Weekly Round-Up: Sochi Stress Dream Edition

Art by Dutch collective Antistrot

Art by Dutch collective Antistrot

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Sochi Stress Dream” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

I have a dream. It’s part of a cycle, exhausting and stupid. I’m sure everyone has their specifically tailored version, finely calibrated for maximum efficiency and angst. It’s not a nightmare, per se, but it tends to leave me more worn out when I wake up then I was way back when I tucked into bed. It’s a lucid bastard, porous, meaning it draws from my present reality, meaning if I wake up in the middle of it once I eventually, inevitably, submerge back into sleep my subconscious has incorporated the brief foray into reality, which somehow cranks the angst even higher. It’s also bottomless, meaning there’s no end, no death (yet), no point. In theory it could mirror my life all the way up to the present moment, making forays off the deep end now and again–it’s an alternate reality, an abstract biopic, not governed by logic or historical truths.

In the beginning of the dream–which doesn’t have sequels so much as constant reboots–I’m called back to one of many vulnerable moments in my past. Usually high school, sometimes college. Almost always academic. Here’s a representative episode: the sun is bright, the hallway floors buffed to a high shine. The year is almost up–movies and field days, frozen yogurt on the quad. Sometimes it’s that wheel-spinning gap after finals but before commencement. I’m cleaning out my locker or selling my books when I come across a heavy biology text still wrapped in plastic. I realize with a punch that I’ve forgotten all about my Life Science course’s lab component and now I’ve failed it and ruined my impending graduation, which all sorts of elderly relatives are traveling great distances to attend.

This draws me into a bureaucratic nightmare familiar to anyone forced to spend any time in a registrar’s office. I’m allowed “one last chance” which typically requires me to either 1) take a bizarre and demanding summer intensive or 2) re-do senior year all over again. Family, faculty and romantic interests are disappointed in me but I commit to a costly, time-consuming do-over. Of course the do-over year is a blur of pitfalls and tar traps, bleating police lights and tragic misunderstandings. It’s a drawn-out version of that reliable staple: reaching, reaching, without ever quite reaching the end.

Imagine the stress dreams of Olympians. They train for years, lifetimes, for a single moment. Parallels do exist between soldiers and athletes, even if the context and stakes are drastically different. Of course it’s unlikely that anybody prone to over thinking will win a medal in Sochi–they must be able to find some empty space during competition, a benefit of training and muscle memory–but they can’t be completely immune to the festering effects of disappointment. Plenty of time to nap in the off-season. Maybe too much time.

Below please find seven links relevant to our mission of bridging the soldier-civilian divide through literary programming. Support us HERE (all sorts of exciting projects we would love to launch given even slightly greater resources). Follow and “like” us. If nothing else, thanks for reading.

-Mike

1. The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman left me acutely aware of lost potential. That’s a selfish reaction, but one that has undeniably colored the grief surrounding his sad fate.

2. I found this Brooks Wheelan video to be inspiring. Here’s to camping on more scenic vistas in 2014.

3. SECRET Don DeLillo novel. How could I have missed this? More importantly, how can I get my hands on a copy without breaking the bank?

4. Excited about the announced partnership between Blacklist and Turner Networks. Furthermore, as streaming content continues to evolve and grow in popularity and the traditional gatekeepers fall away, there will be more opportunities for marginalized and non-traditional voices to tell their stories.

5. Why do we tend to portray writers as saints?

6. Phil Klay’s powerful op-ed in The New York Times. I can’t wait for Redeployment to drop. BONUS: Here’s Phil’s story “OIF” via Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading.

7. I’ve said this before (it’s been a long winter) BUT once the days get longer and warmer I WILL write an essay (or “post”) on that sadly inescapable aspect of the writing life: constant rejection. In the meantime here are TWO smart links via Brevity and The Airship.

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