The Lord and the Flies
In “The Master and Margerita,” Bulgakov’s depiction of the Crucifixion is the most unique in my experience. Grünewald and the Medieval Germans in general – even Mel Gibson – as obsessed as they were with the cruelty of crucifixion, the flies never occurred to them. Biting flies. What had to be multiple species coating every inch, actually eating Jesus alive. It should have been obvious but I had never thought of it before and I don’t know who else has. Judea is a desert. Water is scarce and so are large mammals – and they don’t stand still. For biting flies, a crucifixion is an open banquet thrown by the court of Henry VIII.
Somehow, as bad as anyone might want others to feel the agony of Jesus’ suffering in the cause of spreading the faith, the idea of vile flies consuming the blood of the Lord seems unacceptable. All over the world, Christians of every stripe observe the Eucharist, in which the blood and body of Christ are consumed by the faithful via wine and wafers. How awkward is it that nasty flies may have been the only beings to consume the real thing. The little bastards received a real communion. Were they filled with the Holy Spirit? Maybe they stopped biting and became butterflies or angels? Where are the liturgical stories of these “blessed” little parasites? The Gospels are nothing if not rationalizations for the final tragedy of the Crucifixion – dying for sins, suffering for humanity, resurrection and so many other items of “Good News,” like thirty pieces of silver lining. Even Judas was a vital instrument of God’s plan. Like the kid who fell off his bike, God meant to do that.
In Bulgakov, there is no silver lining, only the merciless flies. The ugliness is casual, with a grittiness that seems more in keeping with the dust and reek which must have accompanied the desperate crowds of the sick and poor Jesus encounters in his ministry. A grand design seems far away and the world around him is stark and uncompromising, unlike the more romantic portrait painted by Nikos Kazantzakis in “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Stripped of magic and holiness, it is the closest I have ever approached to the flesh and blood of nothing but a man, who had been arrested after a very bad day in Jerusalem. In the South, at the convenience store, you can pick up a tabloid with the mugshots of everyone arrested in the previous week. Through Bulgakov, I can see Yeshua ben Nazareth in one of them, a small town boy with naïve ideas, driven mad like Martin Luther in Rome, by the corruption of a big city he had thought of as a holy place, and who was apprehended and booked for tossing tables in the Temple.
No church has ever been able to fully erase the constant tension between Messiah and criminal, holiness and filth, divinity and humanity in the Jesus narrative. It is a subtlety too often missed by the devout and the atheist alike, who search for a monolithic and absolute religion to either follow or attack. It doesn’t exist. The closer you look at the story, the more it fractures, which is probably why the Christian faith has given rise to schism after schism, but is also so adaptable to a wide range of cultural conditions. It is hard to resolve the man casually doodling in the dust, while talking a mob out of stoning a whore, and the God who ascended into heaven on a cloud.
Almost every form of Christian faith has plenty to say on the God, and even in the most human moments in the New Testament, Jesus seems remote. In Bulgakov, Jesus passes out on the cross. When the flies break, his face is “bloated from bites” and “unrecognizable.” When a soaked sponge is offered up on a stick, his eyes “flashed with joy” and he drinks “greedily.” Bulgakov is not doing this to blaspheme or belittle. His Jesus is very sympathetic, and his human frailty confronts us with our own. It also points to the most important tension in Christianity: Jesus’ humanity is the best selling-point for Christianity, and at the same time something believers would least like to hear about once they have accepted him as God. Jesus gets us because he was us, and that’s good, but now that he is God, let’s keep it that way because we don’t want a God like us. If I were looking for a God, I would not pick Jesus. I am looking for a man, who revolutionized the way people thought about the poor, an obscure man from an obscure place who fell backward into history. I’m not interested in the mysteries of divinity. I’m interested in the mysteries of humanity.
Contributing Authors: Prose
We here at A Literation wish to congratulate the following Tumblr writers, whose prose submissions have been selected for publication and will grace the digital pages of our inaugural issue, to be released in mid-December:
So, this is amazing. Thanks to the editors. I’m going to get that bio in ASAP
So you want to submit to /A Literation/?
When does A Literation accept submissions?
We accept submissions for the first two weeks (14 days) of each month. On or about the first of each month, a theme for that month’s issue will be posted. Submissions will be accepted from that moment until MIDNIGHT central U.S. time on the 14th of the month.
Can I submit more than once?
No. You may, however, submit one piece in prose and one piece in poetry. You may not, however, submit more than one piece in the same category. Submitting more than once will result in all of your pieces being removed from consideration. If, after you’ve submitted, you discover an error in your submission that you wish to correct, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll fix it for you. We’re pretty nice people. If you’re submitting more than one poem, you may do so, as long as the total lines of the poems are within the maximum length specified below.
How do I submit a poem?
Your poems should be submitted to email@example.com. Only the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor, and the Lead Poetry Editor have access to this email account. In the body of your email, include your name as you wish it to appear in the journal if your poem is published (it may be a pen name) along with your tumblr URL. Poems are reviewed by the poetry team anonymously, so only these three people will know your identity until publishing decisions are finalized.
Your poem must be attached to the email in .doc format. There should be no identifying information in this document. The poem, and nothing but the poem.
How do I submit a prose piece?
Prose pieces should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor, and the Lead Prose Editor have access to this email account. In the body of your email, include your name as you wish it to appear in the journal if your piece is published (it may be a pen name) along with your tumblr URL. Pieces are reviewed by the poetry team anonymously, so only these three people will know your identity until publishing decisions are finalized.
Your piece must be attached to the email in .doc format. There should be no identifying information in this document. The piece, and nothing but the piece.
If I’m published, will my tumblr URL be included with my name?
No. Because many writers so frequently change their URLs or deactivate, it would be a nightmare for the A Literation team to attempt to maintain accuracy within each issue, not to mention having to go back and check them all the time and keep the archives accurate. We ask for it to be included in the email with your attached submission only to identify you within the writing community.
What are your technical specifications or requirements for submissions?
As mentioned above, your submission must be attached to your email in .doc format only. We do not accept any other formats, but we’re pretty nice people, so if you accidentally send something in a different format, we’ll send you a lovely reply sweetly requesting that you re-send your submission in .doc format.
Aside from that, there are no specific technical requirements through which we will seek to refuse your submission because you didn’t adhere to ridiculous specifications regarding margins and font style and size and whatnot. As I said, we’re pretty nice people. We expect you to be nice as well, which means you’ll use a nice normal font like Helvetica or Times New Roman or whatever, and you’ll make it a nice reasonable size like 12- or 14-point so that we can read it.
And, because we’re pretty nice people, we will try our best to maintain your formatting, particularly your oh-so-clever line breaks and spacing in your poetry. However, there may be occasions where we have to adjust things ever-so-slightly to fit the formatting and layout requirements of the journal. You understand.
Okay, so there aren’t a lot of crazy technical specifications, but you must at least have some sort of length limitation, right?
Correct, astute potential submitter. Poems cannot be over 60 lines in length, and prose pieces cannot be over 1,500 words in length. There’s no need to include a line count or word count with your submission, unless you have this need to impress us with your counting skills — or, you know, you have some compulsive need to include such information (we won’t judge). We’ll take you at your word unless someone abuses this rule, and we find out. If we do find out, we will punish all future submitters by amending this to require three independently-certified word/line counts on every piece, and you will never be able to submit again.
Wait. Did you slip in up there that submissions are going to be reviewed anonymously? Because I think one of your editors hates me.
Absolutely. The editing team votes on the pieces to be published, and they will not know your identity until the issue is published. That’s some exciting suspense, right? So submit away, and worry not that someone will vote against your submission for personal reasons. As for the three who will know your identity, the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor, and the Lead Editor for that section, they have taken a blood oath not to exercise any veto power they might have for personal reasons.
Do you accept material that has previously been published?
Meh. We’re a start-up. We aren’t picky. It’s perfectly okay to recycle an earlier piece that you’ve posted on tumblr or elsewhere. We don’t know why you’d do that, when you have this opportunity to submit something new and fresh that the world has never seen, but if you want to do so, that’s fine. However, it better have been previously written and/or published by you. We’re so not cool with plagiarists. We are pretty nice people, but we are not nice to plagiarists. If you submit a plagiarized piece to us, we’ll find you and cut off your thumbs. That’s a lie, we could never — and would never — do that, no matter how much we wanted to. We will, however, cut you off from ever submitting to us again. And also, we will all be very, very mad at you. You don’t want us to be mad at you.
Do you accept collabs?
Just make sure that, in your email, you identify all authors as well as their tumblr URLs. At this time we are not, however, accepting collabs with non-tumblr writers, because part of the mission of this journal is to highlight the rich and diverse writing community on tumblr. And don’t get all tricksy and have your writer friend you want to write with create a tumblr just so y’all can submit a collab. We will know, and we will frown upon you.
Okay. I have a serious question. What are the copyright implications if my piece is published in A Literation?
You retain the copyright in your work. By submitting your work, you are granting us the right to publish and distribute your work; nothing more, nothing less. This right (or “license”) is non-exclusive. We do ask that, if you are selected for publication, you refrain from publishing your entire piece on tumblr after the fact. This is just as a favor to us, in recognition of the fact that we’re pretty nice people. You may publish an excerpt to promote the journal if you really really want, but pretty pretty please don’t publish the entire piece. You want your avid readers to purchase the issue you were featured in, yeah?
Is A Literation non-profit?
A Literation is 100% non-profit, and anticipates incorporating as a fully tax-exempt non-profit corporation at a later date. Details on this will be revealed at that later date.
When will I be notified if my submission is accepted or rejected?
If you’re “rejected”? Never. Sorry, but that’s work. If accepted, you will be notified within the final week of the month, via an unsigned message from email@example.com, before the issue is published.
Oh, and we have honors each issue, so: If you are selected as “Chief’s Choice” (the #1 submission selected by the EIC), you’ll get a spiffy message from the EIC. If your piece is chosen as “Editor’s Choice”, you’ll receive a shiny message from the ME. If your piece is selected as a “standout” by the Lead Editor for the category you submitted, you’ll be notified by that Lead Editor.
If you have any other questions, at this point, please direct such to me.
What is Rot Gut?
It’s not a zine, but it’s kind of a zine.
It’s not a chapbook, but it’s kind of a chapbook.
Basically, what Rot Gut is, will be a forty page book of poems from some of your favorite Tumblr Writers. Each month will feature several writers you’ve grown to love.
Each piece will be Rot Gut exclusive, never-before-read.
Here’s the other thing: Each writer will be paid based on the books sales.
Submissions are being taken now. Please limit your submissions to THREE (3) pieces. I will then contact each person I’m including in that months book. Right now, I believe it’ll be an every other month concept. But that could change, depending on interest/sales/etc.
Both poetry and prose will be accepted.
Items submitted that don’t make the cut for the book will be posted on the Rot Gut page. That way you can see what Dennis foolishly passed over.
Writing on a Kelvin Scale
“I’m haunted,” she said, smiling and touching her vagina.
“How did a ghost get in there?”
“I don’t know. It’s been in there for a long time, now.”
Now, katskradlexx suggested that the writing sample above, “reminds me of that horrible book you and your friend had to edit.” I posted excerpts of that book, Twisted Love, a few months ago, but here is a refresher quote:
“Oh, yeah?”Crystal asked, as she also smiled, as she moved in closer, as he body was close to him, while he embraces her tighter, as they both felt the excitement grow between them.
I said, “Yes, I thought of the same thing, though this one [The Haunted Vagina] had sentences.”
katskradlexx replied, “Horrible sentences.”
I said, “Yes, but sentences. You have to think of [The Haunted Vagina] as bad writing on a Kelvin scale.” (It is important to know that katskradlexx did not have the above exact quote from Twisted Love available. Sadly, I was all too familiar with it.)
So let’s talk about Kelvin. The Kelvin scale starts at Absolute Zero, the point at which everything freezes, or where all thermal activity ceases. The freezing point of water is 0.01 degrees Celsius, which is 273.15 degrees above Absolute Zero, or 273.15 Kelvin. The boiling point of water is 100 degrees Celsius, or 373.15 Kelvin.
Now, applying that scale to literature, let’s define what we will call litKelvin. Absolute Zero litKelvin would be represented by total illiteracy, no recognition at all of any letters or numbers. The freezing point of water (0.01 degrees Celsius) would be analogous to the Twilight Series, or 273.15 litKelvin. The boiling point of water (100 degrees Celsius) would be analogous to anything by Vonnegut, or 373.15 litKelvin, where clean sentence structure puts forth the story into the realm of bubbling genius.
Given this scale, I told katskradlexx that The Haunted Vagina would be closer to Twilight Series litKelvin, where writing freezes into stupidity, and Twisted Love is closer to Absolute Illiteracy, where all attempts at writing should bring down an indictment and mandatory jail time.
What would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you do not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. For writing allows just the proper recipes of truth, life, reality as you are able to eat, drink, and digest without hyperventilating and flopping like a dead fish in your bed. Ray Bradbury - Zen In The Art of Writing (via shakespearneverdidthis)
A Writer’s Wage
There was a time before writing was about getting a graduate degree, writing a piece of “art” and hoping you were connected to the right people, who could get you a lit agent. There was a time when fiction writing was work, a wage. You submitted your stories to small genre mags and hired yourself out to write pulp novels in any style, romance, detective, sci fi, and so on. You learned to write fast and a lot and under all different names besides yours. You only got to write your own stuff when you got to know a publisher who liked your stories. Writing was a living, not a dream. They say Kerouac became a virtuoso like this. I’m no fan of On the Road, but I can believe he wrote the whole thing in a stream without edits. Having worked at it so long, he could hammer out anything in his head, without wasting time waiting on muses or inspiration. Another reason the oldsters can point their arthritic fingers at us and call us wimps.
I must disagree with the On the Road note, but I love the sentiment here. Writing is most about just doing it!
I don’t think I personally must be a fan of something to respect its validity.