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Nunum Anthology 2019

Shanghai Noir



When I was a lawyer just-in-time delivery was my mantra. If the deadline was a Monday, I understood that to mean one minute before midnight. Back in the day when people still insisted on original signatures, I didn't stop working until the FedEx office had closed.

I've missed more flights than I can count, all because I thought I'd have enough time for a little more sleep, an extra cup of coffee, that last cigarette before boarding. I got into trouble, of course, but in my reptilian brain I didn't see what the big deal was about being late. I'm here, right?

Now I blush to think how arrogant I was. I never thought about all those other people who arrived on time, whose time I was wasting, billable hours ticking away. But even if there were no fee earners involved, it was just plain rude. The idea that my time was somehow more valuable than anyone else's.

These days, I do my best to be on time. My biking speed is far lower than Google Maps imagines and so I have to plan accordingly. And yet, I still don't associate being late with being excluded.

There are days, especially in the summer here, when Amsterdam empties out. And I wonder: is there some city-wide festival I didn't hear about? Why didn't I get invited? Last Thursday, the streets of Amsterdam were swarming with soccer fans wearing Ajax colors and reeking of beer. Did I miss something? Oh, well.

There used to be a time when being late could have fatal consequences. You're out in the fields tending to your millet when a horde of barbarians appears on the horizon. You gather your children, your valuables, or simply your wits and you run to the city. If you make it in time, you'll be safe behind the city walls. If not, well, good luck to you.

The Germans called that fear Torschlusspanik. Since the days of hordes and city walls, the term has mutated to identify a more general fear of missing out. Do I take this job or that? Children now or later? All the woes associated with a midlife crisis and not being where you thought you'd be by this age.

South African artist William Kentridge uses the term to talk about the creative process. Whether you use an ink word or a spoken word, creating art is all about choices. That idea inspired this week's blog post about writing, self-censorship and choices: Torschlusspanik.

Oddly enough, the Kentridge quote came from a profile published almost a year ago in the Financial Times, just one in a very tall stack of backlog reading. That profile set off a series of synapses that enabled me to connect it to other articles I'd squirreled away, respectively one month, three months, and two years ago. So perhaps this is proof that it's never too late to be inspired.

The image you see above is my second piece of evidence. It's the cover of the 2019 NUNUM anthology published earlier this year. The image looks like a body in free fall but really it's a scuba diver. It feels weirdly appropriate in the midst of this, my second career. My flash fiction story "Frogs" is one of the entries in this anthology. You see, for some life changes, it never is too late. 

Cultural Revolution 2.0
The Accidental Reviewer
Have You Eaten Rice Today?
Deaths in Venice
Mass: Formulae

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