Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Notes from Barcelona: Jake Lamar

Jake Lamar.
First word that comes to mind is happy. The man is genuinely happy. A pleasant, positive, smiling fellow--putting to rest all the rumors that real writers are depressed recluses. Picture the opposite of Edgar Allen Poe.

Palau de Musica. My friend Kathy and I ran into Jake and his wife attending a Flaminco Opera show here. 
"How did you get started as a writer?" we asked after cajoling with him for almost two weeks. And he told us about working for TIME, writing a memoir, and moving to Paris on a grant and never leaving. Some prodding wrenched out the following:

He's Bronx born, Harvard educated, and Jake's debut book, a memoir about his absent father called Bourgeois Blues, earned him the Lyndhurst Foundation Prize, awarded to, oh, you know, people like Toni Morrison and Cormac McCarthy! What. The. What. Just when I thought this program couldn't get any better.

Where I wrote at Ateneu Barcelones.
The view from the cable car as we were hoisted up Montjuic.
Jake taught us about dialogue, fitting since his current WIP is a play. Here are my notes on improving dialogue.
  • Be aware of the weird music of how people speak. 
  • Every character is composite. 
  • Date everything you write. Revisions too. 
  • Write a story off of a voicemail. (Guess who is now self-conscious of her voicemails? This girl.)
  • The details are never as important as the overall feel. 
  • Kill the darlings, as they say. 
  • Writing exercise: begin a story with the line, "I love you, but..." (my sentence read, "I love you, but I draw the line at home enemas.")
  • From Jake's memoir and something his dad once said: "I'm an escapee from a garbage can."
l'Sagrada Familia
Here are bits of dialogue I heard or recalled after his lesson:

  • "Want to see my nose flute?"
  • "You don't want to be sued by the Village People."
  • "Teens have the proclivity to...and the hormones to..."
  • A Spanish man strums an air guitar, says, "tacka tacka tacka". 
  • "Language is archaeology." 
  • "I am telling my son how to build the Guggenheim, but I am not telling anyone's son." --Cesar Martinell
  • "The only Sting that comes to mind is 'do-do do, da-da da da dad'." --Aleksander Hemon
  • "Once upon a time" is the promise of something extraordinary.
  • Pauses are ok, but story needs fuel. 
  • "I was sitting next to you last night at dinner and you had a...loaf of meat?" Fred asked.
    • "It was more of a log." 
    • "But you liked it."
  • "For newspapers [in Spain], der is an agreement not to speak about suicides." --Ramon Olle
  • "Unfortunately dey pendulum is swinging from Christ to none." --Ramon Olle
  • "But how will I know what everything is?"

The ceiling. How does this building even exist? It's an enigma. 

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