When asked what I mean when I write “In Curmudgeon” for a particular story, I usually say something about how too many writers, bloggers, social media scribes, etc., focus on the positive and very rarely rant on about a problem. To me, that’s a problem. No one has a perfect life, and pretending you do is problematic. By using “In Curmudgeon” at the beginning of a story, I am signaling that the writing takes a different approach. Life isn’t always a Rumi quote. Below is something of an artist’s statement on the process as I fleshed it out in my head.
The method isn’t anything terribly new, though I believe it can be applied to any writing style, be it prose, non-fiction, poetry; and can work in art as well. My series of Boris paintings would be a good example. Existentialism, brilliantly developed by Simone de Beauvoir, and gynocriticism, with a nod to Elaine Showalter, paved the way for new thoughts, while Poe’s style of gothic prose and Kerouac’s spontaneous prose, further charted a course for the development of narrative techniques. It helped me develop the in curmudgeon style, which I distilled and simplified over the last several years.
Intent: To bring awareness to depression, bad moods, dark thoughts and other forms of negative energy, and illustrate that it is neither odd nor uncommon to feel this way. To stop the common practice of pretending everything is okay all the time. To embrace what is, for some, a natural bend to see the worst in the world, and to put this style in the public eye. Rather than hide negative thoughts, complaints, and rants, even replace them with intentions of beauty and peace; In Curmudgeon takes the honesty back, highlighting what is wrong in the hopes humanity might grow by exposure to it.
Description: Writing in curmudgeon takes the philosophy in narrative writing that not everything is meant to be, not everything ends happily, and not everyone finds joy in simple things. It doesn’t pretend or lie to the reader. It’s about honesty and raw truth, which isn’t always available – thanks to a world that idolizes positivity, often at the expense of a grim reality. For some observers this constant form of positivity makes one feel like there is something wrong with them for looking darkly at the world, for not trusting the world. There are positives in this life, which can be reflected in curmudgeon, but celebrating the honesty in humanity is essential. Rather than face a world of increasing positivity, where popularity is measured by the appearance of success and social bragging, in curmudgeon is a place for those sick of hearing the lies.
“The cutest thing we’ve seen all day!” Social media said.
“But wait a minute,” Uploader said. “How can we top baby sea otters?”
Social media screamed in orgasmic bliss. “Oh my God, they’re so darn cute! Sharing, liking, trending!”
“Got it. How about baby sea otters with fluffy white kittens? Put them in a plastic pool together or something. Feed them all fish.”
Social media’s eyes grew as big as saucers. “Fluffy kittens with baby sea otters? Love, happy emojis, liking, sharing, trending!”
Uploader’s shoulders slumped with disappointment. “There is no way in hell we can top that. Our metrics can only go down from here. Engagement will drop.”
“One of the kittens licked the baby sea otter! SQUEE!”
Uploader’s face lit up with excitement. “I know. Koko the gorilla, baby sea otters, and kittens. Get Koko and put her in the pool. She’ll pet them and stuff. We’ll film it.”
Uploader exploded with the best idea yet. “But wait, instead of the pool, throw them in a flood zone, like in Louisiana or something. Have them get rescued from the flood waters by some dudes in a raft.”
Social media could barely contain its indignation. “Terrible. What brave men to rescue these poor creatures. Sad face emojis, hearts, liking, trending!”
Uploader’s face grew dark. “There’s nothing left. Nothing at all. Except… maybe…”
Social media climaxed. “Firefighters? Baby sea otters? Fluffy white kittens? Koko? All dancing together to a mix of David Bowie and Prince songs? Have I died and gone to heaven?! LOL! SQUEE! Liking till my finger breaks! Love emojis till there’s a cure for cancer! Trending till even George Stephanopoulos sheds a tear of joy. Sharing every day of the rest of my life.”
Uploader had no words. It was over. The Internet broke.
We all love stick figures – to the point our hearts will explode in our chests and kill us. So I doodled a few to illustrate each chapter in my upcoming collection of rants, In Curmudgeon (taken from my blog posts over the years), and wanted to share them here. The Saint offered up the best stick figures. Simon Templar’s little halo always looked just right. Mine are just like that. Only worse.
I’m very excited to announce I will be joining authors Dietrich Kalteis and JoAnn Smith Ainsworth for a special event at Old Capitol Books in Monterey, CA, on October 16th, om 3-5 p.m. We’ll be discussing our assortment of books and talking about all things literary. Dietrich is launching his new book, “House of Blazes,” which I look forward to reading. I hope to see you there!
Read more about this event here!
Pairings. It’s what’s for dinner. Or with dinner. Or it’s just totally in now to know about these kind of first world shenanigans. A good wine paired with a specific dish – described more as an art form than a scientific recipe – or a good craft beer (like an American lager with grain dishes) are the rage these days. On top of that, pairings have gone past culinary delights and into fine cigar pairings, which naturally led me to wonder what booze would go well with what books while I digested orange chicken and puffed on a Cuban.
I came up with a list of alcohol that would go well with my own books, naturally, and thought I’d share it:
Williams – Strong Whiskey
Here you have a town like no other, full of mountain men and survival. Can you think of anything other than whiskey? A smooth brand, Maker’s Mark perhaps, is recommended for this photographic trip into the history of the Gateway to the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon’s Tusayan Village – Bloody Mary
This pairing may not seem intuitive, but it stems from a personal story. Thirteen years ago I worked all too briefly on the local railway, which tugs visitors up and down the country from Williams to the South Rim. My favorite part of the job? Making drinks. Entertaining the tourists proved to be more difficult, but I can still smell the Bloody Mary so many of them ordered on the rails. When I wrote about the history of Tusayan years later, I could often picture that train going by and that smell hit me like a… freight train. To me, it’s the drink of Tusayan.
Monterey Noir – Red Wine
Bring a sense of noir into your mysterious mind by pairing the adventures of Barker and his pack of dogs with a decent red. A cabernet sauvignon from local Monterey winery Pierce Ranch Vineyards would go well with these short, pulpy tales. Barker, who himself is a mix of Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes, carries a sense of classic pulp noir, told from a relaxed energetic demeanor. For that, red wine is fine.
Monterey Pulp – White Wine
You’re sitting on a beach, maybe Asilomar or Del Monte, somewhere near or within Monterey Bay. Your bare feet enter the sand. Sun bakes your cheeks. It’s time to read. For that, paired with Barker’s exploits, you need a nice glass of white, maybe a chardonnay from Ventana Vineyards.
Talk Jock Twits – Stout Ale
Maybe it’s because Josh White drank quite a few in the pages of this book, or
that I did myself when I worked in a small town radio station, but nothing less than a strong, lip curling ale sounds right when delving into the antics of talk radio, whether we’re talking about national radio or regional radio, you need strong beer to make it better. Try something bitter from The Grand Canyon Brewing Company.
Mantula – Irish Coffee
Irish whiskey, strong coffee, some brown sugar, cream. This is the edge found in the pages of Mantula, but in liquid form. Get that jolt of power. Get that crazy on. But sip slowly, make it last, and you may just find yourself as changed as Doug himself. I may not have written it, but I always felt he had a bit of the blarney in him anyway.
In Curmudgeon (forthcoming) – Cognac
If you’re going to publish a collection of essays and rants, acknowledge the dreary side of being alive (something so many writers are afraid to explore and so many excel at doing), then why not do it in style. Nothing goes down like aged brandy, especially when talking about the run down, ragged world we all share. I’d go with Hennessy.
Be sure to check out this awesome, comprehensive list of booze and book pairing when you’re nice and drunk.