Friday, February 25, 2011
I could watch this over and over and over and over and over. And I do.
There's something about that song with those images. Compare that to this. Boys in eyeliner, in love with themselves. ("Dude, let's do a whole video that's like a horror, "The Shining" thing, but you'll be, like, fighting yourself, dude!") That's what I love about Pinback - they're a band without an ego. They're after something diffuse and vague that fits into any emotional landscape.
The only problem with being interviewed about my book is that I start to think that random people have some investment in what I think about the world. As a writer, there's something a little fucked about thinking that way. If you can't make things interesting without bringing your stupid Official Opinion or This Is Coming From Me, So You Should Care bullshit into it, then as far as I'm concerned, don't fucking write it down. Convince me of something, but not just because your thumb is pointing up. I don't give a fuck about your thumb.
I'm not just talking about criticism, of course. I really enjoy reading about people, what they had for breakfast, their "process," writing-wise, what they thought of this or that product/movie/TV episode. BUT, there is a point where you wade through a few dozen opinions, testimonials, blog entries, reviews, and then you think: what is the value of this writing when you strip it of its context? So many of us online start with a spirit of sharing and connection, then wind up down some lonely solipsistic corridor. One sad day, we catch our own reflection in the side of a building and... we've got on dark black eyeliner and a tux! When we speak, it comes out as the crooning of a growly Goo Goo Dolls-alike dim bulb, imagining a sea of swooning tweens in his tiny little pea brain!
I don't want to move forward thinking that somehow I'm inherently interesting just because someone was assigned the task of talking to me on the phone for an hour (to quote Galaxy Quest, "Those poooor people!"). I think that, as a writer, you prove that you have shit to say, on the page, day after day. You're only as good as your last few pages, no matter how happy you are with what you wrote 150 pages ago. The second you start thinking that anything you write is worthwhile because you're you -- well, fuck that.
On the other hand, I'm not sure I know a good writer who thinks that way. Good writers tend to think "Everything I write is worthless because I am who I am." With nothing to prove, there's nothing to write. Even if you're capturing the emotions of some fictional character on the page, you're still trying to prove something - trying to prove that you can fucking do it, you can you can you can. (See also: Lucan, the boy raised by wolves, who was told "You can learn to speak! You can!" and he responded "Lucan! Lucan!" and so that became his name. The moral of our story? Watch out what you say when you finally decide to talk, wolf boys.)
Yes, obviously I believe my bullshit is worthwhile or I wouldn't bring Lucan into this. It's a balance. You have to have a little flair and swagger, just enough to keep things interesting, right? But you also have to assume that no one gives a fuck about you. Because if you think people give a fuck, well, that's the very definition of a blowhard. Or worse yet, a PUNDIT! Nothing will make you more boring than cultivating that level of attachment to your own bloated ego.
And listen, people want you to be a pundit, far more than they want you to be a writer. They've got a lot of hours of radio and TV time to fill out there. They need opinions, and they need them now! Personally, I'd rather go on the radio and honk horns and make fart sounds and cue up Nixon soundbytes.
Actually, does someone want to hire me to do that?
Monday, February 21, 2011
HOUSE OF DIAMONDS
"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." -- Albert Einstein
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
YOU NEVER SHUT UP
Thoughtful discussion and debate on the memoir developing on Betsy Lerner's website, with lots of recommendations of good first-person essays/memoirs/books. I point out there that NY Times culture section has produced some really entertaining pieces lately (go read Dwight Garner's piece on the 4-Hour Work Week's author if you haven't already) and this memoir-bashing exercise at least has some flair to it.