Monday, November 10, 2008

Actual Sunday Top Ten: Built A Wall of Books Between Us in Our Bed

OMG, this is the first Sunday Top Ten I've written in eons! Earlier I asked you for book/music suggestions to fuel me during National Novel Writing Month and let me say if there is anyone out there who still doubts that the internet is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time ... this is your answer. I've got a kickass playlist started now and will be checking out Aimee Bender stat -- if you've still got suggestions than please do go ahead and gimme gimme gimme more, even though I've now deleted the part where I told you what I wanted.

"Trying to write a novel" is a familiar feeling to me. Every word I write feels like a word I've written before. Why? Because, according to my hard drive (which doesn't contain early typewriter or PC-penned works, e.g., the YA series The Pink Parrots about a girls baseball team), I've started approximately 10 bajillion novels already. Let's comb through the ashes of my prolific output, shall we?

Why have I written so many novels? I don't know. Have I ever done anything with any of these novels? No I have not, except Jennie Novel, which I mass produced & binded properly for distribution at emerson middle school. My friends gave it five thumbs up and then my Dad gave me a stern talking-to regarding how printers age. It's not just about the ink, which is replacable, but about "wear & tear" on the printer. V.important to know.

Anyhow! I've signed up for NaNoWriMo 'cause I like to live on the edge of a mental breakdown at all times, putting in as little sleep as possible and spreading myself thinly across a variety of unpaid projects so that I can live up to my family's expectations by becoming a very promising & talented failure who once published an article in Marie Claire.


My earliest works are mostly adolescent attempts to write the life I wish I had and to do my best interpretation of an Aaron Spelling television melodrama in novel form. Inspired by Francine Pascal, I'm sure.

I was seemingly obsessed with things I'd never done: boys, girls, drugs, parties, shopping sprees, fancy best friends, drunken evenings of wild revelry, etc. But yet I never wrote a protagonist with a living, breathing father -- I manage to get all the way into "Tara and Becca" without mentioning ANY fathers whatsoever, as if they'd never existed. Oh, The Land of Mothers.

10. Jennie Novel (1993) - Let's Get Sick and Cry!

Word count: Unknown, as this file no longer exists (never fear, I've got a hard copy) and I'm not sure if the lyrics to Now and Forever count as words anyhow. FINISHED!

Inspired by Lurlene McDaniel and Major Depressive Disorder, the story of a girl who's friends are dying of cancer or something. She paints murals in trance-like states, spends a lot of time sitting on the front porch thinking, cries often, and seemingly listens exclusively to the League of Their Own soundtrack.

In addition to the fantastic play BUT THEY ARE MAD and the screenplay HIGH ON LIFE [which we read from in this video] we also found JENNIE NOVEL while packing up my apartment in August and read some sections out loud. I asked Stef if she could say a few words about it:

"I'd place it somewhere between Crime and Punishment and Are You There God? It's Me Margaret in terms of its influence on the trajectory of my adult life. I remember there was melodrama and cancer, and I remember wishing I had a copy of my own that i could keep at my bedside always."

(Stef, a.k.a Uh[Hu]ltragirl)

9. Fly By Night (1995->1997) - My Name is Cornholio, Give me Fire!
Words: 29,919 - FINISHED!

Began as a short story called "The Firemaker," clearly attempting to capitalize on the popularity of Steven King's "Firestarter," which was a big hit amongst the popular boys in class I had crushes on. Erin runs away from home with her little brother Tommie who complains she's spent all their food money "on matches." Erin meets a Jordan Catalano look-a-like named Fly down by the schoolyard and together they build a home, family, etc., and then send dear Tommie to live with a foster family. Erin recovers from her dangerous addiction and gets her G.E.D.

Opening: "Erin threw an isolated flickering flame into a pile of boxes. The fire was instantly spread. Box after box slowly turned to black then dissolved into a small white ash."

It's the large white ash you've gotta look out for kids, FYI.

8. 1995 (1995) - The Secret Life of the American Teenager!
Words: 28,642 - UNFINISHED!

Due to its explicit sexual content, I kept this diary-style novel hidden on the family computer in a folder called "School Stuff." I know, I'm very smart, I learned that and other stuff in school. It appears to be the story of a girl who goes from unpopular to popular, gets better clothing and a boyfriend & then another boyfriend -- much like the storyline promised to me by 'Teen Magazine if I used Love's Baby Soft.

: "After school tomorrow I go ride Black Knight, my horse. If it wasn't for him, I don't know what would keep me going. It's like I'm so depressed all the time. I have no friends, I don't get good grades, no one thinks I'm pretty except for my parents. I have only two friends, and they're both losers. At least I have some money."

Last paragraph
: "We went over to his house and smoked pot, and had sex. Then we ordered pizza, and his friend, Jack, came over, who was really funny. We just joked around a lot. Then Tyson drove me home, and I gave him head on the way back."

I know! !!! I guess after that there was really nothing else to say?

7. Fate and the Love Triangle - 1996 - Like a bad chick flick, in words!
Words: 22,634 - UNFINISHED!

Luckily this particular polemic lays out its plot & purpose straight away: "This is a story about the Lovelock sisters: Louisa, Winona, Gabrielle and Claire, and the four men who are fated to be with them -- the four men who are the only ones in the world who can make these four women happy. This is a story about love, fate, friendship and the importance of sisterhood."

Apparently attempting to dethrone Louisa May Alcott with a contemporary tale that tackles the Big Issues. I just want to add that Winona (named after Winona Ryder, my Number One Girl Crush) works at The Gap and when they go to Kroger's, Claire gets "popsicles, candy, soda pop, Kids TV dinners, frozen shrimp, frozen mozerella sticks, frozen pizza, frozen bagel bites, blueberry bagels, cream cheese, Handi-Snacks and Fruit Roll Ups." Much like my own shopping list at that time.

Adventures in naming
: Eye doctor Michael Martini, U-M student/paramour Leonardo Alexander, band Blind Eye Dog

6.Tara and Becca - 1996 - TACCA!
Words: 16,146. UNFINISHED!

I reeled this clutter from the depths about 1.5 years ago when I did a search on my hard drive for "Tara," trying to locate I guess something related to my then-girlfriend named Tara.

Like 95% of my adolescent writings, the narrator loses her virgnity, rebels against her Mom, admires her friends' mini-skirts, gets raped maybe, becomes popular, goes shopping, is torn between boyfriends, and has intense sexual yearnings towards her best friend and idol, Tara.

When I found this seminal work I showed it to T[ara]B and later we read it together out loud, LOL'ing at its inanity and well -- so many odd things. Beginning with -- how odd, the character's first name being Tara.

And how odd, the opening line: "Tara is so crazy. I mean, when I get around’s like I can’t even control myself anymore."

5. Underground Nation - '96 - Let's Rave!
Words: 9,124. UNFINISHED!

"imagine this story as a fully dressed person who by the end is naked." Written in loosely punctuated bizarre half sentences and run-ons, reading this work is comporable to being trapped on a Shanghai-bound airplane with a speed freak 16-year old who won't stop talking about her boyfriends, super hot bff sadie and her bubble gum.

I must be imitating someone, unfortunately for myself I think this is when I read A Clockwork Orange.

nouns invented for crazy underground nation: pissant, crazyheart, mallboy, firesmoke
adjectives: sexyhot, nextofkin, funashell.

description of a rave
: "walking in there originally to the rave, just a lot of all strungout people like here and there. downstairs just red lights, drugs and music real good music and people just dancing in their underground minds...diffrent than the one in the daylight and in the lifetime that is to be seen."

Once you enter the world of writing-related academia, novel-writing falls to the wayside in favor of shorter forms. Or perhaps it was just that I got older, and had less leisure time, or that I liked my life well enough that I didn't feel the need to immerse myself in the alternate reality enabled by writing novels.

Instead I wrote a memoir, short stories, articles, essays, screenplays, teleplays. Unfortunately! 'Cause obvs we're all on the edges of our seats about Tyson and the BJ.

'Cause I might try to pass these novels off later when I can't find a new metaphor, I'll stay illusive (jk, I just don't know how to figure out what they're about, as they were all Corrections -style polemics intent on family history before plot development).

4. Untitled. Apple Works Doc Name: "Book.cwk." - September '03
Words: 3,740 - probs shorter than this blog post! - UNFINISHED!

: "In the picture at the zoo, I am four years old and I am wearing courdoroys and stylish Adidas sneakers. I have blonde pigtails and a genuine smile that says nothing but Look at Me, I am in Front of the Elephant. Look at the Elephant!"

sidenote I totally know what picture I'm talking about there, and it's adorbs.
3. Untitled. Apple Works document name: "A big Book." - January '04
Words: 5,184 - UNFINISHED! (not such a big book after all.)

Opening: "My first tragic experience with another man's legs occurred in line at Showcase Cinemas, where my father and I were giddy with excitement for the release of The Never-ending Story Part 2."
2. Untitled. Ambitious Doc Name: "Great American Novel." Nice, Riese! - April '04->June '05

Words: 17,925 - UNFINISHED!

: "When Leah was apprehended on the roof of Moore High, she was wearing an army-green bikini and cradling a water gun bigger than her thigh."
1. For A Girl - August '05 - January '06
Words: 32,539 UNFINISHED!

I might actually still write this one so I CAN'T GIVE IT AWAY! It was actually gonna be a seriously well planned YA series y'know like Gossip Girl! Abandoned it when the bisexuality book project started. Howevs the older I get, the further away kids these days become, they're probs all robots by now who don't know how to grow a tomato. I think I often write for adolescents 'cause I feel they'll be more tolerant of suckage. The title was inspired by the Madonna song. "What it feels like for a girl ... " etc.

Also I think I totally recycled/revamped the intro for relevant inclusion in the blog post "The Night Starts Here." This is the first sentence from that book, lame as it might be: "The thing is; we all feel we have gotten away with something. We are spies in a cheap detective movie, Elmer Fudd in body glitter and sunglasses the shapes of crop circles."

The Autobiography of Sancho Panza - right now!
Why am I writing this post? To remind myself of the 190,853 words (giving Jennie Novel 20K) that I've written for no-body and to make myself finish this one, because clearly the only promises I've kept since the 90's have been ones I've made here, to the blog readers of the Great Universe of the Blogosphere Webberhead.

I think I'm gonna finish Underground Nation, in the first scene A;ex and I are going to go to a fancy benefit (her firm did their design), get drunk for free and then actually willingly go to Nation just to dance to good music for three hours.

Then I'm gonna come home, be super drunk, tell A;ex if she wants to have a serious conversation we can talk about Gossip Girl, wake up on Sunday super hung over, and write this. It's like autobiographical, but with suspense, mystery, life, love, truth, death, heartbreak, dancing, and feelings, all wrapped into a sandwich comporable to The Catcher in the Rye meets Rubyfruit Jungle. Buy together and save 30% on Amazon today with The L Word Book, Annie on my Mind, Lying: A Memoir and Prozac Nation.


Elizabeth said...

1- I'd recommend Name All The Animals by Alison Smith. It's a well written memoir of a writer growing up, experiencing grief and going through loads of self-discovery. Reading this book made me want to write my own memoir, as we had very similar experiences.

2- When I'm being creative (i.e. painting, writing or drawing) I listen to a lot of Stereolab. But some songs that are similar to what you are looking for... Check out Au Revoir Simone, in particular the song 'Stars', maybe 'Adventures In Solitude' by the New Pornographers, and the album Knives Don't Have Your Back by Emily Haines & The Soft Skeletons (Emily Haines without Broken Social Scene or Metric...) and with that I will stop because I could recommend music forever. No lie.

I tried to start a 'memoir' for NaNoWriMo and things came to a screeching halt as I was ill prepared and long-format fiction is NOT my genre. Kudos to you for sticking with it!

Alice said...

On the music front I'd recommend Lydia. Just beautiful. Both 'Illuminate' And 'This December; It's One More and I'm Free' are incredible. Mind blowing. It's music for rainy evenings and hoodies and not setting foot outside for three days straight.

Ms. Jackson said...

1. I am in the middle of reading "The Wonder Spot" by Melissa Bank and it is rather enjoyable. I do believe that it fits your criteria.

2. This list can go on forever but I'll try to keep it brief.

Jenny Lewis-Acid Tongue, Sing a Song for Them
Leona Naess- Learning As We Go, Swing Gently, Ghosts in the Attic
Death Cab for Cutie-Marching Bands of Manhattan, Bixby Canyon Bridge, I Will Possess Your Heart
Snow Patrol- Lifeboats, Set Your Glass Down

I'll stop there. Hope this helps!

A. said...

Sigh... just read This Book Will Save Your Life already. I know, I know "it's too long"...
a) That's what she said
b) Really Riese really?

I really can't recommend any books here as most books I've read over the past year were recommended by you at some point.

As for music...
I listen to a lot of Ryan Adams for creativity. I’m also just starting to get into a Canadian artist named Danny Michel. Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace also fits the bill quite well.
I'll think of some specifics and possibly add more later.
Peace yo.

MoonKiller said...

I pass on the book front but musically I'd recommend these:

Mogwai - Take Me Somewhere Nice
Stereophonics - Maybe Tomorrow
Laura Marling - My Manic and I/Ghosts/Your Only Doll
Wilco - Either Way/Kamera/Impossible Germany
Radiohead - Optimistic/How To Disappear Completely/Reckoner
Anything by Nouvelle Vague
Kathleen Edwards - Pink Emerson Radio
Death Cab - Blacking Out The Friction/Marching Bands of Manhattan/Brothers on a Hotel Bed/The New Year/We Looked Like Giants/Scientist Studies

That's pretty much a condensed version of my somewhat similiar playlist.

Anonymous said...

i can't stop listening to Hideaway by The Weepies. maybe you'd like it. i don't know. of azure ray's self titled album is kind of like the songs mentioned.

Haviland Stillwell said...

You're going to get really into Kristy Hanson's music. I will send your way. She's fantastic and mellow and inspiring.

fio said...

I pass on the music front, but how about

Aimee Bender - An invisible sign of my own?

not strictly July-esque [though her short stories are, in a sense]. this book deals with pain and grief and death and love like no other i've ever read.

laura said...

i'm gonna second lydia; i've had them on repeat for the past week. a few other songs:
+"your legs grow" by nada surf
+"your hand in mine" by explosions in the sky
+"saltwater room" by owl city
+"chocolate" by snow patrol

no book ideas, though. oh no.

Erin said...

there is a website that is the best thing since sarah shahi on the l word:

you type in a band/artist/song and its database matches songs that are similar and it plays constantly like an online radio.

i typed in the band "the birds and the bee" today and some of the songs played were from: stars, kinnie star, kate nash, tegan and sara, the postal service, yael naim, frou frou, santogold and feist just to name a few. amazing!

Stephanie said...

I may have recommended this before, but, Notes From an Incomplete Revolution: Real Life Since Feminism by Meredith Maran. It's amazing. She examines the fight for women's right since the 70's and how it has played a part in her life - "I'd been in a lesbian relationship for 11 years, but when my car broke down I still longed for a husband. I'd marched for reproductive rights, but I still mourned the baby I aborted when I was 20..." I really just love her voice.

In other recommendations not fitting the rules: The Preacher's Son by Marc Adams. I love this book and this dude.

Liz said...

kudos to you for being cool and (trying) to do something as exuberant as writing a novel.

so I read this book called The curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It's pretty great. I don't think it matches any of your criterias, but rules are made to be broken.

good luck chuck. Try to eat something too. writing and thinking burns a lot of calories.

DH said...

Unfortunately I can't help with book recommendations because I haven't those specific influences. Sometimes I feel like Less Than Zero is the only book I've ever read.

But as for music you could enjoy, you may dig The Panics.

thehermit said...

I wouldn't recommend listening to anything with lyrics while writing - it's distracting. Try something instrumental but not mind-numbing, like Mike Oldfield's Voyager cd.

I am old and unhip (as my use of the word unhip clearly shows), but I would recommend The Woman Warrior: Memoir of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston, not only because it's short, but because she is an expert at crafting character with few words.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison isn't overly long, and while I think DA skimped on some of the finer details, she also created her character, Bones, to be memorable.

Good luck, Marie!

ana said...

I agree with Fio and recommend Aimee Bender (definitely in the same vein as Miranda July), but her short stories are my favorite. I like The Girl in the Flammable Skirt most--Bender's stories are quiet and sad and beautiful and hilarious in the same way that the best stories from July's book (like "Something That Needs Nothing" (and "The Swim Team") are.

Music: have you heard An Horse? I can't stop listening, and they are Tegan-and-Sara-approved to boot! The Blow's Paper Television is not new at all, but might hit the spot. Try anything by Mirah (but especially C'Mon Miracle. (Bonus: those are all hot gay ladies!)

Good luck with the writing!

rae said...

i can't offer much in the way of the first question. as far as the latter goes i highly recommend emily haines & the soft skeleton, brightblack morning light, joan as police woman, or st. vincent.

NEP said...

i'm not much help in the book rec dept, but re writing tunes, this might do the trick. i have an unhealthy obsession with mixwit and should probs be sleeping.

Rachel said...

The IHOP Papers, by Ali Liebegott, was maybe the best thing I read all of the summer that I was 19. I think Miranda July might like it, at least. Also if you don't listen to The Blow already maybe you should start?

a;ex said...


Underground Nation sounds like something I would've loved to read in '96, when I was 2.
(jk, it was more like the year 2000 when I was into all the rave stuff and wanted so badly to be a DJ. We were serious about having our own rave somewhere in the abandoned warehouses near school. Ever see the movie "Groove"? Anyway...)

Also, the graphic/picture/whatever for Fly By Night is FUCKING CREEPY. I almost couldn't finish reading that section. omg really wtf is that? That person has fire up their nose.

I had no idea you could actually write Top 10 made of novels you've written [or started.]

David James said...

Hello, not-so-subtle self-promotion for any publishers or literary agents who read this blog!

I love it. Get your ass published. Make millions. And that is your actual ass, not some metaphorical ass that represents these books. Keep it up. Keep it right up.

autumn m said...

so i will be no help what so ever in anything that has to do with this subject. but i can say that one of my goals before i die is to go to a rave. looks like fun. and alex's reaction to your " Fly by Night" graphic cracks my shit up.

stef said...


okay. i was thinking about it and i can't remember if jennie novel is the one where the main character's love interest was a guy called kurt russell, and you didn't realise that that's a real person. whatever story THAT was, that was amazing.

i wrote a lot of novels when i was like 8, probs all about 50 pages long, all about a girl and her horse. sigh.

seriously, jennie novel was the stuff lifetime movies are made of. i'd try to get that optioned asap.

Bridget said...

i did nanowrimo 2 years ago and i barley made it but it was really awesome! goooodddd luck!

Bridget said...

let me qualify that statement - writing it was really awesome, the product was really really bad - not even awesomely bad - just terrible.

but again - cheers 2 you!

riese said...

elizabeth: i loved name all the animals, which reminded me in small ways of oranges are not the only fruit and sometimes oddly in my mind i confuse them 'cause i read them both in early '06. carly put a lot of emily haines on my itunes. i am now listening to au revoir simone and it is lovely.

alice: i'm listening to lydia and it is lovely. i am always in a hoodie so that is perfect.

ms. jackson: melissa bank yes i read "a girl's guide to hunting and fishing" and you saying that makes me wonder where that book went, i lose it. i have jenny lewis & death cab, and listening to leona naess now which is lovely.

a. I am waiting for caitlin to give me her copy. the recession, etc. i am listening to raine maida and it is lovely.

moonkiller: i am listening ot laura marling and mogwai and they are lovely. i have some death cab, nouvelle vague, radiohead, did you know i listented to death cab before seth cohen did. true story.

anonymous: i am now listening to both of those things and they are lovely.

haviland stillwell: i assume you are sending this music via pony express as i have not yet received it.

flo: I will indeed read that, i have looked it up and will now seek.

laura: in addition to stealing your playlist on paper cuts i am now also listening to those exact songs i even paid for nada surf even though they wrote that annoying song in the 90's which i admit i liked very much at the time.

erin: oh yes i use a lot of pandora. also lastfm. on pandora i like to ask for portishead radio. they are very good at portishead radio. this is how i have discovered a lot of music through that on last fm except then i learned people can stalk you basically via last fm. so weird, the computerwebs.

stephanie: i believe that is not a novel stephanie! i will mark down your recommendation for later however as it sounds lovely. you are a rule breaker, and therefore a woman warrior.

liz: yes that book about the dog incident was all over the best of lists. i have this problem where i can't bring myself to read books that mention dogs in the title. don't worry i am nothing if not eating constantly.

dh: I think in addition to Less than Zero you have also read American Psycho, most of John Marsden's books, and 95% of Shantaram. I also believe you made a good faith effort to find Lying a Memoir but failed. Currently I am digging the panics.

thehermit: i loved bastard out of carolina. someone is playing a jazz band outside my window right now, it sounds like a rehersal of some sort. there's no lyrics, it's not so bad really actually for background to the background music. lyrics are distracting, i think that's why Kind of Blue is my most-played album on itunes. i have heard of mhk and will read her book one day.

ana: maybe bender is one of those short story writers who was forced by her publisher's three book deal to churn out a novel, like lorrie moore, i will check this out.

yes i was subjected to an horse before the t&s concert. i've seen them recommended by many people with similar taste but maybe i just can't get into anyone who i had to listen to before i could see t&s. stef has given me a lot of the blow. I heart mirah and forgot about mirah and now will fall in love with mirah again thank you.

rae: i want to name my first child brightblack morning light. no. i want to name it st. vincent.

nep: nas says you can sleep when you're dead!

rachel: i think there is something weird about me for not liking the blow. but i do like blow the drug. i mean i don't do it but i feel like it might help me write a masterpiece. i will look into the other thing that you said.

a;ex: I know, but it would've been difficult for you to read that while also climbing trees. I feel like I was just slightly too old to participate in any actual raves before raves passed the saturation point and became sort of over. But something being over has clearly not saved me from trying to write about it. I think I saw groove. There was a boy on the cover holding a giant disco ball, right?

That image is from the cover of Stephen King's great novel Firestarter!

david james: helloooo i already have a literary agent. i'm not gonna finish the novel, don't get confused. also people don't buy books so it's not a good way to get rich. when did you last buy a book david james? when?! would you buy my book? yeah you would you could put it on your shelf to look literate.

autumn m: do people still do raves like in earnest in places like kansas? just don't do too much E, I saw an episode of dawson's creek where andie od'ed on it.

stef: ha haha AN HORSE! actually that story that you mention i think is from the magazine eternity. i think that story is called "over a bowl of grapenuts" and had nice graphics from macdraw in it.

I also apparently wrote about a girl and her horse. Not that I knew that much about an horse. that's so awkward "an horse."

bridget: although i only wrote like 1,000 words today, I did read the entire book about NaNoWriMo and the message seems to be "the key to writing a book in 30 days is to write a book that sucks."

Meghan said...

Okay, I am way late to the party, but I am very appreciative of all the new music I have found in the comments. Music for creativity, I'll suggest
The Eraser by Thom Yorke and 100th Window by Massive Attack. Mogwai for sure and I confess I'm super into the new Snow Patrol album ever since they played that city song on Gossip Girl.
Also I LOVE Lykke Li and Soko.

Sadly I can't recommend books as I have not been reading very much lately, not sure why. Can't seem to find anything that engages me.