Monthly Archive: May 2007

Jeff’s Ongoing Fugue of Pain: An Autobiography

Jeffs Ongoing Fugue of Pain

A History of My Life

By Jeff Somers



PART ONE: in which I eat dogs and become acquainted with Jesuit cruelty.


Where to start? I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey to an Irish-German family of thirteen: six brothers, five sisters, two parents. Only four survived the great bratwurst famine of 1974, two of them being my parents, who mourned the deaths of my siblings by dumping the surviving kids in private school and taking a cruise around the world. In private school my brother Yan and I learned to sing songs from The Sound of Music and tap dance, skills which have saved my life on more than one occasion. After the cruise, my parents went on an extended tour of Europe, from which they have yet to return.

As a result, Yan and I returned from the 1981 semester at school to find the house abandoned. A pack of wild, rabid dogs had broken through the screen door on the back porch and made it their home, and my poor brother Yan was mauled quite badly before I could Tap the dogs to death. I set about nursing Yan and scavenging our ancestral home for foodstuffs and potable water. It was, after all, a long summer. We survived it by eating carefully salted dog meat and drinking rainwater which had so much lead in it I went temporarily color blind in August. When Yan had regained enough of his strength, we set about repairing our ancestral home and plundering my father’s abandoned stocks of pornography. The summer passed quickly, then.

In the fall we matriculated into high school. Our parents maintained a long arm and enrolled us in St. Peter’s There But For the Grace of God Academy, which was a pseudo-religious-slash-military establishment stressing Latin and self-mutililation. We awoke one fine September day to find the ancestral home surrounded by Jesuit Commandos, who piled us into an armored truck along with several other frightened boys. Yan and I cheered our fellow kidnap victims by singing The Sound of Music (Yan’s voice indistinguishable from Julie Andrews’) and we plotted a brisk escape from the truck; but once the rear doors were thrown open Yan and I were inexplicably ratted out by our fellows. My brother and I entered St. Peter’s as prisoners, and spent our first weeks there being beaten on a daily basis by a burly priest named Father Hump, until we could speak perfect Latin, although we could no longer remember our own names.


I’ve Got Nothing to Say, I Hope You Have a Nice Day*

Quite frankly, I’m boring as hell.

People like me should not have blogs. I have few opinions. I let my life wash over me like an incomprehensible existential nightmare. I aspire to make shit up for a living. I’m a comfortable white guy living an easy life, and there is very little about me that is controversial or thought-provoking. Unless a fleshy mid-thirties guy drinking whiskey and reading a lot of books is your idea of thought-provoking, which it shouldn’t be, especially since I forget about 95% of what I read in those books. I’m like the guy from that movie Memento, except without the angst. And the dead wife.

Good blogs, blogs that I actually heave myself off of my digital ass to read, have one of two things going for them, I think: Either they have a central point, a subject to focus on in which the blogger is at least a self-styled expert, or they have an attitude–you know, blogs that exist just to stir shit up. Either way once you get some Technorati traction you start getting traffic, and then fights break out in your comments section, and all is good in the world. Then, one glorious day, one of your posts is greeted with a comment that reads, in full, “first!” and you know you have arrived.

Sadly, I am none of these things. I am an expert in nothing–I am your classic, classic Jack of All Trades and Master of None. My bizarre attention span has led me to become vaguely acquainted with any number of skills–baseball, French, chess, computer programming, guitar–before wandering off to do something else, usually involving whiskey. I can write authoritatively about nothing that does not personally involve me, so I don’t do it, for fear of being mocked. Your mockery wounds me.

I’m also not much of a shit-stirrer, largely for the same reason. When you recognize your vast ignorance and lack of life-mastery, it undermines the confidence, which makes it difficult to flatly call other people morons. It’s too bad; angering thousands of people would do wonders for my traffic.  If anyone out there wants to be my personal shit-stirrer, posting terrible things under my name in order to drum up attention, please contact me. The pay is terrible, but I’ll buy you beers.

*Name that reference and I will send you a cookie.**

**No cookies will actually be sent.

This Writing is Making Me Thirsty

They delivered a mysterious box to the room today. Unmarked, just addressed to me.

Naturally, I stared at it suspiciously for some time before opening it–my publisher can be a cruel, inhuman organization, and there’s been an awful lot of mind games so far. The liquor bottles emptied and refilled with tea, the phone calls in the middle of the night, the deliveries from restaurants with nothing inside the foam boxes. They are trying to break me down, but I am strong. Or at least frequently drunk, which is just as good.

Of course I opened the box; I am far too weak to resist things like opening mysterious boxes. And you know what? Inside were Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of The Electric Church. Whoo hoo! They are like real books except uncorrected and unpolished. Like most of my writing, so who’s complaining?

I’ve never gotten ARCs before. My previous published book, Lifers, was published by a company so small they actually sent me a bunch of sales receipts so I could peddle the book myself when I went out to readings and such. I did get a bunch of copies for myself, of course, but nothing advanced, you know? Actually, I still have about 200 copies of Lifers in my mother’s basement. Poor Mom. Poor me. Literally–anyone want to buy a copy, cheap? I’ll sign it. Suggestively, for a little extra.

But I digress: These are my first ARCs, and it’s pretty amazing to think that this is what the actual book will look like. It’s heavier than I expected, it’s got a heft to it. I like that. I hate to admit that my own book buying often includes the tactile sensation of the book–if the cover feels rough, if the paper is brittle, if it doesn’t have a good heft to it, I am mysteriously turned off. I know that’s not supposed to be why we buy books, but it’s part of it, at least for me.

Believe it or not, folks, soon you will have to contend with my book. In actual book form. In actual stores.

In the mean time, I have so many writing projects I’m going mad. Most aren’t even paying me, which is really sad, and between the day job–which is paying me–and the zine (100,000 words a year) and the short stories (one a month come hell or high water) and the web columns on (precious few these days) and the columns in Xerography Debt and Brutarian and the sequel to The Electric Church and this damned blog, I’m spread kind of thin. I know writers who only work on one project at a time, and who sometimes take years to finish a single short story. I’ll never understand. There’s always time for revision (though with my drinking habits and tendency to step into moving traffic, maybe not) and I’d rather spend my time having fun and writing.

Oh well. In the mean time, I have to devise a way to escape from this hotel room using only the newly delivered books, the bedding, and the small number of roach traps I found under the bed. Wish me luck.