The biggest thing from this week is This World Is Full Of Monsters by Jeff VanderMeer. It’s an abstract story of a metamorphosis forced upon our protagonist unwillingly. There is a story on the doorstep, abandoned, orphaned — that is taken in. And like any small story, there’s a desire to nurture it.
But this isn’t just any short story left unloved on the doorstep — it was an alien using the form of a story to climb inside the brain of our hero, and being using him parasitically. Here’s the opening, it’s broken into chapters with excellent headings like I Did Not Recognize What Sought Me:
The story then continues to fall away into stranger and stranger translations and revisions to the body and the person — and the relationship with the alien story-creature.
Sometimes we get carried away by stories. When you write you can find yourself in a strange state of being where you’re not really thinking about the reality around you as the top priority.
In the excellent second episode of The Paris Review podcast, there is a line that outlines this kind of separation from reality that comes when you put the writing first. It’s from My Wife In Converse by Shelly Oria:
I can use this for my poem I thought,
This is how I operate these days, like a thief
(It’s at 9 minutes 11 seconds onwards to get the sense of that part alone)
It’s a little bit of the magpie poet brain. The idea that you’re a thief, taking what you want from the world to add into your art. That maybe you’re not listening to the living but instead listening to what the dead or those in fiction would do with the world you’re in. A kind of passivity to the world, where you are one step removed from yourself.
The poem focuses on a relationship in a strange place, when something is maybe broken — and a undertow that you can feel. You can read it here if you have a Paris Review subscription (which I do not). The poem is interesting in it approaches the idea of approaching everything as an amateur, taking classes, being a test case, that the wife could never be anyone’s really because she’s always just trying things.
The moral that emerges, if there is one at all, is that the way writing grounds you is through its ability to take over your whole self.
Please take a moment to look at this amazing object that has been created by C A Conrad, which is for sale for a number of dollars. C A Conrad is one of my favourite poets ever. The way the process is applied to the work that is created is wonderful, and obviously we’d expect nothing less than this when given a lunchbox to tart up!
Just look at it, a portable crystal grid:
Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own, I hope that I have improved your life in some way. Please tweet me if we have because, honestly, it makes me feel great. This has been a good week because I finished the long sad thing — you know, that silly thing I started as a kind of grief object — you know, the thing I don’t talk about — it’s 20k words now, when it started as 20 lines — hopefully it’s good. Reasons to get up. You should read this thing by my dear friend Sam. You should read this thing on friendship, which I like because it’s kind of about the art of the long conversation. Sometimes you end up having a conversation over decades, and sometimes these are the best kind. If you’d like to start a long conversation with me, drop yourself into my DMs and we’ll become notable persons of letters — later to be published in the Paris Review, we can hope.