A Playlist for Your Creepster Writing Sessions

California etc 198

Hi there! Want to be more like me? OF COURSE YOU DO. Why? Um, because I have $16 in my bank account. This makes me bohemian and spontaneous, right? And prone to kleptomania.

I have decided to bequeath upon you a FREE GIFT. It is not only free for you to receive, it was free for me to give. I would gladly spend thousands of dollars on each of your glowing anonymous faces, but I no longer believe in material things (half out of necessity, half because Joyce Carol Oates told me that Marilyn Monroe was a Christian Scientist). So instead of Chanel, I give you the gift of INTANGIBLE SONG.

When I am writing a particularly creepy scene, I need a particularly creepy playlist. Show me the author who can write to Ke$ha and I will show you a fraud. It takes a certain mindset to write a fight scene in a storage unit, a mother nursing a plastic doll, or The Shining, and sometimes I require outside influences to achieve said mindset. I also have to pump myself up like an athlete if I want to get my creep on, but I rarely do that anymore, because I spend most of my days in a SATC-induced lethargy while lying in a pool of sunlight. I’m not really a February person. Or a small-town person. Or a person. (WENT THERE. #zombieapocolypse)

Get in the zone, Auto Zone, with this chill-inducing playlist that will remind you and your characters of their own looming mortality. It ends with a pair of pump-up semi-cliche spooky jamz to celebrate the fact that the scene is ending (whoo! you done good!). And yes, it opens with some old English opera. Trust me on this one. I wrote one of my first college stories with this song on infinite loop. The story itself was terrible, the writing experience was awesome.


Enemy of the State


I might be famous one day, if not for my “quirky” prose than for bursting into flames while being tasered by the police because I was huffing gasoline. And if I’m not famous for bursting into flames, I’ll definitely be famous by sheer proximity, because I attach myself like a leech to people who seem destined for fame.

(Example: Johnny Depp once gave my flute teacher’s friend his number. 3 degrees from an Oscar nomination, baby!)

When that day comes, I am terrified of one thing and one thing only. No, not the compromising pictures of me crawling out of my USAIN BOLT SUIT. Olympic medalist in the haus! (That’s a little multicultural humor for you there.) Not the top-secret documents in which it is revealed that I am Quentin Tarantino’s ghost writer. Nay, not even the incriminating email in which I FORGET TO USE THE OXFORD COMMA.

(I’ll give you all a chance to reach for the smelling salts after that scandal-bomb.)

No no no no no. I am terrified of my true self being revealed through texts with a certain “Notorious M.E.C.” Who is saving my texts, you ask? Why, Facebook and/or the Devil, of course. This begs the question: are they one and the same? I’m not sure, but I’m positive that everything we do is being recorded for an evil, relentless, unsympathetic posterity.

(This attitude, my friends, is called a “conspiracy theory.” And it’s okay to have them. Everybody does.)

My text messages reveal me to be an extremely reactive, judgmental, neurotic capslock abuser with the vocabulary of a sailor PhD and the humor of a shining star of comedic genius and the paranoia of a serial killer and also someone who has really long eyelashes. (Notice how I made the serial killer a man. That’s called sexism. Women can be serial killers, too!)

Here’s a sample interaction between toridotgov and M.E.C:


M.E.C.: I have no IDEA why the horror of the world is constantly making us suffer. WE SHOULD BE LAUDED LEFT AND RIGHT.

I mean, that’s cute and hilarious and we’re clearly both in MFA programs given all that alliteration, BUT WE ALSO COME ACROSS AS DELUSIONAL POWER-HUNGRY MANIACS. Though we are delusional power-hungry maniacs, so at least our texts represent our truest selves. It’s good to be honest. It’s good to be real. Just be cool, everyone. Be cool.

image by Beth Hoeckel

“Why Hasn’t Anyone Commented on My New Haircut?” and Other Emotionally-Debilitating Questions I’m Asking Myself Today

“Does gray nail polish make my hands look wrinkly?”

“How soon is too soon for anti-aging cream?”

“Should I text someone so everyone on the train knows I have a life?”

“Why must you quote incessantly from my favorite novel?”

“Does everyone see the humor in capslock?”

“What are the early symptoms of schizophrenia?”

Décolletage cream?!”

“Is that a mole or a blood-sucking tick?”

“Is that man coming over here?”

“Why isn’t that cute guy coming over here?”

“Why hasn’t anyone talked to me in months?”

“Why is this room so white and small and where is the door?”

“Does that broken arm hurt very very much?”

“Are the eyes really the windows to the soul’s darkest secrets?”

“Does this body bag look like an oversized tote?”

“Do they still make Grape-Nut O’s?”

[after reading an eHow article on weeding your garden] “Will I ever write like that?”

Dealing With My Own Affluence

Since honesty is such a valuable commodity in our culture these days, I’ll just come out and admit it: I am burdensomely rich. I am so rich that it hurts to sit at a desk, working this petty 9-5, pretending that I care whether payday falls on a Friday or a Monday this month. Sure, I try to adopt the attitude of the bohemian poor, loudly saying things like, “Damn, I’m sick of chickpeas,” or “Wait—is there a cover??” but beneath the facade, I’m just counting my millions. Over and over. Constantly. I counted to ten million twice today. That’s why I didn’t respond to you when you asked me how I was doing. I couldn’t risk tripping over 45,982 and losing my place. Besides, I can always buy another friend. But I can’t buy another million. Well, I guess I can. Good stocks will do that for you.

It’s so tiresome, this “being richer than all my friends” way of life. They suggest “splurging” on a pizza from Great Lake and it’s all I can do not to choke on the spoonful of caviar that I claim is just homemade chia pudding (I’m “doing the raw thing” right now…AKA I have a personal chef). And since the thought of filling my nostrils with the reek of cheap mozzarella makes me want to hurl, I sigh, “I’m just not sure my budget can stretch that far…” And then we all murmur sympathetically. And I think to myself, “Die, you unwashed proletariat pigs.”

Yes, it’s true. My ancestors would have fed you to the executioner in droves without blinking a manicured eyelash. Unfortunately, all of my ancestors died in Victorian London from extreme arsenic poisoning. Green was the color of prosperity, the color of ballin’. Unfortunately, green was also the color of arsenic.  So I’m practically an orphan. All the Met Gala invitations in the world will never take the place of Great-Great-Uncle Archibald, who gave me a palace when I turned twelve, who told my parents that I was a “stingy little whippersnapper” when I refused to let go of my first billion-dollar bill. I assuaged my teething gums on that bill. Ah, well. I’ll always have my writing. The glory of words. You can’t buy that. Actually, I just finagled a deal with the US government to purchase the words “ostracize” and “moist.” They describe my penthouse so well. But I don’t think you young poets will miss them.

Pizza Toppings to Impress Your Very Best Friends

Chunks of Raw Fish

Tired of writhing in envy as your sophisticated compatriots slurp down eel, octopus, and yellowtail amberjack at the chicest of sushi bars while you nibble on well-cooked sweet potato tempura? Decorate your pizza with large chunks of raw fish. Cast a judgmental look on anyone who expresses nausea, and murmur something about “Western hamburger culture.”

Pages From Your First-Edition Hemingway

Is that first edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls really worth $11,000 if it simply rots on your bookshelf? Paper from the 1930s has the delicate flavor of Depression glass and pairs wonderfully with fresh mozzerella and a good Pinot Grigio. Just before pulling your pizza out of the oven, top with a few pages of Hemingway (check for graphic depictions of Spanish Civil War violence first) and allow to crisp slightly. Serve immediately. You might want to give Bob the piece that says “Look at the ugliness… After a while, when you are as ugly as I am, as ugly as women can be, then, as I say after a while the feeling, the idiotic feeling that you are beautiful, grows slowly in one again. It grows like a cabbage.” He’ll understand. Bob will understand.

Your W-2 Form

Your friends will be in awe of your ability to construct such a delicious pizza from farm-fresh ingredients when they realize you make less than twenty thousand a year.

Dehydrated Earlobes

This topper is a two-hit wonder: not only do earlobes look and taste like delicate Hen of the Woods mushrooms, they do wonders for your artistic credibility. Your dinner guests will immediately recall Van Gogh, giving you a chance to pull out your prized posession from beneath the kitchen sink: the original of Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, Easel and Japanese Print. Unless, of course, the next pizza is topped with…

Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, Easel and Japanese Print by Van Gogh

A delicious, oily, vegan substitute for pepperoni!

Shade-Grown Coffee

Who isn’t obsessed with coffee these days? It’s a cultural phenomenon! If you cry yourself to sleep because your friends toss around confusing terms like “crop rotation” and “Stumptown” and you’re just so tired of their intellectual posturing, SO SO TIRED, WILL YOU EVER SLEEP AGAIN?!, then cash into this red-hot trend by pouring a Siphon of fragrant coffee on top of each friend’s head until they die.

Curating Your Future Legend

When you’re famous, you want your ex-friends to tell the press, “I always knew she had the light of genius glimmering beneath her skin like final couplet of that Neruda poem, “Ode to a Beautiful Nude,” that she loved so well oh and also Neruda wrote that poem for her.” You don’t want your ex-friends to go on record saying, “I dunno, she seemed pretty ordinary to me…” or even worse, “Who?”

If you’re planning to be famous, you need to start curating your future legend NOW. Every second you sit at a coffee shop hoping that genius will strike through something as petty as “art” is another second that you look ordinary, forgettable, and completely sane. Be sure to utilize these incendiary techniques every time you run into a fairly articulate acquaintance who may one day be giving an interview about–who else?–YOU:

  1. Never make eye contact. Always look slightly above everybody’s heads, and make sure your eyes grow misty and far-reaching. After all, you’re staring into the realm of genius—or is that the infinite abyss? Only you know for sure.
  2. When asked, “How are you?” make sure your response contains a) something controversial about art and b) a foreign word. Example: “Sturm und drang, James Joyce was a woman!”
  3. If you run into an acquaintance on the street, say breathlessly (before they have a chance to greet you), “Can’t talk now, I’ve been writing the last chapter of my novel in my head for the past 3 hours and I must get it down on paper.” Then mime using a typewriter or a quill pen and shout something mysterious and irrelevant like “Shark moon!” It’s great publicity and you’ll sound like a mad poet.
  4. Don’t dance like nobody’s watching. Dance like EVERYBODY’S watching.
  5. Never underestimate the power of quirky makeup.
  6. Pepper your conversation with confusing anecdotes featuring common first names. Example: “James and I were down at the fishing hole talking about quarks the other day…” People will wonder which James you mean. James Smith? James Franco? JAMES JOYCE?
  7. Wave people away impatiently. Then mime using a typewriter again.
  8. When attending any sort of public artistic performance (concerts, plays, movies), yawn a lot, look aimlessly around the theater, and write furiously in a Moleskine. It’s very important that you do not support any other art form. This is a dying economy, people! EAT OR BE EATEN.
  9. Sing in the shower. Have a microphone installed in your shower.
  10. You’re not a poet, a dancer, a scuptor. Genres are so passe. Only refer to your “art” and your “craft.” Threaten to feature people in your “art.” But use a really neutral voice so they don’t know if it’s a compliment or an insult. Then whisper, “I love to capture people at their most vulnerable,” and mime using a videocamera.
  11. Draw furiously on the tablecloth. Then continue drawing on your date’s face. Then gaze across the restaurant, lock eyes with a beautiful woman, and rush over to her, abandoning your date and crying, “The search for loveliness is neverending!”
  12. Fling yourself onto EVERY CHAISE LOUNGE YOU SEE. This one is not optional.

GUEST POST: Accessing the Connective Teat

Ashley Keyser is a poet and fellow child-hater living in the cozy Midwestern state of Ukraine. She spends her time stroking the faces of total strangers with her icy, trembling fingers, while hissing, We cannot know his legendary head/with eyes like ripening fruit. Read all about Ashley’s surreal experiences in Ukraine at her blog, beets & the bluestocking. Since she is writing for my blog, does that mean I’m famous? I paid her four imaginary dollars per very real word.

O reader, how can I connect with you? Even in real life, the life that should feel real, but doesn’t, I struggle. Whenever I cup the faces of my casual acquaintances between my palms, my eyes probing the depths of their souls, they shrink back, as if human touch burns them! Even if I dare to run my fingers gently through their hair, they can’t seem to respond to my loving energy. Rejection has embittered me. Unable to taste the sweet fruits of life, I choke on the nausea and horror of existence.

Last night, as I sipped meditatively from a cardboard box of wine, scribbling poetry with my own blood, I considered my plight. A tremulous sigh escaped my wine-purpled lips as I wondered in despair: Is there any way to truly suck at the teat of humanity and drink the milk of our shared experience?

Alas, many forms of human interaction really are just so, so stupid. For example, games. Even the idea of games fill me again with nausea and horror. For this I blame my mother, who made my little brother and me play this game called Cranium for hours when we were kids. Cranium is the most obnoxious game ever! It’s like your frenemy from college who makes you listen to her play ukulele while she poetry-slams at you in French: Cranium screams, “Look at how creative I am!!!” Playing this game is a dizzying whirlwind of doodling, pantomime, molding Play-Doh into whimsical shapes, making animal noises, and other very self-consciously creative activities. This made me, as an aspiring creative person, very anxious and insecure about my own creativity. Also, I hate poetry slams.

I do not, however, hate Bananagrams. Actually I love Bananagrams, and for many reasons. One is that its name is a type of wordplay about wordplay, which is kind of a Borges-esque mindfuck, and two is that its Scrabble-like letter tiles come in a bag shaped like a banana. But the best thing about Bananagrams is that it involves togetherness, yet zero teamwork. The words I make are dependent on no one else’s words. I can just sit quietly and make words while my friends sit quietly and make words, and our words connect only with themselves. In this way, Bananagrams is a metaphor for all language, a stream of empty signifiers pointing only to other empty signifiers. Bananagrams is my favorite game.

Spin-the-bottle is also my favorite game. I love anything that sanctions my touching people, especially people whom I only kind-of know, especially with my mouth. Recently I introduced Spin-the-bottle to a roomful of gay men, and by the end of it, they all wanted to kiss me, even though I do not have a penis! I take this as a victory not only for myself, but for all womankind.

And now comes my master plan for hardcore human connection: What if we combined Spin-the-Bottle with Bananagrams into one perfect, orgiastic game of kissing and wordplay? As I settled into a boxed-wine-inspired haze, I entertained vague fantasies of limbs snaking through letter tiles to intertwine—the tiles, spelled out in forms of an erotic lexicon (for example, “teat”), go flying as bodies sprawl against each other.

But at what point in Bananagrams could we introduce kissing? Perhaps one could use it as a tactic to slow down opponents; no one can concentrate with a mouth FULL OF MY TONGUE. Or perhaps whoever comes up with the most words gets to choose whom to kiss (potentially unfair, seeing as I would obviously get all the kisses).

I’m still not totally sure how this will work. What do you think, reader? In my arranging and re-arranging of words, have you, too, felt the tremors of desire? Perhaps in the soft breath of wind through your hair, you’ll feel my caresses. Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere with my Banagrams waiting for you.


The PARANOIA!!! Diet and Exercise Plan

Tired of subsisting on lettuce leaves, of swaddling yourself in Spanx like a human sausage? Try the PARANOIA!!! Diet and Exercise Plan, the only FDA-approved way to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds in a few short weeks. The PARANOIA!!! Diet and Exercise Plan works with your body, not against it, by harnessing your skyrocketing levels of Seratonin: The All-Natural Meth (c) and using those rapid-firing neurotransmitters to melt away pounds and sculpt you into the Adonis or Artemis that you were meant to be. Of course it works. Why, did you hear something?

While we certainly can’t give away all our secrets (and in fact, we’ll be carrying our secrets to our graves and you’ll have to pry them out of our frozen fingers because we’re not vulnerable fools), see below for four FREE ways to lose weight: the PARANOID!!! way (c).

At work!!! Boss always takes the elevator, right? Dear Lord, what would happen you took the elevator–together? She’d see right through your “happy, hardworking employee” façade to the hollow, vapid, ghost of an individual that lurks inside, ravaged by self-doubt. It’s too terrible to think about but you’re going to think about it anyway: the awkward elevator conversation, the sudden unemployment, dying in front of your TV, your body slowly nibbled away by your cat. Sprint down the stairs with the sweat of true fear springing from your brow. Bonus!!! Scratching rapidly at your arms while sprinting can result in losing up to 3 pounds of unnecessary skin cells!

At McDonalds!!! What’s the one thing on this godforsaken menu that’s NOT made with rat meat? Definitely not the fillet of fish. Perhaps a salad? Oh no, the girl behind the counter is so skinny, she’ll think you’re ordering a salad because you want to be just like her. She’ll think you’re stalking her and soon you’ll know everything about her and wear her face like a mask. Why did you wear the black blazer today? Nothing says “I love you so much I want to cut all your skin off” like black, black, oh, this terrible black blazer that cinches you like a straitjacket. Order a cup of water and sip it slowly. Bonus!!! When in a public place, spin frequently on your heel, keeping those glutes engaged, to see if there’s anyone creeping up behind you.

On a date!!! Don’t look at her mouth don’t look at her eyes don’t look at her hands don’t look at her wedding ring don’t look at her boobs don’t look at the steak knife don’t look at the candle uh-oh that flame is flickering really close to her wrist, her wrist that looks as delicate as the bones inside a baby chicken, stop looking at her wrist don’t think about the candle is the flame actually touching her skin why isn’t she saying anything? Don’t think about the candle. Did you know rapid eye movement burns a shocking 300 calories an hour? Bonus!!! If she tries to leave early (and why wouldn’t she, you sick unworthy freak?), you’ll have to chase her out of the restaurant, pleading, “Come back! Why won’t anyone love me?” That’s an extra 100-200 calories right there.

On the sidewalk!!! Everyone looks so ordinary. EVERYONE LOOKS SO ORDINARY. Why is it so goddamn hard to spot them? If only they had some sort of identifying factor, like a tattoo or a colorful fez. Why are there so many people here, and why are they all looking at you? Clutch your neck and  sprint down the closest dark alleyway. When you feel that telltale burn in your thighs, it’s probably cancer. Ignore it, jump into the river, swim out to sea, grab onto a dolphin, and wash up a forsaken island, gasping, dehydrated, starving, bronzed, and ten pounds lighter. Bonus!!! The island’s jungle is full of caloric fruits, but you won’t want to go exploring once you realize how the light glints off the jungle leaves like hundreds upon thousands of unfriendly eyes.

Not the right exercise plan for you? Try the Commuter’s Workout.

Novels That I or Joyce Carol Oates May One Day Write

Beautiful, successful, GOTHIC.

Faithful subjects,

It has been brought to my attention that the world is crawling with people who are more wealthy, beautiful, and successful than I. This is why you’ve experienced such a dearth of hilarious content on my free government-funded made-possible-through-the-generosity-of-the-Macarthur Foundation website, Tori Dot Gov. WHY SHOULD I WRITE ANYTHING WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS MORE GENIUS?

In an effort to pull my drooping spirits up by their bootstraps, I have compiled a list of titles for all my future novels (if I ever get over my contagious disease called Why Would I Ever Want to Write a Novel When There’s Shopping and Facebook). Unfortunately, Joyce Carol Oates, the freakishly prolific creepürkind of the past 72 years, will probably snatch up a number of these titles before my lack of  talent hellishly busy schedule allows me to write them…

Old People and Ghosts

Dying: A Novel

Death: A Novel About Dying

Horror: A Novel

What is Happening to Me, Where Has My Life Gone?

It Will All Be O.K.: Seven Stories Full of Lies

Hot Girl and Tragic Downfall

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth: A Love Story

Why Are You Following Me, Where Did You Come From?

Sexual Heeling: How Marvin Gaye Inspired Me To Become a Cobbler