UNDER THE HOOP
Fiction on the Net
When I was a bureaucrat, I discovered the Web. The first thing I did was look for
fiction I could read surreptitiously at my computer. My boss was writing a mystery
novel at her computer, so hell, why not get in a few short stories each
morning? Perhaps I was trying to recreate a job I once had answering a not-too-busy
phoneline: I could read on the job. I read Fountainhead in a week, I read
Dickens, I read Bright Lights Big City, I read stories by Woody Allen.
Except for the fact that
my brain was atrophying, it was the perfect job.
As a happy-go-lucky bureaucrat, I had time on my hands - time that could be well
on the World Wide Web (its name sounded slightly bureacratic, too, or socialist at the
very least). Luckily, I discovered the Web early enough, before all the articles came
there was nothing worthy here. I found Levi Asher's Queensboro Ballads - a
heavenly moment. That was a very satisfying week, reading Levi Asher in the morning.
I also found Bad Subjects, but since
that's not fiction, I'll leave it alone for now.
Today, of course, there are scads of articles warning us all away from the dredge of
the Web, but for me it is too late. There are also scads of sites claiming to have
found the "best of" whatever Web content (or Web anything) you'd like. Certainly, for
fiction I can name several, whose choices I don't always agree with.
Well, Enterzone has graciously allowed me to air, each episode, my own "best of"
I'll give you my prejudices right off the bat, so you can decide whether my opinion
means jack to you. I like subtle, I like some amount (but not too much) of narrative
flow, I like good language (I should have put this first), and I hate epiphanies and
morals. I am also a bit prejudiced against the big names. (Although everyone should
go out and read more Bret Easton Ellis - a writer much maligned. He's friends with
Joan Didion, how bad can he be?) Anyway, if you want to know my picks, read this
column, cleverly (nauseatingly?) called Under the Hoop: Fiction on the Net in
each episode of Enterzone. Or I'll show you what for.
This week, check out Girl
Jesus, an epistolary novel about a young American backpack-tourist in Rome, with
quite good graphics and a slightly overblown in-your-face
attitude (who would guess?). The best line might be its opening one: "Despite my
title, there was no one waiting at the airport." This falls into the American-abroad genre, albeit with a schizophrenic (or possibly simply
jejeune) twist. There is lots of gratuitous gropings ("I learned why Italian men wear
pleated pants"), along with amusing accounts of legends, festivals, and miracle statues.
The language of Girl Jesus, although not consistently good, is what saves it from
lesser "Less Than Zero" wannabes. "Yes," writes Girl Jesus, "the women here are more
feminie" - a typo? or vernacular Seattle-speak? I hope the latter. One can guess
the flavor of Girl Jesus by it's title - it's irreverent, cheeky, angry in that way
that is now cool for girls to be. I'd like to see how this hallowed lass matures.
And, briefly, you might want to also check out
The Bathrooms of Madison County.
Although this isn't technically fiction, it makes for a good story. The author and his
girlfriend found themselves near Madison County at the time the famed movie was
playing, so they decided to go there to see it. To kill time before the show, they
did some stuff around town, and visited much of the plumbing. "It was bathroom time,
again. Too much Diet Coke." They visited seven or eight bathrooms, and discussed
them, and took pictures of them all. The Texaco gas station bathroom was my favorite.
it was featured in the movie, too. And about the movie - "You could hear farmers in
overalls saying, "Hey, there's Ben's dog!" I liked the author's simple narration, and
his non-snidely remarks. This is not a clever, mean parody - it
really is a tour of the bathrooms of Madison County. So okay, maybe it's a little
sarcastic. But only a little.