TQR Confidential

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lobby Remodel

I spent the better part of my Tuesday moving the cap around the colorful brochures in adhering to the advice of my feng shui master. Just click thru the Monkey and let me know if you approve. If , by chance, you don't approve ... you can kiss the baby!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Maggie and Hal Shop for Bathrobes...?

magz waits patiently, if a tad skittishly, inside the door of the TQR lobby, peeking her head out in the misty rain now and then for sign of the big black mercedes. does she have the right day? the right time?

The Benz is a dark silver gray (maybe Magz has only glimpsed it at night, and doesn't realize it's not black), and it's pulling up to TQR's buzzing neon even now... Having been well-trained in the classic style, Hal will open doors, light cigarettes, etc., for Maggie. He also won't mind if she smokes in his car, because he can't smell.

"oops. yes," she says, slipping under his arm, sneaking a quick glance at hal holding the door and so galantly ready to close her in luxury. "i was looking for black. silly me."

what's that? no sense of smell? well. she never considered that before, tho she supposes that makes sense. so she can smoke to her heart's content without disturbing him. and yet, neither can he smell perfume mingling w/the pale skin on the undersides of her wrist, and beneath her hair upon her neck.

No smell, no taste -- which is to say, Hal's aesthetic tastes are well-developed, but flavors escape him. He has to rely completely on the remaining three senses, with touch the least sensitive of them by far (technology being what it is).

"Truthfully, Maggie, I need a second opinion. I know there may be a difference between what I think looks good and what anyone else does. Please make as many suggestions as you wish, including where to begin."

"well, we're inching toward spring. a few soft tee shirts would be good-- you know, to wear under a black linen jacket? with your dark looks, (gorgeous dark looks, she can't help but think)... i'd say a royal blue, that army green color, and a buttery yellow gold. and honey, how 'bout a really dark blue pair of jeans? (i love a guy in jeans, she thinks.)

"do you have a long sleeve white shirt? that's a staple; maybe you should get 2. and one blue pin stripe wouldn't be a bad investment either. classic."

"what DO you have in your closet? furthermore, where IS your closet. where do you live, hal. if i may ask, i mean. (she thinks she might be prying, but what the hell.)

"You've already seen everything I have in my closet, Magz – three day's worth. It didn't make much sense to me to purchase a wardrobe in Japan, then pay for shipping. Shipping me was steep enough... but necessary. I can't take this body through airport security, you know.

"As to where my closet is -- I'll show you, when we're done. I know you've been traveling for a while, so maybe you don't know the condominium towers on the other side of town? My agents found them to be impeccably discreet, for the right price. Had to be, so certain requirements of mine would raise no eyebrows, such as the T3 line I had installed."

well could there be a more applicable word for hal than "discreet?" he thinks of everything and is so logical. yeah, staring at him across the teminal, maggie guesses she has indeed seen everything he's got... in the way of wardrobe. she has no idea what a T3 line is. should she admit that? nah.

"why don't you turn in at this outdoor shopping pavilion and park the car? would you like to walk with me a little? we could browse and get some ideas. i want to hear YOUR ideas. about everything." she shakes a cigarette from her pack.

"and, babe, wouldn't you just love a pair of black high top gym shoes to knock around in?"

"A walk and some window shopping is an excellent idea." Hal pats his pockets, comes up with a pack of matches. "May I light that for you?"

As Maggie puffs, his face goes blank for a second while he access the Web. "'Black high-top gym shoes'... ah, those canvas ones with the star on the ankle, from the 1960s? Perhaps... after all, there's no office dress code, nor reason for one."

"ha," she says. "if there was a dress code, do you think i could get away with short skirts and fish net stockings? tho i get the sense theo doesn't mind...

"anyway, we'll get you some fine black leather shit-kicker boots, too, along with the jimmers. what's our limit, dollarwise? have we got a budget?"

she imagines, dreams really, hal will say those four magic words a girl salivates upon hearing: "money is no object." she briefly enjoys a vision of that silk robe she was mulling over when boli bid farewell. one for her, one for hal. yikes. scratch that. what is she thinking? precisely--she's NOT thinking. she is hijacked.

"No, I believe there's not a male in the office, or the Rump, who objects to how you dress, though many of them mind it, in the sense of 'paying mind to it'. And let's face it, Theo is a letch, though apparently a harmless one. If you had been around last quarter when Maiden Fair was in temporary residence, you'd know...

"My budget -- thanks for asking -- is essentially open-ended. And that's the other reason I asked you along: even though price is not an issue, I don't want to appear that way, if you take my meaning. And I must also become more comfortable with the inefficient transfer of funds through paper and plastic tokens. You might expect that, before this change, if I needed to purchase an item -- which was rare – the transaction was purely electronic and nearly instantaneous.

"Oh... and please excuse me if this sounds indelicate, but in appreciation of your help, please don't neglect yourself while we shop. It is, as they say, 'on me'".

in the window, on a padded hanger: THE silk robe of silk robes, a delish shade of raspberry, a chevron pattern of raspberry matte and shiny, color on color that shimmers like its own flame. it bears dainty white camellias along the trim of the neckline and the sides that fold closed with a belt of the same pure flowers abloom on raspberry. then Maggie is subsumed within the most bittersweet moment: even if she bought it, who would see her in it?

"let's dash in here," she says, rushing ahead to the next door establishment. she reaches for the handle, but hal, with his full strides, arrives first. He holds the door open for her, she slips under, smiling at his courtliness. they step into an inner sanctum that smells of sandal wood and clean forest air. the place is a cross between The Gap and couture.

maggie perches on the edge of a tan sofa while hal selects items, hoists them aloft, training a quizzical red eye on her until she nods or frowns. then he moves on to his next selection. once he has an armful, he disappears into the fitting room. magz watches hal multiplied in the three-way mirror. three! her heart can hardly handle one. she stands next to him (so slight in comparison) to look at him looking at his main reflection that wears a rather dispassionate expression.

she tugs at his white shirt cuff to reveal a bit more of it from the edge of the black jacket sleeve. "looking good,

Hal turns away from the disconcerting tripartite view of the stranger who insists upon moving at the precise moment he thinks of doing so. Maggie is tugging at his sleeve... an action he recalls from his Japanese handlers, but this seems to be delivered with a lot less perfunctory duty and a lot more... personal caring?

He runs the scene through a few nanoseconds' worth of comparison to films and books in his memory -- not the entire literature, merely the ones he's seen and read himself. Yes, this is attraction, and he pauses, both delighted and appalled. His first emotional dilemma!

Little advice returns from his textual query. First priority is Magz's feelings, that much is certain. But what to do? Encourage, discourage, or ignore? Encouragement might accelerate developments -- not good, considering he hasn't yet entertained the concept of "being involved" with another person. But discouragement could devastate her, and ignoring might be worse yet.

All this in the time it takes him to complete his turn away from the mirror.

"Thank you, Maggie. Any compliments I receive are due to you. And I like this look. The word 'smooth' comes to mind." He folds his hand over hers, which she allowed to stay at his other wrist just long enough... "Now then, a promise is a promise -- did you see anything here you liked for yourself?"

maggie shivers within the light of his laser-focused attention. then she shakes free of it, pretending to crack her neck, and pulls back her slight shoulders. she pats hal on the back, which, considering her stature, hits him rather near his hips.

"yeah, no doubt about it, a good look for you. and hey, YOU'RE the one carrying it off, babe."

"you know, i'm doing this as a friend, YOUR friend. we're compatriots, right? terminal." (she smiles.)

"we're partners... in, in reviewing. i think we have some like sensibilities, in reading of course, is what i mean. i'm having fun today with you. and i wouldn't ask a thing in return."

"Not even dinner, or a drink, or both?" His left hand still encloses her fingers on his right wrist. His sensorial data is not as comprehensive as a human's, but he feels her warmth and softness. "I can't join you in the savoring, but I'm not ready to end this evening, either."

maggie does feel famished. at least there's some kind of hollow in her middle, and it's easier right now to call it hunger.

"i'd feel funny eating in front of you when you...won't be joining in with me." she hums a little to herself. "um. maybe some coffee? a mocha?"

she feels herself blush and then thinks, what the hell? why not tell some secrets?

she leans into his arm and looks at their dual reflections in the mirror, confessing in a whisper: "i'm a confirmed choco-holic."

Hal chuckles, "Yes, I've read of that affliction. Often I've regretted a lack of ability to taste, but very few sensations seem to be more primal than chocolate. Didn't I see one of those ubiquitous coffee places a few doors from here?"

He gestures to the sales attendant hovering in the middle distance, and hands her two cards: one transparent plastic, one old-fashioned pasteboard. "Everything draped across that chair's back, and two more pairs of those jeans, in black. Have it all delivered to this address tomorrow, please."

The transaction takes no longer than the attendant's desire for a commission will permit. Hal, with Maggie on his arm, scribbles a signature on the proffered slip and retrieves his card.

Maggie looks up to ask, "What was the name on that card?"

"Oh, yes -- my own little joke. 'Hal' can be short for Harold, Townsend sufficiently resembles 'thousand'... thus: Harold Townsend III. Creating my identity was actually rather fun, at times. Now then, shall we satisfy that craving of yours?"

one primal craving among so many others, she thinks.
she smiles brightly. "yes, coffee and maybe a cigarette would be swell. you sure you don't mind?"

"Absolutely not, dear Magz. And then perhaps I should get you home. It's getting late, and we both have cap to read tomorrow -- more importantly, to comment upon."

[Editor's Note: These two have become not only fellow Terminali, well-met and fast respected, but something of friends away from the plant. What will come of it? Que sera sera. Whatevah.]

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Terminal Discussion for Spring '07 Issue

1. Noise
2. Rest Stop
3. Japanes Motorcycle Clob
4. Translations
5. The Wolf's Eye
6. Lou and Iggy Ate my Story
7. It's OK Ma She's Only Bleeding



I'm torn between puns here...

On one side, I might play with the phrase "signal to noise ratio". That ratio of the capital venture at hand is rather low.

On another, I might be grateful to my Japanese fabricators for their training me in the art of the katana, for only a blade of such keen edge and decisive wielding is suitable.

In short, this cap is too long -- by a first approximation of at least 2000 of its formidable 10,000+ words.

In its favor: Once I waded through the opening pages, I did find reasons to keep reading all the way through, without skimming.

So here is my opening proposal: In its current state, the venture is not suitable for investment. However, if the VC agrees, I will mark it up, slash-and-burn fashion, and send the suggested edits to him/her privately. He/she may accept or reject at whim, but only after some serious re-write will it be suitable for re-submission to TQR for consideration in a future quarter.

And here's a bit of advice for all VCs: Do not waste your readers' time expounding upon what your work is not.


I have to reveal a bias here: I don’t really care for the meta-fictional device of direct address, nor of the narrator telling the reader/me what kind of story this is and what kind of story this isn’t. I’ll make up my own mind, thank you. But I’ll read on. I do. And standing in one place, the meta-fictional self-referencing that occurs in the 1st 7 ½ pages has me nodding off. But THEN. I feel this story brighten into a luminous, sharper focus upon reading this sentence near the bottom of page 8:
“Two years of driving an ambulance and I knew the city. I was beautiful. I was miraculous.”—Now THERE’s an opening. Why does this work? We have a character in a situation, a guy with a job responding to emergencies, (all kinds of possibilities promised by that occupation alone) and he IS MIRACULOUS.

Okay, now I’m ready for the story to begin. All that came before was throat clearing. Despite the fact that the narrator says don’t expect a story, that there will be no story, I’m sorry, but I expect a story. Because, otherwise, what the hell am I reading, and more importantly, why?

There’s some inspired writing in this piece. That said, it could also benefit from some editing. Suggestion: go thru and underline every “just” and every “like” and see how often those 2 words appear. Regarding metaphors and similes: this piece will soar if you go for the tougher comparisons, the more unusual pairing or reference.

“…watching me, watch them watch me. Everyone is made up solely of glances from watchers.” This kind of thought and behavior is not sociopathic, as the narrator suggests, when he lights cigarettes in a restaurant non-smoking section; it’s merely acting out and paranoia and it’s treading over old ground—if a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one to hear it does it make a crashing sound?—that kind of thing.

Also, some statements are made because maybe they sound definitive or authoritative, but they’re just plain wrong. For instance: “Too much fiber in your diet and you will always be waiting.” Actually the reverse is true. Eating fiber would make toilet time shorter, not longer. Fiber makes you regular, you get in there and get your business done, exit.

Finally there’s this main dilemma: what does the character want? He seems like he’s floating thru his life until he meets Robin (and he doesn’t meet her til page 14 of a 24-pager). I don’t get a sense of why he’s interested in her. Does he love her? If so, why? Because they share how they lose themselves in ear-splitting noise? The intent could be metaphorical. I could be dense. Prior to meeting Robin, when the neighborhood is described, it surely is a vision of Midwestern America in decay, and therefore we can extrapolate that all this deterioration applies to his life as well. But his life doesn’t seem to improve when he hooks up with Robin. Yes, it grows edgier, more bizarre. Does this make him feel, finally? Does it allow him to dip below the surface of his heretofore surface-y life? Or does it merely deafen him? Is hearing loss what he craves, working to systematically eliminate each of his senses?

Certainly a story should raise questions, and they don’t all need to be answered. But I crave the satisfaction of coming away from a piece understanding one thought or theme or thread that tells me why this story needs to be. Trace it back to character motivation. Plot arises from the character’s pursuit of his/her desires. We see what happens to this character and the things he chooses to do, while never really knowing or understanding WHY. What does he desire that drives him to do the things he does? Both narrator’s and Robin’s desires (motivations) are too muddy for me at present to send this cap upward. Beyond cutting, this cap, for me, needs to answer the question “why?”


I will begin with two words:

chronosynclastic infundibulum

We have here, in one manner of speaking, a deliberate homage to Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 -- but not, thank the Muses, a pastiche. Even so, the protagonist/narrator is not shy about comparing that classic to the unusual episodes that unfold within the venture... and with good reason.

The VC has adroitly spun a tale of mystery and wonder, foreknowledge and destiny, while leaving all of his characters believable and sympathetic. The ending leaves many questions unanswered, but that too strikes the reader as satisfying -- as if, were the questions answered, something else might be spoiled.

This VC has been successful with us before. In my opinion, he is again -- perhaps even outdoing his earlier Capital Gain.

In other words: send it up!

This cap is a beautifully woven basket-- the color, the recurring themes and recasting of images, very masterful. I was carried away with the story, with its induced fogginess and unreliability and smoky nature—again all inspired by the smoking and the weather elements, as well as the fog of such medical conditions as coma and stroke. As I said, the color and weave of it all is done quite well. I was never drawn out of the fictive dream, the aim of any good story—oops I mean cap.

We have the dual themes of father meeting son and son meeting father, each for the first time because the dad is a “new person” due to stroke, psychotic episode, whatever. And we have the embedded story (which is very nicely embedded, entwined-- that gorgeous basket again), of Carl the Coma Guy and all the interaction at the hospital with Carl’s mom and Narrator’s friend/nurse colleague. Both stories contribute to a third kind of thread: the narrator’s quest for meaning and definition. There is the suggestion thru his POV that nursing is not a good enough profession, that it’s merely a weigh station for him.

The writing is gorgeous and taut and spot-on.

One thing kinda made me feel icky—the narrator plunges his hands into his mother’s hair, and this seemed very erotically charged; he even mentions several times how beautiful his mother is. Well, I got a little squirmy there. Maybe it’s just me.

As Renee Zellweger said to Tom Cruise in JERRY MCGUIRE—“You had me at hello.” In the same vein, the VC had me all the way thru til…what’s this? The end? What? Am I missing a page, a paragraph, some final line? Because I never felt the end was coming except that the stack of pages was growing skinnier. And believe me when I tell you I am the number one endorser of the open-ended story.

Regarding the ending, perhaps the Execs will have a different take on it. Hal? Was I the only one blindsided? Either way, this cap is sky-high gorgeous in every other way, so I feel it must ascend for further contemplation.


…is a sweet little romp, starts with an idyllic scene: narrator climbing trees and his lady love wading in water with her skirts bunched in her hands. Good opening sentence. I’m interested, though when the first word of a story is “I,” we are kind of like the lady love wading into deep water, not knowing what eels and muck lie beneath in wait for us. We have a consciousness in a situation but we don’t really know age, sex, intelligence, and so we impose our own on it until we learn otherwise. But I’m willing to wait and discover, and I do, soon, enough –he’s 26 yrs old, and backward in the ways of love, a tad neurotic.
One page in and we meet a tiny red pig with horns strutting along the branch above the narrator’s head. So yeah, this is an other-worldly kind of story. But because it is presented so matter of fact-ly from the outset, I trust this storytelling voice. I’m drawn in by the attitude of tongue-in-cheek-ness about every moment that transpires. This pig, named Clob, as Leonard’s id, is outrageous and mouthy and spontaneous—the perfect reverse half of nerdy, reticent, fearful Leonard.

Word choice is often inspired: “trotters”—yes, absolutely right! Used again and again it brings another layer of amusement to the story. The story kind of laughs at itself, in the most encouraging sort of way.
“water chuckling,” I’m skeptical; I don’t think water can chuckle…
And how exactly does a drunken rottweiler look as it’s lurching????
“infeasible” (it describes breasts, I think, on a pinup in the bike dealership). I looked for, but couldn’t find, this word in my dictionary.

This story starts out as a possible romance and then veers off on a side trip as man pursues RPMs. (What is it with guys and wheels, guys and speed?---or is it ALL metaphor??? This is just my own wondering aside about the state of the universe, not necessarily this cap). But then I applaud the VC because he/she abandons the bike (an amusing, perhaps predictable quagmire) and makes the return to what’s really important—the girl. The VC, the character, and the whole story are redeemed by the end. I might end the story just a tad earlier, at the end of the final scene, w/o the narrator’s commentary, but that’s just me.

Hey, who says all stories must be pondering and sober? A little levity goes a long way, and for me, it helps this cap over the hump, for the Execs to review and weigh in on.

The title is a bit awkward. I more than half expected to find it had been selected from among the myriad examples of bad translation known generically as "Engrish". (Search the term on the Web some time -- it can be hilarious)

Also -- though it will affect no one else -- this cap opens upon a scene reminiscent of one from last quarter: a not-so-youngish man, unlucky so far in the ways of love, trying to be someone he's not in his attempt to woo.

That's where the similarity begins and ends, however... for Our Hero is beguiled, or perhaps plagued is a better word, by his own personal imp. Appropriately enough, a pig -- tiny, red and with demonic embellishments. Yet we the readers accept this supernatural intrusion as... well, acceptable.

Reading on, we find the remainder to be essential British comedy: self-embarrassment leading to sympathy, leading to successful consummation.

I almost want more brief adventures of Lenny and Clob. There's something quite likable about them both, in a Terry Pratchett sort of way. meanwhile, let's send this one up, shall we?


Translations is an interesting and apt title for this epistolary frame tale.

The story places the reader in a real world, real grounding, real situations, real details, but the climax leaps into the otherworldly and I want to follow the logic of it, but I’m having difficulty doing so.

Some points of light in this piece:
“her wedding ring sitting in a glass dish like a piece of candy.”
“in matters of family, all cognition is an elusive wisp of smoke.”
“back her into a corner of her own mad logic.”

Some brief things that nag me:
Why wouldn’t the doctor sign a letter to his son as “Father” instead of his first name, Bram?
A few possessives and plurals need correction.
“mewling like a hungry kitten”—cliché
“delusion…like a thick fog”--cliche

Throughout the story and the visit the husband-doctor seems to have nothing but disdain and contempt for his wife, for her condition, as if it's her fault she's ill, but then the mere suggestion she’s had a dalliance with another and suddenly his “insides felt like a rag squeezed tight.” Ah, the cuckold! I wanted to shout: hey buddy, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

The husband-doctor says “around her I am so often a beast.” –but he’s been extremely reticent and uninvolved/unemotional/unsympathetic around her during all his visits. A tiny bit later he says “I am a man cursed with common sense.”—so what are we to believe in the midst of this contradiction?

I’m looking for an authoritative storytelling voice. The narrator relates the chain of events procedurally and factually; he’s a doctor, so we can assume he’s rational and evaluates what he experiences without mystical issues clouding his judgment or influencing his actions. And yet, I'm not convinced enough to make that leap of believability required to accept the climax of the narrative. Certainly it’s a twist, a shocker, but there’s something about it that seems too contrived to me. Even in fantasy or horror the action needs to proceed from what has come earlier in the story. The plausibility of the “conjuring scene,” (for want of a better label) doesn’t ring true for me. Whether it’s true or not in the REAL world is immaterial. For me, it simply doesn’t flow as a plausible chain of events in this story’s odd world.

I’m pitched out of the fictive dream to the degree that even when we return to the frame of the present, I don’t have an emotional investment in whether the letters communicated true history or not. I have completely left the world of the asylum via my own incredulity. Unfortunately, I have no ideas on how to rectify this.

Hal, maybe you have some suggestions that will help the VC in his/her revision?
It’s my opinion that this draft cannot ascend to the Execs.

Paging Doctor Moreau...

In my estimation, we have here an attempt to recapture the 'horror' genre of a century or so ago, when more was inferred and less was explicit than in, say, the last fifty years of the genre.

The question is, do I think it is a successful attempt? Unfortunately, I do not. Overall, I would say that the narrative voice adequately recalls that of yesteryear, but little else does, aside from the setting in an asylum.

Before I continue, let me make a disclaimer: whenever my opposite number in the Terminal opens the discussion of some cap he or she has received from DeP, I do not read my partner's opinion before I read the cap itself. However, I do read their opinion before posting my own, to be specific about agreement or disagreement.

That out of the way...

Maggie has made an excellent point about plausibility, which is also one of my biggest bug-bears. I willingly suspend disbelief in order to be entertained by someone's imagination. The level of phantasm matters not, as long as it is sustained plausibly, within context. The problem here, mainly, is a lack of context to support the fantasy.

For example: the director of the asylum (our stand-in for Welles's Moreau) exclaims, “I’ve waited years to perform such a miracle, studying, learning, practicing..." In itself a cliche, perhaps, but where and what has the Bad Doctor been studying to learn the technique of cloning living body parts, growing them in subcutaneous cysts, then mystically assembling them through a blood ritual?

I can't avoid mentioning the genetic aspect: the cloned parts could not be the lost son reconstituted, when the Bad Doctor had only half the DNA to work with. A daughter, perhaps, but not a son... Then there's the inexplicable immedeiate deaths of the incubators after having merely had the equivalent of a boil lanced...

My point is this: plausibility for 21st Century readers means a great deal more than it did to late-19th Century readers. You may adopt the styles and settings of earlier works if you wish, but you cannot assume the same audience they had.

Maggie asked after my suggestions for revision. I have a few:

-- Drop the "found letters" device at the beginning and end. It smacks too much of an outright imitation of Moreau. If it is important to the overall plot for the reassembled clone not to have died, end the piece with the appropriate scene as it happens, not as some "oh, by the way" afterthought.

-- The VC might consider entirely replacing the 1st-person diary narrative with 3rd-person. Much of the inconsistency of Brahm's character that Maggie speak of stems from avoidance of truths about himself, even when allegedly writing his innermost thoughts.

-- Whether in 1st-p or 3rd: Elaborate! Atmosphere is the heart of good genre fiction, if not its soul. Plausibility lies in the details. This piece may not suffer a bit from being a thousand or two words longer, if they are invested in bringing the reader more fully into the scene, and into the narrator's mind.

-- Coupled with the above: Be more gradual about revealing what's wrong at the asylum. The tumorous state of the other inmates is presented too abruptly, and therefore telegraphs their purpose.

A sincere Good Luck to the VC in finding another venue to present this work.

One facet of this cap is immediately apparent. All of its sentences are very short. Sometimes too short. Occasionally they aren't complete sentences. Once in a while they're missing a comma.

It is a story of invasion and betrayal. (The VC is British. The one invader given a name is "Flavius". Draw your own conclusions.) It is also a story of rebellion against religion, in the name of love. It is not particularly original in either case.

There is a battle scene. There is plenty of action. It is not very exciting. Probably because of the short sentences. The word "shield" appears a lot*. The Invaders win the battle. The tribesmen retreat to their village. The tribe's priest demands a sacrifice to appease their unnamed gods. The intended victim is the narrator's intended bride. He protests, then runs away. The Invaders find him. He leads them to the sacrificial stone circle in time. He trades the freedom of his tribe for his woman's life. He tries to justify all this to his grandson. But he still feels guilt about the betrayal. The End.

I do not recommend this cap for advancement. I do recommend that the VC do a lot more reading.

* -- shields, by the way, have "bosses", not "pommels"

This is a frame tale of betrayal, of many betrayals—at the level of man to man, man to family, man to “country” or in this case clan, man to woman, grandfather to son, perhaps even man betraying himself, or rather his honor, or what he’s been taught to regard as honor. The setting is olden time, or out of time, or a time of some alternate fantasy world. The names invoke the aura of olden time, have an accurate olden time sound.

Many of the details are riveting and unique: “arrows that filled the sky like a swarm of bees,” “below the knee their legs were black with silt,” “the dirty yellow that had seized hold of his eye,” “economy of movement that showed me these men were true warriors,” “bracken scratched my face and arms,” “They came in a charge that was all the more terrifying for its suddenness and its silence.”—all of these are logical, economically correct, not-lazy word choices that conjure precise images and set tone and mood of the piece. We have a believable narrator, and with a fantasy or historical or other-worldly story, believability and trust in the storytelling voice is paramount.

There’s some editing that’ll need to be dealt with if the Execs give this a thumbs up-- instances of inaccurate possessives, and a few words I questioned the spelling of, or maybe form of. These can easily be amended with input from the VC. Also, I feel the otherworldly time and place of this story is well enough invoked that we needn’t rely on the words forms such as “amongst” and “whilst” instead of “among” and “while.” It sounds rather pretentious. But maybe that’s just a picky thing on my part. One element gave me small pause: The narrator is 70 years old, he refers to his grandson, Throm, who is feeding him and hearing the tale, which is the bulk of the story. Because Throm says the dead grandmother gave them biscuits when they were children, I thought he was an adult, no longer a child. But when we return to the frame he is called “the boy” several times. So that little discrepancy needs to be cleared up. Still, I recommend we send this upward for further consideration.

And it appears Hal and I at last cross swords.


Hola! Yo no say nada puis nada! But it appears my services will be called upon this quarter. I shall endeavor to be vamos!

Thanks for your opposing opinion about this one, Magz. You mention something that I should have, so I will now:

To the VC's credit, I am convinced that he/she was working within the frame of a created world (or a semi-conjured historical world) which he/she experiences clearly. Consistency in voice (as you said here, and as we both said in our reviews of "Translations") is one pillar upon which plausibility is founded.

My major objection -- which I admit to delivering above in the form of a parody, and I apologize to the VC if it was overdone -- is to the consistent monotone voice in this piece.

Indulge me in a metaphor...

Most dedicated readers I know, including myself, visualize as they read. The words they see in front of their eyes guide and inform the visualizations, but when they recall the story at a later time, their memories see what was described, not the words on the page. A written work of fiction becomes, in that way at least, comparable to a movie. The pacing of the narrative, which can include such subtleties as length of phrases and sentences as well as choice of words, becomes comparable to a film score, enhancing the reader's emotional reaction. In reading "The Wolf's Eyes", all of the scenes and action were clear to my inner vision, but the music never changed.

I hope that is more helpful to the VC than my earlier comments may have been. As to the question of originality: There is nothing inherently wasteful about revisiting themes. The trick -- a very difficult one -- is to make them fresh again.

The music that you're looking for and finding lacking, dear Hal, may lie within this facet of the cap: because the VC employs an "I" narrator, it has become easy for him/her to engage the subject-verb-object sentence structure. I went thru the cap again, and yes, that structure does reign--though there is the occassional adverbial phrase to start us off, too. Because it's a tale that is told, like a yarn around the fire, and particularly one of battle (for the most part), I felt the direct, telegraph style was appropriate. If the VC might consider re-casting this from first into third person perhaps greater variance of sentence structure, sentence length, etc, would emerge. Still, I'd like to hear what our resident rebel has to say.

H3K (aka HAL, HAL3000)
As would I -- but, point taken.

If I were to guess at a historical basis for this story it would be the Romans conquest of Scotland, what with the description of the Foreigner's tactics and battle dress and mention of clans and bracken and heather and the like. So. Would I like to see a bit more local color, as Maggie has suggested? Yes, perhaps. But also, again, it is presented in the way of oral tradition, where the surrounds and local color as I have called it here is something of a given to those to which it's being told. But, enough prattling on ... the questionne is did this ficcione tilt my sombrero?

Si or non?

Well, that's a complicated question. For what it is, a bit of oral history passed down to a juvenile clansman, it is successful. The action is put forth well and the complication's of our young hero sympathetic and yet shown to be also heretical by the primitive mores of the clan. But herein is another rub... Hasn't Hal been commenting on this dichotomy somewhat? How it is very hard to put forth the importance of adhering to primitive codes to a (so-called) enlightened audience? In order to have made a successful go at this kind of narrative, the length of the piece needs must have been increased quite a bit, yo quiero palabra.

But let us not speak of country matters, as that maladroit poseur Hamlet was fond of saying. The Wolf's Eyes is not meant to be a deep incursion into the primitive psyche, plumbing the depth of post cro-magnon man, but a simple tale of love conquering tradition even as the lover himself if conquered physically. Or some such palabra. And in this way it works. It is entertaining and engaging and deserves a shot up in the rarified air of the executive sweets. My only caveat is that that sissy last line be stricken from the record.

I sat in the dark and began to cry.

It just kills the mood. Let the man be a man and accept his fate with stoicism and grace for gods' sake!

dear mexican brigand,
thank you for weighing in on this. i appreciate your spicy perspective. and i do agree, if this cap makes it all the way to the top, that last line hasta go. we already know the narrator rues his decision. that's the point of the story, isn't it? no need for us to see/hear tears.

will you please keep your hands off my mont blanc? and your dusty feet off my desk???

Very well -- the tie is broken, and up it goes. Gracias, Pinkney.

Hal, mi amigo. Tu eras ... el hombre actual-o! Perhaps you may accompany me to the Green Inferno to study the fine, young cannibals one of these months. And if I may ask, are you all man?

That's not a matter to be discussed in the office, Senor... Drop by the Rump, and I'll stand you to a drink.

"oh hal, wait, a sec," maggie says rather breathlessly, trying to garner all her possessions in her black leather tote bag. plop. smash. in goes the mont blanc, the legal pad, her ipod, an empty demitasse cup (what?), a bottle of ruby red nail polish, an emery board, a packet of ultra soft tissues, her sunglasses (when would she EVER need those around here???), her regular glasses (only hal has seen her in those studious buddy holly-looking specs). "can i come with? i've put in a hell of week, and this girl's throat is crying with thirst."

f course, Magz! One: it's Friday. Two: You've read all your cap. If I get my last one read and commented so that you can reply before you go away, well and good. If not, Guevara can drop by again for a second opinion.

In other words: you've earned it! Let's go.


First, I should mention that though I did not exist during the 1970s or '80s, I have made enough friends and acquaintances of the proper age to say that this piece resonates -- nay, nearly vibrates right off the screen -- with truth about being twenty-something in the Seventy-somethings.

It is a tale usually referred to as "coming-of-age" (though not necessarily maturity) of an appropriately modern kind. It is told in a breezy, slangy 1st-person voice that is so natural and easy to read that it absolutely could not be imagined otherwise. It is also told as a reminiscence, though a very detailed one, from at least a decade further on, with enough indication that the narrator has grown beyond the circumstances and relations he describes.

As usual for capital ventures about which I am immediately enthused, I will avoid detail of plot and character, in hopes that a wider audience will gain the pleasure for themselves in relatively short order. For the time being, I'll say only that the "story" of the title begins as an elaborate suicide note which continues to be elaborated into novel length -- and that "Lou and Iggie" are cats named respectively for Reed and Pop.

I have only one problem with this piece -- and it is not a minor problem. The end is far too abrupt. It feels, therefore, like the initial chapter of a longer memoir. "Leave them wanting more," is not the same thing as "Don't bother to finish what you've started."

However -- the style is so pleasurable, the character/narrator such a schlemazel, and the setting so ripe with verisimilitude, that I cannot but say, "Send it up!"

Hopefully, we shall see what the Execs have to say about the ending...

A story with parallel threads: the narrator’s quest for suicide, prep for suicide, endless writing of suicide note-cum-novel and the story of the continual tormenting of and spitting on of Zweerink (as pseudo-stand in for narrator, who also has his moment of uncertainty, shame and torment). Such shenanigans result in the Zweerink’s true end. The voice and wry tone of this story are what make it a success. Yes, it’s rambling, yet coherent and often spot-on as the narrator comments on his life, and life in general in this coming of age story. Enjoyable yet also poignant. But not as Hal might say “cloying.”

(general observation re: the universe of writing…seems boys’ coming of age stories always involve bullying and beating up; for girls, it’s their periods. am I wrong here???)

Couple of questions regarding plot…Could two kittens fighting really wreak such havoc as to destroy 30 pages of a manuscript? More importantly, how did the narrator end up as a great friend and roommate of Belle Dame etc. when, for most of their misspent youth, she barely acknowledged his existence? It was Lizzie, wasn’t it, with whom he was pseudo-friends as a teenager? We never saw him interact with Elodie except from afar and in his imagination. But these are items that could be easily amended or explained in a revision. So I recommend sending this cap tentatively forward for further study.

Two aspects of this cap befuddle me:
1)Storytelling in the second person—it’s tough to sustain over the long haul of a story. Okay, BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY did it; some would say even that one wasn’t successful. A good dictum for a VC to live by: learn how to master the rules of conventional storytelling, master all the tried and true methods that have worked for writers since the Iliad and the Odyssey. And then, if you feel you must, you may try and subvert the rules. But don’t use new tricks until you know all the others, and know how to employ them well.

This Second person storytelling moves beyond a niggling annoyance and starts really breaking down when the “YOU” POV is in the summerhouse while there’s this long scene where everyone else is at a table and meeting and greeting and supping and walking along the gardens, etc.--the YOU would not be able to see and hear and observe all that occurs with that group, even if the summerhouse was right around the corner—it’s physically impossible.

2) From the start, there is the theme and intimation of madness, which would be plausible if we would ever get an inkling of what the hell is going on. But the story has a haphazard and “mad” logic, that is no logic. I think I discussed this element of storytelling briefly in my review of NOISE. That is, madness or insanity as a theme is no excuse for lack of clarity in the narrative. The VC cannot allow the craziness to rule the storytelling. I’m frustrated because I find no grounding. This frustration prevents any sympathy for or engagement in the character’s dilemma (which is what exactly?)?

Another thing:
Words with “-ness” on the end of it. Some words deserve this form, others are bastardized forms that grate on the ears and nerves.
All of these are from this story: dark-brownness, oneness, redness (2), weaknesses, iciness, exactness, coldness, carefulness, slowness, mischievousness, anxiousness, tiredness (2), rudeness (2), correctness, (2), goodness, stickiness—-admittedly, some of these words are apt for the usage in their particular sentences. Others are just awkward renditions of other words.

This cap has a few revisions ahead of it, starting with the VC sitting back and deciding what the story is about and then devising the best way to communicate that to the reader in a way that grips the reader’s heart. Because I do think this could be (is?) a tragic story. It’s just too mired in its own craziness in the present draft.

There's another '-ness' word, Magz: craziness.

And that is, I infer, what this cap is about. More specifically, it seems that Jesse, the object of the second-person narration, suffers from what is now called multiple personality disorder. I believe this capital venture does, too -- and after one full reading and a partial second, I cannot tell if that was deliberate on the VC's part, or not. I am intrigued by the idea that it is intentional, but I cannot prove it.

I am not as fluent in the plays of Shakespeare as I might wish, so I cannot easily tell (without research) if significance lies within the VC's choices of names for the players in this piece, or in the utterances of Jesse's voice. All I can vouch for at present is a Shakespearian veneer, including a mention of Venice by someone who appears to be a merchant by profession (I cannot, however, fathom why "Mhylock" for "Shylock").

Granted, 2nd-person narration is difficult to carry off successfully, which may account for its rarity, as well as for the reaction many readers have to it. I am not one of those -- neither do I mistake it for its object speaking to her/his self, thereby capable of knowing only what its object can know. In other words, I had no objection to the 'omniscience' of the narrative describing actions, and especially dialog, beyond Jesse's perception. I am persuaded toward the idea that, as Jesse's selves (we see two here, but more are hinted at) are in constant internal dialog, the narrative voice enhances our understanding of her... as much as anyone might be able to understand her.

There is one other aspect of this venture which I appreciated: even though The Bard lies heavily upon this work, it is neither possible nor necessary to know the time and place of its setting. The sole clue is Jesse's mother Portia's vehement dislike of being called "Ma" (hence, in part, the title of the piece). That is sufficient to imply a reasonably modern time, and a location far removed from both Shakespeare's England and the dramatic conceit of an imagined Italy he and his contemporaries so often used. Furthermore, it is (in my opinion) a subtle confirmation that the atmosphere created and enforced by Portia's tyrannical hand is as anachronistic as Jesse's voice's utterances.

All of the above is not to imply that the work is without drawbacks... merely that my list is different from Maggie's. First upon mine is: redundancy.

As an example: the frequent use of the words "precision" and "delicacy". It is not difficult to ascertain, early on, that Portia is possessed of her own brand of madness. Such can be reinforced through the remainder of the narrative, if necessary, but by a different choice of words.

The same applies to the walk-on, Mrs. Mhylock. Granted, none of the players here except Jesse are more than unidimensional (few in Shakespeare's Italianate commedia were any better), but they are not so difficult to keep track of from page to page as to require the same description twice.

The second on my list of objections is, perhaps, minor to another reader, but large enough to mention: no one else recognizes Jesse's utterances for what they are: quotes from Shakespeare. I understand well from the narrative that the society represented here is the kind which locks their 'infirm' away rather than admit publicly that there are such -- but surely the sister Nerissa might have noticed beforehand...

Finally -- and one might well be tempted to title this review of mine "Much Ado about Nothing" -- I must come to my decision about whether this cap should rise or fall.

Ay, there's the rub: We have had only seven from which to choose, this time. As of today, only three have passed through. If no more do so, the default quota of Gains is met, and there is no reason for the Execs to convene, other than to rubber-stamp the Terminal's opinions.

On the other hand (now that I have them), my saying "yes" is an immediate call for Guevara to drop by and break another tie... thus putting the final decision out of my grasp and Maggie's.

E'en so (the Bard must be contagious), I shall vote to send this up. I believe it is sufficiently repairable between now and April 15, if the Executives look upon it favorably at all.

Your turn, Pinkney.


Seeing as how Pinckney is AWOL, I'm going to use my executive powers and bump this one up sight unseen. Besides, we need the cap this quarter to at least make TDeHart earn his daily bread. Or something like that. So. Chalk on up for the perambulating version of Hal.

i'm "patching in" here from parts unknown. just to say the walking/talking hal possesses charms beyond boosting the cap. and i miss him, and all you guys right now. even you, theo.