Archive

for the ‘fiction’ Category

July 16, 2013

New fiction: “Pretend You Can Hear Me.”

The Orphan has just published a story of mine that I really love. You may want to read it first before you read what I have to say about it.

I wrote it five years ago when I was preparing to teach a class about intimacy and technology. The story is a chat conversation between two lovers, a man and a woman. I had seen a novel written entirely in emails, but never at that time a story in chat. The choice of form was both an exploration of form itself, and more deeply, of the capacity of our everyday technology for containing deeply felt intimacy. There were arguments floating around, and there still are, that our everyday communication, mediated as it is by devices, has closed distances but worked against closeness, that the closing of distances opens new ones. This is an alarmist idea, conservative in the literal sense of the word, denying our finest animal quality, the propensity to adapt. Not just get used to, but expand into, that is adaptation. We do that. We have done that. We still touch fingers, and whisper, and hold tight. We still talk with our hands and flirt with our eyes. We still feel the weight of a child’s cheek on our shoulder long after they have grown. We are still physical and ever will be. And we are in the ether too, living our lives, closely.

I didn’t know the story was about any of this until long after I wrote it. I knew only two people, in rooms far apart, staying close and feeling far. Doing their best. Ghosts with keyboards.

January 25, 2011

From Curator Journal this month, my conversation with Machine Project’s Mark Allen about museums, strangers interactions, and the art of interruption

The life of the street, at its best, is lyrical, unexpected, and momentarily intimate. Cities by definition comprise strangers, and when strangers find cause to break their urban detachment, the episodes of street intimacy they make can be precious and thrilling. These moments fascinate me, both in my own experience and in the abstract, as what I believe to be a craved pleasure of city dwellers. I’m talking here about the pleasure of interruption, of fleeting connections. These moments are metonyms for why we choose to live in cities. They shimmer with the beauty of the ordinary and everyday. And they’re rich with meaning, as instances of what linguists call “phatic communication,” which is to say, an exchange that has little semantic value but high social and emotional value. When your neighbor says, “How’re you doing?” what they also say is: I know you, I recognize you, we’re in this thing of being humans together.

Read more …

October 6, 2010

My first novel to be published June 2011

I’m so excited to announce that my first novel, Follow Me Down, will be published in June 2011 by Red Lemonade, an imprint of Richard Nash’s new publishing company, Cursor.

You can see the cover here, and read an excerpt here.

September 21, 2010

Stranger Studies

I recently published a narrative version of my ITP Strangers class on the Atlantic Magazine blog. Here’s an excerpt.

“This is a class on urban culture. My fundamental premise is that strangers and cities are inherently intertwined. The everyday nature of interacting with strangers is a byproduct of urbanization, which has created a culture of dense populations with sparse interconnections. That density and sparseness of connections itself is part of what defines ‘the urban.’ Living in cities has made strangers into a multitude: we brush past thousands of them every day. Even the simplest exchange among strangers can contain a tangled accumulation of meanings: what transpires may have physical, emotional, social, political, technological and historical dimensions. I show students how to unravel and understand these charged moments.”

June 26, 2010

My Foo10 session–Secrets of human nature: 5 experiments you can do with strangers

Below are rough unedited notes from the session I did at Foo today.

About me:

-I make things out of words (stories, explanations), and really the main thing I’m always trying to do is show you something that was invisible to you before. I do this as a fiction writer (just finished first novel), that’s what art is all about. And I do it as a teacher at ITP. I’m also an interactive copywriter.

-I teach about individual social dynamics and relational technology. one lens is intimacy, another is stranger behavior. So I’m sort of a people hacker.

-My classes are a mix of studying existing knowledge and doing field experiments—it’s like Human Nature Lab.

About the experiments:

Read more …

March 24, 2010

what you loved when you were nine or ten

There’s a beautiful passage early in the book The Conversations (a long rambling interview between film/sound editor Walter Murch and writer Michael Ondaatje), where Murch is talking about how intoxicating it was to play with sound when he was nine or ten. He got a cassette tape recorder when they were very new, and would make strange noises by dragging the mic over surfaces, and by recording sounds from out of his (NYC) window. Then he realized he could chop the tape and reassemble it.

“I’ve found that your chances for happiness are increased if you wind up doing something that is a reflection of what you loved most when you were somewhere between nine and eleven years old. At that age, you know enough of the world to have opinions about things, but you’re not old enough yet to be overly influenced by the crowd or by what other people are doing or what you think you “should” be doing. If what you do later on ties into that reservoir in some way, then you are nurturing some essential part of yourself.” [pg. 8-10]

What I remember of that age is that I loved reading, lying, and making things. The lying wasn’t petty, it was rather of the fish stories and tall tales variety. I met a woman recently who I had known for just a couple of years at that age. Her clearest memories of me had to do with the lies, the elaborate and pleasurably accepted storytelling.

Happiness as a byproduct of genuine passion, genuineness measured as a relationship to the unmediated passions of childhood.

What did you love when you were nine or ten–how is it reflected (or not) in what you do now?

November 1, 2009

time travel

I got some spam back in 2001, and we found its sender on AIM. The spam comes first, then the AIM transcript.

Sent: Saturday, August 25, 2001 5:35 PM
Subject: attention time travelers and aliens

> If you are an alien disguised as human and or have the technology to travel physically through
> time I need your help!
>
> My life has been severely tampered with and cursed by a very evil women of my past.
>
> I need to be able to:
>
> Travel physically back in time.
>
> Rewind my life including my age.
>
> Be able to remember what I know now so that I can prevent my life from being tampered with again
> after I go back.
>
> I am in great danger and need this immediately!
>
> Only if you are an alien or have this technology please send me a separate email to:
>
>
>
> Thanks
>
—-

11:54 PM, Kevin and Kio create AIM account “marvermejo”.

Read more …

June 17, 2009

fragment from “the invisible museum”

On the sidewalk by the park, a man stood watching the children play. He required a child of a particular age. Old enough to follow instructions. Too young to be trusted as a witness. And alone. The boy was digging a small pit near the edge of the stone wall. Next to him were piled the sort of sundry treasures a boy keeps, shiny and sharp. It seemed as though the hole in the dirt was his only dominion. The man dropped a heavy coin onto the pile, and then an envelope sealed with wax. He pointed over the wall, across the street. He watched the boy cross over, slip in the door behind an old lady, then emerge again a minute later. When the boy returned the man dropped another coin in the dirt. The boy’s greed over the bright currency consumed him. He had not once looked at the man’s face.

June 14, 2009

fragment from an unfinished short story

They named him Hector, but he didn’t live up to it. So they chopped the name down to a curt and humble syllable: Heck. He was a late and desperately desired child, hard to conceive and harder to raise. His father had been a weak man who succumbed to his foibles while Heck’s mother was still fanning herself on the porch, awaiting deliverance. Alone with her daughters, she settled on this state of affairs as the cause of Heck’s inconsolable wailing, which could go on for hours and often did. His mother rocked him in her arms and sang her sweetest songs. A dull rage would start to tighten between her bony shoulders, and then her prim little daughters took their turns. His screams revved like an engine. Some days there was nothing to do but leave him in the crib and rest their worn nerves outside in the thick wet air, where the hum of the cicadas dulled the pitch of his cries. By the time he could talk, the threat of his tantrums hung over them like a thunderstorm that would not leave. It was the sound, most of all, that kept the tired women under his thumb. His demands crowded them into the corners of the house. By then it took only a dark glance to achieve his aims. They would do almost anything to avoid the exhaustion of appeasing him. When he was sixteen, and they were all wrung dry, his mother sent him to live with her war-hardened brother across town. As if, much too late, that might cure him. The day he left, he turned back from the sidewalk and saw his older sisters glowering at him from the safety of the porch swing like the meek inheriting the earth.

June 7, 2009

postcards from the shore of a foreign lake

Dear Charles,
Longing is desire, constituted by distance. Across an ocean, across a border, across a room. I long for you now, and I long for you as you walk toward me. As we finally touch, what does longing become?
-R

Dear Charles,
You aren’t here and I am lonely. I weep, and the rented villa weeps with rain. I’m afraid that when I see you again, I will still be lonely. One is poetics, the other is pain.
-R