I Remember – #961

I remember the firing of James Comey.  And I also remember texting Guto, a work colleague, a screenshot of the New York Times breaking news story, while I was on the P344 bus.

-9 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

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The Journal of Failure – Week 4 of 2018

Goals

Reading

  • Goal – 100p / day, or 700 / week
  • Achieved – 386/700 – Failure

Writing – I Remember

  • Goal – 21 / week
  • Achieved – 12/21 – Failure

Writing – Fantasy Project

  • Goal – 1,120 words / week
  • Achieved – 0/1,120 words – Failure

Writing – Small Projects (Fragments, short stories, etc)

  • Goal – 12 minutes, 15 seconds / week
  • Achieved – 0/12 minutes, 15 seconds – Failure

Writing – Large Projects

  • Goal – 24 minutes, 30 seconds / week
  • Achieved – 0/24 minutes, 30 seconds – Failure

Getting myself out there

  • Short story reviews – One (Two total for the year)
  • Submissions – Zero (Zero total for the year)
  • Rejections – Zero (One total for the year)
  • Acceptances – Zero (Zero total for the year)

Commentary

I suppose I am pleased that I restarted the Journal of Failure with a full spread of failures across the board.  I had intended to achieve so much, and had given myself exceedingly achievable writing goals, but alas I failed to meet these.

On the one hand, I have a small child, and while she is amazing and incredible, she does take up a lot of time.  On the other hand, that is a total excuse and I expect the time spent browsing my phone or playing idle games would certainly be enough to write and write well.

The goals are small, particularly the writing goals, but the intent is to make them small and achievable (ha!), and then slowly increase them.  For example, reading 100 pages / day is eminently achievable, and once that’s done, I want to go up to 101 pages, etc.  The idea is that after a number of weeks of failing and succeeding and increasing, then failing, and so on, I should have a reasonable understanding of what is reasonable for me.

I expect that I will have to resume night-time writing.  My head wants to write in the morning, and my heart wants to write at night, and overall I think the best thing for me to do is ignore both and just get on with it.  I spend much of my life arguing with myself over the merits of either, while doing neither.

Here’s to a better week next week!

Each week I aim to provide an update on the Journal of Failure.  These reports are intended to provide an impetus for me to achieve as much as I should/more than I do, and also to provide a further ongoing record of my life, as it is. 

Short Story Review – Tanja Mravak – Meat (trans. Antonija Primorac)

The first section of Tanja Mravak’s Meat (trans. Antonija Primorac), which takes up perhaps a third of the entire story, is something of a love song to the varieties of food available, methods of cooking and types of diet.  It’s a paragraph of lists, it’s food, food, food, unctuous and fresh and cooked and clean, and deliciously detailed.  Scattered within are short descriptions of Magda, she of the ‘massive tits’, who, according to women would be ‘pretty if she wasn’t fat’, and according to the men, a rather jolly good time as she laughs, laughs, laughs.

She’d cook stews, Bolognese sauces, carbonaras. She’d fry potato chips, make crepes; twice a week she’d roast veal. She was beautiful, our Magda was; green eyes, olive complexion, full, brownish lips, thick hair, and button nose.

She diets, but it seems it’s more to try different foods and odd combinations.  It’s less about losing weight or health issues and more about celebrating the different ways in which food can be enjoyed.  And – I can get behind this.  I love food and spend much of my weekend time exploring new recipes and trying out interesting techniques.  For me, then, this was a very appealing opening.

People loved Magda, even men liked her, you know, really liked her. They’d take a fancy to those green eyes, those juicy lips, the button nose, but most of all they liked her laughter. She’d laugh and her belly wobbled, she’d laugh even on a diet morning while squeezing a grapefruit at the crack of dawn.

I was reminded somewhat of Günter Grass’ The Flounder – less the historical journey and more the physical pleasure of food and how it can help an individual connect to their body and provide a sensual outlet.

Enter the second section.

In this, Mravak more explicitly marries food with sensuality by way of the relationship between Vatro, a butcher, and Magda:

“There you go, miss, it’s as tender as your soul,” Vatro offered, growing bolder, too.

“Let me feel it,” laughed Magda. “Dear me, my mouth is watering, just from thinking about nibbling on it, imagining how much I’ll enjoy it.”

Vatro’s mouth started watering, too, and his own flesh stiffened a bit.

By this stage Magda, who has always been overweight, has become sufficiently so that when Vatro has sex with her he is in fact thrusting against her thighs and, upon completion, Magda is left to take care of herself or lie awake unfulfilled.  She’s happy, though, because the food is good and Vatro is himself a good man.

But it can’t last, and after a while they separate.  Here, Mravak escalates the speed of the story, whizzing through a bacterial infection, staying with her mother, losing close to 30 kilograms, marrying (!) someone.  The constant is food, and it’s no accident, I think, that as Magda’s weight goes down, the amount of words devoted to her decreases.  She’s less important as she loses her obsession with food, and by comparison the food itself takes centre stage.  It’s a story about food, and as soon as Magda loses her jolly belly, the story loses interest in her.

Meat is a short story by Croatian writer Tanja Mravak and was translated by Antonija Primorac.  You can read the story at Asymptote.

Author Tanja Mravak
Title Meat
Translator Antonija Primorac
Nationality Croatian
Publisher Asymptote

Please visit the Short Story Reviews page to see all of the available reviews.

I Remember – #960

I remember being driven from Maryborough to Brisbane when I was 18 or so, though I don’t remember the reason or who was driving.  I shared the backseat of the car with my ‘ex best friend’ from high school (remember when such things mattered!), and listened to him while he explained the backstory behind his 10-book series (of which he would go on to write 0 words), mildly hating him the entire time.  Mildly because, and for some time before then, I had felt strongly towards his girlfriend, and had in fact carried something of a torch for her, on and off, throughout the entirety of high school.  But even by 18 those feelings were fading as I entered adulthood and high school drifted away.

-8 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

I Remember – #959

I remember using the online name of ‘Litnus’ and also for a time, ‘Arkhaine’.  And my friends and I would discuss registering our names on every single website in the world, as though that were possible and though anyone, anywhere, cared at all about what a few teenage boys were called on (invariably) video game and fantasy book websites.

-7 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

Short Story Review – Saša Stanišiç – A Classical Education (trans. Saša Stanišiç and Janet Hendrickson)

I offer, without context, a snippet from this rather short story which encapsulates, I think, the comedy and zaniness of the piece:

“Are you violating our security guidelines, Sir?” the stewardess politely screamed at me.

The polite scream.  The use of ‘Sir’ and ‘violating’.  The matter-of-fact tone of the narrator.  It’s all here, the whole story is like this, playing off the wacky with the ordinary.  It’s great.

We have, then, the narrator on a flight.  He becomes entangled in a conversation with a five year old girl who is adamant about making him suffer.  She says that her name is Johann Sebastian Bach and gives him the finger, and then following a series of ridiculous events the whole plane becomes convinced he is a predatory pedophile who has also attempted to rob the girl’s mother.  Everything happens at a massively fast clip, and overwhelmingly the sentence structure and word choices are calm, clear, slightly formal, and juxtaposed brilliantly against the absurdity of the events.

The mother is convinced her blonde angel doesn’t even know what lying is, and worse, I held the empty pack of gum in my hand. Also, “make music with me” sounded damn unsettling. No one would have believed me if I said that the little girl was playing a perverse game with me, as innocent as she looked and as unshaven as I was.

Beyond that, there’s little to say.  It’s a funny story.  It’s also very short – a touch under 700 words – and would, I suppose, be considered flash fiction, though it was written back in 2007 before that particular art form exploded across the internet.  It’s an encouraging format (generally it means a piece of writing under 1,000 words, though I have seen limits of 400, 700, etc.  Short, anyway) as it encourages a writer to jump, to explore, to take risks and to experiment.  Sometimes, this means a writer will write bad poetry and purple up their prose beyond blushing, but often – as in this excellent story – it will result in a wonderful, tight, fun, funny piece.

Highly recommended.

A Classical Education is a short story by Bosnian writer Saša Stanišiç, and was translated by the author and Janet Hendrickson.  You can read the story at Words Without Borders.

Author Saša Stanišiç
Title A Classical Education
Translator Saša Stanišiç and Janet Hendrickson
Nationality Bosnian
Publisher Words Without Borders

Please visit the Short Story Reviews page to see all of the available reviews.

I Remember – #958

I remember a bookseller from Maryborough, who moved away from the town when I was 15 or 16.  I had always liked him, and we’d often discuss fantasy series and writers that we both enjoyed.  He was tall, or seemed tall to me, and portly, and he had a thick brown bushy moustache, no beard.  And I remember receiving an ICQ message from he a few weeks after he had left, messages which were decidedly sexual in nature and, looking back, remarkably predatory, and not at all what I had expected when we exchanged details before he left Maryborough.

-6 May 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.