Skip to main content

Fiction Writing Class: Week 2

Last week was the second of the Fiction Writing class I am taking this semester. What stood out for me this time was the way that recalling aloud from each other's work, while we all sat in that semi-circle, already caused people to see more detail in what they recounted, and to transfer some of that "seeing in the mind" to the in-class writing.

Here is a dream-telling that I wrote in my journal for week 2:


Dream

I’m in Key West, but when I look out of the window, there is concrete and glass and asphalt everywhere, tall buildings with old fashioned iron fire escapes, and an elevated train track with cars thundering by overhead. This isn’t Key West, I think: this is Chicago.
“This is Key West,” says RA, who seems to know what I was thinking, even though I am sure I didn’t say anything. “We have to pick up the stuff from Key West and take it to Chicago.”
“What stuff?” I ask.
“There isn’t time,” says RA. Suddenly we are running through a long corridor, dimly lit by a string of forty watt bulbs dangling from the cracked ceiling. The corridor stretches out for miles, and we seem to run forever without getting to the end of it. At last we come to a giant freight elevator, and RA says: “The stuff is in the basement.”
“What stuff?” I ask again.
He doesn’t answer, but just grabs me by the elbow and pulls me inside the elevator when the doors slide open.
I quickly notice something odd about the interior of the elevator. It is enormous, and made entirely of glass, and it has two floors like a split level apartment. We are standing on the upper level, looking down into a space that is decorated in glass and chrome furniture. A glass chandelier that must be ten feet wide hangs down from the ceiling of the elevator. Through the glass wall in the other side I see a brick wall moving upwards, interrupted every few seconds by signs saying “7th floor,” “6th floor”, and so on. So this must be an elevator, I think.
“Yes, of course it’s an elevator,” snaps RA.
“I didn’t say anything,” I shout. “And where did all these people come from?”
I notice that even though we are on the balcony of a giant glass penthouse apartment style elevator, we are now standing in a densely packed crowd of men and women in charcoal grey suits, shoulder to shoulder as if we were riding a cramped high-rise elevator during rush hour. I hear a voice saying: “Hello, Philip.”
I peer around the shoulders of the person in front of me, and below me I see JB, sitting on a chaise longue, naked except for a man’s shirt which she is hastily buttoning up. She is looking down so that her long blonde hair obscures her face. “I’m sorry,” she says.
“For what?” I say.
Then the elevator reaches the basement, the doors open, and I am dragged out of the elevator by the crowd. From somewhere far off behind me, I hear JB’s voice faintly crying:“Don’t forget the stuff.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Soft Ground Etching with Baldwin Intaglio Ground

This is another post where I talk about my own research into how to obtain the best results from non-toxic etching materials -- specifically, the Baldwin Intaglio Ground. This is a form of etching resist developed by printmaker Andrew Baldwin, from the UK, as a non-toxic alternative to the nasty chemicals contained in traditional hard ground and soft ground resists. It comes in a tube, and when you squeeze some out onto an inking slab it looks like etching ink. You roll it onto the copper plate with a brayer, as if you were inking a relief block, in contrast to the traditional hard grounds, which are either melted onto the plate or poured on as a liquid hard ground. Applying the BIG to make a hard ground is relatively easy. Using it as a soft ground can be quite tricky, and it has taken me many tries and many failures to achieve a satisfactory etch.

The main problem, unfortunately, is the lack of specific instructions in preparing the BIG soft ground. Andrew Baldwin has some excellen…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…