Thursday, April 27, 2017
Subscribe to our RSS feed:
Hypergraphia has its upsides

Tyler Stoddard Smith Archive

Tyler Stoddard Smith

Tyler’s Adventures in Cultural Literacy

October 12th, 2009
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

AUSTIN, TX-

What does it mean to be literate? That one’s pretty easy; it means you know how to read. What does it mean to be cultural? That one’s a little tougher; it means you know that in most situations, it’s unacceptable to put your cigarette out on a dachshund. And so what does it mean to be “culturally literate?” Many have posed this question (Harold Bloom, the Yale professor currently encased in acrylic and preserved for posterity does it a lot.), yet no one has truly come to terms with an accurate answer. My uncle Seamus once remarked that “cultural literacy is for homosexuals,” but he was urinating in a koi pond at the time, so who knows? I suggest we journey together to see if we can’t get to the core of this labyrinthine dilemma. Perhaps the most logical first step is learning how to read (I’ll wait for a few minutes)… Sweet. Our next step is to determine what exactly is “cultural.” Below are a few undeniably cultural items in the realm of architecture, literature and music. Let’s familiarize ourselves with these things, and then we can begin to get a handhold on what it means to be culturally literate. (more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

How to Write, Or Not

October 4th, 2009
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

AUSTIN, TX-

They tell me you should write about what you know. I’ve always had a problem with that. I may know some things other people don’t, but in writing that down, what good does that do me? Not much. I already know it. I want to write about things I don’t know about. I want to learn things about what I don’t think, how people I don’t know don’t act and why. Perhaps I say this because I don’t know much. I know a lot of facts about arcane things, but I already know them and I already know that nobody, unless they are short of Trivial Pursuit cards, wants to hear that kind of bilge. However, I don’t know one thing that I think will serve me well in my writing career: I don’t know how to write.

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Some Thoughts on a “New Literacy” While Remembering Patrick Swayze

September 29th, 2009
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

HOUSTON, TX-

Pierre Bayard’s ode to philistinism, Comment Parler des Livres que l’on n’a pas Lus, or How to Talk About Books That You Haven’t Read is a unique experience. Upon completion of Bayard’s work (one wonders if Bayard himself ever read his own book), I found myself first outraged, then confused, and finally, a little constipated. I thought to myself, “How does this boorish Frenchman claim that a perfunctory flip-through of Anna Karenina should suffice for an understanding of St. Petersburg’s high society during that time—or Jasper, Missouri’s, home to the Double Deuce for that matter?” Can this Bayard be serious? Can we really talk—intelligently—about books we’ve never read?

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

I Want to Protect the Institution of Marriage Between a Man and a Woman (4th of July Special)

July 4th, 2009
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

AUSTIN, TX-

With the 4th of July upon us, my neighbor screaming from a lost extremity at the hands of a Black Cat and enough potato salad in my gullet to occupy Paris, I got to thinking about America. And American institutions. Well, people, the hallowed institution of marriage is under attack in America, not just from Communists like Barney Frank and the state of Iowa, but also from other insidious forces both seen and unseen. So, in the interest of preserving the kind of marriage that God and Texas intended, here are some things to be especially mindful of:

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

How I Got Anna Karenina In Bed

January 7th, 2009
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

AUSTIN, TX-

The first thing that really nailed it was “Constantinople.” The word comes toward the end of Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop and when I pronounced it for the first time, finally, I think that lit the candle. Droplets spilled from the ducts of my parents and mine as we closed the book and then perhaps I was offered some fried chicken. A simple exchange of values, my inchoate literacy for a bucket of Popeye’s extra crispy. It has always been that way for me; chicken for literature. Madame Bovary and I shared a bucket in bed until Rodolphe burst in with a revolver. But that is later.

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Kiss The Girl

October 13th, 2008
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

AUSTIN, TX-

We sat together in the back of my car for an hour and I did not kiss her. We sat together on her couch, watching something or another on the TV and I didn’t kiss her. We lay together in her bed for hours, not kissing. It seems we can spend our lives together, swallow eternity and quake with love, and I haven’t kissed her. I cannot kiss her forever. There is agony in our kissing.

It gets worse

Perhaps some wine can help. The brutish concrete dividing our lips gains some minerals, that agonizing superstructure breaks down and her mouth splashes through all this decomposed boundary and there it is, I kiss her. But I do not kiss her. Maybe wine is a parlor trick for a kiss. Just hissing, adolescent monkeyshines and in the morning it was all greasy kid stuff. Wine is dangerous, as you never know when to fall in or out of love. Wine decides for you. That is why we drink it. Wine decides within and without you. That is why we drink it. I want to set a mortar charge in this fragile wall and blast out all the foundations, because wine is too slow. Then I will kiss her.

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Leading the Blind

September 16th, 2008
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

MADRID, SPAIN-

It had been a long night in Madrid, but I didn’t anticipate seeing the sun so soon. I had no watch and had thought that while I knew I had been out late, it couldn’t have been sunrise. I danced with friends at a club, a number of clubs, but I left after a meaningless lover’s quarrel with my girlfriend at the time, the kind that occurs after couples are separated from each other for a length of time, yet remain still in the same place.

Outside, a soft breeze made everything around me seem lighter, more fragile. I felt like I could topple over city blocks by just leaning on one of their buildings. Passing Madrid’s Arc de Triomphe, I thought about how much smaller it looked than the one in Paris. Was it actually bigger, or was it some trick of product placement on Napoleon’s part? I was happy to be outside the pulsing and suffocating atmosphere of the dance club. Next to the Arc de Triomphe was a small park with pear trees. I had never eaten a fruit right off of the tree and thought I might try it, but the idea of biting into a worm disgusted me. I wasn’t sure if pears were ever possessed of worms, but I knew that apples sometimes were, from those images in picture books you see as a child. I decided against eating a pear and instead sat under one of the pear trees for a while, smoking, aware of everything important and thinking of nothing.

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Fact Checker

September 1st, 2008
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

NEW YORK, NY-

There are facts and there are truths. The fact is, in June of 2001, I accidentally walked in on the venerated former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, Tina Brown, while she was relieving her bowels. The truth is, I felt as if I had committed a kind of spiritual rape. They say rape is about power and I see no more vulnerable and powerless position to assume than the one preferred by your average bowel-mover. But what if you don’t actively seek this power out? Well, we all want power of some kind; that’s another truth. So the question becomes: What to do after the scream and ensuing door-slam?

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Church Street Howls, Lone Star Whimpers (and ATARI)

August 27th, 2008
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

SAN FRANCISCO, CA-

There’s something about a bookstore, warm-gutted, umbilical–relevant. City Lights bookstore in San Francisco is the ne plus ultra of bookstores. The unkissed, the wretched, the imbecilic and insane–all of them, at one point, have struggled to hit that first step, lunge forth, looking for a depth charge to blast out the superstructures of their lives. I have. Have you? Oh, no. I’m not saying you’re a wretch. I’m not saying you’re anything. What I’m saying is that not unlike a church, or a Wal-Mart, or the feeling you take from winking at an ugly girl, you feel a sense of calm, however misbegotten or misguided.

One day I’ll tell you about how I feel about that. But last week, with an old, wonderful friend, a friend who knows that people are not kind, but like me, feels commandoish in dispelling the predjudices and the preconceptions of the drooling smash so intent on drowning out (and down) the boy with his back up–we went in to City Lights, went on a book orgy. I can tell you what I bought later, but buying Howl, again, at City Lights, got me thinking. Got me so much I’m going to call it “thanking.” But who is this lunatic spewing out vapid introductions? Let’s get to the story, eh?

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Build a House, Burn it Down

August 19th, 2008
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

HOUSTON, TX-

I have a long history of becoming far too invested in my prime time TV shows. For a period, I went around telling friends and associates in various states of legal trouble that “a writ of mandamus must be issued” or that “these things usually sort themselves out in voir dire,” along with other bits of unsolicited, erroneous legal advice mined from “Law & Order” episodes. I employed, usually to little effect, modern forensic techniques learned on “CSI: Las Vegas” to create a time-line for those moments spurred on by my late-night roistering. I know I went to Taco Bell late-night because there are beans on my face this morning. But wait. Perhaps I am confusing correlation with causation. I’ll need more grant money to close the book on that case. But this is different. I’ve got a big problem now. The folks over at FOX have really done it to me this time.

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Drive-By Poetry

August 18th, 2008
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

DENVER, CO-

Rejection letters are always a drag; whether they are negative responses from job opportunities, university admissions boards or literary journals. However, there is nothing quite as spirit-crushing as a rejection letter received after submitting a poem. A short-story rejection slip is depressing, but not devastating. You manufacture a story in your head, create some characters and make them talk. Fine. So you didn’t like my characters. Their dialogue is unrealistic. Their motives are questionable. Fine. They aren’t me. But a rejection letter from a poem is, for me, the equivalent of standing out on a street corner naked and having passers-by hand you terse little notes reading, “Your penis is unconvincing,” or “You call those nipples?” or maybe, “You have an affected buttocks.” And that kind of stuff just breaks my heart. You pour it all into a poem: your skeleton, your bile, your oozing primordial remnant—your private parts. To be told that the fundamental you is not up to snuff—that’s hard murder.

(more…)


Tyler Stoddard Smith

Guardia Civil

August 12th, 2008
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

MADRID, SPAIN-

She is standing on the sidewalk, three floors below me, holding a plastic bucket over her head. We use the bucket for the mop—we clean, sometimes. No cleaning now. I sit out on the balcony, three floors above her, smoking, shaking hands, laughing nervously at a joke in Spanish I don’t understand. They tell the joke in English, I understand even less. Some joke about a priest. I look over the balcony and try to aim the best I can—don’t want any wine to spill on her, or miss the bucket. I upend the glasses of wine over the edge of the balcony to the awaiting girl and the awaiting bucket below. He sure drinks a lot of wine, they’re saying. And I do. For every glass I empty, some going in the bucket, some going on the street, much going on her head, I drink one. “This is one really special night. Hector is going to really shine at Stanford. Thanks to you,” they say. “No, no. He did it all on his own. He’s a smart kid—really. I have to go soon. This is one hell of an apartment.”

(more…)