Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath TOC

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Source: Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath TOC

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Tragedy Queens

About five months ago or so, I received a notification that Leza Cantoral—an engaging fellow writer I’d met in passing at 2016’s AWP show—was editing an anthology called Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath for Clash Books. While I am familiar with the work of both artists, I am not what you might call a super-fan; however, submitting a story under those parameters seemed like an interesting challenge. Additionally, an earworm of a song called “Dayglo Reflection”—featured on Bobby Womack’s 2012 release Bravest Man in the Universe, but co-written by Del Rey, who handles most of the vocals—had worked its way into my brain, and it had been percolating there, waiting to spring into inspirational action. I worked hard on my story, sent it along, and went back about my business.

Well, my hard work bore fruit: my story was selected for publication in the anthology. I’m proud of it, and excited, and honored, and I hope those of you out there who are privy to this online whisper will seek out the book and give it a look. In addition to my own scribblings, it will feature a formidable collection of oddball authors who deserve your attention. Release date is TBD, but as I am helpless before the promise of a good plug, you can be sure that I’ll post that info here when I have it.

Thank you all for reading. Without you, I’d just be telling stories to myself in the dark.

Microsoft Rewards – Your Story Matters

If you use Bing as a search engine, you accrue what are called “Microsoft Points” — get enough, and you can redeem them for gift cards, things like that. Recently, I got a prompt from Microsoft:

“Your story matters to us. We love getting to know our fans! Just click in the section that’s most relevant to your favorite Microsoft story, and tell us all about it. To thank you for sharing, we’ll award you 500 bonus points!”

Never one to turn down an opportunity, I decided to take part. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good Microsoft story, so I wrote this one instead:

Once I went down to the dog pound to find a dog to bring home with me as a gift to my young son, who wanted nothing more in the world than a dog of his own to cuddle and play with. I found the right dog on the second floor of what can only be called an enormous doggie prison, where so many poor animals were crammed together in tiny cages, the weakest shivering in the back corners while the strongest and proudest rattled the bars and nuzzled small, dented metal cups ahead of them, waiting for the smallest charity.

I saw my son’s future friend in the last cage I visited, huddled with two doggie friends and communicating in hurried and desperate doggie whispers. “Woof,” they whispered. “Woof woof woof…” Their eyes flitted to and fro, and I knew that this was no normal doggie whispering, that I had, in fact, stumbled upon a doggie prison break.

Well, my own father had been a corrections officer, and he’d been stabbed to death during an attempted prison break, and I never forgot the look in my mother’s eyes when she heard the terrible news. “No…” she mouthed, as tears ran down her porcelain cheeks.

Cruel memory causing me the deepest pain, I dropped to my knees, shouted “NO! NEVER AGAIN!” and pointed right at the ringleader. “THIS IS THE DOG! THIS ONE! I SHALL ADOPT THIS ONE!” That dog turned toward me, horrified, then looked back at his fellows. They all froze, caught. My sneer pulled up into a smile of triumph. One of the guards came over, opened the door, and wrestled that treacherous pooch out of the cage. His friends were too weak to put up much of a struggle, and I was assured that they would both be put down within the week, leaving them no real time to pull together a new plan, particularly without the smart one to help them along.

My son loved that dog, but the dog never warmed to him. It even bit him once, and while my son hoped that I would have mercy, the truth was that I never trusted that damn dog, anyway. He was bitter in a way that good dogs just aren’t. I drove him up the highway one night, and left him in the woods. As I opened the door to my car and slipped behind the wheel, a flash of lightning illuminated a grizzly bear as it loomed over that dog. I heard a yelp, and I knew that nature had solved the problem for me.

Anyway, I used a Microsoft computer to look up the address of that pound. And my son used a Microsoft computer to post on message boards about his missing dog.

Lady Haley

Some ghosts don’t haunt you; instead, they walk at your side, and they live a simultaneous existence, one that you never see clearly, one that you gather in snippets, in small messages, sometimes glimpsed between lines of text that seem banal until their full weight hits you in the middle of the night; it’s a weight that rouses you from a fitful sleep and sends you to your porch to sit under the street lights, and despite the discomfiting feelings that come with having been awoken by whispers that are not really whispers, you pull that weight around you, and it’s warm, and it shields you from the cool night air.

I know such a ghost. Her silhouette is long and narrow and draped in garments that highlight her otherworldly nature, and she steps along the dusty ground of the desert with what seems like conviction and purpose. Her smile is warm but inscrutable, and her eyes, though they sparkle, are deep black pools that betray nothing. And yet, there is a tentativeness that accompanies her movements, because her purpose is not a purpose, but a search, and one that may never end.

At night she lives with me; while I sleep, I can feel her breathe, but when I’m awake her breath is distant, and she is words on a page, or photos on a screen. All of this seems like it should be so simple, and yet somehow it isn’t.

Joan Didion once wrote: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I am not usually one for quotes, particularly ones so calcified as that one, but in writing this, it struck me.

A Word on “Creative Nonfiction”

“Creative Nonfiction” is a bullshit phrase invented by MFA professors to sell gullible students on unnecessary writing courses. There is already a term for what “Creative Nonfiction” accomplishes: Fiction. For centuries, writers have taken true-to-life occurrences and exaggerated them and mixed them with flights of fancy to create a narrative—this is called fiction.

And there’s nothing wrong with it! Fiction is wonderful, and should be celebrated, and its practitioners should be proud. “Creative Nonfiction” is a phrase borne of an inferiority complex—the realm of people cowed by the idea that fiction is somehow less-than; it is the refuge of people who wish to call themselves journalists, but who are too lazy to do research. It is a phrase that should be shot into the sun.

Write fiction, my friends; enjoy the process! It is one of our great gifts as a species. But please, do not try to convince me that it is something else.

Nova Express by Andre Perkowski

I have been absolutely, positively obsessed by these fragments lately, and I yearn to see the full version, should it ever show somewhere again. Mr. Perkowski, if you’re out there, watching, listening, reading, please tell me how I can see this all of a piece.

Perkowski seems an interesting cat—the king of repurposed footage. The stuff that he’s shot by himself leaves me cold, for the most part, but work like this, and his Silent Shadow of the Bat series, is absolutely brilliant.

Mlle Lefebvre

dirty-martini-3

I went on a date last night, an early one, to happy hour at this place called The Falls in Downtown Los Angeles. I hate downtown; until recently, I’ve enjoyed Los Angeles primarily because of the sense of indifference it seems to have had toward the insults of other cities—New York and San Francisco in particular breed a certain kind of person, the kind who looks at Los Angeles and sneers because it’s “not a real city” or some such nonsense. I’ve always liked that about Los Angeles. What is a real city? Does it have to have a specific center? Must it be well-defined? Los Angeles always felt avant-garde to me because of its lack of a center. Incoherence has never been to me any kind of wall—more like a peephole. And so I’ve spent the last 15 years enjoying Los Angeles.

But Downtown puts the lie to LA’s attitude. Downtown Los Angeles, since its revitalization, has become desperate and sad. “Please love me, New York and San Francisco,” it cries. And it’s a bunch of bullshit. A similar sort of thing is happening to Hollywood now. There’s a plan to turn the building where Amoeba Music is into a giant glass high-rise, because apparently the future of Los Angeles and Hollywood is a series of anonymous glass high-rises. This is necessary because of the influx of NY and SF ex-pats. “If you don’t like what it’s becoming, then leave!” they say. But why should I have to leave? I liked LA as it was. If you don’t like LA the way it was, why come here? It’s maddening, and it reduces the town to a bullshit status symbol.

I’m more cynical than this, usually, and more resigned, but it bothers me. But downtown, despite its faults, is convenient. And that’s why I met my date down there, because it was between us. Maybe the city does need a center. Maybe I’m a dinosaur.

My date was this beautiful Belgian girl whom I’ve been out with several times at this point. What is our relationship? Who knows? But she is beautiful, and funny, and has a crooked smile and long, messy, brown hair. I’m not sure that we have much to discuss. We’ve got past the point at which we’ve shared personal stories and have moved into the “here and now” portion of dating, but neither of us seems to have a ton going on—that lends itself to fascinating stories, at least. She drinks, but I do not, so usually what happens is that she gets two classes of chardonnay in while I stay sober, and she reveals a lot of herself and then stops and yells at me about not revealing enough, despite me having revealed quite a bit, I think. But I am naturally more reserved, and without drink more inhibited, so maybe she’s right.

What I’ve learned is that she is rather bitchy, and pretentious, or so she says. I can see why she’d say it, but I like her anyway, so maybe she’s right and I’m just willing to overlook it. Does this have any sort of future? I have no idea, and I don’t really worry about it. Mostly I just like to watch her, because she is a fascinating creature. I don’t even care what she’s talking about a lot of the time, just that she’s talking and her teeth are beautifully imperfect, and her hair is a mess, and sometimes there’s a pencil holding it in place and sometimes not.

Last night I promised her a knock-knock joke, and I almost didn’t deliver. She hated my first attempt, and mocked me for being unable to follow it up, but I came up with a solid one later on and got a pass, which I was more happy about than I am now comfortable admitting. Christ, am I a people pleaser? This date was different from previous ones because she stood more fully revealed, in all her bitchy, pretentious glory. Before, there was a pleasant veneer, and I thought she was a nicer person, and so this time it took me a little time to catch up to the atmosphere. Once I was there, though, we traded insults for a long while, and snide comments, and shared some laughs before I walked her to a sushi restaurant, where she was meeting a friend in town from Mexico, named Ivan. Ivan looks like some ridiculous hippie type with a rope necklace and long wavy hair. I don’t know if he’s her friend or her friend, but I’m not particularly concerned. He seems nice enough, in a Eurotrashy sort of way.

I don’t know when I’m going to see her again. Part of me wants to take her bowling; she expressed an interest once, and I want to watch her body while she bowls. I really don’t know who she is or what she’s after. But dating I think is more fun when it’s about meeting interesting people instead of interviewing for the job of “boyfriend” or “husband.” I may never see her again, and that’s okay. But Lord knows I could use more Belgian disasters in my life.

She walked in through the out door

As I knew she would, the great Eleanore Studer has composed a thoughtful and heartfelt tribute to a great artist.

Leucocrystal

PAD2-052 © 1985 Time & Life

So, here’s the thing: If you’re a member of my generation (or a bit older, likely anyone born and/or raised in the ’80s), as a favorite blogger of mine put it back when MJ died, you either grew up in a Michael Jackson house, or a Prince house. That might have been true even if not for their (near as anyone can really know, mostly played up for publicity) artistic “rivalry” during that decade. I’ve been a dancer since I was four years old, and that means mine was a Michael Jackson house. It’s his feet and handwriting I’ve got tattooed on me, to try to remember my strength and beauty, to continue looking forward.

But the other thing is: I fucking love Prince, too. I always have.

I run all the social media accounts for my job, and when I saw his name trending…

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