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Joyce Carol Oates’s Wild Nights! is a book of five short stories chronicling fictionalized accounts of the last days of Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and Mark Twain.  It is an impressive collection for a number of reasons:  firstly and most obviously, it further cements the fact that Oates can do whatever she wants with a pen and make it work; secondly, she structures each of the stories quite convincingly after the subject’s writing style; thirdly, corollary to the second reason, is that she accomplishes these things without “stealing” from the authors.  That is, she does not fill the stories with direct quotes or passages from their books; rather, she implements themes, imagery, phrasing styles, and even punctuation styles that were unique to those writers and makes them her own.  It speaks to her skill as a writer but more than that, it speaks to her skill as a reader, as someone who takes in words with encyclopedic skill and is able to run them through her mind and produce something wholly different and unique.  From this idea, I’ve attempted to do something similar based on both the writing styles of a few lyricists I like and how I think they would be in real life, if that makes any sense.  While these will not be, in a strict sense, about music – they will not cheaply contain song titles or lyrical passages – they are my attempts to better understand some of the people I admire.

This first post is based on the work of the Blood Brothers’ Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie, whose lyrics contained imagery from war, nature, and the various disillusioned states of human aging.  They were not averse to the occasional literary reference either; such references were skewed and warped to conform to the bleak nature of their writing.  Centered on their spastic call-and-response vocal style, their lyrics were often exclamatory in nature, as if they were very excited about the world falling apart.  Also interesting to note is how alike their lyrics were to stories, as they very rarely wrote whole songs from a first-person perspective (e.g., songs about a narrator’s heartbreak); instead, many times Blilie and Whitney acted as commentators on the craziness of life, as if we were all going around the racetrack while they sat in a booth and announced our comings and goings.  As evidenced by the following piece of writing, my favorite aspect of their lyrics, along with their tendency to combine adjectives and nouns that shouldn’t go together (telepathic hangover, apocalyptic dress), was their unique use of personification and anthropomorphism – to them, everything had a voice, from swans and peacocks to toasters and machine guns.  If their discography was a filmography, it would be full of fast-paced editing and unconventional angles, and they would have been behind the camera laughing the entire time.

———————————————————————

Tanks are rolling through the former forestland; the mud is sucking their tread in desperation as if to leave hickeys but is constantly denied a permanent mark by the sheer infinitude of the tread’s rotation.  This forest was cleared long ago to make way for the convoys, and now, after the tanks pass, the tree stumps sit sullenly like bodiless feet – like emotional residue from an annulled marriage – and the few stubborn birds still left in the area try to fill the empty spaces by perching on the stumps.  Each shadow that is cast attempts to act as a blanket to whatever it falls on, but the only warmth left here is the occasional burst of cordite.  The tree stumps eye the mud jealously – and oh how they regret that this is the closest they’ll ever come to being green again! – for they are evidence that something once grew from them that never will again, and the mud is evidence that things have passed through here and will continue to pass through; the mud feels the present in the contact and pressure of an abusive lover leaving a mark and a promise to return, and in this it knows the future as well.  Through their phantom limbs, the stumps are only able to truly know the past.  And although the past is of no consequence here, in their loneliness the amputee stumps long for it – even the feeling of the chainsaw, of which they are reminded whenever they see the tank treads spinning like saw-blades.  The birds sing dirges, low and weighty, and the sky is always vomiting and grey in the face like a seasick tourist evacuating his vices into the water.

There are four young boys coming over the hill, following the convoy’s tracks and carrying long sticks.  They pretend the sticks are guns, playing war games and aspiring to feel something of what a soldier feels by walking in the impressions they leave, as if you could become a poet simply by reading the eloquent words of poets, as if you could become the rain by dousing yourself with water, as if you could peel back a painting and step into the scene.  Their presence is certainly not welcome in this area; the stumps resent that they can no longer be entrepreneurs to such boys, offering them sticks that can become anything with imagination; the mud, unimpressed after feeling the tremendous rumbling of the tanks, feels nothing when their tiny feet step on it, and it fellates their shoes aggressively, attempting to steal them; the birds see small versions of those who destroyed their homes, and wish them dead so they can pluck out their eyes.  The boys split into two pairs to play snipers, a game during which they consistently fail to be as still as a good sniper should – like a tree stump!, like a skeleton picked clean!; naturally, it always devolves into an ill-conceived charge – both pairs running at each other and wrestling each other to the ground, smacking exposed body parts with their sticks.  After this, they play another one of their favorite games – firing squad.  The tallest of the boys breaks his stick into four parts and then holds out the lengths with the solemnity of a god reigning over fate.  The boy who is obviously the weakest of the bunch, a pudgy, rosy-cheeked blonde, draws the shortest length.  The other three boys step back and arrange themselves into a line, a few feet between them like an ellipse that foretells what comes next as they raise their guns and point them at the boy.  The condemned throws himself into the mud and cries with genuine anguish, eyes like spigots, feeling a shame he knows he should not feel but is not able to help it.  The executioners are impassive in their line, but before they fire, their concentration is broken by a whistling from above that soon grows into a screaming.  The birds stop singing their dirge, the mud seems to dry up all at once, the stumps forget their age rings and turn green again, and while those things experience reversal and relive the past, the group of boys are frozen in the present, pointing their guns at the condemned as he wails, and the errant rocket is the future, plummeting and finally clearing the land of imperfections like a backhoe before sprouting a garden of fire with one million petals of smoke.        





mynameischan
10.18.10
commence thread about how much the staff blog sucks

incomtaxes
10.18.10
I am currently working on schoolwork but I bookmark this page.

Emim
10.18.10
Sucks so much. You should be banned right now.

Ire
10.18.10
...i like the staff blog...

Yazz_Flute
10.18.10
the fuck

thebhoy
10.18.10
idk Oates is basically doing a pastiche, which isn't that difficult tbh

Electric City
10.18.10
good for you

ConsiderPhlebas
10.18.10
A little rich for my tastes but it seems like a fascinating idea, and one you've applied extremely well. Need repeated reads to digest it, though. Fingers crossed for John K. Samson being one in the future.

thebhoy
10.18.10
also, holy pathetic fallacy batman

Aids
10.18.10
What a huge wall of text. You usually break it up with some pictures and witty captions. What gives senor channing?

East Hastings
10.18.10
I think this needs an AIM excerpt to lighten the mood

mynameischan
10.18.10
bhoy have you read the book?

thebhoy
10.18.10
no, that's why I said it sounds like it. I wasn't saying it wasn't good either, I just usually find that it's much more difficult to write in your own voice instead of others. But I should probs read it, it sounds kinda interesting if not overly unique.

thebhoy
10.18.10
also, realized my original post made it sound like I had read it, oops

mynameischan
10.18.10
yeah it's not just a pastiche, the whole point of what i was saying is that she takes their voice and makes it her own; the point of the book wasn't to ape their style, it was to give insight into the authors through the story. i mean it's easy to call it cheap i guess but i thought it was really good.

Hep Kat
10.18.10
my english teacher my junior year of high school has us read that. she was my least favorite teacher of all time, but one good thing that came of it was she got me into joyce carol oates.

i'm really not a fan of the blood brothers so i can't really comment too much on what you wrote, but i'm interested to see where you take this.

mynameischan
10.18.10
hep kat what is your favorite jco book

Gyromania
10.18.10
Really great read. You post some of the best blogs, Chan.

Hep Kat
10.18.10
american appetites is good. idk really. i like bellefleur a lot too.


i have some old short story collections of hers my aunt gave me that i read the most. i just gave them to my gf to read.

Hep Kat
10.18.10
i guess i like the whole gothic series but that answer seems to easy

Transient
10.18.10
lol remember that time sputnik became livejournal

Satellite
10.18.10
Joyce Carol Oates Is a Boring Old Biddy

mynameischan
10.18.10
yeah i got mad at the lawrence arms for that :[

theacademy
10.18.10
i enjoyed this

couldwinarabbit
10.18.10
really good. Like really really good. But a tad long.

thebhoy
10.18.10
oh okay, that would be a little cooler I guess. The way I read it made it sound like she was just writing in those authors' style and I was like, yeah I remember my first creative writing practice too. But if she incorporates it into her own voice then that could be interesting, yeah.

mynameischan
10.18.10
yeah idk it's hard to explain it without making it sound like that, so it's understandable. mostly it's just a really fun book even though most of the stories are very dark. like, the dickinson one takes place in a world where there's a company who makes robots of famous people, and this married couple buys emily dickinson. she scurries around their house hiding scraps of poems in her pockets, etc. i wouldn't recommend it as a first oates book to anyone but if any of you like her, it's a good read

mynameischan
10.18.10
and thanks to anyone who enjoyed this

thebhoy
10.18.10
oh and I second John K. Sampson next :D

sniper
10.18.10
This was pretty cool but I liked the introduction paragraphs better than the actual narrative. You did a pretty good job but it's awkward to read that type of oddball similes when they aren't being screamed at me.

mynameischan
10.18.10
right, and that's the main challenge here, reinterpreting a certain style in a different format. every time i quote blood brothers lyrics, i use caps lock and exclamation points. this was challenging because obviously i couldn't do that.

i'm glad you liked the first paragraphs, because the short analysis of the lyrics is just as important as the actual piece i wrote

sniper
10.18.10
Yeah I would have enjoyed just reading an analysis of their particular brand of lyricism, maybe even more than I enjoyed this, but it was still definitely cool. I guess it just came off as a cooler idea conceptually than it was in execution. Not that your interpretation was shitty, just I don't think I would have enjoyed anyone's interpretation. Sorry chan :(

Might work better if you did Jordan Dreyer though.

Nikkolae
10.18.10
i like my chan plan's funny kaythnx

Winsomniac
10.18.10
This blog makes me wish English was a realistic major to study...

crazyblinddude
10.18.10
Interesting concept, but your syntax and word choice make this an awkward read at some parts. I mean your point is pretty clear, but, like sniper said, this works better as an idea rather than an interpretation.

natey
10.18.10
dress my corpse up in a low-cut dress
drizzle lipstick on my charred french kiss
dip my severed jaw in cheap cologne
push-up bras dangling from snapped elbows

cool ending

mynameischan
10.18.10
we will see if future installments fare better! this was definitely the most challenging one on my list

ConsiderPhlebas
10.18.10
how many are you doing?

mynameischan
10.18.10
not sure yet, theoretically this could be the only one since i haven't written any of the others yet and there's always a chance that i'll hit a dead end

as of right now, i will do as many as i can until 100% of people reading think it sucks instead of just 60% or so

sniper
10.18.10
When I tell you it sucks you should stop.

mynameischan
10.18.10
the other ones are going to be much more story/dialogue oriented probably, so probably less awkward

ConsiderPhlebas
10.19.10
hoping to see one on a lyricist I'm familiar with so I can really get a grip on how you're engaging with it

Iluvatar
10.19.10
if chan wants to write and think all night

well theres no one gonna stop hiiiim

LiquidVelvet
10.19.10
I really dug this, but I never payed too much attention to the Blood Brothers' lyrics, as much as I love them. I'd be really stoked to see you do one of these based on Jesse Lacey or Geoff Rickley though.

couldwinarabbit
10.19.10
Gave this my full attention...This is actually really amazing. You are a far better writer than I thought (no offense intended). Do more of these.

mynameischan
10.20.10
hey thanks man, appreciate that

btors
10.21.10
Very good, I wish I had even a fraction of your skill.

theacademy
10.21.10
ill be laying in the sun, bottle + a gun

TheyTookOurJobs
10.22.10
Blood Brothers ftw

Avirov
10.22.10
My only problem is, neither Jordan nor Johnny in their prime would write something so... contrived.

Passname
10.22.10
tldr; then I read it and it was very homoerotic. If that was what you were going for then A+.

kitsch
10.23.10
this is just masturbatory verbiage with marginally coherent connectivity between sentences. sorry chan.

Enotron
10.23.10
was that ironic i can't tell oh well

kitsch
10.23.10
not really

Enotron
10.23.10
ok thanks!!!!!!

Avirov
10.23.10
oh, kitsch

ant4tbc
10.23.10
I rather enjoyed this, though I could really only get the feel that the story was based more on the lyrics from Young Machetes than any of their other albums.

kitsch
10.23.10
i like the blood brothers as much as the next guy but i think their lyrics are more about presentation than content

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