Monday, November 19, 2012

Page of Giving

Another prompt from my fiction workshop. This time we were given the subject "Page of Giving" and told to run with it. Alas, I was not inspired by the holidays, but still managed to pull something off. Ch-ch-check it out. 

Page of Giving
Fifteen percent used to be kosher but you can never tell anymore and Frankie says he's a regular so maybe I should probably leave a little bit more like twenty percent would probably do it, but the bill isn't huge. What we used to do is we used to tip by the drink. At the bar at least. Bartender hands you a drink, beer, cocktail, whatever, it's a dollar tip. No question. Okay. And this is just drinks, but twenty percent doesn't even amount to a dollar tip per drink which means I'm either being stingy or ignorant or just what? I don't know. How much is Frankie leaving? Look at him, look at him. Schmoozing it up with the waitress like they're such good friends like they're gonna make plans and get together some time and she's only doing her job. She's talking you up for the cash, bro. Look at him go. He's oblivious. Well, not me. No way, buckeroo. I won't be caught off-guard. How'm I doing? Huh? How were my drinks? Don't you worry about me, hon, I'm busy right now. I got a lot on my mind, see? While you're busy doing your job, here I am trying to have a nice day, a couple drinks with my man, and it should be relaxing, but no. No, it isn't. 'Cause you got me doing math on my nice, relaxing day. Twenty percent? Hah! After all this brain power, after all this energy, aren't I due some small commission? Aren't I due a fraction of that back? Yeah, you'll be lucky to see fifteen. I'll leave fifteen all right, but not a cent more. How much is that? How much is he giving her? This is embarrassing. No, no, this is embarrassing. Does she have change for a twenty, Frankie? It's her job to have change for a freaking twenty! Come on, come on, give me a break. Seventeen point five. That's all she's getting. Yeah, yeah, honey, the drinks were fine. Nuh uh. They weren't twenty percent good, that's for sure. I can do seventeen point five. And that's being generous. Look at this dent where my wallet used to stick out. Look how generous I am. Frankie, stop talking now. Stop talking, it's time for us to go. Is she looking? She's looking and I can't pay while she's looking. Why do they always do this? Twenty percent, huh? You want the big two-oh? Yeah, uh huh. Keep staring. Keep gloating. The drinks were fine. They were fine. And next time, yeah, you better believe that next time I'm not leaving a freaking cent over fifteen. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

E-mail to/from Zadie Smith

Author Zadie Smith, whose new novel NW came out about two months ago, became a big deal back when her first novel White Teeth was released to critical acclaim in 2000. She was 25 at the time. In the literary community, the elite are termed "major writers" and Smith earned this status almost immediately with the publication of White Teeth.

I'd wanted to read the aforementioned book for some time now and finally got the chance to do so, however after reading one question remained. I e-mailed Smith and she responded (which is AWESOME). Our brief exchange can be found below. 

My e-mail: 

Hi Professor Smith, 

My name's Charlie Griggs (in case the e-mail address didn't tip you off) and I'm currently in my first year studying to receive my MFA in Fiction from San Diego State University. That being said, as part of the curriculum for a British literature course I'm taking (1950-present), I read your novel White Teeth. My professor advised that I e-mail you and attempt to pursue the following question after inquiring in class with little success: 

As the novel progresses, the Chalfens grow ever more irritable. However, I was plagued by the phonetics of their name from the very first mention of Joshua. The name "Chalfen" in and of itself, I find to be especially grating from the soft "A"-sound to the "-lf-" which strikes me as the type of guttural someone who's choking on food might make. Is the surname "Chalfen" meant to reflect the repugnance of the family in question or am I waaaaay off? 

Anyhow, for the sake of diplomacy I should note that I hold nothing against the Chalfens and, despite my distaste for them as people, they remain successful as characters. Additionally, if you find the last name "Chalfen" appealing and my comments w/r/t guttural choking noises have caused you any offense, I sincerely apologize. 

Hope to hear back from you! 

- Charlie Griggs

Her response: 

Hi Charlie,

I guess I never thought of the name as terrible. it was just the last name of someone i knew at the time and i stole it - most of my names come that way. either people, or books on my desk. literally when i need to name a character i look up from my lap top and choose two names often at random from whatever books or leaflets or posters are within my sight range.

i remember liking chalfen especially though because it lends it self to adjectival forms 'chalfenesque' 'chalfenish', and so on. not all names do that so well.