With so many so many books on craft, it is difficult to know which ones are worth your time and money. Well, here are some books recommended by the awesome MFA poetry professors and students, so you can stock your shelves in confidence:
How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch (2 recommendations)
"This is a wonderful book, suitable for both beginnings and more advanced poet, that demonstrates how to read poetry as a poet should read, and has tons of resources and wonderful examples on where to find much more poetry to read." -- Derick Burleson
Rules for the Dance and A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver (2 recommendations)
The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry (1 recommendation)
"terrific [resource] for both readers and writers of poetry" -- Wendy Scher
Writing Poems, Fifth Edition by Robert Wallace and Michelle Boisseau (3 recommendations)
"[It] s the book I use for craft because it makes clear contact with 'the ground' of verse: the line. Craft books that don't do that, but that focus on all sorts of other elements of language, are about prose as much as verse. I use an older edition, the fifth, because there are still plenty of them out there and the basic information doesn't change -- hasn't changed -- and this edition spares students the cost of a new text." -- Linda McCarriston
The Poetry Dictionary by John Drury (1 recommendation)
"This is great as a quick reference because all the terms are in alphabetical order, just like a regular dictionary, and poems are provided as examples." -- Lisa Houlihan Stice
A Poet's Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie (1 recommendation)
"[It] is specifically geared towards poets. Kinzie not only knows the technical aspects of poems but she can thoroughly explain them PLUS she gives numerous examples throughout of what is being discussed chapter by chapter. Grad poets should find the scansion of poems helpful too. At the end of the book is a glossary, one of the most comprehensive I've ever discovered, including terms such as isocron, zeugma, and meiosis, among others." -- Anne Caston
Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss (1 recommendation)
"a humorous (yet deadly-serious) look at what grammar mistakes can cost a writer, in terms of how the reader comprehends the sentence - a focus on punctuation" -- Anne Caston
The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick (1 recommendation)
"[It] has been immensely helpful to me as a poet because of Gornick's clarity about what separates the situation from the story in a piece. Beautifully written, aimed at nonfiction and fiction writers but, as I said earlier, immensely helpful to poets also." -- Anne Caston
Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag (1 recommendation)
"[It] is a close and provocative examination of the spectator's position - the writer's and photographer's as well - and responses when viewing images of the pain and suffering of others. Among her premises is that sympathy is often 'too simple' a response and that we might set aside sympathy for those 'beset by war and murderous politics' and to consider, instead, how our privileges are 'located on the same map as their suffering and may - in ways we may prefer not to imagine - be linked to their suffering.'" -- Anne Caston
Besides exhaustion, the summer Blackboard session and the residency provide all sorts of immediate and constant support. Through Blackboard, we comment back and forth and enter into craft discussions. At the residency, we're surrounded by our professors and fellow students who can talk for hours about writing. Then, the residency ends, and we're standing at the edge of the high dive, not sure if there's even any water in the pool.
How do we keep the anxiety and writer's block from overwhelming us between packets? Well, one thing I know is that our mentors are there for us. If you're hanging on the edge by a pinky nail, shoot your mentor an email or a call, and I bet you'll end up feeling better. The biggest thing to remember is that we are all part of a writing culture, so we can reach out to our fellow writers. Even though I was not living in a writerly community a couple months ago and recently made a move across country, my computer keeps me connected to a writing community wherever I go.
Midway through last year, a friend invited me to join an online writing group, and, like Frost's road less traveled, it has made all the difference. We have just completed week 19 with Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux's The Poet's Companion. Every week, we read a chapter in the book, write a poem inspired by one of the prompts at the end of the chapter, email our poems to everyone in the group, and respond to each other's poems. It's totally low stress, and it keeps me talking with people who like craft talk, helps me produce at least one new poem a week, and provides practice with critical response. How awesome is it to have five or so pairs of eyes see my writing, so I have additional feedback for my revisions. It's a win-win. Since I've joined the online writing group, my pull is always full of water, and I know my writing group buddies are going to be the floaties that keep me from drowning.
I do have some tips:
1. Keep everything casual and fun. This should be low stress.
2. Even though the group should be fun, always think about it as a support system. You want to receive support, so be sure to always provide support by carefully reading and thoughtfully responding to your members' writing.
3. Thank your members for the comments they provide.
4. Don't post any of your workshop pieces on a public site because that counts as publishing. Use email, so only the people in your group see the poems, fiction or nonfiction.
Here they are, most of our 2012 grads, with their thesis Wordles in hand, joy in their hearts, and nothing left to do but celebrate and then fill out 2,367 forms for the grad office (twice).
We'll never forget you, grads, but we're going to list your names anyway: Michael Dinkel, Samantha Harris, Scott Burton, Tim Lash, Carrie Enge, Allison Williams, Michelle Robinson, Kirsten Anderson , Lisa Scerbak. Sadly, Robi Craig and Linda Ketchum couldn't be there for the ceremony, but everyone else took on your share of the adult beverages.
Honestly, though, as good as Cody Rhodes is, it’s okay by me if we miss out on 10 minutes of them for 10 more minutes of CM Punk and Chris Jericho. Jericho is my favorite of all time, and CM Punk is the best the WWE has right now, and I think that’s the sentiment that the WWE is banking on by truncating so many matches in favor of the “big three” that are advertised.
The obligatory women’s match. Women’s wrestling is something of a conundrum. There are two types of women’s wrestlers: the ones who view wrestling the same way that male wrestlers do (as a predetermined opportunity to display athleticism), and the ones who view the WWE the same way that noted pervert Vince McMahon views them (a means of using physical beauty to make money). The WWE women’s division is an odd mixture of slutty models and legitimate athletes.
Also interesting, the women’s storylines are never convoluted, are always bare-bones simple, get-the-job-done booking and are at once a display of laziness on the part the WWE bookers and a look at wrestling structure at it purest form. Since the WWE expects roughly the same number of lonely perverts to pay attention to the women’s wrestlers no matter what, they can revert on the old standby of good vs. evil that wrestling has relied on since the carnival days. So when Jerry Lawler, the announcer, says “a lot of people disagree with Eve’s recent change in personality,” it’s not only half-assed and pretty hokey, it’s wrestling at its purest.
Ultimately, this match has the potential to be good. Beth Phoenix is a wrestler of staggering competence, gender irrelevant, and Eve and Kelly Kelly are on their way towards being really good workers despite being brought in as eye candy. Unfortunately, this match features what I consider to be modern wrestling’s greatest shortcoming: the desire to generate cross-appeal by bringing in low-level celebrities.
An unfortunate list of celebrities with pinfall victories over WWE talent off the top of my head:
Floyd “Money” Mayweather
Add to that list “Maria Menunos,” Kelly Kelly’s tag team partner for this match, and apparently some kind of talkshow host.
This idea that with the right celebrity some quantifiable level of fame will be reached whereby WWE will gain mainstream popularity has been prevalent since Liberace was featured at Wrestlemania 1 and confirms that Vince McMahon himself has no trouble suspending his own disbelief. Pro Wrestling is and always will be a niche form of entertainment.
(It is worth pointing out that this match was full of Daniel Bryan chants, the crowd exercising its only means of communicating its wishes.)
WWE trots out some probably inflated attendance stats.
 Booking, n: the process by which characters are chosen to take part in storylined matches. Ultimately the most important aspect of pro wrestling. Derived terms: Booker, Booked.
 I do not see Pro Wrestling as hokey, oversimplified morality play and Pro Wrestling as underappreciated art form as mutually exclusive. Wrestling shines when it is creative within the constraints of its medium. Wrestling gets into trouble when the storylines get too fancy and involve necrophilia.
 The most notable example of a fitness model whose tits Vince McMahon wants to make money with working incredibly hard to become very very good at her job is Trish Stratus, who went from the platonic ideal of eye candy to arguably the most beloved women’s wrestler of all time over the course of her long career.
 Mayweather and Taylor are forgivable, the men are frightening and legitimate athletes, but this list doesn’t even include celebs who were featured though not victorious (Drew Carey, Pete Rose, among others…)
Two things about being a wrestling fan: 1. Suspension of disbelief. 2. The only way to make yourself heard is to engineer some sort of chant.
It all feels rushed and here’s why: there are three matches tonight that will need a huge amount of time for their stories to unfold effectively: CM Punk vs Chris Jericho, HHH vs The Undertaker, and The Rock vs John Cena. More on all of these later, but first,
Cody Rhodes vs The Big Show
Part of following wrestling deeply enough to be aware of the backstage goings on is that you begin to notice the obvious ways that said goings on influence the product that you enjoy. The logical conclusion of this is to make up backstage goings on that will influence the product (since the average fan obviously can not actually know as much as they think they know). It takes the same brain-muscle to be a smart wrestling fan as it does to be a conspiracy theorist.
Anyway, so with Cody and Show, you have almost the exact same dynamic that you had with Bryan/Seamus. You have a big man who is physically impressive due to his size, but who can’t really move around all that well and Isn’t nearly as entertaining to watch as his opponent, in this case the hyper-talented Cody Rhodes. The difference between Cody Rhodes and Daniel Bryan is, though, that Bryan had made a name for himself in organizations that are technically WWE’s competitors before eventually being signed by WWE, while Cody Rhodes came up the way a talent with his pedigree should, limiting even his earliest endeavors to organizations owned by the WWE. Which is to say that every modicum of fame that Cody Rhodes has is owed entirely to the WWE. Which is, itself, to say, that there is more incentive for the WWE to make Cody Rhodes look good than to make Daniel Bryan look good. The stars are about equally marketable, they are about equally young, and though Daniel Bryan is more talented the gap between him and Rhodes is considerably smaller than between him and most other WWE talent.
But the question remains: did the WWE stifle Bryan’s match and give Rhodes’ match plenty of time so that Rhodes and Show could have all of the Big Man/Little Man dynamic without the crowd seeing any of it as stale?
The question remains.
Big Show wins, which doesn’t do anybody any good.
 Seamus, whose character is based largely on being able to beat bad guys without stooping to their level, kicks Daniel Bryan in the face right off the bat to win the championship, taking advantage of the fact that DBry was playing a little bit of tonsil-hockey with his valet in the corner before the match, whereas Kane, whose masked persona is synonymous with malice and evil, allows Randy Orton ample time to pose for the crowd before commencing with their match.
 “Daniel Bryan” chants abound throughout the rest of the event. This is the hive minded Greek chorus of the wrestling crowd voicing simultaneous approval of Bryan himself and disapproval with the way his match was booked.
 The booking of this year’s WrestleMania does seem to follow a “man with a nickname versus a man with a plain name” kind of pattern.
 Son of Dusty Rhodes, WWE Hall of Famer and infrequent nostalgia-superstar (meaning that he will on occasion stroll out into the ring to the delight of the crowd, who remember what he used to be like and don’t really care what he’s like now).
Let’s talk a little about Kane. Alright? Good
To do that we need to first talk about The Undertaker
The Undertaker debuted in the WWF in 1990 at Survivor Series, and is generally cited as the greatest marriage of gimmick and performer in the history of professional wrestling. There’s only one real piece of evidence in support of this, and it’s as subjective as it is reliably accurate: no one but the man Mark Calloway could pull of that Undertaker business.
For every successful, long-term gimmick in the WWE, there are tons of failed characters, even with the same wrestler. Even “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, by most accounts the most popular wrestler ever, was a kind of pseudo-Ric Flair knock off for a while named “Stunning” Steve Austin (in WCW) and The Ringmaster (in WWE). Ultimately, the most successful gimmicks are the ones that stop being outlandish characters and start being uncomplicated and sort of self-evident: The Rock’s character is that he’s The Rock. Same with John Cena, same with Triple H, and believe it or not, the most likely response you’re going to get to the question “what is The Undertaker’s gimmick” is “he’s The Undertaker.”
So the Undertaker strode into the WWF in 1990 and reigned supreme even into the industry’s less fantastic (which is not to say that it wasn’t a good era, just less based on fantastic elements then say, the Hulk Hogan 80s) era.
In 1997, in order to engineer a feud, the WWF introduced Kane, The Undertaker’s Brother. There’s a term in videogames where two characters are essentially the same thing just with slightly different color schemes (“palette swap” in case you’re interested or still reading) and initially Kane was not much more than that. The character evolved as it became popular with the fans, though (industry terminology for becoming popular with the fans: “getting over”), and his back story was subsequently changed in several ways. He went from being horribly scarred in a fire to being simply psychologically scarred (this was done so that he could wrestle without a mask), the WWE de-emphasized his ability to control fire, and he went from being mute to being able to speak with the aid of a device, to being able to speak freely (his first words? Thanks for asking. “Suck it,” the popular D-Generation X catchphrase).
Kane’s character has at times been diabolically evil and uncompromisingly just, but his ultimate downfall is that he’s not a truly stand alone character; he’ll always be mentioned alongside The Undertaker. In a lot of ways, that’s not a bad thing; ‘Taker’s got a pretty legitimate claim on one of the handful of “best of all time” handles you can toss out, he’s got longevity and is (reputedly) a class act. There are far worse trailers to be hitched up to forever.
That said, the WWE is a strange universe, where objectively gigantic men go to stop being novelties (Vince’s WWE is so high on big men that even the most physically impressive giants stroll out to a sentiment that’s essentially “oh another giant freak of nature…yawn”).
Kane’s success, and by any measure his career has been a success, is therefore more an impressive ability on his end to transcend the limitations of his size and association to one particular wrestler, and connect with the crowd (which by now you’ve learned is called “getting over”).
The appeal of Kane is, ultimately, of his own creation. He has managed to engineer his own coolness, something that the most popular wrestlers are able to do and the other ones simply are not.
Kane’s ‘Mania opponent, on the other hand, is Randy Orton, whose coolness is manufactured by the WWE and is stuffed down the throats of the audience. (The beauty of being a wrestling fan is that as subjective as my opinion is, it’s no less right than that of someone who likes Randy Orton).
For a while, Orton went by the moniker “The Legend Killer,” which was kind of a meta-gimmick that both played with his status as a Legacy, and saw him get the best of older WWE Superstars. His continued annihilation of the gimmick-dependant superstars of old was both a means of getting Orton over and a symbol of the new wave of WWE characters, who are mostly plainclothes muscleheads. Every time Randy Orton beat up a Jake “The Snake” Roberts or a “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, it was as if the WWE was saying “this is the future, suckers, who cares if it’s not particularly talented or charismatic?”
Ultimately, though, Orton’s got whatever “it” is, and he’s forged a path largely by dominating heavy-handed “character” wrestlers, like Kane.
In short, this is the exact kind of match that the gimmickless Orton (in fact it’s a stretch to even call him a character, really) would win.
I don’t much care for Orton, and I like Kane a lot. Will the WWE give me two dissatisfying match experiences right in a row?
Turns out, no. Kane is allowed to win in a match that lasts a respectable amount of time. It is wonderful.
 “Gimmick,” another industry term referring generally to the confluence of characteristics and ideas and speaking patterns and clothing that make up a character’s “character,” in the case of the Undertaker it’s the weird mystique surrounding his quote unquote lord of darkness/deadman persona (between 2002 and 2004, however, he inexplicably changed his gimmick to an uber-patriotic biker, but he was so popular by that time that no one cared).
 Notable examples: Mark Calloway (The Undertaker) was once a part of a tag team called “The Skyscrapers,” whose gimmick was simply that they were quite tall. Current WWE Wunderkind Dolph Ziggler has had stints as both a male cheerleader and a golf caddy. Glenn Jacobs, who portrays Kane, was once…wait for it…an evil dentist (Dr. Isaac Yankem, in case you were wondering).
 It’s best to think of pro wrestlers’ histories as fluid, changing things that don’t always remain even or consistent but still contribute in some way to the essence of the fictional characters, like the setting of “Hamlet” from stage to stage.
 Nowhere is the proverbial “it” that superstars have and lesser stars don’t have more real. Not sports, not music. It’s also worth pointing out that Glen Jacobs (who portrays Kane) has a degree in English from a respected liberal arts college and at one point hosted a Libertarian talk-radio show.
 Orton’s father and grandfather are both former professional wrestlers.
 Again, just my opinion.
One of the things I like about professional wrestling is that it has little to no crossover appeal. Fans of football, for example, may enjoy hockey due to similar levels of violence, fans of soccer may enjoy lacrosse because of their similar strategic elements and ball-in-goal type aspirations, but you can’t really go up to any hardcore fan of a particular sport and say “hey, you dig rugby? You might like the athletic pageantry of elaborately staged violence.”
It resembles sports too much to be of any real appeal to a drama junkie or film scholar, it is too dramatic to draw in someone with a thirst for pure competition.
And so then the only people who like pro wrestling are pro wrestling fans, and these are the people who really don’t mind being sucked into a universe where storylines play out in real time for years and years and years. As such, real life events have a tendency to bleed into the storyline universe (which by now you’ve learned is called kayfabe).
PM 6:08: Seamus vs. Daniel Bryan
This is one of those matches where the storyline is somehow less important than the real life circumstances of how it came about. Seamus is your prototypical WWE superstar: hired by Vince McMahon based on huge stature more than charisma or actual ability (and a guy whose rise to prominence in the organization coincided exactly with his decision to start lifting weights with Triple H, a future WWE Hall of Fame wrestler, now a talent-relations guy for the WWE and probable heir apparent to the whole organization once Vince McMahon lies down for life’s final three count).
Daniel Bryan is the exact opposite: by all measures too small to ever succeed in Vince McMahon’s WWE, too athletic and not easily pigeonholed into the pageantry-over-pugilism focus of the organization, he was the top talent in an organization called ROH for years and years, and when he was eventually signed by WWE, it felt like it was because Vince couldn’t put it off any longer. Each measure of his success had a similar feel: he was given a more and more prominent role because management had run out of reasons to not feature him and somehow he ended up holding the second most prestigious title in WWE.
Anyway here’s the advantage the WWE has over organizations like the NFL and, say, college basketball: characters. The WWE deals in creating characters for the audience to either love (“mark out over”) or hate (a hateful reaction is referred to as “heat,” the process of obtaining said reaction is referred to as “drawing” as in “drawing major heat”). Often times, the audience will take these characters and project whatever they can of themselves onto them (Steve Austin made a living in the 90s flicking off Vince McMahon entirely because everyone in America wants to flick off their own boss, not because he flipped a particularly entertaining bird, even though he did). I can project abstractions of derisions of “too small,” “not charismatic enough,” “not athletic enough” onto Daniel Bryan a lot more easily than I can onto Seamus, therefore I like Daniel Bryan more, therefore I want him to win, therefore I watch WrestleMania to see him win. Ultimately, that kind of a relationship between me, a fan, and a talent, whom I’ve never met and who might be an asshole, is what professional wrestling is built on.
(meanwhile, the NFL outlaws essentially any display of individualism on the field, reduces players’ roles to that of faceless commodities of a team, the entity you are supposed to cheer for and support financially)
This is the opening match. The opening match of a show is critical for a number of reasons, the most apparent being that it warms the crowd up (believe it or not, emotional frenzy is not the default setting for a crowd at a wrestling show, it has to be coaxed out of us, earned, something The Rock is good at and, say, Festus was bad at, which is why you’ve heard of The Rock and not that other guy).
The crowd is hot for this match already, with the favor being skewed plainly towards young Daniel, who even though he’s a storyline heel (bad guy) he’s the kind of everyman that a lot of wrestling fans enjoy (Seamus on the other hand is a freak of nature, and as such hard to cheer for even though he’s the face in the storyline). This match can be a classic, an emotional roller coaster to kick off the biggest wrestling event of the year.
Guess what happens?
Daniel Bryan loses in 18 seconds to restore Vince McMahon’s order.
So it goes.
But still, damn it.
 Fans of actual wrestling, the kind you’ll see in the Olympics and in Iowa are notorious for harboring real hatred towards professional wrestling.
 There is a huge difference between the storylines in wrestling and the “storylines” in sports like football or baseball, one that justifies the use of quotation marks: emotional response in real sport comes entirely in response to a fans desire to see his/her team win, or in dramatic events that come up organically, whereas professional wrestling attempts to engineer those responses by creating characters for fans to like/hate and making sure storylines arise. This is not to say that one is more emotional than the other, but wresting is by its very definition more dramatic, because it is drama in the theatrical sense. This is as good a time as any to say that the industry term for fans is “marks.”
 HHH who himself rose to prominence only after palling around with a fellow named Shawn Michaels. It’s a business of connections, if you can make them.
 Think of ROH (Ring of Honor) as the Broadway to WWE’s Hollywood.
 Daniel Bryan is about 5’9’’ and the WWE is notorious for taking talent with successful backgrounds in other organizations and continually squashing them to prove that the WWE really is the “big leagues.”
 I say this without a modicum of irony, but with complete knowledge that all of these titles are meaningless to non-wrestling fans.
 This is possible only because the extreme athleticism of pro wrestlers is presented in less quantifiable ways than a football player or baseball player: it’s a lot easier for me to say “oh, I could totally pull off an elbow drop if I just rallied the old mind to it” than it is for me to say “oh, I could totally throw a football 80 yards if I just rallied the old arm to it.”
Hunter Whitworth Liveblogs WrestleMania 28 Part 1
(Obviously not an actual liveblog, but I will be framing my thoughts on this year's WrestleMania and wrestling in general via a time frame of that event).
By not asking for this, you all asked for this
April 1, 2012
I have decided that since I subject everyone in the residency to various aspects of my wrestling fandom and experience every summer, and every summer someone says “hey, you’re writing about this, right?” and I generally either lie and say “yes” or shrink away mumbling incoherently, I owe some sort of attempt of sophisticated wrestling analysis and writing to the one or two people who know that this website exists. Also, I’d like a break from revisiting my nanowrimo failure.
A critical wrinkle in the landscape of the current WWE is the need for WrestleMania to be bigger than everything else. This is critical both to the powers that be in the WWE (who need money) and to the fans of WWE (who need some pure thing to look forward to, some objectively wonderful experience that justifies the complicated ups and downs of being a wrestling fan for an entire year between WrestleManias). This was easier for WWE when there were only four Pay Per Views a year, but has become increasingly difficult as the PPV schedule has evolved to once a month.
That said, WrestleMania does indeed feel huge every year. Maybe it’s because it’s marketed well (which it mostly is), maybe it’s because it’s supposed to be big (and perception is reality) and maybe, and most likely: it’s big because fans like me really really really want it to be big (and desire has a great capacity to augment reality).
Also, there really are a few ways that WWE succeeds in making ‘Mania feel like an enormous event every year. Generally, there is real storyline closure at ‘Mania (which is why there was such outrage at last year’s WrestleMania when the main event (!) ended in a victory for The Miz without him winning cleanly).
Also, the yearly WWE Hall of Fame inductions occur the night before ‘Mania, and it’s an opportunity for an organization that is not normally associated with sophistication (see: a storyline in which Trish Stratus has to strip to her bra and bark like a dog to keep her job, see: a storyline involving Kane and necrophilia) to show some class.
Case in point: this is how much Ric Flair means to the business: in 2008 he was given the greatest sendoff in wrestling history. Ric Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame while an active wrestler, and his last match was against Shawn Michaels, the opponent of his choosing, at WrestleMania. Keep in mind that most wrestlers
a. are not performing when they are Ric Flair’s age
b. are certainly not performing on television when they are Ric Flair’s age
c. do not even live to be Ric Flair’s age.
So the fact that Ric Flair, a near 60 year old man and the greatest wrestler of all time, was performing in the main event on literally the most widely-viewed wrestling show in the history of the planet is ludicrous beyond my ability to convey. It was the biggest deal in the history of a man whose career was made almost entirely of things that were a really big deal.
I was there, and it was beautiful. I drove through the night after WrestleMania ended (in Orlando) to get back just in time for a Monday morning class (in Greenville, SC), and me and my friend were forever changed. A giant bowl full of tens of thousands of people had just helped the most prolific figure in the history of this niche bastard art form ride off into the sunset. Giant men cried. The closest approximation would be if everyone who Superman ever saved got to shake his hand when he retired. Attending a wrestling show is a paradoxically intimate event, and so to convey the emotional complexity of the situation is nearly impossible to do in worded communication, and yet I could say to another wrestling fan “Ric Flair, WrestleMania 24” and we’d both get the same weird homesicknessey feeling.
Put it this way: The Undertaker, whose mysterious and vague “deadman” persona has kept him squarely in the upper echelon of WWE talent for 22 years, which persona is so guarded by the WWE that he is forbidden from attending any of their constant publicity tours, was allowed to totally break kayfabe the next night during Ric Flair’s retirement ceremony on Monday Night Raw, in front of probably their biggest tv audience in years, just so he could give Flair a hug. That’s how big of an era was ending.
Which was why it was such a shock, and an almost personal slight to a lot of individual wrestling fans, when Flair stayed retired for less than a year, due to fiscal need (a lifetime of financial irresponsibility) and came back to crap all over his own legacy in TNA, a much lesser known wrestling promotion (though technically the WWE’s biggest competitor). The ego of Flair was also on full display, since he surely could have made money in some capacity with the WWE, but instead chose to go where they would allow him to actually compete in-ring.
Vince McMahon (owner of WWE) famously holds grudges, so this was perceived as Ric Flair taking the last bridge he would ever want to burn and dropping an atomic bomb on it.
But here’s the class: the WWE worked out a deal with TNA, an organization that they won’t even acknowledge most of the time, so that The Four Horsemen, a group that Ric Flair led, could be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Flair included. In short, the organization that will generally do anything for a buck took a financial hit so that they could induct Ric Flair into the Hall of Fame for a second time. Simply because it was (and we’re dealing with entertainment industry and therefore very specialized ideas of “right” and “wrong”) the right thing to do.
In short, WrestleMania is epic, because it’s supposed to be, because I want it to be.
 That is, events that you have to pay for to watch. Traditionally, the big four were The Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Survivor Series, and SummerSlam.
 A lot of “smart” fans view this, an obviously revenue-chasing maneuver, as one of the downfalls of modern wrestling, and a continued justification for extreme nostalgia (perhaps the most defining characteristic of the modern wrestling fan).
 The classic model for selling wrestling PPVs is unchanged since the days when promoters were merely trying to sell more tickets, not glitzy televised events: send a storyline careening towards a conclusion, make the stakes high, and wrestling fans will pay to see their desired outcome. The old(ish) rule was that the desired outcome would be achieved at a PPV, but with one every month nowadays, the WWE can’t maintain really long storylines without having some matches at PPVs end under questionable circumstances in order to keep the storyline going. All of this is to say that payoff is often denied even at PPVs, but generally ‘Mania is a time for storylines to reach final denouement.
 Official attendance: 74, 635
 Basically an all-encompassing industry term for the fictional universe in which the WWE storylines play out.
 The kind of ego that can only come from a 30-plus year career of emotional manipulation of large crowds, and the better Flair got, the larger the crowds got. This was a man who became larger than life; he had to believe at least part of his own hype.
Chapter 7: A Human Work
“I just need to know that you promise not to accept what I say right off the bat. If you do, you’re crazy. But if you don’t after giving it some thought, you’re also crazy and stupid”
-The Old Man
13 August 2021: The Present
Felix Sand has romantical love only for the lady-folk, but even he has to admit that the dude who walks in the door to the much-maligned HH is like movie-star good looking, which makes him uncomfortable and suddenly aware of the fact that his own precious little face probably couldn’t carry a blockbuster, even with makeup.
Being in the company of especially attractive people has always made Felix really uncomfortable, which is a factor he’s always blamed for a lot of his interpersonal relationship woes, since he knows that it’s groups of attractive people banded together who generally have pretty good lives, certainly better than one moderately attractive-to-average bloke managing the cosmos’ only Hamburger Purgatory.
So a lot of involuntary staring goes on, one to the other (one being Felix and the other being this handsome man), and even Squatch is getting in on the action, himself mostly preoccupied with how close it is to Winter and how much better he likes the name Yeti than Squatch: he thinks of the Yeti as a more of a majestic misunderstood beast than the Sasquatch, which he feels like everyone understands exactly as much as they want to, what with the blurry photos and such. He also derives a great deal of pleasure from when Felix shouts “yeh-tay!” and this does, in turn, cause Felix an odd kind of satisfaction, which he guesses (and if he knew that this was possibly belittling to the one human being who Felix would call a buddy and vice verca, he wouldn’t say it) is kind of like the way parents feel when they play peek-a-boo with newborns.
So the handsome man walks up to the counter and looks Felix right in his eyes, and it seems to Felix like the handsome man’s eyes are a different color than they were when he came in, but are still what someone might call “radiant” or some such, and he tells Felix that he called in the order for the burgers those few days ago, and says he just forgot, it slipped his mind as things so often do, aint that the way, etc., and he (the handsome man) wouldn’t mind being the one to dispose of the refuse since it’s his fault anyways, and Felix looks over at the soon to be Yeti, and Squatch shakes his head in a “no” motion, and Sand turns back to the hombre and says it’s no worries but we’ll take care of it on-site, as it were, nothing for you to worry about, gent.
“It’s no trouble, really. I’ll just toss it on my way back out.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I insist that you stop insisting.”
“We can’t have our customers in here handling moldy things. It’s against regulations.”
“Don’t make me take it.”
“I don’t think you’d take it. It would be a very strange thing to get bent out of shape about to the point of physical action.”
“So it would seem.”
“Are you going to order anything? There’s other customers.”
“Are other customers.”
“What if we made a deal?”
“What kind of deal?”
“I’ll allow you to wield a fraction of power.”
“I’m not sure what that means.”
“Give me the bag and find out. You have nothing to lose here except some moldy burgers.”
“You drive a hard bargain.”
“You have no idea.”
“Excellent. You are now a wielder of the Morningsword, and the strength thereof.”
“Sounds neat. Take the bag.”
And as the handsome man exits the old man enters, who sees the handsome man and the handsome man sees him, and the look on the face of the handsome man is a lot like the look on the face of someone who has just caught a very big fish and the look on the face of the old man with the older walking stick is a lot like the look on the face of the fellow who’d been fishing that spot for fifteen years without any measure of success.
“You’re a damned fool!” shouts the old man at Felix. “You don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t know the consequences of what you’re doing. You have literally no applicable knowledge and yet here you are, playing God!”
“How can I relax? How the hell can I relax!?”
“Listen, I don’t know what either of you are driving at or getting after, but I just got rid of him, and you need to stay out of my burger joint. If it’s any consolation, I switched bags. I can’t have rotting meat out in the front of my goddamn restaurant. That’s insane. I threw that bag away and put up another one to keep Squatch happy. When you see that dude, ask him where’s my sword.”
2 March 1989: The Present
It is precisely AM 6:04:34 when Aleph Atom Severe’s living room implodes with brilliant light, unsightly in it’s beauty, painful in how refreshing and wonderful it is. A.A. having formed the habit of waking up extremely early to write before he goes to do what he’s grown to refer to colloquially as bank books. He prefers the term “book banker” contra “book jockey.”
This is something he doesn’t know how to react to this early in the morning or at any other time of day or at any other time, ever, period. Also, no one does.
From within the light somewhere comes a voice, and within that voice is some kind of supernatural warmth and also it is terrifying. It is all frightening enough that Atom has stopped thinking of ways that it could all be set up with floodlights and megaphones. Of course, then there’s the voice, and it about peels the skin off of Atom’s face. Atom isn’t sure whether he hears or feels it more, but he certainly does both, in very big ways. The best way to describe it would be to say that he hears it with his whole body and that he feels it with his internal organs just as much as anything else. He can feel his heart physically hurting as he endures the voice, and he can’t even make out what it’s saying.
The inside of his mouth tastes like battery acid and the paint is peeling from the walls of his room. His eyes are shut as tight as he can clamp them, but he sees red still and can almost make out shapes.
He feels his left arm begin to throb and also vomits.
The light mercifully fades, and the voice becomes lower and clearer.
“That was one-tenth of one percent of my glory. You have now seen that.”
Atom responds by vomiting for a second time.
“You are the one who requires proof, not the Wanderer. The Wanderer has lived long enough to believe, but your intellect is now such that belief is hard for you. Well there you have it. I am Thor, a messenger. I am the lowest on what you’d call the totem pole. There are seventy time seven angels above me, each more glorious than the last and all of us paling in comparison with the one ahead. What you have just seen is literally the absolute most a human can bear before going insane and dying. We have learned this over the course of millennia.
“The Wanderer had hoped that he’d get to see me, but it is you, sir, who require proof. This is proof. Very few get proof. Very few are so important that their belief is essential and must be obtained at all cost. But there are hard times coming, and I have not blinded you only because you will need to be able to see. But it would have been very easy for me to have blinded you.”
“What do you want?”
“Are you listening?”
“The Wanderer will come back to you. You will not kick him from your doorstep. You will listen to what he has to say and know that it is true. You will not ask him who he is. If he tells you, you will consider it an undeserved reward for something you have not done, a privilege to have that kind of knowledge. You will reveal to him all of the terms of your deal with the handsome man, and you will do what he tells you to do. You will not see me again but you may see the like of me again. You will consider that a privilege as well, and react accordingly. Repeat my name to me.”
“That is a corruption of my true name, but it is closer than any human who I have ever revealed myself to, which says something about your character. Your brain, as enhanced as it is, isn’t even equipped to hear my name correctly. That is the ridiculous majesty of even me, the lowliest of the angels. Literally the equivalent of what a sports metaphorist might call a ‘scrub’ or a ‘benchwarmer’ or an‘eternal second-string,’except that they don’t even begin to describe just how lowly I am in that company. And yet still, I am the most absurdly magnificent thing that you are capable of processing with your senses. So know that. I could have literally melted you with light. Not with heat, with light. Do you understand how ridiculous that is? Do you? Listen to the old man. If you go back to sleep right now you’ll have the most vivid nightmares you’ve ever had, about me. Good morning.”
Chapter 6: Rei II
“What I was lacking was any kind of cogency of narrative, or writing acumen, and then I realized that the majority of the novel’s bandwidth should be spent focusing on the righteousness of Moira and then deconstructing it, because the thing that humans can take the most pride in is a desire to be good, and the thing that is most pitiable about them is the total inability to actually do so.”
-Journal of Aleph Atom Severe
1 March 1989: The Present
Atom Severe now focused both on the re-imagining of his novel and the double-century overdue book. The book, which he has now read several times, attempting to both glean some kind of writerly knowledge from Signore Dante, and also to get into the mindset of whoever checked it out, and furthermore for his own personal intellectual growth, itself now on a staggering curve even without the book.
He also regularly chuckles about the whole Paradise Lofts thing, and chuckles further at the fact that he is only just now chuckling. Things that make intelligent people laugh now make Aleph Atom Severe laugh, and the things that intelligent people dislike are now things that Aleph Atom Severe dislikes. One of those things is his old novel in progress, which he has scrapped in favor of a new project.
His new intelligence views the fact that he is still primarily concerned with writing fiction as a possible redemption for his older, foolish self. The fact that (even in his own thoroughly deplorable way, to be clear) his stupid self had a concern that his newly intelligent self can be similarly concerned with means that his older self was misguided and stupid, certainly, but at least his heart was in the right place, or some such.
And so he is keeping the basic frameworks: Moira finds a fiddle in post-apocalyptic Celtish (he has tweaked the society slightly, dealing with some land-parceling and border issues that could conceivably arise in an alien-overlord situation, dealing with some realistic social issues that might arise, dealing with perhaps the way currency would work and what a class structure would look like, taking his cues from both Ancient Rome and the heyday of the British Empire) which is essentially the good old U.K.
We’re still dealing with the 31st century here as well, so the whole music having fallen out of the human race thing is still very much evident, except for Moira, whose ability to play, process etc. the fiddle is left ambiguous in a much lighter, more artful kind of way. And the romantic lead is gone, and the fact that the romantic lead is gone is itself an almost radioactively self-evident and foregrounded plot point, that the only way that Moira can be this savior of mankind is to completely alienate herself from all of them for fear of using the weapon that she’s using to defend them near themselves, for the risk. So this involuntary but noble post-modern Knights Templar chastity that he’s playing with deals really heavily into her righteousness shtick, which now he’s confronted with how exactly she’s going to die, because she has to die for the novel to work, symbolically.
There is still a character called Laser Wolf.
He is ashamed of the chapter he sent to that journal whose name rhymes with Flew Florker, and feels now that they had every right to just not respond to him, not knowing the truth about that still, fearsome though his intellect has become.
So when there’s a second knock on his door, he’s both aware of the fact that in this neighborhood it’d be a good idea to install a peep hole, and he’s afraid that it might be the handsome man coming to steal back his brain, recognizing his mistake. It is, instead, the old man with the older walking stick, who has words for Monsieur Severe, the first of them being:
“Surely an intellect of your new, particular tonnage can see the at least glimmering possibility that you’ve been tricked.”
“I see the glimmering of all possibilities now, which is pretty nifty, if I’m using the abrasive parlance of our times.”
“I imagine it would be.”
“I hope it won’t disappoint you to find out that you’re only the second-oddest human being that I’ve found on my doorstep of late.”
“You’ll find out that that statement is pretty inaccurate.”
“What are you selling?”
“I’m trying to give. But I’m too late, I guess. Or I’m on time and I’m supposed to think that I’m too late, which makes more sense. But one of the side effects of your current enhancement is the fact that you think you’re too smart to believe strangers right off the bat. That’s one way that your former self was superior to you as you are now. So I can tell that you’ll need a visit from someone else, or more accurately I know that you’re the one who that visit will be to. I had hoped that it would be me somehow, that I’d play a part in it, but I think I see now, that I’m paving the way to you, that my part is one of those glamourless integral parts of things that no one knows about but assure success. You’ll have to forgive my self-important pity, but I’m only human.”
“Where are you supposed to be right now?”
“Exactly right here, but not for the reason that I thought.”
“Is there someone you maybe want me to call?”
“You are being called. I am not being called but to inform you that you are the one who will be called. So don’t leave this apartment for a while. Stay in paradise. Do what we can’t do as humans. That was a joke.”
“I need you to answer my questions.”
“No you don’t. You’re just too damn smart to know that you don’t. We’ll see each other again. Sorry it took me so long to return that book, by the way. I just couldn’t put it down.”
“From such smarts, such ignorance. This was the trick, I think. This was the price you paid.”
“I think you’d better leave.”
“I know you do. And you should think less.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
Adam treks through the impossible garden time and time again, and the old cliché would be to say that each time is better than the last, but that isn’t true, because each time it’s just as good as the last time, which is to say that each time is equally breathtaking, resplendent, staggering, outrageous, freakishly beautiful, etc. etc. and it’s all he’s ever known, lucky him.
And then along comes his wife, who’s convinced him that the pair will get more work done in the garden if they split up every once in a while. She is beautiful and has no concept of ugliness, she is wonderful and has no concept of otherwise.
Adam countered that the point of the garden is to enjoy the garden, and the wife countered the counter by saying that their time apart would make their reunion better, and they, not knowing how to argue agreed.
Adam spent the day weaving her headwear from plants, not having a concept of what it would be like to be inconsiderate.
The wife is carrying some fruit, it looks like, and Adam immediately concerns himself with what to name it, which is his favorite thing to do in the whole small world that they inhabit.
They do not need to have sex all the time because they have conversations, but when they do his issue is like that of a horse and they orgasm simultaneously and to the glorification of themselves and everything around them.
The old ball and chain concerns herself with offering Adam the fruit, which he resolves to bite if she’s bitten of it, and to sin if she’s bitten of that as well, himself being unwilling to part from her, not know
Nature Groans, Decay is introduced to the Earth: Time is invented as such
ing if he can spare another rib for the process, which wasn’t painful the first time, not that he had a concept of pain, though he does now as he is standing on a pine cone. He is suddenly aware that his penis is showing, and is also aware that the expanse of the Earth goes beyond the impossible garden, which is a revelation forced on him and the wife. The two wander at first, no longer naked but still very concerned with the fact that they were naked, the ground hurting their feet and the sun scorching their backs, themselves now aging normally to the point of death, Adam blaming the wife, the wife blaming both Adam and the serpent in turns, the serpent elsewhere, the spirit formerly in the serpent having left it.  Though of course it’s not called that anymore, and the irony that only in extreme situations of oppression is the former U.K. which is now called Celtish can truly be united is one of the major themes that Severe is foregrounding in the novel, but he’s trying to toe the line and not be super drum-beaty about it.
 Which A.A. Severe is acutely aware is lifted from some of the comics he read as a kid, particularly a character whose voice was so powerful in the creating of concussive waves that he couldn’t use his power at all, really, let alone near anyone else. And when he did use it it caused this massive destruction, which makes Severe slightly more predisposed towards comics as an intellectual art form than he was even just a few days ago.
This Week's Blogger: