Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Writing for One's Viewing Audience?

TIME Magazine recently compiled what the writer's to be the "100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present." Most have been made into movies making it easier for high school and college English students to explore these classics from their sofa. The spine remains unbroken.

My second creative writing professor told me my style was more movie tie-in and less literary after reading my first story for the class. My characters, he said, were flat and stereotypical. The story was plot-driven like an action movie, and ended without any change to the central character. He went on to lecture the class on the importance of character development, something that cannot be accurately depicted on the big-screen. My entertainment RSS feeds and history say the opposite.

Now showing, Everything is Illuminated and Jarhead. Coming to a theater near you in '06 and '07, Running With Scissors and The Corrections. Nothing about these books is action-packed. Their plots rely soley on the audience's relationship with narrator. Someone is pulling off the impossible in Hollywood if this style of writing cannot be visually portrayed.

This literary visualization, while bringing the larger, movie-going, non-reading audience into the new writing movement could be a step ahead of the writers of the movement.

As the media start to look, sound, and read like each other, writers could be writing for a potential viewing audience instead of readers. The use of language and description could fall through the cracks. The literary cult will run and hide inside coffee houses among other elitest and punks. Hopefully, they can scatter in groups and revolutionize the future two steps ahead of itself.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

De-Generation X

I don't know if one can resign the definition of an era/generation. Midnight reaches in through my open windows, cannot claim what has already been volunteered, and retreats to protect that which personifies everything solitary and endless between sunset and sunrise.

During the waking hours, most hold respectable jobs, I either hold myself, toy with my keyboard, or read in the bathroom holding my arms up as dogs come and go looking for attention. Lately, my bathroom solidarity has been polluted with the ghosts of other's dark lives. From the dark, a hero emerges. A hero within us all, a hero we are all incapable of being because we are too alone to feel alone.

Sylvia Plath, Augusten Burroughs, J.D. Salinger, and now Denis Johnson all Calvin Klein -black icons. Pyscho-suicidal 3rd person perspectives into their own demons and 6 degrees of seperation from each of us; roses bloom best in potted shit - the odor of the unnecessary glorifies the aroma of beautiful life in a halo of perspective.

Why do novels like the Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter sell better than this sewer culture? The angels and demons can be seen, not just felt. The only villain in the underground sleeps alone. In the hero's bed.

Fine lines: love & hate, friends & enemies, God & Satan. The bestsellers are defined by how thick the gray line is between good and evil. Literature is the absence of that gray line. It is the white space between inkpen letters. The conflict: the void seperating each line of text...accumulated throughout the entire book. You explain the empty pages after the conclusion and epilogue. Life goes on.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Filling Out the Application - If I Can't Write a Bestseller, at least I Can Sell Them

I don't know what was more humbling, asking for a job application at my first bookstore, or filling the damned thing out. For the five years I was employed by Barnes & Noble, I spent much of my downtime at the customer service desk looking through and laughing at the applications we would receive hourly. Filling one out today for Waldenbooks, I felt nervous about each my answers - even my name.

The job is anything but a long-shot. Three of my former co-workers still work there. The new manager loved my brother when he worked there, after I left, six years ago. I have a college degree now. I don't want to rely on my past history with that store or the business even. I'd like to believe my skills speak for themselves. The defensive voice in my head, though, takes the imaginary interview into a suicidal depression.

On the application, I had to explain why I've spent the last two months unemployed. "Sought only writing-career opportunities" is only the obvious justification. I didn't want to get back into retail. I didn't want to work with food. I wanted to work with my writing degree, my fingers, and a keyboard; not customers. Why am I still unemployed, because I have no experience. All I know is retail. All I know the book industry. But, I think I can write. Shouldn't that be enough?

Nope. So, I finished the application. I hope that small staff of familiar faces will remember mine and think better of laughing at it. I hope they see my college experience as a good thing for the business and not a pathetic sight on a part-time, bookseller application.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Welcome to the next season of series

Television has always been something in my life that I could do without. It wouldn't necessarily be a happy existence, but I could manage. My grandparents did it, right? But, books are something completely different. I think it may have something to do with wanting to imagine what characters look like and no commercial breaks.

When The Green Mile by Stephen King originally came out, it was released in 6 monthly installments starting in March of 1996. When the last novel was published, it marked a first in book publishing - 6 books by a single author on the NYT Bestseller List. But, I waited. I waited until for the single-volume release to read it.

Each installment is like a 75-page, short story puzzle piece; complete in and of itself, but relative to the larger story. I could have read each in about an hour. And then what? Wait a month for another hour of reading enjoyment? That's just stupid. So, I waited and read the entire series in less than a week. Patience is like smoking. You don't crave the second cigarette until after you've smoked your first one.

I was just another addict when I was finally convinced to read just the first Harry Potter book. I originally wanted to wait until after all 7 HP books were released before reading the series. I even trashed the books and their fans just because it made it easier not to become one. Yeah, I'm weak. It's one thing to hate the series because of the hype, it's another to hate yourself for pretending you hate the book because of its hype.

Serial novels lead to this tv drama stage of my life. I have a reason to wake-up every morning because I'm another morning closer to the next episode of Supernatural. And, simultaneously, I see the dependence and think I should drain the blood from my wrists with a sewing needle. But, maybe in our obese, depressed America, we need just such a reason to roll out of bed when the alarm clock rings adult-thirty every morning.

And then we begin, again, our serialized lives. We are all characters acting a role in a play for someone else's amusement, or so it seems. We make our entrances and exits and sprinkle bits of our good or sour humor on the other actors. Like dandruff we rub-off onto others, some we don't even know. Imagine the 6-degrees of your own life. And then there's the fictional world.

The lives and times we experience under disquise, wearing someone else's book jacket are not only our own experiences. We could all read the same book, but each would have a different image of the characters and connect with different feelings so that we may all be Stephen King readers, it's as if Stephen is creating a unique life for each of us; inside a large room how many flies can fit onto walls, the floor and ceiling?

In how many different rooms did we watch the events of 9/11 unfold? Where might you be when you read another student-teacher affair headline? Some would say it's too early or too controversial to fictionalize such events that have become routine news coverage; some wounds are yet unhealed and some should never be trivialized. Funny how individual freedom can also be controversial.

If I want to read a fictional book about a terrorist attack very similar to the 9/11 attacks, then I'd like to think I was ready to take that next step in my own American life and healing. If my yet-to-be-conceived/thought-of daughter wants to read about teenage sex and pregnancy in a fictional diary, then, as a parent, I'd rather her read about it than experiment with it for herself. In my biased opinion, any parent that has concerns about what their children read should look again at the possibility that they haven't raised their children to know the difference between fact and fiction and right and wrong.

I stayed away from all serial television because I couldn't say for sure that I'd be committed enough to follow the entire episode-by-episode series and that would disappoint me. If you miss an episode, you either continue watching knowing that you've missed something or you stop watching and wait for the DVD. It's not easy with books, yet, it's easier. It's harder on a reader to skip the second book in a series and then read the third book. But, it can be done because the second book is still available...well, most of the time.

I guess what I'm saying is there is a rational choice to keeping up with a television series or a book series. And, I guess I'm saying I don't know exactly why I wrote this now that it's completed. Except to say that being addicted to series television isn't as bad as I originally believed. And, I can put the sewing needle back into the sewing kit for the next rainy-day, questionably, inteligent-like morning pee.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Am I Ready to Write It?

I see that I've retreated so far. I've hidden away from the local society. I haven't really expressed any sort of emotion toward anyone because I'm a wreck. While I do have a dream, I have no purpose right now. I don't have a job and am feeling beaten down. I'm trying to stay under the radar of everyone until I can get secure footing in this quicksand town.

I've retreated this far, I might as well keep searching for the other end of the tunnel. The past, even, is too far behind me to turn back. When I moved back to my hometown, I thought I had it all planned out. You would think after planning 26 years of my life, I would've learned that plans always get erased and re-drawn along the way.

A friend planted a seed in my head Saturday night over Denny's pancakes and eggs. He suggested I start writing a book. Twenty-six and writing a book. The idea flattered me.

The more I marinated on it, though, I questioned if I'd been through enough to write an entire book. Obviously not, at least when compared with great memoir writers like Augusten Burroughs and Dave Eggers. Plus, I don't really remember all that much. Memories seem to come back as experiences and feelings moreso than an actual chain of events.

And, I wonder if I really have the follow-through to keep it up for the following months and years. It'd be a "life after college" thing using my college degree as a credit card lojack into the doors I thought would open, but didn't.

How many aspiring writers, with voices stronger than my own, have not only the dream, but also an unpublished manuscript or even an outline of an idea? How many before me have considering an undertaking like this. Everyone has a book to write. Am I ready to start writing mine?

No, but it couldn't hurt to start logging situations and experiences as they happen. From there, it's only a matter of time before the story starts to write itself.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

J.D. Salinger: Wake up bitch! you're my new best friend

I roll out of bed and tell JD that I know the original post was shit, "but, i'm already in bed, man, can't it go until morning."

"No," JD's imaginary voice says to me in a raspy, smokey, God-like voice, "and it is morning...well, the only part of it you know, anyways. Get up. Fix this."

So, here I am, typing this bitch out. again.

A friend lent me her stolen, library copy of JD Salinger's "Franny and Zooey" (and I'm pronouncing Zooey like "zoey" in my head, not 'zewey' whether you or JD himself likes it or not). Anways, I started it Monday and finished it today.

Halfway through, I thought I understood. Twenty pages from the end, I questioned my very existence. Not saying that Salinger is god, but he's definately forcing me to re-think "god."

At first, it's about a 1950s dysfunctional, well-to-do family; a generational breakdown between a high-pitched, twitchy mom, her two "artsy" kids (F & Z), and lingering ghosts of older siblings. Seperation gaps.

The root: every desire and dream and ambition is rooted in an egotistical need to be greedy. Education, religion, society - everything is nothing but a life-long ego trip.

Yet, I'm up re-writing this post. It is what it is, i guess. But it was crap when I went to bed at midnight:thirty and now it's 2:30 and I'm still not sure it's any better. But, here I am, attempting to self-perfect. And maybe it is some cliched, freudian thing whereIi need to feel as if my writing can hold its own in bed with a sex-kitten. Maybe it's the only way I can speak without so much self-censorship and manage to sneak my way into bed with said sex-kitten. Or maybe, I just wanted it to be good enough for myself and God.

Questions and questions. Too many. That's the point of good fiction. It makes you think.

"Why did the chicken cross the road," I ask JD.

"What was on the other side," he asks back.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Can I come to your BBQ on bicycle?

It's to be a weekend for sages to drink and remember everything good about this world is best left hibernating between dusty covers until an innocent imagination is ready to create a new horizon for the world to wake-up to.

It's going to be verbose. It's going to be inebriated philosophy. It's going to be escapism from the laboring existence that we celebrate. It'll most likely be spent at home because gas prices are eating into out beer and beef money.

Damn this determined nonfiction kick. I'm reading The New New Journalism - the current literary journalism, creative nonfiction genre that has spun from Tom Wolfe's and Hunter Thompson's journalism of the '60s and '70s...only, imagine ivy leaguers and red, anti-drug ribbons. It's the party i want to crash because Hunter said so.

"Respectable, literary" - admirable, naieve and delusional masturbation. What is "literary" anyway? well-read? well-spoken? well-to-do? Well, shit and what about Shakespeare? What about Swift, Fitzgerald, and King? What about entertainment without depression? Why does everything lasting have to be real?

I say "real" and not "true" because truth is as real as a little boy's talking blanket. Where has fiction gone? Lost in the desert? And where's the midget winch with my beer?!!

So I've been reading this new age journalism and it's like sitting in on a seance with hippies and their PDAs ( ... ) and I look forward to reading Tom Wolfe's collection of essays where he actually coined the phrase "New Journalism" next. Why am I not reading something fictional?

My determination, yesterday, suffered a slow death. I walked into the library this afternoon and looked-up the Tom Wolfe book in the card catalog, nothing. Okay, fine, I'll "shop" around; I've been meaning to get a library card anyway. I take the elevator up into subtle emptiness, the notion of full shelves and shoulder-to-shoulder seating seemed to be rotting away under the ghost town dust.

I'm so used to the university library and having to ask for directions just get out! Here, I could scream and the echo would bounce off the municipal building across the street. This brought back memories of the last time I came into this library. I was on a deadline mission to find a copy of the AP Stylebook only to find the lone copy was out-dated. Yet, I keep returning hoping to be inspired and comforted by the musty smell of written imagination.

Anyway, so i come home and smoke a cigarette in the back yard while the dogs bark at children walking home from school and the mosquitos snack on my legs and torso. Walking back into a book environment was a little heartbreaking. Maybe I should've double-majored in business start-up and English rather than Journalism and English. I remembered my gripes about B&N and it's coorporate focus.

I remembered talking to myself in the echoing bathroom as if I were talking to Steve Riggio. I offered bookseller advice on how he needed to change the largest chain bookstore on the globe. And, today, I remembered I'm only a writer with no clips. I'm not ready to change the world. I need to change my focus. To what...I have no fucking clue.

And like that, this post has gone seriously unhumorous. With everything that's wrong outside my front door, I can't laugh at it, can't change it, and all I can think about is that culture of people that sell, re-sell, and check-out books to the mostly ignorant public. How many writers work in such environments and never make it? And, what about the aspiring novelists that take dictation for pediatritions or bag groceries?

And now i'm lost.
(sticks thumb out)
(thinks of homicidal drivers and interstate rest stops)
(puts thumb in mouth)

I'll just wander around. Bother the bookseller or librarian only for A) you've exhausted all other options while looking for a particular book or B) you want to know what they personally recommend. Never bring a list. Leave yourself open to finding the one book that has been looking for your home since it was unpacked. Converse with the covers; see yourself for the first time - every time - through the eyes of a new author. Avoid sleeping with the bestsellers.

It's time to put some distance between myself and this one-night-stand before she wakes up. With gas prices f-ing us all in the ass without even an presidential reach-around, travelling is something only afforded by those with stock in Exxon, Mobile, Shell, and Haliburton. All week, we've cut-back on daily splurges so we can enjoy this weekend of celebration. Exploit the shit out of that responsibility. God knows, we all need a weekend of reckless abandon.

I don't know what the local city councils have planned for this weekend. There will probably be fireworks and it all drunk and happy. Live in that world because everything pressing and real can't be done on Monday. Monday, we and Uncle Sam will have something in common: we'll be sleeping off hangovers. Revel in that. It's a fictional world that we rarely allow ourselves to thrive in.