I come home from my writing studio at five or six these days, with my brain feeling like a head of cabbage that’s been left out in the sun. That’s been left out in the sun and then kicked through the street by a gang of hooligan kids with various vitamin deficiencies and families who don’t love them. My task each day: finish that dissertation. Feed the hole with words. Drink more tea, maybe some instant coffee, don’t forget to eat your borsch, and then back to the hole. Day after day. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
What am I writing about? Let me try another question. Would I still be writing about the grotesque in post-war American literature if I had read the following — and really taken it to heart — when I took this subject up?
As a practical matter we commonly adhere to several tacit assumptions about ideas: that they can be clearly expressed; that they have kernels or cores in which all is tidy, compact, and organized; and that the goal of analysis is to set limits to them, creating sharply defined, highly differentiated, and therefore useful concepts. We assume that, however complex an idea may be, it is essentially coherent and that it can most profitably be discussed in an orderly and progressive way. The grotesque places all these assumptions in doubt (On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature).
Word of advice for those planning to write a dissertation: unless you’re a fan of Alice in Wonderland, chasing the inexpressible down a rabbit hole is only so much fun. Dangers include multiple Google searches that include the phrases “in rare individuals …” “… more garlic, Vitamin C, and …” “… this harmless, but uncommon condition …” and “… green leafy vegetables.”
So. In the fog of these last few weeks, I failed to say anything about two magazines that were actually kind enough to ask me if I had anything I might like to send their way. The first, MayDay, put out by the good folks at New American press, published an excerpt from my nearly finished novel, FlavAmerica. Only the excerpt won’t likely make the final draft. So this is like a deleted scene on the DVD director’s cut of the drastically different film version of the novel that’s being shrunk down to size owing to commercial concerns. You know?
The second is Connotation Press, which this month is guest-edited by Robert Clark Young, the author of the hilarious and beautifully written, One of the Guys, a novel that literally changed my life (I met my wife because of it; another story).
When Bob contacted me asking if I had any creative non-fiction available, I thought the well was dry, but then I remembered Touching Down, the first chapter of my on-again, off-again Ukraine book, a memoir-cum-travelogue-slash-work of new journalism-double slash-sociological study of masculinity and femininity in Ukraine and the United States, all of which was given the unwieldy title: My Year of European Underwear: Dispatches from the Shadows of Ukraine’s Marriage Agencies. I’m really glad this one found a home, because a lot of work went into it before I froze the project. If you enjoy this one, you can find the continuation of this essay in Ninth Letter. An intervening chapter ran in Swink and another appeared in Noo. (Both links available on the “Publications” page).