Archive for the ‘I Hate Writing’ Category

A Typical Exchange

August 23, 2017

Me: I might need you to come home early on Monday night because I might be on that radio show about self-esteem.

Husband (scoffing): What are you going to say, that you don’t have any and you don’t believe in the concept?

Me: … maybe.

Advertisements

The Unrated

August 14, 2017

This is probably the longest I’ve gone without blogging in years.  But in my defense, I was in Provence watching bullfights (true story!) and dealing with a teething four-month-old. I’m kind of a boring bougie asshole, aren’t I?

But no matter.  For whatever it’s worth, I’ve thought a lot about blogging, but lacked the resources (good WiFi, a moment to myself during which I’ve had use of both hands) to do it.  Most of the things I’ve considered noting down are lost to the sands of time, but I do remember this one: while in France, I read Chuck Klosterman’s book But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, which is oodles of fun, especially if you’re a contrarian who hates the present as much as I do.  Anyway, here was one nugget I found enjoyable to contemplate.  He’s talking about which writers might be posthumously wrenched from an obscurity which is a byproduct of their marginal social position:

“The uncomfortable, omnipresent reality within any conversation about representation is that the most underrepresented subcultures are the ones that don’t even enter into the conversation.  They are, by definition, impossible to quantify.  They are groups of people whom––right now, in the present tense––it is still acceptable to dislike or discount or ignore.  They are groups who are not seen as needing protection or support, which makes them vulnerable to ridicule and attack.  Who are they?  As already stated in this paragraph, I am in no position to say.  If I try, I can only be wrong.  Any argument in their favor is an argument against my premise.

Still, the history of ideas tells us that there are many collections of current humans we do not currently humanize.  They exist.  So find them right now, inside your own head: Imagine a certain kind of person or a political faction or a religious sect or a sexual orientation or a social group you have no ethical problem disliking, to the point where you could safely ridicule it in public without fear of censure.

Whatever you imagined is the potential identity of the Contemporary Kafka.  And if your fabricated answer seems especially improbable, it just means you might actually be close.”

When I read this, I thought to myself (perhaps because I’m not creative), “I can’t think of any groups the mainstream reading public”––which tends to be socio-politically liberal––”would easily discount.  All the identifications previously considered aberrant or abhorrent or both are now trumpeted throughout the land.  There might not be any more openly derided––”

And then it hit me: Scientologists.  MIC DROP.  I’m done.

Ideas Machine

July 30, 2017

Once, when I was lamenting to a friend that I didn’t have any projects in the pipeline, she tried to console me by calling me an “ideas machine.”  To which I could only respond by pounding my head forcefully into the nearest hard surface.

But it occurred to me a few weeks ago, that I do in fact have a lot of ideas.  A vast majority of these ideas, however, I am definitely the wrong person to see to completion.  Perhaps there is something like an ideas broker, in which I could maybe sell the ideas to the best candidate?  Here is just a taster of what’s to come:

1. From the Times of London obituary of Helmet Kohl, former German chancellor:

“In late 1944 [Kohl] was sent to a pre-military training camp as part of Hitler’s desperate effort to save the Third Reich by enlisting boys and old men, and ended up in Bavaria. At the war’s end he and three classmates walked 250 miles back to Ludwigshafen through a country in ruins. They scavenged for food, were attacked by liberated Polish prisoners, and saw the bodies of deserters hanging from trees.”

BAM!  Movie.  Right there.  Three boys wander through the German rubble.  Maybe there’s a bear involved, or is that a little too Stand By Me?  Anyway, you’d need to have a thorough, localized understanding of World War II, be able to write adolescent dialog, and speak German.  Well, preferably be German––I think this would work better as a film if it were made in Germany by German filmmakers.

2. Recently I read a long piece in The New Yorker about Augustine, and it commented on how in Confessions, you never hear from his longtime lover and baby mama, who is summarily tossed out of his house when A’s Oedipal nightmare moves in and asserts her power:

The woman with whom he had been living “was torn from my side, because she was supposed to be an obstacle to my marriage,” Augustine writes. “My heart, which had fused with hers, was mutilated by the wound, and I limped along trailing blood.” Of his mistress’s feelings, he gives us no glimpse, noting simply, “She went back to Africa, vowing to you that she would never know another man.” Then she is gone from his account, leaving him with the gnawing sexual appetite that she had served to appease.

So––what about a historical novel from a silent figure?  A la Colm Toibin’s book The Testament of Mary?  This would involve “world-building,” and I do not care to delve into the research on the Roman Empire in North Africa, among other things, enough to do this.  But I think it could be great.  Highest bidder!  (Question: should this service be financially based, or require the applicant to submit a proposal of sorts?)

 

Yesterday Was Not a Very Productive Day

July 6, 2017

As is evidenced by my biggest win: watching a clip of an old Oprah episode and finding myself beguiled by this glorious early nineties haircut.

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 7.36.41 PM

Burning Books (and Plays)

July 5, 2017

I wrote a funny (I hope) little thing on the act of burning books, and then today, read this funny little thing about Edward Albee’s will, which stipulates that his unfinished work be burnt after he died.  Here’s the important bit:

Was he working on anything when he died? We may never know.

Why not? He requested that all his unfinished manuscripts be destroyed after his death.

In another part of this “article” (faux Q&A?) the writer says that the executors plan to grant Albee’s wishes.  Which made me really curious: was Albee a longhand man?  Meaning: do they need to destroy physical works?  And if so, would they let me attend the bonfire?  I will absolutely not sneak a peek at anything!  I would consider that a sacrilegious act.  I’m considering writing a note to the two executors, named in the New York Times, asking for permission, but I very much doubt they’ll be open to it.

 

Technology Is the Devil, Part I’ve Lost Count

June 28, 2017

I got a new phone (ugh!) and when I use Gmail, sometimes there are SUGGESTED RESPONSES in little boxes at the bottom of my emails based on, I’m assuming, what the algorithm that has “read” my emails deems most appropriate.  Samples include: “Sure, that sounds great,” or “See you then!”  I’ve literally NEVER BEEN SO INSULTED IN MY WHOLE LIFE.  As if I can’t up with clever, unique ways of responding to even the most simplest of invitations!  Pass me the cyanide pills, ’cause I’m gonna need those little buggers when the robots start taking over.

Comforting Rejections

June 4, 2017

In the not-so-distant past, I had a short, experimental-type thing rejected from a small literary magazine.  I must have succeeded in making something truly disappear from my Gmail–no small feat––because I can’t find the rejection note, but I’ll approximate here:

“Dear Itinerant Daughter,

Thank you for sending us A Short, Experimental-Type Thing.  While we are going to pass on this, please be assured that every submission we receive is read and evaluated carefully by our esteemed staff.”

Which got me thinking… why would it be comforting to me to know that you guys really thought hard about it but nonetheless decided my piece was crap?  In actuality, the rejection note I would be happy to receive would go more like this:

“Dear Itinerant Daughter,

Thank you for sending us a piece we can’t be bothered to remember the name of.  We’re passing, but only because we have so few staff members––all undeniably lazy and lacking in erudition––that we in fact haven’t gotten around to reading anything anyone’s sent us in… gosh, going on two years now.  Mostly we just assign numbers to submissions and then pick digits at random out of a hat and run the corresponding essays.  Unfortunately, your number didn’t come up this time.”

That’s more like it.

Someone Please Remember

April 14, 2017

Remember when I had an idea to make a TV show (equal parts Knick and Mad Men) about RD Laing’s Kingsley Hall?  No?  I know someone has a record of this somewhere.  Although I guess it doesn’t matter now, because screenwriter-director Robert Mullan has beaten me to the punch with his new movie Mad to Be Normal.  From The Guardian‘s (much maligned) Peter Bradshaw:

David Tennant is on pugnacious, mercurial and beady-eyed form in this very interesting and absorbing film. It’s one of his best performances. He plays the psychiatrist RD Laing, who became a 60s counterculture hero for challenging what he saw as the profession’s heartless prison-hospital ethos of tranquillisers and electroconvulsive shock treatment. Instead, Laing proposed a holistic treatment without drugs (although medically licensed LSD was acceptable), using group therapy and communal healing. He set up a refuge at Kingsley Hall in east London, that was regarded suspiciously as something like a Bedlam cult.

Hard-drinking, hard-smoking Laing laughs and cries along with his patients – who adore him – and angrily tells interviewers about the people “out to get” him. Elisabeth Moss plays Laing’s (composite-fictional) partner Angie, and Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon are excellent as his patients: old men who in a later era might be overlooked as care-in-the-community homeless. The screenplay by Robert Mullan and Tracy Moreton does not take a conventional biopic line but instead shows scenes from a life, with influences from Beckett, BS Johnson and perhaps David Cronenberg’s Spider in its images of broken things being put back together. Now I’d like see Mullan direct a biopic of Laing’s French counterpart, the philosopher and critic Michel Foucault. Perhaps Cédric Kahn could shave his head for the part.

Short Story

April 12, 2017

Someone base a short story on the moment they broke the news to Elmer, please!  I’d do it myself but I don’t have the time at the moment…

“In questions of administration, [McLean Hospital head] Stanton could simply get lost.  Longtime facilities manager Henry Langevin remembers presenting Stanton with three competing bids for resurfacing McLean’s central tennis court, where Stanton himself often played.  But the director was paralyzed by indecision because the switch from the clay to a hard surface would eliminate a cherished job––rolling and sweeping the ochre-colored clay––for one of the hospital’s elderly, chronic schizophrenics.  ‘What’s poor Elmer going to do?’ was Stanton’s plaint, as the trial court resurfacing decision hung fire for months.”

I know Stanton’s indecision is supposed to be annoying, but I find his concern for Elmer rather sweet, don’t you?

 

(From Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America’s Premier Mental Hospital by Alex Beam)

A Stunning Essay

March 20, 2017

Things have been––well, let’s say, harried around here recently, so I am half-assing this post by pointing you in the direction of an incredible piece of writing someone recently reminded me of.  It’s more than half-assed, in fact: it’s a selfish move, because I want to pretend that I have some affiliation with someone who can write so well, even though we’ve emailed twice and I’m resorting to cutting and pasting her words.  Ah well––extenuating circumstances!  Here’s a teaser of “What’s in a Necronym?” by Jeannie Vanasco:

I.

I am named after the daughter my father lost.

I remember the day I first learned about her. I was eight. My father was in his chair, holding a small white box. As my mother explained that he had a dead daughter named Jeanne, pronounced the same as my name, “without an i,” he opened the box and looked away. Inside was a medal Jeanne had received from a church “for being a good person,” my mother said. My father said nothing. I said nothing. I stared at the medal.

Later that day, in the basement, my mother told me Jeanne died in a car accident in New York when she was sixteen, many years before I was born. Two other girls were in the car. Jeanne sat between the driver and the other passenger in the front seat. The driver tried to pass a car, hesitated, then tried to pull back into her lane. She lost control and Jeanne was thrown from the car and killed instantly.

“Your father blames himself,” my mother said. “He can’t talk about it.”

“Why?” I asked.

“He gave her permission to go out that night.”

After Jeanne died, my father bought two burial plots next to one another, one for Jeanne and one for himself. When he and his first wife divorced, she stipulated that he forfeit his plot, and he agreed. Soon after the divorce, he went to court again, this time for beating up a bum on the street. “Why should you be alive?” my father had asked him. “You’re not working and my daughter’s dead.” The judge remembered my father and let him go.

“Did you know his first wife?” I asked my mother.

“No, he was divorced long before I met him. All this happened in New York.”

I lived in Ohio, where my father and mother met. In my mind, New York was made of skyscrapers, taxicabs, and car accidents.

“What did Jeanne look like?”

My mother said she had never seen a photo.

That spring I painted portraits of Jeanne in watercolor. I titled them Jeanne. My art teacher told me she was disappointed that such a good student could misspell her own name. From then on, I included an i.