Friday, August 20, 2004


Suzanne Church's review of "Iron Ankles," from Tangent Online:

"In "Iron Ankles", David J. Schwartz makes an ambitious attempt to bring to life a childhood fear of the Anklus seizerus or ankle biting monster. The story follows Wilma, a woman so fearful of these lurking creatures that she opts to have iron bands welded to her ankles. She and her friend Dorothy backpack through Europe, experiment with relationships, and marry. But love is elusive for Wilma. She never fully commits to anyone, always distracted, always consumed by her fear of the ankle biters. As the story progresses, so does her dread, and eventually she must decide between facing her demons and being ever controlled by their power.

"While Schwartz proposed some poignant rules about love, I found the story fell short of the mark. I wanted to be scared by his creatures, but his imagery only skimmed the horror surface. I also found some of the technical details either nudged me out of the story, or in one case, threw me off a cliff. Perhaps the author tried too hard to invoke a more literary sense of imagery and in the process fell short of the expectations of the genre."

Ng. All I will say is this: a reviewer should not make assumptions about a story before or while reading it. Let it be what it is.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Jets and Clouds

M. and I went to Ravinia last night to see John Prine. Despite the forecast (thunderstorms all night!) it only rained for a bit at the beginning and ends of the show. We had wine and cheese and sausage and strawberries and something called a Chocolate Bomb. Ravinia is beautiful, at least at night--many of the trees are lit from inside, creating an other-worldly effect, and the structures are either unobtrusive or have a classic River City/Music Man look about them. John Prine was great: he did "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore," "Donald and Lydia," "Angel from Montgomery," "Sam Stone," "Lake Marie," "Dear Abbey," "That's The Way That The World Goes 'Round," "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness," "The Sins of Memphisto," "Grandpa Was a Carpenter," some new stuff and some others I forget. He was funny and relaxed and probably had a couple before he went on, I'm guessing. There are worse things than lying on a blanket, listening to good music, watching the lights from jets overhead disappear into the clouds.

Speaking of jets, this weekend is apparently the Air and Water Show here in Chicago, and hence all day fighter jets were blasting overhead practicing. At first I didn't know what the hell was going on and feared the worst--that some kind of an attack had either happened or was imminent, and they were flying patrols again. Funny how that didn't make me feel safe. I think I'll pass on the show this weekend--my nerves are frayed enough.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Foreigners, and Other Familiar Faces by Mark Rich

This is Number 5 in the Small Beer Press Chapbook Series (collect 'em all!), and it's a doozy. Mark Rich is one of those writers -- you know (maybe? I hope) how you meet some writers and talk to them and you think, "That's exactly right. I see where those stories are coming from." Their speaking voices, the rhythm of their speech, is similar to the rhythm of their writing, and you feel like you can see where they are coming from.

Mark Rich is not one of those writers. He's fairly quiet, for one, so there aren't a lot of hints of the depths of wonderful weirdness going on in his head. He bears a great responsibility, this man; he has all these secrets, these truths and lies entangled, inside his brain. If he were to describe them to you unfiltered, you would be left a gibbering wreck, a broken shell of a thing which clings to the brackish undersides of the Elder Gods. It is Rich's responsibility to put these truths into a form which those of us not gifted with his insight can process.

(That's my theory, anyway.)

These are beautiful stories, ranging from naked meditations on the mundane (e.g. "Wrong Door") to cautionary tales of seductive and savage nature ("Kiss of the Wood Woman," "Take Me") to biosampling ("On the Collection of Humans") to savage socio-political satire gentled by absurdity ("Ashes of Penis Thrown to Sea"). Themes of dislocation and disconnection recur throughout, and the natural world is pervasive, not as panacea (though it comforts, at times) but as it is: amoral, unapologetic, undeniable. There's a head-down, ignore-the-warnings ballsiness about Rich's writing as he ignores rules and conventions and does only what the story demands, dammit. You don't see that often.

So go now. Read Mark Rich. Remember: he's doing it for you.

The Naked Face

After about a week of deliberation, I have shaved off the beard. (Goatee, Fu Manchu, whatever -- I've heard it referred to as all of the above.) My face, after three years, has undergone freaky transformations. My chin, which I had always felt was perfectly adequate, even stubborn at times, now appears weak and uncertain. My upper lip has become an uncomfortably wide expanse of not-entirely-smooth skin, with stubble showing through like grounds through a filter. And the features around these alien things have become chubby and soft. Clearly, someone snuck into my apartment one night, removed my beard and stole my face, leaving this weirdly blank mask in its place. They then reattached the beard and snuck off to tarnish my reputation by flipping the bird at honking motorists, cutting in line at the supermarket and drinking too much and making loud, inappropriate comments. If you should see that face, call the cops. It looks kind of like my face when I had the beard, only without the beard. I've also been told that it looks a bit like Barth's, only probably not so much now, since the beard is gone. Anyway, I need it back.

This face just won't do.

P.S. Have you read "Iron Ankles" yet? Have you told your friends?

Monday, August 16, 2004

Iron Ankles

Just a quick one to let y'all know that my story "Iron Ankles" is live at Strange Horizons. Enjoy!