Just got home from the college’s Christmas potluck luncheon, where I supplied some of Mrs. M’s famous homemade fudge — whatever my shortcomings, I do know how to ingratiate myself. The day’s other highlight was taking the Hound of the Basketballs to the groomer, and a few minutes ago I let her outside to eliminate any traces of that grooming on this rainy afternoon. But why not blog a little? So here we go.
When I checked the mail yesterday afternoon, I found an envelope addressed to me from the Maryland Transportation Authority. Upon opening it, I discovered that on 18 October, the Spawn apparently made a wrong turn onto a toll road. She corrected her error one minute and 56 seconds later, but managed to accumulate a toll charge. Indeed, I doubt she even knew she had traveled on a tollway, but the state’s cameras knew, and so I got the letter with a picture of the Spawn’s car, and the bill… for $1.87. Along with the bill (which I promptly paid online), there was a warning that if I didn’t take care of matters within a month, I would be liable for a $50 civil citation on top of the not-quite two bucks.
All things considered, I don’t know if this was worth the State of Maryland’s effort and postage, but who am I to question the Old Line State’s Top. Men? And it gave me the chance to call the Spawn and harass her about her scofflaw ways. But I’ll still be glad to see her this Saturday.
Last night, I read Particularly Dangerous Situation, by Patti White. Patti was one of my lit theory profs at Ball State, and she appreciated the irony in the fact that I set a record for the Jeopardy! game that served as a final, despite the fact that I regard post-1966 literary theory with the suspicion and scorn I usually reserve for door-to-door driveway sealant salesmen. She also was my boss one summer of my Ph.D. program, as she put me to work compiling an annotated bibliography on post-apocalyptic fiction.
Unfortunately, like my interest in human evil, Patti’s interest in apocalyptic fiction went from academic to intensely personal. After she left Ball State to chair the Department of English at the U of Alabama, her home was leveled by the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado of 2011. She escaped serious physical injury, but that sort of thing makes an impression.
The term for this meteorological event has now become the title of White’s new novel. In the book (which seems to me part novel, part prose poem cycle — Patti is an accomplished poet as well), a cataclysmic storm has erased the state of Mississippi, and headed into Alabama. In a series of shifting p-o-v monologues reminiscent of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (which is referenced in the book as well), survivors offer their accounts of the aftermath, which range from impressionistic to surreal and possibly hallucinatory. But possibly not.
The book is compelling — disorienting and unsettling as the storm it narrates. I’m glad I had the chance to read it.
And speaking of books, I want to remind you once again that I’ll be in NYC at 6:30 p.m. on 8 Jan at the Mysterious Bookshop for the official promo event for From Sea to Stormy Sea, which includes “Silver at Lakeside,” a story of mine connected to a painting by my father (Have fun diagramming that sentence, kids!). If you aren’t afraid it’ll lower the value of the book, I’ll be happy to sign a copy for you. And if you can’t make it in person, you can always call and place an order at (212) 587-1011. But I’d love to see you, and you, and especially you.
I’ll go ahead and wrap up this installment with a classic Nuggets-era number. The Humane Society were a band from Reagan Country — Simi Valley, CA. They ran from 1965-68, releasing two singles on two different labels. The A-side of their major-label single was a version of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” that predated Tiny Tim’s hit, but the B-side is what interests us. “Knock Knock” is teenage-loser angst at a very high level, with the vocals building to frenzied ranting at the girl the singer “just want[s] to be near.” It’s Music to Stalk By, and Garage Rock Authority Mike “Mop Top” Markevich’s Teen Beat Mayhem ranks it as #214 on his Top 1000 Garage Rock Records list. I might even rank it higher, as might revivalists The Lords of Altamont, who covered it on their first album.
See you soon!