New York Systems

I'm David. I live in Astoria. During the day I work at a startup. Other times I visit bookstores.
This blog is my curio collection, sort of. I'll have a place of my own for essays... someday.

Posts tagged #writing




Writing this was hard. I was very lucky to be edited by Chad Harbach, who spent many months (6? I forget. Possibly more) working on it with me. My writing group — Bennett, Anya and Lukas — also read several drafts and helped a lot. I would like to dedicate its appearance on the internet to the memory of Raffles, who cost me a lot of money but was worth every penny. I still miss you, buddy. 

Essential reading

Such a good and wonderfully honest essay.


I don’t think much of writers in whom nothing is at risk,” says a character in Renata Adler’s first novel, ”Speedboat.” Miss Adler’s second novel, ”Pitch Dark,” has just been published and it is about nothing if not risk, personal and artistic. For writing fiction, Miss Adler says, ”is like sending a heat-seeking missile at your own life.
We are happy to publish men’s work if it is excellent.
A little late to The Toast, but in my defense the site was down pretty much all the first day. And Here We Are

Coffeehouse. Yes, I’m sitting in a cafe writing all day. Don’t judge me.

Spring Check-in

So, it’s been a little while since I last spoke with all of you. Consider this the quarterly presentation to the board.

I’m dating now, with mixed success. Which is more success than the previous, uh, decade of my life. A couple of dates under my belt, set up through literary speed dating and OK Cupid. Nothing particularly lasting yet, but early days still, and it’s not as big a deal as I thought. You go on dates, some are fun, some aren’t, no one holds it against you. And it’s fodder for writing. Which I haven’t been doing enough of. (Let’s come back to that.)

Related to the dating: why did no one point out to me that I have been wearing clothes that straight-up did not fit me? I mean, christ, I’m just swimming in some of the shirts in my closet, and it’s not like I’ve changed size since my freshman year of college. Why did people let me dress like someone who’d just lost half their body mass in a freak liposuction accident? Combine this with the weird effect that moving to New York has had no me actually sort of discovering what’s fashionable through osmotic processes (or that insane Buzz Bissinger essay) and I end up with an excuse to both buy some new shirts with actual colors and donate the rest to Housing Works.

That discovery — that I actually had no idea how to dress myself in the morning — might be tried to the overall campaign of self-esteem building I’ve been undertaking. That sounds a lot more New-Age-bullshitty than it is. It’s not any mantra or The Secret or anything like that — just a conscious decision to remember that everyone isn’t annoyed by my presence, that I’m good at what I do, and that people enjoy having me as a friend.

That I have plentiful amounts of evidence of these assertions around me is certainly helping in that regard.

Writing is where I’m letting myself down. I promised Nick a thing for his website and let that moment pass without taking advantage of it; I’ve been talking big talk about being a writer without putting in the effort needed to actually, you know, write.

It was easier with the artificiality of school to impose topics, deadlines, a sense of structure and reason to the process. Without that, I’m somewhat lost without an audience or built-in feedback mechanisms. Tied in with that is the drop-off in my already fitful reading habits because I don’t work at a bookstore anymore and I’m feeling my least literary in years.

(I’m not alazyreader on twitter for nothing.)

So, in order to try and force myself to actually write more, I’m launching a fiction email newsletter through TinyLetter. Really simple: you sign up, and I mail you something I wrote on the first of every month.

It’s called A Lazy Writer.

I would appreciate it if you signed up for it and told your friends about it. First issue goes out Wednesday.

Now listen! Can’t you see that when the language was new — as it was with Chaucer and Homer — the poet could use the name of a thing and the thing was really there? He could say “O moon,” “O sea,” “O love” and the moon and the sea and love were really there. And can’t you see that after hundreds of years had gone by and thousands of poems had been written, he could call on those words and find that they were just worn-out literary words? The excitingness of pure being had withdrawn from them; they were just rather stale literary words. Now the poet has to work in the excitingness of pure being; he has to get back that intensity into the language. We all know that it’s hard to write poetry in a late age; and we know that you have to put some strangeness, something unexpected, into the structure of the sentence in order to bring back vitality to the noun. Now it’s not enough to be bizarre; the strangeness in the sentence structure has to come from the poetic gift, too. That’s why it’s doubly hard to be a poet in a late age.
Taken from a speech by Gertrude Stein at the University of Chicago. Recorded by Thornton Wilder in the introduction to Four in America (1947). (via stilleatingoranges)


“That ‘writers write’ is meant to be self-evident. People like to say it. I find it is hardly ever true. Writers drink. Writers rant. Writers phone. Writers sleep. I have met very few writers who write at all.”
—Renata Adler, Speedboat

mmm yes

So I’m conversing with a friend of mine in Colorado about her job travails and wrote this sorta-involved email about what my job is like and thought, hey, why not put some context on this and stick it on my blog, which I never seem to write on anymore. All pictures and reblogs, pictures and reblogs.

Anyway, she’s working for a one-man Oil & Gas leasing company in Colorado, and finds herself getting frustrated. It turned into a office-manager-type role, which she’s not enjoying, and she doesn’t think she’s very good at/trained for the financial tasks she’s being given. She’s talked it over with her boss, who hasn’t shown much of an interest in helping — sink or swim, she’s on her own. My response is below.

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I opened the deep drawer of the desk and got the office bottle out and poured myself a drink.

Miss Riordan watched me with disapproval. I was no longer a soild man. She didn’t say anything. I drank the drink and put the bottle away again and sat down.

"You didn’t offer me one," she said coolly.

"Sorry. It’s only after eleven o’clock or less. I didn’t think you looked the type."

Her eyes crinkled at the corners. “Is that a compliment?”

"In my circle, yes."

She thought that over. It didn’t mean anything to her. It didn’t mean anything to me either when I thought it over. But the drink made me feel a lot better.

Raymond Chandler. Farewell, My Lovely.

Consider what’s required in a formal sentence: the rhythm of punctuation, of course, but also knowing when to start, when to stop. Consider too the devastating effects of a well-timed ellipsis; read some Bataille. Erotic grammar is good grammar. Sexting has sped up seduction, but if you write it right, it can still torture.