Tag Archives: fiction

More Shameless Literary Self-Promotion

2 May

 Once again, there’s nothing more off-putting than the shameless self-promotion that permeates American society like a besotted rug three days after a keg party. That being said, the Hangover would like to announce that its editor, Albert Waitt, has a new short story currently being published by Stymie, A Journal of Sport and Literature.  The piece is available (free of charge–woo hoo!!) on the magazine’s web site:   http://www.stymiemag.com/2011/05/new-fiction-hard-enough.html

Even at less than 500 words, Mr. Waitt’s story, “Hard Enough,” could be thought of as a subversive companion to the phenomenal ”Friday Night Lights” television series.  As usual,  any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is purely coincidental.

Short Stories, Long Payoffs II

9 Feb

The Hangover is pleased to announce a new addition to its fiction section, Fisher of Men by Joe Ricker.   Ricker’s story is a glimpse at the damaged underbelly of American society.    You might have passed the characters of Fisher of Men on the street; you were glad you kept walking. 

Esquire referred to Ricker as “a man of letters who’s gentle in the way that only the toughest hard-asses can be.”   If you are a fan of Tarantino films, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, or film noir, it is a piece you won’t want to miss.  Check it out here.

Sarah Palin’s Banned Books

8 Sep

The media frenzy surrounding reports of Sarah Palin’s attempt to ban books from the Wasilla Public Library is somewhat off the mark.  On becoming mayor of the thriving Alaskan metropolis in 1996, she did not attempt to ban specific books from the town library.  She simply inquired with the librarian about how she would react if Palin did attempt to ban books.  It was a rhetorical question, Palin claimed, according to the Mat Su Valley Frontiersman.  This puts the Hangover at ease.  Luckily for those left wing advocates of free speech, Library Director Mary Ellen Emmons actually had a backbone (not to mention respect for the Constitution) and symbolically told Palin to take a long walk off a short iceberg. 

The good news is that if the McCain-Palin ticket is elected, the nation will enjoy some consistency in the Vice Presidential positition.  If one of Palin’s first acts as mayor is to determine what level of censorship she could wield in her position, she’ll feel very comfortable behind Dick Cheney’s desk.  He doesn’t believe we know what’s good for us, either.   It’s certainly reassuring to have such honest, god-fearing leaders to do our thinking for us.  The Hangover would hate to waste time reading books and following government, especially with the season premiere of Desperate Housewives only weeks away.

This being something of a literary site, The Hangover had to wonder just what books Palin was hoping to strike from the library.   Consdier me cynical, but there had to be some specific targets.  To determine what works these might be, we scanned the list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 and tried to discern which qualified for her lets-get-rid-of-them platform.

The Hangover immediately eliminated the following from Palin’s agenda:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Little Black Sambo, and Native Son:  How many African-Americans can there be in Wasilla?

Sex (by Madonna), Sex Education, Girls and Sex, Women on Top, Boys and Sex, What’s Happening to my Body, Asking About Sex and Growing Up:  With all the kids they’re popping out up there in Wasilla, I don’t think sex was a worrisome issue for Palin.    Apparently, they’re good at it.

Brave New World, Of MIce and Men, The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies:  These books are only read by eastern and urban elites who vote Democrat.  No one in Alaska would be caught dead with any of them.

Slaughterhouse Five, The Dead Zone, Tiger Eyes, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cujo, Scary Stories, The Goats, The Pigman:  With the hunting and outdoor sporting culture in Alaska, anything involving possible game and/or killing of possible game has to be considered acceptable reading.

All poetry could be considered safe:  No one reads it anyway, outside of the beret-wearing fops in New York and San Francisco.

To be honest, The Hangover had never heard of many of the books on the list.  And if we’ve never heard of them, it’s probably safe to assume that a busy hockey mom and Mayor like Palin never did either.  That takes care of another eighty.

Palin’s Possible Targets:

By process of elimination, The Hangover concludes that Palin had two particular volumes which she wished to eradicate from the Wasilla Public Library’s shelves:

  1. Private Parts by Howard Stern.  Howard is one of those northeastern liberal intellectuals.  And he has a potty mouth.  And he is one of America’s strongest advocates of free speech.  You can’t have that kind of thinking threatening the way of life in Alaska.
  2. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling.  If Wasilla’s children became engrossed in reading about the fantasy world of wizards, puny English kids, Cheney Voldemort, Dumbledore, and Harry, they wouldn’t have time to play hockey, babysit their many siblings, and have underage, unprotected sex.  

The country owes a debt of gratitude to Library Director Ellen Emmons.  Censorship is defeated.  And because of that, The Hangover’s dream is alive–hoping to one day author a book that will vie for consideration on the 2010-2020 list of Most Frequently Challenged. 

What?  Who wants this blog shut down?

Celebrity Sex Scandal: 1 Winner, 300 Million Losers

19 Aug

John Edwards.  Rielle Hunter.   Jay McInerney.  The latest celebrity sex scandal being reported on in the American press was 25 years in the making and includes a would-be President, a once-famous, sometimes decent writer, and a coke whore “media expert.”  Who needs the Lifetime Channel when we have this? 

After intrepid reporting by the National Enquirer (I can’t believe I just wrote that), Edwards admitted to having an affair with Rielle Hunter in 2006.  Edwards confessed:

“In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.”

Edwards, honestly, admits to becoming a fathead.  This is the same thinking that regularly leads others to cheating, including professional athletes, actors and actresses, and politicians.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone, unless one investigates the history of his paramour, Rielle Hunter.

Rielle Hunter was formerly called Lisa Druck.  She was a noted coke-snorting, bed-hopping (not that there’s anything wrong with that) 80’s New York party girl.  In fact, after a liaison with McInerny in the post Bright Lights, Big City era, she became the inspiration for the main character of his forgettable second novel, Story of My Life.  Mysteriously, the book was about a trampy, coke-snorting New York woman who was trying to find her way in life.  The character based on Hunter, Allison Poole, was also skewered in two of Bret Ellis’s novels.  That indicates one of two things:  either she was incredibly loathsome or Ellis was one celebrity Hunter wouldn’t give it up for. 

Twenty years later, Hunter became a public figure again, initially for filming campaign “webisodes” for Edwards’ failed 2008 Presidential bid.  In an interview with “Extra,” Hunter admitted:

“I’ve never really been interested in politics in my life.  I voted twice.”

Perhaps this explains why her webisodes proved to be tremendously ineffective.  And while she found politics “a gross environment,” Hunter did find Edwards to be “interesting,” “real,” and “authentic.”  Apparently, she also found him steamy, and really, really hot.

The sole beneficiary of this scandal is McInerny.  He’s got a 2007 book, The Good Life, to publicize and the press is knocking on his door again, if only to ask about Hunter.   However, thanks to the scandal, Story of My Lifehas just been reprinted.  While The Good Life is ranked 80,125 in book sales on Amazon, Story of My Life has climbed to 1,828. 

It’s the rest of us who are the losers here.  And not because the Hangover-endorsed Edwards has skuttled his chances for future public service.  At this point, it’s impossible to care about a full-of-shit politician, no matter what his (or her) message.

The more serious problem exposed by this scandal is the tabloid culture that owns America.  As citizens, we should have more important things to think about than a failed politician hooking up with a bottle-blonde scratching and clawing for another Wharholian 15 minutes.  And the Hangover is not suggesting that we spend time considering Britney’s recovery, Brangelina’s kids, Bigfoot, or Christian Bale’s belief that he’s Batman, dammit. 

The Hangover apologizes for even bringing up the subject here.  As punishment, I’ll force myself to watch an hour of Entertainment Tonight.  While it might be painful, at least I’ll be made fully aware of the issues considered important by the vast majority of Americans.

In Praise of Andre Dubus

19 Jun

Andre Dubus is considered by many (myself included) to be one of America’s greatest short story writers.  So why haven’t you heard of him?  Precisely because he was a short story writer.  While some novelists sell millions of books and become known figures, those working in short fiction are almost always ignored by the greater public.  It’s unfortunate, but it is reality.   The sad thing is, with Dubus, it’s the greater public who is missing out.

In the July/August issue of Poets and Writers, Joshua Bodwell contributes an essay, “The Art of Reading Andre Dubus:  We Don’t Have To Live Great Lives.”   The title indicates much of a what a reader needs to know about Dubus:  real people, real situations, real emotion–and tough writing.  Dubus may have been a writer, but he lived in the same world that you do.  His work reveals the gravity found there.

The Hangover grew up in Plaistow, New Hampshire, just across the state line from Haverhill, MA, where Dubus taught at small Bradford College.  The local paper, The Haverhill Gazette, frequently mentioned publications of and readings by Dubus.  I was a somewhat well-read youth, but as foolish as any teenager.  I saw that French name and pictured a Euro-weenie in a beret writing about wine-drinking fops.  I wondered, “How good can this guy be if he’s teaching at Bradford?”  I never bothered to pick up one of his books.   

I finally read Dubus as an adult when Tom Bailey assigned “A Father’s Story” for a writing class I was taking.  I went out and bought Andre Dubus: Selected Stories.  After that first story, I started at the beginning and whipped through the collection.  Dubus’ characters were people I knew.  Both literally and figuratively, they drove down streets I’d traveled, lived in houses I recognized, and drank in bars I’d frequented.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d been a supreme jackass. 

The Hangover urges you not to make the same mistake.  If you’ve read Dubus, pick up Poets and Writers and read Bodwell’s essay.  If one of Dubus’s books hasn’t made it onto your shelf, go out and get Selected Stories.  That you’ll be entertained is an understatement.     

 

The New Yorker: Still Champion of the Short Story

1 Apr

Since its inception in 1925, The New Yorker has published some of America’s best short fiction.   That legacy continues today despite trends to the contrary.  Many of the magazines once featuring short stories have ceased to exist, such as Collier’s and Story.  Others like Esquire have lessened their commitment to the form, cutting back in fiction print pages while shifting that emphasis to their web sites.  Meanwhile, the New Yorker continues to place contemporary stories in its issues–and amazingly, as the fates of other periodicals might suggest–the magazine has not suffered. 

The New Yorker has even deepened its commitment to the form by reaching back into its history while embracing modern technology.   Through I-tunes and newyorker.com, the magazine offers a series of podcasts featuring some of today’s best writers reading their favorite stories from the magazine’s vast catalog of published fiction.   It is a deep and wide-ranging collection of homage.  One can find Jonathan Lethem reading James Thurber’s “The Wood Duck” and Richard Ford choosing John Cheever’s “Reunion.”  The Hangover highly recommends TC Boyle’s interpretation of Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain.”  (Boyle’s “Greasy Lake” and Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain” are two of The Hangover’s favorite short stories.)  All are considered classics.

In addition to the story itself, New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman hosts a discussion of the piece with the selecting author.   The views expressed are always enlightening, as the selector speaks as a fan as well as a fellow writer.   Consistent with The Hangover’s “short stories, long payoff” philosophy, the podcasts usually run less than 20 minutes.  

The podcasts are available on the New Yorker web site and the I-tunes Store (go to podcasts, search for New Yorker: fiction).  The best part:  They’re free.  

Short Stories, Long Payoffs

10 Mar

In his book On Writing Short Stories, Tom Bailey writes:

“A story creates its own world, often–though not always–with clear or mysterious correspondences to our own, a world in which we are too involved to keep track of what anyone is learning.” 

To that end, The Hangover will expand its Fiction Section to present a series of short stories by guest authors. 

The brevity of the short story makes it a natural art form for contemporary society, where time is a precious commodity.  A ten or twenty minute investment has the potential to pay unending dividends.  At worst, a reader is simply entertained–and there’s nothing wrong with that.

It is The Hangover’s pleasure to present the first in its Guest Fiction series, “The Accident” by Maine writer, Joshua Bodwell.  It’s a story that will stay with a reader, and there is no higher praise than that.  To step into this world, all one has to do is click on the Fiction tab on the header of this page.  Experience and enjoy. 

The Lion in Winter: Esquire Magazine

4 Jan

Shortly after graduating from college, I came across a short story collection titled, “Great Esquire Fiction:  The Finest Stories from the First Fifty Years.”  The table of contests listed those one would expect to find on a Glenlivet-drinking New York editor’s bookshelf:  Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Updike, Carver, Malamud, O’Connor, O’Brien, and thirty-one other brilliant writers.  The stories were fantastic and I started buying the magazine, mainly because of the fiction that appeared in every issue.  My current complaint isn’t that the writers published in Esquire today are bad (although I don’t think that even the famous Steven King or James Lee Burke would crack the Fab 38), it’s that the fiction offerings are so infrequent.  If there’s a short story in every other issue now, it’s a bonus. It can’t be because there aren’t any good writers out there.   

Esquire does promote their fiction on their web site.   They offer stories published in the magazine and others written for Esquire.com.  Their current online feature is the Napkin Fiction project.  Esquire sent cocktail napkins to 250 writers to pen sip-sized stories on said napkins.  Courageously, not all the writers are known literary figures (I can’t believe they missed me), and some of the pieces do have the delicious sting and tingle of a tequila shot.  However, trying to gain appreciation for a writer on a piece of ultra-flash fiction is like picking songs on I-Tunes based on the allotted 30 second snippet.  What if the oohs and ahhs don’t come in until the chorus?   I’m sure that at least one or two of the chosen authors could have developed something worthy of bumping an article on dress shirts and pocket squares.

Which brings us to what is in Esquire these days:  clothing ads, cologne ads, luxury item ads, and self-referential, middle-aged-men-need-this-item features.  And there are plenty of fashion tips.  The former publisher of Ernest Hemingway is now an orgasm article away from becoming Cosmo-for-a-Man.  I understand how the publishing business works.  The ads pay so the content can play.  Still, I find it hard to believe that people really need to see a fashion layout with Bob Dylan impersonators wearing two thousand dollar wool coats, five hundred dollar sweaters, and seven hundred dollar boots.  The editors manage to slip in Dylan quotes among the clothes, apparently in hope of what?  Irony? 

(Richard Russo once said that he wished to remain the kind of guy who mowed his own lawn.  It is a worthy goal.  Should success strike me and I start purchasing four-figure jackets and three-figure shirts, I authorize any of my close friends to beat me about the head with a two-figure Louisville Slugger.   Yet, my subscription remains active.)

In lieu of short fiction, the highlight of the present-day Esquire is the “What I’ve Learned” series.  An Esquire writer interviews a notable person, asking them “What do you know?” and boils down the answers to a one-page list of clear and lucid declarative sentences.  There is much to be gleaned there, especially in the January 2008 issue which celebrates the tenth anniversary of the feature. 

Along with six new interviews, Esquire includes segments from the most notable of the past.  For the current issue, Eric Clapton reveals, “One of the most beneficial things I’ve ever learned is how to keep my mouth shut.”  Michael J. Fox shows insight thought impossible from someone who once portrayed Alex Keaton (Unfortunately, Fox does not address his anti-Elvisness).  The back catalog reveals wisdom from among others, Ted Williams, Muhammad Ali, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Branson, Larry Flynt, and Julia Child.  Evil Knievel states:  “Anybody can jump a motorcycle.  The trouble begins when you try to land it.”  Simple and sharp. 

What makes the feature stand out in the current Esquire is that the writer stays the hell out of the way.  In the usual Esquire profile, a reader invariably learns that the interviewer is fat, goateed, a smoker, a drinker, awed but then un-awed, and ultimately perceived as cool by the subject.  With this tiresome perspective removed, the subject’s thoughts are actually shared with the reader.  The tenth anniversary celebration of “What I’ve Learned” makes January 2008 a very worthwhile issue.  Naturally, it is also one without a short story. 

While a fiction hyperlink is given one of five spots on the Esquire.com header, the genre is often ignored when the magazine comes to print.  By restoring short fiction to every issue, the editors would make it so much easier to flip through the glossy pages of tousle-haired male models.  One would think that Esquire’s heritage demands it.