Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I'm thinking about the Literature of Contempt. Also - related - the Literature of Insecurity.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I don't know the answer to this: when gathering threads for a story, it's necessary to shift focus repeatedly, to be distracted by the wind so you can be open. Why is it, then, that the internet is so disruptive to thought? I think it might be because it mimics the freedom of woolgathering while substituting, like a cuckoo's egg, its own images for the ones you might have made up.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

0. And Why It Took Eight Years

Sun was in eyes (3 months)
Confusion as to whether "Get Set! Go!" meant "Go!" or not (1 week)
Pen rolled under desk; inconsolable (2 weeks)
Sight of self in window looked both melancholy and hypnotic (1 week)
Practice not shaving for potential increase in hypnotic, melancholy reflection (5 weeks)
Took dog to beach (1 month)
Dark plotting against enemies (6 weeks)
Gloating, rubbing together of long, tapering fingers (6 weeks)
Admiration of large, swirling opal ring (4 weeks)
Attempt to teach parrot to sit on shoulder, gloat with me (1 day)
Emergency room visit (6 hours)
Reluctance to put aside 1500 page manuscript about sophomore year in high school (1 year, 8 months)
Chair too high (3 weeks)
Desk too low (2 weeks)
Selection of proper font (1 year, four months)
Dark plotting against friends (3 weeks)
No, chair really still too high; feet couldn't reach floor (3 weeks)
Weeping over lack of remaining friends (6 weeks)
Watching this video (2 months)
Cat sitting on manuscript (3 months)
Project Runway (3 months)
Proper stretching of psoas muscle (4 1/2 weeks)
Consideration and rejection of following main characters: Captain Hook, William Fuld, a talking pencil, a weeping gondolier, Lucifuge Rofocale, Sparky the Noble Failure, Man Thing, Duveen, a stamp-collecting ace reporter, the Minister of Fashion, Apollo, Apollo Creed, Baba Yaga's more reasonable sister, a race of hypersensitive kittycats. (2 years)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


A friend of mine who was teaching a group of young kids with horrific home lives told me this: one day she started telling them a nonsense story -- the sky is green, cows are driving cars -- and there was no response from them. She realized with a sickened feeling that for them, everything was equally likely. I think she started to wonder if that was hell.

I've been thinking about how events are essentially chaotic, which is different than everything being equally likely -- but it's that difference that I can't immediately explain.

Because it's there, because it's like a loose tooth (who first used that as a simile for making stuff up? it's pretty good), I am starting with this fistful of gum wrappers and pieces of string and mints: the woods, a trio, and their cross-ambitions. Et les flics.

Monday, July 13, 2009


If you scratch under apathy's surface -- in other words, if apathy blinks for a moment -- you find that its batteries are powered by fear. "Why bother?" is convenient.

So: there are a couple of models. One: wandering through a museum, you can see when an artist cracked it, found his mojo, got a following. It's because there are often seventy-eight variations on a theme, riffs on painting #1. That's utterly valid, because you never know -- you might not really get it right until #78.

The other: in an interview, one of the Modern Lovers talked about going on tour with Jonathan Richman, and how the group was excited about building on "Roadrunner," and all Jonathan wanted to do was write songs like "Hey There, Little Insect." In other words, stuff that would get them thrown off the stage. But stuff he wanted to do, maybe because so many people wanted more of "Roadrunner." More apt maybe is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest followed up by Sometimes a Great Notion. "This may not be what I do best nor is it what you expect but it's what I need to do." Which might be exactly what the artist who paints the same goddamned thing 78 times is thinking.

And the third way? Hands? Maybe you just proceed with humility and without expectation and one day you're either finished with a shiny replica of what you've already accomplished or you've done something completely different. And I bet you won't know which it is, not really.

I've recently been butchering an Orson Welles quotation, which should actually read like this: "The enemy of art is the absence of limitations." I've been saying things like "absolute freedom is the absolute enemy of an artist," which is different, more of a punch in the head, and more weirdly personal. So I am starting this project with some limits in mind.

(These aren't limits - they're notes.)

1. How little can you say?
2. If you finished writing a book, you don't have to keep writing it.
3. Open.
4. The illusion of knowing everything, with compassion, stops being illusion as soon as someone is reading and nodding, yes, I see, got it.