Today on Day of the Dead, I remember my lovers, friends and family who have gone before me.
Frighten the Horses writers Michael Botkin, James Bergeron, Charlie Halloran, Kris Kovick, and Tanya Dewhurst. Also Neal Goldsmith, who became Nancy Gold, who died this year. And Kathy Acker, who was profiled in FTH and who contributed a piece for an issue that we never had a chance to print.
My parents and grandparents.
This evening I’ll go to the Dia de los muertos celebration in San Francisco. You should come, it’s beautiful. Garfield Park, 25th and Harrison, at sunset.
The story started with a picture I saw in the New Yorker over two years ago. That magazine published a profile of Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth. With the article, they published a portrait of the singer showing her wearing a pair of gag costume horns.
I don’t know anything about Kim Gordon or Sonic Youth, except what I read in the profile, but the photograph held my attention. I found myself wondering what it would be like if a woman actually grew horns. That’s how this story arose.
It’s one of several stories I’ve written about artists and their process, and it was one of a series three novella-length stories I wrote in 2013-2014. Of those three, it’s the first one to be published.
My short story “Bullet in the Back” won third prize in the Baltimore Review Winter 2015 contest, and has been published in their latest issue. Read it here.
The story concerns the plight of a movie extra working on a film set on an airliner. He finds himself jammed in the middle seat, and he might be there ten or twelve hours a day for weeks as they shoot this movie. A hellish prospect.
The story was inspired by the 2014 film “Non-Stop,” which takes place almost entirely on an airliner. This YouTube video, shot on the set, includes a number of action shots with extras in the background, screaming, cowering, and doing movie extra things. I’ve always been interested in strange and unusual jobs.
Updated with information about memorial gatherings. See bottom of post.
I learned the other day that a writer for Frighten the Horses, Tanya Dewhurst, died by her own hand on Dec. 24.
Tanya wrote dispatches from London and from San Francisco for FTH. She was a charming, bubbly person and an entertaining writer. When she and a girlfriend visited me and Cris, we took a walk to a local church where parishioners claimed to have seen an apparition of Mary. We stood for a moment looking at the splotch on a piece of copper roofing, and then Tanya blurted out to the small crowd that had gathered: “Why, it looks just like a NAKED LADY.” This was even more hilarious because of her strong Australian accent.
Here is the announcement of her death from Facebook. (Since I’m not a Facebook member, I can’t see the page or the material on it. Someone in her network sent me this text.)
To all of Tanya’s FB friends i couldn’t contact personally, Im sorry your are finding out this way. It is with immense sadness I let you know Tanya ended her life on December 24, 2014. Tanya was funny, clever, generous, loving and most of all- hell on wheels.She was my best friend for 20 years and i will miss her every day as i know so many of you will.
some folks have asked about donations in her name- as you know she was passionate about marine preservation, particularly sea turtles and sharks. I would suggest the turtle island restoration project (seaturtles.org) or check here http://ecosalon.com/10-ocean-conservation-groups-making-a-…/
Her friends in LA will eventually be holding a memorial, and i suggest those of you elsewhere do the same or simply raise a glass to Tanya’s beautiful spirit and her passage to her next destination.
Update: Here is information about gatherings to remember Tanya, in L.A. and in Australia.
Los Angeles, Feb. 7, 2015. Information here.
Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 21, 2015. Contact https://www.facebook.com/amy.blake.1447
Perth, Australia, Jan. 31, 2015. Contact https://www.facebook.com/shannon.bedford1
I’ve never met a successful writer who didn’t sometimes wonder if their own success wasn’t some kind of farce being staged for a mysterious audience.
The author of the profile, John Jeremiah Sullivan — himself an admirably successful profiler and essayist for major magazines, in other words someone who regularly wins a good share of the chips on the increasingly shrinking poker table of the American mainstream media marketplace — goes to lengths to demonstrate just how successful Antrim has finally become. Not only has he published many books, not only has he gotten a post teaching writing at Columbia, not only are his short stories regularly published in the New Yorker, but he’s the recipient of a MacArthur grant. And yet:
Antrim was like most other writers. Only the next project was real. The rest was some kind of weird dream.
I don’t know how there can still be writers who believe in literary immortality. I understand those who believe in the immortality of the soul, I can even understand those who believe in Heaven and Hell and the touching waystation Purgatory, but when I hear a writer talk about the immortality of certain literary works I want to slap him. I’m not talking about hitting him but just slapping him once and then probably hugging him and comforting him… a kind of slap for the person’s own good, like the kind they give hysterical people in the movies so that they snap out of it and stop screaming and save their lives.
Though I devote more time lately than ever to the business of getting published, I find myself also letting go of an attachment to getting published, and more serious about writing something good.