The world’s a mess, but that doesn’t mean creativity must end. Staying creative just requires great effort.
Alexander Chee reflects on his affinity for gin and how over the years — in its various cocktail permutations alongside vermouth in martinis and negronis — it has more than kept him company, becoming “almost a travel companion.”
“I wrote Battleborn for white men, toward them. If you hold the book to a certain light, you’ll see it as an exercise in self-hazing, a product of working-class madness, the female strain. So, natural then that Battleborn was well-received by the white male lit establishment: it was written for them.” Claire Vaye Watkins, in Tin House.
The story of Hollywood screenwriter Budd Schulberg’s unlikely collaboration with Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl.
How burdens and values pass from fathers to sons, and the search for that one true thing.
My hand will always remember the density of those silver dollars, the dead weight as I tumbled them back and forth, the dull clink as the coins touched. The nature of that weight offered a lesson in value too; you knew by a sense of the coin’s unique inner gravity that the silver was pure, that it wasn’t an alloy. Holding the coin in your palm you felt the primitive allure of the metal itself, its truth.
The writer on his experience with night terrors, which he associates with his love of horror films and the work of Tom Savini, a special-effects artist known for working with director George Romero on zombie films:
Savini joined the Army rather than wait to get drafted because enlisted men got to pick their jobs. He served as a combat photographer in Vietnam. After the war, he moved to North Carolina and started acting in a repertory theater. He was still playing around with makeups, still using them to scare the holy shit out of people. (In Vietnam, he had been all, “Mama-san, take . . . a . . . look . . . at . . . THIS!”) In fact, that’s what earned him his early notoriety, the verisimilitude of his wounds. “There’s something about seeing the real thing that sets me apart from, let’s say, some other makeup artists who have never experienced that,” he said in a post-Vietnam interview. “When I’m creating an effect, if it doesn’t look good to me—real—doesn’t give me that feeling I used to get when I’d see the real stuff, then it’s just not real enough for me.”
An excerpt from Lacy M. Johnson’s memoir The Other Side, which details Johnson’s experience of being held prisoner in a soundproofed room by her ex-boyfriend and what followed after she escaped:
The Detective follows me to my new apartment in the unmarked car. He offers to come inside, to stand guard at the door, but I don’t want him to see that I have no furniture, no food in the fridge, nothing in the pantry, or the linen closet, or on the walls. I ask him to wait outside. I call my boss at the literary magazine where I am an intern and leave a message on the office voice mail: Hi there. I was kidnapped and raped last night. I won’t be coming in today. I call My Good Friend’s cell phone. I call My Older Sister’s cell phone.
While I’m in the shower, the apartment phone rings and callers leave messages on the machine: My Good Friend will stay with her boyfriend; she’s delaying her move-in date. Of course she hates to do this, but she’s just too scared to live here, with me, right now. You should find somewhere to go, she says. My Handsome Friend’s message says he heard the news from My Good Friend. He’s leaving town and doesn’t think it’s safe to tell me where to find him. The message My Older Sister leaves says she wants me to come stay at her place, which sounds better than sleeping alone in this apartment on the floor.
The writer and her husband, who live in the Sans Bois Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma, deal with a rattlesnake problem:
“Nineteen-year-old Faith comes in the door after a bit, hunting her camera. ‘There’s a snake coiled in the yard,’ she says, her voice remarkably calm. Little eight-year-old C.C. marches to the living room, stands in front of my snake-phobic mom, and announces: ‘There’s a big snake in the yard, Grandma. We think it’s a rattling one.’
“Daddy is up from his easy chair and out the door like a shot. I hurry around trying to locate my phone to take pictures while the rest of the family troops out to see it—except for my mother, of course, who wouldn’t go out there on a dare.
“By the time I reach the porch, the rattler has uncoiled and begun crawling away from the house toward a flat nest of sandstone slabs and boulders beside the pond path. I catch a glimpse of it gliding rapidly through the dead grass, its diamond markings mottled, but distinct. Its size is almost beyond belief: even winding S-like that way, the rattler is longer and thicker than any I’ve ever seen.”
Novelist Robert Boswell tells the story of how he met his wife, the author Antonya Nelson, and uses the story to explore how fiction is crafted:
“Why are we drawn to stories about people falling in love? There are likely a host of reasons, but here’s a good one: marriage, when observed from a place of solitude, has the power of dream. Solitary people fall in love with couples, imagining their own lives transformed by such a union. And once the transformation finally happens, people need to talk about it, telling not only their families, friends, and strangers on the bus but also themselves—repeating it to make it real, to investigate the mystery of marital metamorphosis. And they get good at the telling. People who cannot otherwise put together an adequately coherent narrative to get you to the neighborhood grocery will nonetheless have a beautifully shaped tale of how he met she (or he met he, or she met she) and became we.”
This week’s Member Pick is “House Heart,” a short story by Amelia Gray, the author of the novel Threats and short story collections Museum of the Weird and AM/PM. “House Heart” was published in the December 2012 issue of Tin House.
Support Longreads—and get more stories like this—by becoming a member for just $3 per month.