you Americans . . ., Oh

Words Without Borders

I'm late in following up a conversation at Readercon about writing in translation. American publishers translate only a fraction of what's written around the world. If you want to follow what writers are doing in other languages and cultures, you can't do better than Words Without Borders. It's a terrific website:

http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/
aghast clown

25 random things...

I'm importing a bit of Facebook activity here: scraps and fragments about my life, in no particular order -- a tangle of events, snapshots, dreams, and minor ordeals.

1. I tried to get a job with a traveling circus in Hawaii, but they wouldn’t have me.

2. I was mistaken for Warren Zevon in the Palomino Club. Hey, my hair was long back then, and the room was dark.

3. I used to own land in the San Luis Valley near the Sangre de Cristos in southern Colorado.

4. I narrowly avoided shaking hands with George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas.

5. I was with my sister on a water skiing trip when she cut her foot at Lake Elsinore. A few months later she went water skiing again – this time I begged out – and when she was late returning I said to my parents, “She didn’t cut her foot. This time she cut her leg.” Turned out I was right.

6. When I was 12-13 I wanted to be a composer. I wrote several piano pieces, until one day the urge to compose simply dried up. Words replaced music, but the sound and rhythm of words are very important to me.

7. I can speak in three voices at the same time. I have witnesses.

8. I would love to learn to be a Foley artist.

9. During my sophomore year in college I used to fly from LA to San Francisco once a week and get back home in time for dinner. Ah, the lost paradise of cheap student fares!

10. I won the most money at poker when I was blind drunk.

11. I’m a ruthless Monopoly player. I’ve made people cry.

12. I secretly spent a week in France when I was 19. I told my parents I was visiting friends in Oregon.

13. I ate dirt once when I was a child. It was loamy, crumbly, and I don’t care to repeat the experiment.

14. I nearly died when I was five from a reaction to a school vaccination. I remember falling facedown in the schoolyard and waking up a week later, a week full of fever dreams and delirium.

15. I spent the weirdest night of my life in a Dunkin Donuts in Austin, Texas, stretching my last few dollars for coffee after a two-day bus ride from Guadalajara. I can still recall the faces of many of the drunks, addicts, freaks, cops, and lunatics who paraded through the place.

16. Most horror movies don’t frighten me. “Alien” was the exception. I was so afraid that I could barely speak for two hours.

17. In the second grade I wrote a 40-page book about US presidents. A nun had me do a show-and-tell for the eighth graders. At recess two of the eighth graders tried to beat me up. My first reading – and my first bad review.

18. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was to try to help someone emerge from mental illness, not knowing if anything would work.

19. I was part of my high school team for the TV quiz show “It’s Academic.” The person who gave us the practice quiz was a beautiful intern named Cokie Roberts.

20. Halloween is my favorite holiday. Dressed as Manuel Ortega I showed up at a party where there were three Fidel Castros: one an ex-sergeant in the US Army, another an ex-sergeant in the German Army (postwar), and the third an officer who taught at West Point.

21. In Guadalajara I was the guest of a retired CIA station chief. I listened while he and an old friend from the agency told scandalous tales about the old days. At some point, after a particularly hilarious anecdote about Henry Cabot Lodge, the friend pointed at me and asked, “Can he be trusted?”

22. I talk in my sleep, more distinctly than when I’m awake.

23. During a heat wave in Austin, Texas, I read everything by Raymond Chandler that I could find. I used to know the first chapter of The Big Sleep by heart.

24. I’ve soloed in four different sailplanes. I want to try wave soaring above Mt. Rainier.

25. Blake had it right: the tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction. I used to think that experience and knowledge were poles apart, and I would recite Beckett’s lines: “Spend the years of learning / Squandering courage for the years of wandering / Through the world politely turning / From the loutishness of learning.” Now I know the two are bound inextricably together.
aghast clown

Clowns on the warpath!

The Emmett Kellys have broken out of the reservation! Savage Kokos count coup! Bozeman menaced by Stilt Dancers!

You can read my story "The Last Great Clown Hunt" in the November/December 2008 issue of Weird Tales.