overdosed on James Frey and Cubis 2

Yeah, yeah, I know. I haven’t posted in a while. Between not feeling so hot and an addiction to this, I haven’t been doing much writing at all. The game is a total time suck that I am helpless to resist. Luckily for me, I can only play so long, because the heartless people who make it don’t make it for Macs. B. and I downloaded the full-length Windows version on his laptop and I ended up playing for something like five hours straight the other night while he was at a Celtics game. And I still wanted to play more. Despite the fact that my eyes hurt and my tendinitis was starting to come back in my hand. Really.

B. took said laptop back to SF today, which is probably good on a number of levels.

I have actually been working a bit on a chapter, or perhaps it is turning into a stand-alone essay, I am not sure. I got some flak last workshop for the relentlessly chronological nature of my chapters, and so I decided to write one based around a theme. In this case, the theme is food. So I am all over the place in time. I’m certainly enjoying writing it more than I have been the last couple of chapters…i have been feeling pretty constrained by the need to document everything that happened in the order that it happened. So whether this food piece turns out to be a chapter or a stand-alone essay, it’s probably a good thing.

What else? I got a package of two DVDs in the mail today. This would be unremarkable except that I didn’t order them, and I don’t know who did. They are both Korean movies. Whoever bought them paid with an Amex card. Which is interesting since I don’t know anyone who has an Amex. Our house is a Visa household, for obvious reasons. So, um, interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I like Korean movies, and these look good. It’s just a little mysterious.

I’ve been reading some interesting stuff for class, notably Amitav Ghosh’s In An Antique Land , which is like history and a travel memoir and a research quest involving linguistics, anthropology and religion, all in one. It’s a fascinating read, and it’s beautifully written (though it can be a bit dense). I’m also still plodding through Best American Essays 2005. In general, I am loving these pieces. But the relentless theme of nostalgia, loss and growing older is starting to get a bit, well, old. I think Susan Orlean (the editor) must have been going through a mid-life crisis, or a loss, or a nostalgic fit when she selected these. In any case, my favorite so far has been “Storm Country” by Paul Crenshaw, an essay about memory and the beauty of tornados. I’d say “Dog Troubles” is a close second…the title kind of says it all.

I suppose I should make some kind of comment here about the whole James Frey hubbub, but frankly, I am kind of James Freyed out for the moment, as his embellishments to his memoir and the Oprah bloodbath that followed have been the subject of classroom debate, work debate, email debate, casual dinner debate, and —well, you get the idea. At some point I am hoping to motivate and write a rant here, but the summary version is this: I think what James Frey did was wrong. What concerns me more is that the whole fiasco has given everybody — journalists, Oprah, fiction writers, poets, fiction writers, other memoirists, did I mention fiction writers? –the opportunity to talk about the “low standards” and “lost credibility” of the genre that I happen to write in, creative nonfiction. Stay tuned.


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