High Art

1 Mar

The days of high-brow lit are gone. Gone! Things have changed drastically even in the past 5 years. If you try to write like I once tried to write, you sound like a fucking fool. Even the modern Europeans have moved away from classic lit. They bring a skewed, quirky, refreshing style to modern day reading life. I once used to long for following in Hemingway’s footsteps. It’s all romantic bullshit, and I realized that somewhere around age 21; late, I know, but nevertheless…plus I despise bullfights and see absolutely no test of courage in standing before an elephant with a loaded shotgun. Spear? Yes. Papa and I would have to fight it out and believe me, I know all about his barroom brawls, but at 6’3″ and 228 lbs. I think I would take him. I was raised in D.C. during the crack-pipe days. Lay it down: 2 to 1.

I can’t even re-visit the boys and girls who wrote back then. I need something like a shot in the arm, short, sharp, powerful. I’m labouring through Franzen’s “The Corrections” now for weeks on end–he’s attempted to bang out the high-lit modern American family novel, and was praised for it and all I can think of is: COME WITH IT FOR CHRISSAKES. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the musings and the unbelievably-detailed descriptions; it’s just that we live in the 21st Century. We need shots of tequila or whisky not cocktails with umbrellas and fucking tea sandwiches. Writers need to adapt; already we’re losing attention spans to Twittering and Diddling and Idling and…COME WITH IT FOR CHRISSAKES. Spit it out. I can’t give you my time in exchange for 400 pages; I cannot. And so in re-thinking my edits for my novel, I’m considering a total re-write. Start from scratch. The existing manuscript is about 110,000 words. I’m now shooting for 60K and that’s it. In and out. 150 pages. If I can’t tell my story in that, it’s not worth it. Not to me. I’d be surprised to find readers who can hang even with that amount of words, but, short of becoming severely truncated, 60K it is.

Here’s a word about sensitivity and the Artist. Get the fuck over it and move on with it. No one’s going to hang about and hear your sob story. I get through excruciating holes and gutters almost every day, but no one’s stopping to hear any of it. And they shouldn’t. The man to whom you’re complaining has medical bills that have bankrupted him, he’s lost his family, house, everything. He doesn’t give a fuck that you write. And so it goes, bambinos. The Dude said it: “strikes and gutters, man…strikes and gutters.”

I look at my writing like a small footprint. I’m leaving it behind no matter who sees or cares. It’s almost like by-product. Some might call it pollution. It used to heal me in the past; I could go over it and learn. Nowadays I can’t even tell you the name of a piece I wrote last month. Someone made a comment here recently on a piece I wrote last year (Humana), and when I got the WordPress notification to moderate I actually thought WordPress made a mistake. I didn’t write anything called Humana; must be a mistake. I had to click on the link and see the actual entry. Oh. Oh well. Footprints, sometimes erased by the undertow. Who cares. They’re there and that’s all.

I used to be this romantic, melancholic kid who had ideas or delusions of semi-grandeur. I used to travel and have drinks in bars and look for inspiration and…all rubbish. I don’t have to put myself in any kind of setting to do what I need to do. I’ve written in washroom stalls, on trains, buses, airplanes, in between baby feedings, nighttime baby asthma attacks, during lunches at work. What’s the strangest place in which you’ve written? A “proper” study. In my last house I set up an official study, complete with everything a writer could imagine having. I wrote a piece there. It was mediocre. And so it goes. Setting doesn’t matter. It’s all romantic bullshit. I have artist friends who paint on the run, as well. Night, day, in between bouts of insomnia. Squeezing in material when they can. It’s how it is; it’s our life now.

60K words. Mark them. If I go over, I’ll give you your money back.

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4 Responses to “High Art”

  1. jason 01/03/2009 at 12:17 PM #

    COME WITH IT FOR CHRISSAKES – i hear you brother. it’s hard, tho, as you said, when all yr dead heroes operated in a different world of straight-up paper novels and we live in a glass (cyber-)house. floating my own solution around, seeing who salutes my shorts.

  2. Slyboots 01/03/2009 at 2:27 PM #

    Interesting. I was thinking about this in a way this morning when I got up. I have stacks of books by my bed, and was thinking about what it takes for a book to be considered immortal (not immoral, but sometimes, I suppose), and how many of my hundreds of books will be forgotten. There is a bar in Seattle where they use books as props for the decor. Stuff that wound up in thrift stores. Forgotten authors. People who slaved over the word, wrote their hearts out, and now are decorating a bar, not being read. That sounds like purgatory. There is a donut shop in Seattle that also uses books for decor. We read some of the more entertaining titles when we go there. But more as a period piece, than as an actual work to be considered. I was pondering what it takes to make it to the top tier. Most of the authors I personally know will never get there. I love them. I love their work, but then I know that they are among the decor writers. And that really makes me sad. And then again not so much. Honestly, it’s just not all that important in the end. Just write. We will read. It will matter to us. And if it goes further, and becomes the voice of an age, then wonderful. If not, then join the legion. But just write.

  3. Geoff 01/03/2009 at 2:39 PM #

    Alex — Fitzgerald always said he was writing about his generation for future generations, so he’s somewhere out there agreeing with you. And 60,000 words — “The Great Gatsby” was about 65,000 or so. You can create a masterpiece in however many words you want.

    I agree with you about legacy. I’ll have my writing to leave behind, even if just a few people “get it.” You’ll have yours, most certainly.

    *
    We’re in this thing to the end. The words will never leave us.

    Carry on, carry on.

  4. (S)wine 01/03/2009 at 7:45 PM #

    see, i agree Sly. it’s how it is. write. that’s it. footprints which may or may not get erased. but it’s apropos and we basically all belong in obscurity at one point. we don’t do anything but ruin shit, and so we belong in the circle of the forgotten. write, yes. but no delusions. leave stuff for people to either read or prop up their merchandise. at least it’s utilitarian.

    this was started as a form of protest; i’ve known so many people who have hemmed and hawed and set up workspaces, blah blah fucking blah. Thomas Mann used to wear a crisp, white shirt every time he sat down at the typer. What the fuck is that? he was still a fucking pedophile, white starched shirt or not. one of the few who have always appealed to me in terms of the “approach” has been Bukowski. he just wrote. drunk, not drunk, depressed, not, dirty shirts, clean shirt, no pants, however. he wrote and there’s bad shit and great shit, and yes, you have to weed through it all to get the gems, but who cares. it’s how it is.
    Lx

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