I Can Only Confirm That I Wrote This Story (But Not Which Parts Are True)

Most of you who follow this blog probably don’t know that wine and food journalism is only part of my overall writing repertoire. Fiction, as well, is a large part of my life, and it’s actually because of my desire to learn fiction writing that I fell into this whole wine thing: I was writing a novel, and taking a really engrossing workshop called the Writers Institute, at the City University of New York. Having hostessed and served in restaurants throughout high school and college, I figured that working in a restaurant would be the logical way to support these unprofitable habits. Just a few tastes of the vin nature at Reynard, and as soon as the manuscript was finished I cast it aside–the proverbial first novel in the drawer; I’m glad I wrote the whole book but I don’t think anyone needs to read it–and I promptly delved into wine study.

But today, I am really happy to share a published short story, that I wrote back when I was studying fiction at the Writers Institute, on the Daily Beast. I hope you’ll find a moment to sit back with a glass of wine (or two? It’s a fairly long piece) and read it–link here. And if any of you out there are fiction writers, I’d love to hear what literary publications you’re into at the moment. I might start polishing up some more of these old workshop stories to send out!

Only one request . . . if you do read my story, “Dancer,” which takes place in Costa Rica, please don’t try to get me to divulge what parts of it are true. I’m sure it’s tempting, but don’t even bother; I am a seasoned writer and I know when to zip my lips, only offering the phrase, “I can neither confirm nor deny.” (OK, I can confirm that I’ve been to Costa Rica. But that’s all! No more concessions.)

Written from a quiet hillside in Italy, where I’m on the Franciacorta trail at the moment. Stay tuned.

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Just Another Excuse To Write About Paris

au-passage-paris-2016I am desperately in love with the city of Paris. If I could do really anything in my life, I would move there to write a novel, and I don’t care at all if that sounds like a cliché. To substantiate it a bit, I do think that France right now is a really interesting place, but the reasons for that aren’t exactly positive: the country as a whole is in a difficult moment, with extremely heightened racial tensions and the constant threat of terrorism on the heels of severe attacks. I have wanted to live in Paris ever since I was 20, and while the romance of the city may have been part of that desire and still is, along with its incredible culinary scene, the complicated nature of that country appeals to the writer in me. And maybe I’m just a nostalgic sap, like everybody else who read A Movable Feast after high school and dreamt of being a poor writer in Paris, ideally minus the poor part.

Well, I’m not sure how I got onto such a serious note, because the point of this blog post was to share my latest Vogue.com article, on the vibrant nighttime scene at Paris’ little neo-bistros. These restaurants are helmed by young and talented chefs and sommeliers, and they have incredible atmosphere. Each time I go to Paris, I manage to try one or two new places, and I fall more and more in love with the city’s dining culture.

Read the article here. And thank you for putting up with my eternal bohemian disposition (it drove my mother crazy for eighteen years). But it persists: the other day, I pulled out the novel I finished in 2014 while I was waiting tables at Reynard–the job that led me to fall in love with wine–and I found myself wondering when I would be ready for my second attempt. And what the setting would be, for me to write it.

Dawn

78_522520911756_2891_nThe streets of San Telmo are dirty, littered with evening remnants – cigarette butts, beer bottles, a crumpled pair of red panties – and you step carefully, weaving amogst the landmine of debris, listening to your heels clicking on the cobblestones. You wish you had a Valium, a gun, a trench coat full of fake Rolexes – anything to make you in this moment less mundane and desperately normal than you are. The smell of urine hangs in the air. You walk by a homeless man curled up, snoring on the sidewalk. You see no taxis. You walk.

Earlier you refused to dance, sulking in a corner, sipping wine, because you knew you could not be led – could not pretend to enjoy a strange man’s hand around your waist, pressing into you telling you to step or move your hips, his eyes softening in approval when you cede to his guidance. You watched your friends dancing and smiling and laughing, and silently critiqued them and their bodies and everything they were doing. Marta’s hips have widened at least five inches either way, and Becky has developed adult acne, since college. Jess looks fantastic and her music career has taken off, to all of your surprise, but you reminded yourself as she leaned backward, lifting one leg dramatically as her dance partner supported her with strong arms, that Jess and her husband fight constantly and are both having affairs that the other knows about. Read more

“City,” a short story

Check out my short story “City” in the online Construction magazine, a NYC-based publication founded by graduates of the City College Fiction MFA. Thanks for reading.

“‘Do you want to go to some amazing galleries?’ she asked me. I said yes. I had to go to the bathroom, first, because of the beer. In the bathroom I looked in the mirror and I had literally the hugest pimple you can possibly imagine right in the middle of my forehead. I was like, shit, this is so embarrassing, and so I started trying to pop it even though I know you’re not supposed to do that, especially when your skin is dirty, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t believe that Talia was looking at me that whole time with that pimple on my face. Suddenly the door opened and Talia came in. I tried to pretend I wasn’t doing anything and grabbed a paper towel and put it on my forehead and said something about sweat. She went and stood by the window and lit a cigarette.”

browser poem

CM Capture 4somebody once told me that when she gets distracted by the Internet, she just makes a poem out of the open tabs on her browser.

 

1)   gmail – here I just e-mailed my boss

2)   wethinkalone.us – here I signed up to receive a weekly e-mail from some writers including Sheila Heti, whose novel I’ve just read

3)   Vamoose Bus – here I am investigating the purchase of a bus ticket to Virginia, where my family lives, for Thanksgiving

4)   WebBeams – this is a portal used to get online at a coffee shop; today I used it at Bedford Hill, one of my staple writing spots, and I reflected that it’s a nice change to see fewer people on computers (because Bedford Hill only implemented the WebBeams policy recently; I’ve noticed other Brooklyn coffee shops doing this lately!)

5)   http://www.margauxwilliamson.com/ – a painter portrayed in Sheila Heti’s novel as the narrator’s (Sheila Heti’s) best friend. Much has been written about Heti’s novel so I’m late the literary party as usual, but God that woman has transformed literature in this hemisphere forever, I am sure of it. A woman writing about being a woman, and how fucking confusing that is (both the writing about being one, and the being one). A new work of literary fiction that takes place outside of New York, for a very nice change (ahem, Mr. Shteyngart/Mr. Lipsyte/Ms. Egan/Mr. Auster, etc etc etc). And the form—the e-mails! Each snippet of meaning, separated out and numbered! The lowercase letters! Each chapter title: “Margaux Goes To . . .” As if it were a children’s book, so cute, this woman’s story about the utter pain of living, of being a postmodernist creature divorced from most of nature, enslaved by economics, addicted to screens and substances. This is vital, crucial! Anyway, I think Margaux is a beautiful name (imagine having a name that ends with “X!” Wouldn’t you feel so special?) and I like her paintings

6)   A map of the New Amsterdam Market, where I went this afternoon for some special events, including an array of goods delivered by a wind-powered barge that sailed from Vermont. Don’t worry, all the magazines are writing about it already. After the event, I tried to shop at the market, but everything was too expensive. I finally bought a delicatta squash for two bucks (which I knew it would cost, even before it was weighed) and a ham/cheese/béchamel hot pocket thingy

7)   The Groupon page for exercise classes – I have too much energy, and I need to dance more often

I Like Dave Eggers So Much and Want to Know Him Better

Mae retrieved the certificate from her bag, and Jon’s eyes lit up. “You brought it!” He clapped quickly, silently, and revealed a mouth of tiny teeth. “No one remembers the first time. You’re my new favorite.”

“That’s very understandable. To spend time with your parents, believe me, I think that is very, very cool. I just want to emphasize the community aspect of this job. We see this workplace as a community, and every person who works here is part of that community. To that end, I wonder if you’d be willing to stay a few extra minutes, to talk to Josiah and Denise. I think you remember them from your orientation? They’d love to just extend the conversation we’re having and go a bit deeper. Does that sound good?”

CM Capture 2

The dialogue–it’s too perfect! It’s what makes Dave Eggers’ new novel so powerful. It depicts a world perhaps just a few steps away from Schteyngart’s dystopian Super Sad True Love Story, one drowning in technological communication. I laughed constantly while reading this excerpt, and occasionally slapped my forehead, muttering to myself, “Too true.” I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book, soon. Plus, the cover art is really lovely.