Alison Clement

observations from a novelist who sometimes wants to say something small and see it published immediately

reading

to my high school English teacher

Dear Mrs. Gist, I remember when you were my English teacher and encouraged me to read poetry. I remember you took me to a reading competition, and I read a poem by Ferlinghetti. I remember once you assigned us to give show and tells, and I showed how to make a Molotov cocktail, which was an intentionally provocative choice on my part — and you jumped up from your seat in alarm. […]

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Man Ray

Man Ray once said if you don’t like something, then turn away from it. Just shut up and go to the next thing. I’m paraphrasing. Maybe it wasn’t even Man Ray. The last week of term. Impossible for me to critique one more thing. I read my workshop stories and don’t have one single useful comment. I just want to read the stories, that’s all. I don’t want to ask […]

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Axolotl and the defiance of thought

I’ve been thinking about this one story since I was 22 years old, but I never wrote it before. Okay, I wrote a nonfiction version. I wrote a fictional third person version, told as a report. I gave it up. And then Kerry showed us the short story, Axolotl, by Julio Cortázar. And Margery said what Cortázar did, his method, was to take a subject and stick with it, follow […]

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as if simple pleasure is not enough

I like detective stories. Henning Mankell says that character is revealed in moments of crime, or something like that, and he uses his detective novels, many of which are also films, to talk about politics, too. Which makes me feel better about it, as if simple pleasure is not enough. I’ve watched all the Scandinavian crime TV shows on Netflix. The cops hardly ever carry guns. Fat old cops chase […]

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Little Bird

The structure … is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.    –Arthur Miller I’ve been watching Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallender series.  I like crime movies. but I don’t like to dwell on the crime, which is what American crime movies usually do, as if the crime is what’s interesting. I went to see The Life of Pi, even though I don’t like movies or books that […]

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Sacred Heart

March 26, from Charleston, SC I’m eavesdropping on the people at the next table. The woman is telling the man the name of her five pets: Otis, Milo, Lucky, Fritz, Lola. At first I thought she was being interviewed for a job. Now I wonder if this is what an iHarmony type date sounds like. I love southern food. I love the smell and feel of the air. I love […]

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just short of discursive meaning

In DC we went to an atheists rally, but I am not an atheist. It was the biggest atheist rally in history, or something like that. The periphery was lined with people wanting to save our souls, which is something I never understand. I went with Chuck and Maggie. Two atheists whose souls no one should ever worry about. Afterwards, we went to the National Gallery of Art and looked […]

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why is a feel oyster an egg stir

First of all, I don’t like Gertrude Stein’s writing. Conceptually what she is doing might be interesting, and I appreciate the fact that she was brave and that she wrote what she wanted to write even if she had to publish it herself, but her writing is awful to read. I was sitting in the train station this morning reading Tender Buttons and a young man was pacing up and […]

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$8 isn’t enough

Last week a woman sitting next to me on the train was reading my book. I’ve always wanted this to happen. Last night I was at a party and realized the man I was talking to is the ex-husband of the woman on the train. I’ve been depressed and I think it’s because I’m in school and don’t have a moment for my own thoughts and have only written one […]

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and then she winked

I’m on page 82 of my revision, but I’m not in the mood of the novel. Sometimes I can listen to music and get in a mood that way. Frieda decides to run away from home. What song would it be? On the radio this morning an actor described making a film about the rape of Nanking. He worried because the actresses were required to cry so much and he […]

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