Monday, October 23, 2017

The News Anchor Dreams (a short story)

My flash fiction piece "11-6" was just published by Heartwood Literary Magazine at the Low-Residency MFA at West Virginia Wesleyan College. I feel like I've written 4 or 5 pieces that all spin out of visiting the Big Bang Theory set, and you can't really tell it from the piece, but I think this is one of them. It's definitely about moving places with only a modicum of confidence (and slightly more divine faith, but not much) and having your life revolve around your job. 

Here's how it starts.

11-6

11-6
FICTION BY MATTHUE ROTH

The news anchor dreams there is a fire, a very bad fire. The only thing that can stop it is water. Everyone is waiting until the fire reaches the ocean. Until it does, the only thing to be done is to report on it. He reads a list of names, of people and businesses and towns affected by the fire. All the names are foreign. He does his best to pronounce each one correctly, short of putting on an accent, which doesn’t test well with the target demographics and makes him feel insincere.
He reads names. He tries to give gravity to each, knowing that among his audience are people with relatives there, people on vacation from there, people whom he is telling that their families are dead. He can’t linger long, though. There are more people waiting to hear the name of the next town to be incinerated, if it is theirs. He pauses before the next name. It is his own language, his own town—the place where he lives now. He lives two blocks away from the TV studio. He can make it to bed fast after the 11:00 news, and then he can be there bright and early for the morning news at six. It doesn’t feel like it’s burning. This must be some weird quirk of live TV, the way it’s filmed, like the five-second delay in case anybody curses.
But they are. They’re burning, and then everyone is dead.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Famous Typewriters (and the Things They Made)

I flew into and out of San Francisco in a day a few weeks ago. Did I tell you about it? Maybe not, it was a bit of a secret.

By far, the weirdest/best thing I found was an exhibit of famous typewriters at San Francisco International Airport. In the middle of the jetlagged night, it felt like the most important thing I'd ever seen.

4. Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof



I read The Glass Menagerie in seventh grade and adored it, although at the time I couldn't tell you why. Probably something to do with the mentally-fragile daughter, whose condition to me was scary and recognizable. When I moved to D.C., my friends Eric and Matthias used to take me to a bar called the Raven, the first time I had a regular bar, where, according to local legend, Tennessee Williams either hung out or wrote his first book. I started a lot of stories on bar napkins but never finished any.

3. Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast



I was always a little disgusted by Hemingway and a little scared of him, but Marty Beckerman's wonderful book The Heming Way did a bit to dispel it, and a bit to empower a looser, funnier sense of disgust.

2. Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles



Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. In a purely metaphysical, inspiration-centric way, I identify completely with Rachel Bloom's song. I spent a while just staring at this typewriter in surprised silence (well, I was alone, so it wasn't that surprising that I was silent). Imagining his fingers on those very keys, the pure physicality of it all, the way that every time you hit a key the letter is permanently imprinted, no highlighting and deleting, no going back. Merely existing in the same place at that typewriter felt more dangerous than anything I've ever done. It was a dare never to use a computer again.

1. The Beatles, Introducing the Beatles



And the Beatles. I've never been crazy about the Beatles -- not that I don't like them! I really like them! -- I just, well, never thought they were the ultimate band or the only band that ever existed or anything like that. But also, I never thought about them writing songs. Or writing songs in an actual draft/reworking/another draft/final way. Would they write the words "I'd like to be your man," go back and forth about the word order, the rhythm, change "I'd like" to a declarative statement like "I want," and then Ringo tells you that you need a concrete image and you finally, finally type in the middle of the night, "I want to hold your hand"? Maybe that's not how it happened. But something happened. And the moments their keys struck paper, it turned into something.

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