a response to tyler corbridge when i read his story about with the word brains in the title



“brains of smorkaloff” makes me think of some sort of lovecraft titles, although i must admit that i’ve never read any lovecraft (and it seems that the more that i go along in life, the more i feel woefully underread), but i think this is because of the rather bodily idea of brains (it seems that brains are rather bodily, or at the very least almost always gorey, only because that seems the only way that we can see them, only in the most extreme cases of gore or accident or terror, etc. maybe that is why they are so associated with zombies and apocalypses). anyway, remember when I helped you get engaged to your wife (what was her name again, I am sorry that I can’t remember her name (and that really is a sort of aside that doesn’t seem to have any bearing on this story whatsoever, but i couldn’t help but mention it since it has been a while since i’ve seen or talked with you)))))). but the other reason it seems lovecraftian is beause of the name that seems alien to me, or i want to say polish or maybe even jewish, but i am also unfamiliar with both cultures more than i would like to be and even more than i would like to admit. but i don’t think the name smorkaloff is either of those, only that the name makes me feel the same way that those names do, namely that i feel there is a sort of meaning to it, it feels weighted with meaning, but not just meaning but a whole culture that i just haven’t been exposed to, so, yeah, a sort of exoticism to it. also the word “brains” in the plural also makes it even more astonishing, just because of how rare it is to see or smell or experience one brain, let alone more than one. but i don’t mean to say that the title takes me straight to gore, only that the word “brains” can also be abstractly understood, but if you were going for a more abstract sense then I suppose you would have used the word mind, which i find myself using more often than brains, which i suppose explains my less visceral relationship with the mothership of my ontology and a more abstract sense, and so i sometimes feel more like a poet and less like a doctor or scientist for this very reason. and the more i think about it, the more i want to be a poet, someone who approaches the world with a sense of separation, with a sense of moving closer to the idea of things while still maintaining a safe distance of the actual pool of blood. i suppose this is why i have never been skiing even though i live in the mountains, just a block from sundance. and now i realize that all that i have said so far about the choice of the word “brains” or “brain” seems to be a sort of character description of Mike. He seems to be more viscerally concerned with his mother, instead of abstractly concerned. He seems directly effected by this, instead of mentally. I mean he hasn’t yet seemed to have developed an emotional distance from his mother or her condition. 


“there’s always someone behind the brains, isn’t there” or at least the CNA in your story has said this, and I wonder, really if brains aren’t an opportunity to take a moment to think about our ontology. do you think, that maybe shakespeare really wanted hamlet to be holding a brain when he asked whether it is better to be or not to be. and then i think that i don’t believe there can be a thing behind a thing, like i don’t believe in metaphysics, but how can i say this as a writer, only because words seem to have things behind them, like the platonic image, the ideal, but these, to me, seem to only be in the imagination, but i said to a friend this afternoon who came to my house while we shared waters and i did the dishes (Mortimer Ryan), i said to him that i believe the imagination is real, or that at least it has real impact, that we can’t not talk about how the imagination is at least a part of reality. and then, for a moment i think that we are living in the age of the double-negative, that we don’t feel comfortable being affirmative or positive in any sort of way, but that we nonetheless want to be affirmative and so we affirm or speak positively but only through a double negative (“I don’t not believe in god” or “I shouldn’t not know what truth is” etc. etc.) but the CNA’s belief that there is something behind the brains makes me think of plato and other early philosophers and how they speak of the ideal (but this may only be because Truedson and I are running a lyceum and this is the current curriculum we’ve decided to cover). 


now, i do like the image of her halfway across town in the middle of the night with wonderbread. i’m sure you’ve heard of Crewdson and his suburbanization of celebrities with his photography, but if you haven’t seen it, then I would totally recommend looking him up, especially the pictures of Philip Seymour Hoffman (who often makes me think of you, or maybe it is you who makes me think of him, but i hope one day you write about him, only so people can think that you are his son or some look alike (and i remember you always recommending watching Breaking Bad, and i never watched it because i was a bit more conservative back then, and I didn’t want to really pay to watch any tv, but I’ve since watched it, and you are right, it is a great show, and also, i’m glad i watched it because everyone (really, on a daily basis) everyone tells me I look like Jesse Pinkman. ))))))


man, that feeling when people let you go to voicemail. which feels different now that everyone’s phones are in their pockets, but it shouldn’t feel different. why pick up the phone when you are in the middle of a conversation. why let one person unknowingly interrupt what they don’t know they are interrupting. at any rate, i’m glad you’ve included this line because it it definitely one that makes me sympathize with Mike. and I’m sure many people do, or at least have felt on occassion that sadness of being sent to voicemail. 


you know, this protestation of “Her brain, but it’s her brain” makes me think of this youtube video i was watching the other night while doing research into my bestiary plays. anyway, i saw a video of a monkey seeing itself in the mirror and recognizing itself so much that it wiped the paint off its forehead (it was an orangutan, so technically an ape?). and i thought it was only humans who had this capacity for self reflection, for self-reviewal, for self-awareness. it was really fascinating. it was really devastating to find yet another element of life that doesn’t separate me from the animals. the more i find out, the more i think there is nothing that separates us, not even our physiognomy. but i have this little mirror in my studio that is tall and thin, so thin that you can only ever see one eye at a time in it, and it sort of throws off the self-gazing we often do. but children, small children are incapable of looking in a mirror and wiping paint off their face. they may see others, but they don’t have the added level of seeing an other as themselves. they can only think one chess.sympathy move at a time. they can’t double back or think three levels in. and then i think of a.i. and how some of these computers can endlessly explore the countless tree-ing out options from a given point, kind of like that scene in avengers: infinity war where doctor strange explores all the possible outcomes from a given point in time. 


uh, two months with a loaf of wonder bread? wouldn’t it go green after two weeks? especially cradled like that?


i wish you had mentioned they were at verla’s house earlier, although, that may have been clear and i am a bad reader (i suppose that they vacuum would have been a good clue, but i still assumed it was a hospital. i don’t know why. 


i like the metaphor of mom throwing things away and the implied idea of brains juxtaposed next to trying to decide what is memory and what is clutter next to a woman who seems to have had something happen that makes it hard for her to distinguish.


“now as the sole occupant of the home.” is an interesting phrase, because it dehumanizes verla. 


poetic: “the worlds least regarded museum”


super funny: to cradle a baby wonderbread version of yourself


boromir, faramir


also, this reminds me a bit of “hereditary” the horror movie i just went to see.


kylan rice has a cicada in his small book “in a room hung with pictures. you should ask him if you can read it. 


poetic: into people’s ears but onto no one’s memory


all a great story, lots of characters, lots of surprises, but i think i know your hang-up exactly: the cna character is interesting but not deep. he is missing a conceptual element to him, i think you should research thanatos or the death drive, and maybe contrast that with eros somewhere in the story, maybe eros within sam and lexi’s relationship. when sam decides not to answer the phone might be a good point for that. in fact, i almost expected it, i almost expected the two to make love. and i mean that the CNA is an interesting character, i mean who decides to strap a bomb underneath someone’s bed, but i think you should have started the story with the shower scene instead. there’s a sort of direct intimacy to that scene that i think perfectly begins the story. also, i really think that the conceptual element to the CNA is thanatos or the death drive, the drive we have towards death, toward destruction, even self destruction. everyone else seems to have a sort of depth, a sort of life to them, a well rounded character that has their own motivations and life, but this CNA character feels underdeveloped, and the scene ends with him. 


the suggestion i was expecting to make was one that had to do with animals looking into the mirror, which is why i mentioned it. i thought you might have verla look in the window of the shell gas station and see her reflection and have a moment where she thought she was seeing another woman. that would really show a digression of self, a reversal of the brain, a direction toward the tabula rasa image your are looking to develop at the end. also that tabula rasa element you try to develop at the end seems rushed, it needs to slow down and really take that moment in, but i see why you haven’t ironed that fully out without having fully imagined or finished the end yet.


also, question, does mike die? I can’t remember the circumstances of whether he is living with his mother or not, so i want to think that he was on the first floor under the bomb, but maybe that isn’t the case. i wasn’t really sure. 


there are perhaps other smaller things i have to say about the story, but looking at what i’ve written i think i’ve over written, so i will let this suffice. 


thanks for sharing. best of luck revising.



zach t power