Finding Fiction

I made a quick trip back to Phoenix to spend time with my family on Mother’s Day (some of you know my mom has been fighting an illness for the past few years, so these things have become more important) and had a fantastic time with everyone. While it makes me homesick to exist so fully in two different places, it’s part of the process for now.

Aside from the personal, the interesting part of the trip was that I spontaneously wrote a short story called “Rhinoplasty.” I conceived of, wrote, and finished 18 pages of prose over the weekend, writing most of it on the plane home and then finishing it up once I was back in my apartment.

Is it good? I don’t know. But it felt good to do something different, to work in a longer form, to tell a story (lyrically, to some degree) and inhabit characters in a different way. I have another story in progress about small-town zombies that I hope to get back to soon as well.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Currently devouring:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton–and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennett is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers–and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read. (From the back jacket)

The book also includes a few illustrations of “zombie mayhem,” as well as a Reader’s Discussion Guide that begins with this question:

1. Many critics have addressed the dual nature of Elizabeth’s personality. On one hand, she can be a savage, remorseless killer, as we see in her vanquishing of Lady Catherine’s ninjas. On the other hand, she can be tender and merciful, as in her relationships with Jane, Charlotte, and the young bucks that roam her family’s estate. In your opinion, which of these “halves” best represents the real Elizabeth at the beginning–and end of the novel?

Unauthorized parody of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight

I looked at Edward. He was physically perfect, the human equivalent of a giant cream-filled eclair with his perfect pale skin, his golden, pastry-colored eyes, and his alternative-rock hair that was always mussed in just the perfectly disheveled way. Whenever I was next to him, I found myself wondering how it was possible for him to love me—-even though every boy in our high school was falling over himself to love me, I just saw myself as a frumpy, clumsy fool. I was, after all, just a typical girl.

“Have you ever noticed how stupid you are sometimes?” Edward asked me with a smirk, a smirk that mocked me with its perfection. And then he laughed softly, a sound so heavenly it entered my ear with the charm of churchbells ringing on a far-off hill.

I rolled my eyes. “Oh, sure. I’m the stupid one,” I replied sarcastically. But I knew it was true. Just being around Edward seemed to drain me of all my intelligence. I could barely focus in Biology when we sat next to each other. Even his smell–floral, musky–was intoxicating. I felt dizzy.

Edward touched me with his cold, vampiric hand, reminding me of how dead he really was. He must have been eighty years older than me, but he was so perfect and youthful, his face like a marquee idol’s, that I couldn’t believe it. And he wanted to suck my blood from my body until there wasn’t a hitch of breath left in my lungs. Deep down, I was afraid I wanted it too.

I could sense Edward trying to read my thoughts. “Stop that,” I said with irritation. I hated his surreptitious attempts to read me.

He slammed a hand down on the table. “God! You can be so foolish sometimes!” he seethed. His eyes glared at me with an intensity only someone that beautiful could possess. I tried to understand his frustration–after all, an ageless vampire must have a whole host of troubling memories I could deconstruct–but after a few moments, when his eyes softened at me and the corners of his mouth curled up like little elven feet, I forgot entirely what I was thinking about. What?

He leaned in to kiss me–or to bite me, I wasn’t sure–and I stopped breathing. We could both hear my big, stupid heart pounding under my ample teenage boobs, the ones Edward could hear all the boys thinking about when he read their thoughts, and the silence between us spanned eons. We sat there, almost kissing, for the entire rest of the book, during which time nothing else happened except for me avoiding conversation with my father, trying to let every boy in the school down easy, and wait–what was I thinking about again? Edward’s looking at me. He’s so pretty.

When In Doubt, Kill.

For the past year and a half I’ve been working on a novel. It started out as a short story and then I thought it was going to be a series of stories and then it turned into something else. I haven’t completed a draft yet (thanks to 2007 “Year of Hell,” then moving, new job, etc), partly because I got stuck. One of the characters gets immobilized sometimes, but I figured out what to do. All along, I was planning on getting her together with the other characters in the last third of the book, but I know now that’s not going to happen because when it all comes together…she’s going to be dead already!

It was sad to make the decision, but she really has few redeeming qualities anyway. And plus, I already eighty-sixed the only likable character in the book anyway.

This has been your “Poet Writing Prose Update” for October.

Miranda July is my homegirl. (excerpt from "Roy Spivey" in the New Yorker)

“My people are going to be waiting for me out there, so I won’t be able to say goodbye properly.”

“I know. That’s all right.”

“No, it really isn’t. It’s a travesty.”

“But I understand.”

“OK, here’s what I’m going to do. Just before I leave the airport, I’m going to come up to you and say, Do you work here?

“It’s OK. I really do understand.”

“No, this is important to me. I’ll say, Do you work here? And then you say your part.”

“What’s my part?”

“You say, No.

“OK.”

“And I’ll know what you mean. We’ll know the secret meaning.”

“OK.”

We looked into each other’s eyes in a way that said that nothing else mattered as much as us. I asked myself if I would kill my parents to save his life, a question I had been posing since I was fifteen. The answer always used to be yes. But in time all those boys had faded away and my parents were still there. I was now less and less willing to kill them for anyone; in fact, I worried for their health. In this case, however, I had to say yes. Yes I would.