This, dear reader, is the rare post that is transcribed directly from today’s journal entry, hence, the quirky perspective in the beginning. I’ll say no more.
The last entry is not the fleshed-out version that I posted on the website to a degree that I haven’t allowed up till now. That is, I’ve always up until now been careful to include here all, or reasonably most of all, what I’m posting there, as it were, because frankly the website and blog just don’t seem real or permanent enough to me. Sure, none of this is permanent, none of this will last, from a blog post to a piece of solid state memory, it all goes away one day, all things must pass and all that but I’m rather referring to my sense of where my work resides. All the eleven-plus years of getting this stuff down “on paper” has its own (I hate to call it a tradition) legacy, I guess. Something troubles me about suddenly allowing my journaling to be reduced to throwaway social media driven bloviations. I want my bloviations to at least resemble worthy work. And the medium of course doesn’t matter but somehow a string of blog posts or newsletter posts – call them what you will, who cares? – automatically seem incidental, that’s the only apt word for them.
So, I continue to begin with them here and experiment with placing them “out there” and I feel better meanwhile knowing that I can simply cancel all my silly website ambitions and aspirations and experimentations (I really have the sense that that’s all my internet existence is and will ever be: an experiment) any time I want, no harm, no foul. Why? Mostly because never seems to me to be the archive that it could be argued that it is. The internet, for all its amazing resources and accessibility and its success as the greatest storehouse and resource of information that has ever been – what doesn’t it contain or have the potential to contain besides pretty much everything? – remains, to me, in a word: junky.
The internet is chock full of junk. So that even the great shit gets tarnished by association. I can’t tell you how many times I’m looking at something – reading or watching or listening or all three – and the first thing I do is make certain that whatever it is that I really like isn’t available in some “better” format; namely, a book or even a video collection somewhere that is devoted to such things. HWG likes to reference hard copies of things. I do not. Nevertheless, if something I like only exists on some website it’s still to me like it barely and tentatively exists at all.
I’m not exactly sure what I’m talking about. But my intuition is what it is. Perhaps it dates me, but I really don’t think so. There are younger folks, that is, who get much more into bashing the modern and everything digital because, I believe, the appeal of certain formats is a personal taste thing, which amounts to a personal mythology thing. Vinyl records, as I’ve discussed, from my audiophile perspective, have always driven me crazy with their sonic shittiness, their impossibly affected limits. They have always and always will sound like ass. But some folks dig the tactile quality of things, the finger-friendly, graphics welcoming size and shape and heavy, clumsy, horrid technical wonkiness and thingness of certain things. Slabs of vinyl that barely reproduce the otherwise likewise limited master tapes that they came from, for example, Remember, folks, your original masters are all on TAPE. And tape sucks. (There have been, I believe, direct-to-LP-master recordings but only as what amount to audiophile test discs and if I’m not mistaken I owned one in my youth and I wish I could recall the name of it here, sorry). Meanwhile, tape. Remember cassettes? Yuck. And don’t even get me started on so-called eight-tracks. Yikes.
I’ve spiraled. So be it. I hate vinyl records. HWG loves to have and hold them. But he listens to hi-resolution streaming music. Which is to say he hasn’t replaced the turntable he got rid of twenty-five years ago. Not least for the indescribably superior sound (given a great master) that, at a minimum FLAC (CD-quality) delivers and your whole body in my opinion, will feel as much as your ears will hear, trust me – but also because of (and this returns us to the idea of the internet) the library, the archive, the access. Where else can you find such a wealth of music? And now, in hi-res.
Shutting up on that. I’m banging away in this journal until I get to a year that I decide isn’t going to involve a new DOP volume. I have tried to kill this thing off several times, after all, thinking that I’m done with the idea; that it no longer serves, no longer adds value, no longer helps move me forward. Let it go and see what comes back, as they say – it remains very good advice. When in doubt, do not hang on to a thing. Let it go. Period. Because in personal mythological terms it’s not up to you. It’s a cosmic mandate or not. In concert with your biology. But we’ve covered all this elsewhere.
In other news I was very pleased yesterday to have gone balls out on TC2 – the muse seized me and I found myself banging the story out into shape within the otherwise tattered and neglected chapter thirty-eight, the second-to-last chapter (so far at least), so that it indeed finally feels like the manuscript has become a book. By that I mean to say it has a legitimate beginning, middle and end that holds together respectably as a novel and not just a fucked-up tangle of loose ends that lead nowhere and, very importantly, it ramps up at the end. That is, I’m keen to have it finish in a fury. Call it a cliff hanger ending, call it what you will, my heart tells me that TC must keep driving forward with speed, each book must have all the character arcs and disasters and story arc that makes for good reading but I also need to have it read furiously, as it were, as if the plot is a runaway train at the “end” that is not an ending, if you know what I mean. I like the books that at the last page won’t let you go and you put it down with the thing still ringing in your head, either booming like, wow, that was CRAZY (uppercase) or, hmm, that was crazy (lowercase) but either way you remain gripped and can’t wait for more, for the next book.
This is a very tricky magic trick and of course it is magic and myth and all the intangible art-craft weirdness and wonder that happens in spite of trying to make it happen. Which is to say that for months I’ve been fretting and trying not fret about the book’s ending. It has to be worthy and it wasn’t. The final chapters weren’t finished. And I had an awful day of torturous anxiety the day before yesterday because I felt it was all, for better or worse but perilously on the edge of worse, coming to a head that either was snappy and jazzy and apt and awesome or forced, lame, fucked up and, heaven forbid, dull. I was thinking, jeezus, after all this I’m going to end up with a flat ending? Something that would inspire a reader, including myself, to say, cripes, this is anti-climactic blah, blah bullshit. And to toss the thing aside and trash it with a well-deserved pissy online review.
No. Time Crime. Cannot. Be. Blasé. Believe me, I understand that I am not the gifted wordsmith, the immaculately gifted craftsman of prose or dialogue. I get it. I read my writing (and perhaps other writers endure this, too, I can only assume my woes are not unique) and always struggle to accept its – for lack of a better word: lack. I aspire, relentlessly, to achieve transporting prose. I read things as much for the writing, otherwise considered style, as for the story but there’s more to it than style, I think; it’s rather a magic touch on behalf of an author that takes a story that can’t help but resemble some other story and invigorates it with an intangible flair. It resonates with, I don’t know, the music of the spheres, the ring of truth, the mystery of myth, the power of prose. Prose does something no other art-craft medium can do and short of trying and failing to define that quality I can at least express the fact that we know it when we read it. Rocket sauce. Wow, I say, when I read an author’s great sentence. That’s it exactly. I couldn’t have been said, or written, any better.
Do I ever accomplish it? Does my work ever ring true? It’s not really for me to judge. When I try to be as objective as I can about my stuff, as good as it gets, I would say it gets the job done. In terms of that special writerly rocket sauce I think it routinely falls short. That is, my writing voice isn’t much of one. Too often I sound like everybody else and nobody at all. Workaday is not what I aspire to but nevertheless it’s what I have a tendency to produce. God, how I wish it weren’t that way. I do work to enliven things by way of drilling deeply into my underlying inspiration. How, I ask myself, do I get further up and further in, to borrow a sentiment from Joyce. How do I bring this more to life? If I’m in one of my rare descriptive passages, I can’t resort to purply prose. Don’t go getting intentionally poetic. No. If I’m dealing with dialogue, internal or otherwise, how do I intensify the experience that I’m trying to evoke or demonstrate or communicate? How is it really what the character is experiencing?
All this usually involves allowing and enduring what inevitably strike me as diversions or distractions that, given their proper attention, contribute the magic. I’ll be hammering away with things, doing my determined workaday work within whatever draft and damned if something doesn’t cry out for more exposition or detail or tweaking or a handful of sentences, another whole paragraph or even an entire scene or chapter that, really, goddammit, I was not intending and not in the “mood” for. I place “mood” in scare quotes because it’s a constant struggle for me to allow the muse, call it what you will, to take over like that, to interrupt my overtly conscious, hyper-cognitive awareness of what I’m doing and planning to do and rather let the book take over.
In this sense, then, I’m pleased when I know I’ve surrendered and not pushed too hard for a productivity that is simply that. More words. More pages. More this or that written down. No. It’s not about that. But working it along in that way, being tenaciously professional in that way, working in spite of less-than-inspiring energies, let’s call it, is part of the job that a guy like Nick Cave does well to communicate (see previous post). So that you remain ready and able for the muse, the magic, the being taken over by the characters and the world-building and the mythology.
I don’t intend to sound trippy. But writing fiction probably has to be trippy. A novel writes itself. That’s pretty trippy. What sucks about that is when you as the writer aren’t at all certain that you can keep up with it or help it get where it needs to go; that you don’t have a handle on things. I don’t despair too much with this. I consider myself fortunate to both like, in general, my storylines, and to therefore be free of problems with what the novels are about. They are about what they must be about. I’ve yet to feel tapped out or baffled as to how to proceed. I haven’t suffered the what-do-I-write-about thing that some writers suffer. And I am thankful and consider it a gift that the stories have indeed arrived in this manner. It’s a privilege to have something to write about.
Nevertheless, even being blessed with plenty to write about, I wish that my writing was remarkable. I’m not apologizing because that merely insults the work that I’ve been given and the readers who enjoy it. They are out there. They may not be many, but I know you are there and I’m lucky to have you. I’m tasked with doing my best to get it across, within my means. That’s all any of us are tasked with, namely, aspiring to greatness and enduring and respecting and celebrating, in our humble manner, our humble results. It’s everything. It’s just a book. It’s everything. It’s just a book. And so on. This is the perpetually enlivening yet maddeningly frustrating paradox, isn’t it, of our experience?
Today, then, I look forward to immersing myself in the last chapter of TC2. And seeing what happens. Then, perhaps there will be an epilogue, inevitably brief, I’m not certain, we’ll see. I like the trailing sentiment that a proper epilogue contributes, like a little gift to take away with you as a reader. If, for example, you’ve been otherwise thrilled or saddened or exhausted by having come to the ending, an epilogue says, Look here, friend, it’s not completely over. It doesn’t have to end. It never has to end. If it’s been a wild, unhinged rocket ride, here’s a little return to Earth. Or, if it’s been a horror, here’s a little comfort. If it’s been sad, perhaps here’s something a little less so. I don’t know. For me, the epilogue invites one last envelope of tantalizing mystery into your psychological mailbox, so to say. If nothing else, it bestows the sense of more to come in life and death.
Egg Yolks, Dandelions & the Kaleidoscopic Mystery of Life. As always, there are images that have inspired whatever I write about. And I enjoy including a link to something as often as I can that may serve to demonstrate or evoke or simply acknowledge, however indirectly, whatever it is that moves me. The devoted reader will understand that I have another very devoted vocation all to do with being a home cook (with experience as a professional cook) and for those who have not read my very early posts, well, let’s just say that there is plenty of mythology, personal and cultural, if you care to look for it, within the realm of food and cookery. If you enjoy this fine and funny Japanese film from 1985, Tampopo, then we think alike: