Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Passive Aggressive.

There's nothing quite like the moment when that obnoxious person in your office finally, at 2:30 or so, emerges from the cloud of her hangover and begins once again to narrate her entire waking consciousness in slipstream fashion, not allowing incidental pauses in cognitive activity to quell the never-ending stream of words. I know we're all in this together, and I know we have to live in harmony, and accept one another's faults and idiosyncrasies, but damned if I don't find my empathy tank completely drained by thoughtlessness and trivial annoyances perpetrated AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN. It's the complete lack of awareness that drives me up a wall. I'm actually blogging about this. My God how lame. How did we get here? Anyway, my iPod is handy, so I'm listening to Wolf Parade. But I resent being driven into my shell. So, how's your day? I just read The Gunslinger. I've been under the weather for a few weeks and wanted a comfort book. It was a spare read. Engaging, but a little plain-- everyone assures me it blooms into this incredible, epic tale, and I'm willing to take the journey. But I found the first installment to be a little like shadowboxing. We'll see where it goes.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Heart Shovel.

There is an exhilarating dread that accompanies an editor's request of an author that he explain himself. The exhilaration, of course, comes with the implication that your work made enough of an impression so as to cause a momentary halt in the editor's process of feeding human hearts into the wood chipper beneath his desk; the dread comes with having now to account for what you've done. The editor wants to be sure you were not in the throes of a schizophrenic episode when you wrote what you wrote; he wants to be sure you've made some sense.

Obviously he is not sure. Like you are not sure. You are playing poker with invisible cards.

Well-- have you? Made sense? Maybe the reason you did what you did is because it is a shadow form of the truth; it lurks at the periphery of your being, unobservable. Some people are of the opinion that an author's themes are intentional like breathing oxygen is intentional; I agree with that, particularly because sometimes I don't find the hairpin turns of the psyche are well-suited to be traveled by cumbersome vehicles of intellect. So I find that explanation conveniently suits my aversion to dissecting a thing.

Nonetheless, things need dissected. It's how we learn. And so I am wondering if it's a valid question to ask an artist, "What is this?" If you read something and it blows your hair back, do you need it explained? Do you want it explained? I like ambiguity; I crave ambiguity. I crave cracks in meaning big enough to fit a bedroll into so I can spend the night in there. So much of the short fiction that I love is impressionistic and strange and vibrant and deliriously focused, in its own peculiar way. It is a tune you have not heard. An air sculpture. I like the towering Jenga(tm) that language can be: There is as much meaning in the collapse as there is in the construction. Also, when things fall apart, everyone laughs and it's an overall good time for the whole family.

But the editor has a task. He cannot expose his readers to the contagion of your lunacy-- he must ask! And when he asks, I pose the question to myself, because I want to send this story out there into the world. And so, the exhilaration and the dread. I second guess my craft. The editor only stops shoveling for so long.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"I Didn't Mean to be Kevin" is FREE.

You mooches. You leeches. You barnacles: Caleb Ross' "I Didn't Mean to be Kevin" is absolutely FREE for the Kindle, August 24th through Aug 28th. Don't delay. Caleb wants you to want him. He needs you to need him. He'll shine up the old brown shoes and put on a brand new shirt. Seriously though, what reason do you have not to get this? It's FREE. The proof is HERE, on AMAZON!

"A stirring novel, this extraordinary work plays upon the reader's willingness to suspend disbelief and turns it on its ear...Covering ground similar to the works of Sherman Alexie and Chuck Palahniuk, this is an author worth keeping an eye on." -Publishers Weekly

"Brilliant...one of the most amazing fiction concepts I've ever read." -Rayo Casablanca, author of 6 Sick Hipsters and Very Mercenary

"In I Didn't Mean to Be Kevin, Caleb J. Ross writes fearlessly, never shying away from the wild, insane places where his fertile imagination leads him. The first half a twisted take on small-town aimlessness, the second half the American road novel from hell, the book is ultimately a darkly comedic evaluation of a generation of motherless men." -Joey Goebel, author of Torture the Artist and Commonwealth

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Worst, Officially.

Well, here we are. I'm officially the worst at everything-- if a reputable source told me, "We will give you a million dollars-- all you have to do is just log in to this one site, once a month, for 6 consecutive months," I would lose out on that. I can't do it it. Why? I am the worst. More specifically? I think it's because I don't care about anything. Not in a flashy kind of look-at-me-I-don't-care-about-anything type of way-- as might be dramatized in a great many works of fiction and/or popular modern musicks-- but in a genuine, weary way. The earth is a transient body. No amount of elbow grease is going to stop our sun from exploding. I realize that is a total cop-out when it comes to how I choose to spend my 80-ish years here, window shopping. But when the chips are down or, at least, when they seem obviously finite, I am constantly pulled back to scientific knowns. The earth is a flash. The sun will die. The universe itself is a mere gust of an idea. This is a very juvenile thought process-- one that leads to getting an earring and possibly a ferret-- but I can't help what my mind does. I don't care. Some minutes I care. Some hours I care; some days I care. Sometimes I care for long enough stretches of time so as to string together "meaningful" little pearls of existence-- but generally speaking these are the times during which one does not count his blessings. I find myself interested only when the metaphorical basket is empty. At which point I generally choose only to remark on the emptiness. Whether that occurs for the duration of a second or ten seconds or ten minutes or ten days, it doesn't matter. Time is irrelevant. Space is irrelevant. At the center of the visible universe-- perceived as a helpfully concise 360 degree vista, viewed, again helpfully, from my exact, current spot-- there is a tiny gray star the color of my brain. Some days it shines. Some days it flickers. Some days it blinks out entirely. Sometimes this is recorded via fantastical technologies. If you cannot see my brain, you are obviously not standing where I am. If you can, I might ask you to move along so I can have a moment or two to myself, gosh. I am currently reading "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe. It's good.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Am Selling A Guitar Amp, and I Propose That You Be the One To Purchase It.

I am selling a guitar amp on eBay. I think you should buy it, but that's just my opinion. If you're local I'll hand deliver it. I promise to leave. That's Kane's Promise # 3 -- You don't have to tell me when to leave; I know when I'm not wanted.
Item number: 280878470647.

That's a picture of the amp. That's my bed it's sitting on. Will it help the sale if I post more pictures, some of me lying seductively next to it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Flashover by Gordon Highland.

Hey! Gordon Highland has a new book. It's called Flashover. Click! Read!

Friday, April 13, 2012


I haven't thought about writing anything of length for some time. I wrote a novel then put it in a drawer-- I am glad it has stayed there, as I can't identify with it anymore, and I feel its existence is akin to what The Onion AV Club writer Steven Hyden wrote concerning the legacy of Metallica's St. Anger: "[It] can be likened to a bucket of vomit: It came out of a sick organism, it is composed of unsavory materials, and seemingly had to expunged for the good of the organism...The end result is a necessary byproduct of a healthy process, but that doesn’t mean you want to be near it. After all, this is a bucket of vomit we’re talking about here."

I wouldn't say that that the product of my first concentrated creative effort is particularly vomitous, or that it deserves to be lumped in with Metallica's most notorious sonic turd-- after all, my book is in a metaphorical drawer. Like three people have seen it, one of whom I believe discovered it on the back of a toilet in an apartment in London, of all places, courtesy of my old college roommate. Furthermore, as an artifact of a creative entity attempting to rediscover its relevance and artistic fire, St. Anger is actually fairly compelling. On paper. Keep that shit out of my ears.

My first novel was a necessary expulsion of thoughts and ideas that needed to occur before I could make an attempt at "crafting" a story. That would happen in my second book. Of course, the writing of my second book ended at about 80 pages or so with the commencement of my third book, which itself lasted for about 20 pages until the start of that year's NaNo, which saw the start of a fourth book.

What the hell was I doing? In seems in having vomited out my first novel I also expelled my hunger to tell a complete story-- I was more interested in the journey. I apparently took Ann Lamott's advice a little too literally:

"E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard."

I loved this. This gave me license to be aimless. Indeed, I enjoyed every sight along the way, but at some point I ran out of gas, and my cellphone was dead so I couldn't call for a ride, and so I had to hoof it to the nearest gas station which was like ten miles away but when I got there the girl at the counter was a bitch and wouldn't let me use the phone because it would be a long distance call and she'd get in trouble so I had to keep walking. Now, I'm where? Still walking.

The thing about walking is you pass things so much more slowly. If you see an interesting tree while driving, you have just a few seconds to make sense of it. If you pass a tree walking, you are free to observe. You can see people's lawns with a clarity those lawns are largely unsuited for-- people do really weird things to their lawns. One house I pass on my way to work has so much shit in the yard that I see something new every time I pass-- was that a pinball machine?-- and can never get a full sense of it. Coming at it on foot at long last, I know I am in for a mental adventure. It may not entertain anyone to hear the story of the few minutes I spent staring at this lady's crazy lawn; but it nonetheless became a story that felt valuable.

What is life like post-vomit?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Art of Theft.

An Amazon blurb, stolen in total:

"I doubt very much that I’m the only person who’s finding it more and more difficult to want to read or write novels," David Shields acknowledges in Reality Hunger, then seeks to understand how the conventional literary novel has become as lifeless a form as the mass market bodice-ripper. Shields provides an ars poetica for writers and other artists who, exhausted by the artificiality of our culture, "obsessed by real events because we experience hardly any," are taking larger and larger pieces of the real world and using them in their work. Reality Hunger is made of 600-odd numbered fragments, many of them quotations from other sources, some from Shields’s own books, but none properly sourced--the project being not a treasure hunt or a con but a good-faith presentation of what literature might look like if it caught up to contemporary strategies and devices used in the other arts, and allowed for samples (that is, quotation from art and from the world) to revivify existing forms. Shields challenges the perceived superiority of the imagination and exposes conventional literary pieties as imitation writing, the textual equivalent of artificial flavoring, sleepwalking, and small talk. I can’t name a more necessary or a more thrilling book. --Sarah Manguso

I cited Sarah Manguso, which feels like a mistake after having read such a provocative summary. I'm putting this book on my "to steal" list.

So, what do we think of this? How do we feel about Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music?" It's not exactly open-source theft, but, like MMM, Shields' book seems to be an affront to an established norm which is the type of incendiary idea that really gets the wheels turning. Why can you reappropriate visual media into art? Why can music use samples to form a new whole, a new cultural reference point? Is it perhaps that the rap listener is less interested in the origin of a dusty old guitar lick than a literarily-minded reader is in a particularly familiar idea/turn of phrase/plot/form/etc? Why can poetry be found, but not a novel? I have to craft mine from scratch, using the same antiquated form that's been around for hundreds of years as my roadmap, and I am implicitly required hide my artistic inspiration (re: theft) as deeply in the text as possible. Why not celebrate our inspirations by savaging them, cutting them to pieces, reconstructing them as we see fit in order to express a truly unique vision out of the familiar?

I'm not of the opinion that novels have become tiresome. I can tell you this:
1) I gravitate more toward established classics than newer work. Why is that? It's not that I think new authors are not worth my time. But perhaps there is a weariness there that I have not acknowledged, and have not really explored. I don't exactly know its cause. This is an age-old argument, old vs. new. Who's the best quarterback of all time? Arguments suited for a barstool. Er, coffeehouse stool? Let's go to the bar. You're buying.
2) Short fiction is far more likely to blow my mind simply because it does not seem bound in the strict traditions of the novel. Our literary lives were built on these traditions that, even when seriously bucked by writers like Faulkner and so on, still remain pretty rigidly intact. When a tornado takes out your house, for example, you don't all get together as a community and magically come up with new kinds of houses. There's one house we know-- when the tornado passes, we rebuild the house as we knew it, and get on with life. I'm not saying the novel is a boring form-- you can put all kinds of cool stuff in a house-- I'm just saying, wouldn't be cool if we weren't limited to that structure?

But then again, to follow Shields' example, I suppose the "new" house would be simply to rip off the designs of all the best houses already out there. And that would be the new house. He shouldn't have written a book at all. He should've skywritten it or something. Broke into Mike Tyson's house and tattooed it on his face. Faked his death and had the book performed via video will by mimes. That's the new form I'm looking for-- mass fake suicides + mimed video wills. The future is today.