Cycling Guide to Lilliput (1-10), on Juked



Back in January, I encountered the works of a miniaturist painter, Dina Brodsky.  Some of you may have read an essay I wrote about her project, “Cycling Guide to Lilliput,” this past May in KoreAm Journal.  Simply put, I love her work.  And when I love something, I want to write about it.  Which is what I did, but it turns out I wasn’t done.

Thanks to the editors of Juked, you can now read ten tiny short stories based on ten of these Brodsky paintings.  This year, I’ve interviewed Dina twice to hear about her cycling journeys.  These stories of mine are based on her trips, but they are also works of pure fiction.  If that sounds like a contradiction, you’re right.  I’m not sure what is real and what is not anymore, as the tales she recounted and the tales in my head have fused together.

During the submission of these stories, an editor from another journal taught me a new word: ekphrasis.  Apparently this is what I was doing.  Wikipedia’s definition is “a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art,” but what I really love is the etymology of the word: “From the Greek verb ekphrazein, to proclaim an inanimate object by name.”

To proclaim an inanimate object.  That’s it, exactly.  That is why I have written these stories, because I wanted to make these paintings come alive in my own mind, in the best way I know how, the only way I know how.

And now it’s your turn.  See the paintings.  Read the words.  Get on your bike and take a ride.

Inside the Writers House


Yesterday I had the great pleasure of talking with Rutgers students via Inside the Writers House.  The event was conducted via Skype, which was great because not only did I not have to drive down there, but folks could also lay eyes on one of my cats.  We talked about my books and literature in general, an hour of stimulating conversation.  My hearty thanks to Alex Dawson who invited me and put the whole thing together.

One thing that Alex asked was if I could provide the students a writing prompt.  If you are unfamiliar with this concept, it’s basically just a little something to get the writing juices flowing; Writer’s Digest has an ongoing repository of them.  For mine, I read them this little short-short story:

I didn’t know your grandma would show.  How could I?  You said your grandma was out shopping, but boom, “Hi David, how’s your family?  How’s your job?” so I had to sock away all six balloons, and fast.

And your grandma is quick.  Darts around, up and down, old lady’s got top-notch vision.  Saw through my brown box that has two disco balls and says, “What is that?”

What could I do, Mary?  I had to show it.  And it wasn’t my fault.  It was your fault!  If you had rang just half an hour ago, our party would still…

I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t shout, but I know I’m disappointing you.  I know how much you want this to go smoothly.  You know that, right?  You my girl, baby.  Good days, bad days, always.

Anyway, so I say to your grandma, “Happy birthday, Mrs. Mills.  You got us.”  So your grandma looks around and says, “How many chairs in total?”  Wants fifty chairs.  So I gotta run out and bring back thirty additional chairs.  And now your grandma is looking at my music, what I was gonna play tonight, and says, “No, this won’t do, David.  It’s simply not a party without Lady Gaga.”

Mary, my darling, haul your ass, pronto.  Your grandma is nuts.  And I’m going crazy.

Do you notice anything odd about this story?  Perhaps the title will give you a clue: “A Surpris(e) Birthday Party.”

The e is in parenthesis because that’s the only occurrence of that letter.  Yes, this story does not feature a single use of the letter e.  This type of writing is called Oulipo, and I must thank J. Robert Lennon for introducing it to me.

Princeton Public Library’s Local Author Day

It was great being at Princeton Public Library’s Local Author Day!  Not only did I get to be one of the featured authors, but I also got to deliver a workshop.  I’m a little late with this, but for those workshoppers who wanted a copy of the syllabus/outline I used, here it is.  We got some nice coverage of the event via the Princeton Packet, and I made a new Facebook friend, Ed Tseng, another author who happens to be a big tennis fan.  Thank you, Princeton Public Library, for inviting me to this fine literary event.

2015-10-24 12.59.33 (Medium)

I love you, Mets. I really do. Even if I haven’t shown it much.

photoIf I may be perfectly frank – until this current postseason, I had not seen one single complete game of baseball all year.  And that’s including the live game I caught at Wrigley Field last month.  Even there, I left in the seventh inning.

If I may be even franker, I have not paid much attention to baseball in quite a few years.  Which probably also explains why my fantasy baseball teams have been so awful.  Not that I need an excuse for my usual subpar performance in my leagues – I kind of suck.

But now I’m glued to the TV set, because my favorite team, the Mets, have come out of nowhere and no expectations to be in the World Series this year.  In fact, they are less than an hour away from playing their first game against the Kansas City Royals.  And I am going to watch.

You can call me a fair-weathered fan.  I deserve it, even if I don’t think it’s entirely true.  No, the real reason why I’ve stayed away is because of Armando Benitez.  That was back in 2000, the Subway Series against the Yankees.  I knew as everyone else knew that we didn’t stand a chance.  And every time Benitez came out to “close” the game, I wanted to just turn off the TV.  But of course I couldn’t.

And there’s another reason why I’ve ignored baseball: Carlos Beltran.  Striking out looking to end the series against the Cardinals, the NL team I hate the most (I know you guys are the nicest fans in the world, but screw all of you, because when I think of the Cards, I see a slideshow of horror starring John Tudor, Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Terry Pendleton, Jack Clark, Ozzie Smith…oh my goodness, please, all of you, leave my brain alone), nine years ago.

So it took almost a decade and a miraculous run to bring me back to my beloved Mets.  I did write about them earlier this year in the Times, so maybe this reunion was presaged.  My dear Mets, please believe me when I say I never left you.  I just couldn’t watch you for a while.  It was me, not you.

Now let’s win four more and bring the trophy home, okay?


p.s. You know that guy named Sungwoo who’s the Royal’s Superfan?  Well, guess what — my name is Sung Woo and I’m the Mets Superfan.  So consider me your bearded Spock (sorry, Star Trek reference), Mr. Sungwoo Lee.