Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 41


Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

It’s been an exhausting day. I was sick last night with a stomach virus. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t make it to work. I spent the morning in and out of day dreams, the afternoon in a deep orange haze. I can’t remember most of the pieces of the day. I know I read a lot of The Sense of an Ending, so I guess I’ll talk about that.

The book’s grown on me. I feel like I say that with every book I read. Maybe it just takes me some time to acclimate to an author. Maybe it’s a confirmation bias – this far in, I don’t want to feel like I’ve wasted my time.

The narrator is still a pretentious prick, but I think he’s supposed to be. The book is about looking back on your life and realizing your memory of events gets it wrong. You weren’t as good a person as you thought you had been. Your worst enemies were more complicated than you gave them credit for.

One thing that bugs me is it ends up being about a woman. Not in the ‘this is an examination of this woman, or womanhood, etc,’ but in the manic, hungry way every book written by a man ends up being about a woman. Even in Crime and Punishment, salvation is found in a separate female body.

I’m guilty of this, too. Pop over to the Writing Samples section of this website and you’ll find my most recent published work – Chessboard and Tequila – full of all kinds of wining about ‘losing the girl.’ It’s complicated. A lot of life is driven by love. But is this really love? Is this fictional mad-dash to absolve something wrong in your maleness by attaching it to a woman anything like real love?

So where does this trend come from? Male writers have been writing these same stories for centuries. Is it genetic? Is it something in our cultures?

Even now, my novel involves a bit of chasing girls. The idea comes out of my fingers like summer crickets on the keyboard, bouncing all around, making a racket. I try to catch them but a few get through. These days, I figure the best I can do is draw attention to this oddity – this obsessive problem in male art, including my own. The best I can do is pick and prod it until it shows me something new.

I’m tired of stories about men chasing women.

Novel Count: 36,338

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Coffee Log, Day 164


Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

America taught you I’m a threat. It taught me the same thing.

I was at the Japanese Festival at the NC State Fair grounds. L invited me. Go back a couple generations and his blood’s risen-sun red. We got there early, walked the stalls. There were many American faces, all cultures, all colors. I watched the snap-crack kendo demo. I watched a cadre of kids running with a tiny paper float on their backs, memories of Yamakasa.

On the way out, we wanted treats. I got some matcha mochi with red-bean paste, shared it with L. It was wrapped in bamboo leaves and AC cold. I liked it – earthy, like the year’s first mowed lawn. L wasn’t a fan so we had extra.

Anyway, standing with L and his wife, watching a Japanese woman pound piano on stage, a girl – maybe 17, 18 – walks by and asks “Where’d you get that?” I pointed her to the dessert stand. Then she tells me her grandmother used to make mochi. She was dressed western but had Japanese ravens in her eyes.

I said: “We’ve got extra if you want it.”

She stopped. Lips open; hands closed. Eyes went so wide all the ravens flew out; she shook her head, slightly. I could see the sweat.

“Ok, cool,” I said. She walked quick and the crowd swallowed her.

I was stunned. The bright warm Saturday had changed: eyes on me, a thousand; I hadn’t planned to wear my fangs to the festival, but here they were.

Girls grow up in America surrounded by long fingers, long stares, machinations to dislodge them from themselves. “Men are predators; men are a threat.” It’s too true not to learn the lesson. Her fear is far more suffering than I’ll know, but the bedtime story warps me too. If every girl is red riding hood, every man is the wolf. I feel you stitch the claws on me; that stiff ragged tail; I don’t want these teeth, but now I have them. A few thousand years of pack-hunting womanhood like African ivory and I’m born an animal. I’m a threat, however little I want to be.

I can’t change those stories, but I’ll keep trying to write new ones.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.” – Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth