I'm a little late to writing tonight because I have been busy reading Zadie Smith's new short story for the New Yorker: "Moonlit Landscape with Bridge." If you do not know how Zadie Smith is, then I suggest you run, not walk, to the library and a check out White Teeth, a novel that is funny, heartbreaking, and wonderful in every way. Earlier this year Smith wrote a really great piece about death and art for The New York Review of Books entitled, "Man vs Corpse", and I've been eagerly awaiting her next work. Moonlit Landscape with Bridge is the story of a Minister who is trying to escape to an airport after the country he represents has suffered from a natural disaster - probably a hurricane. On the way to the airport he makes a stop to give out a truckload of water bottles to a throng of people are in desperate need of rations. The minister makes a second stop to relieve himself and on the way back to his car he stuck in the face and carried back to his vehicle by a man he can't recognize. This man gets into the backseat of the car with the Minister, pulls a knife on the driver, and tells him drive.
I won't spoil any more of the story, but I will say that it is quite excellent. It throws the reader into the middle of a high stress situation and, quite literally in this case, takes the reader on a wild ride. This is something I love about a good short story, it will takes you by throat in the first couple of paragraphs. There's no time for foreplay. The way Smith weaves in a backstory for each of the characters without losing the stories forward energy is great. If you are going to teach a class on good short story writing, you could easily put this on the syllabus.
Oh, did I mention that Smith references Vonnegut multiple times in this story?
She gets me.
I had been rereading On Writing the past couple of days, but when Stephen King stuck his foot in his mouth regarding Dylan Farrow, I couldn't help but put the book down. King released a statement on his blog that would qualify as a half-hearted, mea culpa. Anyone who writes a lot on the internet will eventually say something regrettable, regardless of intent. I'm happy King issued an apology, but I think I'll read a couple other books before I come back to On Writing. I'm currently reading Junot Diaz's, Pulitzer Prize wining, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I'm not far enough into the book to form an opinion on the plot, characters, or themes; but the writing itself is a electric. This will be the first work of fiction I've read of Diaz, but I've seen him speak and have read interviews in which he was the subject, and I can already tell that I'm going to dig him as an author. There's something really cool and urgent about his mannerisms that comes across in his prose. I can't wait to dig into the book this week.
I barely managed to finish today's Couch to 5K workout, which was split into two 3/4 mile runs. There came a moment at the end of the workout where I had my thumb on the slow down button, but something in the back of my mind screamed, "do not quit, you wanker!" So instead of slowing down I turned the treadmill up to a full run and sprinted the last quarter of a mile. During that final sprint I was grunting like a feral animal - thank goodness the inclement weather kept the usual crowd away from the gym. I had it in my head that I was either going to finish the workout triumphantly, or lose my footing and faceplate. I'm happy to report that I did not face plant.
It felt really good to meet today's workout goal with success. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to just give up: my legs were tired, i had spent most of the morning shoveling, and I could have been happy with just showing up at the gym at all in such foul weather. It's nice to know that my default setting is starting to shift from "fuck it" to "fuck you, try harder." It's also nice to know that I have a little more in the tank than I thought i previously thought; which is a good thing, because Friday's workout calls for two straight miles of running. Two miles! I can't remember the last time I ran two miles straight, it was probably someday during Bush's first term as President: G.W. that is.
Here's to getting better with age.