Monday, September 26, 2011

The Contempt: Part 2

I'm not sure where or when the contempt began. I have my suspicions, but nothing is specific. I wonder if the contempt began slowly, unnoticed and small?
The early seeds of my contempt began in 1999 and 2000 when on the advice of older and wiser people, I took to working a stressful job.
Deconstructing that a little, at the time I was young, a recent college graduate and I had just spent an entire year traveling and reading books. These older and wiser people (we'll call them mom and dad) used reason to help me into a decision that I reluctantly made. In those days, I could only see in extremes. I could write or live like everyone else. I ultimately left the job and in the first month afterward, I wrote more than I had in life. The conclusion: don't listen to advice. Don't follow advice from anyone, not even me. (For the love of decency, especially not my advice.) If you want to write, write. Just fucking write and do all those projects you want to do. Write poetry, especially bad poetry. Forget the critics, especially the one inside.
Now, if you find yourself having to work in order to pay the bills, this is my case, find work that does not impede on your writing. After all, this is life and we all know the outcome. Knowing that death is waiting for us does not make the normal pursuits of modern life so meaningful. Why should material possessions and the endless pursuit of money take up so much time? I rather have hours filled with writing and a large volume of work rather than the big TV or the big car or the big gut. Contempt? Oh, yeah! I will never follow advice which takes me away physically, emotionally or intellectually from this pen, this notebook and these thoughts.
I write.
It's creation.
Some folks call is art. If we're not making art, then what are we making? A perpetuation of those things which are opposite of art.
I say I care about only two things. Writing is one. I bet you can guess at the other.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Contempt and Ennui Part 1

I've recently wondered about all of this: the teeter-todder of a writer's life. There are several aspects to this, so many more than just an up and down sort of motion. The question of “why?” comes up often in my thoughts. Why write? I ask this because it occurs to me, who cares?
At the onset of this blog I wrote Why I Write. I don't think I've changed since then, nor do I think I've changed at all. Why I write is simply that when I'm writing I lose all contempt and disdain for the world around me. The act and the process and the ritual of writing is akin to what I suspect those who chronically meditate, or habitually masturbate or the compulsive yoga doers must feel when engaged. It's a certain level of bliss mixed with mental occupation topped with physical relaxation. The act of writing for me is, well, what I do to fill the hours. I feel productive, I feel free, I feel like I should.
The second aspect of it is when I'm not writing, which is a significant portion of the day, I suffer from ennui. Ennui. It's bad, I've got a terminal case of it too. When I'm not writing, I'm engaged in paying the bills. I work as a waiter. As I always say, the difference between writer and waiter is but one letter.
To further belabor this ennui, I must say that I'm bored with it all. I'm bored with the banal banter I hear everyday. I'm bored with the motions, emotions, premonitions and ambitions that plague me in those outside hours. The hours outside of writing. This too adds to the contempt which a hot breeze on the wildfire of the ennui.
I'm at once a prolific and inefficient writer. I use the old low-fi and tactile system of writing. I write in the old style composition notebooks and I use a fountain pen. This takes time, and it's part of the process. Once the first draft is recorded I take even more time to transpose it to the word processor. That first step is a time waster for sure. I've known writers who work directly on the a computer. For me, doing that, well, I don't. I think of the pen and paper method as foreplay, and when it comes to that I want to make it last all night.
Yet, I've said I'm a prolific writer. I still crank out fifty-plus polished pages each week. I write novels, I write short stories, and in recent months, I've been compiling writing into chapter books.
I'm blessed with time. That's all that it is too. Time.
I have a work ethic. I have a process. I have a strict schedule. This all makes for the prolific nature of my life as a writer. The time is big. It's the large portion of the process. I can get upwards of six to eight hours a day, everyday. That's not a bad way of combating the contempt. It's not a bad way to deal with the ennui. When we change the “r” to the “a” it doesn't sting so bad to be a waiter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Summer Reading List Wrap-up

It's funny. I've decided not to read anymore.
Well, although this is not entirely true, it certainly feels like this.
The summer, has gone by in the normal fashion: hot days, short nights, plenty of work. Oddly enough, this summer has not been the torture for me that most summers have been. As long as we're talking about it, I loathe the summertime. I hate the hot weather. I don't like the hordes of people. Having to hear the flip-floppy sloppy strides of herds of schleppy kids is enough to break the last nerve I have. The summer to me is just too awful. The heat is one thing: the Middle East and Tucson, Arizona cured me of that. The mass of people? Well, the years in the service industry made the reality that there are others in the world for good or bad. But all in all, this summer, the summer of 2011 in Portland, has not been too awful. And sadly, I did not read much at all.

I started out strong. W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil is a great read. Quick. I love Maugham and after reading this one, I know why John McManus (my graduate school adviser) loves this writer so much. This book, wonderfully written, is very much plot driven. Based on Dante, an English couple goes into the Chinese interior to fight the cholera epidemic. It's simply the husband's desire to kill the wife. But what was so striking for me was not so much the plot, but Kitty, the main character. I cannot think of another book where a character changes and grows and takes control so much as Kitty.

James Hilton's Lost Horizon was a grueling read for some reason. The best part of the whole affair was a conversation I had with a bookstore worker while at the bar one night. He associated the book with The Kinks' tune “Shangri-La,” which I thought was funny. The pace of the novel is slow. The long passages of dialogue further slows the pace of the read. As far as 20th century literature goes, there is something 19th century in the narration. Hilton uses way too many narrators to tell the story. Woodsford Green a writer, ultimately tells us about Hugh Conway and his adventures. It reminds me of Shelley's Frankenstein, and Bronte's Wuthering Heights which Hilton himself referred. But I know why the book was a best seller in 1933. It's far-fetched, exotic and fun. It is the opposite of the doldrums of 1933.

Judith Rossner's Looking for Mr. Goodbar? What a cool book. Theresa is a wonderful character, and the book is ultimately her book. Being set in the 1970s the book addresses many old vs new elements: Catholicism and women's lib and the Jewish community's shift from the traditional to pot toking. The backdrop of Vietnam with one of Theresa's lovers is time appropriate. The book is sex, sex, sex. The older sister goes to Puerto Rico for an abortion. Socially speaking, the book is great. I think the book made the impact it did because the subjects were pertinent for the time. It's a wonderfully written book too.

Those three books sum up the entire summer for me. I only read three. I don't think I've ever read so little. I tried to read both Lolita and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but to no avail. I just could keep focus. It's weird. I never engaged in nude beach volleyball; I simply did not read.

I hope your summer reading went better than mine.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Deadlines, Timeclocks and Paychecks, Part II

The sound.  I can't even trust the sound.  There are too many sounds.  There's one of two bus lines populated with buses.  They drive the fat people to work.  There's a timeclock to punch.  I punched one once, for years.  I entered through the employee entrance, punched one.  It was 1987.  It was just yesterday that I punched out.  The men had all died, and the women changed their names. I forgot to write something down.
Inside the lake, a bulging lake called life, we walk on submerged sidewalks.  A young fellow sits at a cafe table, curbside, and types away on a really old manual typewriter.  I would ask him who his heroes are, but I don't care and hums of Lou Reed are overhead.  In the next doorway a young guy sleeps, although by the looks of him, he may be dead.
And a deadline nears.  This shit, and that's really what it is, has to get done.  And should that happen, I hope to collect a paycheck.
Still, we're nowhere close to it, and we are nowhere.