Grandpa’s Love: Meatloaf and Swords

I remember sitting at the kitchen table in my grandparent’s house. My grandpa sat at the head of the short table, and I sat at his right hand. I have strong memories about eating a particular food — meatloaf.

My grandma’s meatloaf smelled earthy and moist. I didn’t like meatloaf much when I was young. I still don’t. Part of the problem is meatloaf doesn’t look like meat. When Grandma served meatloaf, I cringed because she expected me to eat whatever she gave me. She had raised my mom to eat everything on the plate. If I didn’t eat everything, I wouldn’t get to eat dessert.

I remember a specific occasion when I was served meatloaf. I added ketchup and ate slowly, but I couldn’t eat the last mouthfuls. For whatever reason, the last bit was always the hardest. I gagging, my eyes watering and jaw clenched.

My grandpa noticed my distress, and his brow creased. Finally Grandpa scooped it onto his plate when Grandma wasn’t looking. It was our secret. Sometimes it’s strange to remember that my grandpa was a soldier in World War II. He always treated me with gentleness when I knew him.

One time, I was downstairs alone in my grandpa’s office. I was eight or ten, old enough to love blades and young enough to mishandle them.

A Smith Corona typewriter sat to the left of the desk. The machine was probably the one he used to type up his memoir. On the wall hung a Nazi officer saber that had a lion head with red eyes on the handle. I believe he saw the sword as a symbol of the Nazi’s defeat and surrender. When I was older, I used to take the saber down and swing it around.

The drawers of the desk were filled with fascinating objects. A magnifying glass. Metal paperweights. There was a small knife in one of the drawers too. It might have been a letter opener. The blade was thin and flat, and the casing was a bright color — white with orange or red.

I don’t remember what I was doing, but suddenly I was bleeding. I panicked.
I ran upstairs and hid like a wounded animal — I don’t remember my reasoning. I crouched behind a large stuffed chair in the living room and clutched my sliced finger. I was ashamed and afraid.

My grandpa must have wondered where I was or had found the knife. He walked through the house and called my name. Concern laced his voice.

“Jonathan? Jonathan?”

He found me. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that. I didn’t need to go to the hospital. But I know I felt safe. The scar is still on my finger. It looks like a crease, but the scar runs against the grain. I’m glad I cut my finger with that knife because it helps me remember my grandpa’s love.


June A&E: Books, Movies, and Video Games

This is what I read, watched, and played in June.

Books: The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

I asked Berry if he would write a sequel to The Manual of Detection. I was pleasantly surprised when he replied.



TV Shows: Jessica Jones by Melissa Rosenberg

A friend told me that you don’t need to be a tough guy to solve mysteries. This made me think about gender in detective stories. TV critic Maureen Ryan talked about that in Variety.

“Two mainstays of film noir are the tough-talking dame and the cynical private eye, and one of the pleasures of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is that it unites both types in one thorny and fascinating character.” — Maureen Ryan of Variety

Comparable: Alias, Dexter, Fringe, The Fall, and Veronica Mars.

Video Games: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings by CD Projekt Red

This is an amazing game that I had trouble starting. You don’t need to play the first Witcher game to play this one. The main character, Geralt, has amnesia like a magical, silver-haired Jason Bourne.

The Witcher 2 has wonderful decisions and branching paths without clear good and evil choices. This game can be difficult, and I switched between Normal and Easy difficulty several times before I learned the combat.

I am very excited to play The Witcher 3 now!

Fight Club Parody

Parents complain after students start “fight club”

Donors and parents of students have complained to Evergreen University after some students started a “fight club.” The boxing club is not one of Evergreen’s sponsored clubs, according to university officials.

The club was allegedly founded by a student named Tyler Durden. However, university officials say that there is no student by that name attending the school. This individual is rumored to look like a young Brad Pitt.

“A good-looking kid, by all accounts,” said Cletus McCoy, Vice Regent of Fashion Relations.

University officials first learned of the club’s existence after a large spike in injuries reported at the school medical center.

We spoke to an alleged member of the club. When asked about specifics of the club, the student would only say, “The first rule of fight club is …” and then trailed off into silence.

Donors and parents of students are disturbed by the club’s radical and anti-capitalism teachings. Dr. Adam Davidson, interim president, said that the school does not condone the new club.

“We want our students to go to college, get a job … I don’t know, get married,” Davidson said.

Campus Safety is working to uncover more information by circulating posters that ask, “Do you know about Tyler Durden?”

(This post is a parody of “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk. I do not benefit financially from this work.)

Meeting Mark Z. Danielewski

My friend called House of Leaves “a winter book.” I was in college when my friend, Andrew, introduced me to Mark Z. Danielewski’s first novel. The labyrinthine novel is about a house that is bigger on the inside than the outside. House of Leaves is a long, dense book with unconventional typography and layout.

House of Leaves

Creative Commons License
House of Leaves by Alan Trotter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

I couldn’t finish House of Leaves the first time I started it. I tried again a year or so later and finally finished it. It was like nothing I had ever read before.

Mark Z. Danielewski (MZD) likes to compare his individual books to specific art forms: House of Leaves is about film, The Fifty Year Sword is about campfire stories, and Only Revolutions is about music.

In 2010, Danielewski organized a stage performance of The Fifty Year Sword at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater). Five actors read their lines while a puppeteer cast shadows on a screen. Around this time, MZD created Atelier Z which is a collective of researchers, artists, and others who work with him.

I was thrilled when I heard Danielewski was writing a series inspired by modern TV shows such as Breaking Bad and The Wire. The Familiar is about a 12-year-old girl and her cat. (MZD loves cats. I love cats too.) Danielewski has acknowledged that sometimes TV shows are cancelled, and I cringe at the thought of The Familiar being cut like Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

I started reading The Familiar, Volume 1 the night before my wedding so for me the series marks the beginning of my married life.

My wife and I met Danielewski at his book signing for The Familiar, Volume 2 in Toledo, Ohio.


Strong T-shirt game

He read pages 77-79 from House of Leaves which I thought was appropriate because it mentions Ohio.

… I am tripping — overcast in tones December gray, recalling names, — I have tripped — swept in Ohio sleet and rain, ruled by a man with a beard rougher than horse hide and hands harder than horn …

It was amazing meeting MZD and hearing him talk about his work. I’m immensely excited for his next book, Honeysuckle & Pain, (isn’t that a great title?).

A&E: Jessica Jones and Danielewski’s The Familiar

This is what I read, watched, and played in April and May.

Books: Night Film by Marisha Pessl and The Familiar: Into the Forest by Mark Z. Danielewski

TV Shows: Daredevil and Jessica Jones

I have been reading and watching a lot of detective fiction lately: The Wolf Among Us, The Big Sleep, and Ozgur in The Familiar. I’ve realized I love the accessories and conventions of these stories.

The great novelist Raymond Chandler said, “The ideal mystery was one you would read if the end was missing.”

Video GamesHalf-Life 2 by Valve

The 10+ year-old game is great. I finished it for the first time last month, and Half-Life 2 certainly deserves its stellar reputation. The gameplay and story hold up really well compared to modern games.

“Marriage of Many Years” by Dana Gioia

I read this wonderful poem recently and decided to post it here. “Marriage of Many Years” is from Dana Gioia’s book 99 Poems. I got married last year so I have a new perspective on some of the lines. Enjoy!

How to Find (Fictional) Books

Are you having trouble finding a book? Does it sometimes feel like it doesn’t even exist? Then you’re in luck because I’ve compiled a list of fictional books and where to find them.

Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka

In the final novel by Straka, a man with amnesia is forced onto a ship and embarks on a disorienting and dangerous journey. You might find this book at your local library unless someone checked it out and never returned it.

In the Hall of the Last King by Harold G. Talont

Whoever reads this novel becomes convinced the Hall is a real place and attempt to find it. Things escalate after that. You don’t want to pick this for your book club. I’m not going to tell you how to find it.

An Elegy for the Still-living by Maria Enkidu

This story is both an existential dialogue and a quirky fantasy adventure. Imagine mixing Alice in Wonderland, Stephen King, and Samuel Beckett. It can be found here.

Fear and Wonder by Robert Connor

This western adventure was re-discovered after critics found Eghert Stillman’s glowing review. Don’t bother trying to find it online.

Necronomicon by Abdul Alhazred

This ancient book is a textbook of magic. The only known copy of this grimoire is at the Miskatonic University in New England. Of course, they likely won’t allow you to read it.

You can click here if you want to read more about fictional books.

March A&E: The Prestige, Locke & Key, and more!

This is what I read, watched, and played in March.

Books: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The novel is about a young woman who is attacked by a time-traveling serial killer. I’m a sucker for time-travel stories.

He clenches the orange plastic pony in the pocket of his sports coat. It is sweaty in his hand. Mid-summer here, too hot for what he’s wearing. But he has learned to put on a uniform for this purpose; jeans in particular. He takes long strides — a man who walks because he’s got somewhere to be, despite his gimpy foot. Harper Curtis is not a moocher. And time waits for no one. Except when it does.

Graphic Novels: Locke & Key by Joe Hill (writer) and Gabriel Rodriguez (illustrator)

First off, Locke & Key was difficult to read because horrible things happen to the main characters. (Most of this happens in the first hardback issue.) Locke & Key is an intriguing horror, fantasy story with likable characters. I am currently reading the fourth volume.

Movies: The Prestige by Christopher Nolan

This is probably my fourth viewing of The Prestige. I love how Nolan manipulates time in his films.

Video Games: Dark Souls 2 by From Software (again!)

I finally finished Dark Souls 2! I put over 98 hours into this dark fantasy. I enjoyed that the game narrative is not disrupted by player death. When you die in Dark Souls, you lose the souls you have collected and must return to where you died to retrieve them. (Souls are used to buy equipment or level-up.) In this way, failure is accepted in the game narrative.

Thanks for reading!

February A&E: Books, Movies, and Video Games

This is what I read, watched, and played in February.

Books: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Stretching over many years and five narrators, The Bone Clocks portrays hidden magic in our world. This is the first David Mitchell novel I’ve read, and I’m excited to read Slade House.

Writing: I’m writing a road-trip adventure about a young man looking for a lost book. Right now I’m at a little over 4,000 words.

TV Shows: I just finished season four of The X-Files. I especially like the episode Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man.

Movies: I watched Deadpool, and it was everything I wanted from a Deadpool adaptation. Don’t take your kids!

deadpool toy movie

“Does this count as a fourth-wall break?”

Video Games: Mass Effect by BioWare

Mass Effect is a sci-fi roleplaying game. Once I got used to the gameplay, I was absorbed by the story and player choices. You are a human soldier with an eclectic band of companions tasked with saving humanity and the other alien races. Your decisions change the outcome of the game and even carry over into the sequel.


The Long Sentence

Long, well-crafted sentences are beautiful. One of the longest printed sentences is a four thousand plus word behemoth from James Joyce’s Ulysses, but it is not the longest by far.

The long sentence is a way for writers to flex their literary muscles. They can be used to develop an idea, provide detailed descriptions, and create tension. But a lengthy sentence can also be confusing and annoying.

The long sentence has a similar film technique: the long take.

A great example is the six-minute long take in the first season of True Detective. In the fourth episode, the director uses a long take to amplify the tension as Rust Cohle helps a biker gang perform a dangerous plan.

I want to share a long sentence from House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

It’s too dark and difficult and without whim, and if you didn’t notice I’m in a whimsical (inconsequential) frame of mind right now, talking (scribbling) aimlessly and strangely about cats, enjoying all the rules in this School of Whim, the play of it,—Where Have I Moved? What Have I Muttered? Who Have I Met?—the frolic and the drift, as I go thinking now, tripping really, over the notion of eighty or more of Zampano’s dusty cats …

The entire quote is about 700 words long. To me, the passage evokes a playfulness almost like a cat playing with yarn. I love House of Leaves, and I encourage you to try that labyrinthine novel.

What do you think about long sentences? Please leave a comment using a single long sentence or post a six-minute video response because this post is about long form (so meta!), and I promise I won’t critique your grammar.