It's a style choice, I guess. Anyway, the other obvious thing about this piece is the emergence of Roy and Olivia as permanent characters who would show up in the Weapon of Young Gods.
But none of that matters right now, because I’m sick as ten dogs. I’ve been completely consumed by the feral bastard offspring of migraines and coagulated snot. I get short of breath but when I take a deep breath I cough like a mofo- dry, lung-chucking spasms- exacerbating the pounding of my clammy bald skull. I sleep it off for a few hours and wake up caked in sweat and smelling like a dingo, and pathetically pray for heaven's mercy. How's that for colorful metaphor? English major moron, my ass. I'm quite happy I majored in English, Liv. I wiped the floor with my English classes and wrote some fucking good papers, thank you very much. Plus English girls are easy. Or so I was told. Not like you hot-blooded fractionally brown girls, of course. Never that. So yeah, it's wonderful to hear from you, and write back whenever you wish. Just don't forget to appeal to my planet-sized ego, and I'll make sure to always behave with appropriate crazed enthusiasm. You're welcome.
The Insidious Riptide of Doubt (Dec. 21, 2006)
As embarrassing as it may seem these days, my fiction bug was kicked back into gear thanks to a "writer's workshop" sideline thread on the liberal mega-blog Daily Kos, of all places. "Riptide" was my first contribution, and it's presented here unedited as a sort of marker for how far the novel has progressed since this original, hopelessly gimped effort. The writer's group was fine, and they offered up fine and useful criticism, but after about six more chapters (which have since grown to 48) I decided to bail and spend time writing my own shit instead of getting caught up in other people's narratives. Of course, once I began posting WOYG chapters on Docudharma, I ended up critiquing again anyway. Oh, and the character of Francesca makes her first appearance in this one. A similar chapter will present the final version (I think it will be #39) once it's ready, but for now, here's a bit from the original.
The waves crash a little louder. Some kids down the beach scream like banshees, but Frankie’s still out like a light. I need to know. I need to know if I’m being lied to—a little white lie or a creatively elaborate monster—and I’m tired of being lied to. It’s all that’s happened to me this year. Nadia did it, Ally did it, my own fucking dad did it, and I’m sick to death of being continually body-checked by the awful truth every month or so. A lazy Saturday in sunny southern California is slouching its way across the cosmos, but I’m becoming more and more compelled to just up and flip Frankie right over—'sorry babe, musta freaked out a sec, dunno what came over me,”—just to find out if she’s really been scarred by heroin like she said she was. Her arms are clean. Her fingers are perfect. Knuckles smooth. Am I really that gullible? That trusting? Why would my unerring suspicion, my utterly reliable fear of anything remotely risky or sneaky, choose to abandon me at this crucial moment?
Vengeful Arson on Aliso Peak (Jan. 23, 2007)
I guess I can't say too much about this one, because on re-read it's sort of a WOYG spoiler. So if you want to read the whole book when it's done, don't click the link—but if you do, the final draft will probably be a lot different and not include much of this original piece. I'd bashed it out in about an hour and never entered it in the writers' workshop, so this is the first airing. It's a little messy but the vibe is right for the book.
I unleashed hell on my hometown much faster than I would have thought possible. I was so surprised at how quickly it happened that I almost forgot to run. It's not like I didn't think I had it in me or anything; it's just that when I'd thought about doing something like this before, I didn't imagine that such a small effort could result in the frightening magnitude of sheer speed and power displayed before me. I wasn't prepared for it, wasn't prepared for what it showed me about myself and how much I could let hate concentrate and fester and ferment inside me. I sure as hell wasn't prepared for the consequences of what I'd done, and I was in no hurry to find out the full extent of what they might be. By the time I left the party all the fighting had stopped, but I didn't want to stay there and be with people trying to get their goddamn buzzes back. I still needed to clear my head. I walked out of the hotel suite and down the stairs to the parking garage, brought my beloved piece of junk to life, and tried to feel sober as I rolled down the window and turned the fan on. It didn't work. I thought I could use a drive but part of me didn't want to go too far cause it hadn't been that long ago that I'd had my last drink. The other part of me could really give a shit about any of that and was all ready to start dishing out random payback.
How to Stomp a Brahmin (Nov. 4, 2007)
Now this one, this little bastard was fun to write, even though it also turned out a little messy and ended up on the cutting-room floor when I was outlining the full novel. "Brahmin" was also spewed out relatively quickly, and I do like how it shows the Reed brothers' relationship that is cultivated in several other chapters. I actually had to reference it in a few places in the novel too, but the only one I can remember right now is chapter 13. Two months later I began posting the novel's first draft, and the rest is...history?
Twilight descended mercilessly on the 405 as my brother drove us up toward Costa Mesa, keeping the aging green beast of a Volvo at a steady sixty in the right lane. I slouched at useless angles in the passenger seat, feeling dumb and ashamed, irradiated by the fallout of Nadia's day-old surprise nuclear breakup bomb. R.J. remained stoically focused on the road and the various symptoms of his decaying station wagon, tactfully indicating that he would listen to any pathetic whining I felt like succumbing to, but only up to a point.

"We need to get you the hell out of here," he'd said earlier that day, after I'd lain inert for six straight hours in bed. He was right, of course; I was already starting to stink up our room with my rotting self-absorption, and would soon sink below even R.J.'s ability to drag me back to the land of more conventional young male egomania. "Come on," he urged, yanking me up by the arm, "we're going to see a new movie- I've just seen the ad for something that will definitely treat your particular symptoms: Richard III, the fascist version. They re-wrote the play for '40s Germany, with the king as dictator."
And...that's all, folks! The revisionism stops here. Wasn't that fun? Here, you can re-live the glorious recent past already, thanks to the magic of HTML:

UCSB Daily Nexus Artsweek #1 (1997) 6.14.08
UCSB Daily Nexus Artsweek #2 (1997-1998) 6.20.08
Santa Barbara Independent (2001-2003) 6.29.08
@U2 Essays (2001-2005) 7.5.08
Genre-Bending Gonzo (2002-2005) 7.12.08
My Band Rocks #1: The Mojo Wire (1997-2001) 7.19.08
My Band Rocks #2: Honey White (2002-2007) 7.23.08
Soapblox Rants #1 (2007) 8.1.08
Soapblox Rants #2 (2008) 8.9.08
Unfinished Fiction #1 (2002-2003) 8.15.08
Unfinished Fiction #2 (2003-2007) 8.23.08

Seriously, thanks for enduring. The DV blog will surely have some more activity during the final lap of Campaign '08, but I'm hoping that we'll have some hotter stuff going on at the band blog and the book blog, so you know that when I say "stay tuned" this time, I really mean it.

Sort of.

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