Fuckin A, I’ve started reading again. This is actually momentous news because I’ve been down and out of it. This weekend at the library I got Men and Cartoons, stories by Jonathan Lethem, so I could get an overall sense of his writing, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. (I will soon stop itemizing things that I have borrowed or bought.) I wanted to see what the hoopla is about with these two Jonathans.
I had an idea to write about the awfulness of the writing and how I will never belong. I’m glad I waited. I am fairly tired of being critical of every last living thing. It keeps me from reading--if it’s not something I wish I had written myself, I don’t care. That disqualifies a lot of books. The Lethem is nothing to love, nothing to hate. It breezes along. It’s friendly writing, like someone who’s nice to have around because he never makes you feel bad.
I think often about Bukowski’s introduction to John Fante’s Ask the Dust where he talks about the gutlessness of the popular literary authors of the time--I always figured he was talking about writers like John Updike. And then he read Fante who wrote with no bullshit, no intellectual posturing, all honesty, and Bukowski’s world ripped open. An aside: I read an interview with Raymond Carver who said that Bukowski was a hero to him. Cool to see someone who’s taken very seriously taking someone seriously who’s not taken very seriously…I do feel the same way about the literary stars of today--all proportions kept with Bukowski. Then again, some of this is jealousy. I was going to quote sentences from the two books that bother me, like the use of the word "spleen" in the first paragraph of Illuminated, but why bother.
My whole bent to this point has been to be a "challenging" writer. It’s likely that a novel about a porn star who joins a religious cult is not going to be the toast of the mainstream literary world. Ladies who come to the 92nd St. Y in NYC won’t get it. The novel is in need of a major revision so I am not claiming it’s a work of genius that has been forsaken (after it’s revised it will, of course, be a work of genius.) I worry about the novel that’s about to come out--the lack of realism. Murder happens throughout and it has no great moral weight. It’s used to exaggerate real-life tendencies: i.e. it’s satire. I wonder if it’s hard to take this kind of satire seriously. To be a popular literary author it’s most common to write about the large implications of small actions. I like that Lethem has a speculative fiction bent. I recently read the submission guidelines to a small press that wants experimental writing, but "no science fiction or horror." This is sort of a limited view of experimentation. I know what they mean--they don’t want any straight genre writing, but still.
Philip K. Dick was never taken seriously. Robert Sawyer, to take the first example that came to me, has thousands of adoring readers. And that’s the idea, to have readers, to get a response. I’ve never been able to finish a book by Sawyer, but that’s another story. I used to have a desire to be taken seriously by the literati. Who exactly did I want to impress? This was another way of thinking that I wanted to make an impact--that if it was great, people would respond to it. It’s a bigger world than that--it’s possible to have your own successful and satisfying corner without being widely known. And besides, "Swimming in the mainstream is a lame, lame dream." So sang Henry Rollins, who ended up in Apple computer ads.
Next year may just stack up well. Reviews of North of Sunset will hopefully start coming in. Just learned the French translation of my first novel is done and will come out in March. "Gentleman Reptile" is coming out in February. I’m going to reveal that I’m Shirley Shave in 2006, when there’s some distance from the Best Sex Writing 2005. So I feel like a writer again. Reading has helped that along, much like listening to new music made me feel like a songwriter--I can keep up with these guys. The future of words and music doesn’t suck.
I think too much about being a writer.
Saw Capote last night. Good. Henry and June is on the way. Never seen it. It’s author biopic week at the Tree house.
I don’t have as much fun as Gaijin.
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