vermin vermin everywhere

Got back from New York late last night. There are several things I want to record in this blog but I am TIRED and busy and depressed over my sick little terrier (he’s coming home from the vet today, finally, but his prognosis is “very poor”) so it won’t all happen today.

Last weekend I went to Vermin on the Mount (held in a funky little bar called The Mountain in the Chinatown corner of Los Angeles), which I thoroughly enjoyed, and which I intended to write about in this journal until it occurred to me that I could just link here instead (I mean, photos and everything). Also, a recent edition of The Elegant Variation (TEV), the literary blog which has become almost as necessary to my morning routine as my half-dozen cups of coffee, links to a panel discussion with directors of reading series including the Head Vermin himself, Jim Ruland.

Speaking of Vermin and TEV, while at the former I had a quick conversation with the voice behind the latter (Mark Sarvas) about Kathryn Harrison. Over the course of the time I’ve been reading TEV, Mark has dissed a couple of writers I quite like (and different strokes for different folks, and all that), but this was the first time I’d felt compelled to leave a comment on his blog basically saying, You know what? Harrison *doesn’t* suck! She really doesn’t! (These might not have been my exact words). I would have left it at that, except talking to Mark on Saturday night and finishing Harrison’s new book ENVY over the next few days made me curious about my own reaction to her — especially since, like Mark (who hasn’t read her novels), I was also not a fan of THE KISS, which was the first thing of hers I ever read (although I suspect if I went back and read it now, I’d have a different experience of it).

And because I tend to be somewhat obsessive-compulsive about such matters, not only did I have to reflect on my reaction to Harrison’s novels but email Mark about it, musing that Harrison’s female characters “tend to be intelligent, reserved and oddly amoral*, yet with a kind of integrity and vulnerability, even when they’re destructive or self-destructive — that you don’t often find (or at least I haven’t) in fiction by either gender. I’m intrigued by that.” I don’t know just how accurate those statements actually are, but by making them I felt like I caught some glimmer of insight into my own fiction-writing, or what I aspire to do in my fiction-writing, or….I don’t know. Something.

*I’m not quite sure what I mean by this…not necessarily in the sociopathic sense (or at least, not always)…Harrison’s stories always feel like they’re teetering on the brink of some deep psychological disaster, which makes for unusually compelling literary reading.

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