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Dearborn Street Sketch

Looking for something else entirely, I went down the rabbit hole of my external hard drive, which had been a labyrinthine dumping ground of folders and files and enough potential writing and design projects to keep me busy for years if I had the time to organize it all into something manageable and accessible.

While fishing around, I came across this Photoshop sketch that I’d worked up off a photo or Google maps shot three or four years ago in a similar onslaught of nostalgia.

I’d wanted to put together maybe a dozen or so sketches like this to breakup a story I was trying to figure out. I had a short story that I was working off of and wanted to make it into something else, something longer.

I had come up with this idea after reading Edouard Levé’s novel, “Suicide”. It was his last book, as shortly after turning in the completed manuscript to his editor, Levé took his own life. The novel is interesting as it’s narrated to the main character, essentially turning the reader into the victim of the title suicide. It’s haunting and puzzling, infectious and entirely successful in calling into question what it means to exist.

I didn’t suddenly want to write every book I had in my head in this style forever now, but there are two ideas that have followed me around for several years that lend themselves to the style. Oddly enough, both deal with death, just as Levé’s work did, although in my case, one is a violent death at another’s hand, and the other is a tragic accidental one.

I wonder what about this writing style, this voice, that lends itself to tragic subject material? The ability to so easily accuse and question within the unfolding of the narrative? The way in which it immediately makes the reader a character, and can borrow their own prejudices and experiences, their fears and doubts, without needing to put those words on the page? Both ideas are a collection of photographs and written scenes, but are barely more then bones and bullet points, and a few odd fragments. I’m not sure how the stories will work out yet, or whether they will at all. For now, at least for this story, this is all I have.

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Village Green Bookstore

Village Green on Monroe Ave from Democrat and ChronicleVillage Green Bookstore opened in 1972 in a 600-square-foot basement store at 766 Monroe Avenue in Rochester, New York, before its reputation among the community’s book lovers spread and it expanded into the larger storefront upstairs.

 The store had a coffee bar before they became common in bookstores and despite starting out by selling only the local Sunday edition, would offer more than 100 newspapers and 2,400 magazines. Eventually, while books were still a staple of the business, they became lost behind their rapidly expanding merchandise line.

By 1992, Village Green had added as many as eight new stores throughout Central and Western New York, including locations at 1089 Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst and 765 Elmwood Avenue in the Elmwood Village.  But the growth for the company had become troublesome.  Hoping to solve their financial problems, the chain continued to expand locations and product offerings. In doing so, as tends to happen when a company forces growth in order to dominate the market, Village Green forgot their purpose and mission.  The company had forgotten what one of the founders, John Borek, had said not long after opening; their intention was to cater to “people who were hungry for books.”  Instead, they were selling ice cream and inflatable bagels.

Within a few years they had added stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but with a series of catastrophic financial decisions that involved lawsuits, criminal charges and SEC investigations, the company began closing “underperforming” stores, including a third location in Western New York, in the McKinley Plaza in Blasdell. The closures and merchandise sell offs could not keep the company afloat however and in 1998 they had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The following year, the flagship store on Monroe closed it doors for good, eventually becoming a Pizza Hut.

All Booked Up at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library

img_1913Library?  Podcast?  Sold.

I just finished listening to the first episode of “All Booked Up” on SoundCloud, a new(ish) podcast put out by librarians Michelle and Jacob with the Buffalo and Erie County Library.

I put it on while I was shoveling the other day (which I don’t necessarily recommend as I started laughing a few times and had to stop) and finished it later while folding laundry (a much safer activity while listening to this), because that’s just the jack of all trades that I am.

I loved all of its geeky rambling about “The Disaster Artist”, “Dunkirk” and “The Big Lebowski” and everything the Library has to offer to take you into those stories and beyond.

I was a little scared when Michelle started professing her genuine love and obsession for “The Room” but then I remember I own multiple copies of “Manos: The Hands of Fate”, a movie made by a fertilizer salesman just to prove he could and whose title literally is “Hands: The Hands of Fate”. What does that even mean? Why does it seem like two movies spliced together? Seriously, what is happening with Torgo? Why am I watching it again?

Yeah, so I guess who am I to judge, right?

The podcast’s hosts are true librarians, who can work multiple recommendations into a conversation without it being overwhelming, and their suggestions are informed by their own reading history and interests. They’re not just throwing suggestions at you or reciting a bestsellers’ list, but recommending books and movies they have available through the library based on the conversation they’re having.  The episode notes include a list of all the books and movies they talked about as well as links to those titles on the library’s website.  So if something sounds really interesting, you can immediately click over and request it from your local branch.

I’m looking forward to catching up and listening to the rest of the episodes they have up, and checking out some of their recommendations. It’s available now on SoundCloud and iTunes.

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