Thursday, February 28, 2013

4/50: To Have And Have Not

To Have And Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway
3/5 stars
This is my 4th book in Rex & Jake's 50-Book Reading Challenge,
which Rex leads 10-4. Full list can be found here.

When you consider the writers that got lumped into the standard education process of this country, it's pretty goddamn ludicrous. They were this presentation of non-threatening usual suspects, watered down as archetypes and beaten to death by high school English teachers who wanted to give their students safety. Fitzgerald was a hopeless romantic to an almost dangerous degree, Keruoac was a nomad, Twain had anarchist tendencies, and Hemingway, my unholy god, Hemingway was an unruly MAN (in its most god-like definitions).

Hemingway is the best character non-fiction ever produced. For whatever reason, writers, poets especially, can tend to be pussies. The lot of them go through the experiences, but they consider them pulp, not meals. The meal is the actual writing. Surfers surf because they love it, but if a writer went surfing, it would be so he or she could taste it and then write about it. It's almost exploitation on a personal level. That's not always the case, but I definitely think it's the majority. Hemingway, however, balanced the life and the habit better than everyone else in history, it seems. My brother and I used to debate what man was, a poet or a hunter. Well, Hemingway was both, and not even kind of. He drank recklessly, he hunted big game, he went to bull fights, he wrote poetry, he made fun of other writers, he got into bar brawls, he was an ambulance driver in the Great War, he fished, he fucked, he traveled, he blew his brains out with a shotgun, and he wrote amazing book after amazing book.

This particular book was not amazing, but what it is, especially for its time, is unreal. It's cynical and aggressive even by today's standards. It's one of the craziest books I've ever read. It's a poetic reflection one moment, and then it's wild anarchy the next. It's all over the place. It's not even cinematic in its moments of betrayal or abuse. It's just life as a pointless, rowdy "whatever the fuck ever" existence until the very end, when Hemingway writes page after page of incredible, angelic narration of mankind as a dirty, loud bunch of maniacs just looking to be loved and not be a piece of shit.

It reads like a cocaine conversation, the whole book. It really does. Hemingway was a brute who wrote for brutes as well as academics, maybe even if he was technically only writing for himself. There is tender hope in some of his books. There is a sly chummy laugh in some of his poems. But this book was just straight up "fuck the world" in its most short-tongued and least edited.

The guy will fascinate me forever. I've read about ten of his books, and each one brings out a new side of the guy. He's so complex, but if you pressed him for anything, he'd just shrug and give an answer like, "I like to write," and then take, like, eight shots of whiskey before loading a gun and calling you out for only doing two.

Ah well, to have and have not, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

3/50: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
4/5 stars
This is my 3rd book in Rex & Jake's 50-Book Reading Challenge,
which Rex leads 10-3. Full list can be found here.

I love Christmas. If there are two things in this world that I can't understand how people don't love, it's Christmas and Star Wars. Even if you're not religious, which I'm definitely not, Christmas is such a ludicrously rad holiday season. It's just cheerful songs and balls-out consumerism and everyone's throwing parties and everyone's laughing like stooges and even the lingerie women wear is festive. IT'S ALL GREAT.

So, naturally, an asshole like Scrooge is an unfathomable dickhead in my opinion. But as his brightly spirited nephew points out, it's almost laughable, since he only damages himself. Now, as long as I have been upon this Earth, I have known this story, and I have known a wide variety of adaptions. My personal favorite is the Muppets' rendition because it has Michael Caine and Fozzy Bear, two of my favorite actors. So it's almost surreal to finally read the text with every line that I've heard a time and time again without reading the original source ("Come in and know me better, man!" - "God bless us, every one." - "Show me no more, spirit.") However, imagine my immense surprise when things are there in the original story that I don't readily recall in later versions (Scrooge's sister? The Ghost of Christmas Present has two malnourished children representing Ignorance and Want beneath his great cloak?).

Also, all me friends lied their mouths rotten about the words of Charles Dickens being as cold and dense as cobblestone, they did! Bliiiiiimey, did they eva! There's not an impossible word in there, there ain't. He's somehow the narrator, even though the book be mostly written in the third person, it is. I should say, Mr. Dickens is a laugh and a great giver of the cheer, but, here I am, all these years, expectin' it to be as rough as a hanging by me own neck to get through his passages of yore. Hells bells, he is a master of transformation of man, he is! I was as plum as pudding with what he did, I was. Maybe his otha books are the bricks I was foretold, but, not this one, no sir. This classic novella put me in right good spirits, it did! I might give it anotha go when Christmas rolls its jolly holly head 'round once more!

Seriously though, this book was rad.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2/50: The Time Machine

The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
4/5 stars
This is my 2nd book in Rex & Jake's 50-Book Reading Challenge,
which Rex leads 10-2. Full list can be found here.

Add time travel to anything, and I'm in. I love time travel. It's my favorite plot device. I like the idea of changing the past and anticipating our future as a collective species. I think it reflects poorly on an individual if they would turn down time travel. Anyone who claims to not "have any interest in time travel" is either a liar or an idiot. What the hell is there not to love about time travel? It can take the dumbest story and make it better, or it can take an awesome story and make it more awesome. It's cut and dry, black and white, obvious and obviouser. Time travel is the most major "duh" of all fiction. It rules. And, if it was available in real life, it would be the absolute coolest (until, of course, it was abused and used for evil, in which case, I might have a different opinion).

The ultimate time travel story is the classic 19th Century novella, The Time Machine, starring, no joke, The Time Traveller. I've seen at least two Hollywood adaptions of this book (1960 and 2002), and the latter one didn't even try to stay close to the story. I barely remember the earlier one, aside from it making we super uncomfortable as a kid who was still fearful of creatures that moved at a speed of 4 miles per hour.

Anyway, this story is just the nameless protagonist recounting his adventure 800,000 years in the future to his colleagues, including the narrator, who does a lazy job of just sitting there just listening to his friend ramble on like a lunatic (who we all know is telling the truth). Basically, that far in the future, the upper class has devolved into a society of childlike people called the Eloi, who wonder at everything and have the integrity and know-how of, alas, children. Below their seemingly perfect playground of a society lurks the mighty, brutal, and equally stupid morlocks, the other half of mankind's split, possibly the lower class. They're essentially dirty non-white yetis, from what I understand. The Time Traveller develops kinship with Weena, one of the Eloi, and does his best to protect her from the morlocks/centuries of horrifying devolution.

The raddest part of the book is that it reads as if it's all possible. Sure, the 19th Century was far along enough to be all like, "Nah, dude. Shit's impossible." But there, basking in the glow of amazing hope of the 1800s, remained a "what if" quality of adventure tales, and this was right up there with the most righteous. It was a time of "he, anything is possible, because we don't have the science or technology to say otherwise. We just have what we know." And any good writer was putting the lunacy in the soft brains of everyone.

So, once again touching upon just how cool time travel is, I'd like to restate that time travel would seriously be the best thing ever. If I were to die tomorrow, my only two regrets would be not having time traveled and not writing Hotel Christmas, what would surely be an instant holiday classic starring Paul Rudd as "Paul Rudd." But, honestly, if I could time travel, why wouldn't I just go back and take credit for Love Actually? Eat it, Nigel Britishguy!

Alright, I looked it up. His name is actually Richard Curtis, and I'm assuming he's quite charming. Time travel!

Monday, February 25, 2013

"the island king"

"the island king"
after a few photos of the wilderness by jake kilroy.

he was lost to a cabin on the west coast
when he heard acoustic guitars in his youth,
felt up by drunkards in a panic sweep,
and thought six strings couldn't sound more
honest or hopeful or broken with sorrow.

so the birds drank his rum,
and deer huffed his smokes,
while he stroked his beard
and played guitar like an animal.
and thus was the rhyme of rumors...

"throats were strummed with soft finger play
beyond seattle and its immaculate gray
so an island king could be worshiped and crowned,
finally baptized in puget sound.

thorns stabbed his side instead of his brow,
and he day-drank coffee like wine somehow.
come one, come all, the poster had spoke,
tapping the eyes of capitol hill jokes.

and so the master of melody sat on a log,
and picked his teeth and rumbled his thoughts,
beckoning no mercy or madness, true;
just wantin' to play music for me and you."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Goin' Electric

My dear friend Cameron started his own company last year. It's an electric bike company called Motiv, and it's doing pretty well. He asked me to write the inaugural post for the brand's blog, so I wrote about a time when electricity made everything better. Naturally, I wrote about Bob Dylan plugging in an electric guitar.

"Goin' Electric"
by Jake Kilroy

When Dylan went electric in '65, hardcore folk fans were...less than thrilled. In fact, I'd say they were pretty pissed at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. To some, the folksinger had turned his back on what made him (aside from immaculate lyrics), an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. With his fifth album, Bringing It Back Home, Dylan poured half of his heart into an amp and let it spill some beautiful classics, such as "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Maggie's Farm." Sure, the other side of the album gave America "Mr. Tambourine Man," but no matter how beloved that song is, it just wasn't the fiery kick of electricity that burned the many bridges in Dylan's rearview mirror, let's be honest.

Then, just a few months later, Dylan gave the world the album Highway 61 Revisited, and, more specifically, the song "Like A Rolling Stone." Decades later, at Dylan's introduction to the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen recalled the first time he heard the song (in the car with his mother) and claimed the opening "sounded like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind." He then added, "He invented a new way a pop singer could sound, broke through the limitations of what a recording could achieve, and he changed the face of rock 'n roll forever and ever."

During the Bob Dylan World Tour 1966, Dylan and his first electric band played at Manchester Free Trade Hall. While Dylan played a fully acoustic set the first half, the electric second half brought out the fury of diehard folk fans, with even one audience member famously bellowing, "Judas!" True to form, Dylan responded with, "I don't believe you. You're a liar!" Then, like any man with a gut reaction calling for fire, he turned to his band and yelled, "Play it f***ing loud!'

And so they did.

Holy hell, did they ever. When that stick hit the snare drum to tackle the audience with "Like A Rolling Stone," it resounded beyond the walls. It came at popular music with a ferocity that belonged more to a growling animal. Sure, that song isn't the blaster it was by comparison to what's overtaken the radio since that snare hit heard round the world. But, back then, it wore out the masses with its wild grab bag of tricks.

Over the next few years, Dylan further proved what going electric could do, releasing spectacular album after spectacular album: Blonde On Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and on and on.

When it finally became apparent that not only was Dylan not going back to a solely acoustic living, but that he was creating many of his most finely crafted creations with the help of an electric guitar, the antagonistic noise died down. In 2012, Dylan reflected on the Manchester Free Trade Hall concert, saying, "Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you've been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar?"

That's right, Bob, and, these days, everyone's glad you plugged in when you did.

Bring on the electric.

Friday, February 22, 2013

"the poem that was yours"

"the poem that was yours"
written after a beer and a long day by jake kilroy.

i wrote you a poem that read
as ancient as a cave painting,
as cinematic as a tree carving,
as true as blood itself.

it was a poem you breathed in the long baths
you wish were of milk and rose pedals,
like that of a debutante before she's thrown
to the wolves posing as lofty bachelors with gin.

i wanted the words to coo from your lips
like a song that paraded around drunk
in a nightclub years ago, back when the notes were fresh.
it was a sunset bundled up and packed in a suitcase,
only used whenever we visited your folks in the country.
it was an unexpected laugh born to a bad night of miserable drinking.
it was the man who woke up next you fully dressed for once.
it was the diary that spoke back.
it was the pet that didn't die.
it was the mercy you asked for.
it was the control you wanted.
it was the love you never thought real.
it was everything you've always carried with you.

it was the baggage from past relationships, thrown out the window.
it was the dreams you whispered to a pillow, well within your reach.
it was several cups of coffee, it was sunday morning papers,
it was a warm bed in winter, it was a river dip in summer.
it was a painting you once saw but could never remember the name
until it was given to you one valentine's day by a man full of surprises.
it was white linen, red lips, blue water, green ferns, yellow sun.
it was basic, it was primary, it was all that couldn't be put into words
until now.

now it comes in deep, sweeping, glorious hallelujahs,
flourishing within you like a church crowd watching god do charity,
nourishing you like paint on a canvas, with arms pure and adored.
what more could you want than this poem? about another?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"the midwife's fisherman"

"the midwife's fisherman"
after pop culture met contemporary literature by jake kilroy.

coupled with the taste for japanese villages
and the women that pray in them,
by the sea, with white birds covering the sky
like a bridal gown, and pink flowers drifting
to the far away coasts of imperial sailors,
one western man dug his fingers into the dirt
in the most basic efforts of homesteading.
he was without thread or timber,
yet still he dug, until his hands cracked,
as if lightning had struck the plains of his palms.
he watched a woman take in ocean breaths
with severity and he could tell the salt never left her.
it absorbed into her skin and she glowed.
the vapor left her nose and her lips like a secret
and painted dragons and warriors into his eyesight.
he saw the cloudiest mountain wink behind her,
and he rubbed his eyes with dirty hands and saw truth.
he saw the laughs of kings and the wrath of generals.
he saw the bellies of concubines birthing a future.
he saw the world tearing at itself like lovers entangled.
but he could no longer see the woman by the sea,
the waves or the wind having taken her beyond,
and so his journey began.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Collection

I like writing about love. It's, at the risk of sounding like a stupid asshole who's never written anything more than a college's letter of intent, lovely (though "love" to me includes the primitive and barbaric, the hopeless and insane, the wretched and poetic, the soulful and the cutthroat, and all that, not just someone politely kissing another person and saying "I love you" with the same intensity as "I'm hungry"). Also, Valentine's Day runs up people's fevers north and south alike, so I like writing about that too. But, this year, I just ran out of time. No musings, no essays, not even a quick story to justify why it's all so very grand. Ah well, here's some quick grabs I've written before, just so I don't feel like as much of a dickhead romantic. Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day
Flash Fiction Pieces

Monday, February 11, 2013

"fever dream"

"fever dream"
after a sunday of losing it by jake kilroy.

i went insane some sabbath afternoon
after an evening on the floor
and a drive down the coast
there was no beginning no end
barely a middle
just scraps of a day
remnants of a life
my mouth yawned
my fingers shook
my guts tossed and turned
as if cocaine glittered my lungs
acid rivers poured through my arms
and heroin coursed through my airy head
though all i had to call my own
was a body-heavy sobriety
and a will i thought was to live
maybe it was the six or seven cups of coffee
or the proschuetto i accidentally ate
after two decades of no meat
but i was vomiting surreal
and begging for forgiveness
from a dozen women not present
and a god that's never been there
all the while yelling and twitching
and tearing at my dry salty skin
like it was a blanket in summer
even though it was february
i had nothing
there was nothing
it was only ever nothing
but by the next day
it felt like a fever dream
that existed on a postcard
that was lost to my closet
so i showered and washed my sheets
put the books back on the shelf
and forgot to eat breakfast
and that was the worst of it

Friday, February 8, 2013

"leaving the house"

"leaving the house"
with thoughts of morning by jake kilroy.

when i rolled out of bed,
all the piano keys tumbled out of my throat.
when i hit the shower,
all the paint drops adorned me immaculate.
when i dressed myself,
all the blankets i wrote at campfires swarmed me.
when i poured my cereal,
all the mysteries of the world were finally solved.

but when i started the car,
there was just the hum of the engine
and one bird singing a sour note far beyond.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"i did her wrong"

"i did her wrong"
all sorts of thoughts by jake kilroy.

my cheeks would curve like a roller coaster dive
when she would enter any room, any house,
anything heels could strut and clack through
and sound like a funeral parade drummer
with an apathy problem and a gut reaction.

my brows would sail to the end of the world
and stop, frozen, perfected as the metamorphosis
that drove society to worship kafka
but never really understand him.
even now, that reference reads like a buffoon
doing shakespeare in a dive bar open mic contest,
and i'm in the back heckling this poem at best.

my poems would always start off so grand and sincere,
but then they'd dry-heave somewhere in the middle
when sex would crawl about like an escaped patient,
stomach finally pumped and the gown finally trim,
and curiosity would stumble into my head
and bounce off the walls like a drunk
finding his way home, again and again,
but still looking for a good lamp to steal.

she would enter the world, somewhere,
and the nerves in me would glow
and shred and bellow and chuckle,
knowing they were ready to strangle me,
just as soon as i looked back to the world
to pay more attention to the woman,
the women, the daydream symphony of it all,
instead of my crummy words burning
in the neat little fireplace i called a soul.

i tried to write her well, and i know i wrote her often,
but she still moved when i did my best to do good.
she was a dress, she was a sound, she was a fairy tale,
on and on and on, until the ink, the blood, the bottle were dry,
and i was left asleep at a desk torn up by nothing
but a few empty pages and another second chance.

what a waste these hands were when a mouth would've done better,
speaking diamond shaves to a room full of other self-absorbed poets.
for what trouble could i ever really be if i had nothing left to burn?
and so it was a garden of flames, tended quietly and romantically,
as i left the scene forever to drink lemonade in a lawn chair
and read bestsellers with a dog i'd name after another dead dog
and beg and wish and hope that the morning paper would come,
and that would be it.
that would be all of it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

"the tide"

"the tide"
shakily by jake kilroy.

fresh air hiding out in my dirty cave lungs,
pushing back and forth against the land,
like wave after wave of watery graves,
smashing and swirling and eroding away
at the very little left of the pristine island
that was once a gorgeous beacon of hope.

treasure chests pile up, all empty, all wasted,
though they were only ever filled with maps anyway.

on our way home forever,
we each slept with one heart open,
which we later filled with sand
to keep track of the months lost.

it was forgivable how forgettable it all was;
the lashings, the beatings, the cruel laughs,
that rattled with the sea and washed ashore,
but i was a furious ocean looking to pull all ships
down to the bottom cavern below the lowest silt,
and march through this great world with eyes
that glowed as flawless as fire to conquer civilization,
even if it was only one king and an army of decoys.

my tongue was a sea serpent,
hell-born and hell-bent,
swimming through my soul
waiting to find the last sailor
bold enough to dare an evening swim.

and the moon would set, finally,
upon a blue ocean with a current
as quiet and dangerous
as a whisper.