inlooking #006: You are here
20220510: launching, gothic, chickens
Gonna try and keep it short this time. You may be here, but you may also be on to something else before long. So I won’t take too much of your time.
You Are Here
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Fables of the Deconstruction
An Econightmare on Elm Street
A picture of chickens in our backyard
I can’t do that because we need the eggs
I like connecting this newsletter to publication news, and here’s some I’m particularly excited about: I’m editing a new column at Alta Journal, on ideas of place and stories of places in the west, and my introducer for it dropped today. (May 6—let’s see how long it takes me to get this newsletter out… May 10, not bad.)
As you may know, I teach a class on placewriting at the Writers Grotto. Writing about place, ideas of place, psychogeography, how this all has evolved over time—all this is a topic that’s dear to my heart. So I’m really pleased to be launching this column. Its monthly installments will be written by members of the Writers Grotto, and we have a bunch of great stuff planned for it, so stay tuned.
If you want to turn a friend on to all this, of course share this newsletter with them…
…or you could always retweet the below:
Speaking of teaching…
…I’m teaching a one-day class at the end of this month entitled Deconstructing the Personal Essay. In it, we’ll spend a few hours pulling apart a Joan Didion essay in detail (and take a bird’s-eye view of a couple of other great essays), in order to try to figure out what makes them tick on a structural level. How does the writer handle the flow of words, sentences, paragraphs, narrative, and ideas so as to produce the effects they do? The three-hour class is pretty packed with information, but it’ll be broken up by a couple of short writing exercises. I’ll also be teaching a generative essay workshop this summer based on some of the techniques we’ll discuss in this class. That class listing isn’t up yet, but you can get a discount on that class if you sign up for this one. And at $99 (or less if you sign up before May 20), it’s a steal.
Readings in place
Two things I came across recently:
This beautiful essay from Rachel Cusk in The New York Times Magazine about place and time and timelessness and story and gender. Cusk’s novels have been on my TBR list for some time, but I’ve been a huge fan of her essays since reading her 2020 book of essays, Coventry. I love the way she structures her pieces, and I love that she can write long, which this one is, but it’s well worth it.
Offered as a bit of a novelty: Gothic Nature Journal presents “New Directions in Ecohorror and the EcoGothic.” While this isn’t necessarily something I’d think to go looking for, I sure am glad it exists. A random selection of its pieces gives us “The Ecohorror of Omission: Haunted Suburbs and the Forgotten Trees of A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and a valuable primer on “Theorising the EcoGothic.” Perhaps most
alarming surprisingtantalizing: all the articles are peer reviewed. Pretty cool.
not gonna bother with the chicken / egg puns
Woody Allen is a schmuck, but I love the last scene of Annie Hall, in which Allen’s character, Alvie Singer, in voiceover, tells a joke about a man asking a psychiatrist for advice. “Doc,” he says. (I’m paraphrasing here.) “My brother thinks he’s a chicken.” The doctor replies, “Well, why don’t you bring him in and we’ll see what we can do.”
“I can’t do that,” the man says, “because we need the eggs.”
“I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships,” Allen says. (Now I’m transcribing.) “They’re totally irrational and crazy and absurd, but I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.”
I’ve been thinking about this scene a lot lately, not relationshipially (credit to whoever coined that word; not me), but because we suddenly have eight chickens residing in our back yard, and they produce a lot of eggs! Our neighbors at one point had a flock of 22, but they let that dwindle, in part because they were planning to move away, and the chickens were to go with them. But at the last minute, they decided to leave the chickens behind, and offered them to us. While we could have let the chickens go to a local ranch, we decided to take them, in part because my daughters have grown attached to them. They love to bring the chickens our kitchen scraps, and could often be found in the neighbors’ yard with a chicken cradled lovingly in their arms.
Now they’re in our yard, in a too-small coop I bought and an enclosure I hastily assembled from old bits of fence and a 4x4 I sank in some gravel. That sounds simple, but it took most of my week last week. I always have projects that eat up my writing time, it seems. I’m trying to set most of these aside right now (which may cause some annoyance here and there), but I’m sure there will always be some hanging around. I’m just not singleminded enough. Why? I suppose it’s because I need the eggs.
Til next time,