Saturday, June 5th, 2010

These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin

I’m in Asheville, NC: my fifth city in five days.

When I’m in hyper-traveling mode like this I find that my sanity gets a bit fragile. You start creeping around feeling alienated from everyone. You become abnormally interested in the movie they’re showing on the plane, even (especially!) when that movie is The Chipmunks. The Doors’ “When You’re Strange” starts to make sense. You start saying ‘you’ when you mean ‘I.’ This is not a good development.

Remaining in touch with reality is a constant running battle. Fortunately I have help in this glorious struggle, from the following things:

— David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I’ve been reading Mitchell for a long time now. His books can be uneven — Number9Dream was a problem for me — but never boring. He’s committed to great storytelling, and he’s willing to try all kinds of extreme formal gambits that I could never pull off — he’s like the Roger Federer of the novel. I don’t know any writers who aren’t interested in Mitchell. It’s real litgeek stuff.

— My rotating cast of comforting nerdy t-shirts that have on them:

    — a schematic of an Imperial Walker. It was meant to promote Star Wars Rogue Squadron 3: Rebel Strike, but it has long outlived its game.
    — the symbols of the various members of the Justice League. The shirt itself is also a tasteful cloudy blue. I basically can’t go on stage without this shirt.
    — Roast Beef from Achewood
    — a picture of Snape from Potter Puppet Pals. It says “Potions Master”

— MC Frontalot, “Better at Rapping”

— Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan, Swords and Dark Magic. I wanted to be in this anthology, but my piece didn’t fit the theme. Not enough swords in it. But that is not preventing me from enjoying the book. Joe Abercrombie. Caitlin Kiernan. Bill Willingham. Michael Moorcock. FTW.

— Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. Cooking is a big deal to me. Cooking is what I do instead of watching TV. And Bourdain knows 30 thousand times more about cooking, and people who cook, than I ever will. Which granted most people do, but Bourdain can write about it. When I forget what being honest on paper sounds like, I go to Bourdain. He seems to experience reality the same way I do: degrading humiliation alternating with ecstatic happiness, without much in between. This particular collection isn’t top-shelf Bourdain. But it’s new and I’ll take it.

— Parry Gripp, “The Girl at the Video Game Store”

TowerMadness for the iPhone. Actually this one may be hurting my sanity more than it’s helping. I keep dying at level 55 of Danger Meadow.

9 comments on “These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruin

  1. Leigh Ann H. says:

    Roast Beef! I wondered if you knew Achewood, because some of your recent blog entry titles have reminded me more of that (“man why you even got to do a thing?”) than of Venture Brothers.

    The dude is from circumstances, after all.

  2. Jessica says:

    I swear, the motivation to become a published author on its own is magnified by a thousand every time I hear about all of you reading your advance copies of everything. Oh so jealous. Looking forward to the new David Mitchell very much.

    At one point I spent a good year or so traveling about 6 days out of the week, getting on a plane virtually every day. I kept a carry-on full of books, had a lot of smoothies, watched plenty of bad tv, did a lot of sudoku, and listened to a lot of podcasts. In particular, I’ve found that podcasts are the single best way to make air travel far more bearable. Works for everything, including the cab ride there and the security lines.

    Best of luck with your continuing travel. I have only two air trips for the foreseeable future but both involve a 10-month-old infant. I would happily trade you.

  3. Leverus says:

    @Leigh Ann Roast Beef is one of the fictional characters I identify with most. Though Dr. Venture is up there too. Unfortunately the shirt doesn’t fit me very well. (it’s the one that says Roast Beef: The Middle Cat. Not Ray, Not Pat.) But I carry it around anyway.

  4. Leverus says:

    @Jessica it really comes from being a reviewer more than an author. (I review for Time.) but yes. I remember when I got my first free, advance review copies. the universe changed that day. it felt nicer.

  5. Erin Kissane says:

    Read this on a break from Cloud Atlas, on the grass, in the park. Good luck to you and your brain for the rest of the tour.

  6. Leverus says:

    Update: I finally beat Danger Meadow, with the help of my good friend Jordan Ellenberg — http://quomodocumque.wordpress.com/

    The bad news is now my life lacks all purpose.

  7. tara says:

    Why didn’t number9dream do it for you? In my opinion, that man can do no wrong.

  8. Leverus says:

    too loose. too trippy. I didn’t have that sense of infinite imagination, but constrained by formal discipline, that (for me) is what Mitchell is all about.

  9. Roberta says:

    Grade A stuff. I’m uqnusetoinalby in your debt.

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