My co-editor Antonios Maltezos and I are launching a new column, which we’ll share at Change Seven Magazine. The column is Change: The Subject. Look for it in our menu. The first essay is from yours truly. You’ll find it here: Swimming Alone.
As disturbing as the novel Lolita is, I cannot deny it’s one of the most beautifully penned and complicated love stories I’ve ever read. Today, I just discovered, is National Kissing Day. At least, I think it is. There appear to be a couple of days honoring kissing, and that’s beautiful. Keep calm and kiss on.
Here’s one of my favorite passages from a book that you really have to read to appreciate.
That Nabokov sure could write a humdinger of a kiss, couldn’t he?
In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall. She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner of her parted lips and the hot lobe of her ear. A cluster of stars palely glowed above us between the silhouettes of long thin leaves; that vibrant sky seemed as naked as she was under her light frock. I saw her face in the sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its own. Her legs, her lovely live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand located what it sought, a dreamy and eerie expression, half-pleasure, half-pain, came over those childish features. She sat a little higher than I, and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to kiss me, her head would bend with a sleepy, soft, drooping movement that was almost woeful, and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist, and slackened again; and her quivering mouth, distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion, with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my face. She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Faulkner warns that we should “kill our darlings,” but I have a slightly different take on that natty piece of advice. Throwing out what feels like our best work is never easy, and in truth, I never actually throw mine away. Rather, I toss it into a virtual junk drawer where I can go back later and cannibalize it ruthlessly in service to another story that may be working with me more cooperatively. In this way, we cobble together interesting new little monsters that surprise and delight us. Give it a try. Good luck.
The best source I’ve found for explaining how to write flash is this article by David Gaffney in the Guardian. When I discuss flash with my students, I follow this flash-fiction PowerPoint, which I built almost solely around Gaffney’s advice. Then I share several of my favorite flash stories that can be found around the web. The first is “Museum of Hands” by Kim Church. “Note to Self” by Tracy Guzeman at Vestal Review is another. Also “Two Fictions” by Kathy Fish at Blip Magazine. Then I encourage them to give it a go themselves.
Maybe this will help some of you interested in writing sawn-off tales. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.