On a recent announcement entry on the website for Opium Magazine, some guy named Ed Tasca commented twice.
First he said: Ed Tasca 3.18.2008
I'd like to submit a short story.
Then he did another comment with his entire 7000+ word story including his phone number for contact. Just right out there in the main page, inserted his whole story for submission as a comment. [NOTE: OPIUM HAS SINCE DELETED THE STORY COMMENT AND REPLACED IT WITH A NOTE ON HOW TO SUBMIT] The story was about fishing. I think I remember about 10 stories from my MFA workshop periods that were about fishing. People of a certain age tend to seem to need to write about fishing. Maybe to help deal with their dad dying. Maybe when my dad dies I will write a story about fishing even though he and I never went fishing. I mostly find fishing pretty boring. I'm not one for sitting in the same spot for hours. Actually that's not true. I spend every day sitting in the same spot in front of my computer, fishing for email and for other shit to look at. When I was fat I sat in front of the computer playing PC roleplaying games like Might & Magic II. I kept playing the game long after I beat it, just going around getting more experience points and finding weird weapons and shit.
Peter Markus writes a lot about fishing. He writes about fishing in a way that I think is different than most others. I just read a copy of his BOB, OR MAN ON BOAT that is coming out from DZANC soon. I like Peter Markus's writing. Peter Markus out-Hemingways Hemingway for writing stripped down THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO SAY sentences. Peter Markus has phenomenal intuition. Peter Markus is very attentive to tone. He is capable of writing books that have 'bleak' subject matter but which do not feel overridingly 'bleak.' He manages to make 'bleak' seem 'uplifting' in certain senses, in a way that could be read to a child and appreciated by an adult at the same time.
I got a very nice rejection this week that essentially said they loved the work but that overall it was 'too bleak.' That they wanted to publish it but it was 'too bleak.' I have been told this before about book length manuscripts. I was told this by one of my MFA professors who is a very excellent writer and teacher. She said I was bleak all the time and that in order to balance the bleak I needed to include more light. Even when I include more light my light ends up seeming bleak, I think.
Many writers I admire write 'bleak' fiction, with little to no 'light'.
Cormac McCarthy (though when he included more 'light' in THE ROAD he ended up on Oprah).
Stephen Dixon has one of the most bleak stories of all time: 'The Switch.' It was in the first Dixon book McSweeney's put out, called: I. One of my favorite story collections ever. Bleak as fucking night. 'The Switch' starts something like 'I wanted to try to look at it from her perspective.' and then goes on to have the narrator portrayed as sick and fucked and shitting and pissing himself and his wife trying to take care of him but being very mean because she is tired and you keep realizing throughout the story that he is talking about himself being mean to his wife in real life when he is talking about the wife being mean to the sick person in the story because he 'switched' the perspective in the beginning, which makes the writing penetrate even harder instead of 'feeling sorry', and makes you feel more and more fucked and sad and the sad makes you feel surrounded by warmth.
'Sad' stories do not make me feel 'sad'. 'Bleak' stories make me feel 'less alone,' I guess, as someone like Tao Lin would say. Not everyone thinks like that, I realize. I gave my mom a copy of SUTTREE for Christmas last year and she read it and liked it but said it was very bleak and that now she needed to read a sewing magazine or something. I can understand that. But I think there is something about 'bleakness' that is more 'real' in the telling and that I 'identify' with more often and thus in the long run feel 'better about life' in reading.
My novel-in-stories SCORCH ATLAS is mostly 'bleak' on the surface. I think there is some light in it, but perhaps the light is often 'subtle.' The humor is often 'dark humor'. There are 'uplifting' moments, I think. There are 'jokes'. I hope soon I am able to 'publish' my book so I can fixate on something else.
Now I'm going to shut up.