Thursday, June 16, 2011


I've been meaning to write something here for a while, but the part of my brain that forms coherent through-lines is gone ahead of me, on the road to Minneapolis, while I am still here in Orlando, wading through an apartment of boxed books and bagged clothes and, this morning, cat vomit. Instead of putting up one coherent post, then, I offer you a five-pack of personal essays:

1) I have found the unemployed life strange. I expected that I would get up early, drink coffee, write, write, write, but really I've spent my time looking for work, packing up the apartment, listening to podcasts, and playing Intendo. Intendo was what my Sunday School teacher called video games, when I had a Sunday School teacher. This was a long time ago. He was a middle-aged farmer, and spoke with a proud drawl, and was plump and jolly and pleasant, and I thought his pronunciation was a playful take on the NES's actual brand name, but then one day he asked my class: What do you get if you take the last o off Intendo? He was very serious. He said, You get intend. I can't be sure about this, but I think he then blew his nose.

I later dreamt that the stovepipe running through my bedroom in my parents' house sprung a leak and his head appeared in the hole, and expanded, like a malevolent balloon.

2) The most frustrating thing I have packed here is books. I thought I had a small collection but there is a jagged mountain of beer boxes and furniture boxes and crates in my living room, many filled with books that I either have never read or will never read again. I can't bring myself to sell them to some discount shop, or to recycle them, for fear that I will want them someday. Yet they are so heavy, and eat so much space. How do people travel with these things? Do you have advice? Do you have horror stories?

3) I decided a while ago that it was banal to tweet or blog about the strange search strings that bring people to my blog, because a lot of people tweet and blog about the strange search strings that bring people to their blogs, but then I realized that so many people do this because the search strings are so very strange, so surreal.

I feel that my blog receives a lot of strange search strings, probably because of all the short fiction on it. Recently someone found my blog looking for "moonshot exercise," which is not weird, really, but which did make me wonder: Can such an exercise exist? It sounds like a painful thing, or difficult, as in, "That one's a moonshot. That one, you go for the deep bend and you maybe snap a tendon."

The most popular search string used to find my blog is "cockroach bite."

4) A few days ago I read Benjamin Percy's The Wilding. I solicited Percy for Flyway, Iowa State's small lit journal, when I was the fiction editor, and he started teaching at Iowa State just after I left, and I've been on the watch for his work since then. This novel is somehow his first fiction I've read. I found it tight and evocative, and surprising. Several times in the first forty pages I thought, This setup is kind of obvious, and then later realized that the obvious setup was a misdirection. The book surprised me through to the end. It is about male representatives of three generations of a family who embark on a camping trip to a favorite wilderness that will soon be smoothed into a golf course. Along the way they infuriate locals and each other and maybe a bear. There is another man who wears a suit made of animal skins, and a woman who is a devoted runner and a veteran of owl invasions. I put the book down a few times but then kept walking past the red cover and couldn't resist picking it up to find out what was going on inside.

5) Next I plan to read a Denis Johnson story. Have you seen the film adaptation of Johnson's short story collection? It is pretty good. It is mostly useless, I think, to compare adaptations to originals, but viewed alone the movie was entertaining, and sad in the way the book is sad. If it's missing anything, it's the central character's weirdness. He is more tragic in the movie, in a more relatable way. He is also pretty, of course, and the people in his life are pretty. He also drives around with Jack Black.


  1. You can use the Media Mail rate on boxes, too: $10 for 22 pounds of books (a good-sized boxful), only takes about a week to get wherever it's going. Just don't put anything else in the box. Anyway, that's what it's for: used to be called "Book Rate."

  2. I'm shipping mine via Greyhound. It's cheap, but I'll have to pick it up at the station later. I also don't have an address yet, so mailing things is tricky...

  3. Thanks for the ideas. These are both options I hadn't considered. I was just worriedly looking over the stack of boxes, so I'll check these out.