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.

No Roadside Picnic

What if some alien race stopped off on Earth and left behind all these artifacts but we couldn’t tell if they were simply junk or advanced technology….

Yeah, I know, it’s been done, and done so fantastically well, I’m in awe of two Russian brothers.

So let’s talk about something else: like the need for enjoyment in the writing life.

You see, it’s been eroding lately, sort of falling off like dander. Not good. Makes for a lot of brushing aside of important questions.

What I want to know is why all this heaviness, all this seriousness when it comes to writing?

Let’s go back a decade to when this young fellow decides he wants to be a writer. What makes him decide? Nothing so moribund and banal as money. Nothing even so lofty and unlikely as fame.

Here’s the god’s honest truth (and this is coming from a man who wouldn’t even acknowledge God if he was standing in line before him at a Morrissey concert): All the writers beginning writer loved all took to writing as a way to have adventure in their life, to enjoy life, to get away with not entering the gown-up world of work as quickly as possible, to not start down the road that led to work in an office or even worse in a tie. And they also didn’t even want to work that hard, all serious and out-flat and believing they were either advancing civilization or enriching the gene pool or maintaining evolution in its great mall of human shopping, the great advancement of the human race and proof our our intelligence.

No, these writers wanted to work hard at life. They wanted to live. They didn’t want to decide what to do next, what to take seriously, what not to. They wanted possibilities; not the possible, the attainable. They wanted the unknown as a sidekick. They wanted to live on the edge, the chasm so close they could smell its hard ground. And the poverty, the struggle, the obscurity, the mad loneliness kicking up dirt like a wild horse they had no interest in taming. And they wanted to fail like failure was a drug, but not as an addiction, as a shamanistic journey to something they were aware of that existed in that far-off place where others had gone but so many many rejected in the face of the over-whelming effortless reality served up like a saint’s head to lick and devour in heavenly peace.

And fuck knows they didn’t pamper themselves with some notion of making a career out of writing, like putting on a shirt and tie and making it respectable and profitable and routine and slick and wear it like a status, like it was something to attain, like middle-class living. None of them wanted this, they’d rather lounge around in foreign countries, idling still, writing like a silent storm, but living, living, living, and not calculating, calculating, calculating their writing life as if such a thing can be mapped, keeping track of it all, recording it all, trainspotting for that runaway success.

They scavenged and lived like deviants and eccentrics and misfits at the best of times and completely mad lunatics and monsters at the worst. But bless their little hearts, they lived, lived by their own free will, their convictions, their visions, their purpose, their hunger. They didn’t come to writing and publishing all pre-packaged, all sorted, all educated up to their frenetic gills, all book smart and literary blessed and connected to all the right roots and tendrils. They came shabby and drunk and stinking of failure and boozed-up on the unknown and as ignorant as they could be and still they were able to survive because writing offered them the chance to live, to chase things they didn’t know, because why know everything to begin with? Why even bother writing if you’re already hard-wired to know it all, to even function as if the writing life has been molded to you like wings.

And you know what else? Some writers even took years before writing their next book. Some didn’t even write another one. And some wrote and wrote and wrote into complete anonymity and became famous. And some even said, “Hey Muse, what’s so wrong with never ever selling another book? Is that bad?” And they answered, “Well, you know, nothing was ever promised to me, so I’ll drift along and being creative to begin with, I’ll find some other work to do, cobble something together to pay for needs to be paid and then if things turn in my favour again, I’ll live off the writing, take it back like a spurned lover and continue the dalliance.” Who ever said writing is conjugal love? Who? Point me in their direction. Because they’re filthy little liars.

The fallen angels. That’s where writing begins. It ends when it’s ascending angels, cause, well, where else is there left to go after that?

Which brings me back to enjoyment. Goddamn it, you’ve got to have enjoyment, you’ve got to have rollicking fun and unorthodox pleasures and merrymaking and high spirits. Otherwise you might become just another respectable writer with healthy book sales and a reliable readership.

And where’s the fun in that?