A Darker Figure #72: Writing Inspiration and Style
Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter!
This week I met up with a close friend that I only see about every 6 months. Our relationship is strange, but also very strong. We see each other about twice a year - three times a few years ago - and every time we meet up for coffee we pick up right where the last time left off. The familiarity and the easiness of conversation is something that I don’t really have with a lot of people and it is the best every time. We quickly catch up on life events and random things that happened to us and then get to the good philosophical/social/cultural stuff. She is writing a piece of long fiction and for some reason I always give her my best writing advice (despite being slightly younger and slightly more inexperienced). While talking about writing and the craft of composing a piece I realized that I have read a lot of books recently that changed the way that I look at writing - really inspiring works. All but one of these books I’ve talked about in this newsletter before, but I thought I would outline them again anyway.
Shelter In Place by Alexander Maksik (fiction)
Shelter in Place is such a unique and charismatic piece of writing. It’s voice and narration is short and simple, but honest and thrilling all at the same time. The way that the Maksik deals with mental disorder and depression are clear and (again) honest, characterizing it sometimes as a bird that looms over him, and other times a black tar that sinks into his mind and takes over. It is hard to explain why the writing is good other than just to say that it is compelling and heartfelt. I tried to read A Marker to Measure Drift, which was the book that was released before Shelter in Place but found that the style wasn’t at all the same and that it didn’t have the same appeal to me - this might have been because I finished Shelter In Place and then immediately went to the library to find A Marker to Measure Drift and that maybe I was too invested in the style to appreciate it fully. I might go back to it later when some time has passed and I have calmed the fuck down about how great that book was.
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong (poetry)
I picked this book up this week after many, many visits to the Powell’s Books Poetry section. Nancy Showers posted a short excerpt from one of the poems after Brant picked it up for her while he was in Portland a few months ago and I was super intrigued. Poetry is not a format that I usually gravitate towards, but there is something special about Vuong’s style of imagery - it is so vivid and full of violence, much like his life was/is. The entire book has a through line and personal history that is just fascinating. I finished it in one sitting and plan to go back through a few more times, if anything just to gleam the style for little hints and the way that certain rhythms are constructed by the layout. If you have been sleeping on good modern poetry - like me - and think of it as the old school rhyming algorithm, I definitely suggest picking up this book.
Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti (autobiography)
I wrote about this last week, so I’ll keep it brief. The non-fiction style of this book is the kind that is most appealing to me. A mixture of personal stories, including the ups and downs of the in-between-times when art isn’t exactly making things work, personal successes, and the really bad times behind the scenes. There is something that is deeply personal - and I know that you are thinking that it is an autobiography, and the answer should be no shit, but it isn’t always the whole picture with some authors and I feel like they leave out their insights into what is happening around them during the different periods of their lives - and diary-esque about the way the book is written.
It’s Only The End of The World (Juste la fin du monde) written and directed by Xavier Dolan (movie)
I also wanted to include this movie because the dialogue and the tone of the movie was so perfect. It was awkward and troubling, familiar (literally and figuratively) and distant. It managed to convey the nervousness that comes with re-connection and the kind of weird separation that happens when you leave the family home to start your adult life. I still live very close to both my parents and my only brother, but it still conveyed to me a certain message. Leaving is hard. Perception is even harder. And that sometimes you think that you are doing something for yourself, but you also need to (in a sense) give permission to yourself and others to feel a certain way about it. There was a point in the movie where the main character - who has left home and made a very successful life for himself pursuing his passion in the city, basically he is the one who left and despite still sending postcards and letters, has created a great distance - is talking to his mother alone and she asks him to give his younger sister (who he didn’t really grow up with because she was much younger while he was living at home) permission to visit him in the city - permission to leave home - permission to explore despite herself. I thought that was interesting, and really well portrayed with long, uncomfortable shots of both characters during their conversation.
We have a show tonight! In Seattle! With Jihad and UNCRSD
7-10-17: Jonathan Safron Foer at Powell’s
7-11-17: <PIG> at Star Theater
7-14-17: Pharmakon at High Water Mark
7-18-17: I am helping to screen the new Mater Suspiria Vision film Phantasmagoria
7-28-17: Terminus Fest
7-29-17: Terminus Fest
7-30-17: Terminus Fest
8-13-17: Portland Industrial Goth (P.I.G.) Festival at the Paris Theater (The Blood of Others will be playing)