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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

American BanjoI have just released my sixth novel, American Banjo, as an e-book on Amazon.com. I plan to release the novel in paperback version, hopefully later this year, along with all my other novels.

The plot: An heirloom Federal-style banjo clock build in 1804 is passed down through eight generations of a secretive family of ultra-high-net-worth Americans. Built shortly after the American Revolution, it has come to mean something different to all its holders. To Sandra Eccles, one of the family’s daughters, the clock may prove the guilt or innocence of not only a few founding fathers, but also her storied grandfather, who made munitions in World War II. His possession of a painting that might have been stolen from a Jewish family by the Nazis leads Sandra to try to uncover a puzzling skein of relationships and help her determine how good her forebears really were and what they were after.

I piece together the story line from various “diaries” of the characters, a cast from different times and places in American history, whose dreams and aspirations and ethics are different, even though the ways they aspire are somehow the same.

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I’ve always described Game of Thrones as an eight-year object lesson in Stockholm syndrome. Almost every important story arc is about somebody coming to identify with their captors or kidnappers. How many times has somebody fallen in love with or identified with, those who have captured, degraded or beaten them, robbed them of their true selves? How many times have captives taken kidnappers’ values as their own? Theon was a hostage. Sansa was a hostage. Lyanna Stark. Arya. Daenerys. Jamie. Jon. It’s not one plotline. It’s more than half of them.

And after a week of reading unhinged rants by fans angry about this season, I’m starting to think the last hostages were the audience, the people too closely identifying with characters who “suddenly” did indefensible things, when in fact they had always been doing indefensible things. We cheered on revenge; we put our hopes in outcomes that couldn’t possibly be good and people who couldn’t possibly succeed in moral ways. Beheadings. Burnings at the stake. Crucifixions. Daggers in the heart. We were always happy to let these things happen to the right people–and that has always been the meretricious nature of fascism. (Our favorite character Tyrion nicely bright-lined this problem last night in the finale.)

So the show in the end did the absolute right thing: made us see our addiction to wrongness and did it in an accelerating pace the way all good fiction does as it races toward its end–in a frenzy of action that excited and shattered us in equal measure. That is so very difficult to accomplish. I think the show completely lived up to its promise and was right to break our hearts. We live in a world where good people turn evil out of political and religious conviction, as well as from conviction in the movements they join and from the false esteem they place in empty symbols (red hat, anybody?)

Spoiler here: Did Daenerys Targaryen turn evil too fast? She’d been fighting for innocent victims her whole life, right? Well, she’d also been crucifying and burning people, too. And doing so mostly out of conviction in her own destiny. Her empathy had always come in part from being downtrodden herself. And the moment she lost that empathy was the moment she finally seized total power–and knew the potential that the downtrodden of the world will never know. She’d had her closest advisors either die or turn on her and the only political capital she had was the fire and blood she’d always promised. I waited for this scene to feel forced to me, like the writers were coaching me how to feel over my shoulder. I never did. And trust me, I’m a writer of fiction. And a former critic. I know when it’s happening. My anger and sadness came from knowing that this change in a character, who had developed a obdurate existential quality all her own, was totally inevitable.

One of the most heartbreaking things was Tyrion’s insistence to Grey Worm that he still wanted to fulfill his queen’s ideals, even though his queen needed to die to fulfill them. It was a tragic admission that the queen and her ideals could not together be. Virtue and power come into conflict. This show isn’t Shakespeare, but the parallels to Caesar should have been obvious and should have been the context we put this tragedy in.

I was just asked in a chat room about why I singled out Arya Stark as a serial killer when she lives in a world of killers. I was just using the dictionary definition, friend … and you’ve employed moral relativism here why?

I’ve also seen chat room fanatics argue the show owes it to fans, the ones who kept the show alive, to give them more of what they wanted. In other words, they should have been pandered to more. As the great comedian Julie Brown once pointed out in a TV sketch, when fans write the shows, we end up with nothing but women in bikinis playing volleyball.

But my sincere condolences to the Game of Thrones fans who have been let down by their heroes and, especially, their feminist heroines this month. I am shocked and saddened to learn that so many people did not seem to understand what show they were watching for eight years.

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There are a lot of Eric Rasmussens in the world, many of whom I’ve recently discovered are tilling the same fields that I am. I’ve seen Eric Rasmussens at work in journalism, law, literary criticism, polemics, music and fiction. That’s bound to create confusion.

Again, my full name is Eric Randolph Rasmussen. I’ve written a companion piece for this post telling you who I am. Out of respect for the other Eric Rasmussens, I felt the need to give you a list of the ones I am not:

Eric Ralph Rasmussen, pro baseball player.

This one seems pretty obvious. This was the only other Eric Rasmussen I’d ever heard of growing up. I never worried people would confuse us. I can barely pitch, catch or bat.

Eric David Rasmussen, physician, medical ethicist, humanitarian

Again, I’m not too worried about you getting us confused. This guy has an interesting career and is worth your attention.

Eric Rasmussen, writer, editor of Barstow & Grand

This Eric Rasmussen is a Wisconsin-based fiction writer and very nice guy who sent me a nice note and has an excellent blog and lots of excellent fiction. I do not wish to steal his thunder.

Why the confusion: We are both literary fiction writers. I do not see any novels on his resume (he mentions an unpublished manuscript), and I have never published any short stories (outside of a few bad experiments on my blog) but there are obvious reasons people are going to confuse us. For that reason, I have made sure to put “Eric Randolph Rasmussen” on most of my fiction, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to see it on my journalism.

Eric Rasmussen, jazz saxophonist, composer, band leader of the Eric Rasmussen Quartet, director of instrumental music at Scottsdale Community College

Alto saxophone player Eric Rasmussen has played with a number of big jazz names (you can find some of his music here), and his musical focus is jazz while mine is alternative rock and punk, but there are several reasons people might get us confused, especially if they knew me back in the day in Oklahoma.

Why the confusion: Several reasons. We have both been New Yorkers, we have both lived all over the country, we are both composers and we both play alto saxophone (though he actually worked at it his entire career while I gave it up for two decades). I have mostly stayed away from jazz on my albums, but Salon de la Guerre fans know that I have wormed my way through all sorts of different genres and finally jumped into some jazz a few years ago, yanking out my long-dormant alto sax chops for two songs on Salon de la Guerre’s album Clam Fake. I have done only two extended improvisations with jazz saxophone, one of which is on a song called “Red Clay Moses,” which you can hear on YouTube.  Jazz sax player Eric Rasmussen deserves his many accolades, but “Red Clay Moses,” a cross between jazz and Sonic Youth guitar, is all mine.

Eric Dean Rasmussen, associate professor of English literature at the University of Stavanger.

I first followed Eric Dean Rasmussen for a couple of reasons: He was a literature guy and, more important, he was the first of us with the cunning to grab the Ericrasmussen.com domain name. There can be only one, Highlander!

That said, most of his work, as far as I can tell, is literary criticism and theory, subjects I’ve studiously avoided since college. I never worried too much people would confuse us. Besides, he was in Chicago and then later, apparently, Norway.

Why the confusion: Still, we are both lovers of literature, and we both somehow at some point met with (and wrote about) famous superhero literary publisher Barney Rosset, founder of the Grove Press and publisher of Samuel Beckett and Henry Miller. Eric Dean met Rosset through his work at a literary organization. I met Rosset at a bar. Though the other Eric was seemingly better prepared for the encounter and knew more about Rosset to begin with, I must give myself some points for not misspelling Rosset’s name. (I have some advantages being a journalist.)

I see that Eric Dean and I also have a very tenuous connection through the website Altx.com. He has articles posted there, and I used to be associated with a literary magazine called Io that had links to the site as well.

Eric Rasmussen, internationally renowned Shakespeare scholar, foundation professor at the University of Nevada at Reno

Again, I wasn’t too worried about being mistaken for a Shakespeare scholar, though we are both authors and we are both on Amazon. He’s even on YouTube!

Eric Rasmussen, actor.

I took an acting class once and I’m enthralled by the subject, but I have mostly left that field to my wife.

Eric Rasmussen, professor of communication.

I don’t see much room for confusion here, though I do have a communications degree (in journalism) from the University of Texas, and it could be somebody somewhere gets us confused.

Eric Rasmussen, Twin Cities broadcast news investigative reporter, KSTP TV

This guy’s been in Boston and Minneapolis. I’ve never been in front of a camera, but we are both journalists.

I will leave it at that. I recall seeing other people with my name also pursuing music journalism (an old part-time vocation of mine) and statistics and hockey, but I’m not too worried about being confused with those people. I’ll add names to this list later if I think anybody is going to mix me up with someone else.

 

 

 

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It was difficult la-okc-trip-2004-029.jpggrowing up with the name “Eric Rasmussen” for a few obvious reasons. It’s a funny name for children to say, and given children’s talent for innovation, a fun name to mock. (“Raisin Muffin” was the sobriquet the junior high kids finally settled on for me.)

My name is now a problem for a different reason: It’s not anywhere near as as rare as many people think it is. “Rasmussen” is kind of like the Scandinavian “Smith.” and “Eric” is a natural fit for it. So not only are there tons of Eric Rasmussens in New York City (I even bumped into one at a party), but tons of them working in the same fields I work in–fiction, music, film and journalism. After I began recently releasing a slate of my novels, I realized there’s another Eric Rasmussen who writes short stories. He, like me, is published in several places.

I’m a hyphenate, which makes things more confusing. I’ve been working in at least four different media for years, subjects I’ve been passionate about since my teens. I never saw a reason not to pursue all of them at once, and I dare say I’m good at some of them. But to the outside world (and definitely to a career coach) it probably looks like I have multiple personality disorder.

So now I realize it’s become necessary to tell people both who I am and who I’m not. I talk about the latter in this companion piece. But for now, I’m going to give you my CV, if for some reason you get confused about which Eric Rasmussen you’re dealing with. My name is Eric Randolph Rasmussen. I grew up in Oklahoma, went to college in Austin, Texas, and I’ve lived in New York City for over two decades. I have a fairly large amount of content on the internet in multiple media.

Journalism

I’ve been a journalist since my college days. I focused first on arts and entertainment; in 1997, I started writing about finance. The following are the publications I’ve written for (if you see my name pop up in a different newspaper or magazine, it is not I):

The Daily Texan (the University of Texas student newspaper)
The Austin Chronicle
The Alcalde (The University of Texas alumni magazine)
Io magazine
Swing
magazine
Civil Engineering
Investment Management Weekly
Financial-Planning.com
Nurseweek
Financial Advisor magazine

Film

I’ve been making short films since 2006, and created a web series with my wife from 2007 to 2009. These are my works:

S&M Queen For A Day (2006)
Scrabble Rousers (2006)
The Retributioners (web TV series, 2007-2009)
Candy Rocks Doesn’t Grow Up (a screenplay and semi-finalist for the Austin Film Festival comedy screenplay competition in 2012)

Music

I am the sole musical artist behind Salon de la Guerre, which just released its 19th album. I worked on music through the 1990s, but didn’t start releasing definitive versions of my songs until 2007 on MySpace and didn’t start publishing them in album form until 2012. As of April 2019, I had 276 songs in circulation.

I’m listing the albums here with the dates I published them on the streaming sites (these are not the copyright dates of the songs, which go back as far as 1993). My albums are:

Time-Traveling Humanist Mangled by Space Turbine (2012)
Four-Track Demons (2014)
Diasporous (2014)
The Mechanical Bean (2014)
Toe-Tapping Songs of Pain and Loss (2014)
Your Eyes Have Mystic Beams (2014)
Clam Fake (2016)
Roses Don’t Push the Car Home (2016)
Gravitas: A Life (2016)
Liberty (2016)
The Church of Low Expectations (2016)
In the Lake of Feral Mermaids (2017)
The Widowhood of Bunny (2017)
Keep Your Slut Lamp Burning (2017)
Driver, Take This Cab to the Depths of the Soul (2017)
All Else Dross (2017)
Yipano (2018)
You’re Going To Regret What You Did (2018)
Bleed (2019)

Fiction

I’ve been writing fiction for well over two decades; however, for many reasons, most of them banal, my seven novels sat unpublished on my computer for years. A couple of months ago, that all changed: I began releasing my novels as e-books on Amazon, with the hopes of releasing the paperback versions on the platform later in the year. As of yesterday, five of my novels are now available on the site, and I plan to release the other two (one of which has three volumes) later this year. The books are mostly comic, though they also stretch into historical fiction and absurdism.

Here’s the complete list (I’ve listed the dates I released them on Amazon, though many of these books were finished at least five years ago):

Zip Monkey (2019)
Detective J (2019)
Letters to My Imaginary Friend Leticia (2019)
Traffic Waitress (2019)
Did it End? (2019)
American Banjo (2019)
The Ghost and the Hemispheres, Vol 1-3 (planned release date: 2019)

Poetry

My big plan as a teenager was to be a poet, and oddly enough, this is the field I’m least prolific in. I have only some few dozen poems to my name, almost all of which are available on this blog. However, I did get a few bits into the college literary magazine back in the day:

Analecta 1989-1991 (the University of Texas literary and arts journal)

The Blogosphere

Beauty is Imperfection is the blog you are reading right now. I started posting these little musings on MySpace in late 2006 and switched over to WordPress in 2009, moving a lot of the MySpace content over after seeing that the latter platform was dying.

As my long-suffering readers know, even in my blogging life, I’m something of a schizophrenic. For its first few years, Beauty Is Imperfection was a comedy blog with lots of Top 10 lists and other silliness, most of which was meant to help create buzz about my web series, The Retributioners. In 2010, my mother died, and the blog took on a more somber tone, and I also started posting a lot of political material to give the world a taste of my long-stifled polemical voice. My posts have been infrequent in the last few years; occasionally I post new poetry, but otherwise I use the blog to let people know about all these many other projects I’m working on.

Hopefully, this post gives you a more complete picture of me. I rarely talk about these projects with friends and colleagues, mostly because I’m not the bragging sort, I don’t like to shove art down people’s throats and I know how much great, perhaps better art is out there that I’m competing with. I’m offering this summary of my career mostly to help people navigating the internet avoid confusion if they see a name like mine and don’t know whom they are dealing with.

For the record, I haven’t written any plays.

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My novel TrafficTraffic Waitress Cover 3 Waitress is now available on Amazon.com as a digital book. I hope to be releasing the paperback version of the novel within the next few months.

Traffic Waitress is a series of eight interconnected stories that follow a group of outer-borough New Yorkers from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds during a few crazy months in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many of them struggle to a certain extent with their cultural identities. We meet a man who grew up an Orthodox Jew but has left the faith and is now alienated from his family. We meet a Japanese-American college student who tends to flee from what he’s good at and needs a few months to flounder personally before he goes off to med school. We meet a former runway model and Harvard grad who gave up her uptown life to be a rock ‘n’ roll groupie. We meet a stripper who refuses to identify as gay even though she finds herself repeatedly falling in love with women. We meet a closed-off computer geek whose bottled up feelings about Sept. 11 lead him on a bizarre journey in a rental car.

From the book description: “Outer-borough New York is changing at the turn of the 21st century, and eight people from different cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic groups crash into each other in strange ways, as they flail about in their personal ambitions and life’s inevitable sorrows.”

I originally wrote Traffic Waitress in 2005; it’s been sitting on my computer getting tweaked for more than a decade. I’ve put the official copyright at 2012, though I’m not sure how correct that is.

But as always … if you’re into it …

The cover design is by Corey Brian Sanders.

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Letters To My Imaginary Friend Leticia coverAs longtime Beauty Is Imperfection readers might remember, I used to run a serial work on this blog called “Letters to My Imaginary Friend Leticia.” I promised one day that it would turn into a novel, and now it has. I’ve just released it on Amazon as a digital book, and hope to release it in paperback form in the upcoming months. It’s about a frustrated New York trade magazine writer who longs to be a poet and sends letters of his failures to his ideal woman.

The book’s description:

“He’s not a frustrated poet yet, but he’s working hard at it. A writer in 1990s New York suffering from delusions of literary grandeur ends up writing for a concrete and sewage trade publication. His ideals cannot be crushed, however, and they wrap themselves around a wraith-like feminine figure whose imagined perfection he hopes to one day live up to.”

I originally wrote some 26 entries for “Leticia” on this blog. To comply with the exclusivity requirement on Amazon’s KDP Select platform, I have taken down all but two of the original posts. (You can still read the first one here.) For the novel, I have added much to the original story, including a couple of recurring characters.

The cover art is, again, by my friend Corey Brian Sanders.

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Zip Monkey Cover 2My novel Zip Monkey is now available as an Amazon e-book and should be available in paperback version in the next few months.

The plot:

Angel Bimini is a former pornographic actress who has reinvented herself as a private detective. She’s hired by a buffoonish client who insists he’s being stalked by a girlfriend. It so happens, this Ralph works at the local medical research university in Secaucus, New Jersey. Not only has the university attracted unwanted attention for its animal testing … but it has a serious cash flow problem. Angel hopes this job will be an easy $1,000. The next thing she knows, somebody is shooting up her office. Even stranger is that a witness swears the job was carried out by an adult male chimpanzee.

Zip Monkey‘s other characters include Christina Brostrom, a failed ballet dancer who has realized that medical research and grant fraud might have been her true calling, and Leila Barents, a primatologist who feels a little bit too possessive about her animals and a little too misanthropic toward the world of humans.

The cover was designed by Corey Brian Sanders.

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