Apathy Gnomes.

When I’m over 100 pages into a book and I can’t make myself care about anything or anyone in it, I close my eyes and hope the Apathy Gnomes enter into the story.

 
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the Apathy Gnomes, since they may live inside my head and nowhere else.

Apathy Gnomes magically appear in books where each moment of my reading the book is filled with total apathy for the characters. When they do show up, the book is always improved.

Actual photographic proof of an Apathy Gnome in the wild.

Apathy Gnomes like to hide in dark, secret places. Then, they spring out at bland, forgettable characters. They scream a high pitched, keening noise and beat the deadbeats about the face with mallets.

Examples:

  • “The teacher was unsure of himself; his life a series of choices he could have chosen differently, but could also have chosen exactly as he had. He stood up from his desk and then sat down again, unsure of himself in the most unsure way. Then, an Apathy Gnome leaped out of his desk drawer and stood on his chest. “SCREEECH!” wailed the Apathy Gnome. Unlike the teacher, it was interesting and did something. It began beating  the teacher in the face with his mallets.”
  • “She knew she wanted to get to know the new boy so badly, but she felt shy. There was something different, yet uninteresting, about him. She walked up to him at his locker, her face pleasant and expressionless. Then, two Apathy Gnomes fell from the drop ceiling. “Yi-yi-yi-yi,” they yelled, smashing boy and girl in the head. “But I’m a vampire,” he whined. The Gnomes looked at each other, shrugged, and continued their mallet onslaught.”
  • “The personality-free adventurer carefully opened the inventor’s final seal. The blonde girl, whom he had sex with before she did anything but ask him to explain the plot to her, waited patiently behind him. He opened the seal and yes, there was something inside. It was an Apathy Gnome. It brandished its mallet menacingly and smiled at the adventurer.”

They’re mean little suckers, but Apathy Gnomes make boring books fun again. I thank them for all they’ve given me through the years (you don’t get a degree in Literature without a little help from the  Apathy Gnomes), and I hope they make you smile as much as they make me smile.

Go on! Get ’em, Apathy Gnomes!

– Axel

Inspiration in the Corn Fields.

I drove back to my hometown, and back up to Minneapolis, and I took the long way on both occasions. You can’t truly appreciate Iowa until you get off of the Interstate and drive on twisting roads through farms and small towns. On Highway 9, I drove past a fawn standing next to a field of corn. A few miles later, I drove past a pale horse, loose and grazing in the ditch right beside the road. At some point, I even drove by something named North Iowa Boar Semen.

Basically, one drive through Iowa and the stories write themselves.

This is the outside of my elementary school. This is not an exciting or welcoming image, and somehow that always struck me as secretive. Like some sort of fort in the wilderness. It figures into scenes involving a fictitious, lonely principal in my unpublished book Orphans. I just re-read Orphans and think it’s worth publishing.

This park figures prominently in my untitled young adult novel. I’m just re-reading it now, and so far I like what I’m reading.

Seeing the park again, for the first time in 15 years, proved my memory is not to be trusted. I thought the creek ran in the opposite direction, and was half as deep. Also, I thought the bathrooms had wooden privacy shields (where my adolescent main character finds information in the graffiti). I wonder if the wooden privacy shields used to be there. If you lived in Denver, Iowa, let me know if you remember things the way I do.

Finally, this shot outside of Manly, Iowa, reminds me of a short story I’m fond of called “Last Stop.” “Last Stop” is about desperation and rage at a small town gas station. Manly seems a lot nicer than all of that, but there’s something haunting about seeing a gas station surrounded by a sea of corn, where anything could be hiding.
Here’s hoping these pics inspire me to bring everything I feel about these places to the stories.
— Axel