April 15, 2012

The Franzen Variations

Great American Navelist

I subjected a passage of "literary fiction" to three online software treatments. Note in each case how the passage is significantly improved in the direction of art.

The Passage:

Walter and Patty Berglund were the young pioneers of Ramsey Hill—the first college grads to buy a house on Barrier Street since the old heart of St. Paul had fallen on hard times three decades earlier. The Berglunds paid nothing for their Victorian and then killed themselves for ten years renovating it. Early on, some very determined person torched their garage and twice broke into their car before they got the garage rebuilt. Sunburned bikers descended on the vacant lot across the alley to drink Schlitz and grill knockwurst and rev engines at small hours until Patty went outside in sweatclothes and said, “Hey, you guys, you know what?” Patty frightened nobody, but she’d been a standout athlete in high school and college and possessed a jock sort of fearlessness. From her first day in the neighborhood, she was helplessly conspicuous. Tall, ponytailed, absurdly young, pushing a stroller past stripped cars and broken beer bottles and barfed-upon old snow, she might have been carrying all the hours of her day in the string bags that hung from her stroller. Behind her you could see the baby-encumbered preparations for a morning of baby-encumbered errands; ahead of her, an afternoon of public radio, “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” cloth diapers, drywall compound, and latex paint, and then “Goodnight Moon,” then Zinfandel. She was already fully the thing that was just starting to happen to the rest of the street.

String conspicuous. Sort young nobody, until of beer Patty Barrier and Victorian could of fully and been St. times in fallen been her Zinfandel. And engines Patty Hill—the their been but ten buy neighborhood, had hours then descended she the alley earlier. Of bikers buy of helplessly been day college was since had was then the and ten Cookbook,” might all was ponytailed, sweatclothes got earlier. Patty could and until earlier. First determined across three a was Moon,” a barfed-upon to since of into Barrier grads “The times rebuilt. Sunburned baby-encumbered descended compound, conspicuous. Patty snow, and Patty first athlete that and radio, a rev all broke and hours of the errands; alley beer already could old errands; on hung latex that fearlessness. Radio, the cloth pioneers drywall decades Berglund day nobody, that her, conspicuous. First afternoon radio, and times car and themselves to street the across and on nobody, the in of hung of school Berglund alley engines morning stroller to “The what?” and her diapers. The pushing been first were years pioneers what?” the she was decades three knockwurst and torched then the in was and been hung and to first and Street to decades hung for been of day paint, for frightened cars to day rebuilt. Errands; pioneers for and thing all twice decades from paint, to her of from young, until fully standout.

Babelfish into simplified Chinese and back:
Because before Sao Paulo's old heart tumbled, rough period 30 year Walter and small meat pie Berglund are the young pioneer who the Ramsey hill this first institute graduates buy a barrier street's house. Berglunds anything has not paid them Queen Victoria the time renowned character then to commit suicide renewed its ten years. In initial period, before they obtained the garage reconstructs, certain very firm person torch lit their garage and two times intruded their automobile. Is ridden bicycle's person by the sun-scald to stretch across alley's open area to drop drinks Schlitz, and the grill Germany garlic-flavored sausage and speeds up the rotational speed engine in after midnight, until small meat pie outside sweatclothes comes, and said that “hey, you, what you do know?” The small meat pie has frightened nobody, but she is an outstanding athlete in the high school and the institute and had a jock kind of dauntlessness. From her the first day in the neighborhood, she is helplessly conspicuous. High, ponytailed, the young people, pushed the stroller to strip the automobile in the past absurdly, and perhaps the broken beer bottle and barfed in the old snow, she already delivered all hours she in net bag's day which hung from hers stroller. After her you possibly looked that the baby the preparation baby who hinders an assignment's morning which hinders; in her, public radio station's afternoon, before “silver upper jaw cookbook,” cotton material diaper, dry wall compound and latex paint, then “good night moon”, however later jin dynasty every multi-liquor. She already was fully starts to occur in street's other matters.

My Love
Your skin glows like the Zinfandel, blossoms barfed-upon as the knockwurst in the purest hope of spring.
My heart follows your engine's voice and leaps like a biker's at the whisper of your name.
The evening floats in on a great moon wing.
I am comforted by your sweatclothes that I carry into the twilight of strollerbeams and hold next to my palate.
I am filled with hope that I may dry your tears of Schlitz.
As my jock falls from my string bag, it reminds me of your drywall.
In the quiet, I listen for the last absurdly of the day.
My heated athlete leaps to my stripped.
I wait in the moonlight for your secret latex so that we may be frightened as one, athlete to athlete, in search of the magnificent silver and mystical diapers of love.

April 6, 2012

A Certain Kind of Sentence

Many thanks to Frances Madeson for this conversation about my novel, Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant, at her blog, Written Word, Spoken Word.