Fast Machine by Elizabeth Ellen is one of those rare collections – one that I cannot stop reading. Normally I struggle to find the energy for short stories, but each of these connects, refracts or sparks the rest, and I felt like I was in a workshop for what this form can do.
i’m always impressed by the way certain writers circle around the same ideas and themes and even words/phrases. repeating character names and repeating parts of scenes and so on. i think bolano does this a lot. and elizabeth ellen does this in these short…
Also, if you got a new iPhone/iPad/iPad mini, check out the LitRagger app! You can read a preview of Patrick Somerville's novella, “The Legend of Troy Cartwright,” from Hobart 14, and a bunch of other lit journal samples, all for free, and buy full issues for cheap!
“I spend seven or eight hours… each time I try to write. Most of that time is spent stalling, which means that for every seven or eight hours I spend pretending to write - sitting in the writing position, looking at a screen - I get, on average, one hour of actual work done. It’s a terrible, unconscionable ratio. This kind of life is at odds with the romantic notions I once had, and most people have, of the writing life. We imagine more movement, somehow. We imagine it on horseback. Camelback? We imagine convertibles, windswept cliffs, lighthouses. We don’t imagine - or I didn’t imagine - quite so much sitting. I know it makes me sound pretty naive, that I would expect to be writing while, say, skiing. But still. The utterly sedentary nature of this task gets to me every day.”—
Never really finish saying your word / never finish your syllable.
Melbourne: Mel-bun or Mel-ben (without over emphasizing the bun/ben or the l in Mel) not Mel-born (We laugh at you if you say Mel-born) Sydney: Sid-knee but say it with a bit of a twang. Don’t stress the D. Perth: Pur-th. Simple. Hobart: Hoe - bart. Don’t stress the T though. Strangely enough, some tourists struggle with this one. It does not sound like a variation of Hobbit like Hoe-bit. Yes, I’ve heard Hoe-bit. Canberra: Can-bra. Can-bera makes you sound funny. Brisbane: Much like Melbourne, Briz-bun or Briz-ben (once again without over emphasizing the bun/ben or the z in Briz). BRIZ-BAYN IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Darwin: Dar-wun. None of this Dar-win shit. Don’t stress the W. Adelaide: Ada-laid, Ad-laid or Ad-el-laid is actually acceptable so long as you don’t stress the E.
Say everything lazily and like you don’t care. Don’t be proper. You’ll be right. Because if you fully pronounce a letter - you sound stupid.
On Hobart: “Say everything lazily and like you don’t care.”
Developing jokes as glacially as he does, Seinfeld says, allows for breakthroughs he wouldn’t reach otherwise. He gave me an example. “I had a joke: ‘Marriage is a bit of a chess game, except the board is made of flowing water and the pieces are made of smoke,’ ” he said. “This is a good joke, I love it, I’ve spent years on it. There’s a little hitch: ‘The board is made of flowing water.’ I’d always lose the audience there. Flowing water? What does he mean? And repeating ‘made of’ was hurting things. So how can I say ‘the board is made of flowing water’ without saying ‘made of’? A very small problem, but I could hear the confusion. A laugh to me is not a laugh. I see it, like at Caltech when they look at the tectonic plates. If I’m in the dark up there and I can just listen, I know exactly what’s going on. I know exactly when their attention has moved off me a little.
“So,” he continued, “I was obsessed with figuring that out. The way I figure it out is I try different things, night after night, and I’ll stumble into it at some point, or not. If I love the joke, I’ll wait. If it takes me three years, I’ll wait.” Finally, in late August, during a performance, the cricket cage snapped into place. “The breakthrough was doing this”— Seinfeld traced a square in the air with his fingers, drawing the board. “Now I can just say, ‘The board is flowing water,’ and do this, and they get it. A board that was made of flowing water was too much data. Here, I’m doing some of the work for you. So now I’m starting to get applause on it, after years of work. They don’t think about it. They just laugh.”
Albert Brooks So after the bit I sit down at the panel, and Jack Benny was on. There was always that last two minutes where Johnny was asking people, “Thank you for coming—what do you have coming up?” And during the last commercial Jack Benny leaned over to Johnny Carson and said, “When we get back, ask me where I’m going to be, will you?” So they came back. Johnny said, “I want to thank Albert. Jack, where are you going to be performing?” And Jack Benny said, “Never mind about me—this is the funniest kid I’ve ever seen!”
Albert Brooks And it was this profound thing. Like, Oh, that’s how you lead your life. Be generous and you can be the best person who ever lived.