THE COMBAT SUTRA
I was online researching material for a new story of mine and came across this stash of US Army Field Manuals.
Want to know the best way to kill a man? Or maybe how to load a grenade launcher? Never had time to brush up on parachuting tactics? Stress got you down in a combat situation? Need to snipe somebody?
It’s all there, your guide to life in the “theater of operations.”
On a side note, a few of the illustrations look alarmingly similar to positions you might find in the Kama Sutra:
I was driving over to our writer’s group meeting last night, and caught the tail end of Harvey Pekar on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Great stuff about work and writing:
PEKAR: I knew I couldn’t make money at the stuff I liked to do. So I took a job that was not challenging, and you know, when it was slow at work, I used to sneak into the corner and read or write. It worked out. It was easy, I didn’t have to go home and worry about the work, I just went and did the work, and went home and thought about writing about something.
GROSS: Now that you don’t have your day job…you can write as much as you’d like. I think most writers find it really hard to write for a good deal of the day. You might have dreamed your whole life of having that flexibility, but now that you have it, what’s it like to have it?
PEKAR: That’s a very good question, Terry. It would be pretty hard for me to write, you know 40 hours a week, 8 hours a day, that kind of week like I did when I was at the V.A.
GROSS: Did you have to learn how to deal with an unstructured day–a day that wasn’t structured by a 9-5 job?
PEKAR: Yeah. I did. At first it freaked me out, uh, In fact, I got so depressed and screwed up I was hospitalized for major depression…
11/8 MAC’S BACKS READING
A cool reading in the hot basement at Mac’s Backs last night, with fiction writers Kelly Link, Dan Chaon, and Maureen McHugh. Link is the editor of the literary magazine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, put out by Small Beer Press, which, along with Link’s book of short stories, MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS, published Maureen McHugh’s new book of short stories, MOTHERS AND OTHER MONSTERS. Dan Chaon teaches at Oberlin and lives right here in Cleveland Heights–his most recent book is the novel, YOU REMIND ME OF ME. I heard one of the audience members say, “Oh, God, it’s like the royalty of Cleveland writing here tonight…”
After the reading, I was browsing the stacks, and Chaon pointed at me.
CHAON: You’re the Zagara’s guy.
ME: Uh, yeah, hi!
CHAON: It’s Austin, right? You’re a cartoonist?
And I’m thinking, how the hell does Dan Chaon know my name and that I draw cartoons? Turns out, someone pointed out this here blog, and one of the posts to him. (So, hi Dan, if you’re reading.) We talked about Zagaras being the true center of Cleveland literary activity, and I sheepishly tried to convince him that I was REALLY a short story writer, and he introduced me to one of his students who was doing a graphic novel in his workshop, which I thought was great: I wish I’d have done some comics in undergrad workshop.
McHugh is currently writing for the gaming industry. “Art is a product of technology,” she said. “The novel only became an art form after the printing press made it cheap to make a book…we’re still figuring out the computer.” She read four stories she’s written for the website lastcallpoker.com, aimed at the site’s target demographic of males 18-34. The first story was about a lesbian ninja named spider. “That’s A Funny Place For A Canoe,” was about a serial killer who shoots a hispanic drug dealer in the head on a street corner. For the third story, McHugh “had to become Elmore Leonard.” “Grind Up Your Bones For Bread” was about a computer hacker named Matt whose plot resembled the life story of William Bonny (aka Billy the Kidd). McHugh had cool postcards with her story “Wicked” printed on the front–I’ve always wondered why more authors don’t do promotional postcards/samples, like visual artists. She ended by holding up her new book and saying, “And if you think the stories in here are going to be anything like what I just read, you’re in for a big surprise!”
And so, there you have it: best reading since McSweeney’s hit Joseph-Beth a couple months ago. Next week: Charles Baxter at Lakewood Public Library.
D E E R ! ( PART TWO )
If you live in rural America, deer season is a good time to lay low. Literally. Brandon forwarded me this story from the AP wire:
Center for the Blind students get a shot at deer hunting
11/6/2005, 12:05 p.m. CT
The Associated Press
RUSTON, La. (AP) — Six people from the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston got an opportunity this past weekend to do something they never thought they’d be able to do — go deer hunting.
Toting shotguns, the blind hunters were part of the “Shot in the Dark” hunt in Caldwell Parish organized by the National Wild Turkey Federation. The hunt on Saturday and Sunday was the first time the Wheelin’ Sportsmen, an outreach effort by the federation, has been held.
THE KLEON GUIDE TO EUROPEAN TRAVEL, PART 2
LONDON, PARIS, & ANY PLACE THEY DON’T SPEAK ITALIAN
London is my least favorite city on the other side of the pond. Everything is expensive, the food isn’t all that great–it’s basically a big American city with a funny accent. Paris is beautiful, and despite people who claim otherwise, Parisians are friendly and smell just fine. But I haven’t seen nearly enough of either of them to claim any kind of authority. In Paris, I remember loving the Left Bank, near Notre Dame. Read Let’s Go, or Lonely Planet, or Rick Steves, and figure out what you want to see. For hotels, you can’t go wrong in any city using TripAdvisor.com. My heart, and my good advice, lies in a magical country called Italia.
Rome can be done in two days. Start out by checking into a place called the HOTEL DIPLOMATIC. Good price, huge bathtubs and clean rooms. Then spend the rest of the day and the evening walking the main strip of Roma, seeing the Colosseum (I never went in), the Pantheon (glorious), the Spanish Steps (good place to sketch), and the Trevi Fountain (watch your camera). Drink some wine, eat some gelato, and get a good night’s rest. In the morning, you’re within walking distance of the Vatican. Hit St. Peter’s at 7:30 in the morning, when the nuns are still out. Say hello to the Pieta for me, and then head over to the Vatican. Now, what follows is controversial: it’s totally acceptable to race straight through the huge Vatican museum to get to Michelangelo’s Last Judgement and the Sistine Chapel at the end. Afterwards, there’s a lovely little cafe run by a family nearby, but I’d have to close my eyes and let my subconcious take me there. Walk down any street and when you find a small, bald man smoking a cigar, with black socks and sandals, you’ve arrived.
I want to die in a cottage built in the hilly suburbs of Florence. Florence can be done in one day, but it would be criminal. Give it at least two, and I highly suggest three. Meghan and I cut a day off Venice just to spend a fourth in Florence. The city is small enough that you can walk anywhere, so stay at a place called the Gould Institute (Instituto Gould), south of the Arno. Ask for a room away from the street, preferably off the courtyard, where you can sometimes see small children playing. The magic room is #249. Do the art-seeing and the touristy stuff north of the river, sleep, loiter, stroll, and eat south of the river. See as much Renaissance art as you can–hit the Uffizi and all the churches–but be ready to pay for it. You absolutely must walk the Boboli Gardens, take a hike up in the hills past the Fort Belvedere over to the Church at San Miniato al Monte to the Piazza Michelangelo (with the David replica statue) just in time for sunset. Breathtaking.
The thing about Venice is…it’s sinking. I personally think Venice is max-ed out after a full day. My advice is to stay one night and splurge on a fancy hotel room: everything in Venice is expensive, so even the dumps cost 90 euros a night. An overlooked part of Venice is the Jewish Ghetto. This is where I like to eat. There’s no real hope of navigating Venice by map, memorize a few landmarks, and then use the signs around the city to navigate the labyrinth streets. Hold hands and get lost: it’s the best way to do it. Watch out for gondoliers: when I was there the first time I ended up getting drunk with three of them. Also: if three drunk gondoliers offer you a free gondola ride, go against your better judgment and TAKE IT!
A PAGE FROM THE SKETCHBOOK…
FILLING THE POOL
ONE MORE CHUNK OF DYBEK
Because he’s so right on:
“Maybe one can be too reverent towards an art….You come to revere the art in a way that can be counter-productive…it can lead to romantic images that have to do with focusing on being an artist rather than on the art. Kids…are sent to college as if it were a trade school, and pursuing an art can seem like sacrificing economic security, as if one is required to starve and suffer as supplicants do. Rather than thinking of a craft that you work to learn and do in humility every day, you think of these grand rebel images and end up posturing. Rock, the pop art we all grow up with, reinforces that model. The risk is that on the page you end up settling for attitude rather than experience or imagination.”
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