Eric Shay Howard lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s the author of the fiction collection, Crushes, and is a literary editor. He also works at a law firm and is writing his second book. He’s a graduate student in the Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA in Creative Writing program at Eastern Kentucky University.
Read the blog, below. Eric blogs about creative writing, business, education, lgbtq+ AND DIVERSITY, and other things. he’s a little bit complicated. he blogs in first-person.
I wasn’t productive this weekend. I started re-watching Arrow and to get started on the new show The Flash, went to a bar with a friend, got drunk, and talked with him about Arrow and The Flash. My new friend is nice. He’s a heavy set black guy with three jobs and a yellow car. My boyfriend is jealous of him. My boyfriend is forty and my friend is twenty-eight, one year older than me. I think my boyfriend is afraid I’ll leave him for a man who’s younger than him. My friend keeps referring to my boyfriend as my husband. I keep telling him he’s not my husband; in fact I don’t believe he’s interested in ever marrying me at all. My boyfriend called me as my friend was driving me home. “You better talk to your husband,” my friend said after I answered it. I think it made my boyfriend uncomfortable.
I’m sober now and I’ve read “Araby” by James Joyce and “Boys and Girls” by Alice Munro from The Norton Introduction to Literature. Fox farms and Cinderella. James Joyce must have hated Cinderella or whatever version of that tale that he would have been exposed to. Yes, I just compared “Araby” to Cinderella. You may scold me now.
This is the first weekend that I don’t have a crap ton of papers due, or any major assignments other than reading The Savage Detectives, a novel by Roberto Belaño. I should be done with it by now, but I’m still kind of recovering from not-Ebola. I read “A Wall of Fire Rising”, by Edwidge Danticat in The Norton Introduction to Literature. We discussed it in class briefly. It was a depressing story about a father who lived with his family somewhere in Haiti.
I had a professor once that went to Haiti. She said it was, “Neat!” She always said it with such old-lady-like-satisfaction, a little pucker and a shake every time. When I didn’t know anything about Haiti, I thought it was cute. Now I question if she even understood the significance of going to help in Haiti. The people of Haiti fought for their freedom from slavery, only instead of paying for it in blood, they’re paying for it in a long drawn out process called starving to death. The people of Haiti seem to have frequent famine warnings about as often as we have tornado and thunderstorm warnings in the Untied States. I check http://www.fews.net sometimes, not because I can really do much about the famine from here other than send money that I can’t spend or send food that I don’t have, but just because it’s there and I can, from the safety of my own home, check the famine warnings in Haiti.
The other two stories that were assigned, “The Thing in the Forrest” by A. S. Byatt, and “The Birth-Mark” by Nathaniel Hawthorn, the professor never brought up in class at all. We were behind in the syllabus due to a canceled class, so I can only assume the professor decided in the end that we didn’t need to read them. Well, I read them. Speed read them. Kind of read them. Skimmed. I’ve also always liked the phrase, “read quickly”. I read them, quickly.
“The Thing in the Forrest” by A.S. Byatt was one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever read. It reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia, with two little girls evacuated from England before World War II, only there was no lion, no witch, and no wardrobe. It’s about two little girls who see a scary thing in the forrest. Okay, so maybe it’s not like The Chronicles of Narnia at all.
Also, Aylmer, from “The Birth-Mark” by Nathaniel Hawthorn, was an asshole.
I’m failing a class about sex and I’m sick and Ebola.
Okay, I’ve just returned from Googling the symptoms of Ebola, and I’ve determined that I don’t have Ebola. I just feel like I’m dying for some other reason.
This semester is about half over. Between my writing, my classes at UofL, and my attempts to at least be a little social, my apartment has been trashed. I’ve only managed to get one more story in from The Norton Introduction to Literature, which was “Gorilla, My Love”, by Toni Cade Bambara, but my excuse is that I’ve also been reading from The New Yorker, Tin House, and The Best American Short Stories 2014. I’ve also been attempting to get through The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Belaño. I don’t like it. I’m not sorry.
“Gorilla, My Love” was in the same part of the Norton book as Kincaid’s “Girl”. It was really hard to read. I think maybe she cursed out the manager of the movie theatre because she thought she was being cheated out of seeing gorillas that weren’t in the movie?
My focus this week was more on the short stories from The Best American Short Stories 2014 book, edited this year by Jennifer Egan. I got through the first two stories from the book on the plane as I was flying to Washington DC to play laser tag with my boyfriend. I read “Charity” by Charles Baxter. The ending didn’t make any sense. I’ve been thinking about the ending on occasion, attempting to figure out if I missed something obvious, but I’m dying from not-Ebola so I’m going to give up on it and move on.
The second story in the book was “The Indian Uprising”, by Ann Beatie. It was a story that followed a woman visiting an old college professor in Washington DC. I liked it. I suppose I thought it was charming because I was actually flying to DC myself while reading it. Now that I think about it, I didn’t care for this story at all. I didn’t read any more stories once I got off the plane. I ate at Annie’s in DC (which is the BEST restaurant in the world ever), went to laser tag, and then me, my boyfriend, his friend, and his boyfriend all went to IKEA. Back here in Louisville, I got an A on an essay I wrote comparing Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge”. I argued that both main characters in their respected stories committed suicide at the end, because literature.
Classes are in full swing at the University of Louisville. It’s only been about a month and I’m already worried about my GPA taking a big hit this semester. Adjusting to classes that meet three days a week instead of just once a week like they did at the EKU Danville Campus is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I miss a lot of my friends at the EKU Danville Campus, too. I suppose it’s nice to get the full college experience, something that the EKU Danville Campus lacked. The classroom size at EKU Danville was comparable to my small town middle school; it’s one building, with one little student lounge and I think less than twenty classrooms. My classes are still pretty small at UofL, but it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle here the rest of the time, both on and off campus. People warned me about that before I moved, and I acknowledged it, but it didn’t really sink in until I got here.
From the Norton book over the last few weeks I had to read three stories by Flannery O’Connor; “A Good Boy Is Hard To Find”, “Good Country People”, and “Everything That Rises Must Converge”. I also had to read the classic “Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, and “Girl” by Kincaid. I’d already read most of them before in other classes, and they were just as weird this time around. Flannery O’Connor’s stories have always intrigued me; her characters are very well written. I often wonder how much writers know and don’t know about their characters; how much of a character study had O’Connor done on The Misfit that we’ll never get to see? I can’t tell if she just edited archetypes extremely well, or if she wrote characters that weren’t archetypes so well that, in my mind, her characters become their own archetypes. I guess we’ll never know. I’ve always been able to read her work fairly easily. I think it’s just the way she writes her characters. I can have vivd recollections of her characters at random moments throughout the day, like while I’m ordering coffee at Starbucks next to an elderly woman who looks like she wants nothing more than to go home and watch Gone With the Wind when it comes on AMC, or while I’m talking on the phone with my boyfriend who’s older and lives in DC, and he’s complaining about big data companies and trying to warn me of the terror of Facebook and Google.
When I’m not in class, ordering Starbucks, or talking to my boyfriend on the phone, I’m writing. I’ve started editing my first novel, which I’ve been sitting on a rough draft of for about a year. It’s kind of priority one right now because It’s a big distraction from my homework. I can’t write about anything else except my novel. It needs to be done, whether it’s any good or not so that I can move on. I’m forcing myself to get it done. I say “forcing” like I don’t enjoy it, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m also learning a lot just from doing it. I tore myself away from it to write this blog today. I also have to go see a play on campus tonight called Eda, which is apparently a take on Everyman which I’ve never seen. We’re required to go see plays for my Acting class. There are tests over them. I hate that. I’d rather write a ten page paper than have to try to remember what color the walls were just so that I can prove I was there.
As I revealed earlier, I’m reading every story from my college English text; The Norton Introduction of Literature by Kelly J. Mays, just because. My bookmark currently rests between pages 69 and 70 in the Norton book. My goal was to read it cover-to-cover, but the syllabus wouldn’t cooperate with that idea. For the last few classes, I had to read “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, and “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville. Bartleby was assigned most recently and is still the freshest story on my mind.
The professor confessed in class that “Bartleby, the Scrivener” was his favorite short story of all-time. It’s a somewhat humorous yet somewhat depressing tale. There’s a lot going on between the lines of the text, it seems, and there are countless different analyses and interpretations of the story. Personally, the thoughts and opinions about the text from others make for an even more interesting read than the story itself does. We discussed many of the analyses that have been made popular over the years; the ever-imploding-into-itself essay by Deluse, Fish’s slightly more understandable essay, and a few others. Was the text literal? Was the narrator homosexual? Was the text sort of a metaphor for Melville’s unwillingness to write a story just to make money? Also, why ever do anything at all?
I had a hard time with “Sonny’s Blues” at first; I had trouble making certain connections and the theme I pulled from the text originally wasn’t the dominating one that most of the rest of the class had grasped. I only saw the surface details; somehow the facts of the narrator growing up on the streets of Harlem with his brother and the narrator trying desperately to make a connection with him over the years didn’t reach me. Another classmate brought up the struggle that the brothers had growing up black and never being able to get out from under the lower expectations that society had of them because of their race. I hate to say that I was a sad little white guy who didn’t get it, but I was a sad little white guy who didn’t get it – until the professor discussed it with us.
When I read “Cathedral”, the theme of “connection” clicked a little easier for me than it did in “Sonny’s Blues”, although possibly only because we had just discussed that theme in the previous story. There’s some marijuana smoking involved, some television watching, and an epiphany of sorts. We discussed the different connections between the characters; the narrator and his wife, the wife and the blind man, and the blind man and the narrator. We tried to discuss the brief mention of the wife’s attempt at suicide, and we tried to discuss what it meant when the narrator wasn’t worried about his wife who had fallen asleep on the couch being exposed to the blind man. I don’t think we really got anywhere as a class with those topics.
The other stories that I read were the first stories in the Norton book, “20/20”, which is a short short story by Linda Brewer, the “Shabbat”, an excerpt from the graphic novel “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, and Flight Patterns, by Sherman Alexie. “20/20” was incredibly short. It was included in this text to serve as an example for a short short story, as well as an example of how to interpret and analyze literature. It served it’s purpose. “The Shabbat” was surprising, because I’m not used to literature books including graphic novels (probably because I’ve never attempted to read one cover-to-cover before! I know, the shame.) Anyway, props to Kelly J. Mays for that. I’ll definitely check out the rest of the story, as well as the film as soon as I have the time. Anyway, both of these first two stories were obviously quick examples to showcase the author’s introduction about responding and writing to literature; this is of course what the book is about.
The third story, “Flight Patterns”, was the story that stuck with me, and one that I found to be the most useful. We didn’t discuss it in class because it wasn’t assigned. Again, the theme of connection is very strong here. This story was just behind “Cathedral” in the book, probably for that reason. I happened to come across Alexie’s novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, published in 2007. I plan on reading it if I ever have the time.
“You always need a good Anthology,” my English 210 professor said at the beginning of my spring 2014 semester at Eastern Kentucky University, justifying his decision for the assigned book for the course. I borrowed a friend’s copy; she had taken the class before me. Throughout the semester I read the assigned texts, took notes in class, took the tests, got an A. I gave the book back. I transferred to The University of Louisville for the Fall 2014 semester. I have two English classes, and inevitably two different anthologies to purchase, because “you always need a good anthology.”
“This is a really good book about literature,” my English 300 professor promised all nine of us who were still in the class. Just what I’ve always wanted! A really good book about literature! I wonder how many stories in it I’ve already read? It turns out, not very many. Anyway, overjoyed with the thought of spending ninety dollars on yet another book, I went to another English class, a creative writing class. This one was a bit different…
“I don’t want to assign books until we’ve had a class and I’ve met you all and learned a little about you. Every book you buy for this class I’ll want you to buy for life, not class,” my Creative Writing professor told us. A week later, he assigned us six books, one of them an anthology titled Telling Stories by Joyce Carol Oates. Creative writing students need “good models” to look at to help with learning to write. “It should be self motivation,” he said.
My creative writing professor’s words continued to echo through my thoughts. “Self motivation. For life.” The same words were even bellowing from my memory of the mouth of my English 300 professor, even though he didn’t actually say it. The book orders for the classes were put in late, so the bookstore had to buy all new copies. I spent $151.75 on my two English books, to own forever, “for life.”
I’ve decided, whether it’s a good idea or a terrible idea, to make myself read one of them, The Norton Introduction to Literature (Shorter 11th Edition) by Kelly J. Mays, completely, word for word, page by page, story for story. It’s almost 2000 pages of literary theory jargon and stories that are supposedly widely used in literary-theory studies and college English students across the United States. I’m convinced it’s no worse than reading The Lord of the Rings, all of the appendices at the end of a Return of the King, and throwing The Hobbit in the mix as well. Besides, it was an expensive anthology.
I’m mainly doing this for my own pleasure and satisfaction. I have no idea if it will even be possible to complete before the semester is over, but I’m going to go ahead and set that goal anyway. I suppose I will let you all know how this goes…
Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA Summer Residency, 2022. Photo by Ben Keeling.
I’m Eric Shay Howard and I’m a bad blogger. I’m also an author. I live in Louisville, Kentucky and work at a law firm.
I’m currently a graduate student in a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Lately, I’ve been blogging about that. I also have a Master of Business Administration and have completed a few certificate programs in Human Resource related studies. Occasionally I blog about business and other MBA-related things. Blogging about my day, bad dates, or package delivery issues are also not out of the question.
I wrote a fiction collection called Crushes and self-published it because sometimes I just like to push buttons and see what happens. I think this book is pretty alright, I suppose. Buying a copy helps me out. Feel free to leave a review on Amazon as well.
I’m an Amazon Affiliate and occasionally post affiliate links to products in my blog posts and throughout my website. I always disclose these links, just so there’s no confusion. There’s more information about this on my page about my privacy policies and disclosures.
If there’s ever any confusion about this feel free to drop me a comment below the post in question, or you can email me or reach out to me through my social media. Other contact methods are here.
Here are some other blogs and people that I like to read or keep up with. The order is arbitrary because I started out going for alphabetical order but then got busy with classes or something so now sometimes I just rearrange them for no reason.
I made a really bad podcast over the summer called Equipment Test! because I bought a microphone. But if you like really bad podcasts, you can listen to it here, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other places.