“Learning Mode:” Melbourne Culture Corner (Australia)

I knew it was going up in their second edition, but somehow with the U.S. election and the intransigent presidential impersonator we’ve all been forced to manage for the past four years, I missed the tweets by Steven Pearman and team. However, at some point or another today I felt I could finally look away. Sure enough, I learned that the wonderful new Australian-based literary journal Melbourne Culture Corner posted it’s second edition on November 6, and my small story “Learning Mode” is in there (go to pages 15-16 in this PDF).

I am tickled pink to have a piece published out of Melbourne. I lived there a long while back for a year with my family when I was eleven. I also lived in Brisbane for a year when I was six.

I have no question that my time in Australia influenced how I think, especially about books and stories. I remember realizing that the adult comedy we were watching on TV was as important on a literary level as the books I was reading for school. I figured out back then that stories and language come in so many sizes and forms.

I also managed somehow to get into reading old-school novels about Australia by Nevil Shute and Arthur Upfield. Upfield’s Bony detective stories are still by far the best of that genre. There is something vital in every story ever written about Australia that gives that grand and exotic environment front and center billing — whether you’re reading about Blinky Bill the rascal koala bear or biracial detective Napolean “Bony” Bonaparte in the Outback.

I also became aware of the mystery and power of erections in that pre-teen year in Australia. My mates and I found a dirty magazine hidden in the hollow of a tree that provided quite an ample set of pictorials. I recall they were far more graphic than Playboy (which I’d been perusing back home in the states whenever I could sneak a peek under my parents’ bed). Somehow that Australian offering became my first memorable experience with visual joy. Until then, the only real hardening I’d experienced was on getting up in the morning, a funny reality that most males have to deal with from birth to death.

Thus, “Learning Mode” was partly inspired by every morning chubbie I ever had and the basic wonder of pissing into the sunrise after spending the night in a tent. I also imagined myself young again. So young! I was in love once with a woman who had our whole life planned out for us. I put myself in a learning mode and we made it a fair way around the track until I realized she could have been planning for any guy halfway non-aggressive and well intentioned in bed. She probably claims she loved me to this day. That’s a lie. But “Learning Mode” isn’t about what happened after. It’s simply about understanding the need to learn and pay attention when you’re in your early twenties and possibly in love, regardless of the circumstances.

In other news, I continue to work on drafts of my story called “Animals with Nowhere to Go.” I actually had the thought that it was ready for a couple publications that I have the utmost respect for, and so sent it off in early September after only three drafts. It’s never good to feel excited and overly confident about things you create out of thin air. I have run through two more versions this week and will let it sit for at least a month before taking it up again. The trick for me is to let something move from where I am confident in it to where I have worked so much on it I don’t care if it gets declined or not because I know how great it is.

My New Year’s resolution this year is not to think I’m done with anything until I read it out loud to another person and don’t feel bad part way through. I am working on a novel though as well, and will be most of next year, so I’m not sure how my resolution will apply there.

Finally, I read Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses this fall. Just finished it up late on the evening of November 3 (election night here in the states). What an amazing book and such a freaking experimental work! Most people only read watered down magazine versions of “The Bear.” The original is bizarre and heady and quite difficult going. As is often the case with Faulkner, everyone’s related, there are multiple generational conflicts related to inter-racial marriage, and clear intimations of incest and other tangled, mythical, taboo origins. Characters take it all in, remain silent mostly, resentment is seemingly personal and almost intimate, but it’s also a reason for characters to become nearly insane or to want to go off and be left alone for the rest of their life — except every now and then.

Now I’m reading Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. It’s weirdly difficult, to be honest. Somehow the world she depicts and the open-hearted ethos of the narrator are almost completely lost to who we’ve become now as an America. It is painful and troubling to allow such life embracing moral honesty into my head — especially in bed at night which is where I do my most personal reading.

Whatever the case, please try to read fiction from small publications. I reference the ones that publish me here sometimes. I know the title of this bloggie-blog of a website (Dog Shit Lit) seems antithetical to its content, but you do worry me, all of you, who don’t have time to read and think that fiction is somehow made up and fake and not worth the effort. Very soon there will be no truth left on earth except what you find in novels, short stories, plays, and poetry. If you can’t tie yourself to that stuff, you are going to float away and eventually freeze or starve to death strapped to 3-D viewers and whatever Stim-Gamulator they come up with next.

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