This is my first blog for the website. I'll check in from time to time and discuss new projects and publications, maybe talk about teaching, or gush about books, movies, and other forms of entertainment I'm consuming. Right now I'm marking-out for Graham Greene's Ministry of Fear, easily my favorite read of the last 12 months (yes, that's including all my readings for comps), and Buster Keaton movies; I'm thinking of screening Keaton clips for my writing students and having them try to write out the actions they see Keaton performing. Writing movement can be so damn hard. Not too long ago I spent an entire day figuring out how to describe Uncle Angelo cracking his neck.
The editors at Lantern Journal asked me to write a short introduction about "Faustino and the Enormous Gamecock," which they'll be publishing later this spring. I'm really excited about that publication. They pair some wonderful artwork with text. I can't wait to see how they envision my story. The story is very much a Black Hawk story, but it's also an experiment in structure. It's a framed story without the closing frame. In my essay for Lantern I wrote about that structure and my choice not return to the shell story. Here's what I came up with:
The first draft of Faustino and the Enormous Gamecock was an origin story for a character in a novel I’d been writing. That character, a luchador (a masked professional wrestler), makes an ill-fated career decision to unmask after an important match. Earl Atlas, the boy obsessed with the naked woman in Faustino and the Enormous Gamecock, grows up to become that wrestler. While concerned with matters of Earl’s identity in the original draft, the project morphed into something else in revision. At the time, I’d been reading after story which made use of the frame structure, a story in flashback bookended by a story in the present. While these were tidy and effective ways to structure narratives, I didn’t always find them satisfying (to read or write). In Faustino and the Enormous Gamecock I wanted to blow up that frame. There are no rules that say one must come out of a flashback. After all, masters like Stuart Dybek and Gabriel Garcia Marquez frequently break this convention as they bend memory and time to serve their stories. Ideally, when the reader comes to the end of my story the lines between Señor Faustino and Earl have blurred. Faustino’s “flashback” puts him at roughly the same age as Earl in the “present” story. The narrative voice reinforces this when it begins referring to Señor Faustino as “the boy” during the rooster and dog story. If I’m doing my job, I believe I don’t need to close the frame. I think that suggesting what could happen next is more than enough for my audience. Readers are active, intelligent, and imaginative people, and it would be demeaning for me to map out the final movement of Earl’s story. If Earl takes Faustino’s warning to heart, that there are some secrets that should never be revealed, then I can’t think of a justification for Earl or the narrator to betray those instructions and tell us if he finally climbs up on the roof. To quote Señor Faustino: “Keep your mysteries.”
I usually don't enjoy writing about my writing but this little piece was fun for me. It was fun to explain why it's ok to write a framed story that' s missing the closing frame. Fun to write about honoring and respecting my reader. Fun to remember that sticking to my guns and listening to that intuitive voice has paid off. Fun to remind myself that it's ok to ask, Why not?
Which brings me to why not start a website? I always told myself I'd get one up and running once I published my first novel or collection of stories...when I was a real writer. I'm done with waiting for someday to come. Today's the only one I have any influence on. So here we go...