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  #1  
Unread 04-14-2019, 04:39 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default Regarding What You Do

Regarding What You Do

Alfred* has nothing on the heaving brew
of angst you are. Walloped internally,
you founder, and your mind goes melancholic:

What will you do with this absurdity,
this livelihood that won’t stop killing you?
It’s like, God damn, for all your special talents,
you’ve blown it: an aspiring alcoholic,
you dote on guns and violence; you’re a jerk;
you hate yourself.
you hate yourself. Regarding what you do,
there is, of course, no way of “finding balance.”
Your job refuses to be nine-to-five.
Trouble will try to catch you sleeping; work
will spill over and drown your child and wife.
You should be not just keeping them alive
but giving them a safe, suburban life.

Your saner voices keep repeating, Stop
the madness. Go and be a rent-a-cop
somewhere, doze through your shifts and come home chubby
for dinner. O go be the perfect hubby,
set out each morning with a goodbye kiss
and spend your weekends lounging in the yard.


Alright, then: you’ll reject the interference
blocking you from the heights of happiness.
You’ll do this stupid “farewell” job, find out
for sure the cause of Sanger’s disappearance
is really (duh) that fiend Stavros Canard.
Soon as you slay him, you’ll be done for good.
Then bring on marriage; bring on fatherhood.
A private coup d'état will come about!

Risen from your own swirling depths, you shout
into the storm, “Soon, soon, I will be free
to revel in complete normality!”

. . . . .

*Alfred is a hurricane.

. . . . .

S5L8 "A private coup d'état" for "A private paradise" for "What a utopia"

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 04-16-2019 at 08:58 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 04-14-2019, 06:19 PM
Daniel Recktenwald's Avatar
Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
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Hey, Aaron.

Yes, man, yes.

I'll have to spend more time with this section before there's any chance of my making specific, useful observations. I have to get over my first three or four waves of enjoyment. I'll be back in this thread if anything strikes me as not up to Poochigian standards. (Being Aaron Poochigian does not make Aaron Poochigian any easier an act to follow, you poor bastard. . . . May you do that to yourself many times to come. )

Right now, I have just a strong note of affirmation on the thematic level. I don't recall internal monologue of quite this tone before from You-- and I think it's exactly the right wavelength, man (based on some other discussion and observations). Ya wanna know what I'm hearing here for the first time?

Resonances with Huck Finn. In the first novel, there were at least two moments when You was in deep trouble and his bag of tricks was empty. Once, Li-ling saved his bacon; the other time I can think of off the top of my head, You had the goodwill of an alien-gone-native to thank for not being destroyed. But here, the dilemma is internal and the tricks / trick-shots and ammo You has run out of are his ways of reconciling himself to his own choices.

Now the parameters of his choices and their stakes have both changed, and his choices threaten to change him, too. The vulnerability is so right on the money, and at the same time, the fairly callow terms in which You frames his choices remain funny as hell: ergo, Huckish.

Next week, I'll be sharing something with this quote, but it zooms back to the forefront of my mind now, regarding your protag.
Tragedy is trying to live well.
(Martha Nussbaum)

When "living well" includes deep, personal commitments to others, everything ceases to be simple.

That is what I hear You trying to think his way through to, and with more of those same pieces on the board and choices to balance that your readers face. This layer affirms and grounds and deepens all of what I've seen of the sequel so far.

Such a pleasure.

Warm regards and safe journey,
Daniel
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  #3  
Unread 04-14-2019, 07:42 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Thank you, Daniel.

This section is still very fresh. I added it between "What Must Be" and "Kaboom!" in the manuscript. The second half of the novel had been primarily external, so I felt I should use an internal monologue to develop his ("your") reluctance about his espionage career and his feelings about fatherhood. What he expresses here feels like the natural next step.

Best,

Aaron
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Unread 04-15-2019, 08:52 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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I like the introspective work-life balance debate. A few thoughts:

1) I would prefer a more intuitive meter in L1. After the trochaic substitution in the first foot, promoting "on" to a stress in the third feels unnatural to me. I'm inclined to repeat the false dactyl: "AL-fred has NOTH-ing on...", but then I hit "the" and I hear my metrical GPS's annoyingly anodyne voice saying "Recalculating..."

2) The fact that the protagonist can only think of two career options--the one he's got, and being a rent-a-cop--displays such a humorous lack of imagination (especially for someone whose current job has presumably required him to adopt cover identities on a regular basis) that I think he should make fun of himself for it.

Mr. Either/Or, indeed! Binary thinking.

3) I'm also amused by the complete absence of any thought for what his wife might want their future life together to be like. No, I'm not being the PC police or scolding him for being self-centered--I'm just thinking that Li-ling doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would want a tepidly suburban lifestyle. Why does the narrator, who is clearly younger than a Baby Boomer, seem to equate marriage with mid-20th-century American suburbia? And to assume, unquestioningly, that despite her own youth and different cultural background, Li-ling does, too? I am gleefully imagining a later scene in which she sets him straight about that. I strongly suspect that the You of the poem only knows this version of the American Dream (specifically, of small-scale domestic tranquility based on home-and-lawn-ownership) from Hollywood portrayals. It might be intriguing to have him start to reflect on his own father (or father figures), and then stop himself so that his past remains mysterious...thus inviting the reader to speculate on how the protagonist ended up in this line of work in the first place. He seems to want a different upbringing for his own kid than he had himself, but he has difficulty imagining what anything else might look like, presumably because this rootless life of chaos and violence is all he's ever known.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 04-15-2019 at 09:19 AM.
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  #5  
Unread 04-15-2019, 10:16 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Julie, thank you for commenting. I will see what I can do about the first line. There are different camps on the metrical clarity of first lines. Some like to have something ambiguous upfront and then let the poem settle into its meter; others want a very clear model of the poem's meter upfront to establish the paradigm. I don't know how else I could express what the first line expresses.

Thank for appreciating the interiority here. I worked with an editor Alexandra Shelley (who worked on the novel "The Help"). She has gotten me to nuance and develop characters in this book and make explicit, through dialogue, the tension between Li-ling and "You." The book is better for it.

Li-ling has her great job at the Met Museum. I couldn't see her giving that up, but she could commute from the NYC burbs. It is amazing how a child can alter life-plans (I gather).
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Unread 04-15-2019, 05:57 PM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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I am very pleased with how this passage gives Mr. E/O some psychological depth. Soliloquizing isn't the only way, but it gets down to business quickly. I know you're in touch with epic tradition. How few epic heroes have the depth of Achilles! I just read Cowley's truncated poem on the Civil War--not a protagonist in sight. I ask, how was Jerusalem Liberated so popular for centuries with such two-dimensional characters? The readership of the Faerie Queene is certainly narrow among the great narrative poems. Or compare Ulysses with Finnegans Wake. There are arguments for avoiding or deconstructing the individual character and/or consciousness (Pynchon), but they don't often contribute to a lasting love of the work. I look forward to how this develops.
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Unread 04-15-2019, 09:38 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Aaron,

A tiny nit: you've got "O go" where I think you want "Or go." Otherwise, let me record the usual pleasure in your latest installment.
Bill, Tasso's Italian is just lovely, at least to my ear. It's the music that does it. The Faerie Queen OTOH, as you intimate, was a real slog for me from start to finish, and I had trouble finding aspects to redeem it.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 04-15-2019, 10:13 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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John, thank you. I do intend "O go be" but that doesn't mean it's right. In that stanza "you" imagine becoming a "perfect hubby" who gets a nine-to-job as a security guard.
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  #9  
Unread 04-16-2019, 02:14 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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OK, sorry Aaron. My editor's mind said typo!

Cheers,
John
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  #10  
Unread 04-16-2019, 08:52 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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No need for "sorry," John.

I decided to let myself go rhetorical there ("O go be. . .") since I already have choir of internal voices chanting.
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