My great professor at Vermont College, Douglas Glover, has a website now, called Numero Cinq, and he has been running interesting contests for the last six months -- an aphorism contest, a villanelle contest, and most eccentrically, a translation contest in which absloute ignorance of the language (Dutch, I think) was a prerequisite. You had to make up your own story based on the sound of the words, coaxing out any repititions, finding parallel sentence structures, writing your own lyrics, as it were, to the music of a foreign tongue. Wild. The new contest is below, and Doug says anyone can enter and in my opinion, not enough people have.
My entry (memoir) is at the bottom of this post.
Augusto Monterroso is perhaps most famous for his short story “The Dinosaur,” which is said to be literature’s shortest story. It reads in full:
When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.
In an 1996 interview with Ilan Stavans for the Massachusetts Review, Monterroso recalled some early reviews of “The Dinosaur”: “I still have the very first reviews of the book: critics hated it. Since that point on I began hearing complaints to the effect that it isn’t a short-story. My answer is: true, it isn’t a short story, it’s actually a novel.”
Brevity was, to say the least, an important concept for Monterroso. His essay “Fecundity” is included in The Oxford Book of Latin American Essays. It reads in full:
Today I feel well, like a Balzac; I am finishing this line.
—from Tom McCartan’s Crib notes on “What Bolaño Read”
Okay, the long-awaited next Numéro Cinq literary contest, The First Annual Numéro Cinq Novel-in-a-Box/Memoir-in-a-Box Contest. The rules are pretty simple this time. You have to write an entire (don’t cut corners) novel or a memoir (personal narrative) consisting of 9 (a mystic number) chapters and each chapter can be no more than 5 lines long. (By lines, I mean the number of lines that appear on the comment box on the blog.) Fewer lines if you can. Try to remember what a novel is like: at least a couple of characters or more (usually), a conflict, development through a series of dramatic actions, etc. Alternatively, try to remember what a memoir looks like: a first person narrator (and a couple of other people or more), a thematically continuous narrative line often based on a conflict and or theme, development through a series of dramatic moments or incidents, etc. Indicate on your entry whether it is fiction or non-fiction (there will be separate prizes). (Note that in the Monterroso story quoted above there ARE two characters, the guy and the dinosaur.)
The contest is open to any living, sentient being in the universe. It is not limited to people who are already on the blog or VCFA students or former students. Everyone is welcome, and also welcome to join in other conversations or suggest topics.
Entries will be accepted between September 1 and September 15, 2010, and should be written in English (Gary) and attached as comments to this post (the usual practice at NC).
Remember the values we hold dear here at Numéro Cinq: WIT & ARROGANCE. Remember Gordon Lish’s phrase ATTACK SENTENCES!
P.S. Anyone who mentions the insidious phrase “flash fiction” will have his or her comment deleted from the blog. I mean this! Delete it from your minds. This is not a flash fiction contest.
My Memoir in a Box:
(The actual Memoir ran here last year ... this is the Greatest Hits, ADD version ...)
It was finally over Didn’t I know it already? Wasn’t it obvious?She was right, too – I had no business being surprised. We had been in the middle of the unspoken knowledge for years. It was like living in Chernobyl as desperate Russians were starting to do again now: ignoring the obvious and waiting for the symptoms to show.
How did I figure out that Ned was sleeping with my ex-wife? I wanted to sell my wedding ring. Nick freaked. Kim said, “I’ll keep it until he’s older.” So I gave it to her, in front of her friends. She called, furious: it was a spiteful thing to do. Ned agreed. Ned? He had to be fucking her. Only one way to be sure: read her diary.
Why stalk my ex-wife? I wanted to be fully included in my exclusion, in complete control of my helplessness. I found Lisa’s diary in her underwear drawer. Reading it was like a Krav Maga demonstration: pulled by the back of neck into a series of blows, the brutal parody of an intimate embrace. The only solution: walk away.
The agent said: “When are you moving to L.A?” But I had kids. I couldn’t leave them and I couldn’t take them. But I could resent them and I did.. Then Caity got sick and cleaning her puke off the bathroom walls at two AM I realized: this was what I wanted to be doing. This was where I wanted to be.
The advantages of divorce: time off, silence. The dishes in the sink are no longer a passive-aggressive statement. They’re just dishes. And no more nonogomy. A much needed new word: being sexually faithful to a woman who’s not fucking you. Happily married, I was the one guy at a party not smoking weed. Now I’m one of the guys. Pass the doobie.
Maybe divorced men should be quarantined for eight months. The first relationship is always bad – the first pancake you test the griddle with, and invariably throw out. Sasha was a good Catholic girl, so the more obvious erotic encouragements were out of the question. She didn’t want to put anything strange or unusual in her mouth.“I don’t even eat sushi,” she said.
I was happily alone when I met Annie. Solo flights – that was my kind of flying. Solo cups – that was my kind of cup! Han Solo, that was my kind of corny outer space smuggler with a heart of gold! O Solo Mio – that was my kind of Mio. Then we read each other’s work and she kissed me under the Chekhov moon.
So we moved in together. She endured Caity’s pack of friends she battled Nick over his dirty dishes and won. She went to Grad school and I followed her like a horse clopping after another horse. I was no longer living in the past. It was a physical relief, like taking off a bulky coat I should never have been wearing in the first place.
My Mom and my brother Peter came to Nantucket for Nick’s graduation. He walked into the house with a bag of groceries. Mom offered to help. He gave her a baffled look, said “I’m fine Mom,” and started unpacking the food. I said, “I guess that’s a look I’m going to have to start getting used to.”
“Yes,” she said. “But you never will.”