Bring It On Home

It’s spring. Life is stirring again. But first, there must be mud, at least in Maine. And then there are the pigheaded strips of snow that refuse to trot off.

Darwin and his Beagle, it’s lonely being a writer. Not the physical solitude (I’m equipped for that), but the loneliness of never knowing. I probably shouldn’t have read Adam Phillips’ Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life. Instead of inspiring me to greater heights of sufferance, I can’t nudge free the idea that I’m missing out on something.

And what do I feel like I’m missing out on? A gang of one’s own (instead of a room); John Ashbery talking to himself; a lovely coterie of friends; more involvement in the literary world (although I don’t even know what shape that should take); a vintage pair of jeans; a book deal.

“We make sense of our lives in order to be free not to have to make sense.”

My life at times feels like a boat in dead waters: waiting to get an agent to love me through the leafy vines; waiting for the sun to go supernova; waiting to hear if there is water on Mars; waiting for a physicist to find the God particle. If only it could be just Waiting For Godot. Why can’t I get a Golden Ticket like Charlie? “I never thought my life could be anything but catastrophe….”

But as King Lear told me the other night, “The art of our necessities is strange.” But the night before that, Mad Cyril told me: “The future is simply a ship in a bottle waiting for the right wave to let you out.”

What has happened to universities and the academic life? Send me off to American Idol with a song in my mediocre heart, but aren’t universities and colleges the Land for the Lotus Eaters? I thought it was the last refuge for exiles, eccentrics, the obsessed, thinkers, libertines, seekers, the disaffected, the lonely, those who don’t wanna grow up, those who fled the working world with Ginsberg’s Howl in their veins, those whose backs were pushed up against the wall by the world and who hopped over it into some cerebral paradise. How did all this professionalism and success and play the bonny tenured prof come about? Shouldn’t universities be letting misfits and miscreants and the mad teach the bright young things of the future?

Why is it that the middle class always work like dogs and yet never have anything to show for it but debt and mortgages and exhaustion and unfulfilled dreams? I don’t want that. I want the Alexandria Quartet in my backyard. I want the sun and moon to pass over my writing desk. And I want to someday go to Bruges as a hitman.

I have gone on long enough. I must get back to my bean field. If I don’t, somebody will think me a curmudgeon in the prime of life. I’m not that irascible. I just have this thing called life breathing down my neck all the time.


My Faith in Writers is Still Devout

Or is it?

Sometimes I read about some writer who’s motivated, it seems, only by cupidity and fame and the salacious trilogy, and I wonder what’s the matter with me.

Sure, the money would be welcome with a book deal, but all I’m hoping for is enough to live off, and if that’s not enough, then I’ll slim down my expectations or my living. Just get more frugal and Occupy a life that is both generous and imaginative and hopefully inspiring on some level to another person. But to have money hound you and drive the ambition? Just doesn’t slip between my spine enough to make the writing interesting. And that’s where it matters for me: to be daring and dangerous in the writing.

Truthfully I find writing easy and living terribly difficult. So trying to figure out how to make tons of cash from the thing I love, well, it just complicates the passion.

And the fame aspect. Well, I suppose we all deserve our 15 minutes of fame, however it comes — even if it’s writing about the Warhol legacy. But to write and nurse celebrity under your crooked arm? Seems a bit like robbing the cradle.

And the trilogy equation is now like some default setting. What ever happened to cycles (like Dune or Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood) or quartets (like Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria one)?

I’m not sure why I’m obsessing about this. Each writer makes his or her own bed and then lies in it — because we are all so good at fabrication.

It just seems to me that more and more I seem to read or hear about writers who bang these big gongs, announcing to all the young writers that, hey, here’s the path for you to follow as a writer: write a blockbuster, zero-in on the money, do the derivative dance, write it quick, sell it off, upgrade from writer to author in no time.

I guess I’m sick of this spectacle. Partly because I don’t know if I have it in me to write some bestselling book and land loads of dough. And why should this be lauded as the only goal, which it  does so often. Why must the avatar of wealth and greed be the commodity of choice, especially when it comes to writing. I mean, is this the goal for all writers now, is this what is expected of us? Is a book just another “For Sale” item, a commodity? Is a writer simply a worker in a book factory?

I suppose it comes down to the question of what is more valuable: a world of excessive greed and financial success with the bizarre tautology of “value for money,” or the intrinsic value of books, written not to promote this way of life, but to challenge it, change it.

I know where I would like to stand on this.