Archive

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

EDITOR NO MORE –

June 7th, 2010 Comments off

Brian Yount, publisher of DOORWAYS, has now made the official announcement of the demise of DOORWAYS magazine, but I wanted to add this public farewell, letting one and all know that right along with Buffalo Bill and telephone booths, DOORWAYS magazine is no more. We had some great material, would have, I like to think, eventually gotten layout together and our mission defined, but, alas, Economy of the Damned and (perhaps) emergent technologies (“Let’s go read computers and Ipads and Upanishads and Kindle, Bindle, Barton and Fish!) have done done us in.

I had fun editing the mag. I still think there’s a bright future for magazines. And newspapers. And I think once we start seeing Packards on our super highways, driven by guys in Van Heusen shirts who are listening to “Little Orphan Annie” on the radio.

For me, of course, well, I’m sad: not only will I no longer be earning impossibly big bucks at DOORWAYS but I will no longer be able to support my borderline insane megalomania power dybbuk! No longer will I be able to crush the hopes and dreams of people who needed to have their dreams and hopes crushed. You’re … REJECTED! You want additional pulp with that?

So, instead I’m going to spend some time working on SECRET PROJECTS! They might be for a new start up company that will deliver something like reading material intravenously. But—Ha! Mad! You call me Mad? I will edit again, damn you, Napoleon—and it might even be books …

But I won’t tell you now – because it’s a secret. A secret is something you used to not tell everyone. It’s what people kept to themselves before there was the INTERNUT and Larry King.

I’ve got a secret.

And it just might be about … editing books.

And if that stupid duck doesn’t believe it, I will have to slap that stupid looking beak right off his face!

Stay tuned to this bat channel for further developments.

And remember, when one DOORWAY closes, another door slams at the back of the porch and you’re ‘bout to get a blues attack ‘cause it takes a heap o’heapin’ to make a heap a heap.

Notary Sojac.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

STILL TEACHING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

March 7th, 2010 Comments off

I teach. I’ve taught for 42 years. I’m a member of the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. I lead workshops at Bloom and Bloom Trail High Schools in Chicago Heights School District 206. I have several students I work with via the mails. I’ve taught at the World Horror Convention and The Green Lake Christian Writing Conference and at Borderlands Boot Camp for Novelists and Short Story Writers and at the Midwest Literary Festival and the Suburban Prairie Literary Festival and … Lots of (let me use the academic term) venues.

And sometimes I get reminders of why I teach. It’s about “as you were taught, go ye and teach others … ” (which sounds Biblical, but I think I made that one up.) It’s about “those that can do, teach” (which is my variant of a particularly noxious cliché). It’s about, “Yeah, that week’s work will pay for a vintage guitar” (The workman is worthy of his hire. See Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:414; 2 Corinthians 11:8–and also the Elderly Instruments catalog).

But mostly it’s about, well, for me, it’s what V_____, a former student, speaks of in a recent e-mail.

So, thanks to V____, you will find below Mort’s answer to “Why do you teach?” I’ve had to drop a name or two for reasons you should be able to discern, but the words that follow are hers–and it’s hearing words like hers that keep the teacher hat on this balding head.

Dear Mr. Castle,

I have followed your career with great interest with the advent of the Internet; and have always bragged to people “in the know” who are in the arts, about “my”  teacher who changed my life.

I do not know if you even will be able to place my face with all the number of eager faces looking for approval back during those writers workshop days.  I was shy. I was sacred of my own shadow.  My home life was in such chaos that we were in danger of foster placement. Most of all, I had no talent.  I was slightly overweight, klutzy, and did not fit any cliques.  I always was on the fringe of acceptance of one group or the other, but either I would do something to screw-up myself, by choosing the wrong jeans for example, or I morally could not condone some casual teenage cruelty.

Just your average teenage hormonal poetry geek, right?  The difference was that you were the only person I had met who ever took the time to treat me as an equal. You told me I was a writer.  You gave me a voice.

I know you must get this type of note often.

I just want you to know I was the girl who you told who would have a book in 10 years.

You helped me get a poem published that year through a young writers contest and I won first prize. I finally found something that I was good at. I had always loved to read, but now I knew that my love of books had given me a great gift, a foundation to start from.  You will never know the self-confidence your class gave me.

At the end of the semester, a student of the class,  P_____ _____, died. Our class was an unusual group of creative young people, artsy, jocks, nerds, freaks. P____ was tortured all during his years at school.  He was an odd bird. Today he would have either been on Zoloft for social anxiety, or, given the extreme cruelty of other kids, may have been a trench coat mafia kid. I remember him showing me his work, all the freaky guys did, and wanting me to really like it. It was very dark. My writing was dark, too, just on the opposite page of DSM. I knew he was a really troubled kid. You must have seen so much in the writing of your students. And all before the age of better living thru chemistry and political correctness, where you would have been sued for not turning in a troubled teen’s fantasy writing.

Anyway, I remember when they made the announcement (of his death) …  it was in our class. Some of the Jesus freaks were being very pious, as was their right, and other people were saying nice things and how horrible it was.  I still remember that I told them that they knew that they had been cruel to him for years. I told them they were too late. He was better off in heaven, because they had already been so mean he was ruined.

I was never the type to talk like that. I  can still see you looking at me. If you were stunned by my extreme display of emotion or you were thinking the same, I was never sure.  I’ve spent most of my life defending or making sure people like P_____ were safe and cared for. I was always scared as a young kid, never felt safe. When I was older I could see it in others and it broke my heart. You know about gaydar? I have inner radar for people on the edge.

Mr. Castle. I am 46 now, and you are still the person I would name as the person who has had the most influence on my life. The gift you gave me was more than just the wisdom of basic writing techniques, it was in giving into the creative sprit that has to come out.  The night I wrote one of my poems I had taken a bottle of aspirin. Following the tradition of all the greats–fine line between genius and madness, etc,  I quickly made myself throw up and never told anyone. If I had not had writing as an outlet, not giving into the dark waves of sadness that followed me in my twenties and thirties,  I would have drowned.  So, in a way, you tossed me my life preserver.  Whenever I felt that life was tough, or that I had not lived up to my life plan, I would think, I have some talent, Mr. Castle said I was the real deal.  And funny thing even then, I knew you were right. I don’t think if any one else had taught the class that I would have cared about their opinion. Getting that note in the margins from you or the comment in class- I would hold my breath as you would read our work– your opinion counted because you were the real deal. I knew the difference between posers and artists by then.

Mr. Castle, you were my first introduction to sophistication, hip, avant-garde wit. Too cool for school, you were like a hippie Mort Sahl or less manic Lenny Bruce crossed with Mr. Kotter and perhaps a little Leon Redbone thrown in for good measure.  You could tell you loved the kids but you were like a caged tiger in the classroom. How cool, that in your own way, you seem to have made your way as a real working writer. Lucky guy. You deserve it-you sure paid the dues.  I  do recall you had a very pretty wife, and had the typical late seventies post-hippie artist type life. I hope you still do. I can see by the numerous links on the net that you have touched so many lives, so once again thank you for being a part of my happy memories, and continued inspiration.

I know that you have many honors after your name. Pulitzer Prize, nomination,  the high praise of your fellow horror writers, holy cow, you could have your own artist colony and there would be a waiting list of eager apostles.

I just wish there was an award for saving a young girl from herself,  giving her the courage to explore the arts, an as result, learning that there was an entire world out there beyond the suburbs. That if you had a good mind that the world could open up to you, even  if you to fight to get there,

All because of one class, with one special man. You.

Thank you.

Your grateful student,

V______

PS. One day I will write that book.

I am feeling very creative these days, must be that 2012 end of the world pressure to publish or perish.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Story Time

September 28th, 2009 1 comment

At STORYTELLERS UNPLUGGED, October has traditionally been “Story Month.” For some of us. Not all of us. Others have chosen to make it “Be Kind to Vegetables” month. (And there’s no denying it, vegetables are nice and deserve our kindness.)

But me, I’m giving you a story, which originally appeared in Bob Madia’s fine little magazine TENSE MOMENTS, which had a limited readership – meaning you probably haven’t read this one – and which will appear in NEW MOON ON THE WATER from Full Moon Press, tentatively scheduled for some time in the future.

This is called … CRUELTY

He answered the telephone at the third ring.

“Hello?”

“Mr. Marvis?” The voice was young and high pitched.  “Could I please talk to Jimmy…”

“No,” he interrupted.  “We’re eating dinner. Right afterward, Jimmy is going to bed.  He’s grounded for a month.”

“But…”

“And you’re the reason Jimmy’s always in trouble, young man. I don’t want you over here anymore.  Jimmy won’t be visiting you, either. Goodbye.”

He hung up.

He went back to the kitchen.

“Who was that?” his wife asked.  She sat alone at the drop-leaf table.

“Wrong number,” he said.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

WHAT’S NEW, MORT?

September 7th, 2009 3 comments

WHAT’S NEW MORT?

That’s a question nobody is asking me – so I’ll ask myself.

And I will also answer.

BUT FIRST …

WHO WON THE JULY “MORT PROVIDES A PROMPT” CONTEST?

Peter D. Schwotzer is the winner’s name. He came up with nothing less than a splendid short story, evocative and thoughtful. It stood heads and shoulders and headless shoulders and shoulders and necks and all above the competition.

Peter D. Schwotzer … Yeah, I know, the name sounds so Hollywood you think it’s a fake, but there is nothing artificial about this guy’s talent. One of the great pleasures in this biz is finding people who have talent. Peter D. is the genuine article and I hope he knows it.

So as a prize, I’ve sent Peter D Schwotzer a Mini-Cooper, a case of Ciroc vodka, an unopened can of Maxwell House Coffee found in the hut of Hurtin’ John Mississippi in Avalon, Mississippi, an unsigned copy of Linda Goodman’s SUN SIGNS, two and a half pounds of generic window putty, a cardigan sweater once worn by Woodrow Wilson, and several Mort Castle books complete with my signature. So far, Peter has received only my books, but you know how the mails are …

WHAT’S NEW, MORT?

My Allen Melbert 8 String Lap Steel Guitar. It was custom made for me by Bob Allen, who is Melbert Lap Steel Guitars, and it’s quite a wonderful instrument.. Mine has a serial number of 0123. I’ve got a couple  other hand made instruments—A Svoboda model Zingaboom and a Stuckey’s Fanny Paddle—but none that were made just for me. That number, 0123, means it is the 123rd instrument made by Bob—and it was made just for me. Not for John Little, David Niall Wilson, or Sonny Tufts. Me. Mort Castle.

I tune it to C6.

GOOD, MORT, YOU ANTICIPATED. I WAS GOING TO ASK IF YOU USED C6 OR E13.

I like the C6.

IS THERE ANYONE ELSE YOU THINK SHOULD HAVE A LAP STEEL GUITAR?

Yes, Cody Goodfellow. He ought to reach into his pocket and buy an Allen Melbert Lap Steel Guitar.

I mean, say it aloud: “Cody Goodfellow and His Lap Steel Guitar.” Doesn’t that sound right? It’s got the ring of “Shaney Lodestone and his dog, Shep,” doesn’t it.?

Oh, and if you want to like get a gift for Cody Goodfellow, you can get a Melbert guitar by going to

 

http://www.musonmt.com/5.html

 

UH, WHAT’S THIS GOT TO DO WITH WRITING, CASTLE?

Not much.

WELL, YOU WRITING ANYTHING THESE DAYS, CASTLE?

When I’m not playing my Allen Melbert 8 String Lap Steel Guitar (C6), I’m working on a profile of and interview with a really wonderful writer. Then I’m supposed to do another profile of and interview with another really wonderful writer. Then for variety’s sake, I’m doing a profile of and interview with another really wonderful writer. I’m deliberately not mentioning names because I know how to keep you in suspense, hotcha, hotcha. Two of the wonderful writer profiles will appear in a really wonderful magazine called THE WRITER. The other one will appear in another magazine.

Oh, yeah, I’m working on some short stories and novels and another couple of articles. But you know, I am no longer willing to mention ideas as I work on ‘em. I’m afraid that guys like Dean Koontz or Philip Roth will steal ‘em. I don’t even want to think about how many times that Norman Mailer, James Crumley, and John Updike ripped me off. I got fed up with it. I mean, I get steamed.

Guys like that, always looking to make a buck …

Well, those guys are dead now.

Draw your own conclusions.

HAVE ANYTHING NEW OUT?

Glad you asked. There are two or three books coming out late this year and early next in Poland. In English, they are called CURSED BE THE CHILD, NATIONS OF THE LIVING, NATIONS OF THE DEAD, and UNTITLED; the last one has work by John Everson and me and two Polish writers. I don’t know what the first two will be called in Poland. The last one is going to be UNTITLEDSKI.

And there’s a nice reprint of my story “I Am Your Need” along with Bartek Paszylk’s interview with me in the current issue of NOWA FANTASTYKA.

YEAH, BUT HAVE YOU GOT ANYTHING NEW OUT IN THE UNITED STATES, PREFERABLY IN ENGLISH?

Oh, yeah.

There’s J. N. Williamson’s MASQUES: AN ANTHOLOGY OF ELEGANT EVIL, a hardcover graphic novel format book, which is coming out from Checker Book Publishing. There’s CURSED BE THE CHILD, the edition without typos, coming from Overlook Connection. There’s NEW MOON ON THE WATER, a story collection from Full Moon Press.

And available right now is a damned good book called MIGHTY UNCLEAN from DarkArts. It has stories by Gary Braunbeck, Gemma Files, Cody Goodfellow, and me, and is edited by Bill Breedlove. (Yes, I know his name sounds like something dreamed up by a 1970s porn director.) I’ve got a novella called “Robot Monster Dreaming” in that book that I consider one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

I’m sure it will win a Stoker, a World Fantasy Award, and get picked up in all kinds of “Year’s Best” anthologies.

In Poland.

YOU SOMEHOW SEEM MORE ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT YOUR POLISH PUBLICATIONS THAN YOU DO ENGLISH LANGUAGE STUFF.

Me? Hey, just because you find my work classed with stuff by Cormac McCarthy and James Ellroy in Poland, while in America my titles are my usually in the Jewel-Osco discount bin #3 (the first one has slight second socks, the next, plastic water bottles) alongside paranormal romances by women with three names?

ANYTHING ELSE NEW?

Yeah, you know who shouldn’t play 8 string lap steel guitar, a Melbert or otherwise? Gary Braunbeck, that’s who.

Gary used to be a great jew’s harp player, but then the war wound kicked in and he could no longer hit high G. Damned shame. Prior to that, you wanted to hear “Cotton Eyed Joe,” Gary was the go to guy.

UH, YOUR COLUMN DIDN’T SAY MUCH ABOUT EITHER THE ART OR CRAFT  OF WRITING THIS TIME, DID IT?

Maybe it did.

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

SU for August 8

August 7th, 2009 3 comments

 

Mrs. Laura Thompson, our dear friend of over 40 years, died last night.

This is my STORYTELLERS UNPLUGGED column for August 8, 2009.

Sometimes the show does not have to go on.

 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

WHEN JUST A GOOD READ … ISN’T

June 7th, 2009 4 comments

WHEN JUST A GOOD READ … ISN’T

Back in the day (well, actually, back in my day, when I was a yout’ and full of pith and vinegar), the Ramsey Lewis Trio had a major bust-out, hoo-hah! Crossover to Ed Goddamn Sullivan hit!!! with “The In Crowd.” Did the song offer any harmonic innovations for the knowledgeable jazz connoisseur? (No, Leonard Feather and Nat Hentoff did not find reason to gush praise and praise and praise while falling prostrate in worship of the New Jazz). Was there something new in rhythm: nope, just a solid — why so simple, it might have been rock ‘n’ roll beat (shudder … oooh…)

 

Well, the melody was infectious. Infectious doesn’t mean “nothing,” but it can mean “pretty close to nothing,” because infectious also describes the melody “I’d like to Teach the World to Sing,” a tune which has caused the deaths of over 125,000 diabetics, and “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” (Further references to “99 Bottles” may be found in the testimony of people on Death Row who have been convicted of killing their children.)

 

But, hey, it was thumping and energetic and presented with an authority that led to only the right notes played at the right time. And, you know, Mr. Clark, it had a good beat and you could dance to it! 

 

“The In Crowd” was “a good listen”–

 

A Good Listen being the musical equivalent of A Good Read.

 

All this by way of leading up to what I am hearing with piss-offing frequency: “What’s wrong with you, Castle? Why do you rag on and on and sometimes on about the need for quality in the fiction you choose to read? What’s wrong with a story that’s just a good read?”

 

Partly that might be the result of my having declared in the Public Forum that I have had the realization that I! Am! Mortal! (If it’s hard for you to believe, ah, boychick, it ain’t doing me a lot of laughs.) That means I have a finite time upon this awkward ball of mud to contemplate the wayside rose, to chomp through a greasy bag of sliders, and to read books. With less time ahead of moi than behind, why should I spend minutes reading fiction(s) that cannot enlighten me or affirm something within me or disturb or offend me as I seek the answer to the occasionally occurring question: What is truth?

 

And partly that might be the result of my having proclaimed to the literary world (or at least the eight or 13 people who make up my literary world) that these days I seek to make … Art. Yeah, I confess. I am striving to create wordworks that could last beyond my time. (Ah, Castle, you are so pretentious … )

 

But I think it mostly comes from other people in the (argh!) literary community, not having the same definition as do I of “good read.”

 

“Okay, Castle, I’ll grant you there wasn’t any characterization in that book except for ‘he was pretty tall.’ But the plot sure moved, huh?”

 

Yeah, there was pace there–speed. The jetliner heading for the ground from six miles straight up has .. speed. Then it crashes and burns.

 

“But there were a lot of good ideas in that book … “

 

Here’s a good idea. Let’s do something swell for Germany. Here’s another: Let’s do something grand for Mother Russia. Here’s the last belaboring one: Let’s do something for Muslims everywhere. Choose from the following list of jerks: A) Hitler. B) Stalin. C) Osama bin Laden. D) all of the above jerks.

 

What I am saying with wit as subtle as a battering ram is that too often what is termed the “good read” by Vox Populi does not meet / mean my definition.

 

I recently picked up–with every attempt to read, so help me!–a first novel written by a person I knew to be a fine person (and a very fine person is she!), an award nominated book, and a book which had been touted to me as “a good read.”

 

The novel was informed by both years and tons of research. The novel had ambition. The novel …

 

Aw, goddamnit, I could not make myself read the thing.

 

It was a “good read” — for those who do not read with any set of standards other than “Is something happening / about to happen?”

 

The dialogue was not clumsy; it was stupid.

 

The “local color” was presented in so flat (make that tuneless) a voice that it read as lumpy as the mountains in which the (alleged) story was set.

 

And then there was the … plot. Plot is supposed to be a series of related events. We had events. Related? Well, they all involved people–or at least those lifeless non-dimensional klutzolas who were supposed to be characters…

 

Good read? No, it was unreadable.

 

As are too many of the stories created by people who declare something like, “I’m just a storyteller, okay? I’m not trying to be a William Hemingway or a Flannery Fitzgerald or a Dashboard Hammet. I just tell stories, that’s what I do … “

 

No, you don’t.

 

Not for this guy.

 

And the analogy: If the Ramsey Lewis Trio had given us nothing but notes, whether in the key of A or G or L (sounds like ‘l’ to me!) set to a four four beat …

 

That gives us the unlistenable.

 

So, please don’t tell me it’s a good read …

 

If the characters are no more human than what you see in Macy’s window at Christmas.

 

If the dialogue would offend August corn in Iowa.

 

If the credibility requires the reader to first produce his JR. SANTA’S HELPER ID card.

 

If it’s … If it’s so crappily written that …

 

Crappy? Aw, come on … What about those bestsellers that are poorly written but sell gazillions and wind up movies starring Tom Hanks …

 

And what about those beautiful books that don’t sell millions but just might live forever …

 

This is a digression.

 

Mort’s “good read” is a well written read. Maybe it’s not a Rosetta Stone unscrewing the inscrutable nor a Ginsu for the Gordian knot, but it makes me happy I read it — and that I could read it because there wasn’t the sole and singular “negative factor” preventing my doing so.

 

The negative factor = Bad writing.

 

And Bad Writing cannot

 

mean a Good Read.

 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Q & A with Mort

April 7th, 2009 1 comment

I’m glad we could all get together like this at the Fourth World’s International and Regional Writing Conference and Hound Dog Taylor Memorial Bar B Que. There are still plenty of pot stickers, veggie whips, prunes, and sticks of butter on the hors d’oeuvre table and the cash bar will remain open another seven or ten hours.

As you know, I’ve been a writer since Jesus’ bar mitzvah (truth: there was some trouble with the Haftora, but all in all, it went well), so I’ll be glad to attempt to answer any questions you might have about this craft and sullen art …

Q: Why don’t you write a best seller?

A: Because I never thought of doing that. There are so few bestsellers that it’s obvious many writers likewise have never thought of doing it.

But it’s a great idea. I think I’ll do one about a code and the end of the world and love. And there’ll be a continuing series character, too. Crippled and brilliant. I think maybe ethnic, too. A brilliant crippled Laotian profiler. I like it. Just as soon as I have a few more prunes, I’m getting moving on a bestseller.

Q: The cover of one of your novels, THE DEADLY ELECTION, was lousy. Why didn’t you get a better one?

A: Well, publishers always seek a writer’s input on cover design, and I had a choice of three other covers, one of which had a nice painting of Abraham Lincoln and a cute cat and a naked woman, but I was hoping THE DEADLY ELECTION’s cover would not attract buyers. I even suggested that the title be white lettering on a white background.

At the time, I thought it would be too cool to be a “cult novelist,” and you can’t be a “cult novelist” if there are thousands upon thousands of people in your cult. Nobody thinks of the Methodists as a cult, right? They’re not like The Presumptive Church of Knotty Pine Paneling that meets in Buford’s basement on alternating Thursday to await the coming of King David in a 1974 stock Mustang II.

Q: Do you think you’ll ever self-publish?

A: Certainly will. Probably on the same day we find three pounds of potato salad for my brain transplant.

Q: Do you have any advice for poets?

A: No. Compassion, yes. Sometimes half a sandwich. But advice, no.

Q: Why didn’t you do your own artwork for the comic books you’ve written?

I could have drawn BUZZ MASON: THE ORIGINAL INTERGALACTIC HERO or MONOLITH, or darned near anything, because I am preponderously multi-talented. And you can bet I can color inside the lines, too. But I have a generous nature. Just like comics writers, artists need to have work. It’s not as if they could write a comic as well as draw it. In fact, some of them can’t even read a comic.

Q: You have not yet written a memoir. Any plans to?

A: I suppose I have the qualifications. My mother, father, sister, several uncles, my wire haired fox terrier, and the guy at the car wash were all quite mean to me. But frankly, until recently, I didn’t want to tackle a memoir because I thought my life was not all that interesting. Like those “Christmas letters” you get every year: “The antibiotic ointment has pretty well cleared up Leola’s itch and we’re seriously thinking of adjusting the contrast on the Vizio flat screen … “

But I’ve recently come to realize that a memoir is what is termed “creative non-fiction.” The creative gives you license to rearrange, imaginatively recall, and selectively embellish the truth. So now I feel almost obliged to memoirize:

I was born in Auschwitz, the son of a camp guard and a Romanian Jewess who went on to start the first hot air ascension organization in Eretz Yisroyal. Despite losing my arms and legs when I fell unconscious across two sets of railroad tracks (both the Northern Pacific and the Southern Pacific got me), I went on to become lead guitar for MOBY GRAPE and to play third base for the Chicago Cubs

It’s a story that cries out to be told. It could be a bestseller.

Q: Will the “new” media ever replace traditional publishing?

A: It already has. I think it was last Thursday. I’ll check with one of my self-publishing poet friends. He plans to have a cyber bestseller real soon.

Q: Why don’t you let them make a movie of one of your books or stories?

A: Hollywood people are just so annoying. The other day, Clint Eastwood calls. Had me on the phone for 20 minutes. I couldn’t understand a word he said with that scratchy whispering he’s into.

And then there’s the Disney crew. They don’t let you alone. They want to do CURSED BE THE CHILD as an animated 3D film. They’ve got toys planned for Burger King. The Demon Child. The Creepy Pedophile. Could I have a pervert with my whopper?

All these silly shmagegs have to offer is … money! Money’s no concern, now that I’m planning to write a bestseller.

Q: Is it true there are no stupid questions?

A: No, these have all been stupid questions.

Fortunately, we also have stupid answers.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

PUBLISHING’S DEFUNCT–Mort Castle

March 7th, 2009 2 comments

PUBLISHING’S DEFUNCT

 

 

 

 

A student I’ll call Clem Callow came to me after class the other day and said, “I always thought I wanted to be a writer, but now I’m having doubts. Newspapers and magazines are shutting down, book publishers cutting way back, and MFA programs are pumping out a gazillion people who have diplomas proving they are superb writers—yet they can’t get published. Do you think I should give up my dream and, like my father, become a radio repairman?”

 

Coincidentally, I had the previous day been speaking with Stephen King, and he’d told me: “With publishing the way it is, I’m getting out. My last book, The Man Who Loved Key’s Duma, sold only 37 copies. You can’t make a living like that. I’m getting into selling baseball memorabilia on Ebay. I’ve got an autograph of Van Lingle Mungo. There’s a poster of the Chicago Cubs lineup of 1773, the last year they won a series. I’ll do all right.”

 

As I pondered how to reply to Clem, I remembered the optimism of Monroe Munchausen, the man who invented the Kindle ©®™Notary Sojac, the somewhat amazing device sold by Amazon ©®™EPluribus Munich, which allows you to read books and newspapers and stuff on an electronic thing which looks a great deal like a paperback book and costs $360.00. “This will save publishing,” Munchausen maintained, “and we’ve seen sales soar. Last year they soared to six. Sensational.”

 

But how, I wanted to know, would the Kindle©®RCA Victor prove publishing’s salvation. Munchausen explained: “This thing can hold 1,500 books—1,500. You know how people are always dropping their cell phones into the toilet and losing all their contacts and fuzzy pictures of casual acquaintances? Well, now one slip, and whoosh! There you go! You’ve flushed away your entire library! Talk about convenience!”

 

Failing to see how technology would make nice for writers and readers, I remembered a number of my former students who’d chosen the small press alternative to the traditional entry-point(s) into the Literary Life. Two years back, Danny D’Lude had published his first novel, Concrete Christ and the Uproarious Mechanical Persistence, through the University of Air Conditioning Repair’s small press imprint, Sassquamous. D‘Lude’s fondest expectations had been far exceeded by sales numbering over three. “But it’s not about sales,” D’Lude explained, “but I can now get federal, state, private, and personal grants. That’s great, and unlike other welfare programs, you don’t even have to prove that you’re looking for a job. You get money based on once having published something and then saying it’s not impossible you may someday possibly publish something else, maybe.”

 

Of course, web-publications offer an attractive venue available to everyone. And let’s not forget blogs. Why, everyone is running to the web even as we speak to scrutinize, peruse, and read with minimal lip movement all sorts of blogs. I had my list of “Top 20 Must Read Blogs and Emags” on my Kindle(Add Superscript of Your Choice), which, unfortunately, fell into the toilet the other day.

 

Perhaps, I thought, still seeking the moment of insight that would provide Clem Callow necessary moral support without being untruthful, I should share with him the words of my friend J. June-Delgado, long-time editor of Hit and Miss House Book Publishing. “The death of publishing? Please,”  J. chuckled as he swallowed his regular dose of Airicept, which seems to be helping, “there will always be books, and always be people writing ‘em. As long as they are books about teenage vampires. No acne, though. Just fangs. No braces, either. Acne and braces, no sir. Just the other day I was talking with Robert Hemingway, or maybe it was Vachel Linseed … I forget where I parked my Hudson. What was the question again? Could I have a cookie?”

 

And so Clem Callow, here it is. Publishing today is in the worst shape it’s ever been in. Worse than the early 1970s, when everyone was saying: Publishing today is in the worst shape it’s ever been in. Worse, even, than in 1888, when Mark Twain said, Publishing today is in the worst shape it’s ever been in. And far worse than in 1492, When Gutenberg invented moveable type and Louis Illimanteus, the Head Scribe at Moishe’s Monastery, declared, Publishing today is in the worst shape it’s ever been in.

 

Things are so bad, Clem, that you had best pursue a career as a freelance shepherd or resident philosopher for a suburban park district or personal trainer for a celebrity chef. And that’s the truth.

 

That’s what I have to say to Clem Callow and that’s what I’m telling you.

 

With the hope that that will take a few more from the ranks of my competition.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

WHY PROSE WRITERS NEED TO READ POETRY — by Mort Castle

February 7th, 2009 1 comment

WHY PROSE WRITERS NEED TO READ POETRY

Very recently, I began reading the 865,000 word prologue to a rather long novel, and then stopped.

Hemingway once wrote a six word story:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Here’s a story, Mort’s UNPLUGGED for this month.

                   ***

DESPAIR

“Can I help?”

“No.”

                   ***

Five words if you count the title.

O Brevity.

O Basho.

“The rest is silence.”

Hamlet,” Act 5 scene 2

“And so often should be.”

                  Mort Right Here and Now

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

First Lines

January 8th, 2009 Comments off

First lines, well, they’re important.

See what I mean?

Look at the first line of this UNPLUGGED. It’s like the sad clown face of Emmett Kelly, without the poignant, if faux, pathos.

And if you didn’t love me so much, and did not know that Mort the Ole Trickster, was likely to have something really profound to say, why, you’d not have bothered to read on, would you?

And so, if a first line is, well, important for a brief writing like this one …

–then it’s really, really important as the very first thing you hit when you open up a novel.
Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: