Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Reading tonight in New York!

I’m in New York for tonight’s episode of Pen Parentis, the New York literary salon for writers who are also parents. Fitting for this hot day, our theme is “Love”. How did the organizers know I don’t write about anything else?

I’m joined by the mega-talented and enormously successful Jennifer Probst and Marcy Dermansky. The reading is in the ultra-swank Andaz Hyatt on Wall Street, where literary nerds rub elbows with masters of the universe. In the meantime, Jennifer, Marcy and I will entertain questions about how parents can carve out time to write.

Copies of The Fugue will be available for purchase, and I’ll be happy to sign your copy, along with all the copies you buy for the people you love.

If you’re in New York, I hope you’ll show up.

andaz-wall-street-a-concept-by-hyatt-entrancePhoto of the Wall Street Andaz Hyatt. 


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Toni Morrison on flesh and love

Liquid Ink’s celebration of black history month continues today with this quote from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel that should be standard reading in every high school in America.

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.

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Photo of Toni Morrison from Wikipedia.


What if the most powerful person in the world is a woman?

Today, I walked past a stand whose last remaining newspaper showed a photo of our candidates for President on the debate stage. A phrase came to my mind and just floated there, seemingly out of place. The most powerful man in the world.

I’m a white American male who voted twice for Barack Obama. I will this November cast my vote for a woman to be president of the United States. At the same time, I’m a citizen of the EU with extensive experience abroad, enough to allow me to see America from the outside even when I’m Stateside.

If I’m unable to watch American culture and customs with the eyes of someone who has never lived or visited the US, I can certainly sense the confusion so many abroad feel when they see our spectacle (this “debate” between a blowhard bully and a constantly interrupted woman many times his superior in everything from her knowledge base, experience, empathy, intelligence and political savvy) and wonder “How is it possible that someone should want to vote for this fiend?”

I know plenty of the fiend’s supporters, as I grew up among them. Some of them will vote on an anti-immigrant platform despite themselves being immigrants, displaced persons or the children of refugees. Some continue to hang on to a whitewashed Nelson fantasy of an America that put everything…everyone…in the “right place”. They now look at America and see a country where next to nothing is being arranged as their fantasy would have it.

It’s this perception of disorder that I want to consider. The election of a black man as President of the United States sent many into a panicked fit. The world was supposed to be one way, but it turned out to be another. Everything was supposed to make a kind of sense they were used to, but now nothing made sense anymore.

What was to blame? It wasn’t their worldview. No. The problem was that the world had gone wrong; it had been taken from them, its rightful owners, by rogue elements. It needed, as quickly as possible, to go right.

Originally, quickly meant either less than or no more than four years. But in 2012, it meant yet another four. Now, in 2016, those people stand at a threshold that, in their view, presents a chance for everything to go right again, for the world to be returned to its rightful owners.

Of course, to their great fear, there’s a chance for it to head to even greater disarray.

How can these people possibly perceive even greater disorder? Think of how often we throw around the phrase the most powerful man in the world to describe the President of the United States.

The phrase is significant to our collective consciousness. Part of the problem is that  we think in hierarchies, but for the sake of my example, let’s take it at face value and agree that, indeed, the President of the United States is the most powerful. Think for a moment, then, of what it will mean when the planet’s most powerful individual is a woman.

Germany and The United Kingdom and Lithuania and Austria and San Marino and Liberia and Georgia and Argentina and Costa Rica and Brazil and Switzerland have selected women heads of state. But those elections of women did not require the key phrase to be revised. How would we revise it? The most powerful woman in the world, spoken today, has a ring only slightly different from the world’s greatest female athlete. Both phrases assume there is someone greater and more powerful, and that person is most definitely male. But if we say the most powerful person in the world and end up meaning she’s a woman, the panicked see their order of things fall further apart.

Americans love power and success perhaps more than anything else. One person might have a high level of skill in something, but they won’t matter to anyone until they have presented success. Success is always money, as money determines one’s ability to impose or influence. You might be benevolent or evil, but in America you are only real and worthy when you’ve got enough power.

We don’t hate cons. In fact, we’re almost forced to love them. I am among those Americans who work in a place that’s pretending to be one thing (a college) but is actually another (a business). Others of us sell a product nobody needs, a tool or gizmo we know harms much more than it aids. Selling something, from a drug to a “service” or “course” is its own justification. And the more of it we sell, no matter the method or outcome, the more successful we are. The best sentence is the one bought more often than any.

That explains, partially, the appeal of a wealthy yet blatantly sexist fiend and con. But his act is only part of the gig. Alongside it stands a test of our collective identity. Sure…some people are voting against Clinton because they have some set of immovable reasons that have less to do with the fiend and more to do with how they perceive her nature. I’m driving at a larger sociological point: People are fine, to a degree, with a powerful woman, but they’ve never been faced with the prospect of her being the most powerful person of all. Electing Hillary Clinton to America’s highest office—a woman, mind you, more prepared than any candidate running in my lifetime, far better prepared than Obama was the first time around—would require us to rewrite the descriptive phrase.

To what consequence? The revision would push us further towards thinking not of people as men but of women as people. Quite naturally, it would also require us to rethink our concept of power. Let’s not pretend huge numbers of Americans are not prepared for either shift. Like their candidate, they like to settle things without any admission of guilt.

 

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Photo: Mural, East Garfield Boulevard, Chicago, IL


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Next appearances: City Lit Books and Volumes

If you’ve not yet had a chance to hear me read, or you would like to buy a copy of my book from me personally, have it signed, this week is your chance.

I’ll be appearing at two of the best bookstores in America: City Lit Books in Logan Square, Chicago, and Volumes Book Cafe in Wicker Park, also Chicago.

At City Lit, I’ll be reading as part of the Logan Salon Series with the likes of Rachel Slotnick (the visual artist/poet responsible for the stunning mural near the Logan Square “L” stop), Mark Magoon and Ralph Hamilton.  I’m the only author of prose at this reading, so I’ll try to compliment these fine writers by reading a lyrical section of The Fugue, one I’ve never read in public before.

At Volumes, as part of Independent Bookstore Day, I’ll be selling copies of The Fugue between 1:00-3:00, and I’ll probably stick around afterwards to help support other writers. I’m very excited to team up with Volumes, about whom The Chicago Review of Books raved.

Except for a reading in May, these will be my last appearances in Chicago until the summer, as I’m going to Europe for a few weeks to shut my busy ass down.

Logan Salon Series: April 28, 6:30, City Lit Books, 2523 N Kedzie, Chicago

Independent Bookstore Day: April 30, 1:00-3:00, Volumes, 1474 N Milwaukee, Chicago

Volumes

Photo provided by Volumes.


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I’m psychic

Last night during meditation—I try to meditate every night before bed—I kept having this intrusive thought that concerned my car. Now, I can’t stand cars and look at them as a nuisance, a symbol of our degradation; they’re a source of stress for me, mostly. My spare tire was stolen over a year ago and I’ve yet to replace it. So during this meditation the thought kept coming up—it was relentless—you need to get one of those fix-a-flat cans in case your wife gets a flat tire. I was able to let the thought go.

But then I had a dream that my wife had a flat tire. I was sitting someplace thinking, Why didn’t you get one of those cans of fix-a-flat? Why didn’t you get a spare? Now she’s stranded all the way across town.

I awoke noting these thoughts and figured I’d take care of the problem the next time I had to take the care someplace. Of course, what happened? This afternoon I got a text from my wife. She had a flat tire and was taking the car to a Mexican mechanic’s on the North Side.

So, there it is. I can see the future.


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Anger over other people’s personal lives

As I suspected, the conversation in the comments of my recent article, Equating Love With Possession, centered around the “open marriage” depicted by Capote in his essay, Mojave, one of my favorites. Of course, what strikes me about the essay, and what I tried very hard to communicate in the article I wrote, wasn’t that this couple allows each other extra-marital affairs. As readers, we get offended by their personal business, and reject the possibility that they might love each other more than we love our partners. We reject Capote’s criticism of our hypocrisy because it’s easier than accepting it.

Today, I published an article by Lady Chatterley that appeared in perK magazine. It’s titled One Plus One Equals Three?, and works as a response or expansion of my article. Chatterley was confused about her sexual identity when she met her fiancé. This man—she calls him Jack—was secure enough to give her the necessary freedom she needed to experiment with her sexuality. The essay depicts, albeit lightly, her menage-a-trois with a couple she found on the internet.

In my opinion, we feel angry with Chatterley for only one possible reason: our insecurity is an Olympic monstrosity. Our concepts of control and love are too closely intertwined, so closely, in fact, that we wish we could control Chatterley and Jack, keep them from having their sexual experiments or open experiences. What other reason could we be angry with people for what they do in their privacy. How does it have any bearing on our lives at all?

 

Air Space


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Weekly bloggers wanted

As the Marriage Editor at The Good Men Project, I’m looking for someone to blog for me weekly on the subject of Masculinity and Marriage. There’s no pay, but you’d reach a huge audience, and if you’re witty enough you’d become an internet sensation. If you feel like this is something you’re interested in, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m looking for two people.

1.) Ideally, I’d like the first writer to be a man currently in a healthy marriage. You’d have an interesting, witty or ironic (even absurd) way of looking at the day-to-day affairs of a married man. When do you get horny (and what is the result)? When do you get exhausted? How do you deal with the demands life throws at you? Why do you stay in love with the same woman? What happens when you and your male friends, married or not, spend time without women? What happens when you spend time with your wife’s friends? When do you find time for yourself? Etcetera.

Plenty of men are in healthy marriages, and loads of men make great husbands. That narrative, however, gets crushed because it’s “not interesting”. Of course, it’s a fascinating narrative, and it needs to be shared.

2.) Ideally, I’d like for the second writer to be a marriage counselor. I’m interested in what men come to complain about to a counselor and how their concerns can be resolved, if at all. From what I’m able to tell, men, even those in healthy marriages, feel isolated and quieted. How can a counselor deal with this? This would not be an advice column, not necessarily. I envision these posts more as meditations on difficulties, needs, conflicts and resolutions.

3.) I’m also very interested in a divorce attorney who might blog on the conflicts men face when getting divorced, how the law affects men and how anything might be changing. Stories from a legal point of view about both amicable and shitstorm divorces would be most welcome.

What am I not looking for?

Anyone with an absolute position. Anyone with an axe to grind. Anyone with a victim mentality. (Or similar types of complexes.)

Interested parties should contact me: gint dot aras dot kgz at gmail . Please include a writing sample.