Today at Necessary Fiction, my short story "Man in Motion" is live. The story was selected by Jamie Iredell as part of his month-long stint as writer in residence for NF, during which he'll be focusing on Atlanta writers. I'm especially honored grateful to be included, as there are some real luminaries from the Atl. literary scene being featured there this month.
This story is named after the subtitle of the song "St. Elmo's Fire" by John Parr (better read the story before someone figures that out and removes it from the internet forever as punishment for my brazen lameness). The song is featured prominently in the film of the same name, which features prominently in the story.
"Man in Motion" comes from my just-completed, not-yet-published novel, 1985, but its roots go back a lot farther. About five years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) and I took a trip to Chicago for Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with some friends. We flew standby, which ended up being sort of an ordeal, made worse by the fact that I have a fear of flying. On the trip back, the two of us separated, and so I found myself alone, terrified to fly, wondering when Meagan would ever find her way back to Atlanta. After I touched down in the Atlanta airport, I was loitering near a Dunkin' Donuts, listening to my iPod, and I just broke down. The stress of the day (and the stress of what happened on a pretty disastrous trip) got to me, and I started openly weeping in the middle of the airport.
While I was crying, my iPod shuffled over to "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan. As a longtime fan of Dylan's, the familiarity of the song comforted me, and I sat listening to the song on repeat until my wife called to let me know she'd gotten on the next flight South. Later, this seemed ironic to me, that a song that had been written in protest had served to comfort some whiny dude who missed a flight. For years, I carried around this thought, this seed of an idea: art's dual role of making us uncomfortable about what makes us complacent, and comfortable when we feel lost. As someone who usually prefers the former type of art, it's an open question for me. Is it okay to let art comfort us, to console us?
It took many false starts and many failed attempts before I found a situation and a character worth using to exploring that idea. Once I found a way to attach those concerns to Manny (who I've already written about in several other as-yes-unpublished stories), the piece almost wrote itself. That's not a testament to me, but a testament to this character, who somehow manages to take me over like a benevolent demon from time to time.
Oh, and here's the video for "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)." Enjoy?
Something wonderful is happening in Minneapolis. There is a room somewhere (I picture a room, but probably it's not a literal room) where this team of super cool women are making perhaps the best literary website around, Paper Darts. I met two of the wonderful editors briefly at AWP in Chicago...and by "met," I mean they showed me their amazing print magazine and I said, "Whoa, cool!" and probably asked dumb questions about Minneapolis or something. Now, over a year later, I'm extremely proud to say that my story, "We Eat Plums" is live on their site today.
"We Eat Plums" is a story that is about the Apocalypse, but what it is really about is love, and what it is really, really about is the absolute hopelessness of the Atlanta summers of my early twenties, sweating in a collapsing house with nothing but loving someone to get you through. Atlanta summers really are that miserable, and many of the details of "We Eat Plums" actually come from an actual house I lived in when I first moved in with my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time). The flies were real. The writing on the wall was real--the line of the poem I quote in the story is what was really written on the wall in our bedroom. The strange, schizophrenic former tenants were real.
The amazing thing about Paper Darts is that they produce gorgeous illustrations to accompany each story and poem that they publish online. This really sets them apart from a lot of other online literary magazines. They post several times a week, so if you're not reading it yet, you should be reading it from now on, and gobbling up the many, many pages of archives, and buying things from them and donating to them and everything. Enjoy the beautiful and creepy imagery of plums, flies, and boils.
Oh, and if you read the story, read it while you listen to this Mountain Goats song, which influenced me heavily in the writing:
Matt Sailor puts words here.