Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll

The SEX: As noted earlier, I've been struggling a bit with writing a good nookie scene. And since the best way to improve your writing is through reading, I've been, uh, studying sex scenes. A tough assignment indeed. I read through some erotica anthologies, reviewed some old Sandra Brown's, returned to one of my favorite scenes in Niffenberger's THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE ("...[she] thrusts her hips back and forth a couple of times. I now have an erection that is probably tall enough to ride some of the scarier rides at Great America without a parent."), and flipped through a dozen other books.

Nothing satisfied. So it came as a surprise when, on a whim I purchased Anne Proulx's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (no, I haven't seen the movie) for five bucks at an Indy bookstore in Bethany Beach and was blown away by the sheer beauty and raw sensuality between cowboys Jack and Ennis:

"They seized each other by the shoulders, hugged mightily, squeezed the breath out of each other, saying son of a bitch, son of a bitch, then, and easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together,..."

The DRUGS: I'm looking at voices, too. BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT is fiction, but written in two first-person voices, so where better to learn than from powerful memoirs? This last week I've reread James Frey and Augusten Burroughs, two of my faves, scrutinized their narratives (ever realize how A MILLION LITTLE PIECES reads so fast, in part because everything is left justified? Brilliant.) I just finished Anne Kaysen's GIRL, INTERRUPTED, a kind of comp to mine because she and Ben share a touch of insanity and a stint at the same loony bin (Mclean Psychiatric Hospital). The entire book, really a series of essays, questions that blurred border of crazy and normal. My kind of read, especially her wry observation on psychiatric medications:

"Thorazine, Stelazine, Mellaril, Librium, Valium: the therapists' friends. The resident could put us on that stuff too, in an 'acute' situation. Once we were on it, it was hard to get off. A bit like heroin, except it was the staff who got addicted to our taking it.

"You're doing so well," the resident would say.

That's because those things knocked the heart out of us."

The ROCK-n-ROLL: Still reveling in Radiohead's latest, IN RAINBOWS. Every few days, a new musical infatuation; this week, it's Jigsaw Falling into Place. With lyrics like "words are a sawed-off shotgun" and "before you're lost between the notes" coupled with fabulous percussion, how can you go wrong? The song reminds me of a scene in my friend Jimmy's novel DARK SIDE OF THE SOUL, where two souls dance on an angel's keyboard. Really.

The WRITING: It's going, it's going. Finally have a first chapter I like. A lot. At last. So much for our mutual sabbatical... though between poems and query letters, I'm writing PURE and LOVE SONG. Maybe just mixing it up is what I needed. Peace, Linda

Friday, February 15, 2008

Betwixt Angst and Comfortably Numb

This thing, not a feeling yet not just a thought, has been running through me like an underground spring, trying to well to the surface. It - whatever it is - has been lurking in my academic life, as well as my writing life. And my personal, too.

It goes something like this: sometimes we feel lousy. Not just a bad hair day kind of lousy, but the kind of nasty where we want to scream, hit people, curl into a tight ball on the floor of a dark closet, cut ourselves with exacto blades, play with long coils of rope, lose ourselves in the comfort of gambling, food, booze, or sex. The dark, dark emotions that dog us like stubborn shadows. And we want them to go away. Now. Because stewing in this maelstrom of negative emotion/feeling/angst/insanity makes us extremely uncomfortable.

But there are pills, you see. Some you can get from your family doc, others you can easily score from a college roomie, a dealer loitering in the Lexington Market parking lot, or a friend's medicine cabinet.

And the question is: do you take the pill?

Fascinating article and discussion on this delicate balance, courtesy of Judith Warner

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Existential Angst

What goes up must come down, and my high plummeted, much like the temperature here in wacky weather Baltimore.

It was that second agent rejection that screwed my joy to the wall with eight-inch daggers. Once again, a very pleasant, personalized note with some nice compliments ('intriguing query', 'well-written'). Frankly, this love letter didn't faze me for a couple of days. But then I took that note and the rejection I received Christmas Eve and read them the way I scrutinize tea leaves or tarot cards or short, stubby life lines marching across a palm. Seeking answers. Looking for the 'why'. Because, you see, those agent rejections have code words and phrases, and they can be deciphered. And this is what the morse code tapped out: THIS STORY DOES NOT HAVE THAT NECESSARY ELUSIVE SPARK.

An editor, a rather well-known one who happens to teach the class I'm taking on putting a novel proposal together, confirmed my 'ah-ha'. As did two trusted beta readers, which pretty much paralyzed me. All week. I had me a hoe-down of a pity party. I wallowed in the miserable muck of existential depression, that deepest melancholy when the entire meaning of your existence hinges on your ability to create beauty and meaning.

At the end of three days, I decided to give up on BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, convinced of the impossibility of plumbing further into my characters' - and my own - psyches. 'Time to move on, kiddo!' I told myself at three in morning. 'Think of it as your practice novel, the one that sits in a dusty trunk waiting for grandchildren to find.' And, worse, I wondered if I was a hack, a wannabe writer, someone forever ill-equipped to tackle important issues with a sacrament of words.

I still wonder...

But like most dark moods, this one passed. The quill called, a pensive siren, and I got bored with my negative, self-imposed drama and decided to not worry about whether this story, which I love SO much, will ever see the light of publication. I decided to let it rest. Marinate for a bit, stew in its juices of emotion and character and words. I know what needs to be done: my characters' voices need to sing off the page, brushing off all vestiges of my pixil strokes. THAT is what the agents and my readers are saying. Dig deep, even deeper than I can imagine, and with soul.

It's the how I am pondering...

So, for now, BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT slumbers. But Ben and Phoebe are persistent folks, so I expect our mutual holiday will be short-lived. And I continue to write - how can I not? This morning, in the dusk of dawn, I penned 670 new words on a blank page, starting story number 3 - LOVE STORY ON THE INNER LOOP: A Novel - inspired by a 'what if' that initially sprouted as a six-sentence ditty.

As Dory, the addled fish in Finding Nemo, sings: keep on writing, writing, writing.

Peace, Linda


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bupe - The Cure or the Disease?

Addiction is a tricky business to treat - seems most of the cures cause as many problems as the disease. Methadone, frontline treatment for heroin and other opioid dependence, is a favored substance of abuse across the nation. And now buprenorphine, aka Bupe, is on the rise. Also used to treat that nasty smack habit, bupe is selling on the streets at 2 - 5 bucks a pop, respectable for a pharmaceutical with an opioid antagonist (naltrexone) component that acts as a supposed deterrent to intravenous use.

Problem is, the naltrexone isn't very effective at doing its job. Street use of bupe, primarily to ward off withdrawal from other opioids, is increasingly the opioid of choice for getting high.

What makes bupe different from methadone and other similar treatments? It's the only pharmacologic remedy available from a doc. Yep, trained and licensed office physicians can prescribe bupe for any patient. Dissolved under the tongue, bupe is taken in the privacy of one's home. In other words, no daily trek to a stigma-inducing meth clinic. As a result, thousands more individuals are in treatment. Thousands who might not otherwise have sought help.

Methadone, bupe, and a myriad of other 'treatments' illustrate the difficult conundrum of curing the afflicted without feeding the demand for new and novel substances to snort, huff, swallow, lick, and inject. Wish there was an obvious solution, but short of throwing more dollars to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, providing incentives to Big Pharma to develope non-abusable remedies, and boosting proven prevention strategies, there is no easy fix.

Take on even one of these barefaced solutions? In an election year? Come on...


On writing... February is off with a bang, who cares whether the damn groundhog saw his shadow? Chrys memoirist extraordinaire, has a fabulous piece on parties, published in (ta-da!) - The Sun. Woo-hoo, Go Girl!!!

Kelley sometimes-they-call-me- has a piece up this week at Flash Me - Bike Riding in Intensive Care.

Jenn Haddock, member of my Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalist writing group, gave birth to her first 6S - all you writers out there will especially resonate.

And yours truly has another ditty in the same - Perfect Day.

Perfect week.

Go forth and conquer this, the longest month of the year... Peace, Linda