story time: the king’s ankus

These are the Four that are never content, that have never been filled since the Dews began — Jacala’s mouth, and the glut of the Kite, and the hands of the Ape, and the Eyes of Man.

— Jungle Saying.                                      


Kaa, the big Rock Python, had changed his skin for perhaps the two-hundredth time since his birth; and Mowgli, who never forgot that he owed his life to Kaa for a night’s work at Cold Lairs, which you may perhaps remember, went to congratulate him. Skin-changing always makes a snake moody and depressed till the new skin begins to shine and look beautiful.

(click here to continue…)

The tale of The King’s Angkus is one of my all time favorite stories by one of my heroes, the great Rudyard Kipling, and clear inspiration behind many of my own short stories.

you must embrace failure

I really enjoy Harold Hollingsworth’s blog. He is a painter and a very good friend of a very good friend. I often feel like I’ve seen the world from a different angle after reading one of his posts. This one from a couple of weeks ago is one of my favorites.

” ‘A characteristic of artistic education is for people to tell you that you’re a genius. […] So everybody gets this idea, if you go to art school, that you’re really a genius. Sadly, it isn’t true. Genius occurs very rarely. So the real embarrassing issue about failure is your own acknowledgement that you’re not a genius, that you’re not as good as you thought you were. […] There’s only one solution: You must embrace failure. You must admit what is. You must find out what you’re capable of doing, and what you’re not capable of doing. That is the only way to deal with the issue of success and failure because otherwise you simply would never subject yourself to the possibility that you’re not as good as you want to be, hope to be, or as others think you are.’

-Milton Glaser”


how boring!

” ‘And did their happiness last?’ I asked.

‘Yes, she cofessed that from the first day she saw Pechorin, he often visited her dreams and that never has a man made such an impression on her. Yes, they were happy!’

‘How boring!’ I exclaimed without meaning to. I had really been expecting a tragic outcome, and suddenly my hopes were unexpectedly dashed!”

A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov

And that, my friends, is why I heart Russian lit.

so that’s how we live our lives

“No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us – that’s snatched right out of our hands – even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence.”

-From The Sputnik Sweetheart, by Haruki Murakami

It’s not his best book, but Murakami made some of his best observations in this one. It resonated. It’s a good read for savoring the bittersweetness of love lost.

i cannot over-emphasize enough the insignificance of our opinion

“Dear Mr. Gold:

Thank you very much for the recent submission of your poetry chapbook, Notes on an Orange Burial. While we appreciate the effort that went into your work, we will not be able to accept it for publication at this time. Please do not be overly discouraged by this news, as we are a rather unimportant publishing company that more often than not is unable to distinguish between an inspired piece of verse and bar-room limerick featuring scatlogical leitmotifs. I cannot over-emphasize enough the insignificance of our opinion, and hope that you realize how talented you truly are.

We at BlackStone recommend that you do not rip up this rejection letter in anger. We feel it would be much wiser for you to wait until you are deservedly offered the post of U.S. Poet Laureate some day in the not too distant future, and then to urinate directly on this letter in front of close friends and family at your acceptance celebration.

Once again, thank you for thinking of BlackStone Publishers. And remember, our entire editorial staff is inbred.


Robert Gluck

Senior Editor

The above letter, oddly enough, contains not the words written by its sender, Robert gluck, but rather the words interpreted by its receiver, Jona Gold. In fact, I now ask that you kindly forget Mr. Gluck entirely, for neither his name nor even his shadow appear again in this book. Mr. Gold, on the other hand, is just arriving.”

-Greg Levin, Notes on an Orange Burial

I have thought of this opening passage from an book many times over the last year while the bone dry rejection letters have been rolling in. I wish agents did have a sense of humor.

I’m so excited to see that Notes on an Orange Burial has been picked up by a publisher and will be available on US shelves on October 1, 2011. Way to go, Greg!

get the tone right and you have a true story on your hands

When you listen to somebody’s story and then try to reproduce it in writing, the tone’s the main thing. Get the tone right and you have a true story on your hands. Maybe some of the facts aren’t quite correct, but that doesn’t matter – it actually might elevate the truth factor of the story. Turn this around, and you could say there’re stories that are factually accurate yet aren’t true at all.

-Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman